Do you know how many pieces of verse have been written about butterflies? I must admit to having been previously unaware, but have now read a great deal on the subject. We were looking for a male author, which ruled out many of the thousands on offer, and Wordsworth thanks to the hint in the preamble ruling out a further two, but that still left Pavel Friedman, Robert Frost, Thomas Higginson, William Lisle Bowles, and even Lewis Carroll amongst others, the latter thanks to a scan of the ODQ and a likely looking ditty regarding butterflies and mutton-pie.

I would add that a good twenty-four hours were spent agonising about which particular bit of verse we should be applying. Because while the butterfly was evidently the common factor in the extra words in the across clues, how to cryptically represent it was a different matter. My serious consideration for a long time was synonyms for butter and flies. Ifor, the wag, had anticipated this with SHEA, two RAMs, a GOAT, and TSETSES dotted about the grid, together with others no doubt I thankfully haven’t found.

So it would be, rather battered and bruised, accompanied by feelings of general despair and self-loathing, that I would chance on a poem by Alexander Pope that mentioned a butterfly, being from the Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot – “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?”

The word WHO in the grid indeed breaking up BUTTERFLY.

I’m presuming we need to turn the wheel, creating new words, which I’ve done, perhaps correctly, perhaps not, and it feels even more of a stretch than that required to find the correct verse and apply it.

Which is to say that this weekend’s puzzle falls foul of my bĂȘte noire – the reasonably straightforward grid fill (which was most enjoyable), followed by substantially more effort required to unpick an end-game that seemed to involve a lot of guess-work. Perhaps the Abbot Ale consumed the night before won’t have helped. Or the illness sweeping through the household. You’ll probably tell me you sailed through this. But never mind, there’s always next week, and I will admit that the anagram of the author’s name in the right hand column is pretty neat. It’s just a pity I didn’t spot it until after completion. Perhaps it was the beer…

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Yikes was the operative word on looking at this week’s preamble – lots of stuff about encoding, entries to be changed, etc. It’s enough to make the poor solver want to throw in the towel at the outset. Except that a closer look confirmed two things – that the grid fill required entry of only two encoded items, and that the finished version contains real words / names. That’s more than a fighting chance to you and me.

The two encoded entries would turn out to be to the NW and SE, and both be countries. I didn’t spot it at first, but what’s actually entered in the grid are horses. The only debate regarding the first being whether it was PIEBALD or PYEBALD. That pesky unchecked letter. As it was, the end game would sort out that ambiguity, as it often does.

First though would be the sort of steady, rigorous solve that typifies many an Inquisitor solve when the clues are normal ones. There seemed to be more than the average number I couldn’t parse, in particular the S&M one. By Saturday morning I’m often not up to this sort of thing, in particular when it has been One Of Those Weeks, so this should come as no surprise to the regular reader.

A highlight would have to be PING for “check on PC”, perhaps due to a working career doing exactly that on a tiresomely regular basis which meant that it leapt to mind with surprising alacrity.

The “well-known dramatic line”? Well, it was pretty well known. My thoughts leapt Cornick’s way straight away, thinking – this would be right up his street. Kingdoms, horses, and all that jazz. Thus the aforementioned horses in place of countries.

I didn’t know the name of the horse from the story, but Google did, giving the one-letter change to the SW – SURREY. As if to point us in the right direction, Dysart had very generously crossed it with YORKER.

All that was left was to find kingdoms to replace with horses, being ENGLAND -> MUSTANG and REALM to the lesser known TAKHI, and to work out which letters we would need to amend, via the code used at 1ac and 43ac, to give RICHARD III. As there was no Y, but with the requirement for several I’s, the aforementioned ambiguity was thus duly resolved.

Pretty neat, eh? I would like to say that this was solved in the warm sunshine that was, indeed, shining, but it being accompanied by gale force winds, it wasn’t. But that’s the great British summer for you, and this being a non-Jubilee weekend there was something worth watching on the television.

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So, Phi’s accustomed Saturday cryptic spot was presumably moved to make way for… Phi in the Inquisitor, and not an unwanted J****** themed puzzle as feared.

An alarming looking preamble this week, it must be said. Extra letters yielded from 8 clues, no problem. The other clues being paired a fair bet that we were going to have definitions in one clue, and wordplay in another. Which can often make life somewhat difficult for the poor solver.

