A new setter? S.park, on the evidence of this offering, will be a welcome addition to the i team of setters. Welcomed more by the experienced solvers, I venture, as this was set at the tougher end of the spectrum – I for one found this to be very challenging. Partly this was because of the grid, with its high proportion of words without a crossing initial letter. Partly, no doubt, because it took a while to acclimatise to an unfamiliar setter’s style. But also because the setter has used some very imaginitive definitions, such as “flight attendant”, “underworld figure” and “on radio set”.

I was expecting a nina, what with all those unchecked letters in the perimeter, and knew there was some sort of ghost-theme, the setter having warned us of one in the clue for 24d. No nina, but a double ghost-theme of “archers” and “The Archers”. Now, if the solver is familiar with the latter, it would have been a great help – but, with the probable exception of the aforementioned “on radio set”, all clues were answerable without any arcane knowledge. It was a help in getting CARTER, to be sure, but the cryptic-definition clue did not require one to know the chacterers of the world’s longest radio drama series.

I needed to consult Crosswordsolver to get BOWMANSHIP, with its clever misdirection. And my last one in was GOLD; for a long time I was misdirected into focusing on “The Archers” when I should just have been thinking about “archers”.

I was tempted to nominate LAST SUPPER as the clue of the day, but instead I suggest 19d, if only because of the mental image it conjured up for me: “Bald Simpsons men carrying lard (7)”.

To May 2016 for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/05/10/independent-9226-s-park/

My head being somewhere else due to A Level results day and the unnecessary amount of chaos surrounding it this year (passed with honours and university place 17d  in this household, though with AS Level results in the bag we knew that already 😉 ), I was pleased to find an entertaining, pretty breezy puzzle from Vigo. I’d go so far as to say that it’s been a while since I enjoyed a crossword this much. Ticks throughout, in particular at 9ac, 10ac and 16ac, with a smile raised on finally getting 2d (my LOI). Lots of fun contemporary references, and a reminder at 28ac that the female as well as the male personal pronoun is permitted. The latter I took to be a CD and was somewhat bemused to see debate over on the other side. Finish time easily under par for the i, and if the editor’s reading – more like this one please. 🙂

COD? While I was tempted by the Chuckle Brothers reference, and 9ac which is pretty neatly done, I’m going to go with 2d just for that definition – “Nuts put TV upside down (6)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/05/16/independent-9231-by-vigo/

A bit of a Gallic flavour to today’s puzzle which didn’t cause me any issues until I reached the resort in the SW corner. Yes, the wordplay was clear enough, but Googling the thing involved getting past repeated warnings that the area is most definitely out of bounds during the current pandemic. Such are the times we live in. In the same corner the name and more importantly associated Chinese city gave me issues, my ignorance regarding things geographic once again coming to the fore. Everything else went in apace, finishing easily under par for the i, for a puzzle that was much more to my taste.

COD? I’ll go with 13ac – “Requirement for endorsement on passport not revealing a blood group (7)”.

To May 2016 and lots of complaints about the Independent’s website:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/05/04/independent-9221-dac/

I’m usually a fan of Eimi’s puzzles, and equally usually find them to be on the easy side, but today find that I struggled pretty badly, and can’t much say that I enjoyed the solve either. Oh well!

Spotting the theme pretty early did little to help as beyond a few of the big hits and albums I know little about the purple one, though I suspect if you did the song title hidden in the top and bottom rows would have helped no end. We had obscurities throughout in both wordplay and answer, 11ac and 30ac being the biggest culprits – both being pretty difficult to get if you weren’t au fait with either little known trees, spears, crosses and football players I’m guessing only fans of the game are familiar with. Elsewhere ROVER is surely as good an answer as LOVER at 18ac, and I’m not sure what “rated” is doing in 19ac except to help the wordplay. As I solved I could almost hear Topsy tutting at some of the content, and was inclined to agree.

Not my day then, though there’s always tomorrow, and I’m sure this will have been a hit elsewhere.

First in an encouraging 28d (that’s where I started), last in 19ac, finish time considerably over par with help needed here and there.

COD? I’ll go with 17d – “A rolled-up piece of paper in spliff leading to censure (8)”.

To May 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/05/03/independent-9220-eimi/

More problems than Ifor bargained for here because I’m blogging a week on from solving and my already shot memory is failing me badly. Much sunshine, sea, sand and alcohol having been enjoyed in the meantime. Let’s see what I can remember.

Oh yes, I struggled. Badly. Late evenings drunk on sun and general merriment not being conducive to solving a quite testing puzzle.

Moving letters, advice, source, blah. And problems. Egads. Thankfully I’m a persistent so and so, and can Google, so DON’T FORGET THE DIVER ITMA and vague recollections regarding It’s That Man Again mostly courtesy of my father were of… little help.

More so were the gaps in the bodily parts dotted round the top of the grid (though ENDS wasn’t one, unexpectedly), and the missing CONSCIOUSNESS that just wouldn’t fit in the spaces to the south.

Diver+those gaps = BENDS at the top, and if we’re looking for another symmetrically placed answer to the south that’s got to be NARKS, though colour me confused as to why. What I can see though is a word ladder joining the two which looks convincing, and the lot gives the 25 highlighted cells required, so, with fingers most definitely crossed:

First off I must say thanks to the other bloggers for covering during my holiday – much appreciated.

My solving skills being somewhat blunted I was pleased to find a puzzle today at the easier end of the difficulty range, solved somewhat on a par for an IoS reprint (which this is not). It might help that I’m familiar with Gila from the Inquisitor and elsewhere, though I’m guessing most solvers won’t have been held up for long anyway.

28ac I couldn’t parse in common with the Fifteensquared blogger, though it’s picked up in the comments on the other side. I went with HECKLING for 25ac, which I believe is correct, though the first definition is somewhat obscure. I agreed with Kathryn’s Dad that 17ac is an illness (though it could be caused by a virus), but given the obvious anagram fodder that will have caused little difficulty. 24d I checked in the dictionary after solving, though it could be nothing else. There are suggestions on the other side that the checking letters for 11d were less than helpful, but as the middle obviously contained EVER I’m inclined to disagree.

Overall an enjoyable start to the week, and a welcome daily debut.

COD? I’ll go with 28ac which really is rather neat when you get it – “Truly, how can the end become detailed? (6)”.

To June 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/06/06/independent-9249-by-gila/

Surprisingly easy for the most part from the often-fiendish Punk, and a relief after yesterday’s exertions, I polished off all but the last 3 or 4 in double-quick time, but had quite a pause on the last two – the intersecting 23a PUNCTUATION and 19d DYNASTY. The former I couldn’t fully parse, probably because I was working on-line and had no idea as to the name of the setter (it would be a kindness if the editor could include the name for those of us with painfully slow internet and a 20-mile round trip to the nearest newsagent) and the latter I thought was a bit unfair: ‘one of seven’ is a bit too indirect to indicate ‘day’ for my liking.

When choosing my nomination for Clue Of the Day I was tempted by the dinky idea for KINDER SCOUT at 11a, and furthermore I generally steer clear of gratuitous toilet humour – but this is Punk, so I’m going to make an exception:

COD 30a Swedish exercise to evacuate area in an escape of wind? (7)

All the answers and parsings can be found by clicking here.

“Online crossword from now on”. Well, I do hope not. I was obliged to use the online version during the dark days of deepest lock-down, and I much prefer the dead-tree version. Indeed, the demise of the Independent (which I had taken from day one) as an actual paper newspaper was one reason for moving to the i.

But such is the hidden message in the perimeter, and it was certainly the case back in April 2016, when this was first published; you can read BertandJoyce’s comprehensive explanations of the answers by clicking here.

In fact the nina was not much help. As it happens, I was most in need of additional help on the right-hand side and in the bottom half, and that part of the nina was no more obvious than the clues I was struggling with. I found this one to be very tough. I got there in the end, but with a little electronic help, and in well over my typical time. The grid, which essentially gave four barely-intersecting mini-crosswords, didn’t help.

Particular quibbles? “AUT” for former teachers? Never head of it, and I was for years a branch secretary of another union for teachers. OSTREA? I love oysters, and the homophone is entertaining, but, no, that was unknown to me, too. “In” to clue “because of ” in HARBIN? Seemed unlikely.

I made one mistake, which held me up for a while. I guessed “orange” for 24a when I had the G from FOREIGN. But it was just a guess as I had no idea which mythological monster I was supposed to be decapitating. Never heard of the Windigo, either.

Still, many clues were a delight. I was taken with the neatness of 4d (although I wonder whether De La Mare’s poetry is sufficiently widely-read for the Younger Solver to recognise the name). My nomination for Clue of the Day, however, goes to the very clever indeed 13a: “Anonymous mover and shaker lets ego trip run wild (11)”.

When this puzzle first appeared in May 2016 it prompted a good deal of football related discussion over at Fifteensquared. Amusingly enough it turned out that everyone was on a wild goose chase, and that the Nina was merely concerned with stripes. No sport, then, and a pretty broad spread of vocabulary ought to make this quite a Topsy-friendly sort of crossword I’d like to think – but there’s the little matter of that single entendre at 20d. A real “steady on, old chap” sort of clue, but I must admit to having been amused by the cheek of it.

Lots of ticks in the margin, but they’re small, neat ones, signalling approval for nice workmanship rather than wild applause for cruciverbal pyrotechnics. This is no bad thing, and the standard is consistently high throughout making for a thoroughly enjoyable solving experience. 15 and 22 were familiar, but I suspect they would both be prime candidates for grumbling, were it not for the crystal clear constructions. A few shout outs: 10, 12, 14 and 28 all went down very nicely; clue of the day is the funniest – no, not that one, it’s 17ac.

“Permanently writes where Dorothy wasn’t any more (4)”

A simple, straightforward  and very accessible crossword in the Wednesday slot today. And none the worse for that.

INSTATES was the only answer that caused my eyebrow to rise. EPHEDRA needed a quick check, although the crossing letters left little room for doubt. I had heard of RATAFIA before, but now I know a little more of what it is – one of the regular consequences of crossword-solving is that one can have one’s general knowledge expanded as one checks up on an answer.

No stand-out clue today, but 4d made me smile: “Italian shows disrespect for national anthem? That seems impossible (2,6,5,2)”.

Click here for the answers and explanations.