i Cryptic Crossword 2741 Dac

November 20, 2019

Midweek brings with it as hoped and expected a reasonably straightforward offering from Dac. Expected because we often do, hoped not only because Dac is invariably good value for money, but also because the youngest two were fitted with braces yesterday and subsequently nobody got a great deal of rest last night, and anything a bit trickier might have caused me serious issues. I started at a fair rate of knots in the SE corner, slowing down only when I got myself in a pickle after lobbing in STAGECOACHES for 18ac, Stagecoach being a pretty famous bus company in these parts at least. I needed to check that I wasn’t making up 9ac, and was only vaguely aware of the driver, but as for the rest there was little that was obscure or that will have caused too many issues.

There’s some discussion about an alternative answer for 21ac over on the other side, but as the correct one’s probably best known as a 70’s Doctor Who companion, I didn’t give the alternative a second thought. 😉

Finish time about par for the i, though I suspect that on a better day that might have been halved.

COD? 24ac – “Soldier did manoeuvres in quadrangle ignoring regimental leader (8)”.

To September 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/09/16/independent-9024-dac/

It was all about the B2’s. That B having nothing to do with Berlin despite it being a significant number of years since the wall fell. And anyway, BERLIN WALL was never going to fill 32 cells.

Vitamin B2, an obscure reference to a US Visa, an airline designation the parsing of which I remain unconvinced by (does Belarus really equal BEL?)… Because the consecutive pairs of letters taken from the downs spell out:

belarus avia riboflavin usa non-immigrant visa

As if that wasn’t enough of a hint, second letters from selected across clues clearly instruct us to STEAL TH. It’s right there in the title, see?

But the exact parsing of that lot came much later.

After a pretty quick grid fill (some would say suspiciously quick grid fill) kicked off with an encouraging PIXYRING (no prizes for guessing what “axes” would refer to), continuing with what feels like ancient technology these days in the form of the IPOD, a composer even I know, a pretty odd Oz creature of the feathered variety in the form of the MOUNDBIRD, and lots and lots of the above extra letters pencilled beside the clues where I was sure to misread them.

Now STEALTH screamed out bomber, especially given the requirement to make something disappear from the grid. But I didn’t think to Google the thing, otherwise I would have spotted that it’s a B2 Stealth Bomber and saved myself a whole 24, yes 24 hours worth of agonising about what the seemingly random collection of words were trying to tell me. A cryptic clue, chemical symbols, I tried the lot.

So after 5 times as long as it took to fill the grid of staring at the above, the realisation that the designation is B2. Of course, STEALTH was clear from the start.

Erase the letters STEALTH from the grid (all 32 of them as handily supplied in the preamble), and whoosh, there she goes.

I told you I’m not at my best at the weekend, but still… Perhaps an unexpectedly easy Saturday Prize Puzzle courtesy of Dac occasioned a false sense of security, or failed to put my nerves suitably on edge.

A fun grid fill then, but a frustrating end game I suspect is entirely my fault. But still, Belarus…

When contemplating a Tuesday Scorpion it is helpful to bear in mind that this setter really doesn’t do things by halves. The theme is semi-ghostly one might say, but pretty hard to miss since it pervades all the across lights. I was determined not to avail myself of a list, but if required the exceedingly thorough beermagnet provides one in the September 2015 Fifteensquared blog.

I found this easy. Perhaps it’s a matter of having become attuned to Scorpion’s way of thinking. He does come with a bit of a reputation, but his puzzles are invariably fair and accessible given some lateral thinking. Today my knowledge of ladies’ lingerie and bygone golfers was deficient, so it’s just as well that the answers are spelt out – no complaints about obscurities here. Admittedly that old cleaner in 1d might have mystified younger solvers, not least because it’s still on sale, but it made me smile. Unsurprisingly there’s no shortage of COD candidates, so thumbs up for dozen which didn’t quite make it. As usual alternative nominations are welcomed, but my winner is 6d:

“Female politician and king visit lake, then another (6)”

An IoS reprint to start us off this week that was mostly straightforward but with a bit of a sting in the tail. Yes, 12ac which was a horribly obscure answer with some pretty tricky wordplay. It would be interesting to know whether its use was deliberate on Hypnos’ part or whether he painted himself into a corner, but I suppose we’ll never know. Elsewhere I failed to parse one or two on solving, notably 1d, but in retrospect all were fairly clued. 15ac may have caused grief if it was one you didn’t know, but thankfully I did, sort of. An anagram or two throughout too many for my liking, perhaps, but on the whole an enjoyable solve.