A quick skim through the across clues led to that sinking feeling I often get with a puzzle I haven’t even begun to get to grips with. Thankfully, with the downs light dawned when it occurred that the 13 letter 1d might be matched with the symmetrically placed 6d. The latter being a tricky but solvable anagram of a crystalline form I’d unsurprisingly not heard of, the other a more gettable PA(I)NTS TRIPPER, we were in business, picking off the paired clues which once you got the hang of it turned out to be pretty straightforward.

As were the ones with the extra letters, apart from NUB (missing an X) which I needed the endgame to parse.

Not that it needed to be solved, thanks to a Google search for a likely looking CONTRARIA and COMPLEMENTA yielding a physicist I’d also not heard of at the bottom of the grid, and the SUNT to complete the required Motto.

BITTER SWEET and SPEND THRIFT either side of the grid are of course both OXYMORONs. Perhaps we should have been asked to jot the latter under the grid, as you could quite happily finish the puzzle without recourse to sorting out that one final step.

No matter, this was a pretty nippy solve as it turns out, that I enjoyed, with the added bonus of it not being on the dreaded theme.

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The birdsong in question would be neither of my first two guesses – the kind you hear in the garden, or the Faulks variety. The one we’re looking for being one you would hear from a cage, and one most definitely of human construction.

Lots of clues today, the sort that makes you think – this is one that will require the reading glasses. And a sun hat, cream, etc, it being unexpectedly one of those days given that it is half term, which is usually a guarantee of colder temperatures and a steady drizzle.

These were clues too with the potential to trip up the poor solver, being one lot with letters removed before solving, and some not to be entered in the grid. Luckily the one bunch were grouped together. I decided upon the uncharacteristically logical approach of circling one bunch of letters, and not the other. As it turned out that I was missing at the close one of the group that made up the letters we had to substitute in the grid, this, however, wasn’t necessarily helpful.

The grid-fill. Well, that was surprisingly quick, wasn’t it? From TENE(o)MENT through to SMU(s)T, this is one daily cryptic solvers would have got on quite well with.

Such easy rides often presage a rather tough end-game, but today this wasn’t necessarily so. The thirty consecutive removed letters read:

YET EACH MAN KILLS THE THING HE LOVES

Now, I don’t have access to the ODQ, but thankfully this was one that Google turned up quickly enough, being a line from The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

And thus, the cryptically minded reader will have noted, our substitutions.

Now, as I noted above, one of the letters we needed to perform this task I didn’t get, having miserably failed to parse “Have dealings with body over compliance”. I lobbed TRUCK into the grid, and only got the parsing two weeks later. Unfortunately, at this point I’ve lost my copy, which means that one of my substitutions could be wrong.

BELOVED -> CUTLASS
HERO -> PECK
BEAU -> MOUE
DARLING -> FAWNING

At this point eXternal and / or Serpent will pop up to tell me that I’ve got them all wrong.

But I had fun nevertheless, rightly or wrongly, which is the main thing.

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Ah, that Spot, and thus CAVE CANEM – BEWARE OF THE DOG to the likes of you and me. Unfortunately for those allergic to things gimmicky, those will have been few of the real words that you would find in the finished grid, a few lonely entries in the SW being the only other examples I can find without my glasses.

Because, yes, this week we have that enemy of the Chambers Word Wizard, letters dropped before entry of answers into the grid. Good luck trying to pattern match this lot. It only took a couple of clues to work out too that it would be all examples of each letter that would be dropped.

The resulting solve would prove to be appropriately mind-bending. SDEGN might have been the clear result of wordplay down in the far SW corner, but it would require a few trips to the BRB to find the definition. And as for BARB, with the missing Q. I bet I wasn’t alone in failing to work out for an age where the latter should go.

As ever the endgame came to the rescue when faced with a few entries at the close that either I couldn’t parse, or enter altogether. A FREQUENT INSCRIPTION ON ROMAN THRESHOLDS being a likely looking interpretation of the ditched letters. Perhaps you got them all easily, but then again you probably weren’t drifting off to sleep in the unexpected sunshine following a week with too much work and too little sleep.

Perhaps worth mentioning is that I solved the clue presented in the Give Me a Clue column alongside the puzzle without much too ado. ALTHOUGH that probably means that it was an easy one, if indeed a beauty.

And so done, with a wry smile at the ancient, and yet thoroughly modern Roman warning to would-be trespassers. As if to prove that nothing changes. I bet they were complaining about complicated preambles back then too.

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Eurovision weekend, which means a cut in the available solving time in order to partake of the annual endurance test, buoyed up by copious buffet food and no doubt a couple of drinks as a general coping strategy. The lack therefore of clue numbers said to me that this would be no Picnic, and possibly one of those extended weekend solves I would therefore struggle for time with.

Well, no. A thankfully erroneous scan of the grid led me to believe that there were two 10 letter entries to the north, and two to the south, with crossing seven letter answers. Yes, I know now there was another – thematic, as it turns out – in the centre, but I missed that. Luckily, as it allowed me to start lobbing in entries to both the top and bottom of the grid, with about only a third of the clues cold-solved.

OK, I made a dog’s breakfast of it first time around, but that’s why I use a pencil, and the erroneous letters were erased with no resulting damage to the newspaper. Whether it would have withstood repeated blows is another matter altogether which thankfully I did not need to test, the other entries falling into place now there were some handy checking letters without too much ado, and much pleasure to be gained from the noodling about the grid.

Having both IOTA and LOTA was a little sneaky, I grant you, and I can assure you that I fell straight into that trap.

As I was squinting against the unexpectedly strong sunlight, this being one of those more frequent outdoor solves now that the weather is being a little kinder to us, I feel that I may claim a handicap. It might also explain my inability to work out until the close why BARRIE might be a “Pan maker”. Doh.

What looked increasingly like TUFFET to the south caused rather a lot of anguish, as it didn’t seem to fit with the wordplay of any likely looking entries. Until that is it became equally clear that it was one of our two thematic entries, with MISS MUFFET duly sitting above.

Getting the required instruction from the extra letters needed a little more squinting, and not just because I was at first missing a few, but also because we had to arrange them in “normal clue order”. I will admit to running my finger across each letter in the grid to get the required.

ANAGRAM ELEVEN D AND DEPICT EFFECT OF THIS CHANGE

Well, we already knew that MISS MUFFET was going to leg it, the resulting words rather satisfyingly being real ones too. I almost forgot to sit the SPIDER down beside her, and when I did had a moment of panic regarding DWINES, but lo, there it is in the BRB.

And done. Well, that was fun, and funny. Not just in the grid-fill, which had smiles aplenty, but also in the amusing endgame. More like this one, please!

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A satisfyingly round figure this week, and a game changer. Possibly of the embarrassing ilk, I noted, on first glancing at the preamble and grid, because having penned a how to guide on solving the Inquisitor, this week’s appeared to be one I might struggle with.

Spoiler alert: I’m still kind of convinced that my finished grid is incorrect, having not properly got to grips with the rules of the card game referenced in Great Expectations. Beggar (not bugger) My Neighbour, handily also known as Strip Jack Naked, the latter being the requisite 14 characters to fit across the grid. OK, I’ll go further than that. My finished grid is more-or-less dependent on the checking letters from the more normal clues, with caution thrown to the wind elsewhere.

Thankfully there aren’t any prizes on offer to not win anymore.

Following my own advice, I proceeded to solve by ignoring the bits I didn’t understand, that being primarily what to do with the even numbered columns. Thankfully, the across clues were more forgiving of my solving abilities, from the hidden OBIA and an easy anagram of SNAKE EEL onward, because that was where I started. To be fair, I bet not many of you knew that RIP is a synonym of “Nag” either, the nag in question being the sort of horse it is wise to keep your money well away from.

From that point on the non-thematic downs would fall naturally into place, and the thematic too, with a number of checking letters in situ, the latter too being quite forgiving of my solving abilities, although I did reel through a number of crime writers before reaching the obvious. The hazards of having read too widely in the genre in question.

From that point on things got a little less structured. The local town having put on a food festival, we went naturally on a cheese, cake and beer hunt. Little Goat as it transpires being the best of the micro-breweries represented.

So it would be later than night, sampling some of the above, that I would struggle with the thematic players and venue. STELLA looked likely, as did HOUSE, but it would take a bit of creative googling to uncover the rest. My excuse is that I have an abiding hatred of Dickens, which is ironic given that the later solve was conducted with an adaption of David Copperfield on in the background. As if the gods hated me. Perhaps it is misguided education ministers forcing the “classics” on a generation of children doomed to despise reading, but, yes, what was originally a mild dislike / apathy regarding the great man’s works has turned into a raging fury regarding all such things, though I will grudgingly admit to enjoying the Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

But everything fell into place. Sort of. Though I’m still not convinced everything is as it should be in the finished grid. STRIP JACK NAKED is indeed stripped across the third row, and there are down columns split, where I’ve sort of checked closely, in what could be the correct manner. Something to do with skipping cards (and therefore cells in the grid) if an Ace or court card (their abbreviations in our case, obviously) appear. But, well, I’ve now written over the pencil in pen so it will have to do.

Now, that was all extremely clever – a very imaginative device for the thematic entries that is more than a cut above the average, and that fits together nicely with the theme. A serious contender for the end of year prize, I suspect, so thanks to all involved.

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Themes based on numbers are evidently a thing at the moment. Eleven days lost in the solution to Nutmeg’s puzzle, and today matters 39. 39 Steps being the common denominator from the extra words in the perimeter clues, the 39 Articles of Religion referenced by THE SET OF DOCTRINES OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND based on extra letters from the downs, and 2 Cor 11:24 (which references the “forty stripes save one”). Thus the required highlighting.

Of course, for the latter Ifor needed an abbreviation for chapter and the whole of verse to make up the numbers. Thankfully, because until I counted and spotted that I was still missing the requisite number of cells to highlight, I thought that something seriously spooky was going on. 

My firmly held belief that most of the preamble can be safely ignored for most of the solve held true again today, roughly half being superfluous until we got to the final highlighting, at which point the shape of what was to be highlighted was fairly obvious and any concerns about what “appropriately positioned” might indicate resolved themselves.

I would say that the grid fill was uneventful, enjoyed as it was in the decidedly non-Bank Holiday weekend sunshine, except I failed miserably to write both REEST and AVENUE correctly into the grid, and thus made life unnecessarily difficult for myself. This is why we always write in pencil.

And so done.

Favourite clue? “Well-known means of making sect soft? (6, 2 words)” got a great big tick.

As did the rest of the puzzle, which was thoroughly enjoyed, and with little enough ado that it was completed in plenty of time for me to fulfil my unpaid taxi duties. Such are Bank Holidays enjoyed in these parts.

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In his latest Give Me a Clue column, Nimrod noted that there have been grumbles. Wordy preambles and clue gimmickry presumably making would-be solvers think twice before they’ve jumped the first hurdle. Can the blogging sites help further? Well, hopefully, if only to demonstrate that the most ordinary solver, of which I am mostly definitely one, with a little patience and time can get to grips with things Inquisitorial.

The first thing to note is that the Inquisitor is just a crossword. One that is a step up in difficulty certainly from daily barred cryptics or Azed’s plain barred puzzles, but the same beast. We have clues, and (usually) numbers in the grid indicating where the answers should go. There tend to be more checking letters than you would get in your daily cryptic, which can make filling them easier. There are also, of course, far more obscure words on offer by way of compensation.

The Solver’s Armoury

This leads rather nicely to the solver’s biggest help in this game – the dictionary. The main two used by the Inquisitor are Chambers and the Oxford Dictionary of English. Any others will be explicitly mentioned in the preamble.

Perhaps out of force of habit from years of solving Azed, or maybe because it gets mentioned more often, I use the Chambers Dictionary, otherwise known as the Big Red Book, because the printed version is, indeed, big, and red. A veritable delight of the weird and wonderful, with the odd bit of humour thrown in for good measure. Sadly now edited out, mullet used to be famously defined as a “haircut short at the front, long at the back and ridiculous all over”. What it will allow you to do is check that the answer you’ve carefully constructed from wordplay is in fact the real deal and not a figment of your fevered (and possibly desperate) imagination. For those of us fascinated by words, the likes of DOVEKIE from a puzzle by Phi before Christmas, or IN CUERPO from Botox’s recent offering are worth the price of admission alone.

Now that we’re well and truly in the 21st Century, for many solvers the book is not one big and red, but a very handy, and extremely reasonably priced app on your smartphone, tablet or Chromebook.

