Enigmatic Variations 1518
Burned Out by Nudd
Corrections to misprints give JOE COCKER ALBUM and NOEL COWARD NUMBER, indicating ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’; 11 unclued entries are anagrams of dogs, with one straight unclued entry of ENGLISHMEN.
It’s funny how ideas for puzzles sometimes creep up on you unexpectedly.
During one of the early lockdowns I attempted to clear out some of the accumulated junk in my garage, and one thing I happened across was a card index of my old vinyl collection, much of which I had parted with years ago. That particular slice of nostalgia resulted in my deciding to replace some of the old favourites – but this time on CD, as I discovered that among other horror stories, I’d now need e.g. £200+ to replace my ‘Court of the Crimson King’ with an equivalent copy. Anyway, after sifting through well over 1000 index cards, I ended up with a list of about 40 missing favourites to track down, and one of those just happened to be Joe Cocker’s 1970 tour album.
CD duly purchased, I put it on to play and it suddenly occurred to me (doh!) that this oh so well-known title was a crossword puzzle just crying out to be composed. I did not even have to think too hard about what needed to appear in the grid – just identify enough candidates. First task was therefore to get hold of a list of canines and see which ones anagrammed into real words. Fortunately, I ended up with a decent selection from which to choose. Even better, I was afforded a real bonus when I discovered that the ten letters of ‘Pomeranian’ gave me ‘Praenomina’ … and, of course ‘Englishmen’ just happens to have ten letters too – which gave me the opportunity of including two nice long thematic words symmetrically disposed as my starting point for grid filling.
Thereafter it was just a question of accommodating as many thematic candidates as possible in a grid. Early attempts at having all symmetrically placed were abandoned as I could not include quite as many as I wanted, so I opted for scattering the rest wherever they would fit. Eventually, I managed to incorporate a dozen thematics and set about cluing. I decided that the message to solvers should not just reference Joe’s album (which may not be too well known) but should also hark back to the great Noel Coward.
So far, so good. I prepared the package, but on looking back over it I spotted a couple of instances of two unchecked letters in 5 letter words so when submitting I checked for the editor’s official line which, not surprisingly, was negative. I therefore went back to square one and redesigned chunks of the grid, repeated the grid filling exercise and rewrote most of the clues. My redesign had unfortunately resulted in a couple of extra words in the grid, so the original hint of ‘Noel Coward Song’ became ‘Noel Coward Number’, but all in all it was less of a disaster then I had feared and I still ended up with the same number of thematic items and resubmitted having only wasted about 3 or 4 days.
Well, that’s about it for my first EV in around 6 years – sorry it took so long, and I hope to be back a little more quickly next time. Depends when the next idea catches me unawares I suppose.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.