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Downsizing by Dilwitch

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 September 2011

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.

3 Responses to “Downsizing by Dilwitch”

  1. David Rotheray said


  2. shirleycurran said

    Aah, thanks!

  3. nuoli said

    RATON was the only one I couldn’t satisfactorily parse either, and had assumed we were compressing RATTON rather than RATOON.

    I agree with you, Shirley: what a feat to have been able to complete the whole grid with words that could be compressed! I wonder how long he was collecting such words? Is there any compiling software that can be programmed to generate a list of such words? Some of the compressions were almost outrageous in their scale, especially WAGGA WAGGA to WAGA.

    For some of the more obscure vocabulary, I did find myself searching Chambers for words that doubled one of the checked letters in the grid, which would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack had the length of the uncompressed entries not been given each time, as you point out. I don’t think I could have completed the puzzle without that.

    I hadn’t noticed that all of the Fab Four had been mentioned, but I did spot a rather higher than usual number of clues with an Australian connection.

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