Another Thursday, and another Thursday Indy reprint. It appears we’re making a habit of these. 🙂 I didn’t find this one to be too tricky, overall, though I must admit to googling 2d because – surely that isn’t a real dance? Well yes, as it turns out it is. A few question marks here and there – LOUT for bumpkin? Apparently, yes. What was “Gore” doing in 7d? Duncanshiell’s got that covered over on the other side as well. I remain to be convinced that 13ac is a valid construction – surely we need to be told that the “young female” in question’s letters aren’t contiguous? Most solvers will have got the point, anyway, but it’s at times like this that I wonder what Don Manley would make of the clue.

Lots to like, including some nice wordplay and well disguised definitions – was I the only person to think “but I don’t know any South Africans”? Enjoyable throughout, my COD goes to 1ac – “For it good new walls are favoured primarily? (8)”.

To February 2014:

A very gentle offering from Dac today, though with the SW corner a little trickier perhaps? I certainly paused over 13ac, 14d and 20ac, solved in that order. The former I was pleased to find wasn’t a word I’d made up but in fact a correct interpretation of the wordplay. 🙂 24ac as noted back in the day doesn’t work whatever usage you might try and force on “swallowing”, but I must admit to solving via the checking letters and definition so didn’t notice until I headed over to the other side to see what they’d made of it. It’s a pangram, and no I didn’t spot that either… Overall time perhaps a record for the i, enjoyment value as high as always on a Wednesday.

COD? Lots to like as ever, with some lovely smooth surfaces, of which 16ac is perhaps my favourite being short, sweet, and to the point – “Out of shape (6)”.

To February 2014:

Or rather who stole the bars? Yes, it’s my favourite sort of puzzle – lots of cold solving, a fruitless attempt to fit the answers into the grid followed by much wailing and gnashing of teeth and an inevitably failed attempt. Except, rewind, that grid is 14 cells wide and the first answer is… 14 characters. Let’s work out where the downs might start and, handily, the first two are both 11 characters and the grid is, wait for it, 14×11. So we’re rolling with a STAGECOACHMAN, a STRIDE PIANO and last but not least THE COLONIES. I can do this, can’t I?

Apparently the grid hasn’t got symmetry. Cornick could tell you lots about the symmetry of a grid but well, I can’t. We’ve got empty cells and, for added entertainment value, two clues that are wordplay only and don’t lead to real words. Well, it is an Inquisitor.

Lots of generous clues. Dessert’s got to be ICE, enemy FOE which doubles for Friends of the Earth who’re suitably green, trial’s a TEST, and even that well known fish the TELEOST is pretty easily clued.

The wordplay only not-real-word answers have got to be down the right hand side and along the bottom of the grid. I can even solve the first, because an amphibian is often a NEWT and apart from a few choices of synonym for “mere” the rest is pretty clear, and well that looks almost but not quite like Winnie the Pooh. How does NIEW get us there? W in NIETHEPOOH presumably. One of the answers is supposed to be an anagram of one of our authors, and LIMEN is certainly an anagram of (AA) MILNE. Another entry’s the name of our other author. Kenneth GRAHAME? Which would make the second book The Wind in the Willows and I’m guessing the illustrator of both EH Shepard is what links them. Did I mention I’m a big fan of Milne? Well, now I have.

That bottom entry? OS(ZEPHYR)IERS because a zephyr is a wind in some willows. And the mark of Zorro was only ever going to be one thing.

Now we’ve got to identity and highlight EH SHEPARD in the grid and bob’s your uncle. Lots of those letters in the grid, but they’re not grouped properly… The title of the puzzle says barcode, so what happens if we put the bars in the grid? Oh look, they make up the letters of his name, very neat, and that’s why the grid is asymmetric.

I liked that. So thanks to our setter with the thoroughly unpronounceable name for an enjoyable time.

In other news, Courtney Barnett has got a new album out. 🙂

A typically impressive puzzle from Scorpion today, who clearly wasn’t content with the well-realised theme and decided to supply us with a pangram too. This has resulted in a few oddities, and in addition a couple of definitions are eyebrow-raisers. That’s about par for the course for this compiler, and I don’t see anything which really isn’t fair. Can’t imagine anyone being very keen on 22d, mind.

All the necessary explanations are provided by duncanshiell’s January 2014 Fifteensquared blog, and he also points out a few absentees from the theme. It turns out that there’s a sound technical excuse for this which I won’t pretend I understand but it’s to do with the foundation of dynasties – besides, when you look at the list it would be a brave setter who undertook to crowbar that lot in. Nothing really stands out as an obvious pick of the day, but I did like the gateway clue, 8/9ac:

“Fashion occasionally constrained The Police to practise such music? No (4,5)”

Bank Holiday Monday, and today we’re off out to shop for the oldest’s prom outfit. Yes, he really is that old… I’m on blogging duties, but no problem because we’re expecting an IoS reprint and that’s usually on the easy side. So what do we have? Well, it’s eXternal, who’s always good value for money but sometimes a little tricky. As it turns out today’s is probably a little more difficult than par for a Monday, but by no means a monster, and finished in only a little over par for the i. A nice lightness of touch throughout, and always enjoyable, at the close I was pleased to have managed to squeeze in the time it took. All parsed and understood at the close, which isn’t always the case later in the week. 🙂

COD? There’s lots to enjoy, with my nomination going to 20ac because when I eventually spotted it, having tried to extract all kinds of wordplay from the clue, I simply couldn’t believe eXternal had managed to hide that long an answer in plain sight without me noticing for so long – “In half-light at ten, Dante receives help on lines (6,9)”.

