Unnaturally warm weather descends on the UK, and with it Lato’s latest offering. Can we cool down long enough to make sense of the preamble? Think straight to solve the clues? No gimmicks outside of the thematic definition only ones, where we have misprints, and a resulting phrase. Highlighting at the end. Onto the clues, which at first glance look tricky. Only two on the first pass through, but that’s evidently dehydration because on closer inspection they’re perfectly solvable, with only a handful of question marks. The thematic clues less so. Some of the answers have fallen, but sorting out the misprints turns out to be a matter of ploughing through the big red book looking for likely definitions. Who would have thought eleven clues would take so long to sort? We’re looking for a two word phrase, so with a load of the misprints in place we can start to guess, and eventually (two days later, I’m telling you) there it is: LETTER PAIRS.

So what needs to be added to the thematic entries? The above mentioned letter pairs. OK, so my first guess at LAY being a bats’ refuge is wrong, and we’re looking at LAY-BY, KAVANAGH-QC, PG TIPS, JR EWING, GEORGE VI, WH AUDEN, AT ISSUE, DU BARRY, SIXTEEN OZ, LE FIGARO, CLASSIC FM.

What are we missing? K, N, S and X evidently. Though what to do with them? Highlight words in the grid containing those letters? That’s not going to work. What does the preamble say – “reportedly”. Sounds like? Highlight EXCESS and CAYENNE and we’re done. Now to bake in bed for a couple of hours. The heat wave is forecast to last how many days?

So this week we’re looking for an image that might well be famous but I suspect I’ll be in complete ignorance of. Extra letters in all but one of the across clues (is that significant?), pop them into the unclued (thematic) entries. Extra words in the down clues. They’re going to give us some sort of hint, together with four unclued entries, to the name of the image. What could possibly go wrong?

The clues? 8ac falls straight away with a little help from Chambers, and from then it’s a pretty rapid fire run through the grid, with only the thematic entries causing difficulties, because – well, crossing letters, or the lack of them. Along the way we’ve got a couple – AFRICAN down near the bottom of the grid, WHOOPER a bit above it. A couple of the others are pretty guessable, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Those extra words. At first sight we’re not going to get a lot from them, pretty random. First letters? Bingo: PARANOIAC CRITICAL PICTURE. According to Wikipedia this is some sort of surrealist technique developed by Dali. And oh, there’s his name jumbled in four of the unclued entries. We’re looking for one of his paintings then. I must have seen loads, but can’t say I know the name of any. And so far the grid isn’t helping.

The extra letters? A few possibilities for the unclued entries. The middle one must be TRUMPETER, BLACK top left? None of this is giving me the name of the painting. Cue much googling. Trumpeter, elephant? One with elephants in?

Swans Reflecting Elephants, which I’ve never seen before.

A trumpeter, far from being one of the elephants, is in fact a type of swan. As is a whooper, believe it or not. We need some elephants down the bottom of the grid. ASIAN elephant, and our fictional character, aided and abetted by Wikipedia’s handy page on fictional elephants. TANTOR from Tarzan. That just leaves TUNDRA to go in the NE corner. Well, that was enjoyable, pretty neat the way the grid did match that painting. And something learnt, again. Until next week when I slowly melt in a seemingly endless heat wave while trying to tackle Lato.

In which I mercilessly cheat to get the result, and thank the gods for the combined resources of Google and Google Books. Or, how did we manage before the days of the Internet?

Too late a night, too early a morning, and a complicated looking preamble, not the most winning of combinations. It all boils down to extra words in some clues, extra letters in others, a message and some individuals to find from them, something to highlight. Which no doubt misses the point entirely, but we can worry about that when it comes to the end game. The clues? Not so scary – a few generous anagrams dotted round the place, most of the wordplay fairly apparent, though enough doubt about some to mean any message that’s supposed to appear from the first and last letters of those extra words is going to be severely garbled. Which is exactly the way it ends up. A little solving in the afternoon interrupted by a rainstorm (the first sign a dirty great big blob of water right in the middle of the page), a barbecue (because who knows when we’ll see the sun again), and… A full grid, and… A list of first and last letters from the extra words that appear to be complete gobbledygook no matter which way they’re combined, and superfluous letters that far from revealing “three companions (that) have already fled”, reveal how poor / lazy my parsing skills can sometimes be.

Saturday evening, late… Nothing. Sunday evening… Ditto.

Monday, start at the beginning, and look at some of that parsing again. To get this far:


What I should do: carry on parsing the clues, to get the complete list of “potential players” and theme.

The reality: consult Google, and find a Brothers Grimm story that I’m vaguely familiar with, having read it to the kids from an old Ladybird book. It’s been 30 odd years since I studied any German, but thanks to crosswords I can still spot the definite article. As luck would have it there’s a handy German & English version on Google Books here: Brothers Grimm Vol. 1: German & English.

I’m guessing then the pick of start and end letters from the extra words will give:

Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten (The Bremen Town Musicians)
Rooster Cat Donkey Dog (not necessarily in that order)

Those are the four players we’re supposed to find in the grid? Not in my grid they’re not. In English anyway – the title is in German, so the players too? To Google Translate:

donkey esel
dog hund
cat katze
rooster hahn

Alter a lazy TSETSE to TZETSE at 20ac, and lo and behold they are.

The 5th individual? Presumably one of the robbers? Or “Rauber”, in the far left column. What separates them “clearly” in the story? A window, “Fenster”.

Presumably the superfluous letters will also spell out robbers in German or some variation on it, but at this point my head feels like it’s going to explode, so… Highlight the 30 cells in the grid, and done. That was tough work, as I thought it might be when the grid fell so quickly. Now to lie down in a darkened room. Thanks Ifor for the challenge and the German lesson. Next time? Serpent’s mirror image.

A traditionally grey, damp Bank Holiday weekend, and my third encounter with Schadenfreude of the year. Lots of time to solve then, hiding in the kitchen from the equally traditional half term colds brewing in the other room. The preamble looks straightforward enough. Misprints in the definitions of twelve clues to form a thematic phrase, some empty cells we’ve got to fill later – a “cryptic representation” of the phrase. Empty cells equals lots of pencilling and rubbing out later. Fab.

Cue quick progress, jotting in the answers that are too short for the entries with best guesses, because otherwise we’re left with a lot of cold solving which is slow work indeed. We can always move them after, based on crossing letters where they look likely, shifting letters when they don’t. The misprints in the definitions are pretty generous, straight as they are from the big red book. And those empty cells? It becomes clear in the NW corner that there’s a pattern, a diagonal line. Follow that round the grid, surely it’s a diamond shape? Solving steps up a gear. A distinct lack of question marks at the close, Schadenfreude on relatively gentle form.

To the end game. Those misprints. Well, they don’t make much sense. Try an anagram solver. Still no sense. Let’s look at what words might fit the empty cells, in the hope the “cryptic representation of the phrase” is going to be a message and not just the shape of a diamond. Look at what will fit, what makes sense, and then start at the bottom of the diamond: ILL OR PHYSICALLY UPSET.

OK. To those misprints again. Perhaps one is wrong? Yes, 19d which I was never sure about. The answer’s KEEN, and the definition must be ‘low’, not ‘raw’.


Very nicely done, and not too difficult as it turns out. The tally for 2017? Schadenfreude 1, Jon 2. Huzzah! Until next time when Ifor lands a quadruple whammy. Ouch.

Brought to you by the power of Tomos Watkin’s Magic Lagyr. I’d argue it helps, others might disagree. The puzzle. The second by Phi in this Saturday’s i, and first thoughts are – aren’t those clues printed in a small font? Presumably that means there’s lots of them to get through. Some entries jumbled, and don’t fill all the spaces, that’s a little worrying. Extra words in others giving definitions for the complete versions. Best get cracking then.

A rare start before lunch on a Saturday, and quite a speedy one too, with clues that wouldn’t be out of place over in the cryptic. A few redundant words that are easy to spot, and a couple of those jumbled entries, starting with the fairly gently 15ac. A couple where the big red book is a must, and at the close some problems in the SE corner that’s resolutely blank because… Well, because I’ve got LIAR instead of RAIL and once that’s fallen, so does the rest. Along the way I’ve also made a stab at one of the “complete versions” of the jumbled clues, because it looks like nothing but CRETISM will fit at 1ac, TRIES jumbled in the centre of C & M. A lovely word, that apparently means lie, and one that should be revived.

