A tricky chap to pin down, Crosophile, because his puzzles are so varied. This one was quite a treat: breezy, neither too taxing nor trivially simple, and my only gripe is that it was all over too quickly. There’s a ghost theme which appears in some of the clues as well as solutions, but it doesn’t get in the way.

I’m a bit stuck for a COD this time, there being a handful of equally matched contenders. All four peripheral entries were pleasing, as were quite a few others, notably 2, 4, 11 and 26. Ever the controversialist I shall choose none of the above and instead plump for the curiously defined and semi-thematic 14d:

“Had rendezvous with adult north of town of St Paul – a pied-a-terre? (10)”

For solutions and the nuts and bolts stuff, plus a heady brew of pedantry, Roman numerals and a couple of jokes, here’s the Fifteensquared link.


An IoS reprint to start the week that I found to be of about average difficulty. The longer answers and anagrams failed to fall quickly, otherwise I suspect much of this would have proved more straightforward. As it is I sort of picked away at it with the odd, fleeting moment of inspiration. The icy chill has evidently seized up my mind. I’m still not sure how the wordplay for 19ac is supposed to work – how exactly are we supposed to put the U in TA from the cryptic? Apart from that, though, all was pretty much in order, and enjoyable throughout.

COD? 3d – “It comes up during free consultation relating to one’s physical condition (14)”.

To August 2014:


Saturday 10th November 2018

Coincidentally enough, the lag time between puzzles in the Independent and their appearance in the i is pretty much exactly the same as the length of the First World War, so this puzzle from July 28th 2014, devised to commemorated the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, fell into the lap of the i’s crossword editor with more than a little serendipity.

Not Phi this time, but Scorpion – best known for his pretty fiendish themed puzzles on a Tuesday.  And pretty fiendish this one was too for the most part. I nibbled away at it on and off throughout a busy day, with all sorts of cleverness and misdirection around the grid making me pause and rewind. Just one anagram appeared – and that a four-letter one ( I’ve still yet to meet an entirely anagram free puzzle in the i).

The theme was the Great War poets: Graves, Owen, Brook and Sassoon (Bard and Epic also featured). The gateway clues were pretty tricky (and excellent) so my way in to the puzzle was backwards from 26d OWEN.  That led to 12a and a lovely penny-drop moment for my COD:

River that’s out of this world? Oder perhaps (4)

There was also a Nina which, as well as being this quote from Wilfred Owen, also described the puzzle itself: MY SUBJECT IS WAR, across the top and down the right hand side.

All very enjoyable then – in a somewhat sombre way – and a good week to submit an application for that Logik radio. But wait a minute, didn’t Batarde once tell us that The Times prize puzzle gets twice as many prize submissions when it’s a stinker? …Perhaps I should have submitted the week before instead.

The 2014 blog with all the answers is here.

i Cryptic Crossword 2426 Donk

November 16, 2018

We end the working week with a master-class in misdirection from Donk, challenging but in general fair. My only quibble is 17dn which was my LOI and then only because it was all that I could see that would fit. 8dn and 11ac also went in without fully understanding why, the parsing for these and all the solutions can be found in John’s blog over on Fifteensquared  where quite a few comments mention 10ac, 14ac, 7dn and 25dn for their slightly rude content. I liked them all except 7dn which makes me shudder just thinking about it. No one mentions the JR in 6dn so I guess everybody is of an age to know who the shot character refers to. It’s one of those clues that I wonder if younger solvers would struggle with.

Donk has provided us with a tough and amusing puzzle that doesn’t resort to any obscurities and uses some excellent wordplay, so to pick just one for COD when I have so many ticks… Well, I think umm

12dn   Gets on with setter in lift – how happy setter responds?  (7)


The latest in a pretty straightforward run of puzzles, an IoS reprint as expected when I saw the setter’s name. 19ac is a little ambiguous, SICK PAY being my pretty confident entry, leaving room for a careless PUMPKIN at 20d. Elsewhere I didn’t know how to spell 11d’s name, and being only vaguely aware of 17ac made life hard for myself by getting hung up on L for line. Enjoyable while it lasted, and one that suited me on a day where I’ve been booked into a lunchtime meeting. Whatever happened to having a lunchtime?

COD? 7d – “Feature of a dish enabling woman to retain figure? (7)”.

To August 2014:


i Cryptic Crossword 2424 Dac

November 14, 2018

A puzzle about which I find myself with little to say, but in a good way. It’s Dac, it’s fun throughout, with lovely clues, and no points of contention. What more could you want? I struggled a little with 8d at the close, but the rest went by in close to record time, the longer phrases helping no end. And that’s it really. Another good one.

COD? I’ll go with 11ac – “Film director said to be both right and wrong? (8)”.

To August 2014:


Magic being in the eye of the beholder. I’ve generally been blind to the attraction of opera bar the odd aria, but Phi’s less of a philistine than me as evidenced by the sometimes recondite themes he’s offered up over the years. Today’s I’m guessing is something I’ll know little about.

To the preamble…

First thoughts: Nope, didn’t get that.

Second thoughts: Ditto.

And so on.

Let’s try and summarise in the hope of staying sane. Some clues have clashing letters. Others redundant words. Focus on that for the moment and forget the rest which, to be quite frank, has left me dazed and confused.

First solved? That, unfortunately, was 11ac. Unfortunately because the answer is evidently ALBE, but hang on, we’ve got a couple too many spaces in the grid for it, and I didn’t see any mention of that in the preamble. Help.

