Posted by HolyGhost on November 30th, 2011
The rubric states that extra letters in the wordplay of down clues identify an achievement, one feature of which is symbolically represented in the grid, together with the full name of its creator. All elements must be highlighted (46 cells in all).
(My first reading of the rubric led me to think that both “achievement” and “creator” would be given by the extra letters, not that the latter was to be found in the completed grid.)
MOAN: If the setter means that a letter must be removed from the wordplay before solving, then he/she should say so; if he/she means that the wordplay leads to an extra letter that should not be entered, then say that instead. (I shall not repeat the reprimand from Roddy Foreman (Radix) in a recent thread on the Crossword Message Board: “If the setter does just say something like ‘There is an extra letter in the wordplay’, he and his editor should …”) Verb. sap.
I started this whilst coming back from the theatre in London, and made reasonable progress but had a fair bit of checking to do when I got home, Chambers confirming almost all of my answers. After not too long, most of the upper left quadrant was in place together with a healthy sprinkling of entries elsewhere – bottom right was a bit sparse. The “achievement” was emerging as THE GREAT + assorted letters and gaps, and then the breakthrough occurred with 10d SDEIGN – ISAMBARD leapt out of the grid and, given I already had KINGDOM at 32a, it didn’t take long to see BRUNEL appearing just above the leading diagonal.
I initially had the extra letter from the wordplay for SDEIGN as U (from DUE in the clue) but that was very obviously wrong – the extra letter is W (from DEW, the clue crucially reading “was due”). It was now pretty clear that the “achievement” was THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY, and, knowing the extra letters in the unsolved clues, I filled in the rest of the grid quite promptly. (The wordplay for 30a NAMES delayed me for while, and that for 40a LEE eluded me for over a day – I’d omitted to check the 11th paper edition, using the CD-ROM instead.)
With 21 cells already highlighted there were 25 to go. The line runs from PADDINGTON (found starting at 12d) and the first stretch reached MAIDENHEAD (found starting at 14d) so that’s a further 20 cells – no it isn’t, you idiot, these intersect some you’ve already highlighted. I’m now looking for 8 more cells, and the words I still have to find to be highlighted almost certainly intersect some cells already highlighted; soon enough I see BROAD-GAUGE in row 10, neatly evoking a railway sleeper between two rails. Non-standard, certainly, being 7ft 0¼in as opposed to the narrower 4ft 8½in.
Thanks Chalicea – enjoyable stuff, tight clueing, and an impressive amount of thematic material packed in, much of it cleverly hidden in full view.
Note to self: the last part of that comment seems likely to hold when such a large proportion of the cells have to be highlighted.