The first obvious feature of Dilwitch’s Downsizing was the gift of word lengths for the original words before we performed a bit of surgery and squeezed them into the grid. That had the numpties feeling very positive towards Dilwitch from the start. Can you imagine what this would have been like without that feature!
Of course, this intriguing device had the great disadvantage that the wordplay rarely led to real words so we really had to do some cold-solving and rack our brains to understand what we were entering.
It was lucky that (as usual) we spotted a long word in the south-east corner. We looked up types of gallery ‘Balcony for serenading girl in chateau (bit of skirt, not wife)’ (14) SINGING GALLERY reduced to SINGALERY. What sort of Don Juan is this Dilwitch? No doubt he was yowling ‘Love Me Do’, or another of those sixties favourites at that bit of skirt, from that balcony – though it wasn’t until we were attempting to understand the wordplay of our very last clue ‘Former teacher of George H – there aren’t many like me (8, two words) RARA AVIS reduced to RAVI S (Ravi Shankar) that we realized that the fab four had all figured in his clues.
There were lots of lovely moments like that; it was spotting WAGGA WAGGA (reduced to WAGA) Comedian with a following, producer of Dame Edna (4) that broke the ‘do-able’ barrier for us – that moment when we have enough clues in place to have confidence that we might manage to finish.
The grid fill was steady and enjoyable with more moments of delight, like 1ac Letters getting lost in paper press (11, two words) What a superb surface reading to tell us that we have an anagram of LETTERS in the FT to give us FLEET STREET.
I was rather bothered by RATTON leading to RAT ON with the clue ‘Grass up? Why ‘up’? A friend has wondered why simply the word GRASS was not used. It would have been one of those classic Listener clues. NO NONSENSE leading to NONSE held us up too – what a clever find.
All in all though, this was great fun and earned our admiration. What joy it must have been for Dilwitch when he managed to fit his last word in and every single one had been compressed. Lovely stuff! Thank you, Dilwitch.