Another one from Radian’s seemingly inexhaustible stockpile of Tuesday-worthy puzzles … but before we get started may I put on record my utter loathing for that vile travesty of a word at 1ac? Thank you. Anybody using it in a non-academic context deserves a custard pie from the Plain English Campaign if you ask me, unless they’re compiling a crossword. Harrumph.

Today’s theme is overt, although some of the examples probably won’t be at the top of anybody’s list of likely candidates. Solving was fairly easy going to start with, but slowed right down in the SE corner – an experience echoed by RatkojaRiku in his March 2014 Fifteensquared blog post. 19 and 27ac both held out for longer than they ought, and earned appreciative ticks when the light dawned. No complaints and plenty to applaud, in particular 5, 7, 8 and 17. Which brings me on to the COD, which is not just neat, it’s also an elephant trap for the unwary and I hope I wasn’t the only one who fell in. Imagine my consternation upon reading 20d … you’d think I’d be wary by now. Take a bow, 24ac:

“Eastern city took off with inflow of local currency (5)”

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Scorpion doesn’t tend to go in for stealth when embedding a theme, so with all those references to 18ac and a gateway clue which left the gate wide open it’s pretty obvious what’s going on from the outset. There are ten thematic entries, and the trouble with this approach is that a fair portion of the crossword does itself more or less automatically. A shame really, since some of those clues are rather nice, for example 5 and 28ac.

Very little to complain about today, although I didn’t care for the definition part of 14ac (no issue with the wordplay). Quite a few superior clues to enjoy as one would expect, of which 11 and 17 particularly appealed to me. They are pipped at the post by 18d, which is my Clue of the Day:

“Two types of tea available, when fellow moves inside this hovel? (7)”

An excellent write-up by Duncanshiell with all the solutions and parsing is available at Fifteensquared; the crossword first appeared in March 2014.

Glanced out of the window yesterday and there was a woodpecker staring back at me. Not unheard of, but unusual enough to be noteworthy … much the same with Anax’s occasional appearances in the i. Plenty of tricky convolutions to unravel today as one would expect (and as befits a reprint of a prize puzzle), which is either a pleasurable challenge or a teeth-grinding chore according to taste. I generally enjoy the process, and certainly did this time – as did the majority of those commenting on Twenceslas’ February 2014 write-up at Fifteensquared.

The theme is all-pervasive without being obtrusive, which is quite impressive: every single clue and most entries allude to it one way or another. I think Anax has made an early bid for the most abstruse clue of the week award with 10ac; 18d and 25ac appear to be backups – those won’t please everyone, but it’s all fair if not necessarily terribly sportsmanlike. Whilst there’s a very healthy scattering of marginal ticks, absolutely nothing stands out as a distinct Clue of the Day, so please nominate your own. I’m going to stick with my ornithological conceit and choose 24ac:

“For one bagging a duck, entertained by well cooked bird (5,3)”

A typically impressive puzzle from Scorpion today, who clearly wasn’t content with the well-realised theme and decided to supply us with a pangram too. This has resulted in a few oddities, and in addition a couple of definitions are eyebrow-raisers. That’s about par for the course for this compiler, and I don’t see anything which really isn’t fair. Can’t imagine anyone being very keen on 22d, mind.

All the necessary explanations are provided by duncanshiell’s January 2014 Fifteensquared blog, and he also points out a few absentees from the theme. It turns out that there’s a sound technical excuse for this which I won’t pretend I understand but it’s to do with the foundation of dynasties – besides, when you look at the list it would be a brave setter who undertook to crowbar that lot in. Nothing really stands out as an obvious pick of the day, but I did like the gateway clue, 8/9ac:

“Fashion occasionally constrained The Police to practise such music? No (4,5)”

It’s been about a year since Donk’s last Tuesday appearance, so this excellent puzzle is a rare treat. There’s a wide range of cluing strategies to enjoy, some of them rather novel, and a well-executed gimmick we don’t see all that often: a hidden theme. Donk provides a heavy hint in 15ac without which I’d have probably missed it, but as it turned out the buried elements helped out quite a bit.

This struck me as on the tricky side for a Tuesday as there’s a good deal of complexity to unravel, and in my case quite a few of the answers arrived long before I’d got to grips with parsing the clues. However, everything is fair and above board – in fact on this showing Donk is a particularly rigorous setter. Rather than run through my favourites (there are plenty), let’s cut to the clue of the day, 10ac:

“I say, isn’t this cow’s skin? (4-5)”

For analysis and comment please see Bertandjoyce’s exemplary Fifteensquared blog from back in February 2014, which was a particularly foul month, weather-wise. Here’s a reminder.

For those who don’t know, although Quixote is widely referred to as The Don it’s Eimi who is the real capo dei capi – in other words the Independent’s crossword editor, and it is he who chooses our daily puzzle in the i. Long ago I had the interesting experience of meeting the gentleman who then held the same position at The Times, and he showed all the signs of being a hard pressed individual. Perhaps the job isn’t the congenial stroll in the park one might suppose. Anyway, Eimi’s appearances as a setter are quite infrequent and that’s a pity, because he has a distinctive and entertaining style.

Highbrow theme and Nina today, if you must. I hardly think the average solver will have had much trouble with 20 and 13ac (incidentally, see Eimi’s comment no. 12 on John’s Fifteensquared blog entry for a horrible and all too plausible alternative scenario), but there are a few oddities lurking, including another lemur. Bit of a sigh about 10ac because of that “wet”, and Turkish cities aren’t really my strong suit. Nor are Civil War generals. No complaints as such about the clues however, and I particularly enjoyed the cheerfully low brow nature of 2d and 27ac. My clue of the day, 25d, provided one of those “oh yes, of course” moments which are among the chief pleasures of the crossword solver:

“Boy one associated with private saving account (4)”

Back to January 2014 for this one.

In which Tyrus set out to take experienced solvers down a peg or two, or so it seemed to me. Looking through the comments on the Fifteensquared blog back in February 2014 it appears that quite a few people were feeling somewhat humbled, and by no means all of them took it well. Very, very tough, and it took me an age to gnaw my way through it, completely overlooking the theme in the process.

Was it worth the effort? Oh yes, this is a first-quality crossword all right, packed with outstanding clues. My only complaint is a matter of taste: 22d is unnecessarily coarse for my money. Recondite vocabulary at 3, 9, 11 and 13 will displease many I should think, and there are a couple of old friends at 19 and 24 who won’t go down too well with Sprouthater. Too many ticks to run through them all, so straight to the Clue of the Day, a fiendish one which particularly tickled me. It’s 4d:

“Not feasible Elton’s involved with rich pop music producer (4,7)”

Jon has been unavoidably detained, so I shall step into the breach and attempt to find something positive to say about today’s puzzle. It’s an IoS reprint, but hardly the sort of lightweight easy going crossword we’d normally expect. In fact, it was downright infuriating if you ask me, in the too-clever-by-half way, and also riddled with definitions which I’d characterise as imprecise at best. It’s possible that messing around with this sort of thing would be fun on a Sunday, but at short notice on a weekday is another matter entirely.

Accentuating the positive as best I can, there’s plenty of invention on show, for example 14 and 20d, and the surfaces read well. Qualified thumbs up for 11 and 24 despite their definitions; COD for me is 27ac:

“Dispute of French peacemakers (6)”

For parsing and more faint praise, please visit the December 2013 Fifteensquared blog entry, where you’ll also find a picture quiz.

A low key Scorpion today, but it’s a quietly remarkable crossword with all the across entries relating in one way or another to the theme. Solvers with unresolved queries – perhaps relating to 8 or our old friend 21- can do no better than to consult the estimable Duncanshiell’s December 2013 write-up at Fifteensquared which covers absolutely everything.

The tally of ticks is a healthy one today. Unsurprisingly it was quite a tough puzzle which took a good deal of unpicking, but that just makes it more rewarding when the light dawns. I’ve a feeling that everyone will have their own favourites, so I’ll dispense with listing mine and merely nominate 7d for clue of the day:

“A Bow Street resident inside is planning to catch these? (10)”

According to Sir Mark Rylance on the radio this morning, Shakespeare was a committee. Be that as it may, solvers wishing to confirm today’s theme are encouraged to have a gander at As You Like It II vii, where they’ll find something with a familiar ring to it. (Cornick may very well be able to reel it off). Once again Radian has supplied a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle, and although all those 22 20s might look daunting it’s actually eminently accessible.

Well, mostly. 17 and 24 were both familiar, but I suspect only from barred puzzles and they seem a bit recondite for a daily crossword. Ditto the Russian river and perhaps the cargo plane, although the clue for the latter could hardly have been more straightforward. Leaving those aside there are plenty of gentle clues to get one off to a start whilst pondering what 22 20 is about. Back in January 2014 some of the commenters at Fifteensquared had a spot of bother with that Herts town (not a phrase which filled my heart with joy, admittedly), but it’s eminently gettable once 13d is in. Favourites today included 16 and 23ac, and 3d; my choice for COD is 8ac – just let’s not argue about whether it’s an &lit or not, please.

“Time, say, covering 5 to 9 (it varies) (7)”