Saturday 24th August 2019

A fortnight before this puzzle appeared the i had given us a Phi puzzle with a Nina which read GAUFRID AT FIFTEENSQUARED, so might this have been another tribute to a blogger from the other side? And what’s that in the top row? DINGY JAIL HUSK… to represent DUN CAN SHIEL[l] (to shiel being to remove a husk) perhaps?  Of course!  Did you get it?

No? Me neither. Well, given that not even Duncan Shiell himself, who happened to be doing the original blog back in 2015, spotted it, maybe it’s only obvious if your name happens to be Phi – it wasn’t meant to be discovered in the way that Ninas usually are, by any solver of the crossword in general, but rather was it offered as a tribute to be seen post hoc by the readers of Fifteensquared in particular.  I really don’t think anyone else would do that…

As for the clues, apart from the unknown Landrace (a Danish breed of pig) and Moxie (American slang for something or other) – new words for more than just theartoffaithblog I suspect – there were some goodies. Three of the four long entries were top-notch full anagrams, if that’s your bag, but my favourite was this partial anagram:

21a Note iron amongst molten ditto – hot place (7)

Just one minor question – this is the second time in recent weeks that we’ve seen pitch = roll; can they be equivalent? As a sometime mariner, I always thought roll, pitch and yaw were the three different ways that a boat could move; is there some other context of which I should be made aware?




Sprouthater’s preparing for his holidays, so it’s left to me to blog today’s Thursday reprint. Something a little more challenging to end the working week, but as it’s Nestor you know it’s going to be fair and solvable with a bit of patience. Well, for the most part, because 25d I suspect will have defeated more than one solver, myself included. The word obscure springs to mind for both wordplay and definition. 1ac I thankfully knew (mostly as the mother of Frankenstein’s creator) otherwise I might have struggled badly having made inroads from the half of the grid to the SW, only to flounder a little elsewhere. Elsewhere I was pleased to get (the unknown to me) 16ac from the wordplay, and couldn’t spell 9d. A very good puzzle overall that was well worth the time spent. Finish time as you might guess well above par for the i, with 25d at the close an out and out cheat.

COD? Lots to like as expected, with my nomination going to 6d, just because it’s so well constructed – “During endless selection, special school dismisses head who may be addicted to bars (10)”.

To June 2015:

I didn’t have much time to solve today, so I was glad to see that our Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint comes courtesy of Klingsor who I generally find to be pretty solvable. One or two caused me some grief – 7d, where in my ignorance I was expecting only the one S, 28ac, where the note was an unexpected one, and 29ac where – despite spotting ST as the attention seeker it having come up recently, I got in a bit of a mess with the rest of the parsing. The dangers of trying to solve like the clappers. But solve I did with a finish time considerably under par for the i.

COD? With lots to appreciate as ever, I’ll go with 3d – “It’s late, so suppress a yawn? (10)”.

To June 2015:

The run of easier puzzles continues with another enjoyable offering from Dac. There’s little to say, as ever, because as ever there’s nothing to fault. The NE corner held me up momentarily, with an obscure noble and Canadian city crossing, but both couldn’t have been more clearly clued, so if anything it was a lack of confidence on my own part that caused any delay. First in today was 1ac, having forgotten that I’ve been trying to begin in the SE corner, last in the aforementioned city, finish time well under par for the i.

COD? Lots to pick from as always, with my nomination going to 24ac – “Duellist initially argues about weapon (5)”, which all holds together so neatly.

To the Fifteensquared blog from June 2015, found unexpectedly using the answer to 14ac – would you believe that it’s only ever appeared as the answer in two puzzles?

Several days have passed since I solved this, and only now I’ve noticed the “from” rather than “by” in the title. A nice touch wasted on the likes of me…

An easy ride this week, with quite clear instructions? Extra letters in 32 clues spelling out advice from Serpent. Well, as it turned out I should have thought a little harder about the other clues, because…

Was I the only person to lob SNIPE blithely into the grid, not noticing that it was too long? Thought so. Luckily PEONY which didn’t fit either crossed so I soon noticed the error of my ways. The answer? To jump in feet first and cut out random letters to make real words – SNIP and PONY – which was of course entirely the wrong thing to do. But why change the habit of a lifetime?

An odd spelling at 12d was surely indicative of something going on, not that I noticed, grateful for a nice long entry and another one down the RHS to get some of that grid filled, which was indeed filled, though not alfresco throughout as the rain to which we’ve become accustomed intervened mid-afternoon.

The advice offered via the extra letters? WRITE IN PENCIL FIRST THEN WRITE IN PEN. Which I do anyway.

What to make of that? Well, as it turned out I made nothing of it, bar a vague feeling of dissatisfaction with the admittedly full grid, and a – was that it? – regarding the instruction. The subtleties of such things again being wasted on me.

Fuelled by a celebratory Chinese takeaway (yep, a huge sigh of relief following AS Level results day), and last night’s beer having finally worn off…

What if Serpent is actually telling us what to do about the answers that don’t fit? Oh yeah, letters from the ones in the NW do indeed spell PENCIL if we put them in the correct cells, and to the SE PEN will give real words too (all that time spent agonising about SYNCS at the close! 😉 )

So sound advice indeed from Serpent, and a satisfying finish to a good puzzle I came very close, through sheer incompetence, to leaving incomplete. Pay more attention next time, Jon.

I am at something of a loss today, because if there is a theme or Nina in this crossword it doesn’t amount to much. There seems to be a fair bit of weighing and measuring going on, but Radian seldom leaves us in any doubt. Comments invited. Nobody came up with anything very significant at Fifteensquared when the puzzle came out for the first time in June 2015.

Never mind: it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy Radian’s setting without having to worry about a load of jiggery-pokery. As usual it’s a very consistent puzzle with no especially intractable areas, good surfaces and plenty of variety. I’d call it medium-easy, and a good one for less experienced solvers: the only things which struck me as quibbleworthy were the enumeration of 2, the abbreviation in 19, and a homophone which received a “not really!” in the margin, at 27. Hence the “some might say”, no doubt. Appreciative ticks for both the long down lights and 9, but my COD is 6d which Bertandjoyce described as “surprisingly obvious”. Fair comment, but it’s an elegant piece of work.

“We might shed mass losing it (6)”

So Bank Holiday Monday, the sun is shining, and I seem to have a free day. The plan is puzzles this morning, a walk down by the river later, followed by a barbecue. Though not, unfortunately for my speed solving this IoS offering from Kairos, using a 25ac which was one of several today to slow me down somewhat. In fact, my overall summary would be suspiciously similar to NealH’s back in 2014 – of medium difficulty, spoiled a little by a couple of obscurities at 15ac (which I did sort of know), 16ac (which most of us will have guessed correctly, but still), and the aforementioned 25ac which required a dictionary check because, while it was going to be little else from the checking letters, was somewhat obscure in both answer and wordplay.

I’m experimenting at the moment with starting in the far SE corner to test the old theory that setters run out of ideas by that point. I also suspect it may sharpen the mind by doing something a little different. The upshot being that my FOI was 21d having failed on the last two downs, LOI 16ac, finish time under par for the i but sluggish for an IoS reprint. And since I’ve started this experiment? It seems to have got me out of a patch of pretty poor form, I’m going to say.

Enjoy the day, and do have a go at yesterday’s guest puzzle if you haven’t already.

COD? In particular I liked 8d – “How to get larks into ark in part of London! (9)”.

To December 2014 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Guest Puzzle 4 by Panthera

August 25, 2019

Another Bank Holiday weekend rolls round, and with it another in our sporadic series of guest puzzles. Something a little trickier this time, and one a little saucy in places too. It’s a pangram, though I didn’t notice until I’d finished. No Nina or theme that I can see, but I’m notoriously bad at spotting either. I imagine there’ll be some debate about 6d and 14d, both inventive, as is the (extremely good) puzzle as a whole.

Talking of which, you can find it here:

COD? Much to like, which makes picking one a little tricky, but I’ll go with 15ac – “One article down – illuminating story about popular model is fit for publication (9)”.

But let me know what you thought.

And so, with warnings of spoilers ahead, being all the answers and parsing of the clues…





1 Toys owned by people of a particular kind? (7,7)
toys – STUFFED = “owned” (as in trounced, defeated completely) + (“by”) ANIMALS = “people of a particular kind?” (e.g. party animals)

9 Sick leave? Just take the week off! (3)

10 Exhibitionist spectacle from France (4-3)

11 Director caught with beefy eunuch? (3)
C + OX Presumably Alex Cox, who also did a series on cult films for the BBC donkeys years ago.

12 Umbrella breaks as a result of tackle hug catching one out, say? (7,8)
PACKAGE (= “tackle”) + HOL{I}D + *(AYS)

13 Source of job worries for interns? (5)

15 One article down – illuminating story about popular model is fit for publication (9)
Take the A from PARABLE, around IN + T (that old favourite of the crossword setter, the Model T Ford)

17 Much Ado About Nothing’s real grim when miscast (9)
An anagram of “real grim” about O

18 Schedule time for workshop (5)

19 Shoddily built, mostly ordinary tunnel, bar a bit of ingenious optics, perhaps providing some natural light? (15)
An anagram of BUILt and O + MINE + SCIENCE (“optics, perhaps”) minus the I. Very nicely done.

24 Panthera’s chasing a dream (3)

25 Expressed doubts about replacing area of College Green with lake? (7)
Replace the A in QUAD with ERIE

26 Vent put out a mix of gases (3)
A triple definition.

27 Non-drinker’s overwhelmed by booze here – he’s struggling to talk (5,3,6)
TT “overwhelmed by” an anagram of “booze here – he’s”.


1 Pinch (or just touch) chap’s bottom (5)

2 Opening without a key? Quite the opposite! (9)
UNBLOCKING minus the B (a key, musically). An &lit?

3 Following bones could lead you to this cat-like carnivore (5)
F OSSA This beast, and well done if you’d heard of it.

4 Upset after dumping hot nerd? Ho hum… (5)
An anagram of NERD + O

5 At first, escaped lion “goes cray-cray”, to use a new word (9)
An anagram of E + + LION + GOES. I assumed “cray-cray” was in fact a neologism, but apparently it’s an Americanism.

6 Government abandons bungling bank in recession, thus creating a “squeezed middle” phenomenon (6,3)
MUFFING minus the G + a reversal of TOP, and a very whimsical definition.

7 Potentially crass clothing material? (5)
A very nicely hidden word.

8 Real sex is tentative, for the most part (8)
And another one…

13 Rodent swallows disc on top of milk bottle (8)

14 According to reports, the government reject the idea that they could triumph in the current situation (6,3)
A homonym of STATE + US CROW? I’m not sure if this is incredibly clever or a stretch too far. Over to you.

15 Leading expert in heading off depression’s raked in millions (9)

16 Refuse to embrace current trend? Good idea! (9)

20 Rings on husband’s member might provide sex appeal? (5)
OO MP H. Ooer missus…

21 Cut off priest’s vacuous diatribe (5)
ELI + the first and last letters from “diatribe”. No, I didn’t know it either.

22 Programmer’s about to have another crack at getting promoted (5)
C + a reversal of REDO, but I’m guessing most solvers only needed the C.

23 Champion shuns acclaim? That’s strange… (5)
chEER + IE

Saturday 17th August 2019

There are five extraterrestrial planets readily visible to the naked eye on a clear, moonless night: MERCURY, VENUS, MARS, JUPITER and SATURN, associated with, respectively, the MESSENGER god, LOVE, WAR[um], JOLLITY and OLD AGE. So a nifty bit of grid-filling by Phi then, with SUN[nily] thrown in for good measure.

Except that is for WARUM perhaps. As it happens it was fine for me because, like Phi apparently, I studied German at school; but surely the solver on the Clapham omnibus didn’t? Being German per se isn’t the problem – cripes, the odd word of Russian or Cornish will crop up from time to time in Crosswordland (da, emmet) but judging by the reaction the word garnered from idothei solvers last week or indeed on Fifteeensquared back in 2015, I’m not sure our setter had his finger fully on the solver’s pulse for that one.

No other complaints apart from the cheap jibe at Wings in the surface reading of 13d. Paul McCartney doesn’t deserve to be the butt of jokes in my opinion.

Otherwise a very enjoyable and smooth puzzle with plenty of good clues. COD goes to the following, which neatly sends us one way then the other:

11a Wings of destructive insect no longer seen (4)

I was also interested to read in Phi’s comment on the other side that he doesn’t like 3-letter grid entries. Indeed I have noticed how he often clues them very straightforwardly. For me the most successful handler of this problem (if such it is) is Monk, who seems to relish a 3-letterer and often turns one into a piece of innovation – like having hidden letters in a geometric progression or something.

Just what we have come to expect from this setter – challenging, witty and in places infuriating. Bit of a slow start – I could see some of the parts of 1ac, but the clue wasn’t  much help with the synonym and as I know nothing of drugs this was left until plenty of checking letters were in. 9ac impressed with its misdirection and again needed crossers before the lightbulb came on. So 12ac – a nice normal anagram – was my first followed by the clever anagram at 18ac. With the grid starting to fill others went in even if I couldn’t fully parse them. 2dn and the Bucks bit 7dn and a German word that got a harrumph but it was 24ac that got a large? The Fifteensquared blog explains it as Vera Gel whatever that is. LOI was 26ac – whilst I have a vague memory of seeing it before but I couldn’t bring it to mind and the Homophone part didn’t help so it was a word search to fill in the blanks.

Lots of clever clues – 14ac, 21ac (but the word itself is awful) and 17dn all worthy – but the one that I prefer is the succinct 13ac:

Get down (on it) (4)