Is it just me or has it been a while since we’ve had an IoS reprint? Anyway, we have one today from Hypnos that for me at least was well over par in terms of time expected, if on a par with the average Independent reprint. Most of that time was spent on 29ac, where “Patron” took too long to work out, and the NW corner where a hasty ARSENAL caused no end of issues. Did anybody else also agonise over GREAT / GRAND at 1d? Gaufrid has a couple of quibbles on the other side, of which only the latter seems justified, being an iffy BT for company. The rest though was fair and above board, and enjoyable throughout.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 29ac – “Patron maybe notes untidy headwear (7)”.

Over to July 2016 for the answers and parsing of the clues:

Another monumental achievement from Math, reminiscent of his recent Big Bang Theory puzzle. But this time, as well as all the clues being heavily themed around pop & rock, we also had a slew of themed entries appearing ghost-like in the grid. Give yourself a bonus point for each one of the following you spotted:

The bands Muse, Chase, Asia, Cast, Fight, (The) Killers, (The) Script, (The) Fray, (The) Kooks, and Status (Quo); the rapper Drake; plus ‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson, ‘Rock Bottom’ by Lynsey de Paul; plus themed words Disc, Troupes, Deals, Untuned, Teds, and Organs. Even ‘Snowball’ is slang for a cocaine-fuelled party apparently. Oh, and (The) Jam is there too by way of a possibly-accidental-possibly-not Nina in column 1.

Which might have all been a bit Marmite-y I suppose. Put me in the ‘Love it’ camp, even if some of the references like Doctor Dre, t.A.T.u., or RiRi (that’s Rihanna, apparently) were lost on me at the time. Some of the clues were quite long, but as I have said before I see nothing wrong with that per se; short clues can be brilliant, but so can long ones. And just to make my point I’m going to nominate one of them as my COD, which provided a fine pdm (penny-drop moment) and a good chuckle to boot:

21d Musical instruments of interest to Fine Young Cannibals or Doctor & the Medics? (6)

Solving time maybe slightly over par for the i, but only because I spent so much time relishing those clues.

Click here for all the answers from Fifteensquared,

i Cryptic Crossword 3000 Morph

September 18, 2020

Somewhere at the back of a drawer, I dare say, will be a fountain pen, unused for decades. No good for the crossword, of course, newsprint being so absorbent, but the use of one was compulsory at my school back in the 1970s. The appearance of CARTRIDGE, together with Hamlet, as an instance of a CIGAR, took me right back to that decade, when biros were anathematised by masters who smoked pipes, in a culture that encouraged smoking and promoted it with Bach.

This was a moderately challenging crossword, which was fairly clued throughout with lots to enjoy, including some imaginative definitions and smooth surface readings. I had no queries outstanding on completion, and needed the check only TURNSTONE, a bird I did not know of. My only quibble, a minor one, was the phrase GO TO GRASS, which did not seem quite right to me. “Put out to grass”, and “go to seed” maybe, but not this particular formulation.

Things I liked: the cluing of “we” by “first person in collective”; “tide” as a “marine force” and the great surface reading for THE CATS WHISKERS. But I have two contenders for the title of Clue of the Day. PHENOMENA was very clever, with a reversal posing as a homophone. But the winner has to be 1D. Once a few crossing letters went in, this was fairly readily solved from the definition, but it took me ages to see exactly how it worked, and what the imputation of potential illegality was all about. Very neat. “Rival bid in which location of tender seems illegal” (7-8).

To June 2016 for all the answers and explanations:

A Saturday reprint today, and one on the tough side it appears (I hope!). I struggled badly throughout, not helped by a couple of rash guesses, and staggered home with more help than I would like to admit. There’s some pretty tricky wordplay, a homophone at 2d that doesn’t work at all, and a couple of obscurities but less than it felt like while solving! Now, sleep deprivation and generally high levels of start-of-term busyness may mean that my mind is elsewhere (or absent), and that your mileage may most definitely vary. Let me know how you got on. I must admit that I struggled too much to really enjoy the solve. The layout of the grid is significant, as explained by Nestor over on the other side.

COD? I’ll go with 18ac – “A bighead lacking any aspiration, the man was duly rewarded with time (7)”.

To June 2016:

This was the Don’s final appearance in the Independent many moons ago, and possibly in the i too. If so, belated thanks are in order for 1329 entertaining and always quality puzzles.

As expected today’s is the usual collection of starter clues with a couple of unknowns thrown into the mix. Something of a sting in the tail with the latter today, because if you managed to solve the crossing 9d and 18ac without recourse to a dictionary, well done! There’s little to add beyond that, because with Quixote the clues are always scrupulous and fair.

COD? I’ll go with 6d, just because of the slightly unusual construction (the homophone indicator is the answer!) – “Detected, as a group of animals will be here (5)”.

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

After yesterday’s bravura display a crossword by Radian is going to look a bit tame. This is rather a pity, since there’s the usual generous entertainment value and an extensive theme to keep us happy, but I suppose Radian is a victim of his own consistency. If a themed puzzle of medium difficulty with plenty of variety and no iffy bits is the order of the day, he’s The Man.

The only obscurity I can see is the salmon in 20d, but it’ll be familiar enough to anyone who has been solving for a while. There are, however, some fairly tricky clue constructions which need picking apart with care, like 19 and 26ac, say. or 18d. The latter is a strong COD candidate, as is the chucklesome 9d, but 2d is striking enough to be the winner:

“Chap corners line in precious metals transport (7)”

Solutions, parsings and not nearly enough comment can be found at Fifteensquared, where it was Midsummer’s Day 2016 when the crossword was first published.

This weekend we’re winning from the start given that we have a paper, unlike readers of other popular titles, xxxx Rebellion having taken it upon themselves to “free the news” by, um, ensuring that loads of people couldn’t get any. As if to prove once more that current affairs these days is beyond satire.

To the puzzle. Well, that consisted of a description of the endgame which made no sense but instructions to decipher superfluous letters that did. Said superfluous letters plus loads of thematic, unclued entries making for a fairly solid slog through the grid, much time being spent working out what a Scot’s dearest might be (JO, apparently), and that ENVOY might equate to final words of some description. A smattering of geography, my weak point, no doubt to tempt us to glance at the quite beautiful map slipped in with the latest i Weekend.

The close left all clued entries complete, a few guesses at ROZZERS and INVERSE SQUARE for the unclued, and a general pig’s ear of the extra letters with lots of question marks. Pig’s ears of such things being something I generally end up with, and generally sort out. This week thankfully wasn’t the exception, leaving LAW IS A BOTTOMLESS PIT THE HISTORY OF JOHN BULL.

Luckily we didn’t need to know anything about the latter, and all the “laws” could be Googled, even the extremely obscure Jewish one across the top. And the downs? Well, none made sense on solving because they were bottomless pits, see? ABYS(s), DEPRESSIO(n), the hard-to-find HANG(i) and so on. Which raised a smile, and bored everyone I tried to explain it to afterwards.

Oh yes, highlighting. Well, that was another example of both. By the close the preamble made sense, which hopefully means the below is (sort of) correct. And even it isn’t I enjoyed the ride, so thanks, Eclogue.

i Cryptic Crossword 2996 Punk

September 14, 2020

Well, I was glad on nipping over to Fifteensquared to find that everyone there struggled too, as I assumed until then I’d lost my touch. Cornick should be happy as he commented a couple of weeks back that he peaks at the start of the week 😉 , but I imagine a lot of other solvers will be floundering. Lots of quite tough wordplay, more than a few obscurities, and a couple of trips to the BRB required. Thankfully the wordplay once untangled was fair and above board, and there was a good dose of Punk’s (in)famous humour to make the journey an enjoyable one. The definition in 23ac and wordplay for that matter too is very nice, 8ac raised a smile, as did 13d. Of the obscurities 22d was perhaps the oddest, as I presume that it’s a common term that isn’t so common in this neck of the woods. Foodie types might have known 27ac, but my tastes aren’t as sophisticated as that. Regarding 1d, I’ll just note that in almost half a century of consuming American films and novels, that one was new on me. Finish time more akin to a Thursday reprint, the bar for both quality and difficulty now set extremely high.

COD? It’s got to be 13d – “Hand, one dispensing with the king’s business? (5,5)”.

To June 2016:

No prizes still for Saturdays – which is a shame if you were angling for one of those radios (I’ve forgotten the name of the manufacturer) but good news for your blogger: Being in a hurry to get this blog done and take the youngest back to London for the first bit of university since March, I was happy to have Duncan’s 2016 blog here to point out the Nina, which is what this puzzle is all about. So in rows 3, 5, 11 and 13 there’s a hidden message: ‘A MESSAGE AVOIDING THE PERIMETER’. Wow. Those 28 letters must have had to be entered first by Phi, and then all the other words fitted into the grid around them. Hence we had PIROGI, YEAR-ENDS, and AXLE-TREE, which all things considered didn’t seem too onerous to me. I wonder if you spotted what was going on? I didn’t because I was in a rush, as I say, but I do admire it.

As for the clues, my favourite is this one:

6d Beginning to accept America after Democrat’s Hollywoodised vision? (8)

This crossword is quite a remarkable achievement. I don’t think I’ve come across Serpent before,but if this is representative of what is to come, then we shall have much to relish in future.

To be sure, this was fairly challenging, and it took me a little longer than usual to complete, but it was a joy throughout. A nice mix of clues, some readily solved, others requiring a good deal of head-scratching, this was a thoroughly engrossing puzzle. There was one clue that I couldn’t quite parse, which was RETALIATED, although the definition and crossing letters made clear what the answer ought to be. A couple of novelties took me by surprise: the use of “exuded” to mean “got rid of” in the clue for REEK, which certainly added to the surface reading, and which had me puzzled for a while, and “projected” as a homophone indicator in IDOL, which likewise had me going down the wrong road a little distance. But then I do tend to panic when I come across four-letter-entries-with-no-initial-crossing-letter…

That it might be a pangram was a suspicion from the very beginning for me, when my first two in, the crossing JUVENILE first, and then ZEAL revealed a J and a Z. This helped a good deal, particularly with QUADRANT, and my last one in, FILIGREE. I had also wondered about a nina, what with all those uncrossing lights in the perimeter. When I realised that the perimeter actually included each and every letter of the alphabet once and once only, I was filled with admiration.

Nomination for clue of the day goes to the aforementioned 4D: “Intricate pattern young woman said matches everything but the walls (8)”.

To the pivotal month of June, 2016 for all the answers and explanations: