The first Tuesday Radian of the year, and it turned out to be uncharacteristically thorny. The theme is probably familiar enough to most solvers even if it is rather old hat, but there are one or two parsings which fail the Man on the Clapham Omnibus test if you ask me – not that it’s mandatory, of course. 24d seems particularly abstruse for a daily crossword, although it does make a change from that sparkling wine. And there’s the terrier …

As usual Radian deploys a wide range of devices, and those who like half a dozen anagrams to get the ball rolling will be sorely disappointed. Having confirmed 5ac and 24d with Duncan’s August 2014 Fifteensquared write-up I’m satisfied that everything works just fine, but a good deal of pondering is required. Did anybody else think that there’s a U item missing. to match up with 19d, by the way? One thing which seems to happen more often than not with this setter is that I have trouble identifying one outstanding clue of the day candidate, and so it proved again this time. Thumbs up for 3, 13, 15, 17 and 18, with the prize going to 22ac:

“Gung-ho gunmen circle African country (6,2,2)”

I am filling for Jonofwales today and was very pleased to see that the puzzle was by Quixote only it’s not It’s Kairos who produced this IOS reprint. Thats not a bsd thing but I did have too many for my liking that went in without fully parsing ,12ac stands out here where the solver is expected to deduce SCR from Lecturers and 20ac Sus is apparently the accepted abbreviation for Susanna in the Apocrypha hmm well he should know he is a priest after all which probably explains 16ac where I was undecided between Amaze and Agape. Other oddities included EE for Cummings, Mongolian tents that weren’t Yurts and a constellation and star that I had vaguely heard of probably in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  Fortunately we have the excellent Fifteensquared blog by Pierre to turn to for all the solutions and parsing.

As always there were some good clues 13ac, 23ac, 28ac and 15dn all had ticks but COD went to 11ac

Instruments of death returned by doctor (9)


Saturday 10th January 2019

Hmm, let’s think… Gödel, Escher, Lincoln, Bach, May, Eli, Liszt… Can you spot a connection?

I couldn’t. But Google can, and readily threw up another item from the Paul Henderson bookshelf, the Pulitzer prize winning Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter.  With that discovered, Eternal, Golden, and Braid were also obviously part of the theme. Full marks if you can see how Soft and Hatred are too.

I haven’t read the book but I have vaguely heard of it and it certainly sounds interesting – apparently it’s a novel about the origins of consciousness in the human brain, and it’s also laced with puzzles and wordplay.  I’ll put it on my Christmas wish list then.

I enjoyed the clues – even if 13 deletions in the wordplay probably does represent an over-reliance on that particular technique – and overall this one wasn’t one of Phi’s trickiest puzzles. Some at Fifteensquared (click here for the answers) were unfamiliar with 11a; they’re lucky to have escaped a long car journey complete with various Cornick relatives blaring out the choral round version of ‘Dona nobis pacem’ at full volume.

My pick of the clues was the following:

18d Uproar about extra building cut down for factory (7)

A Saturday Prize Puzzle from Anax and it beat me. Perhaps if I had had all week to solve it things might have been different but I haven’t so after a sparse start, mainly the two anagrams and a few others that were less torturous than the likes of 1 and 2dn, it became a case of hurl it in and hope, which in most cases was a successful if unsatisfying method. Google was needed to sort out 10ac. It was to me an obvious anagram but of what? All that sprang to mind for Delightful was Nice. So with long forgotten tree huggers and birds I’d not heard of I staggered on failing miserably to understand the subtleties of the wordplay. But as usual we have the blog at Fifteensquared to enlighten us, although I still don’t understand some – especially 17ac.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I haven’t got very many to choose from for COD. While the previously mentioned anagrams at 7 and 13dn get ticks, it is 15 dn that when eventual solved gave me that forehead slapping moment.

See it both ways through opening. (7,4)

The crossword editor pays us a rare visit with an enjoyable, not too difficult offering. The NW corner did hold me up for a little while, and 13ac in particular, but I still clocked a finish time under par for the i. While solving I had the nagging feeling there must be something going on, some kind of Nina or something, but failed miserably to notice that all the across answers start with silent letters. Oh well, good on you if you did.

Problems? Apart from 13ac which was horribly obscure, only a footballer I didn’t know at 26ac though the answer could be little else, and a pretty obscure synonym for ballot box elsewhere, though again I’m guessing most solvers will have lobbed in the answer without too much ado. And, oh, how many knew that to kedge is to draw something? It’s a nautical thing, apparently.

COD? I’ll go with the accidentally topical 16d, obscurity and all – “Keen to find a way of doing things at the ballot box (5)”.

To October 2014:

I wondered if we’d get an IoS reprint this week after Quixote’s appearance on Monday, and lo and behold here one is. Though one that comes with wordplay that is perhaps a little trickier than usual for a Sunday reprint, and a few obscurities in the cryptic parts. Bill-and-coo? RATE for wig? The answers thankfully were clear enough. Elsewhere I didn’t know the bird referenced in 22ac, couldn’t parse 20d, and felt quietly pleased on getting 15ac despite not having the faintest idea who he was. Football, you see.

Enjoyable throughout nevertheless. Finish time? Under par for the i though with careful thought required at each step.

COD? Not a great deal leaps out, as expected perhaps, but I did like 21ac, succinct as it was – “Fiddling practice? (10)”.

To September 2014:

Schadenfreude having evidently decided that giving the poor old blogger trouble spelling his moniker isn’t enough, we’ve now got to concentrate on the title too. Or did the typesetter just have an unfortunate accident?

More likely the clue’s somewhere in that preamble, the bit about have to encode eleven of the answers. Handily using a phrase we haven’t been given. Well, this is the Inquisitor. But they’re all clues without a definition, which does help.

First in? That would be all the way down at 32ac with AWNED. Blame one last Christmas blast. Blame the shock to the wallet at having to buy yet another pair of kid’s shoes. How many is it possible to get through?

But from that point on progress could best be described as steady. Lots of W’s in the answers that evidently need to be encoded. PANATELAS only needs one L. Who knew? Well, the (S)OED evidently. 1d must be YAPPER or YAWPER or something like that, but the BRB seems to be blind to the Elizabethan bit.

First answer that needs encoding? That would be CURIO. So some of the W’s at least are O’s. Makes sense. The second? ORSINO. At which point Google to the rescue to confirm we’re looking at Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Yep, that’s 25 letters, and thus the phrase we need to use for the coding. So with a list of characters to hand, and a crib sheet to code with, to the end of the grid. 1d being YAWPER. Nope, still don’t know why.

Sadly it was only the next day I would realise the significance of Twelfth Night when we took the decorations down. Told you it was a heavy night. And was it a coincidence that Nimrod waited until the Sunday to issue his customary tweet advertising the weekend’s IQ? I like to think not. Oh, and the title? That would be Shakespeare Play. A hint too late.

Happy back to work eve, all.

If ever there was a theme which played to my weak suit this is it. As a result those ones from 11 went in with a hopeful shrug, but the clues must’ve been good because they were all correct. Unsurprising for Punk, who may be a devious so and so with a puckish sense of humour, but he’s always fair if you ponder long enough.

Why oh why do I persist in listening to the Today Programme? Evasions, interruptions and hyperventilation, punctuated by doomed racing tips and Thought For The Day, heaven help us. Anyway, if solving this puzzle took a long time the blame rests mainly with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and alleged intellectual, M. Gove Esq., who is as slippery as a greased weasel at the best of times and excelled himself today, blast him. Very difficult to concentrate with that in one ear. A shame because Punk gives such good value and deserves one’s full attention. Plenty to enjoy in this crossword, with loads of variety and the odd surprise. Particularly noteworthy today: 15, 21, 25 and 26 (feel free to nominate personal favourites); the clue of the day stood out a mile, though:

10ac: “One of eight kings, neither the first nor the sixth, strong one of seven? (5)”

Here’s the link for the October 2014 Fifteensquared blog entry, where we get a mention in the comments! A special tip of the hat from me to crypticsue, by the way, for enriching my vocabulary with the very handy “investigoogling”.

The Don’s back to start the working week with a fairly straightforward, thoroughly enjoyable offering. The RHS of the grid took slightly longer to fall than the other half, and 16d put up a little resistance at the close, but elsewhere there was little that will have troubled seasoned solvers. I was a little unsure about the first word of 5d, so for once was sensible and waited on a checking letter before lobbing in an answer. Back in the day it appears though that this was quite the trap. The rest? It fairly flew by.

COD? It’s a little later here, but I did like 24ac – “Three or four, say, in the cafe? (7)”.

To August 2014:

Even the Nina-blind among us might have realised something was going on in the peripheral unches last weekend: Wah-wah, Tartar, Tsetse and Atlatl – that last one a sort of native North American spear.

Was that gag worth having the obscurities Petechia, Saithe and Agacante? I’d say not, because the fun of solving a clue is the penny-drop moment when you get it – that little rush of endorphins without having to go to the gym – which is denied the solver by having to look something up in the dictionary.  Others’ opinions may differ!

We’ve had a splendid last 5 days of puzzles, and in truth I liked all those weekday offerings a bit better, but enough moaning already…. this was generally a very good crossword, and still a level above what you’d get in most national newspapers, so thank you Phi. And here’s an example to prove it:

COD 24d Rake path, removing last of grit (4)

Back to 2014 for all the answers and a divided set of comments from the usual suspects.