Magpie, June 2017: Tunnels

One thing to note about Tunnels is that it was not intended as a puzzle for Magpie.  It actually reached a late stage of editing for the Enigmatic Variations series in The Sunday Telegraph, when a redesign of the puzzle section there suddenly reduced the space available for the puzzle, and Tunnels was deemed too big.  But it was a decent puzzle (and had passed muster once) so I redirected it Magpie-wards.

This is a puzzle that shows how an idea can bounce around in the mind for years before taking final form.  I think its genesis goes right back to my first sight of the Paris Metro map (which would be 1987).  I’ve seen several over the years (Newcastle, New York, Novosibirsk…) but the Paris Metro and Moscow (where the local circle line is indeed presented as a circle) are the ones that stick in the mind (besides Harry Beck’s classic London map, though that one’s classic status was surely reinforced by being in every diary you ever got as a Christmas present and mislaid sometime in February).

Somehow the Paris map started me thinking of a puzzle where words started somewhere in the grid, came to a stop, and re-emerged elsewhere, implying an amount of underground travel.  In the back of my mind I had the idea of somehow indicating the only station name that Paris and London shared (Temple, I believe, is the only one – unless, of course, you know better).  I tinkered with it (I have a clear visual memory of a completed grid that I scrapped) but I couldn’t get what I wanted.

In 2006 I had a puzzle called Black Holes in The Listener (the weekend we moved to New Zealand, in fact) – the gimmick there involved a quotation being delivered by the closing parts of words that disappeared into the black holes at the grid vertices.  And, after a time, it occurred to me that my tunnels could abstract portions of words en route, and form a quotation that way.  The next thing was to find the quotation, which was a matter of hunting round.  Landing on something in Latin was enticing in that it added a little more difficulty in identification.

The clues presented two issues – having ‘buried’ part of the quote, how was I to indicate the rest of it?  There was quite a lot left over (as it were), and it was clear I’d need a couple of letters from each clue.  So I partitioned the quote into letter pairs.  The pairs all looked friendly enough – in fact, bar a couple, they were all perfectly common biliteral pairs.  Even the oddities – MS and TV – had potential.  So opening pairs in clues it was.

The second issue was the tunnelling words, which were necessarily rather longer than the others, with a tendency thus to inspire anagrams.  I didn’t mind one or two being complete anagrams, but I didn’t want all of them to be resolved that way.  So a little care necessary in putting some other components in them.  And there we were.


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