Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

One expects a degree of subtlety in a Serpent puzzle and this one did not disappoint. True, there was no nina lurking in the unches or diagonals; what we had instead was a collection of 3-letter words around the centre of the puzzle, paired to make 6-letter words as the answers to clues. A fairly quick solve (with a little help), so two stars from me although others may well rate it higher.

The puzzle kicked off to a great start with 1ac, and there were plenty of other gems to evoke delight and vie for the accolade of CoD. A few tricky ones such as the &lit at 32ac where it’s not immediately obvious that it’s an anagram or what the anagram fodder and anagrind are. And 31 down (my last one in) looks as if it’s a homophone but it isn’t. 30ac could be a trap for the unwary in the spelling of the first word (Chambers has two alternatives), but 28dn soon settles which one to use.

And so to the tricky question of a CoD. Sifting through so many contenders was difficult but I eventually whittled the choice down to two; one was 32 ac, already mentioned, but it’s just pipped at the post by 29ac: “Show off little black dress that’s seen better days (4)”.

Bert and Joyce were on blogging duty that Saturday back in 2018; their review can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/08/04/independent-9925-serpent/


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

Our theme this Tuesday was evidently to do with things 21ac, but in several of the clues this would turn out to be in the loosest sense of the word. There were some grumbles over on the other side regarding this, but to my mind it was fine – this is a cryptic crossword, and we’ve seen what would appear on the face of it to be an overt theme to be less so in the past with no complaints. It also makes things a little more interesting than nipping over to a Wikipedia page to fill out the answers you can’t get.

All in all pretty straightforward, though I will admit that I was looking for overtly themed items too so that the likes of BARRISTER, REGGAE and WENT were entered with a shrug, but it’s the first day back in work after the bank holiday so I’m not that sharp today anyway.

The solve didn’t last long, but it was enjoyable while it lasted. Let me know how you got on though.

COD? It’s got to be 24d, hasn’t it? “Left part of 21 (4)”.

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


Who doesn’t enjoy a game of WORDLE (The New York Times™)? A pretty high proportion of crossword solvers seem to, based on my twitter feed. I will say, though, that in 8-9 months of playing, I’ve yet to encounter anything as outré as FICHU, never mind XYLYL. The latter one worth bearing in mind for the next game of Scrabble. Picture that on a triple word score.

First though this week we had to actually work out what game we were playing, and get some of the answers into the grid. Ofttimes it feels like jigsaws are just designed to up the difficulty level, but this week was one where it felt justified. Perhaps it’s just because I liked the theme. Perhaps it’s because I enjoyed cold-solving loads of the clues, even the ones I struggled with. The latter may have been down to a pint of Reverend James too many, as it took far too long to spot the anagram indicator in the lone 7 letter answer, but there you go.

Talking of the 7 letter answer, and the two 6 letter ones, was I alone in feeling somewhat alarmed to find them both on the left hand side of the grid, leaving two blocks to the right that were pretty identical?

Thought not.

Bet though I was in a minority in not spotting for too long that entries spanning both sides of the grid were in fact single words, and key, with a little help from the BRB, to filling the RHS.

Revealing WORDLE, and a game of the same to fill the unclued entries. Highlight the same green (correct), and we’re done. Regarding the 89 other cells – it would appear that some players see black squares in their Wordle. Mine if incorrect are all white, so white they stay.

Which was all very enjoyable, and in fact the most I’ve enjoyed an Inquisitor in a while. This, combined with a pleasant walk, a drink, a little gentle shopping, and finding out that the two youngest did not in fact need any new shoes for school this year, was leading to a very relaxed, equally enjoyable weekend.

And then we noticed that the toilet was blocked, right through the pipe and into the inspection chamber, and thus was the evening spent.


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A crossword doesn’t have to be particularly challenging to be enjoyable and rewarding to solve (even by an experienced solver). This one from Eccles is a case in point. It didn’t take me all that long, Neither dictionary nor internet were needed for solving. There’s only one out-of-the-ordinary word – STROPHE – and that had helpful crossing letters (I did check this one after solving, and also the satellite of Uranus, but really only because I was blogging). And it was a joy to solve throughout.

The surface readings of the clues here are delightfully plausible, with plenty of humour and misdirection. I think that’s what makes it so enjoyable, even though much of the word-play was simple. I have a full eight clues with double-ticks or smiley faces next to them, a sure indication of a crossword truly appreciated. My nomination for Clue of the Day goes to 27ac: “It provides relief, if able to, at sea (8)”. Its a straightforward anagram, very unoriginally indicated as such – but the surface reading makes it so, so appropriate, and a delight to read. There is some discussion over on Fifteensquared about this clue. I won’t dare to venture my opinion… 🙂

Other clues I loved included the entertaining and misleading one for CAPTAIN HOOK, and those for ROUGH-HEWN and PUNDIT. And it was good to see that the Trump wasn’t the usual one -that added a little interest.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/08/01/independent-9922-by-eccles/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

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

A gentle offering from Peter this Bank Holiday Sunday, solved about as quickly as I can. There were a few unusual words in the grid that you many have known, not known, or in my case sort of known, but the wordplay was as clear as day in each case, so I don’t think most solvers will have been particularly perturbed. A thoroughly enjoyable start to the day.

COD? I’ll go with 1ac – “Rally car crossing Eastern Cape (7)”.

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


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

There are some setters who are prolific, there are some setters who produce brilliant puzzles, but in my opinion there’s only Punk (Paul in the Graun, Mudd in the FT, anonymous in the Times) who does both.

This was a terrific crossword full of inventive, fun and brilliant clues. I loved it. The difficulty rating is 3* because, although I personally completed more quickly than I usually manage to do the i, a) when it was first published everyone thought it was hard, and b) I did enter quite a few of the longer ones without fully parsing them – like PORK SCRATCHINGS for example, which just had to be from the &Littish description given by the whole clue, or HANSEATIC LEAGUE which had a very clear definition.

This one gets my vote as CoD; despite being no fan of the answer, it is brilliant:

6d Kiss chap in embrace of Diogenes? I’m monstrous! (4,7)

But I found so many other clues to be brilliant too – the anagram for FATHER CHRISTMAS, the subtraction in GLIDER, the punning of LEAD SINGER, so many more… then there were bits of fun like OIK, OLDIE, DELISH, WHOOPSIE defined as ‘mess of a setter’, or the use of ‘Moola’ in 1a which show a real delight in playing with the English language. There were a couple of obscurities – TAMARACK and ARGENTIC – but they were clued so straightforwardly by the wordplay that they didn’t need checking. Some might not have liked ‘Pop’ as an anagram indicator in 13d OLDIE, but I think it can be excused by the excellent surface. Then INDIE was another one that was easier to solve than to parse.

Fortunately we have my favourite blogger at Fifteensquared, mc_rapper67, to clarify everything:


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

I may have overcompensated in my assessment of the difficulty of this morning’s crossword. I had a rather unsatisfactory solving experience, and I may well have made too much allowance for that in rating it as two stars. Nothing to do with the puzzle itself, I hasten to add, but rather that Sainsbury’s delivered early (after a phone call) and the window cleaner arrived unexpectedly (something to do with holidays, he said) both within half an hour, twice disturbing the dogs, and just as I was trying to settle into my solving groove

However, I didn’t need to refer to the dictionary or the internet to find any entries, although two clues did cause me to do some checking: that a cat might be Abyssinian, and that “aery” might mean “visionary. I was pretty confident about the cat, but less so about the insubstantial thing. But in the dictionary it is, so no argument from me. This clue caused some minor criticism over on Fifteensquared, for cluing “du” by “of French”. I did think of “de” first, to be honest, but soon got the entry and didn’t think it much of a quibble.

Sadly, I didn’t really get into this, because of being interrupted, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t have been an enjoyable and satisfying solve, in more settled circumstances.

My Cle of the Day is the entertaining food-related double anagram at 9ac: “Cover beans – or serve bacon – in mess tradition (10)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/07/16/independent-9908-tees/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

An enjoyable offering today from Klingsor that was just on the right side of challenging for me for a weekday. One or two potential unknowns, in particular at 3d, and a fish in the wordplay of one that may have been as much a mystery to you as it was to me, but overall pretty common vocabulary, and some deliciously fiendish wordplay to pick away at. In other words, exactly the way I like my crosswording.

COD? You could pick lots, but 12ac stood out for me with a nice spot in the anagram fodder and a good surface reading – “Forged article is just like the actual thing (9)”.

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


Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

The paper was delivered late again and I was just attempting the puzzle online when fortunately the dead tree version arrived. Crosswords are so much easier to solve when you’ve got the grid and all the clues laid out in front of you and you can make notes, try out anagrams and generally “scribble” all over it. That’s what I find, anyway.

As to the puzzle itself I got off to a flying start with 9ac where ‘oratorio’ and the enumeration made it a write-in – though not everyone would find it so. The other long answers took a bit more thought with 14ac slightly unfamiliar as I’ve always heard it with ‘right’ as the first word. There was nothing really obscure; 19ac took a few moments’ thought but the answer came easily enough when I remembered (!) a similar word for an aid to memory, and there was a trap for the unwary in the spelling of 21ac which might cause puzzlement in 18dn. The parsing of 1dn raised a query in the fifteensquared blog as to whether ‘admitting’ could be a synonym for ‘round’ but one commenter at least found it acceptable. In fact all the clues were sound, making it difficult to select a CoD, but I’ll go for 2dn: ‘One in Switzerland hired out? (6)’.

The relatively small number of clues (23 in all) and getting 9ac straightaway made this a quick solve for me – fortunately, given that I was short of time. But others might have taken longer hence the two stars rather than one.

All the answers and a few comments can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/08/03/independent-9924-phi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

Our theme this Tuesday is regarding a novel which I did spot (appropriately, to the top and bottom of the grid), whose author is hidden in two columns, together with the name of another of her books, neither of which I did spot. The latter would have been handy to have known, as that, together with CONKER, would be what pushed this into 3* territory. As I knew neither, the chances of that though were slim. As I was also half convinced we were looking for something to do with ROD Hull too, the chances were more fleeting yet.

This being Serpent the clues were a pleasure to solve, even if one or two would take a little unpicking. For my COD I’m going with 19ac, but I suspect there will be a variety of picks today – “Soundly beat target in game after suspension (6)”.

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