Saturday 23rd June 2018

Duncan Shiell has written a very comprehensive blog for this puzzle (click here) to which I have little to add, really. Slightly surprised that he couldn’t quite see the parsing for 17a Apron Stage (Gaufrid has it right in the comments), and mighty impressed that he could parse 19a. The solution had to be Pang based on the definition, but the wordplay defeated me until JonofWales put me out of my misery by telling me on Facebook. Thanks Jon.

No Nina, plenty of deletions in the wordplay, a few obscurities for the answers – Godel’s Theorem, Netsuke and Revolving Credit – so nothing much out of the ordinary for Phi then. I made a note in my margin about ‘extroverted’ being used as an anagram indicator in 1a, coming as it did a day after we’d had ‘canned’ used by Anax. They keep you on your toes these setters.

No outstanding candidates for COD really, so I’ll plump for this one:

20d Very into paramour after couple beginning alienation (3,4)


An IOS reprint – they’re usually pretty straightforward, aren’t they? Well, not if set by eXternal who sprinkles his puzzle with some little known words and uses wordplay that is the direct opposite to 13ac.  1ac set the tone – I had all the components for the answer – a cur is a wretched dog and act is to do, but I couldn’t find the Poet. That one got a tick when realisation dawned, though I can’t say the same for 1dn. Easy enough to solve if you know the answer because of the Australian part, but the northern town part was too obscure I thought. And so it went on with entries made with only partial understanding. 12ac was only solved when I entered “iron” backwards because I already had the “n” from 5dn, and dictionary checks were needed for the weird part of 15ac and 22dn. Eventually it was all complete but not all correct as my LOI was 26ac and in my haste I filled in the obvious hammer. Oh well… By and large a good challenge with quite a few ticks, 16dn among them but I hate myself for knowing immediately what TV duo referred to☺

COD? 10ac – “Extinct at last my nemesis woolly mammoth (7)”

All the correct solutions and parsing can be found here: Fifteensquared

So, our second Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint of the week, though one that was a lot more accessible than Tuesday’s offering. In fact, was I the only person to wonder if this might be an IoS reprint? Ok, we have the slightly odd answer at 18ac that I did manage to get right, despite reservations. Did it prompt me to wonder if there might be a theme? Or that other non-word at 6d? Well, no it didn’t. Apparently there are various references to the film of 19d which to be fair I haven’t seen, it never really having appealed to me. Don’t know why, I tend to like all things sci-fi. That I could finish without knowing anything about the film meant this was the kind of themed puzzle I like – the theme being an added extra rather than a necessary pre-condition to solving. Anything to grumble about? Only 24d I guess, which elicited a substantial groan. I did have a question mark by the definition of 11ac, but it turns out it was my ignorance of things ornithological that was at fault.

Inventive, interesting clues throughout, this was always going to be a leading contender for the Saturday slot. COD? I’ll go with 21ac, which is very nicely done – “In love, male takes unnamed female out (4)”.

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

Mid-week rolls round, and Dac with another enjoyable offering. I started off at a fair old lick in the NW corner, and for a while it looked like that rate might be maintained throughout, but I swiftly ground to a halt to the SE. I was struggling to parse both 19d and 26ac, which may not have helped, and didn’t know 18d, but the more likely explanation is that the fire alarm tests that kicked off about the time I reached that corner of the grid are probably to blame. Finish time still well under par for the i.

COD? Lots to like as ever, with 11ac particularly nicely done – “With which wives punished husbands moving drunkenly on legs? (7,4)”.

To March 2014:

This week a veritable feast of Phi. A light rain is falling, so does this mean plenty of quality solving time? No, it means I’m out waiting in the car while “secret” Father’s Day shopping continues. Thank the gods for the Inquisitor. First thoughts? One of two things are true:

  1. I’ve become somewhat expert at Phi’s puzzles having solved at least one a week now for countless years;
  2. Or, more likely, this is on the easy side.

First glance at the grid reveals a simple hidden word at 28ac, a nice anagram three clues above that, an amusingly named bird at 1ac, and a Welsh town that’s a stone’s throw away down in the SW corner. What, I hear you cry, about the unclued entries, and the two where the wordplay gives only an abbreviated version of the definition? The former I can do little about, but the latter, well…

There are only so many dictionary entries for creeping disease that start in S and end in O, so SERPIGO, though it takes a while to spot that the wordplay must give roSEROse.

The second is obviously “transferring”, isn’t it? The wordplay’s easy here, giving TRANSG. So the missing components are PIG and FERRIN? We’ve got pig iron and ferrin is close to “ferric” but unfortunately isn’t a real word so I’m guessing that’s a dead end. “Transporting”? That isn’t going to help either. An impossibly long time later… TRANS(LATIN)G, a vaguely familiar definition admittedly, which gives us “Pig Latin”.

Let’s look at the Wikipedia entry to work out what we should be doing to the unclued entries. “For words that begin with consonant sounds, all letters before the initial vowel are placed at the end of the word sequence. Then, ‘ay’ is added…” Unfortunately trying to move all the consonants before the first vowel of anything we’ve got just produces… More gobbledegook. So no. Google’s definition says we’ve got to “transfer the initial consonant or consonant cluster of each word to the end of the word and add a vocalic syllable”. So let’s just move the first consonant from each unclued entry to the end, add AY, and see if anything emerges. Ah, Northern Lights indeed, they’re all islands up Orkney way. Stronsay, Rousay, Westray, etc. I would claim I’m familiar with them all, but that would be a lie, I’m not familiar with any of them. Thankfully Google is.

So a full grid, job done, in a pretty decent time too even I did make hard work of that end game, and without recourse to unreasonable amounts of coffee. And wasn’t it good? Time for a sneaky DVD and perhaps a drink or two.

Right, let’s have a look at this then. 1ac … well, that’s straightforward enough, isn’t it? Make the most of it, I say, because there’s a deal of unpicking to be done to resolve the rest of the crossword. A spot of knowledge of Greek mythology, Indian politics and – ahem – Albanian bread will be required, amongst other things; some school history complete with dates is involved too.

This puzzle is certainly tougher than the Tuesday average (it was originally a Saturday prize crossword in March 2014), and it’s also about as brilliant as anything we’ve seen in a fair while. There’s a little theme linked to a short series of clues involving cardinals, a sprinkling of related material in entries and wordplay, and as if that wasn’t generous enough it’s a pangram too. A resounding “bravo” for all that, Tees. There was some interesting chatter at Fifteensquared, so I’ll leave discussion of the various standout clues to them and cut straight to the COD. For the sake of sheer devilry, it’s 4d:

“King leaves Queen without clue to find Albanian bread (6)”

I’m expecting some flak for picking that one, but it’s fair, clever, and a lot easier if you’re looking for a pangram!

So the start of another working week and, as expected, an IoS reprint to kick things off. I found this to be a 12ac of two halves – the NE and SW corners flying by in no time at all, but the rest took a little more thought. A cunningly concealed definition at 26d combined with a usage for “drab” I wasn’t expecting at 18d caused me difficulty in the bottom right. Over the other side of the grid it was the lesser-used synonym for mother that gave me a bit of a headache. Oh, and my certainty that 2d began with RE. Once I’d resolved those two, well, it was game over. I suspect 21ac may have caused some solvers difficulties, but thankfully the poet’s name sprang to mind with ease, unusually so for this end of the week. Overall time round about par for the i, so on the difficult side for a Sunday reprint.

And that was really quite good for a Monday puzzle, wasn’t it? Well disguised definitions, some nice wordplay to get your teeth into, a few synonyms that weren’t obvious at first glance. All in all well done, especially compared to some IoS reprints that can sometimes be, yes, a little bit drab.

COD? It took me ages to spot the definition, and is rather well done, so I’ll go with 26d – “Part of answer found after time’s up (4)”.

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

Needless to say I’m pleased as Punch with the mention the blog gets on page 46 of today’s i Weekend. Thanks to John Henderson for the write-up, and to Cornick, Batarde and Sprouthater for all their work. Without them the blog would have ground to a halt long ago, and would be sadly lacking posts which I suspect are far more interesting and erudite than my own efforts. Now to today’s Inquisitor…


Saturday 16th June 2018

In which I thought the clues had more than the usual brightness and sparkle about them.  So was that just me, influenced by the quirky grid perhaps?  Or maybe Phi himself, having boldly used reflective rather than rotational symmetry, felt peculiarly invigorated?  Well whatever the reason, the clues seemed to me to have a very welcome freshness, and I enjoyed myself.  More than half the clues received ticks in the margin, and my only slight grumbles were at the end with Eblis and Moue, although both were plain enough from the wordplay, thankfully.

My COD nomination goes to the following:

3d South American city, as far as we’re concerned, is wildly colourful (7)

And the 2014 blog is here.

Ah, it seems I need an update.  It turns out there’s a hidden Nina themed around St Valentine’s Day, when the puzzle first appeared.  Duncan, the original blogger didn’t spot it, but writes: ‘Well it didn’t take long before the experienced Nina spotters came along’. To be clear, those two who ‘spotted’ it were Phi himself and Gaufrid, who test solves the puzzles on behalf of the Independent’s editor; so I think we’ll call this another one that Phi has done for his own amusement.


A very tough Thursday reprint that I didn’t finish unaided, and in a couple of instances checked my answers on Fifteensquared before entering because I couldn’t really see how they worked. 1ac being one of those –  I had the Bud+Ape, but the st? Turns out Anax made “Apest” up… While this was the only instance of made up words, there were plenty of other oddities both in the clues and the solutions, with 10ac and 15dn being particularly obscure but perfectly fair. If only I’d had a few more hours to ponder them… I didn’t know the alternative name for a chaffinch and the Spoonerism certainly didn’t help. Fortunately Anax has included a few less convoluted clues and half a dozen long anagrams to give us something to work with. I’m of the opinion that this would have been better scheduled in the Saturday paper when we could have given it more time.

COD? 19dn –  “Mole’s genitals say (6)”