This felt like two puzzles in one to me, being entirely straightforward at the top and distinctly thorny at the bottom. There is a musical theme which I really ought to have spotted or at least suspected, but it doesn’t get in the way and needn’t trouble the solver who takes no interest in such things. All was explained back in April 2013 at Fifteensquared.

A couple of gripes this time. 14d does not convince, and I take issue with Alchemii’s contention that all Hollywood Hitchcocks are created equal and can be clued simply as a “film”. Some are more canonical than others, surely, and 25ac therefore seems a bit rich. Otherwise a nicely varied mixture today with a few clues which stood out, of which my favourite is 27ac on grounds of sneakiness and a fine surface:

“Figure on the right in America is a fool (5)”

Advertisements

This is a first: a Scorpion puzzle which left me underwhelmed. There’s an obvious Nina and the theme concerns a long running TV programme of which I have had no experience since the early 1980s when 3d and 15d were the leading lights. The solutions include seven surnames (one non-thematic), and although it didn’t bother me at all a number of Fifteensquared blog comments criticise the grid – and they’re right. I suppose we can at least be grateful that the infuriating blister in a novelty jumper didn’t feature.

The clues aren’t a problem though, and there are flashes of the brilliance we’ve come to expect from this setter. 4, 10 and 21 all went down well, with 27ac winning the coveted clue of the day prize by a short head:

“Equine mate threatening to abandon us (8)”

This crossword dates back to June 2013; Scorpion fans who fancy more will be interested to hear that he has another in today’s Independent.

Radian’s last Tuesday puzzle caused a certain amount of consternation, and a cri de coeur from one commenter concerning the elitist nature of crossword themes. Today we have the neutral subject of rocks and stones, and it seems a little more straightforward to me – but like last time I can’t congratulate the setter on his choice of grid. A game of four quarters once again, with somewhat ungenerous checking.

Whilst the clue writing is for the most part well up to Radian’s usual high standard, I did think some definitions were open to debate, and my two last-ones-in caused a curling of the lip. 24ac I simply dislike, and if anyone cares to supply a lucid explanation of 25d I’d consider it a kindness. A quadruple definition? RatkojaRiku’s blog at Fifteensquared provides an admirable analysis otherwise, but that one still has me shaking my head.

Never mind. Plenty to enjoy, and a superabundance of Qs, oddly enough. The amusingly apposite COD chose itself:

9d: “Old rockers, rich individuals who have essentially lasted (7,6)”.

This worked perfectly for me: a puzzle with a ghost theme which I spotted, but only after completion. I therefore have the double satisfaction of having solved it without a suspicion of what ought to be lurking in there, plus the “aha” moment. If you’re thinking “theme? what theme?”, all is revealed by Alchemi himself over at Fifteensquared in comment 8, where he also unburdens himself of some trenchant views on what is and isn’t worthwhile in this context, which I happen to share.

All that aside, good puzzle, wasn’t it? No obscure vocabulary, plenty of clever and inventive clues, and a nice middle of the road level of difficulty. A creditable tally of ticks today, mostly clustered at the bottom, so a tip of the hat to Alchemi for 22, 23, 28 and 31. However, the clue of the day sticks out a mile:

13ac: “Aligned anew, put off about … about … about … about … about … about the onset of influenza (10)”

Solved in an instant; thorough parsing took a lot longer.

Radian has supplied us with several Tuesday puzzles in recent months, all of which have been satisfying, well-made and fairly tricky. This one is of a different order of difficulty though, or so it seemed to me at least. A rather unhelpful grid with sketchy connections between the four corners and ungenerous checking did nothing to make life easier, and some of the vocabulary is recondite.

It won’t give much away to say that the theme concerns the theatre: it’s extensive and cleverly realised – and since it passed me by I shall simply refer everyone to the erudite, cultured folks of Fifteensquared to pick it apart. Were I better informed on the subject that would’ve helped, a lot. There’s a wide variety of clue types and some fine misdirection to enjoy, providing an appetising smörgåsbord of COD candidates from which to choose: too many to mention individually, in fact. Oh, go on then … I really liked 11, 14 and 18, but there are plenty of others. In a spirit of sheer perversity my choice is 8d, mostly because I was pleased to get it from the wordplay:

Thus spake Zaruthustra – classic Birds (thanks to Nietzsche initially) (7)”

Back to the balmy days of May 2013 for this puzzle’s original appearance.

Today we are presented with a crime scene from April 2013 (my suspicions fall on Miss 6d). Scorpion’s puzzles are invariably interesting, inventive and sporting: I’ll wager that by the end of the week this one will turn out to have provided the most fun. Solvers who tumbled to the theme early on will have sailed through, and I trust will be suitably impressed to find that all the murderers and murder weapons are present and correct (if you want to check, click here).

Aside from an unusual anagram indicator in 17d there was nothing to raise my eyebrows, however those of a disputatious disposition will find a few kindred spirits over at Fifteensquared, where the puzzle was generally well received but a few more quibbles were raised. Highlights for me included 8, 16, 18, 19 and 20, any of which would make a decent COD, but mine is 1ac:

“1966 platter used as murder weapon (8)”

A fairly undemanding but typically well constructed puzzle from a dependable setter today, with a theme concerning one 28ac. Not my specialist subject, but even so it was apparent what was going on from the outset thanks to the pair across the top. Raich is to be congratulated on cramming a lot of thematic material into the grid without resort to any real obscurities – and indeed he was back in February 2013 when the Fifteensquared regulars were unanimous in their praise.

Once again we have plenty of anagrams to get proceedings off to a speedy start, but in truth there was nothing especially tricky to deal with. The two 16s held me up for a while, for some reason. 6d struck me as a perfect example of the conventional crossword clue: that cathedral city, a spot of Latin and possibly the most familiar abbreviation of them all, wrapped up in a flawless surface. Sterling stuff, even if it was a write-in.  21d was rather fun, wasn’t it? My COD is a little bit cheeky, however:

20ac: “Tributary in US” initially baffles a solver (5)”

One of us is having a bad day, and judging by the uniformly approving comments over at Fifteensquared it must be me rather than Dac. I thought that this puzzle fell a little short of his usual standard – which is beyond criticism, of course – with rather too many elementary write-ins. 4, 16, 17, 21 and 26 all seemed pretty thin, for instance. On the other hand 11 and 24 caused curling of the lip simply because I dislike the words.

“Accentuate the positive, Batarde!” I hear the exasperated multitudes cry. Fair enough. It goes without saying that anyone looking for inelegantly written clues in a Dac crossword is on a fool’s errand, and everything is burnished to a high lustre as usual. Also, he’s the master of long anagrams: today’s were both crackers. I did like 9, 14 and 15 rather a lot, but the COD trophy goes to 12ac:

“English detachment returning initially on train (7)”

This crossword first appeared in the Independent in April 2013.

“Start as you mean to go on, Morph”, I muttered to myself whilst writing in my first entry, 9/12, and that’s pretty much what he did. This was quite a slangy crossword, and there was an instance of ribaldry the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while. Makes a change if you ask me, but this sort of thing isn’t to everybody’s taste.

There’s a modest theme referring to 1ac, and it’s a pangram too – neither of which need get in the way. As is usually the case with Morph some of the clues are decidedly convoluted, my favourite example being 7d which takes a bit of picking apart. No complaints today, with every clue parsed to my complete satisfaction … eventually. Any outstanding queries can readily be resolved by consulting Pierre’s Fifteensquared blog entry from back in April 2013. There are quite a few candidates for COD, 8, 13 and 15 for instance, and there’s the little matter of 27/3, but I’m not going there. Instead, let’s have 1d:

“Not hard for chap having a whale of a time round an east end piano (6)”

This is Hob’s second appearance in the i, and I must admit to having been less than complimentary about the first, comparing it to a Rookies’ Corner effort. Originally a Saturday prize puzzle, this is just the thing for picking at over a wet weekend, but a stiff one for a blogger trying to get something posted by lunchtime on a weekday. It took a while to make any significant headway, and there was a lot of guess-the-answer-and-work-backwards: as with his previous crossword this is self-consciously clever stuff which takes some effort to unpick, to say the least of it. On the whole though, I thought this was excellent.

There’s a theme of course, defined in the cheeky 1ac, but it doesn’t really get in the way once you get the general idea. Plenty of unexpected definitions and tricky constructions made for a lot of brow-furrowing and quite a few “aha!” moments. I do have the odd quibble, but it’s that sort of ambitious puzzle so it seems churlish to go around nit-picking. Favourites: 4d, despite the dreadful surface; 18ac; 10, 14 and 17d. Clue of the day relates to the theme and doesn’t make a lot of sense without it, but what the heck:

9ac: “Once more almost 1ac about East Indian music (4,5)”

There were only four comments in response to the original Fifteensquared entry back in February 2013, which strikes me as a bit of a shame since the puzzle is rather remarkable in places and there’s ample scope for discussion and debate. Bertandjoyce’s analysis is first rate though, as ever.