Difficulty rating (out of 5): ⌛⌛

A bit short of time this morning so apologies for a fairly brief blog.

I made a slow start with only 14 and 26 from the acrosses, then a few downs gave a toehold on the gateway clue at 11ac, and to speed things up a wordfinder gave me the answer. After that it was mostly plain sailing, although the French département at 16 might be unfamiliar to some, as well as the boys at 25.

Nothing struck me as being a CoD, but I liked some of the short entries, such as 5, 8 and 23dn.

As usual, full details appear on fifteensquared, where there’s also a comment from the setter about the significance of the puzzle’s appearance on that particular date. All to be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/09/30/independent-on-sunday-1492-raich/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ⌛⌛
When I saw this was by Peter I thought it must have appeared originally as an IoS puzzle, and as the Sunday puzzles are (usually) fairly gentle this would be pretty straightforward. As far as solving time is concerned I got through this quickly enough, but some answers went in as guesses to be confirmed later and there were a few minor difficulties, hence the ⌛⌛ rating.
To deal with the minor difficulties first, I had ‘edging’ for 5dn, which can almost be justified from the unrelated word ‘fish’, meaning a strengthening strip; the correct answer, though, requires the solver to remember that the plural of ‘fish’ is … ‘fish’. Elsewhere I wasn’t familiar with the informal term for ‘rabbi’ in 24ac and in 26ac I didn’t know the definition or the ‘early stage of development’ meaning for the second part of the answer so that was one of my guesses. 23ac, too, might not be familiar to everyone although I did know that one.
But the rest of the puzzle was easy enough with a few write-ins, notably 1dn, to help along the way, anagrams that were readily unscrambled, and some ‘aha’ moments to nominate for CoD. In my nomination for that honour 27ac was just pipped at the post by 19ac: “Noteworthy setter’s given gift-wrapped volume (10)”.
For all the answers and explanations we do indeed go back to a Sunday (in August 2018), to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/08/19/independent-on-sunday-1486-by-peter/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ⌛⌛

Dac’s puzzles were usually models of clarity, precise clues and lack of obscurities. But even Homer nods, as the saying goes, and this puzzle was a slight disappointment. In his defence it should be remembered that was from the time of Dac’s last illness, but one would have expected some editorial input to have avoided what appear to have been careless errors. On the difficulty scale I found this a little tricky in places and took longer than I should in and around the NW corner, as well as not seeing the parsing of 14dn.

Nevertheless there was plenty to enjoy. Among other delights there were the succinct triple definition in 12ac, some celebrities who to my mind were not just minor but very minor, and a Frenchman’s game that was neither René’s nor rugby. I liked the anagram and definition in 8dn, as well as the charade in 9dn, and if 21ac was not an entirely familiar word the clue was clear enough. My CoD, naturally enough, comes from among those mentioned and is 24ac: “Frenchman’s game incomplete very near a road, one in Paris (9)”.

As to any flaws, these were picked out in the original fifteensquared blog and subsequent comments, which can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/08/29/independent-9946-by-dac/

Oh, and seeing the date I realise that it’s a year since I started blogging here – how time flies!

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): 🌟🌟

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): 🌟🌟

A little trickier in places than usual for Dac, I thought, although it could be that I’m not fully awake after a long and stressful day yesterday. Anyway I’ve rated it two stars rather than the one that some solvers may consider.

There was also some general knowledge required which can alter solvers’ perceptions depending on the extent of their own GK. Today it was helpful to know the works of Herman Melville (or Benjamin Britten), the name of a 20th century composer (not Britten), a local anaesthetic (which Chambers indicates as US usage) and Roman mythology.

Nevertheless this was an enjoyable solve. I did wonder if 9ac should have had a question mark to indicate a definition by example, and in 4dn ‘European’ wasn’t strictly necessaryfor the definition although it obviously helped the surface. And I was held up for a while on 16ac – the O from the crossing 12dn misled me into thinking that was the ‘old’ in the clue, whereas it was a bit more subtle than that.

In fact I did consider 16ac, once I got it, along with 18ac and 23ac for CoD but for deceptive simplicity and conciseness my choice is 13ac: ‘Staying on line? (8)’.

The original blog by Bert and Joyce generated very few comments, often (Guardian blogs excepted) taken as a sign of a great crossword and a fine blog, although another explanation in the case of Indy puzzles was hinted at there. See for yourself at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/07/25/independent-9916-dac

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ☆☆
A short blog today, I’m afraid, as the paper was delivered late and I have to go out; fortunately it did turn up in time to save me struggling with the puzzle online. Is there a way to print from the app other than taking multiple screenshots?
Anyway, this was Tees in one of his easier moods and I was on his wavelength since he appeared (as Neo) in yesterday’s FT so I rattled through this fairly quickly, only 9dn holding me up for a while. A cracking puzzle, with plenty of tricks to keep solvers on their toes. There were so many delights there’s no way to single out a favourite today, so I’ll just direct you to http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/11/25/independent-9710-by-tees/ for all the answers and explanations.

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ☆☆☆
Tuesday is theme day in the Indy and here in the i too, with this puzzle being a re-run of one of Radian’s Tuesday offerings from 2018. Back in the day Radian compiled a number of puzzles with Shakespearean themes; this was one of them, alluding to one of the Bard’s most well-known soliloquies. But knowledge of the theme was not necessary for solving and I concentrated on solving rather than looking for the theme.
As to difficulty, I found this to be moderate, solving fairly quickly, needing help only for 22dn where I originally took ‘young swimmers’ to be the definition and wanted to put in an unparsed ‘elvers’ until the crossing 28ac ruled that out.
I thought a couple of synonyms were a bit vague – ‘launch’ in the clue for 8dn and ‘taskmaster’ as the definition for 12ac, where ‘hard taskmaster’ might have been nearer the mark. The clue for 12ac also required the solver to divide ‘workmen’ into two separate words – a device more common in the Guardian, though not unknown in the Indy (and i).
There were no really unusual words, although 1dn is more likely to be encountered in crosswords (and Shakespeare!) than in everyday usage.
There was plenty to like, such as 14ac, 28ac already mentioned, together with 6dn, 15dn and 26dn, but for CoD my choice is the combination of cryptic and straight definitions in 11dn: ‘They may be small devices on shields (4)’.
Duncanshiell’s original blog, to which Eileen has helpfully appended the complete Shakespeare excerpt with the thematic words highlighted, can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/07/17/independent-9909-radian/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ☆☆☆☆
As Jon is on holiday I’m afraid you’ve got to put up with me again today. And today it’s a reprint of a Saturday puzzle by Monk so I was expecting a struggle which would only yield results 11ac. But in fact it proved quite tractable and I was left debating whether to rate the difficulty as 3 or 4 stars. Judging by one or two comments over on fifteensquared, 8ac, 19a, 15dn and the (to my mind) inelegant 3dn may have been tricky for some solvers so we’d better go with 4*. There was also some ambiguity about 2dn although the definition ‘hole’ should lead to the right answer.
11ac, already mentioned, was a candidate for CoD, along with 13dn, but my final choice is 16dn: ‘The bill for transport accommodated by this? (5,3)’
Oh, and by the way there’s a nina. I won’t go into what it’s about as you can discover that at http://www.theguardian.com/global/video/2018/may/16/what-do-you-hear-in-this-audio-clip-yanny-or-laurel-takes-internet-by-storm-video and there’s further explanation from Monk himself in a comment on the original blog at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/07/07/independent-9901-by-monk-saturday-puzzle-7-july-2018/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ☆☆
Another double Eccles Wednesday! Eccles is occupying the midweek slot in the Indy once more and has turned up here again with a delightful puzzle. Given that I finished this quickly and without help (I thought I might have to google for architects and film directors but 17dn and 26ac proved easy enough) I’m tempted to rate the difficulty as 1*, but as some commenters on fifteensquared found it tricky I’ll go for 2*.
There was only one obscure word, found at 5dn, and one clue, 10dn, had very properly been updated since the puzzle’s first appearance but both were clued simply enough. All the cluing was concise and the original blog even refers to the setter applying the principles of 7dn, with none of the clues exceeding 10 words in length.
There were so many fine clues it was difficult to pick out a favourite. 11ac, 24ac and 17dn suggested themselves as I was solving, but looking through the clues again I’ll nominate 19ac as CoD: ‘It cooks royal jelly (4)’.
I’ll see you again tomorrow, folks. Meanwhile, all the details of this puzzle can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/07/04/independent-9898-by-eccles/