Three Steps to Heaven by Dysart
Posted by shirleycurran on 17 June 2016
Some themes are irresistible. Who could read the ODQ and come across the Timothy Leary quotation ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ and not think ‘Ah, that’s a superb theme for a crossword’? Well, I certainly couldn’t and seven years ago set my version and sent it off to my kind test-solvers, only to open my mail and find one on exactly the same theme from one of them. Nudd’s appeared in the Magpie in 2010 (issue 92, No 2 Political Statement) and mine sat on the side burner until it appeared in May 2015 as ‘Seriously’ (http://www.crossword.org.uk/seriously.html). How Dysart must have cursed us, as his was probably already in the Listener queue.
Easyjet had just cancelled our Thursday flight as a result of the French strike, and sent us racing across Belgium, Germany and Switzerland in an almost non-stop 24-hour drive so I was not looking forward to Friday evening’s solve but the theme leapt out at me ‘Twelve answers must be modified before entry … in one of three ways (four of each type), according to advice from a source that will become evident’. ‘Three Steps to Heaven’ claimed the title, so I scribbled ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ on my clue sheet before scanning the clues to confirm Dysart’s membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit.
LSD happily turned up as I scanned, and a likely TIMOTHY clue and a LEARY ‘Grass tree damaged by grubs (7)’ = TI + MOTHY and ‘Move up close to rival in low cunning (5)’ moved the L of rivaL up in EARLY giving LEARY.
Floods of alcohol and a fair amount of food turned up too. We had a ‘Son tucked into kind of sandwich and fried potatoes (5)’ S in ROTI = ROSTI, ‘Italian composer disposing of the Spanish pancakes (5)’ B[EL]LINI, ‘Shops old piece of meat about to be binned (6)’ O + [C]UTLET = OUTLET and ‘Casserole made from pieces of duck breast I stewed with ale (6)’ giving D B I ALE* = DIABLE. As well as that ale for cooking, Dysart had ‘French painter half drunk (3)’ [TIS]SOT and that drunkenness was no surprise as we then found ‘Hard American drinking a dash of rusty nail = BAD round R = BRAD, then ‘Drunk on this amount (5)’ LIT + RE and finally ‘Poet’s in need of a drink, perversely giving up whiskey for daughter (4)’ AWRY with D for W. Well, cheers, Dysart!
We knew what we were going to do in the grid and when I hopefully put TIMOTHY LEARY down the right hand side, intersecting with the I or ROSTI, and completed that row with INSURER, it seemed obvious where one of the four TUNEs had to go. We tentatively put DEF FOR[TUNE]AT as our top row and put an AIR into our bottom row with EMMY S[AIR]TED and the Y of LEARY. This placed 17 of the down clues and convinced us that those began with DIABLE. STRAIN obligingly completed our first column with DI[STRAIN]ABLE and, as we fitted the solutions to these relatively generous clues into our grid, ?ELODY appeared – obviously MELODY.
We knew we had to drop OUT four times. and soon located [OUT]LET, L[OUT]ISH, [OUT]HER, and [OUT]DID and as the grid was populated, had only to confirm that we had turned ON four times: we found IONS, EONS, ONSET and ONUS – and all was well, except that I had been using bars to construct my grid and now had to remove them all and somehow split this set of 144 letters into 44 words with symmetry and only 56 bars.
I had admired Dysart’s cluing and use of the device, but this was certainly the master stroke. With 180° symmetry set on the ‘crossword compiler’ programme, it was a relatively easy and enjoyable task that took only a few minutes but I wonder how difficult it was for anyone working on the newspaper grid. It was certainly a brilliant piece of setting. Many thanks to Dysart.