This is Hob’s second appearance in the i, and I must admit to having been less than complimentary about the first, comparing it to a Rookies’ Corner effort. Originally a Saturday prize puzzle, this is just the thing for picking at over a wet weekend, but a stiff one for a blogger trying to get something posted by lunchtime on a weekday. It took a while to make any significant headway, and there was a lot of guess-the-answer-and-work-backwards: as with his previous crossword this is self-consciously clever stuff which takes some effort to unpick, to say the least of it. On the whole though, I thought this was excellent.

There’s a theme of course, defined in the cheeky 1ac, but it doesn’t really get in the way once you get the general idea. Plenty of unexpected definitions and tricky constructions made for a lot of brow-furrowing and quite a few “aha!” moments. I do have the odd quibble, but it’s that sort of ambitious puzzle so it seems churlish to go around nit-picking. Favourites: 4d, despite the dreadful surface; 18ac; 10, 14 and 17d. Clue of the day relates to the theme and doesn’t make a lot of sense without it, but what the heck:

9ac: “Once more almost 1ac about East Indian music (4,5)”

There were only four comments in response to the original Fifteensquared entry back in February 2013, which strikes me as a bit of a shame since the puzzle is rather remarkable in places and there’s ample scope for discussion and debate. Bertandjoyce’s analysis is first rate though, as ever.

An enjoyable start to the week from the Don, that must be about as easy as they get? Or has two weeks of abstinence finally borne fruit? 23ac I’m sure is a statement that must be close to the heart of many people round the globe at present. Very prescient of Quixote. 🙂 Of the unknowns 5ac I didn’t know, but luckily CHAD leapt out when I saw the H; 25ac I have come across before. What more can you say – just right for a dull, dreary Monday morning.

COD? 6d – “Negotiate for a shire here? (5,4)”.

To April 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/04/29/independent-8280-by-quixote/

Saturday 12th August 2017

In which we had a theme of Salman Rushdie novels – well, three of them, all from the 1980’s. Namely Midnight(‘s) Children, Shame and (The) Satanic Verses.

We also had fully twelve deletions – Dan(e), Ger(man), (re)verses, cras(he)s, (f)orint, Tren(t), (o)rgy, rotte(n), se(t), (t)ex(t)ile, and enac(t) – which might possibly be a record, even for Phi.

A sprinkling of words and phrases which were unfamiliar too – Avernus, white leather, and the aforementioned forint – plus the only Emil I ever met was French!

In truth I rather ran out of steam on this one, turning to Wordsearch for help with four or five still to go. I think it’s the deletion thing; in my book it ranks as a relatively tricky wordplay device. Once solved though, all was able to be parsed, and at least I spotted the Rushdie thing.

COD: 17d Nick’s appropriate for some prisoners at a nick (7)

2013 blog here.

 

With memories of yesterdays exercise in obscurity and obfuscation still fresh I approached this hopeful that Nestor might be more accessible and to a point I think he was with !ac and 4ac going in straight away. there were of course quite a few that took a lot of disentangling and I must admit a lot of question marks which took a visit to Fifteensquared to resolve chiefly among them were 21ac, 6dn and 24dn. There were too many references to films and TV programmes for my liking but 15ac was awarded a couple of ticks conversely I thought 9dn was awful, never having come across the contraction of James to Jas before its always been Jim where I come from, and 22dn a film I have not seen but guessed the answer from the cryptic. So a pretty enjoyable puzzle with lots of good clues to choose from for COD but the one that amused me the most was

27ac        Given too much information presented fraudulently including name (5-3)

 

 

We haven’t seen Monk in these parts for a long time, and this puzzle was every bit as difficult as I expected when I saw his name. Lots of easier clues to allow some in-roads into the grid, but this was still a long haul. I guessed there would be a Nina in the top and bottom rows as soon as I saw the grid, so was on the look-out for it, which helped somewhat when I worked out what it was (with a little help from Google). The bottom half of the grid still took a while to fall. Apparently there are no E’s in the grid, so E-no?

Did anyone else think DRAGON… for 19ac? Was I the only person who thought the words in 16d should have been the other way round?

Anyway, my brain hurts now, so no more. COD? 19d – “With which one can’t draw properly (6)”.

To March 2013 once more:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/03/16/independent-8237-sat-9-march-2013-monk/

What can you say? Another enjoyable, not too difficult Wednesday treat. I struggled a little in the SW corner – I desperately wanted 18ac to be REREDOS, even with an unsufficient number of letters, and little support from the wordplay – and couldn’t see 12d for too long. Once the former fell, so did the latter, and the rest of that corner. There’s a rare Nina and theme from Dac that’s explained in the comments over on the other side.

COD? 16ac – “Supplementary part in A Year In Provence is for adults only (6)”.

To March 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/03/06/independent-8234-dac/

In which normal service is resumed, refreshed after a week’s holiday. Well, after acting as an unpaid, over-worked, in-house holiday rep for a week. With the consolation of the local beer and copious bags of chips. A nice easy one to get back into? Not with Schadenfreude’s name at the top. Though Saturday evening the very top half does lead to a false sense of security and the rash decision to leave it until tomorrow, because this is going to a be a doddle. Which of course it isn’t. Cue slow, slow progress throughout too much of Sunday.

Extra letters in the answers to some of the clues? I can cope with that. And the cryptic bits are rock solid, fair, and just need a little careful thought. Which I get round to in the end after all else fails. As is traditional a few answers are guesses, a few must be right but I can’t see the cryptic for the life of me, but I’ve got enough of the extra letters to mean the words they spell out must be:

BORDER WEED FLOWER

When I’ve got rid of those question marks.

So we’ve got four A’s – well, we know where they are. And a few weeds, albeit after a little rubbing out and more than a few corrections. TILT for a fairly desperate GILT (if you squint at Chambers for long enough it sort of works), and 43d I never did get to the bottom of. Got to be EARD, hasn’t it? So here’re our weeds:

FAT HEN
THISTLE
MOSS (is it really a weed?)
NETTLE

Which we need to replace with flowers. Out with the Word Search, a list of possible letters, and we’ve got:

DAHLIA
ANEMONE
LILY
IBERIS

Huzzah! A difficult grid fill, an easy end game. That’s OK with me. A much needed confidence boost after a week of bleary eyed struggling with daily cryptics. Until next time, when with any luck I’ll have shaken off the traditional post holiday illness (a lovely sinus infection, and believe me you don’t want the gory details) in time to be fighting fit come Saturday and Eclogue’s latest offering.

An all too rare but very welcome appearance by Eimi today, the Professor Moriarty of the Indy Crossword. Ordinarily that means there will be a theme, and of course it’s Tuesday – but I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the puzzle by hinting and shall therefore simply refer to the relevant Fifteensquared blog entry from March 2013.

A diverse mix of nicely phrased clues ranging from straightforward to distinctly devious made for a lively solving experience, with a few smiles along the way. I particularly liked the two long anagrams and the link between 16ac and 5d; and of course 28ac and 22d (which tipped me off to the theme). 9d struck me as exceedingly good, but my favourite and therefore COD is 12ac:

“Yeléna appears heartless after Astrov eventually gets embraced in sordid play (5,5)”

I knew we’d seen Commoner before in these parts, but couldn’t remember how easy or otherwise the previous puzzle was, so approached this with a little trepidation. As it was I didn’t have to worry, as this turned out to be a perfectly accessible, breezy IoS reprint. I couldn’t parse 11ac, and took an age to get 25ac at the end – or rather took an age to decide I’d have to sit down and parse the clue properly – but the rest went in with little trouble. Which was lucky, as a pre-lunch meeting today ate into half my lunch break, as these things tend to do, and anything a little tougher might have gone unsolved. All in all a decent substitute for Quixote.

COD? With lots to like, the succinct 12ac – “Heated, dry out? (9)”.

To April 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/04/28/independent-on-sunday-1209-commoner/

Saturday 5th August 2017

Am I the only one for whom last Saturday seems an awfully long time ago? We had Phi back in his usual slot with a very respectable crossword puzzle – enjoyable and a shade easier than medium difficulty for the i, I’d say.  No theme or Nina, but the four long clues were all anagrams or substantial part anagrams, which will have appealed to some more than others.

The minor issue of whether or not apostrophes should be enumerated in the clue cropped up again with ‘Pièces d’occasion’ being clued as (6,9)– all I can say is, that’s the convention, so be on the alert for it!

I’ve rather forgotten about this puzzle, alas, so am grateful to the 2013 blog here for reminding me what a good clue 25a was. Here it is again:

NASA’s expertise producing tyre? (8)