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Symbols by Aedites

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 Feb 2021

Our first dismayed reaction is “Oh dear, a carte blanche!” Of course, the reason for that becomes clear later on, as had Aedites given clue numbers as well as the extra word-lengths, he would have told solvers where the symbols were to be entered – so he resorted, instead, to putting the clues in alphabetical order of their solutions, which was a great help to solving, especially as so many began with A, E, I, M, P and S. I was busy drawing up a grid and colour-coding clue and space word-lengths (and, of course hunting for alcohol in the clues) while the other Numpty solved almost in clue order.

The oenophile elite? There wasn’t much evidence of Aedites’ membership. We remember that his last Listener crossword was Chat, where he was at ten to three, drinking CHA with honey for T in the old vicarage ar Granchester. I almost feared he was relegated to tea-drinking again until we found PREMIER, ‘Principal space assumed by nosey parker (7)’ We put EM into PRIER and decided that this had to be the premier cru, so he just squeezes into the elite. Cheers, Aedites!

A solving challenge: here’s our worksheet.

Aedites’ clues were generous and we solved steadily with soon  just ten more clues to cold-solve, but we were mystified about how to fit those long words, that had no evident place, into our grid. VAPORISABLE, ACCESSIBLE, ARTISTRIES, RADIOGRAPHY – and there were no obvious part-words to combine with intersecting words to give us ‘symbols’ where they clashed.

Luckily, I decided to enter two of the 9-letter solutions (STEEPENED and PORTIERES – hopefully ‘porting’ those premiers crus) into the two 9-letter slots, and even more luckily, entered them in the right order so that we could see where we had to enter the 8-letter SANNYASI and VAN, suggesting that RADIOGRAPHY, ASHED and LEARNED would slot into that corner and giving us the jumbled clash letters of VIRGO.

ARABIA had to clash with the L of LEARNED, so LIBRA appeared and brought us a zodiacal flash of inspiration and a penny-dropped with a clang.

Now we could symmetrically place ten more signs of the zodiac. However, the work was not over. We had to work out, for  example, how VAPORISABLE could clash with ENCIRCLE to produce CAPRICORN, and STYLE could clash with POAS to give us LEO, and we still had our final clues to solve. Some of those emerged naturally as we filled the grid: NASCENCY, LABORERS, NERISSA, TAIRAS, but we struggled to understand CAUSALLY (‘Net traditionally trimmed with woolly grip as an inducement’ CAU[l] + SALLY). It didn’t help that we had assumed the word would be CASUALLY – which worked just as well in giving us the needed ASUA of AQUARIUS, the water-carrier.

ARENA placed itself naturally in the centre of the grid and we were happy enough to see that an E, the abbreviation for Earth, was where it should be, to show our own location and now Chambers obligingly, under Zodiac, gave us twelve tiny symbols that replaced the words we had squeezed into the cells.

A stunning compilation, Aedites. A lot of work must have gone into finding the words that would make this work and keeping the grid symmetrical!


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