Saturday 24th March 2018

In which 15a – One-eyed – was the gateway clue to a group of famous one-eyed figures. Xenekis, Stainer, Cyclops, Tenniel and Thurber.  Which is all quite nifty, but completely went over my head, alas; having Cyclops and One-eyed in the same puzzle didn’t jump out at me, and I’m unfamiliar with the physiognomies of the other gentlemen.

I did notice some other things though:  26d Dry – the phrase is ‘on’ not ‘off’ the wagon. 4d Sis – Girl’s name not implicated in crimes – cropped up again in yesterday’s Phi as ‘Girl’s nameless crimes’. 12d Tricyclists – not wheeled vehicles, obviously.

Why do these things happen with Phi and not other setters?  Well, we could speculate that a) He’s a Titan amongst setters who is trusted by the editor and doesn’t get the scrutiny afforded to a novice b) He’s good enough to feel, maybe, that he doesn’t need to get a mate to do a test solve c) He’s extraordinarily prolific and d) He’s only human after all.

So a few unusual glyphs in my margin from last Saturday, but also some ticks, with the COD going to the afore-mentioned gateway clue:

15a With limited vision, you’ll be absorbed by love and desire (3-4)

More discussion can be seen over at Fifteensquared.

Phi on Friday, odd, so there must be a reason, and there is. This was originally printed on Good Friday 2014 and that’s where the theme lies not that I or RatkojaRiku in his blog over on Fifteensquared spotted it.

Quite a straightforward puzzle I thought, the only question mark was for the “cry”in  20ac. Most of this was completed while I was in A&E waiting for my wrist to be checked after crashing my bicycle yesterday and it was just the unfamiliar terms at 7dn and 14ac that I was left with but both of these were solvable from the cryptic with a little thought.  Enjoyable though this was nothing really stands out as exceptional but I thought this was clever.

COD 18ac   Item of food scrounger has in bar? (3)


I’ve struggled with puzzles by Donk in the past, and I struggled again today as well, as expected. The bottom half of the grid went in without too much ado, but the rest was, let’s just say painfully slow progress. I spotted our theme regarding computer games pretty early on, but unfortunately couldn’t think of any to fit the clues I was struggling with. Oh well… At the close I had a completed grid, a half dozen or more question marks beside the clues, and more than a few ticks as well. I was also unsure whether it was a puzzle I enjoyed, or one that I absolutely hated, as I alternated throughout between admiration and the sudden desire to give up crosswords altogether and take up a less mind-bending hobby. Like rocket science.

COD? Just because of the massive groan it elicited when I eventually worked out what the definition was getting at having untangled the wordplay, which is quite clever, 9ac – “Offers while stocks last! Same again in Sainsbury’s entrance (9)”.

We’re back to November 2013 today. There’s a method there somewhere, I’m sure…

An enjoyable mid-week outing once again for Dac – mostly on the easy side I found, though I did spend an unreasonable amount of time struggling with the crossing pairs of 1ac and down, and 13ac and 5d. The former is just extremely well hidden, the second with a surface so smooth and a definition only vaguely familiar so that I struggled to find a way into it, the third really I should have got quicker, the last, well, that was quite a tricky one to parse. Elsewhere I’m sure some solvers will be delighted to find that their schoolboy French has been called upon yet again, and I wonder how many misspelt (which ironically WordPress is flagging up as a typo) 26ac?

COD? Let’s go with 1ac, which is very nicely done, hidden indeed in plain site – “A feature of portable technology? (6)”.

In the days running up to Easter 2014 (yes I did check – is this why we’ve skipped several months of potential reprints?) for all the answers, parsing, and more:

In which we hope Phi will be anything but. But first, the small matter of doing (sorry helping with) some Maths homework, and scouring the shelves of the supermarket for that suddenly rare resource bread – yes, the Beast from the East is about to pay a return visit. On the plus side, curry and chips, the king of Saturday lunchtimes. And look, is that white stuff falling from the sky?

Phi’s out to confuse us this week. Three different clue types. Group A needs to be expanded to fill the allocated cells, Group B has a redundant word or (shudders) phrase defining an answer in A, and Group C letters that need to be restored spelling out what Group A are. Lots to remember.

We should be used to Phi by now, what with his weekly appearances in the i, so perhaps that’s why the clues don’t actually feel that difficult. G + look fierce must equal GLOWER, even if that doesn’t help us with the grid entry. But if we expand to GALLOWSMAKER (Ok, this came much later), and take “Someone behind hanging” from another clue, we’re sorted. Almost forgot to mention, word of the day has got to be SCOFFLAW at 1ac, with “vacant” unexpectedly redundant – was I the only person to assume it’d be part of the wordplay? And was citadel + supporting in the wordplay ever going to be anything but FORT?

In other words, despite the above distractions, and trying to watch a film at the same time, this proved to be a bit of a doddle. Which I’m not complaining about, I’m still about Harribobsed out. Oh yes, the letters in Group C, what did they amount to? Well, that would be DUSTY ANSWERS, which according to Chambers are “unsatisfying, unfruitful, or sordid response(s)”. So there you go, that was what it was all about. Now excuse me while I shiver and wait for the Grauniad to finally put up a usable version of Azed’s latest on their site.

A rather jolly puzzle today with a nicely executed theme, which comes a fortnight or so after the annual big event. In my case I simply ignored the gateway clue, solved the majority of the rest in surprisingly short order for Tees, and then closed the gate behind myself, as it were. It should be readily apparent what’s going on whichever way one approaches it, anyway.

1d proved a pitfall for quite a few of the Fifteensquared brigade back in April 2014 even though the alternative anagram is clearly unsuitable as a solution. More haste: less speed. Somebody once defined arrogance as the act of filling in the crossword with a pen, but it does have the happy effect of discouraging that sort of thing. Whatever. Clues of note: 14 and 17 were distinctly sneaky and very much the sort of thing I associate with Tees; 25 was awfully good despite the, ahem, antique definition, and 21ac was snortworthy. My choice for COD is rather simple and perhaps not the most elegant, but it made me smile:

20d: “Transport to hell worker caught by cunning schemes (8)”

Our first regular reprint from 2014 I believe, and all the way into April at that, and it’s Quixote as expected, but for me at least with a bit of a bite. The majority of this was the usual pretty straightforward Monday fare, but then there was 13ac – which I failed on (never heard of the colour, or the town), and 19ac – which I did get, but without recourse to a dictionary could just as easily have been ANSATE. Anybody else throw in a hasty LEARNERS at 14d? Oh well, perhaps you got on a little better this morning.

COD? I was toying with the idea of nominating 18ac, just because it’s unusually rude for the Don, or 3d because it’s a nice spot, if fairly obvious, but I’ll go with 24ac because it threw me for an age – “Possibly a small bit without soft edge (7)”.

All the answers, parsing and more can be found here:

Saturday 17th March 2018

Which I found a fair deal trickier than did the good people of Fifteensquared here.  The consensus back in 2013 was that this was easier than usual for Phi, whereas I thought he’d cranked the level of difficulty up a few notches… Maybe it was because I was solving somewhat surreptitiously whilst standing amongst the mums and dads on the touchline, watching the youngest play American Football. O joy of joys.

Tricky words early on included Coati-mundi, Confrere and Drogheda, whilst at the end Tele-ad took me an age to spot, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to put the unfamiliar ‘Shark’s Manners’ in any more than the faintest of biro.

Runner up for COD was 8d, and the gold medal goes to the following:

13/22a Old North American concealed heavyweight round object, without hope of success (2,1,6,2,7)


P.S. Using my alternative monicker of Maize, I have a puzzle in today’s Independent on line.  Click here to save yourself having to wait four-and-a-half years for it to appear in the i – inshallah.

Perhaps not as difficult to solve as some from Morph but in some cases very difficult to parse in fact so devious that the setter himself doesn’t know how 24ac works.

The two fifteen letter down solutions which I didn’t parse as with a few crossers in the solutions seemed obvious and the slightly smutty couple at 13 and 16ac provided enough help to solve some of the more unfamiliar answers like 14dn, I’m not keen on homophones, and 15dn where we need to know about films made by Ms Streep which like the ball kickers in 11ac is something I don’t feel the need know, however with a bit of help from Chambers it all became apparent unlike 19dn which like the LE in 23ac is explained over on Fifteensquared.

Despite all this clever deviousness I don’t have many ticks whilst all except 24ac work well nothing stands out, I like 10ac  but just for its fairly dubious wordplay i’ll go for

COD 16ac   Shut up – that’s what you get when you kiss ass!  (6,4,3)

Our second IoS reprint of the week comes courtesy of Poins. A little trickier perhaps than Monday’s offering, but only relatively speaking as this still came in way under par for the i. We have an unusual abbreviation at 1ac, and a second definition I’m guessing most solvers won’t know at 15ac, but both clues were perfectly gettable nevertheless, and in the latter case we can all claim to have learnt something – which will probably be forgotten tomorrow – which is probably a good thing. Learning something, not forgetting it that is.

An enjoyable solve, but one where none of the clues in particular jumped out as particularly worthy of note, which is not to damn with faint praise, this being a very good example of a nice, breezy IoS puzzle. So COD? I was toying with the idea of nominating 2d, but I’ll go with 21d because while straightforward it has a nice, smooth surface worthy of Dac – “Sort of art seen as serious (7)”.

Back to November 2013 for all the answers and parsings, should you need them.