EV1588 (Setter’s Blog) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV1588 (Setter’s Blog)


Clash by Ranunculus

Setter’s Blog

Relegated letters give JONES, SIMONON, two members of The Clash. Replacing four letters reveals the other two members of the band TOPPER HEADON and JOE STRUMMER.

The requirement for the title of every EV puzzle to appear – in capitals, no less – within the preamble can, on occasion, be a right pain. But when struggling (as per usual) to come up with a theme for a new puzzle, it struck me that perhaps I could take advantage of this convention in order to hide the theme in plain sight.

Although I’m no great fan of ‘clashes’ in crosswords, it seemed that the term for that particular gimmick might come in handy. The band that shares its name is associated in most minds with just four members – Fairport Convention, by contrast, would need a heck of a big grid to accommodate all their personnel past and present. I could see that two names, JOE STRUMMER and TOPPER HEADON, could be fitted horizontally into a 12×12 grid using only real words, while the less tractable JONES and SIMONON together account very conveniently for a further 12 letters.

Gratifyingly, I found that googling ‘Jones Simonon’ and even ‘Simonon’ alone would lead those unfamiliar with the group straight to them, meaning that I didn’t need to further signpost the endgame.

I was keen that all four names would be clearly visible in the finished puzzle (along with the band name at the top!), and I thought that having the rejected letters dropping to the bottom of a column might be a good way to achieve that. In fairness to the solver, it was important that no answer be involved in more than one clash. Also, I wanted only the contents of checked cells to be changed, so that eight new words would be formed.

The grid construction took a little while, largely because I was determined to keep the obscurities to a minimum. After the puzzle was published, it did occur to me that I could perhaps have required solvers to erase the contents of the cell to the right of JOE STRUMMER, but it would not have worked with the grid as it stood (TYLUS not being a word), and anyway that ship had long since sailed.

Since the clues were to be gimmick-free, I wanted to have some tricky ones amongst them, but it was essential that the clues to the four-letter words involved in clashes should be relatively straightforward, since those entries would effectively have only two checked letters. I remember that my first clue for SANS had to be reluctantly abandoned because I was concerned that some solvers might have guessed at SASS based on the apparent pattern S?SS and thus ended up with no letter at the foot of that column. Incidentally, I always try where possible to avoid extra words linking definition and wordplay in clues (‘is’, ‘from’, ‘making’ etc), not least because they tend to make the division more obvious, and with this puzzle I made a conscious decision to exclude them entirely.

Sadly, I never got to see The Clash, although I saw quite a few less famous punk bands at Barbarella’s night club and elsewhere in Birmingham. On one occasion, two friends and I had tickets to see The Ramones, but not until the evening of the gig did we discover that none of us knew where the Top Rank Suite was, an ignorance seemingly shared by the section of the city’s population which was on the streets that night. We got there just in time to catch the end of the encore.

Rest assured that there will be no encore for this puzzle, one dalliance with clashes being quite enough, but I hope that solvers enjoyed tackling it, and that perhaps one or two were moved to put on (and even sing along with) a favourite track from London Calling, just as I was when setting it.

Ranunculus, May 2023


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


1 comment on “EV1588 (Setter’s Blog)

  1. Thanks, Ranunculus, for the setter’s blog. I love reading the background stories to the setting process. It pushes the solver into thinking about the rhythm of the puzzle in a different way. Fabulous puzzle which supplied a lot of fun, not to mention the ear-worms. Thank you

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