Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Well, it’s an IoS reprint, but based on the comments from back in the day I’m guessing I won’t have been alone in finding this to be on the tough side. No complaints though, because this was a thoroughly engaging, enjoyable puzzle. Highlights here outside of the COD would include “Animal with others” which raised a great big smile. Loads went in unparsed, notably our staple crossword actress, and elsewhere HONEY for “angel” and POT for “sink” raised eyebrows, but all are quite correct. We seem to have a few children’s TV characters dotted about, but if there is a theme it’s one that’s passed everyone by.

COD? For me it’s got to be 12d – “Put out about an agent causing disorder, spy screened (6,5)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from April 2018:


Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟

There can’t be many more Dac puzzles left in the archive so I feel privileged to be blogging another of them. This one, as always, was a joy to solve; a few moments thought required in places though, so maybe rating two stars rather than one.

Among the nice touches were the extra layer of meaning in 10ac – β€˜tarps’ in themselves being waterproof – and β€˜sty’ as the farm building rather than the more readily thought of β€˜barn’. I had a little trouble with 16ac, trying to put β€˜ants’ (= soldiers) into an anagram of β€˜Iran’; that was my fault for not realising that, given Dac’s attention to detail, the initial A in the clue was part of the wordplay and not just padding.

Editorially, maybe there was an opportunity missed to update a clue – residents of 19ac might be a bit miffed to see their city described as a town; I think in fact it had already acquired city status when the puzzle first appeared in 2018.

It’s always difficult to pick a CoD in a Dac puzzle. I liked 2dn for its simplicity, 20dn and 21dn for their surfaces but, for the penny-drop moment when I got it, I’ll go for 25ac: β€˜Close to range in centre of Finisterre (7)’.

All in all a 27ac puzzle to put one in a good 1ac for the day.

For the original blog and comments go to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/25/independent-9838-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Our theme this Tuesday is roles played by 27/4. Now, I’ve seen a couple of the films referenced, but had forgotten who played the parts in question, so that it would only be on referencing Fifteensquared that all became clear. This is a Thursday reprint, and it’s Hob, so it’s very much on the tough side. Loads went in not at all understood – you needed a knowledge of obscure Scottish resorts to parse 17ac, to be very much in tune with Hob’s sense of humour to follow 24ac, know who Tom Hank’s son was to understand 14ac, and possibly to know a bit about Les Mis to enter 6/13 with any confidence. In other words, I’m not entirely convinced this puzzle didn’t cross the line into unfairness, and we were without the prior knowledge Independent solvers would have had, on a Thursday, that something pretty tough would be on offer.

Hob as ever is inventive though, so besides the general struggle through the grid there was plenty to keep the solver entertained, and to be fair there were a fair few accessible clues to get things going.

COD? 22ac is certainly worthy of mention, with my pick going to 5d – “Hob’s drug-free, right? Fabulous (8)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from March 2018:


Eurovision weekend, which means a cut in the available solving time in order to partake of the annual endurance test, buoyed up by copious buffet food and no doubt a couple of drinks as a general coping strategy. The lack therefore of clue numbers said to me that this would be no Picnic, and possibly one of those extended weekend solves I would therefore struggle for time with.

Well, no. A thankfully erroneous scan of the grid led me to believe that there were two 10 letter entries to the north, and two to the south, with crossing seven letter answers. Yes, I know now there was another – thematic, as it turns out – in the centre, but I missed that. Luckily, as it allowed me to start lobbing in entries to both the top and bottom of the grid, with about only a third of the clues cold-solved.

OK, I made a dog’s breakfast of it first time around, but that’s why I use a pencil, and the erroneous letters were erased with no resulting damage to the newspaper. Whether it would have withstood repeated blows is another matter altogether which thankfully I did not need to test, the other entries falling into place now there were some handy checking letters without too much ado, and much pleasure to be gained from the noodling about the grid.

Having both IOTA and LOTA was a little sneaky, I grant you, and I can assure you that I fell straight into that trap.

As I was squinting against the unexpectedly strong sunlight, this being one of those more frequent outdoor solves now that the weather is being a little kinder to us, I feel that I may claim a handicap. It might also explain my inability to work out until the close why BARRIE might be a “Pan maker”. Doh.

What looked increasingly like TUFFET to the south caused rather a lot of anguish, as it didn’t seem to fit with the wordplay of any likely looking entries. Until that is it became equally clear that it was one of our two thematic entries, with MISS MUFFET duly sitting above.

Getting the required instruction from the extra letters needed a little more squinting, and not just because I was at first missing a few, but also because we had to arrange them in “normal clue order”. I will admit to running my finger across each letter in the grid to get the required.


Well, we already knew that MISS MUFFET was going to leg it, the resulting words rather satisfyingly being real ones too. I almost forgot to sit the SPIDER down beside her, and when I did had a moment of panic regarding DWINES, but lo, there it is in the BRB.

And done. Well, that was fun, and funny. Not just in the grid-fill, which had smiles aplenty, but also in the amusing endgame. More like this one, please!


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Quite a chewy morsel to start the new working week comes to us courtesy of Tees this morning. After a fairly speedy start in the NE corner, I rapidly ground to a halt and found that I had to put in a bit of effort for my rewards – and this was a very satisfying puzzle to solve.

The ‘key’ to the crossword, so to speak, is the long anagram at 1d / 8d. I dare say one’s solving experience would be coloured by how readily one spotted what it was. I’m ashamed to say that it took me ages, largely because I rashly guessed that the fifth word would be “good” from the crossing G and O. Nothing suggested itself, and I had to acknowledge my mistake when the part in 1d made it clear what the entries ought to be. There’s a lesson for me.

A little more than the usual level of general knowledge was called for today. I now know more about Swiss towns and African shrubs than I did before. I also know more about a certain ingredient in perfume. OPOPANAX had me scratching my head for a while. The word was very transparently clued with helpful crossing letters, so no complaints, but the definition seemed wrong on my perusal of the internet. Worth it, I dare say, for the surface reading.

Plenty of well constructed clues, but the honours have to go to the very impressive long anagram in 1, 8d: “Great shower of endearment, he backs fallacious truism (7,5,3,4,5,6)”.

Here’s the link: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/30/independent-9842-by-tees/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A cleverly worked ghost theme (akin to an ‘Easter Egg’ in the world of gaming, which ties in with the original date of publication perhaps?) based on CHOCOLATES and SNACK BARS – sometimes called SCOFFS or MUNCHIES; though that last doubles up as a brand name too of course. Add to that MARS, FLAKE, FUDGE, PENGUIN, YORKIE, MARATHON and TOFFEES; all clued on ways other than their themed meaning, and also achieved without obscurities and with nothing more strained than DISTRUSTERS (which seemed fine when clued the way it was) and we had a top-notch grid fill. Nice one.

I only struggled with the NW corner – I still don’t understand 1a SOCIAL CLASS being defined as ‘A once perhaps’ – are the socio-economic bandings now abolished maybe? if so, fair enough.

There were a sprinkling of very good anagrams, including in one of my favourite clues16a MANAGERESS. I also liked the clue for AGENTS – it’s strange how the passage of time makes a joke at George Michael’s expense more acceptable now somehow than some commenters found it back in 2018 – and my nomination for CoD goes to this one:

11a Hit back at husband performing arduous task (8)

Here’s that link to Simon Harding’s original blog:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

How did you get on with this one? I’ve rated it as 3* for difficulty but I’ve really no idea, because this was one of my own puzzles and so obviously I knew all the answers! It seems about average difficulty, but when it was blogged by mc_rapper67 back in the day he did it in 12Β½ minutes – which is less time than the quick crossword took me yesterday, so who knows.

I would usually take this opportunity to explain something about the puzzle’s genesis, but there’s no real story or theme this time. I think I started with TANTAMOUNT and AT DAGGERS DRAWN from my file called ‘Random clues as I think of them’ and put them in a friendly looking grid from ‘Crossword Compiler’. After that it was simply a matter of picking words that looked conducive and mulling over the clues for my usual inordinate length of time. Hats off to the setters who can create puzzles quickly – I’m not one of them.

Noteworthy clues might include BADGERS which seems to be blaming them for the spread of bovine TB, but on closer inspection it’s really ‘bad germs’ that are responsible – that created some comment on Fifteensquared; then there’s the clue for CHEW which started life in earlier puzzle that I’d had on Big Dave’s website before being tweaked and upcycled, so to speak – I’m not sure how frowned upon that might be as a modus operandum… Finally IMPROMPTU makes its third appearance in the i in recent memory, all of which have used the ‘I’m prompt’ gag, but entirely coincidentally.

Here’s my favourite, so I’m nominating it for CoD:

27a Sleep very lightly, maybe Nero’s beginning his sex? (4-5)

And here’s the link to the original blog with all the answers:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

A good crossword to get one’s teeth into comes to us courtesy of Morph, today. This one took me just a little over my typical time, and did require a bit of e-help, principally in the SW quadrant. There is nothing beyond the kind of general knowledge that it is reasonable to expect of an i solver. The grid is dense, and the entries tend to be a little longer than average, and only two of them have initial letters that do not check. I hope my difficulty rating is more helpful than it turned out to be in my last blog on Monday, where I seemed to be wildly at variance to other commenters.

I enjoyed doing this one. It was absorbing and rewarding to solve. The surface readings were plausible and there was good variety in the cluing. Only two caused my brow to ruffle: DIPHTHONG and SCUTTLE. With the latter, the two definitions seemed close; double-defintions work best when the two components are very different. With the former, the definition was very clear indeed, but I couldn’t help thinking I was missing something in the choice of “Mousetrap” as an example.

Lots to enjoy. My runner up for Clue of the Day goes to MEMENTO, with the winner being 1d, which is nicely observed, neatly done and true: “City integral to Bahai Faith (5)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/03/independent-9845-by-morph/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Well, there was a theme, should anybody have been looking for one. The most uncommon word in the finished puzzle is apparently the name of a novel by Nick Harkaway, with some other examples of his oeuvre strewn throughout the grid. Oh well. At least it explains that pretty odd word, though one which was clued as fairly as you would like so we don’t have much cause to complain.

This was a little on the tough side for Phi, which at first I put down to being tired, but it seems to have been the experience of some solvers back in the day too. 27ac was certainly one to test your classical knowledge (I was found lacking), and 11ac I failed miserably to parse, though in retrospect it’s one of a number of clues I really liked. 24d is a bit of an odd one – an &Lit, though I can’t see anything in the whole that approaches a definition.

COD? Lots to like as ever, with the aforementioned 11ac, 27ac and 6d gaining ticks here, with my nomination going to 3d – “Learn about pigment – it’s not imaginary (4,6)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from March 2018:


Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟

Given the variations in difficulty for the same puzzle expressed by commenters here recently I’m sure others will disagree but I simply cannot give this more than one star as it all went in so smoothly and quickly. The only clue I had any doubts about was 17dn where I wasn’t sure of the equivalence of analysis and therapy; however, Chambers informs me that analysis can be short for psychoanalysis which in turn includes psychotherapy. So no problem there.

This was all so good that it’s almost impossible to nominate a CoD. For form’s sake, though, I’ll pick out 8dn: β€˜Gorgeous nymph rejecting a diamond ring, having lost heart (6)’.

There is a theme to the puzzle, to which I was totally oblivious. I won’t spoil things for others by revealing it here but all is made clear at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/03/29/independent-9815-knut/