We’re back to the expected IoS reprint to start the week, and one that didn’t present any major problems. I didn’t know the footballer, the film, or the dish for that matter, but felt comfortable enough with the wordplay to go with it without feeling the need to check references. Elsewhere I had no idea what was going on with 9ac, and skipped other bits of the wordplay in what was a choppy, interrupted solve anyway (the joys of home schooling), finishing comfortably under par for the i, and enjoyed nevertheless. A nice Monday puzzle when I’m guessing I’m not the only solver who’s somewhat frazzled and not-really-feeling-it.

COD? In common with Simon back in the day, 6d raised a smile – “Vote against party (5)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/04/03/independent-on-sunday-1363-by-hypnos/

Once upon a time Math used to be a regular contributor of crosswords to the Indy stable, but it must be getting on for 5 years since we last had a puzzle from him in the i. This one marks both his return and, judging by the Fifteensquared website, the first of a run of eight or so we can expect over the next several months before they’ll be stopping altogether.  Quite why, I don’t know.

And a lot of fun it was too, particularly if you’re a Star Wars fan of course. I’m not especially, so a lot of the character names were lost on me, but I do know who R2D2 is, so this was my COD which summed up the feel of the whole puzzle really:

29a Star where R2D2 runs amok with a few… (3,5)

Brilliant! I also liked the clue for 15d EYESHADOW very much, and thought the 1d/12a combo was nicely done. Lots to like elsewhere too with ingeniously worked surface readings all over the place. The possible downside of all those Star Wars references being squeezed in was that we had an awful lot of first letter, last letter, middle letter selections. I don’t really mind that though, and it was amply justified in today’s puzzle in any case  even if we did end up with some pretty lengthy clues as a result and quite a lot of Yoda speak (sorry) in clues like 1a. I’d rather have a few liberties taken and lots of entertainment than a straightjacketed dry puzzle any day.

My only problems came right at the end in the SE corner with Oscar ISAAC, an actor who’s name didn’t ring even the most distant of bells, and my LOI 17d where I couldn’t think of Faslane for the life of me. Never mind, my problem, not the crossword’s. Back to 2016 for the blog with all the answers from Bertandjoyce again. Lots of praise, and a surprise to see Math using his daughter Hannah’s name in what was presumably one of the last printed editions of the Independent newspaper.

Charles Lamb seems to have found posthumous notoriety in Crosswordland, if not actual immortality. As a child I once had a book of his “Tales from Shakespeare”, with rather wonderful illustrations. I don’t know what happened to that book. But I’ve never read any of his essays, written under the name of Elia. Has anyone? When was the last time Elia/Lamb was considered by anyone outside the world of crosswords?

So is this Lamb / essayist / Elia convention a good one? How do beginners or improvers latch on, I wonder. It’s a useful combination of letters, certainly, but perhaps so recondite as to be positively obscure.

That’s my only quibble. This was a fun and satisfying solve, which was, whilst not being a doddle, was at the more accessible end of the spectrum. I did raise eyebrows over ALONG being defined as “in company”, and at VOUCHER as “one bearing witness”, and I didn’t know that “istle”was a sort of Mexican fibre, or that such a plant as FIGWORT existed, but none of these required the kind of only-for-the-initiated knowledge like “Elia was an essayist”.

There were some splendid clues. BOUNCER worked well. GLAD RAGS made me smile. But the clue of the day has to be 11ac: “Friend of Caesar, J? The opposite (7)”. Brilliant!

To March 2016 and John’s comprehensive blog for all the answers: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/03/10/independent-9174-by-klingsor/

The comments include an interesting discussion on what an &lit clue should be like, neatly summarised at the end by Paul B.

A fun puzzle that I found to be on the easy side, finishing in a time similar to yesterday’s Dac. That said I was unsure of the parsing of a couple on solving, lobbing in the answers as I’m wont to do, but looking back there’s nothing tricky in the parsing so I suspect having to start the day with some emergency plumbing has taken its toll. There’s a theme that I should perhaps have spotted given 12ac, but I’ve not seen the film so a lot, in my defence, went over my head. What I did was enjoy a nicely clued straight cryptic.

COD? I’ll go with 3d – “Hoskins to challenge authority? It’s very likely! (1,4,3)”.

To March 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/03/31/independent-9192-hoskins/

A nice straightforward solve that came as somewhat of a relief, to be honest, as I’d begun to worry my solving skills had deserted me. Dac on top form with surfaces as smooth as you would like, and wordplay that’s elegant throughout. I struggled to fully parse 7d having forgotten the bishop in question, but the answer was clear enough, albeit in the corner that was last to fall. Elsewhere everything fell with no particular blockers, finish time half that par for the i. A puzzle that was very much my cup of tea. 🙂

COD? I’ll go with 21ac – “Figaro composer loves life abroad (6,2,7)”.

To April 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/04/20/independent-9209-dac/

Things that should have been right up my street:

  • Agatha Christie.
  • Miss Marple.
  • 4:50 from Paddington (no the?), the opening we’re concerned with I can still remember quite vividly.
  • Scouring Wikipedia at the first opportunity to aid with puzzles that are on the verge of defeating me.

So it will come as no surprise that my first thought was a certain bear, and that after identifying the book – having spotted first the station and then another pertinent location down the bottom of the grid, MCGILLICUDDY, the victim and murderer, I proceeded to spend another day looking in vain for the word “murder” to highlight in the grid. What I was actually looking for is in the third line of the book’s Wiki page, so it’s not like I really had an excuse.

Except perhaps the last of the vodka, a couple of beer chasers, and a rather taxing grid fill. The latter could best be summarised by panic on realising we had two grids to fill, clues mashed together which I always fail miserably at when Azed does it, and Nimrod’s no-holds-barred clues that leave me invariably feeling sadly lacking. Oh, there are a couple of answers that aren’t in any dictionary I own for good measure.

Thankfully we have the handy tip that answers lacking letters in the wordplay are over on the right hand side, otherwise this this would have been another Ifor debacle. So thank the crossword gods for PENTANOL, GIMLETED, and associated crossing answers.

Thank the gods too that the letters sadly lacking in the wordplay to highlight led to ANNA and DR QUIMPER, otherwise my no doubt already deficient grid would have been rendered more so by an additional AIN and MORRA. I refer the honourable gentleman to the remarks regarding my intellectual prowess, or rather lack of it, above.

The final blunder in this tale of woe was a confident IVL jotted beneath the grid, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Thankfully I utilised a pencil (albeit one with a broken bit of lead that kept falling out), and a spreadsheet before finally committing pen and highlighter to paper.

As if to add insult to injury, it is only now, on writing the blog, that I’ve noticed the relevance of the puzzle number. Not my finest moment, but top-notch stuff as ever from our esteemed editor.

Et voila!

The Cheeky Chappie is back, which will please some and annoy others, no doubt. In a way we have reached peak Hob this time, as he has taken a tired old crossword trope (32ac = 31d) and used it as an excuse to devise a puzzle with as many references to the latter as possible. Add a few assorted bottoms for good measure and the result is scintillatingly irreverent, or tiresomely puerile – take your pick.

It is, of course, very clever stuff, although Kathryn’s Dad was onto something in his comment on the original blog. I got pretty sick of all the 31d business, and as so often has been the case, wished that Hob would calm down, grow up and mellow out. As usual, everything works quite well although there are some severe stretches, as well as one or two flashes of brilliance. 8/24 prompted an “oh, surely not”, but sadly he really was referring to the punctuation Brownshirt, of whose existence we are all supposed to be aware, clearly. Harrumph. 11 and 35ac were pushing their luck too. On the credit side, quite a few good ‘uns, especially some well constructed hiddens. Easily my favourite clue today was 16ac:

“In C major, G string provides comforting 32 (6)”

Click here for chapter and verse on this lively March 2016 crossword, courtesy of Bertandjoyce.

Rather unexpectedly we begin the week not only with Tees, but with a Thursday reprint that I thought was as tough as they get. I needed a nudge or two along the way – in particular with 5d – and ended with a load of question marks by lots of the others. Now, I’ve never really got on with this setter’s puzzles, so this could well be one where your mileage most definitely varies, but I found too much of this to be obscure to be really enjoyable. Throwing in a bit of northern geography was never going to appeal to me either. 😉 Never mind, there’s always the rest of the week…

First in an encouraging first one looked at – 24d, last in 27ac. Finish time probably double that par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 27ac, which is rather neat – “Foot of water in bishop’s office (7)”.

Before I go, if you haven’t already I’d urge you to have a go at yesterday’s Guest Puzzle by Skirwingle. It’s something quite special. If you’re so inclined, too, the Cryptic Sunday lot are planning to live solve it this Thursday evening. Contact Rachel Playforth on Twitter for further details.

And so to March 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/03/24/independent-9186-tees/

This is a very special puzzle.

It’s been  a pleasure to blog this crossword. Guest puzzles tend to be few and far between, and this one has that certain something. Click here, and you’ll find it. I recommend that you download this as a pdf and print it, rather than completing it online.

It’s unique. Of course, every crossword is unique, but this one goes somewhere that I have never before known a crossword to go. Perhaps it’s a bit naughty, but I dare say very few indeed would not grant an indulgence, under the circumstances. It is clear from the appearance of the grid that something is going on – but my advice is to enjoy this as the straightforward cryptic it appears to be, and only then to ponder on what to do next.

It’s quite a dense crossword, with lots of crossing letters throughout, only five clues where the initial letter is not a crossing one and an impressive total of thirty-five clues, a good 20% more than one might normally find in this particular genre. This makes it a little easier for the solver than some other grids do. That’s helpful, because it makes a puzzle of above-par difficulty that bit more accessible for beginners and improvers. Given the title of the puzzle it’s not giving anything away to say that there is an American flavour to some of the clues and some of the answers.

SPOILER ALERT! Scroll down for the answers – and then scroll down again for some more!   

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Across

1. “President, reportedly a faithful fellow… (6)”  TRUMAN.  A homophone (indicated by “reportedly”) of “true man” for “faithful fellow”. “President” is the definition.

4. “…fellow (admirable Australian), last to play bagatelle. (8)” FRIPPERY. A charade of F (fellow), RIPPER (Australian parlance for admirable) and the last letter of plaY. “Bagatelle” is the definition.

10. “Expert democrat with muscle (3)” DAB. D for Democrat  followed by “ab” for “muscle”. The definition is “expert”. I wonder whether one can have an ab in the singular? It seems to me that it’s abs in the plural when referring to a well-toned abdomen. However, in my case, even one would be nice.

11. “Crucial contrivance with Conservative going round (11)” CIRCULATORY. “Contrivance” is an anagram indicator for “crucial”. Add TORY (Conservative) on the end, and the definition is “going round”.

12. “In a crescent in France, the one with a Kennedy or Roosevelt (7)”. LUNATED. The definition is “in a crescent”. It’s  “l’un”, which is how you would say “the one” in France, plus “A” plus “Ted”, being the first name of a Kennedy and a Roosevelt. An unusual and perhaps less well-known word, but with helpful crossing letters, so quite gettable.

13. “Origin of hurling is in extreme tickling” (6)”.  EMETIC .  A hidden inclusion (“is in”) in extrEME TICkling. “Origin of” in this instance means “cause of”, and hurling is caused by an emetic. A  nicely misleading clue, making you think of the sport.

15. “I tire easily, absorbed in reversing road cleaner? Quite the reverse (7)”. DIRTIER. “Easily” is the anagram indicator for “I tire”, which is inserted in (“absorbed in”) DR (Rd for “road” reversing). The definition is “Cleaner? Quite the reverse!”. These sort of clues can quite often take a bit of unravelling – exactly what do I reverse?

17. “White copper at key party (3,4)”. CUE BALL. A charade of Cu, being the atomic symbol for copper, plus “E” being a musical key, and “ball” for “party”. The definition is “white”; a snooker cue ball often being referred to as “the white”. Since the composition of this puzzle, recent events have made this clue seem more prominent than it might have done.

18. “Round five-amp cells (3)”. OVA. “O” for “round”, “V” for “five” and “A” for “amp”. Ova being the plural of the Latin for eggs, commonly used for mammals, so the definition is “cells”.

19. “Colourful conservative wearing frames (7)”. CRIMSON. “C” for “Conservative” plus “rims on” for “wearing frames”. The definition is “colourful”.

19. “Sort of image found upside-down later in reformation (7)”. RETINAL. An anagram (“in reformation”) of “later in”. Images on the retina are, it would seem, upside-down, and our brain corrects them.

23. “Bullet idiot heard in Art of Noise samples (6)”. DUMDUM.  The definition is “bullet”. I think this is simply a homophone of “dumb-dumb” for “idiot”, the “Art of Noise samples” being the homophone-indicator. I may be wrong about this and invite correction.

25. “Swimmer from Red or Dead, perhaps, with deep voice (3,4)”. SEA BASS. The definition is “Swimmer”, for a fish. “Red” and “Dead” are the names of seas, and “bass” is a “deep voice”.

29. “Wife wearing tux before noon goes to French sea with small ships (11)”. WINDJAMMERS.  A charade of “W” plus “in” plus “DJ”, (“wife wearing tux”) “am” for “before noon”, “mer” being the sea in French, and “s” for “small”. The definition is “ships”. The surface reading creates a rather unlikely image, but nevertheless the clue is impeccably constructed.

30. “Decline English books (3)”. EBB. Definition is “decline”. E from “English” plus “b” for book, twice, because it’s “books”.

31. “Strangely biased about America, but free of wrong ideas (8)”. DISABUSE. An anagram (“strangely”) of “biased” around “US” for “America”. The definition is “free of wrong ideas”.

32. “He loses weight more quickly (6)”. FASTER.  A double definition, and an &lit. Someone who fasts will lose weight, “faster” means “more quickly”, and I dare say someone who fasts will lose weight more quickly than someone who merely diets.

Down

1. “Boy with sex appeal rising… rising and falling (5)”. TIDAL The definition is “rising and falling”, made up from “lad” from “boy” and “it” for “sex appeal”, reading upwards (“rising”). An amusing visual image is brought to mind…

2. “Proto-batman villain resolving at first to be more refined (7)”. URBANER. A charade of “ur” for “proto”, “Bane”, being the eponymously-immortalised-in-film Batman villain, and the first letter of “Resolving”. The definition is “more refined”. Is “urbaner” a word? I suppose so, even if we are more likely to say “more urbane”.

3. “A Caledonian cravat (5)”. ASCOT. “A” plus “Scot” from “Caledonian”. An ascot is a sort of cravat.

5. “Get up or put up with application (5)”. ROUSE. The definition is “get up”. It made by “or” being “put up” to give “ro” plus “use” from “application”.

6. “Setting exercise about, say, Honiton chaps (9)”. PLACEMENT. The definition is “setting”. “Exercise” is “PT” around (“about”) “lace” (of which the Honiton variety is an example) and “men” from “chaps”.

7. “Former London arts centre houses old books and weird objets d’art (7)”. EXOTICA. “Ex” from “former” and . “ICA” from the Institute of Contemporary Art (in London) around (“housing”) “OT” referring  to the Old Testament from “books”.

8. “Toy that’s had it’s ups and downs” (2-2). YO-YO. A cryptic definition and an &lit, since they have come in and gone out of fashion, over the years.

9. “Field taxman working to support Greek papers (8)”. GRIDIRON. Taxman of yore, really, since the Inland Revenue (“IR”) has been replaced by HMRC (which is probably less use in Crosswordland). “On” is from “working” and both are beneath, and so “support” “gr” from “Greek” and “ID” for one’s “papers”. In keeping with the American flavour of this puzzle, the definition (“field”) refers to the playing field for American football.

