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

Well, wasn’t that good? It’s a Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint, and Klingsor, and it’s Thursday here in 2019 so we might have expected something a little trickier, but this proved to be perfectly accessible, thoroughly enjoyable, with more ticks beside the clues than I can remember seeing in a while. OK, I lobbed in quite a few on definition / and or checking letters alone, which is a pity given the quality of the clues, but that’s the way I roll.

If you didn’t know the town at 17ac I suspect you might not have completed as quickly, but with that enumeration and the Z in Zola it wasn’t going to be anything else. I didn’t know the source of starch at 19d but did know the wine and fool, so in it went. Elsewhere the answers were fairly common, often easy to guess, and with some quite delightful clues to help if you couldn’t.

First in a worryingly late 11ac, last in the not-really-a-Spoonerism at 3d, finish time under par for the i.

COD? OK, let’s list the runners up – 1ac, 5ac, 9ac, 18d just for starters – with my nomination going to 12ac – “What Doc may do in fight with co-worker, being reckless? (9)”

And all the way back to January 2015 for the answers and parsing of the clues:


No Dac this week, but an IoS reprint from Hieroglyph that was, as expected, over rather quickly. There’s one obscurity at 1ac – an archaic term that could perhaps have done with a rethink given the target audience – but the answer was pretty obvious, so no complaints here beyond a ? beside the clue. Lots of ticks too – 7d, 5ac, 9ac and 13ac all earning plaudits. So, enjoyed… First in 9ac, last in 1ac, finish time similar to Monday’s.

COD? In addition to the ones listed above, I particular liked 2d, if only for the nice misdirection – “Bucks term of endearment: “a right sausage, at heart” (7)”.

To February 2015:


Another Bank Holiday, and what better way to spend it than recuperating from the after-effects of a particularly horrible cold. Blame the youngest who bring every plague known to man this way. It does mean though that there will be a distinct lack of proper work being done, plenty of solving time, and the sun is shining so… Outside where it is quiet.

Which is lucky because look, we’ve got another one of those blank grid thingies. But I’ve been getting the hang of those of late so no issues.

Mirror Image II, another art themed thing? We’re having a run of sequels.

The preamble. Wordplay omits a letter in 13 clues that we’re not to enter. For the moment, very mysteriously. The rest means little and less at this stage of the game apart from the unclued entry bit which is even less welcome with no clue numbers or bars, and I never did get the hang of grid symmetry. Amateur hour.

Let’s get solving. First solved the corrupting influence followed by extremely poor. How apt. ROTTENEST, as I’ve been feeling. Nowhere to put them though, but first down solved is ASPIRE, which is more promising as presumably it starts somewhere in the first row.

Rewind… An on-line image is evidently an AVATAR, though the R is our first missing letter we won’t enter. Realise must be ATTAIN, with A for anonymous, and a nod to the modern day with “volunteers once”. Presumably our top row, but we’re missing a cell. Let’s assume the symmetry thing will help and lob one to the left, one to the right. ASPIRE crossing in the first column.

Checking letters in place, the top half fills gradually, centre column filled with RED LETTER DAYS (a pretty handy 13 letters) until… A grinding halt halfway down. As it turns out this is because of a rashly filled in ANEMONES, but I didn’t realise that until five hours later and the whole of the gruelling battle for Winterfell.

The youngest in bed, let’s finish this. A moment of inspiration, reptiles being TORTOISES and not PORPOISES, stepping forward through the alphabet, and what a fantastic spot by Serpent. Grid full.

Missing letters we haven’t entered? Well, they happen to spell out RED LETTER DAYS as well. Our unclued entry? Presumably that would be BARNETT NEWMAN across the middle of the grid, an artist I’ve not heard of. But a quick Google pulls up images that remind me a lot of the sort of stuff Rothko used to do. And indeed, apparently he’s an abstract expressionist I’ve not heard of to my shame.

We need to redistribute 13 letters? Presumably take the centre column, and put the appropriate letters in all those cells we left blank. Then shade the filled cells red, leaving something that looks a little like this:

Well, the only highlighter I’ve got that’s close is neon pink so that’ll have to do. Done. And yes, wasn’t that good? Pass me some cough medicine and a glass of whisky, I think I’ve earned both.


Firstly, an announcement. Apparently a subscription to the i includes access to an app which enables one to solve a crossword in an interactive manner – until recently said puzzle appeared to be chosen at random, but now it’s the same as the one in the paper. It’s jolly good according to The Guvnor. Wouldn’t know because my phone is made from brass and mahogany, and wired up to a telegraph pole. This will make some sort of sense to the technically savvy, one hopes.

And so to today’s offering from Scorpion, a setter who has been one of my favourites for a long time. This is probably not the best example – there are several off-colour clues which will annoy some solvers and the grid is singularly unhelpful – but it was still thoroughly entertaining in my opinion at least. There is a theme of the ghostly variety which might help out a little, but it should be perfectly possible to finish without noticing it. 13ac is lavatorial and highly dubious, but otherwise no complaints worth mentioning, and no problems with the parsing. Special mentions for 6, 11 and 21, with 19ac emerging as my COD by a short head:

“I run for far-right in Chesterfield, say (6)”

Bertandjoyce supplied the original Fifteensquared blog back in January 2015, so we’re in good hands.