Saturday 23rd July 2016

Without any of his trademark themes, ghost themes or Ninas, last Saturday’s Phi was fairly straightforward affair, but lends itself to a discussion about vocabulary.

Many solvers like to learn a few new words along the way; on the other hand many like to be able to solve on the train, say, without recourse to a dictionary. So the ideal solution, perhaps, is to have a sprinkling of abstruse vocabulary but always very clearly clued by the wordplay.

I think the man or woman on the Clapham omnibus would have been familiar enough (once given a nudge) with Otago, Malagasy and Obbligato, but Phi also gave us Portamento, Ontogeny and Notus. I was able to convince myself (after the event, natch) that I’d always known the first two, but Notus is definitely new to the Cornick household and duly became my last one in. For the record it belongs to a little group of Ancient Greek winds: Boreas, Eurus, Notus and Zephyrus (going clockwise).

And the clueing from Phi for those rarities was, as ever, reliably clear.

COD? Pleasing and definitely not needing a dictionary, 16a:

Football team not expected to release No. 6  (6)

Full answers, parsing and comments courtesy of Fifteensquared in 2011 here.

Nothing too difficult here with just a couple of obscurities (for me), 4a GOP for the Republican Party and 5d. Apart from that it was generally straightforward. Too many references to people, living or dead for my liking, why Denver in 16d? who wasn’t really known as a guitarist. I tried to find an answer which contained Boot as it was the only thing I new that was associated with Denver. None of the clues stood out as outstanding so COD for no real reason is

4d  Decoration hidden by flag on grandstand  (4)

The blog from November 2011 is here

Yes, it’s me again: normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

How did we all do with this one, eh? Pretty 10ac stuff, I think it’s fair to say, and one of the stiffest challenges to appear in the i for quite a while. It took a good deal of lateral thinking to finish, but the dictionary was not required: Nestor gets a resounding “bravo!” from me for producing such a satisfying three pipe problem without recourse to any obscurities.

I think this puzzle is better described as absorbing rather than scintillating, since bravura displays of outrageous wit were not the order of the day: all the same many of the clues were top drawer and highly inventive. 1ac and 3d both pushed the limits in unexpected ways, and were my last ones in. Special mentions for 12, 15 and 22ac, and 6, 13 and 17d – any of which would make a fine clue of the day. My choice of 25ac, in fact, is rather random and probably not the “best”, but it pleased me:

“Vote in lines to make election that is returning? (This might give the answer) (4,4)”

Back in December 2011 a few of the Fifteensquared regulars admitted defeat, but there was unanimous praise for Nestor’s imaginative cluing and scrupulous fairness.

I was full of praise for last week’s Dac puzzle, but if anything this is even better. So much variety, and not a single clumsy surface in sight. There are a couple of minor obscurities (the use of “r” for “take” in 5ac and the second definition in 7d) which is unusual on a Wednesday, but since both solutions are plain as a pikestaff without the need to go rummaging in Chambers this is eyebrow raising in my opinion rather than infuriating. That said, according to a comment on the original Fifteensquared blog from January 2012, the latter does not appear in the Shorter OED – a pretty respectable reference work, not to say an unwieldy one – so if you’re of the opinion that it’s a bit de trop for a daily puzzle, you’re in good company.  Thank goodness for library card access to the full OED, is what I say.

As for the COD, where to start? I liked so many, especially 12, 13 and 20ac, plus 4, 8 and the oh-so-elegant 10d. My choice, however, is a simple one which held out for rather longer than it should have:

1ac “Music for church service (3,5)”

A pleasing and largely accessible puzzle by Crosophile, with just a couple of bits of Crosswordese (LAM at 27a seems to crop up an awful lot these days) to deter the uninitiated. The = OUR at 1d was new to me and in 21d I think the parsing is learning = lore which sounds like LAW; with the definition being just ‘principle’…  I think.

Amongst the half dozen or so clues I particularly liked, and just pipping 4a, I’ll pick out 16d as my nomination for COD. Here it is again:

Tenor confirms soprano’s missing lots of valuables (9)

And if you click here you won’t just get the full answers & parsing, you’ll also get a poem by Tennyson which has several of its words in the grid; can you guess which one?

Quixote’s long tenure in the Monday slot appears to be over; Jon of Wales is taking a well-earned break this week. So it’s all change. Eimi is admirably qualified to step into the breach of course … not so sure about the blogger, mind.

Today’s puzzle was a little cracker if you ask me, nicely pitched at a gentle Mondayish level, but with some extra sparkle and a pangram for those who like such things. Mostly read-and-write fare with just the one mild obscurity at 14d, readily deducible from the wordplay by non-mycologists. I confess to “solving” the long anagrams at 23/9 and 25ac by letter count and ticking them off afterwards – always a danger with long phrases like that. Favourites? 8, 19 and 20 were pleasing; COD for me is the admirably concise 22d:

“Club, not clubs (6)”

The crossword dates back to November 2011, a time when civil disobedience was in the news and a large encampment had appeared outside St Paul’s cathedral, so there’s a mini-theme along those lines which could well go unnoticed nowadays. It’s mentioned in passing at Fifteensquared.

Saturday 16th July 2016

Having praised Phi for his anagrams in my last blog, last Saturday’s puzzle was noteworthy for containing only two tiny partial anagrams (‘wood’ in ‘Goodfellow’ at 3d and ‘the’ in ‘Ethiopia’ at 22a). I have yet to meet a puzzle in the i with none at all, though there is a setter at the Telegraph who does them, I’m told.

Very nice puzzle, all went in pretty smoothly until the last few on the left, like 26a, which needed some crossers to help. The beauty of crosswords, of course, is that you can get such help through a little perseverance, so all highly satisfactory.

Oh, and there was a Nina – Ligeti etudes – in the top and bottom rows apparently – highly inconsequential, but after 10,000 puzzles, it must give Phi a foothold when staring at an empty grid.

COD? I rather liked 14d:

Phi’s very thoughtful about first item in this cryptic (10)

And the full answers, parsing and comments can be found with a click here.

Its  a puzzle from Monk today, we seem to get one a month from this setter, who can set some extremely difficult puzzles. This one however seemed, with the exception of 16a which I had never come across before, fairly accessible. There was a lot of devious wordplay involved but thanks to the inclusion of a couple of the more straightforward sorts of clue like 1d and 2d the checking letters helped me solve even if I didn’t fully understand (25a) the rest. Like the original blogger I could see no way of solving the 1a/27a duo without the checking letters for at least one of them. Generally though I found this a really enjoyable puzzle with COD going to

4d   City block on which pet is decapitated (9)

All the solutions and comment are here

Apologies for the lateness of the blog, it has turned into one of those days. 🙂 Luckily for you this is my last for a week as I head off to sunnier climes. Well, West Wales.

I sometimes struggle with Tees, but found this for the most part pretty straightforward. I say for the most part, because I found the SE corner a little tricky, especially 17d and 27ac. No nina today it would appear, though I thought we were onto Welsh place names for a while when both 18ac and 19d appeared in close proximity.

COD? 14ac – ‘Obsession for woman astride Arab (9)’.

Back to November 2011 once more:

Last Wednesday’s puzzle was a bit heavy on general (or not-so-general) knowledge, but this one is more in Dac’s usual line with the emphasis firmly on scintillating wordplay. One of the best of recent weeks, in my opinion – provided you can recall a football manager of yore and conjugate French irregular verbs, that is. Had you asked me beforehand whether I thought either was within my capabilities I’d have expressed doubts … but as it turned out both were familiar.

Lots of good stuff today and a rather difficult choice when it comes to the COD. 4d and 17ac are both crackers, but not everyone appreciates being tested on foreign languages so I shall rule those out, with a measure of regret. 4, 20 and 26 across were all good enough to be winners, but it will surprise nobody to find that my choice is the cheeky little &lit at 8d:

“With these ultimately lovemaking’s over (4)”

Analysis, appreciative comments and discussion of divers matters (including biblical eschatology and heavy metal bands of the 1980s) may be found by clicking here, which will whisk you back to the Fifteensquared blog from December 2011.