A few days ago we had Iodine clued using the letter I as the definition. Had that not been so recently in my mind I might have struggled with EINSTEINIUM, as I usually miss those element symbols, cunningly and mischievously passing themselves off as pronouns, or, as in this case, mind-changing substances.

I thought this was a tough one, although it rewarded the effort with lots to admire, and was ultimately a very satisfying solve. SPLINTER GROUPS was good, once I had given up trying to get “needles” into it somehow. But in particular the shorter entries, which I often find challenging, were very pleasing: the unusually-clued TOE, ADA, which was very neat (after I had recovered from being misled into looking for French notes…) and the delightfully clued ROO.

I struggled with some. The parsing of ECTOMORPHIC, which I got through definition and crossing letters, held out until I wrote it backwards, when it fell into place. And did anyone at all work out how SELF-DESTRUCTED works? I didn’t.

GO TO ANY LENGTHS was weakly clued, I thought. And I put a question mark next to UNDERFOOT, which I likewise thought strained. (I had written in “underdogs” early on before JESTER showed me the error of my ways.

TURKEY was an early entry, and I wondered about a seasonal theme, but it was not to be.

Clue of the Day has to go to the aforementioned ROO: “A developer in another’s pocket becomes such a bounder. (3).”

December 2014: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/01/03/independent-8794-by-nestor-saturday-prize-puzzle-20-december-2014/

Today is my last day in work before Christmas, so time to wind down? Well, no, as I seem to have a million and one tasks to complete before the end of the day, and many calls on my unpaid-for-taxi-service. Luckily today’s puzzle then, while being a little more challenging than the week so far, is relatively gentle, and being Morph is lots of fun throughout.

Admittedly quite a few went in without fully understanding what was going on – notably at 13d which I suppose I could have Googled, but the answer was clear enough. Elsewhere I was pleased to get 11ac from the wordplay, and learnt a new word in WONK.

First in 6d having started in the SE corner, last in ironically enough 20d, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? With copious ticks beside the clues, I’ll go with 12ac – “Grasping where eggs come in sequence? That is grasping first element of logic (10)”.

To December 2014:


i Cryptic Crossword 2765 Dac

December 18, 2019

Another good one from Dac. It would be tempting to leave it at that, as really that’s all that needs to be said every time because he was always so consistently good, but such a good puzzle deserves more by the way of comment. Apart from my COD to be revealed later (spoilers!), in particular I liked the two uses of 11ac given in the definition for that clue, and 14ac, which was very neat, and 25ac which is such a good example of Dac’s always smooth surface readings which make this setting lark look so easy. I didn’t know the breed of dog but had no doubt I’d get it, and needed all the checking letters to get the writer.

Talking of which, there’s some debate on the other side about the parsing of 1ac, which is surely just – as given by Bertandjoyce in their blog – HARd OLD(PINT)ER?

Finished in a time about half par for the i, with only 2d and 6d not understood on solving, and thoroughly enjoyed throughout.

Ah yes, COD. It’s got to be 5d, hasn’t it, which is quite wonderfully done – “I have meal beneath the moon (6)”, and with such a well hidden definition to boot.

To December 2014 then for all the answers and parsing of the clues:


Chalicea to ease us full flow into the festive season. A setter who is always good value for money, and on the easy side which I guess is what most of us are looking for at the moment, what with the customary seasonal chaos and, this year, for good measure assorted political shenanigans. All of which has probably upset our esteemed editor, who professes to dislike both.

The gist of it? Extra letters generated from wordplay detailing an instruction, and an unclued entry I only noticed about three quarters of the way through the grid, which just goes to show how observant I am.

Straight in at 1ac with YEARD, a gimme if I every saw one, with an extra S, followed by the equally straightforward EERIER. No prizes though for guessing that we were probably going to end up with an H. And so on, with nomination for word of the week going to GODBOTHERER. A pretty nippy solve on a weekend thankfully devoid of pressing matters except the need to begin the accumulation of a surprisingly wallet-busting collection of presents I suspect are for the most part unneeded and ultimately unwanted. But such is the festive season, and next will come the horror of the descent of the dusty decorations from the attic. For which I have held out for a days longer.

Oh yes, that message. With a couple of question marks I’ll leave the experts on Fifteensquared to sort out:


It now having become clear that of the choice of words that might fill that space, V-SIGN was the one to go for.

There’s only one apposite quote from Churchill I know, and that turned out to be the correct one. Finding the summarised version in the grid to highlight turned out to take a while longer, but there it is.

Now, I thought it was a fairly amusing story, but the other half’s take is that it was a pretty leery, mean comeback in an already unpleasant encounter. She may have a point.

Anyway, no such complaints about Chalicea’s puzzle which was thoroughly enjoyable, and just what the doctor ordered.

This crossword has been extensively edited, to its detriment. In its original form , where we now see “9 character” the wording was “Inhabitant of CA would say“, which at least provides a bit of food for thought, but as it stands this puzzle comes perilously close to insulting the intelligence. By my reckoning, which excludes Saturdays for the sake of convenience, this is the seventh elementary crossword on the trot and I am starting to get cheesed off.

Even with the clever “CA would say” business the gateway clue makes the theme as plain as a pikestaff, and since Hieroglyph has crammed in a lot of thematic material that’s half the puzzle solved straight off the bat. The workmanship, however, is as good as ever, although I heartily disliked 3d for reasons which ought to be obvious. The excellent 11ac shows how sophisticated this setter’s clue writing can be, but there is an even better COD candidate which is about as good as it gets:

17d: “Nick Cage can stir porridge inside big house in the States (6)”

Back to Christmas Eve 2014 (a thematically significant date) for the Fifteensquared write-up.

A lively, thoroughly enjoyable offering from Hoskins to start us off this week. Pretty straightforward and clearly clued throughout, I imagine though I won’t be the only solver bemused regarding the parsing of 19ac. There’s a Nina in the left and right columns, which presumably this clue refers to, though I doubt it will have caused too many issues given the limited possibilities. Needless to say I missed the Nina, and finished suitably bemused. The entry in question was my LOI, having started as is my wont in the SE corner, finishing in a time easily under par for the i.

COD? 15ac – “Victor and Oscar came up with plenty of Es? (8)”.

To December 2015:


Saturday 7th December 2019

Phi gave us a ghost theme last weekend that was hopefully obvious to everyone – Pyramus & Thisbe as staged by the rude mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. No Nick Bottom (though I kept expecting him to turn up) but we did have the following: PYRAMUS, as played by the aforementioned weaver, THISBE as played by Flute, MOONSHINE played by STARVELING, the WALL by SNOUT, the LION by SNUG and then the prologue Peter QUINCE. I once saw a production of The Dream by the RSC where this play within a play was the highlight of the evening and had us rolling in the aisles, memorably with the physical comedy around “I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all!” – bawdy.

Those 9 mostly short theme words amounted to medium theme density I suppose, and given the (1,1) grid, I did wonder if our estimable grid-filler Phi had given us something extra – R-E-L-S-T-E along the Bottom might be a Flute, perhaps? But no, apparently not.

In truth I made slow progress with this one, particularly the NW corner with Isomeric and Nightpiece (a possible extra theme word?) , although the ghost theme was apparent from quite early on, and that certainly helped. Some of the clues were quite good, but for me it was that theme that was the most enjoyable thing in the puzzle by a margin. As RatkojaRiku says in the 2015 blog here, ‘the whole was greater than the sum of its parts’.

My COD is this one: 14d Expert is working with plastic to store energy (10)

i Cryptic Crossword 2761 Vigo

December 13, 2019

Crosswordland is never far away and is a pleasure to visit. The rules work somewhat differently there, and although there are sometimes frustrations, disappointments never last for long and one’s fellow-visitors can usually help when perplexed.

This was a delight. A simple, straightforward puzzle, certainly at the easy end of the spectrum, so very accessible, and none the worse for that. At the end of my solve there were absolutely no question marks and a lot of ticks in the margin. If I had one criticism it would be only that it was a bit heavy on anagrams for my taste. But then again, when I was a beginner-solver, I was glad of the anagrams, as I sort of knew where I was with them.

I struggled only a little in the SE corner, because I could not unthink “columnist” for 24a, when I had the crossing L, I and T.

Special mention must be made of the gendering in 1a – as crosswordland can seem a little patriarchal still – although not when Vigo is our setter.

Clue of the Day for me was the amusingly allusive 4d: “What was lost in the Freudian era?” (9).

First seen in the Independent in October 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/10/05/independent-9040-by-vigo/

Our second IoS reprint of the week comes courtesy of Hypnos. A little trickier than par for such puzzles, perhaps, I was surprised at the close to finish about par for the i having felt that I struggled throughout, solving in fits and starts. Perhaps a pretty rotten night’s sleep is to blame, or having a lot of other things I should really be getting on with. 4d in particular caused issues – I needed all the checking letters to complete, and then had to refer to Fifteensquared for the parsing. 7d I’m unconvinced by – the UN bit doesn’t really work for me, but your mileage may vary. Elsewhere everything was understood and enjoyed.

COD? 15d – “Criminal fellow restricted by tight pledges for repayment (9)”.

And now for lunch, and to vote, which I would urge you all to do no matter which party you support, or if you support none at all.

To October 2015:


i Cryptic Crossword 2759 Dac

December 11, 2019

Hands up if you knew 8d. I didn’t, and thus had some doubt about whether the second letter was an I or an A, the i‘s policy on such things being somewhat looser than other papers. 🙂 Elsewhere though there was nothing that was obscure, assuming that you knew the spirit and could work out the noble land if you didn’t know both already.  Clear wordplay as ever, nothing tricksy, just Dac doing what Dac does best, and thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

I’m guessing this puzzle will have pleased solvers disgruntled with the likes of Hob. Variety is the spice of life, though, and that’s what we get in the i and is one of its strengths, though don’t remind me I said that the next time we get a particularly tricky Anax or Nimrod.

First in 22d where I started, last in 8d, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 16ac – “Devon’s equivalent to Rushmore, might one say? (8)”.

To October 2015: