Enigmatic Variations 1498
The Australasian One by Eclogue
Thematic answers are names of UK nuclear testing operations carried out in the 1950s in Australasia; letters falling out of the answers spell MARALINGA, test site for most of the operations.
G’day! As we saw with EV 1478 “EXCUSEZ-MOI”, every dog has its day, and on Sunday 1 August 2021, it was Eclogue’s day once more. We returned to the fold with our eleventh EV, “THE AUSTRALASIAN ONE”, being the penultimate in the continental/Olympic titled puzzles (which while having, in the main, little or nothing to do with the Olympics, have generated a wide range of both common and obscure themes). In our previous blog we promised something rather further afield and so it transpired.
David Astle, is a household name in Australia both as a crossword compiler, but also as presenter of the antipodean version of Countdown, called “Letters and Numbers” which ran for 6 series and 450 episodes between 2010 and 2012.
It is his book, “Cluetopia”, written to celebrate the centenary of the crossword that provided the spark for this puzzle:-
“Kite, Breakaway, Marcoo. I know the name by heart, the classified names buried under the Maralinga sand, codenames for the bombs detonated on the Nullarbar Plain – the ground blasts, the tower test and the nuclear airdrop, the black rainfall, the toxic dust cloaking the workers and the Yankunytjatjara people, the balloon explosions and the weeping sores.” p86 ‘1945’ from Cluetopia by David Astle (Allen & Unwin 2013).
The author mourns not only the events, but the general fading of them from the Australian public conscience. If it were possible, we would hazard that they are even less known to the UK populous, requiring Wikipedia and the like to bring them to mind.
However, this was never intended to be a puzzle trying to make some moralistic statement, but simply a silent marking of those events which have been largely forgotten. For the very observant, you may also have noted reference to the theme in an episode in the most recent run of Call the Midwife which dealt with some of the medical issues of the “fall-out” (the original puzzle title), from some of those tests, on a returning UK serviceman.
The puzzle itself had a fairly stop-start upbringing. Initially, the grid was only 9 cells wide, with a higher than acceptable level of fully-checked entries. This was then re-written to something approximating the present form, which was deemed more acceptable. In January 2021, the EV editor outlined a plan to have a continent-based run of puzzles that would firstly encompass an all-female compiler month in July, but could then include this puzzle as “THE AUSTRALASIAN ONE” with some suitable adjustments. Eclogue were more than happy to oblige.
One of the joys of thematic puzzles is the discovery of something unknown to the solver (and setter), so we hope you gained something from our latest EV or simply enjoyed the puzzle for the crossword it is.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.