EV 1458 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1458

Enigmatic Variations 1458

Cover Story by Gaston

Setter’s Blog

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.


5 comments on “EV 1458
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  1. Further to my comments on 26 October, I can only repeat how much pleasure I got from completing this puzzle and unravelling the answers. Your comments above are very interesting and certainly show a commitment to your art. Your brief reference to Gaston, along with the photo, completes the story. Thank you once again.

  2. Thanks Gaston. An enjoyable challenge that slowly revealed itself with assistance from Google and The Numpties hints.

  3. Thank you, Gaston, and The Numpties. I didn’t find solving this more difficult than with previous EVs, but that is probably because The Numpties astutely calibrated their hints accordingly, still enabling those of for whom this would be way past our abilities to finish.

    Somehow, instead of a PDM I got a series of smaller instances (farthing-drop moments?), finishing all the ‘normal’ clues before getting the theme, but I still enjoyed it throughout. Not knowing lengths or precise locations wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it sounded (though still having multiple words indicated would’ve been nice). I only messed the positions up once, missing out the BECAUSE gap, fitting COGS in where SKUA should be, and trying to find a 6-letter seabird.

    I’d noted The Numpties’ hint after the earthenware pot and historical figure clues, spotted the names, and wondered about the theme, but not enough to take it any further. BECAUSE and SOMETHING seemed such innocuous words that they seemed unlikely to be part of any theme; I was probably wrongly guessing the remaining letters in them (as, indeed, I actually was with MYSTERY across the top-right (maybe sill on those ‘Golden Oldies’ from a few weeks ago) and SONG down the bottom-right).

    Once I’d run out of clues and found PAUL, I looked for RINGO, then looked up Something, which I did know but had thought was a George Harrison song, wondering if the unclued entries were a solo song for each member. (I mean, it is by him, but I’d wrongly thought it was just him, post-Beatles.) That list of Beatles songs also included Because. Nothing that fitted for “Mystery” or “Sinking”, but I eventually found the other songs, still leaving me perplexed as to the bottom word(s).

    Again “sing”, “song”, or “sung”, seemed likely along the bottom-right. Without much hope (and well past bed-time), I saw “pressing” would fit as a second word, so I stuck “.e.ra” into a word-matcher to see what could come before it. ZEBRA was at the bottom of that list, and made me smile as a fun animal that couldn’t be what I was looking for, a ‘zebra pressing’ not being a thing, before a FDM that finally gave me the phrase and the reason to black out some squares (which, at that point, I just lightly did with pencil).

    It was only while lying in bed later it occurred to me that the seemingly odd selection of lesser-known Beatles tracks might actually all be on the ‘zebra crossing’ album — so not as random as I’d first thought.

    And it was only the following morning, when inking in answers and blacking the squares out properly, that I saw the 4 names aren’t merely hidden somewhere in the grid, but actually all walking on the zebra crossing, in the right order. The crossword is really clever, I’m so impressed by it, it was a great choice of theme, and I feel I really should’ve got it with a single PDM. I was still buzzing all the following day at having solved it.

    I highlighted the names in the first 4 brightly coloured felt tips I grabbed from the children’s drawer, which happened to be orange, green, yellow, and blue. Seeing their names in those bright colours immediately brought a different ‘Cover Story’ to mind, the other one Gaston mentions above, and I wished I’d had the thought to colour them appropriately to their Sgt Pepper’s outfits — kudos to anyone who did.

    It most definitely was “a reasonable and enjoyable challenge”, Gaston. Thank you for the background on it. I should probably listen to Abbey Road now; despite its massive fame, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it, which seems like a major omission on my part. (The only album of theirs I really know is greatest hits collection my parents had in the car when we were children; my Dad was more into 50s rock n roll.)

    The couple of clues I failed to parse involved single-letter abbreviations. I need to be even more on the look-out for those. My favourite clue was the final one, with “Batty, perhaps” — and also useful, because I have a friend called Aaron whose birthday present I needed to post this week.

  4. This was an absolute joy. With just a few letters entered into the top row, I started humming Mean Mr Mustard to myself, and then I realized my subconscious was trying to tell me something! Funny how our brains work sometimes. I spent the rest of the day listening to Abbey Road.
    Zebra crossing, though. I had no idea that’s what it’s called in the UK. What a funny, but appropriate, name for a crosswalk.
    Thanks, Gaston!

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