More problems than Ifor bargained for here because I’m blogging a week on from solving and my already shot memory is failing me badly. Much sunshine, sea, sand and alcohol having been enjoyed in the meantime. Let’s see what I can remember.

Oh yes, I struggled. Badly. Late evenings drunk on sun and general merriment not being conducive to solving a quite testing puzzle.

Moving letters, advice, source, blah. And problems. Egads. Thankfully I’m a persistent so and so, and can Google, so DON’T FORGET THE DIVER ITMA and vague recollections regarding It’s That Man Again mostly courtesy of my father were of… little help.

More so were the gaps in the bodily parts dotted round the top of the grid (though ENDS wasn’t one, unexpectedly), and the missing CONSCIOUSNESS that just wouldn’t fit in the spaces to the south.

Diver+those gaps = BENDS at the top, and if we’re looking for another symmetrically placed answer to the south that’s got to be NARKS, though colour me confused as to why. What I can see though is a word ladder joining the two which looks convincing, and the lot gives the 25 highlighted cells required, so, with fingers most definitely crossed:

Little that looks overly complicated in this week’s preamble, amounting to multiple letters in some cells and a spot of highlighting. We’re in the middle of a decidedly odd holiday in the wilds of West Wales, so thankfully the above looks less than mindbending, and I’ve remembered to bring my highlighters.

Things are beginning to open up in this neck of the woods, but only slowly, for limited hours with distancing, gloves, hand sanitiser and masks de rigueur. None of this was what we had in mind when we booked last year, and trips to the beach are a mix of a sort-of much needed taste of all we’ve been missing together with undue anxiety about finding a quiet spot and quite how difficult that can get at low tide. Thank the gods then for takeaways rather than eat-ins at the local pubs, and the copious volumes of alcohol on tap.

None of which has much to do with the puzzle, which was completed leisurely over two evenings, with hold ups only on TOXIC DEBT and ALPH. That said, progress was faltering in places until it became clear that the multiple cell entries were all triplets.

Surely the highlighting will present an opportunity to come unstuck? Well, it appears not because there are the required four entries making up ALPHABET and TRIPLETS.

Job done. Which leaves plenty of time to catch up on some reading, a jumbo collection of Times Puzzles, and much needed sleep.

Nudnix, while sounding a lot like Artix, I suspect is new to these parts, so welcome.

Lots to the preamble, which as per Saturday I find myself in not much of a state to untangle. Thankfully it all appears to pertain to the endgame, which leaves… Normal clues. Normal clues I can cope with, even ones which seem to be a little on the tough side. Careful readers will have noted that this, accompanied by a lucid endgame, is right up my street.

Thankfully we also have things I do know, years of Avengers viewing meaning that Dame+Diana leads in an instant to RIGG, otherwise SCRIGGLE might have been a little less forthcoming. Other clues seemed designed to be user-friendly but didn’t anticipate the levels of incompetence they would face here, as I can never remember Paul REVERE no matter how often he crops up. Ditto AVOURE, which looked impenetrable, but really. Well, it wasn’t.

Silver cells (I still think they could more accurately be described as grey). NEW JERSEY looks likely, the one at the bottom pretty random, but the other two lie to the NWish of the grid where I was struggling. Struggling that is until it occurred that perhaps the top lot weren’t that random, and lo… GUACAMOLE. A suspicion that the bottom one with a couple of amendments might spell out MANDELSON led to an almost certainly apocryphal tale about said politician’s inability to differentiate between one mass of green stuff and MUSHY PEAS, which is presumably what we amend the top lot to.

With loads more checking letters to play with, out pops DAN QUAYLE, who apparently while in New Jersey revealed a misapprehension regarding the spelling of POTATO. An exta E the last in a series of changes that have led from CARGOES to CARGEESE.

Job done, in a jiffy too, and more importantly rather enjoyed.

Here’s the grid before I started shifting some of the letters.

And behold, after.

It transpires that not only do we have a setter with a quite implausible name, but also an implausibly long word to look for at the close. FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION if I’ve managed to type that properly, which means, well, look at the title.

