Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 87 – SQUADS by Hypnos

Posted by petebiddlecombe on September 5th, 2008


Solving time: maybe 10 hours

Many readers of crossword blogs will know by now that I had surgery on a brain tumour near the end of July. After taking a while to rebuild my confidence on blocked puzzles, this was my first serious attempt at a barred-grid thematic since (I found a sub for the one just after I came out of hospital), and it was quite a struggle from about last Friday until everything fell into place late on Wednesday evening.

Most of the left half was finished relatively easily except for the unclued lights, but the right was rather tougher. I was then pretty stuck for a few successive looks at the puzzle, with few ideas for unclued lights except some that turned out to be wrong, the worst of these the unfortunately part-thematic DOUBLE for 29D. But eventually the phrase from extra letters gradually came to light. First, “THE PARA” at the beginning and “UNITED” at the end, then a gradual realisation that the whole was THE PARACHUTE REGIMENT MANCHESTER UNITED. This was slightly delayed by 40A, where the wordplay could have been the LEE(T)LEe I went for as well as the correct LEE(T)LEn (LEE(T)LEs and LEE(T)LEw also work!). The phrase didn’t help much until I re-read the rubric and remembered the need to highlight the theme in the grid. One of the number one places to look is leading diagonals, and the NW-SE one came up trumps with enough checking letters to see THE RED DEVILS – their shared nickname. Then the rest was plain sailing – the 8 unchecked answers were four reds (BREAST, ROUTE, SETTER, ENSIGN) and four devils (FIREWORK, PERISHER, OLD ONE (I think), DRUDGE) with the grid’s blue sky matching the paras and the green pitch Man U. And the title reflected the fact that both have squads.

The extra letters from wordplay are in lower case below – just tacked onto the end when they’re a part of anag. fodder and could therefore go anywhere. Lower case letters in parens are subtractions in wordplay.

12 SH,tR,ED – held up here wondering whether a writer called READ might have matched ‘translator and journalist’.
14 eE,REBUS – DI John Rebus appears in Ian Rankin books, Wikipedia tells me
16 pUNA – puna is a mountain sickness – new Chambers words for me
18 RUT,Aa – ruta = rue (plant), rut = excitement, AA = Alcoholics Anon. = reformers
19 ROL(l)Er
20 a,S.(A.S.)A., A= Advanced, then a pair of abbrevs one inside the other
23 NANc(y) – should have guessed bread = nan much faster than I did
24 E.T.,ThIN
25 DYE,Au – DYEA was a Gold-Rush settlement in Alaska. Another win for Wikipedia.
28 S(tAN)D
30 A(REe)TE – Ate = goddess of mischief
32 ArNE – Thos. of Rule Britannia fame
34 A,NEeW = ween rev.
35 YET,g.I.
37 PA,U,Ai – this shell took positively ages to remember
38 NIm,N – Anaïs of the racy stories
39 DeRAIN,S – André D, co-founder of Fauvism with Matisse. Wiki tip no. 3.
40 LEE(T)LEn – see above for a minor gripe about this one.
41 G,tINGLE – much time wasted early on with the (O, catchy) fake anag.
1 T(SET,SEm.)S – I wasn’t keen on “northern road” = road = St. going north, but it’s justified by ‘northern’ in C.
4 HEn,BRA,IS,T – some more phrase trouble, from woman=she rather than hen.
9 WE,eAR – ‘first person among royalty’ was nicely disguised for ‘royal We’.
11 KO = O.K. rev.,sHEN – SHEN = an acronym for a hands-on therapy – Kohen = same as Cohen – and annoyingly was in last Sun’s Azed too, which I solved after finishing this one – strictly I shouldn’t mention that for another couple of days but I doubt it will cause a significant rush of extra entries.
15 URENt,AS – urenas are plants and urent = stinging
17 SLATTERNLYe – r in (style learnt)*, puzzle(2) being a slattern. Guessed the wordplay very early but the shortage of vowels meant I needed lots of checking letters to see this.
21 SEA(l),rEAR – rear = lightly cooked, esp. of eggs. The sea-ear or ormer is a C.I. seafood.
22 CARA,V,A,N.u.S. – (Cara = girl’s name) is in that section at the back of C.
26 LE(WISE)nS – another Fr. place that was tough to find, esp. when I thought sensible was ‘sane’. Lewises really are some kind of masonry tool
32 A,YE(Li(e))P
33 KANEHt = (Tashkent – S,T)*- a Hebrew measurement (6 cubits) rather than the Russian one I was expecting for some reason
36 IN,TI(e) – used to be money in Peru.
37 PI(Ld)S – PIS = drink = sip rev.

4 Responses to “Inquisitor 87 – SQUADS by Hypnos”

  1. Geoff Moss says:


    17d You have indicated that this is ‘R’ (end of paper) in *(STYLE L[e]ARNT) but there is only one R in ‘slatternly’.

    Either ‘taking in back of paper’ is redundant or there is a misprint and ‘learnt’ should have been ‘leant’.

    Also, in the unclued entries, why did you go for ‘setter’ in preference to ‘letter’. Both can be justified in Chambers. Is this related to the ‘blue sky’ and ‘green pitch’ you mention, but that I totally fail to see in the grid?

  2. petebiddlecombe says:


    17D – I was careless here – ‘style learnt’ on its own is an anag. of STATTERNLYe. I have no idea why the ‘when taking in back of paper’ part is there – ‘leant’ makes the surface nonsensical so I don’t think it can have been intended.

    Setter instead of Letter – ’twas just the first one I thought of. Letter is a perfectly valid alternative which I hope will be stated as acceptable in the paper next week. In the grid printed in the paper, the top half had a pale blue background, the bottom half a pale green one. Less easy to notice when it’s filled with letters than when it was a ‘virgin grid’.

  3. Geoff Moss says:

    Thanks, Pete.

    I had no idea that the copy in the paper had different background colours for the two halves of the grid.

    I agree with your comment about the surface reading of 17d but, having spent many hours trying to parse the clue with ‘when taking in back of paper’ included, I finally admitted defeat and thought I would wait for the erudite opinion of whoever was scheduled to blog this one.

  4. nmsindy says:

    I enjoyed this puzzle – curiously the division of the grid misled me into thinking that the eight unclued entries were two sets of four either side of the centre, only confirmed by the two parts of the diagonal message when discovered also being so.

    I never thought of the sky and the pitch.

    Seeing ENSIGN was related to RED and not DEVILS was the breakthrough.

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