Inquisitor 1523 Silvester by Eclogue

January 10, 2018

So I’m guessing at this stage of the game, between Christmas and New Year, everybody is still trying to work out what day it is through a fog of too much alcohol, too many mince pies, and a surfeit of turkey. Something pretty straightforward from Eclogue to reflect this sorry state of affairs? Not if that preamble is anything to go by. Some clues with extra words, the beginning and end letters of each spelling out courses and accompanying drinks. Clashes, cells that should be left blank to indicate absentees, two to mark with an X. Presumably to mark presentees? Is that even a word? One character to jot under the grid.

Onward, and a first pass through the clues that yields little. Will this be the week the blog starts and ends with a picture of an almost empty grid? Go for a walk, get a bit of fresh air in the lungs, try again. Ok, that’s better, and these clues aren’t as difficult as they first looked. A simple anagram at 9ac (but that definition?), and 17ac a real – how did I miss that on the first pass through? Enter the clues in the grid in pencil, circle any extra words found in pen, because that’s how confident, perhaps foolishly, I am about them. Let’s leave the rest until New Year’s Day, because New Year’s Eve is, well, New Year’s Eve.

I didn’t over-imbibe, honest, but retiring to bed at 1:30AM isn’t really the best preparation to continue with this puzzle. And progress is, like, non-existent. Let’s look at the title. Silvester. The best I can find is “Saint Sylvester’s Day, also known as Silvester”, which is celebrated New Year’s Eve with feasting, toasting, and partying apparently. That doesn’t help much. What about those courses and drinks from the extra words. Well, I haven’t got all of them, but enough to make some intelligent guesses. SOUP, SHERRY, HADDOCK… Google to the rescue, and it appears we’re looking at this sketch which is probably a mystery to most people in this country – Dinner For One.

Which now means that we’ve got a complete list of all the courses and drinks, and can confidently go through the clues circling the extra words we don’t have. I’m guessing this isn’t the way Eclogue meant us to solve this. But I’m struggling, really. The actors Freddie FRINTON and May WARDEN are two unclued entries then. What about 1ac, which somehow cryptically indicates our theme. DINNER for 1. Aha. We also have a list of guests, and late lamented absentees, which means we can make sense of those clashes.

Miss SOPHIE at the intersection of 12d and 26ac, our host, gets a big X.
Mr POMEROY at 6d and 18ac, leave that one blank.
Mr WINTERBOTTOM at 10d and 19ac, another blank.
Sir TOBY at 32d and 37ac, ditto.
Admiral Von SCHNEIDER, blank again.

By that count I reckon the only other person present is JAMES, the manservant, so how come we have one other X in the grid, plus a character to write under it? Of course I’m struggling with both 22ac and 23d, which is obviously where it has to go. OK, 22ac is the river ISERE. And it’s been obvious for a while that 23d can’t be ‘theroid”, which might fit the definition, and part of the wordplay, but not the other bit. The only other possibility beside the manservant I can see is the tiger’s head he keeps tripping over. So TIGROID? I’ve no idea how that fits in with “bairn”, but there you go. GIT? Really?

Write James under the grid as the other character, and hope for the best? Let’s look at that grid – oh, the blanks and X’s are laid out symmetrically, as if round that table. Can we find out the layout of the table? Well, handily there’s a version on YouTube, and yes, Miss Sophie’s at one end of the table, and the tiger’s head at the other. So I think that’s right, though I’m not 100% sure. Fingers crossed then until Fifteensquared publish their blog. Thanks Eclogue for what I thought was a pretty stiff challenge. Now to try and think of some 2017 puzzles to vote for in the Inquisitor poll…


One Response to “Inquisitor 1523 Silvester by Eclogue”

  1. AndyT said

    Three-quarters full grid, then I put it down and forgot about it. Reading the above, the chances of me hauling myself over the finish line were remote – so well done Jon for persevering with it. I did email Nimrod with my votes for last year’s crop of Inquisitors, however.

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