Of course, in retrospect, it is clear how the letters of extra words in down clues were ‘thematically’ used to spell out two instructions. We were lucky in that our initial guess that we were using the ‘sides’ of the words was going to spell out something and we had only solved half a dozen of the down clues when we were able to extrapolate ‘ERASE SOME LETTERS FROM GRID/ REORDER TO SINGLE WORDS’ as the two instructions that told us what to do with the final grid and how to handle extra phrases that were to appear in six across clues.
But I am leaping ahead. Naturally, as if I needed to, I scanned the clues to confirm that Ifor has the right to retain his membership of the Listener Setters’ alcohol_lovers.org and, of course he reassured us that ‘Clubs rarely alarm drinking parties (7)’ giving us C + AROUSE, and ‘Weaker, not with redistilled spirit (5)’ (w)EAKER* leading to RAKEE. Indeed, Ifor was in the spirit with that lovely original anagram indicator ‘redistilled’. Nice!
These clues were generous for Ifor; we were expecting a far more gruelling solve, and when we broke off for dinner, we had a full grid with a few fairly surprising words in it, PIECEN, ASUDDEN, SWEIRT, ABORE, and a number of likely phrases that we had to ‘reorder to single words’. Yes, ‘a number’, in fact eight! But there were supposed to be only six. Head scratching!
We had ‘to start with’ in 9 across, and that doesn’t reorder or anagram into anything very useful and we were convinced that there had to be something in the IONA clue as we simply couldn’t parse it (but we can now – what a delightful clue, ‘More than one railway separately stopped from leading across island (4)’ Of course, the leading ‘across’ clue solution gave DIVERSIONARY, from which we had to ‘stop’ or remove DIVERS and RY, leaving IONA.
However, ‘abject Sun‘ was rather obvious and obligingly gave ‘subjacent’ as an anagram, so we were at last on the right track. We were rather surprised when ‘can be just’, in 17 across, gave the same anagram solution, and even more surprised when ‘late par’ and ‘pearl at’ both resolved themselves to ‘apteral’ and ‘casual hope’ and ‘has a couple’ both gave ‘acephalous’. Chambers told us that these words meant ‘wingless’, ‘underlying’ and ‘headless’ and we knew from the preamble that ‘the results of this treatment suggest how the final grid differs from the initially-filled grid’.
Quandary! Each instruction appeared twice, so were we to remove the top, sides and bottom of the grid twice over? Thankfully, Ifor had used that familiar diagonal (OK – one step up on the conventional – he used the non-leading diagonal in reverse, just to make it a mite trickier) and there was PROMETHEUS, confirming that we had to do the unbinding just once.
Oh dear, surely not! I remember Shelley’s ‘Prometheus Unbounded’, a work I simply couldn’t get my head round many years ago, and seem to remember that Milton dabbled in Promethean literature too. We needed Google and it was a relief to find that only AESCHYLUS actually compiled works on both the Bounded and Unbounded Prometheus (or ‘traditionally’ is claimed to have done so – and what a delightful title ‘Fast and Loose’! Obviously AESCHYLUS was required below the grid. At least, I hope so.
Many thanks to Ifor. This was fair and fun.