After yesterday’s travails, something on the gentle side to ease us through mid-week. I’m guessing ATS at 25ac will have been as much a mystery to other solvers as it was to me, but the answer was pretty obvious so I’ll forgive Dac. As to the rest, there’s nothing particularly controversial, or anything to cause too much in the way of delays. Service as usual from our Wednesday setter – always good clues, always smooth surfaces, what more could you ask for?

COD? 16d – “Government department is getting in millions in tax (8)”.

To November 2013:


You know I only just noticed that “from” in the title. Blame the last minute cancellation of the anticipated Saturday morning lie-in. The conversation with the workman who was supposed to turn up early this morning and fix the leaking skylight – a job which ironically can only be done when it’s dry:

“Are you sure you’ll be coming out tomorrow? The forecast is for rain.”
“I’ll see what it’s like in the morning, Jon.”
An ungodly hour the next day. Showered. Breakfasted. Washed. “Will you be coming to look at that window?”
“It’s looking a bit wet, Jon, I’ll see you Monday instead.”


So hopefully this is the bit of light relief promised in the title. Because I cannot think. Misprints in the definitions. That’s Ok, I prefer that to misprints elsewhere. Unclued entries. Eight that need adjustment one way or another. As “number lengths” are to grid entries presumably we’ve got to shorten or lengthen them. Or both, more likely. See, I’m getting the hang of this Inquisitor lark.

With a bag of chips and a suitable amount of coffee behind me, onward into the grid. First one in? Well, it’s the first that caught my eye, 19d, a very generous “for starters” leading to SAKE which is an evil-tasting tipple and not a ripple. A spirit on a bar is going to be the very pink ANGELCAKE. And look, there’s a hidden word at 1ac, even if I didn’t know that Jonathan is some sort of weird slang for Americans until now. Still haven’t got any of those adjusted clues though, and three quarters in… Yep, stuck.

Hang on, look at that grid again. We appear to have inadvertently solved 18ac because of the crossing letters. Now I was always suspicious that soft + idiot = PASS, but what to do with it? If blue = SKY, chuck it round to give us SPASSKY who’s an old master on board and maybe a masher too but you’ll have to ask him about that. So we’ve lost SKY, and I’ve got to say that’s very generous of Eclogue.

We also appear to have a considerable number of the misprints. Wonder if we can make any sense of them?


Which evidently gives us the Red Dwarf theme. “It’s cold outside. There’s no kind of atmosphere…” Now that makes solving the remainder of the clues a lot easier. The unclued entries must be character names which the Wikipedia entry handily supplies. And the adjusted entries will either be the answer + a synonym for cold, or the answer – one for atmosphere. Easy peasy.

A long time later (and I wonder if anybody fell for the KEELMAN = “Helmsman” trap at 20d?)


Well, that was good, wasn’t it? Thoroughly enjoyed.

What about Nimrod’s question posed after the puzzle? Would I welcome or throw my hands up in horror faced with “certain variations that occasionally crop up in other barred crossword(s)”. Printer’s Devilry I’m not that fond of and tend to avoid when Azed does them. Playfair codes I love. Numericals I’ve never had a go at but wouldn’t mind a shot just to see how I get on with them. Badly, I suspect. And none can be quite as mind-bending as Harribobs’s last offering… So, yes, and variety is, as they say, the spice of life.

A welcome re-appearance by Anax today, who can be relied upon to serve up something to get one’s teeth into. This is a Saturday prize reprint from November 2013 and quite a worthwhile challenge. The theme refers to 2d, for which Anax has generously supplied a nice easy clue – do not expect too many of those however. As is my custom of late, here is a supplementary pictorial hint.

Plenty of entries refer back to 2d, and of course some solvers dislike that sort of thing. Please do not dismiss the puzzle as “nonsense” though, because it is rigorously compiled and every last jot and tittle can be accounted for. That said, 23ac isn’t in the current edition of Chambers and the handy list referred to in the final comment on the Fifteensquared blog seems to have disappeared, alas, to be replaced with a passing reference in the inexplicable “Word Lover’s Ramble” section. A few eyebrow raisers: 22ac and the first part of 16d were not familiar; the definition in 24d was, but clearly not to everyone, and the double appearance of “what” in 1d and 11ac is perhaps a little unfortunate. Otherwise no quibbles. 1 and 15ac both raised a smile as did 6 and 7d, but my COD is 19ac on grounds of bathos:

“Promotion put out about a new flash diarist (6,4)”

I note that the print is prayer book tiny today. That will not please Cornick.

So as we shiver yet again in the latest icy blast sent our way by Putin personally presumably, now that he’s replaced Kim Jong-un as the nation’s bogeyman du jour, something not overly-taxing from Commoner. I can only think of a handful of Stallone films so had to trust to the pretty straightforward cryptic, but with a couple of checking letters and that enumeration it was unlikely to be anything else. I’d come across 27ac before, and knew how to spell it, but 25ac was a bit of a mystery, but again could be little else. The rest fairly flew by, and was everything you could want from an IoS reprint.

Thoroughly enjoyable throughout, I had several ticks by the clues – with special honours to 1ac. But my nomination for COD goes to 14ac, just because I’m always a sucker for this type of clue – “Glibness can be good and bad! (5,8)”.

To December 2013 when I bet it was warmer than it is today:

Posted on behalf of Cornick…

Saturday 10th March 2018

A generally enjoyable puzzle last Saturday – some nice bits of invention, plenty of good solid setting, no Nina or theme, but unfortunately a sprinkling of bits here and there which caused the Cornick lip to curl, to wit: 9d Elderberry wine is red, not white; 4a/8d Intersecting clues which both use ‘about’ to indicate A;  28a Seth Rogen – really? 26a Donut – well, it probably is common enough usage in UK nowadays, but I still don’t like it!

On the positive side I really enjoyed the jiggery-pokery of 13a Nucleus, 23a and 16d had pleasing surfaces and there was my COD which goes to the neatly succinct 27a:  I run up the train (4,5)

All the answers from the puzzle’s first appearance 3½ years ago in the Independent are here.

Another Thursday reprint this time from Punk who is making a second appearance this month. As expected this wasn’t quite so straightforward but there were a few on the easier side and half a dozen well clued anagrams to get started with and get some letters in to help with the more convoluted clues some of which went in without fully understanding why, which is all very well but 1/16 stood as typically Punk, the parsing of this will be seen by those who know about Beethoven as extremely clever or by others, like me, as a bit too obscure. 6/24 was similar, easier to solve but why I am expected to know where this person comes from is beyond me he’s actor, nobody important. This brings me to 26 ac which remains blank but I don’t see this as a fail just an extremely unfair clue. Of the rest quite a lot to like ticks for 7/9ac, 10ac, 23d and 11/5dn but

COD  4dn  Fit, strong thing in timeless celebration with some regulars? (8)

For the solutions , parsing and much discussion  click here  –  Fifteensquared

It’s a Thursday Independent reprint, and it’s Nestor, which was a fair indication that we were in for a bit of a rough ride today, but as it turns out this is a pretty straightforward, accessible solve that only took marginally longer than yesterday’s Dac. Ok, I didn’t bother to parse large chunks of it, especially some of the longer answers when a few checking letters were in place, but still… Some very generous clues along the way – 8d in particular – meant there were few hold ups. The only time I really came a cropper was with my LOI, 4d, where I knew one of the definitions but not the other. That should have been enough, but it was at that point that I lost confidence and lingered a little pondering alternatives.

COD? Lots to enjoy, with my nomination going to 21d. It’s not the smoothest of surface readings, to be fair, but it tickled me as well. “Joanna’s bits to tickle four men, namely sons (7)”.

