A Tester Laid Out by Salamanca
Posted by shirleycurran on 18 December 2015
An interesting title there (remind me not to volunteer to test-solve any of Salamanca’s). Of course we attempted to anagram it or parts of it and came up with nothing at all. It was a lot later that the extra letters in the message suggested a different way to decipher it, though, since the lower half of our grid filled up first (as did, I am sure, most solvers’) we soon saw LETTERS OF TITLE spelled out. The upper half took longer.
We had already murmured about the complex preamble that told us that four groups of solutions were thematic grid entries in equal-sized sets of variations. Counting the unclued lights told us that these were going to be groups of four so we knew that we were hunting for four quartets. The penny should have dropped with a thud at that point – but it didn’t – despite my having almost learnt the work off by heart when it was a set text at A Level. Instead, I was anxiously scanning the clues to confirm Salamanca’s renewed membership of the Listener Happy Quaffers’ Club, and, of course he gave evidence at once: ‘Heavy drinker – accordingly head to throb (3)’ (giving SO + T(hrob) = SOT) followed by ‘A quiet drink where burnt-out remnants fall (6)’ (A + SH + PI[N]T = ASHPIT) and later a sort of tippler’s moan, ‘Drinks dispenser – provider of glasses a quarter short (5)’ (OPTIC[I]AN less AN = OPTIC).
Our grid filled quickly and soon the lower half was complete, with the exception of the last letter of 38ac RAA?. This had to be RAITAS but the word play spelled out RA + AS, so was IT the ‘common omission’ that together with STOLE (‘Didn’t pay for posh ladieswear (5)’) explained the variation. The penny still didn’t drop, even when we realized that IT was also extracted from OOB[IT] ‘Expression of disapproval upset a shabby type (3) (BOO reversed), ENM[IT]Y (‘What comes before O good grief? Bitterness (EN + MY) and STA[IT]HS (‘Embankments on the Tyne raised square 37s (5)’ (HATS were the subject of 37 so that gave us S HATS<).
Four figures of speech, MEIOSIS, HYPERBOLE, EUPHEMISM and TAUTOLOGY had leapt out at us as our grid filled, and now we found MENS WASHROOM, THUNDERBOXES, LOO and WCS (I rather liked the reference to W C Fields in that one!) Thus we had three of our groups and when 2dn gave us an extra V (‘Stick up profitless number (6)’ CUE< + [V]AIN = EUCAIN) we finally worked out that it was ‘even’ letters of the title that would give us the name (TAKE AND READ EVEN LETTERS OF TITLE). There it was: T S ELIOT, which had anagrammed to those TOILETS, produced a figure of speech, LITOTES, added IT to STOLE in another anagram, and, as we now realized, paired off SOLE with TIT and TILE with SOT.
I like the way that this all came together in the end. Thank you, Salamanca.