Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

As I commented yesterday, the scheduling of our weekly puzzles seems to have become less predictable of late, with a Saturday reprint yesterday, and today… A Wednesday reprint presumably intended to be a Dac substitute. As the weather has swung from warm spring sunshine back to the depths of winter, we should be used to the unpredictable.

The consensus on the other side seems to have been that there was nothing too tricky here, so perhaps I just made heavy weather of this, finishing with a time that was a little above average. That could be because I still feel that I haven’t really got to grips with Eccles, the clues taking one or two looks rather than yielding quickly. Bertandjoyce on the other side though do note the “ingenious definitions”, which might have been a little too ingenious for me at this stage of the week.

In the NE corner where I finished there’s certainly a little difficulty – “punched” to indicate the insertion doesn’t work at all for me (“punched in” or “pinched” would), and 8d has both an obscure expression of disgust and an equally obscure abbreviation for rabbi. A pity, because the rest of the grid was a nice balance of easy and harder clues.

Elsewhere there was lots that I did like – the alternative “John Goodman” in particular was nicely observed, and there was much to enjoy in the wordplay, with my COD nomination going to 11ac – “Intrinsically sexually attractive torture (9)”.

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



Difficulty rating (out of 5): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

This proved a bit tricky โ€“ not so much in getting the answers as in parsing some of them; for instance 25ac where having assumed โ€˜perchedโ€™ was โ€˜sat inโ€™ I simply couldnโ€™t see what โ€˜wolfโ€™ was doing in the clue.

There were some interesting comments in the fifteensquared blog and I wondered if it was just coincidence that this puzzle was chosen for today. Back in 2017 Englandโ€™s cricketers had just been hammered in Australia prompting one contributor to the 15^2 blog to comment apropos 15dn: โ€œAfter todayโ€™s events in Perth, I suspect England could well do with the return of the good Dr. W.G. to embellish their own score.โ€ For โ€˜Perthโ€™ read โ€˜Grenadaโ€™?

And although I liked 10ac, 3dn and 5dn, itโ€™s 15dn thatโ€™s my CoD for its misdirection: โ€˜Cricketing legend (not English) makes embellishment to score (5,4)โ€™

Itโ€™s back to December 2017 once again for all the details, to be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/12/16/independent-crossword-9728-by-wiglaf/

Combined help indeed, given the odd but ultimately connected potpourri of names that were associated with the finished grid. FIGARO to the NW, he of THE MARRIAGE OF, which would be ultimately how we would resolve the non-words, MOZART to the SE who penned a few ditties inspired by THE BARBER OF SEVILLE derived from extra words in the across clues, ROSSINI from the extra letters in the same non-words, and BEAUMARCHAIS himself too from the across clues. Phew.

A tempting BAU(dron) to the SE I’m hoping is a bit of a red herring.

As the weekend started with a planned early night being abandoned in favour of what could best be described as a retirement to bed in what felt more like morning followed by a couple of hours sleep, it is possible – likely even – that mistakes, perhaps ultimately fatal ones, remain.

And certainly, the derivation of ICARUS remains a bit of a mystery on a level with that baffling Wales fans this afternoon following their defeat against the team described just last week as the whipping boys of the Six Nations.

Which may also have been a bit of a distraction.

Thankfully, this week’s Inquisitor was on the easy side, much of the grid fill completed in the unexpected Spring sunshine, the decision to dig out the garden furniture yesterday having turned out to be an inspired one.

One almost as inspired as eXternal’s use of “Austrian musician” to clue FALCO, he of Rock Me Amadeus, a nice allusion to the composer who would ultimately appear thereabouts in the finished grid.

Good, wasn’t it? An object lesson in how to link a variety of thematic elements very neatly, and as entertaining as you would like. One here for the end-of-year list.


Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ

I suspect most solvers will have nipped through today’s offering without noticing that there was, indeed, a Tuesday theme. The works of a jockey turned author (and his wife) are featured in several of the answers, though I have not troubled to check them all. My wife’s late grandfather was a fan, so I have read a couple of the books loaned to me, but must admit that I can’t remember any of the titles. Whether you noticed or not, this was a pretty straightforward solve with no problems encountered throughout, and thoroughly enjoyed too, as I expected when I spotted Vigo’s name above the puzzle. A refreshing change from the habitual “difficult” Tuesday.

COD? I’ll go with 27ac – “Swimming across creek regularly is inspiring (9)”.

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


Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

An Independent on Sunday reprint is presented to us for the start of the new crossword-solving week. And it is just right for what we feel entitled to expect for a Monday: something not too demanding to ease us in. I completed this puzzle in a little under my typical time, and without the need for any help, and with only very trivial parsing questions. Two-star difficulty it is, then.

My two parsing problems were “slut” (reversed) from “drab” in TULSA. The crossing letters left me in no doubt, but I did do a quick check only because of writing this blog. The other was the “bull” part of BULLY OFF, which I sort of got, but which didn’t seem quite right. The two potential obscurities if indeed they are even that are IDEM and NAPOLEON (as a card game) but with both having helpful crossing letters, they can’t have caused too many problems.

My clue of the day is the concisely neat 23d, with its nice surface reading: “No show flat? (5)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/12/17/independent-on-sunday-1451-by-poins/

Difficulty rating (out of five): Not sure; a mixture of ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

This was a puzzle that appeared on the i app. If you’re a subscriber to the newspaper it constitutes a sort of bonus puzzle.

It was mostly fairly straightforward but I struggled on a few in the NE and SW and couldn’t do the last 2 – LADY and REPUTE – without using the cheat button.

Here’s a clue I liked:

26a Attempt to catch large blue bouncing blob (7)

and here are all the answers:


And happy Mothering Sunday to all the Mum solvers who read idothei.

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Setters are always on the lookout for 15-letter entries, and it’s especially nice if they can find two that have a link. Today Serpent gave us WIDE SARGASSO SEA and CHARLOTTE BRONTE. What’s rather pleasing is that the former was written by JEAN RHYS and the latter was the writer of the symmetrically placed JANE EYRE. What’s utterly brilliant is that Serpent has linked the 20th century prequel writer to Ms Bronte’s classic with this clue:

13a 5 rearranged 18 using extremes of speech, rather than central characters (4,4)

I wonder if Ms Rhys realised the similarity between her name and the book from which she drew her inspiration? Probably. And I bet she’d have loved the clue – so it’s my CoD.

I’ve not read her book about the young Rochesters, but do remember the excellent TV film with Rebecca Hall. Oh, and I once played Mr Rochester with the local AmDram, but that’s another story.

There were lots of other brilliant clues too: the theme was linked to AUTHOR derived from Thor[e]au, then ETHOS, KNOWLEDGE, BLACK EYE, JACKBOOTS, and BONFIRE were all stand-outs. For cricket fans the surface reading of 1a is topical – the Windies are 232 for 8 at the time of writing.

And of course Serpent has managed all the above with a user-friendly grid and with no obscure entries needed to squeeze the theme in.

Whilst I didn’t share Bert&Joyce’s quibble about 1d EAGLE, I was unable to parse 9a GRANDPA, having never heard of GPA. It could just have easily have been GMA, but a lucky I guess at the close brought up the yellow tick on the app. For anyone solving on paper, it might have been necessary to look that one up.

I’ve given it 4* for difficulty, but actually it was a fairly swift solve because Serpent is so logical and his instructions so precise.

Here’s the link to the answers:


Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Quite a tricky one this, I thought. Definitely at the more challenging end of the range. There are lots of question marks and circlings in my margin, indicative of initially unresolved parsings and things to be checked prior to blogging. But these are outnumbered by lots of ticks and double-ticks, which point to an enjoyable solve of an impressive crossword.

My parsing problems included “ed” being clued by “Courier’s head”. Obviously I fell for the misdirection and thought it had to indicate C. This one I couldn’t work out, and I had to go to Fifteensquared to get the penny to drop. Another one was the U in ICARUS. I had no doubt about the entry, but it was quite a while before I twigged how this worked, as I remembered the early United Nations General Secretary U Thant, from Burma. And there seems to be something not quite right about the “arable” part of the clue for ARAB LEAGUE.

There are a couple of obscurities. AXOLOTL which is itself not what those of us in theses isles think of when amphibians are mentioned (but which is one of those odd words, once seen never forgotten) and the clue involved a reversal of “lox” from “(smoked) salmon”. A new one to me. “Tref” from “forbidden” in TREFOIL is nowhere near as well known as its opposite “kosher” and that may have flummoxed some solvers.

I loved the oblique homophone in GUISE. The definition for RECTA was brilliant, and I did rather like JAILHOUSE. Clue of the Day, however, goes to 28ac. The clue is very neatly constructed to give a completely plausible surface reading: “Chicken perhaps like chickenfeed when grain kernels replaced with regular portions of tofu (7)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/02/22/independent-9785-morph/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

A fairly gentle IoS reprint draws us towards the end of the week. No real obscurities unless you didn’t know 5d or the artist, and some nice long answers either side of the grid to open things up nicely, so I’m guessing most solvers will have fared well with this. Some of the wordplay was a little knotty compared to some IoS offerings, but as it was possible to work back from the definition easily enough in each case to confirm, this was a pretty smooth, enjoyable solve.

COD? With 24ac a close runner up, I’ll go with 2d – “Element in languages discerned by cardinal (8)”.

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


Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ

Not only a quick solve, but a pleasant one too as Hoskinsโ€™ trademark surfaces of sex, drugs and booze were nicely moderated and not too obtrusive. Only one obscurity that I could see was โ€˜seeโ€™ (sorry!) meaning โ€˜courtโ€™ in 4dn; in crosswordland itโ€™s usually a diocese or the name of one, such as Ely. GRIP for stagehand is, I think, familiar enough from the credits on films and TV shows if anyone bothers to read them.

Not much time this morning for extensive comment so Iโ€™ll just mention RICIN and AXIOM as candidates for CoD though my choice is 20dn: โ€˜Genuine lust? Concerning when seen around church! (7)โ€™. B&J did the honours back in 2017; their review can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/12/13/independent-9725-hoskins/