EV 1536 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View comments 

EV 1536

Enigmatic Variations 1536

Gallimaufry by proXimal

Setter’s Blog

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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.


5 comments on “EV 1536
Leave your own comment 

  1. Thank you, and for the explanation. It was definitely worth the wait (more than a year, with Easter being a fortnight later this year than last) and the combination of the date, the final anagram, and the message in the corners — all in the right order! — was fantastic, and so clever.

    Next time you’re struggling to find a definition for a character on Wikipedia, maybe once you’ve chosen a term you could edit the Wikipedia page and discreetly sneak your description in there somewhere … ?!

    ‘ITINERANT’ was the second of the quadrant-middles I reached (after ‘HUNCHBACK’, which had identified the novel), and checking its Wikipedia entry I couldn’t see an itinerant. Looking down the names, I saw that Gringoire the poet had 9 letters. Itinerant poets are very much a thing, and a quick web search for «Gringoire itinerant» turned up at least one page suggesting somebody who’d apparently read the novel (which I haven’t) describing Gringoire as itinerant. So I confidently put him in, and went back to the challenge of the quadrants I had yet to solve.

    With hindsight, I should’ve thought it curious that Esmerelda hadn’t made an appearance. But with only 2 of the 4 quadrant-middles solved at that point, I guess I was presuming she’d come up later — not expecting one of the quadrants to be a building rather than a character! (Very clever that, with careful use of ‘names’ in the rubric.) And by the end, once I had a full grid, etc, with everything seeming to fit, it didn’t occur to me one of the earlier parts could still be wrong. I was unlucky that the NE quadrant was the only one not involving the crossing author’s name or the anagram, so there was no friction against putting the wrong 9 letters in there.

    But that isn’t a complaint! I really enjoyed solving this and its multiple layers of revealing what’s going on. Thank you also to Ifor for the comment on the hints recommending that it was within newbies abilities, which prompted me into finding the time for it. With the corner letters, a little coding skill (list all 8-letter words which contain these 3 adjacent letters, possibly backwards and possibly split between the beginning and end of the word, and also contain these other 3 letters except the second lot could be either way round with respect of the first set), some working backwards from some of the middle-letters, and of course The Numpties’ hints, there was just enough there for me to get through it. Thanks.

    1. Hi Smylers,

      Thanks for the comments, I did think about adding something to be highlighted in the eastern section to confirm the names in those two quadrants, but I couldn’t find anything suitable and I decided not to overegg the puzzle with something tenuous. Maybe if I’d registered Gringoire, I’d have used him in the fourth quadrant instead of Low Sunday.

      You could have saved yourself the coding with this website, which does exactly what you did: https://www.quinapalus.com/qat.html. I think I use Qat for every single crossword I compile.

      1. Gringoire wouldn’t’ve been as good: it’s only his surname, and having the connection with the publication date and us all learning the alternative name for it was way more fun!

        Thanks for the link. I’d seen Qat before, but clearly not read down to the cycling bit. Anyway, I like coding! I’m certainly better at it than I am at knowing the kind of words that crop up in these puzzles …

  2. Wonderful puzzle, thank you for the explanation. Been doing EV’s since they began, this is the first one I’ve not found the theme for over a year!

  3. For anyone interested in crossword history, the Eightsome Reels puzzle was introduced by Jonathan Crowther (Azed) in 1972. The Gallimaufry seems to date back to the early 1950s when, as Steve says, it was used by Derrick Macnutt (Ximenes) and featured seven different clue types. Eric Chalkley also used the device, perhaps unsurprisingly given that he chose the pseudonym Apex because he wished to imitate Ximenes – ie to ‘Ape X’ – having been inspired to start setting after acquiring a copy of ‘Ximenes on the Art of the Crossword’ while on holiday in Bournemouth. He later said that he wasn’t sure how to pronounce the author’s nom de plume, so he pointed to the shelf the book was on and asked the assistant for ‘that book up there’. He rated it the best fifteen shillings he ever spent; he received an MBE for ‘services to the newspaper industry’ in 2002, the first setter to be thus recognised.

Join the Conversation, Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.