Difficulty rating (out of five):  🌟🌟

Phi was on good form today I thought, with a theme occupying seven of the entries which, if you didn’t spot it, you might like to go looking for now – it is gettable this time.

At the outset the grid looked like it might very likely have something going on, but I only lasted about 2 seconds scanning the completed crossword before giving up the search; past failures having battered me into abject defeatism.  Never mind, Fifteensquared told me it’s the ‘All the world’s a stage’ speech from Jaques in As You Like It. Very nice.

Solving progressed steadily this morning, despite being slightly the worse for wear after a heavy night on the sauce, the answers revealing themselves from top to bottom as is my usual practice. The intersecting 23d GRIN and 25a TERRITORY were my last ones in, but with hindsight they maybe shouldn’t have taken such a very long time to crack as they did. Along the way there were some real treats which included an apposite anagram for 9a GATECRASH, nice surface readings in 11a INFANT and even better at 14a SUBTROPIC , a great penny-drop with 21d ASLANT and this, my nomination for Clue of the Day:

13d Important broadcaster’s run ending in despair after “Farewell and thank you” (5,4)

Just a couple of rarities: PANTALOON rather than the more familiar Pantalone at 15d; PARAMECIA rather than the more familiar Paramecium at 8d. But that could just be me. And I was a little surprised to see that 1a BOONDOCKS wasn’t indicated as being American  – apparently it’s US WWII military slang from the Tagalog for mountain, bundog.

Click on the link below for all the answers and explanations:

Independent 9,541 / Phi

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

A gentle crossword for the end of the working week from Tees. Nicely accessible, and pleasing and satisfying to solve. Seven clues were anagrams, in full or in part. In my early solving days, I was always glad to spot an anagram, as I then had at least an idea of what I was meant to be doing, and that generally began to open up the grid for me. I guess, therefore, that some beginners will have found their way in to the puzzle by this means.

Nevertheless, some the anagrams themselves were particularly impressive constructions, especially ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER, with its surface reading conjuring up an entertaining picture.

Another factor contributing to ease of accessibility is that there are no obscurities. OEDIPUS is hardly a recondite answer when “incestuous son” is in the clue. And surely Alice Liddell is sufficiently well known not to have caused too much brow-ruffling.

Like some others commenting on Fifteensquared, my only hesitation was over HET UP, where I initially entered “put up” before realising I couldn’t parse it and so corrected it. It was a candidate for Clue of the Day, but actually I preferred the nicely constructed 17ac with its great surface reading: “Wine to honour hero impaling one vampire? The opposite! (8)”.

Answers and explanations can be found here: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/25/independent-9552-tees/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A surprisingly gentle solve from Serpent today, for which I was grateful the day having started with a trip to the local garage followed by a reasonably long walk back in the drizzle. If they can fix the car then it will be worth it. But enough of the reasons for my soaring stress levels, and onto the puzzle, which was thankfully lacking in stress and majoring in enjoyment. Inventive and fun throughout, albeit with a few not fully understood on solving, though I suspect this was more to do with my somewhat foggy state of mind than anything to do with the clues in retrospect. Quite a few went in on crossing letters, definition, and a bit of a wing and a prayer, notably 27ac because it is one of the few (only?) galaxies beside the obvious one I can name. Favourites outside of my COD nomination would include 16ac and 11ac, the latter raising a wry smile as I wonder how many tiffs absorption in a crossword has caused.

So to the COD, with my nomination going to 6d – “Symptom of a cold nose? Not half! (5)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/06/independent-9510-by-serpent/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Dac today with an offering that, paradoxically, I found to be a little chewy in places, while still finishing in the sort of time that I would associate with a Wednesday. An unknown opera, plant and part of London held me up a little here, together with a few that I struggled to parse – in particular, the aforementioned 18ac. Highlights here outside of the COD would have to be the ever smooth surface readings (18ac again(!), 5ac and 11d down in particular for me) and 14ac.

And so to the COD, for which I’ll nominate 17d, really for the definition, though this being Dac there were loads you could pick from – “Maybe rifleman curled lip, given alcoholic drink (8)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/24/independent-9551-dac/

So, back home. A lively three hour drive through heavy (for which read torrential) showers following a slap-up meal where the sun continues to shine, preceded and followed by the packing and unpacking of what appears to be two car-loads of luggage and five people. Should I have made one get the train?

No matter, the local paper shop efficient as ever have taken note of my instruction to resume deliveries on the Saturday, so onward first with Phi, and then… Mmm, where are the clue numbers in the grid? We all know how good I am at this sort of thing.

Cold solving. Which went suspiciously well for a while. ADENOID, AERIE and ALTHEA in quick succession. Unfortunately, none of the ones I got fairly swiftly were much use as far as confidently filling the grid goes.

Several cups of coffee, tea, and a trip to recover the potted plants which have also been on holiday where they could be watered (though apparently locally there was little need for concern) later…

And several dead-end punts and erasures later.

A likely looking DICTY, YOJAN and THERM leaves few options for the crossing thematic 9 letter, the obvious one being JARLSBERG. Cheeses, you see, “across the board”.

My cheeses I do know, though I don’t know all the ones in the grid. But the grid was then duly filled with ten of them, and I believe all the clued entries, most of which I ended up cold solving, just a few (including the very nice MERE at the close) I didn’t need to.

Pretty tricky, but satisfying to solve too, so thanks to Opsimath and all concerned.

20210808_195840~2

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

Unexpectedly today we have Vigo and our first 1* for difficulty rating, as Tuesdays more often tend to be on the trickier side. A bright and breezy solve with only a bit of a hold-up to report here in the SE corner which held out longest, and 14ac at the very close, with the rest going in about as quickly as I can type and think first thing in the morning. There’s a theme that if you weren’t looking for one might well have passed you by, being characters from Orwell’s Animal Farm. Needless to say I failed to twig what was going on, wondering instead if 1ac and 5ac together indicated something else I might be missing. Thoroughly enjoyable, and a most welcome change of pace after some testing puzzles of late.

COD? I’ll go with 1ac – “Church council finishing early with rousing hymns lacking hard words such as faith, religion and belief (8)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/08/independent-9537-by-vigo/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

A little chewier than I expected, this one. I considered giving it a four-out-of-five rating for difficulty, because I struggled somewhat. That’s far from being a complaint, as I enjoy the challenge. But reviewing the whole on completion, I saw no clues where the word-play or definition was less than impeccable, and I concluded that it was just me – I hadn’t been able to tune in to this well-constructed crossword’s wavelength. In addition, very nearly half of the entries in this dense grid had no initial crossing letter, which can add to the difficulty, at least for some solvers. On the other hand, there are no obscurities, except perhaps for one of Falstaff’s men.

I thought the clue for LEVEL was very neat, although perhaps it is a little cheeky to position a palindromic word which was clued allusively without word-play so that only the two vowels were crossing. My clue of the day, though, is 27ac: “Firm employing a horse and rider, for example (7)”. The desirability, or otherwise, of capital letters for proper names is much discussed on Fifteensquared. I thought it was fine, especially in this case where the name in question is both well known and possibly unique.

Here’s the link to the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/09/independent-on-sunday-1415-by-poins/

Difficulty rating (out of five):  🌟🌟

This was Beet’s one and only crossword for the Independent. More’s the pity because she’s extremely good. If you want to see more of her, you could always go to Big Dave’s ‘Rookie Corner‘ or ‘Not The Saturday Prize puzzle’ (you might need to scroll through the lists) where she cut her teeth, but regrettably as soon as she reached the Independent she seems to have thrown in the setting towel to concentrate on her career – as a lawyer, if memory serves.

I thought this was a real treat. First of all the entries in the grid were the sort of words we all like to be reminded of – Smorgasbord, Pompadour, Portmanteau, Diphthong, that sort of thing – not obscure at all, but rather what my son’s primary school teacher used to call ‘expensive words’ (I remember she banned the use of ‘said’ or ‘nice’). Then the grid shape was user friendly with plenty of starter letters given by other words. The surface readings were brilliant – especially those for EXTEMPORE, EXECRABLE, OPIUM, TABOO, AISLE, POMPADOUR and RUMP of course; then finally there were some really clever bits of misdirection and crypticness going on: 1a GRI[n]D; the nifty constructions of 11a PORTMAN/TE/AU and also 8d JUST /SO S/TORIES; well lots of them really. Even the ordinary clues like 2d RUPEE or 26a HEAT WAVE were still very good.

My CoD award goes to a clue which admittedly only works if you have a smattering of familiarity with the relevant Greek legend:

14a  Competition winner awarded an Apple iPad or the alternative (9)

Upon completion I wasn’t entirely sure that 17d was just a straight cryptic without anything else going on, but looking at Fifteensquared I presume it must be, even if Pierre’s blog seems to indicate otherwise (I think). I also failed to pick up the reference to Adrian Mole measuring his ‘THING’ at 18a – although I can well believe it’s famous beyond the confines of the books.

Here’s the link back to the puzzle’s first appearance with fully 46 comments.

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/22/independent-9549beet/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Racked by self-doubt, I was thrown into an unnecessary panic when I noticed, a few clues in, that 9ac was showing as “???H?H”. I was convinced I must have made a mistake, until I was able to think calmly and rationally about the clue and saw not just what the answer was (there can’t be that many words ending in H-something-H) but how cleverly the clue was constructed.

This was a nicely accessible crossword from a skillful setter. I’m not entirely sure how many references are necessary to qualify for a theme, or even a mini-theme. Today we have four classical references, three in the answers, and one as part of the word-play. But perhaps this simply reflects the setter’s interests, rather than a deliberate intention.

Particularly praiseworthy are Tees’s misleading definitions: for example “former” in 27ac, “security’s 15ac, and especially “Eye royal” in 19ac, the parsing of which eluded me for quite some time. All entirely accurate, but all mischievously deceptive. There is one potential obscurity, my last one in, YERBA, which I now know to be one of those health drinks, usually suffixed with “maté”. Oh, yes, and it’s been a long time since I saw any Courage Directors’ ale, so I’m not sure how much sense that clue may have made to younger solvers. A great clue, nonetheless. Clue of the Day, though, goes to the likewise misleadingly deceptive 17d: “Brave to complain about this Roman (7)”.

Here’s the link to the answers and explanations from 2017: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/14/independent-9569-tees/

Difficulty Rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟

A Saturday reprint eases us towards the end of the working week (and one eagerly awaited by those of us still recovering from the shock of the return to work) that I found to be of middling difficulty, though to be fair some of the clues such as the general that seem to have caused difficulties over on the other side I lobbed in on likely looking definitions. The top and bottom rows are mirrors of each other, which I wish I’d noticed at the close when 25ac gave me no end of difficulty. In retrospect it shouldn’t have, so perhaps I’d just run out of steam. Outside of the skiing manoeuvre there was nothing obscure, my only query being whether 6ac should have been flagged as being chiefly US usage, though I’m guessing most if not all UK solvers will have been aware of the term, such is the prevalence of US culture on our shores. Much to enjoy outside of the COD, with ticks beside 9ac and 12d, for what was a top notch and thoroughly entertaining puzzle.

COD? I’ll go with 17d – “Maybe Finn fruitlessly supports college for a laugh (7)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/27/independent-9554-klingsor/