Niels Bohr has always seemed to me to be a more significant figure than Einstein, not least because of the motto this puzzle contains. Possibly a more approachable person all round, as well. If you get a chance to see Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, it’s well worth it, as an illuminating view of one of the more fascinating corners of World War II.
Following up some reading led me to the Bohr coat-of-arms and the motto, and the idea of complementary opposites. And that in turn led to the oxymoron. I don’t think I’d ever previously clocked that ‘oxymoron’ is itself oxymoronic (being a sort of sharp bluntness). Finding a pair of examples of equal length started me thinking about the grid.
The next thing to note was the prevalence of odd-numbered lengths among the thematic material. At some point this tipped over into thinking about mirror symmetry, with an odd number of columns in the grid, of course. It didn’t take much trial and error to set the thematic material into a structure that looked promising.
Mirror symmetry, however relevant, remains a bit of a fag to implement. There are always problems getting the amount of cross-checking correct – either too much or too little. Here it extended into lopping the top corners off the grid.
The ‘opposites are complementary’ suggested the pairing of clues with their symmetric opposites, splitting definition and wordplay so that you did need to explore complementarity. But there remained some entries annoyingly perched on the axis of reflection, with no opposites to be complementary to. How many? Eight. And how many letters in OXYMORON?
And there we are.
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