Here’s another setter I am as yet unfamiliar with. It turns out that we have been given an enjoyable, straightforward cryptic, which I completed in only a little over my typical time.

I don’t think there was anything truly controversial today. I did have to check that MYOSIN was correct, but it was fairly clued with helpful crossing letters, so it posed no real problem. I did not know that a “billy” was a kind of C19th truncheon – but with a choice between that and “nanny” it was merely a question of getting just one of the crossing letters.

YACHTER is, I dare say, a little controversial. One is more likely to speak of a yachtsman or woman than of a yachter. But again the crossing Y, C, T and R left me in no doubt. This one I struggled to parse; it took me a while to work out that it was an anagram of “the car” plus a homophone of “why”, rather than a homophone of some reason why a car might be broken down. I did make a little mistake in this SE corner, by carelessly writing in “trail” instead of TRIAL, what with the hidden inclusion cunningly being split over two lines, until solving MOOT POINT made me see the error of my ways.

All clues were, I think, well written with good surface readings. PLAYPEN, OOMPH and DOWNS all made me smile, but the one that I liked the most was 24d: “Terrible individual vehicle from Apple? (4)”.

To April, 2016 for all the answers and explanations:


Agelast, Cabochon, Cumarin, Spikenard and Superordinates. Not part of my everyday vocabulary either, but there they were among the canonical clues like Average and Vacant which probably get clued in much the same way in the Junior Puzzle Compendium.

Despite that range of vocabulary in the answers, plus a bit of Latin and the French for pig being required to work out the wordplay, I nevertheless found this to be a pretty straightforward puzzle, coming in bang on average time for a solve in the i.

The pick for COD wins it by a mile, particularly if you come from a Poldark-obsessed family like mine. Indeed if you type ‘Poldark wedding’ into Google images and scroll down past the TV stars, the couple on the beach are Mrs Cornick & me about 25 years ago.

1a This thread cut by Poldark wife? (9)

And for yet more fun, you can read Tees giving it some in his riposte to a critic on Fifteensquared back in 2016 here.

‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ asked the Gileadites. And if he said ‘No’, they would retort: ‘Say Shibboleth.’ He would say ‘Shibboleth’, and because he could not pronounce the word properly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of Jordan. At that time forty-two thousand men of Ephraim lost their lives.

Judges 12 6-7. Let that be a lesson to you.

A Sunday reprint usually means a fairly gentle excursion to Crosswordland, and so it proved again. I must have done scores of Hypnos puzzles, but still his personality seems somewhat elusive. Decent stuff today though. Both long anagrams were very good, I liked ‘Dreamy female’ for ALICE in 12a a lot better than I did ‘woman’ for SAL in 15d, but no real complaints to speak of.

For COD I’m going for one with a topical surface – that being no mean feat to pull off when you’re writing clues 4 years before the event:

20d Effect of holiday for all to see in returning group – infection? (7)

All the answers are here.

Nudnix, while sounding a lot like Artix, I suspect is new to these parts, so welcome.

Lots to the preamble, which as per Saturday I find myself in not much of a state to untangle. Thankfully it all appears to pertain to the endgame, which leaves… Normal clues. Normal clues I can cope with, even ones which seem to be a little on the tough side. Careful readers will have noted that this, accompanied by a lucid endgame, is right up my street.

Thankfully we also have things I do know, years of Avengers viewing meaning that Dame+Diana leads in an instant to RIGG, otherwise SCRIGGLE might have been a little less forthcoming. Other clues seemed designed to be user-friendly but didn’t anticipate the levels of incompetence they would face here, as I can never remember Paul REVERE no matter how often he crops up. Ditto AVOURE, which looked impenetrable, but really. Well, it wasn’t.

Silver cells (I still think they could more accurately be described as grey). NEW JERSEY looks likely, the one at the bottom pretty random, but the other two lie to the NWish of the grid where I was struggling. Struggling that is until it occurred that perhaps the top lot weren’t that random, and lo… GUACAMOLE. A suspicion that the bottom one with a couple of amendments might spell out MANDELSON led to an almost certainly apocryphal tale about said politician’s inability to differentiate between one mass of green stuff and MUSHY PEAS, which is presumably what we amend the top lot to.

With loads more checking letters to play with, out pops DAN QUAYLE, who apparently while in New Jersey revealed a misapprehension regarding the spelling of POTATO. An exta E the last in a series of changes that have led from CARGOES to CARGEESE.

Job done, in a jiffy too, and more importantly rather enjoyed.

Here’s the grid before I started shifting some of the letters.

And behold, after.

A general theme with a specific Nina today. The latter is something of a hero: regularly the star of our local panto, he’s a genuine national treasure and one of the few entertainers of his generation never to have been of any interest to Operation Yewtree. As for the thematic stuff, there’s quite a lot of it one way and another. In my view Hob has served his customers well this time, giving good measure of entertainment without too much grandstanding.

That said, it wouldn’t be a Hob without some gratuitous and misjudged smut, so jolly well done for 1d, I don’t think. There really is no need, but you won’t get a reputation as an enfant terrible by using “turnip”, will you? Mind you, that’s about it this time (I’m far more indulgent of 8/11), so he seems to be heading in the right direction. By and large cluing is clever and a little on the loose side if the surface will benefit from it: see the hiddens at 1and 23d for instance. In my opinion this strategy pays off, and the puzzle as a whole felt pretty fair and well balanced to me. The grid does look like it’s going to divide up into a wide central band from SW to NE with a couple of little clusters loosely attached on either side, but this did not turn out to be inconvenient or an annoyance.

