Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Our Tuesday theme this week is on the subject of map-reading, and for once it’s one that I spotted. I would like to say that it’s because my powers of observation are improving, but I suspect it’s more likely because I had plenty of time to mull over the grid and spot some pretty blatant references. At this point I was then on the lookout for further thematic entries, which certainly helped, but unfortunately less so in the NW corner where I struggled at the close. On looking back nothing was unfair, so no complaints here over having to spend a little time on some pretty neat wordplay followed by lots of – “of course” – moments. At the close only a few went in not fully understood, all of them thematic entries I’d spotted, so I’d have to say that Radian made me work hard today.

COD? With lots to pick from, I’ll go with 7d – “Line with a pole at each end led outing astray (9)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/30/independent-9556-radian/

I’m guessing we all sat down this week in the sure and certain knowledge that given two identical grids to fill in, that we would get them the wrong round. And so it was that, despite having decided – not this time – and resolutely pencilled in answers beside the clues in the vain hope that an inkling might emerge, when I eventually did decide – bugger it – and started lobbing the things in realising that any completion would be a long way off otherwise, jotted in TWENTY TWENTY (vision) across the top of the grid, and then worked out that the only alternative letters that would fit for the earlier situation were PATTER PITTER, it became clear that yes, yet again, I’d jumped the wrong way.

Which is what scissors and sellotape are made for. So out with both, a handy cut and paste, PITTER PATTER jotted below the grid, and bob’s your uncle.

Which makes it sound like the rest was a doddle, but mashed together clues really aren’t my strong point. Though once I’d got into the swing of spotting the extra letters joining them, I will admit that progress was more akin to a steady stroll than a crawl.

A BRIGHT SUNSHINY DAY

Now that the rain has gone, which it never really did for much of Saturday in this neck of the woods, but we can’t blame Jaques for that.

I would mention the clues I ended up guessing, those I couldn’t parse fully, and so on, but I can’t read my own writing, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or, alternatively, look for errors in the grid, because I’m convinced there may be some.

My own writing was what did cause issues at the close, have jotted the hidden NODDLE into the grid as NOODLE, which made sorting out ADDER somewhat more painful than it needed to be. How I laughed when I realised my foolish error.

Done. Another one that fell together quite nicely in between various trips out into the steady rain that assailed us. And Sunday, when I wrote this? Sunday the sun did come out.

20210821_170401~2

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

What would the bank holiday bring us, I wondered. Perhaps something chewy to fill the hours indoors in predictably disappointing weather? No, instead we are treated to the most gentle and welcoming puzzle for many a while. Peter has produced a nicely accessible crossword that is suitable for sitting down with a younger family member and showing them how the dark arts work (not so dark, today, though). All the word-play was very clearly signalled, and the definitions were likewise straightforward and unambiguous.

Only one clue proved puzzling to me, which was SHERPA, my last one in. I had the crossing letters, and unsurprisingly given what’s in the news, I could not unsee “Sharia”. I had to look closely at it to spot that it was a hidden inclusion. I didn’t know that Sherpa was a language, but one of the joys of crosswords is that you regularly learn new things.

The clue for EROS was entertaining (well at least to a retired theologian, it was) but the Clue of the Day I’ve chosen is 13d: “By which to find out what went wrong with parking at most hectic northbound subway (10)”.

Here’s the link for all the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/21/independent-on-sunday-1421peter/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

Phi’s got the Inquisitor spot this week, so we have a themed puzzle from Crosophile for our weekend cryptic. I’m famously bad at spotting themes, but this was one that was hard to miss, with a range of entries from the familiar (9ac and 14d), to the downright obscure (16d). In common with many solvers back in the day I struggled at the close to parse 7d, though by that point it could be little else, but suspect that I was the only person to think first artist, and then turtle before eventually finding the Raphael I was actually looking for. Lots of ambition shown in the clues I thought making this is a worthy Saturday puzzle, though for me Anax still holds the prize for puzzle of the week (and an arguably better choice for the weekend, but I think that the editor likes to offer up something a bit lighter on a Saturday).

COD? It won’t have gone down well with all I suspect, but the image and totally unexpected answer appealed to me. It was also the only answer I had to check in the dictionary. Yes, it’s 20d – “Men with guts in a bad way and dribbles between legs (7)”.

So to June 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/06/independent-9562-crosophile/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

On completion, preparing to write this blog, I had no parsing queries left. During the course of solving, however, some clues seemed intractable, and there was more than one occasion when I needed inspiration from a list of words. But so accomplished is this setter that despite first appearances, every bit of word-play was precise. Misdirection is of the essence in a cryptic crossword.

That being said, there were fully seven entries which did not follow the usual format of wordplay-plus-definition, but were instead clued allusively. There’s nothing wrong with that, but combined with their including two triple-entry phrases, this did ratchet up the difficulty level somewhat. All of it was brilliantly done, resulting in a challenging puzzle, which was very satisfying to solve.

Obscurities? PONTIAC and “chief” don’t automatically connect in my mind. The month of the Jewish calendar could be a bit unfamiliar to those unversed in that religion, although there were helpful crossing letters. The best selling Fleetwood Mac album is surely well-known, at least to those solvers of a certain age – and younger solvers will not have been troubled too much by the computer game. I’m in the former category; I did know the game, but it took a bit of working out.

In choosing a clue of the day, I was very temped by the two allusively clued three-word answers. But actually, I did rather like the short but neat 23d: “In France you will carry off unfinished food (4)”.

This was a Saturday prize puzzle back in 2017 on its first appearance. Here’s the link: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/17/independent-9572-by-anax-saturday-puzzle-17-jun-2017/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

The fact that it’s a Thursday, and that it’s Tees, might lead you rightly to assume that we would have something on the testing side today, but no, this is Tees in a more forgiving mood, though still of top-notch quality. The quickest solve so far this week, but also it must be said the most fun, with great wordplay, lots of smiles, and nothing either in the way of controversy. In particular I liked “evidently secular?” at 7d, and the deceiving surface in 9ac which was that smooth that the fact that it was a hidden word totally passed me by until after I’d guessed the answer. In recent years in the Independent Tees seems to have been picking up the IoS spot, which I had considered to be an unusual pick, but based on recent form this seems to be an astute bit of scheduling. But let me know how you got on…

COD? One that was worthy of Dac, 22d – “Obvious poverty traps (5)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/26/independent-9579-by-tees/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

Eccles today with a puzzle that was about three quarters fairly straightforward, and then there was the NW corner (and 17ac!) Regarding the latter, I’m still unsure why “switch” is a suitable synonym, but nobody seems to have questioned it on the other side so perhaps I’m just being dim. There is though some debate there regarding 1ac, but the definition’s in Chambers so it’s fine as far as I’m concerned. 9ac I wanted to be FOLIATED for far too long despite all evidence to the contrary, which caused more trouble than was strictly necessary in retrospect. 12ac didn’t come out at all well in the app version, being generally a mess of HTML, but fortunately it was one of those that didn’t really require recourse to the wordplay. Enjoyable throughout, with a sprinkling of low-brow humour that will appealed to some and not to others.

COD? I’ll go with 16a – “How duck can be spicy when cooked with a bit of rice (6)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/21/independent-9575-eccles/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

You will be forgiven today for having missed a theme that was literally in plain sight, being tracks by Cream, because I suspect that solvers familiar enough with their output to spot them will be few and far between. I can name a total of zero songs, so I didn’t have a hope. Pretty tricky overall – I for one was feeling battered and bruised by the close and doubting my own solving abilities. Only 10ac and possibly 19ac could be described as being obscure, so any difficulty was purely by way of wordplay and lots of cunning on the part of the setter. Satisfying to finish, though I imagine solvers on a Monday when this was first published were feeling somewhat shell shocked by the close.

Quality stuff throughout needless to say, with my COD nomination going to 3d – “With English explanation of Roman numeral, church finally saves lives (10)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/05/independent-9561-by-alchemi/

MARX this week, one of the other ones. We don’t seem to meet him very regularly in crosswords as far as I can remember, though it’s entirely possible my memory is failing me once again. I almost forgot to highlight him at the close, partly because I was relieved to finish what was a reasonably tough offering, but also because as ever I failed to read the preamble properly, or to actually reach the end of it at all, it appears.

I’ve not been feeling tip-top this weekend either, which might also be an influencing factor, but such is the upshot of a “lively” first week back at work.

Worthy of note might also be the lack of real words in some entries meaning that there was little place to hide from mediocre solving skills and a lax attitude when it comes to parsing clues. Because, as expected on reading the bits of the preamble I did get round to, some answers are rather too long for the space available, various synonyms for face being 16ac’d. It would indeed be one of these, RE(SIDE)NTIAL that would confound me for an age at the close, together with (finger crossed) 32ac, which I’ve to be quite frank guessed based on ?ERD.

Also causing much puzzlement was the number of anagrams that needed a little more work on the constituent parts before unscrambling. Does this mean that they’re indirect anagrams? The matter will remain at least temporarily unresolved as, while I scribbled down one example and distinctly remember pondering the matter, I can’t read my own writing now. We wait with bated breath on Fifteensquared.

I distinctly remember putting a number of ticks beside one clue I was particularly impressed with too, but can’t find that either. Sometimes I wonder if I’m suffering a glitch in the matrix.

Oh yes, jumbled definitions yielding extra letters. They give part of a quote from Groucho Marx, which is where we came in. I’ve got them all too.

I NEVER FORGET A FACE BUT… “in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.”

Which all falls together rather neatly, so thanks, Kruger, for a worthy and enjoyable challenge.

20210814_172056~2

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Not every solver does, I know, but I love puzzles from Hoskins. He so evidently loves playing with words, revelling in creating entertaining surface readings and mischievously misleading word-play. And he’s not averse to a little self-mockery, and seems not to take himself too seriously – despite being at least as erudite as any other setter; consider the surface reading of the clue for SHIN. Playing with words is the essence of cryptic crosswords, and in my opinion, Hoskins is one of the best.

Other highlights included the definition in SPORTS BRA, the resonance between surface reading and answer in NERDIEST, and the clever definition for my Clue of the Day, 17d: “Mass reunites awfully Christian-minded folk?(9)”.

Here’s the link to the IoS first appearance,with all the answers and explanations. It’s well worth reading the setter’s own contribution in the comments.

Independent on Sunday 1,422 by Hoskins