Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

This was completed in 1* time, but there are a few abbreviations I’ve not met before (L for latitude, Z for zero, ENCY for encyclopedia) plus a new word in the form of IMPRESA, so 2* it is.

Phi has included one of his wispier ghost themes which you will have done well to spot: it’s MICHAEL CAINE’s portrayal of the BUTLER ALFRED PENNY/WORTH in 3 of the Batman films. I took Saboteur’s line and looked for no more than 30 seconds, so didn’t cotton on. As has been said before, he does these to help with seeding a puzzle rather than as an ‘Easter egg’, but can’t resist teasing Fifteensquared regulars on publishing day!

As usual I liked the long anagrams, for which Phi invariably supplies pleasing surface readings, I also liked the clues for AFRESH, WORTH, FLUORESCE, AMBERGRIS and SWAMPLAND, but CoD goes to the following:

20a Objection over misguided King dismissing a servant (6)

Calling Lear ‘a misguided King’ is a bit like Olivier’s assertion that Hamlet is all about ‘indecision’ or Denzel Washington’s that Macbeth is about selling your soul to the Devil – true, but only part of the truth; we knew what he meant though!

Here’s the original blog and answers:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A fairly tough challenge comes to us courtesy of Morph, today. This entertaining and satisfying crossword took me rather longer than my typical time, and required recourse to aids, both for checking purposes, and for inspiration, too, in a couple of places.

However, there are no recondite words, although DEICIDE might perhaps be considered so. What is noticeable about this puzzle is that it includes three homophones, which is more than is usual. These seem to provoke controversy from some solvers who, to my bewilderment, seem to pronounce words so very differently that the homophones don’t work for them.

I struggled to parse CAFFEINE. It took me quite a while to spot that the “affe” inside “cine” was derived from “gaffer”. My only quibble was with EUNUCH being indicated by “falsetto”. I get the connection, but not all eunuchs sang, not every falsetto singer has been a eunuch, and in any case falsetto is a style, rather than a voice, like a soprano or a tenor. However, it was an entertaining clue.

My nomination for Clue of the Day goes to one of those strangely controversial homophones, the neatly done 8d: “Anticipate the third option for the fourth question in oral? (7)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/05/independent-9821-by-morph/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

How long did it take you to notice? To my shame, I was about three-quarters of the way through before I spotted the paired answers so carefully positioned in the grid. My excuse, as it is so often, is that I was fairly skipping through the grid with half a ear on other things, and thoroughly enjoying the solve to boot. A number I struggled with the parsing of – notably what sense was associated with the condition at 14ac, and what to do with “dictator” at 22d, where I was fooled completely. As the answers were so forthcoming though, apart from a tempting “laryngitis” for the first, half-understanding a number of things wasn’t much of a stumbling block.

COD? I liked “Not good – does things deviously” at 4d, but in particular “while receding from” at 19ac to indicate the reversal and removal of AS from the planet in question – “Rotation while receding from planet (4)”. Really, though, Serpent offers up so many great clues that you could pick loads.

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


Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟

I found this deceptively easy. A first glance at the clues didn’t bring anything obvious to mind, but then a couple of answers gave me a toehold and gradually the grid filled up – β€˜gradually’ being a bit of a relative term as the whole thing was completed in about 25 minutes. So I’ve given it just the one star although others may think it nearer two.

There were one or two headscratching moments, notably with 11ac, but that one became an β€˜aha’ moment when I remembered that PICAROON, today’s setter in the Guardian, is also Buccaneer in the FT (as well as Rodriguez in the Indy, so watch out for his appearance in the i). And I’ll nominate 11ac as my CoD although I also liked DOOLITTLE and, because for once there was no reference to hair, BARNET.

Another sticklebrick grid for me this week, but no nina although a few letter sequences in the perimeter happen to make words.

Back in 2018 this was a bank holiday puzzle and the regular Monday blogger, Pierre, was on hand to explain everything in his usual lucid fashion at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/02/independent-9818-tees/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A relatively gentle outing from Radian today, on the theme of matters traffic related, which even solvers such as myself who have a 19ac when it comes to spotting such things I’m sure will have noticed. A steady grid-fill here with no issues encountered, beyond working out which Welshman to pick in 22d, the problem as ever for me being that I can probably think of more than many solvers. Enjoyable, and without anything controversial or amiss that I can spot.

COD? I’ll go with 8d – “Duck eating nothing moped (7)”.

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


A shorter preamble this week. An unclued slogan, and just the hint of a something a little different in the clues in the reference to “enumerations which refer to grid entries”.

The big question being what the latter referred to. My first FORAY into the grid wasn’t, no, 1ac, but Helen’s mother down in the far SE corner. This seeming likely to be LEDA, being Helen of Troy’s mother, with wordplay to match, this wasn’t of much help.

As were most of my next load of entries, it must be said, the grid filling at what could best be described as a rate of knots, and fewer obscurities than the same day’s Phi.

And that was when I stared at a likely STATUE, but couldn’t parse it.

And at about the same time, figured that the slogan was likely to be GIVE US BACK OUR ELEVEN DAYS, one inspired by the change of calendar back in the day. If you were about to miss your birthday, you can see why you might be peeved.

Which then led to STA(TUES)QUE, (THUR)IFER, and, indeed, eleven days that were missing in total from the finished grid. (FRI)GATES, my LOI, explained some confusion I’d wreaked upon myself in the SE corner where I started.

The only disappointment would have to be that, of the four days over the standard seven, only two were a weekend. The other two being hump-day and poet’s day, respectively, I suppose was some consolation.

And done, in the sun that is confounding forecasts with each day that passes. A gentle solve this week then, but an enjoyable one, in what as anticipated has been a good Ladies’ Month.


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

If you tried to solve Saturday’s cryptic, and felt disheartened by the experience, here’s one to raise your spirits and give you a bit of a boost.

One of the many good things about the selection of crosswords we get in the i is the range of challenge, from the most accessible to the positively daunting. Both have their place. This is a delightful offering from our setter who has put together a puzzle which was both accessible – easy, in fact – but far from uninteresting. And that is a skill not to be underestimated. This one was completed in well under my typical time, but which was enjoyable throughout. I did worry a bit when I saw that I needed the name of an orchid, because plants, along with fish and birds, are in a bit of a blind spot for me. But I needn’t have worried, as this was one which I had heard of, and which emerged from the anagram-fodder fairly readily.

My last two in were in the SE quadrant. I had to rack my brains to get REVEAL, because Rod Laver, although I remember him playing, is a tennis legend from quite a long time ago. Our Younger Solver may have struggled to come up with his name. He is of a similar vintage, I suppose, to Diana Ross and her backing group, although I think their fame has been a bit more enduring. This one is my clue of the day, for the &lit-ish qualities of its surface reading: “Very powerful backing for soul singer (7)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/08/independent-on-sunday-1467-by-hypnos/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

In which Phi was teasing the Nina hunters among us by including TRY ELS/EWHERE hidden in plain sight in rows 1 and 15, then, in row 9, HERE IT IS. Arf! Do let me know if you spotted that in the comments below. I only got as far as noting that TRYELS wasn’t a word!

That gag must have put some severe strictures on the grid-setting process, so to have only ended up with NOTITIA and TOSED was pretty good going – I did briefly wonder why Phi didn’t use the more familiar ‘tased’, then I noted that Chambers Word Wizard only provides TOSED when you enter T?S?D.

Anyhow, a moderately straightforward solving experience. Not especially thrilling if I’m honest, but that’s probably because I’m a jaded old hack who doesn’t take quite as much delight in ‘ordinary’ cryptic clues as I once did. For many it will have proved delightful, and if you did spot the Nina gag, I bet you had a good laugh!

CoD? Once again with Phi, I’m going for an anagram:

5d US city is trying out restriction on speech? (10)

A further curiosity perhaps is that there are 3 hidden style clues, which is both very unusual, and, as a point of interest, exceeds the number permitted by The Times.

Here’s the original blog:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Wow. That felt like the hardest we’ve had in the i for quite a while. A few were easy enough to get things going, but the difficulty level soon ramped up to unusual levels – not helped by the vocabulary required in the answers. For example I have a CD by 1d GORECKI, so got it eventually but didn’t really know that he was Polish, and even then having to link him with Gorky as a Russian writer was tricky. Very hard, but you have to admit what a fine clue it is. And so it was again and again. We had to know about John BOBBITT, KazuoΒ ISHIGURO, IDO, TYRONE Power, Lee Harvey OSWALD, Linda Lovelace, GE as a variant of Gaia, TETRODE, GLUTEI, Ebor, and come up with some phrases like PORN LEGEND, PLASTIC ART, or SCRATCH for money.

So too hard for me given the limited time that I’ve got today – I had to resort to the cheat button – but if you were at leisure to slowly pick away at it over longer, I expect there will have been much to enjoy.

13a MALT and 19a IMPUDENT both had excellent surface readings, and I liked 7d TALKATIVE but here’s a very clever multiple reversal as CoD:

11a Singer concerned with Liberal supporter and Welsh Democrat, always looking back (4,7)

Ooh, and JonofWales’ idothei Tuesday blogs of the Inquisitor get a mention on p52 of the paper this weekend πŸ™‚

Here’s the original blog from the ides of March 2018:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

We have a nicely accessible and very pleasing crossword from Klingsor today. I was surprised to discover that this was originally a Saturday puzzle, because it had rather more of a Sunday feel to it.

I found nothing to quibble about in terms of the parsing, and neither did I come across any queries needing resolution with the dictionary or internet. There is a plant and a fish which are just a touch out of the ordinary, but barely so. And I suppose a little general knowledge about Edward Elgar would come in useful, but there is little to hold up the majority of solvers. And very satisfying and enjoyable it was, too.

There are some nice and entertaining definitions to be found, such as “it’s a delicate case” and a HAMMOCK as a place to find a kipper. Other honourable mentions go to GALAXY for the surface reading, to AT A RATE OF KNOTS as a nifty constructed anagram and to the neat GOOD FOR NOTHING. My favourite today though is 14ac: “It’s where Elgar, at the end, worked with score (14). It is no mean feat to construct an anagram-clue where the surface reading as a whole gives the definition.

Here is the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/03/17/independent-9805-klingsor/