Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟

Well, I don’t know how fair a review I can write about this. I’m not a fan of Hoskins these days and usually give his puzzles a miss as I find his penchant for smut, drugs, booze and schoolboy humour about bodily functions very tiresome. I’m not averse to occasional risqué surfaces but when almost every other clue contains such references it’s a bit much. Today’s puzzle is a prime example, starting with the first word of the first clue.

So I may as well acknowledge that having solved a handful of “normal” clues I sloped off to the fifteensquared blog and wrote in most of the answers to the setter’s “trademark” clues, which means that my assessment of the difficulty level is a bit of a guess.

So did I enjoy any of it? Yes, there were several clues which took my fancy – 10, 13 and 24 across, plus 4, 5, 6, 7, 15 and 21 down. Of those I particularly liked 10 and 13 across but my nomination for CoD goes to 6dn: ‘Cross and weary after the Spanish turned up (7)’

The original blog and comments, with extended input from the setter, can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/10/01/independent-on-sunday-1440-hoskins/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A puzzle of two halves, with only three links between the left and right hand sides, the latter going in a shade more easily. In fact there were only two answers on the left that I got straight away – MALADY (nice to see the clue had been updated) and LUTETIUM. “Who’s ever heard of Lutetium?” do I hear you say?

Well, I have, but with a name like Borodin you might expect that.

Anyway, it all came together slowly, with 7ac/7dn being my last two in. Looking back over the completed grid there was plenty to like, such as CELIBATE, MANICURE, ASTUTE and the linking of HAYDN with SIKH in 13ac and 22dn. But my choice for CoD, because of its apt surface is 3dn: ‘Help sought by narcissist leader in Trump, feckless individual I gathered (6,5)’.

Bert and Joyce were on duty to explain everything back in 2017; find them at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/10/18/independent-9677-punk/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟

A very welcome appearance by Dac for my first blog of 2022. Certainly a case of 16ac rather than anything that 13ac, this was all pretty straightforward; even the legal term at 22ac turns up in crosswords often enough to be fairly well-known.

Bloggers, both here and on fifteensquared, often comment that there’s not a lot one can say about Dac’s puzzles and that seems to be reflected in the lack of further comments about this puzzle back in 2017, compared with the string of comments on the original blog of yesterday’s puzzle. And talking of yesterday’s puzzle, by one of those coincidences that occur in crosswordland, the answer to 8dn, LOG CABIN, was also an answer yesterday, though clued differently.

But back to today. As well as 13ac and 16ac I liked the two long down entries. I also liked HERONRY but for CoD I’ll go for 19dn: “What’s 254 cm? Singularly easy answer (5)”.

For that and all the other answers see http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/10/25/independent-9683-by-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

So it’s back to Dac for the final Wednesday of 2021 in a reprise of the final Wednesday of 2017 and, to quote Duncanshiell in the original 15^2 blog, “Dac takes us away from Christmas-themed crosswords and provides us with his usual smooth surfaces leading to everyday words as entries.” Although, having said that, Duncan acknowledged that he’d not encountered KNOUT before, and for myself I’m not sure that I’d use ALIMENTAL instead of ‘nourishing’ in everyday speech.

This was a joy to solve, my only complaint being that it was over too quickly. Among the many delightful clues I can pick out 10, 12 and 15 across, together with 3, 4 19 and 21 down, and it was nice to see ‘key’ as the definition in 18ac instead of indicating ‘esc’, ‘alt’ or similar in wordplay. My vote for CoD, though, goes to 22ac for its apt surface: ‘Agrees gala could turn out to be money-raising event (6,4)’

As this is my last post of 2021 may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and hopefully better New Year for 2022, before directing you to the original blog and comments at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/12/27/independent-9736-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Despite having successfully completed yesterday’s offering from Filbert in the Indy, and thus theoretically already being on Filbert’s wavelength, I found this very tough, as did contributors to the original Fifteensquared blog. Indeed, one comment, from an experienced solver at that, was ‘very very difficult’. In fact, had I not tracked down the original blog to seed the grid with a few cheats you might still be waiting for my comments. Of course, looking at the completed grid, I now wonder where all the problems were.

There were no really obscure words apart from ESTOPPEL, although SCAPEGRACE is hardly in everyday use; RHYTHM is certainly not obscure but I only got that from crossing letters. Elsewhere 17ac was probably more topical back in 2017, and in 19dn I wondered if ‘caterpillar’ should have had an initial capital but decided that the original tracked vehicle manufacturer’s name has been common usage for so long that the small ‘c’ is quite adequate.

There was plenty to like, though, in terms of wordplay. NUMBER, SCAPEGRACE and LEGENDARY come to mind, but for CoD I’ll go for 14ac: ‘dead series of notes for a scraped bass, perhaps (8)’.

All the answers and explanations can be found at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/12/21/independent-9732-filbert/

I’ll bid you 7dn, though, by wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and hoping it’s not too disrupted by the omicron variant.

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

This took some getting into and I was beginning to wonder if I’d be able to post anything here in reasonable time. Then I saw ‘worth’ as part of 1dn and just as I’d put the crossword aside to do something else I suddenly saw the linkage between 10ac and 1dn and what those answers were, After that it was a steady plod with occasional help from a wordfinder to speed things up, but I finally had to consult fifteensquared for 25ac and the parsing of 9/26.

There was a lot to appreciate here. As well as the linked 10ac and 1dn I also liked WRINGER, HYDRATE and NIMBI. But for CoD my vote goes to the combination of higher education facilities in 16dn: ‘In favour of joining two universities by start of year to demonstrate consistency (10)’.

An excellent analysis is given by Bert & Joyce at http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/10/28/independent-9686-serpent/ where Gaufrid also directs one to the nina – well it wouldn’t be a Serpent without one!

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟

Another Wednesday, another Dac. I found this a little chewier than some from this setter, with one or two clues not quite up to scratch. For instance ‘group’ was used for ‘set’ twice (in 1dn and 16dn) and the Manhattan thoroughfare in 11dn didn’t spring to mind as easily as, say, its neighbour three blocks away; we also had two separate anagram indicators in 20ac, although there’s nothing really wrong with that. And, as contributors to the fifteensquared blog commented, the answer to 3dn is not in either Chambers or Collins although it is in the OED.

Overall, though, this proved a satisfying solve although I did have to google to confirm that the fairly obvious answer to 6dn was indeed a 50s hit. Another easy one (for me, anyway) was 8dn which raised a smile as I remembered the character of Lady Constance in many a sketch from I’m sorry, I’ll read that again.

I liked 12ac; even when I decided that the definition was ‘transport’ it was a lovely ‘aha’ moment when I realised what mode of transport was required. 14ac held out almost to the end but brought another ‘aha’ moment as well as allowing me to get my last one, 15dn.

Was there a touch of &lit-ishness in 17ac with its reference to ‘unusual for the time of year’? It’s certainly not that time of year now, nor was it when the puzzle made its debut in September 2017. Something a bit closer to the present season, though, gets my vote for CoD – 4dn: ‘Trees felled initially in part of S London, an annual tradition (5-7)’

Everything, including a slightly tricky parsing of 9ac, can be found at www.fifteensquared.net/2017/09/27/independent-9659-by-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟

“One of Dac’s typically smoothly-constructed crosswords” was John’s comment on fifteensquared – and who am I to disagree? This was all completed fairly quickly, although there a few head-scratching moments, for instance until I realised ‘dork’ was the definition and not part of the wordplay in 16dn. The two long answers at 4dn and 5dn were easily got and provided handy pegs to hang others on, although there was little need for such pegs. It is rare to find anything to quibble about in a Dac puzzle but one might possibly note the absence of an indication that 12ac is a definition by example.

I marked up several clues as candidates for CoD, including 9ac, 1dn, 2dn and 21dn, but my final choice is 18dn: ‘Successfully handling piece of masonry (6)’

The original review generated very few comments, which is probably a reflection of Dac’s excellence as a setter. You can find it at

www.fifteensquared.net/2017/08/30/independent-9635-by-dac/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟

An IoS reprint that proved to be not too difficult but not a particularly satisfying solve either. A number of clues were, as some of the earlier solvers observed on Fifteensquared, a bit iffy – notably 6dn where ‘out to’ in the clue seems either to be just padding or to have led some solvers to the wrong answer. Also the American spelling of 7dn is not indicated and 28ac has two reversal indicators. Unfortunately I didn’t find much to counter these lapses apart from the Guardian-esque 16dn, requiring the solver to split not only the pea but the beetroot – and even there ‘with’ as a link word doesn’t seem quite right..

Although one commenter on Fifteensquared thought it ‘very easy for the main part’ I found this slow to get started with only a handful of entries on my first pass, so a 3* rating seems about right.

Nothing really stands out as CoD, but I’ll go for the aforesaid 16dn: ‘Beetroot and apple is cooked with legume (5,3)’

To see what the reaction was first time round go to:

www.fifteensquared.net/2017/09/24/independent-on-sunday-1439-by-peter/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A tricky one from Wiglaf this morning; I started off well with 1ac and 3ac but then my first pass through the acrosses yielded only 28 and 29. 1dn had me confused as a typo in the dead tree edition has ‘Fiel’ as the first word of the clue (instead of ‘Fie!’) but at least the answer was obvious, and I had to look carefully at 5dn to see the colon between the x and y. There were a couple of unfamiliar/unknown words – CRATERLETS (not in Collins 2006 or Chambers 2014) and NOVELDOM (in Chambers but not Collins). But pangram hunters will have been satisfied – although I didn’t notice it till the fifteensquared blog pointed it out.

I had trouble parsing 7dn, thinking ‘topless German’ was (g)ER so couldn’t account for the second R. And I took a while to get 18dn since I’m not familiar with many American authors and Wolf is not an Austrian composer who comes to mind easily after the likes of Haydn, Mozart, et al.

I wasn’t sure if this should be rated 3☆ or 4☆ but seing as Knut’s offering yesterday, which I solved quite quickly, got 4☆ I’ll give it 4☆.

The surface of 3ac raised a smile, and the anagram for 12ac was ingenious, but for CoD I’ll go for 24dn with its suggestion of a reaction to a cold stethoscope being placed on one’s chest: ‘Intake of breath when visiting doctor’.

Back in 2017 RatkojaRiku was on duty to spill the beans at www.fifteensquared.net/2017/09/07/independent-9642-wiglaf/