An Independent Thursday reprint, and one from Klingsor, so it’s a little challenging, but not I found especially so. More a case here really of answers going in, but not always necessarily knowing why. 22ac needed a little help from the dictionary after guessing the first half and deciding I had little hope with the wordplay and an evidently unknown word. The inventor referenced at 6d was a complete unknown, but thankfully the answer was pretty straightforward. Elsewhere I made a bit of a hash of the NW corner by foolishly lobbing in TAP DANCER and taking an age to spot the error of my ways. 4d was an unknown that was as clearly signposted by the cryptic as you would like, which is as it should be. Finish time a little above par for the i.

Lots of ticks in a thoroughly entertaining puzzle – 12d, 20d and 7d all went down well – with my COD going to 15ac – “Bumble, aka David Lloyd, first of all to enter competition (6)”.

To October 2014:


i Cryptic Crossword 2513 Eimi

February 27, 2019

Dac’s AWOL again this week, but instead we have an offering from our crossword editor that’s a more than able substitute. Fairly straightforward throughout, it was only really the dog at 3d (which was my LOI) and the Spanish girl that gave me much pause for thought. The former it must be said because I got too hung up on removing the initial letter from a synonym for “escape”, which as it turned out wasn’t the case. There’s a Nina I spotted at the close, though I must admit I assumed the word in the bottom row was a surname rather than a bit of obscure football terminology. It transpires Eimi’s a Spurs fan, which is no doubt why that clue made it past his editor’s pen yesterday. 🙂

Lots to appreciate, and thoroughly enjoyable throughout, my COD nomination going to 17d, just for the lovely Douglas Adams reference – “A meaningful number getting first couple of parts of well-known song from No, No, Nanette confused in audition (5-3)”.

To November 2014:

Saturday priorities:

  1. Dance lessons – not mine you’ll be relieved to hear.
  2. Phi, as trusty as ever.
  3. Maths homework, again not mine. Just the two hours this week.
  4. A preamble I suspect I have little chance of understanding.

As far as the latter is concerned let’s just take it one step at a time. The easy bits first. Extricate some spurious letters from a couple of clues, and the 3-letter ones where it appears there’s another, non-linked definition. The upshot being that, as ever, there’ll be a load I’ll stare at, shrug, and chuck in the answer anyway. Who needs to parse the things anyway? A dangerous stance to take when solving the IQ some would argue. What’s new?

What’s new is being short of time given 1 and in particular 3 above. Thank the gods, Ifor and Nimrod then for an easy-ish grid fill this week. All done and dusted before you can say – “It’s time to get on with tea”. The requisite number of new, exciting words. A moment of doubt over a BRA. And feeling appropriately SENSELESS as is par for the course Saturday, to the close.

Let’s start with the scrambled letters, and the revealed date in the clue numbers. EARLS COURT, 1911. OK, this is one I’m vaguely aware of. First escalator?

Let’s look at the 3 letter answers and spurious definitions to four letter ones. Couple must give PAIR, so we’re either looking for an extra I, or an O giving IO? In a line = AROW, planes AERO, and so on… Not sure yet what turning them 90 degrees will give. I know, you spotted it straight away…

What about the four-word remark? I’m coming to dread word searches as they’re giving me a lot of grief of late, but lo, there’s STAIRC diagonally SW to NE. And the rest? Re-read the preamble. The remark is symmetrically placed, and the first two words are jumbles of the last two. LO STAIRCASE IS ESCALATOR. Yep, that’s 22 letters.

Rotate them round, because it’s like an escalator moving, see:

And stand on the right, please. Oh yeah, the I and O, rotated. It’s the tube symbol, innit? Coloured appropriately, lobbed in the centre square.

Huzzah. Now, I thought that was very good, with a very satisfying endgame. More like this please. But now, Hobgoblin time…

i Cryptic Crossword 2512 Anax

February 26, 2019

Lovely jubbly. Serves me right for that expression of schadenfreude on Friday, no doubt. This one may have been a little easier, the modest theme helping with 23, 24 and 7, but it’s always a process of attrition with Anax. This was his 100th Indy crossword so I should belatedly congratulate him on that, if not on the ghastly “musical” element at 11/12.

Back in October 2014 the praise was nearly unanimous in the comments under Bertandjoyce’s capital blog entry at Fifteensquared, but I strongly suspect that a dissenting voice will make its feelings known before the day is out. So, is this a puzzle for the average reader, whoever he or she may be? Probably not (I have my doubts whether Mr or Ms Average bothers with the crossword), because if it ain’t a stinker it’ll do until one comes along. I had any amount of trouble, and failed to parse 10ac much to my chagrin. The explanation hardly fills me with joy. 21ac is a bit much really, and I’ll leave the question of whether it’s a legitimate homophone op to you. Those aside, now that the gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair is over, it all looks exceedingly good. Oodles of clever misdirection, some unusually well disguised anagrams, and the kind of fiendish inventiveness we’ve come to expect from this setter are all on show – so what to single out for the COD? The runners up include 6, 9, 12, 16 and 19; the finalists are 5 and 14, and by the shortest of heads the former is the winner:

“Garage’s mistake with 50% introductionary discount (4-2)”

Well, it’s an IoS reprint to start the week, much as expected, but this wasn’t the gentle lead-in to the week many solvers would have been expecting. It’s eXternal, which usually means you’re in for something a little trickier, and today it proved to be so. To be fair the NE and SW corners went in without too much ado, though with a “who?” by the scientist (which probably reveals more about my own ignorance than anything else), but from then on I struggled. A strange island, a slang for face that was obscure to say the least at 19d, another odd word at 14d, and SHISH for kebab elsewhere… Oh, and a bit of obscure mythology just for good measure. Phew. The answers went in, but the wheres and whyfors remained a bit of a mystery. Thankfully we have PeeDee over on the other side to clear everything up.

Clever, always fair, and entertaining, but an interesting pick for the IoS, and indeed for the i a Monday.

COD? I’ll go with 6d – “Emu got ill, sickly bird (9)”.

To November 2014:

Saturday 16th February 2019

Judging by the extraordinary density of ticks in the margin of last weekend’s crossword, and the complete absence of question marks, unsmiley faces, and ‘not sure about that’ glyphs, it seems that this must have been Phi’s best crossword in ages – either that or else I’d been on the happy pills again.

The grid was an especially pleasing one – all entries were odd number of letters long, with ‘positive checking’ in every instance, and given the four long entries around the perimeter, it seemed pretty obvious there would be no need to go looking for either theme or Nina for once. Over at Fifteensquared here one commenter called it a vanilla crossword, which seems wrong to me – there was plenty of invention and chicanery on show I thought.

Hard to pick a COD though. I could go for the satisfying symmetry of ‘Deep space’ at 4d, but I think it’s a bit of a canonical clue, one which even I have met before somewhere; then again the 16a ‘Sylph’ was a perfect example of creating a smooth surface reading from unpromising letters… however, I do like a bit of innovation, so I’m plumping for the following:

20a Novel representation of wino? (5,2,4)


i Cryptic Crossword 2509 Anax

February 22, 2019

Looking back on previous puzzles by Anax I see that I’m not the only one that finds them extremely tough and sometimes a bit of a slog. In fact there is only one person who has consistently expressed pleasure, so Mr B will be a happy bunny today.  I started off well with both 1ac and 1dn going straight in but my euphoria was short lived as not much else followed. The blogger Twencelas over on Fifteensquared describes this as “a high standard of subterfuge” and he’s probably right but, for this solver the subterfuge is a bit too convoluted as in 7dn which beat me and the obscure 3dn which I only found in Chambers. The only other (to me) real obscurity was 18/21 which the setter had generously and cleverly made an anagram, but I only realised that when all the crossers for 21 were in, and what was left over could only be one thing.  As usual I had a few quibbles, Added = New, Enjoyed = Had – I’ve had lots of things that I haven’t enjoyed – and Soon = Then. Hmm.

And so to a COD, and there are quite a few to choose from. The excellent anagram at 5dn, 13dn and 27ac both got ticks as did two that initially were entered with question marks regarding the parsing – 4ac was one and 2dn was the other – and it’s this one that gets my nomination:

Picked bones while initially slicing one (5)

i Cryptic Crossword 2508 Monk

February 21, 2019

How not to prepare for an offering by Monk:

1. Spend a busy morning in work.
2. Enjoy a leisurely lunchtime walk, sandwich and coffee, by way of recovery.
3. Leave as little solving and blogging time as is strictly necessary.

Thus the late post, so apologies.

This is a Thursday reprint, and from this setter it was always going to be a little tough, but thankfully it wasn’t as impenetrable as it could have been and I finished in a time a little over par for the i. Admittedly along the way I did curse the presence of a non-existent German punctuation or arithmetic mark, confidently lobbed in MONIKERS for 24ac with minimal support from the wordplay, and ignored for a long time my hunch about the answer to 10ac. The advantages of having a father who was a fan of the radio series in his childhood. So, forgetting mistakes, my first one in was 19d, a saint who for once I did know, last in, yes, 24ac. Partly I suspect because of the mess I’d made of the grid in that corner.

All fair, all above board, though I’d describe this as being more rigorous and satisfying to finish than strictly speaking enjoyable. But that’s just me and puzzles by Monk, I suspect.

COD? 2d – “Punch in the face and leg (5,2)”.

There’s a discussion over on the other side about a Nina that, as ever, seems to have totally passed me by.

To October 2014:

i Cryptic Crossword 2507 Dac

February 20, 2019

Dac’s back with a puzzle that was perhaps a little towards the harder end of his range? The SW corner in particular at the close caused me no end of grief. Archduke who? And geography… All is as well clued as you’d expect on a Wednesday, so no complaints, the fault generally being with my lack of general knowledge. Elsewhere the composer was new but easy enough to glean, and non-Welsh solvers may have been a little puzzled by 23d. It’s a pangram, apparently, but as expected I didn’t notice.

COD? I’ll go with 1ac – “Home Office linked to closure of part of hospital? That’s novel (7,3)”.

To October 2014:

A lower case sparrow? Apparently so – a case of not knowing what to expect, because I can’t remember any previous appearances, my memory being what it is. Blame distractions. A new toy – a Chromebook complete with a lovely glowing keyboard and, more to the point, a searchable Chambers Dictionary in 12.5 glorious inches. The big red book gets bigger still.

But to business, albeit with a bit of mucking around in-between. A curve to draw. Extra letters. Unclued entries, leading to a quote or something. This I can cope with this, we’ve done this sort of thing before. Perhaps this isn’t going to turn into yet another mammoth session, because we’ve had a few of those of late.

Hold that thought. The first in is somewhere down the bottom of the grid. I’d forgotten how superfluous letters can muddy the waters. Yep, TASTE, that was how obvious a hint I needed. And it didn’t help much either. But finally… Getting into the swing of things with the downs… “Close(t)” has got to be endgame, a NOONER’s something Americans get up to lunchtime when the rest of us are eating, and so on.

The unclued entries? I’ve got some ideas, confirmed quite unexpectedly at 20ac. APISM, thematic behaviour indeed. Quickly look at what simians will fit. And with the mention of Shakespeare elsewhere a suspicion is swiftly beginning to form.

A brief debacle with 15ac, which is TORR and not TORT. A similar disaster averted at 12d – BOSN, and not BOSS. Similar stumbling blocks duly stumbled over the past couple of weeks having sharpened the senses somewhat…

Those extra letters? A bit of jiggery-pokery with the wordplay later… “THE STRAIN OF MAN’S BRED OUT INTO BABOON AND MONKEY.” More Shakespeare. Told you I was onto something. Lots of monkeys with typewriters? Apism, a symmetrical pattern?

Much staring at the grid later… It’s backwards, you see, or at least the bit I spotted first. THE INFINITE MONKEY THEOREM. Yep, that’s 24 cells. Out with the green highlighter, my favourite.

Now, wasn’t that a relief? A nice, enjoyable offering that didn’t leave me feeling in need of a lie-down at the close. Perhaps that was the idea. So thanks to all involved, and onward.