Saturday Inquisitor solves usually follow a night of what-I-like-to-call bacchanalian excess consisting of drinks and a marathon Top of the Pops session courtesy of BBC4. The COVID vaccine having put paid to the former (my head being bad enough as it is), and the badly timed demise of Phil to the latter (together with the rest of the TV schedule it would appear for the foreseeable), this one found me decidedly clear headed following a good night’s sleep, if still feeling slightly… odd.

Odd was a word which could best be applied to this week’s preamble, much of which it transpired could be safely ignored. Yes, we had lots of different gimmicks to apply to the clues when solving, and yes there was a spot of highlighting at the close, but all that stuff about grouping gimmicky things could be put to one side, as all that was required was to pick an appropriate gimmicked letter from each clue in order to give a list of tube lines plus the DOCKLANDS LIGHT RY (yep, there’s your abbreviation).

Not that I’m complaining, because my powers of deduction were waning at this point, despite a less than trying grid fill, albeit with some decidedly exciting picks from the BRB. The unlikely looking CTENE, RECOURE and BESSARABIAN were among my favourites, though the latter contains the sort of element that setters must thank the crossword gods for the existence of.

So, at the close with BANK and MONUMENT to the top and bottom of the grid, which link the aforementioned NORTHERN, CENTRAL, CIRCLE and DISTRICT LINES with the DLR, it was just left to work out what to highlight to link them. I guessed several hours before I spotted it what shape would be required, just from a tube map, but it would only be very late that night that I spotted ESCALATOR CONNECTION and finally whipped out the highlighters.

So job done, and enjoyed, but tell me I wasn’t the only person to look at that preamble and think – you what?

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The question on my lips at least was what was in store for the Bank Holiday weekend. A Carte Blanche with misprints and clashes to keep us usefully occupied over the extra days off, or a swift solve and off you toddle into the (fleeting) sunshine. A bit of the latter, it transpires, with a swiftish grid fill and an odd end game for those of us without copies of the volumes recommended in the preamble to hand.

There are, of course, swift grid fills and there are swift grid fills, this one grinding to a halt round about SPED and EEYORE to the SE (and how I kicked myself on finally twigging the latter), and the rather amusing BELCH and CHUCKLE to the NW. Blame the sunshine. Blame Russian Standard vodka with a healthy dose of Corona. At least we had GOLLUM and the eternal search for his precious to aid with one of the first clashes spotted.

The clashes you will have to take my word for I suspect. I can’t read them anyway. But there are three letters in each – one from each crossing clue, and one “intruder” between to make up real words all round. My copy is barely legible with one letter in each cell, never mind three.

The culprit? It’s got to be a BAD THING, hasn’t it? And what do bad things do? Well, they come in threes. As in, that worrying engine over-heating warning coming from your son’s car, the water dripping down the chimney, and alarmingly mobile bathroom tiles. But I’m sure you have tales of woe all of your own.

BAD THINGS COME IN THREES

Tell me about it, but thankfully Poat’s puzzle isn’t among them, so cheers, and a belated Happy Easter all round. Finally, with apologies for the scan which appears to have been taken at the bottom of a dark pit:

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It is one of those odd coincidences that, this lunchtime, we talked for a while about one of my favourite TV shows, being Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, only for it to rather unexpectedly turn out to be the theme of the day’s Inquisitor. Yes, I’ve been to the location at 1ac, and popped down to the beach where the lines we had to highlight in the finished grid were uttered, visited Number Six’s house which used to be the fanclub shop, and posed for photos in all The Village landmarks. Thus, this for me was the PDM to end all PDM’s.

Before that, though, came a bit of a tussle with a grid that took rather a long time to fill. Clues that were relatively free of gimmickry barring some letters to drop and ones missing from wordplay were ever likely to be so, but I still managed to make heavy weather of them. In retrospect entries such as PARIS, SLALOMS and SPIRIT were gimmes, so it’s possible that my senses were somewhat dulled this afternoon. On the plus side, it was a solve that accelerated rapidly halfway through on divining THE PRISONER along the bottom of the grid, and quickly jotting in PORTMEIRION across the top. I wonder how many solvers in despair turned to word searchers for 1ac only to find that the computer said no?

Just the “guardians” to spot, O’s by the look of things, presumably representing Rover, the weather balloon that was the slightly odd choice of Village guardian (fun fact – it was a last minute substitution after the device put together by the technical crew failed the first time it hit the water). Is my route the shortest across the grid to mark the escape route? That I’m not sure of, but the highlighting looks likely (alternate, horizontally and vertically), so I’m going with it.

Oh yes, I AM A FREE MAN along the bottom, although Number 6 almost certainly wasn’t at the end of Fall Out.

Needless to say, whether my solution is right or wrong, that was one that was right up my street, and thus elicited a very big grin from about halfway through. Here’s The Prisoner by Tears For Fears’ from The Hurting, which back in the day Prisoner fans would swear blind synced perfectly with Arrival. They may have a point.

Familiarity with the bard’s work was never going to play to my strengths, so my efforts could best be summarised thus: guessing bits of a quote and a play, and utilising the services of a popular search engine to fill in the rest.

Unclued entries this week, which means lots of isolated bits of the grid and a lack of checking letters. On the other hand, we have wordplay generating extra letters to fill bits of them, and letters garnered from the clues themselves to generate a quote which would later prove useful when back-engineering parsing to work out the missing entries.

Which isn’t how we’re supposed to do this, I presume. I like to think that the real pros had a neatly written collection of letters making up a complete quote, which they swiftly pinpointed, and another collection they used to fill in the gaps in the unclued entries. My solving methods being a little more chaotic, I resorted to the above.

In my defence I will say that I got HENRY VIII ACT II, HEAVEN (who didn’t!), and MY SOUL. And then jotted in YOUR PRAYERS ONE thanks to the results of a nifty Google search (“Make of your prayers one sweet sacrifice, And lift my soul to heaven…”), and pounced on the remainder of “as the long divorce of steel falls on me” as being handy for the parsing of several clues as per the above.

This sort of thing is right up Cornick’s street, of course, but I thanked the gods of the internet for an online open source copy of Bill’s works, and filled in much of the far right hand side of the grid based on it.

If the quote telling us to move MY SOUL northwards, and replace YOUR PRAYERS ONE with SWEET SACRIFICE wasn’t explicit enough, the that-obscure-it’s-not-in-Chambers BLUET to the SE corner should have been enough to inform the canny solver that there was jiggery-pokery afoot in that corner of the grid.

The equally obscure TREVIS and CEL being equally useful for Serpent’s purposes to the south, empty cells were left appropriately blank and the grid complete. So done, and enjoyed. But why do I that suspect Serpent will be more than a little disappointed at the way I hacked and slashed through the goodness on offer?

Solvers of a suspicious bent will have been immediately dubious that any puzzle by Nimrod was going to be of the plain variety, and a quick glance at the clues will have been sufficient to confirm this. I had the advantage of getting a sneak preview a few days before publication, which was long enough to assure myself that the gimmick in question was that each clue was missing a letter. Tars as a definition making no sense of regular letters from airliners, but with an S to give stars a quite perfect description of ARIES.

This being Nimrod though I’d steeled myself for the long haul, but still managed to draw a bit of a blank with only a handful of answers in place. There’s more going on, you see, answers that are evidently too short for the space available, but all to the north of the grid thankfully as otherwise this would have turned out TO BE IMPOSSIBLE, he said in a slightly hysterical tone of voice. The same tone of voice I would feel myself beginning to adopt the next day when the allegedly simple task of replacing RAM in a gaming PC turned into quite the odyssey, with the suspicion at one point that the machine in question was bricked. A hint for those of you who might face a similarly sticky situation in the future – despite the RAM claiming that it’s taken (no more awful beeping noises), a little extra gentle pressure is required for it to clip into place. Which is all to say that the day was saved, yet again.

But back to the Inquisitor, and 1 and 8 across which,  when you ignore the word counts, lead obviously to SO and AR. As ever, expect the unexpected.

I note from my jottings that I seem to have taken an unusual amount of pleasure from the completion of the clues, 2d in particular garnering a number of ticks (“Source is encircled?”, leading to RISING). Neat, eh?

At the close I had, as expected, a message garnered from the letters that needed to be added to each of the clues. It took about the same time again untangling my dubious-at-best parsing, and a few incorrect answers (the lingering suspicion that there are more in the grid I haven’t picked up on), to get one that made any sense though. INSERT WHAT’S MISSING THEN NOTE ADVICE AT BASE.

Luckily I had already spotted HIGHLIGHT across the bottom of the grid, followed by 1T. No, that isn’t a typo, but exactly how, in my frazzled-by-then state of mind, I had decided to read it. Oh, how I laughed when I realised that I wasn’t in fact looking for a single T to highlight, or the hidden shape of one, but actually that the message read HIGHLIGHT IT. IT being A PREAMBLE which is the most likely looking collection of letters that might fill that gap at the top of the grid. A preamble being what we are indeed missing, the only sticking point being the crossing EWART which, being a name, does not appear in the BRB.

All good stuff. Count me for one as being impressed at how all that fell together, as nicely judged as you would like, both starting and finishing with a missing preamble. Which is all to say that I think, ladies and gentlemen, that we have another candidate for the end of year voting.

By the time I’d completed this week’s Inquisitor I felt as hapless as poor Göring must have done on discovering that he’d been well and truly bamboozled by VAN MEEGEREN (who is apparently something of a national hero in the Netherlands), having chosen in my wisdom to split the letters not required in the down clues thus:

HARDLINESS TRUSTED CHEAT

Though I was to be fair feeling quietly chuffed with myself on having successfully parsed all the clues and got the correct letters, confirmed via the very well observed and engineered anagram CHRIST AND THE ADULTERESS, being the painting Göring thought that he had in his greasy paws.

It would only be much later, after a restorative lunch, that the realisation that he might in fact be HARD LINE SS dawned. As indeed he was.

Letters duly amended, and the players in the piece highlighted.

But to end at the beginning, the grid fill went as steadily as they do here, hampered only by the necessity of counting where the extra letters were in the down clues. The BRB to hand, oddities such as TROELY and ENTEROPNEUSTS could hardly be described as being a problem, unlike the French which I had to Google. Should you consider accusing the Inquisitor of being too high-brow, in the middle of the grid Mr Lydon himself makes a guest appearance.

Was I alone in being suspicious of the number of Z’s, and of LEO and LENO in close proximity? I suppose the latter was of help if you didn’t know Fibonacci’s first name (my first hopeless guess that he was a Dane being, well, considerably wide of the mark). It appears though that there is nothing afoot, unless I’ve missed something which is always possible. Perhaps Vismut was just having a little fun with the grid.

But done I think, and, well, enjoyed. Thanks Vismut, and thumbs up to the editor for the sentiments expressed in this week’s Give Me a Clue.

Or, is there a doctor in the house?

Thankfully we are still not in need of one, having lived in glorious self-isolation for a number of months now. Today the sun is shining, the table and chairs are out ready for a leisurely day in the garden with the weekend i, which makes it feel a lot like last spring when all this nonsense began. As if it has been no time at all.

Phi having been rudely ousted from the daily cryptic spot by Anglio, still makes his customary weekend appearance courtesy of an entertaining puzzle that felt a lot like an Azed, in that much of it was spent in the warm embrace of the BRB. Wonders such as MPRET, and the wildly allusive SHAGBARK being definite highlights, together with the discovery that SHEREEF isn’t how a mid-westerner refers to their local law enforcement officer. If you were a little stuck, it’s comforting to know that a study of something is still likely to be an OLOGY, for women we can leap to the always handy SHE or F, and that an artist is as ever good old RA.

Misprints in definitions. It soon became clear what they were supposed to spell, but sadly I only have PHYSICI?N, that fiddly A at the end proving to be somewhat elusive. Oh well. HEAL THYSELF was a bit of write-in once I’d realised that the three words were clued alphabetically, and the anagrams of DOCTOR and MEDICO being obvious ones gave loads of handy checking letters when it came to the crunch and inspiration abandoned me.

Which is all to say that, although I couldn’t tell you if ALTO is correct, and why a SHEREEF is a SHEREEF, that was once more on the gentle side and most definitely enjoyed. All while the sun continued to shine…

The year having been dominated by a series of pretty tough Inquisitors, it came as somewhat of a relief to see Chalicea’s name pop up today. Despite having messed up her last couple of puzzles, her byline is always a guarantee of an enjoyable, not too taxing solve.

Thus it was today. The editor might have been advised to put a big banner above Phi’s cryptic to the effect that solvers thinking of dipping their toes into the weird and wonderful world of the Inquisitor might be well advised to turn forward a couple of pages where they would find wordplay that wouldn’t have been out of place in a daily cryptic. There was a little jiggery-pokery in the way of nine redundant words, but we were informed rather generously that they were in nine consecutive clues, such was the benevolence on offer.

Much was to be learnt from the BRB, including previously unknown meanings of CHITS and REINS, the latter in particular being the proverbial eyebrow raiser. But, I believe, beyond the obligatory Scottish words (and I doubt if the parsing of SWEERT troubled anyone), there was little that would have been out of place in a daily cryptic.