Quite a few ticks today. Hob has deployed some nice little touches, apparently just for the fun of it, which certainly added to the fun. For instance, I was amused by the combination of 12 and 13ac. It’s gratifying when my efforts to memorise the Teletubbies bear fruit, by the way … they take their place alongside the Muses, Furies, Harpies and so forth. Plaudits therefore for 24, as well as 7, 9, 21ac and several more, with 12ac as my COD because it’s a chestnut roasted to perfection:

“Keen to eat duck? Duck it is then! (5)”

Click here for the April 2016 Fifteensquared write up by John.

This was Peter’s first crossword when it appeared in the IoS online in 2016, and very well crafted it was too. Right at the easiest end of the Indy spectrum, this would be an ideal crossword to recommend for anyone very new to what is obviously the best pastime in the world; on the other hand experienced solvers will have doubtless polished it off in a jiffy.

I did it one quarter at a time, each completed before moving on to the next (this grid didn’t give as much interlinking between them as I would have liked, if your reading this Peter) with only the spelling of Picallily (or whatever it is) holding me up for a bit at one point. Not my condiment of choice that one, but another good clue.

So no quibbles from me, my favourite among the clues being this one:

24d Extolling the virtues of peeled fruit (6)

Peter – who I think I’m correct in saying is a she – is likely to be appearing about once a month for the foreseeable.

Click here for the answers and comments back then.

So JonofWales’ prediction was correct and we do indeed have Dac to keep us company today – and very pleasant company it is too. The editor continues to ring the changes at the weekend then, and I dare say a few new solvers might be hooked in by this one, which had all the trademark Dac characteristics of super-smooth surfaces that actually make sense – consider ‘Not enjoying a night out’ for example, an almost complete lack of obscurities – just Franklin and Matchup this time, neither exactly from Oddsville, and a level of difficulty which, although we must always remember these are fiendishly hard for someone who’s never done a cryptic crossword before, was surely a swift solve for anyone who does them regularly; certainly it came in well below my average solving time.

I’m going to repeat a line from Katheryn’s Dad I’ve just seen in the comments at Fifteensquared (with all the answers, just click here): ‘To quote Virgilius/ Brendan when asked what made for a good puzzle: ‘One that the solver can finish’ ‘.

Hard to pick a favourite in such a well-balanced puzzle, but I do like a good Cornish river, so here’s my COD:

22a By side of Cornish River, left winger collapsed (6,2)

Here’s a setter I am not yet very familiar with, so I did not know what to expect when I turned to the crossword this morning. It turned out to be a good mix of readily-accessible clues and a few that required a fair bit of unravelling. But at completion I had no questions unanswered or problems unresolved, and I completed it in about my typical time.

Three clues proved chewier than most. FENDER BENDER was one. Never having been in a minor road accident in New York this was not at all obvious to me (fenders being things I would look for around the hearth, not on cars where the bumpers ought to be). I struggled with ACETYLENE; on seeing the crossing Y and Es, I thought there must be an anagram of “ethyne” in there, before I worked it all out. But the one I considered unfair was INFLUX. My last one in, I got this from the definition and crossing letters, plus the need to insert an X to complete the pangram. The use of “ux” to clue wife is particularly recondite in my opinion. Yes, I know the word “uxorious” and even the Latin “uxor”, but it took me an age to spot that and so work out how the word-play functioned.

Balancing that, three clues particularly entertained me. EARLOBE, though an old chestnut, was nicely done. ASTI was deviously clued (who else thought that the word-play indicated “aids”and that the definition was wrong? 🙂). Nomination for Clue of the Day, however, goes to 9ac: “City briefly featuring in Bunyan and Tennyson (3,4).”.

Back to March 2016 for the answers and explanations:

A moderately difficult, enjoyable puzzle from Punk today with a Nina it would have helped to spot to make head or tail of 5d. Needless to say I missed said Nina, which meant that 5d went in on a bit of a wing and a prayer. I did go looking for such things when badly stuck in the NE and SW corners, and didn’t find anything, though in my defence end of term exhaustion has set in which means it was a miracle I managed to solve at all. 🙂 Elsewhere I failed to parse 4d and 15d fully, but everything else went in understood if at a moderate pace.

COD? Well, love it or hate it, 5d is certainly a little different – “Ambitious foursome you’ll find on the periphery from 17, did you say? (8)”.

To March 2016 for the answers and parsing of the clues:

Dac’s AWOL again this week, Phi standing in ably with a pretty straightforward offering befitting the Wednesday spot. That said I lobbed in lots based on definition, so if you were stuck I’m unclear how fiendish some of the wordplay might have been, but there you go. Only the one I couldn’t parse – 11ac – but in retrospect it’s clear I was just having an all too frequent blank regarding the obvious. There’s something going on with the grid Phi explains in the comments over on the other side, but I must admit that I’m still none the wiser. My first thought was that there was something nautical (again) going on, but it appears not. First in 12d because that was the first clue I glanced at, last in 9ac, finish time well under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 6ac – “A girl returning to claim gold in miniature scene (7)”.

To April 2016: