An enjoyable and challenging puzzle from Jambazi who doesn’t hold back with the smut or sexual innuendo which seems to annoy a good many solvers. I must admit to not really liking 3dn and wonder if that had been part of a news story would it have been printed as P**s?  5/7 is not really what you want to read at the breakfast table but entirely forgivable as it was such a good clue. The most annoying part of the whole thing for me was 16dn – I always miss the With = W. It’s frequently used by setters and I miss it every time. It was this corner that halted my fairly rapid progress, with 23ac being my LOI and that only because it was the most likely thing the word search came up with.

All of this is admirably explained by Beermagnet over on the Fifteensquared blog where the setter makes a brief appearance and ignores any of the criticism.

COD I have a few to choose from – 1ac, 5dn, 8dn and 20ac all candidates – but 26ac just takes it.

Managed crazy European party (4,2)

A tricky little offering from Monk today, 7d as might be expected, though with a smattering of easier clues to get started. I say easier, but if you didn’t take one look at 1d and chuck it on, or couldn’t get the film quickly, or for that matter the French down the RHS, then I can imagine this taking a lot longer still. The religious imagery remained suitably obscure until I spotted the beginnings of the Nina which helped no end to the south of the grid but not to the north where I needed the Fifteensquared comments to explain what’s going on. Very clever, though I would never have got it on my own. Elsewhere there were loads of question marks at the close, though with everything present and correct and done in a time just a little over par for the i, much to my surprise. So no walk in the park but no monster either.

COD? The either baffling or brilliant 3d depending on how you got on with it – “Zero charge for this sapling, reportedly? Over my dead body (8)”.

To February 2015:

After yesterday’s travails something fairly straightforward from Dac, with only 11ac and 10ac likely to cause difficulty. I didn’t know either but managed to drag up the appropriate writer to get the former, but didn’t know the poet referenced in the latter so had to resort to a word search. It’s odd for Dac to have such unknowns in the grid, and I do half wonder if there’s some kind of Nina going on what with BOYS down the far right hand column, but maybe it’s just nothing.

Elsewhere progress was rapid, with only a little pause for thought to wonder if 14ac was correct, and on the spelling of 17ac. As well clued as always, of course, but that goes without saying. There’s some debate on the other side about trip as an anagram indicator, and I must admit to wondering the same myself, but I think it does just about work.

First in 18d (a case of opening the paper and spotting an easy clue straight off) which I then proceeded to write in the wrong place before realising that 16d was too long, last in the aforementioned musical style. Strictly speaking a DNF but time half par for the i, for what it’s worth.

COD? Lots to like of course, and lots that’s very clever, but 7ac is a lovely little clue that exemplifies for me how Dac makes this setting lark look so easy – “Comeback of great British singer/songwriter (4)”.

Back to February 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Invalid Care? Race, innit?

Well, no, nul points again Jon. Something a lot subtler than that. Hot and cold, ice and fire, and no I’m guessing not Game of Thrones either. But because of the latter any Inquisitor solving is delayed, because… spoilers.

And, oh, Eurovision, too. Solving time therefore being somewhat thin on the ground.

Luckily this week we have bars, and a whole raft of clues which look like they’ll be sort of normalish with a little tweak here and there. Don’t mention the thematic clues, though, or that red herring. I’ve fallen for one or two of those recently.

But that grid fill. Well, adding or subtracting letters from the clues took a little time to get used to, but get used to it I did, with a little backwards engineering here and there. And no, no matter how hard you stare at it DOG TAG or variants thereof just isn’t a satisfactory substitute for NAME TAG. SULU it transpires isn’t just a Star Trek character. And so on, with just the far SW corner obstinately lacking in entries. The two across ones in the far bottom left in particular.

Twenty four hours following the UK’s particularly dire showing, only made more palatable by Madge’s equally mediocre performance…

To the thematic clues in the vain hope they will help. Which are really two clues in one without definition, letters moved across to make up the entries. And a red herring. But again, we don’t like to talk about red herrings. And there’s one in French…

A first guess based on the race theory above gave me BRITISH and an anagram of IRISH to the NE, but well, that didn’t work.

So look again, this time trying to actually solve the clues rather than guessing based on checking letters. And, you know what, it worked out alright. Here’s what I ended up with:

cool cabin -> cobol cain
trench icy -> tench ricy
lassa biting -> lass baiting
chill passion -> chilli pass on
raw spring -> rawn sprig
spotted nippy -> potted snippy

Things cold, you see, or fevers.

And no, my French wasn’t up to it, but that looks like a complete set of thematic entries, giving enough checking letters to complete the grid. Huzzah.

Another twenty four hours later, and there remains a nagging doubt. I think the French one is the poisson rouge, but if it’s not, then I’ve fallen for it hook line and sinker. Except I can’t parse it.

It’s supposed to help confirm the amendments we made to the thematic entries. What letters did we move? They would be BRAINS, and presumably not of the SA variety.

So “Nous” is “brains, intellect”? Initialement obviously gives us the first letter of the preceding word, but what does baignoires mean, and bains for that matter? Well, Google Translate let me down with the former first go, giving tubs, but it turns out they both mean “baths”. So B(R)AINS.


No red herrings fallen for.

Famous last words…

(And no, I never did get to the bottom of that title).

Well, I thought that was enjoyable, and pretty straightforward too, even if solving over several days makes that difficult to gauge. Here’s a grid that most definitely isn’t supposed to be coloured blue.

themed crossword which is very clever indeed. I’ll leave it to others to decide by how wide a margin it’s too clever – solving this felt very much like double-digging the vegetable patch to me and it was a relief to finish.

Let’s get the grid out of the way first: it’s a disgrace. The checking is fine but it’s two puzzles in one as near as dammit. You may take the view that it’s justified in view of the complex thematic gimmick, but we’ll just have to agree to differ if so. Add some unusually tortuous clues, shaky surfaces and very little in the way of gentle starters, and it all becomes a slog. I’ve no intention of reciting a litany of moans, so suffice it to say that this crossword irritated more than it entertained. Duncan was on blogging duty at Fifteensquared in February 2015, and he enjoyed it more than me, so please click here for explanations, comments and a more positive assessment.

Clue of the day? One of the gnarliest ones, but it did please me when the penny dropped:

23ac: “Practically impossible, what I do mostly when holding the pack and then getting pontoon? (10)”

Another typically cold-ish, wet-ish bank holiday rolls round, and with it as expected Quixote on the off-chance, maybe, that we’d be looking for something quick and breezy so that we could all get out and enjoy the sunshine. Well, this morning it turns out isn’t so bad, so I’m out enjoying the peace and quiet and sort of warm in the garden with the crossword before the weather descends this afternoon, when as chance would have it I’m scheduled to put a chest of drawers together. Such fun.

The puzzle? Nothing too tricky, enjoyable while it lasted, and finished in a pretty good time for the i. A couple of unknowns dotted round the grid, notably at 3ac, and at 6d which sounds like the title of a Sisters of Mercy song but is probably entirely unrelated. Elsewhere I can never remember how to spell 14ac despite having read the story of the same name several times, and probably wouldn’t have known 21ac without a solid grounding in Hemingway books and Spaghetti Western scores, of which I am something of a connoisseur.

First in 1ac where the only trouble was persuading myself that of course it couldn’t be MASH, last in the aforementioned 3ac which I did check on finishing and was more than quietly pleased to have got right.

COD? The mildly amusing 7d – “I’m a beach thing constructed to hide person’s bottom maybe (7,7)”.

So enjoy the rest of your bank holiday, and if you haven’t already do have a look at yesterday’s guest puzzle from exit, which I promise will brighten your day.

To February 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

So, our third guest puzzle, and one from exit who I’d been secretly hoping would send something our way for a while. 🙂 This was a thoroughly enjoyable, pretty breezy offering, finished in a time that would be considerably under par for the i. Think an IoS reprint, or a gentle Dac. Very much what I was hoping for when I foolishly decided – just one more puzzle – very late one evening. Just the thing to while away a little time over a traditionally wet Bank Holiday weekend.

To solve, click here:

COD? A difficult choice, tbh, but in a good way, because there are loads to choose from. But let’s go with 17d which has a lovely surface reading, a definition I bet you didn’t know, and nice clear wordplay to lead you home safe and sound – “Flats offering view over railway (7)”.

Answers and parsing of the clues follows, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, look away now.







1 Less than half-hearted roar (5)

4 Surpass courier, maybe, with direction on label (7)
UPS (courier, maybe) + TAG (label) + E{ast} (direction)

8 Oscar held by poet for directors (5)
O{scar} (‘phonetic’ alphabet) inside BARD (poet)

9 University note is incorrect about sex service providers (9)
U{niversity} + TI (note in tonic sol-fa scale) + LIES (is incorrect) enclosing IT (about sex)

11 Hotel said to be involved in 21A (4)
Homophone of ‘WRITS’ – which are likely to feature in litigation (21ac)

12 How do a tuxedo, one small coin and 50 yen lie next to each other? (10)
A + DJ (dinner jacket, tuxedo) + A (one) + CENT + L (50, Roman numeral) + Y{en}

14 “I rate BR awful” – judge (7)
(I RATE BR)*. A subject close to the other half’s heart at the moment, as she’s been on jury duty for the past couple of weeks.

16 If new they would be American – balls! (7)
A ball in cricket which hits the pitch around the batsman’s feet is called a yorker, and New Yorkers are American.

18 Endless criticism for movement (3)
STICK (criticism, usually adverse) minus its first and last letters (endless).

19 I rush on in a frenzy to feed (7)

20 Supervise bishop’s position (7)
OVER + SEE – a bishop can be said to be over a see (diocese).

21 Court case – in it Ali got rattled (10)

22/10 In Idaho nest you’ll find frankness (7)
Hidden in IdaHO NEST You’ll. Phi splits his answers across the grid quite often and I’m never sure if I love or loathe the device. I suppose it adds a little spice.

25 Be off! Race madly for source of refreshment (6,3)

26 Opposition from New Musical Express initially, we’re told (5)
Sounds like the initials NME. Am I the only person who remembers the headline from said journal “Sleeping with the NME”?

27 Defamation of South country queen (7)
S{outh} + LAND (country) + ER (queen)

28 Quiet dramatist’s dismissive comment (5)
P (musical indication for soft, quiet) + SHAW (George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic)


2 Old key to lift (5)
EX (former, old) + ALT (key on computer keyboard)

3 Probability of sailor taking in theologian (4)
DD (Doctor of Divinity, theologian) inside OS (Ordinary Seaman, sailor)

5 In our prom a lyric could be blue, say (7,6)
(OUR PROM A LYRIC)* – blue is an example of a primary colour

6 I let Tories rampage for soap, shampoo, etcetera (10)

7 Blame reduced for the innocent (9)
GUILT (blame) + LESS (reduced)

8 Snip a girl’s first bra in confusion (7)
Anagram (confusion) of (A + G + BRA + IN) – “Girl’s first” indicates first letter only

9 One over the eight, eh? So we hear (5,3,5)
1ac = Below, giving UNDER + THE + a synonym of 8ac (BOARD), TABLE. Across because “eh” sounds like “a”. “One over the eight” and “under the table” are both synonyms for “drunk”. And 9 is one more than 8, just for good measure. Very clever, and quite complex, so true to form I just lobbed it in on solving from the definition and enumeration alone. 🙂

13 Vegetable found in wreckage of Nantes brig (6,4)

15 Generous, reportedly stuffed with chocolate bars? (9)
Homophone of ‘bounty-full’ – Bounty is a type of chocolate bar

17 Flats offering view over railway (7)
SCENE (view) + RY (abbr for railway: line) – flats are the painted panels used for scenery in a theatre. Who knew? Well, exit of course.

21/24 Servants’ need changed? Yes! (7)
LACK (need) + YES* (anagram indicator is ‘changed’).

23 Trollope: “Ragnarök includes Götterdämmerung, for example” (5)
Hidden in TrollOPE RAgnarök. In Norse mythology Ragnarök is “the coming mutual destruction of the gods and the powers of evil, and the end of this world, to he superseded by a better.” – according to the BRB. Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the gods) is the final opera in Wagner’s Ring cycle.

Saturday 18th May 2019

No Nina or hidden theme last weekend from the ever-productive Mr Phi, just an excellent example of his style sprinkled with invention and individuality.

There’s some discussion over at Fifteensquared as to the pace that different solvers manage with Phi.  Personally I’m with Dormouse – typically I find a few long and well-signalled anagrams to get me off to a flying start – like 17a this time, and then there are nearly always a few obscurities, interlocking four-letterers, or hefty subtractions that slow me up at the end – as in 11a LANGU[ish] and 3d PERU[ser] this time around.

23a raised a laugh, 6d was a Phi-ism of a style he’s made his own, 1a and 1d were both particularly neat, 14d must have been a real challenge to clue, yet clued it was, but my COD goes to the following:

15a Cause perplexity in new place located in a bit of common? (7)

Overall maybe a bit harder than average for a Phi, but probably about average difficulty for the i.


A Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint which marks an anniversary for the setter. Nina spotters among you will already have spotted it but I needed the blog.  Not an unduly difficult puzzle to get into – 1dn and 4ac whilst not familiar answers were nicely clued and just needed checking to make sure, likewise 9ac which needed all the checking letters before it made sense. I thought Great Height might be a slight exaggeration compared to Everest. A few went in without fully understanding why but it is mostly all explained over on the Fifteensquared blog. I was though left wondering where the OTTO came from in 12dn, so at the risk of teaching granny etc, it’s an alternative to Attar which is an oil. Whilst the setter gives toilets a rest he does burden us with the equally awful drugs reference at 21dn. 19dn and 16dn were the last ones in – both guesses as I have no Idea who the saint’s mother was, and 16 drugs again and such a convoluted clue.

So to COD. The aforementioned 1ac and 14dn got ticks, 25ac got a smile, but my pick is 6dn

Pretension abandoned when son leaves, one turns to free food (3-6)

The tricky little obscurities dotted round the grid (the fanatical warriors and African leader in particular) made me wonder if this was a Thursday reprint, or maybe an old prize puzzle, but no, it’s one of those Monday Indy reprints that always used to be a little trickier than you were perhaps quite ready for first thing in the week, but by no means a monster. I’m saying used to because I haven’t solved the Independent regularly for about 12 years now, so the situation may well have changed. It also means that for me our i reprints are fresh and new. 🙂

This was completed in a little over par for the i, though early when I’m perhaps not thinking straight, so if you whizzed through then that’s my excuse. I was pleased to get the two mentioned above from the wordplay, and only really struggled on 1ac where I couldn’t think of any likely looking cars or particles, though for someone in my line of business the storage unit leapt out. The bear, Japanese weapon and “lasting impression” were gifts for opening up the grid, with the result that those and loads after went in on definition and a few checking letters. Yes, I probably missed some treats in the wordplay, but as they say any landing’s a good one.

Obscurities / difficulties, other than the aforementioned 1ac? Just the one – the answer for 3d was obvious enough, but I spent the time looking for anything other than Bruce’s backing band, which I did know should I have twigged what was going on.

We have one clue re-jigged at 17ac, so thanks to the editor for keeping a close eye.

COD? With lots to appreciate I’ll go with 1d just for that smooth surface that makes this clue writing lark look so easy, which no doubt it isn’t – “Fruit strain found in southwest Ireland (8)”.

To close a quick plug – this Sunday we’ll have the latest in our intermittent series of guest puzzles, this time by exit who’s a regular in the comments section here. It’s a good one, so do tune in.

To January 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues, should you need them: