i Cryptic Crossword 3313 Gila

September 20, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

The most Brompton-y of Bromptons, with each of the four quadrants connected to the whole by only one crossing light, this really did feel to me like four separate mini-crosswords; the top two seeming very accessible to me, meriting perhaps half a star for difficulty, but the bottom two being considerably more challenging, at least to me.

The parsings I struggled with were those for FREE-FOR-ALL, FLETCHER and DISASTER, although the latter seemed obvious when I spotted that the soldiers were the SAS. And I actually couldn’t get BANNER, so a Did Not Finish for me. This latter seemes to me to be a tad unfair, as it requires some seriously niche knowledge, and the crossing letters were not particularly helpful. Last in, apart from the-one-I-couldn’t-get, was SANCTION, which I thought was very neatly done.

Good surface readings throughout, and I enjoyed the solve – and it does me good to be beaten by the setter once in a while! 🙂. Clue of the day goes to 23a: “Company – possibly Apple – initially agrees to take a lesser charge (3,1,4)”.

Here’s the link for Fifteensquared, where you can see the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/14/independent-on-sunday-1420-gila/

Difficulty rating (out of five):  🌟🌟

Very much a graded crossword I thought; some very easy ones, a majority that were perfectly tractable with thought, and a few which were more challenging at the end. I dare say these will have varied from solver to solver, but for me putting ‘olio’ into 8d NEROLI OIL was tricky, as was the neighbouring 4a ABSIT OMEN; sometimes things seem very straightforward in retrospect, but during the solve you need all the crossing letters to believe such an unlikely sequence of letters could be right. It also took me a while to remember what a vigneron is at 13d, with my LOIs being 16a NUANCE then 20a SELFIE. So some 1*, some 2*, some 3* = average difficulty as above – feel free to disagree!

The clues I enjoyed most were 11a NOD, 12a OPERATIONAL, 18a THANKFUL, 21a MIDDLE-EARTH, and 2d SLANDER. But I’m contractually obliged to pick one out as a favourite, so let’s go with this one:

5d 24 hours for one to grasp German conjunction (6)

My only very minor quibble was the repetition of the same anagram indicator ‘at sea’ in 4a and 8d. My guess is that Phi might have changed one of them if he’d noticed, but does it really matter? Surely not.

For all the answers, parsings, and a comment from the setter (which I shall respectfully ignore), please click the following link:

Independent 9,577 by Phi

i Cryptic Crossword 3311 Vigo

September 17, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

A pleasingly accessible crossword brings us towards the end of the working week. Very enjoyable it was too, if all over a little too quickly for my taste. It was less than one cup-of-coffee’s worth. But that’s fine; part of the joy of the i crossword is the range and variety that we are treated to.

My only criticism is that it is one of my least favourite grids; in solving it felt like doing four mini-crosswords, rather than one regular one – a Brompton, in the coinage of the much-missed Batarde. Only one bit of word-play flummoxed me for a while, which was “sash” from “frame”, before I remembered about the type of window. Otherwise, no hold-ups at all. Nice surface readings aplenty, and quite a few ticks and smiles in my margin on completion. Top two contenders for Clue of the Day were, in second place INDIA, and in first place 28ac: “Hesitation after famous Geordie duo swap places with bottle (8)”.

I found on Fifteensquared that there is a dinghy-related theme. I didn’t spot it, and it is rather niche, worthy almost of Phi. But it does make me admire the setter for getting so many theme-words in – no small achievement.

Independent 9,592 by Vigo

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A Saturday reprint courtesy of Serpent eases us towards the end of another week. A fairly breezy offering I thought, with a foothold gained in the SE corner and steady progress made to then finish to the NE with 12ac. Of note were not only a triple definition but a quadruple one too, and a combination of a hidden word and nicely done surface reading at 26ac. Thoroughly enjoyable, with just the right mix of accessible clues and ones to get you thinking a little more, and smiles throughout.

COD? I’ll go with 14d – “Teasing dog in run is one way to lose digits (8)”.

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


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

I’m not sure how fair an assessment I can make of this. I’d forgotten I have to go to a meeting this morning so I had to solve the puzzle in a rush before breakfast and put this blog together in rather a hurry too. So I found it a bit tricky in places but that was probably because, being short of of time, I had recourse to wordfinder and anagram solver for clues which I would have solved unaided given time. However, I’ll go with Pierre back in 2017 who rates Raich’s puzzles ‘accessible’ so it’s a two star rating although I might have given it just one in other circumstances..

I did find some write-ins, though – 1ac, 5ac, 14 and 16 for example. Overall, a nice mix of clue types – anagrams, homophones, cryptic definitions and some fairly involved wordplay. Several candidates for CoD; I liked 1dn and 17 but I’ll go for 26: ‘In from France warning about lake – area surrounded (7)’

Normal service will be resumed next week. Meanwhile for more detailed comment go to:


Enter Artix, seeking to outdo last week’s Phi on the preamble front. Thankfully, for the solving bit all we had to worry about was one clash and initial letters from extra words in 11 clues. I say “only”, but today’s grid was the closest I’ve come to being nowhere near to completion since Harribob’s magnum opus at Christmas where I finished with a quite spectacularly blank grid and none solved. This wasn’t quite that, but for a long time all I had was about six or seven entered.

I will admit to realising, some time in, that I’d misread the preamble. Yes, you too spent a long time assuming that you were looking for extra letters from clues and not words. All of a sudden those I had solved, such as SELAH, that had left me floundering in the parsing department (what’s new I hear you say) made a lot more sense.

Completion was still pretty much a brute force approach, based on checking letters, bits of wordplay, and a lot of time scouring the BRB for likely looking candidates, because loads went in with little understanding of what was going on.

Which did leave me concerned regarding the clash, but thankfully COMPORT and DEFECTIVE were two I was pretty confident about.

What I was less confident about were the letters from extra words I had, but thankfully NO 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY was as clear as day, and McCall Smith looked like a pretty fair bet for the rest.

I’ve read a couple of the books, and seen bits of the TV series, so the rest was less of a mystery. Extra letters (assuming I’ve got the symmetry bit right) added to give MMA RAMOTSWE and JLB MATEKONI.

All that stuff then about blacking out a line, highlighting, and erasing non-thematic letters was always likely to lead to the Botswana flag. Thankfully I have a wide range of highlighters to hand.

Most difficult one in a long time? Either that or the rigours of Friday night have got the better of me again. Most likely a heady mix of the two. But it all fell together rather neatly, so no complaints here, and compliments to all concerned.


i Cryptic Crossword 3308 Punk

September 14, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

Even theme-blind solvers such as myself will have been hard pushed to miss today’s theme, which is on the subject of a game about which I know little. Which is ironic, because next week a work jolly sees me spending a day in a corporate suite at Lords watching a match, if it doesn’t rain that is. There’ll be a buffet and drinks either way.

I digress. About average difficulty today, with a trap I won’t have been alone in falling into at 24ac, SEISMOMETER being a little too tempting. This left me at the close with nothing realistic that could fit 16d, and thus some last minute second thoughts. If cricket was more your thing I suspect you may have jumped the right way first time. Loads to like, with 16/6 and 8d garnering ticks here, and lots of smiles along the way as expected with this setter.

COD? I especially liked 14d – “Century? English forcing one out for starters (10)”.

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


i Cryptic Crossword 3307 Poins

September 13, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Poins is a setter I’m not too familiar with, so it took me a while to get into his way of thinking. Once I did, though, this turned out to be a relative straightforward solve, and it was no surprise to find that this was originally an IoS crossword.

RED PENCIL took me by surprise. It was not a phrase I knew, although the process of pointing out errors using a red-coloured writing implement is something I am more than familiar with. Another thing I learned was the existence of the place called Welling in south London. I tend to panic a bit on seeing the “somewhere in London” indication; beside the famous bits, there are just so many of them that I never know where to start. Fortunately my guess turned out to be right.

Only one thing eluded me, which was the second definition for OVERRIDE. But that was more than outweighed by lots of other good and entertaining clues. I liked SOFT ON (Dario Fo is the only Italian playwright I can think of, so I’m glad it was him that was referred to). I loved the clue for SYDNEY. Clue of the Day, though, goes to the amusing double-definition in 10ac: “Iron sink (8)”.

Follow the link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/07/independent-on-sunday-1419-poins/

Difficulty rating (out of five):  🌟🌟

A game of two halves for your blogger this morning. The LHS went in as readily as if I was giving viewers of ‘Cracking the Cryptic’ a live-time video solve on YouTube; the RHS would have had them switching to PewDiePie.

1* and 3* averages out at 2*, the same as yesterday’s Klingsor. Are we at idothei inconsistent? Forgive us, this star rating thing is new…

So this was Gila’s tenth blocked puzzle for the Independent stable, I think – most of which have been in the supposedly easier Sunday slot. However he also does Inquisitor puzzles, and you could see a few tricks in today’s clues that would be more familiar in that barred world than this perhaps. Tesla means T, there’s a restaurant called Noma in Copenhagen, doughnut can be spelled donut without being indicated as American, the buttocks can be called ‘prat’, dodgy = sus, and an every other letter selection can be indicated by ‘often’. So not all plain-sailing by any means.

We had a few bottom related clues which I know some solvers might find amusing – Bottom! Ho-ho!

Actually the surface reading for one of those was excellent – the clue for PRATTLE at 5d; other superior surfaces were those for 13a SMOOTHIE, 14a TESTES, and 26a SNAFU, while 6d ORBITAL provided a good example of a clue which although it suffered from questionable etymological crossover, was able to be rescued by an amusing surface.

Here’s my CoD though, which had me kicking myself when the penny dropped:

20a Sci-fi film about small green animals (4,4)

Back to 2017 and the Fifteensquared blog:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A nicely accessible pangram from Klingsor brings us towards the end of the working week. I fairly rattled through most of this, completing it in a little under my average time. Most of it was fairly straightforward, and I don’t think there are any obscurities to send the solver scouring the dictionaries or the internet – except perhaps for CHITTERLINGS, which I imagine no-one eats any longer, and maybe PASSIM. But both were clearly clued and with helpful crossing letters.

I was tempted to give a three for difficulty on the basis that it took me ages to disentangle what was going on in ALICE SPRINGS. But there were a very limited number of possibilities, and I entered it largely on the basis of word-length and two or three crossing letters (the enumeration ruling out the red rock, under either of its names).

My clue of the day is 19d. I’m one who loves a Spoonerism, and this one made me laugh. It’s worth reading the comments on the Fifteensquared page (link below), where there are some thoughts shared about this special kind of clue. “Furious convict initially exchanged men’s periodical (3,3)”.

Independent 9576 / Klingsor