Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 1221: Known – or Unknown by Nimrod

Posted by duncanshiell on March 28th, 2012


The preamble for this puzzle appeared mind-bogglingly complex on first read through.  It went as follows:

What started off as x (between a, b and cde) may have been compromised by a direction to fgh – so has someone ijklmno?  If so, and Nimrod holds this to be correct:

(i) a and b appear in symmetrically opposite down slots;

(ii) d and e are symmetrically placed downs;

(iii) f and h are symmetrically placed downs;

(iv) ijklmno are all across; and

(v) c=g=j=n,

shade a to o in the completed grid.

The letters of across answers that intersect with down shadings of a to o, and vice versa, are ignored in the wordplay in their clues.

(a) Find x.

(b) Deal with it accordingly.’

So there you are – simple[s]!  I read the preamble a couple more times and decided that the only way I would understand it would be to start solving the puzzle and see how the contents of the grid developed.  Perhaps I would get some ideas from that.  

Before starting solving I also noticed that a number of cells were shaded yellow in the grid.  No doubt there was a reason for that.

There were 51 clues in this puzzle, so solvers got their money’s worth.

It took me a fair amount of time to begin to see some pattern appearing in the unclued letters and the shaded cells.  I think it was the PUMA diagonally down from the first cell of 5 across and the CAT and BAG in rows 6 and 8 that produced the breakthrough.  The bones of SPILL and BEANS were also developing at the top and bottom of the two outside columns.  YOU amd ME then became obvious at the opposite ends of the outside columns.

What finally appeared in the grid was

Letter Value Location
a YOU 14 down
b ME First two letters of 40 down
c THE Across from first letter of 7 down
d GATE First four letters of 34 down
e POST Last 4 letters of 3 down
f SPILL Down from the start of 1 across
g THE Letters 4, 5 and 6 of 45 across
h BEANS Last five letters of column 13
i LET Middle 3 letters of row 5
j THE Letters 4 to 6 of row 6
k CAT Letters 7 to 9 of row 6
l OUT Letters 10 to 12 of row 6
m OF Letters 3 and 4 of row 8
n THE Letters 5 to 7 of row 8
o BAG Letters 8 to 10 of row 8

Note that c=g=j=n=THE. There were also two other THEs in the grid – first three letters of 28 down THE CREE and the three middle letters of 32 down ETHER.

In the shaded yellow cells at the top of the grid we had PUMA (diagonally down to the right from the first letter of 4 across), PUSS (letters 5 to 8 of row 4), CAT (last 3 lertters of 7 down), SAC (diagonally upward to the right from the final letter of 27 down) and TEA (diagonally downwards to the left from the the middle letter of 42 across).  We therefore had 3 cats and 2 bags.

Finally, we still had to find x.  Given that we were probably looking for something like CONFIDENCE or SECRET, I started looking for occurrences of the letter C.  The word SECRET appeared fairly centrally, letters 4 to 9 of column 7 (the central column).

I am still a little confused on the correct way to deal with SECRET appropriately.  I have written it below the grid in the space provided, but I am not sure whether to highlight it now that it is out of the bag or hide it altogether as one should keep a SECRET hidden.    Hiding it would also hide letters within a to o so I have left it in the grid and therefore have real words thorugh the grid

It’s probably easier to show all this than describe it so the final grid is shown below with as much sensible use of colour as I can to indicate all the thematic material.  Given that some of a to o overlap with given shaded yellow cells and SECRET, there is a bit of confusion remaining, but I think you will get the gist.

Putting a to o, and x back in the preamble we get ‘What started off as SECRET (between YOU, ME and THE GATE POST) may have been compromised by a direction to SPILL THE BEANS – so, has someone LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG…….’





















In the end all the thematic material came together and the preamble made sense.

I felt that the clues were simpler than usual by Nimrod’s normal standards, but as so many letters were omitted from the wordplay, I am very pleased that Nimrod took this approach.

Before getting onto clues I enjoyed, there is one clue that I can’t parse properly – 14 down leading to YOU.  Where has the B from the reversed BUOY gone?  Have I missed something obvious, or has Nimrod forgotten the B?  I expect it’s me – it usually is.

I’m also wondering why the T of IMPOST at 3 down and the G of GATEAU at 34 down as they fall within the across j THE and the across o BAG?  Is it because the component parts POST and GATE are themselves e and d and the T and G are each common to two letters?

The name LYALL, entry at 39 across, means nothing to me and I can’t find a ‘player’ named LYALL.  I am sure someone will tell me what I have missed.

There were many clues that made me smile as the penny dropped – e.g. the sporting ones, NASAL and ETALONS with their references to Rafael Nadal and Ferdinand Alonso.  I liked the clue to LAGOPUS and its reference to BAGPUSS, especially as one of BAGPUSS‘s creators was Oliver POSTGATE and GATE and POST feature in the theme.

BAGPUSS wasn’t the only cat around the clues.  We also had THOMAS O’MALLEY from the AristoCats at 7 down and a call for cat at 40 down.  I can’t see any obvious bags in the clues.

This was a puzzle that I had to work at and slowly discover all the layers.  To my mind this is what an Inquisitor or a Listener should be all about.  The Inquisitor series continues to provide an enjoyable challenge every week.

The title Known – or unknown refers to the SECRET being known (out of the bag) or unknown (not spilt)

No Clue Wordplay Unclued Letters Entry
1 In haste you bit off more than required (6) Hidden word [or in this case hidden letters] (more than required) in YOU BIT OFF


SUBITO (in haste)
5 Dodgy liquor’s very strong – that bloke’s drunk, and it’s time to go! (7) Anagram of (drunk) POTENT (very strong) and HE (that bloke) excluding (it’s … to go) T (time)


POTHEEN (Irish whiskey illicitly distilled; dodgy liquor)
11 Rock music or soul how you want it, anyway (13) Anagram of (rock) MUSIC OR SOUL


PROMISCUOUSLY (collected together without order; indiscriminately; any way; anyway)
15 Single bed’s ornamental edging (5) I (one; single) + COT (bed)


PICOT (a loop in an ornamental edging)
16 Satisfied with round, I’m in! (5, 2 words) MET (satisfied) + O (round)


ME TOO (I’m in!)
17 Skinned Emily’s pet ptarmigans (7) BAGPUSS (the name of a magical cat owned by Emily who managed an odd shop in the eponymous childrens’ TV series made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate in 1974.  Only 13 episodes were ever made, but many people of a certain age group remember it fondly) excluding the first and last letters (skinned) B and S


LAGOPUS (ptarmigans are members of the species LAGOPUS)
20 Sound tennis champion out of Germany (5) NADAL (reference Spanish tennis player Rafael NADAL, currently number 2 in the mens’ world rankings) excluding (out of) D (International Vehicle Registration for Deutschland, Germany)


NASAL (a sound uttered through the nose)
21 Interferometers nobble F1 driver out of turn (7) GET ALONSO (nobble [Ferdinand] ALONSO, Formula 1 driver for Ferrari) excluding (out of) GO (turn)


ETALONS (an interferometer used to measure wavelengths)
23 Bard’s superior to the gilt-edged earth (3) E (earth) contained in (edged) OR (gold; gilt)


O’ER (poetic [bard’s] word for over [superior])
24 Fit Scottish solicitor (4) TOUT (Scottish word meaning’ fit of the sulks’)


TOUT (a person who solicits for custom in an intrusive way; solicitor) double definition
25 Features of island paradise, as the proverbial couple gets stuck in (5)

CO (company [ reference the proverb two’s company, three’s a crowd) contained in (gets stuck in) COS (Greek island, can be spelt either COS or KOS)


COCOS (tropical seaside palm trees which produce the coconut; features of island paradise)
28 Go for five points (3) TRY (attempt; go)


TRY (in Rugby Union a try is worth five points [in Rugby League it is four]) double definition
29 Backtracking fools perhaps, say no more to Will (5) ASSES (fools) reversed (backtracking)


SESSA (Shakesperean [Will] word for ‘enough said'; say no more to Will)
30 Bought Scots farm with no little resistance (4) CROFT (a small farm in Scotland) excluding (with no) R (abbreviation for [little] resistance)


