Saturday 23rd January  2016

Well for some reason I didn’t enjoy last week’s Phi quite as much as usual.  Maybe our setter was unduly influenced by the subject of his Nina – building Christchurch from the bottom up – very topical in 2011 after the devastation of the earthquake of course, especially given that Phi lives in New Zealand himself.  Or maybe it was just me, because looking back at the puzzle now, I can’t really see anything not to like.

I saw Christ on one side and Church on the other and thought maybe the names in the grid were Oxford alumni, but no, they were suburbs of Christchurch – which I had no way of knowing, despite being the kind of saddo who reads the Atlas for fun.

Despite having seen something very like it in the past somewhere else, my COD goes to 21d:

Sport: wrong item for it turning up here (6)

Click here to go back to 2011 and all the answers.

To me this was very hard in fact I gave up leaving 17 and 18d unsolved and a few others like 21a and 20d with question marks to their veracity. The French reference in 4d was the least of my troubles as I am unfamiliar with far eastern airlines and sauces and what I think are technical terms from computing in 5d, 17d and 20d. I also think Perry Mason is probably a bit obscure now. Of course their were some good clues amid the obscurities, 1a and 24a particularly but my pick simply because I like the old chestnut of china plate is

COD 10a Golden Horse, one of many toppling when China ousts leader?  (8)

Oh yes I nearly forgot the Nina. I missed it but it is quite clever.

This was of course a Saturday Prize puzzle which originally appeared on the 25th June 2011 and here is the solution and blog




I solved this in dribs and drabs, and with a lot of distractions, so it’s difficult to judge how easy, or otherwise, this was. Solvers back in the day thought this was on the easy side, though, so I’ll go with that. 1d I have to say threw me at the end, as I’ve never come across either the synonym for infatuation, or the governor in question.

COD? I liked the very deceiving ‘First Lady’ in 13ac, which had me stuck on EVE for a long time, but I’m nominating 23ac for the very nice surface reading – ‘Bill’s back with your old woman (5)’.

We’re back to April 2011 again:

You know, or rather you probably don’t which is why I’m telling you, the Batarde family has long been noted for a certain durability of cranium. Hugh de Batarde was used as a battering ram at the Siege of Constantinople, and went on to sire a whole line of little Batardes who have bumped along nicely, falling off battlements, horses and motorcycles (or in my case tripping over a devil-cat and taking a dive down the stairs only to collide headlong with a large Chinese vase) with no ill effects. Therefore, if my physician Dr Schreck was surprised to find me pretty chipper after the Asmodeus incident, he shouldn’t have been. I can’t say I’ll miss the animal or the vase, but it’s a shame to lose Charmaine. I do hope she’s all right back in Mogwash

My thanks to the estimable Onions for volunteering to provide last week’s blog. I was perfectly happy to write it, but he seemed keen for some reason. Almost as if he’d been awaiting an opportunity for a long time, and was determined to seize the day. I have no idea why he referred to me as Jeffrey.

To business. Perhaps this wasn’t Dac’s finest hour, by which I simply mean that there were a few chestnuts amongst the usual selection of gems. 21d annoyed me a good deal, and it is with head hung low that I confess that I knew the answer. On the plus side 10, 11, 25, 27, 7 and 17 all struck me as jolly good, and I wonder if the puzzle was selected on account of the last mentioned to coincide with a topical item today. Clue of the day is 23ac:

“Drivers wanting motorway to go through Newhaven? It’s preposterous (5-3,3)

A certain amount of carping at Fifteensquared back in February 2011. Seems I’m not the only curmudgeon to take a dim view of Robbie Williams.

At first sight this looked pretty impenetrable, with only a few clues in the SW corner falling. Then, 10/11/20 fell, and with it 12/18, then most of the rest of the grid. A few obscurities elsewhere, especially in the SE corner (where Tees could perhaps have been a little gentler on us), took much of the rest of the time. Overall probably not my cup of tea, but at least not as fierce as it appeared at first glance.

COD? 23ac – ‘Shadow over Greek character cup-bearer attends? (5)’.

We’re still in the Winter of 2011:

After the delights of an icy cold shower to start the day, I wasn’t in the mood for anything too challenging. Luckily, we got a reasonably straightforward Quixote, even if the conductor and one or two of the unfamiliar answers needed a few checking letters before they went in.

COD? 1ac – ‘A comedian called James returned wounded and unable to perform (8)’.

Off to warm up, now that the engineer’s fixed the boiler. I’m guessing February 2011 felt much like I did first thing this morning:

Saturday 16th January  2016

As the self-appointed Phi-ologist of the idothei blogging team, I think he’s going through a rather rich vein of form at the moment –  there’s definitely been an extra bit of sparkle recently and last weekend was no exception – long may it continue!

Being Phi, a simple pangram was never going to be enough of a challenge for his grid filling, and, with HOAX and AXIOM as two of my first in, I guessed we were heading for a double pretty early on. Not that pangrams ever really help much until the last very few perhaps, but this was definitely useful for my LOI – JAGS – which are drinking binges in America, apparently.

I’m sometimes a bit snooty about anagrams, but once again I find myself picking one as my COD; here it is again:

24a   Tail on a dog wags, indicating canine problem? (10)

Click here to go back to 2011 and all the answers.

Found most of this quite straightforward, a few sporting allusions and one (to me) obscurity in 16 across  but nothing that a quick check in the dictionary couldn’t sort out. I, like the original blogger entered Miniscule for 7d but it didn’t work for me so another check in the dictionary showed me the error in my spelling and made more sense of the clue. none of the todays clues really stands out as exceptional, I quite like 20a but wonder if serious chess players would describe it as an entertainment? So I will pick my last one in as I spent a little while trying to parse it.

COD 23a   Male is put out by defeat or in a daze (6)

All the details of this Independent on Sunday puzzle from May 2011 are here

As befits an old Independent Prize Puzzle, this was a little tougher than we usually get from Morph. Inventive as ever, more than one raised a smile, in particular 14ac, which is perhaps accidently topical with the new Dads Army film on the way. The SE corner held me up at the end, where I’m still not sure that 15d is really fair – if MINister is going to be part of the anagram fodder, the abbreviated version should perhaps have been more clearly indicated? It’s not that common, even in crossworldland.

COD? 5d – ‘Originally Roman section of southern district in French city (9)’.

Back to April 2011:

Jeffrey Batarde is unwell.

Regular readers may be forgiven for suspecting a case of brain fever, but in fact my employer was the victim of an accident precipitated by the cat, Asmodeus. Mr Batarde is keen to tell the story himself next week, but in the interim has asked me to provide the crossword blog. Charmaine the chambermaid took the business very badly and has left the household, the offending animal accompanying her in an old picnic hamper. Her words, if I remember correctly, were “Alas, by introducing the wicked creature into his home I have brought about the downfall of dear, kindly Mr. Battered. I shall return to my Aunt Scarlet: ’tis no more than I deserve”. Quite where she gets her vocabulary is a mystery to me. I have contacted Miss Snape at the agency, with a view to securing the services of a replacement.

Mr Batarde has on occasion complained of the difficulty of singling out an outstanding clue on Wednesdays, and I now find myself similarly perplexed. Much to enjoy, nothing to complain of and a general evenness of quality meant that nothing leapt out at me. Candidates included 10, 21, 16 and 19, but since there must be a Clue of the Day, I shall nominate a perfectly straightforward cryptic with a pleasing solution:

11d “Bows taken by only some members of the orchestra? Nonsense (12)

One of the comments on the Fifteensquared blog post from April 2011 suggests that clue has “been round the block a bit”, which may well be true but it’s none the worse for it and hasn’t cropped up recently to my knowledge.

Normal service will be resumed next week. Thank you for your attention.

B. Onions