What can you say? Dac’s back after a week AWOL and with a puzzle that’s as watertight and enjoyable as ever. I didn’t know the Spanish inn, but fortunately did know the tennis player so no problems there. The Notts town took a bit longer to fall – did I mention that Geography isn’t my strong point? – but thankfully I twigged SWELL for smart pretty sharpish. The only issue remaining was the little woman’s name required at 21d, with thankfully not that many candidates to choose from. Kathryn’s Dad’s prediction back in the day that “MIDDLEMARCH won’t date well, so the editor might have to be careful if he recycles this one in the i in five years’ time” proved to be false in my case, but I’m guessing memories of it won’t be as fresh now, four years later. Yes, it does look like we’re slowly catching up with the Independent…

COD? Lots to like as ever, with an extra tick by 11d – “Goes off with crew aboard a boat (6,7)”.

To March 2014 for all the answers and analysis of the clues:



The British summer being unusually, well, summery, much of Saturday is spent doing vaguely summery things. Which means the Inquisitor has to take a back seat for a while. So it isn’t until quite late, and suitably fortified, that an opportunity presents itself to get to grips with that preamble. 24 grouped letters not indicated by the wordplay which could be a cinch or a right pain, depending. A quick glance through suggests we won’t actually be in too much trouble. 21ac screams hidden word, mixture as the definition, with SALAD minus an A inside a troublesome nasal drop. Sounds nasty. Rewind to 1ac and there’s a nice friendly anagram. A JUNTA would be a group seizing power, of course, so we need J to go with the letters in TAUN(t).

A pretty straightforward grid fill then. A suspiciously straightforward grid fill some might argue, this being the Inquisitor. Let’s see if they’d be right. The letters additional to the wordplay are supposed to help us identify the theme. Except in the order I’ve got them they look pretty random, and there are more than 24 of them. Cue a frantic back and forth through the clues to see what I’ve missed, except that I haven’t.

What if we, as pretty heavily hinted in the preamble, look at the groups the letters are in? I’m not going to bugger up that grid by shading any bits of it, and it’s a pain typing a letter per cell in Excel, so a handy demo version of Crossword Compiler to the rescue, and… Well, I don’t know about you but I was a pretty big fan of Blake’s 7 back in the day, from its beginnings through to that pretty grim finale. The names of the first crew are hidden in the grid – AVON, CALLY, GAN (poor Gan…), JENNA (who didn’t have a thing for Jenna back in the day?), VILA (no, I didn’t know his name was spelt like that), and the computer ZEN.

We’ve got to reveal a craft at the close, which must be the LIBERATOR, meaning LITERATOR is going to have to change, the T to B with BLAKE the “aptly located” replacement for 7d. And I think that means that we’re done?

Well, that was good, wasn’t it? An engaging solve, and a bit of classic Sci-Fi with a pretty classic theme too. Enjoy.

Another one from Radian’s seemingly inexhaustible stockpile of Tuesday-worthy puzzles … but before we get started may I put on record my utter loathing for that vile travesty of a word at 1ac? Thank you. Anybody using it in a non-academic context deserves a custard pie from the Plain English Campaign if you ask me, unless they’re compiling a crossword. Harrumph.

Today’s theme is overt, although some of the examples probably won’t be at the top of anybody’s list of likely candidates. Solving was fairly easy going to start with, but slowed right down in the SE corner – an experience echoed by RatkojaRiku in his March 2014 Fifteensquared blog post. 19 and 27ac both held out for longer than they ought, and earned appreciative ticks when the light dawned. No complaints and plenty to applaud, in particular 5, 7, 8 and 17. Which brings me on to the COD, which is not just neat, it’s also an elephant trap for the unwary and I hope I wasn’t the only one who fell in. Imagine my consternation upon reading 20d … you’d think I’d be wary by now. Take a bow, 24ac:

“Eastern city took off with inflow of local currency (5)”

In which the Don shows that he too can set puzzles at the harder end of the spectrum. He usually saves these for other outlets, and usually under different pseudonyms, but today we have one that I’m guessing will have taken most solvers longer than they’d anticipated. 5d, 17ac and 13ac will be unknown to most, I would have thought, and elsewhere we have wordplay that is a little tricky, in particular 26ac. 12ac provoked a – where? – and a quick consultation with Google, and at least five other answers led to a visit to the big red book. Last in the SE corner, with 19d also causing issues, and 1d the other side of the grid.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 26ac – “French person with nothing on – not a fashionable style! (6)”.

To February 2014:


Saturday 9th  June 2018

Bit trickier last weekend. Not to start with perhaps – 1a and 1d were pretty obvious – but a few archaisms here and there made it difficult to be sure if those answers were correct – I’m thinking of Pomfret, Redound, and Under the Rose.

Quite a few ticks here & there too though, as usual, with my favourite being the Russian doll style 6d:

One insisting church invests  in apiary, and then in fruit and dairy produce (9,6)

Which ends rather a brief blog really, considering I’ve had all week to come up with something interesting to say!

And for the 2014 blog click here.

Our third IOS reprint of the week and like the other two quite straightforward, although I did struggle a little to get going. The wording of 1ac seemed to me to indicate an anagram but I couldn’t find it and it was only after changing tack and solving the down clues that the answer became apparent. Annoyingly the “term” in question is something I am well aware of as it is frequently used in puzzles but just didn’t ring any bells this morning. The rest of the of the grid was soon completed with only 14dn requiring confirmation, although 7dn and 25ac went in on definition alone. 4dn was a bit convoluted – “app” for software seeming to appear in every other puzzle recently, and I wonder if “hen” for woman might be a bit offensive in today’s P.C. climate.

Whilst this is a reasonably enjoyable solve nothing really stands out as exceptional but as is traditional, COD – 11dn   “A creature having right to move north before start of year in country (10)”.

All the solutions and explanations can be found on Fifteensquared



Something a little meatier to get our teeth into today, and a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle it was too. Progress could best be described as non-existent to start – any optimism on solving 6ac was swiftly dispelled when my next answer in was 26ac. Thankfully, however, the downs were a little more forgiving of my solving abilities and, with a few answers in, the rest fairly flew by with the SE corner in particular for the most part going in on checking letters and / or definition alone. A bit of a tussle with 20ac at the close dragged things out a little, but my finishing time was well under par for the i, more akin to a Wednesday than a Thursday reprint. The only question remaining was why Shona is African, but Duncan’s explained that ably as expected over on the other side.

COD? Lots and lots of ticks by the clues today, with 25ac I thought very nicely done – “Counter-revolutionary avoids opening in Leicester Square (4)”.

To January 2014:


Wot no Dac? Instead we have our second IoS reprint of the week, and another fairly straightforward puzzle. I had to give some careful thought about how to spell 24ac, and raised the proverbial eyebrow on solving 1d, but there’s little to discuss elsewhere, this being a good, enjoyable, pretty solid offering. Lots went in on definition alone, lots just on seeing checking letters. A good one I’d suggest for beginners or anyone wanting to find out what this cryptic lark’s all about.

COD? Not a great deal leapt out as is common for IoS reprints, but I’ll go with 9d – “Outlaw grabbing weapon – he might be responsible for you getting shot (6)”.

To February 2014:


How Schadenfreude and Nimrod probably hoped solvers would approach today’s puzzle:

  1. Pick their way through all the lovingly crafted clues, gradually uncovering the nine answers lacking a common definition.
  2. The moment of recognition when it became clue what they were.
  3. Or, failing that, when the jumble of letters in the unclued entries eventually made sense.
  4. The tying up of loose ends, working some arithmetical magic on the clues with the surplus words.
  5. The highlighting of (3,5) using knight’s move at the close.

And this is how I approached it:

  1. Get lots of coffee in. Copious, unreasonable amounts of the stuff, because it is Saturday and I’m not feeling my best.
  2. Struggle badly with the clues, because, well that’s what I do with Schadenfreude. Though to be fair clues like 12ac are pretty straightforward because Porter’s got to be COLE and the other’s often IT in a crossword though never in the real world these days. CITOLE which is a stringed instrument and might be “tuned” but we don’t need that for the definition. 10d our first without a definition – NEVER SAY DIE which sounds a bit like a Bond film but isn’t. Still struggling, by the way. Until the second one with a common definition falls. Good old SIR IVOR.
  3. I wonder what Google makes of those two? Well, it turns out they’re both Derby winners, and both Derby winners ridden by Lester Piggott for good measure who’s probably sadly better known by punters nowadays for his dodgy tax affairs than his riding prowess. I wonder how many Derby winners he rode? Quelle surprise, nine in all, so that’s what the common definition answers are all about. I’m guessing the three jumbled entries will read Lester Keith Piggott. So let’s go looking for likely candidates in the grid, for wordplay that fits, and then chuck them in. At which point the rest becomes a bit of a doddle, what with all those checking letters. Even the jumbled entries, oh yes.
  4. Knight’s move is easy enough, famous last words. Highlight the relevant entries in a lovely shade of green, lob in that last Y in the middle.
  5. A nagging feeling of doubt. Is that really it, or have I missed something again? Let’s do some arithmetic on the extra words and corresponding answers, with a bit of jiggery-pokery where it becomes clear I’ve plumped for the odd wrong extraneous word. And lo, the corresponding trainers:


That’s good then? I think so, even though I feel a bit guilty for not having solved it “properly”. Only a bit, mind. 😉

Scorpion doesn’t tend to go in for stealth when embedding a theme, so with all those references to 18ac and a gateway clue which left the gate wide open it’s pretty obvious what’s going on from the outset. There are ten thematic entries, and the trouble with this approach is that a fair portion of the crossword does itself more or less automatically. A shame really, since some of those clues are rather nice, for example 5 and 28ac.

Very little to complain about today, although I didn’t care for the definition part of 14ac (no issue with the wordplay). Quite a few superior clues to enjoy as one would expect, of which 11 and 17 particularly appealed to me. They are pipped at the post by 18d, which is my Clue of the Day:

“Two types of tea available, when fellow moves inside this hovel? (7)”

An excellent write-up by Duncanshiell with all the solutions and parsing is available at Fifteensquared; the crossword first appeared in March 2014.