A fairly light offering today from Alchemi that didn’t take too much time overall, though I did come badly unstuck at the end on 21d and across which seemed to come from a much harder puzzle altogether. No theme or Nina, despite suspicions when first 4ac and then 23ac appeared in quick succession. For the most part pretty workmanlike and in good order, there were also more than a few that sparkled, COD for me going to 14d – ‘Despicable people caught in lies about where to dig for ore (6,4)’.

To New Year’s Eve 2012:


It’s mid-week, it’s Dac, and a puzzle that’s as well put together and enjoyable as ever. On the easy side, with a couple of new words learnt via wordplay that left little doubt as to the outcome. We were talking on Monday about crosswords that are suitable for new (and newish) solvers – well, here’s another good one.

COD? Amongst lots to like, my favourite was 2d – ‘Play Oasis hit? No, don’t! (4,4,2,5)’.

We’re back to December 2012 today:


A game of hide and seek, and a title that… well, that could mean anything. 🙂 eXternal, who’s beaten me two times out of three in the Inquisitor. Yikes. Today misprinted definitions to give us the hider and seeker, letters omitted from the wordplay of others the quarry. The endgame a maze. Lots to think about, so perhaps that’s why, following a promising start with 1ac and 6ac falling quickly… nothing else for an embarrassingly long time. Hungover? Tired? No, just a misread preamble, failing to notice that letters are omitted from the wordplay, not that we have to omit them. At which point the grid begins to fill, but… Eurovision, and a busy weekend, and it’s a full two days before I get a chance to move beyond the three quarters full grid.

With a glass of Penderyn whisky to ease matters along, and suitably psyched out having had two days to stew things over, onward with those final clues. As is often the case, a few buggers at the end, but for once I’ve managed to parse the clues properly, so I’ve got the misprinted definitions, and the letters omitted from the wordplay. Blimey. If only 31d, which I can’t make head or tail of, would fall…

Perhaps the endgame will help. The misprinted definitions first, because that’s easier, the corrections giving us: Henry II and Eleanor. Hurrah. To the letters omitted from the wordplay, which have to be read “top to bottom and left to right.” A painstaking copy of the grid into Excel – because I’m really not that confident I haven’t messed something up – and highlight the letters there, albeit with some doubt over the final R (no, I still can’t work out what the pipsqueak in 35ac might be). Do they look sensible? Yes they do – Rose Of The World – presumably Rosamund Clifford, Henry’s mistress.

The omitted letters forming bars, we’re to follow “the shortest route from top left to the start cell of the quarry”, and there she is in the grid, ROSAMUN?, giving us EDNA for 31d, where I can see wordplay now, but why in the world is Edna “delightful”?

Talking of a maze, Wikipedia tells us that:

The traditional story recounts that King Henry adopted her as his mistress. To conceal his illicit amours from his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, he conducted them within the innermost recesses of a complicated maze which he caused to be made in his park at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Rumours having reached the ears of Queen Eleanor, the indignant lady contrived to penetrate the labyrinth, confronted her terrified and tearful rival, and forced her to choose between the dagger and the bowl of poison; Rosamund chose the latter and died.

6ac is DAGGER, so I think I can guess what we’re going to have to change in the final grid, but let’s check. Pick the odd letters from the top left along that shortest route to the ill fated mistress to give us: Way To Forfair. Forfair – “to perish or decay”. Change 6ac to POISON, and we’re done, I think, and learnt something along the way. Fingers crossed, that’s evened things up a bit with eXternal, and a very fine contest it was too. Until next week when the i serves up Phi, Phi, and more Phi.

Punk is amongst my favourite setters because he clearly sets out to entertain and amuse as much as to bamboozle and baffle. There’ll always be a few chuckles in there, and so it proved today. However, you just can’t please some people, and it seems that back in December 2012 a number of the Fifteensquared regulars had fallen out of bed on the grumpy side.

So yes, this puzzle is in the libertarian vein, and Punk does indeed take quite a few liberties. None of which seemed obscure to me, although the conventionally constructed 8ac was a bit rich – it’s easier if you just ignore the definition for all the help it gives. Anyway, leaving that one quibble aside I thoroughly enjoyed myself, in particular the clues which prompted all the moaning on the other side. “fff pb” is just fine by me, thank you very much. My clue of the day is worthy of the Beano:

20d: “Thumb thing that th a thign? (7)”

An enjoyable, breezy IoS reprint to start the week. This is about as easy as they get in the i, I suspect, so a good one for new solvers to try their hand.

COD? 14d, if only because of how long I sat staring at the definition thinking – but why? “First class recipe not at fault (9)’.

All the answers and analysis of the clues can be found here:


Saturday 13th May 2017

Over at Fifteensquared with all the answers here, Phi says he gives us a Nina about 50% of the time.  I wonder whether that figure includes puzzles which have themes, ghost themes, those which have interesting grids and those with that Phi speciality of ‘new and interesting’ words? Straightforward puzzles seem to me to be as rare as hens’ teeth – but this was one of those.

Quite tricky in places – ‘aquatint’ only rang a distant bell in 14a, and the meaning of ‘screw’ in 4d was unfamiliar.  Then with 21d the wordplay and checkers pointed to Ao dai, and I’m betting I wasn’t the only one reaching for a dictionary – turns out it’s a Vietnamese dress. Obviously!

Still, all perfectly solvable and enjoyable as ever. Discussion at length on the other channel about 19d and the possible ambiguity of which was the required answer, Apse or Apps. Seemed okay to me – I just assumed the ‘in’ was a link word.

COD – With apologies for omitting what is an inviolable tradition and thanks to AndyT for pointing it out… Hmm… Yes, it’s a goodie isn’t it:

10a  Augmentation of text in line covered by revolutionary work on document? (5)

Well I certainly found this hard going, a few reasonably easy ones to get started with but then I ground to halt and started  lightly penciling in some that were guesses unfortunately one in particular 26a was incorrect and I thought Mark to be an excellent answer ark = vessel with end of ram =m. Oh well.  Lots of ingenious clueing some of which a little too convoluted for my taste especially 6d and 23d along with the obscure French river at 5a left me a tad discontent, however there were some fine clues on offer and to pick just one is difficult but

COD     21d Figure involved with start of blaze?  (7)

Still in January 2013



Morph’s crosswords are invariably good, so I was pleased to find this Saturday Prize puzzle reprint today. On the easyish side, most of the top half passed in a flash, the SE took a bit longer, with only the SW corner and, finally, 6d, taking this to a time about par for the i. The latter would have been a write-in if you were at all familiar with the sport, less so if you spotted the payment pretty quickly, or a long, agonising solve for the rest of us.

Lots of fun, inventive clues as ever, 17d and 22d both raised a smile. COD though must go to 24ac – ‘Odd to be so focused on Brussels? (9)’.

And so to January 2013 once more:


Something more conventional than yesterday’s Rorschach test, but thoroughly satisfying as we have come to expect on a Wednesday. There are just two entries at Fifteensquared for the solution to 5d, both in crosswords by Dac, and it’s certainly not a familiar word to me. Perfectly deducible however from the immaculate clue, which is as it should be. Otherwise nothing too controversial, except maybe the reversal indicator in 21d.

The praise for this puzzle was tempered by some quibbling over on The Other Side back in January 2013, but I have no reservations. Two which came in for some discussion were 24 and 26ac: both strong COD candidates for me. The latter takes it:

“Noddy Holder performing in Slade, also Jagger? Not half (4,6)”

Is than a nod to the late Alan Freeman, do we suppose?

A quick glance back through Fifteensquared shows lots of Inquisitors by Triton last year, but perhaps I missed them because I can’t remember solving any of his / her puzzles. So easy, difficult, impossible? Hopefully not the latter, coming off a string of losses and… because my conscience has got the better of me and… so, to the garden.

Later that same day… The preamble. Merging the across and down clues is a device I’ve seen in Azed puzzles, so not that scary, though with the added complication of a superfluous word separating each, which will give us the lines of a poem; and some without definition, which will “help”. Help not always being that helpful, for me at least, when it comes to the Inquisitor. To the clues, which don’t seem to be too bad – 11ac and 1ac falling on the first attempt, and a few extra words cropping up. But are they supposed to be right at the beginning / end of each clue? If the clues are separate, isn’t the line between each usually a bit blurred? Why the capitals at the start of each in that case? Colour me confused. Onwards anyway, most likely in entirely the wrong direction, but any progress is better than none, hopefully.

By late evening I’ve got maybe three quarters of the grid filled, bar a few empty spaces here and there, and am still none the wiser regarding our verse. To the next day, and some coffee, and what would be a quiet afternoon sitting in the garden until the youngest come out to generally cause chaos. The SW corner is still pretty empty, and I’m not making progress, so try a different approach. Those lines of verse, perhaps they’ll help. Start by looking at the superfluous words we have, and it becomes clear that yes, they don’t have to be right at the start / end of each clue, and the first three words are… “There was a…” Looks like a limerick? Our first clue without definition happens to be in the same place, SENORITA, so… “There was a young lady from Spain.” Most definitely a limerick then. It’s helping with a couple of clues, now I’m certain the start / end of each isn’t the same as the way they’ve been printed. But I still can’t get 29ac/30d/36ac, though the latter must surely be ROTTER, but why? Brain freeze.

Anything else that might help? “A small change to the completed grid” is going to give us the author of the poem and the last line. Are we supposed to rub something out? We have TBRITON about two thirds of the way down. A quick Google and there’s no sight of this limerick, so presumably Triton’s the author. Hang about, QUABRAIN crosses that going down. Change the B to a T to give us Triton and quatrain? That rhymes with Spain, anyway, and a definition in Chambers for NO-GO (in vain), another undefined clue. We’ve also got “she could manage…” No more, from NAPOO. Which must rhyme with “by the end of line…” four, from TIDDY (something to do with some ancient card game). So for the clues without definition we don’t chuck them into the poem in exactly the same order they appear? Just more or less.

I reckon this is our limerick then, though at the same time it wouldn’t surprise me if there was something amiss, I’m not the most careful of solvers and prone to silly mistakes:

There was a young lady from Spain
Who worked at a sonnet in vain
By the end of line four
She could manage no more
The result being just a quatrain

So highlight A QUATRAIN and TRITON in the grid, followed by a brief burst of inspiration to finally complete that SW corner. Phew. That was tough, but thoroughly enjoyable. Thanks, Triton!

Until next week, and a game of hide and seek.