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:

Midweek rolls round, and not a moment too soon some would say, with a gentle offering from Dac that shouldn’t have caused too many issues. We have two literary references – a fictional detective everyone will have known (famous last words), and an author most will have. If you didn’t, the anagram fodder and checking letters should have got you home safe and sound. The temptation to go with REV something at 14ac is a nice little trap for the unwary but won’t lead you to anything approaching the definition. Loads lobbed in on definition alone, no questions at the close, in other words all good as ever for Dac. Finish time about half par for the i.

A random last minute thought – 21ac is surely ripe for a re-write given recent events. Over to you…

COD? 18ac – “Writer doing the twist (8)”.

To February 2015:

In which we spotted that the name to be written under the grid was indeed staring us in the face the whole time, but only after 24 hours of blood, sweat and tears. And that was just the 50th birthday bash. Who decided that it was a good idea to mix several pints of Brains SA (commonly known as Skull Attack in these parts) with some fine malt whisky? You only reach your half century the once.

But to begin at the beginning, dozing in the uncommonly spring-like sunshine. Some of the clues normal, some to be shortened on entry. Something to do with patterns. A preamble that takes several readings. A statement, a speaker, a name. One that was nothing to do with Mansfield Park as first suspected… And no colouring this week, thankfully, after last week’s debacle.

To business… A grid fill that was actually quite tricky, wasn’t it? SYNEDRIAL, ODIOUSLY, ROSENCRANTZ (who indeed is dead). Yes, I got loads of the ones to be shortened on my first sweep, which isn’t much help, because I was rather hoping to get some of the normal ones to give me a clue as to entry. The downs to the rescue. A spider is a rest and a seizure is ARRESTS. HACKER is the vaguely remembered PM from Yes, Prime Minister.

Progress at last. The shortened entries? We seem to be taking the first letter, missing two, then missing one, and one again, then a few in a row. Which should mean something but doesn’t. At this point I’ll mention that I studied Mathematics to first year degree level and hang my head in shame.

The remainder of the grid? Well, the last few took as long as the rest put together. 5ac and a couple of others to the NE, 30d and 37ac to the SW. DISC, maybe for the down, but why? And former African regions were never going to be my strong suit.

An age and World War Z later. Full grid. A CAPE but not Canaveral. Let’s get that statement.

Following the pattern of letters entered from the treated answers doesn’t help. Nor picking first letters from words matching the pattern. Trying to battle with a word searcher proves to be a burden too much. My head is going to explode, and not just from the SA.


So what did you do to while away a bit of time the evening of your birthday, Jon? Well, I worked out that the letters skipped from the shortened entries are from positions 2,3,5,7, etc. Prime numbers, see. And that if you pick said letters from the normal clues, resetting as stipulated on new words, you get ONE’S PRIME IS ELUSIVE JEAN BRODIE which is, wait for it, a quote from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which I have heard of, vaguely.

And the name to write under the grid? Well, MURIEL SPARK of course, the author of the above, following the same pattern, staring at us from the title the whole time.


And phew again.

Was I the only person who struggled to find that statement? It struck me as being rather tricky. Ah well, we got there in the end. Maybe I’m just showing my age.

Here’s the Fall with 50 Year Old Man.

Radian is not one of the rude boys, and it would be nice to report a complete absence of lavatorial content today: well, not quite, but we’re heading in the right direction. It’s now twenty weeks into 2019 and Radian has supplied fully a quarter of the Tuesday puzzles so far, which makes sense because if he has ever produced an unthemed crossword I can’t remember it. This one isn’t so easy to put one’s finger on, but there’s plenty of architecture and loftiness in there, and a specific reference to one example of both and its designer.

As usual this is high quality stuff with plenty of variety and a pleasure to solve. Everything works out nicely, although 23 and 26 took a bit of thinking about. Candidates for a clue of the day are plentiful, and it would be a shame not to single out 9, 10, 15, 20, 21, 22 … and a few more besides. I suspect there will be no consensus on that score, but for what it’s worth my favourite was the elegantly written 24ac:

“Was it built by Queen to house lover once? (6)”

There’s an excellent write up by Duncan and some musing about the theme by the chorus over at Fifteensquared. And here’s a little sidelight on why Radian might have devised the theme in February 2015.

An IoS reprint to start the week that was pretty easy for the most part, but then there was the crossing of 10ac and 2d in the NW corner that was anything but. Needless to say I lobbed in guesses for both that turned out to be incorrect, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of what was a good, solid Monday offering. I was rather hoping there would have been some sort of theme or Nina to help at the close, but there wasn’t. And really, that’s all there is to discuss, as expected really at this end of the week. First in 7ac, last in the aforementioned two in the NW corner, albeit incorrect, time for what it’s worth half that par for the i.

COD? 20ac – “State banks are amalgamating (8)”.

To February 2015:

Saturday 10th May 2019

It’s tempting it is to discuss the puzzle of today rather than boring old last week’s chip paper puzzle, but for good reasons my topic here is last week’s puzzle, so here goes:

Everyone on Fifteensquared after its first outing in the Indy agreed it was towards the easy end for a Phi, which is probably true, but nevertheless I didn’t find it quite as free from faults as my esteemed co-commenters at idothei opined last Saturday.

I had 4 beefs – doubtless all very minor:

10a. Saraband is usually spelled with an ‘e’ on the end; I belong to the camp who hold that alternative spellings are more at home in the realm of barred puzzles.

2d My grandmother used to talk about the ‘Ana’ who helped her when she served with the Raj, but as a sort of chat around a dinner table, I’ve only ever met it in crosswords, ergo I don’t like it!  If it’s part of your active vocabulary however, then my apologies, I withdraw the objection.

21d. F for full, whilst one sees it on certain dashboards, is an abbreviation that doesn’t appear in Chambers, Collins or the Chambers Crossword Dictionary. That’s normally a prerequisite.

22d. Calling Kew ‘a large set of gardens’ seemed somewhat verbose for a crossword clue.

But then again it was enjoyable, 9 themed words was a decent total in terms of grid filling and I had 6 clues with ticks in the margin, of which my favourite was this somewhat canonical one:

26a 11 – dirty weekend in Inverness? (8,5)



A Thursday reprint from Morph and like RatkojaRiku who originally blogged it I found it very hard to get into. First in was 17ac – in retrospect 1ac should have gone in because I was pretty sure it started with CO and ended with A Tory but I didn’t write it in and still think Hire For Sign a bit tenuous. Similarly 9ac – the Man and Ent stood out but I didn’t put pen to paper. It was only after solving the long anagram at 2dn that things started to go in even if I couldn’t parse them. Stand up 5dn or 8dn. Abused? Where does the U come from? Try Abased – there’s an extra A – oh well, bung it in. Again like RatkojaRiku I was left with the 22ac – 23dn crossers but unlike him I didn’t get help from the online puzzle although I was tempted just for clarity you understand, but they hadn’t updated it so again my best guesses went in which fortunately were correct.

Apart from a couple of minor quibbles, 20ac is Skimper really a word (the spellchecker here doesn’t think it is), and the aforementioned 1ac, it was only 10ac that I found a bit too obscure although the answer was fairly obvious. the rest were all excellently crafted clues which makes picking just one rather difficult but I’ll go for 13ac:

South African company landing iffy cod – it’s not for roasting! (6-3)

All the solutions and parsing are provided by the excellent RatkojaRiku, just click on Fifteensquared