Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bow End

Heading for Magpie this time, Bow End is a Circular or Radial puzzle, befitting its theme of Sumo wrestling.   Now Sumo is a bit of a 'marmite' sport:  to many no doubt it is just two (very) fat blokes bashing into each other, but wreathed as it is in technique, ritual and the over-riding Japanese / Shinto culture there is an awful lot more to it than that.

Even so, Sumo has courted its fair amount of controversy in recent times too.  In 2011, one of the six scheduled tournaments was cancelled following the discovery of a bout-fixing scandal.  In 2008, a trainer from a sumo stable was arrested in connection with the death of one of the junior wrestlers in his charge, which resulted from brutal beatings and ill-treatment as 'part of the regime' - he was jailed for 6 years.   Elsewhere, grand champion Yokozuna have been forced out by the Sumo Association; Futahaguro (60th) for a stable bust-up [he remains the only member of the highest rank never to have won a tournament], while Asashoryu (68th) was something of a rebel, who after various infractions with the authorities, got suspended and was ultimately forced to resign; although his side of the story is that he was removed to give the Association's preferred Yokozuna, Hakuho 'a free run'.  Interesting and part of the historic tapestry of sumo though these events undoubtedly are, they do rather besmirch what is otherwise a deeply symbolic, technical and at times very exciting sport.

In the UK, we have been rather deprived of exposure to sumo in recent times.  For a while, Channel 4 presented packaged highlights during the era of Chiyonifuji (the 58th Yokuzuna) who won 31 tournaments (basho) during his career.  More recently, Eurosport presented a series of highlight reels after the basho had completed, splicing 3 days into a one hour programme across the course of a week, there being 15 days to a tournament.

With the modern wonders of the internet, it is now possible to enjoy live streaming of the top-ranking Makuuchi division, which depending on the time of year either runs between (BST) 8-10am or (GMT) 9-11am for the duration of each tournament which are held every other month.  This can be found here: in the box which in off-tournament time shows a promotional video instead.

We had a 50:50 chance therefore that this crossword's appearance would coincide with a basho, and September is one of the three months that the Kokugikan hosts a tournament, the other three being spread across three other venues.  This time the 69th Yokuzuna Hakuho won through with a 14-1 win-loss record, his 27th tournament win.  Alongside Hakuho, Harumafuji was promoted in 2012 to the highest rank as the 70th Yokozuna.

So, onto business.  Sumo phrases appear relatively regularly in crosswords, but we don't recall a puzzle using Sumo as the central theme.  The sport occurs inside a roped ring which is embedded into a clay platform, constructed each tournament for the purpose.  So, the grid had to be round and is therefore a representation of a dohyo.  The grid construction was simple enough after relaxing the 50:50 ratio of in-out radials - the design also meant that the corrections to misprinted letters would need to provide the letters for Ring 4, else there was a significant amount of over-unching.  The proliferation of Ks and Zs in the Sumo ranks provided only limited options in a couple of instances, so some of the construction was almost set in stone (or clay in this instance) from the off.   In circle 2, we showed the five ranks of the makuuchi division (the highest), in increasing order of rank, MAEGASHIRA, KOMUSUBIs, SEKIWAKE, OZEKI and YOKOZUNA (the grand champion rank) in circle 6.  The thematic word RING is omitted from SP(RING), ST(RING), (RING)ED and TI(RING) which form the two letter entries in circle 1 - these also show the four cardinal points that are present in the ring itself.  It was slightly frustrating that the radials could not be restricted to 6s all the way around, but the use of four symmetrical lights of 5 each did not spoil the overall effect, and did mean that we didn't have to resort to the dreaded jumbles!

Rather than any reference to a boat, the title is in fact a reference to the yumitori-shiki or bow twirling ceremony which concludes each day of a basho (sumo tournament).

Finally, such a theme does give us the opportunity to include what is probably one of the most iconic Sumo pictures, namely that of Konishiki aka 'the dump truck' who reached the Ozeki rank, before retiring, in this case facing Mainoumi ('the mighty mouse').   We hope solvers weren't similarly overwhelmed by the puzzle!
Thanks as always to the solvers who took the trouble to comment on our puzzle - these are shown below:

I thought it was a little strange to have the corrections to the misprints gave the letters in circle four, but I'm not going to complain about not having to work out the direction of entry for most of the radial answers.

I spotted SUMO in the second ring, and could see that OzEKI and YOKOZUNA (which I knew from Chambers), but I thought it was strange that the required highlighting would be part of the thematic material.

Enjoyable. One learns something new every day.
Bradford a bit light on teh thematics so needed a netfriend to confirm most of them, which helped with the last few unsolved clues. Given the occurrence of, eg Zs and Ks in those thematics, a pretty impressive grid.
I've filled the grid for this, but without submitting it. I don't know what to shade. I have YOKOZUNA and SUMO suggesting wrestling, but can't find anything in circles 3 or 5. My guess would be TENKO, but ... ??

I really don't like circular crosswords and the more I do the less I like them. It's not that there's anything intrinsically wrong, and it's partly an aesthetic thing, but it's mostly just that I don't like them for no really good reason! So it was with this ...
Circular puzzles are not among my favourites but this one appealed more than most; at least there were no jumbled radial answers to contend with. Having reluctantly jettisoned the absolute conviction (based on the title) that the grid represented an archery target, I was taken back to 1980s TV, watching two wobbling mountains of flesh ( I exclude Chiyonofuji, the Wolf, from this description) attempting to annihilate one another while Lyall Watson mystically drew parallels with white clouds drifting over a peaceful Japanese sea or pine trees waving in a gentle breeze. It sounded fanciful then; now it beggars belief. At least it helped me recognise some of the words in the puzzle.

Major difficulty in this one was trying to fit ozeki in in the wrong direction (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write). If only Hans Andersen came from Odenze.

A nice radial, with an inspired use of misprints to help solvers with entry orientation. I had to get every letter in the inner circle before discovering the cunningly hidden theme. Shamefully, I am not 
as au fait with the Sumo technical lexicon as I apparently should be...

Good value puzzling for a B grade. Always a nice change to have a non-standard grid shape. Didn’t find all entries in C (as one might grumpily expect with no mention in the preamble). I liked the novel device for indicating directions of Radial entries, the misprints being neatly worked into the clues.

Grid frustratingly close to being complete with just one letter to enter and the small matter of shading.  Now that Googly has been conquered back to the world of wrestling.

I stumbled across the theme (from circle 6) and then found SUMO lurking in one of the circles very early on. Only after completing the puzzle did I find any of the words in circle 2.
I wasn't familiar with the grades of Sumo wrestlers, I am now.

The grid was filled and I still had no idea about the theme except that some of the words looked Japanese (and I had almost got 'manga' in one of the rings). As ever google came to the rescue and all became clear. I do like circular grids now and again and especially when there is thematic reasons for them. A good puzzle for which the title only made sense right at the end (and made me smile).

I always enjoy circular puzzles and this was no exception. I liked the misprint helping with the grid fill idea. The sumo ranks took a long time to appear. The final highlighting feel necessary.

Not usually a great fan of circular puzzles but happily made an exception in this case. 

I know very little about sumo wrestling so this proved to be another educating puzzle.

It is amazing how many puzzles we are seeing that work so much better with a circular puzzle rather than a square one.

In this instance wikipedia was very helpful giving the list of sumo wrestlers. I also like the use of the novel misprints giving one of the rings, otherwise there would be a double unch in every entry. I often struggle with circulars as they are mini puzzles of 4 answers, but this was suitably a B grade. I thought the dohyo might get into the puzzle somewhere. 

