A Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint from Klingsor today, which means something a little on the tough side while always scrupulously fair and enjoyable. I found this to be a nice mix of easier ones to get you into the puzzle, and some that were a little more testing, notably 12ac which has both a composer that wasn’t the first to spring to mind and an obscure dance, and a gas down at 24d that I don’t remember encountering in a crossword before, so that’s another one to memorise. 🙂 There’s a rare error at 14ac that hasn’t been corrected, not that I noticed, because it was one of many I lobbed in based on the definition without bothering to fully parse. Finish time just a little over par for these parts for what was another good one.

COD? Well, it’s got to be 4/5, one of several that raised a smile – “Make half-hearted attempt to swim in sewer? (2,7,3,7)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/01/28/independent-9452-by-klingsor-saturday-puzzle-28-january-2017/

An early offering from Eccles today to ease us through midweek that I found to be of about average difficulty. For the most part fair, with no oddities but it transpires two (3ac and 28ac) I can’t spell. V for “vice” was a bit much for a daily cryptic, and “expressive type of music” was pushing things a little, but elsewhere all was present and correct and parsed on solving. There’s some debate on the other side regarding 18ac, but as the clue says “often”, and this keyboard at least has “Home” next to the enter key, I’ll let it pass. 😉

COD? Let’s go with 9d – “Upwardly mobile Trump, without hesitation, starts to invite Russian multi-millionaires onto American land (5,5)”

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/01/11/independent-9437-eccles/

Radian (who has supplied fully a quarter of this year’s Tuesday puzzles thus far, by the way), has not been making things easy of late. The last few have tended towards thorniness, but today normal service has been resumed, I think. So, here we have a crossword of mild to moderate difficulty with varied clues of consistent high quality, and an extraordinary amount of thematic material. The only cloud on the horizon, and I can’t say that it bothered me much, is the Bromptonesque grid.

Now, when I suggest that this was fairly gentle, your mileage may very well vary. John’s did, back in January 2017, but his write-up for Fifteensquared is a model of magnanimity. Anyway, perhaps we can all agree that the setter did a sterling job of crowbarring so much woody stuff in with almost nothing in the way of obscurities. 16ac needed checking in my case, but just for purposes of confirming what is clearly the correct answer. On non-blogging days I probably wouldn’t have bothered. I have no quibbles, and no inclination to expose myself to a charge of “pedantic grumpiness” two days running, either. Opinions on 5d would be interesting, however: it’s fine by me.

Of note: well, this is always difficult with Radian. Generally there’s a COD and about twenty runners-up snapping at its heels, which is the case today. There was a lot of good stuff in the NE corner, I thought, but pipe up if you have favourites to nominate. Mine was the aforementioned and doubly clever 16ac:

“Tree in Maracaibo yielding saccharin now and then (4)”

Autumn has come early it appears, presaged by torrential rain and freezing temperatures. Yes, now we’re allowed out, the gods have evidently considered it to be rather droll and amusing to ensure that we won’t want to. Never mind, this week’s Inquisitor looks like it will occupy some little time, lacking clue numbers in the grid and other such handy crossword staples.

So what do we have? Something to mark 10 years of Nimrod managing the IQ (congratulations again, btw!)? Something ghostly as hinted at in the title? That would have a little too obvious, of course.

Progress this week was also rather obviously slow, only LINGULAR of the longer answers falling with any rapidity. I say falling, but rather noted beside its clue. Saturday lunchtime I tend to wake up sufficiently to make further progress on tricky numbers such as this, but this week it appeared this wasn’t going to happen, phrases like “grinding to a halt” and “slow creeping despair” springing to mind.

As often happens with these jigsaw things, the phrase “bugger it” also sprang to mind, and I started chucking a few in. Very lightly. The aforementioned long one handily crossing with SENIOR and ATTUNES, which I also had. This proved to be a false dawn despite an initial feeling of elation, so with a further throwing of caution to the wind, a more successful assault on the NW corner ensued (DISPROOFS at this point being one of many of the longer ones that looked likely but that I couldn’t parse beyond the housing bit, ST BERNARD and LOVE SEAT also having conspired to mystify me completely). I would say that I got lucky, but I suspect that astute cluing and a carefully considered grid-fill by Kruger are actually at the heart of the matter.

Having vaguely registered that there were unclued entries, a glance at the by-this-point rapidly filling grid indicated that they might well be PHILBY, MACLEAN, BLUNT and BURGESS (in no particular order, unless accidentally so). Spooky matters of the espionage kind.

With a final stab in the dark at MEWS, the grid now to all intents and purposes complete.

To all intents and purposes because my unwanted letters as per also contained a number of unwanted question marks. Jotting them down having led to a seemingly random collection of letters, the aforementioned despair seemed likely to raise its ugly head again, despite good odds on the endgame being a highlighting of a very obvious CAIRNCROSS (aka the fifth man) across one diagonal.

Highlight it, and hope for the best? Or take note of the “normal clue order” bit in the preamble?

CLU?? ?EADI?? ?ETTERS

The first bit was evidently going to be CLUES or CLUED, the latter LETTERS, and the middle bit? LEADING, perchance? So, taking leading letters from the across clues in normal order:

HIGHLIGHT FIFTH MAN

As expected. At which point words such as “marvellous” and “bravo” sprang to mind, perhaps just because I’d unexpectedly managed to finish the thing, but also because that was all rather good. From title to preamble and through to the close, a very nicely thought out puzzle, that, well, entertained on a wet, dreary day. Congratulations all around, indeed.

20210508_162352~2

An interesting challenge from Hoskins kicks us off this Monday, and yet again one that I wouldn’t classify as being a gentle introduction to the week. Hoskins is always good value for money though, and as lively as ever, so there aren’t any complaints from this quarter at least. Inventive wordplay rather than obscurities (barring “small-town” in 18d, though I’m sure you guessed it) will have been the main culprit today, meaning an unaccustomed amount of brain power was required. The expected quota of slightly risqué elements was present and correct, meaning I’m sure everybody got what they hoped and expected when they spotted Hoskins’ name. Finish time a little over par, with 13d my LOI.

COD? One that needed a little lateral thinking here, for which I will forgive the slightly creaky surface reading, 17d – “Want wordplay that leads the solver to silver? (8)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/01/30/independent-9453-by-hoskins/

It seems a while since we’ve had a Crosophile puzzle to get our teeth into, and this one is from back in September 2016 – so the selection we get in the i continues to jump back and forth through the archives for reasons which are entirely beyond my ken. The original blog on Fifteensquared is here.

This was a fairly typical offering by the standards of both this setter and indeed the i. The grid seemed to lend itself to being solved in quarters, but with the NW proving too tricky I soon moved on, finding more traction on the RHS. Among some innovative clues thereabouts were 22d with an interesting instruction to see the answer in GOd WE truST, and 24a with a nifty substitution of the Y in Boycott to give BOG COTTON. 18a PERCEPTIVE deserves a mention for its original wordplay, although I’m not 100% convinced as to its fairness. However, as so often happens it was the trickiest clues in the puzzle which yielded the outstanding candidates for CoD – yes, in that thorny NW corner. 10a OUTTAKE and 3d MEADOW were both in the running, but it’s this one that gets my vote, for its elegant surface reading, construction, simplicity, and misdirection:

12a TV presenter in a late 11th century church? (9)

On to the quibbles now: Unlike the 2016 blogger NealH I had no problem with the use of KS2 in 5a. Anyone who has been, or has had, a child since 1980 will know the term, so will other people unless they habitually skip every newspaper article headed ‘Education’. Nor did I have a problem with 28a NO LESS, or my CoD (obviously) both of which puzzled our blogger back in the day. I do have two objections though. The wordplay in 1d PROSAIC and also in 16a DOWN-AND-OUT could charitably be described as libertarian, but for me neither of them followed Afrit’s famous injunction that “You need not mean what you say, but you must say what you mean”. Both caused a wrinkling of the Cornick nose.

Stop Press.

I’ve just read the comments on Fifteensquared and it appears there’s a niche ghost theme à la Phi. I missed it. So now I feel I didn’t finish the puzzle after all. But it’s so subtle I never would have done. This is my pet hate. Am I getting paranoid or is the person who schedules these things deliberately trying to wind up the Saturday blogger at idothei?

SKEW-WHIFF. I don’t this I have seen that word in print before, and I have certainly never written it myself. Had I ever done so, how would I have spelled it, I wonder. Would I have included an H? Would I have had two Ws? Would I have hyphenated it? I might have been tempted by “skew-wiff”. Or I might have chosen a different word altogether. Both Chambers and the Shorter Oxford have it hyphenated with an H as SKEW-WHIFF, rather than as the one unhyphenated word that the enumeration instructs today. But, hey, let’s follow the implied advice of 1D and not sweat the SMALL STUFF.

This was a tough, but totally impressive puzzle. It took me much longer than usual, and it was quite a while before I was in Hob’s groove. There was great creativity and imagination on display, and plausible surface readings throughout. And at the end I had no unresolved queries or quibbles over any word-play, and needed the internet only for confirmation of SESTINA, NEGUS and BONESET.

It’s one of those puzzles with a lot of interconnecting clues. COLE PORTER and SENATOR in particular took a lot of thinking about before the answers revealed themselves. There was a nice theme, but you didn’t need to recognise it to complete the crossword, although I suspect getting (c)ELLA(r) might have been tougher without FITZGERALD. I think the proper names were all sufficiently mainstream to be uncontroversial.

I have no hesitation in nominating 20ac as the clue of the day. A bit racy, I know, but funny nonetheless: “Better half of Biden’s day involves loss of virginity? On the contrary (5,4)”.

Follow this link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/25/independent-9526-hob/

Something a little more challenging today that I suspect will please one or two regulars. Serpent as ever offers up excellent, entirely fair clues, but this was one of those puzzles where you needed to look carefully in particular for definitions that weren’t always obvious and often well hidden (“complex” springs to mind). Combine that with a plant to the NW you might not have known, a form of advertising that I suspect is little seen these days, and a synonym for “squint” that I didn’t know, together with a late night and some mid-week drinks, and you had the makings of a bit of a slog. Though an always engaging, enjoyable one, that left me feeling quietly pleased with myself on completion. It took about twice my average time, but it was time well spent I like to think. Some of the factors that contributed to my unexpectedly slow solve might not apply to you, so do let me know how you got on.

COD? I especially liked 17/27 – “Bowdlerise adventure story without craft (5,4)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/20/independent-9522-serpent/

Comments

May 12, 2021

Despite previous requests, we’re still having the odd problem in the comments threads. In particular, long “tit for tat” threads where what are relatively minor issues seem to be getting blown up and previous comments picked apart point by point. So can I ask again please that you make your point and move on, don’t jump on other comments, and be nice to each other. This is, after all, only a crossword that we are supposed to be enjoying. In the short term I’m considering reinstating moderation of comments (which I’ll deal with fellow bloggers, no fear!) – I’m working full time, so if I do so and your comment takes a while to clear, please be patient. If that doesn’t work, I’ll be disabling threads altogether, which would be a pity, as for the most part a nice rapport has built up between contributors to the blog, which a more “flat” structure in the comments makes more difficult. Thank you…

We have a themed offering on the subject of 17ac today, and one I found to be on the tough side here and there, especially to the SE corner. I twigged the theme on finally twigging 12/2 (the checking letters being key), at which point what had been a pretty slow solve began to resemble something more akin to a gentle jog. I’m familiar enough with the works in question to lob in quite a few, but if you weren’t then I suspect this will have been a bit of as struggle. Quite a few I couldn’t parse either, notably 10ac and 22ac, the latter it transpires featuring a bit of Punk’s trademark wordplay. I should have realised. Finish time a little over par for the i, and enjoyed needless to say.

COD? Let’s go with the less than obvious 17ac – “Spooner’s Punkish director? (4,5)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/18/independent-9520-by-punk/