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Quartet by MynoT,

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 March 2010

Quartet by MynoT

TS Eliot? Vivaldi? The ‘Easy clues coffee break’ team is learning to give a thought to the title – and we were within a stone’s throw, but we were several hours of cold-solving further on before we realized it. We’re improving at the cold-solving as we learn that N can be a Knight, R is sometimes ‘take’ and so on. Still, it seems to me that it would be extremely difficult to solve the first quadrant of this demonish crossword without having a complete set of clues solved (or eight or nine, at least).

We were faced with the same two problems as everybody else. Do the sets fit into quadrants in some coherent order or has MynoT juggled them just to make our task even more difficult? Second problem: with nowhere to start, how do we have an inkling which letter to move to the periphery? A quick calculation produced the daunting figure of several thousand possible combinations in a single quadrant.

The obvious ploy was to colour-code the solutions for word length and to attempt to intersect the three longer ones in our almost complete set (Set 4). We tried it to no avail in the SE quadrant, then, with astonishment, found that a fit was possible in the SW, that gave us ‘ALL TH-NGS AR ‘ Adding the likely I of THINGS produced that astonishing IWNTER, and, assuming that we were seeing a word that was treated thematically (with the I extracted), we had a SEASON.

Were we back with Vivaldi? Or ‘A Man for All Seasons’? Or a biblical quotation? Or could it be Durrell (Nunc, Tunc, Bunk and Funk or whatever they are called). We regard ourselves as learners (not cheats) when we consult the Internet, but Google threw up a vomit-worthy mass of trite interpretations of biblical texts – and got us nowhere. At this stage, the ODQ wasn’t any help either. A Keats reference to four seasons was a typical Zebra team red-herring.

We struggled desperately at this stage, since it was difficult to go further without another complete or almost complete set of solutions and we had two or three missing in every group. Set 1 seemed a likely fit in the SE quadrant, but we couldn’t solve ‘One that’s after line dancing’. That deceptive word ‘dancing’ had us looking for an anagram of LINEI and we weren’t aware of that unusual spelling of CEILI or that CEIL means ‘to line’ – a pretty mean clue, I think. SALPAE, too was not thrown up by any of the sites I consulted in my attempts to learn about ‘sea squirts’. I know far too much about them now!

As soon as we had ‘THEIR COURSE AND ALL THINGS ARE’ the rest of the Confucian wisdom was evident and it was obvious that we had to omit the word SEASONS from the complete quotation, as those thematic elements were appearing in our quadrants. Now I realize that the sets were in their normal order: spring, summer, autumn, winter – so MynoT was not being deliberately curmudgeonly after all!

It was a lovely downhill homeward ride from there on. What a pleasure to juggle with the remaining words, and the missing ones appeared as I worked. But how easy it is to be led off track! I had spotted a wonderful solution to, ‘In a high degree employed wet’ – MADID. Of course, it wouldn’t fit, but for a long time, it led me to reject ASCUS for ‘Cell’s self-contained down under’ since I already had my quota of five-letter words. It was only when the grid produced SOUSED for ‘In a high degree employed wet’ that ASCUS completed my grid.

Lovely, MynoT but far too difficult for us, and do we highlight just the four seasons with their peripheral letters or the whole quotation and those seasons? After all, the whole thing is produced by those seasons running their course. I’m rather sad that there are no cherry trees to chop or wrens to send winging over the waves but dazzled by this superb construction.

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