EV 1471 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1471

Enigmatic Variations 1471

What’s Earned? By Jaques

Setter’s Blog

Common letters give ACCORDING TO MARK TWAIN ACCORDING TO WILLIAM MORRIS; WASHING is swapped with LAUNDRY to earn a PRECARIOUS LIVING, as per an ANON(ymous) quotation in ODQ.


There have been occasions, usually while being berated by an unrecognised friend, it becomes obvious the brain doesn’t always point forwards. It skitters around and drags its heels like a bored child waiting for the time that grown-up consciousness will stop trying to tell it what to do. Such moments are generally a little embarrassing, we tend to go for, “I didn’t see you there.” or the slightly more honest, “I was miles away.” rather than admit the inevitably bizarre truth of what was actually uppermost in our minds.

It would probably be far better if we ditched social convention and wholeheartedly embraced these moments of distraction, recognizing them for what they truly are. Surely this lowering of our cognitive guard allows the opportunity for ideas to pop into our heads, often fully formed, from unexpected directions. Life without inspiration would be dull indeed, even if that inspiration comes at the cost of casting the disregarded, soon-to-be acquaintance as The Man from Porlock.

What is undoubtedly true, however, is sitting down with a blank computer screen, or a blank sheet of paper, or a blank anything, means such specious thoughts are pretty useless. Thinking about thinking makes zero headway in the quest to produce an interesting theme for a new puzzle.

The quotation, with its dubious attribution, lying at the heart of What’s Earned? came from a studious, book-based hunt. The fact that the quotation is officially anonymous, with ODQ thinking William Morris and/or Mark Twain are the kind of people who might have said it, is interesting, although not much help in terms of indexing. But whoever said it first, it’s an excellent comment on the fragility of island economies and even makes small fun of our global belief that we’re all rich, if only the money can be made to move fast enough for everyone to have a turn at holding it. Definitely worth a theme.

WASHING and LAUNDRY are about as close as nounal synonyms get, so they made an obvious pair to swap in the grid, especially as they could be used literally to create the required “precarious living”. The grid was then built around suitable words with well-placed interchangeable letters. Once these sections were filled the remainder of the grid went pretty easily, even including CAPITALISM to amuse and ANON to help.

This brought the arrival of compilation’s final stage – cluing. More importantly, as there had to be a message emerging from the clues, this brought selecting a style of clue device to yield that message suitably. Extra letters in wordplay? Extra letters in clues? Misprints, even? No, surely the theme of the puzzle demanded word swaps in some way. The appropriate letters could come from whatever the swapped words had in common in order to reflect the commonality of the grid swaps.

Find a pair of words, suitable to the clue, that give a decent surface reading and can be swapped to give accurate wordplay – that’s a toughish challenge. Add to that the requirement that the swap has just the necessary letter in common and no alternative swaps serving – my head is starting to hurt. All the while ensuring there’s a decent mix of different clue styles so the solver never says, “Oh, it’s another anagram.” – next time I’ll think about cluing before stumbling into a theme. Actually I probably won’t, as I’ll most likely be in the process of watching somebody mentally crossing me off their Christmas card list.


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


1 comment on “EV 1471
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  1. A very memorable puzzle! A word swap in every clue was the perfect thematic choice (though, it definitely amped up the difficulty level). I also liked the little flourishes like the symmetry of “capitalism” and “precarious” In the grid.
    Thanks, Jaques!

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