theme after my own heart today. Crosophile is not a fan apparently, but I most certainly am and therefore spotted it early on. Once 19ac was in it was either going to be that or Grange Hill. If it passed you by you’re in good company with Bertandjoyce, but the explanation can be found at comment no. 9 under the Fifteensquared write-up from April 2015.

In the past I have harrumphed at Crosophile for including some very obscure vocabulary, but the only word which might be considered recondite this time is 2d, and the clue is clear enough not to infringe Arachne’s Law. There are some tricky constructions though, so it’s a pretty worthwhile workout. My last one in was 14d, which is rather devilish. Plenty of variety, from the long anagram to the cleverly nested 1ac, and no shortage of ticks either. 5ac, 8, 13d and 14 all seem worthy of an honourable mention, with the aforementioned 1ac winning the COD trophy:

“Little creatures like snuggling mum and love to be back in the heart of it all (7)”

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Donk last week and now Hob, so that’s the two enfants terrible of the i crossword accounted for in quick succession. There’s some puerile smut and smart alecky clue writing as we’ve come to expect, and a rather nice latent theme. Bertandjoyce’s April 2015 Fifteensquared blog entry and the comments will explain what’s going on if it’s not your thing – just for once I was in my element with this one and spotted what’s going on in the grid as well as in the clues.

All told, solving this puzzle was a lot of fun, and no outside assistance was required which is always a good thing. The folk-jazz band is something you’ll either know or you won’t, but nothing else strikes me as particularly out of the way. Much of the discussion on the other side concerns 8d and 16ac, neither of which bothers me much but it’ll be interesting to see what others think. Honourable mentions for 10, 6, 14, 16 and lil ol’ Rhode Island yet again. I’m tempted to pick 16ac as COD just for the sake of being controversial, but instead my choice is 3d:

“Put fork into fish sample (3,3)”

Having polished this off in short order (by Batarde standards, that is) I set down my pen with the strong feeling that a great deal had gone over my head. The nature of the theme is clear enough, but the grid contains some rather interesting and unusual words which have to be there for a reason, surely? If anybody else is wondering what’s going on with the town in Co. Tipperary, the cycling competition, the yachting class, the singing sisters and PT Barnum, Bertandjoyce’s Fifteensquared blog is recommended. Back in April 2015 this puzzle marked a significant anniversary.

Alchemi’s crosswords always have plenty of variety and entertainment value whilst remaining accessible, so the solving process was brisk and enjoyable. I was sidetracked briefly trying to come up with a four-letter descriptor of Boris and Nigel, but that’s my problem, not the setter’s. All is fair and above board as far as I can see, and the clue writing is of characteristically high quality throughout. My COD is the chucklesome 16d:

“It might be found on Highway 101 (4)”

“Another excellent puzzle from Dac. What more can we say that hasn’t already been said”?

That was the chorus from Bertandjoyce back in May 2015, and the answer is of course not a right lot. Ever the solver’s friend and the blogger’s enemy, Dac rarely left anything to quibble about, and maintained such a consistent standard that what goes for one puzzle pretty much goes for them all.

Today we have the crossword setter’s second favourite fictional Detective Inspector; North America’s second highest mountain, and the title track from Stevie Wonder’s ninth album (it says here). Nothing obscure except perhaps the mountain, and definitely nothing that can’t be deduced with confidence from the clues. My COD is 18d, but please feel free to nominate your own from the fine array of possibilities.

“Type of mine not left by US force (7)”

For B&J’s blog and some inevitable pedantry about 8d, please click here.

A peculiar sort of grid with sub-optimal checking suggested that we might be in for a struggle today, and a peripheral Nina. Wrong on both counts. Instead there’s an explicit and comprehensive theme based around 18ac. It’s an impressive feat of construction, but as is so often the case with this sort of puzzle once the solver cottons on so many of the solutions are known in advance that it becomes an exercise in spotting where they fit. Obviously it helps if you’re familiar with all of them, otherwise it’s off to the reference shelf.

My experience was similar to RatkojaRiku’s, related in the preamble to the April 2015 Fifteensquared blog entry, except that all the thematic material was familiar. I was initially suckered into thinking that we were looking for something German, but not for long, and the breakthrough came with 1d etc – a superb clue, by the way. 9d is a cracker too. The whole thing was polished off in about the same sort of time as yesterday’s, which is to say briskly – a shame, really, because there’s plenty of enjoyable stuff in there, and I for one would welcome more appearances from Hieroglyph, perhaps including some plain puzzles. Thumbs up for 12 and 28 in particular, and I’m pinning the COD rosette on 7ac:

“1D at home in the outskirts of Hamburg’s out of sight (6)”

A reprinted Independent on Sunday crossword from May 2015 today. Quite often the Monday slot is filled by something suitable for novice solvers, but I’m not sure that’s the case this time. To be sure it was an easy enough nut to crack with half an ear on the vertiginously over-promoted mediocrity being given an easy ride by the interviewer on Radio 4, but knowledge of some well-worn commonplaces helped a lot. Perhaps I’m just grumpy on account of that interview, though.

A few peculiar definitions (in 5, 8 and 14, for instance) and a dash of unusual vocabulary (10 and 22) added spice, as did the appearance of Cassiopeia’s more famous daughter. Maybe I’ll remember that in future. The exact parsing of 12ac eluded me – and we can argue once again about “house”, incidentally – but having seen Dormouse’s explanation in the comments on the Fifteensquared blog it’s really rather natty. A worthy candidate for Clue of the Day, but since it was that bit too clever for me we’ll have 20ac:

“Received the heart of great pope back (5)”

The Great Wen, again. Doubtless there will be rolling of eyes in the provinces, but one doesn’t have to have been born within earshot of Bow Bells to appreciate today’s inherently humorous theme, I hope. Vague memories of this did the trick in my case, and online phrasebooks are available if need be. Scorpion’s back on top form, and he managed to make this a pangram while he was at it.

A glance at 6/21 was enough to give the game away, and 9 put the theme beyond doubt. Only 27/10 was unfamiliar to me but the clue is a generous one, so filling in the across lights was a bright and breezy matter; amongst the downs there are a couple of four-letter stinkers (22 and 24) where the answers are far more evident than the parsing, but otherwise I imagine this will have been a quick solve for most people. The definition part of 13d didn’t please me much – other than that no quibbles. Amongst the many clues which appealed to me 2d stands out; the trickier 17d just pips it at the post for COD:

“Literary critic finding unknown works in Derby perhaps (7)”

Bertandjoyce were on duty for this puzzle back in May 2015, so we’re in good hands for the Fifteensquared autopsy. Scorpion received a well-deserved volley of positive comments, some of which are rather amusing.

When Tees’ name appears next to the Tuesday crossword I assume two things: a) that Eimi has decided to take that cocky Batarde down a peg or two, and b) arriving at a solution will involve much brow-knitting and the consumption of two large pots of coffee and an incredible amount of tobacco, as it were. On the contrary: it was a quickie and if ever there was an easy Tees, this is it.

The theme was very helpful, and Stanley supplied the tip off. Once 18/28 had fallen that took care of 4/7 and 1/21d/22ac was a write-in. Not sure 6d would have fallen easily without it – one of two well camouflaged hiddens today. Plenty of variety to enjoy and a few chuckles, with 2, 5, 12 and 27 catching my eye. The only fly in the ointment was the “thrust” part of 16d which didn’t feel in keeping with the bright and breezy tone. My COD is 19ac, which is simplicity itself!

“Near the middle ground (5)”

Back to the 1980s – whoops, April 2015, rather – for this one. Click here for Duncan’s Fifteensquared write-up and an interesting sidelight on those three across the middle from the man himself.

Oh jeepers, this is embarrassing. I’d volunteered to cover for Jon today, and completely forgotten about it. Therefore my apologies to one and all, and the following will be brief!

Here we have an example of Klingsor in particularly challenging mode, it seems to me. There are precious few easy starters to provide toeholds, and whilst the solving process was as absorbing as ever it was in the nature of a series of dental extractions. Exhausting stuff, and long-winded too. I’m pleased to see that all my parsings are supported by Bertandjoyce’s Fifteensquared blog entry, but I won’t pretend that I was 100% confident, especially about 5 and 9d. It is, of course, a very good puzzle – but if you weren’t in the mood I certainly shan’t blame you. My clue of the day, I fear, is 13d.

“Revealing bust company’s heading for liquidation, beset by strike (9)”

Last week’s musical theme hint received such a rapturous reception that I’m minded to supply another. Besides, there’s an obvious one, so please have a guess before clicking here. Did you get it?

Enough frivolity. Serious business, this crossword, and the chances of everyone being happy with it are pretty remote in my opinion. Solvers who bristle at the mere mention of the capital will have been triggered for starters, and technophobes are just going to love 23ac. Besides, the puzzle is as venomous as a Scorpion gets, which ought to be tough enough for all but the most jaded customers. For a whole litany of grumbles see the comments under the original March 2015 Fifteensquared blog.

Me? I was cheerful enough to finish eventually without outside assistance, but it was a bit of a slog all told. The whole of the right hand side was done and dusted before making any worthwhile headway on the left, and it turned out that the breakthrough entry was the distinctly perverse 1d. Not sure that the wooded glen in 7ac would have occurred to me without that. The final mopping up operation in the south west was satisfying once the penny dropped about the terribly well known jazzman and the operating system. Lots of cleverness to admire, of course – 4, 13, 15, 20 and 22 are the runners up and my COD is 18d:

“Tenor good through working with Bill, who’s careful with his notes (8)”