Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 136 – Availability by Phi

Posted by petebiddlecombe on August 14th, 2009


This is a good example of a surprise you can sometimes get from thematic puzzles – that an idea hasn’t been used before. I even wonder if this is what the title is partly about! The preamble told us about four perimeter answers clued only by wordplay, in a single sentence running the wordplay clues together. One was a “key theme word”, the others synonyms for it. They were “entered in accordance with a variant of the principle identified by the man whose name is given (in clue order) by the correct versions of one-letter misprints in definitions in some clues. The process is proportionate in its application.”

A brief look at the Perimeter clues suggested nothing so there was only one approach – solve the clues, finding the misprints along the way, and hope to notice either the man or something obvious about the processed words in the perimeter. Answers that arrived early were 10, 15, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 30, 3, 4, 5, 7, 21, 25, 29.

I can’t remember exactly how the penny-drop moment took place, though I’m fairly sure I noticed a couple of doublings of letters – maybe H and R in the top row, before finding the name or the perimeter answers. I think I looked at the perimeter answers and found that “church or ultimately state” could give CHORE which had the H and R. The rest of the perimeter answers then came out together – TASK, WORK, EFFORT. And then I remembered Parkinson’s Law – “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Applying a bit of crossword style relativity, it then became clear that the perimeter answers expanded to fill the space available, the “proportionate” part of the preamble meaning that each letter was repeated an equal number of times – CCHHOORREE, WWWOOORRRKKK, TTTAAASSSKKK, EEFFFFOORRTT. I then just had to remember that it was Cyril Parkinson, not Tory politician Cecil.

The crucial burst of inspiration happened about half an hour in, leaving a few clues left for a total time around 45 minutes – an easy Inquisitor but very nicely done. Old hands will have appreciated the distinctly uneven grouping of the misprints – there are a few runs of three or four plain clues, and a couple of clumps where 3 out of 4 are misprinted.

Perimeter (split into wordplay sections)
Tense question T,ASK
argument upheld over Knight WOR=row rev.,K=knight – note that this was a down answer so “upheld” works (pun intended)
fighter in English castle E(F),FORT
church or ultimately state? CH.,OR,E
Across Misprints (clue no., corrected word, notes)
9 Copy ECHO – hidden word
13 phoneY FAI(T=the,O=ring)R
16 caR TURB=rev. of brut(e),O
27 slIps G,LASS,Y
30 tiLer R,O,O,F
33 Plant (p)ROSE
34 boAt JUNK – two defs
Down misprints
2 haRd HOOT=call,C,H
7 bIrds RALLUS – hidden – the water-rail genus
17 loNger SP(UN)OUT
25 laSs F,L,OR,A – a slightly unfortunate chose of misprinted word, as you can also convert “lads” to “lady”, as I did at first.
26 hOlms IS,LES(s) – you’ll recognise holm=isle if you’ve idly looked at maps of the Bristol Channel showing Flat Holm and Steep Holm.
29 Nerve S(AS)S
Across plain clues
10 AN,E&W
11 FUR=pelt,ORE
14 ME(LA)N,O – melano = an abnormally dark-skinned person, by analogy with “albino”, listed under melanin in C
15 FAS(t),C.I.
18 ‘S,ARI(d) – “meagre” is a def for ARID in C.
20 O(PUS)ES – “matter” is the classic cryptic xwd def for PUS, and Oes is a plural of O
24 OUT OF THIN AIR = (into our faith)* – extra artistic impression points for the into/out of contrast!
31 H(A)IK(e) – haik (and variant spellings) = “an oblong cloth worn by Arabs on ther head and body”
32 T,USK – T=tip of tooth,then DUSK without its tip
Down plain clues
1 CH.,RI(S)M – rim=limit, and chrism is confirmation as well as consecrated oil
5 O,UTMARCH=(much art)*
6 RHAETIA = (th(e) area I)* – a province of the Roman Empire, roughly corresponding to central and eastern Switzerland
8 ENLARD = SHak. to grease or baste – “en l’air” without I=one,plus D=director
19 HAITINK – A in (I think)* – Bernard Haitink was chief conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1961 to 1988. I’m sure Phi watched him a few times at the Proms. Might have been clued with wordplay like “cloth-wrapped can” = TIN in HAIK, but for 31A already being there.
21 U(pse)T,MO(i)ST
23 PAD=sheets of paper,A,U.K. – padauk is a timber tree of the interesting-sounding “red sanders” genus – red sanders turns out to be just another tree
28 A,NOA(h) – I liked Noah as “animal collector”

3 Responses to “Inquisitor 136 – Availability by Phi”

  1. Gaufrid says:

    It is no coincidence that Raich used the same theme in Listener 4044 (25/7/2009). Cyril Northcote Parkinson was born on July 30, 1909 so the two puzzles were commemorating his centenary.

    The Listener puzzle left several blanks in the middle of the grid which needed to be filled in by ‘expanding’ the letters present to give:


    This block was surrounded by ‘time available for its completion’.

  2. Colin Blackburn says:

    I enjoyed this despite my usual habit of getting the odd misprint wrong, leaving me looking at …PARKIYON… for a wee while.

    I was going to mention this puzzle over on the Crossword Centre message board as a comment to Raich’s puzzle but I suspect it is against their rules despite the solution being given here.

  3. Peter Biddlecombe says:

    Their rule says “Please do not discuss (or even mention) current puzzles until after the solution is published”. But my understanding is that the puzzle to which this really applies is the Listener. I have got away with mentioning Times puzzles on the day of publication, possibly even prize ones. I don’t know any puzzle editor (or solver come to that) outside the trappist community of the Listener who would object to public discussion of prize puzzles between the closing date and publication of the solution.

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