So was today’s theme animals? That’s what I thought on spotting a couple of beasts in the SE corner where I started. Less elsewhere in the grid, so perhaps not. Ah, there’s FARM to the NW. On spotting that the author was GEORGE somebody did I leap to the inevitable conclusion? Well, no, not really until the very end, and even then I didn’t notice until I nipped over to Fifteensquared that some of the grid entries were actually character names from the book. Oh well, it’s been a long time since I’ve read it.

A fun puzzle that I solved in a time about par for the i, though with some interruptions along the way. Just the one I couldn’t parse – 4d – but NealH explains all over on the other side. Elsewhere there are a few unexpected abbreviations, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome with a little thought.

COD? Let’s go with 28ac – “Cold War missile build up? (8)”.

Talking of beasts, those worried that I might have bumped into one of the ursine variety yesterday will be pleased to hear that the ones I did find were most definitely on the benevolent side.

The dynamic duo return, but I must admit to feeling somewhat less than dynamic myself, the first week back in work having proceeded much as expected. Ah well, this surely is the kind of thing the IQ was invented to ease. And thankfully the preamble this Saturday isn’t too mind-bending, consisting of superfluous letters in 12 clues, and some jiggery-pokery with 6 others.

Pen poised to solve, after a warm up with the day’s Phi… But what would that sudden clamour be? That would be one marking the demise of a desk chair in the far reaches of the house, occasioning an unscheduled trip to Argos…

An infeasible amount of time later, and the grid fill it transpires is one I’d recommend to newish solvers. Take an L from a load of new drivers to give you EARNERS who might give you cash but thankfully not a c(r)ash. A nod to a rival paper further down, not one but two anagrams to contend with to end with a FIASCO.

CoW? That would be 39ac – “Did I guess this answer? (9)” – which treads a very thin line between being wonderfully clever and horribly unfair, and hits the sweet spot as far as I’m concerned.

Oh yes, the extra letters. Well, they gave RATION STAMPS.

The 6 entries jumbled, and shortages dealt with? No matter how long I’ve been at this game, answers that are actually shorter than the clue length given continue to confound me. Gather is evidently GARNER, a snag a GLITCH and so on. Though I must admit to lobbing in many of the full answers comprising of their letters and some of those from our phrase above before quite working out what was going on, because… Well, a lot of the time nothing else would fit. 11d being the only exception, I believe, because we could have been tweeting rather than sweeting.

But done we were in plenty of time to catch a movie. Or at least a bit of one before weariness took its toll. But was the day done with its sweet surprises? No, because that appears to be water unexpectedly dripping into the fireplace. The delights of home ownership.

Live from the 9:31 train from Newport South Wales to Paddington, so I must apologise for any typos while wrestling with the WordPress app.

Suitably frozen after 10 minutes waiting on the platform I was pleased to find a fairly straightforward, but thoroughly enjoyable IoS reprint from Kairos, finished comfortably under par. I spotted the Nina, but as it was only when I was left with two in the NW corner it wasn’t much of a help. 😀 Belated congratulations to Kairos!

There were a few oddities among the answers, the fatty compound in particular needing a few checking letters, but all were pretty gettable.

Loads to enjoy it must be said too, with ticks beside 13ac, 21d and 27ac (any clue with a Flash Gordon reference gets a vote from me), with my COD going to 18d which was perhaps easier to solve than parse, but is a thing of beauty once you’ve spotted it – “Statesman – one supporting the return of King James? (8)”.

And now onward to the other puzzles I brought especially for the trip.

To August 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Saturday 11th January 2020

I suspect even the Nina-blind among us will have noticed BRYANT AND MAY in the unches of rows 1 and 15 last weekend. This being Phi, there was always going to be more to it than that though, and given the lack of entries relating to matches, I had a quick look on Google where I discovered that Bryant & May was the title of a series of thrillers by Christopher Fowler – an author who also wrote an occasional column for the Independent on Sunday called ‘Invisible Ink’, highlighting forgotten authors. I then cross-checked a list of B&M titles against the entries in the grid but was surprised to find nothing at all. Being me, I stopped there, but RatkojaRiku who blogged the puzzle when it first came out in 2015 (click here) went one step further and found half a dozen references to characters from within the pages of Fowler’s novels, and even one, ESMERALDA, which Phi tells us  was included entirely accidentally.

As for the clues, they have mostly faded from memory since last weekend, but I do remember it being a fairly average solving time with no need for dictionaries or checking once I’d remembered ERUCTATE and ABSCISSA at 9d and 19d respectively, both of which featured in my comprehensive education back in the day. FIT for a section of verse in 16a was new though.  I have a couple of ticks amongst my marginalia with the COD being awarded to the following, which seems to create a picture of leisurely bliss, only for it to become dramatically shattered upon realising the answer. Who needs books?

6d Good weather in the morning is following time with lots of water (8)


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: