Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

This was Loglady’s debut in the Indy and actually an IoS puzzle; being from the IoS one might expect a fairly easy ride but there were a few clues I found a bit tricky (easy enough in retrospect) hence two stars rather then one. And speaking of rides, easy or otherwise, references to riding could be inferred in a few clues and/or answers but hardly enough to constitute a theme.

The two clues referencing ‘duck’ and ‘horseman’ were a nice touch but the mythical monster horseman in 14ac had me thinking of a centaur at first before the penny dropped. Elsewhere, the parsing of 3dn seemed a bit awkward, and in 19dn ‘fervour’ as the definition was unfamiliar, but is fair enough since Chambers gives ‘gusto’ as one definition. Some solvers might be unfamiliar with the answer to 29ac; it’s an abbreviation of an American term, although not indicated as such, for apartment blocks where the apartments are separately owned, and by extension to the individual apartments themselves.

I had several candidates for CoD, but the honour has to go to 4ac, a superb example of a clue as definition, making it, to quote the fifteensquared blog, perhaps the most self-referential clue ever: ‘Answer could reference own solving, taking initial characters (8)’.

The fifteensquared blog had several comments about the parsing of 3dn, to which the setter replied; there was also speculation about the setter’s identity, to which there was no definitive answer apart from a clarification of sorts by the crossword editor. All the details can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/06/24/independent-on-sunday-1478-by-loglady/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

As one might expect with Eccles, this was a bit chewy, but everything was gettable, although I only got 19ac because it couldn’t be anything else, and it took a while to realise that ‘reprehensible’ wasn’t the definition in 17dn. There were a couple of nice &lits at 1ac and 15ac, and in 27ac there was a welcome variation on a theme that’s a bit of a chestnut in Crosswordland. 7dn not only brought an immediate smile about the use of the material in question but also, I thought, alluded to subsequent legal proceedings.

I noted several candidates for CoD as I went along, including 1ac and 8dn, but my final choice is the aforesaid 7dn: “E coli’s in a stew which might be cause of bust-up? (8)”.

As usual, all the answers, explanations and comments can be found on fifteensquared – go to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/23/independent-9862-eccles/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Peter’s puzzles in the Indy appear almost exclusively on Sundays, so given that the IoS puzzle is usually fairly gentle, one can expect something which is not too taxing. As is the case here – in fact I hardly think it needs both those stars. This, then, was a puzzle much in the mould of Dac and if Peter’s other offerings are similar their appearance on Wednesdays will be most welcome.

As you may gather from the above, I solved this with few if any problems, and ‘problems’ is something of an exaggeration. There were one or two momentary hold-ups, notably with the intersecting 24ac and 22dn, but on the other hand a few write-ins such as 15ac. Pierre, the original fifteensquared blogger, wondered about ‘lining’ as an insertion indicator in 2dn but the only thing I might raise an eyebrow at is the appearance of ‘chalet’, albeit with different treatment, in two cluess.

Difficult to pick out a CoD, but as it gave me an ‘aha’ moment I’ll go for 14dn: ‘waving flags found in prop containing English chart (9)’.

Pierre’s blog from 2018, plus a few comments, can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/20/independent-on-sunday-1473-peter/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

What can one say about Dac’s puzzles that’s not been said before? Dac was noted for accessible puzzles with precise clues and smooth surfaces. This puzzle did cause some discussion on fifteensquared about the parsing of 27ac but I have to admit that I just wrote in the answer without bothering about the parsing. So I’ll 29ac that issue and do a little pedantic nitpicking on a couple of other clues – 15ac where I don’t think ‘palatable’ necessarily means ‘delicious’, and 13dn where I’m not sure that IL is strictly correct for 49 which should be XLIX.

But let’s not dwell too much on that. This was an enjoyable and accessible puzzle with a mixture of easy clues, such as 6dn, and others which took a bit more thought, such as 30ac where I spent a few moments deciding whether ‘sister’ meant ‘sis’, ‘nun’ or, as it turned out, ‘sr’.

I particularly liked 20dn, but not everyone will be familiar with composers’ names so for CoD I’ll go for 16dn: ‘Beef dish brought round sailing vessel shortly (9)’.

The original blog and those comments on 27ac can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/03/28/independent-9814-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Knut is a setter whose wavelength I find easy to get on to; not that his puzzles don’t require some thought. This was a mixture of some easy clues with others that revealed their answers only slowly, and I failed to get 9ac although it was fairly obvious when I checked it in the fifteensquared blog. There was no theme or nina as such, but there was something going on – I’ll say no more to avoid a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t tackled it yet.

I did have recourse to Chambers to check an alternative spelling in one answer and the validity of an abbreviation in another but otherwise, apart from 9ac, I found it all pretty straightforward.

10ac and 12ac were candidates for CoD, but my final choice for the chuckle when I got it is 4dn: ‘Weather permitting, wearing garment created from recycled material made in Jersey? (6)’.

As usual, all the answers and explanations can be found on fifteensquared; go to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/05/19/independent-9859-by-knut/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟

There can’t be many more Dac puzzles left in the archive so I feel privileged to be blogging another of them. This one, as always, was a joy to solve; a few moments thought required in places though, so maybe rating two stars rather than one.

Among the nice touches were the extra layer of meaning in 10ac – ‘tarps’ in themselves being waterproof – and ‘sty’ as the farm building rather than the more readily thought of ‘barn’. I had a little trouble with 16ac, trying to put ‘ants’ (= soldiers) into an anagram of ‘Iran’; that was my fault for not realising that, given Dac’s attention to detail, the initial A in the clue was part of the wordplay and not just padding.

Editorially, maybe there was an opportunity missed to update a clue – residents of 19ac might be a bit miffed to see their city described as a town; I think in fact it had already acquired city status when the puzzle first appeared in 2018.

It’s always difficult to pick a CoD in a Dac puzzle. I liked 2dn for its simplicity, 20dn and 21dn for their surfaces but, for the penny-drop moment when I got it, I’ll go for 25ac: ‘Close to range in centre of Finisterre (7)’.

All in all a 27ac puzzle to put one in a good 1ac for the day.

For the original blog and comments go to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/25/independent-9838-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟

Given the variations in difficulty for the same puzzle expressed by commenters here recently I’m sure others will disagree but I simply cannot give this more than one star as it all went in so smoothly and quickly. The only clue I had any doubts about was 17dn where I wasn’t sure of the equivalence of analysis and therapy; however, Chambers informs me that analysis can be short for psychoanalysis which in turn includes psychotherapy. So no problem there.

This was all so good that it’s almost impossible to nominate a CoD. For form’s sake, though, I’ll pick out 8dn: ‘Gorgeous nymph rejecting a diamond ring, having lost heart (6)’.

There is a theme to the puzzle, to which I was totally oblivious. I won’t spoil things for others by revealing it here but all is made clear at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/03/29/independent-9815-knut/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟

Rather like one of the commenters on fifteensquared, I started this one at a gallop … but then slowed down considerably. So although accessible, as were all Dac’s puzzles, this gets two stars. And talking of stars, I liked Dac’s inclusion of one at 24dn. I remember seeing LOREN at the cinema in the 60s – and she’s still going strong today; Wikipedia describes her as one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.

Sorry for that digression, but it’s difficult to find much to say about Dac’s puzzles as they were all good. Here, there were some neat twists among the clues: a bit of misdirection in 8dn (‘Liszt’, anybody?); my first thought for the sea mist in 17dn was ‘haar’ though I couldn’t see how that would work; and ‘dirty-sounding’ in 22ac had me wondering if the ‘old musician’ was some sort of viol player.

There were several clues vying for the CoD spot today, 4ac, 9ac and 5dn among them, but I’ll go for 3dn: ‘Difficult to get hold of, like a mule? (8)’.

The all-important explanations can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/02/28/independent-9790-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟

Not one of Phi’s easier puzzles – definitely at least three stars today, possibly four. I started off well enough by getting DARWINIAN straight away followed by OLD TIME but then it was a case of a few here and there supplemented by recourse to an anagram solver to speed things up a bit. After that a steady slog to get the rest.

Although I have (usually) previously solved the i puzzle on its appearance in the Indy, the four year interval means that I very rarely have any recollection of it. Today I vaguely remembered that ‘Tamar’ for ‘river’ in 2dn had attracted adverse comment on fifteensquared as being too obscure; however it appears that that comment related to an earlier appearance of ‘Tamar’ in a Scorpion puzzle. So much for memory.

But to return to this puzzle, several answers, or their parsing, proved elusive although they were pretty obvious once explained – EXCHANGE TEACHER being a good example. And I didn’t do myself any favours by mixing up 8/22dn and 4/23dn for a while and trying to solve them as 8/23 and 4/22!

Phi very often has a theme or nina, although his themes are usually ghost themes which are difficult to spot and not necessary to solve the puzzle. I can’t see anything here although the original blogger thought CAMUS and COMBAT might lead to something.

There were quite a few clues to like, including 14dn and 20dn, but my CoD choice is 19ac: ‘Betrayed and beaten up for documents but showing composure (9)’.

Full explanations and comments can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/01/12/independent-9750-phi/

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 – ‘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 ‘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/