The subject of today’s theme and Nina once wrote a book called “Joysprick”, which is highly accessible for a technical study of James Joyce’s linguistic innovations.  Which is to say not terribly for the lay reader, and if memory serves one of the chapters is titled “Onomastics and Oneiroparonomastics”.  Judging by this showing, a man after Hob’s heart, then.

In my opinion this is the most interesting and worthwhile puzzle to appear in the i for ages.  It is defiantly beginner-hostile and no doubt there will be complaints, but it’s a blessed relief after all the mollycoddling recently.  As far as I’m concerned, everything – down to the last letter and punctuation mark – works perfectly and there are no problems or ambiguities.  You have to work hard for many of the answers but they’re all there, hiding in plain sight.  Picking a CoD seems entirely pointless to me, let alone listing favourites, but I will observe in passing that the mutually cross-referencing pair 3d/13ac is nicely executed, and that there is no law forbidding this device.  Which is why it got published.  I say this in the vain hope that we won’t have to endure uninformed pontification on that subject yet again, but there’s always someone.  My Clues of the Day:

8ac:  “Group of bishops in Carmen? (4)” and,
4d :  “Enclosed rhyme has father running up and down (4)”

Alternative nominations and polite comments are very welcome below.

Fifteensquared; Bertandjoyce; February 2017

In which Hoskins reveals a hitherto unsuspected studious side.  Based on previous form I’ve come to imagine our setter as a chap in a loud checked suit with one of those squirty jokeshop flowers in his buttonhole, but today he is a cineaste with very good taste indeed – and there are no whoopee cushions or stink bombs in the offing.  The theme is pretty extensive and extracting everything will test the knowledge of an expert; as for me I did get the idea from 1d, 22ac and 22d, but there’s a lot more.  Congratulations to scchua for exemplary blogging at Fifteensquared, as well as to Hoskins for a clever, sophisticated puzzle.

There are a couple of servings of word salad today, which is surprising as Hoskins is one of the most diligent clue writers as far as surfaces go.  Doesn’t bother me of course, and technically speaking there’s oodles of good stuff to unpick, everything working nicely as far as I’m concerned.  Despite the clunky surface 27 impressed me, as did 5 and 19; 11 and 12 were above average phonetic clues (whereas 26, sadly, was not).  However, it’s often silly things which please me the most, and 4d was a delight.  It ought to be my clue of the day really, but the Beano-esque quality of 14ac is irresistible:

“Probably have this after striptease class (6)”

Back to a Sunday in April 2017:

A fun puzzle today from the ever-entertaining Vigo, which will be all the more amusing to those who are familiar with the theme.  This will probably turn out to be age sensitive, but if you were in the habit of watching children’s TV in the 1970s you’re certainly in with a good chance of spotting it.

There’s nothing difficult here, I think, and certainly no outlandish vocabulary.  I have no complaints, but you’ll find a few in the comments on the original blog – nothing that signifies, though.  The beauty of Vigo’s crosswords lies in the elegant and often witty turn of phrase, and as such there’ll be plenty of candidates for a clue of the day according to taste.  Don’t be backward in coming forward with them.  My choice, 7d came in for the comment “struggles to communicate what’s required”, which sounds like an attempt to patronise the setter to me.  I think it’s just fine, thank you very much.

“Every Monday performing head stand in a modest fashion (6)”

Once again it is my pleasure to sing the praises of a fellow blogger.  I refer of course to Duncan Shiell, who picked all the meat off this Maize masterpiece four years ago.  Really, he’s scarily thorough, so readers who require the pukka gen without flannel should scroll down and follow the link.

The crossword is of course the work of our own Cornick, also known as Maize, and I’ve probably solved it before.  Can’t say for sure, since one of the benefits of having the memory of a goldfish is that old puzzles seem entirely fresh to me.  Here we have a diagonal Brompton with an exceptional clue count and a highly visible theme pervading the across lights.  As is always the case with this setter the clue writing is of the highest quality, and thematic knowledge is optional; furthermore there are no obscurities, unless you’re the sort of slack-jawed, low-browed hobbledehoy who thinks Shakespeare and Kurosawa are elitist.  Solving was breezy and quite swift, helped along by a few generous anagrams, and there’s none of that unevenness discussed yesterday which leads to sticky patches.

Favourites?  All those finely honed surfaces make for a lengthy list, so I’ll employ the old “nominate your own” cop out, pausing only to say that 27ac is my runner up.  Since last night I was supposed to be at the theatre to see Sir Ian McKellan as the world’s oldest Hamlet – put back to next month on account of social distancing requirements – let’s have 2d for the clue of the day:

“Initially obsequious Shakespearean received in court.”

There’s no yardarm available to check, but if you ask me it’s a bit early for this sort of thing.  Riotous carousal is the order of the day and Hoskins does not seem to be one to do things by halves.  We have a comparatively rare variation on the theme theme, with most of the fun stuff in the clues, although the grid is certainly not innocent of Bacchic content.  Congratulations are probably due: this must be the louchest crossword so far this year.

Inevitably surfaces are to the fore, and I can’t say that many of the constructions struck me as especially unusual or noteworthy.  27ac was the sneakiest, alas, but there’s no way that’s going to be CoD on my watch.  Dearie me … no.  2d is inherently amusing; 11ac is surprising, and 17d tickled me especially when reminded by one of the Fifteensquared commenters that it refers to Homer Simpson’s favourite beer.  However, I think we’ll have 14d:

“Private chap after a Martini drinker’s job? (6,5)”

Good-oh.  An enjoyably lively sort of puzzle with the emphasis on entertainment, which appears to be Hoskins’ main priority.  We’re back to Dry January 2017 for the original blog:

Back to bunnies again, then.  Yes, but there’s another theme lurking, presumably unrelated, just in case anyone thought that Punk’s offering was uncharacteristically modest.  Entirely typical of this setter to provide added value; and entirely typical of me to overlook the latent one.  Well, never mind: it was all great fun to solve.

Quite a demanding puzzle in terms of lateral thinking I reckon, and this time the Brompton didn’t go unnoticed because the solving process was very much a game of two halves, bottom first.  Everything works fine as far as I’m concerned, and were I to list my favourites there would be far too many numbers in this blog.  2, 12 and 22 were the prominent runners up in a strong field, and readers are of course invited to nominate their favourites.  Just for the fun of it my CoD pick is a tiddler, 18ac:

“Builders helper not satisfied with procedure? (3)

The crossword got the full Duncan treatment back in January 2017, so clicking on the link below ought to answer all conceivable queries:

Math … how very singular. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of blogging a puzzle by this setter before, but as Hoskins says in his comment on the other side, it’s the sort that welcomes the solver in. My customary “straight-through-the-clues-in-order” approach yielded three quarters of the across clues solved cold, so it was a case of freewheeling through the downs filling in the stragglers as the crossers appeared. Pretty quick, then – but it’s a clever puzzle with lots of deft touches and Math is clearly one of those generous compilers who put in plenty of effort without wishing to give their customers a headache. This is very welcome on a blog day, so thank you, Math.

There is, of course, a theme, about which I know nothing. Not my sort of thing at all, but the Nina down the left hand side tipped me off and Duncan supplied the other bits. A diligent blogger would have chased them up the hard way, and I’m sure that you, dear reader, did precisely that. All seems shipshape to me, except that 28ac should probably read “20 Downs” – a trifling quibblette if ever there was one. Special plaudits for 1, 5d, 17 and 25, and in general for natty surfaces. The Clue of the Day laurels go to 9ac:

“They have lots of empty cans after getting gold can-opener! (8)”

No objection to the exclamation mark on this occasion. I’d also like to give Eimi a high-five for 1d in the 5-clue, because that trick never gets old, does it? We’re still in January 2017 for this one … Fifteensquared:

We’ve had a complaint! Not serious enough for a referral to Ofblog as yet, but enough to get me happily composing a diatribe, and it would have been a cracker, too. Sadly I now find that I can’t be bovvered … peaked too soon, you see. So there will be no contumely, embedded hyperlinks to insulting websites or Rickrolling. To the person who would like the link to Fifteensquared to be more prominent so that he doesn’t have to skim read the twaddle, we have decided to standardise the format so that it appears on its own in a final paragraph. You’ll just have to scroll through the content and I do hope that’s not too much of a hardship for you. And don’t worry, I haven’t changed the target URL to Taxidermy Warehouse or Of course not.

Now then, if anyone’s still here, twaddle time. Delighted to see Scorpion back, albeit with something rather less in-your-face than we have come to hope for. To my mind the archetypal Scorpion comes with a thicket of cross-referenced clues, quite possibly without definitions, but today we just get a ghost theme, and a pangram. This subject must be a gift for compilers (and it has been done before), because there are hundreds of examples, often with amusing or exotic names. All the across lights are either thematic or have a reference in the clue, which is characteristically diligent. There are mild quibbles which some solvers may care to essay in relation to 9 and 14d for example, but I do not. There’s nothing that amounts to a plausible excuse for failing to finish the puzzle in my opinion – but if anyone just found it too thorny all round and is honest enough to admit it, I readily sympathise with that. This isn’t a particularly gentle one.

Today I have more ticks than a mattress factory. It’s not an absolute mass of pyrotechnics, but there are always some surprises in a Scorpion puzzle to repay the lateral thinker. 2, 3 and 17d; 12, 14 and 26ac were all rather spiffy, but the standard being so consistently high across the whole crossword I could equally well point to a different half dozen at random. My favourite is a little nugget of Victoriana which isn’t seen much these days, the more’s the pity, but I’m also choosing it for the interaction with 10ac and the happy memories that evokes. 😉

4d : “Face letter from abroad – the last letter (4)”

This one first appeared at the beginning of 2017, right in the middle of winter when colds and sniffles used to be a mere annoyance, pre-pandemic. There’s a smashing recipe suggestion in comment no. 1 for a warming early January noggin, and the way things have been going lately just the thing for a rotten late May, too.

Radian (who has supplied fully a quarter of this year’s Tuesday puzzles thus far, by the way), has not been making things easy of late. The last few have tended towards thorniness, but today normal service has been resumed, I think. So, here we have a crossword of mild to moderate difficulty with varied clues of consistent high quality, and an extraordinary amount of thematic material. The only cloud on the horizon, and I can’t say that it bothered me much, is the Bromptonesque grid.

Now, when I suggest that this was fairly gentle, your mileage may very well vary. John’s did, back in January 2017, but his write-up for Fifteensquared is a model of magnanimity. Anyway, perhaps we can all agree that the setter did a sterling job of crowbarring so much woody stuff in with almost nothing in the way of obscurities. 16ac needed checking in my case, but just for purposes of confirming what is clearly the correct answer. On non-blogging days I probably wouldn’t have bothered. I have no quibbles, and no inclination to expose myself to a charge of “pedantic grumpiness” two days running, either. Opinions on 5d would be interesting, however: it’s fine by me.

Of note: well, this is always difficult with Radian. Generally there’s a COD and about twenty runners-up snapping at its heels, which is the case today. There was a lot of good stuff in the NE corner, I thought, but pipe up if you have favourites to nominate. Mine was the aforementioned and doubly clever 16ac:

“Tree in Maracaibo yielding saccharin now and then (4)”

Pokémon on Saturday; now this. Unless my assumptions about the demographic profile of cryptic crossword solvers are badly skew-whiff, chances are this theme will have been spotted by many more of us. All good nostalgic fun from the pre-CGI era, when suspension of disbelief was still a thing.

This felt strikingly easy to me, and would have done nicely in yesterday’s slot. If there’s anything here worth making a fuss about it passed me by – sorry … clues like 10, 11, 20 and the like had me shaking my head, and I must admit that my attention wandered badly. The anagrams at 12 and 23 were elegantly executed, though, and 15d is worth a smile too – so, shame about 4d which looks like it was done on piecework rates. I did like 3d and it should probably be my COD based on quality alone, but alas it can’t compete with “stuff from the Sahara”, so 9ac is my favourite:

“Any swirling stuff from the Sahara will trap the French in part of old Africa (9)”

Back to the end of 2016, when Bertandjoyce supplied the write-up at Fifteensquared.