A new setter? S.park, on the evidence of this offering, will be a welcome addition to the i team of setters. Welcomed more by the experienced solvers, I venture, as this was set at the tougher end of the spectrum – I for one found this to be very challenging. Partly this was because of the grid, with its high proportion of words without a crossing initial letter. Partly, no doubt, because it took a while to acclimatise to an unfamiliar setter’s style. But also because the setter has used some very imaginitive definitions, such as “flight attendant”, “underworld figure” and “on radio set”.

I was expecting a nina, what with all those unchecked letters in the perimeter, and knew there was some sort of ghost-theme, the setter having warned us of one in the clue for 24d. No nina, but a double ghost-theme of “archers” and “The Archers”. Now, if the solver is familiar with the latter, it would have been a great help – but, with the probable exception of the aforementioned “on radio set”, all clues were answerable without any arcane knowledge. It was a help in getting CARTER, to be sure, but the cryptic-definition clue did not require one to know the chacterers of the world’s longest radio drama series.

I needed to consult Crosswordsolver to get BOWMANSHIP, with its clever misdirection. And my last one in was GOLD; for a long time I was misdirected into focusing on “The Archers” when I should just have been thinking about “archers”.

I was tempted to nominate LAST SUPPER as the clue of the day, but instead I suggest 19d, if only because of the mental image it conjured up for me: “Bald Simpsons men carrying lard (7)”.

To May 2016 for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/05/10/independent-9226-s-park/

“Online crossword from now on”. Well, I do hope not. I was obliged to use the online version during the dark days of deepest lock-down, and I much prefer the dead-tree version. Indeed, the demise of the Independent (which I had taken from day one) as an actual paper newspaper was one reason for moving to the i.

But such is the hidden message in the perimeter, and it was certainly the case back in April 2016, when this was first published; you can read BertandJoyce’s comprehensive explanations of the answers by clicking here.

In fact the nina was not much help. As it happens, I was most in need of additional help on the right-hand side and in the bottom half, and that part of the nina was no more obvious than the clues I was struggling with. I found this one to be very tough. I got there in the end, but with a little electronic help, and in well over my typical time. The grid, which essentially gave four barely-intersecting mini-crosswords, didn’t help.

Particular quibbles? “AUT” for former teachers? Never head of it, and I was for years a branch secretary of another union for teachers. OSTREA? I love oysters, and the homophone is entertaining, but, no, that was unknown to me, too. “In” to clue “because of ” in HARBIN? Seemed unlikely.

I made one mistake, which held me up for a while. I guessed “orange” for 24a when I had the G from FOREIGN. But it was just a guess as I had no idea which mythological monster I was supposed to be decapitating. Never heard of the Windigo, either.

Still, many clues were a delight. I was taken with the neatness of 4d (although I wonder whether De La Mare’s poetry is sufficiently widely-read for the Younger Solver to recognise the name). My nomination for Clue of the Day, however, goes to the very clever indeed 13a: “Anonymous mover and shaker lets ego trip run wild (11)”.

A simple, straightforward  and very accessible crossword in the Wednesday slot today. And none the worse for that.

INSTATES was the only answer that caused my eyebrow to rise. EPHEDRA needed a quick check, although the crossing letters left little room for doubt. I had heard of RATAFIA before, but now I know a little more of what it is – one of the regular consequences of crossword-solving is that one can have one’s general knowledge expanded as one checks up on an answer.

No stand-out clue today, but 4d made me smile: “Italian shows disrespect for national anthem? That seems impossible (2,6,5,2)”.

Click here for the answers and explanations.

Monday morning brings us a nicely accessible crossword to start the week. Although by no means a walk in the park, there was nothing here, I think, to trouble a solver with even only a little experience. No quibbles or queries from me about any of the word-play, which all seems uncontroversial, and sometimes nicely imaginative; using “maths class” to clue “trig” was a nice touch, and took me back to the hard benches of my 1970s maths lessons. The cryptic part of the clue for AGAINST THE CLOCK was perhaps a little obscure, but the answer was gettable, and the amusement factor makes it more than ok.

However, it did have a rather dated feel in places. Would AHERN have been better clued as “former Irish PM”? I think so, given that even in 2016, when this crossword first appeared, he had no longer been in office for quite some time. The two writers, CHARTERIS and ARCHER, are probably less well-known now than they were in times gone by. I recall The Saint from childhood television-watching, but that was several decades ago. I for one am thankful that the latter writer is no longer as ubiquitous as he once was.

Clue of the day? The similarly dated, but nicely entertaining, 24ac gets my nomination: “Beatle’s companion at home party returned alone (2 4,3)”.

To April 2016 for Pierre’s explanation of all the answers:

Here’s another setter I am as yet unfamiliar with. It turns out that we have been given an enjoyable, straightforward cryptic, which I completed in only a little over my typical time.

I don’t think there was anything truly controversial today. I did have to check that MYOSIN was correct, but it was fairly clued with helpful crossing letters, so it posed no real problem. I did not know that a “billy” was a kind of C19th truncheon – but with a choice between that and “nanny” it was merely a question of getting just one of the crossing letters.

YACHTER is, I dare say, a little controversial. One is more likely to speak of a yachtsman or woman than of a yachter. But again the crossing Y, C, T and R left me in no doubt. This one I struggled to parse; it took me a while to work out that it was an anagram of “the car” plus a homophone of “why”, rather than a homophone of some reason why a car might be broken down. I did make a little mistake in this SE corner, by carelessly writing in “trail” instead of TRIAL, what with the hidden inclusion cunningly being split over two lines, until solving MOOT POINT made me see the error of my ways.

All clues were, I think, well written with good surface readings. PLAYPEN, OOMPH and DOWNS all made me smile, but the one that I liked the most was 24d: “Terrible individual vehicle from Apple? (4)”.

To April, 2016 for all the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/04/25/independent-9213-by-rodriguez/

Here’s a setter I am not yet very familiar with, so I did not know what to expect when I turned to the crossword this morning. It turned out to be a good mix of readily-accessible clues and a few that required a fair bit of unravelling. But at completion I had no questions unanswered or problems unresolved, and I completed it in about my typical time.

Three clues proved chewier than most. FENDER BENDER was one. Never having been in a minor road accident in New York this was not at all obvious to me (fenders being things I would look for around the hearth, not on cars where the bumpers ought to be). I struggled with ACETYLENE; on seeing the crossing Y and Es, I thought there must be an anagram of “ethyne” in there, before I worked it all out. But the one I considered unfair was INFLUX. My last one in, I got this from the definition and crossing letters, plus the need to insert an X to complete the pangram. The use of “ux” to clue wife is particularly recondite in my opinion. Yes, I know the word “uxorious” and even the Latin “uxor”, but it took me an age to spot that and so work out how the word-play functioned.

Balancing that, three clues particularly entertained me. EARLOBE, though an old chestnut, was nicely done. ASTI was deviously clued (who else thought that the word-play indicated “aids”and that the definition was wrong? 🙂). Nomination for Clue of the Day, however, goes to 9ac: “City briefly featuring in Bunyan and Tennyson (3,4).”.

Back to March 2016 for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/03/30/independent-9191-wiglaf/

How ephemeral scandals and other seemingly newsworthy events can be! Headlines today, but forgotten not long after…

I remember nothing at all about the Panama Papers, but so topical was it that not an eyebrow seems to have been raised about its inclusion in the crossword from either blogger or commenters back in April 2016. You can read the blog here.

Does this matter? Yes, I think it does. PANAMA PAPERS was my last one in. It was not at the forefront of my mind, as it might have been four years ago, so as well as the definition being unclear, the absence of initial letters to both words, and unhelpful crossing letters (four As followed by an E and an S) made this rather intractable, at least for me. I was hoping for a penny-drop moment when I unravelled it, only to be first mystified and then somewhat deflated when I worked it out. This made completion of the puzzle less than satisfying.

There were several other mysteries: a pause in a machine’s action; bookmakers’ slang; an oddly-named fish; a Yorkshire cricketer; an old-fashioned word for grumbling; shorthand for a company-in-name-only. There was much resort to aids and a fair bit of googling necessary to get this one done.

On the other hand there was much to enjoy. I did like EBEBEZER SCROOGE and ARMADILLO made me smile, but my nomination for clue of the day goes to 8d: “Got pink paper out first (6,3,3)”.

The setter has made a very neat joke today. I’ll let Morph himself deliver the punch-line, which can be found in the comments under Duncanshiell’s blog from April 2014, where you can find all the answers and explanations.

This was a very pleasing solve, which I would rate as only a little tougher than is typical for the i. There were quite a few where I got the answer from the definition, enumeration and crossing letters, but then had to disentangle some intricate word-play. DAZZLED was a case in point. From D_Z_L_D the answer was clear. I wrongly presumed the Z was something to do with “zeppelin”, but it was a genuine laugh-out-loud moment when I finally figured it out. LUMP SUM likewise had me flummoxed for a while.

There is one thing which I don’t like, which is “opportunity to lead” for “o” in ECHELON. How does that give “o”, which is the “lead to opportunity”, rather than vice versa? I’m not sure whether “timber” is an adequate definition for TRANSOM, either. But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise very fine construction.

I thought it might be a pangram, which helped with CONJUGATE (which brought back not entirely happy memories from schoolboy Latin, although I’m not sure which of conjugation and declension applied to verbs and which to nouns). Convinced it was, when I saw that I was missing a letter I revisited the grid to find my mistake – which takes us nicely to Morph’s neat joke…

I was tempted to nominate DAZZLED as the Clue of the Day,from among many funny and admirable candidates, but it has to go to the positively splendid 23ac: “Play 9 over and over again for wife (5).

A puzzle for the more experienced solver, I think. This was one of those which took me quite a long time – especially when attempting to unravel the word-play – but which elicited a lot of ticks and smiley faces in my margins.

Time and time again I was filled with admiration for Anax’s combining neat cluing with a clever hiding-in-plain-sight of something vital. SAVE at 4d was a good example of this; it was a stand-alone clue, perfectly conventionally structured, but written to appear to be connected to the previous clue, with the definition disguised as a mere conjunction after the ellipsis.

That’s not to say it wasn’t entirely uncontroversial. Are TORQUE and HYPOTONIC fairly defined? Is SPECIFICAL really a word? And does the clue for AUDIT work properly? I’m not sure.

I was tempted to nominate the aforementioned SAVE as Clue of the Day. I also liked the cryptic definition for SERVICE FLAT, in which the meaning of “does” raised a big smile, when I finally saw it, but instead I offer 9ac: “Highly significant audio books (8,7)”.

Back to February 2016 for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/02/25/independent-9162-anax/

This was a Saturday prize crossword – surprisingly, since it seemed more accessible than many, and I completed it in well under my typical time, without recourse to aids, other than to check and confirm.

As is usual from Morph, there was much wit, and the surface readings were delightful, and my paper was smothered in ticks on completion (and how good it has been this last fortnight or so to be back using the dead-tree version!).

Quibbles and queries? The “fenn”part of PFENNIG had me scratching my head. Googling “fenn” and “Chinese coin” didn’t help. After a while I did stumble across the “fen” (with one “n”), which was useful – but eventually concluding that the second “n” was a contraction of “and” left me underwhelmed. I thought there must be more to the clue for SIDES than a whimsical definition, and I am inclined to have some sympathy with OPatrick’s comment in BertandJoyce’s comprehensive blog from March, 2016. LYRIST (my last one in) for “poet” seemed a bit obscure, although there were helpful crossing letters, so once I had those it was clear what I needed to google for confirmation.

I wondered also if I might be missing something in EGGCUP other than another whimsical definition, but it’s such a nice clue, with its nod to Swiftian satire, that it didn’t matter, I felt.

So many good clues: MISSING, ARCHAEOLOGISTS, JAILHOUSE, GAUCHERIE and the aforementioned EGGCUP all got double ticks from me. But the one that made me laugh out loud was 2d; “Channel One producing seamy stuff? (5)”.