Happy Easter Bank Holiday, everybody. Today we have a crossword by one of the Monday regulars, but this time there’s a twist – a ghost theme in fact. I didn’t spot it but somehow Raich had managed to implant the idea subliminally, making me feel thoroughly foolish after looking up the January 2015 Fifteensquared blog.

I have praised this setter before as an excellent purveyor of entry-level puzzles, and whilst this one won’t have detained experienced solvers for long it’s all high quality stuff. Nicely made clues are plentiful – 6 and 31 for instance, also 14 and 16 which form an unusual pair; my COD is one of the slightly more convoluted examples:

29ac: “Something initially hard to believe – they’re electrically charged creatures? (9)”

If you’re at a loose end after that, don’t fancy the wordsearch and haven’t done so already, please have a look at the second idothei Guest Puzzle just below this post. It’s an entertaining one.

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CLICK HERE FOR THE PUZZLE

Roll up ladies and gentlemen, and no shoving at the back please.  Welcome to the second idothei Guest Puzzle, and the debut of a new setter. As far as I know this is Saltamonte’s first published crossword, and Jon tells me that a constructive critique would not be unwelcome. My job is to provide an introduction and the parsings: I’ll raise any niggles which occur to me but leave the general criticism for the comments. Positive and polite are the watchwords, of course. I enjoyed solving this puzzle, and there are some punchy surfaces and unusual clue constructions to ponder. Here is my COD:

16ac: “Mineral keys lock in the French (5,4)”

… and here is a little diversion for you. I have been rather harsh about 25ac, which seemed to let the general standard down somewhat. Therefore, money where your mouth is time, Batarde. I’m inviting suggestions for alternative clues, and here’s mine:

“Take measures before capturing poet (7)”

And so to the parsings. There are, of course conventions for doing this, all of which are going out of the window in the interests of plain English. Definitions are in bold face and anagram indicators are italicised. Obviously if you scroll down any further you’ll come to the answers, so it seems prudent to issue a

SPOILER ALERT

 

 

 


Across

1 Acrobatic Cleo, no learner, appeared in dodgy strip joint’s showers (14)
PROJECTIONISTS. Anagram of “Cleo” minus the “L” plus “strip joints”.

10 Incorporate measure of info into bomb (5)
IMBED Mb (megabyte) in IED (improvised explosive device).

11 Ruinous PA went wild producing offspring (just the one) (9)
UNIPAROUS Anagram of “ruinous PA”, and a fairly recondite word.

12 Battleaxe held bra in tatters (7)
HALBERD Anagram of “held bra”.

13 Enterprise headed by explorer returned to dock maybe (7)
TOBACCO The explorer is either John or Sebastian Cabot, backwards, plus CO for company. This refers to Tobacco Dock in London.

14 From head to toe, Spain aches (5)
PAINS Spain with the “S” moved to the end.

16 Mineral keys lock in the French (5,4)
TABLE SALT “Les”, the French definite article (plural) between “tab” and “alt”, both to be found on your keyboard. Smashing clue.

19 Reading maybe outside, a book with wine. Superb! (9)
FANTASTIC Refers to Reading FC football club, with “a” plus “NT” plus “asti” inside. The New Testament is books plural, surely, even if bound in a single volume?

20 Medics eat, for example, leftovers (5)
DREGS “eg” inside “drs”.

22 Catching mesh (7)
NETTING Double definition.

25 Given curtailed supply (7)
PROVIDE Simply “provided” without the final letter. This does seem weak to me since it uses the same sense of the verb.

27 Dali art on mixed freight (9)
TRAINLOAD Anagram of “Dali on art”

28 Slow starts to begin really active kinetic exercises (5)
BRAKE First letters of Begin Really Active Kinetic Exercises.

29 Trick put double agent in crumbling gaol unit. Well done (14)
CONGRATULATION “con” (trick) followed by “rat” in an anagram of “gaolunit”. A couple of queries here: is a rat a double agent? – and can congratulation be singular in this sense. I feel that both can be justified, but it’s a bit of a stretch.

Down

2 Plan to enter dance before brave uprising (9)
REBELLION Hmm. That would be plan B inside “reel”, followed by “lion”, I think. Brave can mean a courageous soldier, as can lion, but I don’t really buy it because the sense here only works as an adjective.

3 Good hearted saint finds justice (5)
JUDGE “g(ood)” in St Jude.

4 Looking for a new start? Adopt cute fashion (4,5)
COUP D’ETAT Anagram of “adopt cute”; not keen on fashion as an anagrind. “Looking for” appears to be redundant.

5 Pointless edition produced for numbskull (5)
IDIOT Anagram of “edition” minus the points, ie. East and North.

6 Mashed red banana found in restaurants (4,5)
NAAN BREAD Anagram of “red banana” – a good spot.

7 Emotionless King left exorcist working (5)
STOIC Anagram of “exorcist” without “rex”. The pedant in me thinks that a Stoic controls his or her emotions rather than lacks them.

8 Colossus southpaw shows resolve (4,3)
SUSS OUT Hidden solution.

9 Mitred piece? (6)
BISHOP Cryptic definition.

15 Drug has nothing on queen, but ruler sold here (9)
STATIONER “statin” with “o” inside, followed by HM the Queen.

17 Retreat but return by bike (9)
BACKPEDAL Cryptic definition, nicely done.

18 Coffee brewing, nice aroma (9)
AMERICANO Anagram of “nice aroma”.

19 Brown back in charge after governing body shows excessive zeal (7)
FANATIC “tan” backwards plus “i(n) c(harge)”, preceded by F(ootball) A(ssociation).  “Showing” would be better in my opinion, since the sense is adjectival.

21 Discharged driver headed north to collect upturned sample? (6)
SEEPED My last one in. The sample is “pee”, the driver is “des” and the whole lot is inverted. Is the designated driver thing widely known? It had passed me by.

23 Nonsensical witterings regularly held back writer (5)
TWAIN Not sure I’ve seen this done before – anyway, every other letter of “nonsensical witterings” backwards reads “gieTWAINso”, and there’s Mr Clemens in the middle.

24 Billy holds fifty and isn’t shy to tell (5)
GLOAT A (billy) goat with an L in it.  The definition isn’t quite right because it suggests “gloats”.

26 Ring composer (5)
ORBIT Double definition, referring to William Orbit. Who knew?

Finding a suitable picture link for today’s theme was fun: I was aiming for lurid and got more than I bargained for. One hopes that everybody enjoyed sniffing out Radian’s little mystery.

By now we know what to expect from this setter, which is to say plenty of variety, a middle of the road level of difficulty and a generous helping of thematic material. No doubt experienced solvers will have tumbled to 10ac pretty promptly on account of that Romanian cash, which just keeps on turning up like a bad penny. Most of the examples should have been familiar enough, although those of us who have read The Moonstone recently will have been at a distinct advantage with 11d because the clue seemed frankly impenetrable to me. So in the good sergeant went with a shrug. Other questionable features: the rhubarb; “tip” as a reversal indicator in 17d, and that appalling monstrosity of a word at 12ac. All the explanations were supplied by Duncan and the commentariat at Fifteensquared back on Twelfth Night, 2015.

Two clues took my fancy in particular, both on account of their surfaces: 1ac and 15d. The latter is my choice for COD, by a short head.

“Where vehicle goes round with awful racket (9)”

Full disclosure: today I have had assistance, not from the cat who has made herself scarce, but from a garrulous six-year-old. If this blog is even more scintillating than usual, there’s your reason.

Scenes of domestic chaos notwithstanding, this was a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle and a welcome reappearance by Rorschach who hasn’t turned up in the i for quite some time. There’s a clever and extensive theme which was ably explained in the original Fifteensquared write-up from November 2014 by Gaufrid, who also raises a couple of quibbles which were immediately addressed by the setter in the comments. Therefore I’ll gloss over 24ac except to express mild surprise that it’s been allowed to stand unedited in the reprint. Otherwise all good, but several definitions required some mental gymnastics and that will not please everybody.

The style is peppy throughout, going on ribald here and there with more slang than we generally see. This is just fine by me, and it makes a change – but I fully expect opinion to be divided today. The bit of French will certainly ruffle some feathers. Rather than run through the clues which particularly amused me, and there were plenty, I’ll just go straight to the COD which is 11ac:

“Panic as bugger’s returned to take 1 of 10 (5)”

Radian’s Tuesday puzzles are generally pitched squarely in the Goldilocks zone between trivially straightforward and perversely intractable, but this one seemed to be rather heavy going, and not altogether in a good way. I’m more than happy to lock horns with an obstructive setter, but take a dim view when difficulties arise solely on account of the grid: this one has some nasty underchecking and is somewhat disjointed. John was of the same opinion when he supplied the blog for Fifteensquared back in December 2014 but others were unconcerned, so please share your thoughts.

There’s an extensive theme of course, and as usual Radian uses a wide variety of clue types with decent surfaces. It was 23d which held out to the bitter end in my case: so simple in retrospect but I was spitting feathers about the 2/5 checking. 1d and 27d also caused trouble, but that was just good old fashioned cleverness – and lack of it on my part. Those notwithstanding it was steady away. Favourites included the aforementioned 1d and 14d, and I’m pinning the COD rosette on 4ac because it made me smile:

“Yell here: ‘Guy replaced firm in New Caledonia!’ (8)”

We haven’t seen one of these for quite a while. Hieroglyph is to be congratulated on constructing what must be one of the trickiest types of novelty puzzle, with every across entry sharing a thematic definition. Clever stuff, and the only problem is that it doesn’t leave an awful lot of thinking for the solver, especially when the gateway clue is a sitting duck as is the case here. Entertaining enough while it lasted, however.

The comments over at Fifteensquared back in November 2014 surprised me somewhat, with a good deal of disgruntlement being expressed about the small handful of uncommon words involved – inevitably one would suppose, given the trickiness of filling a grid in this way. Much ado about a fish which was a bit off, and an obsolete synonym for “pompous”. Fair enough, but it’s not as if the solutions weren’t easy enough to deduce given a few crossers. It was also noted that Hieroglyph uses some debatable abbreviations, and that is a more telling criticism to my mind. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to hear what people think. Everything seems to parse satisfactorily and there are some pleasing constructions: 6, 18 and 23 for instance. My COD is a thematic one for once:

21ac: “24D’s sending off, way out for player, to begin with (6)”

Seeing Scorpion’s name by the crossword always puts a smile on my face, and my mood was further lifted by a complete absence of staples in the newspaper. As it turned out the puzzle was a bit of a breeze, so I have hopes that everyone will happy today.

A quick run through of the across clues yielded four answers with something in common, so the theme was pretty obvious. According to Fifteensquared the puzzle originally coincided with a major tournament in September 2014 and thematic references abound in the clues as well as solutions, so it’s the usual thorough Scorpion job. Gentler than expected though, with nothing especially mind-bending to furrow the brow. The only potential controversies I can see are the “meanly” bit in 10ac and the mouths in 20d. My last one in was 6d: the temptation is to say that it’s devilishly sneaky, but really the delay was simply down to dimwittedness on my part. 15ac and 19d both struck me as particularly well done; my COD is 5d. Rotten word; cracking clue.

“Essentially, actors overdo tragic villain (6)”

Déjà vu: some weeks ago I had a moan about a Today programme interview with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs curdling my crossword, and the oleaginous stoat was back again this morning. It’s an appalling indictment of our times that the Right Honourable gentleman was not the most objectionable contributor by a long chalk. Fortunately Hieroglyph’s themed puzzle was sufficiently distracting for me to zone all that out, albeit not for very long.

Duncan supplied the write up at Fifteensquared back in October 2014, meaning that everything worth saying already has been. And frankly there isn’t all that much to remark on: Hieroglyph made a thoroughly competent job of it all. I did wonder whether 4d can be a text as well as an incantation (it can), and whether the mediocre element of 8d would meet with general approval. Bet it doesn’t. Solvers who were aware of 14/10/24ac will have been saved some anagram antics or a trip to Wikipedia, but nothing else seems out of the usual run. 12/3 is my COD, simply because I have a liking for that sort of construction:

“Lovelorn, henceforth could depict this historical event (3,6,10)”

A rare appearance in the i today by John Henderson, aka Nimrod, who is a titan among crossword setters and not known for giving solvers an easy ride. I did not expect to finish this, but as is usually the case sheer bloody mindedness and a head full of useless bits and bobs got me through it in the end. Unsurprisingly the puzzle is a tour de force with fully thirteen thematic elements scattered around the grid. Hats off to one of the masters, and to whoever won the Saturday prize because they deserved it.

As OPatrick said in his comment on the November 2014 Fifteensquared blog, this felt more like an Inquisitor. Doubtless there will be complaints. I think everything parses okay, but have some lingering doubts about the fairness of 7d which seems a heck of a stretch and a flagrant contravention of Arachne’s Law. Obscure wordplay + obscure solution = disgruntled customers. You may as well pick your own COD today – it’s not as if there aren’t plenty to choose from, after all. I liked too many to list, but will go for the comparatively straightforward 5d:

“Reference saying ‘swing’? Yes and no (6)”

i Cryptic Crossword 2512 Anax

February 26, 2019

Lovely jubbly. Serves me right for that expression of schadenfreude on Friday, no doubt. This one may have been a little easier, the modest theme helping with 23, 24 and 7, but it’s always a process of attrition with Anax. This was his 100th Indy crossword so I should belatedly congratulate him on that, if not on the ghastly “musical” element at 11/12.

Back in October 2014 the praise was nearly unanimous in the comments under Bertandjoyce’s capital blog entry at Fifteensquared, but I strongly suspect that a dissenting voice will make its feelings known before the day is out. So, is this a puzzle for the average reader, whoever he or she may be? Probably not (I have my doubts whether Mr or Ms Average bothers with the crossword), because if it ain’t a stinker it’ll do until one comes along. I had any amount of trouble, and failed to parse 10ac much to my chagrin. The explanation hardly fills me with joy. 21ac is a bit much really, and I’ll leave the question of whether it’s a legitimate homophone op to you. Those aside, now that the gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair is over, it all looks exceedingly good. Oodles of clever misdirection, some unusually well disguised anagrams, and the kind of fiendish inventiveness we’ve come to expect from this setter are all on show – so what to single out for the COD? The runners up include 6, 9, 12, 16 and 19; the finalists are 5 and 14, and by the shortest of heads the former is the winner:

“Garage’s mistake with 50% introductionary discount (4-2)”