Let’s start with a video:
That’s Marjorie’s video about one of our trips around Wellington with our little old cat Dusty (that’s me in the T-shirt advertising cat litter). It has been shortlisted for an award for best video on a cat blog at the 2018 Blogpaws awards in Kansas City, Missouri in April, and we’ll be there. The actual blog it appeared in is here. She’s also nominated for best overall cat blog, so you may want to have a look around. And no, I didn’t plan for this puzzle to appear just before we went! The timescales in creating and publishing puzzles aren’t so flexible.
Dusty became a blog star late in life after we took him, apparently at death’s door, to the emergency vet on Boxing Day. No sooner had we got him in the car than he switched from inert to interested, and sat up and watched the scenery hurtle by. We’ve never had a cat enjoy car-rides before so we started taking him around the region, and Marjorie had a series of blogposts ready made. So when Dusty passed on a few weeks after the video above, he clearly had to be celebrated in a crossword. Yes, this was another cat puzzle.
It wasn’t long before the concept of the “dusty answer” came to mind, and a little research across the dictionaries confirmed the idea of inadequate or partial or unsatisfying answers. (Chambers: An unsatisfying, unfruitful, or sordid response; ODE: a curt and unhelpful reply; Collins: An unhelpful or bad-tempered reply.)
I wondered whether I had a grid with a sufficient number of entries that could be shortened. It was clear they couldn’t be shortened too much, so I had the “at least half” rule in mind from early on. And, lo, one of the grids I’d prepared but never clued for Beelzebub fitted the bill.
36 entries and there was DUSTY ANSWERS with 12 letters. Something tripartite was called for: 12 shortened entries, 12 unaffected entries but with clues that offered definitions of the full answers, and 12 with misprints giving the key phrase. And of all the various epithets ascribed to such answers, “unsatisfying” gave the readiest example, with letters both contiguous and separated, so it became the title. Always a bit of a chance with a downbeat title, of course, but who knows? Maybe the fifteensquared blog will say how misleading it was…