My mind usually goes blank when a crossword clue involves footballers, resulting, I dare say, from some unresolved trauma or feelings of inadequacy in male company when called upon to say anything sensible about football. However, even I managed to see LIONEL MESSI straightaway.

This was a nicely accessible puzzle, which I completed in well under my typical time. Enjoyable and satisfying – although it did rely over-heavily on anagrams for my taste. At the end of my solving session, I had no question marks against any clues; everything was fairly clued and gettable. I did resort to e-help for my last two in, which were the crossing JUVENILE and JOPLIN, but I think that was simply a touch of laziness on my part, rather than some difficulty with the clues. Had I not been blogging, I would most likely have work a little harder on !a and all would have been revealed.

It was one of my least favoured grids. This kind often feels like solving four mini-crosswords rather then one grown-up one.

No really spectacular clues, although UMBRIA made me smile, as did my nomination fro Clue of the Day, 24a: “Croatian is dressed in a waterproof” (8).

An IoS reprint from November 2015:

Hands up if you spotted today’s theme. Not surprisingly it was one I failed miserably to spot, despite a couple of names I was aware of dotted about. The central column in the grid in retrospect is pretty well defined, almost as if to cry out – look for a Nina here – but needless to say I didn’t.

What I did was enjoy a puzzle of about average difficult, albeit with one word I couldn’t find in Chambers (14ac), and some very curious words in the NE corner where I ended up. Mushrooms, again, is there a theme running through the week in general?

Loads I failed to parse on solving, including the mushroom, the pain, and the phonic thing, mostly I suspect because I didn’t need to because in retrospect there’s nothing that tricky there. On the other hand I was particularly pleased to get another unknown, 17d, from the wordplay albeit with little confidence in my answer.

COD? Excellent stuff as ever from Phi, with my nomination going to 28ac – “Figure left behind when mines were union-dominated? (7)”.

Back in time to October 2015:

Puzzle 2800 feels like a fairly significant milestone to reach, and what better way to mark it than with Dac? A breezy solve without too many holdups, I started swiftly in the SE corner and finished about as quickly as I manage an i crossword, only held up by the island which I wasn’t sure of, and back where I started the obscure mushroom that was combined with some delightfully misleading wordplay. Surely I wasn’t the only person to assume for an age I + some sort of goat reversed? Elsewhere it was nice to see Mark Goodliffe‘s alter-ego get a mention at 19ac, and a politician other than the ones we get week in and week out.

Lots to enjoy as ever (and as expected!), my COD nomination going to 20ac – “Being cruel to lecturer not unknown in this university club? (10)”.

To October 2015:

After three weeks of expert Tuesday bloggery from Jon, for which many thanks, it’s back to me I’m afraid. Batarde but unbowed.

Radian has put in many appearances in this slot, and a consistent pattern has emerged. One can expect excellent workmanship; a middling sort of difficulty; no quibbles and precious few obscurities; lots of variety in the clues; plenty of thematic material, and a spot of difficulty in pinning down one clue of the day, although there’ll be a few contenders. All of this holds true today, and I think this is one of his very best puzzles. The theme (or arguably themes) is ghostly but ubiquitous and done quite subtly so it doesn’t get in the way, and nor does it make things too easy. This is probably a great deal less easy to achieve than it sounds. The only eyebrow raiser was 7d, not a variant I recall hearing before, but the clue is as straight as a die. As for those COD candidates, 5, 9, 14, 17 and 18 will do for starters and further nominations are welcome as usual. My choice is 24ac:

“Ingredients of withdrawn drink (6)”

Back to October 2015 for Bertandjoyce’s Fifteensquared blog.

Our four week all-female line-up kicks off with Nutmeg, whose last offering I thoroughly enjoyed. This Saturday brings hidden things, highlighting, and misprints which I’m hoping will be a clear steer in the right direction, the thinking processes feeling somewhat dulled following a working week that has been, well, one of those weeks.

Fuelled by croissants, coffee, and more coffee, and with the kids + other busily trashing the house, to the kitchen and a pretty straightforward grid solve, though a fun one too. COST for damage was nice, though my first thought regarding the answer (+ A) was why does it share a name with a certain high street chain. More caffeine required.

Unknowns, few. Ticks, all round.

Misprints. Ones against form I managed not to make a hash of – the result being FOUNDATION AND EARTH, the tail end of a series of books I haven’t read, though I have read a great deal in the dim and distant past by Asimov, he of the incredible side-boards.

So are we looking for one of the laws of robotics in the perimeter? Doesn’t look like it. But after a while it does become clear with some letters in the left hand column that what we are looking for is the Law Of Dietetics, which Asimov apparently coined, that is to say that “If it tastes good it’s bad for you”, which is no doubt haunting the consciences of many struggling with New Year’s resolutions. As I never make the things though it isn’t. But it does help polish off that grid, all the resultant letters filled in.

The author’s name overlapping two directions has the handy side-effect of alerting me that a lobbed in NEST for 17ac for want of any better ideas wasn’t one of my finest moments. I still don’t see how the correct VEST fits the first definition, but there you go.

Done, and thoroughly enjoyed this time too. Time to light the fire to stave off the forecast second night of the cold snap, so with the gasoline reek of firelighters still lingering on my fingertips, signing off.

Lohengrin to start the week then with a puzzle that I thought was reasonably straightforward. Easier to solve than to parse perhaps, I’ll grant you, but with all those nice long answers and phrases round the perimeter a bit of inspired guessing was likely to get you a long way. From then on who was the religious leader going to be but the DL himself? A watch was unlikely to be anything other than a TIMEPIECE, and so on. The attractive female and 19d did give me a little pause for thought at the close, but the rest went in without too much ado and was enjoyed throughout. Does some feel a little clunky? Maybe, but overall this was a good start to the week.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 16ac – “Attractive female cyclist winning races (5)” which might raise eyebrows in certain quarters, but is still a very nicely constructed clue.

To October 2015:

Saturday 18th January 2020

Monk, Tees, Nestor, Morph, and Klingsor; leaving aside the more prolific setters Dac, Phi, and Quixote, those 5 seem to me to produce the finest crosswords in the i. There are excellent cases to be made for Punk, Scorpion, Anax, Nimrod, Anarche, Eimi and Tyrus, but their contributions seem to be relatively infrequent. In addition there are some exciting new kids on the block like Hob and Donk, or after yesterday’s perhaps Alchemi too, but we shall have to wait and see if they can be as consistently excellent as my Top 5. John, who wrote the original blog for this puzzle here, declares Klingsor to be his favourite of the lot, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree with him. I’d be interested to hear what you think!

So after that build-up, it’s pretty clear I thought last Saturday’s was a corker. For the technically minded among you, there were no whole clue anagrams, no straight cryptics and no double definitions – take note aspiring setters!  I had a whopping 19 clues with ticks by them, which must be approaching a record, and the great joy for me was the consistency of clueing: none were read & write gimmes, none were overly fiendish, all were pleasingly inventive and had cracking surfaces with the overall effect being to enter into a cruciverbal mindbath of just the right temperature. I loved it.

Choosing a favourite is hard, because there are several candidates.  I’ll go with this one:

8d This rogue imbibes low energy drink (8)


Pangrams two days running!

A thoroughly enjoyable crossword with a nice mix of straightforward clues and a few demanding a bit more imagination from the solver. A good work-out, solved in a little under my average time.

SQUEAKS eluded me for a while, until I realised we had a pangram, and COOPERATE also had me scratching my head; speaking for myself, I think I would have hyphenated this.

Lots to enjoy. I don’t usually warm to Spoonerisms, but RATIONAL NUMBERS did make me smile, and I did wonder at one point whether a spoonerised “Rumbers” would be crossing with a straightforward “rumba”. But no.

Clue of the day has to go to the very imaginative 26a; a clue where the arithmetic was nicely central to the parsing. “County worked out 98% reduction in the end. (6).”

August 2015 for its first appearance:

Something a little tougher today from Nestor, though one that must be said was loads of fun, and exceedingly fair as expected from this setter. Lots of easy ones to get you going in the grid, especially if you were up on your vampire hunters, knew your musicals, and were prepared to take a punt on one or two. I had to check the breed of dog which I did sort of know, thankfully saw Domino and thought FATS, and spotted the potential pangram early enough to be of some help. At the close I struggled a little with 4d assuming it began EN, “Lulu” where I really needed all the checking letters, and took too long to find the right case despite guessing what sort of case it would be. Finish time par + a fifth for these parts.

Lots to delight and amuse, with honourable mentions to 25ac and 3d, with my COD going to 16ac – “Change to new symbols, having read up on gender identity?”.

To July 2015:

It’s mid-week, I’m rushed off my feet, and therefore exceedingly pleased to find Dac on duty as per, and a pretty easy Dac at that. Rattled off at a fair clip with only the odd break to field other issues, I finished in close to a record time for the i, with only a little pause for thought at, yes, 19d, though that was as clearly clued as you would like. Elsewhere I didn’t know the theatre, panicked for a moment on the African place name required because, well, there are lots of them, and missed a beat for reasons that elude me now on 12ac. Thoroughly enjoyable, and today exactly what I was looking for.

COD? I’ll go with 27ac because it’s another good example of Dac’s always smooth surface readings – “Joker finishes off the beer after non-alcoholic drinks (6)”.

To July 2015: