Phi – Ninas & Themes in 2017

January 6, 2018

First of all it should be said that 18 of the 52 puzzles – just over a third – had nothing going on at all, apart from maybe a sprinkling of fifteen-letter lights.

But more often than not there was something or other to look for apart from just solving the clues…

There were 6 Ninas

  • TOPAND… BOTTOM in the appropriate unches
  • CHARLES DICKENS also top and bottom unches (2012 having been his bicentenary)
  • PROSCENIUM as an arch shaped Nina
  • IT’S NOT IN THE PERIMETER forming an inner circuit
  • IT IS THE NINETEENTH OF APRIL as a Peripheral Nina
  • Puck’s words: LORD WHAT FOOLS THESE MORTALS BE as a peripheral Nina plus Helena & Hermia in the crossword lights and Demetrius and Lysander appearing as an acrostic in the clues.

There were 21 themes (including A Midsummer Night’s Dream above), 13 of which were literary, and the majority of which were impossible for me to spot, even though I always went looking for them:

  • Julian Barnes novels
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • Gervase Fen detective stories by Edmund Crispin
  • Ghost story writer M R James and some of his themes
  • Medical-based novels of Oliver Sacks
  • Titles of Father Brown detective stories by G K Chesterton
  • 3 Salman Rushdie novels
  • The names of five authors
  • Reverends which appear in Charles Dickens novels
  • Characters from ‘The Tempest’
  • Titles of the five section of ‘The Wasteland’
  • Epic poems from different world cultures
  • Two Marx Brothers films
  • Songs of Flanders and Swann
  • Three 15-letter artist names
  • Star Trek captains’ names
  • Various types of cat
  • Words which go with ‘silver’
  • French words which are also English words with quite different meanings
  • The Fibonacci sequence of numbers – 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 hidden in the answers

In lastly we had the following 8 which defy categorisation:

  • All answers finishing with the same letter with which they started
  • A ‘daisy chain’ of paired lights split across consecutive rows
  • 4 long idiomatic phrases plus a sprinkling of neologisms
  • Two long anagrams split over two lights each
  • 4 15-letter lights plus SOP-HIS-TIC-ATE in the corners
  • The four F’s of our primitive urges – Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding and the other one – in a grid with four black F shapes
  • Just 24 lights plus longer clues ‘from different areas of culture’
  • Fewest number of lights in a puzzle (22)

And, for what it’s worth, my favourites were the Fibonacci one, the ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ one and the ‘Daisy chain’ one.



4 Responses to “Phi – Ninas & Themes in 2017”

  1. AndyT said

    An interesting recap, thank you Cornick. I still suspect that many of these contrivances are as much for Phi’s amusement as anything else, but it’s all good fun. Besides, I’ve had a couple of good reads this year as a result of his themes: Cloud Atlas and The Moving Toyshop. If pressed to name favourites I’d go for “it’s not in the perimeter”, Fibonacci and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  2. jonofwales said

    Thanks for the breakdown. Of the Ninas, I think I may have spotted a couple. The themes, I’m guessing none. Ditto the last eight. Though at least one of the themes I should have spotted, though I’m often not at my best on a Saturday morning.

    Whether it’s subjective or not, I generally find Phi more difficult than I used to back in the day, when I don’t remember him doing much if anything in the way of themes, and wonder if it’s because of the need to shoehorn in some slightly unusual words that this is so, or whether it’s just a general trend, or on the other hand just me. That said, the last two weeks have been on the easier side.

    • Cornick said

      I well remember the first time I ever spotted a Nina. An i reprint of a 2008 Phi with HONEYBEE and LADYBIRD in the unches left and right, and then INSECT REPELLENT in column 7. To me it was a thing of infinite wonder!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: