Back to earth with a bang after two weeks in the sun, summer having given way to torrential rain and gale force winds. But Ifor to soften the blow… Normal down clues, across entries modified one of two ways, mysterious extra words in the clues too.

Let’s start with the downs, coward that I am, and what an inglorious start it was too. Yep, I assumed “oddly” in 1d was “initially” and couldn’t solve it. Yes, that’s where my mind is at the moment. So my FOI was 5d, and an anagram of CHINTZ. The crossing 15ac is another anagram, LIMBOUS. How to enter it though? A wild stab in the dark says we’re either going to add or remove letters, but there are several options. Leave it.

Not so for 23ac which will be ZAREBA or ZAREEBA in the grid, and the extra word spotted too.. Blimey.

Onward, slowly but surely.

Is the entry for 45ac RET or RES from REST? Ah, the across entries are in pairs. Same letters added or removed from each. That helps.

Second lightbulb(ish) moment. The added letters aren’t just any old ones, but repeated ones. ZAREBA -> ZAREEBA, CARDUS -> CARDUUS.

No idea about ?UIT or ?EYS. Some pretty low unchecked letters there. The top right is a little tricky too, for that matter.

That phrase then. It’s the letters from each row, isn’t it? DOUBLE OR QUITS, presumably.

Those handy letters giving S(Q)UIT and (Q)UEYS.

Job done. Oh yes, those superfluous words from the across entries. The possible amendments are alphabetical from A upwards, aren’t they? Pretty nifty.

The whole thing in fact could be said to be pretty nifty. To the first week back in work then, duly invigorated.

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Which was solved while still on holiday, so memories are somewhat vague. The prevailing one though being that this wasn’t half as challenging as the previous week’s Shark.

A small grid, loads of shaded bits that are unclued, and a preamble that makes as little sense as expected after another long drive, bout of packing and unpacking, and a spot of the local beer to unwind. The surprisingly steeply priced local beer, for that matter. We’ll be sticking to the cheap stuff for the most part.

It all boils down to words not needed in a load of the clues, though, doesn’t it?

Grid fill ahoy (memories of Chips Ahoy still fresh in the mind), and one that wasn’t too taxing? Notes are MUSIC, strangely being ODDLY?

A little help with a word search on the grey bits. The bottom row evidently FORTISSISSIMO – my musical knowledge might not be on a par with Phi’s, but I know that much. This chap (improbably named as he is) down the RHS, TOMBSTONE down the left, his epitaph for the rest.

Bingo.

Oh yes, the initial letters of the extra words, not that we need them. EIN MUSIKALISCHER SPASS MOZART, being a musical joke that even I’ve heard of.

Almost forgot – the title, only just got it. Very good. As was the puzzle. Done and dusted in one session rather than copious. Time for sand, surf and beer, not necessarily in that order.

Firstly, many thanks to the other bloggers who are covering in my absence! ๐Ÿ˜€

This will of necessity be a short post as I’m ensconced in the wilds of West Wales with no data connection and sporadic wi-fi. And, oh, there’s a cold bottle of beer with my name on it waiting.

So points of interest:

Wasn’t this tricky? I only had the odd session here and there between trips to the beach and rounds of crazy golf, but progress let us say was slow.

The unclued entries? Obviously STONES and VENICE, giving The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin as our first work.

The unclued perimeter? POWER and BEAUTY look pretty self-evident. The rest? With a little help from Google, they’re the other Seven Lamps of Architecture by, yep you gussed it, Ruskin again.

The 13 misprints in the definition? Well, this is where it all falls apart. I’ve only got 12, which sort of make sense. MIDDLE FOURS with an O pretty randomly before that S. I’ve evidently slipped up somewhere.

The shading therefore could be the letters from RUSKIN in the middle four columns which are presumably supposed to represent a lamp. Though I’m not 100% convinced mine is right.

So, with fingers suitably crossed…

The front pages of several of the day’s papers are devoted to this being the anniversary of the first moon landing, and there have been several excellent programmes throughout the week to mark the occasion. You’d think then that somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind alarm bells would have been ringing on reading the title and all the clues slipped into the preamble. Two colleagues on a day trip? One left behind? It’s been a long and emotionally tiring week – the youngest two’s last in primary school – and I’m feeling somewhat frayed, which may explain my complete blind spot regarding the matter. That’s my excuse anyway.

As it turns out it wasn’t until I came to work out what the misprints might be spelling out that I spotted Houston, even if it was only NAA that preceded it (“puts” for “puss” being quite sneaky I thought). And even then I had to ponder the name of the landing craft. The Beagle has landed? That would be a different ship altogether.

The penny haven fallen I did indeed change an A to an I, and highlight the appropriate location, crew members, and craft. And without too much ado it must be said, which is saying something given my general lack of mental acuity throughout the duration. Other solvers I’m led to believe finished over breakfast, as if to throw my own general dimness into sharp relief.

Oh yes, the grid fill. Slow but steady would be the best description of proceedings. Lots of suspiciously positioned words that required trips to the BRB given the later highlighting, and one or two that weren’t in it – GHARANA and RUBBRA (luckily Google had heard of him, even if I hadn’t). And what kind of abbreviation is RU for Burundi anyway? Apparently ISABEL is drab because she didn’t change her linen for three years? Shudders.

Anyway, job done, done and dusted. As was the moon landing.

When you read this I’ll be off on holiday, so any glaring errors on my part will go unnoticed. For the same reason next week’s blog may or may not appear on time, so if it doesn’t, fear not. Boldly going…

Until this week I was blissfully unaware that Eclogue is not in fact one but two setters, comprising Logogriph and Eclipse. Or perhaps I did know and have since forgotten, which is entirely possible.

What I’d really like to know though is how our esteemed setters and editor knew that driving lessons are very much on my mind – the eldest has just started learning – when they scheduled today’s puzzle. Spoilers, you might say, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only solver to guess what we’d end up shading with the preamble being quite clear that the shaded area contained letters up to and including a certain one, that certain one most certainly being an L.

What I lacked though was the conviction to follow through on such an inspired guess, spending an age at the close with a spreadsheet trying to sort out where the “partition” might lie, based on the clues which crossed it and those which didn’t. They helped to confirm afterwards, admittedly, but the best bet it turned out was to look for which blocks of letters only containing those in the range A-L, and then checking.

Oh yes, the ones which didn’t cross the “partition” (I keep putting that in quotes, because there really wasn’t one, was there?) They yielded an extra letter in the wordplay which spelt out.. A SIGN DISPLAYED ON A VEHICLE. Aha, I can you hear you say, you got the L there and then? But no, I still went looking for alternatives.

Which takes us right back to the grid fill, which could best be described as being slow but steady, with no major stumbling blocks, but nothing either which could be described as being a walkover. Lots of high scoring letters to make sure we didn’t miss the final shape – OUZO, ZOONOMY and YOURTS fairly blocking off the top bit of the grid, lots of M’s to the bottom.

All in all then job done, and enjoyed. That shading is supposed to be red, by the way. You’d think that with the array of crayons, markers and pencils we’ve got lying round I could find something suitable, but there you go…

Last week we had what was indeed a terse preamble, this week the very opposite. Thankfully it boiled down to extra letters generated by the wordplay here, letters to be removed before solving there, and an unclued perimeter. We’ve even got a handy list of unchecked letters –ย  other setters could take note. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The weather has settled down to overcast yet warm, which if you ask me is as good as it gets. So outside again, but this time sans sun hat, cream, and paddling pool.

7ac is the first real clue, so thumbs up or down? Up as it happens, an easy ENCASH, A as an unwanted letter. 9ac, ditto for DIM and D. 10ac is obviously something VOLT, 12ac definitely oogyish. And overall very much on the easy side.

