Enigmatic Variations 1496
The European One by Vismut
The generated message is FRENCH REPUBLICAN CALENDAR, with extra words denoting days of MESSIDOR (in circles); BASTILLE DAY falls on 14th July, denoted by SAGE.
Out in the country around this time of year uz yokels start to think about harvesting or in my case haymaking for the horses. This time last year and whilst resting after bringing in the crop with the help of some of my friends, (“Can’t you do this when it’s not so hot?” asked one of the sweaty, red-faced, rather portly, non-farmers) I was reading a book called “1000 Years of Annoying the French” by Stephen Clarke. This explores, in a gently humorous way, the relationship we have with our cousins over La Manche (named by them for its shape, like a sleeve) or as it is more correctly known the English Channel (named by us coz its ours).
I got to the chapter where having disposed of everyone they didn’t like (not an exclusively French activity I hasten to add) attention was given to the way time was recorded. This involved splitting the year into weeks that had ten days (Sacré bleu, less weekends!) and giving each day of the year its own name. As the book says “What day is it?”, “Parsnip”. It simply doesn’t work and after a few years the Republican Calendar was dropped, but what a gift to a crossword compiler.
How to get an entire month into one puzzle was, well, puzzling, but with extra words in the clues and the rest around the perimeter they were all there in the end. As explained above Harvest (Messidor) was already on my mind and fortuitously also covers La Fête Nationale or as everyone, bar the French calls it Bastille Day so there was a fairly obvious endgame to go for.
Apologies for the extremely long (indeed, I’m told, record breaking) preamble, but hopefully you all stuck with it to the end.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.