Thankfully further down the grid things look a bit more normal. A pledge is an OATH, the meal’s looking likely to be LUNCH. Required at 1d with MA in the middle must be DEMANDED, which means the opera is going to be DER or DAS something German. Lots to choose from. Let’s look for more clues. Nice long anagram at 4d if we ignore “tomb” – SPEARHEADED. And I’m going to make a stab in the dark and say that the opera is DAS RHEINGOLD which even I know is part of Wagner‘s Ring cycle. Not that I know much else about it, but Wikipedia has a very good summary of the plot. How did we manage to solve these before the internet?

Let’s look at the preamble again. The last bit says something about two entries being transformed on entry – forming “the wearer’s name”. Yes, ALBE is still preying on my mind. The opera in question features somebody called Alberich, you see. Is there anything in the grid that might give us RICH? Well, yes there is, fertile at 29ac. What did Alberich transform himself into? A giant snake and a toad. 29ac is evidently the TOAD. 11ac? Python won’t fit, but DRAGON? Is it a snake? I suppose so.

Cue lots of entries in the SW, SE and NE corners of the grid. But I’m getting stuck to the NW, you see. The preamble to the rescue again. The clashes are supposed to tell us something. Those in the acrosses an item of clothing, the downs the wearer. Well, we know who the wearer is now. The item of clothing, which must have the same number of letters? That would be the Tarnhelm, which is a helmet for us ordinary mortals. Now we’ve got all the clashing letters, and can use them as crossing letters to help solve the rest of the grid. That’s made things easier…

What goes in the cells where there are clashes? The first and last letters of the redundant words are supposed to tell us that. Cue a hard stare at some of my parsing, though for once I haven’t made too much of a hash of it. WEARER AND HELMET BOTH DISAPPEAR. So we’re to leave the cells containing clashes blank? I think so. Out with the rubber.

I think that’s it, don’t believe I’ve missed anything. Huzzah. And, contrary to expectations, I thought that was jolly good. Satisfying to see everything click into place, and not quite as mind bendingly difficult to finish as some recent offerings.

Now tell me what I missed in what, it must be said, is the preamble to end all preambles.

For a while Cornick was mithering me to have a go at compiling, but he seems to have given me up for a lost cause now. Well, it may happen one day – anyway, today’s theme by Hieroglyph is one I tinkered with for a while before rejecting it on the grounds that the puzzle would solve itself. Full marks to the setter for including all the worthwhile material and scattering it in a pleasing manner around the grid, but I wasn’t wrong, was I?

Short and sweet, therefore. The gateway clue, 1d, is smashing, and it’s a shame that experienced solvers will have seen the answer in a matter of milliseconds. At that point those with an eye on the clock will have picked off all the cross referenced solutions in short order, leaving half a crossword to finish off with plenty of checking letters in place. There’s a good deal to enjoy nevertheless, and Hieroglyph has a jaunty clue writing style. My only complaint is that rather nasty word at 5d, but it did make the relevant blog page a doddle to find in the Fifteensquared database. The comments back in August 2014 pretty much mirror what I’ve said: tougher to set than to solve.

Runner-up for COD is 17ac, but I really like that 1d:

“Plausibly Scaramanga’s favourite author? (6)”

eXternal to start the week in fine style – nothing that was too tricky, a pangram (well, almost 🙂 ) to help at the very close (like others back in the day 25ac was my LOI), and lots of smiles. 4d took me a while to spot despite getting the COR bit pretty quickly. I like to think though that Cornick got that one in a flash. 1ac should have been one of my first ones in, but was almost one of the last – a bit like the real thing, which I never know how to find. For 15d I peaked in the BRB, unsure of the definition. 19d I surprised myself by knowing, though I couldn’t tell you anything about the game. Another useless bit of information picked up in crosswords. Finish time under par for the i, handily so on a Monday morning which like so many Monday mornings has been pretty bonkers.

COD? Got to be 8d, hasn’t it, or is that just me? “Power nap for bed-hopping old Labour politician (8)”.

To August 2014:


Saturday 3rd November 2018

So what challenge did Phi set himself this time? Well, if – and I stress the word if – he has ever experimented with trying to break the record for the shortest time ever to compile a whole crossword good enough to get past the editor at the Indy, then this could well have been the result.  I can just imagine him in his laboratory:

Four 13-letter anagrams one step in from the perimeter performing a virtual shrinking of the grid to a 13 x 13 – but easier to fill because the setter can, so to speak, spill over the edge here and there if required. With modern software tools, composing lengthy anagrams is child’s play, and there are lists with hundreds of anagram indicators to choose from.  Bung another anagram in for La Gioconda… One hour in to the process and a crossword could be almost halfway there!

Of course that’s probably not what happened at all, but it might as well have been. So we ended up with a puzzle that was accessible, yes, but didn’t provide much for the experienced solver to get his or her teeth into on a weekend. A very quick solve, then, with nothing controversial and my favourite being this one:

8a Camp very warm – work suspended while warmth’s accommodated (10)

Further to the speculative comments from DB last weekend about how defining ‘Halo’ as a video game in 20a might be received, it turns out our friends over at Fifteensquared didn’t give vent to an outpouring of stuffy indignation after all; there was just one self-deprecatory remark from allan_c: “Hadn’t heard of HALO as a game (where have I been all this time?)”.   Oh, and there was a link to its Wikipedia entry helpfully provided by the blogger John. Click here to go back to 2014.