It’s been about a year since Donk’s last Tuesday appearance, so this excellent puzzle is a rare treat. There’s a wide range of cluing strategies to enjoy, some of them rather novel, and a well-executed gimmick we don’t see all that often: a hidden theme. Donk provides a heavy hint in 15ac without which I’d have probably missed it, but as it turned out the buried elements helped out quite a bit.

This struck me as on the tricky side for a Tuesday as there’s a good deal of complexity to unravel, and in my case quite a few of the answers arrived long before I’d got to grips with parsing the clues. However, everything is fair and above board – in fact on this showing Donk is a particularly rigorous setter. Rather than run through my favourites (there are plenty), let’s cut to the clue of the day, 10ac:

“I say, isn’t this cow’s skin? (4-5)”

For analysis and comment please see Bertandjoyce’s exemplary Fifteensquared blog from back in February 2014, which was a particularly foul month, weather-wise. Here’s a reminder.


So the Don to start the week with the usual mix of fairly straightforward clues and new words learnt. For me today the latter included 11ac and 5d, the latter I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d got right from the wordplay. The NW corner caused me a little difficulty – I just couldn’t think of the Michael in question, and OD for over-drawn eluded me for an age, but I got there in the end after what can only be described as a severe case of Mondayitis.

COD? I’ll go with 14ac – “Three (not two or four!) pennies cast into lake (10)”.

To February 2014:

Saturday May 12th 2018

In which we had ‘Corner’, ‘Tight spot’, ‘Angle’ and ‘Bend’ in the knuckles of the four corners.  Nice touch that, though too subtle for anyone to spot without a heavy hint, I suspect.

Good clues in the main, some excellent. Also a couple of strained definitions – ‘following many government workers’ for ‘clerical’ and ‘Copper for coins?’ as a definition by example for ‘Material Cause’ amongst them. Not that they make the puzzle unsolvable when there’s wordplay or crossing letters to help, but I can’t help wishing the setter had tussled with the clues for a bit longer to discover something more satisfying.

All in all an enjoyable solve with plenty of ticks in my margin and a COD nomination going to the following:

1d Oedipus, say, missing most of the benefit of modern finance? (1-7)

And here’s the link to the 2014 blog on Fifteensquared with all the answers.


Alchemi to end the working week with an entertaining, enjoyable challenge of about middling difficulty. 9ac was certainly an odd clue that I parsed differently to NealH back in the day, with “Avi” as the definition bit, and the rest as a sort of CD. Feel free to tell me I’m wide of the mark. 🙂 In common with many solvers I’m guessing I could see the answer for 4d but had no idea where the V came from, and also wondered if he really did write something called 9ac, so a nice bit of misdirection.

Also, please tell me I wasn’t the only person to agonise over the wordplay for ages at 22d assuming it was I in STAR. Ok, I thought so. It’s been a long week!

Foolish mistakes today? Just the one, assuming 13d would be NUMBER TWO and thus fowling up that corner of the grid for far too long.

COD? It’s got to be 9ac hasn’t it? “Avi, a weighty three-quarter, perhaps would be best off with a low one (6,2,7)”

To the 6th January 2014 which wasn’t, as I thought it would have been, a Sunday:

Tees is usually tough and some of this I found exceptionally chewy, not all though there were some that stood out as quite easy on the other hand some went in just because they fitted, the ELF in 19/21? 13ac and 25ac.  9ac was new to me but much like 17dn which I’m fairly sure I’ve come across before was solved from the cryptic once a few crossing letters were in. Throw in a few  anagrams where the fodder was well hidden and we have a fairly stiff but enjoyable puzzle. My only real dislikes were the SIS in 16dn and someone that I’ve long forgotten in 28ac.  Quite a few to choose from for COD, the nice misdirection in 14dn deserves a mention and the anagrams at 6dn and 26ac but even though it includes a compilers name

27ac     Males to bed ace i compiler – why no sex?  (8)

The January 2014 blog with comments from the setter is Here

Back in the day Crosophile used to replace Dac on the last Wednesday of the month, and here he is on a Wednesday again, perhaps necessitated by 27ac? For the most part this was a pretty gentle walk in the park, but I struggled badly at the close on 5d/13ac/14d and 18ac. Regarding 14d I have similar reservations to Andy B in the comments over on the other side – a pretty tricky cryptic definition giving us ABLUTIONS, with an answer then that was less than well known. 13ac I should have spotted sooner – I could see the KO bit, and knew the term in question, but well, there you go. 18ac was vaguely familiar, but it took a trip to Chambers to work out what the definition was getting at.

There’s a theme, and a hidden word across the centre of the grid that I wish I’d spotted as it would have helped massively with the four I struggled on.

Much to appreciate as well, to be fair – 4ac, 15ac and 17d leading the field, with my COD going to the latter – “H is for e.g. Hook? (8)”.

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

The last time Gila graced the pages of the i I fell hook, line and sinker for a particularly cunningly laid trap. Ok, some of that was down to a devil-may-care who needs to bother with those extra letters and the preamble. But the memory is still enough to provoke a shudder. So what’s in store this time? Misprints in some clues spelling out, something; two normal clues, the rest of the answers to be modified before we enter them. Thus shift, then. Oh, something to highlight at the close, and I’ve got some beautiful new highlighter pens waiting for exactly this moment. The excitement mounts. Except it’s been one of those weeks and my energy reserves aren’t what they should be. That happens every Saturday I hear you cry, but, like, really this week. So coffee, lots of it, and get on with it.

First ones in? That would be in the SE corner with a handy anagram at 14d and our first misprint. 27ac’s got to be TERRA which we’re supposed to do something with. All answers are real words. Reverse it? Let’s try that (see, I’ve been doing these for a bit now, and can spot some of those tricks-of-the-trade, well, only a little bit later I should do). Americans often get divorced in RENO conceivably, which we can reverse as well. 6d’s going to be one of the normal clues – FRONT – and as 10ac then evidently isn’t going to be reversible with those checking letters, what about a different back to front, moving the last letter to the start? That works. Is there a BACK anywhere in the grid? Not many candidates to pick from there, and yes there is, at 9ac. So BACK to FRONT, which just about sums up what we’ve been up to so far.

What are those misprints trying to tell us? ?HAT A W?Y…

TO MAKE A LIVIN’? Noting the lack of a ‘G’ at the end, which caused me much agonising over whether I’d got 26d right. And I mean a lot of agonising before it occurred to me to google the lyrics and check if it was my memory rather than my clue solving skills that weren’t up to scratch.

BACK is at 9ac, FRONT at 5d, so Nine To Five. Hurrah. Presumably all we have to do now is find DOLLY PARTON (yes, that’s 11 cells) somewhere in the grid and highlight her name. Well, not so much find her first and last names as look at what letters we’ve got and work out where they might possibly lie. Which means that together with a handy key to the remaining misprints the rest of the grid is a bit of a doddle.

I don’t think I’ve fallen into any traps this time. Really, I don’t, with a few nervous glances at a preamble I’ve probably failed to read properly. Because that’s the kind of thing I’m wont to do.

Wasn’t that good, anyway. For once I think I’ve just about understood everything properly as well. Blimey. Anyone else suspicious we’re being softened up ready for that Playfair Puzzle?

For those who don’t know, although Quixote is widely referred to as The Don it’s Eimi who is the real capo dei capi – in other words the Independent’s crossword editor, and it is he who chooses our daily puzzle in the i. Long ago I had the interesting experience of meeting the gentleman who then held the same position at The Times, and he showed all the signs of being a hard pressed individual. Perhaps the job isn’t the congenial stroll in the park one might suppose. Anyway, Eimi’s appearances as a setter are quite infrequent and that’s a pity, because he has a distinctive and entertaining style.

Highbrow theme and Nina today, if you must. I hardly think the average solver will have had much trouble with 20 and 13ac (incidentally, see Eimi’s comment no. 12 on John’s Fifteensquared blog entry for a horrible and all too plausible alternative scenario), but there are a few oddities lurking, including another lemur. Bit of a sigh about 10ac because of that “wet”, and Turkish cities aren’t really my strong suit. Nor are Civil War generals. No complaints as such about the clues however, and I particularly enjoyed the cheerfully low brow nature of 2d and 27ac. My clue of the day, 25d, provided one of those “oh yes, of course” moments which are among the chief pleasures of the crossword solver:

“Boy one associated with private saving account (4)”

Back to January 2014 for this one.

Raich today, and a thoroughly enjoyable, pretty straightforward start to the week. I did spot the county name across the top of the grid which helped when I inexplicably got stuck on 2d, but didn’t spot the rest of the thematic material, because… Well, cricket really isn’t my game. Well done if you did spot it. 6d was new to me and I needed all the checking letters. LOI 21d where it took me too long to spot that we were looking for a river and a boat rather than a river boat to do something with.

COD? 25ac – “Sidelined boy troublesome to begin with in such a rebellious way (13)”.

To January 2014:

Saturday 5th May 2018

Mostly sound clues, a few very good ones, but also a couple of iffy clues for me – sorry to gripe again!  I didn’t mind ‘addle’ for ‘confused’ – that’s legit, whatever they thought to start with over at Fifteensquared, and I can see that ‘cutting’ for ‘tart’ in 25a is an additional, second definition, but I disliked ‘It’s a blast’ to define ‘Alpenhorn’ in 8ac.  Maybe the intention was to imply ‘It has a blast’, but I still didn’t like it!  Then the wordplay in 22d for butty made me cringe, whilst its definition, ‘partner’, seems very obscure – or is it a mining term that D H Lawrence uses?  It’s been a while…

Anyhow there were lots of clues I did like – Eponym at 10a and Cavern Club at 6d amongst them, but my COD nomination goes to:

15d  Praised in cryptic terms, including male soldiers (9)

And the original blog with all the answers can be accessed by clicking here.