Following Dysart and eXtent, in quick succession comes Eclogue, in almost but not quite alphabetical order. Am I just reading too much into what is evidently random? Would I would be better off spending my time trying to work out what the seemingly random Ransomware in the title is referring to?

Because until I glanced at it a moment ago, having neglected to do so until now, I was feeling quietly smug on a puzzle just about fully parsed and understood. Because, you see, that message. Generated from superfluous words. I have it, and without any question marks.

TO ALTER THE RULES OF A GAME AFTER IT HAS BEGUN RUGBY

My solving this week could even be considered methodical, because belatedly it occurred to jot down beside each clue the required letters when they popped up. Helping with the solving process, you see?

Not that too much help was required (I hope), as this was Inquisitor-lite territory. Yes, it’s the long awaited “easy one”. I would like to think that a quick reveal of CUESTA right at the start means that I’m getting better at these, but I suspect this was actually just a gentle puzzle. Albeit with some entries we had to anagram on entry, and weird and wonderful entries such as the handily flagged OOSPERMS. Never mind, there was much that was low brow too thanks to the likes of CONAN who’s one of the few barbarians that readily springs to mind.

Endgame time. Presumably we’re being asked to bring to mind moving the goalposts, moving letters being what we’ve been up to a fair bit throughout. Completing the equally well flagged empty squares gives an equally handy anagram of the last two words in the phrase. A nifty spot of highlighting later, and we’re done.

Another good one, that. And one aimed at us mere mortals too, I suspect. More please, more like this.

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Things learnt this weekend:

  • It may be nice to sit out in the sun with the Inquisitor, but too much sun is likely to induce only sleepiness.
  • Birthday celebrations are equally unconducive to the required concentration levels needed, especially when they are not your own.
  • If you’re mysteriously struggling to come up with plausible answers in one bit of the grid, it’s probably because the gimmick hinted at in the preamble is to be found thereabouts.

Not one but two grids, mashed together clues, misprints for good measure. This is the IQ on speed.

Needless to say my solving was less speedy, but with the cooling evening a steady progress could be said to be made, especially when it was spotted that some answers in the left hand grid were to be reversed. Sharper solvers will have got BACKING and done the necessary fairly quickly I suspect, but it took me a while longer. Thankfully the down clues could be in one grid only. Which was the sort of generous hint I appreciate and we don’t always get. 🙂

Misprints. I don’t have them all. I’m not sure if the ones I’ve got are correct. COTRANYM. Perhaps there’s an N in there somewhere. Something about opposites would be my best guess. Google gives contronym, but I’m pretty certain of that A. Oh well.

The chap that faces both ways springs to mind as regarding the highlighting bit, and lo, lob a J in the centre and JANUS certainly does.

That looks right to me.

Job done, though I’m still not sure that we’ve had to long awaited “easy one”. As ever though enjoyed and appreciated.

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Heavenly deductions are what I thought I was going to need to rely upon for a long time with this week’s offering, my solving abilities such as they are having found themselves to be somewhat stretched. This was a week, you see, when the chances of being able to fill the grid seemed remote, never mind fathoming the endgame.

Solving conditions could best be described as being fair – sunny, with a nice spot out of the breeze, and a home-made lasagne being prepared in the kitchen. Conditions so favourable, indeed, that I found myself drifting off to sleep part way through the afternoon, though the rigours of the week and subsequent celebration marking the end of same may have had something to do with that. Oh, and the effort required to slog out one clue at a time, which not surprisingly may have left me a little punch-drunk.

Having failed to parse several, and others puzzling altogether (GEOS notably would only be revealed thanks to the endgame), a lot of hunting through the Big Red Book was required to stagger, eventually, over the finishing line. Though of those that puzzle me, HOREB if correct does the most, the origin of the H despite being required for Elijah’s mountain remaining stubbornly hard to come by.

Thankfully I parsed enough to get the definition given by the extra letters in the across clues, being DIVINATION BY MEANS OF ARROWS, and the subsequent BELOMANCY thanks to Google. Remove the W from BELOW giving the relevant prefix.

At this point I’m sure other solvers twigged what the letters to erase elsewhere were getting at, but I, I didn’t. So that despite having a full set of superfluous words from the down clues, a first erasure of the M from the end of ZOOM and TELESM led me merely to conclude that the first led to “animals”, and the second “boxes” (did I mention that I’m still unsure of some, as the last looks rather iffy).

It would take until Sunday afternoon to work out that we were looking for things MANCY as a result of the erased letters. Being GYROMANCY, LITHOMANCY, CHIROMANCY, etc.

