Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Answer is 5

Eclogue's first foray into the world of hard copy was aimed at the Independent's Inquisitor series. An initial tentative query was met with an encouraging response and so off went the puzzle for consideration. After a few months the news was good. The Answer is 5 would be accepted for publication in the Independent Magazine..but first a few editorial amendments. A brief and amicable exchange of emails between editor and setters followed and a number of agreed tweaks were made. The puzzle was set for publication.

If anyone ever managed to work out Logogriph's taste in movies, music and books, he would have to strive a lot harder for themes for crosswords.  However, that not looking likely in the near future, he can sit back, turn the DVD player on and settle down to a world of possibilities.   For this puzzle, it was a boxed set of Clint Eastwood's DIRTY HARRY movies.

Like most good thematic puzzle ideas, "The Answer is 5" was born through a fairly simple set of coincidences.  It is the two juxtaposed iconic scenes from Dirty Harry that set the ball rolling - the first occurs when Harry Callahan sees a bank robbery in progress:-

"I know what you’re thinking: "Did he fire six shots, or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well do ya, punk?"

In this instance, the answer is 6 as Harry produces a dry click on the next trigger pull after the apprehended robber asks 'I gotta know'.  However, in the final scene against the primary villain Scorpio.... the Answer is 5.

So, we've got a good premise for a before-and-after puzzle, where some form of modification is required from the initial grid-fill to the final one.  Next we have the useful facts that CLINT EASTWOOD and HARRY CALLAHAN both have 13 letters, so that looks promising and finally how many Dirty Harry films were there... the Answer is 5.  I think I can see a theme running here.

So the trick is going to be to construct a grid that has CLINT EASTWOOD initially at 5 (probably down, and probably central) which converts to his on-screen alter-ego.  Real words, before and after is an expected pre-requisite these days and this looks achievable even with 12 of the 13 words needing to be changed.  Magpie solvers will have seen that a similar mechanism was used in DEAF by ECLOGUE, where a perpendicular RAY BRADBURY sandwiched between a C and an N in converted into a thematic CONFLAGRATION.  These two puzzles were constructed in close proximity time-wise, so the techniques used were very familiar, primarily sorting out the central spine and words that convert around it first, while building the outskirts thereafter trying to maximise the average letter length as we go.

Unfortunately, during the trial and error construction, it became obvious that 1 across was not going to stretch to the 6 cells necessary to enable the central spine to be numbered 5, hence why the starting and opposing corner cells were removed.

In setting up the clue list, Eclogue looked to construct a question (for use as misprints or similar mechanism) to which the answer was indeed 5, and the number of Harry films was the obvious choice.  The question ultimately became "How many films with five down as lead character have there been?", but this necessitated an H at 5 down, which was almost certainly going to be unclued.  Again, a coincidence comes to the rescue in that H of course begins the character name.

For those unfamiliar with the films, it was still felt too much of a leap of faith to go from CLINT to HARRY without some additional encouragement, therefore a thematic component, primarily the names of the films themselves was to be included in the clue to every 5th solution - ultimately ending with SCORPIO to mirror the first film.  We needn't have worried though as the almost annual recycling of the series by Channel 5 coincided with publication, plus the fact that all of the film titles also appeared in a temporally adjacent episode of the BBC 1 quiz show Pointless.  As I say, coincidences everywhere!


Published by the Independent on 17 November 2012, this puzzle was originally submitted in March

Eclogue would like to thank John Henderson and Jane Teather for all their help and assistance in bringing their inaugural Inquisitor puzzle to fruition and to all solvers who have commented throughout the internet.

Logogriph will now hope for lots of boxed sets in his Christmas stocking along the lines of 'themes we'd like to see please....' (well, he can hope!)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Deaf (alias Hollow)

This began life in October 2010 as a prospective submission to the Magpie. Its theme would be difficult to detect and so the approach would be to make the clues hide their hidden message as well as possible. Corrections to misprints would spell out the message but these would be confined to each clue's wordplay rather than its definition. Clues were presented in their normal order but did not refer to the enumeration of letters. The grid was presented as an asymmetric Carte Blanche with no bars and no numbers, bars being required in solutions.

Finally, on 20th December, the puzzle was submitted to the Magpie for approval. Given that the checker would have to find time over the Christmas holiday to assess the submission the response was very swift indeed; rejection out of hand on a number of points not considered by Eclogue.

And so it was set aside for  quite a while until it could be resuscitated for resubmission. In the end it was a complete re-write while retaining the core theme - the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Originally the intermediate grid featured the word BIBLIOTHECA occupying most of the main NW-SE diagonal and changing the letters of this allowed the word CONFLAGRATION to be seen along the whole of that diagonal. The central G of this allowed the novel's main protagonist MONTAG to be seen on a minor SW-NE diagonal.

The re-write required a new grid and thus a new set of clues. It would no longer be a carte blanche and would be symmetrical this time (the asymmetry of the original being a major sticking point). This time the name of the author himself would appear in the intermediate grid, along the central column. Again all these letters would be replaced to allow the word CONFLAGRATION to appear in its place and again MONTAG would link up with the central G.

The new improved HOLLOW was duly sent in April 2012 off for consideration by the Magpie and this time there was no rapid rejection, much to Eclogue's relief. Indeed, it was accepted for publication after some customary adjustments and re-writes and was scheduled to appear in the September 2012 edition of the Magpie. The original significance of the title HOLLOW was that HOLLOW is a synonym for DEAF which in turn may represent 451F in alphanumeric transliteration. This HOLLOW to DEAF link was deemed a step too far and so the word HOLLOW was dropped and the word DEAF was then used as the title.

Some feedback has been received, with thanks from Eclogue:

Obviously the preamble is deliberately written so as to not require 14d to be changed to a real word, but I didn't really notice this until after I had worked out what it should be changed to.

I worked out what the title meant after I had finished solving.

The clue to 19a requires the F of FELLOWS to be changed to a Y, and then the endgame requires the Y to be changed back to an F. I think that this is a slight weakness in the puzzle, but complaining about it is probably unreasonable. At least it is the only across entry crossing 14d that is clued in this way.
Grid fill not too hard; heard of the book and author but haven't read it, and not being e-connected, had to find someone who was familiar with the details. Didn't need him to work out 14 down changes, but he knew the name (after I mentioned a few possibilities from gridsearch).


Luckily most of the early clues I solved intersected 14, so I got Ray Bradbury quite quickly. I dug out my copy of F451 - it was even older than I expected, a 1960 Corgi paperback priced at 2s6d (Do you understand this 'old coinage'?)
Very neatly worked, getting round the problem of differing lengths in Ray Bradbury and conflagration.
Enjoyable if none too difficult. The theme came fairly quickly although the full message took a little longer to appear, and working out the changes was a slow process until realisation dawned.

I didn't understand the reference to Jonathan at 13a, but it didn't much matter.
A famous book - except I remember trying to read it 20-odd years ago and getting bored. Maybe, now I'm older and .... er, wiser ? .... it would make more sense.
Good fun, although I was unsure of one or two clues.
I don't understand the relevance of the title, but everything else has fitted together beautifully. It's a good thing I send in the solution electronically, though, because all of my paper has just gone up in flames. Must the heating down a notch.
I enjoyed this puzzle very much and admired the misprints being confined to definitions. I'll be interested to find out why it is called Deaf.
In flagrante, if correct, needs explanation of all the crossing words being real. Spotted the theme pretty quick but the title, Deaf, 451f, came late on. Another enjoyable challenge from Eclogue.
This was mostly a very good set of clues with highly impressive misprints (much better than the norm where all the misprinted words are very short); 'Leftiness' and 'crocks' were two of my favourites (and I loved 'Western Highlands' in 43dn!). A few quibbles: 25ac was faulty ('...must involve... gives...'), 'pay' means 'apply tar to' (not just 'apply tar') in 16ac, I didn't like 'may be' in 1ac or 'was' in 44ac and in 45ac I'm not sure 'essentially' is fair to indicate a hidden word except when centrally located. Remembering a previous Magpie puzzle involving this author helped, but I needed Google for the protagonist. Excellent title!
A most enjoyable puzzle about a well-known theme.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

For St Agnes

Published in the January 2012 edition of The Magpie this puzzle was originally thought of as being suitable as an offering for the Christmas 2011 puzzle on the Crossword Centre. SGIII would have been its working title but in the event SGIII became something else and this became For St Agnes. Having expanded and improved the grid it was hoped it might be suitable for submission to The Magpie.  Ultimately, the editorial team there identified a further connection with St Agnes Day which occurs in January, providing suitable thematic timing also.

The subject matter: St Agnes's flower, the snowflake, of the genus Leucojum.

Jumbles in the entries led to 9 squares in the grid being comprised only of the letters SNOWFLAKE, these squares forming a 3x3 Sudoku pattern within the grid in which no letter of SNOWFLAKE was duplicated in any row or column of the Sudoku. A nod to the commonly held idea that no two snowflakes share an identical pattern.

Part of the reason for the change in setting priority on this puzzle was, as Logogriph found with increasing exasperation, the grid was an absolute swine.  There were a number of features that were to be retained - namely that the 'aisles' between the 3x3 Sudoku matrices were to contain real words rather than jumbles.  It was slightly ironic that ROSEWALL (a tennis player of yesteryear) attracted so much comment, given that this was not the original entry and the only one changed by the Editorial team.  It is only when a setter sits down and tries to work an idea through, that he concludes he's made a serious error of judgement and that what seemed like a good idea, is in fact potentially more trouble than it's worth.  The ability to come up with even jumbles using some combination of SNOWFLAKE, while maintaining both the Sudoku pattern required as well as grid symmetry is to put it mildly, somewhat difficult, and should only be undertaken when there's a Q in the month.   Logogriph let out a newly commissioned eulogy to St Agnes as a workable grid finally sat in front of him.  However, as we all know that's only half the story and little did Eclipse suspect that the task would prove just as tricky for the clue-writing.

Each clue held an extraneous word, the first and last letters of which formed two interwoven messages. One described the Sudoku nature of the puzzle and the other gave two descriptions of the word snowflake, both paraphrased from Chambers.

And finally the January connection: the feast day of St Agnes is commonly given as the 21st of January.

Given the huge amount of effort that went into this one, it was gratifying that the audience was suitably appreciative, as detailed below.

The feedback:

For St Agnes by Eclogue

I solved many of the clues in the top of the grid and noticed that there seemed to be a few Ks, but no more that one per row or column which made me think of sudoku. Then it wasn't too hard to guess the extra words in the clues leading to Leucojum and SNOWFLAKE.

I ended up trawling through Wikipedia's list of male tennis players (I would have gone through the females too if I hadn't found a suitable name among the males) to find ROSEWALL and determing the vital uchecked letter. I had been previously wondered if "became hostile" was SAW RED. I could have gotten his name from his appearance in the pre-match ceremony of the Australian Open men's singles final which was conveniently played just before the end of the month.

This was definitely this much gentler than the previous Magpie "Sudoku" puzzles, since the puzzle didn't just lead the solver to a Sudoku puzzle that was then required to be solved (well, it technically did, since the barred of cells and two possibilities for the jumbles in 42a and 37d were resolved by the Sudoku puzzle, but this is a trivial problem).

Patron saint of Sudoku? Winter precipitation? Loved this one, Eclogue. I particularly remember how solving the ‘inner puzzle’ assisted me complete the actual crossword, which presumably it’s supposed to do, with the whole jumbling thing going on. Cool – in more ways than one.

A triumph of grid-filling. Well done Eclogue!

Big fluke I solved this when I did: I'd done all except a couple of clues and was still wondering how the N/Ls would resolve in 37/42. While perusing Bradford for some other puzzle, I was turning a few pages when (on p 644 6th ed) 'St Agnes flower' leapt out (having nothing above, below or to the right of it), under the heading SNOWFAKE with Leucojum as the other entry. I later found 'St Agnes...' in Chambers would have provided teh same, but would I have looked it up? Can't say. With such heavy grid constraint, even with jumbles, a good effort to get so many unjumbles in. A very neat version of Su Doku.

Thoroughly enjoyable and an excellent puzzle at the end to show the symmetry of the positions in the grid and the different flakes.

Interesting concept, suitably picked for a warm January!

Not submitted because didn't quite finish. Virtually completed the grid and got both interlaced instructions.
Really enjoyed the challenge and just regret not starting at the beginning of January.

Thank you -- I liked this very much, and was surprised that it was possible to make a puzzle with this sort of Latin square in it. It might have been the Magpie Puzzle of the month.

However did we survive before Su Doku?

Prettily wintry. Slow progress to start, with the jumbles making the long intertwined messages hold out for longer than I'd expected, but soon enough the snowflake dropped.

A nice idea. I assume no two snowflakes are the same, though I haven't checked. I don't normally like jumbles, but was impressed by this one.

By far the most satisfying of the Sudoko themed crosswords I have ever done.

Puzzle of the issue.Enjoyed tremendously and the thematic elements blended well.

Is this 3D Sudoku?

Pleasing. There were several steps in the discovery of the theme and how it was to be applied. Had to use
Google to understand the title. Disappointed that, while doing so, I came across a plea for help in solving the puzzle!!

In the end I quite liked this but I didn't feel that way half way through when I was slowly - very slowly - getting individual clues, providing short answers and not much feedback. Then I picked out a key word from the interwoven phrases (I already had PUZZLE AND SQUARE, not forgetting CLUMP, but they weren't helpful) and juggled a few things to fit. Knowing the words to be removed made solving the rest somewhat easier but the realisation that there was a sudoku hiding in there made filling the remainder of the grid fairly straightforward and left but a couple of clues to complete - and understand as best I could. Finally I had to satisfy myself that there were, indeed, 25 answers entered normally and it took me some time to realise that "IN LOVE" was actually entered normally as I had entered the individual letters logically and not as words. All I now wonder is why we were told that 25, rather than just 'some' answers had to entered normally.

I am not very familiar with Eclogue but couldn't fault much. I would never have got from LID to TILE (in 11d), however, without knowing both and knowing that there had to be a connection. FILS and SELF also strained my understanding, but it wasn't important in the end - the complete puzzle, and that is what matters at the end, left no other options.

A clever idea, reasonably well executed and correctly graded, but who was St Agnes or, more to the point, what had she to do with snowflakes or snowdrops?

A classic C! And great fun.

A reminder of my one and only Listener prize - a bottle of bubbly for a sudoku of ROAST DUCK.

An excellent puzzle. The construction was impressive although I think it would have been improved if the jumbling had been less random (eg if answers had been jumbled if and only if they intersected the su doku arrangement, or something similar to keep the number of normal entries reasonable). Despite noticing the "coincidental" large number of W's and K's it took me until the grid was almost complete, and the messages obtained, before fully realising what was going on. The clues were pretty good (though I didn't like "quick" as an anagram indicator in 1ac) and fun to solve although I felt too many of the extra words stuck out a mile - nonetheless, the 'interweaving' meant that the messages didn't appear until the majority of the clues were solved. The last to fall were AWEEL, SKEGS and finally ROSEWALL, a name I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know. But for a few minor imperfections this would have rated as the best of the issue.
Fine piece of construction, which eventually rescued me from an error. Most enjoyable, congratulations Eclogue.

Quite a tough C as crosswords with jumbles are likely to be. Clues were straightforward so the puzzle made slow but steady progress.

A nice idea, but curiously unsatisfying for the work involved in bringing this to a conclusion. I'm not sure if the nine SNOWFLAKE squares are meant to look like a snowflake, but I'm not sure that they do!

Some clues were made very hard by the absence of usage indicators, which I thought were now meant to be used in all Magpie clues. For instance, AWEEL at 29ac is Scottish, and KEN at 33ac is South African. There were more examples.

6dn appears to be ambiguous, as once SLOW is removed, the clue simply reads 'Beat up game with clubs', so the UP could relate to either FLOG or GOLF. It doesn't really matter as the entry is jumbled, but either word could be an answer to the clue. For that matter, the word SLOW is not the best choice of superfluous word, as 'slow game with clubs' could well be a description of golf!

Other minor quibbles - at 20dn, FENS is plural, but the definition (marshland) is singular. More importantly, at 50ac, LEW is not a diminutive form of LUKE, but of LOUIS/LEWIS, as per Chambers.
A very clever construction by Eclogue. The puzzle itself was not too difficult to solve once I realized the theme was Sudoku.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Seasons Greetings III - the solution

The diagonals read MURRAY HILL and SILVER CITY, the highest point and part of the settlements on CHRISTMAS ISLAND.
SISAL; hidden
TOFUS; anag UP SOFT less P
IRONS; hidden
REALM; hidden
TITHE; anag I (one) + TENTH less N
OCTAL; composite anag CHOCOLATES less CHOSE
OTTEY; rev YET TO; def. is nickname
ISLAM; anag CLAIMS less C
ELPEE; anag PEEL + E
ATRIA; rev
AFROS; hidden
RUANA; U in anag ARAN
AIOLI; AI + anag OIL
YESTS; S in rev STEY