A nicely turned out crossword as usual from Radian, with a theme loosely based around 8ac. It’s perhaps a little tougher than one would normally expect from this setter, but in the right way with just the one entry which could reasonably be described as obscure at 2d. Mind you, that one keeps turning up: I’ve a feeling this is the third time in as many weeks.

Plenty of cross references today, and yes, one of them intersects with the gateway clue. Feel free to moan. Observant solvers – and we all know that’s not me – will have noticed that many of the solutions can be prefixed with half of 8ac, which is a pleasing device now that I’ve read the July 2014 Fifteensquared blog entry by the ever-thorough Duncan. Never let it be said that Radian doesn’t go out of his way to add value. Ticks for 10, 12, 13, 17 and 26, and some others probably deserved them too, including the aforementioned 2d. An extra large, especially jaunty one marks the COD, 23ac:

Papers by top medical unit (if that’s the right name) (10)

Crosophile to start the week with a pretty straightforward, enjoyable offering. The SE corner did put a little bit of a struggle at the close, mostly because I wanted 23ac to be a much more common answer to the same clue – M????. There’s a little added extra in that 18/12 can be an anagram of several other answers put together. Top marks to Flashling over on the other side for noticing, I certainly didn’t.

COD? With lots to enjoy, I’ll go with 1ac – “People of over fifty lack spryness in the end (5)”.

To July 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/07/21/independent-8663-by-crosophile/

Saturday 13th September 2018

On the first pass I failed to twig that ‘snapped’ was an anagram indicator, and along with a couple more tricky clues in the top half, I didn’t really get going until the bottom half of the grid.  Thereafter things filled upwards readily enough, and all-in-all it was a pretty straightforward solve.

Did Phi give us his usual dose of obscure vocabulary? Well, tempera is a bit specialist I suppose, and I doubt I was the only one to put ‘Radii’ in with a shrug, guessing that it must presumably be part of a sextant, but my only slight quibble was with NSA in 16d being clued as ‘security group’ when surely it’s an American security group – or have we all become so Transatlantic that such niceties no longer matter?

And what about a ghost theme?  You may have noticed a light sprinkling of ‘Americana’ politics with two presidents (‘Harrison’ & ‘Roosevelt’), ‘Republican’ and ‘Neo-con’; while ‘Bush’, ‘party’, ‘US’(twice) and ‘president’ all figured in the clues. Frankly though, that’s not enough to make me entirely confident… and oh dear, I’ve just had a look at all the answers over at Fifteensquared here, and it turns out there’s actually a ghost theme of Harrison Birtwistle (Bird+Whistle) and some of his works.  So now I’m grumpy! A variety of modern classical composers would have been fine, but in my view that’s too specialised and it stops me from feeling I’ve completed the puzzle.

My COD was nearly Orpheus in 25a, just for the definition ‘classical musician’, but I’ll go with the following, which is excellent:

13a Rebellions forcing US to intervene? On the contrary (9)

Thursday in the Independent usually meant a tough crossword, but this offering from Morph is pleasingly accessible, not too difficult but still very enjoyable. The four fifteen letter answers were nicely done, 3dn and 11ac along with 22ac had me wondering if there was some sort of toilet theme which was reinforced when I eventually solved the only real obscurity for me 16ac. But no there isn’t anything like that going on. The only hold ups for me were 9ac where the only magazine I could recall was Melody Maker, 10ac where got the “i and e  in 6dn the wrong way round 🤔  and 12ac which perhaps should have been amended.

COD? While both the previously mentioned 3dn and 11ac deserve mention it was 23ac that I particularly liked:

Lacking aspiration tough to follow excitement for high-flier (7)

For all the answers, parsing and comments click here-  Fifteensquared

The trouble with seeing eXternal’s name is that you don’t know whether he’s got his IoS hat on, in which case we’re in for a bit of an easy ride, or if this is a Thursday / Saturday reprint. This turned out to be the latter. At first I wasn’t sure. I solved maybe three quarters in a fairly encouraging time, with 15ac and 1d for example being pretty much 25ac’s, but the rest… Well, the rest pushed this up to a time where either I’d completely lost my touch, or this was indeed a prize puzzle reprint. Particular points of resistance were the NE corner – 5ac and 8d especially so – and elsewhere 18ac and 14d. I resorted to Google once I had the PASH bit of 20ac I must admit, fully aware I wouldn’t know the answer, and hung up for too long on the idea that it must be a prawn dish. 22d I did vaguely know, 2d and a couple of others I couldn’t parse. All in all an interesting challenge that certainly raised the bar for difficulty this week.

COD? For me 14d – “Concede room, getting crushed by misplaced bottom (9)”.

To July 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/07/19/independent-8656-sat-12-jul-2014-external/

In which we reach cryptic 2400 that for some reason feels more significant than it probably is. Dac, which can only mean good things – smooth surfaces, always interesting clues, something probably not too difficult – though today I did run into problems in both the NW and SW corners. To the NW first. Three pretty obscure answers at 1d, 9ac and 12ac, though there’s little to complain about as the clues were immaculate as expected. Was I the only solver to get caught out by the split of private and detective for the latter? For 9ac I was hung up for too long on take = R. Too many crosswords, I know. Down in the SW corner it was 23ac and 25ac that took far too long, really because Dac manages to hide his wordplay so well. All in all pretty enjoyable, and taking longer than expected on a Wednesday only means more enjoyment value, doesn’t it?

