Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 1166 – Russian Links by Loda

Posted by Hihoba on March 9th, 2011


I found this offering by Loda pretty tricky. Due to my lack of knowledge of statistics and statistical modelling, the clue in the title utterly passed me by, and I had completed the whole puzzle diagram, perimeter and all, before the theme appeared. This was not aided by my (incorrect) assumption that the initial letters of the extra words, not the words themselves, embodied the theme!

So we had three types of clue.

1) Clues to the perimeter, each of which defined two words differing by one letter. Only one of these was to be entered (chosen according to the theme) and the wordplay defined the letters common to both.

2) Across clues containing an extra word. These extra words defined the theme.

3) Normal Down clues.

I started on the down clues, but as usual drew a blank until the bottom right corner! After quite a struggle I was able to solve all the across and down clues bar three, and started on the perimeter.

A letter count revealed that there were 44 letters in the perimeter, 8 clues yielded 52 letters , so the logical thing was that the last letter of each word was the first letter of the next.

My first solution was the penultimate one DREAR/DREAM. This seemed to fit at the top of the left hand column and the following one must be R/M?T?N? and a dictionary search threw up RATINE as the cloth and RATING for tar. From there it became relatively routine, though I certainly would not have solved it without the use of computer aids!

I finally spotted MARKOV(‘S) CHAIN as the theme (Russian Links) and found the theme explained by the extra words as:

Series of events, the probability of each of which depends on the probability of that immediately preceding it.

I am not quite sure how that definition relates to my perimeter chain, but I’m sure some expert on statistics will enlighten me. In my chain the previous entry seems determined by the next which is the reverse of what I was expecting from the definition.

In the perimeter, the grid entry is shown in red.

 1  First answer  Second answer  Wordplay
 1  GRAND – chief  GRANT – concede  [RANG]* (Harry = anagram)
 2  THICKET – trees close together  THICKEN – obscure  [KITCHE(n)]* (more jerky = anagram)
 3  TENSOR – muscle  TENSON – competition between poets  [NOTES]* (rustle = anagram)
 4  REGIMENS – prevailing systems  REGIMENT – a large number  EG (say) in RI (Indonesia) + MEN (followers)
 5  STRAWWORM – fly larva  STRAW WORK – made with corn  RAW in [WORST]*
 6  MUMMED – silenced  MUMMER – actor  MUMM (Champagne) + E
 7  DREAR – dull and tedious  DREAM – literary ideal  [READ]*
 8  RATING – tar (sailor)  RATINE – rough open fabric  [TAR IN]*
 Clue  Answer   Extra word   Definition: wordplay 
 7  ATHROB  Series  In the process of soundly beating: [HAT]* (high = anagram) + R(un) + O(ut) + B(ishop)
 10  ANOXIC  of  With insufficient oxygen in tissues: AN (symbol for actinon – latest Chambers only) + OX + I + C (see)
 11  REVUE  events  Loosely arranged show: sounds like REVIEW 
 13  RIND  the  Crust: hidden in toasteR INDian’s
 15  LACE  probability  Thrash: AL(l) reversed + (re)CE(nt)
 16  MADE  of  Promoted: MAD + E
 17  ODONTOMA  each  Dental disease: [DO NOT]* + (w)OMA(n)
 20  ERUCT  of  Belch: [CURE(d)]* (divers = anagram) + (hear)T(burn)
 22  SURE  which  Safe: (i)S (g)U(a)R(d)E(d) – not odd
 23  MARK  depends  double meaning: take note of & old foreign currency
 27  CHAIN  on  Restrain: CH(ild) + AI (top drawer) + N(eckband)
 28  STICKERS  the  Piercing weapons: [STRIKE C(utlas)S]*
 30  UDOS  probability  Nippon plants: U (everyone can see) + DOS (hoaxes)
 32  TOAD  of  Warty beast: T(hailand) + O(ccasionally) + A(fter) + D(awn)
 34  SILO  that  Storage tower: LO after S(outh) I(sland)
 36  MANTA  immediately  Sea-vampire: MAN (o’ war) + TA (thanks)
 37  RETREE  preceding  This paper’s not right: RE + TREE
 38  PRIEVE  it  Test: [VIPER]*


 1  THEN  Immediately:  THE + N(ote)
 2  NOUL  Top of the head: [LOU N(ame)]*
 3  RANCOR  Bitterness in LA: R(oyal) A(ustralian) N(avy) + COR (= Hebrew measure, the homer)
 4  ANAEMIC  Sickly, spiritless: ANA (equal quantities) + [MICE]* 
 5  NORM  Chap: N + OR + M
 6  HINDER  Keep back: HIND + (de)ER
 8  TRIO  Tom, Dick and Harry, e.g.: T(roy) + RIO (Ferdinand – footballer)
 9  BEATS  Strikes: BEAST with T “up”
 12  JAGUAR  Ferocious feline: JAG (fit) + (g)UAR(d)
 14  DOCKS  Bobs: DOC (“Doc Martin” – ITV series) + KS (Kansas)
 18  DURION  Smelly fruit: I(nsect) in [ROUND]*
 19  ASHES  Remains: hidden in ThomAS HE Sifted
 21  TOTTIER  Even smaller (dialect): [TETROIT]* = Detroit with + T(ime) for D(ead)
 24  ANDREW  Prince: [WARNED]*
 25  VIOLET  Colour: [I LOVE]* + T(omato)
 26  SCAMP  Jack Sheppard e.g. (highwayman): (i)S + CAMP (gay)
 29  SLAV  Polish e.g.: S(ales) + LAV (office!)
 31  SERA  Watery liquids: (pipe)S + [ARE]*
 33  DARN  Sew up hole: (threa)D + [RAN]*
 35  ITEM  Romantic pairing: IT (personal magnetism) + EM (space)


And the grid:

8 Responses to “Inquisitor 1166 – Russian Links by Loda”

  1. Ali says:

    Cheers for the ever-excellent review

    I’m about as far away from an expert on statistics as it’s possible to be without falling over, but the perimeter seems to make sense to me. For example, the initial R of RATING is dependent on the final R of DREAR and, as it’s an continuous chain, the same is true whichever entry you choose.

    Which is all well and good now, but didn’t help me at the time! Even with the theme, I couldn’t work out the wordplay and entries for the perimeter clues. I enjoyed everything else though!

    As somebody who sees no problem with using every aid under the sun (call it cheating if you will), the Chambers CD-Rom full text search was my way into the theme here and I doubt have got it otherwise as Googling the full definition from the clues only seemed to yield generic pages about probability, the likes of which make my head hurt.

  2. HolyGhost says:

    The extra words in the across clues are indeed those under the headword Markov chain in Chambers, but they certainly do not define a Markov chain, which might be described as a “Series of states, the probability of each of which depends on the state immediately preceding it.” (An example is a random walk: the probability of where you will be next depends only on where you are now, not on how you got here.)

    And whatever sort of chain is formed by the perimeter words, it isn’t Markov. (Or “Markov’s” – which I’ve never heard of.)

    That aside, I’ll comment on the puzzle later, when I have more time.

  3. Hi of hihoba says:

    I’m glad to hear, Ali, that I am not alone in my use of the Chambers CDROM. Sadly they don’t seem to update it as new editions of the dictionary come out, so I still have to revert to paper searches for some definitions – not always modern ones either!

  4. HolyGhost says:

    Unlike the previous puzzle (in which the poem was new to me, and the poet only vaguely heard of), Markov chains are bread and butter for me.

    I too started on the Downs but seem to have had quite a bit more success than Hi(hoba), and then just over half way through the Acrosses I got 23a and saw MARK_V CH___ in the grid. So, somewhat mechanically, I finished most of the Downs, extracted the extra words from the Acrosses & finished those, then tackled the perimeter. Again, as with Hi(hoba), DREAR/DREAM was the first to be solved, and the rest followed like dominoes falling.

    Notwithstanding my comments at 2 (above), I thought it a reasonable puzzle, but, as with the previous one, at bit on the tame side.

    And, I seem to forget that “Homer” = COR every other time it occurs.

  5. HolyGhost says:

    For Ali and Hi(hoba) (plus other users of the Chambers CD-ROM), there is a patch available that cures some of the search facilities and other features. “Big Dave” has deposited this at Dropbox (see – check out the ‘conversation’ at Derek Harrison’s Crossword Message Board (around 16 Feb).

  6. ele says:

    Homer = cor is a new one on me and I’ve been doing this xword and the daily for some time now. The repeated ‘probability’ in the across clues seemed slightly odd and gave me an idea (although I’m no statistician either) and a mixture of guessing and elimination put together the sentence and what to do with the perimeter. Like Hihoba, I did most of this just as a regular puzzle and only picked out markov chain right at the end thanks to a superficial acquaintance with bioinformatics which rejoices in things called hidden markov models (don’t ask). But a very enjoyable puzzle. Thanks to Loda and to Hihoba for the excellent blog.

  7. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Hihoba.
    Like you I found this quite hard.I think the fact that a lot of the extra words were what I call’link words’e.g. ‘of”and”on”the’.
    I agree with your reading of the linked words,the final letter of a word is determined by the word following it,which seems to run contrary to the theme phrase.But then I’m no statistician either,the only probabilities I am able to work out are for poker hands!
    I solved all the normal clues before starting on the perimeter,my way in was through DREAR/DREAM.

  8. Hi of hihoba says:

    For Chambers CD-ROM users the instructions for the patch (very helpful and thanks HolyGhost!) are:
    1) Download patch (see comment 5 above)- tcdpatch.exe – and run it with Chambers closed.
    2) Open Chambers and click on the crossed spanner and screwdriver.
    3) Select Crossword Solver in the “Wildcard Search” section.

    Before j?t?k? yields “jataka”, afterwards it gives jet ski and jet-ski as well.

    These instructions are reproduced here from the Derek Harrison blog to save people having to search for them.

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