Back in the autumn of 2016 when this puzzle first appeared, there was the phenomenon of Pokemon Go, a kind of letter-boxing done on mobile phones. In early October of that year, Eimi gave us a Pokemon theme (which appeared in the i in January), in late November 2016 Phi gave us this peripheral Nina – yes MACHAMP, STARMIE, MOLTRES and METAPOD are all Pokemon characters – I found that out from a website called ‘DLTK’s Sites for Kids – Growing Together’, and I sincerely hope that you have grown, along with me, and we’ve all learned something today – together.

To be honest the grid did rather scream Nina from the get-go, so I’m surprised so few on Fifteensquared realised. The blissfully ignorant RatkojaRiku’s blog is here.

Clues were what we’ve come to expect from Phi – about medium difficulty from him. Lots of deletions as ever, and one rather excellent one which gets my vote as COD:

6d Spot glam rock band ditching the hoop (6)

Even though I liked the clue, I don’t really think of them as being glam rock. Glam was Sweet, Mud, Slade, The Glitter Band, T Rex. Mott the Hoople were a bit better than that. Oh well, Bowie was Glam for a while I suppose, and Wikipedia is hard to argue with.

Whether one solved on-line or from the paper version, I hope no-one was stymied by the unfortunate mistake in 21d – an error compounded from the puzzle’s first appearance in 2016.

This was a fine, though certainly challenging crossword from a skilled setter. There was so much originality and lateral thinking – or misdirection, if you prefer – that it might be easier to note the ordinary clues, so to speak. But the highlights included the lovely “setter” for “bow-wow”, in BOW WINDOW, and the astute observation of a reversed “reveille” in WELL I NEVER. But the clue of the day, as far as I am concerned if the fabulous 27ac, where the definition doubles up as an anagram indicator (and it may be a kind of an &lit, but if I say so someone will set me to rights):

“Resort Lake District neighbours, for starters (6)”.

Having had an early break-through in the NW corner, I wondered whether there was going to be something going on with W, seeing four of them in the first three clues I solved. But no. No theme, no nina, no gimmick. Just a high-class, finely constructed cryptic.

One visit to my dictionary was necessary, to check on CREPITATE, the solving of which was followed by a brief period of reminiscing about childhood breakfasts. I could not parse NOMINAL at all, and I’m not sure if the clue, strictly speaking, actually works. But the crossers left me in no doubt what the answer ought to be.

Tees is one of those setters, I find, where you never know what you’re going to get. A real shocker of a solve with lots of (to me at least) unknown classical references, or, well, something pretty straightforward such as today’s. Because, despite this being a Thursday reprint, this was about as easy as they get (though of course no less enjoyable, and to be honest I prefer them like this). You might not have known who John Flamsteed was, but having untangled the friendly anagram at 1d you do now, and I suspect I wasn’t the only person to finish on 23d with a wry smile. A wry smile is what was occasioned by 10ac, “key” as being a musical one have reared its (to some) ugly head twice in two days. Oh well. Nothing I think that will have caused too many problems, nothing too controversial, just a pleasant solve to draw us towards the end of the week.

COD? For me it’s got to be the aforementioned 23d – “Subtle humour fey perhaps? (5)”.

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

We have a rare outing from Math to ease us through a thankfully truncated week, and one with an odd theme for the time of year. Yes, it’s films (and TV shows) of the spooky variety, whether by subject or title. Over in the comments on the other side Math himself explains the slightly eccentric original scheduling, should you be interested. The puzzle itself was pretty straightforward, solved about as quickly as they get, with only 12ac and 23ac going in unparsed. 4d gave a little pause for thought at the close until the possibility of another semi-themed entry clicked and in it went. An enjoyable offering overall, uncontroversial I think, and likely to be a crowd pleaser. But over to you to confirm or deny the latter.

COD? I’ll go with 10ac – “Like salad could be made more basic! (9)”.

Over to April 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

Today’s rather loose ghost theme concerns people whose careers lie in ruins, or 14ac in other words. Of late Radian’s Tuesday appearances have been quite challenging and this puzzle is by no means trivially straightforward, with some tricky constructions and vocabulary which does not come up every day. Good: this I like. What I didn’t particularly appreciate were the two American soldiers and the use of a setter’s name as a component. This isn’t unprecedented, but it feels cliquey.

No dictionary required this time, although in the case of 1d the chances of me spelling it correctly in other contexts would be remote. You can, however, depend on the wordplay. Features of interest include but are not confined to some pretty complex constructions (eg. 9, 10 and 25ac), a bit of whimsy (4ac, 11 and 19d), a couple of audacious homophones (17ac, 7d), and two notable oddballs: the unusually oblique 13ac and the very nice spot at 8d. The last two are obvious COD contenders, but my choice is 24ac:

“Choice of letters with unknown old duchy (8)”

For solutions and banter it’s back to March 2017 for Duncan’s Fifteensquared write-up.

Gila this week who unbeknown managed to surprise me on several counts. Firstly, by producing a puzzle that on first glance I had decided I was not going to enjoy (jigsaws being absolutely not my thing), only to find that I did, and by producing a gimmick that not only is I believe quite original, but also wasn’t one I decided I was going to dislike either.

Yes, you were expecting clashes to add to the general enjoyment of filling in a jigsaw too, weren’t you? And no, it wasn’t simply too much sun and draught beer that led you to have five answers too many at the close. Sun and draught beer both being things we’ve become unaccustomed to over the course of what has been a decidedly long couple of months.

The unexpected came courtesy too of what turned out not to be a hard slog cold-solving the clues which were in a handy alphabetical order, to be fair. Though it did take until I’d begun a steady and scarily fruitful run through them until I reached the first seven letter before I realised that we had some handily long answers that might aid with the grid fill. Because not only were there seven letter ones, but eleven and twelve too around the perimeter of a grid that fell in absolutely no time at all, after which this pretty much felt like a normal crossword.

It only took me a jiffy to guess that Peanuts was a STRIP CARTOON too. On fine form this week, Jon, on fine form.

Your grid-fill disagrees with mine? That wouldn’t surprise me either, my parsing of the clues with superfluous letters leading to the I-like-to-think-only moderately useless FO?K HERO APPEA?YEROMAIL ON OLD NORSE WARS?IP. Slightly coherent at the start and end. But the middle, let’s not talk about the middle.

None of which is going to lead to a name.

Thankfully, I did manage to cold solve four of the five answers which don’t have a place in the grid, being PAGE, PAWN, VALVE and NEEDLE. Figuring there must be a reason rather than randomness for them too, I looked in the BRB to see what they had in common, to find that they can all be leaves. A nifty Google of Five Leaves and (only moderately inspired there being few possible remaining letters in FO?K) Folk later…

Five Leaves Left, which I’ve not heard of, by NICK DRAKE, who I was sort of aware of. Vaguely. DRAKE too being part of a Viking ship, apparently, so at least I can claim to have solved part of the garbled cryptic clue presented above.

His remaining albums BRYTER LAYTER and PINK MOON comprising handily the 20 letters we had to highlight duly highlighted an appropriate shade of pink, and Nick’s name noted below the grid, I believe that’s job done. So thanks Gila for a thoroughly, and unexpectedly enjoyable solve.


It’s a Bank Holiday, and true to form there’s torrential rain and gales on the way, so we remain thankful for the i‘s puzzle section. Today’s offering from Nitsy won’t have held up many solvers for too long I suspect, so perhaps this is a good day for newer solves to take a look and perhaps make some encouraging progress. For myself at least there’s still the Inquisitor to take another look at, and the bathroom ceiling to paint.

The puzzle itself? 1d has been rewritten to bring it up to date, as suspected, and there was just the one – 1ac ironically – that I struggled with the parsing of. Elsewhere I made the SE corner more difficult for myself by lobbing a D rather than S at the end of 14ac, but soon saw the error of my ways, there being only so many modes of transport you’re likely to use to reach ER. Enjoyable and nicely done overall, with nothing I spotted likely to raise hackles.

Finish time as quick as they get here, to my surprise, my impression being that puzzles from Nitsy have been on the tricky side in the past.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 15d – “Reach hospital department on this? (9)”.

To September 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues, and a little confusion regarding the setter responsible for the puzzle:

Gila has some extremely plausible surface readings in these clues. In particular the anagrams, partial anagrams, and acrostic style clues have been put together with a lot of care, and for me that adds a whole extra layer of pleasure. I suppose some of the definitions could have been a bit more cryptic, but I enjoyed the overall experience plenty; chip in with your experience in the comments below.

Mind you, I did have to Google my LOI 1a John MADDEN; Both Cornicks Junior have an inexplicable passion for American Football (one even had a trial for the GB team, yes there is one) so I’ve been exposed to it more than most, but the name rang no bell whatsoever. Nor does Google have him in the 50 faces that appear in that strip when you enter ‘American sports commentators’. Maybe he’s considered ‘legendary’ because there’s a computer game named after him? (I only got there after initially checking ‘Harden’, which could also mean ‘aggravate’ I thought). MUU-MUU and ALLNESS both seemed a little odd in the grid-filling department, but were solvable from the wordplay. Both are the kind of words I feel compelled to check in the dictionary afterwards.

Plenty of ticks in my margin. An amusing surface in 8d NASAL, a believable one in 25d SIEVE, 21a with a reversal of ‘Epicer(ie)’ was interesting, plus more ticks for 2d, 6d, 21d, 23d and 15a. For the COD this one provided a fine penny-drop moment:

20d Strip for very little money (7)

Which also went down well back in 2016 on Fifteensquared. For the hyperlink to Duncan’s blog just click on (new word for me) this bit of HYPERTEXT.

Quick edit: Having just got around to reading Duncan’s fine blog, I wanted to express a slight difference of interpretation; I thought that ‘HYPER’ in 18d probably means ‘one who hypes’ hence the words in the clue which read ‘one flashily advertising’. That’s all!