Oo er … the enfant terrible is back. One dreads to think what Hob’s idea of a “therapeutic release” might be, and there are private parts and a stripper called Lulu. Of course the puzzle turned out to be clean as a whistle, not to mention scrupulously fair and of exceptional quality. He gets better with every appearance in the i.

Hob sometimes comes across as a precocious fifth-former, but today’s theme suggests that he’s a bit older than that – at any rate there was nothing unfamiliar to wonder about. However, both 26 in its religious sense and 28 were unknowns for me, but so clearly clued that there was no need to check. It’s a reasonably challenging crossword without being daft about it, and pitched just right for a blog day as far as I’m concerned. As usual there were some smiles and chuckles along the way, and the tick count is downright impressive. I shall not bore you by reeling off my favourites – please nominate your own – and instead cut straight to my COD, which may as well be 5d:

“Sort of builder’s bum primarily seen in women only, extremely firm on top (6)”

Back to the late 1980s – whoops, August 2015 – for Simon Harding’s Fifteensquared blog entry. In case anyone is wondering about the picture link, searching for “Clanadonia” will explain all, and is recommended.

Poins to start the week then, with an IoS reprint that suits me just fine on a Monday morning. So this is what it feels like to be sleep deprived again. A fairly quick solve, though not my fastest, with care having to be taken only over the spelling of 16d with all those M’s and N’s to get muddled up, one at 9ac that may be new to some, and 20ac. A simple answer, yes, but can someone put me out of my misery please and reveal in what context “crack” = ROCK? I’m preparing to kick myself. My excuse in advance is that – yes, it’s Monday. Next week I’ll have had an hour’s extra sleep what with glorious GMT being round the corner, plus I’ve got the day off, so I’ll have to think of a different excuse. Elsewhere I didn’t spot anything of controversy, but then again I didn’t need to fully parse most of them.

COD? Lots to like I thought, with my nomination going to the quite-inventive-for-an-IoS-reprint 11ac – “It’s just as likely to happen in the middle of Dallas (5-5)”.

Back to the balmier days of August 2015:


On a sadder note, I notice that Deborah Orr is trending on Twitter, as she should be, but today I’m sure we wish she wasn’t. RIP.

Saturday 12th October 2019

Upon completion last Saturday I surmised that there had to be a connection between 6d THE SUN ALSO RISES and 4d ANTARCTIC CIRCLE – because the sun does indeed just rise on the Antarctic Circle on the winter solstice. Ice yacht, Heliotrope, Canis major, Granitic and Rock must also be connected somehow, surely? But no, Phi tells us in the comments over at Fifteensquared that there’s no theme here at all, loose or otherwise. Oh well.

But it was still a good crossword. It earned a very respectable half dozen ticks in my margin, with a double for my COD:

17a Arctic vessel circling island in the Channel Isles (3,5)

I rather liked the key idea in 4d, except for the superfluous word ‘reputation’ on the end, superfluity being a cardinal sin in crossword clues. Also provoking a quibble-mark was 26a Apotheothis – a beautiful word, a lovely construction, but with something of a gobbledygook surface reading. Still, maybe such things don’t really matter…


Referring back to the Vigo puzzle of the previous Saturday to this and the accompanying comments, Eccles writes to tell me that the female setters in the Indy stable also include Peter, who will be coming to the pages of the i some time next year.

A very clever offering from Morph today with an unusual, possibly unique, nina linked to two ghost-theme linked entries across the middle. On getting a Q and a J I half-expecting a pangram, but it was something rather more pleasing than that.

This seemed hard to me, with quite a few where the parsing was somewhat elusive, including the two long connected entries. It was a relief to see that the good folk over on Fifteensquared thought so too. There was extensive discussion about AUTOMATE, but since French genders were never my strong suit (see what I did there!) that all passed me by… The “Be”in 17d irritated me, as did COPYCAT for reasons I could not quite pin down.

Clue of the Day? I bid 7d “Kind of acid remark heard by those leaving Casablanca bar.” Quite why some at Fifteensquared thought it could be something other than it was is beyond me.

July 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/07/02/independent-8959-by-morph/

We haven’t had a week with two Sundays for a while, but here we are with an IoS reprint, unlike recent offerings, of about the difficulty I’d expect. All jolly good fun, solved quickly while waiting to see the doctor about a (famous last words) non urgent but bothersome problem, and trying to sit well apart from the patients with genuine lurgies. All in all a 6d that was only left unparsed where I really didn’t need to to get or confirm the answer.

Over on the other side the main point of discussion seems to be 9ac, which I’m amazed anybody didn’t know, if only from this famous fight.

COD? I’ll go with 18ac – “Mark retirement of former student beside unrefined resort (11)”.

To July 2015:


Dac’s back in his accustomed Wednesday spot after a long absence, the rain has stopped for the first time in literally weeks, and all is well with the world if we forget the B word for a moment. Perhaps not solved at quite the gallop I’m accustomed to, in fact finished just a little over par for the i, but there was nothing insurmountable with a little thought. The NW corner in particular caused some difficulty, containing an odd sounding iron and a neat bit of wordplay in 1ac that took me to the very close to work out, though I suspect that on a better day it wouldn’t. 6d I guess is something that will be on lots of people’s minds at the moment looking at sickness rates in general, and in particular with the window fitters who were supposed to arrive this morning. 2d, interestingly, I couldn’t find in Chambers. Elsewhere as ever with Dac – follow the wordplay and he’ll get you home safe and sound.

COD? With 6d a close runner up, 12ac, just because it’s extremely neat – “Very good recipe: I doubled the chilli sauce (4-4)”.

To July 2015 and the inimitable duncanshiell:


1969 was evidently a vintage year. Spoilers? Well, as MONTY PYTHON is the first of our wordplay only clues, and surprise surprise FIFTIETH and ANNIVERSARY the other two, with thematic material elsewhere, no, not really. Though presumably the endgame is going to involve something a little… extra.

And a lot of extra too, first and last letters from superfluous words. A very long phrase that we’re to “try” (an ominous sounding word) to decipher using GOOGLE TRANSLATE.

This week I was solving in the midst of the unmitigated, unrelenting, whole-two-hours worth of bedlam that is a trampoline park, it being the youngest two’s twelfth birthday and this being the venue of choice. Luckily I have a handy mobile on which to summon up the mighty Google.

WENN, all good, IST and DAS too, but from that point on… Well, I’m struggling. Luckily the big G knows all, pointing to this sketch and associated phrase, which isn’t actually, surprise surprise, real German.

What does Google Translate make of it? Well, that would be another of Google’s little Easter Eggs. FATAL ERROR.

And oh yes, I almost forgot to mention the grid fill. Pretty straightforward, wasn’t it?

The puzzle as a whole? When we come to vote next year, this one’s going to be pretty near the top of my list. So thanks, Encota, I enjoyed that.

Here’s a bit of Killing Joke for you, and a grid fill live from Buzz Trampoline Park, Cardiff.

A nifty bit of grid filling today, with a dozen 5/27s occupying the across lights. Well done to the setter for achieving that, but if there’s a quicker crossword this week I’ll be surprised. A theme like this can be a splendid tease if it’s sufficiently well disguised to keep you guessing, but with the gateway clue Hieroglyph has provided us with a Rosetta Stone which is a doddle to decode. Therefore, I am inviting solvers to provide their own alternatives: make ’em tricky, please.

Points of interest: a funny fish; kettledrums with a “y” for a change; everybody’s favourite principality rather cleverly clued, and an uncommon apple. I had all the across entries filled in before looking at the downs, and was pleased to find that there was a bit of work left to do, at least. Ordinarily a grid like this would prompt “four puzzles for the price of one” complaints, but it didn’t cause any trouble at all. It’s all quite good, except for that gateway clue. There are similar musings to peruse in the comments on RatkojaRiku’s July 2015 Fifteensquared blog.

My clue of the day is formulaic, but nicely done:

21d: “Once again takes on small Italian soprano (6)”

Oh yes, and my alternative for 5/27:

“Say ‘seven sisters stripped surrounding short shaft’, signifying Salisbury, say (5,8)”

An IoS reprint to start the week that was perhaps a little trickier than expected, as so many of them seem to be of late. Admittedly I’m not quite with it today, but I note that Pierre needed help with the parsing of one or two on the other side. For my own part I couldn’t quite see how 6ac and 10ac worked – or rather I could, but couldn’t identify the items referred to in the wordplay, and floundered somewhat with the parsing of 7d. A few unknowns dotted round the grid added a little spice, but elsewhere progress could best be described as steady. Finish time about par for the i, last in 7d for reasons that elude me now as I’ve watched the series from start to end and read all the books.

COD? I’ll go with 20d – “Top spy wearing diamonds, an assassin (3,3)”.

To July 2015:



Saturday 5th October 2019

Ooh, a new setter – and a she setter at that. Anarche has company.

The answers fairly flew in for me – might have been my quickest solve of an i puzzle yet, and it reminded me more of a highly polished version of the Times 13×13 quick cryptic than what we’re used to on a Saturday. Good surface readings throughout, a nice balance of clues, but apart from a couple in the SW it was all over far too quickly for an experienced solver, I suspect.

So the editorial policy seems clear – hook the novice solvers at the weekend and provide the Inquisitor to satisfy the more experienced solvers. Fair enough!

Plenty of comments over at Fifteensquared to mark the occasion – some discussion as to whether ‘dance floor’ in 13a might have been better as ‘discotheque’, but for my money it would have been fine if the editor had left it as Vigo originally intended ‘dancefloor’ – I doubt anyone would have objected.

Vigo also tells us that her name is made up of the first two letters of her two names, Vicky Gould or whatever; this is what’s sometimes called ones rapper name. My first setting name was Nico, so it got me wondering if there are any other setters named this way… Oh, and I don’t think Vigo’s crosswords are going to stay this easy, some of her recent contributions to the Indy look decidedly fiendish.

As for COD nomination, I’ll go with the following:

6d Dog mangling Grannie’s slipper (15)