An ethical dilemma for your Saturday blogger today.

Maize, you see, is me.

Can a poacher turned gamekeeper still be allowed to take pot-shots? ‘No!’ I hear you cry as one voice. Well you’re right of course, and you certainly won’t be getting any sensible criticism from me today – I’ll leave that to you in the comments below, but rather will you get an insight into the genesis of this puzzle – maybe my twentieth or so since I started doing them for fun back in 2012 or so, but the first for which I ever actually received any actual, real, hard cash payment.

I suppose the seed of this quadruple pangram – for such it is – was a question Monk put in a comment at the end of one of his own puzzles, a double pangram, back in 2011: ‘To wit: is a triple pangram possible in a standard grid with an a.w.l. of greater than 7 using, to quote Beermagnet, only “interesting but mostly accessible words”  I’d never done even so much as a single pangram before that, but I do find a perverse enjoyment in what to some consider the ‘chore’ of filling a grid, so thought I’d have a go. The answer turned out to be ‘yes’ and Big Dave allowed the result on his website. I also sent a copy to Monk, after which he put a good word in for me with Eimi, the editor at the Indy, who until that point had unsurprisingly ignored my occasional supplications (of which I’m sure he gets many). This puzzle was my follow up to that triple, a not very subtle attempt at dangling what I hoped would prove to be an irresistible carrot in front of him. Fortunately it worked.

In the comments section to Fifteensquared for this puzzle back in 2016 a setter called AfterDark from India’s Hindu Times chips in; here’s a link to his quadruple pangram, the world’s first, which shows a similar yet also very different style of clue to those we’re used to in UK. Also Monk cheekily wonders if I’m going to do a pentapangram next… You’ll have to wait and see.

Finally I was surprised to spot, when I joined a Facebook group called ‘Cryptic Crosswords’ that they use this completed grid as their wallpaper.

Oh, COD time. Well, that’s for others to say really. I think of this set of clues as being fairly solid without any particular stand-outs. I’m emotionally attached to this one simply because it’s my first:

1a Queen dressed appropriately for crowd (6)

A good, honest puzzle from Tees today. No theme, no nina, nothing too obscure, nothing even remotely risqué – even the ass was a donkey, and quite rightly so, too. But that’s not to say this was dull, for there was lots of imagination and creativity on display in the definitions and word-play.

For me, the solving split into two halves. First in was ONE ACT, and the rest of the right-hand-side duly followed in pretty short order. The left-hand-side was a little less tractable, with the crossing ADELAIDE and BILL PAXTON being my last ones in. The queen wasn’t one that immediately sprang to mind, although I dare say she is better remembered in Australia. The actor took rather longer to get, partly because he is not one that I am very knowledgeable of, but mainly because it took me a while to shake off the idea that there had to be a “bic” or a “biro” in there somewhere. Elsewhere, the “le[g]” part of STARLESS and the Cockney rhyming slang in DENTIST took me a while to get. As for LIME ; I sort of got the “Here lies…” / “Here is buried…” connection, but I can’t quite get the grammar to work properly.

Clue of the Day has to go to 20ac with its nice twist on a common technique: “1 2 3 22a 24d (8)”.

Click here for Duncanshiell’s excellent blog, with all the answers.

A bit of a meatier offering today, and one with a vague theme running through it that I was far from familiar with. I’ve been driving for over a quarter of a century, but 1ac is most definitely new to me, as was the car referenced in the pretty obscure 22d (which was also my LOI). Which about sums up my solve really – lots of visits to references of various sorts required to sort out what I didn’t know, combined with lots of guesses of wordplay I struggled to get to grips with. Thankfully the BRB does have 1ac, otherwise I suspect I would never have got beyond AMBER. Once a few answers were in the grid fill was a steady one, but that came after a good long time staring at a grid that had only ERITREANS to show for a lot of brain power expended. Finish time somewhat over par for the i, with a feeling of satisfaction at the close combined with mild disgruntlement.

COD? I’ll go with one of many slightly risque clues, 10ac – “Get friendly with fellow’s bird grabbing rear? Quite the reverse (10)”.

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

The consensus back in the day was that this was on the difficult side for Dac, and I’m inclined to agree. We have one pretty obscure term at 19d that I had to check in the dictionary, and a composer elsewhere I certainly hadn’t heard of, but the rest I think was just a matter of some slightly tricky constructions (at 8d, for example, ONE for I, and several possible choices for the warmer surroundings), that meant more brain power than expected was due this morning. Everything is as well done as ever, though, so I doubt there will be any complaints about having to spend more time enjoying Dac’s work. First in 21d, last in 10ac, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 19d – “Scottish trick has power to wrong-foot (7)”.

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

Since today’s crossword is the work of the editor, presumably complaints ought to be sent to This is your chance, people: if you want to diss the setter, call his clues stupid or expound upon the rules below, chances are good that your wit and wisdom will be seen, and you might even get a reply.

Bloggers first, though: the grid is ‘orrible. Well, it just is. However, we’ve long suspected that Eimi has his own ideas about this, and today we get to find out what they are, in the final comment on ye olde Fifteensquared blog. So that’s all right then. With regard to the theme, who can forget the halcyon days of 2016 when everyone was chasing Pikachus? No, me neither, but Charmaine filled me in. Clever stuff; loads of them lurking in the puzzle; didn’t suspect a thing. In some ways this one really was not aimed at me. 🙂

Eimi doesn’t come up very often as a compiler, and his style is quite distinctive. This always leads to some abnormal eyebrow activity. The range of general knowledge required today includes a couple of singers, both of whom rang a distant bell: as is so often the case, simply being dimly aware that something is indeed a thing is all you need. Thank goodness. Calling these Unknown Knowns to mind is one of the chief pleasures of solving, for me at least. The solutions ran the gamut of the Rumsfeld scale, from 15d which is an old crossword friend of no conceivable use to me in real life and therefore a Known Known; to 12ac, a Known Unknown which may be entered with confidence on the basis of wordplay; and then there’s 17d, who was a fully fledged Unknown Unknown. I’ll probably remember her now: not so much a clue as a mnemonic. No help of any sort required to finish this time.

16ac got a right batting about on the other side on account of the lower case “company”, so although I liked it and thought it novel, it’s probably best passed over for COD, alas. D is the better part of V, after all, and 6d is a worthy substitute:

“Monument gets rebuilt without a single layer (10)”

Ooh, I find myself saying.

And, ooh again.

Because that was rather good, wasn’t it? I’d go so far as to say that come next year’s voting, I can imagine this one featuring pretty highly in the rankings.

I could finish with that, and leave you to marvel at the beauty that is the finished product. In the original grid there was indeed a crack in everything, not once but twice. Those four words, you see, that were never going to be entered correctly. EVERY, THING, EVER and THEN interspersed with a C, K, A and another K respectively. Which made no sense until you looked at the grid and spotted all those cracks. Now, I’d like to say I got them all early, but they were actually the very last things I entered, upon the belated realisation that “brackets refer to grid lengths” probably means that the clued answers are either shorter or longer. Pay attention next time, Jon.

Not only that but I believe this week, ladies and gentlemen, I have a full, unadulterated hidden message. Yes, the slightly scary instruction about splitting words and inserting an extra letter being slightly less scary on realising that we’re just looking at a variation, albeit a very nice one, of our old favourite, being the letter missing from wordplay.


Now, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a complete LEONARD COHEN song, never mind ANTHEM, but Google has, offering up the lyrics for the song , together with the songwriter which have both been duly highlighted in a fetching shade of pink.

Now, the last step. The chorus goes something like “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. Ten cells to alter, we have two CRACKs, which duly amended to LIGHT give I believe six new words (FIRELIGHTERS, TOGGED, UNSHALED, CHILLY, GENIE and MICROLIGHTING), together with some nonsense ones which are, yes, our four which never were going to be entered properly, as revealed right at the start in the preamble.

Now, colour me impressed. That all fell together as nicely, and as satisfyingly as you would like. More like this please.

An enjoyable puzzle to kick us off this week, on the easy side, but showing lots of 2d. There is little to say this (extremely icy) morning apart from that, because I don’t think there was anything contentious, though as more than a few were write-ins it’s possible I may have overlooked something. I did though have more than an average number of tick beside the clues, so a big thumbs up here. Finish time about as quick as they get.

COD? With 21ac, 15d and 22ac in close contention, I’ll go with 16ac – “Balls’ motivation to get close to final (6)”.

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

What a treat that was! Pitched just right for this particular solver, with only a couple of new terms: yes, PHARAOH’S SERPENT and SERPENTINE VERSE; who better than Serpent to introduce us to them both! As if that wasn’t enough, if you look carefully you can see two more serpents hiding in the SW and NE corners. All of that is beautifully neat and symmetrical, although unfortunately I didn’t look for that Nina. Knowing how brilliant this setter is at grid filling, I really should have done.

And what terrific clues – some really elegant surfaces, nothing overly impossible, but no real pushovers either – just a nice range of difficulty from the likes of 1a ADVENT, say – to give us a foothold to the more challenging end of things like those two Serpent clues, DOG PADDLE – which I’d only previously met as ‘doggy paddle’, my LOI 25a EXUBERANT, or this delightful clue, my COD which for far too long I thought must be ‘trepid’ without being able to parse it. Oh no, it’s much cleverer than that:

8d When you’re wobbly and about to snap, it helps to take drugs – lots of drugs! (6)

I shall be looking forward to the good supply of Serpent puzzles that lie in store for us lucky readers of the i!

Click here for the link to Fifteensquared and all the answers, and please do tell me which were your favourite clues in the comments below.

How strange was that? I got off to a flying start with this one, with five across entries going in almost without my having to think about them: BRUNEI (there aren’t that many six-letter countries starting with B and ending in EI), NEUTRINO (pretty obviously an anagram of sorts), the chestnuts BRIE and BANANA, and the straightforward charade TURN INTO. Naturally I wondered if we were going to get a fairly accessible puzzle with Bs on the left and Os on the right, and perhaps the whiff of a theme…

How wrong I was. My next in, PATIENCE disabused me of the B & O idea, although it was another read-the-clue-and-write-the-answer double definition. But then I struggled and struggled. I got there in the end, in considerably longer than my typical time, and even parsed everything, albeit with help from lists and the internet. But it was certainly hard work.

Did I enjoy it? Not really. In the end there were too many clues with obscurites or with too tightly-knotted word-play. How did the definition of WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA work? DJEMBE? NANDOO? How many of us know that Muswell Hill is in N10? And “place [bet]” for “ante”? Where did the Z come from in ENBLAZON? And what happened to the “n” in INDIA[N] INK? There were other, lesser question-marks, and perhaps other solvers had different experiences. It is rare for me not to get satisfaction from completing a tough puzzle, but I didn’t today.

My nomination for Clue of the Day goes to the simple, but rather neat 6d: “Circus attraction in London aching to travel north (4)”.

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

Over on Fifteensquared the original blogger noted that today a bit of lateral thinking was required, and in the comments somebody else noted that they entered a few unparsed. Today any lateral thinking seemed to be beyond me, as I entered most of the clues either with little idea of what was going on, or in several cases none at all. Now, I still finished easily under par for the i, so you could argue that I was given enough to work with, but it still felt like a far from comfortable solve where I half expected to grind to a halt any second when inspiration failed me. Interesting and enjoyable nevertheless, quite different to the puzzles we’ve had the rest of the week. Perhaps best described as lively? Let me know how you got on, anyway.

COD? I’ll go with 31ac – “French novelist’s ‘babbling stream and brook’ (8)”.

To December 2016 where thankfully the always reliable duncanshiell has all the answers and parsing of the clues: