Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 1185: Trilogy by Plumrot

Posted by duncanshiell on July 20th, 2011


Plumrot is a new compiler to me so I wasn’t sure what to expect in this puzzle.  The grid was a fairly compact 11 * 11 size, presumably to fit with key elements of the theme.

The preamble stated that one answer in each column loses a letter wherever it occurs in the wordplay and bracketed lengths refer to the grid entry, while the definition is to the full word.  The letters in column order spell out the first item of the trilogy.  One across clue in each row has a letter missing somewhere along its length, which should be included for the clue to be solvable.  The letters in row order spell the third item of the trilogy.  Solvers must complete the unchecked central letter and then highlight the central item of the trilogy and the author in the completed grid.

A number of rows (3, 4, 8 and 9) and columns (again 3, 4, 8 and 9) had only one clue so there was no doubt about the nature of these clues and entries.  Row 5 and column 5 did not have any entries, thereby implying we were looking for two word items for the first and third elements of the trilogy.

The puzzle seemed to me to be solvable without too much difficulty.  Perhaps surprisingly though, I made more early progress with the across clues and their missing letters than I did with the down clues leading to a letters latent form of entry.

As I have mentioned before, literature is not my strongest subject, so I didn’t realise immediately the relevance of TIT.. ….. coming from the acrosses and TIT.. ….. coming from the downs.  I suspect many solvers made the right connection fairly quickly given that there have been crosswords on the theme of the central element of the trilogy before.

A little bit of research yielded TITUS GROAN and TITUS ALONE as the first and third elements of the trilogy by MERVYN PEAKE.  The central item is GORMENGHAST. These latter two names are located on the major diagonals as shown in the grid below.  The central letter in the fully barred cell is therefore N

















As usual there were a few new words to learn.  For me these were EELFARE, CERTIORARI, LAMASERAIS, MECANATE and YARRAMAN.  IRegrettably,  have come across MWAH before, but I hope I don’t use it in everyday speech



Amended clues

Letter Wordplay Entry
1 Local to lounge about, returning insincere expression of affection? (4)   HAWM (a dialect [local] word meaning to lounge about) reversed (returning) MWAH (a representation dating from the mid-1990s of the sound made by someone giving an air kiss.  Usually interpreted as an insincere form of affection. Brewers Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable suggests that the utterance is most common among media people and luvvies)  I can’t find reference to MWAH in Chambers, Collins or the Shorter Oxford.

Starling, confess about hard year (6)

Startling, confess about hard year (6)

T Startling SING (confess) containing (about) (H [hard] + Y [year]) SHYING (starting with alarm; startling)

English MP, perhaps one about to make migration (7)

English imp, perhaps one about to make migration (7)

I iMP E (English) + ELF (imp) + A (one) + RE (about) EELFARE (a migratory passage of young eels; migration)
11 Cold chipped potato (4)   ALOOF (reserved and haughty; cold) excluding the final letter (chipped) F ALOO (potato)

Writ involved carer, one snaffling island gold (10)

Writ involved carter, one snaffling island gold (10)

T carter (Anagram of [involved] CARTER  + I  [one]) containing (snaffling) (I [island] + OR [gold]) CERTIORARI (a writ to call up the records of a lower court for consideration in the High Court of Justice)

See part of site in Gabon going fast (8)

See part of suite in Gabon going fast (8)

U suite V (vide [Latin]; see) + ROOM (part of a suite [of rooms]) + IN + G (International Vehicle Registration for Gabon) VROOMING (going fast)
14 Japanese city formerly beset by any quaking (6)   AGO (formerly) contained in (beset by) an anagram of (quaking) ANY NAGOYA (Japanese city)

Oil snatched in the art heist (5)

Soil snatched in the art heist (5)

S Soil Hidden word in (in) THE ART HEIST EARTH (soil)
21 No longer adding to family in endless self-confidence (5)   KIN (family) contained in EGO (self-confidence) excluding the last letter (endless) O EKING (archaic [no longer] word meaning in addition; adding to)

Group’s fourth CD in place to rise? (6)

Group’s fourth cad in place to rise? (6)

A cad CUR (cad) contained in (in) (U [fourth letter of {fourth} GROUP] + PL [place]) UPCURL (rise)

Sat amidst whales frolicking, secure in the foam? (8)

Salt amidst whales frolicking, secure in the foam? (8)

L Salt AB (able-bodied seaman [salt]) contained in (set amidst) an anagram of (frolicking) WHALES WASHABLE (can be washed, presumably without a dye running or without other problems; secure in the foam [y water]))

Aerial mass converted nun for religious establishments (10)

Aerial mass converted noun for religious establishments (10)

O noun Anagram of (converted) AERIAL MASS LAMASERAIS (word [noun] defining Tibetan monasteries [religious establishments]

Girl locating moth in rears of some gardens here (4)

Girl locating month in rears of some gardens here (4)

N month

M (month) contained in (locating in) final letters of (rears of) SOME GARDENS HERE

ESME (girl’s name)
28 Divine affair ultimately had wicked story about King (7)   GO (affair) + D (last letter of [ultimately] abbreviation of HAD) + (LIE [wicked story] containing [about] K [king]) GODLIKE (divine)

Kit traditionally involving four items (6)

Kite traditionally involving four items (6)

E Kite Hidden word in (involving) KITE TRADITIONALLY TETRAD (a group of four items)
30 Article online? That’s no longer simple (4)   E (electronic) + THE (definite article) An E-THE is a cryptic way of saying an article online. Reference e-mail, e-book e-banking …….. ETHE (Spenserian, hence no longer used, word for easy; simple)




Letter  Wordplay Entry
1 The writer’s importing economic article – opiate? (7)


ME (the writer) containing (importing) ECON [economic] + A) MECONATE (a salt of meconic acid, obtained from poppies; opiate)
2 Greet the Queen with English power (4)


WE (reference the royal ‘we’ used for ‘I’) + E (English) + P (power) WEEP (cry; ‘greet’ is a Scottish word for ‘weep’)
3 Acceptable gear carried in a left hand (6)


RIG (gear) contained in (carried in) (A + LH [left hand]) ALRIGHT (acceptable)
4 An immense number offloading money up in grocery (5)


MYRIAD (any immense number) excluding (offloading) M (money), reversed (up) DAIRY (a small grocery store serving a local community)
6 Leading men? The girl’s leading numberless individuals (6)


HER (the girl’s) + ONES (individuals) excluding (less) N (number) HEROES (men who lead in acts of bravery or star in films, among other valiant things; leading men)
7 Article carried by many a galloping Outback horse (6)


A (indefinite article) contained in (carried by) anagram of (galloping) MANY A YARRAMAN (Australian [Outback] horse)
8 One comes to consecrate, never to bury (7)


NO (never) + INTER (bury) ANOINTER (one who comes to consecrate)
9 Active performance, embracing love (4)


GIG (performance) containing (embracing) O (love, in tennis) GOING (active)
15 Remove acid from a lake? Various lakes (7)


A + L (lake) + anagram of (various) LAKES ALKALISE (to make alkaline; to remove acid from)
17 Result of dig around square in the old Rome (7, 2 words)


HOLE (result of dig) containing (around) (S [square] contained in (in) YE [an old form of ‘the’])  HOL(Y(S)E)E HOLY SEE (the Roman Catholic bishopric of Rome, often referred to simply as ‘Rome’)
18 Gravedigger in Hamlet makes empty remarks initially (6)


IN + the first letters of (initially) HAMLET MAKES EMPTY REMARKS INHUMER (gravedigger)
19 Two exotic military men in popular novel (7, 2 words)


AGA (Turkish commander; exotic military man where ‘exotic’ is used in its meaning of ‘anything of foreign origin’) + AGA (ditto, to give the second exotic military man) AGA SAGA (popular novel in a semi-rural middle class setting)
20 I’ll be back in Arab country, heading off after year (7, 2 words)


Y (year) + KUWAIT (Arab country) excluding the first letter (heading off) K YOU WAIT (an expression of warning implying ‘I’ll be back!’)
23 Guarantee what Government should have done, investing in power and energy (5)


LED (what the government should have done [in relation to power and energy policy] Plumrot’s view presumably is that the Government hasn’t led in the direction he/she wishes) contained in (investing in) (P [power]+ E [energy]) PLEDGE (guarantee)
24 Appetise with the cooking (4)   W (with) + anagram of (cooking) THE WHET (appetise)
25 Man’s upset about Knight following Indian religion (4)   HIS (man’s) reversed (upset) containing (about) K (knight) SIKH (Indian religion)

12 Responses to “Inquisitor 1185: Trilogy by Plumrot”

  1. jetdoc says:

    For people wondering about the pseudonym… a character in the trilogy is Dr Prunesquallor. This is not a new setter, but one whose more usual pseudonym begins with the same letter.

