Growing Concern by Brock
Extra letters give ENVIRONMENTAL VANDALISM and MONTY DON, who described peat extraction thus. PEAT is removed from 12 answers. 10 Cs are erased to illustrate the by-product release of stored carbon.
Experiencing the natural world is one of my biggest joys in life, so as a scientist it is not surprising that the current global environmental crises and climate emergency feature in many of my more recent ideas for crossword puzzles. As it appears to have hit a raw nerve for some solvers, I will not say any more about the topic itself in this blog other than to point to the source of the quotation I used https://www.telegraph.co.uk/environment/2020/11/25/peat-compost-environmental-vandalism-monty-don-says/ and some further reading, for those who are interested, about why peat bogs are so important in this context – https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/natural-solutions-climate-change/peatland.
Various ideas were shared in outline between the setters working on the series, this being one of a few that I’d discussed very briefly with Phi/Kcit at an early stage of the project as a viable option. Having later determined it as the choice for the Brock puzzle in the series, I made a more complete list of all the words and phrases I could find in Chambers with the letters P,E,A,T in order that left real words (also in Chambers) after removal. My list was quite short: copemate, di penates, drape coat, operate, operation, pap-meat, pea-plant, peasants, perennate, periapt, perorate, pet hate, Petri plate, pleated, pleating, recuperates, recuperating, repeated, superate, superfast, unpleated. Obviously, some of those are different forms of the same word, so I could only use one or another (e.g. ‘operate’ or ‘operation’). I was pleased to be able to produce a final grid including most of the interesting ones.
To provide diversity for the series in the context of the other setters’ puzzle ideas, using a quotation seemed appropriate. I was pleased to find Monty Don’s quotation with E_ V_ worked well in length and I planned to include the extra message ‘lose carbon’. Extra letters removed from the clues seemed an appropriate way to generate the message related to the theme, based on which the use of the extra Cs interspersing these appealed to me as a more interesting way to indicate their removal from the grid than a simple instruction.
Originally my plan had been for the removed Cs to form a thematic shape in the grid. Indeed, some early trials achieved that, but with too few ‘peaty’ words. I tried hard to do so within the goal of having at least 10 examples of peat-extracted words, but after too long wrestling I decided that removal of C leaving the grid in a damaged state was still appropriate to the theme. I am slow at setting compared to my more experienced collaborators on the series, and they were already waiting!
I am very grateful to my fellow setters, our test solvers, Steve the editor and Phibs the ‘hints’ blogger, all of whom helped to improve the puzzle by pointing out errors and ambiguities. Even after all that, with hindsight there were other clues I would have edited further – apologies to solvers who found some of them unnecessarily convoluted.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.