Today’s puzzle was a debut for Silvanus in the Independent, and in the i too I think, so congratulations – if rather belatedly! I thought this was an enjoyable offering, though more testing than some we get on a Monday, with 7d my first in having started with the last down, and then at the close a bit of a tussle with the SW corner, finishing a little over par. Some of that will have been my fault, having lobbed in DISTRUST for 26ac and subsequently struggled to think of an appropriate comedian.

I was thrown a little by “openers” in 13ac, expecting as did other solvers that to lead to OP, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard the classified section called the ad pages – small ads, yes – but that might just be me.

Lots to enjoy, with the misdirection in the definition at 17d in particular nicely done, though loads it must be said went in not fully parsed. I believe this is the first Silvanus I’ve solved, and found it to be promising overall. I know we’re going to get loads more, so a big thumbs up here.

COD? I’ll go with 4ac – “Film star in cubicle nearest the door? (8)”.

To March 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

With BEATRICE and BENEDICK as the first and last across answers, clued as ‘Shakespearean heroine’ and ‘Shakespearean character’ respectively, even the most theme-blind among us will surely have spotted today’s ghost theme. Let’s hope this heralds a new era of Phi themes that are gettable – I’d like that. In addition to those two we also had the characters VERGES and HERO plus a possible nod towards the clown Dogberry with HOUND and [blue]BERRY, although you might call that last a ‘near miss’. What definitely was a near miss was the title of the play – I’m sure many of us were expecting ‘Much’ somewhere in the grid to accompany [avoc]ADO, ABOUT and NOTHING, but no. Phi explains in the comments over at Fifteensquared that he fell foul of the Independent’s ban on triple-light entries. A bit strange that, as he’s made the same complaint before, so presumably had either forgotten the rule when he compiled the grid, or perhaps it was originally intended for a different outlet. In addition to that lot we also had BERLIOZ who based an opera on the play, and Ken BRANAGH, who directed and starred in the 1993 film.

I solved this steadily a corner at a time and was left with the four intersecting clues in the centre to finish with. Each proved tricky: BLUEBERRY had ERR defined by ‘mistake’ which I’ve only just realised can be a synonym; BARRICADE had ‘about’ to clue CA where it took me an age to twig which sense of ‘about’ I was looking for; then BRATTISH and INSECURE both needed a good deal of squinting to make them work.

To follow on from recent recurring themes in the i, A BON MARCHE does indeed appear in Chambers dictionary – I didn’t mind that one, although ‘looked dim’ to clue GLIMMERED was another instance of my needing to squint somewhat.

Some good clues dotted around the place – I enjoyed those for NUDGE and ABACI in particular, but my COD nomination goes to this one for its 2021 topicality – especially for fans of Liverpool FC:

3d Country free to invite in present-day soccer team (4,6)

This was a delight to solve. It’s a reprint of a Sunday prize crossword, but it seemed to me to be a little more challenging than those usually are. That’s not to say it was for experienced solvers only – I for one completed it without needing to resort to aids, electronic or dead-tree, albeit in a little over my typical time. There were no obscurities to be discovered or requiring a check, and the word-play is impeccable. My only trip to the interenet was to refresh my memory of the horse-meat scandal of some years ago.

What I liked in particular was the creativity and originality for us to savour, for example dogfight to indicate a sky-scrap, and line manager for angler. And throughout, the surface readings were splendidly realistic.

The ones I liked best were WALLIAMS, MARINER and SUEDE. I was tempted to nominate FACTORIES as clue of the day, but perhaps that is a little unfair, on the whole, in view of the fact that I’m grateful to have had my first jab, so my nomination goes to 8d, for its smooth surface reading, and for the mental image it evokes: “Sex brought about visible inflammation and fatigue (9)”.

