A reprint of a Saturday prize puzzle and on the tougher side I thought. Not that there were any obscurities or definitions that required checking in the big red book, just a setter with a gift for devious misdirection and wordplay, anagrams with well concealed anagrinds and others like 9ac where the redundant “movie” had me looking for an anagram. I started slowly with only 5ac and 26ac going in but the down clues proved more productive and speeded things up slightly until most were solved, although quite a few not fully parsed. Which is where we turn to Fifteensquared where Bertandjoyce do an admirable job of explaining it all. My LOI’s in were 28ac, another that the wordplay had me convinced it was an anagram, and the clever 24dn. No real complaints with any of this puzzle although the A = acting in 2dn got a slight tut, but that was overwhelmed by all the ticks. While 4dn and 11ac deserve mention, COD is 22ac:

In sports, nobody has a beard? Be carefull what you say! (5,4,4)

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There’s always a danger on a Thursday of finding oneself staring at an empty grid wondering what on earth is going on, but happily for your substitute blogger ’twas not to be this time. In fact, this puzzle could be swapped with Quixote’s last restoring the natural order of things, namely that Monday is supposed to be the easy one. Alchemi’s crossword is lively and good fun, but won’t cause a great deal of head scratching if my experience is anything to go by.

Marginalia: a “hah!” (28ac), a “hmm” (8d) and a “who?” (15d) – the only Ms Reid who came readily to mind being Beryl. The correct one is in my opinion desperately obscure (with apologies), but there’s a reason since the original clue referred to the late Ms Palmer-Tomkinson, and presumably was amended on grounds of good taste. Okay … but the revised version isn’t particular fair to those of us who would generally prefer a nice Ingmar Bergman to a “teen sex comedy”. Harrumph. I also have a couple of ticks, for the rather off-colour 11ac and 25ac. In the interests of not lowering the tone in Jon’s absence I’ll go for the latter as COD:

“Draws on English parliamentarian’s evidence of drinking bouts? (7)”

For all the answers and some good natured discussion, here’s the June 2014 Fifteensquared blog entry. Turns out that this was indeed originally published on a Monday.

An enjoyable offering from Dac following last week’s unauthorised absence that I found to be pretty much on the easy side. Handily so because today is turning out to be one where:

  1. I’m struggling to stay awake.
  2. I’m extremely busy and short of time.

The two might not be unconnected.

Both 9ac and 10d were new to me, but as always with Dac the wordplay was quite clear leaving little doubt as to the outcome. 15ac I couldn’t parse, but as we’ve been watching re-runs of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire lately his was the first name to spring to mind. Elsewhere was pretty much plain sailing with lots of ticks by the clues – 19d and 21d in particular standing out. COD though goes to 13ac – “Brief announcement amid rail chaos in train station (5,5)”.

To May 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/05/21/independent-8611-dac/

Back to normality. Back to your own bed, one that is neither too soft or too hard. The first week falling into the former category, the latter… Well… It said memory foam, but I’m guessing the resemblance to concrete is a probable indication of a substantially long memory. You won’t be throwing yourself on that mattress in a hurry. Last but not least in terms of home comforts – a shower that’s a little more substantial than a vague dribble of water. With the result that after one last heroic drive today is a rare Sunday solve following an overly long sleep and lots of coffee. The second appearance by The Ace of Hearts, that most enigmatic of setters, and a lovely long preamble. Seven normal clues entered thematically, other clues, well, one letter ignored in wordplay and grid entry, put them together to get… A phrase and “two-part definition” that explain how to enter the normal answers. And breathe.

First one solved? Those would be the items of currency referred to in the first two acrosses. Handily they’re both normal clues so I’ve got no idea what to do with them. Figures. Onward to 11ac. Donald can only mean Trump – timeless, with an S – bang, our first grid entry. But the extra letter? A sCrump can be a midget apparently. 12ac? hYGIENIC. A fair bit of the grid solved reveals that… The normal clues aren’t particularly scrambled, or backwards or anything like that, so let’s go with the ones we’re fairly confident about.

The phrase? That was always going to be CHEW THE CUD. Is there an anagram of THECUD that might help? Well, no. A more astute or less tired solver would have spotted that the normal answers, for example let’s say ESCUDOS and SCUDI – have something in common that ignoring the “the” in the phrase would have helped with. But I didn’t. Nope. Not until right at the close, having deduced that we had to do something with the CUD bits, but not why until the very bitter end – with the Nicene Creed – when I was feeling quietly pleased that I had a complete grid, a phrase, and the definitions – TO MEDITATE and TO REFLECT. Quietly pleased until I spotted what the chewing CUD thing had been getting at all along, kicked myself for being quite so dim, and promptly congratulated the setter on a thoroughly good offering.

Outstanding questions. Will I have woken up next week? Aren’t you supposed to feel rested following a holiday? Where did I put my brain? All this and more to come.

I think we have a strong contender for stinker of the year today. In addition to Chambers, Brewer’s Phrase and Fable and the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology or an equivalent will come in handy, unless you have the advantage of a Classical education or an eidetic memory. There’s a theme and a Nina: it’s all terribly clever but if you’re the man on the Clapham omnibus or a blogger trying to get copy out before lunchtime you’re going to feel sore beset.

The puzzle first appeared in the Indy in May 2014 under the byline of one Hephaestos, but in fact it’s the work of the setter usually known as Tees. There’s far too much going on to discuss properly here, so thank goodness for Duncan Shiell at Fifteensquared who made a superb job of dissecting and analysing this beast of a crossword. There are fine clues galore throughout, my favourites including 4, 20, 22ac and 25. My COD perhaps isn’t the best but it’s the key to everything and it is rather aptly worded:

17/19/8: “Battle lines – as our grid asserts – where old chief halts and heel is shot (3,6,2,8)”

Another Bank Holiday Monday, wet and cold as per, and Quixote with a larger proportion of unfamiliar answers than average. An obscure sex educator, a musical instrument I suspect most were unfamiliar with, not to mention that piece of equipment and, oh, a chemical that didn’t merit a mention in my dim and distant O Level Chemistry studies just for starters… To be fair it was only with the chemical and gem that I felt the need to reach for the dictionary, elsewhere trusting to the wordplay and a note to check Fifteensquared. Never a comfortable solve, but always fair and interesting, I did wonder more than once if I should have waited until I’d woken up properly.

COD? I’ll go with 14ac – “Tactful individual becoming twisted finally (8)”.

To May 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/05/05/independent-8597quixote/

Saturday 18th August 2018

As a pretty reliable rule of thumb, if there are multiple long entries (5 in this instance) then there is unlikely to also be a Nina or theme – even if it is Phi setting the puzzle – so I didn’t go looking for any hidden shenanigans last weekend, and indeed there weren’t any.

Nevertheless, our regular Saturday setter was on top form – in my margin I had one Ha! (19a), one Ho! (1a), two double ticks and a generous sprinkling of singles.  One of those double tickers was the T Hanks idea at 10a, but having just learned in the Fifteensquared blog that it had already been done elsewhere (well, frankly we can all be pretty sure that Tom did something similar himself when he was a schoolboy), I’d like to award the COD to this commendably succinct anagrammatical &Lit:

5d Dandy vilenesses, possibly (5,6,5)

Sprouthater’s unable to blog today, so you’ll have to put up with another post from me. Well, you did get a fortnight off…

We end the working week with another IoS reprint, this time from Hypnos, though one that was perhaps a little chewy in places. Did you know the Indian city, or the agreement referenced in 8d? No, me neither. In the NE corner in particular this caused no end of difficulty as I didn’t know either the bank or the quiz show referenced in 6d, couldn’t conjure up the name of the composer, and was unable to justify 8d from the wordplay, so stared at that bit of the grid for a very long time before it eventually fell. I was also of the opinion that O for appeal was a little odd, and one I’m not sure I really understand, even if the answer is blatantly obvious. Elsewhere progress was fairly quick, if erratic, interrupted by two delivery drivers, and two uncalled for crises. This may not have helped my state of mind. Despite this I did enjoy the puzzle, but could perhaps have done without the obscurities.

COD? Not a great deal leaps out, TBH, but I’ll go with 14d – “Perhaps Venetian fruit is found in social engagement (5,4)”.

To March 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/09/independent-on-sunday-1254hypnos/

Well, wasn’t that good? I invariably enjoy Morph’s puzzles but thought that today’s offering was quite outstanding, with ticks by many of the clues. It turns out this is a Thursday reprint, and one or two of the constructions, especially some of the longer answers, were quite complex, but overall I found this to be extremely accessible and a pleasure to solve throughout. Apart from today’s COD nomination I particularly liked 24/25, 22ac, 14ac, 23ac and 15d. Yes, it was that sort of puzzle. One or two I couldn’t parse – notably 12ac, like many back in the day, but also 7d where I mistakingly thought a GIBBET might pass for a large stake (I know…), and 3d where my German wasn’t up to scratch.

So the COD nomination, a difficult pick with so many to choose from, but I’ll go with 5d – “A strain struggling to separate university officials – they’re off-putting types (15)”.

To February 2014 for more praise and analysis of all the clues, together with any answers should you need them:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/02/27/independent-8540-morph/

Good luck, by the way, to anybody picking up GCSE results today, or parents for whom the wait can be equally agonising.

Dac seems to have gone AWOL this week, so in his place an IoS reprint from Commoner. On the straightforward side as expected, the only clue to really cause issues was 4ac due to a long standing blind spot regarding the other character that can go in front of an H, and a little uncertainty about whether I’d actually got 6d right. Elsewhere 11ac went in on definition and enumeration alone, as did 21ac with a shrug, unsure really if there was more than a cryptic definition at work in the wordplay. All in all a fairly good substitute for our regular Wednesday fare, albeit one that won’t have held up seasoned solvers for too long.

COD? 25ac was the standout for me – “Book/musical’s principal characters swap places (4)”.

To June 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/06/08/independent-on-sunday-1267-by-commoner/