Conduit by Loda
Posted by shirleycurran on 20 February 2015
We downloaded an intriguing grid. We have seen one of these before and were alerted to the need to keep a very careful track of everything we entered, erasing the discarded directions (any of the six possible ones for some words) until we had the correct one and could ink it in.
Of course, even though I have seen Loda enjoying a pint, I needed to check his current membership of the Listener Setters Topers’ Club, and was at first rather nonplussed to find only a barrel in his clues (Horn’s pla[Y]ed thus below with barrel for depth (5) Giving DOWN with BL for D = BLOWN). However, he redeemed himself, moving onto the quality Scottish drink when we worked out the misprint for JUNIPER (Girl cut one a shrub to savour m[A]lted spirit (7) – Yes, apparently the berries are used to flavour not just gin!)
A number of the misprints were as evident as that one: Maggy for maNgy, moulting for mouNting, mural damage for mOral damage, tewart for tHwart and so on, so that we soon had a rather interesting set of corrected misprints running down the side of our clues and one of my favourite works leapt out at us: ANIMAL FARM! So they were the titles of books. We could see GOD KNOWS, YOUTH, THE VODI, and ISLAND but were rather nonplussed about S??TIP and ?MI?IAM which had to give us three more of our eight titles.
Meanwhile, the grid fill was steady as soon as we entered DISEUR and guessed that it was going to use the same letters as RUES. At this point, we were able to decide on the direction for a dozen clues and our speed increased. It was STAIRWELL that gave us our second p.d.m. as RWELL was obviously ORWELL with his first letter removed. CAPOTE, BRAINE, HUXLEY, UPDIKE and HELLER quickly followed and a little Internet research showed us that Miriam was a work by Capote so we were able to almost complete our grid. The only single letter novel we hadn’t yet identified was S by UPDIKE and we decided that that explained LINNS (which had appeared of its own accord in our grid) as they must be ‘laShers’.
A red herring, of course! We spent a long time trying to find Youth, written by MILLER or MAILER (Yes, we know it was a work of Conrad and of Tolstoy but they wouldn’t fit anywhere!) Then we noticed MBLER and were astonished to find that Eric Ambler wrote a work entitled SKYTIP! It was the realisation that WILDER had to fit into our grid to remove the ambiguity of which of UPDIKE’s D, I and K to enter, that led us to ask the Internet whether Wilder had written Youth, and, to our delight, he did write a play of that name.
All the clued and unclued words were now entered and we had a curiously gaping hole in the centre of our grid with just a few stray letters here and there. Head-scratching.
However, we could now feed our extra letters into TEA – BOEYARDK and with a whoop of delight, were told that they gave KEYBOARD. Sure enough, there it was – not, of course one that resembled any of our European ones (my little finger has to retrain itself to type Z whenever I encounter a UK keyboard and our French keyboard leaves us hunting for Q, A, M and most of the numbers which are in upper-case – how stupid is that!)
We found a UK keyboard and, after about four hours of solving, joyfully filled in the spaces and highlighted the keyboard. As I checked that each of our entries was still in the grid, I really admired the skill that went into this compilation with so many words biting into that keyboard. I didn’t like, or understand what DIEB had to do with a clue that clearly led to DIE (Be lo[N]ging impressive stamp (4)) We know a DIEB is a kind of antelope – perhaps the clue originally led to that! (but we learned today that there has been a word-length correction on the Times crossword website and have, of course, understood that that initial B of Braine had to be left to be inserted at the end of the solve so maybe there was a change of clue at a late stage and the team forgot to change the word length).
We still had two questions to resolve: the title? Ah, Chambers, of course, explains that a conduit is a ‘means of communication’. Then there’s the ‘helpful order’ of those titles. That was a lovely final touch (well, I imagine it was an initial touch for Loda!) We find the K of KEYBOARD comes from the author of the first novel (UpdiKe/ S); the E comes from the end of CapotE (Miriam), the Y from HuxleY (Island) and so on. There is so much in this compilation to admire!
Using Cal[Y]donian as a misprint for Caledonian (Perhaps a Calydonian place of turmoil – even for poets (7) = HELL + ENE) seemed somewhat obscure, perhaps, and the GTI abbreviation (Gol[F]’s often seen with these characters: note, 400 in the van (3)) seemed downright devious, but still, this was thoroughly enjoyable and a superb piece of setting.
Thank you, Loda.