This makes it sound like I made the logical leap in a jiffy, when in fact I spent an age staring at the grid that had taken next to no time at all to fill and wondering whether I needed to block out T’s and Z’s (following the logic elsewhere, you see, when we picked the letters for the hidden message). So while others seemed to be celebrating the easing of lockdown in Wales by travelling far and wide, I, well, spent it safely in the garden staring blankly at a crossword grid. Never let it be said that my anxiety levels are less than stratospheric.

That grid. It looked a lot like this:

Oh yes, the message. SHADE SYMMETRICAL CELLS WITH TITLE’S ANSWER. The notion of symmetry is one that sends shivers down my spine as I can never seem to get it quite right. This time though, on eventually spotting that (29) was, as per, the implausible length of the answer (there being only one word according to Chambers that fits), and figuring that a good old spreadsheet would help with my inevitable errors, I have, I think, produced something that looks symmetric, and that seems to leave real words including the two we had to jumble. No doubt Cornick will tap me sharply on the shoulder now and point out where I’ve gone amiss, but I don’t think I have.

Et voila.

Poor old Andy Lemon leads an exciting life. Given his propensity for getting kidnapped he might be advised to stay at home from now on, which does make me wonder if there’s potential for a lockdown sequel to his continuing adventures.

This week it became evident that his world tour had taken him to the far east, as all the unclued entries leading to items given to him for his amusement and / or comfort all seemed to be things Japanese. FUTON, ANIME, WAKA, etc. This would come in handy at the end of what had been a pretty nippy grid fill because I must admit to having no idea what’s going on at 38ac. I suspect my geography is letting me down again, but given the following bit of logic I’m sticking by my answer:

  • At this point I was missing, I believe, the item of food. So presumably SOYA or SOBA.
  • The latter looks more exotic to me.
  • The letters derived from the clues had led to VERY WICKED EASTERN CHAPS. SO BAD, you see for the first bit.

It’ll do me, anyway. Elsewhere I’ve got a couple of question marks, but they’ll have to stand my brain being not up to it this weekend. Which leaves a grid that looks something like this:

So where’s Andy, and what do we need to highlight? Well, that’s what took most of my solving time. I can see SO BAD, and E for EASTERN. But nothing for CHAPS. Nothing at all. What I did wonder, though, was whether his kidnappers might be demanding a ransom. So that if we were to replace some of the letters from DEMOTE and PEN with ANDY, we’d be left with DEMAND YEN to highlight.

Looks reasonable. But why? I don’t know. I suspect I’ve done something wrong. But let’s see… Despite my own ineptitude I must say that I enjoyed the hunt, so thanks to Triton for the weekend’s entertainment.

In a parallel universe I woke up, glanced at the IQ cheerily and thought – oh good, it’s another carte blanche. As it was I staggered out of bed somewhat tardily feeling rather the worse for wear, glanced at the paper and thought… Oh dear.

Several hours later… Buoyed by croissants, several cups of strong coffee, and Math’s spiffing Star Wars themed cryptic, I turned to the Inquisitor to find that, unlike the last offering of this ilk, this was actually quite accessible. 13 letter answers at the top and bottom of the grid, and acrosses the positions of which could be deduced by the application of a little logic. The downs? I’ve never got the hang of positioning down answers in this sort of thing, and just kind of lob them in where they fit. Perhaps that’s all there is to it.

So that despite failing miserably to get the first across for an age, it didn’t take long to work out where EQUATIONS went, and with it EYOT and GEAR. Further encouraged by getting the ink blotty test thing down the bottom, the grid, well, it didn’t take too long after all, with, yes, the other related ink blotty thing at the top 3rd from last to fall. Aided by a hunch that it would end GRAPH something.

Leaving something that looked like this:

 

Oh yes, shading and deletions. Well, the top and bottom were thematic, having no definition (yep, forgot to mention that). Presumably we’re supposed to produce something symmetric. So the two lines to left and right, plus some other letters dotted round the grid like this? With the centre one to make up the numbers, being of course symmetric in its centrality.

That was me, confident that this was done and dusted… Until the evening approached and I presumably woke up and realised that the whole of the centre column was as equally symmetric as the centre cell. Gah. So, we’re looking for something that looks remarkably like that III in the title?

Yep. But what about the other symmetrically placed letters? Oh yes, the shaded ones can all be mirrored and remain unchanged – O, T, W, A, I, etc. Unlike E, N, L and so on.

Phew. Trap neatly if somewhat fortuitously sidestepped.

And you know what, I enjoyed that thoroughly despite not expecting to at all. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that’s the best we’ve had for a while. So thanks Serpent. Onto Mirror Image IV, presumably?

Accompanying today’s IQ, in glorious rainbow colour, is proof of my miserable failure, to, well, draw a rainbow accurately. Oh well. This one seems to be a simple matter of filling in some answers that are clued and some that aren’t. Presumably bereft of opportunities to come a complete and utter cropper?

Well, not really. The grid for the most part was filled in a jiffy, though with much agonising about DIP and CLINKER, the latter the likely looking replacement for Nail, though the parsing. Whoosh, that’s the parsing going somewhere over my head.

Misprints duly sorted, apart from the one. The poet, you see. There are lots of poets, so it seemed to be rather unfair we had to guess the right one. Needless to say from the sour grapes I picked the wrong one, so that my misprints looked like ARDHENLEYSN.

A random selection of English place names that were evidently going to complete the unclued entries were doing nothing to help, there being no obvious link between them.

And there doesn’t seem to be anything obviously cryptic about ARDHENLEYSN. Apart from its cryptic-ness that is.

24 hours later.

E, not S. ARDHENLEYEN, or Henley-In-Arden. Nope, I didn’t know it had a longer name either. And look, the other entries are above something (WESTON super MARE), GRANGE over SANDS, inside them (MORETON in MARSH), by them (WELLS on SEA), and so on.

Which is all very jolly I suppose if you knew more than one or two, but as noted previously Geography isn’t my strong suit, so I spent an age wrestling with Google and a list of unfamiliar places. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all…

Things that should have been right up my street:

  • Agatha Christie.
  • Miss Marple.
  • 4:50 from Paddington (no the?), the opening we’re concerned with I can still remember quite vividly.
  • Scouring Wikipedia at the first opportunity to aid with puzzles that are on the verge of defeating me.

So it will come as no surprise that my first thought was a certain bear, and that after identifying the book – having spotted first the station and then another pertinent location down the bottom of the grid, MCGILLICUDDY, the victim and murderer, I proceeded to spend another day looking in vain for the word “murder” to highlight in the grid. What I was actually looking for is in the third line of the book’s Wiki page, so it’s not like I really had an excuse.

Except perhaps the last of the vodka, a couple of beer chasers, and a rather taxing grid fill. The latter could best be summarised by panic on realising we had two grids to fill, clues mashed together which I always fail miserably at when Azed does it, and Nimrod’s no-holds-barred clues that leave me invariably feeling sadly lacking. Oh, there are a couple of answers that aren’t in any dictionary I own for good measure.

Thankfully we have the handy tip that answers lacking letters in the wordplay are over on the right hand side, otherwise this this would have been another Ifor debacle. So thank the crossword gods for PENTANOL, GIMLETED, and associated crossing answers.

Thank the gods too that the letters sadly lacking in the wordplay to highlight led to ANNA and DR QUIMPER, otherwise my no doubt already deficient grid would have been rendered more so by an additional AIN and MORRA. I refer the honourable gentleman to the remarks regarding my intellectual prowess, or rather lack of it, above.

The final blunder in this tale of woe was a confident IVL jotted beneath the grid, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Thankfully I utilised a pencil (albeit one with a broken bit of lead that kept falling out), and a spreadsheet before finally committing pen and highlighter to paper.

As if to add insult to injury, it is only now, on writing the blog, that I’ve noticed the relevance of the puzzle number. Not my finest moment, but top-notch stuff as ever from our esteemed editor.

Et voila!

After a pretty tricky couple of weeks I bet I wasn’t the only solver to breathe a sigh of relief on spotting Chalicea’s name. I wonder too if I’m the only solver who hasn’t had much experience of late painting rainbows. The things seem to be everywhere, everywhere that is apart from our house, the youngest having shown no interest at all in voicing our continuing support for our hard-pressed front-line workers. The farm up on the mountain do though have extremely large lights reading NHS ♥ across the front of their barn, so let it just be said that others in the area are doing their bit.

All of which is to excuse my pitiful attempt at a rainbow. The other half has assured me that she supplied the correct pencils for the job in hand, but still… I suppose it could be right. I’ve filled the requisite 84 cells, anyway. I look forward to your far more artistic efforts.

Spotting RAINBOW for the unclued entry, and that in the clues we were looking for thematically positioned letters should have alerted me to the fact that we were looking for the seventh from each, but as ever I wasn’t that sharp, so resorted to writing the first few clues one under the other and picking letters until a likely looking message appeared.

LINK THE LETTERS IN ARCS AND SHADE TO DEPICT THIRTEEN

With a passing debacle on briefly jotting down WANDS.

Drawing arcs not being my strong point I resorted to a spreadsheet, which is lucky because otherwise my finished copy would have been even more of a dog’s breakfast than it is anyway.

But voila! Done! Almost forgot to mention, that grid fill. After a shaky start in the NW corner, the expected straightforward grid fill did materialise, though with a number of trips to the BRB required.

And the title? Nothing to do with a somewhat famous battle, but to a rather well known mnemonic. Which is all rather neat, isn’t it?

Which could be subtitled the blog which almost wasn’t. As predicted the Bank Holiday weekend opened with unseasonable and arguably unreasonable wind and freezing temperatures, with the result that I spent Saturday hiding in the kitchen with the weekend’s i. As morning turned to afternoon and the grid remained stubbornly blank, much amusement was occasioned hereabouts, and I was urged repeatably to give up on it. Now, these blank jigsaw things aren’t really my thing so I was inclined to agree, but I can be stubborn too. Let’s just get some answers in that grid. Some of the downs having fallen, with associated extra letters, lob them in I did across the top row, only on finally solving the unlikely looking THIOURACIL to realise that none of them were actually in the right place.

Cue recourse to the eraser and a still blank grid come Saturday evening. Cue more amusement from the kids. Any illusion that I was actually any good at this game fading fast in a shower of well-deserved derision. By bedtime in my defence I’d:

  • Worked out that the across answers sort of weave back and forth from left to right and back again, for reasons unbeknown.
  • Filled the top half of the grid. Sort of.

And, oh yeah, come to a grinding halt with a grid on paper that had actually begun to decay from the degree of rubbing out.

Sunday. Azed. Everyman. The Telegraph Cryptic. Harribob’s Enigmatic Variations. One last, desperate push at the IQ. A last throw of the dice. And recourse to a spreadsheet because to be quite frank I couldn’t work out my scribbling anymore.

Things noted:

  • While COLLAGEN might be a valid anagram of some of the letters from “long and clear”, there’s no way it meets the requirements of any sort of definition in that clue. CALENDAR, Jon, CALENDAR.
  • We’re supposed to be highlighting something at the close. Highlighted things are often in a diagonal. There’s a phrase beginning to run down the NW to SE diagonal that I’m going to say is TO MOW A MEADOW.
  • Ergo, the remaining extra letters are going to give a question that probably looks a bit like WHY DID MAN AND DOG GO OUT?

Cue a finally completed grid, with GRANITA falling at the close, and a general feeling of release. Relief. I failed to complete a puzzle by Ifor elsewhere a couple of weeks ago, and I suspect will fail again in the future because that was tough, hopefully as tough as they get because my little brain cannot cope.

Bank Holiday Monday? Oh yes, the sun came out.