i Cryptic Crossword 2735 Dac

November 13, 2019

More goodness from Dac to ease us through midweek, and a pangram to boot. As pleasurable to solve as ever, I finished well under par for the i but was surprised to do so as this was one of those puzzles where you needed to pay close attention and take note of the always clear wordplay. Time spent working through Dac’s clues though is never a chore. C for “cycle” was a surprise from this setter, as was the erroneous definition at 11ac, but I doubt if many solvers were delayed over-long. The full parsing of 5ac eluded me as well, but with SIN pretty much a given at the close, and that definition…

COD? Just because it’s such a good example of Dac’s smooth surface readings, 22d – “Spaniard casts aside his fear (5)”.

To September 2015:


A week on from a particularly taxing inquisition… another jigsaw. You know how much I love jigsaws. This week at least we have clue lengths, and only the one set of clues.

  • Extra letters generated from wordplay, and subsequent message. Tick.
  • Unclued entries, similarly.
  • Highlighting. This bit is a favourite with the youngest two who wonder why and delight in the fact that I colour in the crossword every week. I must admit to enjoying it too.
  • And clues that are a level less fiendish than last week. A Jenny’s an ASS, a WRASSE being a fish that must be popular in crosswords as it’s stuck in my mind where things often don’t. ANALOG is a typical American misspelling. A tax is a LEVY.

And so on, which is all well and good but where to put the things? If I’d been thinking logically I might have looked for the 8 length clues first, and positioned my answers correspondingly considering crossing clues.

And I did get there, but only after a bit of a debacle with the washing machine. One having had the poor grace to break down a month after the extended warranty expired, the replacement ordered rather hurriedly without provision for removal of the old, or installation of the new. Installation required because have you ever tried removing a washing machine from its packaging?

An extended discussion with Argos later…

Sunday, where I have a limited time before a four, yes four hour dance presentation and subsequent competition to get to the bottom of this.

Those unclued entries proving to be a problem. They’re supposed to provide geographical assistance. The one along the bottom is evidently something VILLE. WAIATAS I was initially convinced was something else – some kind of Australian plant – leading me right down a blind alley until I realised I was a clue short on the solving front.

ROSEVILLE? KANSAS? A quick Google later, add FORT and BAXTER to that list to give the setting for The Phil Silvers Show. Now, I vaguely remember this from BBC 2 reruns back in the day I never really got into, so we’re relying on Wikipedia again.

The letters in the grey cells? Well, they can evidently be rearranged to give COLONEL JT HALL, Bilko’s superior.

And indeed along one diagonal is ERNEST BILKO himself, and in another PHIL SILVERS.

But are we supposed to highlight both, or just one, or something else? Fear of red herrings having reached fever pitch…

The extra letters generated from wordplay are supposed to help, but look pretty random.

Ah, we’re supposed to view in “conventional clue order”. Mine looked like this, the solving process having been as error-prone as ever: ?OTORPOOL MA?TER SHEGEANT ?ND AE??RS NAMES

As Bilko was apparently Master Sergeant of the motor pool, and the latter is presumably ACTOR’S NAMES (with a little shiver of doubt over the latter – is there more than one actor?)

My grid therefore looked like this, and hopefully that’s right, having taken an age already, and my mind not being in a particularly good place for reasons detailed above. Though it may be said that Kruger supplied a welcome, and enjoyable diversion.

i Cryptic Crossword 2734 Vigo

November 12, 2019

Vigo made her debut in the i a few Saturdays ago with an impeccably polished beginner-friendly crossword, and here we have another in the same vein. It always strikes me as an act of generosity when a setter presents us with something really clever without making it difficult to solve, and that’s certainly the case with this ghost-themed puzzle.

There are no wild flights of fancy here, and the cryptic vocabulary will all be quite familiar to experienced solvers. As with the previous Vigo the standard of the surface readings is noticeably high throughout, and there’s a droll feel to a number of clues … I do hope everyone had a smile at 11d, for instance. A couple of solutions are perhaps a little recondite: the dungeon was a write in for me but raised an eyebrow or two amongst the Fifteensquared chorus back in September 2015. Nobody mentioned 2d but that strikes me as a rummy old word, and there’s one for all the polo lovers amongst us, too. (My experience of the game is limited to searching for lost balls as a kid – apparently they’re plastic nowadays but they used to be made of wood).

I have no complaints about this enjoyable crossword except that it didn’t last very long. Favourites today include 13ac and the aforementioned 11d, but just for fun my COD is 12ac:

“Twisted fluid covered in jelly (5)”

An IoS reprint to start us off this week that was a little trickier than anticipated. I started guns blazing at 1ac, promptly ground to a halt, and then made slow progress from the SE corner upwards finishing somewhat over par for the i. No obscure words to cause such delays with the exception of 2d where thankfully I knew the first bit of the cryptic thanks to this gentleman who claimed to have been, but wasn’t, just good tricky wordplay throughout, and definitions that often weren’t all that obvious on first sight. Overall an interesting, enjoyable, challenging Monday wake up call.

I note, btw, that 11ac has been updated, and is much the better for it. In fact, let’s go with it for COD just for the good, late spot – “Rapper rejected some of the Kardashians (5)”.

Tell me, also btw, that I wasn’t also the only person to lob in Citroen at 17d? Well, it sounds like a colour.

To September 2015:


Saturday 2nd November 2019

After what seems like years of uninterrupted Phi crosswords for the Saturday Prize Puzzle, the editor has been mixing it up a bit recently with Vigo, Punk, and now Monk appearing on alternate weekends. Is he trying to give people a taste for the weekday puzzles perhaps?

I thought this was a fine example of a solid British daily cryptic, which apart from the slightly racy 1d, might almost have been lifted off the back page of The Times, say, for which Monk also sets. For me it was a very evenly paced solve, perhaps a little easier than typical for Monk, about average for the i and mercifully free of question marks or dodgy glyphs in my margin at the end.

I suppose you could think of the 5 classic clue types as being anagrams, charades, reversals, homophones and container clues. Although homophones can give the biggest laughs (or groans), I have a fondness for the last of those, and Monk gave us fully 9; happy with that here. What he also included were a smattering of innovative devices – here we had an interesting pair of deletions at 15a Mephisto and 7d specified, the former of which then required the first letter moving ‘beginning to shift’ to get the answer. Complicates, yes, but also made perfectly clear.

However my COD goes to the following:

18d Clangers are so modern to reflect about repeated old lines (7)

Back in the original blog from 2015 sometime commenter at idoithei allan_c raises some legitimate criticisms, but they certainly didn’t spoil the puzzle for me.

Oh yes, and it turns out there does exist the tiniest of Ninas: points of the compass near the centre of the grid. Definitely not one anybody could be expected to find unaided.

One measure of when cruciverbaphilia tips over into cruciverbamania could be how excited the solver feels at the prospect of a possible pangram. Getting a Z in the second clue I read, and my first one in, ELIZABETH, had me positively brimming over with anticipatory delight. Of course, as we now know, this was nowhere near a pangram, so perhaps that sort of excitement, generated by a mere crossword, is more a measure of the limited horizons in my otherwise, dull and probably meaningless life…☺.

This was a nice, straightforward and, I believe, accessible puzzle. Only TITLARKS caused me to put a question mark in the margin. I suppose TLA is indeed a three-letter acronym, but not one, I venture, that anyone beyond this crossword has ever used, and it is in danger of disappearing into itself in a kind of self-referential loop. Once the crossing Ts and K were in, the only three-letter acronym I could come up with was the commonplace TLC. The answer was pretty obvious, even to one with a limited knowledge of birds – but that bit of word-play seemed unsatisfactory, shall we say?

I was momentarily tempted to enter “noggin” at 2d, seeing the crossing O, G and N, and thinking how unbearable a lack of booze having no gin would be. But the only Noggin I knew would not have turned anyone to stone. Fortunately, my childhood reading stretched beyond Noggin the Nog to Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of the Greek Heroes, so I was able quickly to put in the right answer.

RARA AVIS caused a moment’s frowning, but once the crossers were in the word-play left only limited options, and googling confirmed the answer, even if the definition was a touch allusive.

I enjoyed the clue for LITTLE JOHN, which made me smile, but the nomination for Clue of the Day from this solver, who eagerly awaits Topsy’s recently-promised puppy-themed crossword, goes to 24a: “Produce litter with assistance (5)”.

From the Independent in September 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/09/17/independent-9025-nestor/

An IoS reprint from Poins today that I finished in a time well under par for the i, so on the easy side? Well, sort of, because at the close I had a number of question marks and doubts, so I wouldn’t say that it was a comfortable solve. In particular I didn’t know the synonym for short story in 23ac, and had doubts about the definition in the same clue which did cause problems to the south of the grid which was already a step up in difficulty from the rest. But elsewhere as long as you knew that a religious scholar is often DD, that salts are usually of the seagoing variety, and various other crossword staples, you wouldn’t have had too many difficulties. A good solid puzzle in other words, though I suspect dissent from some quarters on that point.

COD? As is common for IoS reprints nothing really leaps out, but I’ll go with 6d which is straightforward enough, but has a nice surface reading – ”
Single girl longed to possess Otto’s heart (10)”.

To October 2015:


A much gentler offering today that I suspect will be better received than recent puzzles. The wordplay in one or two eluded me, notably at 8d and 19ac, both of which in retrospect are very good clues, and we have quite the obscurity at 22ac which wasn’t ARSENIC no matter how hard I tried to cram that answer in there. Finish time under par for the i, though with my brain frazzled following this morning’s washing machine installation. This took the whole of the surprisingly lengthy window of 8-9 AM utilising the talents of two “professional installers” who announced they were giving up several times, cancelling the installation once before giving it “one last go”. One subsequently required first aid attention following pleas to my non-existent plumbing skills. In other words I claim a handicap.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 8d – “All who might deserve favours if good when embracing daughter? (9)”.

To September 2015:


Hob, so we’re back behind the bike sheds, eh? Well, no, not really – except for 24d it’s all quite decorous this time, but that doesn’t mean that I expect many people to pleased with this one, and there may well be some sympathy for the Tortoise today. My feelings are mixed. It’s very gratifying to get the better of a setter who is going all out to bamboozle, and indeed I did in the end, but good grief – surely this is way too much for a weekday?

It being Tuesday there is a theme, and a perversely unhelpful picture hint. Mostly we are dealing with one of my pet hates, whose dreary oeuvre litter the grid in the form of a Nina as well as entries. Harrumph. Having spent far longer than usual disentangling all the wordplay I am disinclined to comment in detail, except to observe that Hob has included some easy starters which is to his credit, but for the most part it’s highly obstructive stuff. It all seems to work, just about, so long as the solver has a headful of obscure trivia upon which to draw. Clue of the day? Mine is 17ac, but how about you?

“Sort of plane coming from down under, having ejected Unionist Paisley? (6)”

The crossword first appeared on a Bank Holiday Monday (which makes sense) in August 2015; and Eimi has helpfully edited 16d to make things easy for us. Poor old Pierre drew the short straw over at Fifteensquared, and made a splendid job of the blog, which explains nearly everything bar a bit of mopping up in the comments. Talking of which, there is a good deal of discussion about the merits of popular music from the 1970s. The majority opinion seems to be that there are none, to which I say “Captain Beefheart” and rest my case.

This was published on the weekend of the latest gathering of solvers and setters up York way. I also understand that it coincided with another celebration that meant it was no surprise our editor had given himself this week’s slot. Happy belated birthday, John!

An offering too that appeared on first, second and third glances to be as fiendish as they come. A jigsaw with no hints as to clue length, up or down, some stuff about clue order based on first or last letters, and also where they might start or end in the grid. It took me a day too long to appreciate that we were being thrown a much needed life-line… They say that with age comes wisdom, but evidently not in these parts.

I made do with floundering, badly. My copy consisting for a long time of answers jotted beside a pathetically short selection of clues. You know you’re in trouble when you start counting how many you’ve got and how many there are to go, the grand total of 14 by late Saturday evening.

In retrospect loads weren’t as fiendish as they seemed at that point. MED wouldn’t have taken half as long if I’d thought to Google the Latin looking bit. BURN should have been a given. The only one that was a little naughty was clearly flagged as being so – WIDED. It’s a cricket thing, apparently.

You know the thing with jigsaws is to look at what you’ve got and hope it’s enough to chuck in a couple of answers and get started. In my case a handy 6 cells in the NW corner, the same to the SE, and some nice long crossing answers – CUNJEVOI being particularly useful, having finally untangled that anagram.

From that point the grid was basically filled clockwise SW to SE, realising belatedly that the Terminal clues had a limited number of entry points, as did the Conventional, based on the position of the grey (yes, grey!) cells.

But I thought you started in the SE corner? Yep, but that’s where I also made the biggest hash of things. Oh well.

CONCERTO. I almost forgot, unclued entries. The birthday boy’s something of a classical music buff, though it took me too long to work out that the entry in question wasn’t in fact one of the clued ones.

So, CELL(O) CONCERTO. No prizes for guessing that we were looking for ELGAR elsewhere in the grid, another of Mr Henderson’s pen-names.

Job done, eventually, with an eyebrow raised on realising that ZEISS and ZEIN were fated never to meet.

Satisfying, too, so thanks. Though you do realise that GMT meant we only had the one extra hour to work with?