Themes and Haikus

December 31, 2020

The point of this annual exercise has become obscure, to me at least, but as promised here is the list of Tuesday crossword themes for the past year. This time it’s incomplete, owing no doubt to an unfortunate episode of ischaemic addlement, so my apologies for that. Won’t happen again – lordy, I hope not anyway. As in previous years the main takeaways are that there’s loads of variety; low is far more common than high brow, and Radian is a real mainstay when it comes to thematic puzzles.

01 High Fidelity – Hob
02 Sharks – Crosophile
03 George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” – Hieroglyph
04 In Vino Veritas – Radian
05 James Bond – Scorpion
06 Insects – Hieroglyph
07 Astronomy – Alchemi
08 Alfred Hitchcock – Radian
09 Cops and robbers – Vigo
10 Climate change – Radian
11 Pace – Radian
12 [Seasonal Nina] Crosophile
13 Business and Pleasure – Radian
14 Earthquake drill – Phi
15 Towns on the river Severn – Phi
16 Massacre of Glencoe – Tees
17 Rain – Vigo
18 Edward Lear (in limerick form) – Morph
19 David Bowie – Knut
20 Franks – Alchemi
21 Ronnie Corbett – Eimi
22 England cricketers – Scorpion
23 Support – Hob
24 Modes of expression – Radian
25 Cilla Black – Raich
26 Composers – Hieroglyph
27 Indie record labels – Scorpion
28 Chess – Hieroglyph
29 Foxes – Hob
30 “On The Twentieth Century” (musical) – Phi
31 Prince (late musician) – Eimi
32 Victoria Wood – Lohengrin
33 “First Amongst Equals” – Radian
34 Erik Satie – Hob
35 Spandau Ballet – Anax
36 Money – Radian
37 Windows 10 Ringtones – Vigo
38 The Size of Wales – Scorpion
39 Novel Genres – Hob
40 1966 World Cup – Jambazi
41 Ray Henderson songs – Phi
42 Sunderland AFC – Hoskins
43 Sherlock Holmes – Radian
44 Fruit – Hieroglyph
45 The Old Woman Who Swallowed A … : Kairos
46 Advent – Hob
47 The Great Fire of London – Hob
48 Horses – Punk
49 Utopia – Radian
50 Scott Pilgrim – Math

And now for the Haiku Competition. I’ve been wrong footed, having forgotten that the sun sinks below the yardarm a lot earlier in Mogwash than it does at Batarde Towers, so there’s a chance that the cat is already out of the bag. Anyway, it will surprise nobody to find that our celebrity judge was none other than Scarlet Blue herself (cruelly omitted from the New Year’s Honours List once again), and to discover the result of her deliberations you can click here. The lucky winner should get in touch in the usual way (whatever that is), and we’ll see what’s to be done about this prize.

And finally, may I bid good riddance to 2020 and wish you all a vastly improved 2021?  Happy New Year, everybody.

So, we reach the end of what has been an eventful year, and what a puzzle we have to end it. Challenging, certainly, but all eminently doable with a little patience, some attention to the wordplay, and an eye for several well disguised definitions. For me this turned into one of those puzzles that, after a moment of concern on finding few easy in-roads, turned into a delight, each clue unfolding nicely with a little attention to the detail. And needless to say a little relief on checking letters going in and likely contenders easier to identify.

At the close there were just the two I didn’t parse on solving – 16d and 25ac – but both are parsed ably over on the other side, and in retrospect with a little more thought I would have too. Perhaps the sudden drop in temperatures has just frozen my synapses.

Finish time comfortably over par for the i, but this was a pleasure to solve, and satisfying to finish without any resort to aids, so no complaints here. First in where I started, 21d, and the false promise of a quick finish, last in 22ac.

COD? I suspect there will be a multitude of picks, because yes it was that good, with my nomination going to 13ac – “Anger left in some boxing matches? (12)”.

Tomorrow I will be publishing my annual review of the year, so do tune in for that as well as the first puzzle of 2021. Happy New Year to all, and to a better one too.

Lastly, as is customary, over to Fifteensquared for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

It seems the world has been turned upside down these odd days between Christmas and New Year, because instead of our accustomed Dac, or suitable replacement, we have Morph and a Saturday Independent reprint. Not that I’m complaining, because Morph is always a pleasure to solve. Today was no exception, with always interesting wordplay, a bit of effing but no blinding that tickled me and should have been benign enough not to raise heckles elsewhere, a fun reference to the king, and lots of contemporary references (if slightly less so four years on in the case of a Top Gear presenter even I was aware of, it really not being my thing), which can only be a good thing for our little world.

Things I didn’t know were the Dutch airport, though working back from the definition and ATA would have got most solvers home safe and sound, or how to spell 22ac with the Russian being of little help. Never mind, a time clocked here a little above par for the i, and ribs tickled throughout.

COD? While it would be tempting to list all the clues, because yes this was that good, or 6d which was nicely done, or 21d similarly, I think 12ac just gets it for me – “Singer endlessly nabbed by copper – it’s to do with what’s at bottom of trunk (6)”.

So without further ado over to October 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

i Cryptic Crossword 3086 Math

December 29, 2020

Yoohoo! It’s me again, and no longer self-insulating. I have the run of Batarde Towers and environs, but will be sticking with the Plague Turret as my operational base because … jacuzzi. Celebrated my freedom yesterday by taking myself off for a walk to Hurling Hill to have a look at the Trebuchet. It stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking Aunt Sally’s Cottage (in ruins): I always wanted to have a go but unfortunately all the ammo’s down there. As Aunt Scarlet says, it’s small wonder that the locals have been referring to the family as the Silly Batardes for generations.

And so to the crossword, and then we can do the fun bit. Math has presented us with a theme of Phi-ish obscurity, so that’s safely ignored, then. For details, you’ll find a link in the comments on the original Fifteensquared blog from October 2016 which may well be fascinating. Mr B says that fish boosts brain function, so perhaps all those codfanglers have done some good ‘cos I found this trivially straightforward; not unentertaining though, despite a few sigh inducing clichés. All told a bit heavy on anagrams and elementary wordplay, but I liked 5 and 13d and 22ac well enough. 8d is Clue Of the Day mostly on grounds of being one of those that you’d think would’ve been done before, but if so I can’t remember it:

“Drifting off, flat fish has raised tail section (9)”

Competition Time! There might even be an honest to goodness real-world prize, and a celebrity judge. All you have to do is comment in the form of a haiku (you can bang on prosaically afterwards of course). For the rules, see Google, or check out this little number:

Five, seven and five
Syllables; three lines and that’s
A haiku, innit?

The winner will be announced when Mr B finally gets around to posting his list of 2020 Tuesday themes, so probably New Year’s Eve. I’m expecting great things of you, folks.

Charmaine xx

It was the weekend before Christmas and all was, well, rather grim actually. The English government belatedly saw sense prompting a general exodus from the capital and a no doubt massive viral load with it, and the Welsh government? Well, Drakeford finally had the cover he needed and introduced the lockdown he would have a week before if he’d had a shred of courage. Hancock came out with that most hated of terms once more, duty – uncomfortable echoes of Kitchener’s vile propaganda – which makes me think he’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. As will Drakeford when we oust the lot this spring.

All of which has little to do with Eclogue’s puzzle, beyond a vague link with SARS to the SW. Present and correct were extraneous letters from wordplay, and mysteriously affected other clues, all of which might have led you to a false sense of security, this sort of thing being a fairly regular feature of the IQ, because I wonder if I was alone in finding the grid fill to be accomplished at somewhat of a crawl?

What would you pinpoint as being the chief reasons for this, I hear you cry. Well, that would have to be a couple of words I couldn’t find in the dictionary (PEAKIE, if it’s correct?), some pretty solid if tip-top wordplay, plus the belatedly realised fact that the mangled entries were well and truly mangled. I’m still not sure if all are real words, Google having come up trumps with a couple, but still. No help from Chambers, the crossword solver’s bible, here.

So while ARPEGGIONES might be present and correct in the BRB, ARPIONES isn’t, or RAES (REGGAES), SKER (SKEGGER), and so on. What they all do have in common is that they’re missing EGGs, see. Pretty neat, and spotted early on when I noticed in a rare fit of enlightenment that VIES with an extra bit in the middle might well lead to someone eschewing flesh of all sorts.

Job done? Well, almost. 2d has got to end in an S or X, but I can’t parse it so have no idea which and so I’m going to guess at X. 50/50 odds, but I have an appalling record when it comes to gambling – the one exception being when I correctly surmised that a 25/1 outsider was actually a dead cert, and would have made my fortune if I’d staked more than a measly quid on the fact.

Oh yes, we’re supposed to have two quotes, one of them a little cryptic. Well, I have the first – “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate”, and I think “eat” and L at the end of the second, but the rest remains a mystery. What isn’t a mystery is that the first quote is from Cool Hand Luke, that there’s a certain something to do with eating eggs in said film, and that we can highlight not only the name of the film, but the surnames of the two lead characters in the grid too.

Yep, that looks good to me, bar the one random guess. Thanks Eclogue then for the enjoyable challenge, but what a challenge it was.

In case you’re confused it’s Monday, and a Bank Holiday one at that, though as many of us won’t be working this week it would be easy to overlook. Thankfully the paper boy is working through, and the pre-Christmas tip having paid off my paper has arrived by 7AM for the second day running, the first one being Boxing Day at that.

We start the week with an IoS reprint, though being Daedalus it’s one that’s a little knotty. I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in completing the longer entries with little understanding of what was going on with the wordplay, and elsewhere too. Though to my shame I notice that one in particular that left me puzzled – even if there was only one bloomer I knew that would fit the checking letters – was the hidden word at 7d. Hidden words are a bit of a blind spot for me, but bravo to the setter nevertheless for hiding it so well. Elsewhere 13ac and 14ac left me similarly bemused. The rest though went in fully parsed in a time somewhat over par for the i.

Much to appreciate in what was an always engaging, enjoyable puzzle, my COD nomination going to 1ac – “That’s the attractive girl I saw! Is it the scullery-maid?”.

And so to November 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Greetings to you all this Boxing Day! Many of us have now moved into higher tiers and find ourselves living with greater restrictions. But there are no restrictions on imagination and creativity in Crosswordland, where we can take an occasional refuge from the travails of this present age. A happy 2nd day of Christmas, everyone.

I wondered what to expect this morning. Something challenging to fill up a bank holiday? Something with a theme, perhaps including flesh and wine and pine logs? A nina in which the Good King’s name featured? We got none of these, just a good, old-fashioned, fairly accessible, straightforward cryptic. And jolly good it was too. No obscurities, no queries or quibbles eliciting notes in my margin. Quite a bit of humour, and a pleasing puzzle to solve.

There was a bit of a flatulence theme to a few of the clues, which may not be entirely inappropriate for a season of indulgence. Not too offensive or too school-boyish, I believe, just enough to raise a smile, perhaps. I wondered, on reading the clue for BLUE TIT, who had been the setter’s inspiration back in 2016 when this first appeared, but it would appear from Pierre’s original blog that the subject was the same person back then. I note that the clue has been mildly modified, though.

Joint runners-up for the award of Clue of the Day are RED-CARPET and MELANCHOLIC, both of which made me laugh. The winner, however, is the very neat 4d: “An order ignored by some musicians who played on? (7,4)”.

It was the day before Christmas, and your hapless blogger short of time quickly nipped through the day’s puzzle, noted the occasional seasonal reference, and the presence too of a certain seasonal film. Unfortunately he has never actually watched the thing, otherwise he wouldn’t have got so badly stuck at the close on 3d, and the crossing 19ac / 19d. Oh well, thankfully the Fifteensquared bloggers were a bit more alert / more aware of their festive films, with the result that they did spot today’s theme. Finish time still easily under par for the i, so not a difficult solve anyway by any means. And one that I enjoyed too, a fine festive treat nevertheless.

COD? I’ll go with 11ac – “One-star review by Her Majesty provokes storm from a particular direction (3-6)”.

So lastly Merry Christmas one and all. Thanks to all the bloggers for their continuing good work, to all who’ve contributed to the comments, and to the silent majority for continuing to visit the site. Hope you all have an enjoyable, restful Christmas, and that you manage to fit in a puzzle or two.

As ever, for all the answers and parsing of the clues, look no further than the link below:

i Cryptic Crossword 3082 Dac

December 23, 2020

No Charmaine today I’m afraid, but we do have a nice puzzle from Dac that should compensate for the rather less sparkling blog. Unusually for Dac we have a few slightly obscure answers at 8d and 19ac,  but both were perfectly gettable with a little trust in the wordplay. What did cause issues were the two writers to the SE corner, both of whom are household names, but required a little teasing out to solve. I note that Allan who’s a regular contributor here had the same problem back in the day, so it will be interesting to see if he comes similarly unstuck today. Finished in a pretty nippy time nonetheless, so it would appear that a roadblock to compete with that down in Kent was not encountered today. And throughout with many fine examples of one of the best of compilers at work.

COD? I’ll go with 1ac – “I trained ref in sports (5,6)”.

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

As hinted last week I have a house guest and you have a guest blogger. Those of you who have put up with my witterings for a long time will perhaps remember my cousin Scarlet’s niece. Space does not permit me to explain what has transpired ‘twixt then and now, but it’s a tale of modern slavery, incarceration and malnutrition. For more details you’ll have to sift through Scarlet’s blog, and if cryptic is your thing you’ll just love Wonky Words, trust me. Anyway, I’ve bunged said cousin’s niece in the Plague Turret for the statutory period of quarantine, and with some misgivings handed the blog over to her. So, without further ado, it’s Charmaine.

Hellooo lovely crossword people! Remember me? Mr Bustard has asked me to do the honours today, but he reminded me that you’re a classy lot so I’d have to write it proper. “Fret not, aged relation” I said, “I’ll grammar it good, y’get me”? Tell you what, it’s well swish here at Batarde Towers, and the food is well lush. Not a codfangler in sight. What with me being in turpentine and all dinner is sent up by dumb waiter – his name is Scallion and he really isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, poor lad. Not like Mr Onions, who is now in Costa Rica, Interpol reckons. Whoops … I’m going off on a t. Onwards, to the puzzle.

This one comes from everybody’s favourite outsourcing company, Radian, and on this form I reckon they deserve one of those government PPE contracts. Clever stuff. There’s an air of idealistic unreality about it, and for a full explanation of the theme, solutions and just a measly three comments, you should have a look at this old blog by Bertandjoyce. What to say? I’m giving this a difficulty rating of medium-gnarly; there’s loads of variety, a comprehensive theme, no quibbles or grid oddities and yadda yadda yadda. It’s always the same with this setter, who is Mr Reliable. My margins are bristling with ticks, don’t know about yours. 1, 9, 14, 16 and 17 were all particularly wicked in my opinion, but what do you think? Come on folks, let’s show that Fifteensquared lot what a comments section should look like! There are two homophones today, and 13 is a right toe-curler. 23 however, is my clue of the day:

“Leaves end and start of hole, say (5,3)”

Okey dokey, that was fun. Next week it’ll be the annual theme report, something about siege engines, and a competition! Wot larks, eh? 🙂