Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

The puzzle can be found online here, available for free, though you do need to register first.

Verily it is written that the prophet shall know no honour in his own land; so it is with me and Silvanus. I remember his coming through the ranks at Big Dave’s website – via Rookie Corner and ‘Not the Saturday Prize Puzzle’ – and then to his being taken on at the Indy around the same time as Eccles, Dutch, Beet, and myself. Consequently I maybe don’t give Silvanus quite the same aura of respect I give to some other setters – and that’s not his fault at all of course.

So this felt like a very good puzzle, but not really outstanding in any particular way. I had a couple of minor gripes – things like the linking words ‘when’ in 11a, and ‘to expose’ in 9a; then ‘topless’ used a deletion indicator in an across clue seemed wrong; but that’s my point – I was looking for faults rather than accepting the clues as written. Heigh-ho.

Still all got finished in reasonable time, and mostly parsed (MISERABLE defeated me) with some nice moments along the way. I liked 1a PIEBALD plenty, but my CoD nomination goes to this one:

16d Train operatorโ€˜s ten hour disruption after beginning of strike (8)

Very good and nicely topical both at the time and again now, that one.

Here’s the blog with the answers from Pierre:

www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/04/independent-9872-silvanus

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

It would be instructive to place today’s Serpent puzzle alongside Klingsor’s from yesterday and Dac’s from Wednesday. They’re remarkably similar in that all three provide totally credible surface readings and watertight, satisfying cryptic readings of a quality that represents the very best of British Cryptic Crosswords. Where they differ is in the difficulty level. Not of vocabulary – all three tend to eschew obscurities – but rather in the degree of misdirection; how hidden the real instuctions of the clue are; how ‘cryptic’ it is.

So Serpent is the most difficult of the three, and this one definitely warranted 4 stars, but oh, how satisfying to solve! The greater difficulty means that – provided you can solve it of course – the penny drops with an even greater clang. I loved it.

Some of the best surface readings were those for GRIFTS, COCKROACH, MINSTREL, and BROADEN. Then the brilliantly disguised bits of wordplay include ‘messing with the inside'(of ones head) to change ‘nail’ to (CRA)NIAL, ‘Allow housing association’s case’ in 8d… well frankly I could go on and list them all – you’ll doubtless have your own favourites. For a CoD we’re spoilt for choice, but I’m plumping for this one:

14d Sneak into enemy camp and learn if itโ€™s prepared to accept end to conflict (10)

There is a ghost theme – easily spotted at the end if you just read through the across clues: We had CAPTAIN BEEF/HEART and the symmetrically positioned TROUT MASK REPLICA. Nice spot that, Serpent, and it coincided with the anniversary of the album’s original release.

Beermagnet did a sterling job over on Fifteensquared back in the day, although I suspect the ‘correct’ definition for AMOEBA at 23d is actually ‘being confined to a single cell’, with ‘being’ as a noun. Serpent doesn’t really do verbiage.

Here’s that link:

www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/16/independent-9883-by-serpent

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

A relatively gentle puzzle this morning, courtesy of Klingsor, nicely crafted and very pleasing to solve. All star ratings are, of course, an average of one’s experience across the whole range of clues, but this was one of those crosswords which seemed to be split into two strongly contrasting solves; the left hand side all yielded very readily, with most of the clues being read-then-write entries, but the right hand side demanded a little more of me, for whatever reasons. So one-star for the left three-star for the right, and I’ll average that out at two-star overall.

There’s nothing particularly obscure in the vocabulary today. The lake and the towns are all reasonably well known, and likewise the two music-related entries. I do tend to have a bit of a blind-spot when it comes to the names of shrubs and flowers, but with the crossing initial O even I had no trouble with today’s one.

Nicely plausible surface readings combine with precise word-play to give us a fine crossword. The only parsing problem I had to return to at the end was for CONVENTIONAL, where I thought there might be an “a” missing from the clue. My bad, for on return I saw that “island” clued “iona”, and all was good.

Clue of the Day for me was the compact 19d “Place fit for dog (6)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/14/independent-9881-klingsor/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

A veritable potpourri of vegetables today, and a puzzle that I found to be on the tricky side. At first I thought it was the surprise of seeing Phi on a Thursday that had done it, but no, the consensus over on the other side seems to be in agreement. A few less familiar words perhaps, a few well disguised definitions (6d springs to mind), and some quite cunning wordplay will all have contributed to the overall slow pace. As enjoyable and satisfying as ever from Phi, though, so no complaints here.

COD? I’ll go with 1ac – “Air traveller, the fool, is blocking someone from Estonia? (10)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/22/independent-9888-by-phi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Last time I blogged a Dac puzzle I commented that I was slightly disappointed, but there was no disappointment today. As Bert and Joyce noted in their fifteensquared blog, this was an excellent puzzle with smooth surfaces and no unusual words. I did, however, find it a bit slow getting into, hence the 2* rating.

I found the NW corner a little tricky, but that was down to my tentatively entering โ€˜riverโ€™ at 12ac (โ€˜driverโ€™ without the D) although I couldnโ€™t see the relevance of โ€˜high terrainโ€™ โ€“ but once I got the picture, as you might say, in 10dn the correct answer was obvious and the rest of that corner fell into place.

Of the two long entries I failed to get the reference to the band in 14ac, seeing the clue as simply a cryptic definition; and I got 17ac from crossing letters without fully parsing it.

On reflection, maybe the comment โ€˜no unusual wordsโ€™ ought to be โ€˜no obscure wordsโ€™ since 15dn isnโ€™t a word one encounters all that often. But thatโ€™s only a minor consideration and on the other hand there was lots to enjoy here as one expects with Dac: an alternative to โ€˜corโ€™ for โ€œIโ€™m surprisedโ€, avoiding a reversal of โ€˜naiveโ€™ for the French spa, and a drug that wasnโ€™t โ€˜Eโ€™.

As candidates for CoD I considered 24ac, 5dn and 21dn, but my eventual choice was 1dn: โ€œDrop Iโ€™m surprised can be squeezed into a pint (7)โ€.

As usual all the answers, explanations and discussion can be found on fifteensquared โ€“ http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/27/independent-9892-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Well done if you spotted today’s theme, which seems to be regarding things Rumpole if I’ve deciphered the cryptic (and needlessly coy) comments over on the other side correctly. Needless to say I didn’t, despite hunting round on getting rather stuck at the close in the SE corner. Talking of which, this was a puzzle not of two halves, but of three quarters which went by in no time at all, and then that last quarter which took the same time again. A few obscurities, a definition at 18d I couldn’t get to grips with, and a rather wordy 19ac will have been mostly to blame. Spotting PYLON only very late though can only be put down to slowness on my part.

Interesting and enjoyable throughout, and a little quirky too, it will be interesting to see how other solvers got on.

COD? I’ll go with 12ac – “40-30; fault on return makes game (6)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/07/10/independent-9903-by-filbert/

Shared Identity because we are all, well, SPARTACUS, presumably.

This week was one of those when I think – what we could do with in the Inquisitor is a difficulty rating, because this was one of those puzzles you’d recommend to newish solvers who would find much that was familiar, with the likes of ADAM ANT old friends to many.

Which is not to detract from the puzzle’s enjoyment value, which received top marks, with added plaudits for some entertaining forays into the BRB from OTAKU onwards.

We had the obligatory cock-up to be cleared up thanks to the endgame, with the ALAN / ALUN quandary, at least for those of us with middling to poor parsing skills. Thank the crossword gods then for KIRK, STANLEY, etc, to clear up any ambiguities and / or doubts.

Director and some of the stars of said epic being the required highlighting, together with the film’s name. A glance at the associated Wikipedia page reveals that it’s yet another that KUBRICK disowned. Did he actually like any of his films?

No matter. This was solved and, yes, thoroughly enjoyed, in a quick session sitting in a gentle breeze in front of an open window, proving satisfactorily that the advice in the heatwave to “keep windows closed to keep out the heat” should be taken with a pinch of salt. At least in these parts where the breezes are often fierce. On the other hand the worst is yet to come, so come back next week to see if I’m eating my words.

I would eat my hat, but it appears I may need it.

20220716_124009

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

A moderately challenging crossword this morning comes to us from Alchemi. This took me a little longer than my typical time, and I did need to consult the internet once or twice, so three stars it is. On completion, it was hard to see why I found it challenging at all, as I had no parsing problems to resolve, and no quibbles over word-play or definitions to ponder. That, in my book, is a sign of a good and well-crafted puzzle; something to think about during the solve, but giving clarity on completion.

My visits online were for a check on an unfamiliar spelling of the familiar term for a Turkish commander and to check on the alternative spelling of a woman’s name, which I have only ever encountered in its ….ie form, not ending in Y. Elsewhere it took me a long time to twig the word-play for BEHEADED, and to get the boots in RUGGEDER.

The puzzle is overtly themed around “courses”, in their sporting, educational an culinary manifestations.

My Clue of the Day is 23d, for its amusing Uxbridge English Dictionary quality: “Woman like one coming out (5)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/11/independent-9878-by-alchemi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

The puzzle can be found online here, available for free, though you do need to register first.

One of those IoS reprints this week that are a little chewier than you would expect. We have a few general knowledge references that I certainly didn’t know, a slightly odd looking word at 10ac (if fairly clued), and 13ac which took several solvers a while to parse, it appears. It was certainly my LOI, and is also my COD – “Shot in Cuba earlier (4)”.

An enjoyable start to a day that looks determined to be wet and grey throughout.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/07/15/independent-on-sunday-1481-poins/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ๐ŸŒŸ

An enjoyable, fairly gentle outing from Dutch this weekend. There’s a Nina in the left and right columns, and also I suspect a few thematic answers dotted about the grid. Belated congratulations!

Whether you noticed or not (I didn’t) this was a good example of a great puzzle not needing to be difficult. The crossing cryptic definitions at 16d and 19/23 caused some difficulty – a case with both of either you get it, or you don’t, but the rest fairly flew by. We have the one odd bit of vocabulary at 7d, and a usage I didn’t know at 3d, but the rest was pretty commonplace, so that even if you were struggling with the wordplay in the far SE corner, I’m guessing you won’t have been held up for long.

Talking of which, my COD nomination goes to 32ac – “Mind being described as XXXL (4)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/20/independent-9886-dutch/