EV 1461 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1461

Enigmatic Variations 1461

Key Change by Brock

Setter’s Blog

Three cells have A changed to E, exemplified by across misprints; MINOR becomes MAJOR; down corrections to misprints give OPUS 32 HOLST (The Planet Suite) and LOWER CASE, reference PLUTO’s reclassification.


I was fortunate enough to be introduced to The Planets Suite at middle school over 40 years’ ago in ‘music appreciation’ lessons. I loved it so much that my uncle bought it for me for Christmas that year and I later received one of those new-fangled CD things as a present from my sister a decade later. It remains one of my favourites and, I believe, the only classical work that I have on both vinyl and CD.

The basic idea for the puzzle itself came to me in early 2009, a time when I filled several notebooks with different ideas for puzzles over a matter of a few months, some of which have been resurrected since the start of 2019 as I’ve started setting again. I was inspired by the fact that the entry for Pluto in Chambers had been required to change in the latest edition and my one page outline was headed ‘Minor Modification’. When one has a good idea, there is always the concern as a setter that someone else might get there first, but I was pleased to see when checking at the start of 2020, that no-one had used quite the same treatment in a barred cryptic that I could find.

To me, as a solver, the important things in a puzzle are the clues (especially the surface reading telling a story), the elegance and consistency of the thematic treatment of the subject matter, and the existence of at least one ‘Penny Drop Moment’ (PDM). Those are what I try to focus on when setting, but I am always very grateful to my test solvers and friendly editors who often challenge me on concision, while ensuring that the individual clues and complete puzzle are solvable.

Gustav Holst’s Opus 32 received its first complete public performance on 15 November 1920. All previous public performances had omitted NEPTUNE and all but one VENUS. That is why I chose to make these two items appear in the grid after the others, and chose words to allow this with an A changing to an E to fit with the idea of a KEY CHANGE. However, when I saw during grid-fill searches that I might be able to find a way to make MINOR change to MAJOR to reveal JUPITER, I could not resist putting this extra twist in to provide an additional PDM for solvers. At a later date (in 2000), an eighth movement PLUTO was added, composed by Colin Matthews, as Pluto was only discovered in 1930 a few years before Holst’s death. However Pluto was reclassified as a MINOR planet in 2006 (another KEY CHANGE).


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


4 comments on “EV 1461
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    1. It makes sense to me, in the context of the EV puzzle that it’s about. Have you done the puzzle in question? (Or, if you’ve tried it but got stuck, have you looked at the linked review and explanation on 15²?)

      If not, why would you expect to understand an article about it? That just seems a really rude — and completely unnecessary — thing to say to its setter.

  1. Thank you Brock for a really entertaining puzzle. I have to admit that the subtlety of Neptune and Venus appearing after the others passed me by but it’s interesting to gain that extra insight into the construction of the puzzle. I didn’t initially get the numerical misprints in 23 & 24 down but once I had all the others it was clear what they had to be so I was able to back solve them. I particularly liked the fact that all the modifications resulted in real words with no non-words appearing at any stage, making it in my view a very elegant puzzle.
    Thanks again to the Numpties for their hints, particularly in this case around the preamble.

  2. I want to echo what Denise said about the elegance of this puzzle. It was just incredible how everything worked out so smoothly. I also appreciate the special attention given to Pluto – he’s really been given the short end of the stick recently.

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