Saturday 22nd September 2018

In which there was a ‘YUM’ hidden in the unchecked squares (unches) on each of the four sides and ‘Reluctant Cannibal’ hidden at 11a/ 18d.  Mean anything to you?  Well the latter is the title of this song by Flanders and Swann from 1956, which includes the line “a chorus of yums ran around the table”. Ho!

In fact F & S’s career overlapped with The Beatles and The Stones, but to me they seem to come from another age somehow – even if I do remember ‘I’m a G-nu’ from my childhood and I dare say we all know their song, ‘Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud’. Anyhow, Phi is clearly a fan.

As often happens when there’s a Nina, the difficulty was upped a few notches; I failed to parse 18a, didn’t know ‘bam’ was a hoax in 23a, didn’t know a maul was a hammer in 4d,  and in 10a we can all be forgiven for not seeing how ‘Stock’ defined ‘Grim’ – apparently it was a typo for ‘Stark’.  Why does that only ever happen with Phi?

For my COD, it’s got to be the following which had me trying to do something with Land’s End for longer than I care to admit:

6d. Western point of Cornwall not initially very good (6)

Click here to see the original blog by the 23a John.




The end of the working week and we get what I found to be a real tough nut with this Thursday reprint from Klingsor. I made a hesitant start at 10ac – I’ve being doing these things for long enough to know Ton = Fashion, but couldn’t see It’s=Sex😴. Next in was 18ac – how I knew that magazine is a mystery. The down clues proved more fruitful with the first four going straight in although I did have to check Genoa in a dictionary. This burst soon came to halt in the NE corner – an unknown Indian meal and an obscure vehicle with a ghastly football related clue through the middle held me up for ages,  although not as long as my LOI, 20dn. Lots of ticks along the way – I particularly liked 4 and 16dn and 13 and 25ac, but COD because I like the surface is

1dn     I’m in Spain, broke quietly going ape (6)

All the solutions and parsing can be found in the excellent blog by Bertandjoyce   on Fifteensquared

Another puzzle that I found to be a little on the tricky side, especially in the NE corner where I spent an absolute age. Are they just harder this week, or have I completely lost my touch? I’d guessed the fuel supplier but couldn’t justify it, struggled to think of the diarist required for the wordplay of 10ac (and as previously mentioned geography never has been my strong point), and, well, birds. No complaints, though, because eXternal is always good value for money, with lots of good, inventive clues, the aforementioned 7ac and 24d leading the pack. We have an update at 25ac, as you’d probably already guessed. First in a slightly panicky somewhere down the bottom of the grid, last in 15ac, finish time well above par for the i.

COD? 2d – “Interrupted twice by posh character, one who despises arrogance (7)”.

To a distant Thursday in 2014:

i Cryptic Crossword 2382 Punk

September 26, 2018

So a slighter tougher challenge than we’re used to on a Wednesday, but one that was consistently entertaining, it being Punk. Getting 1ac at a first glance and then making fairly good progress in that corner of the grid raised hopes of a swiftish solve, but the RHS in particular took a fair bit of unpicking. Perhaps trying to solve with half an ear on a work call wasn’t the best approach. I didn’t know 4ac and needed a fair few checking letters to get her name – only one safe was ever going to fit, but there are a lot of gods to pick from. The parsing of several others – notably 17ac – eluded me, but no doubt that was down to lack of concentration. Or in the case of 19ac a steadfast refusal to acknowledge that it’s almost that time of year again. Finish time then above par for the i, but maybe not what I’d expect for Punk.

COD? For me it’s got to be the quite remarkably well hidden 24/8 – “Attacking force stopping tearaway Nero, one yielding (5,6)”.

To July 2014:

The prize for blind-blowing preamble of the year goes to Phi. Moon phases, apparently. Now, I can’t say I know a great deal about the things, but we seem to be missing the second quarter. Perhaps that’s right, I don’t know. The wordplay? We need to lift and shift large chunks of the resulting letters. The numbered clues? Something to do with the remaining phase.

Which sort of makes sense through the mind-fog that is Saturday afternoon and indeed most of the rest of the weekend. What’s the point of a soft drink and early night if you’re still going to feel like death the next day? But onward, and how to go about solving the thing? Well, a few of the “normal” clues make sense. So BAALITE, for example. But I’ve got absolutely no idea how to go about solving the rest. Especially the ones in quarters. Definition. Tick. Wordplay. Well, we haven’t really, have we? So what to do? OK… “letters and figures” in the full group is surely ALPHANUMERIC? And I can sort of see a couple of bits of wordplay that might relate to the answer. The rest, obviously, isn’t supposed to. But it’s got to fill one whole column or row of the grid, and we’ve got CUE at 29ac… In it goes.

So… Yes, that’s how I did it, the whole shebang. Find a likely looking definition, a bit of wordplay, trawl through the dictionary, and basically not bother with any of that stuff in the preamble. Which is pretty unsatisfactory, I’ll grant you, and I’d lay money on there being some pretty major howlers in that finished grid, but… Basically, I didn’t really know how else to go about filling it. Sure, we’ve got to shift letters in the wordplay from one clue to another, and I’m guessing there’s a lot of clever stuff in there. But it’s asking a lot and, for me, it was asking a bit too much. So I took a steam roller to the thing. Oh well, you can’t win them all…

So apologies to Phi and our editor for the shabby way in which I treated this week’s offering. Next week’s a new setter according to Nimrod who seems to be in the middle of a protracted pub crawl judging from his tweets. Let’s hope we can do them both justice. Here’s more shift work from The Fall.

Another day, another crossword with complications, but this time it’s set by one of the masters of jiggery pokery which makes all the difference. No Nina today (despite the grid – which incidentally integrates the four quarters unlike yesterday’s), but there’s a rather familiar theme. Anax did something similar in March, I think.

Off to a slow start, and it wasn’t until halfway through that the light dawned about 24d. Not much of a gateway, that, but by then the location had become obvious. It’s a pity about 23ac, a perfectly good clue, but the solution was not confirmed by Chambers and needed checking online. Otherwise no obscurities, unless you’re a particularly unadventurous diner. Lots to enjoy of course and plenty of clue of the day candidates – but nothing stood out as a decisive winner. Thumbs up for 3, 5, 17 and 25 then, and the prize goes to 21ac:

“Beatle repeated the old drumming, initially out of touch (6-4)”

Good blog from Bert and Joyce plus mixed reviews in the comments over at Fifteensquared back in June 2014.

It’s Monday, and not Quixote, so an IoS reprint? It’s Kairos so possibly, but… No, it’s actually a Monday reprint, and a particularly difficult one at that. I can’t remember the last time I gave up on an i cryptic, but give up I did today having lost the will to live about halfway through. My old bugbear – the Nina that “necessitates” difficulty in the grid, which was about as unfriendly as they get – and obscurities throughout exemplified by SC for self-contained in 7d – got the better of me, and I turned to the Fifteensquared blog for elucidation. Am I just being particular grumpy because it’s a Monday? Have my solving skills temporarily deserted me? Or was this really just a particularly impenetrable and badly judged offering? For me at least, I can only say that this really wasn’t for me. But over to you…

COD? Slim pickings here as you might have guessed from the above, but I’ll go with 15d – “One may contribute coyly to a four-letter word (8)”.

To July 2014:

Saturday 15th September 2018

Four long entries in the grid, four long anagrams in the clues.  Which is a good way to kick-start a puzzle if you’re solving or, for that matter, if you’re compiling.  Mind you, there’s always the danger of ending up with a word like ‘sawdusty’ in one of the corners – hmm.

I always admire Phi for his prolific output, but with that comes an almost inevitable ‘workaday’ feel to some of his puzzles, which is how this felt to me.  Reasonably straightforward by the standards of the i, which will have made it popular with many, but not as exciting or interesting as we’ve had over the last few days, I’d say.  Apparently there’s something going on to do with Isaac Azimov, but I didn’t actually take the time to find out what, sorry.

My COD goes to the following:

1d What horseman does in circling black Scottish region (8)

And the original 2014 blog with all the answers can be found by clicking here.


i Cryptic Crossword 2378 Tyrus

September 21, 2018

Sprouthater’s off sampling the local brews up north leaving me the pleasure of blogging our second prize puzzle reprint of the week. And yes, it’s another good one. Perhaps not as approachable as yesterday’s – more than a few went in on a bit of a wing and a prayer, notably 1d and some of the longer answers where I basically looked at the wordplay and thought – to hell with it. But in they all went, and at the close not only were they all present but correct as well, much to my surprise. First in today was 10ac with a bit of a gift from Tyrus – flashy jewellery invariably equates to bling, leaving little doubt as to the answer with that enumeration. Last in 23ac, which is one where, with all the checking letters, it could be little else, but where I was left floundering for a word with an anagram of “set” among the letters. Weren’t you? Finish time above par for the i, but less than I’d expect to spend on a Saturday reprint.

COD? Lots to like, with 1ac in particular having a number of ticks by it. But as it’s an obvious one once you’ve got the first letter, I’ll go with my other top pick, 16ac – “Bases discourse on a table (11 x 2) (7)”.

To June 2014 which I’m trusting was gale and rain free:

In which we must have a leading contender for puzzle of the week. This is a Saturday reprint so as expected the difficulty level is cranked up a little, but this was as accessible and enjoyable as you could hope. And the setter being Nestor all the clues are of top notch quality. All the X’s and that Q in the grid led me to believe we were looking for a pangram which slowed me down somewhat on my LOI – 9ac – where I was looking for anything other than the, as it turns out, obvious. The X’s and Y’s down the RHS do make me wonder if there might have been a stab at a mini-theme going on, perhaps in conjunction with 11ac, that was later abandoned, but on the other hand that could just be the work of my fevered imaginings. And work being about as work-like as it could be today, that is entirely plausible. Today my brain hurts and not because of the crossword.

First in 4ac, last in already mentioned, finish time just a little above par for the i. Many more like this please.

COD? Just because I felt quite frankly more than a little smug when I solved it without recourse to a dictionary, 6d – “Gazella gazella is one possible signature for A Minghella on letter from Greece (8)”.

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