i Cryptic Crossword 3328 Alchemi

October 7, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

To continue with the rather eccentric scheduling of puzzles this week, Thursday sees an Alchemi reprint from a Wednesday in 2017 where he was a more than able stand in for Dac. I’ve given it four stars for difficulty, but this could as easily have been a high end three stars, complicated for me by the quite convoluted 10d, an inability to spell 15d, and a wonderful PDM at 3d when I suddenly realised what the apparently random collection of letters I was putting together spelt. Oh, and a refusal to write-in for too long at the close what was obvious at 29ac.

We have a number of linked clues, all referring to 16ac, which was as easy to solve as you could like. This meant that, with a little general knowledge, things like the pilot and aristocrat who were 16ac were perfectly gettable, even if you aren’t up to speed with your list of Greek satirists or a little slow with the wordplay here and there.

Talking of which, there was some very nice stuff on offer here, some of which defeated me. In particular, “deep 16” as part of the wordplay for 10ac was quite inspired, even if I did only get it in retrospect. In fact, it’s so well done I’m going to make it my COD – “Scottish mayor sees very large junction on deep 16 (7)”.

But let me know how you got on…

Still stuck for the answers or parsing of the clues? Look no further than Fifteensquared’s 2017 blog, which can be found here:


14 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3328 Alchemi”

  1. tonnelier said

    This difficulty rating lark really is tricky! After totally failing yesterday, I completed today’s in 14 minutes.
    I don’t usually time myself, let alone reveal the result, but after yesterday’s debacle (sorry, can’t do accents), I needed some reassurance!

  2. Topsy said

    I found this one enjoyable but difficult. For the first time ever I found myself thinking it may have been a pangram which really helped me. I couldn’t get the gateway clue but it should have been obvious once I got 25d. I certainly would never consider a fritter to be a delicacy and tried for a while to convince myself that “lobstered” might be a euphemism for being drunk ๐Ÿคฃ

  3. dtw42 said

    What tonnelier said โ€“ I drew (wrote?) two stars in the newspaper’s margin in anticipation of what I expected the rating today to be. All went in without any disagreements or puzzlements; the theme was plain enough. Perhaps the puzzle should have been no number 3328 but number 404 ๐Ÿ˜›

    Agree with Topsy about the fritter though!

  4. Saboteur said

    I’m with Topsy: a fritter is a delicacy? Certainly not the spam ones which were an all too persistent feature of my childhood diet.

    I enjoyed this, which was a relief after yesterday’s torture. I wasn’t particularly happy with the (lack of) defi idiots in 25d and 7,4d; effectively having “not found” as the definitions for SNARK and PERPETUAL MOTION seems inadequate. Neither clue is a cryptic definition, or anything like that, as far as I could see.

    Otherwise good fun and enjoyable. A three for difficulty for me.

  5. Willow said

    Quite a clever puzzle which held my attention, had an interesting theme, and was competently crafted, but I didn’t think there were any really imaginative clues, and I would describe several surface readings as clunky. All completed and parsed within the same time as yesterday, so this would be a three star for me.

  6. thebargee said

    An afternoon solve for me, which usually adds one * at the very least (or more properly subtracts one * of solving ability from my brain). I found the RHS went in really quickly, but I struggled a little with the sinister side. My inability to spell NIETZSCHE didnโ€™t help, and it meant that OVERTOOK was my LOI after a lot of head-scratching. I also needed a teensy-weensy bit of e-help with 3dn.

    Overall I enjoyed the puzzle and totally agree with the COD – that โ€˜deep 16โ€™ thing made me smile.

  7. thebargee said

    The 404 idea definitely appeals to an ex-techie like me ๐Ÿ˜Š

  8. tremargooner said

    Really surprised to see this got four star difficulty. Fastest solve of the week for me, thought it would be a two stage at most…

  9. Cornick said

    The star ratings for the last 3 days have been respectively 1, 3, 4.
    I would have given them 3, 5, 2.

    This was a speedy, fun and excellent puzzle from Alchemi, even if the fritter/ delicacy thing was as far off the mark as the star ratings, which are frankly winding me up!

    • Willow said

      Possibly opening a can of worms here …

      When assessing Music GCSE and A Level work we as teachers were required to refer to criteria supplied by the exam boards. So a performance meriting an A grade would be described as confident, fluent, highly accurate, expressive, and so on.

      These criteria were very detailed. I wonder if something far less detailed – maybe three points per level, and only describing 1, 3 and 5 – might serve as a guide for deciding difficulty. For example, 1 star: many clues were write-ins, no obscure words, simple anagrams; 3 star: took a while to complete, quite complex wordplay for over half the clues, several obscure terms.

      Or would this be too prescriptive?

      • Cornick said

        Agreed Willow. Something is definitely needed IMO.
        Difficulty is affected by at least a dozen identifiable variables that are objective and quantifiable, plus some – like a solverโ€™s familiarity with a given setter, say – which are not..
        Earlier this year I guested on one of John Halpernโ€™s (Punkโ€™s) regular Zoom meetings discussing the subject.

  10. Borodin said

    The star ratings are certainly subjective; I’d give this no more than 2* as I solved it in one session. Maybe that was because I got the gateway clue early on; anyone struggling to get that would no doubt rate the whole puzzle higher – at least 3*. That being said there were a few answers that went in unparsed, notably PERPETUAL MOTION and PHILOSOPHER’S STONE got from crossing letters and definition.

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