Following yesterday’s terrible news I was hoping we’d have a puzzle by Dac today, and was suitably pleased on turning to page 24. Thankfully we still have several years worth of puzzles from Dac in the i to look forward to, but sadly that supply is now limited.

Today’s offering was everything you could hope for – smooth surface readings, perfect cryptic constructions, a few smiles throughout. Very much on the easy side, but crosswords don’t have to be difficult to be good, and this was a welcome change of pace following yesterday’s puzzle. I didn’t get the longer anagrams at first, solving in fits and starts round the middle of the grid, but once I had 1ac and 1d the rest was no problem at all.

COD? As ever lots to enjoy, with my nomination going to 27ac – “When habits become sloppy, castigate manservant? (5-4,6)”.

If you’re hungry for more, today’s Times is also by Dac. Enjoy!

To July 2014 for the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/07/23/independent-8665-dac/

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We seem to be having a rash of perimeters at the moment – all the fashion, perhaps. No letters to be moved into said perimeter this week, only between the wordplay in clue pairs. A quick count to make sure there’s an even number. I’m guessing they’re in order – nothing to indicate otherwise – and if they weren’t then it would be overly fiendish, surely? Resulting letters hint at one of two titles we’re to highlight the originals for. Other titles in the perimeter, unchecked letters making up that anagram. Which seems to be an awful lot to remember already, but lo and behold, the highlighting will identify the main protagonist in one of them. Blimey.

First thoughts. Rumpole.

Second thought. The sun’s shining. Let’s get outside somewhere quiet and warm where I’ll hopefully be left alone to get on with this.

Third thought. Help, I can’t solve any of these clues. This seems to be a common feature over recent weeks with the IQ, so perhaps I’m losing my touch, or if not that my nerve. No problem, we’ll just take a snap of an empty grid and lob that up as a complete and utter failure. Job done.

Deep breath. Look again. See if there are any anagrams, or bits of them to be found. 29d looks like one, but isn’t. Ditto 11d. 35ac though is, if we were to move an S into cat to cast the anagram fodder. ROISTERER. And you know, this was one where, once you got into the swing of things, it didn’t turn out to be that difficult after all. Just a matter of being careful with the wordplay. With some, as it turns out, pretty well flagged definitions. A migrant is a NOMAD, surely? Add an ISM care of a bit of kinky sex.

NW, SW and SE corners pretty full, then, and the NE corner less so, let’s take stock. What’s in the perimeter? That looks like it could be JUDGEMENT along the bottom. And up the RHS? We have ?M?R?K???? Thankfully I’ve ready a lot of Kafka in my time, so that AMERIKA jumped right out. Huzzah. Quickly add his best known short story, and CONTEMPLATION which is rather less known, and complete that grid.

There are two rather glaring omissions in that list. The Trial, and The Castle. What are the original titles? Der Process and Das Schloss. Yep, there they are, in a great big K, quelle surprise. “Someone must have been telling tales about Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested.”

So what about the letters we were shifting round, what did they spell out? Having resolved the usual doubts regarding the wordplay, that would be “tough tense mammoth trial”.

So there we have it. Not as scary as it first looked, and yes, another good one, even if as ever I feel that I did solve it a bit arse backwards.

Terribly sad news from Eimi over on Fifteensquared. David Crossland (Dac) passed away at the weekend. Apparently he was suffering from cancer.

I can’t add much to what’s been said there, except to say that Dac was one of the best, and the world will be poorer for his absence.

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/10/30/david-crossland-dac-rip/

Oh dear. I fear that friend Topsy’s nose might be well and truly out of joint today, because Scorpion’s ass is pretty smart at the best of times and this puzzle is one of his toughest. A bit of a struggle, then, and it would have helped considerably had the theme revealed itself earlier, but no such luck. In retrospect 28ac is one of the easier clues but it remained a mystery almost to the end, at which point there was a resounding “clang” as the penny dropped.

Clever stuff, eh? Too clever by a good 50% some might say, and indeed a couple of disgruntled solvers did exactly that in the comments on BertandJoyce’s July 2014 Fifteensquared blog. The observation about the grid at no. 3 is spot on – it’s a monstrosity, and in view of that I think Scorpion could have been much more generous in providing some gentle starters by way of encouragement. Anyway, mustn’t be a miserable Batarde. The setter is to be congratulated for shoe-horning in a full dozen words which may be prefixed by 28ac and for avoiding any obscure vocabulary. There’s a great deal of inspired wordplay, and the surfaces are for the most part notably smooth. COD? Too many candidates to list, so feel free to nominate your favourite – I’m going for 27ac:

“French woman keeps reading, for example, new series of kid’s books (2,3)”

An IoS reprint to start the week – and what a cold start it is. As PeeDee noted back in 2014 some of the constructions are a little complex which made for a relatively slow time here for a Monday puzzle, and I ended up with a couple of question marks dotted round the grid. OK, I probably could have resolved some or all of them on my own, but given an obvious answer and a lack of time I’ll opt for Fifteensquared to clear things up.

Difficulties? The city at 20ac was a little obscure, but the wordplay less so, so no problems there. At 25ac DOG for rascal wasn’t my first thought, and the phrase was new. The quite obscure slang used in 2d was the subject of the biggest question mark. Did anybody know it?

COD? I’m struggling a little, TBH, but I’ll go with 9d – “Batting record broken by Cheshire’s opener in this game (8,6)”.

To July 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/07/13/independent-on-sunday-1272-by-poins-2/

Saturday 20th October 2018

I wonder who spotted the Nina last week?  Phi managed to conceal C E N T R E both vertically and horizontally in the grid, in column 8 and row 8. Very nice, and to top that he had BRINK, SKIRT and PERIPHERY around the edges. In the comments section over at Fifteensquared (click here), he points out that he nearly had VERGE at 1d, but whether he tried that at first but couldn’t make it work, or whether it occurred to him afterwards, he didn’t say.

Despite those shenanigans there was nothing more abstruse than SATINED in the grid fill – and that seems a perfectly reasonable word, so no complaints allowed this week about Ninas forcing obscurities upon us. Which is not to say this was easy; indeed the general consensus is that the clues was harder than average for a Phi – PERP for US criminal, FR for frequently (although I think that’s one we’ve had before), the parsing of BRINK and PERT amongst them – but overall I thought our regular Saturday setter was on good form.

COD? 13d Writing version of Utah religious service excluding women (10)

 

Monk has a reputation for setting challenging puzzles and anyone wanting a challenge won’t be disappointed by this. Whilst I needed help from both a dictionary and a thesaurus, it was only 7ac that needed a word finder and then from the many options I thought (wrongly) that Damage would be the best choice. No explanation of this clue is offered over on Fifteensquared where solvers were either defeated by it or resorted to the reveal option but the setter does apologise for it.  Quite a few were solved from the synonym and then reverse engineering to fit the cryptic and I was quite surprised by the lack of quibbles I had – 10ac got a bit of a tut and 23ac went in with a grunt of displeasure, but these were outweighed by the number of ticks that included some excellent anagrams – 20ac and 26ac in particular – but for COD

13ac   One could be up for this treat given time  (8)

There is a Nina but it will only mean anything to those who have knowledge of fairly obscure alternative rock bands.

A bit of a tough offering from Tees, especially so I thought in the SE corner. The crossing of an obscure water parsnip and a Spenserian answer (which I’m not sure has any place in a daily cryptic), cheek to cheek with a bit of Greek mythology some might argue was a bit much. Elsewhere we have EA for river which might be fine in the Inquisitor, but not here. My copy has loads of question marks against various clues, but I did get there in the end with a little electronic help. There’s a message if you put together the first letter from each clue. Not that I noticed. 🙂

COD? I must admit that I’m struggling today, but I’ll go with 15ac – “Under ealdorman he sat on original offender (5)”.

To July 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/07/18/independent-8661-tees/

Dac’s got a week off for good behaviour it appears. Commoner I believe usually sets IoS puzzles, and this very much felt in that vein. Straightforward throughout, only a little doubt about whether 5d actually exists (it does) and whether 13ac is really a thing (it is) held me up for any length of time. I say length of time, but some of the tougher concise crosswords have taken longer than today’s offering. Not that I’m complaining – I enjoyed this. Just surprised. Admittedly some of the parsing might have taken a little longer, but for much of this the definition, enumeration, and checking letters were sufficient.

COD? Not a great deal jumps out, to be honest, but 2d tells a nice story – “Withdraw from bear with fluffy hair (5,4)”.

To June 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/06/30/independent-8645-by-commoner/

Schadenfreude. I’ve struggled with Schadenfreude in the past, so he’s already got the psychological edge. Not that he really needed one with this week’s offering. Softened up already by two days worth of torrential rain and general signs of it being autumn, a grid that says straight away that you’re going to be shoving letters into the border. Two from each row and column. Which means that, yes, it’s our old friend the long cold solve followed swiftly (or not so swiftly) by the application of a bit of hard logic to the resulting mismatch of letters.

So it proved to be. A very slow grind through the clues. Crossing letters entered when identified. After a bit the realisation that multiple letters can go in some squares, the border being a bit of an unknown. Not helped by such obscurities as INGE for dean. One where the BRB won’t help, but a swift Google will. At which point we all thanked the gods that the first bit was obvious, and the answer equally so, so perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps I’m being dim too, because 1ac was one I spotted pretty early in the dictionary having guessed ONUS for responsibility, but did I jot it down as being obviously the correct answer? No I did not, not until the bitter end.

Talking of which, how did you do with that border? Mine was a complete mess with multiple options for loads of cells, and not much way of making sense of them. The end game’s supposed to consist of highlighting twelve cells that make up a “cryptic representation of the perimeter.” I looked in the diagonals. I looked up and down. And then I looked across, and spotted VELVET. And then GROUND above that. Or bits of it at least. And then went about completing the names of various members of The Velvet Underground in the perimeter, and thus filling the rest of the grid. Though I was a little thrown on seeing Moe Tucker’s full name…

Phew. How close did I come to giving up? Somewhere shortly before that last paragraph. Hard work indeed. Luckily it’s wet, and we can’t get out anywhere, but still… Here’s Venus In Furs by way of a present for sticking it out.