COFT (past tense of COFF, a Scottish word for ‘buy’)
35 Good home spirit (3) G (good) + IN (home)


GIN (spirit)

37 Fog following on obscures country mansion (7, 2 words) (F ([following] + RE [about; on]) contained in SEAT (country mansion)


SEA FRET (a fog coming inland off the sea)
39 He plays his part in The Return of Billy Liar (5) Hidden word (part in) reversed (the return of) in BILLY LIAR


LYALL (I’m not really sure what the reference is here.   I can’t find a famous actor or actress with the name LYALL.  I’ve had a quick trawl of footballers, rugby players, cricketers and golfers and can’t find a well known LYALL [not
well known to me that is])  I await the howls of indignation that I have forgotten a LYALL that is dear to someone’s heart!

41 Is about to fill gap not quite as harsh (7) IS reversed (about) contained in (to fill) HOLE (gap) excluding the final letter (not quite) E


HOSTILE (harsh)
42 Legally hinder the last of advocates at work (5) S (final letter of [last of)] ADVOCATES) + T [at?] + OP (opus; work)


ESTOP (a legal term for preclude or hinder; legally hinder)
44 Spiritually one teaches about books (5)

RE (about) + BB (books)


REBBE (a rabbi or spiritual leader of a Hasidic Jewish group; spiritually one teaches)

45 Affected by lifelong conditions, we breathe and eat with difficulty (13) Anagram of (with difficulty) WE BREATHE and EAT  When I first solved this anagram I wondered if the N came from ‘n as an abbreviation of ‘and’.


WEATHER-BEATEN ( [of someone’s skin or face] tanned or lined from prolonged exposure; affected by lifelong conditions)

46 Qualified old lady in new order needs energy for God (7) Anagram of (in new order) of OLD LADY with E (energy) replacing (for) D (God)


ALLOYED (tempered; qualified)
47 Solvers take time assembling tents (6) YOUR (referring to YOU as the solver of the puzzle – solver’s equates to YOUR) + T (time)


YOURTS (light conical tents made of skins, used in Siberia and Mongolia)


No. Clue Wordplay Unclued Letters Entry
2 Civilised old practice getting around prohibition (6) URE (obsolete [old] word for practice) containing (getting around) BAN (prohibition)


URBANE (civilised)
3 Compiler is, after tax (6) IM (I’M [I am; compiler is]) + POST (after)


IMPOST (tax, especially on imports)
4 Big copper’s not a big mouth (6) OS (outsize; big) + CU (chemical symbol for copper)


OSCULE (a little mouth; not a big mouth)
6 Last longer than us, breaking toy in pieces (7) The letters of US contained separately in  (breaking) an anagram of (in pieces) TOY


OUTSTAY (last longer than)
7 O’Malley say man with Mike aboard boat amidships (6) MC (emcee; master of ceremonies; the man with the microphone [Mike]) contained in (aboard) OA (the middle letters of [amidships] BOAT)


TOMCAT (reference Thomas O’Malley the smooth talking tomcat in Disney’s 1970 film The AristoCats)
8 Appearance for everyone European (3) U (reference film classification U which denotes a film that people fo all ages are permitted to see) + E (European, as in E-numbers)


HUE (appearance)
9 Hormonal folk needing a lift (7) SORTS (persons [e.g. they’re good sorts]; folk) reversed (needing a lift; down clue)


ESTROUS (variant spelling [Collins and the Shorter Oxford] of OESTROUS  [relating to the female sex-hormone OESTROGEN)
10 Separate and remove veteran last to make cut (5) E (final letter of [last to] MAKE) + LOIN (cut [of meat])


ELOIN (archaic [veteran] word meaning ‘separate and remove’)
11 Fools left Liberal zilch in elections (8) (L [left] + L [Liberal] + O [zero; zilch]) contained in (in) PICKS (choices; elections)


PILLOCKS (fools)
12 Essex local town newspaper up and running at the outset (5) ON (in operation; running) + RAG (newspaper) reversed (up)


ONGAR reference CHIPPING ONGAR; town in Essex)
13 Greek island function (5) COS (Greek island, can be spelt COS or KOS)


COSEC (cosecant function in trigonometry)
14 Anyone’s marker that float’s skyward (3) BUOY (marker that floats) reversed  (skyward).  I can’t work out how we lose the B before entry.  OUY doesn’t appear to be a variant of BUOY in any dictionary that I have.


