Elementary II: Rising Costs by Hedge-sparrow
Letters rising in clues give RAISE TEMPERATURE BY ONE OR TWO DEGREES; each T in the grid is raised one or two cells making THIRST and DROUGHT. Word removals from clues indicate water loss.
The increasing prevalence and severity of wildfires in recent decades has been widely reported. The reasons for the occurrence of wildfires – and for their increasing frequency and severity – are complex: however, one contributing factor is the increase in average temperatures resulting from global warming. In very simple terms, the warmer temperatures lead to drier conditions which in turn tend to promote the incidence and severity of wildfires.
It is this aspect – global warming causing raised temperatures leading to wildfires – that I wanted to make the theme of this puzzle. From the start I felt that the terms GLOBAL WARMING and WILDFIRES could be unclued entries to be discovered by solvers, so I initially investigated various grid options with these terms in different positions. It was tempting to use the W in the middle of GLOBAL WARMING as the first letter of WILDFIRES: however, I rather wanted GLOBAL WARMING to be in the top row, and after various trials I decided upon having WILDFIRES in the central column but in a 13×11 grid: hence, to enable a symmetrical grid, it needed its own W, starting in the second row.
To indicate rising temperatures I wanted solvers to form the final grid by raising the letter T in some down entries, if possible maintaining real words. It was a fellow setter (Brock) who came up with the excellent idea of creating new thematic terms in the grid (such as “drought”, “heat”, “thirst”, etc.) as a result of raising the Ts. I could see this would be quite a challenge to implement, but it was such a good idea that I wanted to try it.
Another idea was to have words indicating “water” (“water”, “rain”, “river”, “ice”, etc.) disappear in some way, to suggest the “drying out” process. Initially I imagined these disappearing somehow from the grid, but in the event the other ideas were sufficiently challenging to implement in themselves. However, I was later able to use the “drying out” idea in the clue set.
Forming the grid was indeed quite a challenge. With GLOBAL WARMING and WILDFIRES in place in what I wanted to be a symmetrical grid, there were already some constraints, but further ones included selecting appropriate down entries where a T could rise to form a new word (e.g. ALERTS ® ALTERS), positioning these entries so that raising the Ts (with simultaneous changes in position of the other letters) would form the new crossing thematic words in the grid (THIRST and DROUGHT were the ones I eventually settled on), ensuring that the movement of other letters within these down entries also left real words in the grid, and ensuring that the letter T did not appear anywhere else in the grid. An enjoyable challenge, but in the end I managed to come up with a grid that “worked”.
From the clues, I wanted to create a message to indicate to solvers that they needed to “raise temperatures” to form the final grid. With 39 clues in total, the 33-letter message RAISE TEMPERATURE BY ONE OR TWO DEGREES (i.e. raise each T by one or two cells in the grid) would leave another six clues for using the “drying out” idea previously mentioned. For the main message, I thought it would be thematically appropriate to have one letter rise from a clue to the clue above, these letters forming the message: however, it didn’t occur to me until I came to start writing the clues that this actually entails two changes per clue (one letter going to the clue above, and another letter coming in from the clue below). I’ve never tried using this gimmick before, and I must admit I found it pretty difficult to write the clue set: however, I got there in the end. The “drying out” clues had elements such as WATER, POND, ICE, etc. to be removed from longer words in otherwise normal clues.
So eventually the puzzle was completed, apart from its title, and for that I must thank another fellow-setter (Phi) who came up with the excellent suggestion of RISING COSTS, with its appropriate double interpretation.
As ever, many thanks to the various setters who test-solved the puzzle and offered many helpful suggestions, to the EV editor Steve Bartlett for his help in getting the puzzle ready for publication, and to those solvers who have contacted me with kind comments about the puzzle – I’m very glad you enjoyed solving it.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.