Strictly speaking, I failed to solve this properly. At 23d I entered “Edina”, which to my mind answers the clue just as well as ERICA. It’s a girl’s name (seemingly favoured disproportionately by Hungarians, if the wikipedia page is anything to go by) and “port upset” could just as easily be an instruction for an (indirect) anagram of “Aden” as an instruction to reverse “Acre”. The two main ports in Crosswordland, according to my atlas, are Rio and Aden. If Acre features on the map it is as some kind of old castle in the eastern Mediterranean.

Otherwise, this was a straightforward puzzle, solved in well under my average time, and I made no marginalia indictating quibbles or queries, although I did have to check that BALMORALS were boots. It was my last one in, and the crossing letters made the potential answer seem obvious. Crossing as it did with WINDSOR, I did retrospectively look to see if there was a castle theme, but apparently not.

Clue of the Day for me was the aforementioned 20d, for it’s nice misdirection: “Section in party meeting resistance after triumph in House (7).” I wonder if the answer would have come to me quite so readily if it weren’t for a certain item of news filling the airwaves over the last couple of weeks.

An IoS reprint from November 2015:

First thoughts on solving today’s offering from Morph revolved round wondering how amused Topsy would be as there’s a definite thread running through the clues and answers… Second was what a good puzzle this is, one that I wouldn’t have minded spending much more time over, such was the goodness on offer. As it was I finished somewhat under par for the i, appropriately enough on 9/24 where Morph seems to have said – to hell with it, let’s go for broke.

Unknowns for me at 17d and 20d, but nothing that wasn’t gettable from the wordplay. Elsewhere 19d was obvious enough, but the parsing less so. Some nice contemporary references were on offer throughout, notably at 21d and 25ac, which can only be a good thing when trying to attract new, younger solvers.

All of which shouldn’t have taken you too long overall, leaving plenty of time to solve today’s Independent puzzle by our erstwhile Saturday blogger. It’ll be a good one.

COD? Loads to choose from, as this really was a smorgasbord of delights, with my nomination going to 17d – “Sleeper comedian ends in orgasmatron getting fired up (5-3)”.

To August 2015 and a post which Pierre seems to have produced at short notice, and commendably so:

Time being short today, I was glad to find not only that Dac is occupying his customary slot in the i, but also that this was towards the easier end of the spectrum. I’m afraid that this has been one of those days where I didn’t have time to do the puzzle justice, lobbing answers in on definitions, checking letters here and there, and basically getting away with it. No real unknowns beyond the Yorkshire location I sort of knew, and the DJ whose first name I’d forgotten, but the wordplay sorted both out very nicely thank you. 🙂 Finish time comfortably under par for the i, and now I’m afraid I must dash…

But not before nominating my COD, which goes to 18d – “Energy needed after three lessons in school? I’ll supply fruit (4,4)”.

To August 2015, when this was something of a landmark puzzle:

I’m not wont to spot themes, but spot one I did today, albeit almost at the close on finally solving 1ac. We have several of the beasts dotted round the grid, some more familiar than others, but this was a puzzle that was perfectly accessible and solvable even if you didn’t spot what was going on. Which is exactly how it should be, of course. Thoroughly enjoyable throughout, and finished comfortably under par for the i, this made a nice change from Tuesday themed puzzles that tend I find to be rather challenging since Virgilius moved onto pastures new.

On solving I failed miserably to parse 1ac, but elsewhere everything went in pretty much understood, with only the one odd word at 25ac which couldn’t have been more fairly clued. There’s a typo at 26d, not that I noticed until I saw it flagged up over on the other side…

COD? 13ac raised a smile, and 19d was very nicely done, with my nomination going to 14ac – “Good stargazing needed for making of stargazey pie, etc?”.

To October 2015:

So Ifor time, and no highlighting or cycling this week. With the holidays drawing to a close and the slight alarm at having to go back to work rising from a whisper to a dull ache without a drop of alcohol to blame, does this mean a gentle easing back into things? Well, not really, because the across clues are each three rolled into one. Azed does this sort of thing now and then, and each time he does I fail miserably.

Fail miserably I duly did glancing through the acrosses, and resigned to my fate staggered onto the downs, not having read the preamble properly sort of assuming they were the same. Which they weren’t. And they were also a lot more tractable, falling without recourse to crossing letters in many cases, in particular the NW corner which was a bit of a confidence boost.

The across clues. With the help given by the downs they also proved to be a lot more solvable. The letters to be removed from each before entry? D’s. And, oh, one T from each as well, though that took me a while to notice. You can tell I wasn’t on particularly sparkling form. DDT, a particularly nasty chemical stuff I’m led to believe.

Almost forgot, six downs contained an extra word. Take their position in the clue, find the corresponding letter in the answer, to spell… SPRING, though not without first adding “inside” erroneously from 6d to the list, missing “business”, and coming up with something rather less coherent altogether.

It’s supposed to be the second word of a title. One’s not leaping out. Let’s, as suggested, look at the unchecked initial letters in the downs. CARSON.

A nifty Google of Carson, DDT and Spring gives… Rachel Carson, and the book is Silent Spring, which is apparently responsible for DDT getting banned. Thus our adjustments to the across answers.

Which all hangs together rather neatly, actually, so thanks Ifor for an enjoyable challenge.

Word of the week: It’s got to be SLEIPNIR, which isn’t in Chambers, and is, well, just look for yourself.

Clue not understood of the week (and there is always at least one): 29d, which presumably can only be one thing, but colour me bemused.

Clue of the week: 4d was a very nice spot, wasn’t it?

Lunchtime having evaporated in a haze of work meetings, and thus an early morning solve being in order, I was first of all:

  1. A bit concerned that if I remembered rightly Nitsy could sometimes be on the tricky side.
  2. Then relieved that this was evidently not at all on the tricky side.
  3. 16d on trying to persuade the oldest to get out of bed and out of the 3ac in time for his driving lesson.

Happy Monday, Jon.

The only hold ups were 18d where I initially lobbed in another bird starting PEA, and, yes, 9d at the close which seemed to come from a different puzzle altogether. One where you most definitely needed to trust the wordplay and hopefully had a dictionary to hand.

So on with the day, a thoroughly good start to it having been supplied courtesy of Nitsy. A suitably gentle introduction to the working week.

COD? Lots to like, with the &lit at 22d in particular raising a smile – “Place in which you’ll see termination of Roman? (5)”.

To August 2015:

Saturday 4th January 2020

My turn to blog the unbloggable Dac. Consistently faultless and pleasing, he sometimes creates puzzles that seem so perfect they achieve a sort of alchemy – last Wednesday’s being one such, indeed.

But we’re discussing his previous offering, from last Saturday of course, which I thought was very good (as ever) but that it was a comparatively run-of-the-mill Dac, and also very much on the easy side for a day when some of us would have been up for a stiffer challenge. Mind you, I notice in the comments of the original blog-with-all-the-answers here that Cyborg thought it better than usual, so take your pick.

My only question concerned the spelling of Tyke as ‘Tike’ in 4d, and my only new word was my LOI Epistyle at 20a, although in common with my usual practice, I’m now convinced that I’ve always known the word and its meaning perfectly well, thank you very much.

I rather liked the clever double definition at 21a, but my COD goes to the following, not least because it avoided of the obvious clueing strategy:

13d Dickensian hero pilfered rum, placed under arrest (11)

There do exist some solvers who only ever do the Saturday crossword; perhaps this one might have enticed them to have a go on the odd Wednesday as well.

“Seals bark, they don’t sing” I thought to myself as I completed SEASONAL, my Last One In, with an ominous awareness that yet again my knowledge of Popular Music would be unequal to the moment. Mind you, so too was my knowledge of C19th Swedish opera singers. These two needed googling just to confirm that each was what I inferred it to be.

Otherwise this was a smooth and swift solve, with little to cause any trouble. SERENA WILLIAMS and KATHRYN BIGELOW are, I think, sufficiently well-known to have been unproblematic once the crossers started to go in, likewise the marine unicorn and the relative of the giraffe. CEDILLA I suppose might be unfamiliar (although I remembered it from French lessons at school). Hypnos followed the rule of easy word-play for unfamiliar words, which, combined with the crossing letters, should have made it nicely accessible.

Like Dac, and Vigo yesterday, Hypnos has shown us that a puzzle set at the easy end of the spectrum need not be dull and unentertaining. This was thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying, and all over far too soon.

Three clues really entertained me: COCOON and PROVERB, but my nomination for Clue of the Day goes to the almost paradoxical and very neat 19a; “Decrease, perhaps, to become equal (4,3).”

A Sunday Prize Crossword from the Summer of 2015:

Last year Vigo ranked as being the easiest of the i‘s setters, but I found today’s offering surprisingly to be a little more of a challenge. There were plenty of easy clues to get you started, but a couple of the shorter answers – in particular 8ac and 10ac – took a while to fall, and elsewhere the puzzle felt generally knotty. At the close I finished just over par for the i, so this is far from being a monster of a puzzle, just not what I expected at the start. As I’m struggling with sleep deprivation though as the week progresses, it’s possible that your mileage may vary, and this was a thoroughly enjoyable crossword nevertheless.

On solving I wondered what Topsy would make of 11ac, and if Sprouthater’s solving what he made of 3d. 🙂

COD? Lots to like today, in particular 6d and 2d, with my nomination going to the aforementioned 8ac – “Skin and cook frozen duck (4)” which looks so simple in retrospect, but caused no end of difficulty.

To August 2015:

Week in and week out we get a quality offering from Dac, but for me this was him at his best. Fabulous clues, always clear wordplay, no reliance on trickery, no obscurities beyond 17d which is as gettable as you’d like, an object lesson all in all in how it should be done.

The parsing of 10ac I was a little unsure about, but the good folk on Fifteensquared agreed with my vague musings. 16ac was perhaps a little trickier to parse, but the checking letters in the second half of the answer were enough of a nudge in the right direction, and the whole then fell with a smile.

Beyond that there is a little to say, but in a good way. Loads of ticks beside my COD nomination, in particular 14ac, 1d and 26ac, which goes to the aforementioned 16ac – “Oh! Is that how the compiler views these sweets? (4,6)”.

First in the first one I looked at, being 25d, last in 21d which did give me a little pause for thought at the close, finish time the fastest this year.

Over to the end of December 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues: