It’s that time of year again when I’m going to have to trudge through the streets in the cold and rain with the youngest two 4d. So today being the 31st is very much on my mind, and I half expected a theme. But do we have one? Well no, not really, just a few references here and there to mark in a low key fashion what used to be a low-key day towards the end of Autumn but which seems to be getting seriously out of hand. On the other hand Film 4 have got a cracking series of horror films on this week…

The puzzle itself was quite tricky, finished considerably over par for the i, and more importantly after failing to solve the first 17 clues I had a look at, at which point I started to get a little alarmed. To be able to find a Fifteensquared link I first need to solve a single clue. 🙂 That first one in? Right in the middle, at 17ac, from which point on the grid filled slowly clockwise, sort of, from the SE, though my last two in were at 1ac and 2d, both of which seem obvious in retrospect. Perhaps I should have had a coffee before rather than after solving.

Loads not understood on solving too, so an evident struggle, though as enjoyable as Morph always is.

At which point I should probably go and eat, it being lunchtime.

COD? I’ll go with 13ac, appropriately enough, which I thought was very nicely done – “As for addiction, kick it here (5)”.

To an All Hallows Eve long ago:

A welcome return from Dac with a puzzle that was on the easy side, though with a couple of oddities dotted round the grid that may have caused solvers a few moments of doubt. 9ac, 10ac, 13ac and 16ac were all unknowns in these parts, the second in particular an answer that looked like it must surely be wrong. But as Dac’s a setter I trust to be fair and clear, in they went unchecked and lo and behold were correct. The TV interviewer for some reason I couldn’t parse, but thankfully he’s still on the box every week so didn’t cause any issues. Enjoyable throughout, which goes without saying really, and finished in a time well under par for the i.

COD? Just because it’s such a good example of cluing a complete unknown leaving no doubt in the solver’s mind, 10ac – “Sort of bar worker is bringing in little money: tough for such as ‘garçon’! (4,3)”.

To August 2015:

A trip down memory lane for today’s picture hint – I sort of miss him nowadays.

Some weeks ago I unwisely said that Radian’s puzzles on a Tuesday are generally an easy ride. This one … maybe not so much. For one thing the theme is rather nebulous and doesn’t offer a great deal of help, and generally speaking the clues do seem a notch or two more difficult than we’ve come to expect. Or maybe it’s just the on-again-off-again broadband issues which have been driving me to distraction. At any rate, a bit of a slog by my reckoning, with the right hand side and in particular the NE corner slowing things right down.

Once again there’s an American idiom to contend with at 21d, which never goes down terribly well here, but that aside I have no complaints and everything seems to work nicely. Worryingly my first in was the excellent long anagram across the middle, and progress was frankly pitiful until I got to the downs. Or Downs. Well constructed clues abound – 5, 9, 19 and 25 for instance – but for me there were only two which really jumped out. 21ac raised a smile, but my COD and last one in is 10ac:

“Hit, he departs, sulking (5)”

For explanations and analysis courtesy of Bertandjoyce, please click here for the August 2015 Fifteensquared write-up.

Point of order 1: Those squares are grey and not silver.

Second, it might have helped if I hadn’t done this arse backwards. ie. If I’d actually managed to solve some of those greyed entries, adjusted them “retrospectively”, which in retrospect is a good hint but at the time only confused me, and got the theme.

Because I failed miserably to solve any when filling the grid, and only got them… Well, at the close, having done everything else, sense having finally prevailed.

After filling the grid, which was on the taxing side anyway after a brief, unexpectedly quick solve of the SE corner before lunch, the oldest having got up slightly later than anticipated wished, being still in the shower. Tell me that you guessed LEPRA too with help from the BRB, and didn’t feel particularly confident about being IN THE CAN.

The ones without definitions being a problem, of course, until I spotted ISTANBUL. And BONN. Bingo, cities, chuck some in. No idea why, of course.

That final adjustment, and highlighting. Well, there’s LONDON across one diagonal, and a suspicious looking WI….ER surrounding it. So, WINCHESTER? And why? Well, I didn’t know that the latter used to be capital before the former. And why would I, having spent several years living just down the road but never actually bothering to visit… Let’s not go there. Literally.

So presumably the greyish entries are also former capitals? With one correction to give SCONE and not somewhere in some obscure country I’d not heard of. Oh, and after correcting an errant ERRAND to give ERRANT, CASTLETOWN along the bottom row I’d not heard of either.

With a little help from Wikipedia’s handy page of former world capitals, but sshh, don’t tell Nimrod.

Twenty four hours later…

You know. Those greyed entries. The original answers, they’re probably the contemporary capitals, aren’t they? So given the probable answers, and my decidedly amateurish parsing skills, it turns out they are, my grid entries being indeed (famous last words), correct.

As I say, solved arse backwards.

But correct, I’m going to say, and a pretty decent challenge.

Why the capital ONCE? once capitals, presumably?


The observant among you will remember that I’ve got a day off work today. So, a nice relaxing day reading a book, watching a film, going for a walk in the unaccustomed sunshine? Well, no, I’m taking the youngest two to see the orthodontist and then painting a bedroom. Plus ça change.

Anyway, we start the week with not only an IoS reprint, but also one that is a debut in both papers, I think, from Lohengrin. For the most part this felt like the usual Monday fare, but there were certainly one or two that were on another level and perhaps suited to a different spot. Yes, I’m looking at you, 14ac and 2d. I suspect this is just a new setter finding their feet, and overall first impressions are good, so welcome, Lohengrin.

The odd issues here and there meant I finished unexpectedly above par for the i with a few question marks but also lots of ticks, so for me a tricky start to the week. But let me know how you got on…

COD? I’ll go with the nice and succinct 10ac – “Cell willing to exterminate leaders (6)”.

To August 2015:

Saturday 19th October 2019

Any discussion of who might be Britain’s best crossword setter could mention any of several names I suppose, but would be very odd without including Punk, a.k.a. Paul in the Guardian. Often ribald and ever inventive, this was one of his relatively straightforward offerings, but it still had plenty of quality and provided a liberal sprinkling of ticks in my margin.

Unusually for a Saturday there were no obscure answers, and no theme either. Solving time maybe slightly under par for the i, whereas Punk would usually be somewhat over. Mind you, that’s solving time – one or two, like the COD for example, took a while for the penny to drop on the parsing.

Favourites included 2d BEST OW(A)L, which was extremely pleasing, there was a nifty DIY anagram for NEW ORLEANS and a lovely reversed hidden for OVERDO, plus a mention of ONAN (I still remember the Paul’s ONANIST/ ANISTON anagram) but the hallmarked Clue Of the Day has to be the homophone and double meaning in the following:

14d Pronouncement of papal edict that’s binding? (6,4)

Apart from that I haven’t much to say. ‘Putting’ in 20d made me raise an eyebrow at the time, but on reflection I think it works as a description of the process one does to build the elements on the wordplay, so fair enough.

Click here for the link to the summer of 2015 with all the parsing and more appreciative comments.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, a rugby match is starting.

Yesterday Jon commented on how easy he found that day’s offering; I struggled with at least part of it, and so did one or two others, I believe. Consequently, all I am going to say is that today I must be on Klingsor’s wavelength.

This seemed to be an enjoyable romp which was all over a bit too quickly. Most answers went in fairly readily, although I did have to work on the parsing of one or two answers. Most were resolved without qualification, but two of them irked me. Should the “house” in 15d – the easily-got YORKSHIRE – be “houses”? There would be no detriment to the surface reading of the clue if it were, and the grammar of the instruction to insert would then be correct. And what is “lassie” doing in 13a? I’m still not sure, despite considering the musings on Fifteensquared.

I was temporarily stalled by an imagined “speed bump” at 1d, which I put in while saying to myself “I’ll go back and parse it later”. When the crossing 14a refused to yield I spotted my mistake.

