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.