This puzzle has been in the EV queue for some time – I see the original has a completion date of New Year’s Eve 2017. At that remove it’s hard to remember why I suddenly decided to focus on quartets. I know that Eliot’s choice to write a sequence of four poems which he then called quartets (for whatever reason) has always struck me as some sort of celebration of the number four.
Getting all the Eliot titles into a reasonably-sized grid is quite tricky (and there’s that awkward definite article in one of them – leave in or remove?), and if you then want to perform some sort of cruciverbal legerdemain… So I decided to focus further down on four-ness and take four-letter extracts from the titles, replacing them with four-letter elements of…what, exactly?
At the time I was working my way through the Haydn symphonies, and it occurred to me that he was the originator of the string quartet. I looked through the list and I found four nicknames that in English had four letters – and just four, as I decided Tost (as a dedicatee) wasn’t really a nickname. Moreover, Haydn had five letters in his surname, just like Eliot.
The idea of replacing the poet with the composer led me to put the names in the centre (and hence a grid with odd numbers of rows and columns). I reckoned I could probably manage the change producing new words there, but not more widely. I carefully extracted quartets from Eliot’s quartets that were the last two letters from the first word and the first two from the second (e.g. burNT NOrton) but rather less carefully neglected to check my source and ended up with dRY SElvages. Well, it’s a while since I read the poems, and ‘selvages’ just seemed a more likely word for Eliot.
Naturally the editor spotted this goof, which led to a hurried rejig of the grid, slightly compounded by the need to keep the T of LEGIT (trailer: the original clue to the -RYSE- word is forthcoming in The Independent). In the end this one broke the pattern, becoming drY SALvages, but at least the split was retained across the two principal words of the Eliot title.
The fact that replacements occurred in only three of the long answers instead of all four was deliberate – I hoped that it might lead people to scrutinize 1 across particularly closely while the last replacement lurked in a different shorter answer.
At the end I did wonder whether I had gone a little overboard with the number four!
The puzzle was scheduled some way in advance, and it was rather startling to find it appear during a somewhat turbulent period in EV history, with the series being first cancelled and then reinstated within a very short period of time. I’ll have a little more to say about that come the blog on my next EV puzzle, which was also caught up in the turmoil. One consequence was a steady stream of emails being forwarded from The Telegraph, submitted by people saying they were enjoying the puzzle, or that they were solving it but didn’t expect to get to a stage where they could submit an entry, and all noting that they too should be counted in any enumeration of EV fans.
Quite right too, but it never harms to submit entries as well, and the wonders of the internet means that I can do so even from here in NZ. Now all I have to do is get my handwriting legible on a scanner.