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

I said yesterday that other setters could take lessons from Dac in how to clue pretty uncommon words, and what do we have today but yet another object lesson. In the NW corner we had an unusual spelling of a pretty obscure shelter for pilgrims, an inability to coordinate you may or may have not have known, together with a bit of mythology I for one certainly didn’t. All of which might have made for a pretty tough corner of the grid, but each was as nicely clued as you would like, so in they all went without hesitation. Which is lucky, because at least one you would be better off checking in the BRB than Google, the latter insisting on the more common spelling. Elsewhere we had a couple of contemporary references which can only be a good thing if we’re to continue attracting younger solvers, a little humour too, all of which is to say that I very much liked this. There’s some comparison between this puzzle and one by our very own Maize over on the other side (does this mean he has another reprint up and coming?), but to my mind the puzzles we’re seeing coming through from newer (at the time) setters shows a strength and willingness to innovate that bodes well for the future.

First in today where I started at 22d, last in 8ac, finish time similar to yesterday’s.

COD? I’m going to break tradition by going with the combination of 7 and 8ac:

7ac – “Unfinished track cut by a popular backing musician … (7)”
8ac – “… who has a number one? (7)”

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

As John says in his Fifteensquared blog, what more is there to say? Nothing controversial, nothing you could find fault with, just the usual consummate performance from the master. There’s a play, jazz musician and citrus fruit that many won’t have known (myself included), but this being Dac you can take all entirely on trust. Other setters could take note. 😉 Finished in a jiffy, and enjoyed throughout.

COD? So many to pick from, but let’s go with 19ac – “Description of many women idly swimming in Windermere? (8)”.

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

A welcome appearance by Alchemi today, who seems long overdue. Of all the setters he’s the one who is most likely to put in an appearance here, so if you’re around, Michael, there’s a perch by the brazier and a beaker of Bovril waiting.

Readers who have been around for a while will be aware that today’s theme is guaranteed to go down well at Batarde Towers; real old timers might even recall the egregious pun which is highly likely to get another airing if the comments run true to form. Of course, the subject is another of those great Poets Laureate we never got, like Benjamin Zephaniah, John Cooper Clarke and Pam Ayres. Alchemi explains all in the first comment on the December 2016 Fifteensquared blog entry, and if anyone is unfamiliar with the great man’s oeuvre, I suggest they toddle off to Youtube and mug up.

I’m pleased to report that, quite apart from thematic considerations, this felt like something of a tour de force. There really is an awful lot of good entertaining stuff going on, and the breezy solving process was further enlivened by a few eyebrow raisers, penny-drop moments and wry chuckles. I’m pretty sure that 25ac is the first instance of Rickrolling I’ve seen in a crossword. In the interests of brevity, here are my edited highlights: 10, 13, 17, 22, and somehow the usual reservations didn’t seem to apply to 6d. Smashing. As for the COD, well this will surprise nobody:

20/19 “City where I’ve left carrot for a singer (4,7)”

By the time I’d completed this week’s Inquisitor I felt as hapless as poor Göring must have done on discovering that he’d been well and truly bamboozled by VAN MEEGEREN (who is apparently something of a national hero in the Netherlands), having chosen in my wisdom to split the letters not required in the down clues thus:


Though I was to be fair feeling quietly chuffed with myself on having successfully parsed all the clues and got the correct letters, confirmed via the very well observed and engineered anagram CHRIST AND THE ADULTERESS, being the painting Göring thought that he had in his greasy paws.

It would only be much later, after a restorative lunch, that the realisation that he might in fact be HARD LINE SS dawned. As indeed he was.

Letters duly amended, and the players in the piece highlighted.

But to end at the beginning, the grid fill went as steadily as they do here, hampered only by the necessity of counting where the extra letters were in the down clues. The BRB to hand, oddities such as TROELY and ENTEROPNEUSTS could hardly be described as being a problem, unlike the French which I had to Google. Should you consider accusing the Inquisitor of being too high-brow, in the middle of the grid Mr Lydon himself makes a guest appearance.

Was I alone in being suspicious of the number of Z’s, and of LEO and LENO in close proximity? I suppose the latter was of help if you didn’t know Fibonacci’s first name (my first hopeless guess that he was a Dane being, well, considerably wide of the mark). It appears though that there is nothing afoot, unless I’ve missed something which is always possible. Perhaps Vismut was just having a little fun with the grid.

But done I think, and, well, enjoyed. Thanks Vismut, and thumbs up to the editor for the sentiments expressed in this week’s Give Me a Clue.

An enjoyable, reasonably straightforward puzzle from the ever reliable and always entertaining Raich kicks off the week. Some of the parsing left me a little puzzled, in particular 10d, but perhaps I just wasn’t concentrating enough. There are question marks on the other side regarding 14ac and 20d, but both look fine to me, slightly whimsical definitions surely being our stock in trade? Finish time considerably under par for the i, as expected at this stage of the week.

COD? Loads to pick from, with my nomination going to 17d – “He’s kinda nasty maybe? (8)”.

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

First of all, if you’ve come here after reading John Henderson’s piece on page 56, then welcome. The answers to those two clues were NONPLUS (NN= news around 0 + PLUS) and STONEHENGE (an anagram of GETS around ONE HEN).

Our business is blogging the daily cryptic in the i – in addition to which Jon Summers will be doing the same for the Inquisitor each Tuesday morning, a week and a bit after publication. Each Inquisitor is original, but the daily cryptics are nearly always reprints from the Independent on-line of around 4 years ago, in a rolling cycle of cruciverbial devilment. To provide the answers we give readers a link to the original blog on Fifteensquared. So simply click on those blue letters for an embedded link back to late 2016.

But is that cheating? Ha! The answer to that is entirely up to you. To my mind there is a sliding scale of cheats from hollering out to my wife ‘What’s the name of that French revolutionary again? You know, 5 letters ending in ‘T’?’ through to using a dictionary, a wordfinder, or if I’m completely stuck, coming to idothei and Fifteensquared. And in any case I come here to read my fellow bloggers, to see the parsings of any clues I’m not sure about, and to join in the crossword chat in the comments below. Do join us!

And what a cracker we had from Morph today. I have nothing but good to say about this one. In truth he’s one of my favourite setters anyhow, but he’s also one who seems to raise his game even higher when he has a theme like today’s, based around the centrally placed 15 across. Like so many others that clue was initially perplexing, but upon being solved one is left admiring yet another elegant piece of wordplay. There are so many excellent clues around the grid in fact – 6d, 7d, 2d, 15d, 23d, 26a, even the rather convoluted 19d Shih-tzu which I can never remember how to spell – but my Clue Of the Day (COD) nomination must go to our gateway clue. Here it is again:

15a 0.9 (3)

There may well be a few talking points today – I note that in addition to Morph the esteemed setter Quixote has chipped in in the comments on the other side, not that I agree with him. With regard to the Americanism in 6d (similar to yesterday’s use of ‘punk’) may I simply point out that Morph has deliberately given us the US spelling of arse – ‘ass’ – which I would say makes it a fair bit of wordplay, as ‘fanny’ is an American term for the buttocks, apparently.

A gentle and accessible Sunday reprint awaited us this morning, giving us the kind of pleasant and enjoyable solve which is all over a little too soon.

Thats not to say the puzzle was completely straightforward. The parsing of the crossing ADONIS and DISORDER both had me scratching my head; “as” clued by “what”, and “did” by “prepared” both seemed a bit of a stretch, at least to me, and I was glad that the November 2016 blog confirmed that each was correct.

Elsewhere, although less puzzlingly, one needed a little knowledge of who took part in classical orgiastic cults, and that the erstwhile King Charles X of France had been at times an exile. But both were clearly clued, so I doubt they would have caused too much trouble. And is it fair, in view of the sensibilities of other setters, to clue “pun(k)” with “thug”? 🙂

The Clue of the Day award goes to the rather amusing 18ac. This had me stumped for a bit, until I realised what it was and laughed out loud: “In which you may recognise Pollock’s abusive language (12)”.