What did the 19 letters unwanted in the acrosses produce? That would be A Day At The Races Queen, bar a question mark here or there. I’m guessing though that we won’t be doing anything as obvious as looking for Mr Mercury in the grid. The suitably calculated letters from the 8 down answers from letters removed? DIAGONAL. I can see LOCH and FEL plus other stuff NW to SE, but not much else that helps. Rearranging the removed letters gives STRAIGHT, which while it can be jotted under the grid fairly confidently, doesn’t sound much like a mystery.

Onward to filling that perimeter. A first stab at BALLOON and ESCORT proving to be suitably false, out with the eraser.

Let’s try again, just above the not-balloon. DEAD CERT. Now, the other half’s late grandfather was a big Dick Francis fan, so at this point it became clear all we needed was a list of the man (and his wife’s) books, the unchecked letters, and bob’s your uncle.

That diagonal? DEVON LOCH FELL, which in conjunction with the Queen album title does indeed mean something.

Oh yes, we’ve got to change a couple of letters to reveal the great man’s name, and there he is across the top of the grid.

Done, dusted, home safe and sound, and all understood. Pretty neat, eh?

After weeks of moaning about the wet summer we’ve been enduring, it’s now time to moan about how hot it is. While I have a shaded spot in the garden where I sometimes hide to solve the IQ, today due to the decidedly un-British weather conditions the youngest are out in the paddling pool so it is also extremely noisy. Lucky this week’s offering is by Chalicea, who is usually (always – famous last words?) on the easy side.

The title says terse, and the preamble is suitably so, extra letters from wordplay leading to an instruction.

To 1ac. A text message is an SMS, split-ups SCHISMS, so no prizes for guessing where the rest of the wordplay is going. Jot in the crossing clues – with a little help from the big red book, because I bet I wasn’t the only person who hadn’t heard of an autarky. Unfamiliar spellings to the right of the grid with KASBAH and JEHADS, but the wordplay wasn’t leadingย  anywhere else. A BEESKEP makes sense in retrospect, but in what was the trickiest corner of the grid I wanted it to be all sorts of other things, because I tend to try and guess the answer first and resort to wordplay second, perhaps not the best strategy with a barred grid puzzle.

The instruction? It all seemed to be going so well, but then looked like it was turning to gobbledygook, before, well, it became clear it wasn’t. COLOUR FOUR WORDS OF CALDWELL‘S PLATYPUS TELEGRAM. Google gives the following, which is indeed hidden in the grid: “MONOTREMES OVIPAROUS OVUM MEROBLASTIC”. Something to do with the beast laying eggs apparently.

The title? The aforementioned telegram is famous for being so.

Done and dusted, and presumably correct, there being no lower case i’s to trip us up this week. A bit of history of which I was blissfully unaware. So thanks to Chalicea, a welcome and enjoyable change of pace.

It doesn’t seem like that long since it was IQ 1500 and SPINK’s previous outing, but here we are again, and sadly for the last time. Kudos to the i for the tribute in the editorial and the dedication.

No doubt sharper solvers worked out what was going on today pretty quickly. What with all that talk of clashes in four cells, to be entered digitally – which I forgot until the very last moment, feeling quietly pleased on resolving them to FORTY in three cells, and XL in the fourth. I’m also guessing that better solvers than me didn’t spent too long agonising over why AXIS wouldn’t fit, it being the obvious answer to both the cryptic and definition. I never claimed to be at my best on a Saturday afternoon though.

I bet you guessed the letters to remove from the paired answers quickly too. Needless to say it took me a while to work out MDC. Roman numerals again, you see. At least the entries had the good grace to be long ones, and symmetrically placed too.

This was very much my sort of puzzle, the difficulty being in the grid fill and not any tricksy end game. Some of the clues fell easier than others, seemingly in groups. Oh, as if there was more than one setter involved. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ll leave it to others to try and work out who wrote what, though I think we can all hazard a guess at who wrote the hardest clues.

For added entertainment value our instruction of the week is hidden in the clues, but either side of the first letter appearing from the aforementioned MDC. Jot down each in notepad, note that they don’t make sense, note that you’ve failed miserably to write down the right ones, and try again. BAR EACH OFF CONNECT WITH FOUR LINES.

That I can do, see.

Have I drawn my lines in the right place? I measured them, and I think they’re a square, if one that’s all off kilter.

Oh yes, the phrase to write under the grid. FORTY SQUARED, got to be. I checked with a calculator too.

So here’s to many more from the IQ team, even if they won’t be the same from now on, will they?

So another week rolls by, and with it another Inquisitor – one with a pretty lengthy preamble too. What do you do when faced with a lengthy preamble you can’t get to grips with? Ignore all the stuff at the bottom and start with the simple stuff. The simple stuff being wordplay that leads to the answer plus an extra letter. That I can cope with.

It has also stopped raining for the moment, so solving can take place in a relatively quiet environment. I have a table and chair hidden in a corner of the garden especially for such rare, fleeting occasions.

The grid fill in terms of difficulty? We still seem to be on a run of easier entries following Wan’s mammoth offering of the other week, so middling, even if it took a few entries to get going. First in being a nice friendly anagram of NORITE with an extra U. A PROWL CAR sounds like the sort of thing I should have heard of, but haven’t. And is ENORM really archaic, don’t all the kids say that these days? We’ve got two to the NW that aren’t in the BRB but are in Collins. To date when the preamble specifies entries in Collins I’ve just Googled the answers and hoped for the best, but at least one is particularly obscure so Google leads instead to a handy version of Collins online. Why did nobody tell me it was there before?

So, grid done. The quote from the extra letters? As expected large chunks consist of question marks, but with enough letters in place to guess the remaining few with a little help from the aforementioned search engine… “You can get a happy quotation anywhere if you have the…” “eye” being the missing word, by one Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr – which are presumably the initials at the end. I only did ever manage to get the W though.

The latter bit of the preamble? I must admit that I didn’t crack most of it, but what is clear is that we’re looking for something to highlight, quotations presumably. And lo and behold there are two across the diagonals which are missing just a central… i.

“Firm fair price.”
“Wisdom in words.”

Presumably referring to the esteemed organ in which the puzzle appears. The appropriate colour, based on “a prominent example in plain sight”? Red? Got to be.

The other hints? Nope, didn’t get those. But lob a big red i in the middle of the grid, highlight the quotations, and we’re done, aren’t we? Yes, I think we are, and at the close in a pretty good time too with more than a modicum of entertainment gleaned throughout. So raise a glass to Penumbra – another good one – we’re on a roll.

Next week the big 1600, which is significant, presumably? ๐Ÿ˜‰

A puzzle about which I find myself with little to say, but in a good way, because while this may be lighter by far than last week’s offering, it’s one I felt a lot more comfortable solving being a bear of very little brain.

So, plus points on the confidence front: Isn’t Opsimath usually straightforward? Normal, alphabetical clues.

On the negative side: We don’t know where to put the answers. Oh well, we’re doing rather well at that sort of thing recently, aren’t we?

Further plus points: Cold solving the first five clues in a row with hardly a moment of hesitation. At the close three of the nine letter clues and three of the eight all ready to go – PROCURERS, PETIT PAIN, SANDGLASS, ALPHABET –ย  fittingly, EQUITANT, and TAVERNER.

Lob them in. Start fitting in the other clues. Only belatedly realise it would be a good idea to cross out the ones you’ve entered. A little tussle at the close over exactly where BULL should go (a sneaky BELL just above, and yes I did get it wrong first time).

Full grid.

Pick out the letters in the numbered cells: The great emancipator.

Which are real words, another plus point, the grid’s alright, but unfortunately doesn’t mean anything. Google to the rescue. Ah, good old Abraham Lincoln.

A “famous stated preference”? No idea either, but we’ve got to change two cells and highlight his name, and that can only be done by changing BULL to BALL and ETHER to OTHER, or BULLET to BALLOT.

“To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary…”

That title? According to the BRB it means “Freedom-giving”. There you go then.

Neat. Enjoyable. Done and dusted in a pretty neat time too. Huzzah. Short and sweet, but I liked it, oh yes I did.