Saturday, 23 October 2010

Incompatible - Setters' Blog and Solvers' Comments

It is strange how ideas are born. In the case of Incompatible it was as the result of a loss of communication in an IM chat between Logogriph and Eclipse when each lost sight of the other due to some minor electronic glitch. Once the momentary lapse was restored the talk turned to disappearing acts, invisible ink, the Magic Circle and illusionists. Inevitably the subject of crossword themes came up with mention of past puzzles and their unusual submission requirements. Soon the discussion began to weigh up the possibilities of a new twist on the subject for a potential puzzle and although the topic in hand began to dwindle away at this point it was not forgotten by Logogriph.

By the end of November he had constructed not one but two inter-related grids along with a list of extraneous words to be slotted in to the still unwritten clues. The concept of getting to a 'hole' could not be delivered too quickly to the solver, as that would almost certainly allow them to remove the intervening stages - so it was always going to be necessary to have some part-solve grid either by code or substitution.  The other feature to be incorporated, (which was somewhat dampened down in the editing process) was the INCOMPATIBLE feature, namely that initially, the unclued lights had NOTHING in common.  This in turn hinted to solvers to a circular message in the grid which encompassed the 4 isolated squares.  Filling in two identical grids with different words and different constraints is tricky to say the least, but it can be done - it was always going to be marginally easier to use the unclued lights a second time for the final message, than the try for a second circular phrase as well - while that leaves the isolated squares unfilled second time around, it seemed appropriate that even at this stage, they were little 'nothings'.  We wondered about some of the words that had to be used - is there really a plural for SMORGASBORD, as well as the provision of the letters of the unclued lights second time around, but having settled upon the second grid, it was over to Eclipse for the somewhat tougher challenge of realising Logogriph's theory (comparison with James Patterson's current "book-writing" methods are probably fair at this juncture!).  Cue Eclipse.

Using the time-honoured  technique of stop-start Eclipse proceeded to take over a month to come up with the list of clues. Part of the problem was trying to juggle two lists of words - one, the normal list of words to be clued and the other the list of words each of which would become incorporated into the body of a clue as an extraneous word to be identified and removed by the solver in stage one. In this task it became difficult to keep track of which words had been earmarked for which clue; or more specifically which words hadn't! The solution was to move both sets of words onto a single page each aligned to an outer edge leaving acres of blank lined space in between for writing the actual clues. As the extraneous words were used up they would be crossed out with the stroke of a pencil. A change of heart would see them reinstated with the judicious use of an eraser. Simple!

With the clues finally written there came a short spell of editorial amendments and we were ready to submit the finished article for publication. With the final requirement of the solver being so unusual - i.e. submit a hole in the paper and nothing else! - it was felt that this would appeal to the Magpie's sense of the unusual if not the downright whacky, so off it went for their perusal.

The original 2nd message ended THIS HOLE AS YOUR ENTRY, which became MAIL HOLE AS YOUR ENTRY through the Magpie editing process - MAIL being the only real word that could still produce a valid grid with all the other prevailing alternatives. And with that we had an acceptance - in the truest sense of the phrase, "nothing ventured, nothing gained!"

Hope you enjoyed it - and judging by the comments below, many of you did!

Those who managed to go the 'hole' hog commented through the Magpie as follows:-

  • Loved this puzzle, shades of Dimitry's New Year Resolution; I've been hoping to see a similar jigsaw resolution ever since and here it was. Entertaining but not too difficult - agree with C.
  • Very good indeed, this, if only for its novelty, and could almost have been the Magpie puzzle. No chance of guessing the result here without following all the steps: a good mystery tour from start to finish. In 27a 'Jonathan' seems to mean 'American', but the justification's lost on me.
  • An excellent idea, although I wonder if the extra words might have been chosen and ordered more carefully to introduce some red herrings, perhaps in their initial letters. I thought the clues were probably only 'B'-grade and were a little disappointing, although the constraints of the specific extra words must have made them hard to write. The final submission was very satisfying.
  • It's always nice to have a puzzle with a solution is easily checked on the entry form, even if I was a little miffed that I couldn't actually produce a hole in my electronic entry.
  • I enjoyed this one. The extra words, viewed as a whole, seem very eccentric until the first instruction is revealed, generating a whole new puzzle. Buy one get one free! But I was a little nervous about my solution. I couldn't find anything to go in the blank squares in the second grid, and I know all too well that loose ends like this can mean I haven't understood something crucial.
  • I love this type of crossword - the one whose hidden message asks you to do something different.
    But the extra twist in this case - to cut out the entire grid - was genius ! My girlfriend cannot understand why I'll spend days on a crossword and then be happy when the end result requires me to post in a hole in a piece of paper !!!
  • Nice grade C with some clever clues and well-disguised redundant words, especially when one considers that the setter had to use the actual entries for the second grid and not just words with suitable initials, for example. 
  • There’s an uncomfortable feeling of having been a complete twit when one sends in a blank grid as instructed. Surely they can’t mean it? How will they know I’ve got it all right?
    But to fill a grid in, erase it all and fill it in again differently and then cut it out and throw it away takes a real effort of will.
  • Brilliant!
  • I suppose a puzzle cannot be truly minimalist if the solver has to do some work before submission. Eclogue must though have now established an unbreakable record for marking time.
  • I'm looking forward to kicking myself when I see what Yogi's Car was up to. Enjoyed up till then. Thanks Eclogue
  • I became rather frustrated, and even irritated, by Incompatible by Eclogue. I completely failed to get my head around all the ‘incompatible’ stuff. Right at the beginning I could not see how the seven unclued entries could be described as being incompatible. The preamble didn’t state that they were incompatible with anything else so they must be incompatible as a set. However, all seven words have similar meanings so, in terms of meanings are consistent/compatible and I could not identify any other obvious characteristic by which they could be described as incompatible as a set. I did complete the puzzle, with a refilled grid, but I had no confidence in what was required to be submitted. Perhaps my ageing brain is incompatibe with Magpies – I’ll give it another month and see! 
  • An example of what I at least regard as the perfect crossword: challenging clues, penny-drops, further work, but all the time being led through the maze by comprehensible means, rather than the ususal Magpie Great Leap Forward or Guess-what-I'm-thinking. How will the e-mailers send a hole? Should be easy to check. 
  • Got the message - refilled the grid then lost it. Hope I remembered the instruction correctly...
    Just redid it - a bit ambiguous?
  • Well it saves checking the entries on the submission page!
  • Hmm. This sort of endgame produces a serious bout of nervousness, as I try to convince myself that I really do need to follow the instructions literally. It worked with the lone S in Pointer's Hiding-Places, so it had better work here!
  • Loved it! Step by little step, all became clear.
  • Bags of originality and inventiveness here, going one better than the previous variations on "submit a blank grid" that I've seen. Lovely idea to use superfluous words to generate an alternative grid and great to see a new way of coding an instruction. My only minor issue was with the choice of title and preamble wording - I was left with a vague feeling that there must be a nuance of "incompatible" that doesn't seem covered by the Chambers definition. But that didn't stop this being a top quality puzzle.
  • The instruction in the first grid was clear enough and the second grid came together easily. The second instruction also appeared to be unambiguous. However if I have misunderstood this instruction, my submission will look pretty silly. The incompatibility has produced the ultimate in minimalist solutions (I hope!).
  • Ha Ha! I don't think we can ever have a more minimalist return.  I haven't seen James over the summer, but I'd like to know how he's going to comply with the instructions on his electronic entry!
  • The idea of mailing a hole is somewhat curious; I hope it is what is required.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Cross-over: Setters' Blog and Feedback

The gimmick behind this one revolved around the idea of hiding a supplement to the main puzzle, to be discovered by the solver and a feature thereof to be included with a final submitted entry. The model for this idea was that feature incorporated into many DVDs - an unlisted 'extra' piece of footage to be discovered and winkled out by the viewer. For some reason this type of thing is known as an Easter Egg.

Well here we were in January and Easter was not too far away so why not get up a crossword as an Easter Egg? Part I would be the main puzzle and would feature a seasonal theme. Extra letters and words in clues were to spell out firstly a seasonal greeting and then an online location to Part II which would be a much smaller grid yielding the final requirement. It would definitely have to be an online project because of the method of directing the solver to Part II. The requirement for the Easter Egg side of the puzzle was for a website to host this ancillary puzzle. Eclipse set this up in double quick time and was then able to interweave the full web address into the clues. At the same time, Logogriph was producing a thematically appropriate grid for Part I in tandem with a mini-grid for Part II and then it was back to Eclipse to produce the two sets of clues.

In constructing the grid for part 1, Logogriph had a very clear idea of what he wanted to achieve. This should be essentially a religious themed grid based upon the crucifixion. INRI should be at the top and GOLGOTHA at the foot. It was then, the use of STABAT MATER in a vertical position looked promising, and that dictated that the width of the cross would be 5 and not 4 (as for INRI). So split INRI at the top and work out how to get JESUS CHRIST onto the cross-section. Only the Ts of the possible 'TABAT' look hopeful - the choice being to do CHRIST JESUS, or to reverse CHRIST on the right hand side. Various latin or similar alternatives were ruled out as being disproportionately long or too lop-sided for this grid. Opting for the latter solution also took the J away from the central spine of the puzzle and the bare bones of a grid were well established. GOLGOTHA could now be split 3:5 at the foot to maintain symmetry. Bar symmetry always looked unlikely with _GOL_; GOTHA at the foot, as the unch count would be too high - the aesthetics of the highlighting looked good enough for this not to be a serious problem for this puzzle. After that, grid fill progressed remarkably smoothly, with only one rewrite for a dead end on the right hand side, but ultimately maintaining a minimum Ximenean unch count throughout.

The Part II grid was to be more of a problem (although it was completed first), as it needed to contain the letters to CADBURYS CREME EGG (helpfully 16 in total, thereby yielding a promising 4x4 grid). However a 100% checked grid eluded Logogriph, and he had to settle for the finished version shown, which contained two unches (but still 8 lights). Maybe we should have set an ancillary challenge for anyone to improve on this?

The internet offers an opportunity to take solvers on a tour of the web in order to complete
an ancillary part of the puzzle. The Crossword Centre offers an ideal platform for such a venture as it is entirely internet based, and therefore by definition solvers should have the necessary access to complete the task at hand. As we had previously had a puzzle published for Christmas 2009 on Derek Harrison's Crossword Centre that was top of our list. As it happened it was our one and only port of call as Derek kindly accepted our offering for publication on 26th March 2010, just in time for Easter.

In the end there were 33 solvers and a good number of comments / plaudits for our offering - the full list of which are below:-
  • Thanks for a Krafty puzzle (Sorry!) which kept us occupied and entertained all month. Still have not worked out what Friday 22 January has to do with Easter
  • This puzzle really was jam-packed with thematic material,and could it be the first to include a hidden link to a web page containing a second part ? ( This was an extra bonus, the letters in the 4x4 mini-grid rearranging to CADBURY CREME EGGS.
  • solution attached, a cute idea sending us to the blog for the second task: what would Ximenes have thought about it?
  • Nicely rendered with the odd tricky clue. Lovely finish which made me exclaim out loud when I saw the second grid! And the significance of the '33' cells to highlight struck me out of the blue just a few moments ago.
  • Very enjoyable puzzle from Eclogue with a lot of thematic material in a small space. It took me a while to find STABAT MATER because of the PSALM in the lower part of the grid. The web link was also an original twist. 15 across was an especially clever use of the extra letter.
  • Many thanks for another great crossword.
  • Please accept my entry for Cross-over: a well-crafted puzzle with some delightfully misleading clues. 4-down was obviously ‘steer’, until corrected to ‘reset’. Currently it is ‘reest’!
  • Enjoyed this one apart from the needless(?) April Fool look up - HEHE?! What was that about?
  • Here is my entry. A friend did the final anagram for me, as I don't think Iwould ever have found it for myself. I think it is most inappropriate and reminiscent of the Listener puzzles where sometimes you have to spend far more time and effort on the last little bit than on the rest of the puzzle.
  • A fun puzzle, although some of the clueing was pretty loose, and I'd never heard of the phrase, which I think is CADBURY CREME EGGS.
  • ( An eggscellent gimmick )
  • I thought this was a splendid puzzle, and enjoyed hunting in unlikely places for the easter egg!
  • We thought this was great fun and the final step most ingenious. Like Eclogue's Christmas one, there was an astonishing amount crammed into a very small grid -
  • I take my hat off to Eclogue. What a wonderful crossword(s)!
  • Truly a unique puzzle!
  • ingenious
  • Brilliant!
Many thanks to all solvers and of course to Derek for publishing our puzzle.

In case anyone is wondering how to get hold of the original puzzle here is the link:

Cross-over by Eclogue

May 2010

Friday, 22 January 2010

Cross-over: Part II

Congratulations on reaching the second part of "Cross-over by Eclogue". For this mini-puzzle, all clues are normal, but once complete, the sixteen letters of the solution can be re-arranged to form a three-word phrase appropriate to the time of year. It is this phrase which should be submitted with the completed solution to the main puzzle.

1. Slates return of endless heroin (4)
4. Indian pulse beats, endlessly crude (3)
6. Ginger, say, takes British bird from the rear (4)
7. Heartless English guy is about to lay (4)

1. Youngster on promise finally's solid (4)
2. Get gear off in the rolling dunes (4)
3. Gazing at globes, she begins to exclaim (4)
5. Pike's rising to a degree (3)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Seasons Greetings

We heralded our debut as follows:-

"Seasons Greetings from Eclogue" is the first outing of a new compiling partnership formed from the previously unseen Eclipse and the occasionally seen, Logogriph. Having never actually met in person, the pair have enjoyed many an Internet chat based on a plethora of two topics, crosswords and alcohol. It was with an uncharacteristic lull in the former and probably too much of the latter that this joint venture was proposed and Seasons Greetings was born before either of them had time to change their minds!"

The first product of the collaboration between Eclipse and Logogriph, this puzzle had a Christmas theme based on a Goon Show song. The puzzle was accepted for publication at Derek Harrison's Crossword Centre and appeared on 1st December 2009.

The grid was designed to do two things - firstly to be a Christmas card design (so a nice dose of highlighting would be required) and secondly to blend a simple festive theme within. A number of solvers noted that "I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas" has provided thematic Crossword material before, but not quite like this we believe. Having decided on a modest 9x9 square with CHRISTMAS running from right to left, it remained to find other festive items that could form the diagonals and the central vertical in five letters, all using the central S. The very helpful SANTA CLAUS with a bout of SOCKS and of course we needed to get the GOONS in as well. A little juggling was required to get 9 letter perimeter lights and then it simply became a matter of filling in the gaps. The number of lights dictated the message to be used, which should ideally be another line from the song. Quite a lot for such a small grid, but aren't the smallest packages at Christmas often the most intriguing?

Click on the link below to view the puzzle:-

Seasons Greetings by Eclogue

A decent number of entries - 49 - elicited a small number of generally positive comments:

  • Thanks for this. Seen this theme before recently, but can't remember where. Not a bad treatment, but I much preferred the harder one last month.
  • This was a lot easier than last months, but nevertheless very enjoyable.
  • Footnote: A determined solver might discover other hidden seasonal theme words reading "all best to you" in 20dn (part, reversed), 19ac (part), 1dn (part, overlapping) and diagonally (one letter in each of 2dn, 3dn, 4dn and 11dn)!
  • Best wishes for the Festive Season to all at the Crossword Centre and looking forward to an equally challenging and ingenious 2010.
  • a very well-constructed puzzle!
  • Although my Dad was a big Goons fan, I'd not heard 'I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas' before Eclogue's nice little puzzle lead me to find it on YouTube ( Many thanks to him for broadening my musical knowledge ! This is the first 'Christmas' themed puzzle I've come across so far this year, so I feel the festive season has started now.
  • Not an original idea, but elegantly worked and very great fun to solve
  • Thank you for making another enjoyable puzzle available. I was surprised that Eclogue managed to construct this puzzle: once the keywords and perimeter were in place there were only 24 free letters for the 24 remaining lights.
  • Verdict: Not too hard but enjoyable.....Merry Christmas
  • uoY ot samtsirhC yrreM
  • I thought this one was absolutely delightful - beautifully set with a few difficult clues (1ac for example) and a great p.d.m. that didn't come too quickly to spoil the pleasure of the solving. The Christmas star producing all those other Christmas things (and the Goons) was a fine symmetrical finish. For me, this is an ideal crossword - 10 out of 10, and great fun.
  • In fact I managed to complete this puzzle well within the originally announced time, which was a welcome change from the one before.If we were being very fussy I could say there were too many short words. And what I definitely say is that there was absolutely no need to insist on our explaining the joke by writing the song title. You might as well ask for explanations of the clues! However, it was rather fun, so here goes:
  • I seem to remember the theme from before. I think it was based on substituting GNIKLAWMI for CHRISTMAS.
  • Christmas crosswords – you’ve got to love ‘em.
  • Such a lot crammed into such a small grid, and wonderful humour in the clues. Thanks, Eclogue
Eclogue is grateful to all solvers and looks forward to providing further 'timely' entertainment soon.