i Cryptic Crossword 3327 Anax

October 6, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

It took me a while to get into this, but once I had done so I found it very enjoyable and engaging, despite several of the answers being words I had never heard of before: CI-DEVANT, ILLITE, AMAH, STEAM, (as a games platform), ALLENTOWN, STELA and NICOTANIA. Also, BALLAST as a verb. They were all clued logically, though. Fortunately I had encountered ESSENE previously, and was familiar with AHORSE.

Two of the answers, WEASEL and OVARIES, I sketched down provisionally on a separate piece of paper, wondering how the parsing worked, and looked at them for absolutely ages before it came to me. I thought the clue for TOLLBOOTHS was a bit vague, and equating MY with Iโ€™LL BE โ€ฆ took some thought, but these were the only small quibbles in what was otherwise a brilliant puzzle โ€“ many thanks to Anax.

The great majority of the clues were excellent, and maybe four or five might be worthy of being CoD, but Iโ€™m going for 3: โ€œMinor charge a result of naughty videotape (no sex) (7).โ€œ I particularly appreciated the use of VI for SEX โ€“ Latin for SIX โ€“ which you have to remove from VIDEOTAPE before jumbling the remaining letters. I originally tried it out by removing IT โ€“ also a synonym for SEX, of course.

Hereโ€™s the link for all the answers and explanations:


17 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3327 Anax”

  1. jonofwales said

    Thanks Willow. Pretty tough today I thought, a definite 5* for difficulty, with loads not fully understood, and a number of obscurities (notably 13ac and the town). There’s a theme based around 4d that I’m guessing nobody spotted (I certainly didn’t!) Excellent stuff as you say, though an interesting bit of scheduling to say the least.

  2. Willow said

    Now that I’ve read Fifteensquared fully (apologies for not doing so before – I was anxious to get the blog posted …) I can appreciate the remarkable skill involved in the theme – but it went completely over my head when solving!

  3. thebargee said

    Nah, way too tough for me, too many obscurities to make it enjoyable. 5*+ in my book.

  4. tonnelier said

    At least 5* for me. Make it 10* or any number really. I found more than half of this completely beyond me.

  5. dtw42 said

    Three? No, *at least* four. I did finish it in the end, but needed electronic help for the last three (ALLENTOWN???) Obscurities and tricksiness galore. Thank god I spent a few years in the company of someone with a tweenage son or else STEAM would have garnered absolute bafflement. Nina and theme? Nope. [whoosh]

  6. Grodnik said

    Excellent challenge today. I love it when the setter includes plenty of obscurities as it increases my vocabulary even at my advanced age. As my mother used to say, โ€œ you can learn something new every dayโ€ so donโ€™t waste the opportunity. I knew ci-devant from somewhere and it kept flashing around my brain until I finally pinned it down while reading about Andrew Windsorโ€™s current difficulties.
    Small typo in your splendid blog Willow – NICOTIANA – bane of inveterate smokers. NDY

    • Willow said

      Thanks for the correction.

      I was going to write again anyway. With acknowledgements to Captain Kirk …

      Willow’s Blog – Supplemental:

      I should also have mentioned that I found many clues very humorous. And that Chambers was an invaluable resource in checking words I had guessed from the wordplay in some clues.

      As far as difficulty is concerned, it seems people differ greatly on this. I am a self-confessedly very slow solver, and this took me about the same time to do as other three-star related puzzles in recent weeks. I did it in one sitting. For a four- or a five-star puzzle I would normally have to take a break, and sometimes extend the process over two or even three days.

      Nevertheless, I think the difficulty rating is something to keep.

      • jonofwales said

        It’s worth noting that the Fifteensquared blogger also found this puzzle to be easy for Anax.

        Unless we’re going to all take the time to compare notes and come up with an average, as per TimesForTheTimes’ SNITCH index, then the difficulty rating will always be subjective, and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

        I like it, though – at the very least it’s a talking point!

  7. Cornick said

    5* for me. I am seriously doubting our collective ability as bloggers to get this new system even remotely objective. I wonder if they do better on Big Dave’s site? And if so how?

    On to happier subjects, you raise an interesting point, Willow, about the subtractive anagram in 3d ADOPTEE.
    Indirect anagrams are widely frowned upon of course, so my guess is that whilst ‘It’ would be counted as a synonym for sex (therefore we’d be into indirect territory) VI would rather be taken to represent sex, which would therefore not count as being indirect. Funnily enough we had the same thing yesterday with the anagram fodder for Radian’s PENALTY given by ‘play 10’.

    In both cases I do think it makes the clue a hard one, especially when, as yesterday, the anagram indicator is ‘away’, which I just don’t see at all.

    • jonofwales said

      On Big Dave’s site yesterday they were busy arguing about the high difficulty rating given to Chalicea’s Toughie. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Cornick said

        Chalicea makes her puzzles very accessible, so the 3* setting her puzzle received does seem odd. Not just us then!

  8. tonnelier said

    Just like to throw in my contribution to the difficulty debate on this Anax puzzle. I regularly complete Inquisitor, and the daily I puzzle rarely takes me more than half an hour. This one I found just impenetrable. Which is why I would give this at least 10*

  9. Saboteur said

    Very tough. Five star plus for me. Took two sittings.

    Unusually, I didn’t enjoy solving it, so challenging was it, and I completed it our of a stubborn refusal to be beaten, rather than out of enjoyment. Too many answers went in with question-marks, and the penny-drop moments were too few and far between.

    Much to admire, of course – but only after I had read Willow’s interesting blog and 225. The gimmick totally passed me by.

  10. Saboteur said

    The system for difficulty rating is bound to be subjective, imho.

    I think Cornick is right that it can’t be based just on time taken, but has to reflect, for example the complexity of the clues, and things like number of crossing letters, especially initial letters.

    I do try to do that when I blog, but it is still highly impressionistic, as I don’t have any measures like percentage of (easy) anagrams, or percentage of crossers, etc.

    Even time taken can be subjective, as I solve much faster in the morning than I do in the evening, and I do find that a drink can have an effect on my speed (one way or another).

    I do think, however, that, imperfect though it be, the rating does enhance the blogs.

  11. John E said

    I made the comment that originally led to the inauguration of the difficulty ratings, which I have generally found to be fairly useful and not wildly inconsistent. The limit of my comfort zone is medium difficulty, so I never go out of my way to buy the paper if the crossword has more than three stars. This one was definitely five star territory for me and I decided to throw in the towel with only four clues solved.

  12. Borodin said

    My initial impression was that this was fairly easy for an Anax puzzle, i.e. I got several answers in straight away, but things slowed down thereafter and I got to the stage where I had the right hand side complete but very little on the left and had to resort to help. I only got STEAM from crossing letters and naturally failed to spot the theme. So I’d have rated it 4* had I been blogging.

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