Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 1213: 20/20 by Ferret

Posted by duncanshiell on February 1st, 2012


The preamble stated "the grid exhibits 90 degrees symmetry.  Clues are in conventional order.  One letter must be omitted from each answer before entry in the grid; definitions and letter-counts refer to the full answers, wordplay to the grid entry.  Additionally, what you see in the final grid is what you get from the omitted letters."

First thoughts were that 26 clues didn’t seem to be enough to fill an 11 * 11 grid, so it was likely that there was something odd going on.  Also, I thought that if the clues were in conventional order, then it should be possible to work out where the Acrosses stopped and the Downs began by looking at the patterns of answer lengths.  The answer lengths of the Acrosses began 7, 6, 8, 5…., so it was fairly easy to spot the reverse sequence …5, 8, 6,7 ending with the clue beginning ‘One’s worked a long time….’.  Further analysis showed a single 12 letter length in each of the Across and Down clues.  Given an odd number of cells in each dimension of the grid this implied that the two 12 letter definitions (11 letter entries) were in row and column 6.  A little bit of solving indicated that the first and last two acrosses could not fit in rows 1 and 11, but could fit in rows 2 and 10.  

The 90 degree symmetry meant that the grid could be rotated through 90 degress and the bar pattern would be the same.  This helped in determining where some of the Downs were going to go and the pattern of the grid fill became clear.

I have come across Ferret as a setter in The Magpie but I see from  The Inquisitor Index on this site that this is his/her first outing in The Inquisitor series.

At this point, can I add my support to the campaign to sell the benefits of The Magpie as a wonderful source of challenging and rewarding crosswords.

I though Ferret’s clues were excellent with very smooth surfaces and first class misdirection.  I particularly liked the clues for [full words] FLINT GLASS, GOOMBAH, STEDD, RED SNOW and SINGER.  For STEDD we had the full answer hidden left to right, where what we needed was SEDD reverse hidden.

The final grid was a follows.
















The letters omitted from each definition spelled out TWENTY BLOCKS PLUS TWENTY BARS which is what we see in the perimeter of the final grid.

The title 20/20 refers to the 20 blocks and 20 bars.  The phrase 20/20 also featured in one of the clues (SHARP-SIGHTED)

The clue numbers in the table below are what they would have been if Ferret had numbered the clues

I look forward to more puzzles from Ferret.

No Clue Wordplay Letter Solution Entry
6 Hot area following a cold one produces a prickle (7) A + C (cold) + AN + H (hot) + A (area)


8 Very small letter associated with early English (6) PEE (the letter P) + EE (early English)


PEEWEE (very small) PEEEE
9 You heard new joke in Edinburgh riled fringe – it’s not precluded (8) U (the letter U; sounds like [heard] YOU) + N (new) + BAR (a Scots [Edinburgh] word for ‘joke’) + RD (the first and last letters of [fringe] RILED)


UNBARRED (not precluded) UNBARRD
11 Apply stone to earth lining of pit (5) ST (stone) + E (earth) + I (centre letter of [lining of] PIT)


STEIN (a lining of stone) – a sort of &Lit clue, although I am not sure you can have a real &Lit where there are two separate answers (definition and wordplay for some of the letters) STEI
13 Judge poems in personal appearance (7) ODES (poems) contained in (in) PA


PODESTA (judge, in an Italian town) PODESA
14 Cover ruptured spleen in half of arnica deposit (10) ARN (first three letters of [half of] ARNICA) containing (cover) an anagram of (ruptured) SPLEEN


ARLES-PENNY (a preliminary payment; deposit) ARLESPENN
15 Detective Inspector reorganised unit’s riot dispersal (12) DI (Detective Inspector) + an anagram of (reorganised) UNIT’S RIOT


18 Tip of finger with bit of needle in it; damsel’s sleeping at last within pure crystal (10, 2 words)

G (last letter of [at last] SLEEPING) contained in (within) (F [first letter of {tip of} FINGER] + [N {first letter of (bit of) NEEDLE} contained in {in} IT + LASS {damsel}])

F I (N) T (G) LASS


FLINT GLASS (a very fine and pure lead glass; pure crystal) FINTGLASS
20 Batman’s first time out of Gotham freaking out Mafioso (7) Anagram of (B [first letter of {first) BATMAN] and GOTHAM excluding [out of] T)


GOOMBAH (someone who belongs to a crim inal gang, expecially the Mafia; Mafioso) GOMBAH
22 Hitler heartlessly destroyed German state (5) Anagram of (destroyed) HITLER excluding the middle two letters (heartlessly) TL


REICH (the German state) REIH
23 Soldier in TA assembled a type of weapon (8) ANT (soldier, an ant of a specialist fighting caste) + anagram of (assembled) IN TA


ANTI-TANK (type of weapon) ANTITAN
24 Espada maker collecting hard steel (6) Hidden word in (collecting) ESPADA MAKER


DAMASK (Damascus steel; a hard steel) DAMAK
25 One’s worked a long time in agricultural servitude (7) Anagram of (worked) ONE + AGE (a long time)


PEONAGE (agricultural servitude where a farm worker pays back a debt by bondage) EONAGE
No. Clue Wordplay Letter Solution Entry
1 Penetrated into outskirts of Sienna protected by shields (6) CUT (penetrated) contained in (into) SA (first and last letters of [outskirts of] SIENNA)


SCUTAL (having a hard exoskeletal plate; protected by shields) SCUTA
2 Integral within line in the smallest degree (7) L (line) contained in (in) (IN [within] + BIT [the smallest degree]) I might have got my ‘in’s and ‘withins’ in the wrong place in the parsing, but I am sure you can see what I mean.


IN-BUILT (integral) INBILT
3 This graph’s changed by editor with 20/20 vision (12) Anagram of (changed) THIS GRAPH + ED (editor)


4 No longer help uprising in contested desert (5) Hidden word in (in) CONTESTED DESERT reversed (uprising)


STEDD (archaic [no longer] word for ‘help’) SEDD
5 Drones buzzing about stained crud (7, 2 words) Anagram of (buzzing about) DRONES


RED SNOW (snow covered by a microscopic red alga ; stained crud [gluey half-melted snow]) REDSNO
7 Tread awkwardly amongst catch from reservoir (10, 2 words) Anagram of (awkwardly) TREAD contained in (amongst) HANK (to catch, as on a loop)


8 Force pushing forwards pell-mell rips up loo (10) Anagram of (pell-mell) RIPS UP LOO


PROPULSION (force pushing forwards) PROPULSIO
9 Cabinet maker preserving tree in old vinegar mostly (8)

BEN (any of several tropical trees of the Moringa genus, especially the horseradish tree) contained in (in) EISEL (obsolete [old] word for ‘vinegar’) excluding the final letter (mostly) L


ÉBÉNISTE (a cabinetmaker) EBENISE
12 I’m found in serum manufactured from treacle-mustard (8)

I’M contained in (found in) an anagram of (manufactured) SERUM


ERYSIMUM (the treacle-mustard genus of Cruciferae)

16 If this type of lens breaks make official representation (7) OFFICIAL is an anagram of IF and IFOCAL, so that IF and the entry IFOCAL can be anagrammed to form [representation] OFFICIAL  I haven’t yet worked out an elegant way of describing a compound anagram of the entry and a word in the clue to form another word [or the defined word] in the clue.


BIFOCAL (a type of lens) IFOCAL
17 Prostitutes touring navy ships in the Med (7) TARTS (prostitutes) containing (touring) N (navy)


TARTANS (a Mediterranean vessel with a lateen sail)

19 Scorch grass (6) SINGE (scorch)


SINGER (someone who turns informer; a grass) SINGE
21 Fundamental American kept in balance (5) A (American) contained in (kept in) BAL (balance)


BASAL (fundamental) BAAL

6 Responses to “Inquisitor 1213: 20/20 by Ferret”

  1. Hi of hihoba says:

    I don’t quite agree with Duncan’s interpretation of the 20/20. In the perimeter there are 20 unused squares. These should be “blocked” in black. In the body of the puzzle there remain 20 bars.
    I thought this was a splendid puzzle from a setter I had not come across before.

  2. Dave Hennings says:

    I agree with Duncan and Hi … an excellent puzzle. This was a nicely implemented theme with really good clues, and what a superb piece of grid construction. As Hi says, when the 20 blocks are filled in, 20 bars are left in the rest of the puzzle.

  3. duncanshiell says:

    I did wonder a bit about the blocks and bars, but there was no specific instruction to black the blocks. To paraphrase the preamble, it simply said what you see is what you get. What I saw was 20 white blocks and 20 letters forming 20 ‘bars’ between the white blocks. I suspect though that blacking in the 20 blocks to leave 20 bars in the grid is probably the right interpretation.

  4. Steve Foulds says:

    I found this an entertaining puzzle from a setter who I’ve not solved before. Thank you Ferret

  5. HolyGhost says:

    A cracking debut from Ferret. Welcome to the IQ fold. We haven’t had a carte blanche for a while, and this was an ingenious implementation to boot. A most enjoyable challenge. Thanks.

    Given the 90-degree symmetry, half the clues were Acrosses and half Downs, so I didn’t bother to look for patterns in the answer lengths. The two 12-letter answers were quickly solved, but this was by no means a fast puzzle to complete. As most of the others seem to have done, I blacked out the 20 blocks to leave 20 bars.

    I now read less & less of the Saturday Independent, but will keep buying it for the crossword.

  6. RatkojaRiku says:

    First of all, many thanks to duncanshiell for such a detailed, reader-friendly blog. I got started with this puzzle in much the same way that you describe.

    Yes, I agree with the others about counting the bars – it surely has to refer to the bars that are independent of the black squares on the perimeter, otherwise the sums don’t add up.

    I think that I hadn’t fully understood the implications of the symmetry and so was not very bold when entering solutions. I strove valiantly to get the first two across solutions into the first row, and to have the first down solution start in the top left-hand corner. This vain effort doubtless held me up considerably.

    Otherwise, an impressive set of clues and excellent grid constrution, even though the denouement (i.e. what all the twenties referred to) was a tad tame for my liking, although that brought with it a symmetry all of its own.

    I look forward to tackling more Ferrets, both here and in The Magpie, which one hopes has a very long life ahead of it.

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