An unfamiliar name today: oo-er. And look at all those across clues: eek! Best ignore them and look at the downs, and hey presto, before long the meaning of all those Ps becomes apparent.

Mixed feelings about this one. On the credit side Hieroglyph has managed to fill all the across lights with thematic material which is satisfying, and for the most part he or she has kept the tone breezy and accessible. In the debit column – I am echoing what Duncan said in his July 2014 Fifteensquared blog here – 1, 2 and 16d are hard to forgive in a weekday crossword. Especially 2. Drawing a veil over those it’s not an especially difficult puzzle, and once the penny dropped about the theme it pretty much filled itself in.

Thin pickings for clue of the day. Regular visitors will understand my temptation to choose 17d just to give Sprouthater something to get his teeth into, but instead I’m going for the succinct and rather droll 4d:

“Communicate dog’s dinner-time (7)”

If anyone is interested in the Brendan puzzle mentioned in the comments at 15², here you go.


It’s been a mere six weeks since Tees’ last Tuesday appearance (disguised as Hephaestos), and 7ac being my first one in I briefly wondered whether we’d be ploughing the same sort of high-falutin’ furrow. A certain amount of mithering has become the norm from those who do not share my enthusiasm for thematic puzzles, and there’ll probably be some adverse comment on the cross-linking, but it’s unlikely that any complaints will be forthcoming about the theme being highbrow today.

I expect great things of Tees, and whilst this crossword is no disappointment he certainly didn’t present us with as formidable a challenge this time as he has in the past. “Breezy” is le mot juste, I think, with a wide variety of clue types none of which were too fiendish. Even the Spoonerism is decent, as such things go. Entertaining stuff, earning a creditable tally of ticks: particular favourites included 8, 13, 14 and 28. When it comes to the clue of the day 20/19 is sorely tempting given the theme, but the winner simply has to be 18ac:

“Narrow bit of fish? (7,5)”

For Gaufrid’s blog and lots of appreciative commentary, here’s the June 2014 Fifteensquared link.

I note that the former Foreign Secretary and alleged thinker pictured on the front page hasn’t made much progress with The Times crossword: let’s see if we can do better with today’s puzzle by Alchemi. Not a particularly stiff challenge on any level.

Bearing in mind that it’s Tuesday and the grid is distinctly Nina-friendly, experienced solvers with their wits about them will have tumbled to what’s going on as soon as 17ac went in. Regular readers will be unsurprised to hear that I didn’t notice until the very end, but anyway there it is: our gimmick du jour. Like AndyB says in comment no. 1 on the February 2014 Fifteensquared blog, I’m pretty sure this has come up before in much the same guise, but as Alchemi observes it’s a bit of a gimme for a setter.

An easygoing gentle sort of solving process today, with rather too many write-ins for my liking: exceptions to that general rule included 19, 25 and the rather odd 28. None of those strikes me as really worthy of the COD trophy, so instead I’m going for the one which made me chuckle, 7d:

“Metal group’s press people accepting help (4,6)”

Another day, another crossword with complications, but this time it’s set by one of the masters of jiggery pokery which makes all the difference. No Nina today (despite the grid – which incidentally integrates the four quarters unlike yesterday’s), but there’s a rather familiar theme. Anax did something similar in March, I think.

Off to a slow start, and it wasn’t until halfway through that the light dawned about 24d. Not much of a gateway, that, but by then the location had become obvious. It’s a pity about 23ac, a perfectly good clue, but the solution was not confirmed by Chambers and needed checking online. Otherwise no obscurities, unless you’re a particularly unadventurous diner. Lots to enjoy of course and plenty of clue of the day candidates – but nothing stood out as a decisive winner. Thumbs up for 3, 5, 17 and 25 then, and the prize goes to 21ac:

“Beatle repeated the old drumming, initially out of touch (6-4)”

Good blog from Bert and Joyce plus mixed reviews in the comments over at Fifteensquared back in June 2014.

i Cryptic Crossword 2375 Morph

September 18, 2018

Expectations well and truly confounded today, as Morph of all people supplies probably the easiest Tuesday crossword of the year so far. Just the thing for 15d in fact, and entertaining enough to keep old hands happy if not for very long.

The theme helped considerably with the downs … well frankly, once 1/18d and 2d are done the rest of the thematic solutions barely need clues. Especially when nearly all the across answers are in place after a first pass. My preference would be for something a bit more demanding, but it’s puzzles like this which will draw new solvers in and that has to be a good thing. A little cluster of acrosses caught my eye – 23, 25 and 26 – and of those it’s 25 which is my choice for COD:

“Part of speech I start to teach in Old English – how advanced top set is! (8)”

For the June 2014 Fifteensquared blog and some appreciative comments, please click here.

I am happy today, because a) the crossword was highly enjoyable; b) the grid is printed on the non-staple side, and c) I’ve been waiting patiently for an excuse to use this beauty as a hint. Cornick may well be disgruntled by the absurdly tiny size of the print, but the theme ought to meet with his approval.

The way I see it there is no single gateway clue today, just a few crosslinks, and it’s a little unfortunate that one such (12ac) contains a debatable acronym. According to a comment on Duncan’s typically excellent Fifteensquared blog entry it’s in Collins – wouldn’t know about that but the current Chambers favours the Philological Society. This probably won’t have caused much trouble, but it certainly prompted a session of hair splitting back in June 2014. Not to worry though, eh?

Nothing else to complain of as far as I can see, and plenty to appreciate. The more you look the more pervasive the theme appears. Four clues stood out for me: 13ac and 24; and the structurally similar pair, 9 and 22. Honours pretty much even between that lot, but I’m picking 9ac as the clue of the day just because it’s a nice word:

“Sick owing money to uncle and bank (7)”

i Cryptic Crossword 2363 Hob

September 4, 2018

Another Tuesday; another example of virtuoso crossword construction. This time it’s Hob, who is inventive at the best of times, but he really seems to have pulled his finger out with this doublethemed puzzle. No doubt there will be moaning and mithering from those who dislike interlinked clues and prefer to blame the setter rather than either knuckle down or admit defeat graciously. It’s eminently solvable, folks, but you’ll need to put your thinking caps on.

So: 14/23, variations on the meanings of both parts, and a few related bits and pieces just for the sake of it. I made a slow start, but as the light dawned everything began to fall into place and it became clear just how much effort Hob had put into adding entertainment value. There was a rare laugh out loud moment when the light bulb went on for 1d, and the ticks just kept on accumulating. Why the matching pair at 13 and 18? Just because he can, I suppose. Amongst the many outstanding clues 3, 4 10 and 16d particularly appealed to me, but surprisingly there’s a clear winner today and that’s 2d:

“Expert in moral conduct – and this is in three different languages (8)”

Back to June 2014 this time: click here for RatkojaRiku’s comprehensive write-up and appreciative comments at Fifteensquared.

There’s always a danger on a Thursday of finding oneself staring at an empty grid wondering what on earth is going on, but happily for your substitute blogger ’twas not to be this time. In fact, this puzzle could be swapped with Quixote’s last restoring the natural order of things, namely that Monday is supposed to be the easy one. Alchemi’s crossword is lively and good fun, but won’t cause a great deal of head scratching if my experience is anything to go by.

Marginalia: a “hah!” (28ac), a “hmm” (8d) and a “who?” (15d) – the only Ms Reid who came readily to mind being Beryl. The correct one is in my opinion desperately obscure (with apologies), but there’s a reason since the original clue referred to the late Ms Palmer-Tomkinson, and presumably was amended on grounds of good taste. Okay … but the revised version isn’t particular fair to those of us who would generally prefer a nice Ingmar Bergman to a “teen sex comedy”. Harrumph. I also have a couple of ticks, for the rather off-colour 11ac and 25ac. In the interests of not lowering the tone in Jon’s absence I’ll go for the latter as COD:

“Draws on English parliamentarian’s evidence of drinking bouts? (7)”

For all the answers and some good natured discussion, here’s the June 2014 Fifteensquared blog entry. Turns out that this was indeed originally published on a Monday.

I think we have a strong contender for stinker of the year today. In addition to Chambers, Brewer’s Phrase and Fable and the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology or an equivalent will come in handy, unless you have the advantage of a Classical education or an eidetic memory. There’s a theme and a Nina: it’s all terribly clever but if you’re the man on the Clapham omnibus or a blogger trying to get copy out before lunchtime you’re going to feel sore beset.

The puzzle first appeared in the Indy in May 2014 under the byline of one Hephaestos, but in fact it’s the work of the setter usually known as Tees. There’s far too much going on to discuss properly here, so thank goodness for Duncan Shiell at Fifteensquared who made a superb job of dissecting and analysing this beast of a crossword. There are fine clues galore throughout, my favourites including 4, 20, 22ac and 25. My COD perhaps isn’t the best but it’s the key to everything and it is rather aptly worded:

17/19/8: “Battle lines – as our grid asserts – where old chief halts and heel is shot (3,6,2,8)”

Those of us who have seen no compelling reason to replace that tattered old atlas in which three quarters of the countries are shaded red will have found ourselves at a distinct advantage with Scorpion’s “old country” theme today. Others may have struggled since this setter doesn’t go in for sprinkling a few simple ones around the grid to provide solvers with toeholds, and some of the old hands at Fifteensquared had recourse to wordfinders back in May 2014.

It’s all typically Scorpion: sharp, inventive and quite challenging. Did anyone else automatically think “Forfar 5” upon solving 18ac, by the way? Amongst the many ticks I was particularly impressed by 23ac (the clue, not the word); two clever thematics at 14 and 30ac; the shellfish, the English tract, the French-style cream and the religious artwork. All jolly laudable, but I’m going for 16ac as my COD:

“Theatre poster shows amateur in lead unfavourably (8)”