YOU (the indefinite pronoun anyone)
18 Action settlements (4) PAS (action)


PAHS (Maori settlements)
19 Bitter, bitter purgative drug (4) ALE (bitter, as in a pint of bitter)


ALOE (bitter purgative drig)
22 Topless wannabes screaming, all over Eastern actor (8, 2 words) Anagram of (screaming) WANNABES excluding the first letter (topless) W, containing (all over) E (Eastern)


SEAN BEAN (English film and stage actor)
26 Ian ripped off sacred fountain by the sea (7)

CASTALIAN (relating to Castalia, a fountain on Parnassus, sacred to Apollo and the Muses and thought to be a source of poetic inspiration) excluding (ripped off) IAN


COASTAL (by the sea)
27 Ices originally one flavour short (4) First letters of (originally) ONE FLAVOUR SHORT


OFFS (kills; ices [American criminal slang])
28 Indian people resettled in Crete (7, 2 words) Anagram of (resettled) CRETE


THE CREE ([American] Indian people)
29 Sets forth through Easy Street (4) Hidden word in (through) EASY STREET


SAYS (sets forth)
31 Piece of silverware poor by comparision (6) ROPY (bad of its kind; poor by comparison)


TROPHY a piece of plate or suchlike awarded as a prize; silverware)

32 Clear air missing nothing else? (5) OTHER (alternate; else) excluding (missing) O (nothing)


ETHER (clear air)
33 Fun friend for Noel Hall (6) LOBBY (hall)


BLOBBY (reference Mr BLOBBY, a character from Noel Edmonds’ Saturday night variety TV show, Noel’s House Party, in the  1990s)
34 Guest – unusually for starters – grabs a refreshing cup cake (6) GU (first letters of [for starters] GUEST and UNUSUALLY) containing (grabs) (A TEA [a refreshing cup])


GATEAU (cake)
35 Nothing aroused during good time flash (5) NIL (nothing) reversed (aroused) contained in (during) (G [good] +  T [time])


GLINT (flash)


Something that rings bell – parts repaired for sure (6, 2 words) IT (something) containing (that rings) an anagram of (parts repaired) BELL


I’LL BET (for sure)
38 Frame treacherous person who’s killed wife (5) WEASEL (treacherous person) excluding (killed) W (wife)


EASEL (a frame for supporting a blackboard, a picture during painting, etc.)

40 Call for cat’s hiding place (3) MEW (a cat’s high pitched cry;call for cat)


MEW (hiding place) Double definition
43 Repeatedly ring for listeners in combination (3) O (ring) + O (ring) to give ring repeatedly


OTO- (combining form, prefix, relating to the ear; for listeners)

11 Responses to “Inquisitor 1221: Known – or Unknown by Nimrod”

  1. Hi of hihoba says:

    Thanks Nimrod and Duncan. I was hoping for a solution to my outstanding problems with this crossword – the disappearance of the B of BUOY, who was LYALL and how to “Deal with” SECRET “accordingly” – but find that you had the same questions!
    I got into the theme by accident – I found POSTGATE and thought it referred to Oliver at first. I had already noticed SPILL and BEANS which eventually led me to the four occurrences of THE and the cat/bag/Bagpuss link. I wasn’t aware of Thomas O’Malley, so thanks for explaining that.
    All in all very entertaining, but a little more help in the rubric about x would not have gone amiss! Let’s hope for some help from other commenters.

  2. Gordon Fisher says:

    As someone who struggles with every Inquisitor I thought this was beyond the pale.

  3. HolyGhost says:

    I cannot help with the B of BUOY – I think it must be an error in the clue – and my best offering for LYALL is John Lyall, an English footballer and manager, though that’s something of a long shot.

    Regarding what to do with SECRET, I took my instructions from the rubric: “If so, and Nimrod holds this to be correct …”, namely someone has let the cat out of the bag, i.e. the secret has been disclosed (defn. in Chambers), or, in other words, brought to light.

