So this week we’re looking for an image that might well be famous but I suspect I’ll be in complete ignorance of. Extra letters in all but one of the across clues (is that significant?), pop them into the unclued (thematic) entries. Extra words in the down clues. They’re going to give us some sort of hint, together with four unclued entries, to the name of the image. What could possibly go wrong?

The clues? 8ac falls straight away with a little help from Chambers, and from then it’s a pretty rapid fire run through the grid, with only the thematic entries causing difficulties, because – well, crossing letters, or the lack of them. Along the way we’ve got a couple – AFRICAN down near the bottom of the grid, WHOOPER a bit above it. A couple of the others are pretty guessable, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Those extra words. At first sight we’re not going to get a lot from them, pretty random. First letters? Bingo: PARANOIAC CRITICAL PICTURE. According to Wikipedia this is some sort of surrealist technique developed by Dali. And oh, there’s his name jumbled in four of the unclued entries. We’re looking for one of his paintings then. I must have seen loads, but can’t say I know the name of any. And so far the grid isn’t helping.

The extra letters? A few possibilities for the unclued entries. The middle one must be TRUMPETER, BLACK top left? None of this is giving me the name of the painting. Cue much googling. Trumpeter, elephant? One with elephants in?

Swans Reflecting Elephants, which I’ve never seen before.

A trumpeter, far from being one of the elephants, is in fact a type of swan. As is a whooper, believe it or not. We need some elephants down the bottom of the grid. ASIAN elephant, and our fictional character, aided and abetted by Wikipedia’s handy page on fictional elephants. TANTOR from Tarzan. That just leaves TUNDRA to go in the NE corner. Well, that was enjoyable, pretty neat the way the grid did match that painting. And something learnt, again. Until next week when I slowly melt in a seemingly endless heat wave while trying to tackle Lato.

This morning I was woken at 3.44 by our cat beating up a full-sized fox … quite possibly everyone else in the neighbourhood had a disturbed night too, as it was a noisy business.  Recent neurological studies on sleep deprivation make for alarming reading, so seeing Scorpion’s name by the crossword gave me pause.  I may have been seen to shudder slightly, even.  No need to worry as it turned out though, because by this setter’s standards the puzzle was a gentle one with a very familiar theme; innocent of obscurities but with plenty of the elan we’ve come to expect.  Just right, in fact.

This one dates back to January 2013 and attracted surprisingly few comments over at Fifteensquared, but they’re duly appreciative and nobody found anything quibbleworthy.  I have a welter of ticked clues to choose from, but must agree with the consensus over there that 27ac was a gem.  Clue of the day, therefore:

“Stern action from nurse perhaps, redirecting blokes in casualty (5)”

Raich’s puzzles are always a pleasure to solve, and generally on the easyish side. Today was no exception, though I did find the SE corner a bit of a struggle, but looking back now I can’t see why. Some discussion over on the other side about whether 1ac is a county or not, but, well, it is, isn’t it? Pleased to get 9ac from the cryptic part, despite the answer looking more unlikely the more letters went in, starting from the 12ac.

COD? 17d – ‘Men under authority finally liberated here? (9)’.

To January 2013:

Saturday 10th June 2017

One of the joys of blogging the weekend’s prize puzzle is that there’s no pressure to solve and get a blog posted by lunch-time. Just as well last Saturday, with a stonker of a puzzle which had plenty to relish, but which took me several re-visits whilst it idled on the kitchen table. I for one much prefer doing a tricky puzzle that way to using electronic aids.

An unfamiliar definition of ‘Old Man of the Sea’ and a new word ‘copacetic’ were the only things I felt compelled to double-check, and it’s quite a few years since I watched any Kathakali dance, but everything fell into place eventually – very satisfying!

Amongst several contenders for COD – including the clue for the aforementioned dance – I’ll plump for the following:

18a Cartoon sailor caught wasp in flight, suppressing awful pain (7,7)

All the answers, plus an nerdfest of a discussion on the word ‘on’, can be found here.

This is a reprint of a Saturday prize puzzle and I feel the winner certainly deserved his or her prize. I found it extremely hard to get into with only a few entries after the first pass , however with a bit of perseverance and some help from a crossword completer I nearly finished it 22dn defeated me. The only real oddity for me was “encloses modern” in 14ac, whilst the solution is obvious enough from the clue and checking letters the cryptic part leaves me a bit confused. The blogger on Fifteensquared thought 13ac worthy of mention but it elicited a groan from me whilst 3dn, 5dn and 12ac all produced smiles of approval but –

COD 26ac   To avoid both committing and sharing one is far from spineless  (8)

The original blogger noted that this was very tough, which I agree with, that tough that I gave up in 5d halfway through. About a quarter to be fair fell pretty quickly, but from then on it quickly became a slog with too many answers where I couldn’t fathom the wordplay. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow… I’ll be interested to see what others thought, but let’s just say this wasn’t for me.

COD? 19d – ‘Leaves range when shot in balls (7)’.

To February 2013 once more:

Quite a tricky offering today, I thought, with a few where I was uncertain about the parsing. 21ac (I cheated to get the answer, and still think the wordplay a little fishy), and 9d (which I guessed correctly, albeit thinking NET = Score) chief amongst them. It seems to have been business as usual over on the other side, so perhaps it’s just me.

Lots of ticks though as ever, with COD going to 2d – ‘Reach end of flight and feel sad (5,4)’.

To February 2013:

In which I mercilessly cheat to get the result, and thank the gods for the combined resources of Google and Google Books. Or, how did we manage before the days of the Internet?

Too late a night, too early a morning, and a complicated looking preamble, not the most winning of combinations. It all boils down to extra words in some clues, extra letters in others, a message and some individuals to find from them, something to highlight. Which no doubt misses the point entirely, but we can worry about that when it comes to the end game. The clues? Not so scary – a few generous anagrams dotted round the place, most of the wordplay fairly apparent, though enough doubt about some to mean any message that’s supposed to appear from the first and last letters of those extra words is going to be severely garbled. Which is exactly the way it ends up. A little solving in the afternoon interrupted by a rainstorm (the first sign a dirty great big blob of water right in the middle of the page), a barbecue (because who knows when we’ll see the sun again), and… A full grid, and… A list of first and last letters from the extra words that appear to be complete gobbledygook no matter which way they’re combined, and superfluous letters that far from revealing “three companions (that) have already fled”, reveal how poor / lazy my parsing skills can sometimes be.

Saturday evening, late… Nothing. Sunday evening… Ditto.

Monday, start at the beginning, and look at some of that parsing again. To get this far:


What I should do: carry on parsing the clues, to get the complete list of “potential players” and theme.

The reality: consult Google, and find a Brothers Grimm story that I’m vaguely familiar with, having read it to the kids from an old Ladybird book. It’s been 30 odd years since I studied any German, but thanks to crosswords I can still spot the definite article. As luck would have it there’s a handy German & English version on Google Books here: Brothers Grimm Vol. 1: German & English.

I’m guessing then the pick of start and end letters from the extra words will give:

Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten (The Bremen Town Musicians)
Rooster Cat Donkey Dog (not necessarily in that order)

Those are the four players we’re supposed to find in the grid? Not in my grid they’re not. In English anyway – the title is in German, so the players too? To Google Translate:

donkey esel
dog hund
cat katze
rooster hahn

Alter a lazy TSETSE to TZETSE at 20ac, and lo and behold they are.

The 5th individual? Presumably one of the robbers? Or “Rauber”, in the far left column. What separates them “clearly” in the story? A window, “Fenster”.

Presumably the superfluous letters will also spell out robbers in German or some variation on it, but at this point my head feels like it’s going to explode, so… Highlight the 30 cells in the grid, and done. That was tough work, as I thought it might be when the grid fell so quickly. Now to lie down in a darkened room. Thanks Ifor for the challenge and the German lesson. Next time? Serpent’s mirror image.

There was a comment on one of the linked blog entries last week to the effect that Punk’s unique selling points are ribaldry and lavatorial humour, which struck me as peevish and ungenerous. There’s very little of that sort of thing in this puzzle, but plenty of devious definitions and clever constructions to amuse receptive solvers, and a theme as is the custom on a Tuesday, based on various 19 downs.

Nothing too difficult this time, although a bit of general knowledge will come in handy for those thematic entries and the cricketers. Maybe not quite so general in the latter case. 27ac struck me as somewhat weak, and is anyone else getting fed up with 9ac coming up so regularly? Otherwise, no complaints: for those please see the February 2013 Fifteensquared blog. I particularly liked 3, 5 and 20d, but my clue of the day is the elegantly turned 2d:

“Brave ploy, extremely sinister (6)”

A nice, straightforward puzzle to start the week. Some complaints over on Fifteensquared regarding how easy it was, but this TBH is the sort of puzzle I’m looking for on a Monday. Lots of opportunities for the harder stuff later in the week. Talking of which, I was surprised how many solvers didn’t know 2d, a phrase which seemed to crop up in many a film / TV show at one time. Or perhaps I’m just showing my age.

COD? 6d – ‘Groups with members one over the eight – and seen to be drunk (7)’.

To February 2013: