Saturday 23rd September 2017

Phi has been enjoying a rich run of form with his crosswords over the last 3 or 4 weeks, and for me this was the best of them – worthy of Puzzle of the week status I thought, even if the praise over on Fifteensquared is less than fulsome – ‘Clever rather than fun’, says one… Eesh, there’s no pleasing some people!

Each across clue was for a two-worder split across the lights of consecutive rows, so that they all flowed together and from the bottom round to the beginning again. And the clues were just the sort I like –plenty of challenge to unpick the complexities, but no need for a dictionary or going on-line.

My favourite was one that I’m sure had most of us puzzled until a few crossers were in place. Here it is again:

11/12a PTO, in various cases, for measure of sales? (8, 4)

i Cryptic Crossword 2073 Tyrus

September 29, 2017

Tyrus which in the crossword world is usually a synonym for tough appears to have excelled himself with todays offering. I spent a long time looking at a grid where only 7ac, 10ac, 23ac, 5dn and 7dn were solved, it wasn’t that the answers themselves were very obscure, although 2dn and 16dn were new to me and 6dn and 14dn are both terms I was unfamiliar with but the wordplay was devious to the extreme resulting in quite a few being solved from the synonym only with a complete lack of understanding of the cryptic part. I am not alone in finding this extremely difficult and needing electronic help to finish as most of the good folk on Fifteensquared report similar experiences even the redoubtable RatkojaRiku who makes an excellent job of parsing it. You will also find an apology from the setter!

COD  (even though I couldn’t parse it)  4dn  Upset part-timers in uniform told to get lost. (2,3)

i Cryptic Crossword 2072 Morph

September 28, 2017

Morph is one of the setters I enjoy most in the i (and previously in the Independent), with today’s puzzle one of his best. It took a little getting into – my first clue solved was 22ac – but from that point on it was pretty plain sailing, albeit with a few left unparsed at the close. 7d was chief amongst them, and kudos to Pierre over on the other side for explaining it, because I never could. A 9 letter word, though, starting with K?T, and with a pretty well flagged up definition of seagull, was unlikely to be anything else. Lots of invention elsewhere, and lots of smiles, as you expect from this setter. LOI 24ac, with a finish time under par for the i.

COD? 8d – “Celebrities getting out? One joining in for possible means of going to ground (6,2,6)”.

To June 2013:

Our second IoS reprint of the week comes courtesy of Hypnos, and is pitched at about the level you’d expect. That said, it took me a while to make headway, probably because I made heavy work of the anagrams at 1ac and 5d. Entering the answer for 21ac at 11ac probably didn’t help matters either, but never mind. 14d I needed to check, given my pitiful knowledge of football, but that was the only unknown.

COD? 5d – “Shift in political soul that’s outwardly deceptive (7,8)”.

Fifteensquared’s a bit up and down today, but here’s the link to the blog from 2013:

Should that fail, try the Internet Archive.

So after last week’s struggles, something a little easier perhaps? Quite a long preamble, but the gist of it seems to be extra letters from the wordplay, a handful of clashes, a spot of highlighting, a name to write below the grid. Onwards, with a hard rain driving outside. The joys of an Indian Summer.

The last three downs don’t have any extra letters, so are presumably normal clues? Yes they are, all three falling in a flash. Is the rest going to be this straightforward? Yes again, with the grid filling steadily from south to north west, and just the three clashes.

The end game’s going to be a pig, surely? Well, no, as it turns out. A couple of spurious extra letters in the acrosses (so what’s new, I hear you cry), but they’ve got to read GEORGE BLACK WEDNESDAY. Well, I can remember that quite clearly. Grown men sweating over spreadsheets trying to work out how soon they were going to default on their mortgage payments as interest rates rapidly spiraled. Who said that politics was dull?

Select one letter from each of the clashes? ERM I’m sure, but is the result supposed to end with real words, because CHAIERULE certainly isn’t one, and I can’t find anything wrong with CHAIN RULE, so it will have to stand. The solution will reveal all, and leave the grid below in tatters, no doubt…

The first protagonist? George SOROS, who appears to have done very well out of the whole thing.

The second? No sign of John Major, but, there he is, our hapless former Chancellor of the Exchequer, NORMAN LAMONT, and that’s the surname to write under the grid.

The extra letters from the down clues? I never did make sense of those, I’m afraid to say, but the rest was thoroughly enjoyable, a fine way to spend a wet Saturday afternoon.

Edited to add: Whoops, looks like I missed something by not getting those down letters, if you look over at Fifteensquared That’ll learn me! Next time, take note when the preamble says “provide decisive thematic information”. A definite win then for Gila, and a trap I fell hook, line and sinker for. 

This worked perfectly for me: a puzzle with a ghost theme which I spotted, but only after completion. I therefore have the double satisfaction of having solved it without a suspicion of what ought to be lurking in there, plus the “aha” moment. If you’re thinking “theme? what theme?”, all is revealed by Alchemi himself over at Fifteensquared in comment 8, where he also unburdens himself of some trenchant views on what is and isn’t worthwhile in this context, which I happen to share.

All that aside, good puzzle, wasn’t it? No obscure vocabulary, plenty of clever and inventive clues, and a nice middle of the road level of difficulty. A creditable tally of ticks today, mostly clustered at the bottom, so a tip of the hat to Alchemi for 22, 23, 28 and 31. However, the clue of the day sticks out a mile:

13ac: “Aligned anew, put off about … about … about … about … about … about the onset of influenza (10)”

Solved in an instant; thorough parsing took a lot longer.

i Cryptic Crossword 2069 Raich

September 25, 2017

An IoS reprint to start the week, which was for the most part pretty easy going. A few unfamiliar answers meant it took a little longer than usual for Raich, but they were all perfectly gettable from the wordplay and a little common sense regarding the likely order of some letters. 🙂 First in 1ac, which is always a good sign, last in 3ac, which was definitely among the list of unfamiliar answers.

With lots to enjoy as ever from Raich, COD goes to 10ac – “In Accrington, home (not originally!), I’m mobile (upwardly?) (8,7)”.

To June 2013 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Saturday 16th September 2017

A super puzzle from Phi last Saturday which reminded me of the early days of the i, when the paper cost 20p and Phi, along with Virgilius, was my favourite setter.

29/9 meant Tempest character, of course, and we had to discover Prospero, Ariel, Caliban, Ferdinand and Stephano. To shoe-horn a couple of 15-letterers into the grid along with the theme was quite a feat, and I found the whole thing very pleasing indeed.

Some discussion over on Fifteensquared as to whether the Caliban clue is breaking the ‘double duty’ rule. I took ‘imprisoned?’ to be a cryptic direction meaning ‘put in the can’ – a bit like ‘on board’ for put in SS – so with the question mark it was definitely fine in my book.

Also an enigmatic comment from Phi at comment 16 – will we find out today?

COD: 21d Shock with priest leaving, ushering in new dawn (7)



A fairly tough but enjoyable puzzle with only the single obscurity (for me) all the other answers being familiar words or phrases. The three long anagrams helped to get started and give some checking letters to help with the more devious clues.  15dn was my obscurity but the once 2dn was solved the wordplay and a check on Google cracked it. The couple of clues that required a bit of French didn’t present too much of a problem but 16ac with its hidden German was I thought a bit unfair and 14ac well I don’t understand Rap so that got a grunt of disapproval as did the Thatcherite = Dry at 20dn.  Quite a lot of ticks though with the most going to

COD  6ac Stuffed geese I adapt for …? (4,2,4,4)

Blog from May 2013  is HERE

An IoS reprint today, but anyone back in 2013 expecting the usual gentle Sunday puzzle would have been in for a bit of a shock. An enjoyable shock, mind you, but these were clues that needed a little unpicking, and more than the usual bit of lateral thinking. There’s a Nina, that I spotted, which helped no end with my LOI, 6d. Apparently it’s a line from Joni Mitchell’s song Woodstock, which is referenced elsewhere in the puzzle. If only I’d taken more notice when I was doing that Inquisitor the other week…

COD? Too many to choose from today, but I’ll go with 29ac – “Not initially taken by Gay Rabbit? Gone one better (7)”.

Back to a Bank Holiday weekend long ago: