i Cryptic Crossword 3053 Tees

November 19, 2020

Which I raced through for the most part, and then ground to a halt for approximately the last quarter. Because yes, I put in MOOB quite confidently too, didn’t know the old Labour leadership contender, Lar, and couldn’t bring the battle victim to mind (cryptic definitions aren’t really my strong suit anyway). And, oh, 15d has got to be a made up phrase, hasn’t it? 😉 With a particularly obscure goddess in the wordplay to boot. Oh well, I still finished about par for these parts, so shouldn’t complain.

I did wonder for a while if a theme was opening up, what with REMORSE and RELATE to the SW, a girlfriend elsewhere in the grid, and I AM leading to a half-expected but non-existent “sorry”, but it appears that my imagination is running away with me.

Loads of ticks because this was a fine, inventive puzzle, my nomination for COD going to 17d – “Say you know Brad Pitt? Pardon me, but that’s ridiculous (8)”.

To a distant Thursday in 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:


i Cryptic Crossword 3052 Dac

November 18, 2020

Today we have a pangram from Dac that I’m inclined to think was a little trickier than expected from him. Or rather, I found the RHS of the grid to be so, in addition to 18ac. The latter seems odd for Dac in that it contains both an obscurity in the wordplay and answer, and I do wonder how much his hand was forced by the pangram. Elsewhere I found myself at a disadvantage with 25ac in that I know too many Welsh female names to quickly pick the one required, and can see no way that 19ac could possibly sound like throws to an Eastender, though presumably it does, and again seems to leave the poor solver from other parts of the country at a bit of a disadvantage.

All of which grumbling leaves me wondering if I’m in agreement with the second point by Copmus in the comments over on the other side. Or perhaps mid-week just finds me a little grumpy. My finish time today was over par for the i, though interrupted by the inconveniences of work which may explain some of my difficulties.

COD? Well, it’s Dac, and despite said grumbling there’s always loads to pick from, with my nomination going to 27ac – “Satellite: vainly hope to live on it (6)”.

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


Chalicea is a setter I usually enjoy. Her puzzles are always of the utmost quality, fair, and being on the easy side flatter solvers of my ability level. This week however she falls foul of one of my bugbears, being the gridfill that is over in a jiffy (in today’s case about as quick as they get for the IQ), followed by days of fruitless staring at a grid trying to work out what should be highlighted.

I think most of us have probably seen footage of the fate that befell the Tacoma Suspension Bridge, but I don’t know about you but I was blissfully unaware of its name, the surrounding geography, what is was nicknamed (the GALLOPING GERTIE, the problems it faced apparently having been encountered from the very off), or the name of the sole fatality. So nothing on looking at the grid rang a bell, and a Google of things that had happened on this day in the past elicited a long list, none of which looked very promising.

Which is to say that when some hard-pressed Googling eventually chanced on the solution, I felt more relief than any pleasurable PDM. Which is a pity, because the grid fill is one I enjoyed.

The finished article to be fair is neat, with the fallen section and the missing (presumed dead) TUBBY, presuming my highlighting is correct.

Perhaps I’m just revealing my own ignorance, but I could have done with some pointers. A clue revealed by misprinted letters sort of thing, perhaps. Or did you all leap straight in with the highlighters and thank Chalicea for an enjoyable, pretty easy solve? Answers on a postcard…

Today’s puzzle is what I think of as a Scorpion Special, simply because he’s the setter who seems most enthused by the idea. It’s very much in the nature of a tour de force, with an entire set of lights thematically linked but lacking a definition: the trick being to ignore all that, tackle the other set of clues and then write in the by now obvious themed material. It didn’t quite work out like that, but a gimmie of a gateway clue and some distinctly soft-boiled downs made for swift progress. A couple of truly recondite acrosses (21 isn’t in the current Chambers, and nor is it one of the infamous missing words) made finishing off a matter of writing in the apparent answers then toddling off to see whether they existed. Botany: another one of my weak suits.

It’s quite an achievement, isn’t it? All those across lights and a couple of bonuses. Can’t pretend that I found it especially enjoyable, though. The grid is a bit of a fright, being two puzzles vestigially connected, and ungenerously checked to boot. Without wishing to trigger a discussion of mass and count nouns (please, let’s not get into all that) the two pluralised drinks got a Paddington stare, and there were a few instances of trying altogether too hard in my opinion. Yes 17ac, I’m talking about you in particular. On the other hand, lots of read-and-writes. Clue of the day candidates are somewhat thin on the ground: I quite liked 22 and 27ac, but will slap that rosette on 3d for sneakiness.

“Note extremely talkative nonagenarian, the Queen? (6)”

Much botanical quibblry in the comments on RatkojaRiku’s July 2016 Fifteensquared write-up, inevitably.

An IoS reprint to start the week which shouldn’t have caused too many issues for the regulars. Thankfully, as my solving time first thing was accompanied by workmen putting up scaffolding around the house which did nothing for my concentration levels. Never mind, the worst is yet to come.

Just the two unparsed on solving today – 24ac and 7d, the latter a tricky piece of wordplay I thought for the spot. “Police” doesn’t seem to me to be an adequate anagram indicator at 18d, but the rest all seemed to be fair and above board.

All done under par for the i, in what was an enjoyable start to the week.

COD? I’ll go with 2d – “Survey reported on queen, say, is source of stink (7)”.

To August 2016:


Deep joy to be given the hardest puzzle of the week on a weekend when we have the most time. If you’re reading this because you’re stuck, then please keep going; it’s a real treat and is solvable without any aids – provided you can find somewhere quiet that is, and give yourself a chance to tune in to Serpent’s wavelength.

Following on from our discussion on these pages earlier in the week, it felt a bit like cheating when I went looking for a Nina with just V _ A… in the top row and casually wondered if ‘Vladimir’ might fit. Well of course it did, and theatre is my sort of thing, and I know Serpent is extremely good at the jiggery-pokery of grid filling, so I presumed Estragon would be at the bottom and – yes – there was the play title across the middle, with the clue cleverly referencing the top and bottom rows. Brilliant!

After that – which probably should have been the endgame really – it was a matter of filling in the gaps and trying to resist the temptation to look in a dictionary. No worries; despite the constraints of the Nina the most obscure answer for me was LAYETTE which was very clearly clued and vaguely familiar in any case. And weren’t those clues brilliant? Highlights included a great surface reading for 20a BUSY BEE, a double bit of misdirection for 16d WARHORSE, a neat hidden for 8d REVERENT and that super clue for 16a WAITING FOR GODOT. Under normal circumstances that would have been my COD, but we’re all a bit fascinated with that narcissistic demagogue over the pond at the moment, and one clue seems to be a perfect description of Defence Secretary Mark Esper, sacked 5 days ago; so it has to be this one really:

14d …haven’t lost heart after I stopped president celebrating victory (10)

Over to Fifteensquared, where it seems several people were flummoxed by the parsing of UNCLE. That one seemed clear to me, but I realise now that I had the RAT of IRATE wrong – it’s much more likely to be a synonym for singer (to the authorities) of course than a reference to Sammy Davis Jr et al. Interesting to note no-one’s picking up on the sign/ house confusion as seen again in 22d yet – I can assure you that within a few months time that’ll be ‘verboten’ by the editor!

A puzzle of medium difficulty, I would say, from Daedalus. A nice balance between sufficient challenge for the more experienced, and accessiblity to beginner-solvers. I don’t think there were any real obscurities – although perhaps THE VICAR OF BRAY isn’t quite such common coinage these days.

There were seven anagrams, either partial or in full, eleven charades, three homophones, three insertions, a couple of reversals, a double-definition, a subtraction, an initial-letters and a hidden inclusion. (Not a definitive list, just a quick count-up on my fingers.) The high proportion of anagrams adds to the accessibility, especially as some were long ones which opened up the grid. I’m not so keen on anagrams these days, but in my early solving days I was glad to spot them and could generally unravel them and they were a real help in getting going.

DINAH I had down as a homophone for “diner” as “someone in the kitchen”. This was the one clue which elicited a frowning-face in my margin. But I see from the Fifteensquared blog that it refers to a Nat King Cole song – which takes us back to yesterday’s discussion about the balance between contemporary and more distant cultural references.

My nomination for Clue of the Day could have gone to BUMF, but instead I choose 1d, for its combination of misdirection and accessibility: “Restrained by Portia, gold-digging Shakespearean villain (4)”. I know Shakespeare lived a long time ago, but I think he is exempt from any putative 30-year rule. 😉

i Cryptic Crossword 3047 Phi

November 12, 2020

Phiday falls on something other than the accustomed Saturday, meaning firstly that I will feel somewhat discombobulated this weekend, and secondly that Cornick will have a different setter to blog.

Today’s solve was a somewhat disconcerting one, in that the LHS of the grid fell in a jiffy, with the other half taking an age. A careless PUMP UP must bear some of the blame for that, together with doubt over the parsing of 14ac. Enjoyable throughout though I thought, once I’d found my feet again with only the one query already noted. Perhaps I just got myself into a flap in that part of the grid, for what would not be the first time.

There’s a Nina, and associated theme which meant nothing to me, but did help with likely looking letters appearing across the top and bottom of the grid. The ones to the right being reversed were somewhat less helpful. I wonder what Betty did to deserve such ignominy, beyond it being convenient for the grid fill. 😉 Phi explains all over on the other side.

First in 23d, last in 24ac, finish time a little under par for these parts.

COD? I’ll go with 9d – “Author‘s position over red meat I twice ignored (9)”.

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


No Dac this week, but instead an IoS reprint from Raich which is always an indication of a good puzzle, but also usually of a straightforward one, which I’m not sure this one was. To be fair I rattled through most of the grid, but the NW corner was perhaps a little knottier with an obscure bit of geography, an old Bob that always trips me up, an &lit with a reference to a bit of Greek mythology, plus some seafood that only ever seems to crop up in crosswords. Phew. Oh, and elsewhere 10d was succinctly puzzling, though gettable with a wry smile afterwards. A little spice, then, to make the puzzle more interesting? Yes, especially with the clues being uniformly good, fair and above board.

First in 23d where I started, last in the muse, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? With 2d in hot pursuit, I did like the nicely misleading, aforementioned 10d – “A red? (7,6)”.

To August 2016:


I’d imagine at this point you’re thinking – oh no, not him again. But no fear, Batarde will be back blogging soon. In the meantime it’s left to me with a puzzle that was right up my street, being a big fan of the fictional inhabitant of Baker Street. On spotting some of the thematic material others went in at a rate of knots, notably 9ac and 26/24a where I might otherwise have got a little stuck. The assassin bit of 6d somewhat bemused me, though the killer in question it transpires has a lot to answer for. 12ac I also failed miserably to parse, honing in too quickly on the R at the end. The rest went in fully understood, and somewhat smugly so in the SW corner with the (unknown to me) 16d.

First in 10ac after floundering somewhat with the downs where I usually start, last in the nipper, finish time about par for the i. And as far as entertainment value goes? Top notch.

COD? The suitably thematic 22ac – “Fox hounds bay (6)”.

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