What to make of this? It’s Tuesday and it’s Radian so there must be a theme, surely? Unfortunately the setter didn’t drop in at Fifteensquared to elucidate when the crossword first appeared in November 2014. My initial impression on completion was that it’s a remarkably downbeat set of words, but on reflection I suspect that there’s something else going on. Let’s see if anyone else is thinking along the same lines.

This was typical Radian: not too difficult with quite a wide variety of clue types. Rather a lot of anagrams, you might think. At any rate there was near unanimous praise for the puzzle in the other place and it was certainly enjoyable to solve. It’s rarely an easy matter to find an obvious COD with this compiler, the standard being pretty high throughout, so alternative nominations are welcome. 22 and 25 caught my eye, but since it gave me a spot of bother and a nice penny-drop moment right at the end I’m going for 12ac:

“Mexican team caught out in base (4)”


Hob, n. a rustic; a lout … a clownish person … mischief.

This setter continues to impress and annoy in roughly equal measure, which is to say rather a lot. It would be a grand thing were Hob to rein in his delight in puerile innuendo and the scatological, or a least deploy a modicum of subtlety, but that seems unlikely. That said, if your tastes run to butting heads with a too-clever-by-half mischief maker this crossword is quite outstanding.

Although it was originally timed to coincide with an actor’s birthday, what we have is a puzzle with a gimmick rather than a theme as such – and a real crinkum-crankum it is too. Fortunately for me 8/9 did ring the faintest of bells, the 9 part becoming pretty apparent thanks to 7d and the first word clearly being an anagram indicator. Getting that out of the way early on certainly helped, but there were plenty of tortuous constructions to pick apart before I managed to haul myself over the finish line. Everything worked out to my satisfaction (eventually), and I have no quibbles, believe it or not.

Mixed reviews over at Fifteensquared back in November 2014, with the disgruntled outnumbering the delighted, unsurprisingly. This crossword seems to me to be pushing pretty hard at the boundaries of what’s reasonable to ask of solvers of a weekday cryptic and would have been better suited to the prize slot in my opinion. As regards noteworthy clues there’s an embarrassment of riches, 3d being quite brilliant; 19ac eminently chortleworthy, and 13ac distinctly devilish. There are many more besides, of which my pick for COD is 18d:

“An example of which turns up in Dante’s Inferno, potentially (7)”

Jambazi, better known to most as the Guardian’s Tramp, was entirely absent from the i last year. His reappearance with this fairly tricky crossword, originally timed to coincide with the 80th birthday of the now late Laughin’ Lennie in September 2014, is a welcome one.

Knowledge of the thematic gentleman is not required – just as well in my case, although on the occasions when I’ve encountered his work it has tended to make me feel rather cheerful. Experts on the subject are invited to chip in if they have spotted anything relevant in the solutions, but as far as I can see he only crops up in the clues. John produced an excellent write-up for Fifteensquared which explains everything, and the tenor of the comments is largely appreciative, going on ecstatic in a couple of cases. I wasn’t entirely gruntled to find a word like 22ac in a daily, but otherwise the unpicking process was gratifying. Plenty of good clues today, with 10ac standing out but the COD for me is 17d:

“Open union, end for independence? (8)”

The first Tuesday Radian of the year, and it turned out to be uncharacteristically thorny. The theme is probably familiar enough to most solvers even if it is rather old hat, but there are one or two parsings which fail the Man on the Clapham Omnibus test if you ask me – not that it’s mandatory, of course. 24d seems particularly abstruse for a daily crossword, although it does make a change from that sparkling wine. And there’s the terrier …

As usual Radian deploys a wide range of devices, and those who like half a dozen anagrams to get the ball rolling will be sorely disappointed. Having confirmed 5ac and 24d with Duncan’s August 2014 Fifteensquared write-up I’m satisfied that everything works just fine, but a good deal of pondering is required. Did anybody else think that there’s a U item missing. to match up with 19d, by the way? One thing which seems to happen more often than not with this setter is that I have trouble identifying one outstanding clue of the day candidate, and so it proved again this time. Thumbs up for 3, 13, 15, 17 and 18, with the prize going to 22ac:

“Gung-ho gunmen circle African country (6,2,2)”

If ever there was a theme which played to my weak suit this is it. As a result those ones from 11 went in with a hopeful shrug, but the clues must’ve been good because they were all correct. Unsurprising for Punk, who may be a devious so and so with a puckish sense of humour, but he’s always fair if you ponder long enough.

Why oh why do I persist in listening to the Today Programme? Evasions, interruptions and hyperventilation, punctuated by doomed racing tips and Thought For The Day, heaven help us. Anyway, if solving this puzzle took a long time the blame rests mainly with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and alleged intellectual, M. Gove Esq., who is as slippery as a greased weasel at the best of times and excelled himself today, blast him. Very difficult to concentrate with that in one ear. A shame because Punk gives such good value and deserves one’s full attention. Plenty to enjoy in this crossword, with loads of variety and the odd surprise. Particularly noteworthy today: 15, 21, 25 and 26 (feel free to nominate personal favourites); the clue of the day stood out a mile, though:

10ac: “One of eight kings, neither the first nor the sixth, strong one of seven? (5)”

Here’s the link for the October 2014 Fifteensquared blog entry, where we get a mention in the comments! A special tip of the hat from me to crypticsue, by the way, for enriching my vocabulary with the very handy “investigoogling”.

An interesting and rewarding puzzle from Scorpion as always: by no means trivially straightforward, but there are enough comparatively gentle ways in to give everyone a chance to make progress. Atypically I spotted the theme early on, and it turned out to be helpful towards the end; without it the chances of getting 10ac would have been slim indeed, and the similarly underhand 26ac could have been a sticking point rather than the key to resolving the SE corner.

All the across entries are thematic which strikes me as quite an achievement, but of course Scorpion specialises in this sort of bravura performance. There are some tricky parsings in addition to the pair mentioned above: 11ac and 18d were singled out for special discussion at Fifteensquared back in August 2014. Solvers of a certain age will have been at an advantage with the former, and Sprouthater in particular will probably appreciate the trenchant comment from Wil Ransome concerning the unlovely Americanism in the latter. Nothing else felt controversial to me. 18d was a strong COD contender, along with 22ac, but when the penny finally dropped (with a little help from the actress with the silent “t”) 23d became the clear winner:

“Empty space in Charlie’s room (6)”

At the newsagent betimes this morning, where Mrs Pure Evil bade me a happy new year as she tossed the extra fivepence into the till. I rather think we got our money’s worth, at least as far as the crossword goes.

Back in August 2014 Duncan couldn’t quite put his finger on a theme for this puzzle in his Fifteensquared write-up because there might be several mini ones. There seem to be quite a few damp patches, so I’m calling it as this. Not that it matters much since this was typical Tyrus: challenging, inventive and fair. Always a good sign when you can solve a tough puzzle by dint of head scratching and brow furrowing without having to consult references, so on the off chance that Eimi might look in – more like this please, and you’ll hear no complaints from me about the price rise.

Of interest today: there are two possible solutions for 1ac, both equally defensible by my estimate, and Tyrus apologised for that in the 15² comments. Impressive sneakiness on show in many of the clues, 12, 20, 24 and 25 for instance, and some humour. The 10/12 combination made me smile, as did my choice for COD, 15ac:

“Here’s Gary Jones, the screen hero (7)”

A fine start to the year therefore – maybe not destined to be as memorable as Maize’s quintuple pangram in the Indy on January 1st 2018, but then again what is? My best wishes to one and all for 2019.

The Tuesday Themes of 2018

December 30, 2018

Hello everyone; here is the list of Tuesday crossword themes for the past year. Having had a teensy spot of bother with formatting before I’ve also made a pdf file which you can view or download by clicking here.

