i Cryptic Crossword 3591 by Anax

August 11, 2022

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

This puzzle from Anax drew nothing but high praise when it first appeared in the independent four years ago, and there’s no doubting the rigour and artistry of Anax’s setting – I just find him so very hard! Typically JonofWales blogs on an Anax day and gives the puzzle 3*, then I crop up in the comments to declare it the hardest puzzle in the i since, well, the last Anax puzzle. So no surprise today that I had to resort to a Wordfinder and the ‘Reveal all mistakes’ button on the app, although I did finish eventually.

My difficulty might be a ‘wavelength’ thing (whatever that means) but I also think Anax provides some technical differences to most setters that rack up the difficulty. Consider 14a where we have ‘in difficulty, what?’ to tell us we should put EH inside BIND, where the word order of the instructions is unusual. Then there were some vocabulary stretchers like CONCRETION, MASHIE-NIBLICK, WHISTLER [Mountain], PHLOGISTON, LOTH as an obsolete term for ugly, and WIPITI. I also think the cryptic grammar of using ‘kept’ in 16d SINISTER is wrong because clues are not supposed to take place in the past; I’m happy to be corrected on that though.

A lot of the clues were delightful in retrospect, but impossible for me to solve without having crossing letters first. Like ‘Somebody outside church’ in 1a to clue VI(CE)P. A great clue that one. However my choice for CoD has to go to one I think might be solvable without having any crossing letters, so I’m nominating this one:

3d Hard to finish puzzle without Queen Victoria (4)

I’d be interested to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Here’s the link to the blog with all the answers, written by the ever-delightful mc_rapper67


10 Responses to “i Cryptic Crossword 3591 by Anax”

  1. Grodnik said

    Agreed, a real five star toughie for me today, but a totally satisfying solve for that reason. Many very clever and convoluted clues. PHLOGISTON took me back to lessons in the, undoubtedly dangerous, chemistry lab where we did experiments and took notes on the same piece of teak! Who knows what we were exposed to, but we survived somehow. Mashie niblick dragged up memories of my golf-obsessed father-in-law, to whom I am grateful for putting me off the game for ever. My favourite today 12ac. So elegant. NDY

  2. tonnelier said

    DNF for me, by quite a way. By far the hardest daily puzzle this year. (Anax’s “wavelength” is always alien to me.)

    After half an hour I had about six answers and would normally have given up, but it’s so hot I couldn’t face anything requiring movement and just pressed on using all electronic assistance – which I rarely do on a weekday puzzle. Even so I still had half a dozen unsolved, despite spending three times longer than usual.

    Lots of very clever things, of course, in particular 11, where I had only one of the crossers, and which one can read in dozens of different ways without getting anywhere near the correct one. It’s entirely fair of course.

    Posh I’m really not at all keen on though. Can a mere Victoria really serve as a definition here? And of course without 3d, it was impossible to understand 7d.

    14 and 15 however were brilliant – as were17 and both 1s.

  3. Saboteur said

    Very tough. Six stars, at least !

    But so, so satisfying to solve. I think you are right to say that we have a combination of the wavelength thing plus some idiosyncratic definitions and wordplay. This took me much longer than usual, and I might have given up (I’m glad I didn’t) if it had not been too hot to actually move…

  4. dtw42 said

    Today I got halfway through, instead of only a third of the way through, before having to fire up the old wordfinders. So on that basis somehow I must have found this easier than yesterday’s. But still, yeah; decidedly chewy.

    Whistler mountain was definitely new to me…


  5. Bob said

    Talking of 16d, I had trouble justifying “the”. I’m okay with “Nun’s kept in dark”, but “the dark”..? “Sinister” = “the dark”?
    But I’m probably missing something. Anyone have an example of usage/context? Thanks.

    p.s. Agreed, bloomin difficult puzzle!

    • Cornick said

      Good point Bob. I had assumed that sinister must have a nounal meaning when I read the clue, but neither Collins nor Chambers indicate that to be the case.
      It’s funny how established setters with formidable reputations can get away with the same things for which newbie setters would be roundly criticised!

      • Bob said

        Thanks for the reply Cornick and confirming that you too could not find a reference. I also see your point about the cryptic part of the clue using the past tense. So possibly a couple of liberties taken with this clue!

  6. The Nanas said

    Ouch! This made our heads hurt!!! Several times we resorted to our favoured method of make up a word that fits what the clue says and then look it up to see if it exists: thus we solved Phlogiston and wapiti. We had niblick but had to look up to find the first bit! However, we did finish it and so we are feeling very hot and very smug! It was a fine puzzle. We managed 1a straight away which is also a first for us. Perhaps we are improved by the heat??? ( unlike Detritus of the Watch who gets brighter as he gets colder: mentioned as I am off to the Convention next weekend! )

  7. AndyO said

    Agree with all the above – I use a mix of !s and ?s to indicate pleasure or confusion and this was a mix of both – v tricky but glad I ploughed through and got there in the end with LOIs 8 and 11 – hard work but worth it!

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