An enjoyable start to the week from eXternal that yet again I took to be an IoS reprint, only to find that, well, yet again it wasn’t. As straightforward as expected, anyway, and easier than last week’s IoS reprint. 🙂 There were a couple where the parsing eluded me – notably at 9ac – but as all the answers were pretty common vocabulary I never came unstuck, given the definition and enough letters. Pierre over on the other side had a bit of a moan about how involved some of the clues were, but this sort of thing is right up my street so I was a very satisfied customer.

COD? The decidedly uninvolved but smile-raising 24d – “Water pipe’s hollow sound (4)”.

To June 2015:


Saturday 21st September 2019

I found it a quite hard to get going with Phi’s challenge last weekend, and needed the long anagrams at 6d and 13d to do so. In fact all four of the long entries in the grid were anagrams, and a further three of the 10-letterers were too. With Phi creating about four cryptic crosswords a week, some at the Inquisitor level (I am in awe) it’s no surprise perhaps if he uses them a lot when you consider how easy it is to generate them online. Mind you, once you find out that CLYTEMNESTRA, say, is an anagram of ‘calmest entry’, you still have to write a coherent clue for it, and Phi does that in spades.

I’d say those anagrams numbered amongst the best clues, but just pipping them for my COD nomination was the following:

16a Prescribed way shows bouncer throwing out naval man (8)

Oh, and there was a ghost theme, based on the idea of misspelled swear words. Phi gives an explanation in the comments of Bert & Joyce’s 2015 blog here, but I must confess to having had a sense of humour by-pass when I read it just now.

i Cryptic Crossword 2695 Monk

September 27, 2019

Well, two surprises today. Firstly, that we’ve got the IoS reprint that I was expecting at the beginning of the week, but that it’s by Monk of all people. Secondly, that an offering by Monk turns out not to be the toughest puzzle of the week!

Anyway, I thought this was a very enjoyable, solidly clued crossword of just above average difficulty. Starting in the bottom right as is my wont of late didn’t help, as I didn’t get anything until the top of the grid, but then quickly got the very generous long answer down the centre that opened things up nicely. From that point on the LHS fell pretty quickly, and the RHS once I’d spotted 13ac that really should have been a write-in.

At the close I was left with – yes, that answer across the centre of the grid that I was sure began PARALLEL something, but the rest needed more than a little teasing out, 1d which luckily I vaguely knew, and to my shame the old labour leader, my own country being the last I thought of.

There’s something hidden in both diagonals, that needless to say I didn’t spot, though I didn’t go looking for anything today.

Lots to appreciate, lots of ticks, my COD going to 4d – “Maybe we spur on Napoleon when struggling to cross river (8,7)”.

To July 2015:

i Cryptic Crossword 2694 Tyrus

September 26, 2019

As expected we have something a bit tougher today. Something quite exceedingly tough, in fact, and I must admit that – about halfway through – I’ve thrown in the towel. I did spot our theme having got three of the relevant answers, but it wasn’t enough, and I’m simply not going to have time to look at this any further. This was originally published on a Saturday when solvers will have had the luxury of several days if not a week to mull it over, and the consensus over on the other side is that this was indeed a tough nut to crack. Too much for most solvers on a weekday, I’d suggest. I’d like to say that I’ll be coming back to this later, but I suspect I won’t be. But how did you get on?

No COD, as I haven’t finished!

To July 2015:

Edited to add:

Well, I did have another go, sucker for punishment that I am. I knew about the fish by this point so I can’t claim to have solved unaided, but solve I did. Finish time? Double that par for the i. And with the luxury to sit down and relax moderately rewarding, though I still say this would have been better placed on another day like, oh, a Saturday. 😉

COD, now that I can? Let’s go with 19ac – “Make habitual errors initially as tout – I’m a fool (10)”.

i Cryptic Crossword 2693 Dac

September 25, 2019

The run of easier puzzles continues with a welcome and thoroughly enjoyable offering from Dac. There’s some debate over on the other side as to whether there’s an alternative, equally valid answer for 18ac, but it’s not one that occurred to me. My LOI was 6d which did occasion a moment’s pause, but the rest went in mainly on checking letters and / or definition, with a bit of the wordplay required here and there. As ever with Dac there’s little to discuss, just because his puzzles are always so consistently good! First in 19d, as I’m still starting with the last down, last in 6d, finish time well under par for the i.

COD? Lots to pick from as always, with my nomination going to 22ac – “Fellow beginning to eat Cheddar sandwiches (6)”.

To June 2015:

We’re used to getting a mix of highbrow and lowbrow stuff in the IQ, but is this the first time we’ve had a mix of the two in the same puzzle? High-ups of the TV kind, and of the musical kind too. About which on both counts I know very little.

Tony Soprano. Tick. Callas and Te Kanawa, too. But the rest called for a hefty bit of Googling and resort to Wikipedia. For which we thank the gods of the internet.

A complicated preamble that boiled down to misprints in alternate clues, and a nifty bit of maths to get letters from the clues in between. I bet you thought you’d make a mess of that too, but I only managed to miscount one letter, quickly resolved. Oh yes, other thematic entries in the perimeter, with a handy list of unchecked letters. I like handy lists of unchecked letters, they mean I don’t have to guess.

No 1ac to speak of, so let’s start with SCRAWLS on the next row down, which I generally do in pencil. A slow but mostly steady grid fill, out in the sunshine which is rather surprisingly hot, interrupted only by somebody who’s training their dog out on the back lane, displaying more patience than I’m capable of.

This week’s incorrect entry? MEANT at 6d, which only on failing to find a suitably named soprano is corrected to LEANT.

And of course the one doubt. ESCAPEE or ESCAPER at 7d? Oh, and don’t you love that last unchecked letter. Let’s go with the former. I think it’s something to do with PE ACES repeated – I can’t parse it any further than that, but there’s no R in there.

But that was before I got stuck in the NE corner, and with a couple dotted round the grid. That’s alright, we’ll complete the perimeter and get some more checking letters. Except, no, nothing’s leaping out.

OK, the 11 cells we’re supposed to highlight. Aha, SW to NE I’ve got THE SOPRAN??. No guessing what the last two letters will be.

Grid full, with a little help from…

Let’s look up the series, which I’ve not watched. Reference the handy list of characters to aid the above. Letters found. Characters discovered. Tony, Meadow, Carmela, TJ. Which mean little and less to me, but…

Got to be sopranos of the singing variety in the border? Yep, and there’s a handy list of famous sopranos on Classic FM’s site that I’m betting Gila referred to too, though my LOI, PONSELLE, wasn’t listed. For that one I had to resort to actually trying to juggle the letters given, which is what we were supposed to do.

Job done. And all in one session.

Huzzah, and huzzah again. And thanks, Gila, I enjoyed that.

A peculiar crossword with a humdinger of a phantom theme. Did you spot it? I noted a couple of the components but failed to excavate the majority of them until prompted to try harder by George’s comment on the July 2015 Fifteensquared blog. A top notch example of thematic grid filling in my opinion, which justifies the presence of a few rather uncommon entries.

As for the clues, that’s where the peculiarity comes in because they run the gamut between trivially straightforward and downright intractable. I do think that Hieroglyph might have taken it a bit easier with 10ac, for instance, which was my last one in after a good deal of mental contortionism. Some disciples of Ximenes will not be best pleased by 11ac and 14d; and the spelling of 6d is just asking for trouble. All the same, I’m inclined to be indulgent under the circumstances, and 14d made me smile – eventually. 15d and 29ac get an appreciative thumbs up and my clue of the day is 12ac:

“Writer cryptically using black and white characters (8)”

i Cryptic Crossword 2691 Raich

September 23, 2019

The start of another week, and another week where my assumption that we’d started with an IoS reprint proved to be incorrect. Yes, it’s Raich, and yes it’s very straightforward (thankfully in these parts, with a lot of work to be done, and the builders in to make concentrating rather difficult), but it’s actually one of those rare Mondays in the Independent that were as straightforward as you hoped Mondays would be. No less enjoyable for that, as expected from this setter, solved SE to NW in a pretty nifty time, loads of ticks, and only a couple not understood on solving. Chief among these was 14d, which is explained in the comments over on the other side, but also 3d where my ability to miss an answer in plain site remains unsurpassed.

COD? Let’s go with 1ac – “Detestable person – not from modern times (4)”.

To June 2015:

Saturday 14th September 2019

Puzzles by Phi having neither theme nor Nina are becoming as rare as the proverbial poultry incisors, so by now I’m betting we all give at least a cursory glance to see if something’s going on; and that was all it took last week to see REALIO TRULIO in the left and right columns of the completed grid.

Put that into Google and you get The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash.  I’m slightly surprised that didn’t feature in my childhood along with Lear and Belloc really, as it’s perfectly pleasant – maybe my parents thought it was too American or something. If it did yours, then the words DRAGON, CUSTARD, BELINDA, PIRATE and KITTTEN will have doubtless jumped off the page.

The grid filled pretty readio steadio until the last four where I suddenly hit a brick wall and had to come back later for a second sitting. The tricky ones for me were 25a – a reversal of ‘I to R’ to give ROTI, KIT+TEN in 20d, 12a [he]AL(D)ERS and 19a LOOK HERE. And in 21a, [b]UN+ROLL I couldn’t picture how ‘without crust’ could mean remove one side of the word but not the other, but maybe that’s why the QM is there.

COD? Despite my finding it fiendish at the time, I reckon the following was the most remarkable clue of the day:

23a Word for Indian bread, 10 letters (entered in reverse) (4)

For all the answers there’s yet another fine blog from Duncan Shiell, who also spotted NASH as a Nina in the bottom row. Nice.

i Cryptic Crossword 2689 Hob

September 20, 2019

Before I get onto the puzzle itself, the observant among you will have noted that Sprouthater is no longer occupying the Friday slot, having hung up his blogging boots after years of faithful and much appreciated service. No fear, you won’t be stuck with me for long because Michael – a regular in the comments section – will be picking up Fridays in a couple of weeks. If anybody else does fancy having a go at blogging other days, though, do let me know as volunteers are always welcome. 🙂

To the puzzle, which isn’t an IoS reprint, despite what the link says, but from a Thursday long ago. I’ve found Hob to be extremely difficult in the past, and Pierre seems to have struggled over on the other side, but I suspect I got lucky because I fairly whipped through, recording my fastest time of the week. I sort of spotted today’s ghost theme without really registering it, though it wouldn’t have helped with some of the more obscure entries if I had. There were a couple I couldn’t parse, in particular 10/15, but the checking letters were generous enough they went in with little ado. Sound and enjoyable throughout, my only criticism being that there seemed to be a surfeit of hidden answers.

COD? Just because of the Man from Uncle reference, which was a nice bit of misdirection, 22ac – “Loner?  Perhaps Napoleon I’s tendency at first”.

To December 2014: