This one was an idea I pinched from an American puzzle which had INVISIBLE INK across the middle with the other long entries clued by S or P or M and so on. The entries themselves were synonyms of SINK, PINK, MINK etc. And I thought, well, I can do something with that.
I settled on 11×11 fairly early (odd number of columns to get INK across the middle, of course) and jotted down a list of 8 or 9-letter words that could lose INK and leave real words. There were enough of them to give me the perimeter, though STINKINGS was less than ideal. Still, the -ING suffix is a versatile one in creating gerunds, and it was a common enough verb, after all.
It was clear that the preamble and title should be invisible, as well as 21 across. I did try to have the pseudonym treated similarly, leaving the revelation of the setter to the solution, but John H wasn’t buying that. The submitted puzzle did have the preamble in situ, but printed in white – it will appear with the solution. I don’t know whether the i printed it in white ink, though. In retrospect, the clue to that wonderful word HEARTSINK should not have included “thINKers”, but I missed that.
The removal of the last letters in three clues, also spelling INK, was a later component. No other clues end in I, N or K, though I had to be careful there and keep reminding myself! I was determined that there would be extra spaces before the enumerations of those clues – perhaps that for the I was a bit large for a font where letter widths vary, but it was better that it was apparent than proportionate.
STINKINGS does appear in the OED, and an early draft had a statement to that effect immediately after the “invisible’ preamble. I felt solvers would be unappreciative and suggested appending something to the relevant enumeration. This was done to save space in the Beelzebub puzzle series, and seems to have worked here.
This was not intended as my 150th Inquisitor but, as related elsewhere, it sort of ended up in that slot. And it’s a neat puzzle to have as a celebration. I don’t usually do preamble-less puzzles (and haven’t really done so here, I would claim) so it’s distinctive on those grounds as well.