Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 86 – Unfinished Business by Loda

Posted by duncanshiell on August 29th, 2008


I am not at all sure that I have got this puzzle right, as my solution to the final step does not seem to meet all the criteria that I would expect it to meet. However, I can’t find an viable alternative, so I have submitted this answer.

This puzzle had a fairly complex preamble:

1. Six bars must be added to the perimeter of the grid in a symmetrical manner.

2. Seventeen blank squares must be filled with letters obtainable from seventeen unspecified clues which comprised a definition for one word and wordplay for another that differed from the defined word by one letter. In each case, the shorter word was to be entered in the grid. Sixteen of the seventeen blanks were in the perimeter, with the seventeeth being the central cell in the 13 * 13 grid.

3. The seventeen letters must be entered in a way that complete real words in the perimeter and the central column.

4. The ‘special clues’ help confirm the unique solution.

After one or two false starts when I had more than seventeen extra letters for a time, I settled on the seventeen extra letters shown below in clue order



BCDDEEHMNOPRSSTWY in alphabetical order

It seemed to me that in all seventeen cases, the longer word was the one defined with the wordplay leading to the shorter word. This struck me as fairly unlikely, but I couldn’t detect any possible clues where the inverse applied.

Before entering the seventeen letters, I had the top row, bottom row, left column, right column and eleven letters of the central coulmn as follows:






Trial and error led me to the conclusion that two bars went in the top row, two in the bottom row and one each in the left and right columns to give three words 4, 5 and 4 in rows 1 and 13, with two words of 7 and 6 in column 1, and two words of 6 and 7 in column 13.

It seemed to me that the E and Y had to go in the bottom row to form ESPY, the O had to form SWORE in the bottom row and the N had to form CANOE in the top row. I followed this with the P into DEPOSE, as the lower word in column 1.

Next I moved to the top word in column 1 and came up with BLESSED or BLESSES. I couldn’t find BLESSEE or BLESSER in any of my dictionaries (Chambers, Collins, SOED). This used the B and an S

At the bottom column 13 I deduced TRECKED or WRECKED, which meant the C and a D were now taken.

The eleven letter word in the central column now had to be DRILLHARROW

This left DEMRSTW

Given the remaining letters, the top of column 13 had to be MASSES or TASSES, but the right hand word in row 1 could not be WRIT as one of T or W was needed for ?RECKED. Hence I went for TRIM, MASSES and WRECKED reading clockwise from row 1 into column 13. This used up TMSW leaving DER.

I put the R into REND, right hand word row 13. The D went into BLESSED (see above), leaving the E for BRAE, first word row 1.

The reason I don’t like the answer I have described is that it doesn’t seem to fit the fourth criteria of the preamble. I take this to mean that the newly formed words should be one letter less than another real word, given that the special clues lead to entries that are one letter less than another real word where the entry letters remain in the same order. My words don’t conform to this criteria, nor do they conform to the inverse that all entries are one letter longer than real words.

Looking at my newly formed entries and considering longer or shorter words I get

Entry Entry plus one letter Entry minus one letter
BRAE BRACE (and others) BRA or BAe (British Aerospace)

As can be seen I can’t find a consistent transformation for the words I have entered and I don’t think the longer words should be a conjugation of the shorter word.

I look forward to reading comments that tell me where I have gone wrong! It may well be that I have the wrong seventeen letters. I did toy with an extra T

in 36 down and an extra N in 5 down but dismissed them when I finally parsed the clues properly.


