All Things Bright and Beautiful by Cecil Frances Alexander provided the the theme today; Creatures, Great, Small and Wonderful also featured. I don’t think either Large or Rainbow appear in the original words of that cheesiest of hymns, but they do sort of fit. I didn’t spot all that until I’d finished, but it didn’t take much looking.

I enjoyed the first half of this solve very much, but Phi’s more difficult clues tend to leave me feeling mildly irritated, whereas clues of a similar level of difficulty from other setters leave me feeling pleased as punch for having solved them. I’m not sure why that is, and it’s clearly not a view held by some of his fans over at Fifteensquared here, but there you have it, maybe it’s just a wavelength thing and my mind works differently somehow!

So my ticks were all for the first few I solved, and of those my favourite was this one:

15d Make excellent at packing grain (9)



Things I have learned today: what a “wang” is (although since I left school several decades ago my opportunities for deploying such slang are strictly circumscribed); that an EANLING is a sort of young sheep (and although I have miles of countryside on my doorstep I don’t think I know any shepherds, with whom I might apparently casually converse with such specialised vocabulary); now I know who MOBY is – I think a different clue might have been devised linking it to the aforementioned “wang”, but clearly Anax has better taste than me: and finally a word for “doubles” very clearly linked to the Heavenly Twins Gemini. All of these required a check on the internet, but only after the word-play had indicated what it was I should be checking.

This was a tough – very tough – but glorious crossword. The cluing was elegant and remarkably straightforward. I think 11 clues relied on simple charades, and 10 were insertions, three included anagrams, three included a subtraction, three were cryptic definitions and only one each were a double definition, a homophone and a hidden inclusion. Every clue has impeccable parsing and the surface readings are never clumsy. This resulted in a very pleasing experience and a satisfying solve. It was originally a Saturday Prize Crossword, and the level of challenge was perhaps better suited to that spot rather than a weekday one.

With so many delightful clues, choosing a stand-out is difficult. The CD-plus-D for CAN’T BUY ME LOVE was splendid, but my nomination for clue of the day goes to the remarkable and unlikely anagram in 14ac: “Gary Neville wants training, so showing off? (11)”.

To January 2016 for Beermagnet’s admirable explanation.

I think the best summary of today’s puzzle would be that it was indeed a good one, a very good one actually, but one that was too difficult for a weekday. To be fair I made good progress to the south, filling in the bottom half of the grid with little ado, but the rest, well… It was only after a lot of staring at blank space, much soul searching, and finally getting 1/8 that the rest fell, albeit with most of the answers guessed based on definitions and checking letters, just because of time constraints. Which is a pity, because there’s lots of nice stuff going on, with I note a couple of smiley faces jotted beside the clues which is always a good sign. Can we please have Tyrus on a Saturday again next time, though, please?

First ones in down to the SE, LOI 11ac, finish time as it transpires over par but not considerably so, so perhaps this wasn’t as difficult as it felt while solving? Or a case of needs must.

COD? Well, I couldn’t resist nominating this one. 15ac – “Frenchman with female is the right size for mounting – Viagra? (9)”.

Over to March 2016 for the answers and parsing of the clues, which I’m suspecting might be needed more than usual today:

What’s there to say? Another lovely little puzzle from Dac which was for the most part pretty straightforward. There’s a bit of a Gallic flavour, including a phrase that may have caused a little difficulty, but the letters were all there for you to pick from. 😉 We seem to have a superfluous “after” in 19ac, but elsewhere everything was as fair, above board, and entertaining as you would like. Aspiring setters could do worse than copy Dac’s style. First in 23d, last in 5d, finish time comfortably under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 10ac – “Street on island in which you’ll see bird, one flying high (10)”.

To January 2016:

We know by now what to expect from Alchemi: nicely polished crosswords with a good variety of clues, and a difficulty level sufficient to keep things interesting without risking a cerebral haemorrhage. Today’s themed puzzle answers that description to a T, and there’s a pleasing twist with some of the 22d appearing as wordplay rather than solutions.

Quibbles are rare with this setter, but here we go: the definition for 16ac is supported by Chambers of course, but ferrous metallurgists could be forgiven for losing their temper. Mind you, it’s come up before so forewarned is forearmed. Otherwise … nope, it all seems fine and dandy to me. We have a couple of odd words in the NE corner and a slightly dubious plural cheese, none of which bothered me much. Why is 17d hyphenated but not 27ac, you may well ask. Dunno. Anyway, on to the standouts. I liked 7, 15 and 29 in particular, but those theme-as-wordplay clues really tickled me. Plaudits therefore for 11, 19 and 28, of which the latter is my COD:

“Anger smelly one of the 22 (7)”

All good, inventive stuff, then. Here’s the April 2016 Fifteensquared blog, where blogger and commentariat were similarly impressed.

