i Cryptic Crossword 3226 Phi

June 10, 2021

Well, not only do we have Phi on a Thursday rather than the more customary Saturday, but also it seems an unresolved mystery. Various solvers back in the day had a stab at spotting the theme (should there even be one), but it appears to be a matter still unresolved. Now, I don’t take much of an interest in such things, but I imagine this may bother one or two regulars. 😉 My best guess is that the central blocked out squares are somehow significant, but I could also of course be horribly wrong.

An enjoyable puzzle nevertheless – on the tricky side for Phi I thought, that is unless you managed to solve the longer entries quicker than I did. As it was I laboured for a while over them, clocking up a time in total a little over par for the i. I also failed miserably to parse 14ac and 20ac, but all is explained over on the other side. Other points of interest would be the small number of clues, and a typo at 21ac which did mislead me for a while. No obscurities in the final grid, any difficulty coming from the wordplay alone, which is the way I like them, so a big thumbs up here.

COD? I’ll go with 6d – “Element of weather, one interrupting American leisure and work (8)”.

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


12 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3226 Phi”

  1. Saboteur said

    I too was convinced there must be a theme: strange grid with a hole in the middle, all those perimeter lights uncrossed, and a small number of clues. And it’s a Phi. The setter’s response on 225 to our very own Cornick suggests that there is one. Despite my aversion to spending more than a nanosecond in searching for Phi-themes, my interest was piqued sufficiently by the grid to look for one – but to no avail.

    Otherwise, a very enjoyable solve, with lots to get one’s teeth into. I did like MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD; took me a while to work that one out, despite the visual reminder I carry around with me.

    • Cornick said

      Well I still think I’m right about the inspiration for the puzzle being it’s having only 22 clues. Witness his comments on his recent puzzle with 24. 4 years ago I said ‘it’s hard to imagine a grid with fewer clues’, to which Phi replied ‘Oh no it isn’t’. I think he was referring to my assertion, rather than my guess about the puzzle’s ‘theme’.
      He’s right of course, one could easily imagine the empty grid with just 14 lights, but filling it with real words would be impossible.
      Btw, some of the clues were Phi at his very best, I thought – MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD and RAINDROP among them.

      • Saboteur said

        I see what you mean. I hadn’t thought of his response as meaning that. 14 entries of 16 letters sounds like a challenge…

  2. batarde said

    I unequivocally enjoyed this one, and have no wish to spoil things by playing the theme game. One would imagine that getting the six 15-letter lights into a grid uncontaminated by oddities would be enough of a gimmick for most setters … but it’s unlikely to have satisfied Phi. Anyway, nice well-balanced puzzle with plenty of variety and no annoying boggy bits.

  3. Brock said

    Both 10a and 11a are theatrical farces (by Ben Travers and Roger Hall respectively). There’s also a theatrical reference at 5d. Could Phi’s comment of “Oh no it isn’t” refer to the phrase commonly cried out at pantomimes?

    • Cornick said

      Hi Brock. I think you’re right. Two-and-a-half entries would never ordinarily constitute a theme, but I could well believe Phi has lists of 15-letter entries, and with the grid pattern more-or-less decided upon to give the 22 entries (a world record for a 15×15?), the two plays might well have been the first ones in.

  4. Willow said

    No idea about the theme – if any – but the central square was striking. An excellent puzzle – many thanks. I realised there was a typo in CLERICAL, as did many others, but it is interesting how the solver’s mind works in these instances. My only (trivial) quibble was the use of the word AND in a clue which included wordplay resulting in R AND R.

  5. Veronica said

    Enjoyable solve, though I didn’t finish. My geography is worse than Jon’s 😊, and I didn’t get CHAMONIX. I did look up “chamonil”!

    I decided either a typo in 21 across, or that several men are called Eric! Worked well enough for me.

    Some lovely clues. I’m another lover of RAINDROP. I also liked CUCKOO IN THE NEST, MIDDLE AGE SPREAD (ah moment when finally parsed), CAPILLARY ACTION and EGGNOG.

  6. dtw42 said

    I got no further than 1/3 of the way through this by the end of the day and then gave up. Just couldn’t do it.

  7. allan_c said

    The only thing I can think of as a theme, apart from my comment back in 2017, is that all the long answers have a double letter in them, as another commenter suggested back in 2017.
    Pity the original typo wasn’t corrected for the reprint.

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