To November 2013 once more where all is revealed:

So it’s Wednesday and it’s Dac who once again delivers the goods. We have a novel I was unfamiliar with but guessed pretty quickly from the cryptic, a nice friendly phrase at 3d that could be nothing else once those K’s fell into place, and a similarly friendly long word at 24ac. All of which filled large chunks of the grid quite nicely. In other words, this was for the most part pretty straightforward. How much of my solving time though did I spend on 20d and 26ac? Almost a quarter, probably, not helped by a first stab at TANNED for the latter. Apostrophes and enumeration of answers is always something that is liable to rile the struggling solver, and no doubt 20d will have caused exasperation around the land. It’s a dead give-away with it, and a bit of a struggle without, so the poor setter can’t win. 15d I note has been re-written to keep up with the changing times.

COD? Lots to like as ever, with my nomination going to 25ac – “Happy and relieved to be given first place (7)”, which is as elegantly done as you’d like.

To November 2013:

In which we face a possibly insurmountable problem right from the off, which is to actually get hold of a copy of the thing. Yes, the Beast from the East has struck leaving pretty impressive snow drifts, a shortage of bread and milk, and, more importantly, a dearth of any newspaper apart from copies of the Sun and Star if we stoop to include them in that category for once. So thank the gods for technology and Sprouthater who’s pretty handy with a screen print on his tablet. Solving off the download on my iPhone wasn’t a prospect I was eagerly anticipating.

To the puzzle itself, suitably cropped and printed off. At first glance this seems to be eXternal in a fairly benevolent mood. Normal clues, clashes in six cells that should be resolved to different letters altogether making the crossing answers thematic. Get a location from the resolved letters, use it to alter one entry making crossing entries thematic too. That looks like something that’s doable, even if on a fairly fuzzy printout and huddled next to a radiator. On the plus side there are scones baking in the kitchen and a plentiful supply of coffee.

What to say about that grid fill? Well, it wasn’t too bad, was it? First sweep through yielded just a few entries, but once I’d put my Inquisitor hat on and knuckled down to properly think through a few, guess what? They yielded. The biggest issues I faced were with my printout, where for a long time I thought the woman in 40ac was wothat. What do you mean, that’s not a word? Download the copy on the phone, magnify. Oh yes… Lots that needed to be looked up in the BRB, lots that wouldn’t be out of place in a daily cryptic. CLAUCHT falls most definitely into the former category. 12ac I couldn’t spell, but, well, geography…

So those clashing letters. Resolving them is pretty straightforward as it turns out. What are we left with? Lots of creatures – MILLIPEDE, CLAM, MARMOT at a quick glance. And lots of other things – SHELLS, FRUIT, etc. No hint though as to what they have in common. What do the resolved letters give us? MUSEUM, and those are all things that could be found in one I’d say.

What about this entry we’ve got to change? Well, there’s DIPPY the dinosaur presumably, who was ousted from the Natural History Museum in favour of that johnny-come-lately the WHALE. Replace the former with the latter, giving REDWING, COAITA, LOACH and SNIPE as the crossing answers.

And we’re done. Not too tricky then, but a nice, enjoyable diversion. So thanks, eXternal. And that copy of the Weekend i? Well, it reached the local shop by Sunday at which point I actually settled down with a coffee to read the thing. Goodbye and good riddance, Beast from the East.

Twenty eight clues in this puzzle, of which only eleven are unconnected to the theme. That, in my opinion, is going it some. A whole welter of interconnected clues is right up my street, but I do realise that this is probably a minority opinion and there were certainly some disgruntled solvers over at Fifteensquared back in November 2013. Good job it only happens once in a blue moon, then. Of course it helps if the gateway clue is accessible, and 21d could hardly have been more so.

A couple of niggles today. I didn’t much care for the god in 22ac; and it always seems to me that using compilers’ noms de plume as components is rather self-referential and not conducive to the happiness of casual solvers. An habitual Times type who happened across this puzzle would very likely have been discombobulated by 17ac, one would suppose. Those two notwithstanding it’s all good stuff. Three clues stand out for me: 6d, 25ac (some will be expecting me to go with that one as COD, no doubt), and finally 5d, which is my choice:

“Women who work are mostly trapped in havoc! (3,5)”