EV 1451 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1451

Enigmatic Variations 1451

The Beagle Has Landed by Chalicea

Setter’s Blog


The idea for this crossword emerged partly when my test-solver suggested the title Dark and Stormy for my previous Enigmatic Variations crossword (which was about Florence Nightingale – ‘Night’ ‘In’ ‘Gale’). Of course, that reminded me of the ambitious little Beagle, Snoopy, sitting on his kennel furiously typing the words that have become his hallmark. Indeed, the enchanting little fellow occasionally manages to expand his sentence but never very much (‘Once upon a time it was a dark and stormy night’, for example), so I took the liberty of assuming that we could call it his complete novel.

‘The Peanuts comic strip character Snoopy, in his imagined persona as the World Famous Author, sometimes begins his novels with the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” Cartoonist Charles Schulz made Snoopy use this phrase because “it was a cliché, and had been one for a very long time”. A book by Schulz, titled It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, Snoopy, and credited to Snoopy as author, was published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1971.(Wikipedia)’

With 24 letters in the sentence, this would clearly fit into a symmetrical 12X12 grid and with only a handful of relatively obscure words (MORACEAE, PONZU and GUANAZOLO) I was able to easily meet the EV requirements for mean word length (over 5.5) and number of words in the puzzle (42 or fewer).

Setting the clues is always a challenge with limitations like ‘only one hidden word’, ‘not more than six anagrams’, ‘no device indicator – like ‘regularly’, ‘backward’, ‘in a muddle’, ‘initially’ – used more than once, but after a few days the puzzle was ready for testers. At that stage, it was called ‘Literary Debut’ but Ifor (many thanks as always) the final tester, suggested the lovely reference to Neil Armstrong’s famous comment when the Eagle landed on the moon – a far more illustrious landing than my little beagle’s achievement.

Snoopy has been a family favourite since I brought our first Snoopy toy back from the USA. He’s now a much repaired and patched little thing but I haven’t the heart to throw out a favourite plaything. He was the theme of the children’s bedding with more of his ingenuous responses to life.

I was delighted when this crossword was selected to be the first of the relatively gentle ones to welcome new solvers of the thematic EV barred cryptics, and this is the setter’s blog that will begin the series of EV setters’ blogs.

A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.


5 comments on “EV 1451

  1. Thanks, Chalicea and the Numpties, and proXimal for coming up with this plan — which worked: this was my first time properly attempting an Enigmatic Variations, and I definitely wouldn’t have got anywhere even close without all the support (and much electronic help).

    Like many other solvers, I guessed the correct Beagle straight away, and found where to put him, and got 11a. Then I actually got the top and bottom rows before 16a: I knew the phrase as a cliche, but hadn’t realized it was specifically associated with Snoopy.

    My biggest hold-up was having the wrong little dog in 9a: PUP didn’t seem to fit, but with so many collections of letters emerging elsewhere managing to surprise me by actually turning out to be words, I couldn’t be completely sure that it didn’t!

    Overall it felt closer to solving a Puzzled Pint-style puzzle than a regular crossword — the clues being means to an end of finding out the ‘real’ answer. With the focus on discovering that, I didn’t really stop to appreciate the beauty of individual clues.

    Now we have the hints, I will try one again sometime, but may not have time to do so every week. Thanks again.

  2. Thanks for the blog – an interesting insight into how the puzzle came about. I thought the puzzle was nicely pitched – a straightforward enough solve for old hands, to be sure, but it certainly has tempted solvers new to the dark arts. Fun too, I for one would welcome a lot more like this. There’s room in the market for a barred grid puzzle at the easier end of the scale for those who like this sort of thing, but don’t always have the time / inclination to spend copious hours tackling the average Listener or Inquisitor. Or for those, too, who might have tackled the latter and fancy something a little lighter to finish off the weekend.

  3. Thanks to all concerned. I really enjoyed the fight and feel I have improved my skills a fair bit, and also exposed a few gaps in my library. I must get a new dictionary amongst other reference books.
    I am not sure I will have time to tackle these every week but I really enjoyed this and hope that the EV puzzle attracts enough entries to keep it available for solvers and setters who want to be stretched a bit.
    Thanks again to Chalicea/Numpties and proXimal too

  4. I just wanted to thank all involved in producing this crossword. It was the first time I’ve ever tried an “EV” puzzle and am pleased to say I solved the riddle. Like John Bee I realised I should buy a Chambers dictionary because I couldn’t find 3 of the answers elsewhere. I have now done that and was able to solve the following week’s puzzle. I really enjoyed working through this and the joy of completion!

  5. A super puzzle from Chalicea, whose contributions are always very fair and well-themed, and a good place to start for beginners.

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