Difficulty rating (out of five): ย ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Whilst I suppose it could be some sort of a joke, I doubt very much that Eimi (the i‘s crossword editor) has ever realised that along with masquerading as Maize I also blog for idothei on a Saturday. So once again I’ve been landed with my own puzzle, and this will have to be a diary-type blog rather than any sort of critical review.

As you may have noticed, there is a double pangram, but that was really just an afterthought, the seed for this one was the pair of reverse (or DIY) anagrams at 16/18a and at 13d; Don Manley refers to them as โ€˜Inverse cluesโ€™, and in my 30-odd previous puzzles (in various places) these were my first two. Once they had been found homes in the grid, I remember taking JERUSALEM from my โ€˜Clues awaiting puzzlesโ€™ file and putting it at 1a; I used to suffer from anxiety about that slot โ€“ ever since I’d heard it referred to as the โ€˜calling card for the whole puzzleโ€™. A jonquil, some paparazzi, and a bit of syntax later had the grid complete. Double pangrams honestly arenโ€™t that big a deal.

There were a hefty 3 substitution style clues โ€“ 6d WARRANTY and 10a SQUIRRELS probably both worked better than the clue for MAUI. The solitary &Lit was AUTOMOBILE, then the hidden at 2d ROLLING OVER was 11 letters long because hiddens should surely be as long as possible.

The clue for JESU seems to have gone down rather badly back in 2017 โ€“ โ€˜Pie and this?โ€™, while being a definition Charlotte Church might have appreciated, was clearly a bit too vague.

For CoD this fairly simple one seems to have gone down best:

22a   Lady rabbi condemns empty words (6)

All the answers and parsings can be found here:

Fifteensquared/Independent 9632 by Maize

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

A surprising choice for Friday, I thought. I usually write the blog on this day of the week, and I have come to expect something at the challenging end of the range. This one, however was distinctly at the accessible end. Most of it felt almost one-star in terms of difficulty, but two or three knottier ones pushed it up to two-star in my estimation. It took me considerably less time than usual, and certainly less than I expected and allowed for. The dog will be pleased to get a much longer walk.

We were treated to the excellent surface readings and clever word-play that is characteristic of Hoskins, with all of his trademark originality and inventiveness. I commented last week that with this setter the personality – or at least a persona – shines through. This is still true again today, but it is perhaps a rather milder persona that we see.

I don’t think there is any obscure vocabulary, misdirections notwithstanding. I have not seen “ce” from “Chancellor (of the Exchequer)” before, but it makes a change from cluing it with “church” – an example of this setter’s creativity. I loved the whimsical definition of a circle of lowing cows, and the delightful image of the champion bread-maker. The word-play and its interconnection with the surface reading for GOOD was neatly done, as well. Clue of the Day, though, goes to 17d: “Jumpers and anoraks go for alterations (9)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for all the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/17/independent-9597-by-hoskins/

i Cryptic Crossword 3364 Phi

November 18, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

An interesting puzzle from Phi draws us towards the end of the working week (am I the only person to begin cheering silently inside when we reach Thursday?) On the trickier side for this setter I thought, occasioned by a number of distinctly odd entries in the grid – 17d in particular was as fairly clued as you would like, but is a rare spelling of an even rarer word. The reason for this would seem to be what’s going on with some of the checking letters in a number of the clues – check out 7ac and 8ac as a starting point. This will no doubt raise the hackles of a number of solvers, but didn’t concern me in particular as all the obscurities were very clearly clued. The only one, ironically, to cause me any problems on the parsing front was 7ac, where it took an age to spot where the BS came from, despite the answer being as clear as day.

Also likely to raise hackles in some quarters I suspect will be the biblical references – with 22ac and 16ac leading me to look for another theme altogether which it appears isn’t there – but, well, it’s all part of the rich cultural fabric.

Thoroughly enjoyable throughout, and extremely satisfying to solve with all the odd entries in particular. COD? I’ll nominate 26ac – “Endless commotion in front of American burial area (7)”.

Stuck for any of the answers or parsing of the clues? Look no further than Fifteensquared’s blog from August 2017:


Difficulty rating (out of 5): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

An IoS reprint that proved to be not too difficult but not a particularly satisfying solve either. A number of clues were, as some of the earlier solvers observed on Fifteensquared, a bit iffy โ€“ notably 6dn where โ€˜out toโ€™ in the clue seems either to be just padding or to have led some solvers to the wrong answer. Also the American spelling of 7dn is not indicated and 28ac has two reversal indicators. Unfortunately I didnโ€™t find much to counter these lapses apart from the Guardian-esque 16dn, requiring the solver to split not only the pea but the beetroot โ€“ and even there โ€˜withโ€™ as a link word doesnโ€™t seem quite right..

Although one commenter on Fifteensquared thought it โ€˜very easy for the main partโ€™ I found this slow to get started with only a handful of entries on my first pass, so a 3* rating seems about right.

Nothing really stands out as CoD, but Iโ€™ll go for the aforesaid 16dn: โ€˜Beetroot and apple is cooked with legume (5,3)โ€™

To see what the reaction was first time round go to:


Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Well done if you spotted today’s theme, which is apparently to do with things related to the second part of 16ac, whether of the artistic or the 8d/22d variety. I did look, when the LHS of the grid proved to be a little more intractable than the other half, where I made a bit of a flying start (surprisingly so for Radian), but to no avail. A great puzzle nevertheless that was more accessible than some by this setter can be, with only a couple not fully understood at the close, and only then really because answers such as the aforementioned 16ac were lobbed in based on checking letters and likely looking definitions. At the close it would be 1d and 11ac that would give me the most trouble throughout, but mainly because “models” in the former looked far too likely to be part of the wordplay (TYPES) than the definition, which was probably a deliberate piece of misdirection on the part of the setter, in which case nicely done!

As already said, lots to appreciate today, with the &lit at 19ac worthy of mention, lots of lovely surface readings to enjoy, and my COD nomination going to 21d – “Conductor first to condemn Placido’s opening in short opera (6)”.

Stuck for any of the answers or parsing of the clues? Look no further than Fifteensquared’s blog from September 2017:


Two things should be noted this week.

The first would be my somewhat incomplete solve. The preamble noted that we had 17 extra words to be removed from the clues, and that letters from the same would identify someone presumably thematic. Well, I’ve got 12 of them, with nothing immediately obvious jumping out from the first and fourth letters of each to latch onto. Being of a suspicious mind, though, I couldn’t help but notice HEAVEN to the top of the grid, a STAIRWAY joining it, LED ZEPPELIN to the south, and the four members of one of the classic pomp rock bands scattered throughout. The total number of cells equaling the 45 required, out with the highlighter it was, with fingers crossed that the letters from the 17 extra words weren’t describing something else altogether. If they were, blame my own laziness. It should be noted that I’ve come a cropper like this before, when a wily setter has left a deliberate trap for the unwary, and possibly inept solver too.

The second matter of note would be the pretty nippy solve this week. Some would put this down to a fairly quiet Friday evening, the latter having being occasioned by some rather alarming incidents on the health front throughout the week. Saturday still found me a little grumpy with poor Serpent come the morning, but suitably fortified by some curry and chips, and with the youngest out at a friend’s house for the afternoon leaving a most welcome bit of peace and quiet, I could be said to be positively raring to go.

Rare to go I did, nipping through the grid at an almost indecent pace, the BRB to hand throughout, occasioned by some rather unexpected definitions in both wordplay and answer, EUREKA being an outstanding example. The northwest corner would be marked by a couple of clues that I for one couldn’t find in the same volume – PLANCHE and HALWA – but this is what Google is made for, isn’t it?

And therefore done, with everything crossed. A most welcome change of pace for me at least, having struggled for several weeks on the IQ front, and on the everything else front it should be said as well, so thanks once more to all involved.


Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

By the end, this proved tougher than it seemed at the start. There were a few clues which seemed particularly difficult (to me, at least) as if they came from a different crossword, or even a different setter. In particular, both of the cross-referencd SWAN ABOUT and GALLIVANT held me up for longer than typical.

What I liked about this one was the sprinkling of creatively cryptic definitions, such as “junk food” and “where you can call”. Crosswords are diversions and a bit of entertainment, and I do like them to at least raise a smile or two. SALSA and SIT ON THE FENCE did that for me this morning. Otherwise, there were no dubious bits of word-play or obscurities, with the possible exception of ENDUE and both the component “qua” and the entry itself of QUATRAIN. I found I didn’t need e-help, but did check in the dictionary whether “ticked off” is particularly American, and it appears that it is.

Clue of the Day is the clever 8d, for which I needed all the crossing letters: “Frame Wes? (6,2).”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/09/18/independent-9651-by-daedalus/

Difficulty rating (out of five):  ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

JonofWales has a theory that setters often put their easier clues in the SE corner, which held good today; in addition there was a bit of a gimme at 1/4a with PARISH REGISTER being as obvious an anagram as you’re likely to see in the i, so I thought we might be in for an easy ride today. But not so…

There were plenty of deletions – which tend to up the difficulty considerably – plus a few that were, well, RECHERCHE. ‘Pashes’ was remembered from a previous crossword in the i , LUTHIER and SMARTS from Lord knows where, and POSTLUDE was completely new, although one can see how it must be cognate with ‘prelude’ and ‘interlude’, presumably. Then I didn’t know that TULSA was an oil town, though perhaps I should have. Apart from those we had to get from ‘military leader’ to ‘OC’ in one leap, and come up with SPORTING CHANCE – where all I could think of for ages was ‘Fighting Chance’. Other than those it was all pretty tractable if given enough patience I thought, so 3* seems about right. Frankly Phi is nearly always either 2 or 3, so not too much controversy I hope.

No theme this time, my candidates for CoD are 24d for an intriguing surface reading and the following which gets the gong for its economy and style:

6d Show maltreatment involving Italian restaurant (10)

Here’s the blog from 2017 with all the answers:

Independent 9625 by Phi

Difficulty level (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

To my mind Hoskins is one of the finest crafters of crosswords we have. He pushes the boundaries of creativity and originality whilst creating entirely plausible surface readings. Good surface readings are of the essence of a good cryptic, imho; even I can yoke together an anagram with a synonym – it’s getting it all to sound right that I struggle with. And all the while, throughout his clues, Hoskins lets his personality shine through (or if not his personality, then a carefully curated public persona, at least). And there is so much humour. Whilst he is evidently erudite and intelligent, Hoskins seems to set out to entertain, not merely to impress.

This accessible puzzle is a case in point. If the setter’s name were not visible, we would know who it was. It is full of misdirectingly creative thinking, for example “tartish types” instead of just “tarts”, and “to ring each other” for the act of marriage. There is no obscure or contentious cluing, and the word-play is impeccable throughout. There is but one bit of recondite vocabulary, which is SPEEDBALL. The crossing letters for this, however, left little room for doubt.

If I had to find a criticism it would be to ask how any nonagenarian (setting aside the question of how much respect is due) could be described as a “babe”.

Only one Clue of the Day is, as ever, really hard to determine. I’m going for 19d. It is simply and precisely constructed, with no peculiar vocabulary. It has a nice bit of misdirection and a good surface reading, and a reference characteristic of the setter: “Month with no drink upset army type! (7)”.

Here is the link to the original Fifteensquared blog with the answers and explanations. One final comment in praise of our setter: it is apparent from the comments that Hoskins engages with his solvers (or at least those who comment) and that he is genuinely interested in what they think.

Independent 9621/Hoskins

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ

Something a little easier today after what’s been a pretty tough week in the i so far – a Wednesday reprint from Eccles that I would have expected to see here on a… Wednesday. But such is the scheduling we’ve had of late I haven’t quite fathomed yet. Pretty straightforward throughout, with no real obscurities outside of the South American native (that I sort of knew), with a bit of a hold-up here on the longer down answers, and an eyebrow raised at the spelling of 28ac. 9d caused much amusement and comment predictably enough back in the day, and I can see why Eccles used it to advertise the puzzle on Twitter, as it’s certainly attention grabbing, but there’s much to like outside of that clue, with the aforementioned 28ac and 7d both I thought very nicely done, the latter a first in fact as far as I know.

But COD? Inevitably, love it or loathe it, it’s going to be 9d – “Very quietly cuts Lady Garden, perhaps, in shower (6)”.

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