14. “They run flights between Basel and Algiers (2,2)”. EL AL.  Made from the end of BasEL and the beginning of ALgiers. The definition is “they run flights”. I haven’t checked, but it’s an unlikely route for an airline based in Tel Aviv, so I doubt it’s an &lit. Pity, really.

15. “‘Little Richard’s dead?’ That’s repulsive (4)”. DICK. Dick is a diminutive form of Richard, hence the definition “Little Richard”. The wordplay is “D” from “dead” and “ick”, being  the response that might be elicited by something repulsive.

16. “Caper planned with help from within beds? I join up. (6,3)”. INSIDE JOB. An anagram of “beds I join”, indicated by “up”. The definition is “caper planned with help from within”.

17. “Lovingly stroked vehicle, being Dutch (8)”. CARESSED. A charade of “car” (“vehicle”) plus “esse” (“being”) plus “D” for Dutch. The definition is “lovingly stroked”.

20. “Animals scaled Asia – gnu, perhaps. (7)”. IGUANAS. An anagram (indicated by “perhaps”) of “Asia gnu”.  The definition is “animals, scaled” – iguanas, being reptiles, have scales.

22. “Turkey and the Balkans short of a best estimate (7)”. NEAREST. A subtraction (“short of”) of “a” from “Near East”, suggested by “Turkey and the Balkans”. “Best estimate” is the definition.

24. “They quietly perform miracles in modern English setting – leading characters? (5)”. MIMES. First letters (“leading characters”) of “Miracles In Modern English Setting”. The definition is “they quietly perform”.

26. “Lost in deep water (2,3)”. AT SEA. Double definition.

27. “Very British queen’s unamused (5)”. SOBER. A charade of “so” (from “very”) then “B” for Britiah and “ER” referring to the Queen. The definition is “unamused”, and the clue evokes  a picture of the very British, and anecdotally unamused Queen Victoria.

28. “Outstanding lines read out (4)”. OWED. A homophone (“read out”) of ode (“lines”). The definition is “outstanding”.

So far an enjoyable, straightforward Cryptic. But what do we make of the annotations to the grid? And why is this called “American Classic”, when there is no more than a smattering of American references, barely more than there would be in any daily Cryptic, and not enough to constitute even a mini-theme?

SPOILER ALERT NUMBER TWO! There’s more…

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Move next to the three circled letters in the fourth column. These spell out the name of an American publication.

Need help? Click here.

And if you’re familiar with the publication in question you may have guessed what to do with the A and B and the arrows at the top.  If not, click here.

FINAL SPOILER ALERT!

So there we have it. Possibly the most astute political analysis yet. Bravo, Skirwingle!

As well as providing all the answers at the time of this puzzle’s first appearance in the Indy, in his blog here, Duncan Shiell also gives an excellent account of his detective work in uncovering today’s hidden theme – the short stories of Nicola Barker (15a, 21a). I went down a similar route (plus of course this is Phi, who does this sort of thing all the time), but given the red herring names of Isabella and of James – which could also be a surname of course – I opted to dodge trawling Google for the 5 possible people and just to go to the original blog – easily enough to find on Fifteensquared when one of the answers is OJIBWAS (that’s Chippawas in old money).

That clue took a bit of parsing and was my LOI, but BARKER remained unparsed altogether. Not too tricky a puzzle in general though, despite the odd obscurity – anyone under 30, or with children under 30 should know what a schwa is thanks to the National Literacy Strategy, even if that bit of biochemistry in 16d did seem a bit rum.

My favourites today were 9d. 14d, 23a and this, my pick for COD:

26a US state, not so mountainous, containing source of unique vegetable (11)

Finally, please do return to this site tomorrow to get a brand new and free and downloadable puzzle by Skirwingle, which all the rumours say is set to be a real cracker.