I haven’t blogged about crosswords for a while so I thought I’d mention this week’s Azed puzzle (No. 2610) which is of ‘Eightsome Reels’ type, as explained in the picture above. I mentioned a similar one years and years ago (Azed No. 1921) so I thought I’d make a few comments on this one. I won’t give the full solution though because that would spoil the competition but I will give a hint or two.

The solutions are obviously all 8 letters long and they have to be fitted in the squares surrounding the corresponding number. The trouble is that you’re not told which square to start from, or whether the letters are to be entered clockwise or anticlockwise.

The only way I know to start one of these puzzles is to solve several adjacent clues without entering them in the diagram and then see if I can find a way to fit them together on a bit of scrap paper. The structure of the diagram guarantees many checked letters (i.e. overlaps) between neighbouring answers so once you have a few then the subsequent ones get easier to fit in. These puzzles are usually difficult to start though.

In this particular case I managed to solve about half the clues before entering anything on the grid. But how to write them in so they fit together?

For me the solution was to get the three answers in the corner at the bottom right corner (35, 36 and 30). I think 35 is a nice clue:

35. Erica, breaking rule? – ‘a thing of shreds and patches’

Think American novelist following by an anagram; the reference to Gilbert & Sullivan gives you JONGLEUR (a wandering minstrel). The following clue is the easiest of the lot

36. How corpse ends in morgue’s awfully … so?

This is clearly GRUESOME (end of corpse, i.e. E in anagram of MORGUES).

Now you see that EUR and RUE are common to the two answers so they must fit in the three lights running vertically upwards between 35 and 36 and the two words must be ordered differently so that one is clockwise and the other anti-clockwise. If you write RUE upwards here (so GRUESOME is clockwise), then the three letters in the corner will be MEG. If on the other hand you write them downwards (so GRUESOME is anticlockwise) then the three letters in the corner are SOM. The rubric states that the unchecked letters in the corners can be arranged to form LESS FINE POEM which does not contain a G. Thus the first possibility is excluded. The answer to 36 must therefore be written anticlockwise and the answer to 35 clockwise to mesh with it.

To check this is right you can solve 30, the answer to which has three letters in common with GRUESOME and must be written clockwise.

The symmetry having thus been broken, all you have to do is solve the other clues and fit them in accordingly…

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