5d and 10d are joint runners-up,but the prize today I award to 17d: “One at party making cryptic threat? (3,6)”. It made me smile and was nicely done.

First appearance in August 2015:

I’m afraid I’m going to end up repeating bits of yesterday’s blog because, while the consensus on the other side was that this was really rather difficult, I’ve finished again under par for the i. I would say that I’ve hit a streak of good form if it wasn’t for dismal showings elsewhere, so perhaps luck or that fabled wavelength thing played a part.

Anyway, I thought this was a good puzzle that needed a little teasing out here and there, with some lovely wordplay and well disguised definitions. One or two I think push the envelope – in particular surely French on its own doesn’t signify a kiss? The exact parsing of 22/3 defeats me – “Hands”, yes, “discovery” = stripping? Sort of, I suppose. Elsewhere I questioned whether Job could actually be described as a prophet, but apparently he has been in some rabbinical literature, so kudos to Donk.

All in all a lovely puzzle that was by far my favourite from this setter to date.

COD? The very clever 11ac which I didn’t parse when solving, which is a pity because it’s a thing of beauty – “Briefly, it makes beer better (why can’t you drink it?) (8)”.

To July 2015:

My lunchtime having been requisitioned by a work meeting, and time being short, what I was looking forward to first thing this morning was a nice straightforward Dac. Well, what we got instead was what I thought was a nice, straightforward eXternal, though on the other side the consensus seems to be that this was on the tricky side, so don’t be put off by my appraisal. To be fair bits and bobs needed a little thought, and I did worry for a while that I was in trouble on the LHS which had remained stubbornly empty for a long time until I hit upon 7d based, TBH, on the French bit at the start, so… Perhaps a little challenging then and a needs must approach winning through?

My question marks at the close revolved round 12ac where you’d have to agree with Pierre on Fifteensquared that ELK for browser “is a bit random”, and also 1d which I suspect most solvers will have chucked in as I did on a bit of a wing and a prayer.

There was also much to enjoy, this being eXternal who is consistently good, with my COD going to 14d just because, well, MOOBS – “Sizeable report brought up man’s large chest containing exotic coin (5,4)”.

To July 2015:

The MCMLXIX saga continues. A pretty rubbish film title admittedly, but a pretty good description of a pretty decent series of puzzles.

But first, the Saturday drill of dance (you’ll be relieved to hear that I was spectating rather than performing) and the Maths homework I’ve the kids have been set. 

A surprising amount of time later… 

To the main event, highlighters at the ready and time being short. Well, luckily we have a fairly straightforward grid fill. A nice anagram to start us off at 1ac, a boat and not boast at 14, and in fact lots of missing S’s throughout, though I’m still not sure why 11 of them. Fifty years ago I was exactly five months old, so there’s probably some bit of arcane knowledge I’m missing that will have helped on this count.

Kudos must go, BTW, to whichever of our two setters came up with the Krautrock reference, though I’m not sure I would have heard of the group in question if they hadn’t been a major influence on one of my all time favourite bands. I suspect there may have been furrowed brows elsewhere.

The obligatory LOI-you-can’t-just-get-for-love-or-money? That would be SPUN, guts missing the final K, that, well, I got from the unclued entry as I’d hoped I might.

Though first up was the date. Lots of roman numerals down the bottom of the grid. A bank to highlight across the top, a TEN SHILLING NOTE in the middle, thus the S’s presumably.

In 1969 it was replaced by the 50p piece. And likewise in the grid.

Does my effort look like the aforementioned piece of smallish change? I suppose so, though I nearly forgot. Saturday being a day when I’m never particularly on top form, and preambles being something I tend to neglect at my cost.

Huzzah. Job done, and in a pretty nifty time thankfully. And, oh yes, enjoyed too.

Not one but two songs for you to enjoy this week. First up is The Sisters of Mercy with their cover of 1969, swiftly followed by The Fall with I Am Damo Suzuki. Bonus points if you can work out the link with eXtent’s puzzle.