Enigmatic Variations 1536
Gallimaufry by proXimal
+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +
Definitions in quadrants are HUNCHBACK, ITINERANT, CATHEDRAL replaced with QUASIMODO, ESMERALDA and NOTRE-DAME; the final quadrant contains LOW SUNDAY, a synonym of QUASIMODO; VICTOR HUGO is highlighted.
I think it was probably through some research for a General Knowledge crossword which I set that I noticed QUASIMODO, ESMERALDA and NOTRE-DAME all had nine letters. I then noticed that the definitions HUNCHBACK and CATHEDRAL for two of those names also had nine letters and I was sure I could find something of nine letters to define ESMERALDA. For me, this pointed towards a puzzle in which the letters of the definitions were revealed and then the definitions were to be replaced by the names. I thought HUNCHBACK and CATHEDRAL would make it obvious to the solver that this referred to the Victor Hugo novel, so I didn’t really need any further material to reference the book. I researched ESMERALDA and thought the most obvious ways to refer to her was as a dancing-girl (two letters too many!) or as a gypsy — TRAVELLER being my initial thought, later changed to ITINERANT.
I’d been meaning to compile an eightsome-reels puzzle for some time, but had never come across a suitable theme. Checking the number of central cells/clues showed that the grid could be divided into quadrants of nine, thus making it ideal for use with this theme. But I only had three thematic pairs, so what to do in the final quadrant? I scoured the Wikipedia pages of the novel, looking at other lesser-known characters and the plot, to see if anything useful turned up, but no such luck. I then check on the entry for QUASIMODO in Chambers and it revealed ‘The first Sunday after Easter, Low Sunday’ — with LOW SUNDAY playing ball with nine letters, I had my final quadrant. I decided I could probably have the letters in random order and say the final quadrant contains a synonym of one of the names for the solver to find and then unscramble.
Preparing a grid, I first tried nine-letter entries with one letter to go in the central cell to form the names, but that proved impossible. I then decided on the much easier option of generating the extra letters through clue gimmicks. This enabled me to add some features to the grid such as the author’s name becoming visible and the message for unchecked letters being relevant — trying various formations of the names, I realised VICTOR and HUGO could appear with a spiral formation in each quadrant and EASTER NO MORE as a message at the corners with a nod to LOW SUNDAY rather than giving too much away in the preamble, like using something to do with bell-ringing.
I decided on dividing the clues into three lots of three for each quadrant, using three devices to produce the extra letter, to add further interest/challenge for the solver. ‘Gallimaufry’ is a term for puzzles using a variety of devices, once used by the likes of Ximenes and Apex, I believe. It was usually more than three devices, but I thought with the addition of the eightsome-reels entry method, that it would be an appropriate title.
LOW SUNDAY determined that it should be an EV puzzle, being the only barred crossword on a Sunday. I had to delay it by a year, as I’d already given the slot where Low Sunday occurred in 2021 to Gaston for a Grand National themed puzzle. I hope solvers found it enjoyable.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.