“Oh dear”, I thought, glancing at 1ac. “Hope it gets better”. And it did. Poins isn’t really your go-to guy for wild flights of fancy, but he does provide plenty of variety in his clues and it’s good to see what he can do with a themed puzzle – his first since I’ve been doing Tuesdays.

Our theme today is perhaps a bit nebulous, but there’s a scattering of 6s and a couple of characters from the 26, so it helps if you had the relevant information drummed into you at an early age so you don’t have to look it up in a good book. All the same, the penny took a long time to drop with 23. Lots of decent stuff to enjoy, including a perfectly acceptable Spoonerism – which I think we can all agree is a rare beast. Nothing jumps out in particular, although I did enjoy the tortuousness of 5 and the sneakiness of 19. 11ac is elegantly done with a classy surface, and is my COD:

“A carrier employing Poles and Danes flying tea to Iran (5,5)”

This is an IoS reprint from April 2014, which explains the disappointing number of comments on PeeDee’s Fifteensquared write-up.

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An enjoyable, fairly gentle start to the week from Quixote. The usual mix of fair clues with a sprinkling of unknown terms to add a bit of spice. I didn’t know the answer or the game referenced in 1ac so had to seek help there, which proved to be the only real issue, progress elsewhere being steady if not particularly rapid. There were a couple I couldn’t parse – notably 7d – but in each case it didn’t really make any difference to the outcome. Finish time under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 19d – “Little house with B&B – thing to suit fictional adventurer? (8)”.

To March 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/31/independent-8567-by-quixote/

Saturday 21st July 2018

Everything about the grid seemed to point to there being a theme or a Nina last Saturday, but in the original blog here, Phi informs us there wasn’t.  Oh.

Just a pleasant crossword, solved in short order with friends in the sun in Derbyshire.  Enjoyable indeed, even if the general knowledge crossword is the one that really comes into its own for multiple heads being better than one.

Phi was pretty uncontroversial last weekend too – the estimable John reported nothing with which he is uncomfortable, and I’m inclined to agree with him… Well, almost; in 5d we had ‘friend sporting new’ to indicate BU(N)D, so ‘sporting’ was used as a containment indicator, whereas surely it means wearing, so shouldn’t the clue read ‘new sporting friend’ or at least be hyphenated in the same way as ‘man-eating lion’?  Views welcome, I’m likely to be wrong, as no-one mentioned it in 2014.

Clue of the Day?  The art of misdirection was exemplified by the following:

7d Big grey creature, one with power to move suddenly surrounded by worried mahouts (12)

 

I thought this very tough. Even though it is practically devoid of obscurities in both the answers and clues, the word play employed was nearly headache inducing. It started well enough – the first five across and three downs going straight in, but then it seemed to move up or down (depending on your personal preference) a notch. The linking of 6dn and 16ac was very clever but took a bit of time since 6dn was new to me, as was 22ac which couldn’t have been anything else once a few checkers were in. 26ac caused me a lot of problems – throughout my childhood pumps were never shoes. In fact it is only recently that I have been exposed to this term, so needed all the checking letters and a light bulb moment to get this.

The answer at 10ac can only point to the presence of a 10ac, but I couldn’t see it. Luckily the good folk over on Fifteensquared could. You will also find a bit of discussion mainly about the homophone at 28ac – and no I didn’t like shouting as an indicator either.

As for COD… Well, I did consider 27dn for its hair-loss inducing parsing, but instead:

24dn  Lost a cycling saddle perhaps (2,3)

A bit of a stiff challenge from Anax today where I must admit to seeking a little help, in particular on 16ac and 18ac. The latter it turns out I had vaguely heard of, but the former could have been about any possible combination of the anagram fodder as far as I was concerned. 🙂 There were a few gimmes along the way to be fair, in particular 24ac, 25d and 2d, so it wasn’t as if we were left staring at a blank grid for ages, but for me at least this was a little trickier than I like them on a weekday.

COD? 12ac – “Religious festival in Colon? (8)”.

To March 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/18/independent-8556-anax/

Another enjoyable Wednesday outing, though one I found to be a little chewier than usual for Dac. Perhaps it was the smattering of unfamiliar terms – with 18ac in particular being initially resistant to a Google search. Or maybe the parsing of 1ac which eluded me for an age, or being more familiar with AT… than IN… for 4d. I’d also managed to forget the name of Shakespeare’s shrew, which made solving 16ac a little more interesting than was strictly necessary. 17d I was pleased to get from the wordplay, even if I should have guessed it sooner because of this book and film. Finish time about par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 25ac – “Tale-teller finding teacher in playground at break? (7-6)”.

To May 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/05/07/independent-8599-dac/

Or rather, ‘ou will have according to my paper, there evidently having been a debacle at the printers.

Isn’t that a long preamble? Half the (possibly jumbled) definitions have got an extra letter spelling out an instruction as these things are wont to do. One unclued entry, two “contributors” to be highlighted hint at the theme. And, oh, answers don’t necessarily fill the space available. Such fun. Onward, with the infernal buzzing and rattling and clanking of the fridge freezer in the background. Yes, defrosting the thing after it began to leak water has indeed fixed the leaking water problem, but brought with it a whole world of hurt.

And my head’s not up to that level of hurt on a Saturday afternoon. Thankfully the grid isn’t similarly injurious. Though it did take an unnecessarily long time to get beyond “It’s a pity heroin isn’t one letter longer, otherwise it would have fitted nicely with the wordplay for 1ac” to, oh, that’s one of the ones that doesn’t fill the space available. HERO, you dolt. Something GREENISH isn’t ish anything but most definitely coloured. And GROCK, what a marvellous word. HARK at 43ac appears to be the only other answer too short for the space available. Look, they’re symmetrically placed. Does that mean anything?

The unclued entry? We’re missing but the one letter, which leads to the inevitable conclusion that it’s GUESTHOST. The extra letters? Once I’d got over my assumption that 1d couldn’t possibly be plural – it can, it’s third down the list in Chambers – I discovered to my surprise that I’d got them right first time. AMEND GRID TO BE AFFIRMATIVE. Eh?

Let’s look for those contributors… With a niggling suspicion based on the unclued entry… Yes, there’s MERTON, making his second appearance in a month, and HISLOP, regulars on Have I Got News for You. Even if they’re on the wrong side of the guest host, Kruger!

But how do we make the grid affirmative? There are some suspicious looking YOUs at the top and bottom of the grid. NEWS for YOU? Yep, that works, giving us HERON and SHARK, and lo and behold the other amended answers fit too. Huzzah. All good fun, and not too tricky – so thanks Kruger, that suited me just fine. All of which leaves time enough at last for other things like. Well, a bit of Mortimer and Whitehouse. Well worth a look if you haven’t already.

Bless my symmetrical soul, that was neat, wasn’t it? Full marks to the setter for integrating his theme so tidily, and disposing the elements in regular fashion around the grid. As remarked before, Radian has this themed crossword business down to a T, and it’s good to see that there was plenty of well-earned praise from one and all at Fifteensquared back in April 2014 when the puzzle first appeared. Of course there are a few gripes, none of which occurred to me. There will be those who are pleased to see that there are no intersections between gateway entry and thematic material; conversely others will get in a tizzy about the two instances of 2/5 checking. Me … not bovvered.

I was fully expecting an Anax or a Monk today since a real three pipe problem is overdue, but this is a puzzle one can cruise through in a relaxed manner, enjoying the deft little touches along the way. All very congenial. One grumpy observation: the plural of shiitake is shiitake, something worth checking before passing adverse comment, you’d think. Anyway … lots of apt surfaces today and general cleverness. Stand-outs for me were 4, 17 and 20, and we’re back with the mushrooms for the COD, 8d. Arguably chestnut mushrooms, but it’s still a good ‘un:

“A bit of bacon, egg and mushroom (7)”

An IoS reprint to start the week, and a pretty straightforward one it was too. I think it was only 18d that gave me any problems right at the close, for reasons that elude me now. Lots went in on definition alone, and 21ac I’d argue was a little too clearly flagged, but there you go. Enjoyable while it lasted, and a good Monday puzzle.

COD? Let’s go with 22d – “Partial to unethical veal? Bring forth a baby cow! (5)”.

To May 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/05/11/independent-on-sunday-1263-by-commoner/

Saturday 14th July 2018

Last weekend Phi cranked up the difficulty level a couple of notches.

Whilst the bottom half went in at a steady pace – helped by a few well-signalled anagrams – the top half had a mass of abstruse vocabulary intersecting itself.  New for me were Crab canon, Arch-foe (not in any dictionaries in my house), Neotic, Gie, Otiose, Clift (despite my being a geographer) and Wardress, whilst Ghillie took a bit of dredging up from the memory banks. So I made very slow progress towards the end, with Ghillie and Dress at 10a and 8d being my last ones in.

Having said all that, there was a lot to admire and I was thoroughly enjoying the puzzle right up until those last few which seemed, frankly, unnecessarily hard – almost as if they had drifted in by accident from the world of barred puzzles. Probably ideal, though, for Jon ‘The Inquisitor’ of Wales and for Batarde-of-the-large-vocabulary, although I’ll be surprised if the latter enjoyed 23d: ‘My bad’ – Eesh!

Anyhow, my favourite amongst many goodies on offer was the following:

5d Close agreement overturned – it’s the drink (8)

And if you go to the original 2014 blog (click here) you’ll discover that there’s a Nina which consists of words that have alphabetically consecutive triplets letters – like crAB Cannon, DEFer, GHIllie, caLMNess, aiRSTrip, moNOPlane, coSTUme, and soMNOlent.