Never knowingly undersolved.

Inquisitor 1265: A-trocity by Shark

Posted by duncanshiell on January 30th, 2013


Shark has set a number of Inquisitor puzzles and each has been very satisfying.  I blogged one focused on Socrates and his comment that he didn’t know there were so many things he could do without.  Having glanced at many catalogues and websites over the Christmas period, I can tell him that nothing has changed.

For this puzzle we were told that "the grid is a re-enactment of a famous event.  Down clues are listed in alphabetical order of answer, several pairs of which require identical thematic treatment before solving.  Half of the bars have been removed and these must not be included in the final grid.  Two groups of letters also need removing, the total number relating to the date of this event.  The first is a two-word object.  The second comprises a place plus the outline of a thematic shape.  Only real words must appear in the final grid if spaces are ignored.  Finally solvers must highlight who might have remained after the event (9 letters).  Two answers are confirmed in the Oxford Dictionary of English.

Clearly there is a lot going on here.  There are no clue numbers nor are there any indications where the entries are to be placed.  There is therefore a significant jigsaw element to the puzzle involving the location of bars as well as the positioning of the clue answers.  Finally we have to amend a number of pairs of down clues before we can solve them.  At least we are told the lengths of the entries!

A quick glance at the across clue lengths, confirms my initial suspicion that the grid is not symmetric.  

My strategy for solving a puzzle like this is to create a grid in Excel so that I can experiment with fitting answers and I can erase errors with ease.  Excel also allows me to add cell borders to form bars.

I got off to a reasonable start as 1 across was obviously going to begin in the top left hand corner.  The clue was a fairly simple anagram for TYLENOL (one of the two entries confirmed by the Oxford Dictionary of English; the other was OPHIR, the second last across clue).

The early across clue lengths suggested to me that there would be two across entries in each of the first three rows.  That same logic broke down in the fourth row.where there was but a single 4 letter across entry in that row.  The first few across clues didn’t seem that difficult so I had GAYER, CARBIDES, SAFE and OHIO fairly quickly.  

Given that the title of the puzzle was A-TROCITY there was a good chance that the letter A would play a part in the adjustments to the relevant pairs of Down clues.  Using the letters I had in the acrosses, I looked in the Downs approximately where I would hope to find answers beginning with certain letters.  The first down clues to fall were YAHOO, E-BOOK, NICEST, LENGTHEN and ASTOOP.  All of these could lock into the letters I had for all the acrosses at this stage, so it was worth taking a risk and banging them in.  From two of these Down answers it was clear that some clues were losing an A.  I guessed that HUNGRY in the third down clue was going to gain an A to become HUNGARY.  My first solution to that clue was C (H) AMP, but I had to change my mind when it clearly wasn’t going to fit.   It wasn’t till quite a bit later on, when I understood more about the theme, that I realised that the A[-bomb] was being DROPPED  from one Down clue to the one immediately below.  

From this point solving and fitting progressed steadily, although I stalled for a bit in the South West corner where CERO, BURGH and ANALOG took longer to solve and fit than they should have.

Overall this puzzle did not have difficult clues to solve.  The vast majority of clues had wordplay that only involved two constituent parts.  The initial challenge involved the jigsaw nature of the puzzle and the determination of the link between the associated pairs of successive down clues.

The printed grid had 33 bars.  Building up the grid and putting in bars generated another 33 bars (shown in red below) as required by the preamble.  At this point the grid looked like this:

Inquisitor 12651













A study of the grid yielded the two words ENOLA GAY (object) in the top row and HIROSHIMA (place) in the bottom row.  It seemed likely then that we would have to create a space shaped liked a MUSHROOM CLOUD to depict the detonation of the Atomic [A] Bomb dropped on HIROSHIMA by the bomber named ENOLA GAY.  I was initially drawn to the letters MUSH in row 8 and the occurrences of OO in a few places in the grid.  However this got me nowhere.  Reading the preamble again reminded me that the grid would only contain real words after the required letters were removed.  Puzzles of this nature generally involve symmetry in the final step.  A bit of experimenting showed that we could create an almost symmetric mushroom cloud shape rising from the ruins of HIROSHIMA by removing 2 letters from each of rows 11, 10 and 9, followed by 4 in row 8, 6 in each of rows 7 and 6, 4 in row 5 and 2 in row 4.  The cloud is symmetric within itself, but it is slightly to the right of centre in the grid [a function of using even lengths of cell spaces when the grid has an odd number of columns).  This removed  28 letters.  There are 8 letters in ENOLA GAY and 9 in HIROSHIMA giving us 45 letters to remove in total.  This reflects the fact the bomb was dropped on 6th August 1945. I had a quick look at the letters removed for the cloud but soon decided that they didn’t spell out a message.  I think it would have  been incredibly impressive if they did.

The real words left across the spaces are TYLER (row 1), EAR-BONE (4), VOLKSLIED (5), OLEARIA (6), SPINOSE (7), HIBAKUSHA (8, more below), RANAS (9), TEN (10), DIRER (11) and OPAL (12).  Going down, the new words created are BURG (column 3), BOOK (4), ICE-SKATE (5), DEARED (6) EN(7), ST(8), ARRAN(9), SUBLUNAR(10) and ROSACE (10)

The final stage of the puzzle is to highlight who might survive after the event.  HIBAKUSHA is a term for a survivor of the 1945 Atomic bombings of HIROSHIMA and Nagasaki..

The final grid, without the extra bars, therefore looked like this.

Inquisitor 12652













I think the title A-TROCITY is now self-explanatory given the comments above.

Shark has given us plenty to think about in this tour-de-force of grid construction.  I think he/she has got the balance right between the clue difficulty and the grid fill in this puzzle.  I look forward to more Shark puzzles in the Inquisitor series.



Clue [definitions underlined] Amended Clue Wordplay Entry

Paracetamol is freely on telly (7)




Anagram of (freely) ON TELLY


TYLENOL (brand name of a paracetamol based pain-reducing medicine)  Confirmed in Oxford Dictionary of English.


Grey houses always more colourful (5)




GR (grey) containing (houses) AYE (always)


GAYER (more colourful)


Compounds from vehicle remains (8)




CAR (vehicle) + BIDES (remains)


CARBIDES (compounds of carbon with another element)


Sound‘s loud in raging sea (4)




F (fortissimo; load) contained in (in) (an anagram of [raging] SEA)

SA (F) E*

SAFE (sound)


Pip one place back, hiding one in 17th place from US (4)



OHO (each letter of PIP is replaced by the previous letter in the alphabet [one place back]) containing (hiding) I (one)

OH (I) O

OHIO (OHIO became the seventeenth State of the United States of America on 1st March 1803)


Coin has odd back part (7)




CENT (coin worth one CENT) + RUM (odd)


CENTRUM (the main part of a vertebra; back part)


Good base for hammer, perhaps (4)




BON (good) + E (base of natural logarithms)


BONE (the hammer is a small BONE in the ear)


Several groups of Afrikaners cutting car in half (5)




VOLKSWAGEN (brand of car) excluding the second 5 letters (of ten = half the car) WAGEN


VOLKS (groups of Afrikaner people)


Decoy was situated almost on railway siding (7)




STOOD (was situated) excluding the final letter [almost] D + LIE (a railway siding)


STOOLIE (stool pigeon; decoy)


Cabbage consumed with calorie free salt (6)



(COLE [general name for plants of the cabbage] family] + ATE [consumed] excluding (free) C (calorie)


OLEATE (a salt of oleic acid)


Private science promoters, perhaps, advanced sutures (6)




PTE (private) + RI (the Royal Institution, which is dedicated to connecting people with the world of science; science promoters) + A (advanced)


PTERIA (sutures)


Old maids returning bargains before rest disturbed (9)




SNIPS (bargains) reversed (returning) + an anagram of (disturbed) REST


SPINSTERS (old maids)


Card for sale without lines (4)




TO SELL (for sale) excluding (without) LL (lines)


TOSE (tease out; comb; card)


Once cooked rear half of mutton – no longer cold (5)




(BACK [rear] + EN [mutton can be defined as an em [term for a space in priniting]; an EN is half the size of an em; half of mutton) excluding [no longer] C (cold)


BAKEN (an archaic term for [once] for cooked)


Rubbish amateur expressing surprise in Ireland (5)




MUSH (rubbish) + A (amateur)


MUSHA (a term used for expressing surprise in Ireland)


Absent lumen on half of lark’s bastard wing (5)




A (absent) + LU (lumen) + LARK excludng the last two letters (of four) RK leaving half 


ALULA (the bastard wing)


Tasmania contains Chinese copshops (6)




TAS (Tasmania) containing (contains) HAN (native Chinese people)


THANAS (police stations in India; copshops)


Fish in old American hamper – not practicable (4)




CEROON (a North American variant spelling of SERON [an archaic {old} word meaning crate or hamper]) excluding (not) ON (reference IT’S ON; it can be done; practicable)


CERO (a large marine fish (Scomberomorus regalis) found in the tropical W Atlantic).


Scot follows cardinal mostly about city in Ancient Greece (5)




TEN (10 is a cardinal number) excluding the final letter [mostly] N + IAN (common Christian name for a Scot)


TEIAN (relating to the ancient city of Teos in ancient Ionia, Greece)


Serves headless fish (4)




DACES (small river fish) excluding the first letter [headless] D


ACES (serves in tennis that the opponent fails to touch)


One wants representation of labour including increase in salary rolling over (7)  

(RED [the colour of the Socialist or Labour movement] containing RISE [increase in salary]) all reversed (rolling over)

(D (ESIR) ER)<

DESIRER (one who wants)

Gold letter from foreign lands found within biblical region (5)




PHI (Greek letter; letter from foreign lands) contained in (found within) OR (gold)


OPHIR (port or region mentioned in the Bible; biblical region) Cofirmed in the Oxford Dictionary of English.


Chopped hot salami produces wind (7)




Anagram of  (H [hot] and SALAMI)


SHIMAAL (in the Middle East, a hot dry north wind that carries sand in desert regions)


Clue [definitions underlined] Amended Clue  [definitions underlined] Wordplay Entry

Watch American answer after an inert person (6)




AN + A (answer) + LOG (inert person)


ANALOG (American spelling of ANALOGUE [watch with traditional face and hands; watch American])


Snake encircling overlay in a bent position (6)


Snake encircling overly in a bent position (6)


ASP (snake) containing (encircling) TOO (overly)


ASTOOP (in a bent position)


Eat up! Hungry in old town (5)


Eat up! Hungary in old town (5)


GRUB (eat [slang]) reversed (up; down clue) + H (International Vehicle Registration for Hungary)


BURGH  (a town [that sends representatives to parliament].  I suppose in that definition it’s old, but there are still plenty of burghs in Scotland – Edinburgh, Fraserburgh, Jedburgh etc)


Lexicon avoids including ‘yabber’ (5)


Lexicon voids including ‘yabber’ (5)


CONVO (hidden word in [including] LEXICON VOIDS)


CONVO (conversation; yabber)


Inside tun, mule’s going from Glasgow to Edinburgh (6)


Inside tuna, mule’s going from Glasgow to Edinburgh(6)


ASS (mule) contained in (inside) EEL (one of the forms of TUNA is as a New Zealand eel)


EASSEL (eastward; if you travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh you go in an easterly direction)


Oboe playing king creates electronic work (5)




Anagram of (playing) OBOE + K (king, in cards and chess)


E-BOOK (an electronic form of a book [work])


Somewhat showy ado around end of June (7)


Somewhat showy do around end of June (7)


FINISH (do) containing (around) E (last letter of [end of] JUNE)


FINEISH (somewhat showy)


After returning fry, teases ducks (7)


After returning fray, teases ducks (7)


RAG (fray) reversed (returning) + ROTS (teases)


GARROTS (various ducks, especially golden-eyes)


Increase the duration of fast time around German female (8)




LENT [period of fasting before Easter] containing (around) G [German]) + HEN (female)


LENGTHEN (increase the duration of)


Most delicate insect jumping (6)




Anagram of (jumping) INSECT


NICEST (most delicate)


Slice top off lump before afternoon in theatres (4)




NODE (lump) excluding the first letter [slice top off] N + A (afternoon)


ODEA (plural of ODEON; theatres)


Paula and Holly almost overtaking crash (6) Paul and Holly almost overtaking crash (6)

PUP (Paul? ; the name PAUL is said to mean ‘little'; A PUP is a little animal) containing (overtaking) (ILEX [the genus of the plant holly] excluding the final letter [almost] X).

If you drop the other A from PAULA you are left with PULA which is a unit of currency in Botswana and that relates to PUP even less.  I struggle a bit with the position of ‘overtaking’ in the clue to indicate that it is the reference to HOLLY that is being contained.

Perhaps I have completely misunderstood this clue.


PILE-UP (large-scale collison; crash)

Gain work on grass (6)


Again work on grass (6)


RE (concerning; on) + HASH (hashish; leaves of the hemp plant; marijuana; grass)


REHASH (rework; again work)


Erased revolting colour (6)



Anagram of (revolting) ERASED


RESEDA (a pale green colour)


Piece of bait missing head (5)


Piece of bit missing head (5)


TRIFLE (bit) excluding the first letter (missing head) T


RIFLE (PIECE can be defined as a gun; a rifle is an example of a gun)


Coarse treatment bout for disease (7)


Coarse treatment about for disease (7)


Anagram of (treatment) COARSE + A


ROSACEA (more formally known as ACNE ROSACEA, a chronic disease of the skin)


Liquids in sun are ebbing (4)




S (sun) + ARE reversed (ebbing)


SERA (liquids)


Hoarse shipping officer outside finds cap (6)


Horse shipping officer outside finds cap (6)


SO (shipping officer) containing (outside) HACK (a horse kept for hire)


SHACKO (a tall, nearly cylindrical military cap with a plume)


Den, perhaps, surprising takes on runs (6)


Dean, perhaps, surprising takes on runs (6)


Anagram of (surprising) TAKES + R (runs in cricket scoring notation)


SKATER (reference Christopher DEAN, the male half of TORVILL & DEAN, British World and Olympic ice-skating gold medallists in the 1980s and 1990s)


Lease to another subject once prevented (6)




SUB (subject) + LET (an archaic [once] meaning of LET is ‘prevented’)


SUBLET (lease by one tenant to another)


After tea, throw up river mollusc (6)


After te throw up river mollusc (6)


TE + (ODER [reference ODER river in Central Europe] reversed [throw up; down clue])


TEREDO ( bivalvular mollusc that bores into wooden ships.)


Makes net without middle for restraints (4)


Makes neat without middle for restraints (4)


TIDIES (makes neat) excluding the central two letters [without middle] DI


TIES (restraints)


Remove protective cover from a local branch (5)




UN (dialect [local] for ONE [a]) + ARM (branch)


UNARM (remove protective cover from, I think in the case where ARM means SLEEVE [protective cover])  It may also be to remove weapons, where the weapons are designed to provide protective cover to a target.


Scot’s awe – grass up lout (5)



Scot’s we – grass up lout (5)


(OO [Scots for ‘we’] + HAY [grass]) all reversed (up; down clue)


YAHOO (lout)



Returning my vegetable (3)


Returning may vegetable (3)


MAY reversed (returning)


YAM (vegetable)



16 Responses to “Inquisitor 1265: A-trocity by Shark”

  1. Hi of hihoba says:

    I finished the whole puzzle and found the plane, bomb-site and survivors. I was thrown at the last hurdle by one word in the rubric. This was the word OUTLINE. I was looking to remove the outline of a mushroom cloud and had got as far as removing the stalk and the base of the mushroom. After that I could see removing single outlining letters to some extent, but it did not quite work properly. Why was this word there at all editor? It is unnecessary and wrong! Duncan has removed the shape, not its outline in his clearly correct and excellent blog.

  2. starburst says:

    I agree with Hi of hihoba. The preamble HAS to be completely unambiguous for these puzzles to be completed, and again it wasn’t. The word outline clearly suggested to me that the outer section of a shape had to be removed, not the whole shape. There is something intensely frustrating about having completed a grid, only to be stymied by a confusing instruction at the end

  3. duncanshiell says:

    Hi @ 1 and starburst @ 2

    I guess I’m guilty of not reading the preamble properly. I focused on the need to end up with real words, coupled with the fact that most of the ‘new’ bars occurred in the middle of the page, and the likely need to remove a further 28 letters to meet another requirement of the preamble. I just assumed that to get 28 letters we would have to remove the whole cloud.

    I can understand your points very clearly though.

  4. John Lowe says:

    Hi Duncan

    I think I can help with the down clue “Paula and Holly almost overtaking crash”. The first a of Paula is removed: P (Pula) + ILE (Holly = ilex, almost) + UP (=overtaking) = PILE-UP.

    Thanks for the blog – and to Shark for the Crossword, for which a certain amount of thought was needed to put the puzzle together correctly. I think that the number of squares to remove was the clincher for resolving the outline/shape ambiguity, and the wording of the rubric didn’t disturb me too much. I enjoyed it.

  5. HolyGhost says:

    I found this pretty tough, but rewarding – at least until very near the end … I spent ages looking for the OUTLINE of a mushroom cloud, and knowing that the relevant date was 06-Aug-1945 didn’t help me at all to guess that I should be looking for a further 28 letters to remove. (I did get there finally by using the “only real words” part of the rubric.)

    Whilst agreeing with John Lowe’s wordplay for PILE-UP, I cannot agree with his use of the word “ambiguity” with reference to outline/shake – it’s not ambiguous, it’s just plain wrong! It seems that those of us who read (& trust) the preamble were disadvantaged here.

    Thanks, Duncan, for the blog and for letting me know the two entries that are confirmed in the ODE. Does that by chance also have SO = shipping officer (for the SHACKO down clue)? – I couldn’t find it in any of my reference material.

    And of course thanks to Shark for a marvellous work-out.

  6. Shark says:

    Duncan. Thank you for an impressive blog and I am glad you enjoyed albeit at the difficult end of the spectrum (perhaps). I am very grateful for John for publishing it as some may have found the theme rather dark despite it being an important event in history.

    Outline is on my shoulders. Sorry for that. It stems from the original preamble I wanted, but it had to be shortened due to allowable space. If you draw bars around the missing words/shape they add up to 45 and so that being an outline. This ensures the shape is unique rather than having to hunt for real words. In reality it is easier to look for real words than count bars, but it may have added confirmation.

    To clarify, the preamble had this line:

    “This can be resolved by ensuring that all empty cells can be surrounded, excluding the perimeter, by the same number of bars as empty cells”

    I must have got fixated on outline, but can see how misleading that could be. Trust me I spent a long time trying to make, what I thought would be a tough puzzle, as fair as could be.

    It was a puzzle that was hard to construct. Real words forming and only using half the bars there had to be sacrifices and so the symmetry had to go. I only lose symmetry if only necessary. The clues were made slightly easier than my usual style to balance it out.

    Hopefully you will enjoy the next without any feeling of ambiguousness. Shark

  7. Rob H says:

    Many thanks to Shark for a super puzzle and to Duncan for an excellent blog.

    Just one small correction, I think the remaining real word in row 10 should be TENACES as there is no vertical bar after the N in the original grid. Thanks again to both.

  8. duncanshiell says:

    Holy Ghost @ 6 and Rob H @ 8

    I think attention to detail has let me down on both your points – the SO I was looking at in the dictionary was ‘shipping order’ and not ‘shipping officer’. TENACES is the required word. In each case I think I just saw what I wanted to see and moved on.

    Thanks also to Shark for dropping in.

  9. starburst says:

    Thanks for that Shark. The grid itself must, as you say, have been extremely difficult to construct, and for that I salute you

    Thanks also to duncan for the blog

  10. regalize says:

    The clues were ‘made slightly easier’? Thanks Shark! Your teeth bite. This IQ took me a full ten days to get through and I am gratified that Duncan’s blog confirmed I hadn’t gone completely wrong. Usual snores re preramble complaints.

  11. HolyGhost says:

    What does regalize mean by “Usual snores re preramble complaints”?

  12. Bertandjoyce says:

    We thought it was a really god puzzle. We did spend some time identifying what had to be removed but looking back on it we concentrated more on identifying proper words whilst also looking for an appropriate shape and weren’t confused by the preamble.

    Thanks Duncan for the blog and Shark for a very ingenious and somewhat poignant puzzle.

  13. Ross says:

    Best puzzle of the year so far (although yesterday’s Woodchuck Puzzle in context might give it a run for its money). I too got troubled by the preamble, but the bars (or absence of bars) was sufficiently helpful to ensure that there could only be one final outcome.

  14. starburst says:


    it must be so tedious to have to listen to people making valid points about the preamble. Or preramble as you put it. I may be wrong but the setter himself seems to concede a degree of ambiguity in it, so I’m at a loss why you felt the need to make such a graceless comment

  15. Phil Richardson says:

    Thanks Duncan for a great blog. And shark for popping in to provide context. Must admit this was a stinker and a stunner in equal measures. A good 5-6 days of torture. I managed to get there but struggled on the wordplay for pile-up and bone. The responses in this blog really help, thanks all. A masterful grid construct.

  16. HolyGhost says:

    I only just realised (after looking at the published solution) that the A‘s dropped from the nth word of one clue into the nth word of the next – very neat, but lost on most of us.

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