Monday, 23 March 2015


Sometimes, thematic puzzles lack a distinct theme, but are instead subject to some mechanical nicety or complexity that enables them to stand on their own two feet without necessitating a working knowledge of the digestive tract of a wombat, or the historical battles of Bratislava.  Eclogue haven't really explored this area previously, but ventured to do so with CHOICE, a puzzle that simply had two sets of answers and a visual identification to determine which to choose.

Submitted to Brian Head's Crossword Club, the puzzle was published in Crossword in January 2015.

Two grids, two sets of answers but only one grid contains the correct solution.

With no other messages required, the clueing opted for a LEFT-RIGHT style, but rather than two cryptic offerings for each, clues were presented as one normal and the other DLM, either appearing first. The solutions filled both grids depending on the CHOICE of the solver and hidden messages in both revealed which was which.  In one the diagonals reveal the instruction 'RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN' and this pattern is in the shape of a cross, signifying 'incorrect'.  In the other the main diagonal reads "CORRECT ONE" - obviously the one to submit.

The 'cross' effect was universally missed, with many respondents suggesting that a second diagonal message should have been added to the submitted grid, but this defeats the very object we were trying to employ.

Aside from an aberration in the definition of ASPERS as TREES, we feel that the puzzle stood up fairly well under scrutiny.

We do however wonder at why some comments make it from head to hand as in a small minority of cases they offer little in the way of constructive criticism, but often some rather ill-conceived and even ill-informed opinions that are more in keeping with those of an internet troll than an enjoyer of our genteel pastime.  It is hoped that these individuals find some other interest to pollute, as the humble crossword setter does not deserve to be on the receiving end of such trite drivel.

We had 29 pieces of correspondence in total and these are re-produced below:-

  • A bit slow to start off, but once I got a toe-hold, I got to the summit reasonably smoothly.  One of the easier seconds, but not so easy as to make it unsatisfying, & I found it absorbing and enjoyable enough
  • Tricky to get started, but the INVEIGLES / DISTAINED pair fell out and I was able to dig in.  Wondered if there might be all DLM in one, all cryptic in other, but no.  Then whether there might be some way of combining the grids to generate another solution grid.  Again, no, because CORRECT ONE emerged here from the customary scan of the diagonal, and the other message obligingly appeared in the other grid, both helping out with a few last entries.
  • Aspers = tree? Not in my C.  Good fun.
  • A nice idea, and not too difficult to solve.
  • Quite tough going, but I completed both grids to be sure I had the ‘correct’ answer.  Good fun.
  • Decisions, decisions indeed!  I presume Eclogue wanted us to send in the top grid, with CORRECT ONE in the diagonal, but I hope anyone choosing to send the other one would be OK since the preamble doesn’t suggest that only one is correct, and doesn’t give any hint that solvers need to look for messages in the grid.  Apart from this ambiguity, a nice gentle puzzle, for which many thanks.Enjoyable.  A few loose ends – why start again?  No message in the second diagonal; cannot confirm ASPERS at 16 down as trees; “practitioner of” in 13a was superfluous to me.  24 across clues could both be DLM.  Unusual to have both SLEIGH & SLEDGE.  Many thanks
  • I’m glad you didn’t wasn’t the other half, as I’m not sure of 2dn presumably INPUT, 16dn ASPERS, though trees = ASPENS and 29a DOSSED?  I haven’t ripped it up though.
  • How did ASPERS = TREES survive the editorial process?
  • Pity both diagonals weren’t utilised in the correct one.  The DLMs made it a bit easy, but enjoyable enough.
  • A nice puzzle with a clever twist – good stuff and tricky for a ‘second’ puzzle.
  • I chose the grid with real words in both diagonals.  Have only now noticed the one diagonal in the other grid.  Heigh ho.  Whichever is not/correct, I enjoyed the clues (Ed: unfortunately this solver did indeed go for the wrong choice)
  • Very enjoyable
  • It would have been satisfactory if the ‘correct’ grid had contained a message in both diagonals, as is the case in the ‘incorrect’ one.  The solution to the cryptic part of 16dn would have the word ASPERS meaning ‘trees’, but not in any of my dictionaries! Unfortunately, the use of DLM turned what could have been a very interesting experience into a rather simple solve!
  • A pleasant enough exercise, but not one that will linger in the memory.  I’m not keen on DLM, which I suspect is more of a challenge for the setter than for the solver.  I don’t understand ASPERS (rather than ASPENS) at 16d, and I shall need the solution notes for the cryptic elements of 24ac and 2dn.  I felt that an appropriate word or phrase in the other diagonal of the ‘correct’ grid would have been an elegant touch.  A good double clue has a smooth and plausible surface reading.  For me, few of the clues here pass this test.  I quite like the picture conjured up by 15ac, but many clues are rather clunky (5ac, 11ac, 19dn, among others).
  • I am grateful that only one grid is (surprisingly) required because the other 16down worries me – ASPENS doesn’t fit what has ASPERS to do with trees.
  • Enjoyable
  • It would have been entirely justifiable to make the NE-SW diagonal read “CLEVER IDEA” (a shame to leave it as the only non-thematic diagonal really).  One or two clues struck me as partly inaccurate: for example, a SLEIGH has runners, but isn’t one itself (20) and I can’t find any source willing to confirm that ASPERS are trees (16).  These reservations aside, I enjoyed the puzzle and found it harder than at first expected.
  • A relatively easy puzzle to end a tough month with, but still an enjoyable solve, particularly with having to decide into which grid to place the various entries.
  • A good idea + we enjoyed solving it, but it would have been a more elegant crossword if the clue sentences had read with more sense + less like a strip of words picked out by a robot.
  • Pleasant second puzzle
  • Very much enjoyed.  Amused to see “MIDDLETON” as one of the answers.  Always like “DLM” clues, but of course, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea!
  • A pleasant two way stroll, with gratitude for the diagonals.
  • No time for detailed comments, rushing to get the last post! (Ed – you made it!)
  • Interesting and varied.  Not quite sure why we couldn’t send in both grids?
  • Looked difficult at first sight but after 2-3 answers were placed it turned out to be fairly easy – although I can’t stand DLMs!! Nice bit of relaxing mind exercise.
  • If in doubt, read the diagonals!  A quick and enjoyable solve. (Am I right that in 16d of the rejected diagram, wordplay leads to ASPERS, but definitions leads to ASPENS?)
  • The “Rip it up and start again” grid gave me trouble in the S.E. corner.  Great to see yet more new ideas.  An enjoyable exercise – thank you.
  • Not too difficult to solve and the endgame was also undemanding, for which I was grateful.  Held up briefly by LOAN (an old) = debenture but I guess DLMs are always susceptible to unintentional alternatives.  In recent years I’ve noticed an increase in the use of foreign words in many crosswords.  My 51-year-old O-levels in French and German suffice for such as ‘apr├Ęs’ but where should the line be drawn?  Dutch?  Finnish?  Serbo-Croat?  They’re all setters’ cop-outs.
  • Very satisfying (I spent the wole solving time wondering which grid to submit – then the ‘penny’ dropped!)

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