An IoS reprint to start the week, and as Simon noted back in 2015 perhaps a little trickier than par for such reprints. There were a few bits of potentially tricky vocabulary dotted round the grid – Shakespeare’s tailor, though I bet Cornick knew him, the playwright potentially, and the priestess for starters. A couple I couldn’t fully parse – notably, I was unsure where the IN came from in 1ac, and if SOLO really was a synonym for “bid”. Elsewhere I was glad I knew the carriage, was pleased to get 23ac from the wordplay, and needed BATTING to confirm the answer to 12ac. My finish time was still under par for the i, so a little tricky but not particularly fierce.

COD? 11d, just because the definition was so well hidden – “In time money fills container (7)”.

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


Saturday 13th July 2019

In the comments of the original Fifteensquared blog here, Phi tells us that this was his 200th crossword for the Independent – belated congratulations to him on that milestone – and also that his father used to tell a joke which presumably went something like ‘They call me Isaiah, ‘cos one eye’s higher than the other’.  If you already knew that particular rib-tickler, you may also have realised that the answer to the question posed in those asymmetric top & bottom unches WHICH PROPHET was that the eye on the right in 12a ALL MY EYE was higher than the eye on the left in 13a EYELINER. Quite beyond me though – even with the helpful hint from JonofWales last Saturday (I just thought those two EYES must be a homophone for the abbreviation for Isaiah).

As for the clues –  according to my marginalia 6 were tickworthy, which is about par for a Phi. For the COD I liked the Britten clue at 19a, but thinking of the golf lovers among us let’s go with what might prove to be a description of the back 9 at Portrush this afternoon:

10d Opening crucial stage of Open? (7)

A nice puzzle from Alchemi to lighten the mood on this gloomy day. While nothing definite went in until 11ac, there were enough fairly straightforward clues to ensure a reasonably rapid grid fill. The only unknown for me was 20dn. Although 10ac doesn’t crop up in the news now as often as he probably did back in 2015, the clues plus a few crossers were enough to provide the solutions. Parsing in some cases proved a bit harder – 10ac, 26ac, 3dn and 7dn stood out here but they are all explained by RatkojaRiku over on the Fifteensquared blog which is where I found out that there is a Nina!

Plenty of good clues but my pick for COD is 9ac:

Provencal 1D papers reaching difficult conclusion not thought of before  (8)


When you’re in a bit of a rush, in between a Year 6 Leaver’s Assembly and afternoon tea (very posh, I know, but I’m not paying 🙂 ), what you don’t necessarily want is a particularly taxing Nestor to quickly solve and blog. Well, that’s what we’ve got, and quite tricky it was too. All fair and above board as expected, though with a few convoluted bits of wordplay, and quite a few not fully understood on solving. Thankfully we had clues like 8d and 15ac to open up the grid very nicely, and 20ac to the SE that was a godsend if you spotted the definition quickly, as I did. First in 24ac, last in a not-understood-at-all 17d.

Anyway, all enjoyed, if rushed, and now I must run…

COD? 12ac, just because it elicited a groan here too – “Feeding on grass and taking photos? (10)”

To April 2015:

As John noted in his Fifteensquared blog there’s usually little to say about Dac’s puzzles, but in a good way. Consistently good, consistently enjoyable, always fair and above board. Today’s was perhaps a little trickier than expected, but I still came in well under par for the i. Only the one I struggled to parse at 19ac, but as Cornick noted last week – if you’re struggling with the parsing of one of Dac’s clues, assume it’s down to you and not him.

COD? Lots to appreciate as ever, with my nomination going to 7d, perhaps just because it was one I struggled with and felt quite satisfied on finally sorting out – “Old-fashioned postal worker, demanding rise, hasn’t succeeded (5)”.

To March 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Last week we had what was indeed a terse preamble, this week the very opposite. Thankfully it boiled down to extra letters generated by the wordplay here, letters to be removed before solving there, and an unclued perimeter. We’ve even got a handy list of unchecked letters –  other setters could take note. 😉

The weather has settled down to overcast yet warm, which if you ask me is as good as it gets. So outside again, but this time sans sun hat, cream, and paddling pool.

7ac is the first real clue, so thumbs up or down? Up as it happens, an easy ENCASH, A as an unwanted letter. 9ac, ditto for DIM and D. 10ac is obviously something VOLT, 12ac definitely oogyish. And overall very much on the easy side.

What did the 19 letters unwanted in the acrosses produce? That would be A Day At The Races Queen, bar a question mark here or there. I’m guessing though that we won’t be doing anything as obvious as looking for Mr Mercury in the grid. The suitably calculated letters from the 8 down answers from letters removed? DIAGONAL. I can see LOCH and FEL plus other stuff NW to SE, but not much else that helps. Rearranging the removed letters gives STRAIGHT, which while it can be jotted under the grid fairly confidently, doesn’t sound much like a mystery.

Onward to filling that perimeter. A first stab at BALLOON and ESCORT proving to be suitably false, out with the eraser.

Let’s try again, just above the not-balloon. DEAD CERT. Now, the other half’s late grandfather was a big Dick Francis fan, so at this point it became clear all we needed was a list of the man (and his wife’s) books, the unchecked letters, and bob’s your uncle.

That diagonal? DEVON LOCH FELL, which in conjunction with the Queen album title does indeed mean something.

Oh yes, we’ve got to change a couple of letters to reveal the great man’s name, and there he is across the top of the grid.

Done, dusted, home safe and sound, and all understood. Pretty neat, eh?

When Tees’ name appears next to the Tuesday crossword I assume two things: a) that Eimi has decided to take that cocky Batarde down a peg or two, and b) arriving at a solution will involve much brow-knitting and the consumption of two large pots of coffee and an incredible amount of tobacco, as it were. On the contrary: it was a quickie and if ever there was an easy Tees, this is it.

The theme was very helpful, and Stanley supplied the tip off. Once 18/28 had fallen that took care of 4/7 and 1/21d/22ac was a write-in. Not sure 6d would have fallen easily without it – one of two well camouflaged hiddens today. Plenty of variety to enjoy and a few chuckles, with 2, 5, 12 and 27 catching my eye. The only fly in the ointment was the “thrust” part of 16d which didn’t feel in keeping with the bright and breezy tone. My COD is 19ac, which is simplicity itself!

“Near the middle ground (5)”

Back to the 1980s – whoops, April 2015, rather – for this one. Click here for Duncan’s Fifteensquared write-up and an interesting sidelight on those three across the middle from the man himself.

The Don to start the week with a Wednesday reprint that as far as difficulty is concerned is probably about par as far as Wednesday reprints go. The usual mixture of easy clues and answers you’ve never heard of – in my case 9d in particular – but all as fairly clued as you’d like. I came to a little grief in the SE corner, not knowing the money and failing to remember quickly the second bit of the shoe part, but the rest went in without too much ado. All in all a 7d start to the week.

COD? Let’s go with 16d – “What’s soft and ‘ideous say when served up as prison food?”.

To April 2015:

Saturday 6th July 2019

A grid with peripheral unches from Phi means there’s a high probability of a Nina, but for me it took a while to spot because my first few answers fed into the Nina-free bottom row. What was waiting in store was the opening of Jaques’ monologue from As You Like It, ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE in the shape of a proscenium arch; and as if to point out the fact there was said theatrical feature as the answer to 12/24d. Nice. It may remind you of a different take on the same Seven Ages of Man speech given to us by Radian a year or so ago.

No other dramatic references apart from the somewhat unusual BUSKIN at 15a. That’s a word which appeared neither in Ancient Greece (its origins are French) nor in the modern study of it (Mrs C is a drama teacher) but does feature in certain literary works of a certain era I think, to describe Greek tragic theatre. I’d never met it.

Other entries of note were WAHINE at 1d, reminding us of Phi’s place of residence, and the use of CHARA, short for ‘charabanc’ in 8a. I did enjoy the La Mancha/ LA MANCHE clue very much, but my COD goes to the cheeky clue that drew some comment last weekend on these pages. Here it is again:

3d Produce new design for borders of speed-limit sign? (4)

And click here for all the answers with their parsings from the ever-reliable Bert and Joyce.

I am never sure what to expect from this setter as in the past we have had some that have been quite tough and others fairly middling. This I found fell into the latter category with enough on the easy side to get letters in the grid to assist with the few that were a bit harder to unravel. These were 1ac where “to patrol” was used to indicate an anagram that had me fooled until I had written the answer in, 11ac – surely the Aussie for toilet is Dunny, well that’s what I thought but it is also Toot it seems. 3dn is the only one that went in unparsed and is the main topic over on Fifteensquared. It seems some had a different clue for 22dn which I would have preferred as the one we have is too close to home for my liking 🙂 My last one in was 15dn which is cryptically a fine clue but the answer a complete unknown to me and this is the only puzzle in the Fifteensquared database that it can be found.

COD. Lots of good clues but not anything exceptional but 18dn got a couple of ticks

New bags – they were originally made for consumers in Asia (7)