Automated-process tool clusters are becoming increasingly prevalent in advanced semiconductor manufacturing plants, necessitating integrated inspection of patterned semiconductor wafers for defects and particulates. Integrated inspection tools must be small, sensitive, inexpensive, and fast in order to be compatible with the cluster environment. We show that intensity spatial filtering, with some refinements, can provide the required sensitivity and speed in a small, inexpensive package. By using dark-field illumination and a nonrectangular azimuthal orientation (e.g., 45°) to the primarily rectangular pattern, we show that the strongest diffraction from the pattern can be made to bypass the optical system entirely. This technique alleviates stringent scatter and antireflection requirements on the optics, and it permits the use of off-the-shelf components. © 1992, Optical Society of America.