I have long kept a list of the Hamlet soliloquies in my ideas file. They’re a defined and identifiable set of well-known quotations, but they’re a little long to be used en masse! Nevertheless, they have some sort of iconic status, and certain extracts of them have become turns of phrase in themselves. ‘Slings and arrows’, anyone? Ay, there’s the rub.
Looking through the list one time it struck me that all – well, most – of them had a turn of phrase that was reasonably familiar near their start – ‘peasant slave’ or ‘solid flesh’. Some way of indicating these, perhaps? The fact that ‘peasant slave’ anagrammed to ‘vast seaplane’ was mysteriously fascinating, so I pencilled in a few others. (‘Now might I do it pat’ was, when looked at closely, rather featureless…)
The famous one is number four of seven (well, unless you’re Benedict Cumberbatch, apparently), so stands out on that account. And, in some way, you want the famous one as the end point – much better than having solvers riffling through concordances because your chosen end point is less familiar. Did ‘To be or not to be’ anagram to anything useful? Yes, a fair few options, and it’s 13 letters, and a pattern of (4,5,4) would fit nicely across the middle of a 13×13 grid. As always, one should be thinking about the grid design as the theme takes shape.
And so somehow we were there. I had a slight qualm in that the final output was actually the opening of the soliloquy, while the others were all extracts from later. The absolute overfamiliarity of the quote seemed to carry that objection away, though. I mean, what else would a solver expect?
I also determined that all the anagram pairs would be of different lengths to the entries – for instance, ‘peasant slave’ is (7,5) while ‘vast seaplane’ is (4,8). As soon as you found a clue answer that was a different length to that given, then you knew you had the makings of a pair. Nonetheless, with 12 unidentified clues to be solved cold, and then matched, this could be a difficult puzzle, and one comment during the editing and proofreading process suggested that the team had found it so. Still, you had the actual quotes in the grid, and I had hopes that ‘peasant slave’ and ‘solid flesh’ would ring bells. Early comments at fifteensquared, however, suggest another entry point was found.
Nice, though, to have a hard one now and again, just to keep you on your toes…