    And, having wondered about them for a while, I let the POST THE and BAG GATE overlaps go.

    As Duncan says, an enjoyable challenge – thanks go to him & to Nimrod. (Difficulty: 4/5)

  4. regalize says:

    Thanks brave Duncan for the blog and to Nimrod for a corker of a puzzle.
    I posted on a previous Inquisitor thread that getting to grips with the preamble was a big part of the fun. Hah! I eat my words. Being published on St Patrick’s Day, I immediately saw ‘TOP O THE’, put two and two together and of course made nothing at all- for a long time, too.
    I opted for blanking out the secret assuming that as it was clearly there, it was meant to be hidden. I can see, Duncan and HolyGhost that your reasoning does make more sense.
    As always, my Saturday fix didnt let me down.

  5. Pandean says:

    Thanks for the excellent blog Duncan, and to Nimrod for the puzzle which I enjoyed. I don’t usually solve the Inquisitor, but was attracted by the algebraic preamble.

    My thought on the B of BUOY in 14dn is that it would be submerged (and thus not visible) so only the YOU part of YOUB is seen.

    In 39ac I took LYALL just to be a first name (as per Lyall Watson, writer of ‘Supernature’) and so defined simply by “He’.

    What to with SECRET was also a mystery to me, and I didn’t bother too much as I wasn’t going to send in my solution. I’d hoped to get the answer to the mystery here, so maybe Nimrod himself will drop in? Or else I’ll check the published solution in due course,

  6. Ali says:

    Well, on the John H scale of difficulty, I really do hope that he puts himself at the top end here! As this was published on the day of the Listener dinner, I’m guessing he will have seen some of the best solvers in the country having a crack at this one. If so, I’d be interested to know how they got on generally.

    This was easily the most complicated rubric I think I’ve ever seen in the IQ and ultimately was another one of those puzzles which I started, got hardly anywhere with, got distracted by other things (including the following week’s puzzle), came here and then wished I’d persevered. Very impressive stuff all round though.

  7. Pandean says:

    @5 Oops, I meant to say ‘”What to do with SECRET was also a mystery to me…”

  8. John Lowe says:

    There also seem to be some spilled BEANs – one top left in urBANE and up to three bottom right, including sEANBean. Whether or not they are relevant I don’t know.

    On 29th February John H wrote”(iii) I shall soon be able to answer the popular question as to how many entries are received each week, so watch this space!” I’m still watching!

  9. Hi of hihoba says:

    I have just received a note from Nimrod/John H concerning the outstanding questions above which he asked me to post on his behalf.

    “Quite cross to find that the word “capped” had been dropped from the clue to YOU i.e. (b)UOY rev, somewhere between proofs 2 and 3.
    Lyall – boy’s name, no-one famous. The SECRET is OUT, so it was to be removed from the solution and put below the grid as instructed, and as hinted at by the yellowy colured CATs and BAGs in different parts of the grid.

    As for the entries, I’ve asked…and will keep doing so. I want to know just as much as any of you!”

  10. HolyGhost says:

    Thanks, Hi, for passing on the message from the editor/setter.

    Notwithstanding that, there seems plenty of evidence (here at least) that the rubric left how to deal with SECRET ambiguous. It could be argued that it is initially hidden in the grid and that it is to be exposed, or brought to light, by highlighting it. And I don’t see how the “yellow coloured CATs and BAGs in different parts of the grid” served as hints, except possibly to highlight SECRET (=the CAT) in yellow.

  11. BadHarry says:

    Slowly getting though my backlog, hence the lateless of this entry.
    Found this one thoroughly enjoyable, and not too difficult once you had decided you could ignore most of the rubric to begin with – perhaps I was just in the right frame of mind for it.
    However, I didn’t manage to explain 26 but as there was only the S unchecked I filled it in anyway.
    Searched as many did for how OUY and eventually banked on it being a faulty clue – happy to see that was right.
    Latching onto Oliver Postgate didn’t help, but removing SECRET seemed fairly probably if not explicit.
    Thanks to all.

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