Inquisitor 1548 Round Robbin’ by Ifor

July 4, 2018

You know what they say about pride coming before a fall. “But can he do IQ?” our esteemed editor asked. And you know what? I’m not sure that I can. Because we seem to be missing clue numbers both in the grid and clues. OK, we’ve got bars, but still, this is a device designed to instil a faint but growing sense of panic, and there aren’t any long friendly answers this time to soften the blow. Just a very long cold-solve of the clues to prove exactly how poor my parsing skills really are.

So what would be the ideal preparation for this? Not perhaps a long afternoon tackling a hedge that’s a ladder height and a bit above that followed by a couple of bottles of Corona by way of celebrating being suddenly (in)famous. I can still read enough of the preamble to work out that the six and seven letter answers will yield a songwriting duo. And that one of their compositions will help. And, oh look, there’s a nice long unclued “non-word” slap bang down the middle.

To those clues. They’re in alphabetical order, which is some consolation. As is solving the first – spots must be ACNE, though further down I wonder who Ifor’s referring to with ASS. A see is always a DIOCESE. But you know what? Either I’m flagging or they’re getting harder as I’m going along. The end of Saturday evening ends with less than half solved and not a single entry in the grid. Oh, and a first stab at finding that songwriting duo, because we’ve got a number of six and seven letter entries. First letter of the clue is always a good bet. Nope. Last? Nope. In which case… I don’t know. Help.

Sunday and, sobered up in both body and spirit… More clue solving, including handily one or two that look alright but that I can’t parse. A skilled shot could be a SNIPER, but why? Help, indeed.

OK, with a fair number solved, let’s bite the bullet and try and get some of those answers into the grid. Excel to enumerate the answers we’ve got and sort them into order. We seem to have all but one of the 8 letter answers. Star them in the grid, and try and fit in with some of the others. After what feels like an unreasonably large number of false starts… OCARINAS and SEA-LANES down in the SW, but the rest? Hang on, I’ve actually got the last 8 letter answer, ETHEREAL, but had forgotten. Chuck that in the NE with FERRETER, and we’re getting somewhere. Slowly, but surely, and with a lot more confidence than I felt at the start.

Except, hang on, the checking letters don’t tell us where HUGEST and AUGUST should go. Let’s guess. The unclued centre column looks like it’s going to be SETTERSOLVER, which I suppose is technically a non-word, though not as much of a non-word as I thought it’d be from the preamble. Which is good. Except we’ve got more entries that could go in more than one place. MERTON and SEROON, BAILEY and TAILED. Two comedians there, if that means anything.

Let’s have another look at those six and seven letter entries. We’ve tried first letters and that hasn’t worked, and last ones too. Any particular words that look out of place? Not really. Wikipedia’s got a handy page on songwriting partnerships, including duos, but you know what? It doesn’t help, not at all. OK, that unclued entry, the two of us? Which could be several songs. It’s down the centre of the grid, so what about middle letters? OK, there’s Joe Egan… According to Wikipedia he wrote Stuck in the Middle With You with Gerry Rafferty. Their two names together comprise the 20 letters we’re looking for, and that song looks good to me. Even if I can’t get that scene from Reservoir Dogs out of my head.

Two lines – one of which contains the title – are supposed to help. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, Here I am, stuck in the middle with you…” I’m guessing. And there we are, setter and solver, stuck in the middle. Merton and Bailey to the right. What about August? Well, who would have thought, according to Chambers an august is a circus clown. So that one to the left. All done? Well, the lyric says clowns, plural, what have we missed? Let’s look through that grid again. OK, an ANTICK is also a clown, and luckily I accidentally shoved it to the left. All good? I can’t find any others I missed. I think that’s fine. Famous last words.

So can I IQ? Well, sort of, even if that exercise was quite mind-bending and humbling and one I thought I was most definitely going to fail on. Second hardest Inquisitor of the year, just behind Harribobs? That’s my vote anyway. And, yes, very satisfying to finish, even if I do have a vague nagging concern that one or two entries might be wrong, or that I’ve missed a clown or joker or two. Let’s leave it to the experts on Fifteensquared to sort that one out.


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