Other dictionaries, notably Collins, are sometimes referenced in the preamble. One of my more useful tips is that there is a free version online here. Some answers (usually proper names) will require a trip to that fount of all knowledge, Google. The presence of either is often a sign that something is afoot in that part of the grid, where the setter for thematic purposes has been forced to shoehorn in a particular sequence of letters.

But there, I’ve mentioned it. The preamble.

The Preamble

Sometimes short, sometimes long, the cause it would appear occasionally of a preemptive throwing in of the towel. Which would be a pity given the delights to follow, though I may sympathise sometimes, staring with groggy eyes Saturday morning at a particularly intractable example.

dont-panic

Words as wise now as they always were. Because, while the preamble may sometimes look confusing at first glance, you don’t need to understand most of it to get started. As the solve proceeds, and you get a feel for what’s going on with the answers, and indeed the clues, it will all begin to make a lot more sense.

Let’s take Vismut’s mind-blowing preamble from Calculations of a few weeks back. We have a full five paragraphs worth, most of which is concerned with what to do with the extra (superfluous) letters found in most of the clues. None of which the solver needed to be concerned with until they’d actually identified said letters.

As an aid-memoire (and I usually need one at the weekend), I jot this kind of thing above the grid.

This established, and the rest pushed firmly to the back of your mind, the grid fill usually fills in the gaps. The extra letters? They did indeed spell out calculations that made a lot more sense of that preamble. Thematic elements? With the unchecked letters generously supplied by the preamble to fill in the gaps, tips for some handy online searches for mere mortals such as myself.

Let’s look at a far shorter example, from Nutmeg’s Unpopular Shift of a few weeks back. “The unclued 6-word slogan in the silvered cells could apply to the completed grid. Clue enumerations refer to grid entries.”

First thing – thematic unclued entries. A big plus, because with a few checking letters they’re often crackable, and reveal the theme.

“Clue enumerations refer to grid entries”. This meant that the answer gleaned from the clue would need something doing to it before entry. Lengthened, perhaps, or shortened possibly. The latter it transpired, STATUESQUE evidently being too long for the space provided. As were FRIGATES, THURIFER, and so on. The checking letters confirming that what we were missing in the grid were the days of the week hidden in each, and thus our theme.

Shorter again was Chalicea’s preamble, which just told us that we had to highlight something, as if to demonstrate the variety on offer for solvers of all abilities.

Another useful tip: if in doubt when looking for thematic material, or things to highlight, check out the diagonal.

Chalicea’s offering was also free in the clue department of gimmicks, that further complication the barred-grid puzzle throws our way.

Gimmicks

Gimmicks in the clues come in all shapes and sizes. Letters not required in clues, wordplay lacking letters and misprints in definitions are some of the more common examples.

dont-panic

Again.

If you can solve a standard cryptic clue, then you’re already well-armed to deal with the above. All that is needed is an eye kept on the detail (I’m a sloppy solver, and often fail in this department), and a suspicious mind. The latter I’m definitely in possession of.

Let’s look at some examples from Skylark’s wonderful Francophile of a few weeks back. The preamble told us that “Every clue but one contains an extra letter which should be removed before solving”, and that the other contained a surplus word.

Skylark, evidently taking pity on the lesser solvers among us (ie. me), began at the first across with a construction most of us will have come across before. “Hounds dropping Barton’s birds (6)”, BEAGLES -> EAGLES, via a B dropped. Except that “Barton”, which the BRB tells us is a farmyard, isn’t abbreviated to B. A glance at the entry for “b” in the same tome does, however, reveal that Baron is, giving T as our first extra letter.

Things got a little stickier from that point on, the clues being somewhat satisfyingly chewy, but the principle holds.

Further along we had the surplus word. “Australian fish confused Roman Britain adopting recipe (6)”. Most solvers will have taken one look at “confused”, and thought anagram. Many will have spotted “recipe” and decided that R was part of the anagram fodder. Roman + R is indeed an anagram of MARRON, which the BRB again tells us is an Australian freshwater fish. No prizes then for working out that we needed to kick “Britain” into touch.

But what if, like myself frequently, you end up with a full grid, but an incomplete set of superfluous / missing / gleaned set of letters due to failings on the parsing front? After all, with all those generous checking letters afforded by the barred-grid format, answers frequently reveal themselves.

This is where the endgame will often come to the rescue, because we haven’t been collating them for the sake of it. Message revealed via extra letters? Even the likes of TH?S I? A M?S?AG? will be sufficient to work out what the letters should have been, and reverse engineer the wordplay should you be lacking an answer / curious / diligent. I’m definitely not the latter, and frequently lazy, so I sometimes take a punt.

What I will always do, though, is write in pencil. Not only because you’re going to make mistakes – lots of them. But because clashes / multiple letters in cells later to be resolved / taking a punt at grid entries for carte blanche puzzles are all par for the course. Thinking I had to cold solve most of the clues often left me paralysed with the latter. All those possibilities. No checking letters. Now I just go for it when I’ve got enough. You will often find that the setter will be trying to lead you gently in the right direction. If you’ve got it wrong, you didn’t pencil in those entries too firmly, did you?

The Endgame

Letters changed, items highlighted, perimeters completed, endgames come in all shapes and sizes. What they frequently do, though, is save the poor solver’s bacon. Not sure about that one pesky answer, or worse, can’t solve it at all? The number of times a hidden name or quotation has come to the rescue I wouldn’t like to count. You don’t often get such generous help in a daily cryptic.

And talking of generous help.

Further Tools for the Struggling Solver

Here are some useful tools, should you wish to employ them. Some I am sure regard this sort of thing as “cheating”. Firstly, this isn’t an exam and therefore we’re making up our own rules of conduct. Secondly, when badly stuck I would argue it’s better to proceed in one form or another and hopefully learn something along the way. I’m sure all of us, when starting out at this cryptic lark, employed “crutches” we gradually discarded as we improved. Thirdly, I’m not proud.

Firstly, the solving blogs. If you’re prepared to wait, are still solving, or just if you want to see where and why you got stuck / went wrong. Fifteensquared publish a detailed, and always excellent blog on the date given beside the puzzle in the paper, containing parsing of all the clues, and details of how the endgame should be cracked. I also pen a “how I solved this week’s Inquisitor” sort of thing, should you be interested in how I went about things.

For anagrams: The Chambers app (and online Word Wizard) is good for anything that’s in the BRB. Andy’s Anagram Solver is great for that and much more.

Really, really stuck? Quinapalus has a pattern matching engine, which handles multiple words, and will cope with misprints too. There is also lots of other fun stuff on the site that’s worth exploring.

Including, should you be particularly stuck on “misprints in definitions”, that common barred-grid device, a handy tool that will list all said misprints.

Odd Scottish words? Look no further.

Last but not least, the humble spreadsheet. Experimenting with highlighting in a finished grid is a lot easier if you can just change the colour of a cell to see if shapes emerge (we’re often asked to paint a picture of something, even if my artistic skills aren’t always up to the job). No disrespect to the quality of the paper the i is printed on, but it can only take so many attacks with the eraser.

And I’m sure there are many more I’m blissfully unaware of / haven’t needed to date.

In Conclusion

All of which is more than I planned to write on the subject, and I suspect barely scratches the surface of this weird and wonderful cruciverbal world we inhabit. I hope though that it has helped. If you have any further handy tips, then please do add them in the comments.

A shorter preamble this week. An unclued slogan, and just the hint of a something a little different in the clues in the reference to “enumerations which refer to grid entries”.

The big question being what the latter referred to. My first FORAY into the grid wasn’t, no, 1ac, but Helen’s mother down in the far SE corner. This seeming likely to be LEDA, being Helen of Troy’s mother, with wordplay to match, this wasn’t of much help.

As were most of my next load of entries, it must be said, the grid filling at what could best be described as a rate of knots, and fewer obscurities than the same day’s Phi.

And that was when I stared at a likely STATUE, but couldn’t parse it.

And at about the same time, figured that the slogan was likely to be GIVE US BACK OUR ELEVEN DAYS, one inspired by the change of calendar back in the day. If you were about to miss your birthday, you can see why you might be peeved.

Which then led to STA(TUES)QUE, (THUR)IFER, and, indeed, eleven days that were missing in total from the finished grid. (FRI)GATES, my LOI, explained some confusion I’d wreaked upon myself in the SE corner where I started.

The only disappointment would have to be that, of the four days over the standard seven, only two were a weekend. The other two being hump-day and poet’s day, respectively, I suppose was some consolation.

And done, in the sun that is confounding forecasts with each day that passes. A gentle solve this week then, but an enjoyable one, in what as anticipated has been a good Ladies’ Month.

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