  1. Seamus Heaney  –  Eimi
  2. Revolutionary leaders  –  Alchemi
  3. <strange pangram!>  –  Raich
  4. “Set”  –  Scorpion
  5. Minder (TV series)  –  Tyrus
  6. Food groups (popular music)  –  Tees
  7. I Haven’t A Clue  –  Phi
  8. Ni-na-ni-na-ni-na!  –  Crosophile
  9. Ada Lovelace  –  Radian
  10. Simon & Garfunkel  –  Raich
  11. Snakes  –  Radian
  12. Pasta  –  Anax
  13. Dogs  –  Tees
  14. US cities  –  Punk
  15. Figures of speech  –  Radian
  16. People on banknotes  –  Scorpion
  17. Seven Ages of Man  –  Radian
  18. Trees  –  Scorpion
  19. Ghost theme!  –  Tyrus
  20. The Decameron  –  Eimi
  21. Whole Numbers  –  Donk
  22. Royal Houses  –  Scorpion
  23. Food and Drink  –  Anax
  24. Ford models  –  Scorpion
  25. Languages  –  Radian
  26. Battles and dates  –  Tees
  27. Marvin Gaye  –  Hob
  28. Cheese (and chalk)  –  Morph
  29. Shakespeare’s comedies  –  Raich
  30. The Four Seasons  –  Radian
  31. Books of the Bible  –  Poins
  32. Mister …  –  Crosophile
  33. Bob Hoskins  –  Eimi
  34. Old Countries  –  Scorpion
  35. The Shield of Achilles  –  Tees / Hephaestos
  36. Stock + Port  –  Hob
  37. Maps and their uses  –  Radian
  38. Towers of London  –  Morph
  39. Italian food  –  Scorpion
  40. Waiting for Godot  –  Alchemi
  41. Toilets  –  Tees
  42. US Presidents  –  Hieroglyph
  43. Well Well  –  Radian
  44. Blue …  –  Scorpion
  45. Dublin  –  Hob
  46. Jane Austen  –  Hieroglyph
  47. Joints  –  Crosophile
  48. Kenneth More  –  Alchemi
  49. Eagles  –  Hob
  50. Cumbrian fells  –  Morph
  51. One letter suffixes (eg Henry V)  –  Hob

It’s not unlike last year’s list except that Radian has to share the prize for contributing the greatest number of Tuesday crosswords with Scorpion, and again we see a wide variety of subjects only a small handful of which could fairly be described as high brow. The “Shield of Achilles” crossword by Tees masquerading as Hephaestos definitely fits into that category, and sticks in the memory because it was one of the rare occasions when the Tuesday puzzle was a really stiff one. Ordinarily they simply tend to be of middling difficulty with an extra element of fun.

It’s been a pleasure writing the blogs, and I look forward to more of the same in 2019 with only some mild trepidation in case WordPress insists on making us use the incomprehensible new editing software. Best wishes to one and all for the New Year.

Our esteemed Friday blogger has locked himself away in his sprout-proof bunker for the duration of the festivities, so I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with me instead. Today we have a Klingsor, a name to strike dread into the hearts of some, but this reprinted Saturday prize puzzle seemed to me exceptionally mild by his standards so one hopes that everybody will be happy.

A score of nine on the tickometer is highly unusual, so either seasonal goodwill has got the better of me or this was a particularly fine crossword. Cornick has often remarked that the key to solving a Klingsor is simply to follow the instructions to the letter, and that’s certainly the case here with everything resolving itself like clockwork. There were a couple of quibbles over at Fifteensquared exactly five years ago, concerning the spelling of 12ac (I went for the “s” but reckon a “z” would be equally admissible for those who approve of such things) and the possibility of an alternative solution for 15ac. Comments on those two are invited, and whilst we’re at it there’s the matter of the “police” in 22ac. Otherwise, plenty of goodies to enjoy, my personal favourites being 2, 7, 8, 18 and 23d. My COD is the aforementioned 12ac, which fully deserves its exclamation mark:

“Imagine the volume of some pop on the radio! (9)”

i Cryptic Crossword 2453 Hob

December 18, 2018

This is the last Tuesday crossword of the year, so some time next week I’ll publish the list of 2018 themes in case anyone is interested. Today’s puzzle poses a problem because it’s hard to describe the gimmick pithily; anyway it concerns people like this gentleman; this one, or indeed this fellow.

We know what to expect from Hob by now, and it’s entirely up to the solver whether you consider him a prodigy or a smartypants. I was both irritated and impressed, and wound up enjoying the puzzle a good deal having made the requisite allowances. There are a few niggles and obscurities but everything seems to work given enough lateral thinking: RatkojaRiku supplied an excellent write up at Fifteensquared back in July 2014 which covers all the parsing, with sometimes ill-mannered comment from the chorus. Lots of good stuff to choose from, and my favourite clue was probably 11ac – however that simply won’t do for a COD. Let’s go for the resplendently mustachioed gentleman at 2d, then:

“King losing head, perhaps 100 to 1 (7,1)”