An interesting puzzle from Daedalus to start the week that I suspect will divide opinion. It’s an IoS reprint, but one it’s safe to say is no walk in the park. A lot of the parsing needs teasing out, to which end I just chucked loads in on definition and checking letters, or just on checking letters where I couldn’t spot a likely looking definition. I came a cropper to the far SE in common with Pierre back in the day doing so, but c’est la vie. The wordplay overall felt quirky, but accessible too, with a grid filled a little under par for the i. The Caribbean stew struck me as being obscure with an obscure element in the wordplay too, but perhaps I’m just displaying my own ignorance. The rest of the vocabulary was fairly commonplace, though with an odd spelling at 5d that shouldn’t have tripped anyone up.

Things I particularly liked were 12d, even if I did make a mess of it first try (THINK THINK anyone?), 16d (just for ATMOS which is an abbreviation crying out to be coined if it hasn’t already), 6d (with the setter’s favourite London area present and correct), and my COD, 10ac – “Ogre’s followed by kinsman hiding every large hammer (7)”.

Those who’ve been following my recent travails closely will be keen to know that the roof is 99.9% complete, though with no sign of any builders this morning, and an alarming pile of debris filling the front garden. In IT we always say that the last 1% of a project takes 99% of the time…

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

Math used to be a key fixture in the early days of the i, but then had a 4 or 5 year holiday before his recent and very welcome re-emergence. This was a very fine crossword indeed – perfectly judged with plenty of accessible clues to give relative beginners some hope (I got half the across clues before even looking at the downs) then a few to make the solver move up a gear, and finally a sprinkling that will have doubtless stretched even seasoned regulars like us lot! But more importantly it was a lot of fun to do.

I did go looking for a theme about half way through, and wondered if it might be something to do with computers, but my knowledge is far from comprehensive in such areas, so I’ll leave it to Myelbow in the first of the comments at Fifteensquared to give the full list. Very impressive that.

No quibbles from me, but I was surprised to see ‘alternatives’ used as an alternate letter indicator in 6d NEON because I always thought that wasn’t allowable – and I was also surprised that Joe for coffee, which I think is American slang, wasn’t indicated as being such. Oh well, them’s evidently the rules.

Hands up if 7d OPOPANAX was your last one in? I’m supposed to know plants, but confess to going to the dictionary to see if there were any words that started ‘opopa…’ – more in desperation than expectation, and there it was. ‘My colleague’ was a less obvious pointer for Anax than ‘Crossword setter’ had been for Phi in 10a PHILOLOGY; I think it’s that plus the obscurity of the answer that held me up, rather than Anax’s relatively fewer appearances in the i.

As for the COD, I was torn between the elegant and the chortlesome, with 11a UNMANNERED (elegant) getting pipped by the following:

13d Admiring our boatload from Newcastle (10)

We don’t get many puzzles from Wiglaf, but when we do they are a treat. This one certainly was. Of medium difficulty, I venture, with a good fair mix of clues.

On my first read-through, I was a little alarmed by the six-word, thirty-letter anagram down the middle, especially as there was no room for any “and” or “the” or “of/in/on the”, to help break up the anagram, given the enumeration. But surmising that the numbers referred to at the beginning of the clue would give the author, I tried them and instantly got DICK. A couple of minutes later and I had the two other parts of the author’s name and the title of the book in place. And that opened up the grid very nicely.

I struggled to parse GLISSADES, and had to resort to the thesaurus to get “glades” and the internet to remind myself of ISS. That seemed all a bit obscure. “Cross” as an anagram indicator in DEODORANT seemed questionable, but it was such a good clue that it was easily indulged. “Blue” (rather than blow/blew) to mean SQUANDER is new to me, and isn’t in my (admittedly ancient) Shorter Oxford. These are, however, but minor quibbles.

Clue of the day? I did like TITANIC and especially the aforementioned DEODORANT. But I can’t resist proposing 15ac: “A plonker taken in by David Icke (4)”.

Click here for all the answers and explanations.

i Cryptic Crossword 3059 Monk

November 26, 2020

A bit of a rush job because of work, the ongoing saga of the builders, and a lunchtime jaunt to the orthodontists, so apologies… Today’s offering comes courtesy of Monk, and from a distant Thursday, which always meant that it was going to be fairly tough. I duly struggled throughout, and lobbed a few in on a bit of a wing and a prayer, helped somewhat on spotted the Nina in the top and bottom rows. A good puzzle needless to say, finished somewhat over par for the i, but one sadly I didn’t have time to do justice.

COD? I’ll go with 15ac, despite the quibble regarding the name of the ballet – “Ballet held in head apartment on Ritz, maybe (10,5)”.

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

i Cryptic Crossword 3058 Dac

November 25, 2020

There seems to have been some disgruntlement over on the other side regarding today’s puzzle, which surprised me as on solving all I could think was how much I was enjoying it. Oh well. I did find it a little knotty in places – 17ac in particular I struggled with, and 19d committed the cardinal sin of an obscurity in both answer and wordplay – but the rest was as smooth and well clued as expected. Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear that Scottish geography isn’t really my thing, but there was little doubt as to the answer. Finish time comfortably under par for the i, with interruptions from the builders busy tearing the other side of the roof off today.

COD? 16d raised a smile – “Bloomers made by footballers about middle of final (8)”.

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

Not one of those hitting the ground running days this time: my first one in was the funny tuber at 13ac. When that sort of thing turns up early on there’ll generally be more weirdness to follow, but no, not really. There’s 28ac, which really is a word but only if your dictionary is compiled on historical principles and takes up a couple of yards of shelf space, and that’s about it for eyebrow-raisers. In the end it wasn’t much of a struggle after all, and whilst I wouldn’t say it’s the most fun I’ve had hunched over a clipboard in an armchair for a month of Sundays, it was an entertaining enough puzzle and theĀ theme is something a bit different.

Word association time. If I say “George”, what do you immediately think? “The Third”; “and Dragon”, “Formby” perhaps? Not 8d I’ll warrant, which might be a good thing, and at any rate it got a snort. Surfaces are by and large laudable, which partly excuses what to my mind was rather too generous a helping of anagrams. Mustn’t grumble though, and in truth there’s very little to complain of except for a slightly pedestrian feel. That might be just in contrast to yesterday’s. Does this mean that I’m stumped for a COD? Oh no: 18ac will do very nicely, thank you:

“Maybe picture how Tartar becomes sailor! (8,3)”

For once I have no objection to the exclamation mark. 3d was rather fun too, incidentally, especially given the theme. Bertandjoyce did theĀ Fifteensquared blogging honours back in August 2016 so it’s a comprehensive job, and there’s an apology from Kairos. Should bally well think so too.

The dark nights are getting to Radler too. The general mood that everything is closing in and well if you were to go out then there’s that pesky killer virus waiting to pounce. Or perhaps he (or she) wasn’t thinking that at all and that it’s just me who’s beginning to lose the plot as we lurch into the depths of winter with only the grim inevitability of the “festive” season at the close. Roll on spring and a nice warm spot in the garden to relax and generally chill. But before that some fool arranged for the roof to be replaced which will no doubt bring angst of its own.

Which is to say that this week’s IQ matched my mood perfectly, even down to the agonising over parsing because a bit of pain is good for the soul. Yes, your clues had a long series of question marks beside them too, didn’t they? Which is all well and good but we’re looking for letters missing from wordplay to form a phrase. 8d I’m still suitably bemused by and I suspect is an incorrect guess.

But for those of us who enjoy an afternoon with the dictionary (and what greater pleasure is there?), there was much to enjoy. CHIAUSES where we had to get right down to some obscure pluralising, INULASE, URODELA, and CORNU for starters. In case you found that heavy going, DRESS SENSE for “investment-savvy” with an apt question mark was a nice touch, and there were loads of others that were perfectly guessable for the daily solver who’d chanced a few pages on in the paper.

Being nervous about highlighting straight onto paper I did so in a spreadsheet first, fortunately due to the inevitable cock-ups. Having got there eventually, the end result was NULLAM REM NATAM (that’s “no thing born” to you and me), in an “appropriate form”, and NADA / RIEN similarly elsewhere in the grid. Well, there you are.

Grid complete, now time to play spot the inevitable errors therein. Thanks, Radler, for the fun. And Jacks? See definition 10 in the Big Red Book, and the more common Jack ****.

On solving I assumed that my general difficulties (most of which occurred in the NW corner) were down to:

  • The paper appearing late, so that I had to solve on the i‘s App, with which I always struggle;
  • The general clamour here as the new roof is finally installed. Or rather, at the moment, the old one torn off with much associated rather alarming banging and crashing.

As it turns out others struggled too back in the day, so I’m going to say this was one on the tough side. TD for an Irish politician I suspect won’t have been foremost in many solvers’ minds, or GAMELAN for an Asian band either, for that matter. And as for the Canadian city… So I feel I may be forgiven for finishing with a full grid in a time a little over par for the i, though with lots of guesswork throughout. Was it a rewarding solve I will leave others to decide, as at the moment I am more concerned with looming rain clouds and a roof that is distinctly lacking.

COD? I’ll go with 15ac – “Charlie apparently looking for coal to chop finely (5)”.

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

As far as I can recall, Phi is the only setter for the i to have used ‘Rugby Posts’ in a clue to represent HH, and I’ve been racking my brains this morning trying to decide if I do indeed remember it as a thing from my student days (Phase 1 of my crosswording life before the long pre-i hiatus) or whether that’s a false memory… not sure. Anyhow, if Phi wanted to establish it as a convention on the map of Crosswordland, he couldn’t have done better than today’s creation, which was a lot of fun and sprinkled with pairs of ‘rugby posts’ in fully six of the answers plus 29a itself.

Mostly a fairly quick solve – especially if you got the gateway clue early on – but I was beaten by the parsing of 30a FETE at the end, and in the opposite corner my last ones in were the intersecting 1a and 1d; the clue for DISH being rather weak, I thought, compared to most of the puzzle, and the term DOUGHBOYS being a new thing learned – Saboteur should like that. On the positive side I loved the clues for 11a COURGETTE (for some reason the botanical pedants don’t seem to ever complain that it should be called a fruit – go figure) and for 21a LOWESTOFT.

Here’s my nomination for COD, which is a masterful example of a setter, seemingly having painted themselves into a corner, deftly getting out of it.

6d Wells, say, including one with 29 fish – soles of extended size (4,5)

Click here for all the answers from Head Honcho Gaufrid at Fifteensquared.

What makes a crossword great?

1. It starts with the grid; nicely interconnecting (I dislike it when I seem to do two half-crosswords, or worse, four mini-crosswords), suitably dense with a good proportion of crossing letters, and a good mix of longer and shorter entries.

2. Clues should have good surface readings, and be plausible English sentences. A bit of humour never goes amiss.

3. There should be the right level of challenge. This will naturally vary from solver to solver, according to experience, but no-one wants thirty impenetrable clues, and neither would anyone want them all to be read-the-clue-and-write-the-answer exercises.

4. Solving should include a number of penny-drop moments, when bewilderment gives way to a glimpse of a possibility, which in turn yields to a moment of enlightenment when you come to admire the ingenuity of the clue.

5. Completion should result in a sense of satisfaction, not merely a feeling that “I’m glad that’s over”.

6. It’s a bonus if I am caused to extend my knowledge by having to look something up – perhaps a Byzantine official’s head-dress or a rare South American plant.

This crossword was almost perfect. I didn’t have to look anything up, but apart from that it would be hard to beat. It is an exemplar of the art of the cryptic crossword at its best. I have so many ticks in my margin that it really is hard to pick a clue of the day. From among at least ten contenders I offer 7d: “Take care of section wherein lies bottomless, bottomless pit (7)”.

All the answers and explanations can be found here: