I don’t believe I’ve solved a Knut before, let alone blogged one, but if this is anything to go by it’ll be a pleasure to see more from this setter. There’s always a novelty element on a Tuesday, and this time we have a ghost theme, a Nina and a homophonic gimmick, all related. Something of a tour de force.

The general tone is refreshingly peppy, with very few crossword commonplaces and a thoroughly up to date (not to mention topical) feel. There are a few not-so-common solutions, including an Australian cricketer apparently of considerable renown; an Alaskan mountain of notable height; a cheese of notorious pungency, and something to do with parrots (which reminds me of a rather good Alan Coren anecdote – but space and time do not permit, alas). All are fairly clued and can be deduced from the wordplay given some checking letters if need be. There’s plenty of variety to enjoy, and a couple of good groans. Nominations for alternative clues of the day are invited since we’re spoilt for choice; mine is the smooth and modern 24ac:

“Gustave gets puncture taking taxi (8)”

Now then. Normally at this point we’d publish a link to the old Fifteensquared blog, but there isn’t one because the i for the first time is publishing original, never before published puzzles. So here’s a run through of the clues with parsing for each. The format is by necessity minimalist, for which apologies, but the morning paper doesn’t arrive early enough for anything else. Obviously if you scroll down any further you’ll run into the answers, so here’s a





6: NO(I)SE
7: EX + Cu + TE (Lawrence) inside a jumbled LAPD
10: Cryptic definition referring to a baseball diamond, and a ball flung at high velocity.
11: HIM in DEC(ember) backwards
12: Anagram of “Irish lad at MCG” – a cricketer
14: BARB + E(isenhowe)R
16: CO + W + PI + E, referring to Desperate Dan
19: Anagram of “Loyal BBC Three”, and a very nice definition.
23: Homophone of “high pup”, a St Bernard being nothing if not a big ‘un.
24: UBER in FLAT
25: A neat anagram of “antiseptic”, and a reference to Julian Barnes’ novel
26: Cryptic double definition: No Es if they’re banned.


1: 00 (licence to kill) + HAND + every other letter in kArAcHi
2: Anagram of “Barnet” with “mo” in it
3: DEN supported by AL(abama) + I(nstitute) – a mountain
4: ELECT + R(epublican) + I(n) C(harge)
5: R(omeo) (International Phonetic Alphabet) + ADIOS
8: Ca + Li + Co
9: sExY bEaSt
13: LIMB + URGER. A cheese celebrated for its odiferous qualities.
15: Anagram of “Prepare a”
17: Anagram of w(ife) + n(ew) + doobie
18: Hidden in moST EFFIcient, referring to Ms Graf
20: Anagram of “in Solent” with the Ns removed
21: ERAS + ED – today’s only chestnut
22: (F)AYE’S, Dunaway’s that is

Finally, click here for the completed grid with thematic elements highlighted.


Perhaps I’m just a little dazed and confused on being asked to get up early and return to work this morning, but I found this to be a bit trickier than expected for Quixote. To be fair the majority went in without too much ado, but then I just couldn’t see 7d or 10ac to the NE, 25ac to the SE, and the bell ringer across the middle, all of which took much of the solving time. The latter reminds me, BTW, of the hilarity caused once during a game of Trivial Pursuit when, upon being asked what a 15ac was, I answered that I didn’t know but that it rang a bell. I never did get it. As for today’s puzzle, I did, eventually, though with a time about par for the i and much higher than expected for the Don. New words learnt? I did know 10ac, as it turns out, but not 9ac or 11d, though I do wonder if the latter is also known as a Fool’s…

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 11d – “Manoeuvre of chess to alarm! (8,4)”.

To December 2014 and the sort of comprehensive blog from duncanshiell that we all aspire to:


Saturday 20th April 2019

A pleasant solving experience last Saturday, thank you Phi.

There was a new word for me in HYPERDULIA  which will doubtless have sorted out the left-footers from the right. And TIPSTAFFS is hardly everyday usage, but does crop up from time to time in Crosswordland. One or two other tricky bits – ‘proper’ for U in 9d held me up, OC rather than the more common CO for military leader in 5d – but it was all perfectly solvable with a little patience.

Picking a COD is no easy task though… Hmm, let’s think, plenty of possibles, none screaming at me… I’ll go for this one:

8d Dishonest wayward lotus-eaters (9)

Edit:  I wrote the above last Saturday, and today I feel like retracting those thanks to our venerable setter, because it turns out there was another of Phi’s unsolvable ghost themes, hidden away for him and… well frankly no-one else, to discover. Very annoying! Please read the comments under the solutions from the 2015 blog here for an explanation, or click here for a more entertaining route to those themed words.

After yesterdays pleasant stroll through the gentle pastures of crossword land Monk today takes us to the cruciverbal equivalent of mountain climbing, well that’s how I saw it. After solving 1ac it all became steadily harder and it was only after sorting out the two long anagrams, 9ac and 23ac that things started to fall into place and even then answers were going in by definition only as some of the wordplay was just a bit too torturous or just unknown as in 8dn Norma a constellation and 4ac where I could only think of Bonzer, if only I had spotted the clever link between all the across clues but I didn’t so it was out with the word finder for the last few.

While nothing here is particularly obscure, 4ac maybe the exception if you are not up on your Australian slang, the clues take a fair bit of unravelling but give a lot of satisfaction once you have and just in case you haven’t there is always the Fifteensquared blog where Bertandjoyce explain it all except for the COD 5dn

Tough guy possibly viewed as a female? (4,3)

A very enjoyable IOS reprint, nothing very obscure, the Italian writer at 22ac, the singer at 10ac maybe and I cant say 21ac sprung readily to mind when thinking of TV drama’s  but with the checking letters in they were all readily gettable and easy enough to parse once written down.

As said over on Fifteensquared  it is very difficult to find much to say as its all so clearly clued that it just remains to pick a COD which is 8dn

Set of rules corruptly concocted and found to lack sanction ultimately (4,2,7)

A pangram which wasn’t, although interestingly it would have been an easy matter to include the W and Z with straightforward adjustments to 16 and 26. How odd. Hard to imagine that Dac would have overlooked that. Anyway, aside from that observation it’s the usual blogger’s nightmare from this compiler, with nothing whatsoever to quibble, muse or carp about.

Well, unless you have a boeuf with French stuff in your crossword, that is – in which case your gruntlement will have been less than complete. I liked both of those as it happens, although it’s a source of amazement when it turns out that such things aren’t long-forgotten after all. We also have a couple of foreign cities, possibly somewhat obscure; an irritating Americanism; contributions from India and the Caribbean, not to mention darkest Kent – giving the puzzle a cosmopolitan flavour. Nominations for COD are invited, since there are so many contenders; I’m going to plump for 7d:

“Horseman wants transport to go to Paris, nothing more (9)”.

An exemplary puzzle deserves an exemplary blog, so it’s a good job Duncan provided one for Fifteensquared in January 2015. Click here.

More cats? Surely not.

What there are though are misprints. In most of the clues it says but the first couple I got didn’t have any. Call me contrary. Lots of unclued entries too which always means fun and games. All those greyed out squares, which are treated somehow apparently, ergo a lot less help from checking letters.

Oh look, thematic clues under the grid. Definition only. If only Radian’s sleuth themed puzzle had been scheduled earlier, well, then I might have thought of SLEUTH earlier. But that comes later.

First the grid. We use an ABACUS to tot and not tow. Yes, for once 1ac being a suitably friendly introduction to the solve. A CAMPUS is somewhere students live occasionally and nothing to do with a book. KIA ORA reminds me of a drink for some reason, perhaps rightly so, as it’s some kind of toast I’ve not heard of or can’t remember either. Old kings tend to be KNUT in this game.

The grid fill was alright, wasn’t it? No idea about those thematic entries though, and word searches aren’t helping even with the handy list of unchecked letters. Though spotting THIS OLD MAN CAME ROLLING HOME quickly as the result of the misprints did help. A rhyme even I know.

Give a dog a bone. Something to do with bones. That pirate. I guessed pretty early the pirate was something-hook, because of the H, an O and K, see, I’m not completely out for the count on a Saturday. What if he’s just HOOK of Pan fame? With a TALUS in the middle which is indeed a bone.

Job done. Find some handy synonyms of the unclued entries. Lob a bone in the centre, and ones surprisingly I’d heard of – I dropped biology as soon as I could, being squeamish. Still, the only one that surprised me was COSTA.

So, no cats, but dogs. Or rather something to do with a dog. Finished, enjoyed. Another one that was comfortably within my difficulty range – that can’t continue. Ducks.

We’re still back in January 2015 for this crossword from the editor. Eimi’s contributions are rather rare, and it seems that I get to blog most of them – probably because he’s a natural fit for Tuesday. Today’s theme concerns 1ac and 26/27, and one might say that the appropriate response to such blandishments would be 9/21 or indeed 4d.

I don’t time myself, but this one was definitely a quickie. Plenty of lively wordplay and a nicely diverse set of solutions made the solving process good fun: there’s generally a chuckle or two to be had with Eimi, and both the long vertical lights on either side raised a smile. I wonder how well 24d is remembered these days? Perhaps not as well as he deserves, and younger solvers might be forgiven for frowning at that one. As for 14d, he’d have posed a bit of a problem were it not for his tubes. Well that’s something learnt today. Standouts for me today included 2, 18 and 25, with 10ac emerging as my COD:

“Three of a kind forming spherical layer (5)”

There’s an interesting but off-beam parsing for that one from John in the original Fifteensquared write-up; and another one which hadn’t occurred to me from Eimi himself in the comments.

Happy Easter Bank Holiday, everybody. Today we have a crossword by one of the Monday regulars, but this time there’s a twist – a ghost theme in fact. I didn’t spot it but somehow Raich had managed to implant the idea subliminally, making me feel thoroughly foolish after looking up the January 2015 Fifteensquared blog.

I have praised this setter before as an excellent purveyor of entry-level puzzles, and whilst this one won’t have detained experienced solvers for long it’s all high quality stuff. Nicely made clues are plentiful – 6 and 31 for instance, also 14 and 16 which form an unusual pair; my COD is one of the slightly more convoluted examples:

29ac: “Something initially hard to believe – they’re electrically charged creatures? (9)”

If you’re at a loose end after that, don’t fancy the wordsearch and haven’t done so already, please have a look at the second idothei Guest Puzzle just below this post. It’s an entertaining one.


Roll up ladies and gentlemen, and no shoving at the back please.  Welcome to the second idothei Guest Puzzle, and the debut of a new setter. As far as I know this is Saltamonte’s first published crossword, and Jon tells me that a constructive critique would not be unwelcome. My job is to provide an introduction and the parsings: I’ll raise any niggles which occur to me but leave the general criticism for the comments. Positive and polite are the watchwords, of course. I enjoyed solving this puzzle, and there are some punchy surfaces and unusual clue constructions to ponder. Here is my COD:

16ac: “Mineral keys lock in the French (5,4)”

… and here is a little diversion for you. I have been rather harsh about 25ac, which seemed to let the general standard down somewhat. Therefore, money where your mouth is time, Batarde. I’m inviting suggestions for alternative clues, and here’s mine:

“Take measures before capturing poet (7)”

And so to the parsings. There are, of course conventions for doing this, all of which are going out of the window in the interests of plain English. Definitions are in bold face and anagram indicators are italicised. Obviously if you scroll down any further you’ll come to the answers, so it seems prudent to issue a






1 Acrobatic Cleo, no learner, appeared in dodgy strip joint’s showers (14)
PROJECTIONISTS. Anagram of “Cleo” minus the “L” plus “strip joints”.

10 Incorporate measure of info into bomb (5)
IMBED Mb (megabyte) in IED (improvised explosive device).

11 Ruinous PA went wild producing offspring (just the one) (9)
UNIPAROUS Anagram of “ruinous PA”, and a fairly recondite word.

12 Battleaxe held bra in tatters (7)
HALBERD Anagram of “held bra”.

13 Enterprise headed by explorer returned to dock maybe (7)
TOBACCO The explorer is either John or Sebastian Cabot, backwards, plus CO for company. This refers to Tobacco Dock in London.

14 From head to toe, Spain aches (5)
PAINS Spain with the “S” moved to the end.

16 Mineral keys lock in the French (5,4)
TABLE SALT “Les”, the French definite article (plural) between “tab” and “alt”, both to be found on your keyboard. Smashing clue.

19 Reading maybe outside, a book with wine. Superb! (9)
FANTASTIC Refers to Reading FC football club, with “a” plus “NT” plus “asti” inside. The New Testament is books plural, surely, even if bound in a single volume?

20 Medics eat, for example, leftovers (5)
DREGS “eg” inside “drs”.

22 Catching mesh (7)
NETTING Double definition.

25 Given curtailed supply (7)
PROVIDE Simply “provided” without the final letter. This does seem weak to me since it uses the same sense of the verb.

27 Dali art on mixed freight (9)
TRAINLOAD Anagram of “Dali on art”

28 Slow starts to begin really active kinetic exercises (5)
BRAKE First letters of Begin Really Active Kinetic Exercises.

29 Trick put double agent in crumbling gaol unit. Well done (14)
CONGRATULATION “con” (trick) followed by “rat” in an anagram of “gaolunit”. A couple of queries here: is a rat a double agent? – and can congratulation be singular in this sense. I feel that both can be justified, but it’s a bit of a stretch.


2 Plan to enter dance before brave uprising (9)
REBELLION Hmm. That would be plan B inside “reel”, followed by “lion”, I think. Brave can mean a courageous soldier, as can lion, but I don’t really buy it because the sense here only works as an adjective.

3 Good hearted saint finds justice (5)
JUDGE “g(ood)” in St Jude.

4 Looking for a new start? Adopt cute fashion (4,5)
COUP D’ETAT Anagram of “adopt cute”; not keen on fashion as an anagrind. “Looking for” appears to be redundant.

5 Pointless edition produced for numbskull (5)
IDIOT Anagram of “edition” minus the points, ie. East and North.

6 Mashed red banana found in restaurants (4,5)
NAAN BREAD Anagram of “red banana” – a good spot.

7 Emotionless King left exorcist working (5)
STOIC Anagram of “exorcist” without “rex”. The pedant in me thinks that a Stoic controls his or her emotions rather than lacks them.

8 Colossus southpaw shows resolve (4,3)
SUSS OUT Hidden solution.

9 Mitred piece? (6)
BISHOP Cryptic definition.

15 Drug has nothing on queen, but ruler sold here (9)
STATIONER “statin” with “o” inside, followed by HM the Queen.

17 Retreat but return by bike (9)
BACKPEDAL Cryptic definition, nicely done.

18 Coffee brewing, nice aroma (9)
AMERICANO Anagram of “nice aroma”.

19 Brown back in charge after governing body shows excessive zeal (7)
FANATIC “tan” backwards plus “i(n) c(harge)”, preceded by F(ootball) A(ssociation).  “Showing” would be better in my opinion, since the sense is adjectival.

21 Discharged driver headed north to collect upturned sample? (6)
SEEPED My last one in. The sample is “pee”, the driver is “des” and the whole lot is inverted. Is the designated driver thing widely known? It had passed me by.

23 Nonsensical witterings regularly held back writer (5)
TWAIN Not sure I’ve seen this done before – anyway, every other letter of “nonsensical witterings” backwards reads “gieTWAINso”, and there’s Mr Clemens in the middle.

24 Billy holds fifty and isn’t shy to tell (5)
GLOAT A (billy) goat with an L in it.  The definition isn’t quite right because it suggests “gloats”.

26 Ring composer (5)
ORBIT Double definition, referring to William Orbit. Who knew?