Radian on a Tuesday, so there simply has to be a gimmick. I couldn’t see it though, so a warm “thank you” to Anna over at Fifteensquared who could, and spilled the beans in comment no. 6. Thus giving me an opportunity to select a picture link which is, in my opinion, well wicked. As hip young people used to say, once upon a time.

In terms of difficulty RatkojaRiku thought this was about average for Radian, but it seemed stiffer than his usual to me. Most unusually for this setter 9ac got a :-/, my pictogram for “steady on, old boy”. 22ac is a pretty uncommon word, but otherwise it’s the clues rather than the vocabulary that made this a satisfyingly chewy puzzle, which scored an impressive tally of ticks. Once again Radian has made selecting a clue of the day tricky because there’s no shortage of candidates, all more or less level pegging. Plaudits therefore to 1ac, 4, 7, 12, 15, 18 … and so forth. Further nominations are invited. The winner is 7d, mostly for its very pleasing surface:

“I love bananas in crude fruit juice (5.3)”

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Scorpion, so that ought to suit me nicely then. Indeed I am a happy customer today for the most part, although this puzzle is a little odd. Anyway, it’s a pangram with a theme, and an impressive example of the compiler’s art all told.

The consensus over at Fifteensquared back in February 2015 was that this was a tough nut to crack. This might have something to do with it being published on a Monday when we traditionally expect to be treated gently, but it seems about par for the Tuesday course to me – and besides when you see Scorpion’s name by the crossword you might as well make yourself comfortable. Steady progress in my case following a generally clockwise course from NE to NW, reflecting the rather disjointed nature of the grid. There’s some rather nasty 3/7 underchecking which doesn’t help much with the four-puzzles-in-one effect.

There are some peculiar entries. 13ac is too downmarket for my taste and 27ac rather recondite, but both are fairly clued; 7 and 16d are, I suppose, the sort of thing you wind up with when filling a grid with a double gimmick. Didn’t much care for those. Otherwise it’s the sort of inventive, puckish blend which makes this setter a firm favourite. Today’s clues of note included 1d and 15 and 20ac: I’m sorely tempted to pick the latter as my COD but it’s pipped at the post by the delightfully baffling forehead-slapper at 26ac:

“Old brass name seen on bog discovered in gorge (7)”

A perky puzzle from Hob, over surprisingly quickly despite a hesitant start. My customary approach to a crossword with an explicit theme and many cross references between clues like this one is to ignore all that and crack on with the rest, after which nine times out of ten it will have become clear what’s going on. Had I followed my own advice instead of faffing around this would probably have been done and dusted in about the same time as yesterday’s Commoner.

A couple of not-so-common words notwithstanding, both of which were precisely indicated by the wordplay, there’s nothing very obscure here so long as the solver is old enough to remember a few bygone 26s. Ordinarily I’d expect some googlies from this setter, but it’s quite conventional fare if convoluted in places (notably the excellent 18/28 and 25). No complaints here: all good enjoyable stuff. Just for once my COD is thematic:

5ac: “Former 26 hero, another that’s desperate to get read about (3,4)”

Bertandjoyce were on hand in February 2015 to do the Fifteensquared write-up, which ought to cover any questions and clarifications admirably with a little help from the chorus. Not everybody liked this one, and it’s my guess that the same might hold true today.

themed crossword which is very clever indeed. I’ll leave it to others to decide by how wide a margin it’s too clever – solving this felt very much like double-digging the vegetable patch to me and it was a relief to finish.

Let’s get the grid out of the way first: it’s a disgrace. The checking is fine but it’s two puzzles in one as near as dammit. You may take the view that it’s justified in view of the complex thematic gimmick, but we’ll just have to agree to differ if so. Add some unusually tortuous clues, shaky surfaces and very little in the way of gentle starters, and it all becomes a slog. I’ve no intention of reciting a litany of moans, so suffice it to say that this crossword irritated more than it entertained. Duncan was on blogging duty at Fifteensquared in February 2015, and he enjoyed it more than me, so please click here for explanations, comments and a more positive assessment.

Clue of the day? One of the gnarliest ones, but it did please me when the penny dropped:

23ac: “Practically impossible, what I do mostly when holding the pack and then getting pontoon? (10)”

Radian is not one of the rude boys, and it would be nice to report a complete absence of lavatorial content today: well, not quite, but we’re heading in the right direction. It’s now twenty weeks into 2019 and Radian has supplied fully a quarter of the Tuesday puzzles so far, which makes sense because if he has ever produced an unthemed crossword I can’t remember it. This one isn’t so easy to put one’s finger on, but there’s plenty of architecture and loftiness in there, and a specific reference to one example of both and its designer.

As usual this is high quality stuff with plenty of variety and a pleasure to solve. Everything works out nicely, although 23 and 26 took a bit of thinking about. Candidates for a clue of the day are plentiful, and it would be a shame not to single out 9, 10, 15, 20, 21, 22 … and a few more besides. I suspect there will be no consensus on that score, but for what it’s worth my favourite was the elegantly written 24ac:

“Was it built by Queen to house lover once? (6)”

There’s an excellent write up by Duncan and some musing about the theme by the chorus over at Fifteensquared. And here’s a little sidelight on why Radian might have devised the theme in February 2015.

Firstly, an announcement. Apparently a subscription to the i includes access to an app which enables one to solve a crossword in an interactive manner – until recently said puzzle appeared to be chosen at random, but now it’s the same as the one in the paper. It’s jolly good according to The Guvnor. Wouldn’t know because my phone is made from brass and mahogany, and wired up to a telegraph pole. This will make some sort of sense to the technically savvy, one hopes.

And so to today’s offering from Scorpion, a setter who has been one of my favourites for a long time. This is probably not the best example – there are several off-colour clues which will annoy some solvers and the grid is singularly unhelpful – but it was still thoroughly entertaining in my opinion at least. There is a theme of the ghostly variety which might help out a little, but it should be perfectly possible to finish without noticing it. 13ac is lavatorial and highly dubious, but otherwise no complaints worth mentioning, and no problems with the parsing. Special mentions for 6, 11 and 21, with 19ac emerging as my COD by a short head:

“I run for far-right in Chesterfield, say (6)”

Bertandjoyce supplied the original Fifteensquared blog back in January 2015, so we’re in good hands.

“I’d like to play Russian roulette with Thursday please”, was my reply when Jon asked me my preferred day to swap for Tuesday. There’s no knowing what might turn up after all, but as it turns out I got off very lightly with an Independent on Sunday reprint. This may bode ill for Sprouters tomorrow.

eXternal’s crosswords can sometimes be rather demanding but this one was clearly designed to be accessible, and whilst solving wasn’t quite a matter of filling in a succession of read-and-writes, it wasn’t far off. None of the vocabulary is obscure, and the only quibble which comes to mind concerns the use of “surface” in 13d – which is a minor one indeed. All told a brisk, fairly entertaining puzzle. 7, 14, 15 and 24 all seemed good with some well-considered misdirection going on, and my COD is 18ac because the anagram fodder is masquerading as something else:

“Partly nervous university worker’s to avoid the classroom (4,6)”

Pierre at Fifteensquared didn’t quite know what to make of this one back in August 2015, and I can see why.

Sprouters, our regular Friday blogger is unavailable this week because he’s being refenestrated, so I volunteered to act as locum. This in the full knowledge that there was a previously unpublished Nimrod in the offing: a form of penance for my frequent expressions of schadenfreude when he got lumbered with a stinker in the past.

So, what did you all reckon to that? I’d say it was easier than the average Inquisitor but tougher than a Mephisto, and completely bonkers for a weekday puzzle. Done and dusted in an off the scale sort of time, with help from the Big Red Book but eschewing electronic aids – and I must admit to being pretty chuffed with myself. Nimrod does not appear to believe in providing a few gentler clues so that solvers can at least gain a toehold here and there, so it was heavy going from start to finish. It doesn’t help that his appearances here are quite rare, so opportunities to get the measure of his style are thin on the ground.

Since almost all the clues are noteworthy one way or another there’s little point in singling out favourites; furthermore everything parses to my satisfaction more or less, and any quibbles will be addressed below. Therefore it’s straight to the COD, which is a beauty:

9d:  “Scorer obsessive about 100 not out (that’s 500 over 5) (7,6)”

The breakdown of the solutions follows, so please scroll no further if this would spoil things for you.

 


 

Across:

7: An African charm or fetish. “zip” = zero, so 0 + “bi”, a rather loose synonym for a swinger but I expect we all get the idea.
8: HEARTS + TONE with an extra h(ot) in it. Is this a surround?
11: Anagram of “do lord” + “taken”, the solution referring to that allegedly entertaining parlour game, Monopoly.
12: Triple definition. Refers to Umberto Eco, and the English Chamber Orchestra
13: Assuming we’re British, that would be OUR + EON, with (Ma)Y in front
14: The writer = I, “well = SO + LATE
17: Neat anagram of “given enemies can”
18: “Second” = MO + LOT + OV which sounds like “of”, ie. from
19: Anagram of “no art” + DO = “play”
21: R(ecipe) + A(nte) M(eridiem)
23: 21ac backwards + L(earner) + O(ld) B(oy) reversed + ROUGH, referring to the school in Wiltshire
24: Cryptic definition
25: Double definition

Down:

1: A pun, red wine lacking body being poor stuff indeed
2: WIN (“secure”) + END backwards with TUN inside, followed by (a)L(e)
3/15: What is clearly missing is “tin”, a metallic element. Simple as that.
4/5: USED TO + BE, a homophone of “bee”
6: Anagram of “does feel”, and a synonym for suicide
9: Loved this one. ANORAK containing TON, IN, D (=500) and V (=5)
10: Cryptic (and accurate) definition
16: A followed by IMAM inside NUN + DI  – a venerable philosophical concept
17: VA (“go” in French) + M(oreau) + BRACE, and yes, it’s an item of armour which protects the arm … but we all knew that of course
20: “FA” = nothing = 0 + H(arry) inside NIGH as in “the end is …”
22/23: “I’m at” jumbled inside MORN. Classic crossword vocabulary.

And you can click here for the completed grid.

I don’t believe I’ve solved a Knut before, let alone blogged one, but if this is anything to go by it’ll be a pleasure to see more from this setter. There’s always a novelty element on a Tuesday, and this time we have a ghost theme, a Nina and a homophonic gimmick, all related. Something of a tour de force.

The general tone is refreshingly peppy, with very few crossword commonplaces and a thoroughly up to date (not to mention topical) feel. There are a few not-so-common solutions, including an Australian cricketer apparently of considerable renown; an Alaskan mountain of notable height; a cheese of notorious pungency, and something to do with parrots (which reminds me of a rather good Alan Coren anecdote – but space and time do not permit, alas). All are fairly clued and can be deduced from the wordplay given some checking letters if need be. There’s plenty of variety to enjoy, and a couple of good groans. Nominations for alternative clues of the day are invited since we’re spoilt for choice; mine is the smooth and modern 24ac:

“Gustave gets puncture taking taxi (8)”

Now then. Normally at this point we’d publish a link to the old Fifteensquared blog, but there isn’t one because the i for the first time is publishing original, never before published puzzles. So here’s a run through of the clues with parsing for each. The format is by necessity minimalist, for which apologies, but the morning paper doesn’t arrive early enough for anything else. Obviously if you scroll down any further you’ll run into the answers, so here’s a

SPOILER ALERT

 


 

Across

6: NO(I)SE
7: EX + Cu + TE (Lawrence) inside a jumbled LAPD
10: Cryptic definition referring to a baseball diamond, and a ball flung at high velocity.
11: HIM in DEC(ember) backwards
12: Anagram of “Irish lad at MCG” – a cricketer
14: BARB + E(isenhowe)R
16: CO + W + PI + E, referring to Desperate Dan
19: Anagram of “Loyal BBC Three”, and a very nice definition.
23: Homophone of “high pup”, a St Bernard being nothing if not a big ‘un.
24: UBER in FLAT
25: A neat anagram of “antiseptic”, and a reference to Julian Barnes’ novel
26: Cryptic double definition: No Es if they’re banned.

Down

1: 00 (licence to kill) + HAND + every other letter in kArAcHi
2: Anagram of “Barnet” with “mo” in it
3: DEN supported by AL(abama) + I(nstitute) – a mountain
4: ELECT + R(epublican) + I(n) C(harge)
5: R(omeo) (International Phonetic Alphabet) + ADIOS
8: Ca + Li + Co
9: sExY bEaSt
13: LIMB + URGER. A cheese celebrated for its odiferous qualities.
15: Anagram of “Prepare a”
17: Anagram of w(ife) + n(ew) + doobie
18: Hidden in moST EFFIcient, referring to Ms Graf
20: Anagram of “in Solent” with the Ns removed
21: ERAS + ED – today’s only chestnut
22: (F)AYE’S, Dunaway’s that is

Finally, click here for the completed grid with thematic elements highlighted.

A pangram which wasn’t, although interestingly it would have been an easy matter to include the W and Z with straightforward adjustments to 16 and 26. How odd. Hard to imagine that Dac would have overlooked that. Anyway, aside from that observation it’s the usual blogger’s nightmare from this compiler, with nothing whatsoever to quibble, muse or carp about.

Well, unless you have a boeuf with French stuff in your crossword, that is – in which case your gruntlement will have been less than complete. I liked both of those as it happens, although it’s a source of amazement when it turns out that such things aren’t long-forgotten after all. We also have a couple of foreign cities, possibly somewhat obscure; an irritating Americanism; contributions from India and the Caribbean, not to mention darkest Kent – giving the puzzle a cosmopolitan flavour. Nominations for COD are invited, since there are so many contenders; I’m going to plump for 7d:

“Horseman wants transport to go to Paris, nothing more (9)”.

An exemplary puzzle deserves an exemplary blog, so it’s a good job Duncan provided one for Fifteensquared in January 2015. Click here.