Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Little Light Entertainment

Welcome back to our slightly irreverent blog on our latest published puzzle of what was a very busy period for Eclogue at the start of 2014.   "A Little Light Entertainment" as it eventually became known (of which more anon) commemorates the works of one little-known early twentieth-century English light-music composer, one Frederic Curzon, this puzzle was submitted to Magpie in early October.  It was only in the run-up to submission that the 40th anniversary of his death on 7th December 1973, was identified, which got Eclogue to put their skates on.  However, as those who have been glued to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will testify, speed and skates tends to lead to slips and slides, and this puzzle had, shall we say, a somewhat difficult birth.

Little is known of Curzon and the solver will have only a very sparse Wikipedia entry for reference. This entry in turn is apparently based on the cover notes of a Naxos / Marco Polo CD fortuitously discovered by Logogriph in a charity shop!

Originally entitled Hum Ho Factory, an anagram based on one of Curzon's works (referencing one possible opinion of the light music genre), Charm of Youth Suite, the puzzle also featured cryptic entries based on other works.  One such title was Robin Hood Suite which gave two entries, HOB and INDOOR.  The issues to overcome in the editors' minds were the obscurity of the theme (compensated by the variety of cryptic representations), but more problematically the interpretation of SUITE.  Eclogue convinced themselves that a SUITE was an 'arrangement of' (and still hold to that opinion), but Chambers' definition was not overly helpful, and therefore the ROBIN HOOD SUITE (and CHARM OF YOUTH SUITE) was deemed to flaw the puzzle which was therefore rejected.
Now, we're not going to let a little set-back like that perturb us, as the puzzle itself was generally well-favoured.  Nor are we in the habit of arguing - life is just too short and we usually endorse the oft-repeated competition rubric that the editor's decision is final.  After a rapid re-write and with an eye on the calendar Hum Ho Factory re-emerged as A Little Light Music, which was then renamed again to A Little Light Entertainment.  This version went for ROB in HOOD represented by PINCH in GOON.
However, while this fixed the SUITE problem, further editorial changes were required to increase the average lengths of lights that had suffered in the second iteration, and so we arrived at the published version:-
One final issue to resolve, namely that the wonderfully named Dance of the Ostracised Imp in the Wikipedia entry used the incorrect american 'z' spelling.  Our original preamble made mention of this, but, with the internet dexterity that comes easily to him, Magpie's Chris Lear pitched in to update the offending entry, in time for solvers to be none the wiser.

Unfortunately the succession of changes meant that the anniversary slipped by almost unheralded, with its final version the puzzle came into being in the January 2014 Magpie but the fact that this edition was published early (on Christmas Day 2013) to some extent satisfied the anniversial requirement!

For those who are unfamiliar with Mr Curzon's work, you can find no better place to start than where you'll find one of the tracks from the Naxos CD.

Clues yielded an extra letter in wordplay which provided four further lights by our composer in residence, THE BOULEVARDIER, CAPRICANTE, GALAVANT and BRAVADA.

We hope a jolly time was had by all.  Aside from the obscurity of the theme (we refer such comments to our blog for Who's The Daddy?), solvers comments were generally positive.  Interestingly, PINCH in GOON was the thematic highlighting most often noted as the hardest to spot.  Thanks as always to everyone who commented:-
  • I found three of representations hidden in the grid pretty easily, but I found PINCH in GOON for ROBIN HOOD (SUITE) a little more tricky.
  • Obscure or what? Very hard to get the cryptic compositions despite little choice.
  • This has all the hallmarks of a Sympathy or similar produced grid: 18 unchless entries is 18 too many. The obscurity level of themes is also increasing: I've never heard of this bloke (and don't feel I've missed anything). Net needed, of course, to find his works, then just a tedious grid hunt. (Editor - We've seen this type of comment a couple of times recently, probably from the same source, but it is incorrect on two grounds, firstly, we still don't use any sort of electronic compiling aid, and secondly, we have no problem under-unching (although the count here is wrong, as it includes those crossing the unclued light), there are far too many puzzles that are unfair because they go the other way).  We'd like to put the middle sentence in the context of a Les Dawson quip which goes something like "I was going to play you some Mozart, but thought "no", he never plays any of mine"   
  • A bit esoteric for me, though I appreciate the quantity of thematic material incorporated into a symmetric grid. Tough end of B, I thought.
  • I'd not heard of the composer commemorated, though on Googling him, the title represented by 35&36 wasn't completely unknown.
  • Thanks for the date, preventing one going off on a wild (Polish) goose chase before getting all but the last few letters of 22.
  • Most impressed by the clues - brilliantly crafted.
  • Not a difficult puzzle (B) until it came to the fourth work to highlight - I think it must be GO(pinch)ON for Punchinello as in 'a bit of a thug/fool'. Eclogue needn't have used the abbreviation G.O.P. (having bop, hop, lop etc available) so that made it likely, fitting as it does with the required 9 letters, though not completely convincing for me. If it's something else then I couldn't find it, shucks!
  • Good fun; as with 'Images', nicely themed.
  • As my surname is very close to that of the composer I was rather pleased to complete this puzzle. Played one of the pieces from YouTube. Title summed it up very nicely -- thank you.
  • A lot of thematic material in a small grid - an unfamiliar theme that I needed help from the web to discover
  • You guys seem to have been busy of late - I think this is the third Eclogue I have done recently. I have to confess to not being familiar with the works in question, so this was a voyage of discovery for me. It all came together quite nicely in the end. Thank you Eclogue
  • For a B I did have a little trouble finding Frederic Curzon, as I was convinced he had to called Burton for far too long.
  • I did not know of Frederic Curzon and what I thought might be easy, hunting for somebody who died in December 1973, was not so. The clues, however, reflected the grading and the grid was soon all but completed. Although I suspected that the right hand column contained the final 9 cells to highlight, it took some while for the ROB-in-HOOD to register. A Little Light Entertainment, indeed.
  • Delightful. In the other crossword club to which I subscribe, solvers are for ever complaining about having to highlight cells. Even if this final step sometimes defeats me, it is surely one of the joys of the solution. It certainly was in this puzzle. PINCH in GOON took me far too long to spot, even though it was obvious where the remaining 9 cells had to be and that there were not many works to choose from. 
  • Utterly charming.
  • Always nice to find out new things. Never heard of this composer before.
  • Very nearly sent this off without understanding the fourth cryptic representation. Obviously it had to be the final column otherwise there would have been no need for the awkward GOP, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't justify GOPINCHON as PUNCHINELLO. Took days to twig Robin Hood. Hadn't heard of Mr Curzon – English light music is a pretty closed book to me, I'm afraid – so thanks to Eclogue for the introduction.
  • An obscure theme but an easy solve thanks to the internet.