Cain’s Jawbone

October 19, 2017

A brief (and very welcome) commercial break from the Laurence Sterne Trust.

The Laurence Sterne Trust is a charitable trust, museum and gallery who promote the life and works of Laurence Sterne, author of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – a masterwork of experimental fiction. We are interested in all texts that have nonlinear, unusual or nonconforming structure. Which is where our interest in Torquemada’s Puzzle Book, more specifically ‘Cain’s Jawbone’ lies – the 100 page shuffled murder mystery novella at the end of the puzzle book. ‘Cain’s Jawbone’ is a 100 page murder mystery that the author (Edward Powys Mathers aka. Torquemada – the first cryptic crossword compiler for The Observer) claims was bound in the wrong order – it requires the reader to reorder the pages correctly to successfully solve the murder. When it was published in the 1930s there was a cash prize, only two people solved the murder mystery and the answer was never published. A copy of the puzzle book was donated to Shandy Hall over a year ago and we know the solution. The Laurence Sterne Trust wish to republish the text and reopen the competition for a cash prize of £1,000 through a publisher called Unbound – a crowdfunding website for books, more information of which can be found here:… We thought our project/competition may be of interest to you and/or your readers.


Pierre over on Fifteensquared found this to be quite difficult, and at first sight I did too, struggling to make inroads into the grid. I put it to one side, had lunch, and then promptly flew through the rest of the puzzle, so make of that what you will. One or two obscurities too many for my liking – DO for Ditto, PRO for Tom – but the rest was fair, though I never felt I was entirely on the settter’s wavelength.

COD? A very simple clue, but nicely spotted I thought, and a nice surface reading, 11ac – “Met over a drink (5)”.

To June 2013:

So, belated congratulations to Dac on his 500th puzzle. Did I notice the Nina? No, but at least it explains the comparatively more difficult top half of the grid. Or perhaps that was just down to the smashing 5 hours sleep I had last night. Picking an alternative spelling of 5d also didn’t help. Or Berkshire villages being somewhat of a mystery in these parts.

Anyway, a fantastic puzzle as ever, with surface readings that are as smooth as you could want. COD? Too many to choose from, but I’ll go with  24ac – “I’d feel nervous before opening contest (5,5)”.

To July 2013:

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.

Maybe it was the gloom that means it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to get light today,  the slight anxiety engendered by the approach of Storm Ophelia, or more prosaically just my inability for an age to spot the long answer, but I found this much harder than usual for the Don. Or perhaps on the other hand it was just Mondayitis. But whatever, I struggled from start to end, and wonder if I should just have put it to one side for a bit and tried again later, at which point I would most likely have flown through.

Quite a few unknowns for me today – the sugar, the food at 10d, and the place in Oxon which is obvious, of course, in retrospect. But they all added up to make an already difficult solve that much more so.

Anyway, lots to like as always, with COD going to 18d – “Source of finance originally making one comfortable (4-3)”.

To June 2013:

Well, that was good. When I saw eXternal’s name I expected this to be inventive, but also for some reason a lot more difficult than it was. It turns out this is a reprint of a Thursday Independent, which is traditionally home to the hardest puzzles of the week, but this one was very accessible, and I can’t say that I really got stuck at any point. I needed to check 23ac (TRILODINE, anyone?) and 19ac in the dictionary, but the vocabulary elsewhere was pretty commonplace.

COD? The slightly controversial to a strict Ximenean 15ac – “Harmony from trio of entertainers seen two to three times (7)”.

To June 2013:

It’s a Wednesday, it’s Dac, and another lesson in how to set a cryptic crossword. I started off at a gallop, with only a few stupid errors – first POSTMAN, then BETUGA (?!?) – an unknown at 5ac, and then a long, long pause at the close on 23ac causing much of a delay. Oh, and a few false starts on 10ac where I decided to do all my workings in pen, on the grid. Regarding 23ac, I must admit that I was blissfully ignorant of the bank in question’s existence, but eventually spotted the definition. Finish time under par for the i, but should have been quicker.

COD? With 21d a close runner-up, 20d – “Current Hamlet production interrupted by onset of rain (7)”.

To June 2013:

So the i’s new souped up weekend paper and first thoughts are:

  • The cryptic’s moved, help.
  • There’s a lot more to skim through before I get to the crossword. 😉
  • Hasn’t the Inquisitor grown? Perhaps the editor’s taken note of my fading eyesight and poor writing.

So Schadenfreude, who I’ve got a feeling can be a little difficult at times, but let’s see. Single letters to remove from clues to give a bit of a quotation and its originator. Then reveal the missing word by delineating (curious turn of phrase) five examples of it. Doesn’t sound that scary. The rain’s hammering down, so onward, with brief interruptions to aid and abet with the youngest two’s homework. World War II. Again.

The NW corner’s a fairly logical place to start, and isn’t it easy? The rest is more like the Schadenfreude we know and love though, with lots of trips required to the big red book, a couple of wrong turns, eventually limping home quite late in the evening. Ok, with a couple of breaks along the way, but still.

Those extra letters. Usually at this point they look like a right dog’s breakfast, but for once they sort of make sense. Have a look again at the clues where they don’t. Blimey, we have a message:

gentlemen do not take at luncheon lord curzon

Google to the rescue. Apparently gentlemen don’t take soup at luncheon. Who knew? So we’re looking for five soups in the grid. And presumably none of them are going to be a Cup a Soup. Let’s get some synonyms up, and hunt through the grid. That term, delineate – outline, depict, portray. And CONSOMME is there in a wiggly line in the NW, swiftly followed by CHOWDER. S. Ah, we’ve got to draw the letters. COCKIELEEKIE to describe the O in the NE, VICHYSSOISE the U in the SW, and then MULLIGATAWNY for the P last, but not least. SOUP. The last two remain a mystery to me, but I’d at least heard vaguely of the first few.

An enjoyable, and hopefully successful start then to the new look weekend i. Let’s just hope there weren’t any Gila red herrings tucked away in there. 😉

A nice, straightforward start to the week from the i. Nothing that will have held up seasoned solvers for long, apart maybe from 18d if, like me, you were only vaguely aware how to spell it and had to untangle the cryptic part. Another Monday, another good beginner’s puzzle.

COD? 29ac – “Dad needs representation when they make further progress impossible (4,4)”.

To May 2013 for this IoS reprint:

A thoroughly enjoyable, slightly tricky offering from Donk today. Always inventive, I kicked myself several times when I eventually worked out where the wordplay was (in retrospect very obviously) leading me. There’s a theme, which I wish I’d spotted as it would have speeded up solving no end – anagram couplets in all the across answers. Shows how observant I am. Last in 25ac, probably because – quite rightly I suspect – AOL is at the bottom of most people’s list of Internet providers these days.

Lots of ticks today, with COD going to 22d – “Treat harshly, bringing up common hotel rule (4,2)”.

To June 2013: