Sunday, 6 July 2014

C'est La Vie

Submitted to Crossword Club in the wake of our d├ębut, Middle Classes, C'est La Vie draws its inspiration from the literary world. This time it is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr, a novel which constantly repeats 'so it goes' throughout, a phrase which lends itself to the title of this puzzle.

The task for the solver, then, is to omit every instance of SO and IT wherever they occur in clue answers prior to entry into the grid. One such omission inadvertently leaves the letters IT closed up together at 26 down. In order to maintain consistency, solvers were required to omit these two letters also, leaving their squares blank.

Misprints in clue definitions spell out


Slaughterhouse 5  regularly appears in ‘must read’ lists on both sides of the Atlantic and in 2013, one half of this setting duo did just that.  As the book begins, “All this happened, more or less”.    Our two publications in Crossword to date have both (inadvertently) been arguably our toughest two puzzles so far.  This may be considered to be thematically consistent with the book in this instance, which could equally be described as a difficult read.  While essentially sci-fi in nature, it dwells on difficult issues in our past, not least the Dresden bombings and the treatment of prisoners of war in the eponymous building.  The “So it goes” motif is used wherever death, dying and mortality occur as both a subject change and light relief, apparently 179 times (we haven't counted them!).

We are grateful to the 36 solvers who provided comments, bemoaning or lauding the difficulty.  The final step was correctly identified by most as a final (exhausted) “So, IT goes” and removing the first two characters from 26 down, although no-one commented upon our tongue-in-cheek “IMPREGNABLY” that appears as a result.

The puzzle was of course, made all the more tricky by the incorrect misprint indicator at 2d (which fortunately was otherwise a simple ‘hidden’ clue), that survived pretty much unscathed from first draft to final publication.  As Mr Vonnegut appositely puts it, "There is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre."  We can only apologise for this aberration.  So it goes!

And those comments:

I cannot see how 2dn can give a correct letter of T for KURT. 21 across is hardly fair.  Much harder than the other “C’est La Vie”
Unusual words, tricky misprints and unexpected theme made it difficult to get started (and to finish)
Very difficult for second puzzle. Excellent
Required sustained painstaking effort, but well worth it. Not sure about some of the correct versions – 2D and 21D for example.  And in 17D, Quito is a place near a great ring??
Can’t parse 2D.  Where is the T of KURT?  Nor can I see what extra letters at 14D & 17D between title and what he wrote.  Still managed to complete it OK.
Fiendishly difficult.  Possibly more so than the No.1.  Is 2 down accurate?  KURW??? ‘So it goes’ – not strictly accurate so or it …  Bit stretched therefore and I’ve obviously missed the point of the final sentence of the preamble.
Very tough but satisfying to end.  Thrown by the difficulty at 2Dn.  Surely TICAL is a weight and ‘Kurt’ requires a ‘t’.
Certainly the puzzles this month had things in common.  Dispiritingly, one key similarity was that once you’d worked out the gimmick (or been told it) you knew that the last few were likely to take almost as long as the rest of the puzzle.  It rather went that way here.  I had –AUGHT- and –ONNE- quite early, and managed to connect them.  Some nice words and clues, but a slog at the end always lowers the rating.  I can’t see how 2D provides a T, - a W, yes, but not a T.
None can say the second puzzle is easier!  Lots of PDMs like the lone B in 5 down.  I am still confused about 2 down.
Don’t understand 2 d’s misprint – indicates W instead of T?  Minor quibble – 16a – a fungus is not a plant – FUNGI have a kingdom all to themselves.  Otherwise – very nice.
Excellent, even though I am uncertain about 2 down!
I don’t normally make any comments about 1s and 2s, but surely this was not a number two.  2 down is presumably wrong (WEIGHS not HEIGHT?).  1ac & 5ac were the last clues to be solved (Z not O in 5ac).  17 down is QUITO, but I don’t know why (great ring?)  Many thanks
I couldn’t find misprints for 14d and 17d
That must be the most difficult puzzle I have succeeded in solving.  Obscure clues, obscure words as solutions, an obscure author of a book I do not fancy reading.  Took sheer grit to keep on trying…
Thematic survivor?  No idea.  Didn’t understand 2 down
What a relief after MynoT’s offering!  But once again, there seems to be an error in one of the down clues – 2Dn surely leads to ‘correct’ letter W, whereas a T is required if the author’s name is to be correctly spelt.  But at least everything is complete and explained when the theme is finally discovered.
I admire the construction, but the final step, if I’ve got it right, seems a bit contrived and anti-climactic.  Not certain of a few of the misprints:  I originally had K in 21ac, noting a battle at Brecknock, but it seems to be a polling station, and my SF associates assure me the author is KURT VON…  but I can only get a W from 2 dn, not the required T.  Never heard of the work, the author, or the phrase in context.  I don’t think I’ve missed anything thereby.
What is the misprint in 2D?
I enjoyed grappling with this but now I have an uneasy feeling that I must be missing something.  I hope my answers are right even when I haven’t understood the clues.  I’ve omitted the letters IT which appear in order once in the grid (rather than OR which appear twice) but what is the point of asking us to do that?  Thanks anyway
This was mega-difficult, even for a ‘first’ – far trickier than the actual ‘first’.  I was on the point of giving up several times and then the odd penny dropped.  Last entry PERLITE.
I haven’t read the book, but had heard of it’s use of the phrase, fortunately.  Doesn’t 2Dn give W not T?
I found this much harder than MynoT’s puzzle, particularly in the early stages.  It was a long but satisfying tussle to finish it.  I must admit I am not familiar with Slaughterhouse Five.  The misprints for 14d and 17d elude me, so I am one word short of what must be the phrase.  ‘Or’ seems the obvious word, but I cannot make it fit the misprints or gain any confirmation for it on the internet.  The final erasure took a little time to understand – for which I kick myself.  One can only admire the grid composition.
Took ages to get started, but had a lot of fun.  I can’t quite get the right misprint in 2 down.  I make the right letter ‘W’ which then gives the poor chap ‘KURW’ for a name. (I thought ‘WEIGHS’ instead of ‘Height’ would so, making the ‘S’ (misprint) into a T, but I expect I’m wrong).  Super puzzle anyway, & kept me amused for ages!  Not sure if I’ve erased the right thing, that’s life isn’t it?
Tres bien! Re 2D: KURW? TEIGHT?
An interesting puzzle on a theme that’s completely new to me.  I know that traditionally the second puzzle is meant to be easier but for me this was as tough if not tougher than MynoT’s offering.  The final stage especially had me scratching my head trying to find a character from the book in the grid.  Hopefully I got there in the end, but I’m not at all sure.
There seems to be an error in the clue to 2D – the correct letter for the misprinted definition is surely W, but this gives KURW as the author’s first name.  Didn’t understand the wordplay at 17D and 23D.
I came belatedly to Slaughterhouse Five just a few years ago when I went to Dresden for a conference and thought that I ought to catch up with it.  Had I not read it I am not sure that I would have tumbled to the theme here so easily, but it took only two thematic lights to show the way, after which if fell out relatively easily.  Interesting how many SOs and Its remained in the grid in reverse after solving.  I count two SOs and four ITs.
This was tricky – not knowing which f the 25 needed amendment and whether it would be SO, IT or both omitted added to the task.  It needed t’internet to get the quote, thought he novel & author appeared fairly early on.  What happens @ 2D?  I wanted ‘T’ as the correct letter.  I don’t understand 1D.  Quite a slog!
I can’t see the misprint in 2 down – it ought to be a ‘t’ (to give KURT) but only’w’ (‘weight’ needed for definition).  Also, after repeated examination of the grid I can’t see any survivor who needs to be erased as stated in the preamble.
Found this hard work and a while to recognise the book (which I know).  Lord knows whether or not I have erased the right item.  2D should produce a K but I can’t see how.
I tackled this before Mynot’s puzzle and never having read Slaughterhouse Fice, found it quite a struggle, though an enjoyable one.  Any crossword which includes the wonderful BRECKNOCK scores high marks from me.  I presume the thematic survivor to be erased is the IT at the beginning of 26 down (Ed – it is) and found this a bit unsatisfactory until reaching the, possibly entirely erroneous conclusion that RON and the S_MEN appear in the book.  I’m almost ashamed to admit my ignorance, but we all have our blind spots, and mine are bigger and more numerous than yours, so there.
We have found this very difficult indeed.  Early solves showed us (because of long anagrams) that solutions were being cut short and it was eventually clear that SO was going (IT came later) but the very obscure early clues means that SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE appeared very late in our solve.  There were some pretty convoluated clues and very odd surface readings.  To say that this was tough is an understatement, but thanks to Eclogue for keeping us busy!  PS Is there an error in 2Dn>  We can only find Weight – no T.
Despite spotting the thematic requirements early, the work & author were unfamiliar, so not so easy to anticipate misprints.  Very enjoyable.  This was probably my favourite of the pair this month.
I nearly gave up, as the hardest ;’second’ ever – but I just had enough to suggest ‘SLAUGHTER’ in the title and then Google gave it all away!  Event hen it was far from easy.  Misprint in 2Down seems wrong?
Couldn’t identify the thematic survivor, although 26 became one…  Wikipedia was vague about the ‘phrase’.  Couldn’t fina  T in 2, or an O in 14.  The answer for the latter is an adjective, but the clue defintes a noun.  Didn’t ‘note a certain similarity’ either…
Having solved these puzzles in a French Pyrenean mountain village, with no access to the iNterney, and having no knowledge of the work, we do not see the significance of ‘C’est La Vie!’ at the ned of the preamble.  Also we have KURW rather thant he required KURT, since we rejected HEIGHT in favour of WEIGHT – couldn’t fit a T anywhere.


