4074 Printer's Devilry by Qid

This was a very professionally constructed puzzle which, although relying on a phrase from the OED, was extremely fair to solvers.

Twelve answers had to have letters omitted before entry, spelling out two keywords, which had to be used to encode another twelve answers (all the four-letter words in the grid, although we were not told this in the preamble).

The keywords turned out to be ETAOIN SHRDLU, a phrase associated with the Linotype typesetting  machine, common in the newspaper industry some years ago. These machines produced rows of metal type made from hot metal with a high lead content. The letters ETAOIN SHRDLU form the leftmost two columns of the Linotype keyboard. When the operator made a typing mistake, it was usually easier to discard the line of type completely, rather than attempt a correction. The quickest way to do this was to run a finger down the first two columns of the keyboard to complete the line, and then discard the metal slug produced by the machine. Often these slugs would slip through, however, and appear in the printed material, becoming such a common sight that the “words” found their way into the OED. Searching the Times online archive yields a number of references.

Of the answers to be encoded, the Across ones were all encoded with a cyclic subset of ETAOIN, and the Down ones were all encoded with a cyclic subset of SHRDLU, always leading to real words in the final grid.

The remaining 12 clues had misprints spelling out TO RUSH LEAD IN, an anagram of the keywords, and this was the expression which, we were told, the Linotype operator in the preamble might have had in mind. The correct letters formed another anagram of ETAOIN SHRDLU, which made for a well-crafted puzzle.

Gregson noted that the name QID could be regarded as an encoded three-letter word in the style of the puzzle, with keyword TAO, but had to turn to the Listener crossword site to discover WHO set the puzzle.

Misprints in clues, and latent letters in answers, are indicated by [].
Keywords, and grid entries, are indicated by [ + KEYWORD = GRID ENTRY]

1 Suspect parents stole building material (10)
11 Medicine doctor is against prescribing - even NICE takes exception – oops [tops]! (8) DIAPENTE First letters of Doctor Is Against Prescribing - Even NICE Takes Exception
12 Wife's home, not bachelor pad (4)
WASE [ + ETAO = BUTT] W (Wife) + BASE (home) less B (bachelor)
14 Prolonged retention of juvenile features upset Marie Antoinette? No trifling matter! (8)
NEO[T]EINIA Anagram of MARIE ANTOINETTE, less anagram of MATTER
15 Website's topless fun in [on] adult hint of lesbianism (6)
PORTAL SPORT (fun), less first letter, + A (adult) + L (first letter of LESBIANISM)
16 Bank of Scotland's intention following closure of Rock (4)
KAIM [ + INET = TONG] AIM (intention) after K (last letter of ROCK)
17 Died before getting hurt once (4)
DERE [ + AOIN = ETAS] D (Died) + ERE (before)
20 A fizzy drink? It's a G 'n' T he's drunk (6)
STENG[A]H Anagram of A G’N’T HE’S
22 I'm of use when surveying gear Dr No nicked [ricked] (8, two words)
24 Ferns in Laramie as [us] briefly cultivated (8)
MARSILEA Anagram of LARAMI + ‘S (us)
26 What joins centre of hexagon to point at edge (not within)? (6)
AP[O]THEM A (middle letter of hexAgon) + POINT + HEM (edge) less IN (within) & lit
27 Greek liqueur or French - smallish quantity left (4)
OUZO [ + ETAO = TOAD] OU (French word for “or”)+ OZ (smallish quantity, reversed)
28 Thrash - beat Jack's behind (4)
TANK [ + INET = COSE] TAN (beat) + K (last letter of JACK)
30 Male bachelor in line, equally [squally] active (6)
NIMBLE M (Male) + B (bachelor) inside NILE (anagram of LINE)
33 Go-ahead viceregent, absent at the start, is embarrassed (8)
ENERGET[I]C Anagram of VICEREGENT, less first letter
34 Field marshal's serious condition in Africa (4)
SLIM [ + AOIN = TARA] Two meanings
The field-marshal being William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim
35 One who's left, for example, a toy [hoy] on granny's demise? (8)
LEGATARY L (left) + EG (for example) + A + TAR + Y (last letter of GRANNY) & lit
“hoy” and “tar” both meaning “to incite”
36 Controls air flow, like most finches (10)


2 Microbiologist was alkie (covertly) (4)
SALK [ + SHRD = LIDO] Hidden in waS ALKie
The microbiologist being Jonas Salk
3 Overture to Salome a Strauss fan rearranged, bearing fruit (8, two words)
[S]A[SS]AFRA[S] NUT S (first letter of SALOME) + ASSAFRASNUT (anagram of A STRAUSS FAN)
4 Bird seen in Channel? To some extent (4)
GULL [ + LUSH = SPET] GULLY (Channel), less last letter
5 Which prayer [player] may have held a quick service? (6)
TENACE TEN (ie tenuto, “held”) + ACE (a quick service) & lit
6 Russia's 3rd or 4th best grandmaster's come to a halt (8, two words)
STOP S[H]ORT S (3rd or 4th letter of RuSSia) + TOP (best) + SHORT (ie Nigel Short, grandmaster)
7 Black donkey's burden (4)
BASS [ + RDLU = TEEN] B (Black) + ASS (donkey)
8 Bewitch tsar [tear] - not Alexander the First, by the way (6)
OBITER OBI (Bewitch) + TEAR less A (first letter of ALEXANDER)
9 Vegetable stored in pantries when cooked is gram (8, two words)
ST[R]ING PEA STRINPEA (anagram of PANTRIES) containing G (gram)
10 The dud [dad] ages badly, visibly dying (10)
13 Old [Odd] priest came to get candle grease? (10)
18 Jerry's boring mandate involved filling holes in bypass? (8)
TAMPONA[D]E PO (Jerry ie a chamberpot) inside TAMNADE (anagram of MANDATE)
Such as might be required during an operation such as coronary bypass
19 Market returns have to do with US casualty for net user (8)
TRAMME[LL]ER MART (Market) reversed + MELL (have to do) + ER (ie Emergency Room, US word for “casualty”)
21 Lulu O'Brian's playing with only one ear? (8)
23 That woman in Goa tormented the [tie] Indian until satisfied (6)
GHERAO HER (That woman) in GAO (anagram of GOA)
25 Spurs and Saints idly [inly] crushing the Magpies (6)
SPICAS SS (Saints) containing PICA (Magpies)
29 One bit after another, as Seven Pillars of Wisdom was? (4)
“T E” being the author T E Lawrence
31 Venetian albergo somewhat obsessed by outgoings? (4)
ANAL [ + LUSH = MITT] Hidden in VenetiAN ALbergo
32 Ethiopian crop is partially cost-effective (4)
TEFF [ + RDLU = LIRA] Hidden in cosT-EFFective