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.