EV 1524 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1524

Enigmatic Variations 1524

Flight Plan by Ifor

Setter’s Blog

Letters moving up or down between pairs of down clues spell ESCHER, whose lithograph ASCENDING AND DESCENDING is represented in the grid; remaining down answers are entered upwards, giving new words.


The puzzle owes something to two cartoonists. The first, whose name I forget, was responsible for one in Private Eye, wherein a receptionist was pictured saying something like “Mr Escher’s office? Up the stairs, turn right and keep going”. This jogged my memory and prompted the idea of the depiction in the grid. The second is the long-dead Gustave Verbeek – if you’ve not heard of him I recommend googling his stunning comic strips involving (I kid you not) Old Man Muffaroo and Little Lady Lovekins. Anyway, I’d produced a Magpie based on these some years ago, and had to hand a dictionary constructed for that puzzle that listed pairs of anadromes, as I believe the key word-pairs are sometimes known (more elegantly than the alternative label “semordnilap”). As those familiar with my ramblings will recall, I do like clue gimmicks to be both relevant and at least partially linked to specified clues, which led me to the structures in the down clues and entries. I should say that a message based purely on added letters would be almost impossible to write without introducing ambiguities, but transferring them up and down struck me as an acceptable and thematic way of identifying Escher, with his helpful (as regards grid dimensions) six-letter name. That decided, it was then just a matter of building the grid around the various restrictions, writing the clues, getting the puzzle tested, submitting it, agreeing a few tweaks with the editor… in fact the usual preliminaries to its appearance. The title, incidentally, is “flight plan” rather than path, so as to suggest a view from above rather than that of the original lithograph. You have to assume that the hooded figures were given the day off (or perhaps that this was a hitherto undiscovered first attempt by Escher, unpopulated and with a different number of steps)


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