Friday, 17 January 2014

Seasons Greetings V

Continuing Eclogue's almost traditional Christmas contribution to Derek Harrison's Crossword Centre, Seasons Greetings V is perhaps somewhat tamer than its immediate predecessor in this Yuletide roll.

It's that time of the year again, although by the time this reaches the cyber-inter-thingy it'll actually be a long-distant memory, stirred only by the ghost-of-credit-card-bills-to-come.  As the less-than-inspirational title confirms, this is the fifth year that Eclogue has provided seasonal fodder for the Crossword Centre.  We've Walked backwards for Christmas, completed a Christmas Card, dabbled our toes on Christmas Island and had more than our fill of Brussels Sprouts.  So where do we head this year?   Enter stage left, Messrs Skellington and the Boogie Man, to provide the pantomime backdrop to connect the similarities between Frankincense and the Mary Shelley classic.

In constructing the grid, this time Eclogue went for the Left-Right double-clue technique, another first for them.   Although, we can't remember who the puzzle was by, the inspiration came from a Left-Right puzzle that used TITTLE-TATTLE as 1 across, which we think appeared in the Crossword Club, many years ago.

With reference to Tim Burton's film The Nightmare Before Christmas, misprints in clues spelt out NIGHTMARE BEFORE XMAS - the nightmare here being FRANKENSTEIN therefore apearing in the left-hand side of the grid before FRANKINCENSE (representing Christmas) appearing in the right-hand side.  What made this idea more effective was having a high-degree of similarity between the lights on each side, particularly as FIDDLE-FADDLE, differing by only 1 letter, provides little in the way of help.

It is probably the film that most people remember, but we can heartily recommend the original poem whose YouTube link was kindly provided in the comments (number 4 below).

One correspondent had previously expressed concern at the possible glut of traditional fare in crosswords appearing around Christmas, so a nod in that direction was included in the clue at 20ac:

"Nasal glow eccentric's seen reflected being almost certainly a trial once (5,5)"

which was an attempt to conjure up an image of some hackneyed red-nosed creature but no-one seems to have latched on to this.

There were 52 correct entries (54 if you include the compilers) and just 7 wrong, albeit these look like post-prandial typos rather than anything more serious, with only one entrant opting to put the apparent 'horrors' of Christmas in the left hand side, preferring to side with the Mary Shelley creation for their festive repast.

 We received 33 comments for SG5 and really are rather pleased by the reaction to this one, maybe the season of goodwill did indeed encompass all cruciverbalists in 2013!

So will Eclogue squeeze out an SG6 in 2014 - only time will tell, but even if we can't, through Noel Fatigue (a pathological desire never to have to sit through an episode of "Deal, or No Deal" ever again!) or whatever, then we're delighted you enjoyed the journey.  Yo Ho Ho!


1          Thanks to Eclogue for an amusing puzzle.

2          Thematic 1D's highlighted in festive  seasonal colours, just because. Also, I object to referring to Frankenstein as a nightmare, when he was mostly just misunderstood.

3          A bit of festive fun, though we might have left it till Xmas.

4          Please pass on my thanks to Eclogue for a very enjoyable Christmas puzzle.  If you are not familiar with the theme you might enjoy this version of Tim Burton’s original poem read by Christopher Lee.  It is only lasts about 10 minutes and is fun to watch:

5          Very enjoyable. I really liked the theme of the two Franks.  Thank you.

6          I enjoyed your Christmas Special. Thanks for the entertainment.

7          Good stuff!

8          Another really enjoyable puzzle from Eclogue thanks. Sod's law of course I guessed and got it the wrong way around first time!  I would say that I look forward to next year but they are coming around too fast as it is.

9          We enjoyed this entertaining puzzle by Eclogue. Frankenstein appeared very early in our solve but we couldn't believe our eyes, as he hadn't much to do with Christmas, so we kept on puzzling until the penny dropped and Frankincense appeared. Of course we had the two sets of words (or at least, the second half of the sets) on the wrong sides of the grid. It was amusing the way [they] deliberately confused us with similar words in the two sets. Nice one, thanks to Eclogue.

10        A very clever piece of work.

11         Thoroughly enjoyable seasonal puzzle; thanks to Eclogue.

12        I liked this one very much, especially the very original grid… I always enjoy Eclogue's solid clueing and original grids. Some of the misprinting in this one were extremely clever and well-disguised.  My only concern is the phrase in the preamble "When viewing the grid in conventional order," which I understood to mean that the misprints would produce the title in the order of clue entry, rather than the order listed, ie that a misprint in clue 2 might be after 3,4 or 5, if said misprinted definition was the right-hand 2. In the event, this was not the case. What was this phrase intended to add?

13        This puzzle from Eclogue was a lot of fun, much helped by guessing Frankenstein quite early, which in turn led to the misprint message. Many thanks to the setter.

14        Finding NIGHTMARE BEFORE XMAS is not quite necessary for solution; it would have been if he'd made 10A be ITCHES rather than ITCHED, since then the bottom 7 rows could be swapped independently of the top 5.  A nice Christmas offering…  (Frankenstein was the mad scientist, not the monster, but perhaps that is more nightmarish.)

15        A gentle introduction to the festive season and none the worse for that!

16        I enjoyed it - much as I tend to with offerings from these chaps. I seem to recall that it was a fair challenge with a nice set of clues which yielded gently ... but as a long-time supporter, it was painful to be reminded of the 'shambolic Leeds side' (of which we have seen quite a few in recent years). Of course I guessed at how the grid needed to be filled, and guessed incorrectly, so a bit of shuffling was required in the closing stage.  My thanks to Eclogue.

17        A lot easier than last year's!  I was pleased to note that FIDDLEFADDLE continues a fine tradition for these L&R things.

18        Fell into place very quickly after I realised the similarity of several paired answers implied the ricochet nature of 1 across.

19        Good fun, this.  A nicely constructed grid with a clever amount of duplication between the two halves to keep me guessing where entries had to go, and an entertaining representation of the Nightmare before Xmas theme.  Thanks to Eclogue for the fun.

20       This was a nice puzzle for the occasion - simple idea that worked well and fun to solve.

21        Very entertaining.

22        Another fine and very clever grid from Eclogue, and fun to solve with just the right level of challenge.

23        Not too much of a challenge. Fortunately for me, my initial guess at what to put on each side worked out to be correct.  Thanks to Eclogue.

24        Many thanks, very entertaining.

25        A considerably easier Eclogue than last year's brassicanerie… a lot of fun to be had anyway, notwithstanding an early strike on the 1 downs which, when coupled with mis-spelling FRANKINCENSE made for some confusion on my part.

26        I found Seasons Greetings by Eclogue to be thoroughly engrossing and what we have come to expect from this setter.

27        Having failed miserably on previous Eclogue Xmas offerings, hopefully I have managed to solve one correctly!  Nice theme, well worked with some fine clues.

28       Thanks to Eclogue for Christmas fun.  I imagine writing double clues must be difficult, especially in the design of good surfaces.  10a Acted to turn tide ..., 18a Counted votes ... and 17d Senior at old tavern were excellent, but my favourite was 5d Conducted measure on top player ....  Some of the corrected letters were wonderful; mug providing feed and Clever's flip were a delight.

29           Many thanks to Eclogue for another enjoyable festive challenge. I've never attempted a 'right and left' style puzzle, let alone one with misprints, but I found the level of difficulty to be well-judged. It took a while for me to get going due to the similarity between the two halves, though I suspect this was the intention all along. I was slightly disappointed that for a 'Seasons Greetings' puzzle there was only a little Christmassy content, though this really is nit-picking in what was a fine puzzle.

 30      Seasons Greetings indeed, cottoned onto the "Nightmare before Xmas" pretty quickly, and with the Tim Burton classic being a big favourite in our house this time of year was looking for some 12 letter characters to fit the bill. No such luck, anyway, it all fell into place in the end, (after a second grid was printed out and refilled correctly).  Thanks to Eclogue for the challenge.

31        Tricky, but clever, and the film title held the two theme words together nicely.

32        When I found the two answers at 15a, 9d and 11d, I thought that fitting the answers into the grid would be more difficult than in turned out to be. I was expecting that the conventional order of the grid would give the corrections in a different order from that in which the clues were presented, and that title would be required to determine that FRANKENSTEIN should come before FRANKINCENSE.  I found the misprint in 14d the hardest to spot, since I had been satisfied with 'provide, perhaps' as the definition and so thought the misprint must be in the second clue.  I quite enjoyed the novelty of having a left-and-right grid where both sides had quite a bit in common and an unusual Christmas theme.  Thanks.

33        I can hardly believe 4 years have passed since the first of Eclogue's seasonal specials - please convey thanks to him once again for a great 'Left and Right' puzzle. The misprints in each clue spell out the title of one of my favourite Tim Burton films, the musical 'Nightmare Before Christmas', abbreviated to Xmas, suggesting that FRANKENSTEIN at 1d (left) should come before FRANKINCENSE at 1d (right). This in turn determined the correct positioning of the across clues from 10 onwards, thence all the down clues and the remaining acrosses.  Even the entries at 2 down and 9d were thematically placed to provide further confirmation of correct entries - in the end, not such a FIDDLE-FADDLE !

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