“Another excellent puzzle from Dac. What more can we say that hasn’t already been said”?

That was the chorus from Bertandjoyce back in May 2015, and the answer is of course not a right lot. Ever the solver’s friend and the blogger’s enemy, Dac rarely left anything to quibble about, and maintained such a consistent standard that what goes for one puzzle pretty much goes for them all.

Today we have the crossword setter’s second favourite fictional Detective Inspector; North America’s second highest mountain, and the title track from Stevie Wonder’s ninth album (it says here). Nothing obscure except perhaps the mountain, and definitely nothing that can’t be deduced with confidence from the clues. My COD is 18d, but please feel free to nominate your own from the fine array of possibilities.

“Type of mine not left by US force (7)”

For B&J’s blog and some inevitable pedantry about 8d, please click here.

The front pages of several of the day’s papers are devoted to this being the anniversary of the first moon landing, and there have been several excellent programmes throughout the week to mark the occasion. You’d think then that somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind alarm bells would have been ringing on reading the title and all the clues slipped into the preamble. Two colleagues on a day trip? One left behind? It’s been a long and emotionally tiring week – the youngest two’s last in primary school – and I’m feeling somewhat frayed, which may explain my complete blind spot regarding the matter. That’s my excuse anyway.

As it turns out it wasn’t until I came to work out what the misprints might be spelling out that I spotted Houston, even if it was only NAA that preceded it (“puts” for “puss” being quite sneaky I thought). And even then I had to ponder the name of the landing craft. The Beagle has landed? That would be a different ship altogether.

The penny haven fallen I did indeed change an A to an I, and highlight the appropriate location, crew members, and craft. And without too much ado it must be said, which is saying something given my general lack of mental acuity throughout the duration. Other solvers I’m led to believe finished over breakfast, as if to throw my own general dimness into sharp relief.

Oh yes, the grid fill. Slow but steady would be the best description of proceedings. Lots of suspiciously positioned words that required trips to the BRB given the later highlighting, and one or two that weren’t in it – GHARANA and RUBBRA (luckily Google had heard of him, even if I hadn’t). And what kind of abbreviation is RU for Burundi anyway? Apparently ISABEL is drab because she didn’t change her linen for three years? Shudders.

Anyway, job done, done and dusted. As was the moon landing.

When you read this I’ll be off on holiday, so any glaring errors on my part will go unnoticed. For the same reason next week’s blog may or may not appear on time, so if it doesn’t, fear not. Boldly going…

A peculiar sort of grid with sub-optimal checking suggested that we might be in for a struggle today, and a peripheral Nina. Wrong on both counts. Instead there’s an explicit and comprehensive theme based around 18ac. It’s an impressive feat of construction, but as is so often the case with this sort of puzzle once the solver cottons on so many of the solutions are known in advance that it becomes an exercise in spotting where they fit. Obviously it helps if you’re familiar with all of them, otherwise it’s off to the reference shelf.

My experience was similar to RatkojaRiku’s, related in the preamble to the April 2015 Fifteensquared blog entry, except that all the thematic material was familiar. I was initially suckered into thinking that we were looking for something German, but not for long, and the breakthrough came with 1d etc – a superb clue, by the way. 9d is a cracker too. The whole thing was polished off in about the same sort of time as yesterday’s, which is to say briskly – a shame, really, because there’s plenty of enjoyable stuff in there, and I for one would welcome more appearances from Hieroglyph, perhaps including some plain puzzles. Thumbs up for 12 and 28 in particular, and I’m pinning the COD rosette on 7ac:

“1D at home in the outskirts of Hamburg’s out of sight (6)”

A reprinted Independent on Sunday crossword from May 2015 today. Quite often the Monday slot is filled by something suitable for novice solvers, but I’m not sure that’s the case this time. To be sure it was an easy enough nut to crack with half an ear on the vertiginously over-promoted mediocrity being given an easy ride by the interviewer on Radio 4, but knowledge of some well-worn commonplaces helped a lot. Perhaps I’m just grumpy on account of that interview, though.

A few peculiar definitions (in 5, 8 and 14, for instance) and a dash of unusual vocabulary (10 and 22) added spice, as did the appearance of Cassiopeia’s more famous daughter. Maybe I’ll remember that in future. The exact parsing of 12ac eluded me – and we can argue once again about “house”, incidentally – but having seen Dormouse’s explanation in the comments on the Fifteensquared blog it’s really rather natty. A worthy candidate for Clue of the Day, but since it was that bit too clever for me we’ll have 20ac:

“Received the heart of great pope back (5)”

Saturday 20th July 2019

There’s a higher than usual chance of your having noticed a theme last Saturday, with a pretty obvious sprinkling of animals across the grid: TIGER, SHARK, WOLF, SNAKE, BEETLE, FISH, and TURTLE[neck].  Extend the theme to the plant kingdom and you might have spotted LILY, ROSEMARY, MALLOW, and FLOWERS. Now broaden further to ‘nature’ and you could include VOLCANIC and COUNTRY.

So what’s the theme exactly? Well, according to Phi in the comments of the original Fifteensquared blog, it seems that a good deal of those could be linked with the first in the list (‘tiger lily’ did pop into my head among several other linking possibilities), and Chambers also reveals tiger beetle, tiger country, tiger fish, tiger flower, tiger shark, tiger snake and tiger wolf. However you could be forgiven for thinking it was a theme based around Lilies with Tiger lily, Lily beetle and Snake lily.

Just 3 ticks this time – but it still felt like solid work and a good set of clues from our antipodean contributor.

As to the COD, I loved the surface reading of 25a, the wordplay of 7d was cracking, but the following had a bit of both:

16d Plant came up, beginning to revive in spring month (8)

A Tees puzzle and you know you’re in for a bit of a tussle. This one though lulled me into a sense of false security as the top half went in quite quickly with only 1dn needing any sort of checking – and no I don’t like Jolly = RM. 13ac proved a bit problematic as I tried to equate first wife with Eve, Tees’ use of Ex here comes in for a bit of discussion over on the Fifteensquared blog. where mc_rapper67 provides all the explanations and the setter himself makes a couple of appearances. And so onto the bottom half where it was 18, 24 and 25 that caused the most brow furrowing. The misdirection of calling a Pattern maker a Casting agent was only resolved when all the checking letters were in and that’s all that would fit. I had to Google NKVD and 25 an unknown word that needed a bit of Latin for the answer – well that needed a word search.

Lots of clues got ticks today – 1ac, 3dn and 11dn I thought admirable but by a whisker COD goes to 16dn:

Very good religious females cut grass (8)

This will be my last daily blog for a few weeks while I’m off on holiday, and to be honest I can’t think of a better puzzle to end on. Morph’s always good value for money, and here he is with a Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint that’s as witty, lively and enjoyable as you’d like. Very much on the easy side, though with the RHS of the grid perhaps taking a little longer than the rest. I made life difficult for myself at the close by my inability to read my own writing – D.T.L to start 15ac, anybody? Upon finally deciphering my own scribbles I finished with a time still well below par for the i, and on a par with yesterday’s Dac. Just the one I couldn’t parse – 21d – but the answer was clear enough.

COD? Lots to appreciate as always, with my nomination going to 9ac – “Riot suppressed by repeated ultimatum? (6)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/05/16/independent-8913-by-morph-saturday-prize-puzzle-9-may-2015/

Wednesday rolls round again, and with it a fairly gentle offering from Dac – thankfully for those of us who got little sleep last night due to the ridiculously un-British weather and accompanying thunderstorms. Just the one unknown for me at 4ac that was perfectly gettable from the wordplay, and elsewhere I only struggled for a brief moment to work out what term for soldiers to use at 6d. No question marks at the close, nothing controversial, just the usual top-notch mid-week offering.

COD? Too many to pick from, with Dac’s trademark smooth surfaces present as ever, my nomination going to 15d – “Island with noise and bustle? Several islands (9)”.

To April 2015:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/04/08/independent-8886-dac/

Until this week I was blissfully unaware that Eclogue is not in fact one but two setters, comprising Logogriph and Eclipse. Or perhaps I did know and have since forgotten, which is entirely possible.

What I’d really like to know though is how our esteemed setters and editor knew that driving lessons are very much on my mind – the eldest has just started learning – when they scheduled today’s puzzle. Spoilers, you might say, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only solver to guess what we’d end up shading with the preamble being quite clear that the shaded area contained letters up to and including a certain one, that certain one most certainly being an L.

What I lacked though was the conviction to follow through on such an inspired guess, spending an age at the close with a spreadsheet trying to sort out where the “partition” might lie, based on the clues which crossed it and those which didn’t. They helped to confirm afterwards, admittedly, but the best bet it turned out was to look for which blocks of letters only containing those in the range A-L, and then checking.

Oh yes, the ones which didn’t cross the “partition” (I keep putting that in quotes, because there really wasn’t one, was there?) They yielded an extra letter in the wordplay which spelt out.. A SIGN DISPLAYED ON A VEHICLE. Aha, I can you hear you say, you got the L there and then? But no, I still went looking for alternatives.

Which takes us right back to the grid fill, which could best be described as being slow but steady, with no major stumbling blocks, but nothing either which could be described as being a walkover. Lots of high scoring letters to make sure we didn’t miss the final shape – OUZO, ZOONOMY and YOURTS fairly blocking off the top bit of the grid, lots of M’s to the bottom.

All in all then job done, and enjoyed. That shading is supposed to be red, by the way. You’d think that with the array of crayons, markers and pencils we’ve got lying round I could find something suitable, but there you go…

The Great Wen, again. Doubtless there will be rolling of eyes in the provinces, but one doesn’t have to have been born within earshot of Bow Bells to appreciate today’s inherently humorous theme, I hope. Vague memories of this did the trick in my case, and online phrasebooks are available if need be. Scorpion’s back on top form, and he managed to make this a pangram while he was at it.

A glance at 6/21 was enough to give the game away, and 9 put the theme beyond doubt. Only 27/10 was unfamiliar to me but the clue is a generous one, so filling in the across lights was a bright and breezy matter; amongst the downs there are a couple of four-letter stinkers (22 and 24) where the answers are far more evident than the parsing, but otherwise I imagine this will have been a quick solve for most people. The definition part of 13d didn’t please me much – other than that no quibbles. Amongst the many clues which appealed to me 2d stands out; the trickier 17d just pips it at the post for COD:

“Literary critic finding unknown works in Derby perhaps (7)”

Bertandjoyce were on duty for this puzzle back in May 2015, so we’re in good hands for the Fifteensquared autopsy. Scorpion received a well-deserved volley of positive comments, some of which are rather amusing.