Well, that was good, even by Dac’s own high standards. CE for Civil Engineer was new to me, as was the French word utilised in 3d, but the answers were clear as day so no complaints from this quarter. Lots and lots of ticks by the clues as well, with COD going to 17ac, even if the very thought sends shivers down my spine at the moment – ‘What might give very big health centre all-round sparkle? (5,5)’.

To November 2012:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/11/07/independent-8133-dac/

Ah, Schadenfreude… Because my last shot at one of his puzzles was such a raging success… But the sun is shining, and there’s always the hope that this time will be different. The preamble looks straightforward enough – extra words in the across clues we need to remove, find a letter in common with the answer, remove it, put them all together to get a quotation that’s going to point us in the direction of what we need to do with the downs. I’m never particular happy if I can’t start filling the grid properly straight away, because it’s difficult to get much traction, but onwards anyway. Schadenfreude has a reputation for being hard, and lots of these clues certainly are, with the obvious added complications. But a couple of acrosses, and a few down clues solved, even if we don’t know what we’re going to do with them. It’s going to be a very long haul if we’re going to have to solve all the across clues in effect cold, so make a guess at what to do with the downs. Anagram? Backwards? No, it looks like we have to split the answers in half, put the bottom half to the top, or vice versa. And that works, across a fair few of the solved clues. That grid’s beginning to look a bit healthier. The phrase wading through mud describes further progress though, and halfway through the afternoon I literally nodded off. Blame the sunshine, not the puzzle.

To the evening, and slightly better progress, and… Let’s cheat. We’ve got enough of those letters from the acrosses to make a stab at the quotation: HALF TO RISE AND HALF TO FALL, which confirms what I’ve been doing with the down clues. It’s from An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope, so now we know what to put into the unclued 6d as well. Fill the grid with the extra bit of help we’ve now got, and… A win, even if perhaps not as Schadenfreude intended. Huzzah!

Until next time, then, and a man, with a plan.

The Tuesday theme is difficult to miss this time, even for me, so no prizes for spotting the various things lurking in the undergrowth. Radian invariably gives good value: I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle and hope everybody else was similarly entertained.

There’s a quibble about 15d, which was bound to get a good airing at Fifteensquared back in November 2012. Without doubt this clue is a no ball, but I wonder if it caused anyone significant problems? The same goes for the discussion of Ulster in relation to 7d, which is fine by me. Apart from those two there was nothing but well-deserved praise for a crossword peppered with excellent clues. This makes singling just one out for CoD more than usually difficult, so this is a rather random pick from the many which received ticks:

1d: “Stock control girl acted strangely with tin-opener (6,4)”

A gentle start to the week from 4d’s alter-ego, giving us all lots of time to do something potentially more constructive with the bank holiday. Nice to see that I’m not as ancient as I feared, as ET is no longer an ‘old movie’, as it was the last time the Don used it in a clue. 🙂

COD? 18ac – ‘Homework’s managed – then one’s laid around before meal (11)’.

To October 2012:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/10/01/independent-8101-by-quixote/

Saturday 8th April 2017

In which Phi gave us one of his themes with a (to me) obscure author plus some of his book titles. I spotted ‘Oliver’ and thought that might be his ruse, but with ‘Sacks’ not being an obvious surname, I didn’t take it any further. Had I Googled though, I might have encountered Migraine, Awakening(s), A Leg To Stand On, and Uncle Tungsten. Bravo to you if you spotted all that!

Lots of praise for Phi’s clues at the 2012 Fifteensquared blog here, especially 2d, which must surely be the current frontrunner for the Barbara Windsor clue of the month award. However my COD goes to the following:

5d Unknown scoundrel brought in bloody traffic system (8)

An enjoyable puzzle from Raich that I found of about average difficulty, perhaps because I struggled to get the long answers round the border very quickly. To my shame, 13d was my last in, as I pondered for ages what could possibly fit C?M?U. Maybe after the long weekend my brain will have started working again.

COD? Lots of ticks as ever with Raich, but I’ll go with 14ac – ‘”Strange pleasure, beginning to end, with foreign friend?” Don’t believe him! (10)’.