  2. hounddog says:

    I think this must have been at the easier end of the scale as I finished all bar two or three clues while on the move without any reference materials. Having AL_NE from the down clues certainly helped, once I realised I was looking for two words. Literature’s not my strong point but I have read the ‘Gormenghast’ books.

    ‘Eelfare’ appeared in the ‘Fishmongers’ Film Club’ Inquisitor of a few months ago and, unusually for me, it stuck in my memory.

  3. nmsindy says:

    I think the puzzle appeared on the centenary of MP’s birth on 9 July 1911.

    Comment 1 is itself rather cryptic, Jetdoc, and I’m wonder whether the ‘same letter’ is D or P.

  4. kenmac says:

    I’ve never read Gormenghast. I did try to watch it on BBC a few years ago and gave up. :-(

    I wonder if there was a cock-up on the editorial front since the Saturday Cryptic on the same day also had a Gormenghast theme ( I don’t often do the normal cryptic but chose to that week.

    Then when I sat down to do the Inquisitor, it was a breeze as the theme was obvious from the outset.

  5. HolyGhost says:

    Yes – rather an easy one, with BBC Radio 4 having trailed this “classic serial” for some days in advance.

    Phi’s puzzle (Inquisitor 99) from Nov-08 coincided with the 40th anniversary of MP’s death – so, jetdoc, was it he?

    PLEA TO JOHN H (editor): for those of us with eyesight problems and that use pencil (HB), could you tone down the shading on the crossword grids – there’s simply not been enough contrast the last two weekends.

  6. mc_rapper67 says:

    I have added a comment to my blog of the aforementioned Saturday Cryptic to link to here (had held off until this blog’s publication date).

    As far as editorial ‘cock-ups’ go, I’m not sure the Inquisitor editor (latterly the late great Mike Laws, now the indomitable John Henderson) also covers the other Independent puzzles? Even so, it would have been harsh on either setter to spike one puzzle in favour of the other?…you only get one chance to celebrate a centenary, after all…

  7. John H says:

    Re Plea in #5: absolutely, I wholeheartedly agree! Were it not one of Mike’s tricks, I probably wouldn’t be using colour at all. And it never looks quite so dark on the proof I get to see.

    Re #6: I don’t see the normal Saturday crytic copy until the day before it appears. I thought the use of precisely the same theme words in both was rather odd and would have detracted from whichever puzzle one did second: many solvers, however, don’t do both puzzles, and, as you say, centenaries don’t come about that often.

    Re Plumrot: all will be revealed on the solution page. Until then, I’ll leave it to the compiler to “come out” if (s)he so wishes.

    Thanks once again for the feedback, and please bear with me for a little while longer – still learning the ropes!


  8. Scarpia says:

    Thanks Duncan,for your usual high quality blog.

    I really enjoyed this puzzle,even though I found it fairly easy.
    As soon as the Saturday papers are delivered I usually check out the Inquisitor and read the preamble and, for the first time ever, I guessed the theme before even beginning the puzzle.(Trilogy/Plumrot…!)
    Being a big fan of the trilogy and having been to the exhibition of Peake’s paintings and illustrations only the day before no doubt helped!

    I did hold myself up a bit by being too clever and pencilling in Gormenghast in the middle of the downs!
    Thanks Plumrot. BTW I agree with HolyGhost,my money’s on Phi.

  9. Chalicea says:

    Yes, Scarpia, my money goes there too, for obvious reasons. Mervyn Peake is also on the cover of this month’s Literary Review and there’s a two-page article on him in there as well as the very easy little literary crossword that has some mentions. But what a dreadful pseudonym to choose. The trilogy is far too hard going for me but does Plumrot appear as one of the ghastly characters in Gormenghast?

  10. HolyGhost says:

    Chalicea – regarding Plumrot, see jetdoc’s comment 1 (Prunesquallor).

  11. Chalicea says:

    Ah, yes, thanks – careless reading!

  12. Phi says:

    How interesting that my puzzle in 208 coincided with the 40th anniversary of Peake’s death. That wasn’t intentional at all.

    I think a true Mervyn Peake aficionado would have chosen Plumrott – the doubling of the consonant echoing that in -squallor and also the name of Rottcodd (the first significant character to appear in the trilogy) – Rottcodd itself seems to originate from a reversal of ‘doctor’, which would be a nice reference back to the good Dr P.

    Annoying when you only think of things subsequently, isn’t it?

Leave a Reply

Don't forget to scroll down to the Captcha before you click 'Submit Comment'

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

× two = 10