i Cryptic Crossword 2818 Dac

February 19, 2020

Those hoping to rival some of the super-duper quick times reported yesterday I suspect will have come a cropper today, this being about as difficult as Dac gets. Lots of odd words dotted round the grid, and some longer answers that weren’t, at least for me, particularly forthcoming. That said once I’d settled into things and got some answers into the grid everything fell into place pretty quickly. Or perhaps it just took me a while to wake up, as everything was as fairly clued as ever, in particular 15d which I was pleased to get correctly, half-worried there might have been an alternative flying creature for the first part of the wordplay that hadn’t occurred to me.

First in 1ac and the false expectation that this would be a flying solve, last in the French city – I’m never very good with French cities – finish time as it transpires just under par for the i.

COD? As ever lots to choose from, with my nomination going to 13d – “Reckless old man imprisons sappers? Wrong (9)”.

To November 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/04/independent-9066-dac/

The day before Storm Ciara gatecrashed the weekend, the i offered up the last in our series of female setters, finishing with the inestimable Skylark. We’ve had a good solid couple of weeks, so if I had a request for Nimrod it would be to see more of these setters the rest of the year. If only we had more Saturdays to play with I suspect the answer would be.

This week sees a pretty straightforward preamble involving superfluous letters in some clues, and an unclued border to be filled with a handy set of other letters that turn out to be thematic in their own right. No trickery afoot, it appears, unlike that presaged by the gathering clouds.

A fairly straightforward grid fill too, once I’d got my head round having to look for those sneaky extra letters. Subconsciously I suspect that I inherently trust what the clues are saying, even when I’ve been told not to. So that it took far too long to spot the superfluous R in Ayer, though even I know what EMO music is, or that M would be a more appropriate abbreviation for Mega than Megan. In fact the only one which still has me floored is the plant at 27ac which I’m assuming is DICOT given the checking letters, though I couldn’t tell you why.

When solving though my chief concern was regarding 3d, and what the synonym for “fussy” or “suspect” might be, depending on which was the anagram indicator and which the definition. As the checking letters fell into place it became clear that it was STEPHEN somebody, but it was only at the close that it became obvious that we were looking for STEPHEN NORTON, the villain of Curtain, the final Poirot novel. Bang, one “suspect”.

I’ve read one or two most of the novels, btw, so all this went in pretty quickly. 😉

And that message revealed by superfluous letters? Ah, another message hidden in plain sight in the clues, this time in the fourth letters. CHRISTIES TOP SLEUTH MUST OUST THE JEOPARDY.

So in goes HERCULE POIROT instead, who was indeed renowned for being “fussy”, though not before I’d realised that the list of novels in the border featuring he of the little grey cells and incredible tache wouldn’t fit until he was indeed in place.

Done then, and all in a single session. Looking back the attention to detail is quite something, from the letters to be used in the border to the innocuous looking 3d. Attention to detail that for once I appear to have appreciated in its entirety. Blimey.

So time to batten down the hatches, grab a stiff drink, and ride out the rest of the weekend. Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy one.

A crossword with an otherworldly theme today courtesy of our friend Alchemi, who can be relied upon to supply something which ought to appeal to everybody. There’s a remarkable instance of brag-and-bounce in the comments on the November 2015 Fifteensquared blog, and I’m sure we’re all dumbstruck with admiration for the intellectual titan who can dash this one off in five minutes. The rest of us mere mortals can take consolation in getting better value for our money.

That said, this puzzle is certainly at the gentle end of the spectrum for a Tuesday, and it’s only the large flightless bird which needed checking for its other usage – not that I did, the clue being admirably clear. 27ac is now established as a classic construction, and whilst it was familiar I’m not tired of it yet. A few smiles today, for 12ac, 8d (chiefly because of that utterly uncool synonym for “fashionable”), and the remarkably dated 20d. Remember those two? Four years or so is a long, long time in politics. That can be the COD:

“Dave’s mate looks for gold boats (7)”

Finally, ta ever so to the advertising department for the free iDoku.

When I spotted Kairos’ name I firstly assumed this was an IoS reprint, and secondly that this would be on the easy side. As it turns out I was wrong on both counts, this being a Monday reprint, and one that for me at least was little above average difficulty. It’s possible on the other hand that a severe case of Mondayitis has set in, having spent large parts of the weekend fretting about floods and various other bits of storm damage. As it turns out we got away with it, though lots in the immediate vicinity didn’t. In other words your mileage may vary.

On the other side Kairos in the comments hints mysteriously at an “unusual feature” that turns out to be the lack of anagrams, which may explain why I struggled more than expected. Talking of which, I failed at the close to parse 14d, though everything else went in fully understood and with a number of ticks beside the clues too, so I’d rank this as being a pretty decent puzzle, though with a bit of a gripe regarding the pretty obscure abbreviations utilised in 17d.

COD then? I’ll go with 2d which was very nicely done – “Picture of empty box? (7)”.

To October 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/10/19/independent-9052-by-kairos/

Saturday 8th February 2020

If you do the i crossword in the online app, as I did last Saturday, you won’t see who the setter is; so it was only when I picked up the paper the following day that I discovered it had in fact been set by Phi – just about the last setter I would have guessed. Given how often he gives us the Prize crossword, that surely shows how difficult it is to make such guesses blind.

I awarded fully 7 ticks, which is a decent haul, and certainly everyone back in 2015 seemed to like it plenty (‘practically perfect’, one commenter said) despite being made to scan their minds for ‘Bullshit’ in order to solve 24d!

My favourite clues included 13d which was a solid clue for Astronomer; 27a Maladroit for its nifty anagram construction and surface reading, and 28a Credo for its witty surface. Top of the heap, however, was this one:

1a Close to backing second treaty? Drinks to round things off (9)

There is a ghost theme of place-names in New Zealand (where our setter lives), some of which are blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em one-horse towns, apparently. Phi was the first to comment and hint what the theme might be in the original Fifteensquared blog here, otherwise presumably nobody would have got it at all.  Very strange.

I felt panic rising when I had read through all of the across clues and most of the downs without seeing an easy-ish point-of-entry into this crossword. So it was back to the beginning to work batarde-fashion systematically through the clues, starting with the anagram at 1ac. To my surprise, it yielded fairly readily, after a false start involving “shivers” rather than “jitters”. A little while later, having noted a V and a J in 1ac, and the X in 4d, I was excitedly expecting a pangram.

In that, I was disappointed – but not in the crossword as a whole, which was both a challenge and a pleasure to solve. Yes, it was difficult (at least for me) and I had to work hard on some parsings, even after I had got the answers from definitions and crossing letters, particularly PRAGUE, CALCITE and ENTREPRENEUR. But by the end I had absolutely no queries left, with everything being neatly and often impressively clued. It resulted in a rewarding and pleasurable solve.

In particular, the surface readings of the clues was a delight. Cornick noted yesterday that that day’s early Hoskins suffered from a lack of the patina that only develops with time and repeated use. Today, Klingsor made such polish seem effortless, and this added so much to the joy of solving.

Clue of the day, not least for it’s nice surface reading, has to be 1A: “Flying jet that’s extremely huge – I’ve right to be nervous (4,3,7)”.

A Saturday prize puzzle from November 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/28/independent-9081-by-klingsor/

Another puzzle I fear will be a little contentious, your enjoyment value depending on how much you appreciate a little smut in your crossword, and how much you enjoy IoS reprints. It’s Hoskins, so regarding the former you know what you’re getting, and regarding the latter – yes, I enjoy these lighter offerings too, though I fear Pierre is correct in his criticism over on the other side regarding some of the surface readings. I nipped through this in next to no time at all, anyway, and must admit to the occasional wry smile. I didn’t know the vegetable, or a couple of the beasts in the SE and NW corners, but they could be little else and were all fairly clued. In other words a big thumbs up here.

COD? It’s got to be 22d, hasn’t it? “Result of sex being banned from bathroom? (5).

Over to November 2015 when, if I remember rightly, my kitchen was at that particular phase of refurbishment where the old one is being torn out messily piece by piece. Happy days.

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/15/independent-on-sunday-1342hoskins/

i Cryptic Crossword 2812 Dac

February 12, 2020

The puzzles so far this week in the i could best be described as being contentious, but hopefully most solvers will have found something to enjoy with today’s offering from Dac. Very much on the easy side, finished comfortably under par for these parts, there were though a few nice bits of wordplay to get your teeth into, and the odd obscurity, notably at 20ac, to test our parsing skills. Talking of which, said skills failed me at 2d, but as the answer could be little else in it went. Elsewhere progress was steady with no hold-ups, and thoroughly enjoyed.

COD? There are loads to pick from today as expected, with 14d in particular being a close runner-up, my nomination going to 1d – “Recognising what plain cake has on top? (8)”.

BTW, am I the only Inquisitor solver who, following last week’s Mr Men theme, is being generally plagued by adverts from Amazon for said books?

And so to November 2015, where I assume the lack of comments indicates a general satisfaction with the puzzle:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/11/independent-9072-dac/

What was almost missing this week was any blog on my part regarding the puzzle because – was I the only person to find this a little on the tricky side? I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m prone to go to pieces when answers prove unexpectedly to be too long for the space available, no matter how many clear indicators there are in the wordplay. So despite 4ac evidently being a simple anagram, I took one look at the enumeration and moved on. Because we were looking to leave blank cells, meaning some answers would be too short for the space available. Obviously. Duh.

Which made for a very slow grid fill indeed. Admittedly I spent most of Saturday night watching the truly inspiring Hidden Figures instead of cracking on with the puzzle, despite having spotted that the extra letters in the across clues spelt out the name of a rather well known children’s author.

In the depths of the night the likely NOSEY PARKERS and GREEDY GUTS occurred to me, and having read the books both as a youngster many moons ago and many times to my own children – we’ve got a pretty good set of them round the house – the fact that we were to omit certain characters – Mr Nosey, Mr Greedy, and so on – from the grid finally occurred to my frankly quite addled thought processes. In fact the first eight in the series, the last being Mr Messy, who is presumably supposed to occupy the centre square.

Done.

Except for that instruction extracted from extra letters in the down clues, which took an age again, my parsing skills proving somewhat lacking when it came to the all important BOOKS bit between COLOUR OF and CHARACTERS. But get there I did, armed with a set of Frozen pencils to colour each blank cell with the relevant character’s colour. After doing so I can see that my shades of blue weren’t what had been promised on the tin, so that any adjudicator would be quite correct in marking my Mr Sneeze and Mr Bump as being bang out of order. Mr Snow of course didn’t need any shading.

It must be noted also that those very long answers required by the theme provided a veritable feast of words. SNEEZEWORTS, TICKLEBRAIN and FERNITICKLE being worthy of particular mention. Who said that trips to the dictionary had to be boring ones?

Anyway, I got there in the end, and must admit to smiling several times throughout as this puzzle was right up my street. From opera to children’s books in the space of a week, never let it be said that the Inquisitor is anything less than varied. Here, btw, is a picture I snapped of Adam Hargreaves at the quite magnificent and sorely missed Doctor Who Experience a couple of years back, following in his father’s footsteps.

And, oh yes, that all important grid.

Here is the Batarde system for solving a crossword:

1: Work through the across clues in order.
2: Work through the down clues in order.

I know! Spontaneity isn’t really my thing, and it’s confounding when something comes along to upset the routine, as was the case today. Still, there was nothing for it, so:

1: Work through the down clues in order.
2: Work through the across clues in order.

That worked nicely – a little too nicely in fact because about half of those across lights could have been filled in correctly without consulting the clues. Which, as we have discussed before is a major problem with this sort of explicitly themed puzzle.

Anyway, at the risk of establishing myself as the resident sourpuss I can’t say that I find a great deal to admire here. The grid is pretty gruesome, and the filling thereof with all those themed lights would have been more impressive had not so many of them been of the sort ordinarily to be found infesting the Inquisitor. The clues were for the most part standard fare and at the straightforward end of the spectrum, so all in all this was a crossword with a gimmick that was no more interesting than a great many without. It’s not a matter of poor workmanship, just misplaced effort in my opinion. I did rather like the linked combination of 6 and 22d, and am happy to slap a rosette on 18d as an elegantly turned out Clue of the Day:

“12 down under study outside (5)”

For a more somewhat more positive appraisal and a spot of snark from the chorus here’s Duncan’s Fifteensquared blog entry from November 2015.