Enigmatic Variations 1458
Cover Story by Gaston
The grid represents the cover of Abbey Road by The Beatles; band members are shown highlighted on ZEBRA CROSSING, blacked-out at intervals; other unclued entries are titles of album tracks.
The best day of my life during the ’60s was when, aged thirteen, the achingly pretty elder sister of a school friend turned up at my London boarding school in a red open-topped MG and jumped out waving a copy of the iconic Sergeant Pepper album. ‘Thought you’d like this,’ she cried, planting a kiss on my forehead before handing it to me in front of a large group of salivating sixth formers, ‘It was released this morning!’ She then jumped back in and roared off…………The looks on the faces of the older boys was something to behold. To be honest, I still dream about it…….
I tried to produce an EV based on Sergeant Pepper to mark its 50th Anniversary three years ago – co-incidentally it was to be called ‘Golden Oldies’ like Skylark’s excellent recent puzzle – but couldn’t quite seal the deal. Stupidly I also missed the 50th Anniversary of Abbey Road – 2019 – but I hope the endgame to Cover Story gave solvers some satisfaction anyway.
Oldies like me will remember the rumours about the cover reflecting Paul McCartney’s supposed demise – Why isn’t Paul wearing shoes? Why is he out of step with the others? Doesn’t the number-plate on the Volkswagen prove that he’s dead? – Craig Brown’s Beatles biography One, Two, Three, Four! devotes an amusing chapter to these and other extraordinary pieces of so-called evidence to support the theory. It’s a cracking read!
The puzzle itself was quite easy to produce, once I realised I had to include suitable entries containing GEORGE and JOHN. It helped the symmetry that both entries had 11 letters. PAUL(A) was straightforward, but my original entry (G)RINGO(S) was quite understandably blue-pencilled by the Editor, who helpfully pointed me in the direction of ERINGOS. Given the five long entries (MEAN MR MUSTARD, ZEBRA CROSSING, BROWN GEORGE, BAD KING JOHN and MALADMINISTER) I thought the lack of enumeration and disguise of the positions of the unclued entries might make it a reasonable and enjoyable challenge. I hope you found it so.
Noticing the puzzle in my skip through the ST all those (how many?) years ago, I tackled the very first EV – with its welcoming message round the perimeter – and was intrigued by the idea of a themed crossword. As luck would have it, I was a prize winner some three months later and decided to test out a couple of examples on my son; to this day, well into his thirties, he insists on Father Christmas coming down the chimney with a new one every year and has even produced a couple himself in return. Sometime later, I read a brief obituary of an EV setter and decided to risk sending one of mine (Anonymous EV 1113) off to Chris Lancaster. Despite the not very original James Bond theme and a large number of clues requiring some tightening up, he accepted it and was hugely helpful in putting me straight on EV protocols. I think I’m nearing 20 published submissions now, and have a few in reserve to send to Steve in due course.
Gaston, by the way, is our much-loved cocker spaniel. Here he is on Biarritz beach with Rémy, his fiercely independent partner in crime. Regular solvers may have noticed a French theme in many of his puzzles.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.