Dac’s back with an offering that hopefully will be less divisive than recent puzzles. I fairly shot through the NE and SE corners, slowing down a little to the NW, only to find that the SW corner was a step up again in difficulty again. Finally twigging the arcane film certification referenced at 26ac, and unpicking what was a lovely bit of wordplay at 21d proved to be key, and the rest duly fell. We have a slightly odd definition at 3d that arguably could have done with a “Scots” reference, but I doubt it held up many solvers for long. I did have to confirm the song title referenced at 1ac, assuming that it was something rather longer, but as expected Dac was quite correct. Despite this I finished well under par for the i, so overall a nice easy, and as ever thoroughly enjoyable puzzle.

COD? As ever loads to pick from, with my nomination going to 22ac – “Novel delivered by a northern writer once (8)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/02/10/independent-9149-dac/

To begin at the end then, as it were. It took until Sunday, a whole day following Shark’s inquisition, before I realised that the general flurry of activity regarding Nurse Nightingale in crossword circles was down to her fast approaching bicentennial. In my defence the fact has been somewhat overshadowed by other newsworthy items.

And it was only several hours after completion, feeling generally disgruntled with the outcome of the puzzle down to the various incongruous elements – TETRADRACHM, ATHENA, LADY, LAMP – before Google leapt to Shark’s defence. Ms Nightingale had a rescue-owl you see called… ATHENA, and said coin had an owl on one side too for good measure.

Oh yes… MONA. NESH. TOGLATTI. I take it you spent as much time solving those as the rest of the puzzle too?

Previous to that I’d identified NIGHTINGALE, and duly highlighted it, though it took a while longer to work out what had been pocketed, even with the list of extra letters. That bit in the preamble about crossing bars having been characteristically glossed over until it came to the crunch. Perhaps because I was feeling pretty pleased with myself on getting the correct multiple letters, and spotting CRIMEAN WAR in the misprints. Pride as ever coming before a fall.

Which is a pity, because up until then the solve had been a rapid one in the rapidly dissipating heatwave, and rapidly dissipating lockdown too it must be noted, with the entry for NUZZER winning the prize for unlikely looking word of the week.

Back to the start then, and an uncharacteristically early start down to a surprisingly easy Saturday puzzle, and an early night occasioned by the wish to avoid the general nonsense surrounding VE Day. Though I will admit to raising a glass of vodka to toast our Russian comrades in arms. Na Zdorovie.

Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly four and a half years since the subject of today’s theme died, and Knut’s tribute appeared a week later. Let’s just say that this is not my specialist subject, and I confess to having been mystified by the hysterical weeping, wailing and hullabaloo at the time. This placed me at something of a disadvantage this morning, but I managed to dredge up the relevant not-so-general knowledge. I concur with Flashling’s opinion, expressed in his Fifteensquared write-up, that this puzzle isn’t really soluble without it.

Anyway, it’s a perky one, this – or infuriating according to your taste. The clues range from corny write-ins like 11ac to cor blimey: I was happy enough with 22ac, but 23d, anybody? Sheesh. The two thespians are reasonably famous / infamous, but you’d have to be of a certain age to remember the cabaret singer, surely? Interestingly (or not), 29d turns out to be a registered trademark, something of which I’d usually disapprove in a crossword, but the penny drop moment was rather satisfying. Is it a fair clue? Not so sure about that. There are quite a few more quibbles, but you get the idea: Knut is one of the exuberant setters. High points for me included the cellist, naughty Kate, and this one which is my COD:

31ac “Refugees embrace Sharon, returning after university (9)”

All told I did enjoy solving this puzzle, but chances are that mileages are going to vary considerably today.

To the other bloggers: are you block editor ready? I’m dreading it. 🙂

I wasn’t sure if we’d met Anglio before in these pages, so did a quick Google to find that indeed, I had blogged him / her a while back, noting that I struggled. Today I finished with a time that was under par for the i, but it must be said that I only managed to parse about half the clues on solving. No doubt with a little more thought I could have, but after what was a very uncomfortable solve that left me feeling somewhat disgruntled I left it to the experts on the other side. 😉

Things that left me particularly disgruntled were the cryptic definition at 5d which, if you didn’t know what for me was an obscure answer, left you somewhat high and dry. And elsewhere there seemed to be rather a lot of superfluous words, 3d being rather a good (or poor depending on your point of view) example.

Overall a little up and down, but for an Independent debut (as this was) perhaps forgivable. As always, your mileage may vary.

COD? I had a few ticks at the close, with my nomination going to 11ac – “Unblemished English apples, say, turned into pulp(5)”.

To April 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/04/04/independent-9195-by-anglio/

Well I thought that was terrific. A good example of the fun generated by a witty Nina being well worth a pretty lengthy battle to get to the point where the penny dropped. For me that was with _ _ HCN_B at the bottom and TNORF _ _ at the top. When I realised that they both seemed to be running backwards, that led to BACK-BENCHER and BACK-TO-FRONT. From there it was an easy step to realise that the columns to left and right contained UP HELLY AA and UPSY-DAISY.  Brilliant!

You might expect a few obscurities with all that happening in the peripheral unches, but Phi managed to avoid all but BACCHIC in 20d, which I was quite happy to learn as an alternative to bacchanalian (although Mrs Cornick knew it perfectly well of course), and in any case a four-letter composer being Bach was hardly difficult. The ten 4-letter entries were pretty gettable this time – although I needed the help of the Nina to get the indirect hidden word DELI in 16a. Bit of an envelope-stretcher that.

Plenty to choose from for COD, including 22a, 7d and 15d. but I’ll go with this one by a nose:

3d Old German man blocking military vehicles and solders (5,5)

Answers and parsings from 2015 here.

 

This is turning out to be a very good week for i cryptics. Today’s puzzle from Hypnos is certainly at the more accessible end of the scale, but it was good and satisfying to complete. I could do worse than quote and endorse PeeDee’s 2016 blog: “A straightforward puzzle, but said as a compliment.  No gimmicks or clever-clever stuff, just straightforward interesting and enjoyable clues.”. 

There was little in the way of obscurities. I dare say AI WEIWEI is sufficiently well-known. It’s possible EMINENCE GRISE is unfamiliar, but maybe not. Some nice quirky definitions, for example EDITORIAL, VALOUR and LOCKSMITH. But all very fairly clued and all gettable.

Clue of the Day? I nominate the aforementioned 1ac: “Top methods becoming pronounced in Chinese artist (2,6)”.

I suspect that today I wouldn’t have been the only solver to need references to hand, as there was a distinctly classical bent to Tees’ offering that played to my weaknesses. That said the wordplay was clear throughout, so it was a matter of – is that really the answer? – or why that definition? – than of random Googling. It’s also the case that that you didn’t need to know who Hilderic was to get 12ac, and even I’d heard of 24ac, though for some reason I was convinced it was one of Shakespeare’s. Oh well.

This is a Thursday reprint, which is usually a sign of something a little trickier, but I finished this in about average time, helped perhaps by the longer answers which compensated nicely for the gaps in my education elsewhere. Thoroughly enjoyable too, continuing what I think everybody has already agreed is a very good week in the i.

COD? Lots to choose from, with my pick going to 13ac – “Appearance of Fish calling for Chips? (9)”.

To February 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/02/18/independent-9156-tees/

An IoS reprint today from Hoskins that I found to be of about average difficulty, and lots of fun. I suspect the more than slightly risque flavour of some of the clues won’t have been to everyone’s liking, but this being Hoskins I think we all knew what was in store. 😉 I had a couple of question marks at the close that, it transpires, were down to my own dodging parsing, so no complaints.

Clues that I liked? There would be more than several, with 7d and 16d leading the runners up, but my COD must go to 15ac, just because it’s such a great word – “Fab to floor former Shadow Chancellor? (10)”.

Over to February 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues, and doubts about the future of the Independent crossword. Oh for the days when that was the only thing we had to worry about.

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/02/21/independent-on-sunday-1356-by-hoskins/

If like me you still haven’t tried yesterday’s Independent Cryptic, btw, it comes thoroughly recommended, and of course courtesy of our Saturday blogger. The last I saw it had generated considerable comment on Fifteensquared, and all of the good kind!

A few weeks have passed with a quick Inquisitor solve followed by brief jottings in the suddenly (lockdown enforced) free Saturday morning as to my random, uninformed thoughts on the puzzle. We were therefore more than due something a little tougher, with the result that this week I’m gazing upon the fair form of Cara Delevingne in the frankly quite insane Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets while still, fear not, sharing the same uninformed ramblings. Should things become more incoherent than usual, that would be because I’m making my way through several pints of lockdown sanity-proofing Hobgoblin. Apparently we’ve got another month to endure / enjoy, strike as appropriate, and… If I could but get back my gentle strolls round the beer aisle of the local supermarket then I’d be happy.

Eclogue’s puzzle is about as mind bending as Luc Besson’s film (we’re a long way from Leon, aren’t we?), consisting of lots of answers that we don’t really know how to enter in the grid, because, well, some letters require a gentle nudge towards the border. This is the kind of thing that is always going to challenge solvers of little brain such as myself, with the whole being approached as a kind of faux-jigsaw, HOUDINI and the answers to other gentle clues being jotted beside them awaiting crossing answers that might help. Was I the only person to end up with lots of single, disconnected letters dotted round the grid where it looked like they might fit?

As it turned out the RHS was first to fall, and with it the start of a suspiciously French looking turn of phrase, L’AMOUR being a bit of a giveaway, even if my French is a little rusty these days. The words we were looking for come courtesy of some chap called de Rabutin, apparently. “L’absence est à l’amour ce qu’est au feu le vent; – Il éteint le petit, il allume le grand.” Which I was pleased to still be able to translate unaided except for the one word. That being one key to our puzzle, unfortunately, being the erasing bit. Thankfully I didn’t have to make my way all the way upstairs to pluck my old dictionary from the shelf, but could in this day and age call upon the services of Google Translate. Though some would argue that I could have guessed. Blame the warm sunshine, and next door’s attendant strident garden tools.

I won’t tell you how long it took to get 13d at the close, not only because I spent an age convinced the answer was a definition for a pack of hounds, but also because I misread the enumeration and spent (a long time) convinced it had three C’s. Oh well.

Highlight GRAND, delete PETIT from the grid? If not, blame Mrs Jenkins my French teacher for five years, long unthanked and forever held responsible for debacles such as these.

A good time had nevertheless, so merci Eclogue.

Thrillingly, I’ve just noticed that the closing date for this puzzle falls on my birthday. I suspect celebrations this year will be less than wild, though with enough spirits to make the whole a little raucous.

Once upon a time composing clues as a series of rhyming couplets was a popular gimmick, but it seems to have gone out of fashion. What we have today is an upgrade on that old idea, and may well be unprecedented – at any rate it’s a bravura display by Morph and deserves a standing ovation.

Of course, it’s all very well devising a fiendishly clever device linked to a theme, but if it requires a dodgy grid, excessive obscurity and wobbly clues the setter would rightly be accused of self indulgence. I hope there’ll be no bleating today, because Morph is not guilty on all charges – in fact the crossword is several notches easier than his usual standard. It always impresses me when a compiler is generous in this way. Putting this together must have involved a great deal of work … demolishing it didn’t take long.

No complaints at all from me. Unsurprisingly the across clues take some liberties with the usual forms but they’re all properly cryptic, work as they should, and there are some gems. The downs are unimpeachable. Singling out a clue of the day seems rather daft under the circumstances, so I shall simply pick a silly one:

16d: “Kebab may have this one dominating Middle East (7)”

Alternative nominations are encouraged as usual, as are any 27ac you might wish to share.

Rare unanimity at Fifteensquared exactly six years ago: please do visit and check out comment 7. Happy 208th birthday to the thematic gentleman.