So the start of another working week and, as expected, an IoS reprint to kick things off. I found this to be a 12ac of two halves – the NE and SW corners flying by in no time at all, but the rest took a little more thought. A cunningly concealed definition at 26d combined with a usage for “drab” I wasn’t expecting at 18d caused me difficulty in the bottom right. Over the other side of the grid it was the lesser-used synonym for mother that gave me a bit of a headache. Oh, and my certainty that 2d began with RE. Once I’d resolved those two, well, it was game over. I suspect 21ac may have caused some solvers difficulties, but thankfully the poet’s name sprang to mind with ease, unusually so for this end of the week. Overall time round about par for the i, so on the difficult side for a Sunday reprint.

And that was really quite good for a Monday puzzle, wasn’t it? Well disguised definitions, some nice wordplay to get your teeth into, a few synonyms that weren’t obvious at first glance. All in all well done, especially compared to some IoS reprints that can sometimes be, yes, a little bit drab.

COD? It took me ages to spot the definition, and is rather well done, so I’ll go with 26d – “Part of answer found after time’s up (4)”.

To March 2014 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/23/independent-on-sunday-1256-by-poins/

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Needless to say I’m pleased as Punch with the mention the blog gets on page 46 of today’s i Weekend. Thanks to John Henderson for the write-up, and to Cornick, Batarde and Sprouthater for all their work. Without them the blog would have ground to a halt long ago, and would be sadly lacking posts which I suspect are far more interesting and erudite than my own efforts. Now to today’s Inquisitor…

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Saturday 16th June 2018

In which I thought the clues had more than the usual brightness and sparkle about them.  So was that just me, influenced by the quirky grid perhaps?  Or maybe Phi himself, having boldly used reflective rather than rotational symmetry, felt peculiarly invigorated?  Well whatever the reason, the clues seemed to me to have a very welcome freshness, and I enjoyed myself.  More than half the clues received ticks in the margin, and my only slight grumbles were at the end with Eblis and Moue, although both were plain enough from the wordplay, thankfully.

My COD nomination goes to the following:

3d South American city, as far as we’re concerned, is wildly colourful (7)

And the 2014 blog is here.

Ah, it seems I need an update.  It turns out there’s a hidden Nina themed around St Valentine’s Day, when the puzzle first appeared.  Duncan, the original blogger didn’t spot it, but writes: ‘Well it didn’t take long before the experienced Nina spotters came along’. To be clear, those two who ‘spotted’ it were Phi himself and Gaufrid, who test solves the puzzles on behalf of the Independent’s editor; so I think we’ll call this another one that Phi has done for his own amusement.

 

A very tough Thursday reprint that I didn’t finish unaided, and in a couple of instances checked my answers on Fifteensquared before entering because I couldn’t really see how they worked. 1ac being one of those –  I had the Bud+Ape, but the st? Turns out Anax made “Apest” up… While this was the only instance of made up words, there were plenty of other oddities both in the clues and the solutions, with 10ac and 15dn being particularly obscure but perfectly fair. If only I’d had a few more hours to ponder them… I didn’t know the alternative name for a chaffinch and the Spoonerism certainly didn’t help. Fortunately Anax has included a few less convoluted clues and half a dozen long anagrams to give us something to work with. I’m of the opinion that this would have been better scheduled in the Saturday paper when we could have given it more time.

COD? 19dn –  “Mole’s genitals say (6)”

A Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint from Nestor, though one that’s on the easier side as far as these things go. I struggled with the parsing of one or two – notably 28ac – but in each case the definitions were clear enough that it didn’t matter. The SW corner as a whole I found to be a little trickier than the rest, but eventually spotting 18d and why the answer was an “(o)ld hand at direction” proved to be the key, with the rest then flying by. Strange how these things go. Only the one word I was unfamiliar with at 13d, but I’ve unfortunately had enough experience of the condition named after it that the answer was a write-in. 🙂 There’s a cross of C’s in the middle of the grid, though the reason why remains a mystery.

COD? Lots to enjoy, with my nomination going to the aforementioned 28ac – “Printer’s stock description of Alpha Papa, with leads switched? (9,5)”.

To March 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/15/independent-8548-nestor-8314/

What can you say? Dac’s back after a week AWOL and with a puzzle that’s as watertight and enjoyable as ever. I didn’t know the Spanish inn, but fortunately did know the tennis player so no problems there. The Notts town took a bit longer to fall – did I mention that Geography isn’t my strong point? – but thankfully I twigged SWELL for smart pretty sharpish. The only issue remaining was the little woman’s name required at 21d, with thankfully not that many candidates to choose from. Kathryn’s Dad’s prediction back in the day that “MIDDLEMARCH won’t date well, so the editor might have to be careful if he recycles this one in the i in five years’ time” proved to be false in my case, but I’m guessing memories of it won’t be as fresh now, four years later. Yes, it does look like we’re slowly catching up with the Independent…

COD? Lots to like as ever, with an extra tick by 11d – “Goes off with crew aboard a boat (6,7)”.

To March 2014 for all the answers and analysis of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/12/independent-8551-dac/

The British summer being unusually, well, summery, much of Saturday is spent doing vaguely summery things. Which means the Inquisitor has to take a back seat for a while. So it isn’t until quite late, and suitably fortified, that an opportunity presents itself to get to grips with that preamble. 24 grouped letters not indicated by the wordplay which could be a cinch or a right pain, depending. A quick glance through suggests we won’t actually be in too much trouble. 21ac screams hidden word, mixture as the definition, with SALAD minus an A inside a troublesome nasal drop. Sounds nasty. Rewind to 1ac and there’s a nice friendly anagram. A JUNTA would be a group seizing power, of course, so we need J to go with the letters in TAUN(t).

A pretty straightforward grid fill then. A suspiciously straightforward grid fill some might argue, this being the Inquisitor. Let’s see if they’d be right. The letters additional to the wordplay are supposed to help us identify the theme. Except in the order I’ve got them they look pretty random, and there are more than 24 of them. Cue a frantic back and forth through the clues to see what I’ve missed, except that I haven’t.

What if we, as pretty heavily hinted in the preamble, look at the groups the letters are in? I’m not going to bugger up that grid by shading any bits of it, and it’s a pain typing a letter per cell in Excel, so a handy demo version of Crossword Compiler to the rescue, and… Well, I don’t know about you but I was a pretty big fan of Blake’s 7 back in the day, from its beginnings through to that pretty grim finale. The names of the first crew are hidden in the grid – AVON, CALLY, GAN (poor Gan…), JENNA (who didn’t have a thing for Jenna back in the day?), VILA (no, I didn’t know his name was spelt like that), and the computer ZEN.

We’ve got to reveal a craft at the close, which must be the LIBERATOR, meaning LITERATOR is going to have to change, the T to B with BLAKE the “aptly located” replacement for 7d. And I think that means that we’re done?

Well, that was good, wasn’t it? An engaging solve, and a bit of classic Sci-Fi with a pretty classic theme too. Enjoy.

Another one from Radian’s seemingly inexhaustible stockpile of Tuesday-worthy puzzles … but before we get started may I put on record my utter loathing for that vile travesty of a word at 1ac? Thank you. Anybody using it in a non-academic context deserves a custard pie from the Plain English Campaign if you ask me, unless they’re compiling a crossword. Harrumph.

Today’s theme is overt, although some of the examples probably won’t be at the top of anybody’s list of likely candidates. Solving was fairly easy going to start with, but slowed right down in the SE corner – an experience echoed by RatkojaRiku in his March 2014 Fifteensquared blog post. 19 and 27ac both held out for longer than they ought, and earned appreciative ticks when the light dawned. No complaints and plenty to applaud, in particular 5, 7, 8 and 17. Which brings me on to the COD, which is not just neat, it’s also an elephant trap for the unwary and I hope I wasn’t the only one who fell in. Imagine my consternation upon reading 20d … you’d think I’d be wary by now. Take a bow, 24ac:

“Eastern city took off with inflow of local currency (5)”

In which the Don shows that he too can set puzzles at the harder end of the spectrum. He usually saves these for other outlets, and usually under different pseudonyms, but today we have one that I’m guessing will have taken most solvers longer than they’d anticipated. 5d, 17ac and 13ac will be unknown to most, I would have thought, and elsewhere we have wordplay that is a little tricky, in particular 26ac. 12ac provoked a – where? – and a quick consultation with Google, and at least five other answers led to a visit to the big red book. Last in the SE corner, with 19d also causing issues, and 1d the other side of the grid.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 26ac – “French person with nothing on – not a fashionable style! (6)”.

To February 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/02/17/independent-8531-by-quixote/

Saturday 9th  June 2018

Bit trickier last weekend. Not to start with perhaps – 1a and 1d were pretty obvious – but a few archaisms here and there made it difficult to be sure if those answers were correct – I’m thinking of Pomfret, Redound, and Under the Rose.

Quite a few ticks here & there too though, as usual, with my favourite being the Russian doll style 6d:

One insisting church invests  in apiary, and then in fruit and dairy produce (9,6)

Which ends rather a brief blog really, considering I’ve had all week to come up with something interesting to say!

And for the 2014 blog click here.