Fueled by copious doses of coffee, MOORE’S LAW quickly revealed itself to be the outcome of the nine redundant words, and only a little hard staring at the grid was required to spot the bit about transistors on a chip doubling every two years. I’m still a little nervous that I’ve missed the other half, being about the price of computers halving likewise, but despite examining the V’s closely I can’t find it. No doubt you spotted it straight away. 😉

Nevertheless, rightly or wrongly, behold, my solution. Thanks Chalicea for a lovely puzzle duly enjoyed.

This week’s Inquisitor was hidden in the middle of the i‘s expanded weekend puzzle section. Brief hopes that the 5k on offer were for a successful completion of the IQ appear to be unfounded, and nobody will have struggled with Poins’ enjoyable offering either, so it’s back to work Monday. 😉

Planes, and debacles involving the infernal things (I refuse to fly as a matter of course even in non-Covid times) was this week’s theme. A few years ago this particular one would have been fresh in the mind, but as it was I’d forgotten all about it. Thankfully Eclogue has been kind and left clues that, if only you were to go looking for them, led neatly to what I hope is the required solution. It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that my first attempts at the end-game involved looking randomly and increasingly desperately round the grid in the hope that inspiration would suddenly strike. Just like the geese.

The two cells with clashes were easy identifiable, all four intersecting answers being too long for the space available. It would only be later after a little fruitless googling regarding TEXANs and GEESE, that I thought to check what the clashing letters actually were, and came up with the name of two airports, and hence the rather unfortunate series of events that led to flight CACTUS 1549 ditching in the sea, with, yes, SKILES in the co-pilot seat.

Perhaps the straightforward grid fill lulled me into the false belief that the rest would fall quickly into place. Maybe I was just losing the plot, as I see noted beside the grid that ONCUS tickled me for reasons I’m unable to fathom now. Perhaps late-lockdown hysteria has set in.

Because by the evening I’d spotted HUDSON, but took until the next day to find RIVER (I’ve highlighted both in an optimistically “appropriate” blue), and then even longer to spot that the flight path was handily marked out by the name of the plane’s pilot, the hero of the day. Yes, I’ve attempted to use two colours to mark the final R in SULLENBERGER, but agree that if they were still marking that the judge would be quite justified in disqualifying my entry, the dual highlighting really being not up to scratch.

Yep, there was a lot to complete / think about, but it was all rather neat, I thought. A welcome change of pace for those of us who can do with the occasional confidence boost. And, shush, don’t tell the other setters, but this one’s already on my voting list for next year.

A wag would note that what was mostly AWOL this week was the hapless blogger’s solving ability, but in my defence I would note this was only the case for the last quarter or so of the puzzle, if we’re to ignore for a moment a slight cock-up regarding the thematic entries.

They were to be entered in one of two ways. This week I was ready for Kruger, having noted that the preamble indicated that word lengths refer to grid entries. Aha, I thought, not falling for that one again. Some entries are evidently going to be longer, and some shorter than the clued word. The ones which were to be shortened all contained the word HER, which we just had to excise to give our nonsense entry.

They also all contained the word THE, but hush… I only noticed that at the end when it became clear that the most obvious boot part would be an UPPER if I was to lob ISORM rather than ISOTM in the grid. But there’s no such thing as a bad landing, as they say.

We may note that there’s a slight cock-up this week with the clues too, just to show that I’m not the only one capable of them. How I imagine our esteemed editor and Kruger chuckled on noticing the unintended misprint among the deliberate ones we were supposed to pick up on.

Oh yes, misprints. Those give a name. Unfortunately it was rather too close to the real one of one of my favourite authors, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, which led me rather up the garden path for a long time.

PN DESTOUCHES, though I never did find the N. Oh well, Google did throw up this handy quote: “The absent are always in the wrong”, which explains why we had to lose the THE’s, and that the seemingly random letters amidst thematic ones containing an A (VIA, DASH, etc), weren’t random, or something to do with TO ART, but various synonyms for “wrong” enveloping the remaining A. TO(A)RT, S(A)IN, etc.

Having staggered over the finishing line rather late than I’d hoped, I didn’t check the handy list of unchecked / mutually checked letters, so if there is an error in this grid I would not be surprised. Oh, and 8d down is a guess.

Done, dusted. Another worthy challenge. Didn’t that fall together nicely, a rather neat interpretation of the quote. But now to lie down in darkened room…