For his theme, Radian has chosen an alleged genius remembered chiefly for his general racism, specific anti-Semitism, misogyny and a number of works referenced in both clues and solutions. For some reason he is held dear by much of the British public, but if you want something to get aerated about today that’s where I’d aim, rather than a couple of routine drug references and 4d. It was his hundredth birthday back in September 2016, by the way.

“Brompton!”, I hear you cry, and by golly, so ’tis. It was a bit north and south too, and in my case the former remained sparsely populated until after the latter was complete. 7, 8 and 13 staged a fierce resistance, and whilst I’m not bowled over by 8d, 7 is smashing and 12 is my COD runner-up. Whether the grid played a part is moot, but this felt quite challenging for a Radian: not especially suitable for inexperienced solvers or people who don’t want to knuckle down and do some concerted thinking. Everything parses to my satisfaction, but the definitions can be quite mischievous. If you want explanations, you can do no better than to consult Duncan at Fifteensquared.

Selecting a clue of the day from a Radian puzzle is usually troublesome, and it’s not as if the pickings are thin today. In addition to the aforementioned, 12, 20,23 and 24 all deserve a mention and no doubt others will have appealed. To my way of thinking there’s a stand-out winner just for once … well, I didn’t see that coming. 🙂

14ac: “It’s surprising you have to install Windows etc after crash (10)”

Saturday Inquisitor solves usually follow a night of what-I-like-to-call bacchanalian excess consisting of drinks and a marathon Top of the Pops session courtesy of BBC4. The COVID vaccine having put paid to the former (my head being bad enough as it is), and the badly timed demise of Phil to the latter (together with the rest of the TV schedule it would appear for the foreseeable), this one found me decidedly clear headed following a good night’s sleep, if still feeling slightly… odd.

Odd was a word which could best be applied to this week’s preamble, much of which it transpired could be safely ignored. Yes, we had lots of different gimmicks to apply to the clues when solving, and yes there was a spot of highlighting at the close, but all that stuff about grouping gimmicky things could be put to one side, as all that was required was to pick an appropriate gimmicked letter from each clue in order to give a list of tube lines plus the DOCKLANDS LIGHT RY (yep, there’s your abbreviation).

Not that I’m complaining, because my powers of deduction were waning at this point, despite a less than trying grid fill, albeit with some decidedly exciting picks from the BRB. The unlikely looking CTENE, RECOURE and BESSARABIAN were among my favourites, though the latter contains the sort of element that setters must thank the crossword gods for the existence of.

So, at the close with BANK and MONUMENT to the top and bottom of the grid, which link the aforementioned NORTHERN, CENTRAL, CIRCLE and DISTRICT LINES with the DLR, it was just left to work out what to highlight to link them. I guessed several hours before I spotted it what shape would be required, just from a tube map, but it would only be very late that night that I spotted ESCALATOR CONNECTION and finally whipped out the highlighters.

So job done, and enjoyed, but tell me I wasn’t the only person to look at that preamble and think – you what?

20210411_114002~2

Another week rolls around, and with it another offering by Hoskins, so you know what to expect. It only took until my second one in for a bit of “Congress” to make its first appearance, though it would take a while longer for the anticipated drugs references to appear. A little rock ‘n’ roll courtesy of Macca and Apple completes the set, though to be honest I barely had pause to consider what might be missing, as this was completed about as quickly as I could write. Which is to say, only a little slower than the new beefed up i Concise is sometimes these days. The sign at 12ac raised the proverbial eyebrow, but a glance in Chambers says it’s correct, as expected. Elsewhere there is little to comment on, and lots to enjoy, so thanks, Hoskins, for a good start to the week.

COD? I’ll go with 17ac – “Good drugs seen repeatedly in Hackney? (3-3)”.

To April 2017 for all the answers, parsing of the clues, and lots and lots from Hoskins in the comments:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/24/independent-9525-by-hoskins/

Rather enjoyable from Phi this week, with a well-judged puzzle of medium difficulty for the i, I thought, stiffening up in the South West. But judging from some of the comments over at Fifteensquared where you can find the answers, you won’t be alone if you found it tough going. We were required to have a fair bit of general knowledge today – A PANE of stamps was fine but 17a UNICAMERAL was my last one in and I felt compelled to check it really was a word, although now I feel like I’ve always known it (usually a good sign, that). Then there was RED-EYE as a kind of flight which I only learned recently (from a crossword) and the potentially confusing ‘writer of entertainments’ to describe Graham Greene – something else I recently learned from a crossword solve – it’s jolly educational this crosswording malarkey.

I also liked some of the innovative clueing: 4d had an indirect deletion, 3d referenced the following clue, and 18d referenced itself as ‘clue’ – why not – I can’t recall seeing it before. Indeed I had a sprinkling of ticks by the end, so hats off to Phi for entertainment. Runner-up for favourite clue was for the aforementioned 17a, but my pick of the bunch was the following for its excellent surface reading:

14d Confused fellow had carnal thoughts about the Queen (9)

At which I realise I’m probably encouraging the writing of yet more lewd and irreverent clues. If you’re reading this setters, just don’t cross the line or you’ll have Topsy and Willow to answer to!

And what about Phi’s famous (or infamous) ghost themes or Ninas? Once again nobody spotted anything until Phi hinted in the Fifteensquared comments that it’s something to do with the month of March – so apart from WEDDING March and FROG March there are another six you could go hunting for if you feel the urge. For the completists among us this leaves a slight harrumphing feeling at the end of an otherwise pleasant experience. And that’s probably why I’ll grumpily point out a difference between Phi and myself: He calls it a Nina, I would call it a ghost theme. But this is old ground, I just have to accept that it’s what he does.

Morph has given us a relatively gentle puzzle with which to while away a little time this Friday morning. I don’t think there is anything controversial, or anything tightly convoluted enough to hold up even improving solvers, never mind the more experienced amongst us. For myself, my first in was the second clue I read, AKIN, followed by IDIOM, after which I worked more or less systematically clockwise round to the NW corner, each clue yielding fairly readily in its turn. Only with the final few clues, in the NW bit, did I find I needed to chew things over a little more, my last in being EVENS.

There was plenty of inventiveness and creativity on display, and it was never at the expense of the fine surface readings throughout the crossword. In particular, the clues winning ticks and smiles in my margin were: KNAVERY, with its neat double meaning of “state”, ROBIN HOOD, EXCRETE, the nicely-done hidden inclusion of SALAD HERB, the novel clueing of “us” by “Biden’s nation” in ONUS, and YAWN. But to my mind there is only one possible clue of the day, which is the excellent 1d: “Fail to consider what Little Red Riding Hood’ll do with wolf and bear (4,3,7)”.

To March 2017 for this crossword’s first outing, and all the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/11/independent-crossword-9488-by-morph/

As anticipated this morning something a little more testing in the form of Tyrus, who can often be quite fierce. I found this however to be more accessible than some of his offerings, though very much still a stop start solve. An initial sweep through the clues yielding only 9d was somewhat alarming, admittedly, but from there I began to make inroads, firstly in the NW corner. The actor and magazine opened things up very nicely, together with the pretty easy when you thought about it 16d, but the isolated corners of the grid still meant that when I got to SW at the last it took a lucky guess at 17ac and punt on 18d to get enough checking letters to get the rest. Which is to say that I finished with a complete grid in about average time, but with a number of question marks I may or may not have been able to resolve. Quality stuff it goes without saying, enjoyable in a torturous sort of way, and a little risqué too that will not I know be to some solvers’ tastes.

COD? I’ll go with the nicely spotted 28/2 – “Cast make change with new actor (4,7)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/18/independent-9494-sat-18-mar-2017-tyrus/

An IoS reprint eases us through midweek, and one that won’t have held up experienced solvers for long. If you didn’t know the band or had forgotten the film (as I had) you might have had pause for thought, but I suspect not for long as the wordplay for each was as clear as you would like, and elsewhere most of the definitions were pretty clearly signposted. Both though at least were the sort of contemporary references that the crossword world could do with more of, so ticks here beside both. A good solid puzzle that I would suggest pointing towards new solvers who should be able to make pretty good progress unaided. Finish time here about as quick as they get – first in the meat, which was the first one I glanced at, last the diminutive pet.

COD? I’ll go with 26ac – “Kelly and Morecambe, perhaps, overlapping of a kind? (7)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/19/independent-on-sunday-1412-hypnos/

Thought I’d have to recuse myself and hand over to Charmaine this morning, but I’ve no recollection of ever having solved this puzzle before. No rules broken; happy to make myself available to the inquiry etc etc. It’s rather disappointing actually, with no heptuple pangram or peripheral Nina in Cornish … just a bunch of random words. Oh, all right then, there’s a theme, but an effete, elitist intellectual snob like me could hardly be expected to pick up on it. The explanation from the horse’s mouth as it were can be found in comment 13 on John’s Fifteensquared blog entry.

As it happens I did spot it, so there. Even managed to match up a few of the nicknames to the appropriate clubs, but clearly accounting for all of them is a job for an enthusiast. Suffice to say that an impressive percentage of the solutions are thematic, but it should be perfectly possible to enjoy the crossword unaware that there’s any jiggery pokery going on at all. This, of course, is as it should be when a ghost theme is properly implemented.

As usual the watchword with the clues is variety, and a good deal of inventiveness. 19d is perhaps rather well worn, but on the whole the feel is very fresh. The more lateral thinking required the greater the chance of those penny drop moments which make solving worthwhile, and sure enough there were quite a few smiles along the way today. One or two groans as well: yes, we are talking Puff the Magic Dragon. Dearie me. Because I am lazy I shall deprive readers of a long list my favourite clues: shout out yours, why don’t you? I am contractually obliged, however, to select a clue of the day, and since the puzzle is a celebration of a popular ball game it seems only right to go with 27ac:

“Midweek match time sees Ding become ‘born leader of snooker’ (9)”

The crossword originally appeared in March 2017, and I think I’m right in saying that there are a fair few further example’s of Cornick’s oeuvre for us to look forward to. Huzza!

The question on my lips at least was what was in store for the Bank Holiday weekend. A Carte Blanche with misprints and clashes to keep us usefully occupied over the extra days off, or a swift solve and off you toddle into the (fleeting) sunshine. A bit of the latter, it transpires, with a swiftish grid fill and an odd end game for those of us without copies of the volumes recommended in the preamble to hand.

There are, of course, swift grid fills and there are swift grid fills, this one grinding to a halt round about SPED and EEYORE to the SE (and how I kicked myself on finally twigging the latter), and the rather amusing BELCH and CHUCKLE to the NW. Blame the sunshine. Blame Russian Standard vodka with a healthy dose of Corona. At least we had GOLLUM and the eternal search for his precious to aid with one of the first clashes spotted.

The clashes you will have to take my word for I suspect. I can’t read them anyway. But there are three letters in each – one from each crossing clue, and one “intruder” between to make up real words all round. My copy is barely legible with one letter in each cell, never mind three.

The culprit? It’s got to be a BAD THING, hasn’t it? And what do bad things do? Well, they come in threes. As in, that worrying engine over-heating warning coming from your son’s car, the water dripping down the chimney, and alarmingly mobile bathroom tiles. But I’m sure you have tales of woe all of your own.

BAD THINGS COME IN THREES

Tell me about it, but thankfully Poat’s puzzle isn’t among them, so cheers, and a belated Happy Easter all round. Finally, with apologies for the scan which appears to have been taken at the bottom of a dark pit:

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This is my first day back in work, the first (proper) day the kids have had back in school since November, and the car is in the garage for repairs, so needless to say the morning has been frantic so far, and I was therefore quite pleased to see Poins’ name above the crossword, and it transpires an IoS reprint too. Thankfully I started as per usual in the SE corner, so that by the time I got to 4ac I had enough checking letters in place not to fall for PIKESTAFF (though I did stare long and hard at what must be the answer afterwards, sure I must have dropped a clanger somewhere, but no). With the slightly odd 6d crossing this meant that corner was probably the trickiest, but the rest went in with little ado and no fuss, with only 4d unparsed at the close. Finish time then comfortably under par for the i, and enjoyed throughout.

COD? I’ll go with 10ac – “Neglected in spite of Newton embracing traditional learning endlessly (7)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/12/independent-on-sunday-1411-by-poins/