To January 2014 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Saturday 19th May 2018

Phi is brilliant at coming up with new little ideas to put into his puzzles.  Hopefully it didn’t take you too much to see that there were triple letters sprinkling the grid last Saturday – six times in all. Triple letters within words are pretty much banned in English, of course, although sounds like shhh, zzz and brrr are all legitimate (I’ve only ever seen the last one of those in a crossword).  So instead we had entries made of hyphenated or paired words – like Full-length, Cliff face, that sort of thing.  And now I’m wondering about triple letters internationally… I once learned that the French for created  is créée, but what about elsewhere – Hawaiian perhaps?

Anyhow the clues were a good mix of what we’re used to from Phi – I enjoyed myself.  As often happens though, there was again a little something to keep the critics busy – this time it was the repetition of U for university, inserted as part of the wordplay in both Imb[u]e  and On c[u]e.  Well, maybe it doesn’t really matter, but if an apprentice setter did it, they’d soon be put right!

As to my favourite, I’ll go for the simple but elegant 19d: Subject represented in a large book? (7)

And the full blog from 2014 can be found by clicking here.

I have not had a good week as far as crossword solving goes so I approached today’s puzzle with a degree of trepidation, however my concerns were somewhat alleviated by solving 1,4 and 9ac in short order even if I couldn’t quite parse the first two until I saw them written down and the word play became obvious, 1ac getting a metaphorical round of applause as I thought it was excellent. The rest of the puzzle didn’t take too long to crack even if it did generate more question marks than ticks. Who knew that Bam was a hoax or Prop was to stop suddenly, well not me, but the answers went in after a visit to Chambers. 10ac was another where the solution went in with a ?  Tom Mix eh I’m old but I don’t remember him, whilst I did know of John Pilger I didn’t know he was a 3dn. This was my LOI and only solved with the help of a wordfinder.  This was an IOS reprint which was considered a bit tough by those over on Fifteensquared when it was originally published. I thought it a bit chewy in places but quite an enjoyable way to end the working week.

COD? As I’ve already mentioned 1ac I will go for the nicely misleading 13ac: Buffet at college is put together hurriedly  (5,2)



An Independent Thursday reprint today, and Nestor too, so it was always going to be on the tough side. No problem with that, but why does Eimi always schedule these when I haven’t got much time to solve them? 🙂 One or two I had to check in the dictionary, and there are also a number of answers you won’t find there, notably 22d. Thankfully these days we have Google to check such things. There’s a Nina I wish I’d spotted but didn’t despite half wondering if there would be one and if it might help. More haste and less speed next time, Jon. Fair throughout if you follow the wordplay, a good puzzle to ease us towards the week’s close.

COD? I’ll go with 4d among lots of good ones – “Something instrumental in making Simpson arrest stand up (5)”.

To February 2014:

Mid-week, and Dac’s back with a fairly straightforward, thoroughly entertaining puzzle. Only one clue caused me any real issues – 11d – and to be honest I’m still not sure how it’s supposed to work. “Not indulging in drug-taking” is “straight”, surely, so where does the EDGE come from? I’ve checked Chambers which is no help at all, so over to you to point out how dim I’m being this morning. Overall on the easy side despite that glitch, finish time fairly under par for the i.

COD? Lots to appreciate, and I did like how effortlessly 5ac was put together, but I’m going with 1d, which was also the pick of a certain Mr A Writinghawk in the comments on Fifteensquared who some might remember was idothei’s founder and first blogger back in the day. These days I understand he sets the occasional puzzle for the Independent. “Son has no trousers (6)”.

To February 2014:

Saturday rolls round and what do we have with it? No numerical puzzles it seems, though that Playfair is still firmly on the cards. Wiglaf, with a cornucopia of misprints, unclued entries, and something to highlight at the close. This week we’re fuelled by espresso, The Fall, not to mention a full serving of chips and birthday treats, because it’s that time of year again. Suitably invigorated, and past memories of Wiglaf suitably vague, to the grid.

Maybe it’s the caffeine, but this looks to be relatively straightforward. I like to start with an anagram, and look, there’s one at 9ac which means that AEROSOLS must be a synonym for sprays and not splays. One misprint down, thirteen to go. LSD at 26ac is going to lead to nothing but ACID in the wordplay, though a slightly tricky misprint there I must confess to ignoring until the very close. How many German scientists do you know? More than me I’m betting, so lucky Wiglaf’s been kind with the wordplay at 28ac.

Unclued entries. JOSHUA looks good to me. As does DALE (but as it turns out nul points for that one, and that’s why we do these in pencil).

Last ones in the NW. Ten leads to IO and not X as I was sure for too long, giving that well known mussel the UNIO. So apart from the ones Wiglaf hasn’t bothered to clue that’s a full grid, though making sense of the misprints will have to wait because as is de rigueur I’ve made a bit of a mess of them.

Those last unclued entries. Don’t ask why, but I was always convinced the one down the bottom was CANFIELD, because, well, there’s only so much you can construct from A UK YUCCA FEAT. No idea with the long down one, but… That’s CARY GRANT across the top, meaning DALE is DYLE and the long down is CRUIKSHANK.

Googling Cary Grant and Cruikshank leads to Charade, a film I haven’t seen. But apparently Grant plays “Brian Cruikshank (alias Peter Joshua, alias Alexander “Alex” Dyle, alias Adam Canfield)”, so there you go. It also stars Audrey Hepburn meaning I’m doubly remiss in having neglected it all these years.

What do we need to highlight? Well, that would be CHARADE and DONEN across the NW to SE diagonal presumably.

Oh yes, those misprints, let’s go and look at them again. They’re supposed to spell out the real name of “the player”, Archibald Leach, and lo and behold in retrospect they do. Phew. And yes, you’d change your name too, wouldn’t you?

So thanks Wiglaf, great stuff, thoroughly enjoyed. And next week, that Playfair?