Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

This was Loglady’s debut in the Indy and actually an IoS puzzle; being from the IoS one might expect a fairly easy ride but there were a few clues I found a bit tricky (easy enough in retrospect) hence two stars rather then one. And speaking of rides, easy or otherwise, references to riding could be inferred in a few clues and/or answers but hardly enough to constitute a theme.

The two clues referencing ‘duck’ and ‘horseman’ were a nice touch but the mythical monster horseman in 14ac had me thinking of a centaur at first before the penny dropped. Elsewhere, the parsing of 3dn seemed a bit awkward, and in 19dn ‘fervour’ as the definition was unfamiliar, but is fair enough since Chambers gives ‘gusto’ as one definition. Some solvers might be unfamiliar with the answer to 29ac; it’s an abbreviation of an American term, although not indicated as such, for apartment blocks where the apartments are separately owned, and by extension to the individual apartments themselves.

I had several candidates for CoD, but the honour has to go to 4ac, a superb example of a clue as definition, making it, to quote the fifteensquared blog, perhaps the most self-referential clue ever: ‘Answer could reference own solving, taking initial characters (8)’.

The fifteensquared blog had several comments about the parsing of 3dn, to which the setter replied; there was also speculation about the setter’s identity, to which there was no definitive answer apart from a clarification of sorts by the crossword editor. All the details can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/24/independent-on-sunday-1478-by-loglady/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A bit of a Shakespearean theme this Tuesday thanks to Radian, and also thanks to the comments on the other side for expanding on what it’s all about. I must admit that it’s still a bit of a mystery to me, but no doubt Cornick can expand further. We have a few oddities in the grid today, including the hidden word at 16ac, 8ac which I was sure must have been wrong, and the unexpected use of 24ac, but on the whole this was a fairly easy going puzzle that came as a relief, and a re-realisation of how enjoyable crosswords can be, following yesterday’s toils. The definition at 13d floored me a little, but everything else was understood on solving and confidently entered. What a difference a day makes!

COD? Loads and loads to appreciate, as expected with Radian, with my nomination going to 11ac – “Roast, singe and carve beef and grouse, say (10)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/19/independent-9885-radian/

Do you know how many pieces of verse have been written about butterflies? I must admit to having been previously unaware, but have now read a great deal on the subject. We were looking for a male author, which ruled out many of the thousands on offer, and Wordsworth thanks to the hint in the preamble ruling out a further two, but that still left Pavel Friedman, Robert Frost, Thomas Higginson, William Lisle Bowles, and even Lewis Carroll amongst others, the latter thanks to a scan of the ODQ and a likely looking ditty regarding butterflies and mutton-pie.

I would add that a good twenty-four hours were spent agonising about which particular bit of verse we should be applying. Because while the butterfly was evidently the common factor in the extra words in the across clues, how to cryptically represent it was a different matter. My serious consideration for a long time was synonyms for butter and flies. Ifor, the wag, had anticipated this with SHEA, two RAMs, a GOAT, and TSETSES dotted about the grid, together with others no doubt I thankfully haven’t found.

So it would be, rather battered and bruised, accompanied by feelings of general despair and self-loathing, that I would chance on a poem by Alexander Pope that mentioned a butterfly, being from the Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot – “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?”

The word WHO in the grid indeed breaking up BUTTERFLY.

I’m presuming we need to turn the wheel, creating new words, which I’ve done, perhaps correctly, perhaps not, and it feels even more of a stretch than that required to find the correct verse and apply it.

Which is to say that this weekend’s puzzle falls foul of my bête noire – the reasonably straightforward grid fill (which was most enjoyable), followed by substantially more effort required to unpick an end-game that seemed to involve a lot of guess-work. Perhaps the Abbot Ale consumed the night before won’t have helped. Or the illness sweeping through the household. You’ll probably tell me you sailed through this. But never mind, there’s always next week, and I will admit that the anagram of the author’s name in the right hand column is pretty neat. It’s just a pity I didn’t spot it until after completion. Perhaps it was the beer…

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

In any crossword, some clues will be solved principally from the definition, some start with inspiration from the word-play and some are spotted from the enumeration plus the crossing letters. There’s no right way or wrong way, in my book.

With this very challenging puzzle quite a lot went in on a hunch, followed by a lot of retrofitting to see if I could make sense of the rest of the clue. The long entry at 2, 1d went in very readily from the definition and the enumeration (although I did have to make a minor change from only to just) – but I could make very little sense of the wordplay. A similar story could be told of quite a few other clues. I’m sorry to say that this did not make for a very satisfying experience, as far as I am concerned, although I did relish the challenge, and I don’t like to be beaten… Although there were a small number of readily accessible clues which allowed a toe-hold to be found, I suspect not a few solvers will have thrown in the towel, to mix my metaphors.

With the exception of OPTIME, there were no other truly obscure words, although some required a bit of checking, WAUL, for example. And I was diverted onto the recipe pages in search of the name of a sauce.

Clue of the day for me had to be one I could actually solve and understand without aid, and which yet offered something to think about, and so 7d it is: “Description of centre for refreezing hydrocarbon (6)”.

Here’s the link. You mabe be glad of it. https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/23/independent-9889-by-wiglaf/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Today’s puzzle can be found online here, available for free, though you do need to register first:

Hairstyles of various descriptions this Sunday, which I must admit passed me by completely, perhaps because I was preoccupied with the references to bees, and the somewhat odd word at 17ac. This was all solved in a jiffy, nonetheless, with a question mark against the parsing for 15d, and several false starts with the I at 5ac. Having hive in both the clue and answer at 1ac struck me as being a little odd, but the rest was I think sound and without controversy. An enjoyable Sunday diversion should you be looking for one.

COD? I’ll go with 17d – “Crack cocaine’s related to immorality (7)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/22/independent-9861-crosophile/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Here’s an example of an excellent surface reading in a cryptic clue: Damage caused by shelling that gutted Rotterdam. It creates a single, strong image in the mind with the instructions for the parsing – ‘shelling’ and ‘gutted’ carefully chosen to help tell the story. Of course that’s from yesterday’s Serpent, a setter who puts an immense amount of effort into his surface readings. Phi does so too quite a lot of the time, and invariably so with his anagrammed clues, but for my money he’s too often happy to sacrifice a good surface reading and to be be content with just having good, solid cryptic grammar. I suspect that most seasoned solvers – both here and in Fifteensquared – barely notice and certainly don’t worry at all about that because they’re only looking for the cryptic reading in any case. But for me it’s the one thing that prevents Phi being among the group of my favourite setters.

Nevertheless we can all admire him for his immense erudition, his variety of clueing devices, his perfectly sound cryptic grammar as I say, and his prodigious output – including Inquisitor puzzles which must take an age to compile. He also weaves ghost themes into his puzzles for his own amusement and to tell people about after the event. So today we had NEKO (Japanese), NGERU (Maori), FELIS (Latin), KISSA (Finnish), CHAT (French), MACSKA (Hungarian) and KAT (Danish) all hidden in the rows across the grid. As usual nobody spotted it without having it pointed at… Except perhaps you?

I had no problems with any of the clues today – maybe ‘rudely called’ for PLOD in 10a was unnecessary (just ‘policeman’ would have sufficed for me) and perhaps a colloquial indicator for ‘MARROW’ in 13a could have been used – but these are matters of taste, not of right and wrong. I was happy with the use of ‘spurned’ in 18d (although it’s arguably more elegant the other way round) and generally all was tickety-boo. My last corner was the NE with a vaguely remembered composer and a reference to computers that had me floundering.

Favourite clues today were those for SACROSANCT, RESEARCH, GALLERY, NICARAGUA, CO-HOSTS, and ANT HILL, all of which were very good, but my CoD nomination goes to (drum roll…)

14d Get taken off, having boarded ship? We might (9)

And here’s the link to May 2018 for the answers:

www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/12/independent-9853-by-phi-sat-12-may-2018

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

Another tour de force from a setter in full command of his craft. Bravo, Serpent!

This crossword has it all. It is a pangram. We have a nina in the top and bottom rows. There are some clues and entries lightly themed around science, connecting to the subject of the nina. And all done without having to resort to some unlikely entries to get everything to fit.

There is plenty of creativity to admire, today. There are amusing definitions, like that for OCTOPUS, for example. We have a subtle homophone in UPTAKE. There is cleverly hidden-in-plain-sight wordplay, such as in the clue for OXEN. And throughout the surface readings are never compromised. There is no obscure vocabulary in the entries; even the two or three components of the thematic clue are well known, even if the science referred to is not readily comprehensible itself. I needed a reference book only once, to check on the synonym for “udder” – something I did sort of know, deep down, strangely.

From among many contenders, my clue of the day is 1ac, if only for its keeping the art of crossword-cluing up-to-date: “What may help Kindle’s method of identifying date (6)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/11/independent-9852-serpent/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

An enjoyable offering from Alchemi eases us towards the end of the working week. Nothing too difficult today I thought, though I will admit that – on reaching the NW corner – a few clues were lobbed in based on checking letters and likely looking definitions, in particular 2d which was quite delightfully fiendish. The singer took far too long to spot, partly because I became convinced that I had 1d wrong and that I was looking for the actor with the same surname, despite having listened to several of her albums. 15ac felt more rude than it actually is (perhaps I’m a little delicate this time of the morning), and I note that in addition we have both flatulence and leaking in two clues which also garnered ticks because, well, I particularly enjoyed them.

COD? With the aforementioned and also 6ac also worthy of mention, my nomination goes to 11ac – “Chelsea worry about dropping each player (6,4)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/09/independent-9850-by-alchemi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

As one might expect with Eccles, this was a bit chewy, but everything was gettable, although I only got 19ac because it couldn’t be anything else, and it took a while to realise that ‘reprehensible’ wasn’t the definition in 17dn. There were a couple of nice &lits at 1ac and 15ac, and in 27ac there was a welcome variation on a theme that’s a bit of a chestnut in Crosswordland. 7dn not only brought an immediate smile about the use of the material in question but also, I thought, alluded to subsequent legal proceedings.

I noted several candidates for CoD as I went along, including 1ac and 8dn, but my final choice is the aforesaid 7dn: “E coli’s in a stew which might be cause of bust-up? (8)”.

As usual, all the answers, explanations and comments can be found on fifteensquared – go to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/23/independent-9862-eccles/

Yikes was the operative word on looking at this week’s preamble – lots of stuff about encoding, entries to be changed, etc. It’s enough to make the poor solver want to throw in the towel at the outset. Except that a closer look confirmed two things – that the grid fill required entry of only two encoded items, and that the finished version contains real words / names. That’s more than a fighting chance to you and me.

The two encoded entries would turn out to be to the NW and SE, and both be countries. I didn’t spot it at first, but what’s actually entered in the grid are horses. The only debate regarding the first being whether it was PIEBALD or PYEBALD. That pesky unchecked letter. As it was, the end game would sort out that ambiguity, as it often does.

First though would be the sort of steady, rigorous solve that typifies many an Inquisitor solve when the clues are normal ones. There seemed to be more than the average number I couldn’t parse, in particular the S&M one. By Saturday morning I’m often not up to this sort of thing, in particular when it has been One Of Those Weeks, so this should come as no surprise to the regular reader.

A highlight would have to be PING for “check on PC”, perhaps due to a working career doing exactly that on a tiresomely regular basis which meant that it leapt to mind with surprising alacrity.

The “well-known dramatic line”? Well, it was pretty well known. My thoughts leapt Cornick’s way straight away, thinking – this would be right up his street. Kingdoms, horses, and all that jazz. Thus the aforementioned horses in place of countries.

I didn’t know the name of the horse from the story, but Google did, giving the one-letter change to the SW – SURREY. As if to point us in the right direction, Dysart had very generously crossed it with YORKER.

All that was left was to find kingdoms to replace with horses, being ENGLAND -> MUSTANG and REALM to the lesser known TAKHI, and to work out which letters we would need to amend, via the code used at 1ac and 43ac, to give RICHARD III. As there was no Y, but with the requirement for several I’s, the aforementioned ambiguity was thus duly resolved.

Pretty neat, eh? I would like to say that this was solved in the warm sunshine that was, indeed, shining, but it being accompanied by gale force winds, it wasn’t. But that’s the great British summer for you, and this being a non-Jubilee weekend there was something worth watching on the television.

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