No. Long Word Entry Letter Components of Entry
9 LATHE (turner) LATH E L (left) + AT + H (entrance to [first letter of] HUT) = LATH
10 DECOY (lure) DECO Y Hidden word in EVERGLADE COOMB = DECO
11 ETA Anagram of (divers) EAT = ETA (a member of the lowest Japanese class, which did work considered menial or degrading = dogsbody)
12 REVOLVER (turner) EVOLVER R Anagram of (throbs) LOVER and EV (STEVEN‘s heart [middle two letters]) = EVOLVER
14 DRAPES (drape suit) RAPES D Anagram of (synthetic) odd letters of (not even) AS PARKEE SO = RAPES
15 EPEE EP (electroplated) + EE (middle letters [essentially] of SHEETS) = EPEE (foil, as a weapon used in fencing)
16 TIE-UP T (last letter [finally] of BOAT) + IE (that’s = that is) + UP (to windward) = TIE-UP (mooring)
17 SIDEREAL (like the stars) SIDERAL E Anagram of (in a panic) LAD IS containing (encircling) ER (queen) = SIDERAL
19 BRIBE BE (live) containing (without = outwith) RIB (wife) = BRIBE (dash)
21 SEVER (cut) EVER S EVE (temptress) + R (first letter [tip of] RAZOR) = EVER
23 LAUNCHES (takes off) LAUNCES H Anagram of (lunatic) UNCLE’S A = LAUNCES
24 WYCH Sounds like (reportedly) WITCH (a fascinating person) = WYCH (tree with pliant branches, such as the rowan)
25 COMET (early jet plane) COME T COE (Lord Sebastian COE, Olympic gold medalist and chairman&of the London Organising Committee for the summer Olympics 2012) containing (accepts) M (money) = COME
27 DRACHMA D (daughter) with anagram of (ornate) CHARM first (before) A (advanced) = DRACHMA (Greek currency pre the introduction of the Euro)
30 NICER (more pleasant) ICER N Anagram of (nasty) ERIC = ICER
31 EYRIE RI (Indonesia) contained in (in) EYE (centre) = EYRIE (inacessible place)
32 RUMINATE (meditate on) RUINATE M Anagram of (spasmodic) AIR TUNE = RUINATE
35 WEARS OWE (have to thank) + CARS (vehicles), both without their first letters (failing to start) = WEARS (exhausts)
37 SWING (swerve) SING W SI (IS reversing) + N (knight) + G (first letter [early] of GONER) = SING
40 BOTHER (worry) OTHER B Anagram of (erratic) THE and OR (centre two letters [focus] of WORK) = OTHER
41 POSTMARK (frank) OSTMARK P Angaram of (drunken) SOT + K (Kelvin) containing (holding) MAR (spoil) = OSTMARK
42 SAI Odd letters (oddly) of STATIC = SAI (capuchin monkey)
43 SCROW (parchment roll) CROW S C (first letter of [initially] CAUSES) + ROW (quarrel) = CROW
44 SPAE & SPA (spring) + E (middle letter of FIELD) = SPAE (a Scottish word meaning ‘to divine’)


No. Long word Entry Letter Components of Solution
1 RAVE EVA (Eva Braun) + R (right,) all reversed (back) = RAVE (crazy)
2 ATOP A (one) + TOP (POT [trophy] reversed [mounted]) = ATOP (on the highest part)
3 COVER C (caught) + OVER (at the end) = COVER (a fielder at cover or cover point in cricket)
4 ACETAL ACE (one) + TAL (TALC (type of powder without the final C [carbon]) = ACETAL (a liquid compound)
5 OEDEMA OED (Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary) + anagram of (collapsed) MEA (most of MEANS) = OEDEMA (dropsy)
6 ECRU Hidden word in FASHIONABLE CRUSHED = ECRU (cloth)
7 REPRICE REP (travelling commercial representative) + RICE (staple food in some places) = REPRICE (change the [price] ticket)
8 ITEM Anagram of (do) TIME = ITEM (two people having a romantic relationship)
13 LEERY L (lecturer) + EERY (wierd) = LEERY (cunning)
18 IVORY OR (gold) contained in (covered by) IVY (green climber) = IVORY (creamy white colour)
19 BUOY BY containing (securing) U (united) and O (middle letter of VICTORIES) = BUOY (raise the spirits)
20 BEREFT BEREFT (deprived of) without (left) F (fellow) = BERET (headgear)
22 CACHE (hide) ACHE C A (anterior) + C (first letter (front of) CAR) followed by (beneath) HE (high explosive) = ACHE
24 WARDSHIP (custody) WARSHIP D WAR’S (contest is) + HIP (cool) = WARSHIP
26 MINIM MINI (small) + M (mark) = MINIM (musical note)
28 MEADOW Anagram of (out) MADE + O (old) + W (wife) = MEADOW (lee)
29 TUSSER Anagram of (spread) RUSSET = TUSSER (colour of silk from wild Indian silkworms)
33 ISTLE ISLE (inch) containing (including) T (tense) = ISTLE (fibre)
34 ITAS Reverse of (turned up) SATI (Indian widow who burned herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) = ITAS (miriti palm)
36 ERRS TERRIERS (dogs) without first letters of (leads) THE INDUSTRIAL ESTATE RESEMBLE) = ERRS (strays)
38 NAPE NAP (card game) + E (first letter of EMILY) = NAPE (back of the neck)
39 GROAN (complaint) GRAN O Reverse of (climb) first letters (heads off) NEW ALPINE RULES GOVERNING = GRAN

10 Responses to “Inquisitor 86 – Unfinished Business by Loda”

  1. Dave Hennings says:

    I, too, found this a tough last step. I didn’t come up with any way that the ‘special’ clues helped confirm the solution, although that word “finally” had me trying last letters and the like.

