Opinion by Chalicea
Extra letters from wordplay give THE THREE GREAT ELEMENTS OF MODERN CIVILIZATION, quoted as THE PROTESTANT RELIGON, GUNPOWDER and PRINTING by THOMAS CARLYLE.
When for ‘Listen With Others’ (the weekly blog on the Listener) I ask setters for a ‘Setter’s Blog’ the response is so often “I set this so long ago that I remember little about it and really have not much to say”. Here I am in the same position!
I live with an avid reader who knows a great deal about a vast range of things, and when I am short of a theme, he will say something like “What about the first shipments of meat from Australia?” or “You could try the Graeae”. Thomas Carlyle was one of those, and even Charles admits he’s a pretty dull and uninspiring topic but this firmly held OPINION of his fitted nicely into a symmetrical grid with 49 cells of thematic material. That’s just about right, I find: more than a third of the cells being thematic tends to make the grid construction really tough and threatens symmetry. I’m not too bothered about symmetry and will readily abandon it in favour of a rich grid, but I know it pleases editors and some solvers notice it and a few possibly care about it.
I used Crossword Compiler to help me fill the grid and some of the words it offered were pretty obscure and new to me (TELPHERAGES/ LIONEL/ TALIPOT for instance) but I know we have an able set of solvers and my clues are known to be fairly generous. Of course, solvers know where the name to be highlighted will probably appear (especially in my crosswords).
I was left with the task of making sure that I maintained the required mean word length (not less than 5.5 – this one had a word length of 6) and stayed within the required ‘not more than 45 clues’ (a mere 41 here) while fitting the required message into the extra letters produced by the wordplay of the clues. (Yes – setters have a number of constraints!)
Setting an EV takes a few days and I am very fortunate in having Ifor as a friend and test-solver. He spots the errors and his suggestions for clue improvements invariably vastly improve my compilations, then Steve, our editor, does another pruning, prompting me about muddling transitive and intransitive verbs and fine points like that, and well over two years after the original idea, we are ready to go. I really hope it gave solvers some pleasure and satisfaction.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.