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Puzzle Solution #7: De-escalation

Dmitri ShostakovichIt’s been more than a week now since the unveiling of my long-missing, much-anticipated crossword puzzle #7 “Escalation” here on Bachblog. The puzzle’s existence was a poorly kept secret and many of my more enthusiastic solvers had it long ago (as early as April), so there are likely few of you left who might yet want to take a stab at it.

It is not too late to do just that, however. Click  HERE  to go back and work the puzzle. You can come back here anytime for the solution.

To serve as spoiler space, here is a catchy tune by one of my favorite bands, Soul Coughing:

The Solution

There is nothing to say about this puzzle that I have not already said. So below the solution is a copy of what I wrote for this puzzle’s midrash on George Barany’s site.


The Idea

My idea for this puzzle was to use each of the four words MAJOR, MINOR, FLAT and SHARP as a part of a phrase having nothing to do with music. Not terribly clever and probably not original, I thought. But a check of Jim Horne’s database at xwordinfo.com did not turn up a similar idea. Thus, the idea had not been used in the New York Times, at least, within the past twenty years. Good enough for me!

I began thinking of phrases and almost immediately the possibility of using SHARP WORDS, MINOR SCUFFLE (or MINOR SKIRMISH) and MAJOR BATTLES (or MAJOR CONFLICT) presented itself. Unfortunately, I could not come up with a phrase using FLAT to complete the set. Maybe I should have gone in another direction at that point. But I settled on FLAT-OUT WAR even though I knew it wasn’t very good. (I did learn there is an obscure boardgame with that phrase as its title. At least I’m not the first person to ever utter the words.)

So I knew before creating a grid or filling in a single square that my theme was deeply and irreparably flawed. Still, I loved the idea of a “double theme” of music and the escalation of a conflict.

The Puzzle

The four themed phrases depict a developing conflict and are placed from top-to-bottom on the grid in order of increasing intensity.

My reveal at the puzzle’s center (ABCDEFG) and its clue allude only to the musical aspect of the theme: to the seven notes used in the Western musical scale and to the four words that are combined with these notes to identify key signatures. I leave it to the solver to notice the escalation of a conflict depicted and the double meaning of the puzzle’s title.

The clue to the reveal, “noted septet and a hint to the first parts …”, points pretty clearly to the musical theme. I hope solvers might at least briefly consider as an answer the name of some famous musical ensemble.

Clues to each of my four themed phrases are meant to describe a conflict-related phrase in a straightforward manner, but each contains a sneaky hint to the musical theme: disharmonious, low-key, cacophonous and full-scale.

The Result

I had fun with the theme and it is the sort of thing that appeals to my taste. Ultimately, of course, it is up to each solver to decide how successful it is. I am pleased with the feedback I have had from friends and others. Some experienced and accomplished constructors, though, felt I tried to cram too much into it and would have been better off without the double theme. Certainly I could have come up with something that didn’t require the weak phrase “flat-out war.”

I was privileged to receive feedback from a very talented group of beta-testers.[1] My thanks to George for prevailing upon them to critique my puzzle and to each of them for generous and valuable input. I reworked many of my clues in response to their helpful advice. None of them are to blame for the finished product, however. Despite their suggestions, I stubbornly declined make changes to my grid or its fill.

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04/20/2020 #24: Roadside Attractions?
02/20/2020 #23: World’s Smallest!
06/20/2018 #22: Northern Dialect
01/30/2018 #21: Special Editions
10/10/2017 #20: Saints We’d Like to See

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  1. See the impressive list of beta-testers on my puzzle’s page on the George Barany and Friends website. [^]

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