A terrific crossword from Dutch I thought – quite a bit easier than the last few days, but packed with clever ideas to sustain the interest. Loads of candidates for Clue of the Day – the first four across clues were all entertaining, I loved the Keeps till/ KEEP STILL gag at 17d, 4d PLOUGHMEN and 7d HARD TIMES were both outstanding, but my nomination goes to this one with its smooth surface containing a three-part charade:

15d Poser with Spanish and German liquor (9)

The grid convinced me there had to be a hidden theme somewhere but no, this was the exception to prove the rule, because Dutch had re-used a grid from an earlier themed crossword – for reasons he explains in the comments below Duncan’s 2017 blog. Click this link for that and all the answers:

Independent 9545 / Dutch

After a couple of meaty crosswords, I wasn’t sure what to expect this morning. Most of this entertaining and enjoyable offering I positively rattled through – until my last half-dozen, which took nearly as long as the previous twenty or so.

There was some neat stuff going on. I did like “rear view of a Parisian” for “nu”. I was puzzled for a bit by “l” being clued by “term in jail” until I realised it meant “terminal”. As for “vg”, well, it was ages before I worked that one out after speculating on all matters Russian. I needed to check on the Michael Moore film, and on LENTIGO, NECROLOGY and REPLETION, but all were clearly clued so I knew what I was checking (and if I hadn’t been blogging I probably wouldn’t have bothered).

My last one in was STEELIE, which eluded me until I just guessed; I couldn’t spot any connection in my dictionaries and so put “steelie alley” into Google, was directed to the Wikipedia page on “marble (toy)” and it finally fell into place.

Special mention goes to the nicely anagrammatised LUIGI PIRANDELLO, but for me there was no doubt that the clue of the day had to be 9ac: “The last thing Picasso drew? (9)”.

Follow this link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/08/independent-9512-by-wiglaf-saturday-puzzle-8-april-2017/

A rare instance of an un-themed crossword from me – no Nina or gimmick either this time. When filling the grid I can remember simply looking for a collection of nice, accessible or interesting words to fit around a couple of entries used to seed the puzzle – in this case they were 1/9a COMMEDIA DELL’ARTE and 11d UNFATHOMABLE. If you don’t know the former it’s terrific fun to do – you don a half mask, learn some characteristics of your stock character and improvise around a series of lazzi (situations). The joy is that each of us seems to have one of the stock characters inside us, so simply tap into that and go with the flow. Scaramouche, Harlequin, Punch, the Inamorati, Pierrot, and several other archetypes have been super-important in the development of European theatre.

However my CoD nomination goes to the other seed clue, which made it into the puzzle as something along the lines of Thoma[s] inside ‘Un fable’ but with which I became dissatisfied so changed it into an anagram. When setting I sometimes think of anagrams as being a bit of a cop out, but this one provided some fortuitously misleading deception.

11d An album of The Kinks that’s impossible to get (12)

Here’s the link to the Fifteensquared 2017 blog, and a time when Jeremy Hunt was still the Health Secretary:


We’re still a little short staffed on idothei at the moment following Batarde’s retirement, so though I’m on holiday this week and next I said – no problem, I’ll pick up the Wednesdays, anticipating Dac or an equivalent, but not it must be said Hob, a setter whose wavelength I suspect most of us struggle to get in tune with.

I duly struggled recording a time that was about as slow as they get, not all of which can be put down to a surfeit of the local beer, Welsh cakes and Bara Brith. Lots guessed, in particular 16ac and 7ac, and lots admired too for their invention and wit, but this was definitely a puzzle that will have stretched most solvers.

There’s a theme I only twigged upon finishing, relating to POOLs, and presumably football ones. If only that hadn’t been my LOI then it might have been of some help.

COD? Let’s go with 10ac – “Clean out pond, accompanied by sound of Overture to William Tell (10)”.

And so to May 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:


And the rest of the day I intend to spend in Laugharne, not thinking about crosswords. 🙂

I was transported back some fifty years to my school geography lessons as I solved this fun crossword. I’m sure we were taught lots of interesting stuff in the years that I studied this subject, but the only two topics which seem to have stuck in my memory are Australia’s Snowy River hydro-electricity project (I can still identify, if no longer draw, the rivers of south-east Australia) and glaciation. I am fairly sure that I was a bit of a pain to the rest of my family, on our holidays in the Lake District, as I pointed out (how accurately I don’t know) such things as a DRUMLIN, a MORAINE, an ARETE, an ESKER and so on. Add in ICE AGE, STRIATED, and perhaps ALASKA, and there is your theme

How familiar these words are to the generality of solvers I’m not sure. Trying to look at them objectively, they seem rather technical, but all were very fairly clued with helpful crossing letters. The crossing CREATINE and ARCADY seemed a little obscure, but perhaps other solvers would disagree. At any rate I needed the internet and dictionary only for checking purposes, so I would rate this enjoyable puzzle as at the more accessible end of the range.

I was impressed by the two long anagrams, HAEMATOLOGICAL and CAPTAIN AMERICA. ANGINA made me smile, for obvious reasons, and OSTMARK was a laugh-out-loud moment when I got it. But my nomination for Clue of the day goes to 4ac: ” ‘This instrument used to be difficult to get to grips with’ Diddley (9)”.

You have a choice of two links to follow for the answers and explanations today. It would never happen on idothei! 🙂

Independent 9,508 / Knut

Independent 9508 / Knut

Skylark this week, on what is officially the hottest day ever. Well, it is in Northern Ireland anyway, and feels like it is here too. Rather too hot for me, as I find myself hiding in the shade, looking with some bemusement of pictures on the news of people “out enjoying the sunshine”. This is Wales, it is not supposed to be like this.

Thankfully all is in order in the world of the Inquisitor, with Ladies’ Month continuing in the capable hands of Skylark with misprints, highlighting, and letters to alter all being present and correct. What was not present and correct was my eraser which had mysteriously gone AWOL, but thankfully there was an Oxford one hiding in the drawer that was so suitably impressive as such things go that I was tempted to pop up a photo, except that it would leave you even more bemused than you no doubt already are.

Onward then, to the grid fill, where much it felt in the way of deduction was required to complete. To the SE that bête noire of the poor solver, the difficult four letter one, being a case in point. Cells. AS evidently at the start, a guess that it’ll be I at the end, a misprint for Curie, a trip to the BRB later and bob’s your uncle. Lots of familiar looking answers to ease us through, including the ever popular AVESTA, but on the other hand the lesser spotted QANAT.

Which is to say that by lunchtime I had most done while feeling somewhat tired and emotional and less than WITTED which was my LOI, and only filled in after a little solid sustenance.

My misprints needing a little work, it took a little longer than was strictly necessary to spot that the rhyme was One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, DOOR and STICKS in the grid among the few I could remember. I still have DELLE instead of DELVE, but, well, c’est la vie.

Two letters in the middle of the grid altered to give AUTHOR, and the cowardly HEN appears.

What would ensue then was one of those futile Google searches that no doubt leaves their advertising bots totally bemused, as I headed resolutely down the blind alley that was the Cowardly Rooster, Henny Penny, and other such stories / nursery rhymes. Only much later would it occur that the “followers” we were looking for were in the BRB all along, being things following HEN – PARTY, PECK, etc.

58 cells duly highlighted, if my counting skills are still intact, and we’re done. A nice challenge which fell together very satisfyingly, so thanks to Skylark and all involved in what is a good run of puzzles, though if less than melting weather could be arranged for next time, then that would be good, ta.


It was a struggle choosing a clue of the day from this delightful crossword from Eccles. I had nine contenders, each in their way illustrating Eccles’ wit, erudition and creativity.

The elliptical definition for ICECAPS, combined with a neat surface reading (which suggests the more recent television programme, rather than Orwell’s original concept) is an exemplar of the creativity on display today. Likewise the amusing and apt surface reading for MARDI GRAS. We had subtle misdirection in the deceptively simple DEER. And EPITOME made me laugh out loud when I parsed it, another clue where the surface reading harmonised nicely with the definition and word-play.

Even so, my nomination today goes to my last one in, and the only one where I needed recourse to electronic help: “He’s bound to miss (6)”. The economy of the clue is a delight in itself.

I don’t think there are any obscurities today. I might have struggled to come up with Nigel Short if you had asked me to list some chess champions, but the name was sufficiently familiar once I had the answer. CONFABBED, in the verb form seemed odd, but there it is, and the noun “confab” as “discussion” is certainly familiar enough.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/10/independent-9539-by-eccles/

Vigo appeared in Alan Connor’s ‘Meet the Setter’ series last month, and comes across as being every bit as pleasant as one might hope. Click here to read the article. In it she says she thinks that when solvers see her name on a puzzle they might think “Maybe I’ll finish this one” or “this will be quick”, depending on how experienced they are… Today’s fitted that bill nicely. Just right for the Monday when it first appeared perhaps, but personally it was maybe a bit too ‘read & write’ for a wet weekend with time on my hands. Not the setter’s fault of course.

Clues from Vigo will always be impeccably turned out with plausible surfaces, there was also a good variety of devices used, with VERONICA (hello Veronica!) being the sole complete anagram. Nothing particularly outstanding I thought, but this neat example of Vigo’s work gets my Clue Of the Day nomination:

3d Embarrass oddly deficient god (4)

The answer is also the surname of one Veronica Mars who you will all know as the eponymous heroine of the American teen noir mystery drama television series created by screenwriter Rob Thomas. No? Me neither. In the comments on Fifteensquared Vigo hopes that didn’t detract from the fun. Well why should it? Only that the grid, with its 36 clues did rather scream that there was a theme somewhere, so it’s a little disappointing to not be able to discover it. In her comment she also explains all the themed entries if you’re interested.

For answers, parsings and comments from 2017 click below.

Independent 9,471 by Vigo

A topical crossword today, marking the official opening of the controversial 2020 Olympic Games today. And I think this was set, befitting, at a high level of challenge. It took me well over my typical solving time, although it was thoroughly engrossing. I did need to use electronic aids a little more than I normally do.

My first in was the charmingly apt ELUCIDATE, which lulled me into a false sense of security; subsequent clues proved less tractable on the whole. Few clues were straightforward. For example, of the eight clues that involved anagrams, all but one required some additional treatment as well, such as the insertion of an additional letter, or its inclusion in a charade with another element of word-play.

I think that with the exception of Robert BEAMON, the Olympians in question were all sufficiently well known to be recognised as correct when identified. But unless you had some sort of idea, it was a challenge guessing which particular person we were supposed to be thinking of from the simple “Olympian” (as opposed to, say, “rower”). My last in was COMANECI, largely because I was unaware of the spelling, which distorted my thinking. The Olympians mentioned were, in no particular order: Bolt, Ennis, Coe, Comaneci, Wells, Thorpe, Carl Lewis, Budd, Hoy, Beamon and Pinsent. An impressive haul.

One clue seemed a tad unfair – ALFRESCO, where the solver was required to get “sco” from “James VI… briefly”. I needed all the crossing letters to get the very amusing ROMAN NUMERALS. Clue of the day, however, goes to the wittily self-referential 10ac: “Explain cryptic clue? I see! (9)”.

To the last Olympics, uniquely (I hope) five years ago, for all the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/10/25/independent-9370-punk/

A Saturday reprint from Nestor today that I suspect may be somewhere within Cornick’s Goldilocks Zone – difficult enough in places to be interesting, while being accessible but not a write-in either. A few of the longer entries will probably have tripped up a number of solvers, with temptingly alternative IC and IA endings, especially if like me you’re a little hasty, but thankfully we had some common synonyms for “car” and “win big” to set us straight. At the close 11ac, 21d and 14d were the ones here to cause me issues. Elsewhere there were a few unparsed – well done in particular if you knew the synonym referenced at 10ac. There’s a minor theme that Nestor points out in the comments over on the other side, being so minor that most of us will have blinked and missed it. Excellent as expected from this setter, finished quite comfortably under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 22ac – “Hard ring made from keratinous growth (4)”.

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