In which we first of all note with thanks the festive theme, and secondly play guess the setter. As I struggled with the downs, my FOI having started at 26d being a somewhat alarming 2d, and that I struggled in particular in the SE corner having found other quarters to be somewhat of a breeze I have my suspicions, but given a dismal guess in last week’s Inquisitor (for more see the post below this one), I’m not going to commit the proverbial pen to paper.

Lots of fun throughout, with some toasts that were perhaps better known than others, with 15ac in particular being one that needed a trip to Google and then some after. The noted New Year’s performer was less than noted in these parts, though gettable, sort of, even if I drew the bar in the wrong place thus making my life somewhat more difficult than it needed to be. And, oh yes in common with others over on the other side I initially assumed that 30ac began with GOOD, only to find that, well, it didn’t.

A lovely puzzle nevertheless that was the right side of challenging for the day.

In case you were wondering where Batarde is today, he’s somewhat under the weather, so best wishes for a swift recovery. I’ll be publishing his analysis of the year’s themes (including today’s) together with my review of the year tomorrow, should I get a chance to collate during the evening’s celebrations. Blame any errors on the cans of Rev James and bottles of Scotch lurking in the cupboard.

So it’s just left to me to wish you all a Happy New Year, in particular to all our bloggers, past and present, the contributors to the comments section whose insights and general chit-chat are always appreciated, our guest puzzle setters, and all you lurkers out there. 🙂

COD? Let’s go with 18d on a day when there were many to choose from – “It perhaps runs one out of estuary (8)”.

To a New Year’s Eve many moons ago:


It was the Saturday before Christmas, and the IQ celebrated in typically non-celebratory fashion the coming festive season, unless we’re noting the amount of alcohol that will be consumed over the coming week. And we all know that while our esteemed editor doesn’t rate the time of year that highly, he does enjoy a pint or two.

It was all to do with a poem by Chesterton which is apparently very popular and which needless to say I was blissfully unaware of. A warning, by the way, to steel yourself before Googling said poet, as let’s just say that he’s a pretty scary sight. The first line neatly spelt out by misprints, the author’s name by extraneous words in four other clues. Was I the only person to end up with five or six before realising what a dog’s breakfast I’d made of the parsing?

Anyway, rotter, beseech, link and tight were the ones you were looking for, though I must admit to working back from the poem which Google handily pops up from BEFORE THE…, that being a rather long anagram to work out and because I didn’t know that his first names were actually Gilbert and Keith, assuming he was just good old GK.

Lots of impressive words this week, DUMKA and SAJOU being particularly unlikely looking candidates.

A handful you won’t find in the BRB – THEROUX, PACE EGG (a fascinating tradition it transpires I was also blissfully unaware of – it’s a northern thing according to Wikipedia), and CRAY which is presumably an abbreviated southern thing if I’ve first got it right, and secondly parsed it correctly, the sun god RA making not one but an unprecedented two appearances this week, albeit under the less well known nom-de-plume of RE elsewhere.

All to be found in a grid fill that was well judged for the weekend before Christmas when we’ve all got rather a lot to do.

Then there was 10ac, which I’m still agonising over. It’s a bird, I’ll grant you, but is that an S or a Z? I can’t parse it, you see. An S is more likely, so let’s chuck that in and keep everything crossed.

All that’s left to do is trace out the letters that make up the second line of said verse, which I did several times in pencil before committing to a rather fetching shade of pink, the potential for a final cock-up being odds-on at this point.

Bish bash bosh. Good stuff, enjoyed. Which leaves plenty of time for another quick one, I suppose.

We’re a bit short of time this morning here, since:

  • We’re off to the pantomime this afternoon;
  • I foolishly decided to have a lie-in;
  • I also foolishly thought that I’d be the only person dumping wrapping paper and bits of cardboard at the recycling centre this morning with the result that I spent rather a long time in a traffic jam.

So I wasn’t sure how I felt about seeing Daedalus in the i today, as his constructions can sometimes be on the tricky side. As it turned out this was a light, breezy offering that I thoroughly enjoyed. I have some sympathy with Flashling over on the other side as much was a lot easier to solve than to parse, large chunks going in on checking letters alone and likely definition.

My copy has copious ticks beside the question marks, notably beside the nicely hidden word at 11ac. Talking of question marks, 22d predictably enough sparked rather a lot of debate on Fifteensquared, and I’m glad I didn’t have to parse it alone, but it appears to be O Z ONE from 001 as the cryptic bit, with OOO as the definition, and I can see why Daedalus couldn’t resist it!

A finish time today half that par for the i, with a good time had throughout.

Talking of times, on New Year’s Day I’ll be publishing my annual review of the year’s puzzles, based on a spreadsheet of setters v average times I’ve been rather obsessively updating throughout the year. I hope you find the results to be of interest.

But to today, and my COD nomination which goes to 2d – “Maybe I lower case of painkilling placebo (9,6)”.

To the summer of 2015:

Saturday 21st December 2019

Which must have been my quickest Phi of the year. The solve hinged upon getting the 37-letter Christmas themed answer to 3/8/20. Personally I needed a couple of crossers to twig it, but given the season I’m sure many will have realised what it was straight away from the enumeration alone. It was written and first performed by 10/19 in 1948 (not an artist I knew by name), and when I went searching I came across this pretty irresistible version by a little girl called Melissa Lynn – thank you Batarde for the prompting.

Prior to checking to see if it was in the dictionary I couldn’t remember knowing 12a CORNO DI BASSETTO, but once I saw it there it seemed like I had indeed always known it. Funny how often that happens. My other pause for thought was for 16d LIBRETTOS, which is an alternative to the more common Libretti apparently.

Overall it was an 18a enough puzzle, but probably over too quickly to represent a serious challenge for the more seasoned solvers amongst us, I suspect.

My COD is 18d: Parliamentarians go to court, upset about risqué behaviour? (4-3)

All the answers are here.

A gentle and accessible puzzle, I thought, just right for the first normalish day after the festivities. Certainly more so than yesterday’s offering which I really struggled with (although I admit that doing a crossword in the morning may be more productive than late on Boxing Day evening after some over-indulgence – for which I am unapologetic 🙂).

My first ones in were the two long across clues which were perhaps not the most well-known of carols, but they were very obviously clued and were straightforward anagrams so they opened up the grid nicely. Nearly everything else seemed uncontroversial. I struggled to parse CENTRE FORWARD although it was pretty clear what it ought to be when a few crossing letters were in. I know from recent comments that footballing terminology can be divisive in crosswordland, but surely this term is sufficiently well-known to provoke little objection. The parsing of STORM DRAIN also withheld its favours for a while, as I was fixated on “doctor” implying DR rather than MD, and “soldiers” accordingly being the Royal Marines. This left me wondering what “sto…ain” could possibly be. Fortunately a family member looking over my shoulder showed me the error of my ways…

The clues had good surfaces, but only one made me laugh: “Show more ingenuity than fool in adult place of learning (6).”.

Back to this time of year in 2014 for all the answers:

It’s been several days since I solved Vismut’s latest and it feels like a lot has happened in the meantime, it being that time of year when there is indeed a lot going on, but glancing at the puzzle several things spring to mind from those dim and dusty days.

  • The preamble, there being a lot of it. Extra letters from wordplay in some hinting at… Ten mysterious others. Extra letters in six downs which somehow or other will elucidate the final highlighting. And for good measure a couple of letters to alter at the close. Phew. Told you there was a lot of it.
  • My credit card statement, which isn’t looking any healthier with the passing month. Whose idea was it to get that tree? Oh yes…

Into the fray.

Words of interest this week: SACHEMDOM, CSARDAS, with worthy mentions to WHOOPEE and LEWDEST.

The ten mysterious clues? Mysterious as it turns out because the answers won’t fit into their allotted spaces. But, as it transpires, they’re all animals and the noises they make will. Who knew that a MAGPIE is wont to CHATTER, or that a WHALE might SING? Well, Vismut for a start, and also Wikipedia quite handily as it turns out, stuck as I was on one or two at the close.

16 extra letters generated from wordplay? THE CALL OF THE WILD, which is a pretty well known book by Jack London. No prizes for guessing who we’re going to highlight.

Talking of which, six definitions in the downs have an extra letter each. NAME OF… The mind-bending mysterious preamble pointing to letters calculated from the same which lead to AUTHOR.

Yep, we need to highlight the name of the author. There’s LONDON across one diagonal, and JACK just above.

Just the main character’s name to reveal by altering two letters. The name we’re looking for is BUCK, which we could get by altering the first two letters of JACK, but that would leave non-real words which we’re told is a no-no.

It’s a thematic answer we’re after, the BARK of a SEAL looking like the obvious one to change. In he goes.

Done, dusted, enjoyed, and all in good time to… Go and spend some more cash I haven’t got I guess. The closing date this time is a couple of days late on the 27th, what with the inconvenience of Bank Holidays, so by the time this is published it’ll all be over bar the mountain of food and drink yet to be consumed. Time to get stuck in…

i Cryptic Crossword 2771 Anax

December 26, 2019

Well here we are on the other side, no doubt feeling a bit tired and emotional for one reason or another. Highlights here would have to include an impromptu indoor game of basketball, a go on the trampoline which is currently setup in my bedroom awaiting a more suitable location when we can think of one, a game of Bullseye it being a particularly inspired, last minute gift for the oldest, and Gavin and Stacey which was as delightful as hoped and wished for.

