EV 1452 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1452

Enigmatic Variations 1452

Bridges by X-Type

Setter’s Blog

Bridge letters should be selected to show IK BRUNEL.

Some of you may know me from my occasional Back Page Cryptic and Quick puzzles; plus my comments on the Big Dave Crossword Blog. I’ve been setting puzzles now for over 45 years – starting with local newspapers in the early 1970’s and then jumping straight in to the Listener (the “crème de la crème” of Thematic Crosswords: originally being a BBC magazine from the 1920’s onwards; then latterly, after its demise, the puzzle appeared in the Times on a Saturday). For my Listener puzzles – and for occasional other ones in the Inquisitor series; and even for one or two initially in EV – I am known as Jago, which is Spanish for “James”, my real first name. (For a brief biog of myself and many other well-known setters, see “The A-Z of Crosswords” by Jonathan Crowther, pub. Collins, 2006.)

In amongst my many Listener puzzles, I have twice had thematics called “Pardon the Interruption” (versions I and II, a few years apart); which had the conceit of each of the across and down entries not actually intersecting at one crossing point and thus being “interrupted” by the crossing entry: the sort of “reverse” of the usual idea of crosswords, you might say! (For such a simple idea, they were surprisingly difficult to set, I might tell you.)

Anyway, I was musing on whether to do a “version III” of that idea for EV, when it struck me that I could vary it by making one of the crossing points into a Bridge instead of an Interruption; so that a letter from each of the two intersecting words had to share a square (or a “cell” in the jargon) and effectively “fight” for the right be seen in the solution. Having had that initial idea, I then needed a theme to go with it (I’m not usually satisfied just to have the wordplay: I like there to be more to a puzzle than that): and so I then thought of the “grand master” of Victorian bridge design, Mr Brunel. His full name “Isambard Kingdom Brunel” was too long for the usual 12×12 grid: so I shortened him to his initials – hence “I K Brunel” in the solution. And those particular initials, I & K, gave me all sorts of problems in trying to fit “bridged” words into the grid, using them!

As it happens, I was still fighting with the grid when Steve Bartlett (the EV editor) emailed me to ask if I had a “slightly easier” puzzle that I could submit fairly soon to the EV series, because they wanted to encourage the Big Dave solvers to try the EV as well. That stimulus was just what I needed: and over the next 24 hours I burned the midnight oil (almost literally) and I managed to fight the grid into submission (though I had to resort to one abbreviation “Glos” – the English county of Gloucestershire – but it’s in Chambers, so I was OK!). Steve was very happy with the final puzzle and – with only a couple of minor tweaks – it saw the light of day on the 13th September; two days before my birthday….

Jim Coulson (X-Type)

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


6 comments on “EV 1452

  1. Thanks, X-Type — so interesting to read all the detail of what went into this puzzle. It was fun to work through, and uncover the hidden name.

    And thank you for including the 23d retreat in the Tuesday back-page crossword 2 days later. It would be most useful if other EV setters could continue this tradition and also ensure that words I don’t know also appear in other crosswords that week!

  2. Just wanted to say how interesting I found your comments above and how enjoyable I found the solving of the puzzle (eventually). Thank you for providing the entertainment.

  3. Thanks X-Type.
    My biggest hold up came from putting HUNTED in at 16a. It worked for me as ‘caught’ and I justified HUNT as a short form of Hunter as a name. It was only when I had twigged the surname of the builder that I went back to see how I could get the K in there. A real challenge but an enjoyable one.

  4. We were delighted when the theme turned out to be Brunel – a special favourite of ours. We appreciated the difficulty you must have had fitting the I and K into the ‘bridged’ words. Many thanks for producing one of the September ‘easier’ ones, though it wasn’t so very easy, and for the most interesting ‘setter’s blog’.

  5. Thanks, X-Type! I like this feature a lot – it’s always nice hearing the perspective of the person who set the puzzle.
    Did anyone else find themselves spending a bunch of time researching bridges in the tiny country of Brunei?

  6. Haven’t tried an EV yet but I am tempted, if not intrigued
    Thanks for the background info Jim, interesting reading

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