… and keep your eyes peeled for a theme-appropriate Easter Egg!
I’ve tried to closely manage the difficulty of the clues. I’d say there’s a good handful of tricky clues, with the rest ranging from easy to middling.
The main difficulty with this crossword is the specificity of the theme, although clue solving it not affected by the theme. British solvers are most likely to clock the theme early on, and to solve all of the missing letters. Resolving the theme will be tricky for solvers unfamiliar with the subject matter, though not impossible.
Watch out for one clue that introduces an uncommon (or completely novel?) wordplay that relies on translation between different English language accents. This one will be easiest for Australian solvers to crack.
And FYI international solvers, 34-across’s wordplay involves a 2-letter Australian reference.
THE BACK STORY
The original version of this crossword, built at the beginning of 2018, was perhaps my third or fourth attempt at cryptic construction, and my first attempt at a themer. Returning to the idea this year I was aghast at the poor quality of the original! About the only convention upheld was grid symmetry. Otherwise it was a right dog’s breakfast! Grid structure was a disaster, with many double-unches, including 4-letter answers with only one checked letter. And clueing was questionable, to be charitable.
I set about to rebuild it, but was fairly confident it would be impossible. The theme placed unusually rigid constraints on what theme words I could deploy, and how they could be placed in the grid. In a number of cases there were only one or two options available, often entailing some kind of compromise, most notably with the 2-letter answer that forms part of 16-down. I was on the verge of abandoning the cause, after a few premature declarations of success, when finally it came together. The grid is by no means neat, but it meets all the conventions… just! If you look closely you’ll see the central white square is the lone bridge between the two halves of the puzzle, without which the grid would be invalid.
I was very much in love with this theme when I first conceived it. My enthusiasm has waned a little since, and it’s definitely not my favourite, but I still think it’s a pretty cool concept and presented me with an interesting grid setting challenge.
I’m still feeling quite green in my clueing skills, with my wordplays a little constrained, though as usual I think there’s a few standouts to be proud of. And I’ve started a more concerted process of building a stronger repertoire of indicator words, abbreviations and so on.