For Eclogue's second outing in the Sunday Telegraph Enigmatic Variations series, we have a puzzle entitled "Nightmare".   It's probably too early to tell, but with two puzzles both having 'difficulty'-type titles, the other being "Taxing", there may be something of a theme developing here.

The fodder for this particular puzzle is a slim volume that has sat invitingly on Logogriph's book-shelf for quite some time, so it is perfect for the occasional London commute.  The tale is unlike the Father Brown stories, which GK Chesterton wrote later in his career, centring on a 'reds in the bed' type precept whereby the protagonist, GABRIEL SYME, infiltrates a secret organisation who allegedly plan anarchic destruction of all that is right and proper in the world.  The top-level committee of this shady outfit use days of the week as pseudonyms and our hero (if that is indeed the right word) manages to win a vote to become the new 'Thursday'.

The book was criticised after publication for the 'it was all a dream' style of ending, but the writer responded that by subtitling it "A Nightmare" this was very clearly the intention and that readers obviously forgot this fact by the time they reached the end of the volume.

Now, Eclogue like lateral links and while Solomon Grundy would appear the obvious suggestion, there is now a latter-day, far more appealing connection in the shape of Chief Inspector Fred Thursday in the superb ITV Morse prequel 'Endeavour', splendidly played by ROGER ALLAM.  It may be possible to take these parallels further in that both are bastions of the right and good order of things, in a world pervading with corruption and deceit, and so both have had to occasionally resort to more under-hand tactics in order to create a more level playing field.

The nightmare itself enabled the potential for a different approach to the letter-generating gimmick.  This time one or more consecutive words in each clue were to be anagrammed to provide one word as part of the clue before solving.  The initial letter of this word would provide the required letter contributing to a message for the solver leading to the 'actor who played Chief Inspector Fred (Thursday) Endeavour' omitting the themeword Thursday.  ROGER (E) ALLAM would originally appear at 6 down and cut across by the unclued GK CHESTERTON.  This name and the themeword should lead solvers to 'The Man Who Was Thursday' and therefore the replacement of the actor with the literary lead in the grid.  The subtitle of this work is 'A Nightmare'.

The elegance of some of the anagrams used was much appreciated by solvers and were ingeniously compiled by Eclipse (SATURNALIA for AUSTRALIAN, EGLANTINE for INELEGANT, DOVETAIL for VIOLATED, being among the highlights).

We received some very positive feedback for this puzzle, both on sites such as Answerbank as well as directly through the kind forwarding of the EV editor, Chris Lancaster.  We were particularly keen on the additional link identified by Crossword Centre stalwart, Trevor Crowther, who spotted that treating the title thematically would yield RIGHT NAME - a fact that had rather passed us by in construction, but is an all the more welcome discovery in hindsight.

What particularly appeals to Eclogue about puzzles like this, and judging from feedback, solvers too, is the use of real words in the final grid following substitution and this is a trend we very much hope to perpetuate.

Logogriph went through a bit of a Chesterton phase in 2013 (Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Man Who Was Thursday and some Father Brown stories) and potentially has other ideas from Chesterton's works in the 'potential' pile, but even if these don't come to fruition, the books themselves (once you get used to the style) are a very interesting read.

Emails and comments received:-


Eclogue are masters at clever themes, and this one had me wandering around Morse etc but was very neat and delightfully executed in the end.  NIGHTMARES - you have to get RIGHT NAMES.  Ha ha.  The top half of the grid was quite straight through, so I got to Chesterton but then had a right battle with the bottom half.  It gave way in the end, but my particular nightmares were finding 30D as VARE and if I read it correctly the rather unfair use of 'a' to generate ARE in 29A.

There was a nice mixture of some easy-to-spot and some very elusive anagrams like 'development' in 25D.

I certainly had to websearch the last step, but I do hope that people don't witter on again and learn to like finding things out.  These guys' effort for the Crossword Centre certainly gave me more knowledge than I had thought plausible about Brussels sprouts.


We don't always get round to solving the EV, though we should, and I originally downloaded this from the Telegraph site as the solution to my 'Hard Graft' was on the page and I wondered who had won, and what it looked like and so on.

The Eclogue preamble caught my attention and was clearly referring to what seemed to me to be a new device and I was hooked. A quick read through revealed some lovely anagrams (SATURNALIA for AUSTRALIAN, CARTIER for ERRATIC, MUTILATE for ULTIMATE, DOVETAIL for VIOLATED) and some clues led to immediate solves. As Chris knows, I very strongly believe that there should be a few very easy clues to hold out the bait to solvers - the clue to PANSPERMIST was one of those and so beautifully placed that it helped with the solve and encouraged us to continue in what was a fairly difficult set of clues.

It was the anagrams that were magic with some like EGLANTINE (INELEGANT) leading to the ROSE/ROES homophone producing a broad smile. There were clearly a couple of very imaginative and astute setters at work here. I work in three cruciverbalist teams and know how fraught the experience can be so a big bravo for the team work.

We were probably half way through our solve when we teased out the message that we were looking for ACTOR WHO PLAYED CHIEF INSPECTOR (Thursday?) FROM ENDEAVOUR. I might have got that wrong as we couldn't sort out the wordplay to produce an O in clue 17down. However, it was enough to send us to the Internet to find ROGER ALLAM.

'GK? ' I said to Charles. 'Nothing begins with that!' 'G.K.Chesterton does!' He replied and when we looked up 'The Man Who was Thursday', we got a lovely picture of the original text with 'Nightmare' on the cover. so we were almost home. Of course, we needed the Internet to find GABRIEL SYME and there was that very satisfactory final move when all the words were still real.

Great stuff, thanks to both.


Nice puzzle with a new gimmick in the clues BUT I had to do a lot of research on the internet.  GKC’s Man Who Was Thursday I knew but the actors and the character involved I had never heard of, and took some finding.  Without the internet I would never have solved it, which I think is a pity.