As Jon archly observed yesterday there’s always room for a diversity of opinions here, so I wonder how this crossword will have gone down? There’s a drug reference so that’ll be Topsy out of sorts unfortunately, but nothing else in the potentially offensive line. The level of difficulty seemed to me roughly middling, albeit a little tougher than one generally expects from Radian, so all told I have some hopes that others will share my opinion that this is about as good as it gets.

This setter is a real master of the thematic grid fill, and it’s instructive to do some highlighting to see how he has distributed all the goodies throughout the puzzle. The theme itself is not quite explicit, but it was soon clear what was going on and that helped quite a bit. Incidentally, and possibly coincidentally, there is a tenuous link between 14ac and the great man, not picked up on by RatkojaRiku in his otherwise exhaustive November 2015 write up for Fifteensquared. Anybody else get the feeling we’re missing a window, by the way?

Highlights? Well, take your pick. With oodles of variety (another Radian characteristic) there surely must be something to delight everybody, and I wound up with more ticks than an horologist’s workshop. Here’s my COD; alternative nominations are very welcome as usual.

14ac: “Poles invested in low quality gem (9)”

A crossword with an otherworldly theme today courtesy of our friend Alchemi, who can be relied upon to supply something which ought to appeal to everybody. There’s a remarkable instance of brag-and-bounce in the comments on the November 2015 Fifteensquared blog, and I’m sure we’re all dumbstruck with admiration for the intellectual titan who can dash this one off in five minutes. The rest of us mere mortals can take consolation in getting better value for our money.

That said, this puzzle is certainly at the gentle end of the spectrum for a Tuesday, and it’s only the large flightless bird which needed checking for its other usage – not that I did, the clue being admirably clear. 27ac is now established as a classic construction, and whilst it was familiar I’m not tired of it yet. A few smiles today, for 12ac, 8d (chiefly because of that utterly uncool synonym for “fashionable”), and the remarkably dated 20d. Remember those two? Four years or so is a long, long time in politics. That can be the COD:

“Dave’s mate looks for gold boats (7)”

Finally, ta ever so to the advertising department for the free iDoku.

Here is the Batarde system for solving a crossword:

1: Work through the across clues in order.
2: Work through the down clues in order.

I know! Spontaneity isn’t really my thing, and it’s confounding when something comes along to upset the routine, as was the case today. Still, there was nothing for it, so:

1: Work through the down clues in order.
2: Work through the across clues in order.

That worked nicely – a little too nicely in fact because about half of those across lights could have been filled in correctly without consulting the clues. Which, as we have discussed before is a major problem with this sort of explicitly themed puzzle.

Anyway, at the risk of establishing myself as the resident sourpuss I can’t say that I find a great deal to admire here. The grid is pretty gruesome, and the filling thereof with all those themed lights would have been more impressive had not so many of them been of the sort ordinarily to be found infesting the Inquisitor. The clues were for the most part standard fare and at the straightforward end of the spectrum, so all in all this was a crossword with a gimmick that was no more interesting than a great many without. It’s not a matter of poor workmanship, just misplaced effort in my opinion. I did rather like the linked combination of 6 and 22d, and am happy to slap a rosette on 18d as an elegantly turned out Clue of the Day:

“12 down under study outside (5)”

For a more somewhat more positive appraisal and a spot of snark from the chorus here’s Duncan’s Fifteensquared blog entry from November 2015.

In the usual run of things Scorpion’s themes are right in your face and impossible to miss, but today’s was comparatively low key. There isn’t really a gateway clue although 22ac was probably intended to give the game away, but I’m not a huge fan of the franchise and had therefore never heard of it. However, all done and dusted, gimmick and pangram duly spotted in a sensible sort of time – though I missed a couple of thematic bits and pieces. Flashling’s Fifteensquared write-up from October 2015 should make everything clear.

All told this felt like rather a subdued offering from a setter who generally goes in for cruciverbal pyrotechnics. That’s relatively speaking of course, and it’s still a high quality puzzle but there were no real “cor blimey” moments for me, which means that once again nominations for alternative clues of the day are invited. My shortlist included 4ac, 7 and 28 amongst others; the more or less arbitrary winner being 17ac:

“Scrap metal circulating well after spring (8)”

Hang on Batarde – where’s the picture link?! There isn’t one, but interested parties might care to click here and see where it takes them. 🙂

After three weeks of expert Tuesday bloggery from Jon, for which many thanks, it’s back to me I’m afraid. Batarde but unbowed.

Radian has put in many appearances in this slot, and a consistent pattern has emerged. One can expect excellent workmanship; a middling sort of difficulty; no quibbles and precious few obscurities; lots of variety in the clues; plenty of thematic material, and a spot of difficulty in pinning down one clue of the day, although there’ll be a few contenders. All of this holds true today, and I think this is one of his very best puzzles. The theme (or arguably themes) is ghostly but ubiquitous and done quite subtly so it doesn’t get in the way, and nor does it make things too easy. This is probably a great deal less easy to achieve than it sounds. The only eyebrow raiser was 7d, not a variant I recall hearing before, but the clue is as straight as a die. As for those COD candidates, 5, 9, 14, 17 and 18 will do for starters and further nominations are welcome as usual. My choice is 24ac:

“Ingredients of withdrawn drink (6)”

Back to October 2015 for Bertandjoyce’s Fifteensquared blog.

Today’s theme will surprise nobody, so instead of a picture here’s some festive music instead.

It’s been a while since Quixote’s last appearance in the i, but we all know the formula: rock-solid clue writing in the traditional manner and a few peculiar words to liven things up, making for a speedy but satisfying solving experience. As usual with this setter I’m somewhat stumped for a COD, but let’s have one from the little cluster in the NE corner where I finished:

3ac: “Christian supplier of medieval weaponry (8)”

Back precisely four years to Duncan’s Fifteensquared blog.

The other day a gentleman of my acquaintance bade me “Saturnalian blessings”. Clearly word of last year’s Batarde Towers toga party has leaked out. Anyway, it’s a bit of a ticklish business knowing quite what to wish everybody at this time of year, what with seasonal jollifications taking many forms and other people electing to sit it out, so I hope you’ll take the following in the inclusive spirit intended. A Merry Christmas, one and all.

This crossword has been extensively edited, to its detriment. In its original form , where we now see “9 character” the wording was “Inhabitant of CA would say“, which at least provides a bit of food for thought, but as it stands this puzzle comes perilously close to insulting the intelligence. By my reckoning, which excludes Saturdays for the sake of convenience, this is the seventh elementary crossword on the trot and I am starting to get cheesed off.

Even with the clever “CA would say” business the gateway clue makes the theme as plain as a pikestaff, and since Hieroglyph has crammed in a lot of thematic material that’s half the puzzle solved straight off the bat. The workmanship, however, is as good as ever, although I heartily disliked 3d for reasons which ought to be obvious. The excellent 11ac shows how sophisticated this setter’s clue writing can be, but there is an even better COD candidate which is about as good as it gets:

17d: “Nick Cage can stir porridge inside big house in the States (6)”

Back to Christmas Eve 2014 (a thematically significant date) for the Fifteensquared write-up.

i Cryptic Crossword 2758 Hob

December 10, 2019

My initial thought on seeing Hob’s name next to the grid was that Topsy will be displeased; however on completion I think perhaps almost everyone will be pretty happy today. The rather curious grid contains a theme so big you can see it from space, and it’s made glaringly obvious by 10ac. Hardly my specialist subject, but as it turned out no references were required and everything was sort of familiar.  Done and dusted in about the same time as yesterday’s, surprisingly.

It might be said with some justice that 5d is an unnecessarily obscure word given that there are common alternatives for that space, but it’s a fine clue and picks up on a running pattern of numerical misdirection which pleased me a good deal. Never let it be said that this setter is shy about putting his cleverness on show. The “shining example” in 11ac still baffles me, unless it’s an idiom like “bright as a pin” I haven’t come across, but the required entry was perfectly clear and elsewhere everything parses to my complete satisfaction. John at Fifteensquared had all the explanations back in October 2015 if anything remains mysterious, and there are some amusing comments from curmudgeons. Standouts for me included 2, 5, 14, 20, 21, 25/28 and 30ac, the last being my choice for COD:

“Where reaction might occur when opening bars around 6 (2,5)”

You’ll have all identified the theme, and will know exactly what’s in store if you click this link. Very topical.

Somewhat to my surprise, it seems that I rather enjoyed this puzzle for all its smartypants tricksiness. The abundance of references to the short-fingered vulgarian’s tonsorial arrangements wore me down in the end. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a good deal of sighing and tutting, but variety is the s. of l. after all, and I think there’s room for some boundary-pushing knockabout stuff like this once in a while. Oddly enough, everything parses satisfactorily in my opinion if you make a few allowances. Only the currency is likely to be unfamiliar (although not to those of us who do far too many crosswords), but I bet many solvers will have been nonplussed by 1ac. All is explained by Bertandjoyce in the December 2015 Fifteensquared blog, with some contributions in the comments including one from Knut himself which throws light on the baffling 14/15ac. Tiddles, indeed.

I got off to a good start with 7/27, 9 and 10 falling straight away – by which time it was clear that this would be a Very Annoying Puzzle Indeed. However, it didn’t turn out that way, and after re-tuning to a new wavelength it was jolly good fun much of the time. Loathed 10 and 23d, but loved 7 and 25 amongst others. It will be interesting to hear other solvers’ favourites, but I’m going with 21d:

“Old printer driver’s support is about to offer patchy coverage (6)”

Today’s theme is weird words. Oh, all right then, it’s really all about 1 across, but it was the vocabulary that caught my attention. We have Ukrainian cash; one of those Irish names which sound nothing like they look; an antiquated spelling of a dairy product; everybody’s favourite port in New Zealand; a well-clued Arab; an unfamiliar gazelle; a shambolic national leader called Boris, and another one from Tanganyika. Also a dodgy rebel and a football manager. Phew.

None of this should mean that the puzzle is beyond the reach of a notional “average” solver, because Raich is not that kind of setter. Everything is spelt out, and it’s just a case of following the instructions – of course that’s the case for all cryptic crosswords, but Raich is exceptionally clear and never falls foul of Arachne’s Law. Easy clues for hard words, and vice versa. Consequently solving this one was a pleasure and an education. As noted above our old friend at 24d was unusually well done and I also particularly liked 14 and 23. The COD for me is 18ac, because this sort of thing doesn’t come along very often:

18ac: “Become more intense, hard – this clue has letter missing? (8)”

For solutions, commentary and everybody chipping in about 28ac, here’s John’s September 2015 Fifteensquared write-up.