Hands up who spotted the symmetrically placed answers? No, I didn’t either. It might have helped a little with the three clues that took me an age at the end (8d, 21ac and 17d), but only a little. An enjoyable puzzle, nevertheless, solved slowly but steadily.

COD? 14d – ‘Fail to stop where flower may be? (9)’.

Back to August 2012:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/08/02/independent-8050monk/

If you’re hungry for more, our Saturday blogger, as his alter-ego Maize, has a puzzle in today’s Independent. Enjoy! Maize In The Independent

Dac’s back with a fairly straightforward puzzle, and the usual finely crafted clues. The doubly whammy of 9ac and 11ac gave me more than a little pause for thought at the close, but the rest was an enjoyable R&W.

COD? 6d – ‘Promise of marriage between Elizabeth and Henry? Rubbish! (9)’.

August 2012 once more:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/08/01/independent-8049-dac/

Rock ‘n’ roll. I’m probably on my own in thinking that the film Spinal Tap, rather than being a comic masterpiece is obvious and largely unfunny, but never mind that. It makes for a good crossword theme, and no knowledge of it is required (although it will help in the case of my COD). The clues are littered with musical references, but there are fewer than one might expect amongst the solutions.

Apparently this was Jambazi’s first puzzle for the Indy back in July 2014: quite a debut. It turned out to be a surprisingly quick solve for me, but a highly entertaining one. The only thing I didn’t like was 4ac, which is an ignoble sort of noun-turned-into-a-verb … good clue though. Otherwise plenty to enjoy, with a wide variety of cryptic ploys to disentangle. 2,8,9 and 24 all stand out, but 18ac is the clue of the day. Quite apart from the mental image it conjures for anyone who has seen the film, it’s a fine example of the setter’s craft:

“Ruin good man – single female say coming back (10)”

The Fifteensquared blog entry for this puzzle is highly recommended. duncanshiell’s analysis will surely answer all conceivable questions, but you’ll also find an explanation of Jambazi’s nom de plume and in comment 3 a link to a photograph of a number of crossword setters, including some of our more formidable adversaries. Nice to be able to put faces to the aliases. In view of this I am inviting suggestions for an appropriate collective noun for crossword compilers.

Nothing too difficult today, just an enjoyable, pretty uncontroversial start to the week. I wonder if I was the only person to assume an out of date reference at 24ac before spotting the ‘was’?

COD? 15ac, which I’m sure is an old one, but I still enjoyed it – ‘Take issue (6)’.

A very detailed blog from 2012 for our IoS reprint can be found here:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/08/19/independent-on-sunday-1173-nitsy/

Saturday 7th January 2017

You may well have noticed Flanders and Swann lurking in the grid last Saturday – who wrote and performed a number of comic songs in the 50s and early 60s, of course.

‘Slow Train’, ‘Sounding Brass’ and ‘Misalliance’ featured as well as the only two I knew, ‘Mud’ (Mud, mud, glorious mud) and ‘Gnu’. They were slightly before my time, alas, and it seems hard to believe their old-style entertainment overlapped with the Beatles, but there you have it.

So not quite enough for me to spot the theme, alas, but after his impressive contribution yesterday, hopes are high that dtw42 might have!

For COD I’ll plump for the following:

12a Fresh cycle race in sports pages and much else (9)

And the full answers from 2012 can be found at the Fifteensquared blog site here.

And finally a shameless plug for my second puzzle for the Independent, which is due to appear on their website this coming Thursday, I’m told.

I can only recall seeing one other puzzle from Math in The i and my memory of him from The Independent is that he was among the more difficult of setters this however is a reprint from the IOS and some discussion has occurred back in 2012 as to the level of difficulty found in the Sunday puzzles since the (I presume) departure of Quixote. This for the most part proved pleasingly accessible with only the last five or six causing me a problem . This was largely self inflicted as I had convinced myself that 18d was Cracking and 24d was Crown. It was only when I dragged 19a from the memory, thanks largely to the television sitcom Upstart Crow that I got to the finish. The only other really tricky one for me was 29a and this only went in once all the checking letters were in place, the cryptic is I think quite obscure and I’m not sure why its succulent but I’m sure it is.

Lots of good clues, I liked the dd’s at 15 and 18d  but for

COD 20d  European, say, chewed a piece of cake. (4)

Back to the Fifteensquared blog from  July 2012 when it was almost certainly a lot warmer.

Most solvers back in 2012 seem to have found this on the easy side, but I must admit to struggling badly, especially in the SE corner where I just couldn’t make progress for far, far too long. I should have got 21d quicker based on the definition alone, but I didn’t, so spent a long time staring at empty space and clues I just couldn’t get a hold on. A few stray clues elsewhere in the grid left me feeling more relieved than anything when I eventually staggered across the finish line.

COD? 21ac – ‘Feeble wordplay? Yes (4)’.

All the answers and more can be found here:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/07/25/independent-8043-crosophile/

An IoS reprint today instead of our customary offering from Dac, but I didn’t feel hard done by, as this was an enjoyable, fairly straightforward puzzle. The NE corner held out for a while at the end, giving a finish time just a little under par for the i. In other words just the time I’d hope to spend mid-week. The NKVD were new to me, and I imagine some solvers might not have heard of 5d, and maybe 24 and 25 across, but all were very clearly clued.

COD? 17d – ‘Agitated, like Eve somewhere in the Himalayas? (8)’.

To August 2012, when I bet we weren’t looking forward to the first snowfall of the year:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/08/05/independent-on-sunday-1171-by-glow-worm/

To the best of my knowledge Jambazi hasn’t appeared in the i before. Doubtless Jon will know. Guardian solvers may may have encountered him as Tramp – anyway, unfamiliar setters are always welcome. I am a little conflicted about this reprinted Saturday prize puzzle from September 2012, which displays a good deal of cleverness and contains a few mini themes hidden in the clues as well as the solutions. It was definitely entertaining, but there may well be grumbles, methinks.

Debatable definitions and a couple of obscurities aside, some people may dislike the sporting and pop cultural references concentrated in the NW corner. Ho hum … for instance 1ac meant precisely nothing to me at first, but the cryptic component works out just fine and I’ve learned something today (albeit useless). By and large the clue writing is impressive, although the number of write-ins was surprisingly high. Special mentions for 9 and 20; 15, 16 and 22 also went down well. COD is an easy choice this time:

13d: “Document from 12 15 ‘given space – swing cat (anagram)’ (5,5)”

The relevant Fifteensquared blog entry is well worth a visit for mc_rapper67’s excellent commentary, and because Jambazi/Tramp gives a detailed explanation of what was on his mind. It’s highly illuminating … I just hope he didn’t expect me to know anything about all that beforehand.

An enjoyable, straightforward start to the week from the Don. A couple of new words learnt, but both were fairly clearly clued. A nice puzzle for new and improving solvers to hone their skills on.

COD? 18ac – ‘Chinese anger about internet facility (6,6)’.

Back to July 2012 for all the answers and analysis:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/07/23/independent-8041quixote/