Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I’m wondering whether I am off-form at the moment, as I found this to be somewhat challenging, especially for a Monday, and was surprised to discover that this was originally an IoS puzzle, and they are usually pitched at the gentler end of the spectrum. It took me somewhat over my typical time, although I did not need to resort to any aids, either electronic or dead-tree. Perhaps other solvers found it less of a challenge.

We are treated to Hoskins’s usual dazzling brilliance. He is one of the most creative and innovative setters, able to imagine allusive definitions and ingenious word-play, with no small amount of misdirection to keep the solver thinking. But such is his skill and command of language that his surface readings are never compromised. Consider, for example, my nomination for Clue of the Day, 5d “Teach me to fly a chopper in the jungle (7)”. This is a simply constructed clue, being word-play followed by definition, where the surface reading conjures up one mental picture which misdirects the solver. Something similar could be said of many other clues.

One clue had me puzzled as I tried to disentangle the clue, and that was OVERRATE. I eventually twigged that it was word-play plus definition by example. Otherwise, there’s no obscure vocabulary, and no contentious cluing. It is, of course, distinctively from Hoskins.

Click here for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/11/12/independent-1446-by-hoskins/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A reasonably similar experience to yesterday’s puzzle greeted us this morning. There were some very nicely put together clues like those for SCEPTICAL or ADVOCACY but my CoD goes to 1a:

Bachelor pulsating with energy in domestic garment? (8)

Solving was remarkably trouble-free and straightforward hereabouts, but the general knowledge content may or may not have been conducive to everyone, these things being somewhat random of course. There’s Man City’s ridiculously successful manager, a fairly current pop singer, a 1970s Woody Allen film, a model from the same era, a Hollywood leading actor, a G & S operetta, a flowering garden perennial, and a village of 300 souls in Scotland which I didn’t know existed, although the Glen in which it’s located made it obvious.

I suspect any problems that might have arisen will have come from not knowing any of those, rather than the clueing, although there were a couple of unusual ideas in that department too: notably the single letter S was replaced by the 5-letter anagram of ‘Uncle’ in 15d TRUCULENT (an unusual level of asymmetry), and ‘internally upset’ was used to change ‘Nine’ into NNIE in 6d ANNIE HALL.

Here’s the link to the blog with the answers from 4 years ago. Thanks to S & B.


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Which was as bright & breezy as the weather here in Cornwall this morning, completed with a good few smiles along the way. In general this was a good level of puzzle for newer solvers, with lots of anagrams clearly flagged, but one where we were also required to have a bit of general knowledge – a couple of rock groups, some school level French, the word BICAMERAL (means ‘having two chambers’, like the Houses of Parliament; passive vocabulary sort of word) and a phrase I’d never met before ‘PONY UP’. That second star of difficulty is also there for the unusual ‘Pated’ in the wordplay of 20a and for the only clue that gave me any significant head-scratching, my LOI RULES, which is apparently a restaurant in Covent Garden and which could have surely been clued more kindly for those of us who didn’t know that. Oh well, a bit of GK picked up I suppose.

I liked the clue for CLIMBER very much, loved ‘Born On The Fourth Of July’ to clue ‘BY’ in 24d, enjoyed 1a WHERE IT’S AT, 1d WHELP, 22a LE MONDE, and 26a MARQUEE, but my favourite today was this outstanding anagrammed clue which might not be an original idea (The Times had it first), but was new to me:

14a Wacky baccy – free in a place frequented by surfers? (9)

Thanks to Gila for the entertainment and RatkojaRiku for the original blog with all the answers which can be found by clicking the link below:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A middling-to-tough challenge from the ever reliable and always enjoyable Klingsor brings us towards the close of the working week. I was havering between a four-star and a three-star rating, but decided to err on the side of caution.

Klingsor is a master of the dark arts, and I had no queries or quibbles with any of the word-play by the end of my solve. There is only one obscurity, which is PARCHEESI. I guessed that we were looking at an anagram around something signifying “chestnut” (which I guessed correctly would be “ch”) but I did need all the crossing letters – especially the final I – before I could have a go at working it out, and confirming it online. I did wonder whether Our Younger Solver would know about Jerry Hall, who seems to have achieved obscurity after her marriage to a certain media tycoon. Peter Sellers, on the other hand, is surely well-known to all generations. Other than that, this is all very fair, with good surface readings and plenty to entertain the solver.

And a pangram, as well! I generally get over-excited at the prospect of one whenever I spot any two of the four letters J, Q, X and Z, (or “jinx-and-quiz”, as I think of it) and today we were not disappointed.

I was tempted by the Dr Strangelove clue, but decided on the amusing 1ac as my nomination for Clue of the Day: “Chubby person may have this Clue to good health! (6,4)”.

Click here for all the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/02/15/independent-9779-klingsor/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Dutch is one of those setters who’s been on the scene for a while now, but who appears quite irregularly so I was unsure if we’d met him in the i before, or quite how difficult today’s offering would be. As it turns out, we’ve had several puzzles from him before (this information thanks to the wonders of Google rather than my failing memory), and this was a fairly straightforward offering, surprisingly so for the Saturday reprint it is.

The Saturday spot was presumably given for the quality of the goods on offer, because this was a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle, teasing just the right amount, and with lots of invention on show. This stood out in particular at 17d, and the similarly clued crossing 16ac, where you would have to say that there was a choice of answers on offer for both, but they were so well done that I won’t hold that against Dutch. Some lovely long clues around the border will have given solvers a good foothold in the grid, though I did get them slightly out of order, moving clockwise from the beastie at the bottom of the grid to the one which it turns out wasn’t to the east. Last in “celebrated”, a definition that was very well hidden as so many were, followed in by the blade (not runner).

All done in a jiffy, the start of the day I was looking forward to rather than the slightly ominous tidings on the news this morning.

COD? For me it’s got to be the aforementioned 17d – “Flexible even if power were lost to Spain? (7)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from February 2018:


Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟

Eccles’ puzzles can be tricky at times but this seemed fairly straightforward despite the presence of some less familiar words such as MULCT, TACHYON and maybe ORRIS – although that was familar to me since it cropped up in the Indy recently. The difficulty rating is a bit of a guess since late delivery of the paper (it’s half term) meant I resorted to anagram solver and wordfinder to speed things up whereas I would normally persevere unaided.

In the original 2018 blog Bert and Joyce suggested there was a bit of dumping going on but I think there might also be a little bit of gastronomy with CROQUETTE, CARPACCIO and the SPECIAL dish of the day all washed down with LIMEADE.

I seem to have a blind spot for β€˜hiddens’ today; I couldn’t parse the obvious ECHO in 6ac, and EARACHE was my LOI. The latter was one of my possibilities for CoD – it was difficult to choose from so many fine clues – but I’ll go instead for 14dn: β€˜Tyrannical leaders overheard Richard, Duke of York and King Edward, perhaps (9)’.

For all the answers and comments go to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/01/10/independent-9748-eccles/

Our run of debuts having come to an end, we have a puzzle from Ifor who can safely be described as being an old-hand, though with a preamble still that I had to read several times to check what we were supposed to be doing with those extra words. The upshot it must be said looked a little alarming – synonyms of 17 to be removed from the answers of 17 others. The BRB has got a lot of weird and wonderful synonyms within its pages.

Nevertheless, the grid fill proceeded without much ado, aided and abetted by an early Friday night, and hindered by the distraction of keeping half an eye on Wales doing rather better in the rugby this week.

The upshot being that I can remember only that SYNC should it be correct caused some grief, and that COCK-UP describes many of my previous and possibly present solves.

As expected working out which cells to empty proved to be problematic, not least because we had several versions of both KIN and CAIN as candidates, Ifor teasing us to the very close. Thankfully, while I had both CHARON and CAIN as certainties, even though the latter was in the wrong place, the resulting symmetry and the help of a spreadsheet to highlight cells got the poor solver home safe and sound.

The remaining 8 words were rumoured to have a synonym in common. I only had 7, and they all seemed to revolve around things little, but that wasn’t going to help much with what had to go under the grid, being 8 other synonyms.

It would be the next day that I would spot that the letters deleted read YELLOW POLKA DOT BIKINI.

Now, this is where I have come a little unstuck. The words to go under the grid as far as ITSY BITSY TEENIE WEENIE are clear enough, but the rest. Well, it’s another guess, as I’m not sure about my other synonyms. Midway through Sunday afternoon, though, with Italy failing miserably as expected against England, I will have to admit defeat and leave my fate in the hands of the crossword gods.


i Cryptic Crossword 3445 Knut

February 22, 2022

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

Our theme today appears to be something to do with the death of David Cassidy, who indeed appears in the grid together with various other Cassidy’s, according to the blog over on the other side. I must admit that any thematic material went over my head, so I will leave it to others to unpick. What I did enjoy was a fairly straightforward daily cryptic, with a few obscurities in the form of the natives of a French region, an odd island, and a pretty rare fruit, though all were gettable, and given how quickly the rest flew by, didn’t affect the one star given for difficulty. The fruit, indeed, was a fantastic bit of misdirection – seemingly referencing 1ac – that I’m surprised hasn’t appeared before. Only 8d gave me any difficulty at the close, mostly due to a continuing inability to remember the abbreviation for Switzerland.

COD? I’ll go with 22d – “Hotel on quiet upper-class island (6)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from December 2017:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

For those who are keeping count, there are, by my reckoning, eight instances of references to drinking, sex, drugs or general crudeness in this puzzle. I am aware that for some solvers this matters, and I think that this is a lower proportion than we have seen in the past from this setter. Hoskins is, by all the evidence, an erudite and intelligent setter, who presents a certain convincing persona, and it makes his puzzles instantly recognisable and distinctive. Some are OK with it, others are not.

This one was quite tough, I thought, and it took me a little over my typical time. It is certainly tough for a Monday – although the old certainties of the pattern for the week seems to be under question of late. There are no obscurities, as such, although perhaps IDOLIST is contentious, and I did wonder about INGLE, where the indication that it was a Scots usage made me wonder if other people were less familiar with it than I was.

What we get with Hoskins is great creativity combined with superb surface readings, and no little misdirection. I hold up for your admiration today the definition for APARTHEID, the cryptic word-play for EARNEST, the imagery of the surface reading for TOSSPOT and the misdirection in TWEAK, among many delightful constructions. Hoskins is a true master of the art and craft.

My Clue of the Day is the aforementioned 1d: “Head trip on drugs with a wicked white line? (9)”.

Click here for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/12/10/independent-on-sunday-1450-by-hoskins/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

In common with the blogger and some commenters over on the other side, I found this to be quite a tricky offering for the Sunday spot, where I usually prefer to see something a bit lighter and fluffier. There weren’t any real obscurities in the grid, so you would have to look squarely at wordplay that definitely required more than a little concentration and lateral thinking. The one word that solvers might possibly have struggled with at 19ac suffered from a bit of crosswordese in TENT for wine that is surely crying out to be long retired. Elsewhere the definition at 1d didn’t work for me, the golfer I most definitely didn’t know, there’s a bit of fairly obscure biblical knowledge possibly required if you were struggling with “affair”, and the relevant artist in the NE corner, which was last to fall, took a little conjuring up. Of the things I did like, outside of the COD, in particular the redirection of “German novelist” was nicely done,Β  and it was good to see one of our favourite crime dramas get a mention.

All in all reasonably entertaining, though it does remind me of why, many years ago as a new and struggling solver, I gave up on the IoS in favour of Everyman. COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 10ac – “Artist’s wife possessing strength of character (8)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from October 2017: