Happy Easter Bank Holiday, everybody. Today we have a crossword by one of the Monday regulars, but this time there’s a twist – a ghost theme in fact. I didn’t spot it but somehow Raich had managed to implant the idea subliminally, making me feel thoroughly foolish after looking up the January 2015 Fifteensquared blog.

I have praised this setter before as an excellent purveyor of entry-level puzzles, and whilst this one won’t have detained experienced solvers for long it’s all high quality stuff. Nicely made clues are plentiful – 6 and 31 for instance, also 14 and 16 which form an unusual pair; my COD is one of the slightly more convoluted examples:

29ac: “Something initially hard to believe – they’re electrically charged creatures? (9)”

If you’re at a loose end after that, don’t fancy the wordsearch and haven’t done so already, please have a look at the second idothei Guest Puzzle just below this post. It’s an entertaining one.



Roll up ladies and gentlemen, and no shoving at the back please.  Welcome to the second idothei Guest Puzzle, and the debut of a new setter. As far as I know this is Saltamonte’s first published crossword, and Jon tells me that a constructive critique would not be unwelcome. My job is to provide an introduction and the parsings: I’ll raise any niggles which occur to me but leave the general criticism for the comments. Positive and polite are the watchwords, of course. I enjoyed solving this puzzle, and there are some punchy surfaces and unusual clue constructions to ponder. Here is my COD:

16ac: “Mineral keys lock in the French (5,4)”

… and here is a little diversion for you. I have been rather harsh about 25ac, which seemed to let the general standard down somewhat. Therefore, money where your mouth is time, Batarde. I’m inviting suggestions for alternative clues, and here’s mine:

“Take measures before capturing poet (7)”

And so to the parsings. There are, of course conventions for doing this, all of which are going out of the window in the interests of plain English. Definitions are in bold face and anagram indicators are italicised. Obviously if you scroll down any further you’ll come to the answers, so it seems prudent to issue a






1 Acrobatic Cleo, no learner, appeared in dodgy strip joint’s showers (14)
PROJECTIONISTS. Anagram of “Cleo” minus the “L” plus “strip joints”.

10 Incorporate measure of info into bomb (5)
IMBED Mb (megabyte) in IED (improvised explosive device).

11 Ruinous PA went wild producing offspring (just the one) (9)
UNIPAROUS Anagram of “ruinous PA”, and a fairly recondite word.

12 Battleaxe held bra in tatters (7)
HALBERD Anagram of “held bra”.

13 Enterprise headed by explorer returned to dock maybe (7)
TOBACCO The explorer is either John or Sebastian Cabot, backwards, plus CO for company. This refers to Tobacco Dock in London.

14 From head to toe, Spain aches (5)
PAINS Spain with the “S” moved to the end.

16 Mineral keys lock in the French (5,4)
TABLE SALT “Les”, the French definite article (plural) between “tab” and “alt”, both to be found on your keyboard. Smashing clue.

19 Reading maybe outside, a book with wine. Superb! (9)
FANTASTIC Refers to Reading FC football club, with “a” plus “NT” plus “asti” inside. The New Testament is books plural, surely, even if bound in a single volume?

20 Medics eat, for example, leftovers (5)
DREGS “eg” inside “drs”.

22 Catching mesh (7)
NETTING Double definition.

25 Given curtailed supply (7)
PROVIDE Simply “provided” without the final letter. This does seem weak to me since it uses the same sense of the verb.

27 Dali art on mixed freight (9)
TRAINLOAD Anagram of “Dali on art”

28 Slow starts to begin really active kinetic exercises (5)
BRAKE First letters of Begin Really Active Kinetic Exercises.

29 Trick put double agent in crumbling gaol unit. Well done (14)
CONGRATULATION “con” (trick) followed by “rat” in an anagram of “gaolunit”. A couple of queries here: is a rat a double agent? – and can congratulation be singular in this sense. I feel that both can be justified, but it’s a bit of a stretch.


2 Plan to enter dance before brave uprising (9)
REBELLION Hmm. That would be plan B inside “reel”, followed by “lion”, I think. Brave can mean a courageous soldier, as can lion, but I don’t really buy it because the sense here only works as an adjective.

3 Good hearted saint finds justice (5)
JUDGE “g(ood)” in St Jude.

4 Looking for a new start? Adopt cute fashion (4,5)
COUP D’ETAT Anagram of “adopt cute”; not keen on fashion as an anagrind. “Looking for” appears to be redundant.

5 Pointless edition produced for numbskull (5)
IDIOT Anagram of “edition” minus the points, ie. East and North.

6 Mashed red banana found in restaurants (4,5)
NAAN BREAD Anagram of “red banana” – a good spot.

7 Emotionless King left exorcist working (5)
STOIC Anagram of “exorcist” without “rex”. The pedant in me thinks that a Stoic controls his or her emotions rather than lacks them.

8 Colossus southpaw shows resolve (4,3)
SUSS OUT Hidden solution.

9 Mitred piece? (6)
BISHOP Cryptic definition.

15 Drug has nothing on queen, but ruler sold here (9)
STATIONER “statin” with “o” inside, followed by HM the Queen.

17 Retreat but return by bike (9)
BACKPEDAL Cryptic definition, nicely done.

18 Coffee brewing, nice aroma (9)
AMERICANO Anagram of “nice aroma”.

19 Brown back in charge after governing body shows excessive zeal (7)
FANATIC “tan” backwards plus “i(n) c(harge)”, preceded by F(ootball) A(ssociation).  “Showing” would be better in my opinion, since the sense is adjectival.

21 Discharged driver headed north to collect upturned sample? (6)
SEEPED My last one in. The sample is “pee”, the driver is “des” and the whole lot is inverted. Is the designated driver thing widely known? It had passed me by.

23 Nonsensical witterings regularly held back writer (5)
TWAIN Not sure I’ve seen this done before – anyway, every other letter of “nonsensical witterings” backwards reads “gieTWAINso”, and there’s Mr Clemens in the middle.

24 Billy holds fifty and isn’t shy to tell (5)
GLOAT A (billy) goat with an L in it.  The definition isn’t quite right because it suggests “gloats”.

26 Ring composer (5)
ORBIT Double definition, referring to William Orbit. Who knew?

Saturday 13th April 2019

All pretty straightforward last Saturday until I got to my LOI at 12a, where SLEEPY-HEAD fitted all the crossers and was a plausible answer for the definition ‘fool’ but made no sense with the wordplay. Fortunately though, there’s plenty of time for solving these weekend puzzles, so I double-checked with a wordsearch and discovered another option – SHEEP’S-HEAD. Lo and behold, one of its definitions is ‘dolt’. With ‘women’ equating to SHE SHE all suddenly made sense. Phew.

Little else to comment on really, so on this occasion I’m tempted to agree with John, the blogger from 2015 on Fifteenquared, who compared Phi to Dac for his straightforwardness and his surfaces.

Or maybe not, because in case you were wondering there was another ghost theme last week.  However, with the grid looking so normal it’s very well hidden – I certainly missed it – again!  13a/16a gives us  The BONE CLOCKS, the David Mitchell book (Phi is a  big fan – we had Cloud Atlas not so long ago), and elsewhere in the grid the titles of its six sections are referenced by: SPELL, PERFUME, WEDDING BASH, LONELY PLANET, HOROLOGIST and SHEEP’S-HEAD.

Oops, forgot to nominate a COD. I’ll happily concur with Batarde below that this is a worthy pick:

12a Fool women about recording with promotion (6-4)

And yes, we’ll all be looking forward to the new puzzle that’ll be posted here tomorrow…

It’s Good Friday and the sun is shining, you don’t want to be stuck inside wrestling with a too difficult crossword puzzle when you could be out and about adding to the chaos on the roads do you?  Well, we have a Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint which I found largely accessible and enjoyable even if some is hard to parse. Two in particular – 11dn Daisy?  which according to the Fifteensquared blog refers to a 1955 Disney film, and 14dn where we are expected to know that Posh Spice’s surname was/is Adams, both of these got snorts of derision from me, unlike 6dn and 17ac – both slang terms which I can imagine causing displeasure to some solvers. And then we get to 13ac, I worked out the anagram and checked it in the dictionary and bunged it in not understanding the rest of the clue which it seems is related to the Nina which I didn’t spot either. Best if you refer to Fifteensquared again for an explanation. 

I said at the beginning that I found it largely accessible, thats because I got stuck with 12dn having entered Berry at 12ac, a much better answer I think but wrong, and as I want to be outside adding to to the pollution and traffic problems I left it there.

COD well quite a few but I’m going with 17dn

Turn nose up at housework over and aver again (4-4)

This will necessarily be a short blog as, well, I haven’t finished the puzzle. The Fifteensquared post notes that this was quite the challenge, and it certainly appears this is the case. I’m halfway through and out of time having more pressing things to be getting on with today. If I have time later I’ll have another look at the puzzle, but in the meantime you’ll have to make do with my initial thoughts. 🙂 Was this offering a little much for a weekday? At the moment I think so, and TBH I’m finding it a bit of a slog. But let me know how you got on.

No COD, then, necessarily so…

Postscript. 14:06

As if to demonstrate that I solve a lot better after lunch and a strong coffee than before it, I promptly polished off the second half of the puzzle in less than half the time it took me for the first. The first being the LHS… OK, there were lots of questions marks along the way – in particular at 5ac and 21d – but get there I did, and thoroughly enjoyed the second sitting. It’s just a pity I don’t wake up earlier.

There were also loads of ticks by the close. My COD of necessity comes from the second half of the puzzle I solved, so let’s go with the quite succinct 24ac, though it is a pity it’s somewhat given away by the enumeration – “Explain vote (3,6)”.

Here’s the Fifteensquared blog:


And finally just to note that this Sunday we have our second guest puzzle in store from a first time setter. Enjoy.

Dac’s back with an offering that was perhaps a little trickier than is par? The short story was new to me but very fairly clued it must be said, and down in the SE corner we had a former pin-up who was probably unfamiliar to some solvers, and a playwright who I’m guessing was unfamiliar to most. The latter was one I was both surprised and pleased to get correctly from the wordplay. Is it politically correct these days to refer to an Apache as Indian? I can’t keep up with these things. Does sun really=heater? I don’t think so, but the answer was clear enough. Overall time about par for the i, but above so for a Wednesday, though solved in the midst of complete bedlam which may have had an influence. Yes, the kids are off school…

Lots to like as ever, my COD going to 18ac – “Rich bread bun, popular with gin and Vermouth (7,2,2)”.

To January 2015:


It’s the return of the long preamble which wouldn’t normally be a problem. If it wasn’t for…

  • The obligatory Friday night which if we’re to believe Friday’s i is going to finish us off sooner than might have been expected.
  • Coffee, and lots of it, which is normally a good thing until you remember that if you don’t put the pod in the coffee maker properly first it has a habit of exploding everywhere.

Oh yeah, that.

On the other hand it’s warm enough to sit outside, and the preamble on second glance looks pretty pliable. Theme words and variations. Worse case we’ll use a word finder. Extra word in six others seems to be the gist of it, word to be gleaned from the first letters. A name to be written under the grid similarly deduced from that pretty mystifying looking title. Pitch black, indeed.

The first two would be theme words, unless Variation C1 (6) is a particularly obscure bit of cryptic. So to CIRCLE, which is fairly obviously a figure. The artistic woman’s a MADAME, but shush, I missed the extra word. ELDRICH reminded me of this band.

The only thing that seems to be slowing down progress? That would be all those theme words that are leaving gaping great big holes in the grid.

And then MUNICH fell. Swiftly followed by LINCOLN. All of which rings a bell, very faintly. Films? Yep, they’re both Spielberg ones. The other two? HOOK and ALWAYS which I’ve not heard of fit quite nicely, thank you. That title? SPIEL B ERG. Chuck it under the grid.

Variations, yeah. Well, Lincoln was a president, and so were REAGAN and TAFT. What, you hadn’t heard of the latter either?

Munich’s a German city, and so are BONN and ULM. Ditto the latter.

HOOK, LINE and SINKER. Me, every time.

Finally ALWAYS, REMEMBER (why?), and MAN?Y. Manky? Seems unlikely. Oh yes, the extra words and first letters were going to tell us something. Remember those bucks we forgot to omit from 14ac? That would give the first letter or BERLIN, which isn’t only yet another German city but also the surname of this composer. Yep, he wrote Always, Remember, and, wait for it, MANDY.

Well, that all fell together very nicely, didn’t it? Done in an afternoon. Time for a cup of tea and a vanilla flavoured doughnut. The only saving grace of Brexit being the hope that we’ll be able to eat custard doughnuts again, and be allowed to continue to eat Glamorgan sausages. Oh yes, the puzzle. I enjoyed that too. More Wiglaf, please.

Finding a suitable picture link for today’s theme was fun: I was aiming for lurid and got more than I bargained for. One hopes that everybody enjoyed sniffing out Radian’s little mystery.

By now we know what to expect from this setter, which is to say plenty of variety, a middle of the road level of difficulty and a generous helping of thematic material. No doubt experienced solvers will have tumbled to 10ac pretty promptly on account of that Romanian cash, which just keeps on turning up like a bad penny. Most of the examples should have been familiar enough, although those of us who have read The Moonstone recently will have been at a distinct advantage with 11d because the clue seemed frankly impenetrable to me. So in the good sergeant went with a shrug. Other questionable features: the rhubarb; “tip” as a reversal indicator in 17d, and that appalling monstrosity of a word at 12ac. All the explanations were supplied by Duncan and the commentariat at Fifteensquared back on Twelfth Night, 2015.

Two clues took my fancy in particular, both on account of their surfaces: 1ac and 15d. The latter is my choice for COD, by a short head.

“Where vehicle goes round with awful racket (9)”

As expected Quixote to start the week with the usual mix of straightforward clues and slightly obscure, perfectly gettable answers. For me it was the images, long plant, and island I was slightly unsure about. OK, the latter’s pretty famous, but I can never remember what the second letter is. Apart from that there’s little to say – finish time well under par for the i, and all in all an enjoyable start to the week. Handily so, as the rest of my day seems to have been fully booked with a spot of DIY. But you were supposed to be on annual leave? Hopefully a change is as good as a rest.

COD? 15ac – “Madam? She may be one in library (5)”.

To November 2014 where there’s an interesting explanation from the Don regarding his increasingly fleeting appearances in the paper:


Saturday 6th April 2019

A quick start last Saturday, which slowed to a steady solve and didn’t need any checks with reference sources this time. Unless that is we include Cornick Senior, who shuffled into the room at precisely the moment I wondered out loud if there was a composer called Maleau for 17d. ‘Rameau’ he said, quick as a flash – not bad for 91.

The clues were pleasant and varied, with a smattering general knowledge required and some beautifully crafted &Lit style clues which, as well as being something Phi goes in for more than most, are often thought of as a kind of Holy Grail for setters. In case you’ve always been slightly puzzled as to just what exactly an &Lit [and literally] clue is, you can see four excellent examples by looking at 10a, 21a, 23d and 24d in the 2014 blog here.

However I’m giving my vote for COD to the Cornish themed and Semi&Lit(ish) following:

9d Tintagel, say, its exterior beset by some action (6)

Unsurprisingly for Phi there is also a ghost theme, based on composer MALCOLM ARNOLD, who amongst other things wrote the music for films such as TRAPEZE, The SOUND BARRIER, The INSPECTOR, CAPTAIN’S PARADISE, and the SAINT TRINIAN’S movies. Very nice.