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Printer’s Devilry by Qid, Etaoin Shrdlu

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 March 2010

Ataoin Shrdlu

I wonder why the Dumbo easy clues team didn’t go straight to the Internet to research Linotype. It would possibly have saved us hours of cold solving had we found ETAOIN SHRDLU several hours earlier. As it was, we had had our first breakthrough, when we realized that the solutions that were not fitting into our grid were the four-letter ones. Qid had generously made those the easy ones to solve and we had a neat list of twelve, but no idea how to adapt them. We had: WASE, KAIM, DERE, OUZO, TANK, SLIM, SALK, ANNE, BASS, BYTE, ANAL and TEFF. There’s our first red herring! Of course we should know by now that ANNE is far too obvious for a Listener setter in ‘Bird seen in Channel? To some extent’

It was hours later, in the final stages, that we converted ANNE to GULL with the reasoning that to some extent GULL was found in ‘gulf’ – Yes, of course we should have considered ‘gully’ but, at that stage it was no longer relevant.

With all those clues and another sixteen solved, we were up against a blank wall. How to work out which of the remaining eight had extra letters and which had misprints? In despair, I fed ETAO???????? (the extra letters from PLASTERSTONE, NEOTEINIA, STENGAH and APOTHEM) into a word-finder (does this count as desperation or cheating?) and ETAOIN SHRDLU appeared. Of course!

It was a downhill romp from that point on. I have wondered aloud before how many solvers find the solution then work backwards, making the misprints fit. As usual, we did. We met with a problem when TOY had to become HOY and somehow explain the clue, ‘One who’s left, for example, a toy on granny’s demise’ LEGATARY was the answer, we knew, as it intersected with UGLI, TRAMMELER, SPICAS, MITT, UNLOBULAR and LIRA.  However, we played with HOY, a boat, and that didn’t seem to fit with TAR until we saw the second meaning of HOY – to incite which tied in with the third meaning of TAR – to incite to fight.  Still, even if we assumed that Y was ‘granny’s demise’ we still had the problem of the first letter of LEGATARY. ‘One who’s left’ seems to be a legatary, but where is the L in the wordplay – or can a letter be used twice in an &lit. way? Help!

For the 2,4,4,2 notion that Linotype operators would have had in mind, we were playing with ‘… head on’. Lead didn’t immediately spring to mind since lead alone would have been a rather soft material – it needed the antimony of the alloy to expand as it cooled. However, I suppose compilers have to be allowed a little leeway! TO RUSH LEAD IN was confirmed by the corrected misprints.

I am not sure how we got the U corrected letter from ‘Ferns in Laramie as briefly cultivated’ either. But then – if solving were easy, what would we do with our Saturdays?

Qid certainly challenged us!

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3 Responses to “Printer’s Devilry by Qid, Etaoin Shrdlu”

  1. I am not sure how we got the U corrected letter from ‘Ferns in Laramie as briefly cultivated’

    The misprinted word is “as” for “us”. And “us briefly” clues S. Chambers: “‘s … a shortened form of us (pronounced s; eg let’s go).”

  2. 35a “One who’s left, for example, a toy on granny’s demise” I think you have to interpret the whole clue as being the definition. This leaves “One who’s” with no role in the wordplay, making it a semi-&lit rather than a true &lit.

  3. shirleycurran said

    Thanks, Gareth, that second one is rather subtle for me!

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