The practitioner to highlight? Well, it was always going to be Crowley or NOSTRADAMUS wasn’t it? The letters erased consisting predominantly of N’s and S’s being the extra push required to help me spot the latter. Who said that preambles are only there to confuse and mislead the poor solver?

Job done, as relieved as I was on realising that my solution to 1700 was unexpectedly correct. Thanks to Dysart and all concerned then for a fine workout that definitely delivered on the value for money front this weekend.

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Five normal clues that are not, others with letters to remove before solving. Yes, it’s that rarity, a Bank Holiday weekend where for once it isn’t raining, barbecues are sizzling throughout the neighbourhood including one chez nous, and all is as expected in the world of the Inquisitor.

Which is to say a happy afternoon wrestling with clues that I found to be on the tough side, which probably means that the rest of you sailed through them, though I suspect the correct term for town councils in Spain isn’t one that trips off anybody’s tongue. On the other hand, there aren’t that many Japanese schools to pick from, and this week’s setter has had the good grace to pick one of the few dinosaurs I can spell.

As I appear to have a full set of extra letters present and correct, perhaps the clues weren’t that impenetrable after all. Though it did take an age to spot that the gimmick with the normal clues wasn’t an anagram of same, chopping the answers short, or a gazillion other things I considered at first, but in fact the insertion of metals of various descriptions into the answers. Yes, no matter how many times I remind myself to ignore the numbering in clues, the simple anagram at 1ac was the last thing I considered and one of my last ones in too.

AN ANCIENT BOXING GLOVE LOADED WITH METAL

At least if I can read my own writing, which is never a mean feat.

Handily, a quick Google search means we don’t have to scour the BRB for CESTUS, though it took me rather longer (embarrassingly so some would say), to actually find and highlight the thing.

All of which kept me entertained over the course of what has been a jolly pleasant weekend. So thanks to all, and signing off with still some time to spare.

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Another significant landmark in Inquisitor numbering rolls around, and with it yet again the suspicion that all is not well with my solution. This was a weekend when I didn’t get a clear run at the puzzle, being distracted by the national embarrassment that was Eurovision and preparation for the celebrations thereof, and also the enjoyment of a fleeting bout of fine weather with a stroll through some local beauty spots that to my shame I didn’t know existed until this weekend.

Regular readers won’t be surprised at my being lacking in the powers of observation department. They would though be surprised to learn that, despite solving part of this in the car park of the local Sainsburys, and the presence of not one but two gimmicks, that progress was reasonably rapid. Aided, it must be said, by the confirmed suspicion of the presumed highlighting while waiting in said car park, CLOCK-WATCHING looking like a likely completion of letters so far pencilled in.

My son made the mistake of picking this week’s puzzle to have a look at, as the one clue he attempted, 1ac, was one that had me baffled too until the bitter end, when it became clear that it was one of many missing MINs, SECs and HOURs. Though I remain suspicious that I may have missed some (or miscounted altogether) because…

The clues from which we had to remove T’s before solving, the fifth letters of which reveal the message KNOCKING OFF TIME (and no, I didn’t get all those first time around, and had to make another rapid run through the clues) presumably mean that we have to knock minutes, seconds and hours off 17:00. Which I’ve done, but 14:55:57 doesn’t look particularly significant to me. Thus my suspicion that my parsing of the clues has let me down somewhere.

Oh well, I am though more confident in my highlighting, and enjoyed the puzzle. So, with fingers crossed, thanks to all concerned, and in anticipation of a further outing for PINK with, presumably number 1800…

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I’d forgotten that Phi had trailed this week’s Inquisitor in his blog (as well as an upcoming shared appearance for 1700), but, well, here he is. Additional words, mislaid letters and all.

This week finds me unusually rested having taken the opportunity to get the recommended 8 hours and more, and you know what? I’ve still been defeated by 4d. The additional word is clear as day, and symmetry says that all the letters of the answer must be ones not given by the clue, which means that it must be a definition of “take off Scots”, but I can’t find anything in the BRB that matches. REAM it is then (and the keen eyed among you will note that wasn’t even my first choice) purely because it has “Scots” beside it in the dictionary.

But first came an interesting, odd grid fill. Lots of letters omitted from wordplay equals lots of trips to the BRB, which I suspect I’m not alone in finding to be a pleasant way of passing some time. Obscurities being aplenty, it could safely be said to have been an instructive one too, although I suspect AMPHISBAENA is one that will be forgotten by tomorrow.

A little Google on who might fit MARY?HASE leads to MARY CHASE, HARVEY, ELWOOD P DOWD, and POOKA. Google being required because it’s one of those plays / films I’ve inevitably been aware of but never seen.

