Thanks to everyone who entered, any anyone who had a go. Let’s skip straight to the solution image, which is here. A pangram, just for kicks. Written in December 2020, but only crawling out into the light of day a year later. I’ll explain the clues in the following video, and then the theme and answer after that:
Before I get to the theme though, just a word of warning that there is some black humour here. If any of you are feeling down, please remember that it’s good to talk. And if you aren’t sure who to talk to, The Samaritans are there for you, without any judgement. In the UK, you can call them free on 116 123.
I did say I might drop hints, but after receiving a correct solution fairly early on, I thought it probably wasn’t fair to that solver to do so, after they’d got it without hints.
Rrrrright then, let’s say you solved the puzzle, but were stuck for the answer to my question. If nothing leapt out at you, how are you supposed to know what it is, or even work it out? (… I hear you howl, pitifully.) Well, I’d say that the first thing to think about is that you’re told ALL the words of a work are somewhere in this puzzle. And that’s not a very large sample size, so you must be looking for a fairly short work, right? I hoped that that would lead you to think about a song or a poem.
You also know that the name of the creator is somewhere in there, so maybe make a list of anything that might be a person’s name that you can find. Here’s a list I made:
Cram Simon Fish Desi Dice Dent Rivers Senna French Udal Lysander Crazy Horse Johnny Maple Welsh Simpson Tusk Parker Jobs Liz India Anita Law April Mark Power Bruno Dorothy Brown
I was expecting a chunk of potential solvers to have at least heard the creator’s name, and so possibly spot it from that list. Although, feedback from test solvers gave me a familiarity rate of 0/4, so I seem to be wrong there. Okay that’s still quite a lot of possibilities, and maybe nothing jumps out at you. So let’s go back to it being a poem or song.
I was hoping that you might notice that the grid gave you STAIN & PAIN, and DAMP & CRAMP, and also LAWFUL & (looking *within* one of the answers/at the wordplay) AWFUL. Rhymes! If that still doesn’t ring a bell with you (and no especial reason to assume that it would, as I think more people would know the creator’s name than be familiar with the work.), you now have something to work with. What if you stick those first two pairs of rhyming words into a search engine? (I said “Discover the title of the work”. How you went about discovering it was entirely up to you.) Well… bingo, right up at the top there is your answer. But if you hadn’t noticed the rhymes, you might have still got there by putting a few “noticeable” words into a search with a name or two.
QUATRAIN LYSANDER Simpson?
VIALS TUSKS Dent?
RIVERS ANIMATION Brown?
…etc until you hit the right one. If you were really on the ball, you might have noticed that a few of the clues were over-engineered. Why “smells the head of” when ” ‘s ” would have done? Couldn’t “as well as” have been just “and”? And “cause” could’ve just been a possessive apostrophe, right? You guessed it, those were words from the work. The title, meanwhile, had no meaning in itself – it was just all I could make with the three remaining innocuous words that I hadn’t managed to squeeze into the grid or a clue. If you had no, er, clue, I think a determined 20 minutes’ work with a search engine would have got you there.
So you were looking for (and, for me, the last line lightens the mood)…
by Dorothy Parker, from her Enough Rope collection.
(I enjoyed the film, and also Marion Meade’s biography Dorothy Parker – What Fresh Hell Is This?)
My The Penguin Dorothy Parker (an older edition of this) has the title with acute accents on both Es, and I’ve no reason to doubt that, but since it’s variously spelled with one, two or zero accents online, I’d accept any version of accentation*. If you like acerbic wit, I do recommend checking out more of Dorothy‘s work.
(By the way, thanks to Will at GoCrossword for the fab new Competitions feature he has there, and for helping me with tweaks to set this one up.)
And so to the winner…
I received 3 correct entries, one incorrect entry (by just 1 letter in the grid, which unfortunately broke a rhyme, so maybe that’s why they couldn’t spot the answer), and one correct non-entry. My suspicion is that of the 4 correct solvers, 2 of them were familiar with DP, and the other 2 worked it out. Either way, congratulations for getting there go out to: Rachel, Roddy & Viresh (and the non-entrant).
So, who wins? Watch this short video:
Congratulations, winner! I’ll get in touch with you about your prize shortly.
If you enjoyed this puzzle, then you might also like Glitter, which has a more spottable theme.
Oh, and I guess I’ll leave you with this, uh, delight:
*It’s a perfectly cromulent word.