Happy Non-Eurovision Day. This being the latest in a series of non-days. No Easter, no holiday, no school, and so on. In Wales we’re still in strict lockdown which seems to me to be to be eminently sensible. In England the London-centric government having taken the view that as the worst is over in the SE, the rest of the country will have to follow. This side of the River Severn our government is thankfully more cautious, even if it has been forced to state that it doesn’t have the power to set up border patrols. I was only joking when I suggested putting the toll barriers back up on the Severn Bridges, you know. (It will never be the Prince of Wales bridge in this house.)

So it feels somewhat fitting that today’s offering is on the subject of omissions. In the letters missing from the answers entered in the grid, and in the quote from Marianne Moore they make up – OMISSIONS ARE NOT ACCIDENTS. This being one of those things you know from somewhere but can’t think where.

Accident seems somewhat pertinent too, the current one being handled in a manner that, were I to manage something similarly in work, would be viewed as gross-misconduct. Is a HAZARD an accident, though, presuming I’ve got that right?

To add insult to injury, the promised heatwave that had threatened to flood various beauty-spots and beaches with unwanted visitors has, in Wales at least, failed to materialise, and after half an hour of shivering in the garden I had to give up and retire to the kitchen where there is at least a modicum of quiet.

Finally that grid fill, that could best be described as being slow after a quick start in the NW corner. I’ve got two I’m unsure of – 34d looks like being VDTT from the wordplay, but I’ve no idea what answer we’re supposed to be constructing. Ditto 33d, which in retrospect I appear to have guessed, and which I also suspect is miserably wrong.

Quite the challenge overall, though thankfully finished before the distraction that is this evening’s Non-Eurovision programming. Dare I suggest that the replacement programming was better than the real thing, being several hours shorter and finishing on time?

After a few days of some pretty tricky puzzles, it felt good to enjoy Bank Holiday Monday (yes it is) in the sun with a pretty easy going IoS reprint. A couple of ticks, a few smiles too, I’ll take that this morning. The full explanation for only the one eluded me – 20d employing a pretty obscure Indian city, but the answer was clear enough so no complaints.

We’re still in lockdown here in Wales, so I’ll shortly be taking my daily allocated exercise, lunching, then settling down for the afternoon with Children of Dune. I think I quite like quiet Bank Holidays, you know.

COD? Well, 1d raised a smile – “Fool performer with good write-up (6)”.

To January 2016:

After a week dominated by some new guard Libertarians like Donk, Rorschach and Knut, it was reassuring to see Klingsor’s name on this weekend’s puzzle – a setter who tends towards the Ximinean end of things and most definitely always follows Afrit’s famous injunction:  ‘You need not mean what you say, but you must say what you mean’.

Which is not to say we didn’t have plenty of creativity in the mix today. My Last One In was 19d ANAGRAM clued by ‘Her vet Betsy is one of the very best’ which was brilliant, and well-deserving of CoD status, despite the fact we had something a bit similar (from Anax was it?) a couple of months back. However my top award goes to this example of a 19d, which shows it is possible for a clue to be both easy and delightful:

11d Never tiring of being a fat, idle drunk (13)

Also worthy of note were 16a FLOUNCE, with a very plausible surface reading, a nifty bit of misdirection for the anagram fodder in 4d BOSWORTH FIELD and more good clues for 10a, 12a, 24a… well lots of them really.

That having been said, I did struggle to parse 22d whilst solving – I suppose it’s impress as in what a press gang does.

Here is the 2016 blog with all the answers from mc_rapper, who I’m pleased to say liked pretty much the same clues as I did. 🙂

A fairly middling sort of crossword from Donk today. I completed this in around my typical time and did so without resort to aids other than for checking my last one in, SHANDYGAFF. Even so, this was fairly clued and with very helpful crossing letters. The puzzle’s main claim to fame is that it was the last Saturday prize Cryptic in the late-lamented Independent. Mc_rapper67 suggested, in his impressively systematic blog from March 2016 suggested a possible nina, but I am not convinced, and it didn’t garner any support in the comments four years ago.

In one place I was a little disappointed in the cluing. The definition given for DOORKNOB is “need to escape”which is just not quite right. Otherwise, this was a very amusing clue, and I was sorry to have to exclude it from my list of contenders for Clue of the Day. Another candidate was the amusing STAINPROOF, but my favourite today was the delightful 1d: “Fancy Bob Hope (5)”.

This isn’t turning out to be my week in the i. Hopes were raised with a flying start in the NW corner, but from that point on I swiftly ground to a halt, and got increasingly frustrated with wordplay I just couldn’t parse. 15d as mentioned on the other side would be the chief culprit, but much else went in on a wing and a prayer. Oh well. Perhaps I just need a nice long weekend, which thankfully is what we’re about to get. For once I started in the NW corner with 1ac, and finished there too with 9ac which is another where the parsing totally eluded me, finish time considerably over par for the i.

COD? Well, overall this wasn’t my cup of tea, but the surreal image conjured up by 12ac did raise a smile – “Bemused after removing bed and finding these? (4)”.

To January 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues: