Inquisitor 1668 Q by Vismut

October 20, 2020

I know, you saw Q, thought Question, and then this too.

Though I bet you didn’t have to guess as much as I did. Letters, you see, ones we have to overlook for one reason or another. And to be quite frank after a late night followed by hours lying wide awake worrying about things that are completely beyond my control as I’m guessing lots of us do nowadays… Yep, my already flaky parsing skills weren’t up to it.

My “25 letters” jotted across the top of the grid being somewhat akin to REC?LLE?TYI?ON???OC?HA??PPYLLFE. Now, I don’t know who’ll be blogging this over on Fifteensquared, but I’m betting their version will be a lot more coherent. And that they didn’t need to get down to some hard googling to find Recollections of a Happy Life, and hence Marianne North. But there’s her gallery in the middle of the grid, highlighted a fetching shade of pink, and within that something about SOIL and PAINTING. Because that was her thing, apparently. I went for green for those. It felt more thematic than my earlier choice.

The other letters, the 10. I only managed to get 6, being WADKNR, but if I were a betting man I’d say they constitute KEW GARDENS, which is where said gallery is situated.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Said guesswork is a pity, because the grid fill consisted of little except where I needed a modicum of luck. Even the feared obligatory Scottish word being one that took the briefest scouring to find in the BRB.

Prize for the most interesting word to GILGAI, for the cutest to TALCY. We don’t often get cute words in the IQ.

And Q? I guess because it sounds like, well, Kew.

Listening en route: Don’t Get Lost, including the irresistibly titled Throbbing Gristle. Enjoy.

So, you’re feeling somewhat frayed too. Autumn is here with the added frisson this wonderful year of Covid. Reasonable excuse. What does that mean, anyway? It’s raining, we’re all getting claustrophobic, and the memory of last week’s Inquisitor rout looms large.

For a while this looked like being another. Is it just me or were the clues this week particularly fiendish? Consisting of not just extra letters in some, but of entries that needed adjusting before entry in the grid. The latter is wont to result in much soul-searching on my part. A quarter of the solving time resulting in only four entries in the grid I was indeed ready to throw in the towel.

TRUMPET TREE to the rescue, being a nice long entry. We like nice long entries. The belated discovery that we have RATs missing from the adjusted ones. PratING, PIratES, and so on. Rats everywhere, but not being indoors the council won’t dispose of the things in “the current climate”, almost as if that were a convenient money-saving-excuse. At least they’ve cut the grass. Small mercies.

False step alert. Rats being disposed of, and leaders to follow, means the central entry is obviously the PIED one himself. Well, he will be at the close, but the crossing entries don’t work for the moment. Getting ahead of myself again. Our favourite old tax lies to the SW, though the volunteers are at least acknowledged as being “old”, a blow to crossword setters everywhere.

And, oh, if 5ac is BUKSHI I’ve no idea why. But what’s new.

Grid full. See, I managed it this week.

The hints from the extra letters. The first couple, well, I don’t where they fit. S something? The rest though is all about the piper himself AND IN DID COME THE STRANGEST FIGURE. At last we can amend BOYS AND GIRLS for what is not only a strange but sinister FIGURE. Yep, the child snatcher always frightened me too. Still does, truth be told.

Phew. Done, I think. Good stuff, Serpent, good stuff. But my brain. It hurts.

An ill wind indeed. A complete rout has been coming my way for a while – a bodged end-game is pretty much par for the course, together with the odd unforced error, but failure to stagger across the finish line has been notable by its absence in some time.

Yet here we are. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood, feeling somewhat emotionally and physically exhausted after delivering the oldest to university in what are troubled times for such things. Perhaps the preamble left me feeling somewhat daunted. Could be.

Early indications were actually pretty good after realising that it wasn’t in fact a jigsaw sort of thing. Answers fairly flying in, albeit with what appear to be clashes. Did Harpy mention clashes? Well, there are the across answers that need to be modified before entry. Perhaps that’s it.

And letters moved left before solving the downs. Those I can do. An educated guess being that they result in Georgie Porgie, though I never did solve all of them. An equally educated guess based on 1666 says that we’re looking for something to do with the Great Fire of London. Pudding Lane, you see. And that the seven blank cells in a line will contain said date in Roman Numerals. Except my seven blank cells aren’t in a line. With MARY, TOO, WINTERY, etc, we’ve left a gap. I can’t find anywhere else to leave a gap.

My grid’s a mess of rubbed out clashes rewritten and then erased and… You get the picture. In my wisdom having decided that I was going to resolve them pretty early on.

I can see lots of letters that make up London that are perhaps the 28 we’re looking for. The crossword gods alone though know what the 44 cells are supposed to represent. Oh, and Harpy.

Letters to highlight? P, from “puddings and pie”? But why pie?

Towel duly thrown in. Nul points. Well and truly beaten. Oh well, there’s always next week.

First thoughts this week were one of alarm. The grid being distinctly odd looking, clues printed in a type small enough to lead to speculation on the need for stronger glasses, and the preamble. Yes, what a lot of it there is. Thankfully for the first bit all we need to know is that some clues have superfluous words.

The gods having smiled upon us, by the time I got round to solving the thing the biting wind had subsided, the sun come out, which meant that I could venture outside and dispense with the magnifying glass. For the clues themselves the phrase pearls before swine leaps to mind, because while in my slightly addled Saturday morning state I was aware of the quality of the goods on show, I found myself lacking the requisite to wax lyrical and truly appreciate what was on offer. For that you’ll be wanting to nip over to Fifteensquared, but I’ll just note that this is indeed quality stuff. And that I indeed spotted the extra words, and thought 21ac very neatly done with Dunkirk and Bader pointing you towards exactly the wrong sort of fly, this one being flightless, apparently, a misnomer if I ever saw one.

Voila. Though careful readers will note a couple of mistakes, in particular at 17ac where the endgame came to the rescue. Was I the only person to notice BEAGLE hidden in the grid too? Hints of Chalicea’s EV of a few weeks back. And APOLLO reminiscent of a different EAGLE altogether.

Talking of which, those extra words. Well, one lot were colours, and another lot flowery / planty sort of things. And the letters we didn’t use from each? Both looked slightly unlikely at first glance, but behold they weren’t, actually being characters from The Scarlet Pimpernel – Citizen Chauvelin and Marguerite St Just.

The Scarlet one it transpires handily for the setter has the same number of letters in his pseudonym as his real one – Sir Percy Blakeney – which we have to substitute in the grid, though not before I’d gone looking the him in the clues instead for reasons that elude me now. Handily, it was at this point that I found I’d lobbed in an S rather than E at the end of AREOLAE, explaining also why I’d failed spectacularly to parse the clue.

Oh yes, highlighting. I like highlighting. 15 cells, presumably being parts of “They seek him here, the seek him there, etc”. THERE and HERE doubling up to make the count.

That wasn’t as scary as it looked, was it? Though it was all very time consuming, not that I noticed at the time because I-was-having-so-much-fun.

Oh yes, Ethereal.

It’s a Phi-fest, our favourite Antipodean setter having doubled up again. A preamble thankfully short of gimmicks, as extra letters, etc, had begun to tire somewhat. Encryption sort of stuff to sort out, and such is the state of my head that I’m not sure if I was hoping this kind of thing would come up, or whether I glanced at the puzzle first thing and thought, oh good. The result either way being a thumbs up from these quarters.

Even if it took until about halfway through to realise that the encoded entries actually had clues to go with them. Making possibly the on-the-face-of-it seemingly impossible. See, they’re in italics too. Phi knew we’d need the extra nudge.

Lots of musical stuff of the highbrow kind Phi revels in and I remain blissfully ignorant of – BOHM and IBERT somewhat obscure, but with user-friendly entry-level wordplay to compensate. Entry level wordplay is what I need this week. REYNOLDS an equally obscure painter to the SW, special trips to the BRB required elsewhere for POISHA, KARAIT and last but not least LYSOSOMAL. Trips to the BRB we welcome and enjoy over the course of the weekend.

A moment of self-doubt on looking at the encoded entries. Because cold solving really isn’t my thing. But… EATS and STAR nice and easy, and, look, we have lots of checking letters in the others, because they really don’t seem to utilise that many. Belatedly too the realisation that the encoded entries are real words. A wild guess at the one name in the key being ROSETTA leading nowhere, ETON finally fell, and it became clear the two names in the key were ESTRAGON and VLADIMIR, being characters from Waiting for Godot which I of course know but have never seen.

The three others in the grid are going to be impossible to find? Well, no, as the play doesn’t actually have many names associated with it. POZZO, LUCKY and GODOT himself being the ones we’re looking for. One’s even in plain text, and the other two only partially encrypted – PIZZI and MIDIA, if I’ve got it right.

There, that wasn’t too fierce, was it? And fun? Yes, fun too. Something tells me this one’s going to be a bit of a hit.

This weekend we’re winning from the start given that we have a paper, unlike readers of other popular titles, xxxx Rebellion having taken it upon themselves to “free the news” by, um, ensuring that loads of people couldn’t get any. As if to prove once more that current affairs these days is beyond satire.

To the puzzle. Well, that consisted of a description of the endgame which made no sense but instructions to decipher superfluous letters that did. Said superfluous letters plus loads of thematic, unclued entries making for a fairly solid slog through the grid, much time being spent working out what a Scot’s dearest might be (JO, apparently), and that ENVOY might equate to final words of some description. A smattering of geography, my weak point, no doubt to tempt us to glance at the quite beautiful map slipped in with the latest i Weekend.

The close left all clued entries complete, a few guesses at ROZZERS and INVERSE SQUARE for the unclued, and a general pig’s ear of the extra letters with lots of question marks. Pig’s ears of such things being something I generally end up with, and generally sort out. This week thankfully wasn’t the exception, leaving LAW IS A BOTTOMLESS PIT THE HISTORY OF JOHN BULL.

Luckily we didn’t need to know anything about the latter, and all the “laws” could be Googled, even the extremely obscure Jewish one across the top. And the downs? Well, none made sense on solving because they were bottomless pits, see? ABYS(s), DEPRESSIO(n), the hard-to-find HANG(i) and so on. Which raised a smile, and bored everyone I tried to explain it to afterwards.

Oh yes, highlighting. Well, that was another example of both. By the close the preamble made sense, which hopefully means the below is (sort of) correct. And even it isn’t I enjoyed the ride, so thanks, Eclogue.

The long Bank Holiday weekend = a stinker of an Inquisitor? Well, no, thankfully, because I’m not up to it. Yep, you kicked off the weekend with an orgy of drink, Reading highlights and extended Buffy The Vampire Slayer retrospective too? The gist being that Saturday morning came round far too soon and I was:

  1. Glad of a grid fill with which I could cope, albeit with a mind-blowing number of clues to get to grips with.
  2. Pleased with clear and lucid instructions (courtesy of our old favourite the extra letters generated from wordplay): EVICT SQUATTERS FROM RESIDENCE.
  3. Equally pleased to have little option but to enter NOTUS, and have a suspected theme by way of TOAD confirmed by CHAPTER TITLE IN GRAHAME BOOK, said book of course being Wind In The Willows.

See, we have a wind, two willows (OSIER and SALLOW), TOAD and HALL too. And, yep, WEASELS to evict. Kruger’s even been considerate enough to tell us how many cells we’re looking for in each case. Other setters may take note (glancing at the solution grid to the right of the page that nobody it appears actually got right).

No grid fill would be complete without a debacle, and mine was falling into the deliberate I’m sure URAL / ARAL SEA one, leaving only clearly erroneous lawsuits to fill the NE corner. Let’s WASSAIL instead.

Done, dusted, in the sun too that is shining for the first time this August, and that after too little sleep and a little more beer and whisky than anticipated.

Look, the closing date such as it is these days falls in September, that most hated of months. And this year, well, hold on tight. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Boom.

I find myself with little to say about eXtent’s latest offering, not because of the puzzle itself which was as enjoyable as ever, but due to my deficiencies in actually solving the thing. I therefore find myself blogging over a week later over the bank holiday weekend, and my memory being such that it is…

But why did it take so long, I hear you ask? Well, that would be, because, having mulled for a little while how to use four lines to connect the blank cells, I leapt to Google for help and found the tried and trusted solution to the 9-dot problem, marked the lines with a highlighter and settled back, content with a job well done.

It would be many passing days before I thought, hang on, we were supposed to start to the SE and end to the N (as per the extra letters we didn’t need for the grid fill), and so while the letters outside the grid do indeed tell us that we should be THINKING OUTSIDE THE GRID, simply nipping over to Google was going to generate a solution leading to nothing but nul points.

Inertia being what it is, it took me another week and another Inquisitor to print out and transcribe another grid, which I hope I’ve done properly because I’m not doing it again. Careful readers will note the bit of paper stuck onto the blank square to the SW because I wasn’t careful enough this time either.

Voila. I think.

In which Penumbra informed us that we were to seek out five things created by somebody called Charles and I answer that there are rather a lot of things created by people called Charles and that in searching for the exact ones he has in mind I think my head is going to explode.

It being that sort of solve.

To be fair extra words are for the most part easy to spot, and grid fills devoid of other trickery aren’t actually that mind-blowingly difficult. Barring a mistaken SURFACED for SURFACER and YAWS for YAWL, that is, which…

Well, actually, both mistakes helped as they sharpened my mind in the SE corner where I’d been gazing wistfully at that grey (not silver!) cell for far too long before thinking WONDE could, followed by a handy R and L make up WONDERLAND, or WONDERL& perhaps if I’ve guessed correctly what was meant by “cryptically”.

Because there was a lot of guessing involved in this, and said guessing took a long time. Oh yes, Wonderland, because Lewis Carroll wasn’t his real name, see. ¬£BURY though that wasn’t created by anybody called Charles though the heir apparent was involved somehow I understand. E@ANSWILL which was that obscure I had to spend five minutes working it out again by the time I wrote this because… I’d forgotten again. Does $=IS? Who can tell, but I’ve gone with WHATD$AY for a Ray Charles song I’d not heard of.

Leaving 3 cells by my calculations, which varied searches seem to imply must be PRADO with a lesser known symbol for RAD. But there again it might not be, because there’s no way of checking if the above is all a figment of my fevered imagination.

Ah well, the solution will lay bare my incompetence and inability to mind-read Penumbra’s well-hidden intentions.

Oh yes, the last thing I didn’t get. The title. Shrugs…

In which the lady thankfully vanishes given her proclivity to be in the altogether. GODIVA herself plus a NAKED LADY which is one entry I’d recommend checking in the BRB rather than via Google which it’s safe to say returns results NSFW. These, together with BONER at 2d and CHLAMYDIAL at 10ac left me wondering if The Ace of Hearts had a very different theme in mind at one point, but we’ll never know.

Other things learnt are that the IQ isn’t a puzzle to tackle on the hottest day of the year after packing the car, driving a hundred odd miles home and then unpacking. Whoosh, that’s my solving skills sailing out the window. Not only did I struggle with the entries with clashes, but those without for good measure.

Thankfully superfluous letters I’m an old hand at so I’M ABOUT AS POPULAR AS A DOSE OF STRYCHNINE was a bit of a shoo-in, Google knows which film it comes from, and thus the instruction to make the ladies vanish. The ones in the clashes, you see. CHATTERLEY, MACBETH, HAMILTON and IRON in addition to those already given honourable mentions above.

Naked being what we’ll all be getting unless this heatwave buggers off soon, I’m off for a cold one and, well… Last week’s IQ, these blogs being written in reverse order.

Before the lady vanished (and you’ll have to take my word for it regarding the clashes):

And after: