After yesterday’s travails, something a little more straightforward to ease us through mid-week? Well, not quite. Today’s puzzle is one of those rare Dacs that left me scratching my head in more than one place, with very little falling particularly easily. I didn’t know the Swiss location or the actress, but managed to guess both correctly. Didn’t / couldn’t fully parse 3d or 16ac either, but got away with both. The latter for me will always be known as An Hour Too Far after my father decided that the perfect day out during one particularly memorable childhood holiday would be to go and see 16ac at the local cinema. Tough, grim, gritty war movies have their place, but this wasn’t one of them.

Was Dac going for a pangram today, only to change his mind halfway through? Who can tell.

COD? Lots of ticks as ever on a Wednesday, along with the usual smooth surfaces, with my vote going to 14ac – “Who might be unearthing rubbish on counter? (7-6)”.

To September 2013:


A suspiciously short preamble this week – a message (what message?) relating to two unclued entries points to a significant achievement. What are we supposed to do about it? Who can tell. Chalicea to date has been pretty much on the easy side, so perhaps we shouldn’t be looking for something too devilish. Time will tell.

To the grid. And easy, very easy clues. Ag at home gives us 1ac, a hidden clue at 2d, a pretty screaming out loud definition at 1d… You get the picture. I had this grid filled in almost as quickly as I did the same day’s Phi. Not that I’m complaining, I’m pretty rubbish at these things and can do with the odd ego-massage now and then. And those two unclued entries? Very obviously GREAT and EASTERN. The railway? Cue the QI klaxon.

But then what to do? Stare at the grid for a long, long time. Did something to do with the GER happen one hundred years ago? What about that message? Oh yes, a message. The first letters from each clue read, of course:

Shade thirty nine cells to show first laid by unclued light.

Look for a bit longer. Google “Great Eastern first laid”, and it appears that we’re looking at the first transatlantic cable line, that was indeed partly laid by the refitted Great Eastern.

So what are the two places we’re looking for? Presumably where the cable went to and from – VALENTIA Island in Ireland to HEART’S CONTENT in Newfoundland, which are indeed on the east and west of the grid respectively. What joins them? Well, that transatlantic cable, which I suppose very loosely is an agent and object. Sort of. If you squint. How long did it take me to find it? Far too long, and only after I’d realised that I’d got 37ac wrong, with an R where the C for cable should have been.

There, another straightforward and enjoyable offering from Chalicea. I must admit to finding the grid hunting for the various words a little frustrating, mostly because I’m pretty rubbish at it, but that’s my fault not the setter’s. Am I still confused about the agent and object bit? Yes I am, but I don’t think we’re looking for anything else, and I’ve used all the 39 cells, so I suppose that’s right. Look at that lovely green highlighter…

Scorpion: lucky me. Always a pleasure to find out what he’s come up with, so let’s see: no sign of interlinked clues but there are plenty of peripheral unches, so it’s going to be Nina, right? Wrong. As will become apparent, a certain word just keeps on cropping up throughout the puzzle. I don’t recall seeing this particular sort of gimmick before, but it’s an entertaining one and nicely done too.

Back in October 2013 opinion was divided at Fifteensquared – is this a difficult puzzle or an easy one? Both I’d say, since the top half felt surprisingly mild, but the bottom was distinctly bracing. No shortage of ticks today, and for a while my inclination was to hand the coveted Clue of the Day trophy to 17ac. Yes, football, believe it or not. Then there’s the matter of 9ac, which pleased me mightily. The winner, however, is a particularly thorny clue, but no apologies since it’s an object lesson in the art of misdirection. A round of applause, please, for 21ac:

“Fixed amount nurses prescribe finally turning red (3,3-4)”

By the by, it’s worth a glance at the comments on the other side because there was a brief outbreak of hilarity. Nothing tasteful you understand, but amusing nonetheless.

An IoS reprint to start the working week, and while this isn’t quite as straightforward as a Quixote puzzle might be, it isn’t a complete monster either. One or two that are difficult to parse – notably 7d – but when in doubt, just lob it in based on the definition and hope for the best. 21d I sort of vaguely knew, but it went in on a bit of a wing and prayer because, well, the River Don? 14d I was pleased to get correctly based on the wordplay. Ditto 12ac. All in all an enjoyable start to the week, even if it did detain me slightly longer than expected.

COD? I’m guessing sprouthater will have hated this one, but I’m going with 22ac – “Made a complaint about return of unwelcome French queen (8)”.

To September 2013:

Saturday 13th December 2017

A mixed bag last week. Several lovely clues which definitely made the overall puzzle a good one, but also some very stretched synonyms, two distinctly bad clues (18a, 20a) which had everybody scratching their heads over at Fifteensquared here, and fully 13 deletions: Ditch, mostly, not initially, heading off, dismissed, removed cap, releasing, curtailed, shortened, most of, unopened, overlooks, avoiding – I told you he used them a lot!

About average difficulty & time for Phi – just ‘Dutch treat’ being a new bit of vocabulary here, although ‘Ami de cour’ will have been unfamiliar to many I suspect – and there was no theme or Nina. I really liked the &Lit all-in-one anagram for Athlete’s foot at 3d, but 8d appealed even more (even if it didn’t really need that QM).  Here it is again:

8d Drug proved fake, after lecturer injected, like some sort of pig? (3-7)



It’s Tyrus, it’s a Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint, so it’s going to be on the tricky side. Lots of nice wordplay to unpick, lots of well disguised definitions, and also unfortunately lots of distractions here which meant I didn’t get a clear run at it. Blame work, one child being off school, and a long week finally coming home to roost (thanks, btw, to sprouthater for covering Wednesday for me). That said I didn’t finish this too far over par for the i. I would have preferred a nice long leisurely Saturday to tackle one of these as ever, but it appears that both Thursday and Friday are destined to be the hard days of the week.

For once I appear to have successfully untangled most of the wordplay, but only because I suspect it was one of those puzzles where you needed to in order to complete. 🙂

There’s a Nina, which I thought there might be when I saw the grid, related to 19ac and football. I don’t follow the game, unfortunately, and memories of the 2012-13 season I suspect have dimmed in most solver’s minds. Bonus points to anyone who did spot it.

COD? 9ac, which I should have got quickly, but didn’t. See above comments regarding my state of mind today. “Old film star’s taking you abroad to Spain – hopefully it might lead to intimacy (4-2,4)”.

To the Autumn of 2013 once more:

It’s Tees, a setter I often struggle with, and a Thursday reprint to boot, so I wasn’t surprised to record a pretty sluggish time. A pretty easy 1ac led to hopes of a quick solve, but it wasn’t to be. In common with many I suspect I googled Starkfield and was immediately presented with the answer to 10ac, and struggled with obscurities elsewhere. The definition at 9ac, UNCO for strange at 5d, and the cricketing term at 17ac being the chief suspects. There were bits I liked, but as a whole the puzzle didn’t really appeal to me I’m afraid. Probably more to do with me than anything else, as I’ve never really got on with this setter’s puzzles. Your mileage may vary! 🙂

COD? 16d – “Complaints caused by Conservative-Liberal relationship (7)”.

To September 2013:

I’m standing in for Jonofwales today and as expected get a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle from Dac. I can do little more than direct you to the original blog where the introduction sums this up perfectly “What can one say? As we get on most Wednesdays, a perfectly-formed creation. The structure of the clues is always deceptively simple, which leaves little room for argument.”  The only bone of contention is regarding 14dn which probably doesn’t quite parse properly but the answer was plain enough, I had more trouble parsing 13ac and 16ac. Too many ticks to mention them all but 1ac got a couple and made me smile but-

COD   20ac      Word for short, tight-fisted type (7)

The decorations are down, the Christmas cake has been eaten, the alcohol consumed. No distractions, and a gloriously dank and dark winter afternoon in which to sit at the kitchen table with the paper and Ifor’s latest. To the preamble. Eight across clues yield an extra word, and a letter from each to form a name. Other acrosses (which are pairs) contain words to be modified in line with a statement attributed to the person named. Well, that’s not going to help is it? Highlight the statement in the grid. Down clues are normal, thank goodness.

To the grid. Am I the only person to get a slight feeling of panic every week when the clues pass one by one and none fall? First in is 5 down, having drawn a blank on all the acrosses. LEERY, well I am now. 13ac has got to be EERILY with some but not all of the wordplay making sense. That’s got to contain a word to be amended, but I’ve got no idea how at the moment. Doesn’t matter. 10ac – Jacob’s brother was Esau, which is pretty fairly indicated by the wordplay. Bravo for the definition though? What about bro? There’s a pattern forming here. Answers but no idea as to how we’re supposed to be amending these clues.

What about the extra words, that have a single letter not in the corresponding answer. That’s a big great whopping clue that’ll help later, but first things first 14ac, which is evidently REMIND though “demand” doesn’t fit the wordplay, so take it out and jot down A as our first letter.

At the close I’ve got a full grid, and half of the eight letters we’re looking for in search of that name (who needs to parse clues, eh?), and a question mark beside almost all the across clues, mostly because they evidently need to be amended to make sense. But who can tell how. Let’s go back through looking for the remainder of the eight clues making up that name, aided by the sure knowledge that only one letter will be missing from the answer.

I’ve got seven: BHAANIN. That’s evidently not a name, so perhaps they’re not in order. If the last one is L, and I think the last of the across clues will supply that – though I can’t get the parsing right so I’m not 100% sure – what about HANNIBAL? Presuming we’re talking about the bloke who took the elephants across the Alps and not Dr Lecter, what statement might we be looking for? Wikipedia’s got this one:

“Aut inveniam viam aut faciam” (or “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam”) is Latin for “I shall either find a way or make one.”

Lo and behold the second version is in the grid. Highlight it. So how were we supposed to be amending the across clues. Well, brAVo gives us avenue, peer could be peSTer, and so on presumably. I’m going to say that’s Ok, a fairly quick solve that I enjoyed thoroughly. A slightly odd solving experience with bits of the wordplay having to be half guessed at, at least in this neck of the woods. The last bit of the quote also caused much hilarity here when I attempted to pronounce it, in a Life of Brian sort of way…


Something different this Tuesday, a novel sort of pangram, cleverly described by Muffyword at Fifteensquared as “… a kind of doubled-up Noah’s Ark for rare letters, indicated by the answer to 1 Across”. In fact it’s a single pangram, but with four each of J, X, Q and Z. With the exception of 18d, which will be familiar to neurobiologists and readers of Henry Miller, the grid is gratifyingly free of obscurities – so jolly well done, Raich.

That’s not to say that some of the solutions aren’t funny looking words, of course, which led to an unusual amount of exercise for the eyebrows. All rather entertaining, with plenty of ticks. My favourite today was 14ac, a bit cumbersome maybe, but amusing too:

“Like an Orange monarch, when knight’s ignored nasty blaze, small at first (10)”

I’d like to direct Cornick’s attention to comment no. 13 on the original September 2013 blog, which may well provoke a smile.