Back to November 2012 for our IoS reprint:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2012/11/18/independent-on-sunday-1186raich/

A fun, fairly straightforward puzzle from the crossword editor. Painters galore, some well known, some less so, but all were gettable from the wordplay. I did check 11ac and 14d on Google just to make sure I wasn’t making them up, but knew most of the rest, with 15ac a bit of a gimme. Last in 27ac which I’m guessing a lot of solvers would have struggled with. I didn’t notice, but all the painters included have apparently painted The Last Supper, this being of course Maundy Thursday. All of which leaves me time to go and paint some more fences…

COD? 9ac – ‘Fancy getting flesh out? (9)’.

To Maundy Thursday 2013: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/03/28/independent-8253-eimi/

Apt anagrams and smooth surfaces are the order of the day, which will surprise nobody. For the most part I sailed through this nodding with approval, but the rather good 11ac kept me baffled for longer than it should have. There was one unfamiliar word for me, so in case anybody else is wondering about 9d, click here and all will be revealed. You won’t regret it.

There were surprisingly few responses to the original Fifteensquared blog entry back in November 2012, but it’s worth a look for the definitive explanation of 3ac. I guessed who that Mrs Lovett was, and was happy to find confirmation that my stab in the dark was correct, as it were. Honourable mentions for 14, 19, 20 and 27, the latter being a very tempting candidate for COD. However, my choice is the unassuming but flawless 22ac:

“European journalist has smart clothing (7)”

There seems to be a lot going on this week, with letters to be added to 18 answers, letters hidden / deposited to the clues in others, a few unclued entries, one of which is meaningless with letters dropped (again), and there’s a phrase we need to find and… Deep breath!

My usual strategy where I’m feeling totally befuddled by the preamble is just to leap in and hope for the best. It looks like today’s going to be one of those days where I get away with it. Lots of answers going in where we don’t need to do anything with either wordplay or answer. But the down clues to the top and bottom of the grid aren’t working out – the grid entries seem to be longer than the wordplay allows, which is OK, that’s par for the course, but the crossing letters don’t look right either. Until, revived by a break for tea, it dawns that a large bunch of those 18 extra letters could be across the top and bottom rows. So pretend they’re not there, and solve away. So, instead of trying to make sense of an anagram of ‘Sees’ at 1d, with pattern ?ES??, we’re looking for ES??, which of course is ESSE.

I’m faring less well with the letters that need to be dropped and added, failing to properly parse a lot of the clues. And I’ve got the sense I’m solving this arse backwards – the two unclued entries at 21ac and 29ac have got to be, based on the date and the letters I have, APRIL FOOLS. And given that, for the clues I have parsed properly, the missing / added letters are all A, I’m guessing the phrase we need to write underneath, based on (3,5,2,5), must be THE FIRST OF APRIL.

To the top and bottom rows. For the top it transpires that the preamble actually gives us an anagram of the entry. But that isn’t how I solved it – I looked at what real words could be made by adding letters to the crossing down entries, and then what might fit. So DEAD LETTERBOX and POSTE RESTANTE. I’m guessing, from the preamble, that I’m supposed to have got the APRIL FOOLS after the latter, if I’ve got this right, but never mind.

We still have a bit of a gaping hole down the centre of the grid at 10d, which must be the entry that is ‘meaningless, having some letters dropped.’ Literally meaningless, it appears, with some letters dropping, as we have ‘?NNG?S?MAI?’ From the top and bottom rows it looks like this must be ‘?NNG?S?MAIL’, and if the last 4 letters have dropped down from the word ‘meaningless’, we don’t have much choice about our entry for 10d which, apart from MAIL, does appear to be pretty meaningless.

Is this right? What’s the significance of the letterbox / post / mail stuff? What does the title, Pallo, refer to? Is it all one big April Fool? Unless I’ve missed something significant, I’m saying it probably is.

Until next week then with Schadenfreude, and Man.

Our first reprint from 2013 comes courtesy of a fairly gentle offering from Tyrus, albeit with a little sting in the tail at the end on 5d and 11ac, where I struggled badly. Some nice long phrases, and a theme that revealed itself very quickly no doubt helped somewhat. I’m wondering how memorable the ‘amorous manager’ was in 2013, surely it was a little after his time? I still managed to dredge up his name even now, so I’m guessing famous enough. The ‘Cambridge female’ seems to come up quite a lot in one guise or another, and manages to throw me every time. I obviously don’t take enough notice of our ruling classes.

COD? I had lots and lots of ticks by the clues, but I’ll go with 23d – ‘Positive in attitude, they make company (3-2)’.

To January (!) 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/01/12/independent-8183-by-tyrus/