Very good to get all the ranks of the top division of sumo wrestlers into the grid. There were an awful lot of Ks and Zs to clue. I was expecting the name of the division, Makuuchi, to be hidden but I guess that was a K too far! Great fun.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Tour de Farce

The inspiration for TOUR DE FARCE came on a trip to the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton in October 2012, to see the touring production of the award-winning Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers.  Farces such as this are probably the 'marmite' of the theatrical world, you either love 'em or hate 'em.  After a mirth-filled few hours, it was easy to confirm that Logogriph was a fan.  There is an enormous amount to admire in this production, whether it be visual or verbal  and it is heartily recommended to anyone who has the opportunity of seeing it - further details can be found here:

The programme for the day is filled with interesting details about the play and also it's (probably) more famous cinematic outing, with the late Sir Alex Guinness in the lead role as Professor Marcus.  By common agreement, the Coen Brothers more recent remake from 2004 pales badly in comparison.
The plot synopsis is simple, a group of criminals pose as travelling musicians and secure lodgings with a dear old lady called Mrs Wilberforce.  The first half involves the set-up, the hatching of the plot and the successful perpetration of a heist.  As Mrs Wilberforce's suspicions grow, the gang conclude (to varying degrees) that the old lady has got to go, but in actual fact kill off each of the gang instead one by one.  This ultimately leaves Mrs Wilberforce and the loot to while away the rest of their days together.

Using the ever-so helpful synonymous phrase 'rub out', an idea for a grid, whereby the sequential removal of the five criminals leaving Mrs Wilberfore behind came into being, from which TOUR DE FARCE was born.

It was initially the intention to have every character interlinked with the previous one in across or down formation - unfortunately, this became just one step too far in try to squeeze in the lead Professor MARCUS, who took on a diagonal aspect to accommodate (still straight though).

The wording of the preamble was very important here - while a fan of the film or stage production may have been able to determine the theme from this alone, it would be a a lucky set of circumstances, but for the rest of us mere mortals, a succinct, but suitable set of double-purpose wording was required.  Hence the use of 'rub-out' to allude to both the demise of the characters and their removal from the grid, and 'otherwise straight' to rule out other more fanciful letter combinations while indicating the character's intended appearance in the farce itself.

Eclipse used the tried and tested misprints method for spelling out the actors from the film (using ALEC GUINNESS in full to ensure every clue generated such a letter) followed by the title, including the occasional well-disguised one which sometimes leads to the clue being solved and then the misprint worked out in retrospect.

It may interest readers to know that computers are only used in the type-setting of Eclogue puzzles.  Otherwise the clue writing and grid designs are entirely down to pen and paper - there seems a certain satisfaction associated with being able to compile in this way, although it would never support a more prolific output, or as a full-time job - the minimum wage is a far off un-achieved aspiration to most compilers of complex cryptics I suspect.  As solvers ourselves, we do it for the love of it!

Eclogue was delighted to receive confirmation from John Henderson that the puzzle was to become  No 1287 in the Inquisitor, being the second Eclogue puzzle in that series, following on from "The Answer is 5" published in 2012.  It is something of a coincidence that our first two puzzles published in the Independent have both been based on films - whether this is a trend in the making, only time will tell.

Friday, 31 May 2013


TAXING represents Eclogue's second appearance in the national press. This time it is the Sunday Telegraph doing the honours in its Enigmatic Variations series and TAXING appeared as puzzle number 1066 in that canon, a number that is slightly fortuitous given the subject matter of the puzzle.

It uses as its basic premise the proverb 'Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois' which solvers can discern by reading corrections to misprints in clue definitions as they appear in clue order. The proverb's English equivalent is of course 'In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king' and both of these versions are given in Brewer's under the heading French. And so the puzzle's theme is based on a pun on the state of being one-eyed.

Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois

Logogriph's idea revolved around a number of words in the English language which contain instances of the letters ii occurring together. If one of these letters is omitted what remains in a very small number of instances is still a valid word in its own right - in this case TAXIING > TAXING is just such a word. So the trick was to write a clue which would lead to the longer word in each case while providing only enough spaces to accommodate the shorter word. Ten such words or phrases containing "II" were used to illustrate the theme in the puzzle.

Neither Eclipse nor Logogriph are blessed with anything like 20:20 vision, so it is perhaps surprising that they haven't happened upon this particular theme previously.   The obscurity of the quotation within Brewers is also unusual, in that ready links to the more familiar English equivalent are not especially well sign-posted, nor is the 'translation' particularly exact, hence the additional hints in the preamble to the puzzle.

Finally, solvers were required to encircle in the grid, the number(s) of the clue(s) which did not have misprinted definitions.  These were 1 across and 1 down and therefore the top-left '1' was to be circled, yielding a thematic 'eye' shape.

And 1066? Well that fortuitous piece of editorial scheduling corresponds to the year of the Battle of Hastings where King Harold indeed became a one-eyed king, albeit very shortly before becoming a deceased one.

Enigmatic Variations No 1066, Taxing by Eclogue appeared on 14th April 2013. Sadly, just two weeks later the series editor, James Leonard died. An eminence in the realm of crosswords he was noted for his wit, brevity and forbearance. While only a brief relationship spanning just this one puzzle, Eclogue will always be grateful to Mr Leonard for his acceptance of our first EV puzzle and his forbearance of us as newcomers to the party.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Middle Classes

To date, there has been no discernible trend in Eclogue's selection of themes (aside from the Christmas series on the Crossword Centre).  For those of you who are just as likely to memorise the order of a pack of playing cards, or all of the Epsom Derby since 1780, you'll know that we have to date published puzzles on Dirty Harry, Fahrenheit 451, Snowflake Sudoku, and one where the solver ended up throwing away the very thing they had solved.  If there were a Random Puzzle Generator button on Eclogue's theoretical mousepad, it would already be suffering from severe over-use.

The Crossword Club gave Logogriph his first successful outing into publication with Birthday Party, a puzzle which can be found here:-

Logogriph is now into double figures of Club published puzzles and therefore has a very definite fondness for this outlet which has done much to foster his love for the art, so when, in electronic conversation, Eclipse and Logogriph broached the subject of submitting to the Club under their Eclogue banner, it was a challenge met with considerable enthusiasm by them both.

"Middle Classes" is remarkably 'normal' when compared to previous Eclogue puzzles, in that it is simply about shells and their inhabitants.  This puzzle however was all about the technical delivery - it is the first that Eclogue has delivered with 4-way symmetry and groups the correspondingly placed clues in sets (one normal, one Printer's Devilry (another first for Eclogue), one with misprints and one with extra letters).  The grid is completed with 8 unclued thematic words, also symmetrically placed throughout the grid.

Originally, the puzzle was entitled "Ssssotss" which represented the old tongue-twister "She sells sea shells on the sea shore", but this replaced during the checking process as it was viewed to be too obscure.  A 'shell' is also an intermediate class, hence the revised title used.

It was only after the receipt of checkers comments that Logogriph spotted a not-quite-fatal flaw, in two sets of clues had not been married up correctly.  As luck would have it, two of the clues were misprints using the same letter, so were interchangeable, but one PD clue needed to become normal and vice versa.  A swift piece of remedial action later brought everything back into sync.

55 comments were received from setters and these are shown below:-

  • This took ages to complete – I had to resort to the tiles of an old Scrabble set
  • Sorry, but I didn’t like it.  Not sure what the ‘theme’ is apart from a group of vaguely related words – and does carapace which is just a shell belong with the rest?  No thematic reason for 4 types of clue so why do so.  My main problem though is that I just detest printers devilry type clues – they just cause a lot of grief and wasted time finding words to fit the grid then work out where they go in the clues.  PD are just no fun and basically serve only to detract from the puzzle as a whole.  Not your usual excellent standard I’m afraid chaps.  Look forward to your next one though.
  • One of those puzzles where you can’t be SURE  you have it all right and this spoils the enjoyment.  I find PDs difficult and still don’t know about RORY.  Don’t get the significance of Middle Classes
  • 22d I found very difficult. I’d almost given up when I realised I had to split the MENT into ME and NET i.e. MEAGRE GENT.
  • I have a vague idea what the title means and look forward to finding out whether my guess is right.  A good debut – keep up the good work!
  • Very good.  I assume that the title refers to an intermediate class that met in an apse at Westminster.
  • Enjoyable, but according to the Club Handbook in a PD clue “each passage, when complete, makes sense.”  I can make no sense of some of these.
  • I was dubious about 18a, which seems to require I=Indian (WRONG! – Indian was IN(D) in the wordplay – Ed); but in general the most difficult clues were the Printers Devilry ones, some of which didn’t seem to translate into very natural English (1a, 22d); I can’t work out 12a (Poor personal ad in the Mirror….?_. 24d introduces a word that isn’t in Chambers; 28d could have done with something more specific than “It”.
  • Well-clued puzzle, a pleasure to solve.
  • Devilish Printer’s Devilry, especially 12a.  I spotted the theme fairly easily, though it took longer to understand the title.  Thinking that 16a was PRIMAL (“Raw” for “Jaw”) caused a distinct hiatus.  9d and 22d seem to show a French connection for the setter, but 29a and 5d take him across the Irish sea!
  • That was fiendish!  If you get any answers from new solvers they must be very gifted!  (I never have related the title to the theme words?)
  • Well constructed grid and good spread of ‘themed’ entries.  The PD clues were rather weak, particularly 28d, 22a and 12a.
  • Presumably the title has some relevance to the theme – but it escapes me.
  • Not sure about a few of the PDs making real sense.
  • This took me much longer than it should as I’ve (temporarily) forgotten how PD’s work out!  Fortunately my sons new, wide-ranging, telephone came to my help.  I really must look into this new gadgetry.  A very enjoyable puzzle too.
  • What a struggle we had to complete this and, of course it was the printers’ devilry.  Our ultimate choices of words gave some extremely peculiar surface readings.  We decided that a SCONE ‘may be seen in TESCO next to towel shelf’ (well, that’s a new one on me!)  There were some tough words in this one too – LURGHI, GHARRI, RORY, URANIN and IMPARL all in that top left corner (our last to yield!)  Thank you Eclogue.  This will surely be the most difficult one this year!.
  • I think some of these Printer’s Devliries are a bit dubious – particularly 12a, which I don’t really get.  ESCARGOT was a cruel false lead for the thematic word generated by the misprints.  And I still don’t get the title!
  • Interesting format.  However I am particularly disappointed in the PD clues; they should read as sensible sentences in the undevilled version, but sadly fail to do so.
  • Well, EAR appears twice in the grid, so were you ‘sure to hear’ by means of a word in your shell-like?  If so, why not incorporate that in some way in the puzzle?  Don’t see the meaning of the title, and although some PD clues were cleverly done (and pleasingly brief), others were more perplexing.  What on earth, for example, was intended in 12?  Even with the break at mir/e, I can’t see why a ‘poor personal ad’ would…. do what exactly?
  • Nice mix of clue types, the main hold-up being my erroneous assumption that one of the thematic words was escargot rather than escallop.  18a appears to require that Indian = I which seems dubious to me (Wrong – see above – Ed).
  • 22d was difficult to find.  12a doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense when the answer is inserted into the clue.
  • Why ‘Middle Classes’, I wonder?  Because they’re always the ones who have to shell out, perhaps…  Always a pleasure to welcome a new setter, and this was a neatly constructed exercise.  As usual on these occasions, the PD clues were the last to crack – not our favourite clue type!  We shall look forward to more from Eclogue.
  • This must count as one of the finest crossword puzzles ever! And one of the hardest!!! At times it seemed like trying to complete four jigsaw puzzles where all of the pieces were of the same shape and the pictures fitted in several places – others with no picture at all.  Last two to check that they were correct were “ARMAGH” – fortunately all the letters except “R” were already checked – and “A-RE-E”.  But in the end I chose the right ‘P’ in the clue at 29a and then sorted out the “Meagre gent” in 22d.  Some delightfully misleading clues – hope I haven’t made any silly mistakes!  Thanks, Eclogue.
  • I prefer a definition with Printer’s Devilry clues.
  • Though SHELL A1 was my first class in grammar school 73 years ago, the PDM took quite a while – as did some rather dodgy PDs.
  • Not the most satisfying puzzle – I don’t understand the title, nor (hence?) why the thematic entries are so.  I haven’t worked out one or two PDs but as there seems to be only one possible entry for them I shan’t bother.  And (yet again) rather too many unchless entries.  Can’t Sympathy be told to produce at least one unch per entry?
  • I am not particularly fond of PD clues – very difficult to solve in isolation.  Find the answer and then make it fit in – not much satisfaction.  I have obviously found the theme but I don’t know why or how it relates to the title.  12 across?  Many thanks
  • Nice to see some PD clues – quite unusual these days – and there were some clever disguises – even after realising which in each set of four was PD.  Very good construction to get the eight shells placed symmetrically.
  • A suitable debut.  A whinge about similarity between 11 and 31.  And about the choice at 22, between ABREGE and AGREGE.
  • I found this quite tough but enjoyable once I realised that the last sentence in the preamble was false (For “two more thematic words” read “another thematic word” – (WRONG! There were two, one for the misprints, one for the extra letters – Ed).  I hope I got the PDs right 0 they didn’t seem to give very convincing meaningful statements.  In the very first clue, for example, the word ENSEARED seems to be intended, although according to Chambers it means ‘dried up’, which doesn’t make sense in the context.  Even if the saint’s relic were SEARED in the memory, it couldn’t be described as making an apt statement, could it?  Maybe I’m missing something clever here.  Incidentally the grammatically sloppy comment on page 1 seems rather pointless!  However, thanks for a generally good puzzle.
  • Two days on and I’m still waiting for the PDM!  I’m afraid I don’t find molluscs etc very interesting – my loss, no doubt.  The clues (and spotting which was which) were challenging, although the PD clues appeared a bit ‘stretched’.  Still don’t get ‘RORT’, or the puzzle’s title.
  • Having a mixture of gimmicks makes a xword a bit fiddly, particularly when the PDs are father far-fetched, but grouping the gimmicks in sets of four was a big help and it all worked out satisfactorily in the end.
  • Why did I try to work the misprints as escargot?  I hate misprints!  Besides this, I did enjoy it, more please.
  • I ended up nitpicking over this puzzle, as it was very good bar some awkward niggles.  A lot of PDs were completed due their(sic) not being alternatives – on of the skills in a PD is to make it reasonably clear where a split might occur.  28d meets this happily, but it’s very unsatisfactory as the towel shelf is of no real use to the solver once you’ve spotted it as it doesn’t refer back to anything that helps you get Tesco.  The wordplay in 18a leads to KNAPPER – you shouldn’t have your extrea letter in something you remove.  In 27a, the ‘are’ isn’t necessary, and it could have a function indicating ‘a’, so better avoided.  These are ‘eyes off the ball’ things equivalent to ‘Eclogue is…’ and ‘their… puzzle’ in the page 1 comment.  Best wishes
  • A very enjoyable solve – and several wry smiles as the PDs gave up their secrets.
  • Nice theme and an enjoyable ‘solve’.  Some of the Printer’s Devilries make little sense to me.
  • I found this very difficult particularly the PDs which seemed particular(sic) obscure and hard to find.
  • “A hard outer covering”, but well worth cracking.
  • Once I’d found 2d & 4d, I guessed the theme, though it was only after I’d finished that I remembered that the title meant shells.  The PDs at 22d (‘firm a meagre gent’) and 12a (‘personal ad in the Mirror teases cheat’) weren’t very satisfactory, though I liked the others.  Favourite clues were 9d and 34a.
  • I normally don’t like PD clues – they strike me a particularly unfair but I could cope with only 8 (which were actually quite fun).  Another good Eclogue puzzle – very fair with an interesting theme.
  • Good stuff!
  • I wasn’t sure if you wanted the OSTRACOD and ESCALLOP mentioned below (probably not) but now I have anyway!  Tasty puzzle and a nice lot of different things to sort out.  Good fun!
  • A nice mixture of clue types which provided a good challenge.  Many thanks.
  • Not usually beaten by one of this type but have only managed 11 clues.  Normally I enjoy PD clues but can’t get into any of them this time.  I think a bit more help was needed but I’m not sure exactly what!
  • The most time consuming part was finding a couple of letters – and then having to hunt for the clue!  But on the whole, enjoyable.  Once I found the theme, I passed the grid to my 7 year old granddaughter, who has posters for everything – including shells.  She filled in the gaps and is feeling great.  Perhaps this is cheating but it was fun for all the family.  Thanks.
  • Much enjoyed this debut puzzle; nice to have a bit of printer’s devilry, which I like very much.  Interest maintained throughout@ like the thematic words, “OSTRACON” and “ESCALLOP”.
  • I found the PD clues a bit unwieldy.  Not sure about the extra letter in 18A, but over-all an interesting puzzle.  Favourite clue was 36.
  • Enjoyably challenging.  PDs were the hardest to solve – (I had PACABLE for 5d).
  • We were totally stumped by 22d and had to guess at a possible answer (incorrectly, unfortunately – Ed)
  • Time taken 3 weeks (30,000 minutes) – I got stuck on 22d.  18a – could not verify ID for INDIAN (see above – Ed)
  • 1a – the only meaning of ENSEAR in CH. Is to dry up (something) which doesn’t really fir the clue.  29a  Should one have been told this is a proper noun not in CH?  PDs not my favourite clue type but I suppose there’s the benefit of a mini PDM with each.
  • It’s surprising how muych more difficult it is when the clues are not in the “right” order!
  • I’m not too keen on PD, but I persevered nonetheless and got there in the end.  Having the clues in the wrong order was a bit tiresome.
  • Very enjoyable.  I don’t really see 22d, so I’ve guessed answer (Correctly! – Ed)
  • Poor personal ad in the Mirror teases – cheat seizes home!  Little lustre from firm a meagre gent runs!  These cannot be right can they?
To which we replied as follows:-

"Eclogue are grateful to the 55 members who took time to comment on their debut puzzle for the Club. “Middle Classes” (a definition derived under ‘shells’ in Chambers) was regarded as difficult by most, so solvers will be grateful that the vetting process resulted in the grouping of clues and a change to the title from “SSSSOTSS” (representing, “She sells sea-shells on the sea shore”), which was alluded to in the ‘sure to hear’ comment on page 1.  A few solvers were delayed by guessing ESCARGOT rather than ESCALLOP for the corrected letters to misprints, but aside from the odd minor error, the vast majority of entries received were correct.   

A couple of commentators noted the small number of unches.  However, until the theme is deduced and the unclued lights ascertained, it could be argued that the puzzle is in fact over- rather than under-unched – as Eclogue eschew electronic setting aids, either in grid construction or clueing, this was entirely by design. 

While most of the reaction tended to be on the positive side, a fair proportion expressed dissatisfaction at the use of PD clues.  Given that PD is not universally popular with solvers, this was almost always going to be the case!  However, most of the adverse comments singled out two or three of these clues in particular, which may well be justifiable in hindsight.  We still feel however that PD was an appropriate vehicle for at least part of this puzzle, as the devilled versions are themselves ‘shells’ concealing their answers. 

Overall, we were delighted that most solvers enjoyed the challenge and hope to be able to grace these pages again in the future. "