Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

An interesting and enjoyable puzzle today from Klingsor that it’s safe to say was somewhere high on the difficulty scale. It’s a Thursday Independent reprint, which is usually an indicator of a fairly stiff challenge, challenges I usually didn’t get very far with when I first started solving many moons ago.

My usual approach of starting with the down clues in the SE corner didn’t really pay off today, as it was only on getting to the across clues, and especially those at the start, that I really began to get into the swing of things. Once some crossing letters were in place quite a few went in with little clue as to what was going on in the wordplay, notably 13d where you’d have to be pretty seriously into your cricket to know where the first O had come from. Some would argue that if I’d been less confident of the answer then the wordplay would certainly have helped in all of the these cases, but with apologies to the setter, my attitude is often an – it looks right, there’s enough wordplay I get to support it, let’s move on.

As this was Klingsor, of course, the journey was one that was well worth making, with many a delightful PDM moment, and some smiles along the way too, notably at 9ac. Well balanced too, I thought, with a scattering of entry level clues throughout the grid to get you started.

COD? Too many to pick from today, really, from the aforementioned 9ac to 3d, with my nomination going to 12ac – “Oscar axes stupid description of “original copies”? (10)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/08/03/independent-9612-klingsor/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

Eccles is a difficult setter to characterise – some of his/her puzzles are fairly straightforward whilst others can be distinctly tricky. I found this one to be in the former category, apart from 6dn and 18dn. In 6dn the answer was obvious but not the parsing; in 18dn neither were immediately obvious but once I got the answer from a wordfinder I saw the parsing but needed the fifteensquared blog and comments to understand the definition. So, despite my first thought of two stars, this gets three.

There were a few write-ins to seed the grid and helpfully they were quite long ones – 21ac, 5dn and 12dn for example. A couple of ‘usual suspects’ also cropped up: ‘with’ to indicate ‘and’ in 19ac; and ‘He’ as the chemical symbol for helium and hence ‘gas’ in 28ac. John, the blogger on fifteensquared, had a quibble about the clue for 28ac as well as for 1dn; I take his point but those clues didn’t bother me. I think Indy (and hence i) solvers have to be fairly relaxed about clues that are non-Ximenean provided they’re not too outrageous. My only quibble is with 8dn, as to the definition of SCAN – I often think in terms of ‘a quick scan’ to mean a cursory glance rather than a close examination, but maybe it’s something of a contronym.

Several candidates for CoD including 26ac and 27ac, but I’ll go for the aforementioned 1dn, ‘Peterhead 1, Heart of Midlothian 0 – exploit room for control (5,5)’

To August 2017 for all the gory details, including an interesting comment from the setter about 1dn.

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/08/02/independent-9611-by-eccles/

So, how’s your Latin, I’m guessing is the question? Or your Googling skills, alternatively? Because thankfully it was the latter to the rescue to confirm that what I was about to highlight in glorious fluorescent pink wasn’t just a sequence of random letters.

A sequence of random letters Ifor had the good grace to place in a handy diagonal across the grid for the benefit of those of us who hadn’t identified all of the above beyond a scribbled “def?” beside a couple of the clues, and thus avoiding a rather protracted search through Chambers.

AMICI DIEM PERDIDI which the mighty TITUS uttered, allegedly. That’s “friends, I have lost a day” to you and me. Now, lost days was something I had spotted throughout. D’s missing from some clues prior to solving, MON, TUE, etc, missing from others. I even had all of them.

Because, was it just me or was Ifor in a forgiving mood this week? I often think of him as being one of the i‘s more difficult setters, but this week I fairly tripped through the clues from AMICABLE (telegram) onward, even gleaning the theme as I solved.

Handily, because the puzzle coincided with getting all my son’s stuff packed and transported for his second year at university. The first year having been pretty much sabotaged thanks to the pandemic, we were therefore all feeling somewhat tired and emotional by the end of the day.

So, unlike the puzzle that coincided with said event last year, this year the puzzle was solved in something approaching a jiffy. It did occur that the scheduling handily gave us plenty of time to get on with the editor’s (I suspect) much tougher Listener, but that’s the one barred grid I don’t have a subscription to, so it will remain forever unsolved.

20210918_192839~2

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

So, how long did it take you to spot them? Our thematic across entries, that is. Starting as I did to the SE of the grid, I soon reached 29ac and raised the proverbial eyebrow on seeing a pretty odd definition for a very well known name, but it was only on getting 23ac and 7ac that the penny finally dropped. A few of the entries were perhaps less than obvious – a few across the centre of the grid here – thus giving us the opportunity to do a bit of research afterwards and learn something new. Or, alternatively, consult Fifteensquared. 😉

Reasonably tough throughout – I’ve given it three stars for difficulty, but it was just about edging into four star territory. Fair though always, with just a little careful thought required to unpick what Serpent was presenting in plain view.

Two of the thematic entries held out to the last – 9ac and 25ac – but by this point it was clear what was going on, and both are well enough known to be solvable based on checking letters alone.

Excellent throughout it must be said, with lots to like, and my COD nomination going to 16ac – “Champion wants to drink beer (6)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/01/independent-9558-by-serpent/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

We don’t get puzzles from Daedalus too often, and I for one wasn’t sure what to expect. This was a great start to a new crosswording week, with lots of humour and variety of cluing, making for an enjoyable and satisfying solve.

A couple of clues took a bit of disentangling. Once the final E-O was in place, SUPREMO was bound to be the “boss” we were looking for, but the word-play eluded me for some time, before I twigged that “sup” was intended from a contraction of “what’s up?”. Likewise, as soon as I had the initial R what else could 18 be but REC? But it was a good while before I got that the clue was in three parts rather than two, when it finally made sense to me. It’s a pagram, and needing a Q helped with my last one in, SQUAT. This clue had the one arcane bit of vocabulary, “qua”.

There is no doubt in my mind about the clue of the day, which has to be the brilliant 8d: “Did BS characters’ followers get cast out? (5)”.

Here’s the link to the puzzle’s first outing, where you can find the answers and explanations, and some light discussion in the comments about 7d: I know that this sort of thing matters…

Independent 9,609 by Daedalus

Difficulty rating (out of five):  🌟🌟🌟

Another of my heavily ghost-themed puzzles, and it happens to fall on my blogging day. Apologies. I’ll try and make this brief.

The idea is that there’s a title in row 1 which alludes to the remaining across lights. So LADY BOUNTIFUL, as well as being a fictional lady from George Farquhar’s ‘The Beaux’ Stratagem’, also hints that the puzzle is bountiful with ladies. If that’s sexist of me, my apologies again, the idea came from my most feminist of friends!

The original list was Florence Nightingale, Theresa May, Carla Lane, Anna Ford, Halle Berry, Nicola Sturgeon, Shirley Temple, Isadora Duncan, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dame Janet Baker, Jerry Hall, Elizabeth Fry, Wendy Cope, Dusty Springfield, Valerie Singleton, and Rebecca West.  But any women you might have thought of that fitted would have done just as well.  What they have in common is no more (nor less) than that they can all be clued without making reference to their being surnames – Hence no Brontë sisters for example.

Having such heavy constraints predictably led to a few obscurities or icky words in the down lights. Today we had ALGONQUIN (which I did know) FREON (which I probably didn’t) and A FEW (bit icky that). The difficult clues, of which there are indeed a few, like MAY and BAKER for example, won’t be to everyone’s taste. I’ll confess to being a bit sneaky at times; for example 1/4a is clued as an anagram, which Fifteensquared tells me is just how Falcon and Beelzebub clued it when they had to, but I was the only one to sneakily put in the misdirection ‘finally’ as part of the anagram fodder. How annoying!

COD? Well I quite liked 2, 3, 4, and 5 down (the downs were better than the across clues I thought) but I’m going for one which sums up both puzzle and setter rather neatly:

25d Type of vacuous knowledge on the feminine principle (3,2)

For the link to Fifteensquared – where I embarrassed myself in the comments by forgetting that my list had Carla Lane in, then compounded the error by misspelling Cleo Laine – please click below.

Independent 9583 / Maize – Fifteensquared

i Cryptic Crossword 3317 Tees

September 24, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A tricky little number from Tees brings us to the end of the working week. I’ve given it four stars for difficulty, but it was within a smidgen of being five, should you have strayed or staggered headlong into that territory. When you see Tees’ name these days it seems to be pot luck whether he’s in full on end of week mode, or with something more akin to an IoS reprint. This was definitely to the former end of the spectrum for him, while still being accessible and guessable where you might have been a little unsure of the wordplay.

Into the latter camp will have fallen 9ac, 26ac and, unless you had a dictionary to hand, 14ac, with the definition at 2d being somewhat specialised crosswordese that might have been an old trick to the Fifteensquared blogger, but not one I’ve encountered before. 3d I suspect is also one likely to trip off the tongue. Google will have been handy elsewhere if you wanted to check what 12d was all about.

Lots that will have given a toe-hold in the grid too (1ac and 22d depending on where you started in the grid spring to mind), and also an abundance of ticks outside of the COD (10ac and 18ac in particular here), this being a top notch puzzle worthy of the Friday spot.

COD? Loads to pick from, with my nomination going to 13ac – “Animal wants limb free – end of foot caught here? (6,4)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/24/independent-9603tees/

i Cryptic Crossword 3316 Phi

September 23, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

A moderately difficult Phi fills the Thursday spot, with the SW corner causing some difficulty here, plus a few odd words dotted about the grid. 5d and 15d I suspect won’t have tripped off most people’s tongues, but were perfectly gettable. G AND H for middle of “rights” at 23ac I’ve not seen done before, and did elicit a question mark beside the clue, but was clear as day anyway. 26/27 doesn’t really work for me, but perhaps I’m just being a little dim early this morning. Outside of the COD favourites were 2d and 12d.

No theme that I can see or anyone else has picked up, so presumably there isn’t one. Of interest is a recent feature in the Guardian I think it was where Phi revealed that his themes / Ninas are mostly to keep himself interested when filling the grid, which had always been my assumption, and therefore why I’ve never been that concerned about spotting them. Others I know differ.

The question now, of course, being who do we get at the weekend?

COD? I’ll go with 19ac – “Recalled extra time limiting club’s initial form (6)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/07/independent-9589-phi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Wiglaf is a well-established setter for the Indy and his puzzles are often said to be towards the top end of the difficulty spectrum. That may or may not have anything to do with his also setting Inquisitor and Enigmatic Variations puzzles. Anyway, I’ve rated this puzzle as 4* although it might just be 3*.

Personally I found this a bit of a mixture with several easy (to me, anyway) clues to get going, others that required a bit of working out – and one or two real obscurities of which the principal one was 16dn, FALERNIAN. Chambers disclosed the information that Falernian relates to an area around Naples and I did wonder if the reference to Pontius Pilate was an indication that he came from that area, but all I could discover was that little is known of his origin except that his ancestry may have been in a people originating in central Italy; I leave it to others to decide if central Italy includes Naples.

Another obscurity for me was 4dn, GUARDIANS which I didn’t get despite having all the crossing letters, but in this case googling did confirm that Lurch is a character in The Addams Family series.

The charade and anagram at 1dn and 7dn respectively, were easily gettable from their enumeration, providing help or, in some cases confirmation, for the across clues.
I had a couple of queries about synonyms. ‘Stretcher’ for ‘lie’ in 20ac was confirmed in Chambers (and noted by a commenter on Fifteensquared); my other query was ‘agenda’ for ‘diary’ in 21ac but that is allowable in the thesaurus if not the dictionary. The only clue I didn’t really like was 13ac – it seemed a bit clunky to me.

A few candidates for CoD today. ‘Rum’ was a nice misdirection suggesting an anagram in 24ac, and I liked 6dn as I knew of the ‘old programmer’ though maybe not all solvers would have that GK. But for a nice misdirection, possibly hinting at Elizabeth I addressing her forces at Tilbury, I’ll go for 15dn: ‘Subdued individual catches part of speech given to troops (9)’.

When reading some Tripadvisor reviews you wonder if some of the comments are actually about the same hotel; the comments on the Fifteensquared review of this puzzle are a bit like that.

You’ll find the review at www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/03/independent-9560-by-wiglaf/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Quite easy to get the right answers, so to speak, I thought, but somewhat harder to parse all the word-play. I finished this in considerably less than my typical time, even after checking a few things in the dictionary or online, but then had to put in a bit of extra work to unpick some of the word-play.

ROADS from “safe havens” had me unnecessarily perplexed for a while, as I am familiar with the Carrick Roads north of Falmouth, where ships can be seen at anchor in a sheltered harbour. Other queries included the typesetter slang of “nuts”, the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, and the politician from Malawi. Both the ennobling and the North American birds in DOUBLOONS eluded me for a while, and I was misled by “disputed coinage” into thinking that I should be looking for another answer to fit with the mini-theme of old types of coin.

Clue of the Day award goes to the aforementioned 26ac: “GP secures rare old villa with capital Dock (4,6)”. I know it probably ought to have a capital V, but creativity and inventiveness trump strict rules in my opinion.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/01/independent-9584-by-radian/