Radian’s at the top of the Tuesday leader table again, with his third themed crossword of the year. It always seems to me that he gives great value for money, and that’s certainly the case here with an absorbing and intricately interlinked puzzle which was a pleasure to unpick. No wonder the praise was unanimous over at Fifteensquared back in December 2013.

There are two gateway clues, either of which will show the way, and oodles of thematic material. Nothing strikes me as obscure, although if you want a quibble a record is and always will be a thing of vinyl in my opinion, and therefore 11ac got a Paddington stare. Clues of note included the inventive 4d (I don’t recall having seen anything quite like that before); the cheerfully ribald 23ac, and the tricky crossing pair of 24d and 26ac. The latter is my COD for the well concealed definition.

“Mature stage writer rises, bent over (8)”

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Punk’s first Tuesday appearance of 2018 is rather a low key affair by his usual standards with nothing much in the way of the ribaldry, innuendo and general mischief making for which he is either revered or reviled according to the solvers’ tastes. In fact it was a bit of a slog, which is in large measure due to the under-checking of all those seven letter down entries. That significant quibble aside it’s all fair though.

For once the theme is overt, and some of the best clues are reserved for those entries: 4, 19, 26 and 30 were all excellent in my opinion. 10ac will please classical scholars … I had a hard time dredging that one up from the memory banks, and assuming that the sport in question would be polo didn’t help. Nor did 6d. My COD is not 20d, although it would be a shame not to give it a mention; instead the prize goes to 31ac which also got a guffaw:

“Rock chick finding wisdom with Garland (7)”

Bertandjoyce’s Fifteensquared write-up from four years ago supplies all the solutions and analysis; the comments are lukewarm going on huffy.

A rather jolly puzzle today with a nicely executed theme, which comes a fortnight or so after the annual big event. In my case I simply ignored the gateway clue, solved the majority of the rest in surprisingly short order for Tees, and then closed the gate behind myself, as it were. It should be readily apparent what’s going on whichever way one approaches it, anyway.

1d proved a pitfall for quite a few of the Fifteensquared brigade back in April 2014 even though the alternative anagram is clearly unsuitable as a solution. More haste: less speed. Somebody once defined arrogance as the act of filling in the crossword with a pen, but it does have the happy effect of discouraging that sort of thing. Whatever. Clues of note: 14 and 17 were distinctly sneaky and very much the sort of thing I associate with Tees; 25 was awfully good despite the, ahem, antique definition, and 21ac was snortworthy. My choice for COD is rather simple and perhaps not the most elegant, but it made me smile:

20d: “Transport to hell worker caught by cunning schemes (8)”

A welcome re-appearance by Anax today, who can be relied upon to serve up something to get one’s teeth into. This is a Saturday prize reprint from November 2013 and quite a worthwhile challenge. The theme refers to 2d, for which Anax has generously supplied a nice easy clue – do not expect too many of those however. As is my custom of late, here is a supplementary pictorial hint.

Plenty of entries refer back to 2d, and of course some solvers dislike that sort of thing. Please do not dismiss the puzzle as “nonsense” though, because it is rigorously compiled and every last jot and tittle can be accounted for. That said, 23ac isn’t in the current edition of Chambers and the handy list referred to in the final comment on the Fifteensquared blog seems to have disappeared, alas, to be replaced with a passing reference in the inexplicable “Word Lover’s Ramble” section. A few eyebrow raisers: 22ac and the first part of 16d were not familiar; the definition in 24d was, but clearly not to everyone, and the double appearance of “what” in 1d and 11ac is perhaps a little unfortunate. Otherwise no quibbles. 1 and 15ac both raised a smile as did 6 and 7d, but my COD is 19ac on grounds of bathos:

“Promotion put out about a new flash diarist (6,4)”

I note that the print is prayer book tiny today. That will not please Cornick.

Twenty eight clues in this puzzle, of which only eleven are unconnected to the theme. That, in my opinion, is going it some. A whole welter of interconnected clues is right up my street, but I do realise that this is probably a minority opinion and there were certainly some disgruntled solvers over at Fifteensquared back in November 2013. Good job it only happens once in a blue moon, then. Of course it helps if the gateway clue is accessible, and 21d could hardly have been more so.

A couple of niggles today. I didn’t much care for the god in 22ac; and it always seems to me that using compilers’ noms de plume as components is rather self-referential and not conducive to the happiness of casual solvers. An habitual Times type who happened across this puzzle would very likely have been discombobulated by 17ac, one would suppose. Those two notwithstanding it’s all good stuff. Three clues stand out for me: 6d, 25ac (some will be expecting me to go with that one as COD, no doubt), and finally 5d, which is my choice:

“Women who work are mostly trapped in havoc! (3,5)”

Raich’s previous Tuesday puzzles have included Abba and Roy Orbison themes, and here we have another in a similar pop cultural vein. I confess that I am not a fan of 1 and 16, but it would be difficult to miss what’s going on – or so you’d think. Some of the Fifteensquared regulars were understandably too busy looking for a peripheral Nina, so there were one or two slapped foreheads back in October 2013 when the blog appeared.

Funny old grid, isn’t it? Far easier to solve than to compile one imagines; in fact with a one exception the entries amounted to a succession of Monday level write-ins. 3d, however, was a strange one and I’m not altogether sure that it’s a very good clue. Ahem. 13d is a peculiar word, easily deduced by anyone with a bit of German to their name, but others will have had to trust their instincts. Otherwise, no obscurities and indeed not a great deal to remark. It seemed for a while that finding a worthy clue of the day would be a problem, but happily there’s 23ac, which is a knockout.

“Fighter sweet and light to begin with? (8)”

Radian was the most prolific supplier of Tuesday crosswords in the i last year by a comfortable margin, but this is his first of 2018. A welcome re-appearance, and this one is a corker. It all revolves around this lady, represented by the rather impenetrable 23ac, so my way into the theme was by way of 29, then 27 at which point the penny dropped. The poet’s daughter in question is well known I thought, but quite a few of the Fifteensquared brigade did not agree, so maybe not. Anyway, nice to see some broadly scientific content for a change: C P Snow would approve.

Lots to enjoy today, including a coffee spluttering moment thanks to 3d. Presumably Radian couldn’t resist, which is either reprehensible or understandable. You decide. The only clue I couldn’t parse (or more accurately didn’t bother to) was 9d – it could hardly be anything else and even I am aware of who Motty is, which was conclusive. Oodles of praiseworthy clues today with nothing obviously standing out, but I rather liked 8d so that can be clue of the day:

“Top spaces exploited on board (7)”

The puzzle first appeared in 2013 on 15th October, which turns out to be 23ac’s Day: an annual celebration of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I’m indebted to the estimable duncanshiell for that nugget of information, whose contributions on the other side are always impeccably comprehensive.

Crosophile’s crosswords haven’t always been to my taste, but I’m more than happy to give him credit for being a very clever setter. Just how sneaky he’s been is not readily apparent today, but keep looking. There’s a mini theme and some other things to be found – but if you draw a blank the man himself hints at it in his comment on the October 2013 Fifteensquared blog, to a chorus of groans from the others.

There’s nothing particularly controversial in the clues, although some basic knowledge of Eastern spiritual practices will come in handy. As regards the clue of the day it’s not such an easy choice, none of them having really jumped out at me, but 17ac and 14d are both especially pleasing. 24d gets the nod:

“Pan’s support maybe placed on lower parts of pantry floor (5)”

i Cryptic Crossword 2189 Phi

February 13, 2018

One of Phi’s disorientating weekday appearances this time. 1ac was a gimme, and I fleetingly wondered whether we had an Updike themed puzzle on our hands. That might have ensured some lively comments, but as it turned out it’s something far more nebulous.

This crossword seemed very gentle by the setter’s standards, and there isn’t anything to hold the experienced solver up unduly. I’m not altogether happy with the definition of 3d, but that’s nitpicky – and like several people at Fifteensquared I was unsure of the parsing of 16d. In both cases the solutions were plain as a pikestaff, so the quibbles are rather moot. 1d and 13d struck me as particularly good, as did 27ac even though it’s a bit tortuous. My Clue of the Day is a chestnut, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good ‘un, and some solvers won’t have seen it before. With apologies, 11ac:

“(1,6,1,4)”

Back to October 2013.

Tees can generally be relied upon to put up a bit of a fight, and today’s crossword could well be wearisome for solvers without the requisite knowledge to appreciate the theme. The nicely done 12/10 cleared that up for me straight away, and all the other food groups were familiar, so my ride was an easy one. There may be a spot of grumbling though, I suspect.

No shortage of nice clues, so it’s a shame about 16ac. One can well understand Tees wanting to avoid the medical procedure which fits that gap, but it could hardly be worse than the ghastly combination he settled on. That aside, no complaints worth speaking of. Runner up for the COD trophy is 14ac, but of course the winner is 3d:

“Fool with butter and what that says about food group? (10)”

Solutions, analysis and a whole slew of comments can be found at Fifteensquared as usual. We’re back to November 2013 this time.