Inquisitor 1511 Optical Illusion by Radler

October 18, 2017

Radler, a setter I don’t remember seeing before, though it appears he crops up once every year with a toughish puzzle. Talking of which, you remember I nominated Ifor for the most difficult Inquisitor of the year? Radler’s topped that this week, and in some style. But to begin at the beginning, with the preamble. Ten solutions to be thematically changed, twelve clues that need a letter added before they can be solved. Put them together to spell out part of the title of a book. Highlight a cryptic representation of the author’s name in the grid. Such fun.

Such fun, indeed. A handful of clues entered Saturday afternoon, and the growing inclination to write the whole thing off as a bad job. A mixture of non-normal clue types is probably partly to blame for this, a case of being completely psyched out by the setter. An answer here, an answer there, and lo and behold one that needs to be thematically changed – a simple anagram, spotted at last, giving us GOURMANDS at 11ac. The entry in the grid is supposed to be a real word, so I guess we need to remove contiguous letters. GOUR(MAN)DS then, at a guess. It’s in pencil, we can change it. You would’ve thought at this point I might speed up, but no. A steady crawl through Saturday evening, Sunday evening, and through into Monday with answers falling at a painfully slow rate.

Three at the close, all evidently themed answers, and all three I should have got earlier. Yes, GEORGE Michael is quite famous. No, AMAZON(IAN) wasn’t a red herring. And yes, we used to grow SWEET(WILLIAM)s in the garden.

So what do we have? Five clues where we’ve removed the word MAN, five others where men’s names have been removed. Those letters that are supposed to spell out a title. I’ve got too few and lots of question marks, which isn’t a good start. HE?IN?IBL, to be exact. Go through the clues you’re not sure of again. Ah, a T at the start. Hang about, THE INVISIBLE… Man, of course. Obvious, in retrospect, and perhaps it was obvious to anybody with half a brain from the start.

So this cryptic representation of HG Wells. After an extremely difficult grid fill an easy end game? No way. Nothing obvious to highlight. No obvious letters. Time. Goes. By. To cut to the chase – Hg is the chemical symbol for Mercury, a synonym of which is QUICK SILVER, which indeed is in the grid. Wells? Well, apparently FLOWS is a suitable synonym, and there it is following on.

Phew. Collapses. Am I glad I persisted with that one? Most certainly, the way it all fell together was very satisfying. Would I persist with Inquisitors that taxing every week? Well, probably not. But thanks to Radler for a challenge that I must admit almost had me beat.

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