Oh, it’s Donk was my first thought as he generally sets tough puzzle. While this one had its moments it probably isn’t as tough as some of his previous offerings. I found quite a few write-ins – even if I couldn’t completely parse them – and the grid had a generous number of crossers which made life easier. There were a few grimaces along the way – I don’t think “leaves” is a good synonym for “tourism”, and the replacement of TH with F isn’t confined to cockneys. 19ac has been amended from the original – the name has changed and the word “ready” has been inserted which is an improvement as without it I wouldn’t have a clue what it was about (football I assume). Despite these little grumbles I enjoyed this and again find it difficult to pick just one, as I have quite a few ticked. I did like the anagram at 11/10 and the wordplay at 14dn and 23ac, but because it made me smile:

22dn  Prepare for bed in warehouse

For the solutions, parsing and comments go to Fifteensquared where I see that 1ac is falling out of fashion, as according to their database it’s only been used once since this 2014 puzzle.

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I find this setter’s puzzles a bit on the tough side, the sort of puzzles where a bit of lateral thinking isn’t enough. The fact that three of the answers are actually in the dictionary comes as a bit of a surprise, but that this is the only crossword they have ever been used in doesn’t. 1ac was obviously one of the three and the clue shouted anagram so we were off. The four long answers around the edges certainly helped to fill the grid. It was only 27ac that was only solved because of the “K” that caused too much of a problem among these. Along with solving I was acquiring question marks, most of which are resolved by RatkojaRiku in his excellent Fifteensquared blog although there are a few that I find a bit too convoluted, 18dn and 26ac particularly. 6dn is cryptically sound but I’m not sure what the answer has to do with the clue. It’s at this point that I have to admit that 15dn defeated me – it is solvable from the cryptic but I hadn’t a clue that the word even existed.

And so to the hard part of selecting just one for COD. I have a lot of ticks – 7, 8 and 9dn  12 and 14ac among them – but it has to be:

1ac  Attractively curvaceous Scot you oil, bi-curious (12)

It’s Wednesday and it’s Dac and it’s as good as usual. The only obscurity for me being 1ac whom I’d forgotten all about, but with a couple of checking letters in the cryptic part making it gettable. Similarly 7dn which I eat frequently but was unaware of its origins. This was an excellent example of a cryptic clue. There were a couple that went in on definition alone, 2dn I can just about see but it was 14dn that I needed the Fifteensquared blog for enlightenment.  18dn caused a bit of a delay as “initially” had me looking for an actress starting with C. LOI was 6ac  – couldn’t see that at all – otherwise apart from the lip curling word at 25dn it was smooth progress.

Lots of ticks – 7dn, 8dn and 15dn were all well constructed and 17ac deserves mention for its surface – but for COD the devious anagram at 10/11:

One out of twenty-nine couples resettled outside a northern city  (9,4,4)

After yesterdays Flowers in the rain moment I’m off to dig out Manfred Manns Demolition Man.

So in Anglesey they do have mobile data… How was the journey from one far-flung corner of Wales to the other? 6 hours to travel 180 miles, it turns out, which is considerably longer than both Google and the RAC estimated, with let’s say basic facilities in-between. The local newsagent does though stock copies of the i, so we’re in business.

Schadenfreude this week, who I seem to remember being a little on the tricky side. Single letters overlooked in 19 clues, giving two titles, one of them jumbled. Complete the grid, presumably utilising that blank square in the middle, highlight another title and the person in all three. Well, that sounds OK to me. Almost midnight might not be the most opportune time to start solving, but well, I had better things to be doing until then. Like trying to find somewhere selling beer and chips. Benllech it turns out is good for both, boasting a Tesco Express, two, I repeat two chip shops, a Bengali takeaway and, oh yes, lots of sand and sea. In fact, we seem to be totally surrounded by the stuff.

The grid fill? Half one night and half the next. Which is to say, under the conditions, it really wasn’t that bad. A few oddities, 42ac being down at number 18 by way of definitions in the BRB for office, but still highly amusing. One or two I couldn’t parse first time through, a few such as 11ac pretty crucially so. Oh well…

The end game? The extra letters I’ve managed to glean as expected are pretty much nonsense. No fear, all we need to do is find the aforementioned title and somebody who’s in it. And there, with a nifty B in the centre of the grid, is The Dambusters NW to SE, and yes, Michael Redgrave too. Out with the highlighters that I’ve had to purchase especially because I forgot to bring my own (doh!), and we’re done?

Well, call me suspicious, but let’s have another look. Oh, a T in the centre will give The Bostonians SW to NE, which features Vanessa Redgrave who’s also in that finished grid. Thanks, Schadenfreude… Looks like we’re going to have to sort out those extra letters. Let’s have another look, more carefully this time. Beer, it transpires, helps.

I’ve got what looks like it might be BEHIND. Yes, BEHIND THE MASK. Which one of our two Redgraves is in it? Gee, thanks again, both. The other title’s scrambled, and I’m struggling. We know how many letters it contains, though, so Wikipedia to the rescue. A long hard stare at 11ac later… Yes, it’s BLOW-UP, which stars Vanessa but not Michael Redgrave. The Bostonians it is then. Huzzah.

Well, that was fun, one that kept me guessing right to the end. And a nice little trap for the unwary, among whom I may yet find myself counted. Next stop, Pembrokeshire, via a hopefully scenic drive down the west Wales coast. See you there!

It’s not often that Eimi descends from the editor’s office to show us his skills as a compiler, but when he does it tends to be on a Tuesday – so lucky me. My knowledge of today’s ghost theme is patchy going on non-existent so it passed me by, leaving me scratching my head until Fifteensquared’s Bertandjoyce helped me out. Isn’t that good? At the time of original publication in May 2014 the subject was topical.

Leaving aside thematic considerations we have quite a mixture today, including a Russian car favoured by Politburo members back in Soviet days (I was pleased to know that one), a streamlined dog, a not-so-well-known president as well as a notorious one, a surprising name for a letter, and a nasty medical condition. The latter seemed a bit obscure to me, and it appears that this is the only crossword in which it’s appeared according to 15², so it probably is. I’m inclined to be indulgent though, this being a thoroughly entertaining puzzle with plenty of excellent clues and some notably clever surfaces. Re the COD I find myself impaled on the horns of a dilemma. 12ac is a miniature masterpiece of misdirection, whilst 23ac is straightforward but lapidary. Since quite often I favour complexity I’ll go the other way today and nominate 23:

“Condition discommoding the orators (4,6)”

If you are new to cryptic crosswords this will be ideal for you as it has a examples of most of the devices used by setters, there are homophones that work, anagrams, double definitions, a bit of geography and even a cricketing term and it’s all done in a user friendly way although I did slip up with 9ac where I confidently entered Sweep but that error was soon resolved when I got to 6dn.  Only 16ac could perhaps be described as obscure but experienced solvers will have seen it a few times and it was easily solvable from the cryptic. The only one that I needed help parsing was 1ac and so I’ll make that my

COD  Panic of feeder? What you’ll see here in these short times of refreshment!  (6,6)

The original blog from May 2014 with solutions and comments can be found by clicking here.

Saturday 4th August 2018

Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin and Perth – so the theme was clear as day last weekend (Phi lives in nearby New Zealand, by the way). When I saw Edinburgh and Ayr, I assumed that, like Perth, they must also be Australian towns, just ones I hadn’t heard of, and so it proves.  Doubtless Phi thought all that was a bit too obvious, so he threw in B R I S as the initial letters of the first four across clues, and B A N E as the initial letters of the last four down clues. Dang.

All pretty straightforward, I seem to remember, until the last 3 in the NW corner, which I couldn’t solve until I got to an atlas to confirm Armantieres, a small town near Lille which might just as well have started with ‘Ram’ or ‘Mar’ as far as I knew. 9a Ramie was new too.

What else?  I discovered I’ve been pronouncing Adelaide wrongly all these years – it is indeed a homophone of A-delayed (soft i, not a schwa)… so I’ll postpone my opinion piece on homophones. Or maybe not… Briefly, I’d say homophones needn’t be exact provided the vowel is of the same type – but it doesn’t necessarily matter whether syllables are stressed or unstressed.

Some enjoyable clues, amongst which my favourite was:

13d Tory politician cornered by silent performer in heated period (9)

And click here to be whisked back to 2014 and all the answers.

After a week of what I thought to be reasonably difficult puzzles this IOS reprint by Hypnos comes as a bit of a relief, it didn’t start well though with only two of the across clues being solved on the first pass and I’m still not sure where the “wild” part of 11ac comes from. The down clues proved more accessible with another part synonym part anagram at 2dn and the long cryptic definition at 7dn giving plenty of checking letters. The part anagram part synonym device gets another outing at 14dn where the solvers favourite port is called into use again. I don’t think there is anything contentious or too obscure here although 26ac doesn’t figure in my list of well known U.S. cities and I had to check who Sassoon V was in the amusing 19dn, so I would class this as a straightforward  enjoyable puzzle with a lot of good clues but nothing outstanding so COD because it had me stymied for a while

5ac      Lead journalist behind river in outdoor resting place? (4,3)

Back to May 2014 where Fifteensquared provides all the solutions and parsing but almost no comments regarding this puzzle.

As mentioned before I’m starting to derive a certain grim pleasure from battling the implacable Monk – but it’s more fun when it isn’t a blog day. To be fair, this wasn’t his toughest by a long chalk, but it certainly put me on my mettle. This setter sometimes includes bizarre Ninas (remember that harmonica puzzle last year?), and sure enough there’s one for our entertainment today related to 17ac. I think he must be a musical Monk.

There really isn’t a great deal to be said about a crossword like this. Things which might be objectionable otherwise are par for the course with this setter, so you just have to like it, lump it, or give it a miss. There are strange definitions (12ac, 6d), words seldom seen in the real world (10ac, 23d), Byzantine constructions (13 and 24ac), and, surprisingly, a dash of Carry On humour (1d). I’ll save Sprouthater the bother of complaining about 3d, because it annoyed me too in more ways than one. All told though, the standard is high and the challenge is a good one; it’s also worth noting that Monk was rather generous with the two long down entries, which provide plenty of toe holds. I particularly liked the comparatively straightforward 22ac but it got pipped at the post towards the end by 11d, my COD:

“Away on account of attraction, returning after this (12)”

John was the unfortunate soul who copped for this puzzle first time round at Fifteensquared in May 2014, and a cracking job he made of the analysis too. I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and pretty darn pleased with that arrangement today, too. It’s worth a visit to see what Monk has to say for himself at comment no. 10.

Wasn’t that good? A bit of everything today, with the usual wide variety of clue constructions all presented with exemplary surfaces; a spot of up-to-the-minute topicality at 26d, and it’s also one of Dac’s occasional pangrams. Pretty superfluous to say that I can’t find anything whatsoever to complain about, since that’s almost always the case with this setter. There are some striking coincidences suggestive of some sort of mini theme going on, but I haven’t been able to put my finger on it so suggestions from eagle-eyed solvers are invited.

On to the plaudits, then. A couple of funnies (13 and 22); some immaculately turned out complex assemblies (1ac, 2 and 27), and 18d is something rather out of the ordinary. The latter is my choice for COD on grounds of novelty, but given the cornucopia of good ‘uns … take your pick.

18d: “At least four teams going north round extremely twisty US route (5-3)”

For the Fifteensquared analysis and commentary it’s back to May 2014.