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Ballad by Elgin

Posted by shirleycurran on 4 May 2012

There was just a hint of Numpty consternation when we saw that name Elgin. I am told it wasn’t Elgin who once set the crossword that nobody managed to solve but that he produced one a few years ago that had a mere 32 correct solvers. Our anxiety seemed to be justified as we set to work and very, very slowly cold-solved clues with not much idea where to place our solutions

Down clues were normal and clearly the ones to work on. Looking back, I realize how generous some of these were: anagrams (always our favourite route to solving) for NARD ‘It helped in remedying right and wrong (4)’; NOTICES  ‘Marks section under review (7)’; YAPSTERS ‘Try peas with special hot dogs (8)’; TRIALIST ‘What’s someone with body and soul and spirit left – is it art possibly? (8)’.

There were two hidden clues too, for ESS and SEDATE  and that ‘French’ clue with the deceptive Dickensian touch, ‘Dodger’s heading for Nancy here is potentially most dangerous (7)’ (D(odger) and ICI EST as they say locally here in the French Jura mountains for HERE and IS. Of course we didn’t immediately solve that clue, we never do see the French ones!

I read, just this week, in a comment made by Kenmac on 15 squared, that the shorter preambles lead him to expect more difficult crosswords. The six lines Elgin gave us were no exception! We had quite a lot of down clues in place and a number of across solutions (TRUSTLESSNESS, BIRTH, BORDER, BREED, EVULSED, LAMAIST, EAST, WEST and ROMEOS) but there were those worrying words ‘Across entries can go in either direction … two entries overlap … there are no clues for entries in one row… one column has been omitted’.

TRUSTLESSNESS clearly fitted in, going backwards on the bottom row (a sigh of relief) and it looked as though the extra column was going to be on the right – so I put it there. EVULSED had an evident location slotting in in reverse three rows above, so we relaxed, assuming that the lower half of the crossword was going to be reversed, the upper half heading forward. We had a glass of wine and a break for dinner.

Moving onward was hard work (was it the wine?) and, at first, our thesis seemed to work as JENNY LONGLEGS echoed TRUSTLESSNESS (producing that extra J at the start). I decided, at this point, that we were in Phi country again, and were going to have a grid that needed to be seen as a cylinder, with words circling. This was a lucky long shot!

It was about an hour later that those letters seemed to be resolving themselves into JUDGEMENT SEAT. Yes, I know we didn’t need to reinsert that line but it is in my illustration above – I like the highlighting! This, if course, helped us fit in those last few difficult little words, CAUKER, TARDY, CADEE and TEA SET which disobeyed that notion about one half reversing, but did fill lots of gaps.

There was a moment of delight when we realised that the centre line of the crossword was going to be palindromic with REDDER in the centre of SEMEMES. Now that is spectacular compiling isn’t it?

Almost there! We fitted STRAIT and STITCHES in and saw that they shared the letter S and thus fulfilled that line in the preamble ‘Note that two entries overlap!’ We had been playing with a potential HECTOR SEDUCEE on the corresponding line (symmetry-wise) in the top half of the crossword but there was a rather smelly numpty red herring there.

The Internet produces ballad evidence of Hector upbraiding Paris ‘you pretty boy, you evil seducer’ but he didn’t seduce Hector did he? We scratched our heads and wondered why those extra words BIRTH, BORDER, BREED, EAST and WEST had appeared in the solutions. Daylight dawned almost simultaneously as we recited Rudyard Kipling’s Ballad of East and West,

Oh East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgement Seat; But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

So that was what HECTOR was doing up there. He needed to be face to face with another strong man (and even share that H with him!) HERCULES completed our grid.

Thank you Elgin. This was very challenging indeed and most enjoyable too.


One Response to “Ballad by Elgin”

  1. erwinch said

    I do not now find Elgin’s puzzles to be as formidable as they once were.  Nevertheless, this was intriguing although perhaps with a weakness in that it could be solved correctly without ever finding the Kipling poem.  Of course, you could not then be sure that you had solved it correctly.

    I had a question mark over one clue:

    Eac Maybe a gopher is caught by a river (5) cadee – C + A + DEE  Under gopher, Chambers (11th) has burrowing animal, computer browser, biblical wood or waffle (as gofer²) but none of these would appear to fit cadee (caddie).  Might this be a mistaken reference to gofer¹ and if so is it fair?

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