Only the second puzzle from this setter who made his debut in the i back in May and seems to have become a regular in the Independent. Unfamiliarity with Kairos’s style led to a fair bit of head scratching, but with four fifteen letter answers around the edges, 3 of which I found quite straightforward, although Round = Game at 8d seems a bit vague to me, there were a goodly number of checking letters to help solving. 1a had me fooled for a long time thinking that “cunning” was an anagrind. Two new words at 17dn and 22dn were both solved from the cryptic. 17dn is a chemical and “Hypnotic” seems a bit of a stretch to me. In general a quite enjoyable puzzle a couple of groans 15a in particular and I preferred Fridays clue for 10a.

COD  1d  Some pills worker and I push down soldiers (15)

A bit of discussion over on Fiteensquared regarding the parsing of 25a and 14d both of which seemed fine to me.


Saturday 22nd July 2017

Phi at the top of his game last week, I thought. Nothing particularly hard – I agree with the general sentiment that Phi has been going gentle on us of late – but lots of fine crafting went in to those clues.  It’s no mean feat to create a satisfying 7-word clue for ‘half-lives’, for example, and there were plenty of others where Phi showed how he’s a master of creating smooth clues for tricky looking words.

I’m a sucker for the novelty type of clue so, and despite its having a somewhat implausible surface reading and there also being plenty of strong competition, I’ll plump for the following as my COD:

3d Greek mountain, nineteen letters about height (5)

2013 blog with answers is here.

P.S.  Have just read said blog to discover a Cloud Atlas theme – see the final comment on the other side. Didn’t spot it, it’s quite subtle, but I do remember thinking about it whilst solving 11a (I first met the word Orison via a chapter called ‘The Orison of Omni 451’).  Great book and film.

It took me a long time to get into this reprint of a Saturday prize puzzle, there seemed to be a lot of very devious misdirection’s, that’s not a complaint as It was all (with one exception) thoroughly enjoyable. the exception is 20d which seemed to me to be a bit of weak construction to indicate a very obscure piece of American slang. Both 14 and 15d were entered without being able to fully parse and the clever 28a wouldn’t have been solved without all the crossers. Lots of ticks though 13a.17a and 21a I thought worthy and 5a I marked as “evil” but in a good way.

Note to self  Must remember Gam = School and LLano = Plain these crop up quite frequently and I always seem to have trouble with them.

COD  3d  Twice leaves university to find country house (7)

All the answers and explanations plus a few comments are here – Fifteensquared


A little on the challenging side, I thought, though I am a little under the weather at the moment so that could be to blame. Especially given how long it took me to spot the hidden clue. There’s a theme, which I totally missed – thinking we were on our way to a pangram – of double letters in each of the clues, which I wish I’d spotted because it would have made life much easier. 10ac I knew thanks to this song:, 23ac thanks to the local library when I was young. 15ac I didn’t.

COD? 25ac – ‘Stick at shaving facial hair (6)’.

To March 2013 once more:

A new setter to mark puzzle 2017, Commoner seems to have been a once-a-month Sunday compiler for a couple of years back in 2013-15.  You can read the full blog from his first outing at Fifteensquared here. So no Dac on a Wednesday, no JonofWales, and the blog’s going out before 9 – better check the world’s still spinning on its axis and the sun came up.

An enjoyable puzzle, when I saw an unfamiliar name I wondered if I’d be able to finish and do the blog over breakfast… I needn’t have worried – this was a continental rather than a full English.  No quibbles, a sprinkling of ticks, one new word (hands up who else had the plant at 12d as their last one in) and the following as my COD:

20a Wickedness shown by masculine aggression – not displaying it at first (11)

One to go until the big 1500, and a trip from A to B from Triton, with a few detours along the way? Seven pairs of clues run together, definitions to four letter words, wordplay to something longer. Smashing. The Welsh weather is doing its finest, a lovely bit of summer drizzle, so onward with little ado. Very slowly, as it turns out. These clues are tough. Luckily the definitions to the shaded clues are pretty evident for the most part, giving us a little bit more to work with, so progress is steady, even if it at a snail’s pace. Perhaps I’ll get away with not having to parse them. OK, maybe not, because with a full grid there’s nothing obvious that’s going to go into the elusive 21d. Let’s sort out the parsing, then, and get a full set of those letters we didn’t have to enter into the grid. And stare at them for a long time, until it becomes clear we can join the ones from each pair to form:


The first two I know are tunnels, and so are most of the rest. Apart from Tower which is a pretty well known bridge. The paired shaded bits are above and below 21d. So if the rest are tunnels, the letters disappearing under the grid, this one must be in plain sight. TOWER at 21d. Pretty neat. I enjoyed that, even if the difficulty level does make me wonder exactly what we’ve got in store next week. So, until then…

A surprise to see Phi’s name next to the crossword today, but his fondness for themes, Ninas and whatnot makes him a good fit for the Tuesday slot. This puzzle concerns a certain John 22d, but solvers who are not fans will get on perfectly well without noticing it. If that’s you, there were plenty of similarly unenlightened souls over at Fifteensquared back in March 2013, where you’ll find the usual explanations and a note on how this puzzle came about.

A couple of mild obscurities at 1ac and 2d, both of which needed checking although they’re perfectly deducible from the clues. Oh, and a knowledge of the theme did help with 21ac. Otherwise, the usual brew from Phi, familiar from Saturdays, and jolly good stuff it is too. My COD is 10ac:

“Simple singing recalled in surrounds of Russian lake, mostly with this (9)”.

I wonder whether there’s something unusual lurking in the wings for next Saturday?

A gentle start to the week from the Don, albeit with a few unknowns in the answers as ever. For me, these came at 8ac who I had to Google, 21ac, and 16d where I lobbed in the letters in what looked like a sensible pattern and got away with it.

COD? 23ac – “Brighter lady involved with boy in audacious act of exploitation (8,7)’.

To March 2013:

Saturday 15th July 2017

Phi has confounded me for the second week running by giving us a ‘normal’ puzzle again. One unfamiliar term for me – ‘Fit to be tied’ – but once I had all the crossers, then it had to be, really.

Quite a few very good clues in there – fully 11 receiving ticks of admiration in the margin – amongst which, and narrowly pipping  1a to my COD award, was the following:

23a Setbacks when invaded by two attacks of illness (5-5)

And here’s the link to the Fifteensquared website from the spring of 2013, where that unfamiliar expression gets a good deal of attention; it seems to be ‘Canadian adopted from American’ – which is presumably different to being, well, American…

After a few days away enjoying the architectural delights of York, mainly its alehouses, and not having the time or sobriety to do any crosswords I return to what to me is an extremely difficult puzzle from one of the Indie’s more challenging setters, or maybe like the setter I’m rusty. probably both, but judging by the comments over on Fifteensquared I’m not the only one who failed on 14d, a book by an author that I’ve not heard of before and wordplay that was very complicated. 12ac was another that struck as over complicated but in this case the wordplay proved unnecessary as with a few checking letters the answer was fairly obvious. 19ac similarly proved unparsable. The checking letters came mainly from the excellent and plentiful anagrams, 21ac and 26ac both getting ticks but its 5d that gets

COD     Fancy Tories! True embarrassingly but that’s not illegal (3,1,4.7)