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. "

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