I’ve been on holiday abroad, so away from crosswords. What little reflection I did on holiday (see also) gave rise to an ambition to graduate from Azed to something one step harder – if only so that I leave time and space on this blog for non-crossword entries. So, coming home to Inquisitor 1349, I obviously proceeded to solve a total of zero clues.

However! The following weekend was a De Profundis weekend (too late to blog encouraging you all to come! Lovely Josquin, Brumel, and other Franco-Flemish superstars; next gig 25th April), and De Profundis weekends offer a certain amount of train travel, which itself affords almost-uninterrupted crossword contemplation. So, I took along Inquisitor 1350, and made some decent progress on the way up to Cambridge, and a bit more in my rehearsal breaks. And then I met up with Uri, my old friend and partner in crossword solving, who quite unfairly had most of Sunday free while I had more intense rehearsal and travel away from reference books. Cheating! So when he e-mailed to say that he had identified the theme and solved most of the grid, that was enough motivation to stay up past bedtime (mine as well as the rest of the household’s) banging my head against the crossword, then the wall as the pieces finally started fitting together.

3 Down

The unclued grey grid entries include three thematic film titles (chronologically, 3dn/10ac/40ac, 9dn and 35ac. The name of the protagonist of the first film (32dn) is also associated with 35ac. 5dn’s 9dn to become 3dn/10ac/40ac was a success: contents of pink squares can be arranged to form a word that hints at a failure who must be highlighted in the completed grid (6 cells)

  • 1ac: KAT: Stimulant to swallow doing the rounds when there’s no ecstasy (3): TAKE (swallow) reversed - E(cstasy)
  • 4ac: RIFLE: Firearm sack (5): Double Definition
  • 7ac: OWS: Pained expressions and arguments start off (3): (r)OWS (arguments)
  • 11ac: REEST: Birds with little time go off for bacon (5): REES (birds) + T(ime)
  • 12ac: LOUDLY: Look duly chastened – how people shout! (6): LO (look) + *(DULY)
  • 13ac: DINE OFF: Make a meal of cooking fine food half-heartedly (7, two words): *(FINE FO(o)D)
  • 15ac: MOATS: Water surrounds a thousand cereal crops (5): M (thousand) + OATS (cereal crops)
  • 16ac: ANURA: Two adults hurry back inside for amphibians (5): RUN (hurry) reversed inside A A (two adults)
  • 17ac: ABETTAL: Suspect help’s coming from retro coffee bar shortly (7): LATTE (coffee) + BA(r) reversed
  • 19ac: ZEREBA: Authorize rebate that includes animal protection measure (6): authoriZE REBAte
  • 20ac: OOSE: Tartan nap more likely to fall off without covers (4): (l)OOSE(r) (more likely to fall off)
  • 22ac: GUEREZA: For colobus Montezuma’s revenge struck after faltering movements noth taken (7): *(MONTEZUMAS REVENGE - MOVEMENTS N(orth))
  • 24ac: VACUUMS: Cleaners regularly dug up mess after holiday (7): VAC (holiday) + dUg Up MeSs
  • 25ac: STAR: Celebrity’s rush for Scotch (4): Double Definition(?)
  • 29ac: GAINST: A poet’s not in favour of financial profit – good man! (6): GAIN (financial profit) + ST (saint)
  • 31ac: TATOUAY: Armadillo always following French film star, not once united (7): TATOU (ref. Audrey Tatou) - U(nited) + AY (always)
  • 33ac: APING: Taking off recording that’s not starting (5): (t)APING (recording)
  • 34ac: CTENE: Cardinal gripped by church organ that’s moving (5): TEN (cardinal number) in CE (Church of England)
  • 36ac: EILEEN: In hearing I have a preference for Irish girl (6): sounds like “I lean” (I have a preference for)
  • 37ac: JETES: Leaps narrow streams consuming energy (5): JETS (narrow streams) around E(nergy)
  • 38ac: CONVERTOR: Cover torn, with end torn off and put inside – it makes a change currently? (9): COVER TORN - N around N
  • 39ac: EEK: Decapitated nerd? Gulp! (3): (g)EEK
  • 41ac: NEY: French marshal longing to make a comeback (3): YEN (longing); ref. Michel Ney again
  • 1dn: KARAMAZOV: Bangle of 50% vanadium worn by mum and unknown literary brothers (9): KARA (bangle) + O(f) + V (50% of VA(nadium)) around MA (mum) + Z (unknown); ref. The Brothers Karamazov
  • 2dn: AWESOME: Dreadful pitiful scotch after knocking first two back (7): WAESOME (Scot. “pitiful”) with first two letters reversed
  • 4dn: ROSE TREE: Reassembling stereo in middle of area is a standard bloomer (8, two words): *(STEREO) in (a)RE(a)
  • 6dn: ELUENTS: Washing liquids free-flowing when top is off going in different directions (7): (f)LUENT (free-flowing) in E S (different directions)
  • 8dn: WOLFRAM: Elemental example of US beasts (7): WOLF + RAM
  • 14dn: OUTLET: Retail market of stateside egg dish switching from Maine to Utah (6): OMELET (Am. egg dish) - ME (Maine) + UT(ah)
  • 18dn: EWES: Sheep’s milk, say (4): sounds like “use” (milk)
  • 21dn: SCOTIA: Company invested in islands up in Burns’ home? (6): CO(mpany) in AITS (islands) reversed
  • 22dn: GURU: Returned wig to university teacher (4): RUG (wig) reversed + U(niversity)
  • 23dn: ARTLESSLY: He goes off in a callous way like some innocent (9): (he)ARTLESSLY (in a callous way)
  • 25dn: SIXTIETH: An unknown knot seen in this tangled diamond? (8): X (unknown) TIE (knot) in *(THIS)
  • 26dn: ETAGERE: A stand made by shelving retired menial film actor (7): ETA (menial) + GERE (film actor; ref. Richard Gere)
  • 27dn: CAPRICE: Fancy hat with woody bits for locals? (7): CAP (hat) + RICE (dial. woody bits)
  • 28dn: CONVENE: Very little space within 3-D structure for rally (7): V(ery) EN (little space) in CONE (3-D structure)
  • 30dn: SINCERE: Genuine increase without a high (7): *(INCREASE - A)

I think key for me in this puzzle was getting 9dn (SKYFALL), realising that that was currently the latest of the James Bond films (hence not followed by anything chronologically), casting around for other things to be the theme, and then having a night-time epiphany of THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (3dn/10ac/40ac). After that it was plain sailing to include FELIX BAUMGARTNER (5dn), GRAVITY (35ac), NEWTON (32dn); with a couple of Ws and an X in the pink squares, it was fairly easy to guess that ICARUS (6 cells, falling head-first down and to the right) who has a WAX WING was the failure.