So the definitions we have from the redundant words are:

ISRAELI CITY (and how long it took me to sort that one out…)

The clues which are jumbled are pretty easy to spot, and so too the complete versions. Some doubt at the close over whether 15ac is OVERSEE or OVERSEA, but, we’ll see. So:

Definition Complete Entry Extra Letters

So to put those extra letters into a “logical order”. Alphabetical? Nope, that doesn’t help. Alphabetic by first letter in the pair, not that either. How about by clue number?

1ac   CM
15ac O(E/A)
19ac NY
27ac TV
35ac EA
42ac NR
47ac TY

Go with an A for 15ac, read down the columns, to give: CONTENT MAY VARY. Which fits the title. That’s good enough for me… A fairly gentle offering, but no less enjoyable for it. Until next time, when Schadenfreude deals a rude card.

A game of hide and seek, and a title that… well, that could mean anything. 🙂 eXternal, who’s beaten me two times out of three in the Inquisitor. Yikes. Today misprinted definitions to give us the hider and seeker, letters omitted from the wordplay of others the quarry. The endgame a maze. Lots to think about, so perhaps that’s why, following a promising start with 1ac and 6ac falling quickly… nothing else for an embarrassingly long time. Hungover? Tired? No, just a misread preamble, failing to notice that letters are omitted from the wordplay, not that we have to omit them. At which point the grid begins to fill, but… Eurovision, and a busy weekend, and it’s a full two days before I get a chance to move beyond the three quarters full grid.

With a glass of Penderyn whisky to ease matters along, and suitably psyched out having had two days to stew things over, onward with those final clues. As is often the case, a few buggers at the end, but for once I’ve managed to parse the clues properly, so I’ve got the misprinted definitions, and the letters omitted from the wordplay. Blimey. If only 31d, which I can’t make head or tail of, would fall…

Perhaps the endgame will help. The misprinted definitions first, because that’s easier, the corrections giving us: Henry II and Eleanor. Hurrah. To the letters omitted from the wordplay, which have to be read “top to bottom and left to right.” A painstaking copy of the grid into Excel – because I’m really not that confident I haven’t messed something up – and highlight the letters there, albeit with some doubt over the final R (no, I still can’t work out what the pipsqueak in 35ac might be). Do they look sensible? Yes they do – Rose Of The World – presumably Rosamund Clifford, Henry’s mistress.

The omitted letters forming bars, we’re to follow “the shortest route from top left to the start cell of the quarry”, and there she is in the grid, ROSAMUN?, giving us EDNA for 31d, where I can see wordplay now, but why in the world is Edna “delightful”?

Talking of a maze, Wikipedia tells us that:

The traditional story recounts that King Henry adopted her as his mistress. To conceal his illicit amours from his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, he conducted them within the innermost recesses of a complicated maze which he caused to be made in his park at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Rumours having reached the ears of Queen Eleanor, the indignant lady contrived to penetrate the labyrinth, confronted her terrified and tearful rival, and forced her to choose between the dagger and the bowl of poison; Rosamund chose the latter and died.

6ac is DAGGER, so I think I can guess what we’re going to have to change in the final grid, but let’s check. Pick the odd letters from the top left along that shortest route to the ill fated mistress to give us: Way To Forfair. Forfair – “to perish or decay”. Change 6ac to POISON, and we’re done, I think, and learnt something along the way. Fingers crossed, that’s evened things up a bit with eXternal, and a very fine contest it was too. Until next week when the i serves up Phi, Phi, and more Phi.

A quick glance back through Fifteensquared shows lots of Inquisitors by Triton last year, but perhaps I missed them because I can’t remember solving any of his / her puzzles. So easy, difficult, impossible? Hopefully not the latter, coming off a string of losses and… because my conscience has got the better of me and… so, to the garden.

Later that same day… The preamble. Merging the across and down clues is a device I’ve seen in Azed puzzles, so not that scary, though with the added complication of a superfluous word separating each, which will give us the lines of a poem; and some without definition, which will “help”. Help not always being that helpful, for me at least, when it comes to the Inquisitor. To the clues, which don’t seem to be too bad – 11ac and 1ac falling on the first attempt, and a few extra words cropping up. But are they supposed to be right at the beginning / end of each clue? If the clues are separate, isn’t the line between each usually a bit blurred? Why the capitals at the start of each in that case? Colour me confused. Onwards anyway, most likely in entirely the wrong direction, but any progress is better than none, hopefully.

By late evening I’ve got maybe three quarters of the grid filled, bar a few empty spaces here and there, and am still none the wiser regarding our verse. To the next day, and some coffee, and what would be a quiet afternoon sitting in the garden until the youngest come out to generally cause chaos. The SW corner is still pretty empty, and I’m not making progress, so try a different approach. Those lines of verse, perhaps they’ll help. Start by looking at the superfluous words we have, and it becomes clear that yes, they don’t have to be right at the start / end of each clue, and the first three words are… “There was a…” Looks like a limerick? Our first clue without definition happens to be in the same place, SENORITA, so… “There was a young lady from Spain.” Most definitely a limerick then. It’s helping with a couple of clues, now I’m certain the start / end of each isn’t the same as the way they’ve been printed. But I still can’t get 29ac/30d/36ac, though the latter must surely be ROTTER, but why? Brain freeze.

Anything else that might help? “A small change to the completed grid” is going to give us the author of the poem and the last line. Are we supposed to rub something out? We have TBRITON about two thirds of the way down. A quick Google and there’s no sight of this limerick, so presumably Triton’s the author. Hang about, QUABRAIN crosses that going down. Change the B to a T to give us Triton and quatrain? That rhymes with Spain, anyway, and a definition in Chambers for NO-GO (in vain), another undefined clue. We’ve also got “she could manage…” No more, from NAPOO. Which must rhyme with “by the end of line…” four, from TIDDY (something to do with some ancient card game). So for the clues without definition we don’t chuck them into the poem in exactly the same order they appear? Just more or less.

I reckon this is our limerick then, though at the same time it wouldn’t surprise me if there was something amiss, I’m not the most careful of solvers and prone to silly mistakes:

There was a young lady from Spain
Who worked at a sonnet in vain
By the end of line four
She could manage no more
The result being just a quatrain

So highlight A QUATRAIN and TRITON in the grid, followed by a brief burst of inspiration to finally complete that SW corner. Phew. That was tough, but thoroughly enjoyable. Thanks, Triton!

Until next week, and a game of hide and seek.

Aboard the good ship Harribobs. The second bank holiday weekend in quick succession, and as grey and damp as you’d expect, so lots of time to get our teeth into the Inquisitor. Nice and straightforward preamble – extra letters in the wordplay of some clues, which will (hopefully) give us the name of the mysterious captain, and something we’re going to have to trace out afterwards. Always my weak spot, but we’ll see how that goes.

To the clues, which feel surprisingly gentle. I’d go so far as to stick my neck out and say this is a good one for solvers wanting to get into barred grid puzzles. Lots falling without recourse to the big red book, even those with those pesky extra letters. A bit of drug slang at 13ac (just how do these setters know so much of it?) 38ac goes in rapidly, as it’s just down the road, and surprisingly it’s in Chambers too. A bit of uncertainty about the parsing of one or two, which means that the final message begins something like, well… something like this: HISCO?ERADOP?S anyone? It’s not Welsh, anyway.

OK, let’s apply a bit of logic, think about what letters would work there, and go back and look at what Harribobs was really trying to get at in one or two of those clues. The exact parsing of 1d still eludes me, even if the answer doesn’t, but in the end I’ve learnt a few new abbreviations, and got this:


I’ll make a wild stab in the dark and say that’s ADOPTS. Captain Flinders? Bingo, “Captain Matthew Flinders RN (16 March 1774 – 19 July 1814) was an English navigator and cartographer, who was the leader of the first circumnavigation of Australia and identified it as a continent.” No prizes for guessing what we’re going to be tracing in the grid.