First in down to the SE because that’s where I started, last in the tennis player with no real hold-ups in-between, finish time well under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 6ac – “Medic facing no hospital work, as it were, in decline (5)”.

To September 2015:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/09/13/independent-on-sunday-1333-hypnos/

Saturday 9th November 2019

Dac on a Saturday? After checking for plagues of frogs and that the earth was indeed still turning on its axis, my sense of security was quickly restored last weekend upon being reacquainted with Dac’s reassuringly reliable style. I suppose it might have been a bit easier than average for a Dac crossword, and in truth it wasn’t one of his outstanding puzzles, but that didn’t stop it still being very good indeed – frankly they always are.

It’s testament to his consistency that the commenters over on Fifteensquared  each picked a different clue as their favourite: RAPESEED with its anagram fodder & anagrind of deep-sea/ divers, OVERGROWN, ITALIANATE, DANTE, and DALEK (which will have doubtless been JonofWales’ favourite).

As for my choice, I probably did like the Rapeseed clue best, but just to be different I’m going to nominate the following for its surface (of course) and for its innovative use of ‘seconds’:

26a Consumed seconds of lean bacon before mid-morning (5)

 

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” opined Tolstoy in Anna Karenina – and something similar can be said about the fairness or unfairness of crossword clues.

Some of this puzzle was quite straightforward – with a fair combination of definition, word-play and crossing letters – and a good three-quarters I was able to enter readily and with confidence. But then it got more difficult and I started to struggle, and in the end I needed recourse to electronic lists and the suchlike.

REMORA was an unfair clue. The anagram of “more” was clearly signalled; but RA for (Republic of) Argentina is unhelpful. AR would have been ok, I think, if there had been some sort of reversal indicator. And REMORA is an obscure answer, and difficult to find in the thesaurus when you don’t have the initial letter.

KRAY, whilst being a very amusing clue, was also unfair. It’s a four-letter word, and they are often more difficult than one would think. Both the two uncrossed lights could have taken either vowels or consonants, which means there is a high number of potential answers. And we are not given the first letter which again makes it much harder to trawl through lists.

I could moan about a couple of others as well, but I’ll hold back and wait to read what others think.

On the positive side, there were some very amusing ones. I liked SAFARI PARK and the old chestnut IBERIANS. My nomination for Clue of the Day, though, goes to 15d: “Purchase one of two farm tools, say, no matter how. (2,4,2,2,5).

Initially published in September, 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/09/15/independent-9023-radian/

i Cryptic Crossword 2736 Phi

November 14, 2019

When solving Phi I’m usually sitting on the fringes of a dance lesson, having had a lie-in, croissants and some decent coffee. So today’s solving experience felt very odd indeed!

Apart from the obscure answers (which included the London location for me) this felt straightforward enough, finished comfortably under par for the i, though with much of that time spent on the aforementioned clue, the monster, and the hash symbol. The latter in particular I felt particularly pleased on getting correct with a little – “check later” note beside it.

There’s a theme which would have helped if you were aware of it / had spotted it, but as I failed on both counts it didn’t. It forced those obscurities into the grid, but as there were only a few and they were all pretty solvable I’ll forgive Phi this once. 🙂

Enjoyable throughout, with a few smiles (incorrectly so in a way on solving 5d, as I took it to mean there wasn’t a 5d), with my COD going to 8d – “Revolutionary treatment restricting a male’s head pain (7)”.

To September 2015:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/09/11/independent-9020-phi/

i Cryptic Crossword 2735 Dac

November 13, 2019

More goodness from Dac to ease us through midweek, and a pangram to boot. As pleasurable to solve as ever, I finished well under par for the i but was surprised to do so as this was one of those puzzles where you needed to pay close attention and take note of the always clear wordplay. Time spent working through Dac’s clues though is never a chore. C for “cycle” was a surprise from this setter, as was the erroneous definition at 11ac, but I doubt if many solvers were delayed over-long. The full parsing of 5ac eluded me as well, but with SIN pretty much a given at the close, and that definition…

COD? Just because it’s such a good example of Dac’s smooth surface readings, 22d – “Spaniard casts aside his fear (5)”.

To September 2015:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/09/02/independent-9012-by-dac/

A week on from a particularly taxing inquisition… another jigsaw. You know how much I love jigsaws. This week at least we have clue lengths, and only the one set of clues.

  • Extra letters generated from wordplay, and subsequent message. Tick.
  • Unclued entries, similarly.
  • Highlighting. This bit is a favourite with the youngest two who wonder why and delight in the fact that I colour in the crossword every week. I must admit to enjoying it too.
  • And clues that are a level less fiendish than last week. A Jenny’s an ASS, a WRASSE being a fish that must be popular in crosswords as it’s stuck in my mind where things often don’t. ANALOG is a typical American misspelling. A tax is a LEVY.

And so on, which is all well and good but where to put the things? If I’d been thinking logically I might have looked for the 8 length clues first, and positioned my answers correspondingly considering crossing clues.

And I did get there, but only after a bit of a debacle with the washing machine. One having had the poor grace to break down a month after the extended warranty expired, the replacement ordered rather hurriedly without provision for removal of the old, or installation of the new. Installation required because have you ever tried removing a washing machine from its packaging?

An extended discussion with Argos later…

Sunday, where I have a limited time before a four, yes four hour dance presentation and subsequent competition to get to the bottom of this.

Those unclued entries proving to be a problem. They’re supposed to provide geographical assistance. The one along the bottom is evidently something VILLE. WAIATAS I was initially convinced was something else – some kind of Australian plant – leading me right down a blind alley until I realised I was a clue short on the solving front.

ROSEVILLE? KANSAS? A quick Google later, add FORT and BAXTER to that list to give the setting for The Phil Silvers Show. Now, I vaguely remember this from BBC 2 reruns back in the day I never really got into, so we’re relying on Wikipedia again.

The letters in the grey cells? Well, they can evidently be rearranged to give COLONEL JT HALL, Bilko’s superior.

And indeed along one diagonal is ERNEST BILKO himself, and in another PHIL SILVERS.

But are we supposed to highlight both, or just one, or something else? Fear of red herrings having reached fever pitch…

The extra letters generated from wordplay are supposed to help, but look pretty random.

Ah, we’re supposed to view in “conventional clue order”. Mine looked like this, the solving process having been as error-prone as ever: ?OTORPOOL MA?TER SHEGEANT ?ND AE??RS NAMES

As Bilko was apparently Master Sergeant of the motor pool, and the latter is presumably ACTOR’S NAMES (with a little shiver of doubt over the latter – is there more than one actor?)

My grid therefore looked like this, and hopefully that’s right, having taken an age already, and my mind not being in a particularly good place for reasons detailed above. Though it may be said that Kruger supplied a welcome, and enjoyable diversion.

i Cryptic Crossword 2734 Vigo

November 12, 2019

Vigo made her debut in the i a few Saturdays ago with an impeccably polished beginner-friendly crossword, and here we have another in the same vein. It always strikes me as an act of generosity when a setter presents us with something really clever without making it difficult to solve, and that’s certainly the case with this ghost-themed puzzle.

There are no wild flights of fancy here, and the cryptic vocabulary will all be quite familiar to experienced solvers. As with the previous Vigo the standard of the surface readings is noticeably high throughout, and there’s a droll feel to a number of clues … I do hope everyone had a smile at 11d, for instance. A couple of solutions are perhaps a little recondite: the dungeon was a write in for me but raised an eyebrow or two amongst the Fifteensquared chorus back in September 2015. Nobody mentioned 2d but that strikes me as a rummy old word, and there’s one for all the polo lovers amongst us, too. (My experience of the game is limited to searching for lost balls as a kid – apparently they’re plastic nowadays but they used to be made of wood).

I have no complaints about this enjoyable crossword except that it didn’t last very long. Favourites today include 13ac and the aforementioned 11d, but just for fun my COD is 12ac:

“Twisted fluid covered in jelly (5)”