Eclogue, the king of comedy. What’s in store today on this hottest of days? Misheard words, a device we don’t come across very often. What have we go to do with them? Take the first letters, make a list, highlight the missing items. Ensconced in a sweltering kitchen… because… do insects really embark on mini-vendettas? Well, this one has, so I’m hiding indoors with the Inquisitor which, for all its vagaries, doesn’t tend to bite.

Getting one in quickly is always encouraging. Odd letters of LaNdAu behind a misheard YEW being ULNA. A naked lady was always likely to be GODIVA, but barring an unlikely past tense of gnaw I can’t see why. Do ROMAN CANDLES make stars? According to the big red book they do. All of which is to say that the grid fill really wasn’t that bad, with a catch which I’ll come to later. Oh, I forgot to mention the two unclued entries. The down one was always going to be CORBETT, meaning the other has to be BARKER. No prizes for guessing that today’s sketch is Four Candles.

So we’re looking for that famously misheard shopping list? Except I haven’t done a very good job of sorting out those first letters. But I have got enough to see that what’s missing are the fork ‘andles. Or should that be four candles? Let’s look at the list and see if they’re the real items, or the misheard ones.

Mmmm, they’re both. That’s not much help. PLUGS, SAWTIPS (and not SORE TIPS), HOES (and not O’s), PEES (instead of PEAS), PUMPS, WASHERS, BILLHOOK – though surely we’re missing the last S? – and not something a lot ruder. Though my version has got a load of question marks, a couple that are obviously wrong, which leaves lots of room for doubt.

In the SW corner there are four CANDLEs in a funny sort of pattern. Forked, I’d say. According to the preamble the missing items should be “highlighted in a contiguous arrangement of the theme”. How much time can you spend agonising about whether you should be highlighting four CANDLES, or fork(ed) ‘ANDLES? Quite a long time, as it turns out. I don’t see why candles should be arranged like that, and how they could be a contiguous arrangement of the theme, but I can see why forked ‘andles might just be. So that’s what I’m going with. Confident, oh yes, completely confident that I might have called it wrong. I’d go so far as to say that if was desperate for that box of Lindt chocolates I’d send in two different copies just to be sure. Anyway, here’s what I think, no matter what the solution says. And how long did it take to decide on that? The weekend and a couple of days longer than that. So thanks, Eclogue, I think. 🙂


A blogger-friendly crossword today, very much on the easy side for a Tuesday but a pleasure to solve all the same. Raich has spelt out the theme for us in a Nina, and I think it would have been fairly hard to miss even without that bonus – says he whose ability to overlook such things is well known. But what about that peculiar bottom row? Turns out it was just a coincidence, according to the setter.

Nothing too adventurous in the way of clue construction today, with a fair few anagrams and a surprising number of hiddens. Everything seems to me entirely fair and above board without so much as a suggestion of a quibble to be raised, and nothing in the way of unfamiliar vocabulary. Raich clearly isn’t in the business of setting boundary stretching mindbenders and plays with the straightest of bats: I think that’s rather admirable, but it does mean that nothing leaps out as an obvious clue of the day. 7d and 10ac were nice, and 19d pleased me too; my COD is 13d:

“Pleasing sound character from Athens reproduced accurately (5)”

For solutions, minimal discussion and another happy blogger, please see John’s April 2014 Fifteensquared write-up.

An enjoyable start to the week as ever from the Don. A little tougher than some of his offerings, I thought, though only marginally so. It is also possible that the office work going on directly behind me may have been somewhat distracting too. Only two unknowns for me today – 22ac, which elicited a “really?”, and the plural for 5d. All were as clearly clued as expected, so no complaints. There are though some murmurings about the former over on the other side, but if that’s what the dictionary says…

COD? If you’re not up on your biblical tribes then you might beg to differ, but I liked 6d – “Old tribe’s housed in Greek city (6)”.

To April 2014:

Saturday 7th July 2018

For once I spotted a Phi Ghost Theme – hoorah!  Last Saturday we had both Laurel and Hardy plus their catchphrase ‘Another Fine Mess’. With that established, a quick look on Wikipedia revealed the following of their films: Scram!, Music Box, Busybodies, and On the Loose – oh and ‘Another Fine Mess’ turns out to have been a film title too. There may be more…

Clues were all pretty solvable – just ‘Blat’ for ‘columnist’s spot’ in 27a provoking a retrospective dictionary search and ‘Bo’ for ‘US guy’ in 17d causing a bit of nose-wrinkling.

I also noticed the average clue length was uncharacteristically long for Phi – personally I quite like that – and generally I found it a pleasant solve.

My COD nomination goes to the following:

4a Lots of money in production of game? (9)

And the 2014 blog with all the answers is here.

A fairly straightforward puzzle with lots going in on the first pass, so there were plenty of checking letters to help with the few unknowns that were left, 9dn and 22ac in particular for me. Like others I spent quite a while trying to make an anagram from Acid and Pile for 28ac where I – like John in his Fifteensquared blog – wondered why “Noteworthy”.  The main discussion though is about 6dn. There is some thought that it is a mass noun which it may be as there is no “S” in the anagram fodder in the paper edition. This omission  is explained by the setter in the comments. Nina spotters will probably have noticed the two words across the top which when added to 18ac provide a bit of a theme which again is explained by the setter in his comments.

There were a few clues that I thought displayed some clever wordplay but the one that held me up the longest was

12ac  Distances at sea represented with line?  (9)


So Monk today, who has a deserved reputation for being one of the tougher setters in the i. I got off to a speedy start in the NW corner, and made good progress elsewhere, and for one moment thought that either Monk had gone soft on us, or that I’d finally got the hang of his puzzles. Not to worry, I swiftly ground to a halt on such oddities as 15d, 21d and 23ac. The poor checking on clues such as 17ac is something I often complain about, but usually for some of the particularly appalling grids out there. And that’s one I got without too much ado, so… 😉 Overall a pretty tough challenge where I thought Monk was often asking rather a lot of us. But it is a Thursday reprint, where such things are often the case.

There’s a Nina which is personal to Monk and explained in the comments over on the other side.

COD? I’ll go with 11ac – “What might involve kippers in two ways (3,3,9)”.

To March 2014:

What’s left to say about Dac? We get the same top notch offering most Wednesdays, and they’re consistently good, and consistently enjoyable. This was perhaps at the easier end of the spectrum, though I did get myself into a little trouble at the close with 17d and 25ac, though not for long admittedly. Why? Because I got hung up on LOPING for “long walk” and thus couldn’t work out the parsing, and while I did know the director (who doesn’t?), I didn’t know his nationality. Well now I do, thanks to Dac. 21d in the same corner may have held up one or two solvers, but for me it was one of those things I knew, though I couldn’t say why. 18d was the only other really obscure answer, but it was very clearly clued, so no problems there.

COD? With much to appreciate, I’ll go with 1ac – “Like obscure town on English shore, abandoned (3-5)”.

To March 2014:

Chalicea, so this is going to be on the easy side, right? After last week’s labours I’m guessing we could all do with a rest. Only ten clues with any sort of gimmick, and that’s an extra word. I can cope with that. And about the grid fill there’s really very little left to say, except that it was duly filled.

Those extra words… According to the preamble take the ones to the left and right, and the initial letters, follow the resulting instruction to fill the unclued squares. I’ve evidently picked the wrong ones because what I’ve got doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. This would be worrying if it wasn’t pretty obvious what’s needed to fill them. Because we evidently have “these dark”, “Jerusalem“, and “satanic mills” across the centre of the grid. Not my favourite hymn. Far from being so, but I’m guessing most of us spotted it straight off?

At this point ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered to try and find all the correct extra words, but duty calls. As they seem to be thematic in the sense of being words from the poem, they’re not too difficult to spot. Land, ancient, hills, etc. And that message? “Complete Blake’s vision“, which is what we’ve done. There you go, nice and easy this week. Top marks to Chalicea for an enjoyable puzzle, and to Nimrod for a bit of well judged scheduling. It did mean the other half was subjected to a couple of hours of avant garde cinema, but I’m sure she’ll forgive Chalicea that.

Morph: that makes a change. It’s his first Tuesday this year and I freely admit that this is one setter I’d rather tackle without a time limit, but as it turned out there was no need to worry since this is a fairly gentle puzzle – and it certainly helps that 4d serves up the theme on a plate, as it were. The only real sticking point was 26ac, which comes in for a good deal of discussion in the comments on Beermagnet’s April 2014 Fifteensquared blog.

Lots to like today, including the two entries related to the theme in the NE and SW corners: a nice touch that. Plaudits for 17, 18 and 28, all elegantly constructed clues; my choice for COD is 12ac, which has been edited and pre-dates by a couple of years the gentleman in question’s remarkable achievements in the terpischorean arts, for which he is now chiefly remembered:

“After dalliance, former shadow minister getting end away was cooperative (6,4)”

Very much looking forward to the fly past later on (see p.13): anybody else lucky enough to be under the flight path?

A gentle, enjoyable start to the week from Raich. Lots to like – the definition at 12ac, the “rider” in 18d, the rhyming slang in 19d, and “I’m obliged” in 23d – just for starters. Yes, I thought this was very good. Only the one unknown at 5d, for me at least, but I doubt if many struggled. All in all a nice way to kick off the working week.

COD? Too many to choose from today, but I did think 11ac was very nicely done so I’ll go with that – “Adult party bringing cause to feel embarrassed (5)”.

To March 2014:

PS Happy birthday to Cornick, our stalwart Saturday blogger. 🙂