An IoS reprint to start the working week, and while this isn’t quite as straightforward as a Quixote puzzle might be, it isn’t a complete monster either. One or two that are difficult to parse – notably 7d – but when in doubt, just lob it in based on the definition and hope for the best. 21d I sort of vaguely knew, but it went in on a bit of a wing and prayer because, well, the River Don? 14d I was pleased to get correctly based on the wordplay. Ditto 12ac. All in all an enjoyable start to the week, even if it did detain me slightly longer than expected.

COD? I’m guessing sprouthater will have hated this one, but I’m going with 22ac – “Made a complaint about return of unwelcome French queen (8)”.

To September 2013:

Saturday 13th December 2017

A mixed bag last week. Several lovely clues which definitely made the overall puzzle a good one, but also some very stretched synonyms, two distinctly bad clues (18a, 20a) which had everybody scratching their heads over at Fifteensquared here, and fully 13 deletions: Ditch, mostly, not initially, heading off, dismissed, removed cap, releasing, curtailed, shortened, most of, unopened, overlooks, avoiding – I told you he used them a lot!

About average difficulty & time for Phi – just ‘Dutch treat’ being a new bit of vocabulary here, although ‘Ami de cour’ will have been unfamiliar to many I suspect – and there was no theme or Nina. I really liked the &Lit all-in-one anagram for Athlete’s foot at 3d, but 8d appealed even more (even if it didn’t really need that QM).  Here it is again:

8d Drug proved fake, after lecturer injected, like some sort of pig? (3-7)



It’s Tyrus, it’s a Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint, so it’s going to be on the tricky side. Lots of nice wordplay to unpick, lots of well disguised definitions, and also unfortunately lots of distractions here which meant I didn’t get a clear run at it. Blame work, one child being off school, and a long week finally coming home to roost (thanks, btw, to sprouthater for covering Wednesday for me). That said I didn’t finish this too far over par for the i. I would have preferred a nice long leisurely Saturday to tackle one of these as ever, but it appears that both Thursday and Friday are destined to be the hard days of the week.

For once I appear to have successfully untangled most of the wordplay, but only because I suspect it was one of those puzzles where you needed to in order to complete. 🙂

There’s a Nina, which I thought there might be when I saw the grid, related to 19ac and football. I don’t follow the game, unfortunately, and memories of the 2012-13 season I suspect have dimmed in most solver’s minds. Bonus points to anyone who did spot it.

COD? 9ac, which I should have got quickly, but didn’t. See above comments regarding my state of mind today. “Old film star’s taking you abroad to Spain – hopefully it might lead to intimacy (4-2,4)”.

To the Autumn of 2013 once more:

It’s Tees, a setter I often struggle with, and a Thursday reprint to boot, so I wasn’t surprised to record a pretty sluggish time. A pretty easy 1ac led to hopes of a quick solve, but it wasn’t to be. In common with many I suspect I googled Starkfield and was immediately presented with the answer to 10ac, and struggled with obscurities elsewhere. The definition at 9ac, UNCO for strange at 5d, and the cricketing term at 17ac being the chief suspects. There were bits I liked, but as a whole the puzzle didn’t really appeal to me I’m afraid. Probably more to do with me than anything else, as I’ve never really got on with this setter’s puzzles. Your mileage may vary! 🙂

COD? 16d – “Complaints caused by Conservative-Liberal relationship (7)”.

To September 2013:

I’m standing in for Jonofwales today and as expected get a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle from Dac. I can do little more than direct you to the original blog where the introduction sums this up perfectly “What can one say? As we get on most Wednesdays, a perfectly-formed creation. The structure of the clues is always deceptively simple, which leaves little room for argument.”  The only bone of contention is regarding 14dn which probably doesn’t quite parse properly but the answer was plain enough, I had more trouble parsing 13ac and 16ac. Too many ticks to mention them all but 1ac got a couple and made me smile but-

COD   20ac      Word for short, tight-fisted type (7)

The decorations are down, the Christmas cake has been eaten, the alcohol consumed. No distractions, and a gloriously dank and dark winter afternoon in which to sit at the kitchen table with the paper and Ifor’s latest. To the preamble. Eight across clues yield an extra word, and a letter from each to form a name. Other acrosses (which are pairs) contain words to be modified in line with a statement attributed to the person named. Well, that’s not going to help is it? Highlight the statement in the grid. Down clues are normal, thank goodness.

To the grid. Am I the only person to get a slight feeling of panic every week when the clues pass one by one and none fall? First in is 5 down, having drawn a blank on all the acrosses. LEERY, well I am now. 13ac has got to be EERILY with some but not all of the wordplay making sense. That’s got to contain a word to be amended, but I’ve got no idea how at the moment. Doesn’t matter. 10ac – Jacob’s brother was Esau, which is pretty fairly indicated by the wordplay. Bravo for the definition though? What about bro? There’s a pattern forming here. Answers but no idea as to how we’re supposed to be amending these clues.

What about the extra words, that have a single letter not in the corresponding answer. That’s a big great whopping clue that’ll help later, but first things first 14ac, which is evidently REMIND though “demand” doesn’t fit the wordplay, so take it out and jot down A as our first letter.

At the close I’ve got a full grid, and half of the eight letters we’re looking for in search of that name (who needs to parse clues, eh?), and a question mark beside almost all the across clues, mostly because they evidently need to be amended to make sense. But who can tell how. Let’s go back through looking for the remainder of the eight clues making up that name, aided by the sure knowledge that only one letter will be missing from the answer.

I’ve got seven: BHAANIN. That’s evidently not a name, so perhaps they’re not in order. If the last one is L, and I think the last of the across clues will supply that – though I can’t get the parsing right so I’m not 100% sure – what about HANNIBAL? Presuming we’re talking about the bloke who took the elephants across the Alps and not Dr Lecter, what statement might we be looking for? Wikipedia’s got this one:

“Aut inveniam viam aut faciam” (or “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam”) is Latin for “I shall either find a way or make one.”

Lo and behold the second version is in the grid. Highlight it. So how were we supposed to be amending the across clues. Well, brAVo gives us avenue, peer could be peSTer, and so on presumably. I’m going to say that’s Ok, a fairly quick solve that I enjoyed thoroughly. A slightly odd solving experience with bits of the wordplay having to be half guessed at, at least in this neck of the woods. The last bit of the quote also caused much hilarity here when I attempted to pronounce it, in a Life of Brian sort of way…


Something different this Tuesday, a novel sort of pangram, cleverly described by Muffyword at Fifteensquared as “… a kind of doubled-up Noah’s Ark for rare letters, indicated by the answer to 1 Across”. In fact it’s a single pangram, but with four each of J, X, Q and Z. With the exception of 18d, which will be familiar to neurobiologists and readers of Henry Miller, the grid is gratifyingly free of obscurities – so jolly well done, Raich.

That’s not to say that some of the solutions aren’t funny looking words, of course, which led to an unusual amount of exercise for the eyebrows. All rather entertaining, with plenty of ticks. My favourite today was 14ac, a bit cumbersome maybe, but amusing too:

“Like an Orange monarch, when knight’s ignored nasty blaze, small at first (10)”

I’d like to direct Cornick’s attention to comment no. 13 on the original September 2013 blog, which may well provoke a smile.

The Don’s back in his fortnightly Monday slot with an extremely gentle introduction to the working week. What spelling I’d go with for 3d gave me a little pause for thought (and as it turns out it was the correct spelling), with similar issues (or rather confusion on my part) at 26ac. I wanted 14ac to be the present rather than the past tense, and cursed Quixote for getting the anagram wrong until I came to the obvious conclusion that in fact it was me who was wrong. Finish time was well under par for the i, and under par for Quixote too for that matter, but would have been quicker still if it wasn’t for the above. First in was 1ac, last in 11ac quickly followed by 9d.

If you know anybody who’s thinking of having a go at cryptic crosswords, show them this one…

COD? The excellent 14d – “Now she’s able to move, without the restrictions of stays made from this? (9)”.

To September 2013:

Saturday 6th December 2017

According to Phi’s comments on the Fifteensquared blog, there’s a ghost theme of New Zealand shipping forecast districts (he lives in New Zealand, don’t you know). It annoys me to discover that.  There I was perfectly happy with a successfully completed puzzle, and now I find out that I’ve actually failed to solve it fully.  Please stop doing this to us Phi.  Have a ghost theme by all means, but make it one that solvers are likely to find for themselves, without needing the setter to point it out afterwards. British shipping forecast areas – Yes; New Zealand shipping forecast areas – No.

Rant over… Let’s move on to the clues, a lot of which used deletion.

For those of you unfamiliar with Phi’s clueing style, whereas most setters will use a deletion perhaps once or twice per puzzle, Phi will sometimes use them seven or eight times and, given that they rank as one of the trickier devices on the Cornick scale of difficulty, that tends to rack up the overall solving time.

Specifically we had:   To gain knowledge of curtailed = LEAR(n);   A lot of noise obscuring first = (b)ABEL; When avoiding looking slimy = GRE(as)Y;   Endearment putting off Prince = (p)ETAL; Exited bypassing fort = LE(ft);  Tally – not all = T(all)Y; Most of region = REAL(m);   Back needing something scraped off = STER(n)

And if you’re interested in setting puzzles, here’s a website with very good lists of deletion indicators, anagram indicators and all the rest, but you won’t find half of the list above there, Phi reminds us that setting at its best involves a lot of originality.

Finally my COD goes to the beautifully assembled 20a, somewhat reminiscent of Morph yesterday, perhaps:

Royal partner about to be announced in sport (7)

I’ve said before that Morph and I don’t always get along and this puzzle which has a theme that requires some knowledge of to solve and has quite a few long and convoluted clues was exactly not my cup of tea. Its always nice to read the first clue and solve it straightaway but 4ac just left me with a bit of a sinking feeling, fortunately there were some that were more accessible and I gradually started to solve more even underlining what I considered to be grossly unfair abbreviations, about halfway through I noticed the rather strange grid and that the bottom line read WTF, which is one of the few examples of Text Speak that I know, realisation then struck not that it helped that much. In the end it was just 22 and 23ac left, a lucky guess for 23 but I gave up with 22.

COD well 3dn and 18ac both scored well 9dn made me smile but

6dn  Most in rose garden might be attacked by one?  (7)

This was originally a Saturday Prize Puzzle from September 2013 and the blog and explanations are here