Inquisitor 1768 MD by Penumbra

September 20, 2022

An unusually bulky i Weekend would greet us this Saturday morning. It must have been a quiet news day, though, because most appears to have been devoted to one story.

The constant alerts from the BBC News app had given fair warning.

The latest news: The Queen is dead.

Newsflash: The Queen is still dead.

Latest: Nope, still no sign of a recovery.

So that the Inquisitor would come as more of a relief than it usually does, there being nothing on the telly.

It would be safe to say that the general feeling in the country was somewhere near the bottom of today’s grid – DEPRESSION, WOE, with only the odd few expressing feelings of JOY or EXULTATION, and then not publicly.

Because, yes, our misprints this week were to read FRAME OF MIND. MD you see, which was really rather neat.

Almost as neat as the revelation that we might be over THE MOON, or under A CLOUD. I’d like to say I spotted both quicker than I did.

Less neat was the DEPRESSION and WOE that would descend as I spent a good couple of days while steadfastly avoiding the “news” looking for three letters to change to reveal the origin of the “ideal MD”.

Sunday evening I threw caution to the wind and looked in the preamble for clues. Clues which it revealed could be found (fittingly enough) in the clued entries. HOPE I’d already spotted, but look, there’s OPTIMISM too.

Could the origin be a RAY of HOPE? Maybe, and it does have being appropriately placed between the two extremes going for it, though colour me uncertain bordering on severely doubtful. PREM fits, and ANYS is a name I don’t think I knew, but I haven’t got anything better so here goes for nothing.

And the Queen? The Queen Is (still) Dead.

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After the travails of last weekend’s offering, thankfully something that looks like it’s a little more tractable. One that is likely to give the poor blogger less headaches, and more time to enjoy… The steady rain which marks the return to school and a descent into Autumn proper. As I’ve finally put my back out trying to get the garden in order for the winter, a break of several months will be appreciated. Unless there is painting and other “indoor jobs” lined up to fill the interim.

Coding. Proper encryption stuff. Not the sort of stuff that gets you noticed by GCHQ, but as the whole grid has to be done this is serious business. Serious enough that my first thought on reading the preamble was – bugger it, I’m not going to erase the lot and fill in the grid again, but call on the services of the humble spreadsheet to sort it out and hope I can work out how to screenshot the thing.

Thus you will be relieved this week to not have to decipher my untidy scrawl, but browse through not one, but two grids in clear text where it will be all to easy to spot the inevitable errors.

But the grid fill. We had redundant words in a handful of clues that were going to offer up the key for the encryption bit, and a handful too of unclued entries. So far so IQ.

And so I proceeded, feeling slightly the worse for wear, Saturday morning to complete the SW and NE corners of the grid. Two things became clear:

  • Phi was being gentle with the poor solver.
  • The unclued entries were in text that would only be readable following the final encoding stage.

Which was fine and dandy until I got rather stuck on the rest of the puzzle, and couldn’t complete the latter to get some desperately needed checking letters.

No matter, I thought, I’ve got sufficient (five to be exact) of the redundant words to pluck first and last letters from the same, generating the two words that will make up the key.

Except that the first two redundant words were QUICKSAND and VOW, which don’t lead readily to any words I know.

A closer stare later (and probably because I spend a lot of time staring at a keyboard), QWERT(Y) jumped out, and from the other letters DVORA(K), which is apparently an alternative keyboard layout as well as being the name of pretty famous composer, though I wouldn’t think of that at the time being pretty slow on the uptake when it comes to such leaps of logic.

Line up the letters from each keyboard layout then, in order, one above the other, to give the key. And start coding some of the unclued entries.

At which point a Google search based on likely looking letters between the ones I had revealed that they’re all works by… Yes, you guessed it, Dvořák. Pretty neat, eh?

So all that was left was to complete the grid fill, having re-coded the unclued entries, giving the grid below.

Initial Grid

And then code the lot, with copious thanks to Google Sheets and the VLookup function.

Final Grid

Now, I did like that. At this point I would sometimes point you to Fifteensquared for a more expert view on the puzzle, but they’ve got a new guy on this week and I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing.

My record solving the IQ of late can safely be said to have been patchy at best. The endgame messed up well and truly on the last two, and this week’s? This week was one I thought for a long time I would barely start, let alone finish.

Which is all rather alarming as I’m supposed to be doing a spot of blogging for Fifteensquared where rather better is expected. And this puzzle was almost my debut.

Yikes, Scooby.

The Bank Holiday weekend. On the Saturday we were off to visit the in-laws in the afternoon. I was rather hungover. Up a little later than expected. No problem, I thought, I’ll spend a little time in the morning making good inroads into the puzzle and knock out the rest in the evening if I’ve not finished.

The reality was a handful of clues solved, and increasing despair at my inability to make head or tail of the rest. Admittedly, this was in part due to my assumption that the two clues in one format meant that they were side by side with a neat dividing line, and not mashed up randomly as they were with wordplay here, wordplay there, definitions everywhere.

Oh, and some answers which needed to be somewhere else altogether, and mysteriously treated. My hope that the “mixed” in Mixed Doubles signified a simple anagram would turn out to be a forlorn one.

The trip to England would therefore begin and end with a few clues solved, a few entered in the grid, and the expected evening solve lost to a “let’s have a quick look around town” which meant that we didn’t get home until an ungodly hour.

Progress Sunday could best be described as being equally slow, not aided by several hours lost to the latest instalment in our Harry Potter marathon.

And so it would be Bank Holiday Monday morning, with most of the day to be lost to a trip to the seaside, that light would dawn and the grid fall.

The revelations would come in this order:

  • That the Miller in question was SIENNA, and not Glenn.
  • That the MARKS and ROWAN I’d guessed were thematic answers were in fact the other half of pairs, though this would only become clear on getting PROCTER. Marks and Spencer, Rowan and Martin, Procter and Gamble, etc, you see, the one being the answer to the clue, the other being what was entered. Which is rather neat, even if it took an absolute age to spot.

And thus the final quarter of the solve would become something of a doddle, and I could venture to the beach with a full grid and clear conscience, if feeling somewhat tired and emotional by the close.

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Who doesn’t enjoy a game of WORDLE (The New York Times™)? A pretty high proportion of crossword solvers seem to, based on my twitter feed. I will say, though, that in 8-9 months of playing, I’ve yet to encounter anything as outré as FICHU, never mind XYLYL. The latter one worth bearing in mind for the next game of Scrabble. Picture that on a triple word score.

First though this week we had to actually work out what game we were playing, and get some of the answers into the grid. Ofttimes it feels like jigsaws are just designed to up the difficulty level, but this week was one where it felt justified. Perhaps it’s just because I liked the theme. Perhaps it’s because I enjoyed cold-solving loads of the clues, even the ones I struggled with. The latter may have been down to a pint of Reverend James too many, as it took far too long to spot the anagram indicator in the lone 7 letter answer, but there you go.

Talking of the 7 letter answer, and the two 6 letter ones, was I alone in feeling somewhat alarmed to find them both on the left hand side of the grid, leaving two blocks to the right that were pretty identical?

Thought not.

Bet though I was in a minority in not spotting for too long that entries spanning both sides of the grid were in fact single words, and key, with a little help from the BRB, to filling the RHS.

Revealing WORDLE, and a game of the same to fill the unclued entries. Highlight the same green (correct), and we’re done. Regarding the 89 other cells – it would appear that some players see black squares in their Wordle. Mine if incorrect are all white, so white they stay.

Which was all very enjoyable, and in fact the most I’ve enjoyed an Inquisitor in a while. This, combined with a pleasant walk, a drink, a little gentle shopping, and finding out that the two youngest did not in fact need any new shoes for school this year, was leading to a very relaxed, equally enjoyable weekend.

And then we noticed that the toilet was blocked, right through the pipe and into the inspection chamber, and thus was the evening spent.

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The last puzzle from Karla if I remember rightly was to do with a certain well known spaghetti western.  This time the film theme continues with another modern day classic in the shape of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, the one with the melting face.

Melting we are too in the shape of a heatwave that is all the more severe for having returned from the wild, cooler west coast of Wales after two weeks holiday meaning that it is safe to say that we are not accustomed to such temperatures, these being a very un-British thing. What’s wrong with a bit of steady drizzle? Thankfully, that appears is due over the next couple of days. It does though give me an excuse to not do the gardening as it is simply too hot to do so.

The puzzle. I’ll start by saying that I’m not convinced that my lines and highlighting are correct. Do my lines converge on the “graphic” – the thingy presumably which goes on top of the staff in the movie. I’ve taken them as representing each side of the staff, and thence two lines to the ARK in the SE corner. I was expecting to do something with SOL which we’d moved up (had risen presumably) to the three blank cells, but it appears not, unless I’ve badly misread the preamble for what would be the millionth time.

I have though gone mad and added an extra bit of uncalled for highlighting to represent the sun spotlighting the ark.

The grid fill, I hear you cry. Fairly gentle, as a matter of fact. Misprints leading to the most famous quote from the film, which I’d already identified thanks to STAFF, SNAKES and BULLWHIP. Clues that were forgiving of the poor, gently melting solver, with much amusement, probably dis-proportionally so, to be gained from the definition at 35ac. Oh, and a very nicely hidden to accompany it too.

Which is all to say that this alleviated very nicely the blow of the coming return to work, the fact that the world is on fire, and that I really will have to vacuum that sand out of the car.

The title? Well, as all good Indy fans know, Indy is the good Dr Henry Jones (Jr).

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I am in danger of being left speechless regarding Nudd’s puzzle as a week has passed from solving it in the much cooler, more pleasant climes of West Wales rather than the baking temperatures we’re enduring further east.

I do recall that the grid fill was a pleasant, fairly gentle one, with corrections to misprints yielding pretty easily.

Which isn’t to say that I was found rather short at the close. No matter, I decided, the quote will surely jump out obviating the need to knuckle down and get them all.

Well, nothing did jump out, at which point I thought – throw caution to the wind, Jon – and actually got down to sorting out the misprints. As they led to the rather amusing HE DIDN’T QUITE GET HIS LEG OVER courtesy of Jonathan Agnew (AGGERS) and Test Match Special, the time could safely have said to have been well spent.

Do all cricket presents have to be nicknamed something ERS? Maybe not, but we have also SAGGERS,  JOHNNERS (Brian Johnston) and the probably apocryphal THE BOWLER’S HOLDING THE BATSMAN’S WILLEY attributed to the latter hidden in the finished grid.

Which got a laugh from the kids who are used to enduring things a lot less so when I regale them with tales of the latest crossword.

Enjoyed then, amused and entertained too, so thanks to all involved, and apologies for my failing memory.

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It’s August, which means a retreat to the darkest depths of West Wales to get away from it all for a couple of weeks. Away from everything but the Inquisitor that is and it appears Serpent too, as he’s occupying both slots in this weekend’s i.

A slightly alarming preamble this week too, with the promise of unknown letters slipping into the perimeter of the grid. A jigsaw in all but name then, as we have no idea which letter to shift? There is also the promise of something useful to be gleaned from the first and last letters of superfluous words, which it transpires would help, but that would only come a fair way into the solve with what was a fairly messy grid full of letters that were evidently all in the wrong place.

The grid fill being some days past, during which time several pints of the local brew and one or two Welsh Cakes have been consumed, I can recall little beyond a general impression that Serpent was being fairly gentle with us mere mortals.

How did you set about getting some of the answers into the grid? A lot more logically I bet than my fairly random “system” which involved merely lobbing them in in light pencil, shoving a first or last letter into the border, and hoping for the best.

This would lead inevitably to a lot of rubbings out, and general rework, but it would lead, eventually, to the realisation that the first letter from the superfluous word in each clue was the one that had to move into the border.

Cue more rework, the spotting of BUFFALO GALS to the north, south, east, and, well, west too, and the name of one Mr McLaren and his band in the last letters from the superfluous words, and basically, game over surprisingly quickly after what had proved to be a suitably inquisitorial start to the puzzle.

Highlight DUCK ROCK in the thankfully correct(ish possibly) looking grid, and we’re done.

An enjoyable start to my holiday then, and thankfully it transpires not too tasking as I’m far from operating on all four cylinders. Onwards then to the next glass of SA.

The run of easier Inquisitors continues with the always light and fluffy but invariably entertaining Chalicea. In today’s case much of the solving time was spent trying to work out what had happened to two members of a fictional family in a book I have not read. TIED TO A TREE and EATEN BY ANTS being the intriguing answers, from A HUNDRED YEARS of Solitude (or SOLEDAD in the original language thanks to the misprints).

The author I’m guessing you knew. If you didn’t, you should have. 😉

Misprints would lead to a little agonising over whether “Chase” (leading to SIC) was actually one, but it is, of course, the kind of sic associated with setting a dog on the sort of miscreants who try to start grass fires in the middle of a heatwave. I have the evidence on camera, though thankfully we were not forced to endure the scenes seen down London way.

And thankfully the heat has passed to give way to some good, British drizzle.

And the usual mid-summer exhaustion, so I was thankful today for something a little light and fluffy and, yes, fun.

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Shared Identity because we are all, well, SPARTACUS, presumably.

This week was one of those when I think – what we could do with in the Inquisitor is a difficulty rating, because this was one of those puzzles you’d recommend to newish solvers who would find much that was familiar, with the likes of ADAM ANT old friends to many.

Which is not to detract from the puzzle’s enjoyment value, which received top marks, with added plaudits for some entertaining forays into the BRB from OTAKU onwards.

We had the obligatory cock-up to be cleared up thanks to the endgame, with the ALAN / ALUN quandary, at least for those of us with middling to poor parsing skills. Thank the crossword gods then for KIRK, STANLEY, etc, to clear up any ambiguities and / or doubts.

Director and some of the stars of said epic being the required highlighting, together with the film’s name. A glance at the associated Wikipedia page reveals that it’s yet another that KUBRICK disowned. Did he actually like any of his films?

No matter. This was solved and, yes, thoroughly enjoyed, in a quick session sitting in a gentle breeze in front of an open window, proving satisfactorily that the advice in the heatwave to “keep windows closed to keep out the heat” should be taken with a pinch of salt. At least in these parts where the breezes are often fierce. On the other hand the worst is yet to come, so come back next week to see if I’m eating my words.

I would eat my hat, but it appears I may need it.

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Puzzlement this week not only in the form of yet another monster preamble (with a quite fiendish device as it turns out), but a murder mystery of sorts. Knowing the Inquisitor the mystery won’t be of the sort expected from the title.

It being that rare thing in Wales, a heatwave, solving locations would include: the living room while trying to avoid the midday heat, a shaded spot in the garden early evening, and Sainsbury’s car-park halfway through, which was neither cool nor relaxing. It was there, though, that I would spot KT BOUNDARY across the one diagonal, so one shouldn’t complain.

The youngest two having decided to go to the local fair, where to paraphrase the story told after, people were being sick everywhere courtesy of the rides and copious junk food on sale, the day was a relatively quiet one.

Fiendish devices. Have we had words in the wrong clue before? I don’t remember, but my memory isn’t all that great. It turns out this makes the solver’s life most difficult. Thankfully, the pairings were consecutive ones, but still, it would be halfway through the downs before I would find anything to put into the grid. An anagram, but I couldn’t tell you which one now. Blame the poor memory referenced just moments ago. Blame the heat.

What I do remember is that DUUMVIRI wins the prize for the oddest looking word of the week, and that DEAD, should it be correct, caused the most problems at the close.

Middle letters in the misplaced words led to HOLES AND IMPACT CRATER IN MUXICAN PENBNSULA, but that’s pretty good going for me, and led via a vague inkling and Wikipedia to a great big hole in the ground down Mexico way that was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs. Or rather, the thing that hit it.

Jaques is adamant that it’s the YUCATAN COMET, and perhaps he’s right, but I still spent a lot of time looking for a large asteroid to draw a line through.

The aforementioned KT BOUNDARY is apparently now the KP boundary (think crisps), which does make me wonder if I’ve fallen into a particularly fiendish trap somewhere, but, well, perhaps not. The letters moved in CAME and UNNEST leading rather neatly to a change from CENOZOIC to MESOZOIC, being the eras that came before and after said cataclysm. The latter includes us, apparently.

Who knew? Well, Jaques of course. Pretty neat, all that. And a preamble that fell together satisfyingly at the close, which is just the way I like them.

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