So, the across clues are supposed to give us directions, starting from the silver cell, showing the ship’s progress. Lots of S’s, N’s, E’s, W’s in there, so follow them, and… We’re somewhere off the right hand side of the grid. Because for some reason best known to myself I’ve spelt SEISED with three and not two E’s, and an S too few, together with the crossing down clue. And sober as well, to boot. Try again, and we’ve got something that looks a lot more reasonable, and a bit like the continent in question. Is it right? Is that stray line in the NE supposed to be the voyage south? The published solution will no doubt show I’ve cocked it up altogether, but that’ll do me.

Edited to add: If only I’d taken note of the preamble’s instruction to “trace the ship’s positions at the end of each fortnight”, then I might have ended up with a far less blocky map, which is probably what Harribobs had in mind. Oh well. 🙂

Until next time, and a little poetry care of Triton.

The end of the Easter holidays, and a weekend when I’m busy with lots of other things, so I don’t get a chance to look at this for a couple of days. Thankfully the preamble looks friendly enough. Each definition has lost a letter that spells out works by the mysterious 9d. A couple of other unclued entries as well, lots of talk of deliveries, and some things that need highlighting. Onwards, and a good start when the completely random clue I first pick out, 15ac, is one I can get – BAAL, a “fusion of (M)any gods”. Hurrah! The right hand side of the grid’s a little trickier, in particular the SE corner, and it takes an inspired guess with some crossing letters on the unclued 9d to make much progress – VICTORIA WOOD, isn’t it? With a little help from Google then the other unclued entries, “recipients of a delivery from 9d” must be Celia IMRIE and Duncan PRESTON.

So a full grid, albeit with much agonising over 20d, which it transpires is somewhere obscure in the Midlands. To those extra letters, which are supposed to spell out something. As is traditional at this point I spot all kinds of cock-ups I’ve made along the way, and sort them out, to give:


I’ve only heard of the last two, but they’re all by 9d. To the final highlighting – 23 cells, giving us items ordered, a carrier, and what was actually delivered. It takes a little digging on Google, but it must be this classic sketch, which yes, I do remember:

The items ordered, TWO SOUPS, carried of sorts by Julie WALTERS. What was actually delivered? Two empty bowls, which proves a little difficult to spot. But down south, there is a TWO, albeit skew-whiff, and BehOWLS. Two empty bowls? I haven’t got any better ideas, so that’ll do. Feel free to point out the very obvious I’ve missed.

Edited to note: Of course, if I’d looked a bit harder, I might have noticed that I’d made a right mess of 31d, and spotted the TWO BOWLS in sequence. A case of not being able to see the wood for the trees.

Many thanks to Eclogue for more comedy gold. 🙂

IQ 1487

Until next week, and all aboard the good ship Harribobs.

Bics, a setter I don’t think I’ve seen before. It’s the Easter weekend, so are we going to get something to keep us occupied for a few days, or the opportunity to get on with those jobs that (I’ve been told) need doing? The preamble looks straightforward enough, which is promising. Nothing odd going on with the clues, we’re just looking to highlight the man in question, and remove 20 letters from the finished grid. The clues are a little tricky, as you expect when there’s no jiggery-pokery going on, and there’s a fair amount of hunting through Chambers required, but the grid is filling, fairly rapidly too, though with a little trouble at the end on 19ac which isn’t in the big red book, but Google to the rescue to confirm.

To the end game, which is basically a lot of hunting round the grid looking for likely suspects, and Googling to find out if they make any sense. And there he is. Gorgas, in the SE corner, “best known for his work in Florida, Havana and at the Panama Canal in abating the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry them at a time when there was considerable skepticism and opposition to such measures.” Lo and behold, YELLOW FEVER runs diagonally from the SW to NE corner, so that’s 11 letters to rub out, our “problem”, and just the primary causes to find, which must be those mosquitoes, though we’ve only got 9 letters to play with. According to Google we’re most likely looking for AEDES, the yellow fever mosquito, and there it is in the NW corner, running left to right. Four letters to play with, so the rest must cross it, obviously, so why did it take me so long to spot another AEDES running down the grid from that one? Blame Friday night…

Nice and easy as these go, then, and time to get on with that painting.

Until next week, and another delivery from Eclogue.