It was Hieroglyph rather than Radian who produced this amusing themed puzzle from September 2014. One assumes that since we’re dealing with one of the cultural jewels of the 20th century here nobody will have had much difficulty spotting the theme, but I wonder which one tipped you off? In my case it was 9d, being a bit slow on the uptake with 16ac.

The setter has done well to include all the major items and scatter them throughout the grid, but this has led to a couple of peculiar entries, specifically 14ac and 16d. Well, the former is fair enough even if it’s not what I’d call general knowledge, but the latter is not a verb I’d care to use, and if the OED is any guide it’s been out of fashion for a century and a half. The clues are all pretty respectable but with nothing to make one jump out of one’s seat, which is why I’m breaking with my usual rule of excluding thematics and going with 2d for my COD because it did stand out a little.

“Member of 16A with Milliband and yes, Balls (9)”

Bertandjoyce supplied the write-up at Fifteensquared, so we’re in good hands for parsing and analysis.

Not an IoS reprint as I supposed, but one from a distant August Bank Holiday. As straightforward as you’d expect, nevertheless, though was I the only person to struggle a little in the NE corner? As noted on Fifteensquared the containment indicator in 11ac isn’t as clear as it could have been, which caused me some grief. ORECE isn’t a word, you know. The definition at 6d also goes beyond being cryptic as far as I’m concerned. 🙂 Elsewhere progress was rapid and enjoyable with the long answers going in pretty sharpish and helping no end. Finish time? About par for the i.

COD? 23ac -“This time I answer (6,3)”.

To the tail end of the summer of 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/08/25/independent-8693-by-commoner/

Saturday 9th February 2019

We all have blanks in our general knowledge – for me they include cat breeds, dog breeds, horse breeds, horse racing, operas and soap operas; don’t look to me in the pub quiz for any of those.   So no surprise that the mini-theme passed me by last weekend.

It turns out that Phi is something of an ailurophile, and that the 3 obvious United States which featured last week are the only 3 which have their own state cat: For Maryland it’s the calico, for Massachusetts it’s the tabby,  and the Maine coon even I can guess.  All of which passed me by of course. I did have a Siamese cat once mind you – one of two given to my twin sister & me for our 9th birthday in what I suppose was a bit of a wordplay joke by my parents…

Unfortunately my paper got accidentally abandoned in a car park in Plymouth shortly after completion last Saturday, so I have no record of any particular problems or comment-worthy issues whilst solving – apart from having to look up the aforementioned Maine coon, that is; otherwise it was all pretty par for the course I seem to remember. I also remember liking the following clue – a bit of a write-in, but nicely done:

Lots of people and children in US state, possibly this one? (13)

And all the answers from 2014 are here.

We end the working week with a fairly straightforward reprint of a Monday puzzle by Alchemi, nothing much in the way of obscurities here. Although both 1ac and 29ac aren’t words in everyday usage, they can be assembled by following the wordplay. A couple went in on definition alone – 20ac and 24ac. I’m not familiar with Greek islands, but “This place” in the clue had to be “here” which made the answer fairly obvious.

Over on Fifteensquared NealH had quibbles regarding 3dn and 17dn but they both seem fine to me. 3dn was originally entered with a question mark, but on seeing it written the parsing got a tick, and as there isn’t a lot else that stands out I will make that my COD:

If the Queen took up roller – skating, might she break this? (8,5)

Our reprint today is all the way back from 2009, I suspect because of today’s date. Beyond a handful of references in the clues though there doesn’t seem to be anything else going on, so… Shrugs.

It’s Scorpion, so it’s a little tough. I was pretty pleased however to come in just a little over par for the i, though with a load of question marks at the close. Perhaps I got lucky, or perhaps I’ve just been solving Scorpion for a long time. Chief among those not fully understood were 1ac and 6ac, with queries elsewhere about the vehicle tax and exactly how 12ac was supposed to work. The latter’s very clever, but doesn’t work in a Welsh accent. For the others it took the mighty Gaufrid to make everything clear.

But was it enjoyable? Yes it was, thoroughly, with lots of ticks to go with the equal number of question marks. As it’s Valentine’s Day, for COD I’ll go with the one I suspect Eimi spotted, 21d – “More than one X on side of Valentine present perhaps (5)”.

To October 2009:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2009/10/15/independent-7176scorpion/

No Dac this week, but an IoS reprint from Poins that is a more than ample substitute. Pretty smooth surfaces, though not as smooth as the master’s, of course, and enjoyable throughout. Finish time a little under par for the i. A couple of trickier bits along the way – a pretty obscure bit of slang at 20ac, unless you’re an avid Beatles fan or from that neck of the woods, an Egyptian goddess I bet few will have heard of, and a knotty bit of wordplay I thought at 11ac. Well, it took me an age to spot it. 10d also gave me a little grief, but only because I couldn’t spell the sewer at 21ac. 🙂

COD? I’ll go with 25ac – “Offer of support to keep North Dakota republican (6)”.

To October 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/10/26/independent-on-sunday-1287-by-poins/

Always make a point of reading the preamble properly, that’s my advice. I never do mind, and sometimes come a cropper…

Perhaps it was the lack of grid lines, always a little alarming. 9 clues with wordplay omitting a single letter. 11 others generating a single extra letter. What about the last bit that mentioned, as if in passing, another 11 that needed a word removed? That would be the bit I completely missed, for at least half the solve. What alerted you? The more than is usual sense of mystification that overcame me on looking at some of the clues. Are we looking for effects, or a painter, or something to do with both? As it turns out just the former, extremely trippy meaning what you think it should – TY at the end of PROPER. Now, that makes a little more sense. Just the last bit of the preamble to make sense of then.

It’s Saturday. I’m never feeling my best on a Saturday, especially when frozen through. Yes, it snowed again.

Blank grids. Well, Gila’s been a little generous. The first four across clues fill both rows, an INTERRAIL PASS all of one. Jigsaw and Chambers time. Last in DAFTIE down in the bottom right which is generally how I was feeling by the close.

OK. I haven’t got all 9 of the omitted letters. That’s not going to help with that route. Ditto the 11 extra, so bang goes the name. Let’s have a look for 17 cells to highlight. I never was any good at word searches, and we’re getting a lot of them of late. Quinapalus has got a handy grid search though. But did it help? Well, sort of. It only took me 24 hours from noting with interest the name of a Mac operating system somewhere in the grid, a hunch that given a “Blank Face” we were possibly looking for something to do with rock climbing, and a bit of fun with partial anagrams to come up with:

EL CAPITAN, YOSEMITE and Alex Honnold. And no, I never did manage to parse all of them. Only missing two, mind you, not bad.

The 9 omitted that show the route? According to Wikipedia Mr Honnold followed something called the FREERIDER line. Nope, doesn’t mean anything to me either, but some of the letters I’ve got match. Drawing lines from the ones I’ve got to the ones I haven’t (notably two E’s), and staring hard at some of the parsing again, gives a route that looks a lot like the one here:

Phew. Could be right. Could be wrong too. Fifteensquared will know for sure. Me? I need another whisky. Gila’s beaten me in the past, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s done so again this week, but for what it’s worth… Voilà!

What to make of this? It’s Tuesday and it’s Radian so there must be a theme, surely? Unfortunately the setter didn’t drop in at Fifteensquared to elucidate when the crossword first appeared in November 2014. My initial impression on completion was that it’s a remarkably downbeat set of words, but on reflection I suspect that there’s something else going on. Let’s see if anyone else is thinking along the same lines.

This was typical Radian: not too difficult with quite a wide variety of clue types. Rather a lot of anagrams, you might think. At any rate there was near unanimous praise for the puzzle in the other place and it was certainly enjoyable to solve. It’s rarely an easy matter to find an obvious COD with this compiler, the standard being pretty high throughout, so alternative nominations are welcome. 22 and 25 caught my eye, but since it gave me a spot of bother and a nice penny-drop moment right at the end I’m going for 12ac:

“Mexican team caught out in base (4)”

The Don is back in his rightful Monday spot, at least temporarily. As expected we’ve got a fairly straightforward offering with a couple of unknowns chucked in for good measure. Both were unfortunately over on the far LHS – the naturalist and the beast at 7d – which meant that I struggled a little after flying through the rest. The definition at 22ac earned a question mark – it’s been a long time since I’ve read the book in question. 13ac I made a bit of a wild stab at. PENS, anyone else? Finish time though was still well under par for the i, albeit with the unforced error.

Elsewhere 15d unfortunately doesn’t seem to be quite right, we’re missing an “of”, and I’d forgotten the saint too, not that it mattered. 12ac was also a little… Odd. It made sense on solving, sort of, but that’s as far as it goes.

A thoroughly good puzzle with lots of ticks, my COD goes to 10d – “Evil folk joining renegade, one emerging as anti-establishment figure? (12)”.

To September 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/09/24/independent-8719quixote/

Saturday 2nd February 2019

Hands up who spotted the Nina?

Well I spent a good couple of minutes looking at the end of last Saturday’s crossword, and completely failed to notice the procession of CA through the across solutions – CAttle, sCAmpi, voCAls, outCAsts, deliCAte then, niftily, sceniC, AgoraphobiA, Coward, ACt of God, lACtific, reACts, lunACy, maniAC. Remarkable that, and a good example for the uninitiated of what a Nina is as opposed to a theme.

Over at Fifteensquared here, Phi declares ‘it’s just something I put in to get over the ever-recurring dread of having to fill a new grid’. Well, maybe, but it must be fun to compose too.

Another remarkable thing was the complete absence of anagrams. Again, hands up if you can remember ever seeing that in an i crossword before?

I didn’t find the clues as difficult as Phi can be though. My last two in were the long entries at 8d and 11a, which were both a little tricky, but generally there were no complaints.

Indeed, some goodies in there, amongst which my pick for COD goes to the following:

5d Second son emerging from nearest cupboard (6)