Inquisitor 1725 Fieldwork by Hedge-sparrow

November 23, 2021

Mid-November finds us enjoying the sort of weather we would have hoped for at the end of August – blue skies, temperatures that have led to the removal of hat, scarf, hoodie and coat for the duration of my daily ramble. Like a lot of people in these parts, it’s something that’s hung on from lockdown, and a good thing too you would have to argue, especially with the scenery we have to enjoy in these parts. The unseasonably warm weather does though make me wonder if Greta and co have a point, as we seem to be getting weeks like this interspersed with torrential rain and flooding. Perhaps I should go and glue myself to a motorway somewhere.

All of which is a long way from today’s offering by Hedge-sparrow. First thoughts this week would be – what a lot of clues, what a lot of preamble, and all in the sort of font that leaves me reaching for my reading glasses, for a grid that doesn’t look overly packed.

My advice to anybody as ever slightly daunted by the sort of preamble we occasionally get with the Inquisitor is to ignore most of it, because much you won’t need until the end game. Though this week that still left a bewildering variety of clue types. Perhaps Hedge-sparrow had decided the same too, as pointing out that 1ac in particular contained wordplay only was unusually generous.

Obviously, I didn’t get anywhere with 1ac at first, and indeed not until the centre of the grid, sort of working out from there, if with some slight trepidation given the six clashes, which always make me a little nervous, not being able to trust the checking letters and all that. Though early on was the very generous anagram in the bottom row, giving some equally generous A’s at the ends of the crossing answers.

I even spotted, pretty quickly, the one where we had to black out one square, TENETS being a bit of a gimme for “views” with a couple of letters, and the BRB to the rescue as ever to sort out the wordplay. This being, yet again, one of those puzzles that required lots of the latter, and as that’s one of the bits I enjoy most about this barred grid lark, you won’t hear any complaints from me.

Talking of LARKS, the first unclued was also a bit of a gimme. Minds being attuned this weekend to things 1ac (thanks also perhaps to a Guardian puzzle earlier in the week on the same theme, that is to say the centenary of the poppy appeal as revealed in the superfluous letters), In Flanders Field sprang instantly to mind, and with it loads of checking letters that would be useful for finishing off the grid fill, having spotted enough of the letters already entered to sketch out something approximating a poppy. Thus the blacked out square, see.

The symbols to be entered presumably being crosses, McCrae as the poets name now identified, and the speakers as THE DEAD, it then remained just to sort out the remaining clues, most of which were, of course, around those clashes that I, true to form, had struggled with.

Out with the crayons, and job done. Now, I thought that was all quite delightful, and not only because I enjoy a good bit of colouring at the end of a puzzle. A theme that could have been quite horribly handled done with sensitivity, and the whole falling together very nicely with enough different hints to aid the less astute solver. ie, me.

So, bravo to all involved, and do remind me to add this to my end of year best-of nominations.

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