    However, I had 17A as a normal clue (SIDERAL, no extra E) and 5D as a special clue for OED plus anag MEAN (most of MEANS) with a superfluous N. I therefore had BRAN instead of BRAE in the top row.


  2. Duncan Shiell says:

    I thought about an extra letter in 5 down for a time, but couldn’t find a word that used OEDEMA and N. I think the longer word was always a real word, with the extra letter fitting within the same order of letters as the shorter word.

    I also thought about SIDEREAL and SIDERAL for a while before I finally went for it as the two words seem to mean almost the same thing.

  3. Colin Blackburn says:

    I am in exactly the same position. I solved all the clues, and like Duncan, had variable numbers of extra letters for a while. My list of extra letters agres with Duncan’s final list. And, that’s where I pretty much gave up. I filled in some of the perimeter words and DRILL-HARROW but really couldn’t see how they were confirmed. With 11 entries to add and 17 special clues I couldn’t see a correspondence. I did wonder if the clues from which the extra letters arose somehow defined the extra words. However, I remain baffled.

  4. Colin Blackburn says:

    Sorry my mistake, I do appear to an extra N from OEDEMA and I have a question mark next to COME and no letter. I agree the N from the first can’t be justified, I guess I was uneasy about “means mostly” -> MEA rather than MEAN but it’s reasonable given that it could only be 3 or 4 letters. So, I’m pretty certain my 17 letters are wrong by one but I am also pretty certain that I don’t know the answer, or why.

  5. Colin Blackburn says:

    Final comment, definitely—maybe. I did wonder what the title of the puzzle alluded to. And, DRILL-HARROW is the most distinctive (and it is certainly the only possible solution) of the unclued entries and so must be key in solving this one.

  6. Geoff Moss says:

    My solution was identical to Duncan’s and I also thought that the ‘uniqueness’ of it would be down to being able to remove one letter from each unclued entry and still leave a real word.

    I justified DRILL-HARROW on the basis that each half of the word could have a letter removed (ie giving RILL and ARROW).

    I also found a reliable source that indicated the ability to conjugate LESS as a verb (even though it is not listed as one in any of standard references). This verbal usage was confirmed via a Google search which revealed several American documents where LESS and LESSED were used with the meaning ‘dock’ or ‘docked’ (as in cut). I therefore decided that BLESSED could become LESSED.

    This left DEPOSE and in a moment of dyslexia I had EPODE which was confirmed in Chambers. After a few minutes it became obvious that this was wrong, so it was back to the beginning with regard to determining surplus letters and where they would fit but the end result remained the same.

    This was my first attempt at an Inquisitor. I thought it would make a change from the Listener and EV but I cannot say I enjoyed it very much due to the unsatisfactory ending.

  7. Geoff Moss says:


    I too wondered about the title but came to the conclusion that it simply referred to the grid being incomplete and that it required bars adding to finish it.

    It will be interesting to see the solution when it is published.

  8. Geoff Moss says:

    I am not going to take any credit for this (other than finding the information) but this has been posted elsewhere:

    “The key to the dénouement is the last sentence of the preamble, in particular the word “Finally”. The final letters of the special clues are: TBBCCRCTTCRCLLRLB (12 should end “throb”, not “throbs”). T,B,L,R denote top, bottom, left and right, while C stands for corner and centre.”

  9. Colin Blackburn says:

    Doh! I was just about to post something to the effect that the clues must give the positions of the extra letters—it’s the only one-to-one correspondence. However, I was thinking that the position might be given by the added letters relationship with surrounding letter.

    Dave’s hunch on ‘finally’ was right.

    Thanks for freeing up my afternoon Geoff. I’m only glad this wasn’t a Listener.

  10. HolyGhost says:

    I agree with Geoff – unsatisfactory and not especially enjoyable.
    Many more like this and I’m off to the Listener for good.
    (Tempting to write “Loda rubbish”.)

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