COD? With many to choose from I’ll go with 16d which has such a nice surface reading, though for seasoned solvers the “French art” bit by now is a bit of a write-in – “Apprehended criminal trader pinching French art? (8)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/07/09/independent-8653-by-dac/

A slightly alarming preamble this week. Jumbled down answers, and, well, something to be done with the acrosses too. In the second grid. Yes, that’s right, a second grid, because what we’re going to have to do is evidently that complicated that it warrants, for the first time ever, another grid to work with. Now, perhaps it’s just the autumn blues, but this immediately set me on an I can’t do this fugue, not helped by a first pass through the across answers that yielded, well, all of one answer. With the youngest two rampaging round the house like things possessed after two days away on a residential school trip. Weren’t they supposed to be tired on their return?

Try again. 33ac is an anagram, and despite what the preamble says it’s in Chambers. But perhaps, he reasoned, the treated version in the second grid won’t be? Aha. A resident of Montmartre, that most fine district of Paris, minus an IS would be PARIAN. Not so difficult, you see. Apart from the down answers. Presumably we should be able to glean somehow what to do with them? After all, they can’t be completely, randomly, like totally jumbled with multiple unchecked letters, can they? Surely there must be some sort of rhyme or reason? Despite numerous attempts at looking for some sort of logic – backwards, making up different words, and so on, it appears… That they are indeed randomly jumbled. I can though solve them, oh yes I can, which is some consolation.

That unclued entry that presumably is supposed to tell us how to treat the across answers before entry in the second grid. Help from a word finder with the possible letters from the jumbled downs… RECONSTRUCT. Well, you don’t say.

All of which is to say that, at the close, the first grid looked like this. Note the blank squares where I had a choice of letters but no reason to pick one or another.

The second grid is supposed to contain real words throughout. Let’s apply some logic, RECONSTRUCTing the across answers with the letters we’ve got in place from the downs, making sure there are real words throughout. Lo and behold 33ac is SCHMEAR which indeed isn’t in the big red book. CHESTILY isn’t either, and oh, how many problems that caused me. So, SW clockwise to NW, a CURRENT COST across the top.

The quote to highlight? Well, that’s one I happen to know, being devoted to all things Whovian. “CHANGE MY DEAR. And it seems not a moment too soon.” The fateful words of the short lived 6th Doctor. Impressive opening night figures suggest Jodie Whittaker won’t suffer the same ignominious fate, but let’s see how that pans out. Based on the first episode I thought she was good, but the writing less so. But anyway… Here’s the best Doctor of the modern era, Matt Smith, with Orbital and their version of that iconic theme tune.

An unfamiliar name today: oo-er. And look at all those across clues: eek! Best ignore them and look at the downs, and hey presto, before long the meaning of all those Ps becomes apparent.

Mixed feelings about this one. On the credit side Hieroglyph has managed to fill all the across lights with thematic material which is satisfying, and for the most part he or she has kept the tone breezy and accessible. In the debit column – I am echoing what Duncan said in his July 2014 Fifteensquared blog here – 1, 2 and 16d are hard to forgive in a weekday crossword. Especially 2. Drawing a veil over those it’s not an especially difficult puzzle, and once the penny dropped about the theme it pretty much filled itself in.

Thin pickings for clue of the day. Regular visitors will understand my temptation to choose 17d just to give Sprouthater something to get his teeth into, but instead I’m going for the succinct and rather droll 4d:

“Communicate dog’s dinner-time (7)”

If anyone is interested in the Brendan puzzle mentioned in the comments at 15², here you go.

A top-notch IoS reprint to start the week. Enjoyable throughout, often 11d, with some good surface readings, and wordplay in places to make you stop and think. What more could you want on a pretty grey, damp Monday morning? 25ac was new, and I’m never particularly fond of abbreviations being required for anagram fodder (see 19d), but elsewhere it was only a little doubt over 1ac that caused much of a delay. Perhaps having to solve on a new office chair which tilts forward at a slight angle ever threatening to tip me onto the floor has upped my game a little.

COD? Well, if you want succinct, 1ac certainly is – “Small pot (6)”.

To August 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/08/03/independent-on-sunday-1275-by-poins/

Saturday 6th October 2018

Phi puts ghost themes in his puzzles with considerable regularity, but if you’re one of the many solvers who has trouble spotting them, then a good tactic is to go in search of a Christian name. If you find one, search the grid for a surname that looks likely, and then Google the combination to discover an obscure antipodean writer and half a dozen of their novellas.

Or, in the case of last week’s puzzle where ‘Paul Klee’ was one of the answers, you could have gone straight to Wikipedia and scanned a list of his works, to discover ‘The Twittering Machine’ and a series of pictures with ‘Angel’ in the title. It’s pub quiz level general knowledge to know that he was part of the ‘Bauhaus’ school and you might have discovered – or known already perhaps – that he was the originator of the quote ‘Taking A Line For A Walk’ (you’d have done better than me with that one).

One great advantage of having a those words hidden in the grid, of course, is that it gives me something to write about – I might have struggled otherwise because this was a typical good, solid Phi puzzle, with clues ranging from the simple (22a) to the obscure (19d).

Eight ticks in my margin, which is about average, and the following was my pick for COD:

30a Former speed challenge needing most from new engine? (7)

Duncan Sheill did a comprehensive blog with all the answers back in 2014 (click here) and in the comments Phi tells us Klee also played the ‘Violin’.