[The current absence of my computer due to an aberrant hard disk means that this is being typed directly into WordPress which probably won’t help the editing…]
Why the phrase “Feed a cold, starve a fever” should have occurred to me isn’t going to be explained, but once it was there, it clearly had possibilities, with symmetric behaviours and opposing definitions. The question was whether there were enough COLDs and FEVERs to do the job.
So lists were drawn up: plenty of synonyms for COLD (says something about the English weather), rather fewer for FEVER, so I readily shifted into types of fever as well. Then identification of possible removable letters. Then the pairing of transferable letters – and suddenly there weren’t so many options. It might have been good to have a thematic – perhaps medicinal – word from the transfers, but BRAINS was all there was. Or BAIRNS, I suppose, who do get plenty of colds and fevers, but I went with something that allowed me to reference solvers’ intellectual capacities.
I had forgotten that I had partitioned the entries thematically across and down, but I’d always intended to split the phrase’s components that way, so that must have come from the same line of thought. Getting all 12 specific words into so reasonable a grid was pleasing.
The original intention was to have solvers demonstrate their intelligence by writing BRAINS under the grid, but the random nature of the word was adversely viewed. The editor suggested clueing it amongst the thematic clues to provide confirmation that way. I riffled through some definitions and once “nous” came to light I realised I could write one of those fairly rare “faux ami” clues, so that was that.
It never occurred to me that, with the strict structure of the thematic entries, that people might not look for something in the clues. Always check your redundant or added letters!