Anyway, to today’s puzzle which is an unexpected treat from Anax. As expected it’s on the tough side, but perfectly accessible with loads of easy ones to get you started, and lots of smiles throughout. Outside of my COD I particularly liked 20ac, 11ac, 3d and 16d. Yep, this was a good one.

There’s a Boxing Day flavour to the whole, though no explicit theme as such.

There were a couple I couldn’t parse, notably 13d where the football reference was somewhat of a mystery, but elsewhere everything went in understood for what must be one of the best puzzles we’ve had in a while.

First in was 21d, having started one clue below that, last in my COD nomination below, finish time as expected probably twice that par for the i, but with no complaints at all as this was a smashing crossword.

COD? So many to pick from today, with my nomination going to 26ac – “Decided to secure zip? Cold outside (7)”.

To the Feast of Stephen many moons ago:

Today’s theme will surprise nobody, so instead of a picture here’s some festive music instead.

It’s been a while since Quixote’s last appearance in the i, but we all know the formula: rock-solid clue writing in the traditional manner and a few peculiar words to liven things up, making for a speedy but satisfying solving experience. As usual with this setter I’m somewhat stumped for a COD, but let’s have one from the little cluster in the NE corner where I finished:

3ac: “Christian supplier of medieval weaponry (8)”

Back precisely four years to Duncan’s Fifteensquared blog.

The other day a gentleman of my acquaintance bade me “Saturnalian blessings”. Clearly word of last year’s Batarde Towers toga party has leaked out. Anyway, it’s a bit of a ticklish business knowing quite what to wish everybody at this time of year, what with seasonal jollifications taking many forms and other people electing to sit it out, so I hope you’ll take the following in the inclusive spirit intended. A Merry Christmas, one and all.

i Cryptic Crossword 2769 Dac

December 23, 2019

The festive season is well and truly upon us, and as there’s no i this Wednesday Dac’s been shunted back a couple of days. This was a pretty straightforward offering, finished easily under par that won’t have caused most solvers too many difficulties. OK, there’s a battle I for one hadn’t heard of, and your solving time will have relied on knowing a little Shakespeare, the name of a Charles Kingsley book, and also the title of a 60’s Doctor Who story at 5d 😉 , but elsewhere I’m guessing most of us shot through. Handily, on a day when judging by the scenes at the local supermarket and subsequent three car pile up with attendant police presence outside, the Christmas spirit is beginning to wear rather thin.

On the other hand I’m on the verge of breaking out the mince pies and beer, so I’ll sign off by wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Hope Santa brings you all the gifts you’ve been secretly hoping for.

COD? I’ll go with 10d that I’m guessing many won’t have needed to parse, which is a pity because it’s very nicely done – “Tiny chap and Yoko, people enthusiastic about the old drama (5,2,6)”.

To the ghost of Christmas past for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Saturday 14th December 2019

Let’s hope these ‘weekday’ setters who have recently been appearing in the Prize slot are going down well with solvers who usually only tackle the cryptic at the weekend. Morph, one of the best of them, made an appearance last Saturday with a crossword that was a bit gentler than his offering on Thursday.

We had quite a few Dad jokes this time (Mrs Cornick thinks that’s basically all that cryptic crosswords are), but they were wrapped up with enough elegance to be raised to something approaching an art form. Among them we had puns on ‘Beds’, ‘Fan belt’, ‘Icier’, ‘Slip of the tongue’, ‘Party line’ and my COD (narrowly pipping 3d) which was this one:

10d What Stanley famously did for a philosopher (13)

And if that sort of thing isn’t your bag, there were plenty of more straightforward examples of the setter’s craft, plus at least two which I would call innovative: In 4d we had ‘coming up with tail held down’ as an instruction to do a reversal of all the letters in CIVET apart from the last one. Nice. Then in 17a we had ‘Core of planet revolving’ which must be the neatest way I’ve encountered of handling the potentially hackneyed idea of changing EARTH into HEART.

So, and despite both the unnecessary word ‘ruler’ in 1d perhaps, and the justifiable quibble raised by Wil Ransome about 22a in the comments of the original blog from 2015 here, I was a very happy solver. Morph’s straight cryptic in 18a got some stick from NealH, but I would defend it – sticks might be employed in lots of sports, but only in a relay race is one actually given a stick.