My “shading” (I’ve ignored the instructions and used highlighters because you won’t be able to see it otherwise) is a mix of the knowledgeable (those bits I think I’ve parsed), and the not so (bits where I relied on symmetry). If I’ve missed anything in addition to the 4d cock-up, well, I wouldn’t be surprised. I suppose it looks a bit like a rabbit.

Thus job done, of sorts. Not the most difficult offering we’ve had, but an enjoyable one, so thanks Phi.

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Autumn has come early it appears, presaged by torrential rain and freezing temperatures. Yes, now we’re allowed out, the gods have evidently considered it to be rather droll and amusing to ensure that we won’t want to. Never mind, this week’s Inquisitor looks like it will occupy some little time, lacking clue numbers in the grid and other such handy crossword staples.

So what do we have? Something to mark 10 years of Nimrod managing the IQ (congratulations again, btw!)? Something ghostly as hinted at in the title? That would have a little too obvious, of course.

Progress this week was also rather obviously slow, only LINGULAR of the longer answers falling with any rapidity. I say falling, but rather noted beside its clue. Saturday lunchtime I tend to wake up sufficiently to make further progress on tricky numbers such as this, but this week it appeared this wasn’t going to happen, phrases like “grinding to a halt” and “slow creeping despair” springing to mind.

As often happens with these jigsaw things, the phrase “bugger it” also sprang to mind, and I started chucking a few in. Very lightly. The aforementioned long one handily crossing with SENIOR and ATTUNES, which I also had. This proved to be a false dawn despite an initial feeling of elation, so with a further throwing of caution to the wind, a more successful assault on the NW corner ensued (DISPROOFS at this point being one of many of the longer ones that looked likely but that I couldn’t parse beyond the housing bit, ST BERNARD and LOVE SEAT also having conspired to mystify me completely). I would say that I got lucky, but I suspect that astute cluing and a carefully considered grid-fill by Kruger are actually at the heart of the matter.

Having vaguely registered that there were unclued entries, a glance at the by-this-point rapidly filling grid indicated that they might well be PHILBY, MACLEAN, BLUNT and BURGESS (in no particular order, unless accidentally so). Spooky matters of the espionage kind.

With a final stab in the dark at MEWS, the grid now to all intents and purposes complete.

To all intents and purposes because my unwanted letters as per also contained a number of unwanted question marks. Jotting them down having led to a seemingly random collection of letters, the aforementioned despair seemed likely to raise its ugly head again, despite good odds on the endgame being a highlighting of a very obvious CAIRNCROSS (aka the fifth man) across one diagonal.

Highlight it, and hope for the best? Or take note of the “normal clue order” bit in the preamble?

CLU?? ?EADI?? ?ETTERS

The first bit was evidently going to be CLUES or CLUED, the latter LETTERS, and the middle bit? LEADING, perchance? So, taking leading letters from the across clues in normal order:

HIGHLIGHT FIFTH MAN

As expected. At which point words such as “marvellous” and “bravo” sprang to mind, perhaps just because I’d unexpectedly managed to finish the thing, but also because that was all rather good. From title to preamble and through to the close, a very nicely thought out puzzle, that, well, entertained on a wet, dreary day. Congratulations all around, indeed.

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It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, and the accustomed mix of fleeting sunny spells, torrential rain, gales, not to mention some hail and, in these parts, snow showers. This being expected as the decorator is trying to paint the outside of the house, and we all have a little free time on our hands. To the rescue Ifor’s Inquisitor, and much food for thought.

Though not with the grid fill that was fairly straightforward, unexpectedly so some would say. Letters duly fell between the paired clues, the fact that we had two chances at parsing to get them right meaning that, for once, I have a full set present and correct:

LONDON BRIDGE from the across clues.
THE RAIN IN SPAIN from the downs.

Though I must admit to spotting pretty quickly what we would be looking for and jotting them beside the clues. Going on accidentally long walks (6.3 miles according to Google, much to my surprise and contrary to my reckoning), must agree with me.

What never seems to agree with me is end games. I duly noted “noted” in the preamble, and guessed at something to do with musical annotation, but it would take another two days to stumble on a site with notes “for beginners” (for which read idiots like me) for London Bridge is Falling Down (the Rain In Spain from the downs presumably referencing My Fair Lady in the lyrics), and only then did I notice that a wild stab in the dark at SOCKED for 1ac should have been SOAKED. The latter being what many will have been by the end of the weekend, whether from unaccustomed exercise or sitting in beer gardens in the torrential rain, as has been the case for one or two of my acquaintances. I prefer my beer at home, and don’t engage in the very un-British habit of hugging, so it appears that the easing of any lockdown regulations are unlikely to have an impact any time soon. Unless the boss makes good on his threat of a “team building” exercise “when this is all over”.

