Sections of four answers provide hints as to how to arrive at the correct solution of the final grid.
Therefore the four solutions which assist orientation of the grid are 1 down: “PORTmanteau word”, 3 across:“TOPical”, 29 across: “surBASE” and 8 down: “on the RIGHT track”
Marks out of 10
AS THICK AS A PLANK x 2
CHOLESTEROLEMIA x 2 (Lovely anagram / An amazing anagram)
TOADS (My last to solve - spent ages looking for birds (as flyers!))
PER ARDUA AD ASTRA x 4 (The elegant surface is also very apt / Neat construction and word play / Pretty good anagram / Very clever anagram and unusual use of the word ‘device’ to give (well known?) motto of the RAF)
CRAIG x 2 (Good use of the relevant clueing device (initial letters) / &Lit! Good too.)
THE SUN ALSO RISES x2 (We enjoyed the subtle double sense of the clue / It gave me the placing for 4, 5 and 6 down, having placed 3ac! It was the one that seemed straightforward to solve.)
TOPICAL (Lovely concise clue: smooth surface reading)
Wow, what a fabulous jigsaw! Hope there will be more of the same.
Araucaria who? I found this an extremely satisfying challenge. Well disguised anagrams etc. Only slight negative was the ease of 3ac! So easy that I felt I might be being led down the garden path. It was pretty obvious, too, where it went, which made four of the 15ers easy to put in. Still, a rewarding puzzle and I’m a bit addicted to alphabetical jigsaws.
Well, that was certainly a work-out! Thoroughly enjoyed over several days. Once the steering answers were located, the jigsaw went into place nicely - but with 20 five-letter lights in the empty grid, the task initially looked almost insurmountable. A very clever puzzle. 6d (Line of scrimmage) introduced me to a new term - but I doubt I’ll ever need to use it again!
We’ve never given a 9 for enjoyment before - usually give 7 or so, but this was just the right level, we thought, for 1 Across, with correct, no GWIT, clueing, and quite an astonishing grid with the eight 15-letter columns. We were distracted by that rather strange comment in the preamble about four solutions and haven’t seen the point of it. The 8/7 word length for a 7/8 clue (PASSIVE RESISTER) was a pity but I know these minor hitches happen. Thanks to Eclogue.
The letter count for passive resister was wrong. Cholesterolemia refers to high levels of cholesterol, not alcohol. I learned a few words again - obeah, ephah, craig.
This was quite a challenge to solve and I expect it was also quite a challenge to set. Eclogue deserves our grateful thanks for displaying such ingenuity. If I might offer a suggestion it is that some of the clues could perhaps have been made a little sharper. For example, the clue for ‘on the right track’ contained the words ‘to follow’, which seem to be otiose to me. (Also I was held up for some time by the error in the word count in the clue for 4 down.)
I really enjoyed the anagrams in this puzzle - some leading to new words for me.
Very clever - eight fifteen-letter solutions must be a record! Wrong word count at 4d threw me for a long time, although the hints in the four clues did help a lot!
I know this is a bit late but I had fun completing it! Favourite: 2d, per ardua ad astra, good appropriate anagram, 9/10!