Oh yes, notes. There they are, duly highlighted. If they’re wrong, well, blame noobnotes or my reading of same.

That all fit together rather nicely, didn’t it? Onward to that bathroom ceiling and the painting thereof.

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Gila this week who unbeknown managed to surprise me on several counts. Firstly, by producing a puzzle that on first glance I had decided I was not going to enjoy (jigsaws being absolutely not my thing), only to find that I did, and by producing a gimmick that not only is I believe quite original, but also wasn’t one I decided I was going to dislike either.

Yes, you were expecting clashes to add to the general enjoyment of filling in a jigsaw too, weren’t you? And no, it wasn’t simply too much sun and draught beer that led you to have five answers too many at the close. Sun and draught beer both being things we’ve become unaccustomed to over the course of what has been a decidedly long couple of months.

The unexpected came courtesy too of what turned out not to be a hard slog cold-solving the clues which were in a handy alphabetical order, to be fair. Though it did take until I’d begun a steady and scarily fruitful run through them until I reached the first seven letter before I realised that we had some handily long answers that might aid with the grid fill. Because not only were there seven letter ones, but eleven and twelve too around the perimeter of a grid that fell in absolutely no time at all, after which this pretty much felt like a normal crossword.

It only took me a jiffy to guess that Peanuts was a STRIP CARTOON too. On fine form this week, Jon, on fine form.

Your grid-fill disagrees with mine? That wouldn’t surprise me either, my parsing of the clues with superfluous letters leading to the I-like-to-think-only moderately useless FO?K HERO APPEA?YEROMAIL ON OLD NORSE WARS?IP. Slightly coherent at the start and end. But the middle, let’s not talk about the middle.

None of which is going to lead to a name.

Thankfully, I did manage to cold solve four of the five answers which don’t have a place in the grid, being PAGE, PAWN, VALVE and NEEDLE. Figuring there must be a reason rather than randomness for them too, I looked in the BRB to see what they had in common, to find that they can all be leaves. A nifty Google of Five Leaves and (only moderately inspired there being few possible remaining letters in FO?K) Folk later…

Five Leaves Left, which I’ve not heard of, by NICK DRAKE, who I was sort of aware of. Vaguely. DRAKE too being part of a Viking ship, apparently, so at least I can claim to have solved part of the garbled cryptic clue presented above.

His remaining albums BRYTER LAYTER and PINK MOON comprising handily the 20 letters we had to highlight duly highlighted an appropriate shade of pink, and Nick’s name noted below the grid, I believe that’s job done. So thanks Gila for a thoroughly, and unexpectedly enjoyable solve.

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Or as it will be forever known here, lessons in inadequacy.

Because I’m supposed to be pretty nifty at this crossword lark, so people tell me. A supposition which would be found to be based on very shaky ground indeed Saturday morning. Things which were nice:

  1. The sunshine;
  2. Coffee and croissants.

Not so nice: Staring at a grid in which I’d entered the grand total of five answers for a large part of the morning.

A sensible person would have put the thing to one side for a while, but well, I’m pig-headed like that. Evidently I should have, because after lunch and suitably fuelled, progress was swifter and the grid eventually filled. Highlights? Those would have to be WHIM-WHAM and WABOOM, obviously, a little whimsy in the midst of a pretty gruelling solving experience.

Feelings of inadequacy were forever close to hand, though, in particular on realising that my parsing skills were likely to yield by way of extra letters no more than:

WHAT FORMING NET CLUES CAN GIE (or maybe Y at the end).

I suspect the last one is probably GIVE, but still, that’s not a clue even the best of us would be able to solve, I suspect, so I’ll have to presume that large chunks are pretty random.

Fortunately, the suspicion that the groups of letters struck from the clues were likely to be less so proved to be correct. Uncles, you see. I’ve even got a few. FESTER, VANYA, BUCK and SILAS.

The curves to draw and straight lines are supposed to represent a pawnbroker’s sign, as it said in the title all along, because every good crossword solver knows that’s what an uncle is, though in this neck of the woods at least it’s a usage limited to our own little world. My artistic skills not being up to Ploy’s invitation to embellish to your heart’s content, you’ll have to make do with some dodgy highlighting.

And the phrase? BOB’S YOUR UNCLE, presumably. Though my own feelings when fully expressed would include those of exhaustion, general despair, and loss of faith in my solving abilities. But that’s my fault and nothing to do with Ploy who’s done a nice job of putting me through my paces with a very carefully put together and satisfyingly complete puzzle. Next time I promise I’ll be up to the job. Honest.

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