i Cryptic Crossword 3313 Gila

September 20, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

The most Brompton-y of Bromptons, with each of the four quadrants connected to the whole by only one crossing light, this really did feel to me like four separate mini-crosswords; the top two seeming very accessible to me, meriting perhaps half a star for difficulty, but the bottom two being considerably more challenging, at least to me.

The parsings I struggled with were those for FREE-FOR-ALL, FLETCHER and DISASTER, although the latter seemed obvious when I spotted that the soldiers were the SAS. And I actually couldn’t get BANNER, so a Did Not Finish for me. This latter seemes to me to be a tad unfair, as it requires some seriously niche knowledge, and the crossing letters were not particularly helpful. Last in, apart from the-one-I-couldn’t-get, was SANCTION, which I thought was very neatly done.

Good surface readings throughout, and I enjoyed the solve – and it does me good to be beaten by the setter once in a while! πŸ™‚. Clue of the day goes to 23a: “Company – possibly Apple – initially agrees to take a lesser charge (3,1,4)”.

Here’s the link for Fifteensquared, where you can see the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/14/independent-on-sunday-1420-gila/

i Cryptic Crossword 3311 Vigo

September 17, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

A pleasingly accessible crossword brings us towards the end of the working week. Very enjoyable it was too, if all over a little too quickly for my taste. It was less than one cup-of-coffee’s worth. But that’s fine; part of the joy of the i crossword is the range and variety that we are treated to.

My only criticism is that it is one of my least favourite grids; in solving it felt like doing four mini-crosswords, rather than one regular one – a Brompton, in the coinage of the much-missed Batarde. Only one bit of word-play flummoxed me for a while, which was “sash” from “frame”, before I remembered about the type of window. Otherwise, no hold-ups at all. Nice surface readings aplenty, and quite a few ticks and smiles in my margin on completion. Top two contenders for Clue of the Day were, in second place INDIA, and in first place 28ac: “Hesitation after famous Geordie duo swap places with bottle (8)”.

I found on Fifteensquared that there is a dinghy-related theme. I didn’t spot it, and it is rather niche, worthy almost of Phi. But it does make me admire the setter for getting so many theme-words in – no small achievement.

Independent 9,592 by Vigo

i Cryptic Crossword 3307 Poins

September 13, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Poins is a setter I’m not too familiar with, so it took me a while to get into his way of thinking. Once I did, though, this turned out to be a relative straightforward solve, and it was no surprise to find that this was originally an IoS crossword.

RED PENCIL took me by surprise. It was not a phrase I knew, although the process of pointing out errors using a red-coloured writing implement is something I am more than familiar with. Another thing I learned was the existence of the place called Welling in south London. I tend to panic a bit on seeing the “somewhere in London” indication; beside the famous bits, there are just so many of them that I never know where to start. Fortunately my guess turned out to be right.

Only one thing eluded me, which was the second definition for OVERRIDE. But that was more than outweighed by lots of other good and entertaining clues. I liked SOFT ON (Dario Fo is the only Italian playwright I can think of, so I’m glad it was him that was referred to). I loved the clue for SYDNEY. Clue of the Day, though, goes to the amusing double-definition in 10ac: “Iron sink (8)”.

Follow the link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/07/independent-on-sunday-1419-poins/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A nicely accessible pangram from Klingsor brings us towards the end of the working week. I fairly rattled through most of this, completing it in a little under my average time. Most of it was fairly straightforward, and I don’t think there are any obscurities to send the solver scouring the dictionaries or the internet – except perhaps for CHITTERLINGS, which I imagine no-one eats any longer, and maybe PASSIM. But both were clearly clued and with helpful crossing letters.

I was tempted to give a three for difficulty on the basis that it took me ages to disentangle what was going on in ALICE SPRINGS. But there were a very limited number of possibilities, and I entered it largely on the basis of word-length and two or three crossing letters (the enumeration ruling out the red rock, under either of its names).

My clue of the day is 19d. I’m one who loves a Spoonerism, and this one made me laugh. It’s worth reading the comments on the Fifteensquared page (link below), where there are some thoughts shared about this special kind of clue. “Furious convict initially exchanged men’s periodical (3,3)”.

Independent 9576 / Klingsor

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

In terms of word-play and accessibility, this fun and enjoyable puzzle from Hypnos merits a two-star rating, I would say. But it a few of the references seemed to require somewhat niche knowledge (or to presume age and memory from the solver): Evelyn Waugh has fallen from popularity at present, and although the erudite solvers of the i would be able to name quite a few of his novels, I doubt that BLACK MISCHIEF would be among them. Likewise, James HUNT and Stefan EDBERG, great as their achievements were, are sportsmen whose names are no longer at the forefronts of our minds. DAVID HOCKNEY and Giles BRANDRETH, (and indeed Jo Brand) on the other hand are well-known enough.

I enjoyed this one, which took me about my usual time to solve. Everything seemed to parse perfectly, and the surface readings were plausible throughout. Five clues made my shortlist, which is, in my book, a sign of a good and entertaining crossword. The winner, by a narrow margin, is 7d: “Apple technology’s latest found in place for courses? (6)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/23/independent-on-sunday-1430-by-hypnos/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I think the star-rating system is working well. Quite often there is a bit of minor disagreement about just how easy or difficult a puzzle has been, but that is only to be expected. Unless I have been particularly obtuse this morning, I doubt that there will be much disagreement that today’s offering from the always erudite Tyrus was Very Hard.

It took me considerably longer than usual. When blogging, I solve on the dead-tree version (which I much prefer) but I needed to use the app today in order to check that a few entries were correct, not least the gateway 16ac, which yielded far too late to be particularly useful. I might have been tempted to use the “cheat” functions to reveal the occasional letter – or even a complete word – had I not been determined to write the blog having actually solved the puzzle.

In that self-challenge I failed. Yes, eventually I got all the right letters in the right boxes, but there were several which I just could not for the life of me parse. Quite often the gateway clue can be a little more easily solved, in order to give the solver a break, but that was not so today, and the mystery of 16ac remained even after I had cracked a couple of the themed entries. There were four multi-entry, multi-word answers, which compounded the difficulty level. I don’t think there are any particularly obscure words – with the exception of the gateway clue itself. I’m sure we’re all familiar with “solecism” but this adjectival derivative was far from obvious.

It is, of course (having seen my unparsed answers on Fifteensquared) impeccably clued, and was another impressive construction. But it was very tough. My Clue of the Day is a fairly simple and straightforward one, and the only one which raised a laugh: “Say John Lennon’s old name out loud (5)”

Follow the link for the answers and explanation, commentary from other solvers who also found it tough, and including some thoughts from the setter: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/10/independent-9566-tyrus/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

What would the bank holiday bring us, I wondered. Perhaps something chewy to fill the hours indoors in predictably disappointing weather? No, instead we are treated to the most gentle and welcoming puzzle for many a while. Peter has produced a nicely accessible crossword that is suitable for sitting down with a younger family member and showing them how the dark arts work (not so dark, today, though). All the word-play was very clearly signalled, and the definitions were likewise straightforward and unambiguous.

Only one clue proved puzzling to me, which was SHERPA, my last one in. I had the crossing letters, and unsurprisingly given what’s in the news, I could not unsee “Sharia”. I had to look closely at it to spot that it was a hidden inclusion. I didn’t know that Sherpa was a language, but one of the joys of crosswords is that you regularly learn new things.

The clue for EROS was entertaining (well at least to a retired theologian, it was) but the Clue of the Day I’ve chosen is 13d: “By which to find out what went wrong with parking at most hectic northbound subway (10)”.

Here’s the link for all the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/21/independent-on-sunday-1421peter/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

On completion, preparing to write this blog, I had no parsing queries left. During the course of solving, however, some clues seemed intractable, and there was more than one occasion when I needed inspiration from a list of words. But so accomplished is this setter that despite first appearances, every bit of word-play was precise. Misdirection is of the essence in a cryptic crossword.

That being said, there were fully seven entries which did not follow the usual format of wordplay-plus-definition, but were instead clued allusively. There’s nothing wrong with that, but combined with their including two triple-entry phrases, this did ratchet up the difficulty level somewhat. All of it was brilliantly done, resulting in a challenging puzzle, which was very satisfying to solve.

Obscurities? PONTIAC and “chief” don’t automatically connect in my mind. The month of the Jewish calendar could be a bit unfamiliar to those unversed in that religion, although there were helpful crossing letters. The best selling Fleetwood Mac album is surely well-known, at least to those solvers of a certain age – and younger solvers will not have been troubled too much by the computer game. I’m in the former category; I did know the game, but it took a bit of working out.

In choosing a clue of the day, I was very temped by the two allusively clued three-word answers. But actually, I did rather like the short but neat 23d: “In France you will carry off unfinished food (4)”.

This was a Saturday prize puzzle back in 2017 on its first appearance. Here’s the link: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/17/independent-9572-by-anax-saturday-puzzle-17-jun-2017/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Not every solver does, I know, but I love puzzles from Hoskins. He so evidently loves playing with words, revelling in creating entertaining surface readings and mischievously misleading word-play. And he’s not averse to a little self-mockery, and seems not to take himself too seriously – despite being at least as erudite as any other setter; consider the surface reading of the clue for SHIN. Playing with words is the essence of cryptic crosswords, and in my opinion, Hoskins is one of the best.

Other highlights included the definition in SPORTS BRA, the resonance between surface reading and answer in NERDIEST, and the clever definition for my Clue of the Day, 17d: “Mass reunites awfully Christian-minded folk?(9)”.

Here’s the link to the IoS first appearance,with all the answers and explanations. It’s well worth reading the setter’s own contribution in the comments.

Independent on Sunday 1,422 by Hoskins

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

A gentle crossword for the end of the working week from Tees. Nicely accessible, and pleasing and satisfying to solve. Seven clues were anagrams, in full or in part. In my early solving days, I was always glad to spot an anagram, as I then had at least an idea of what I was meant to be doing, and that generally began to open up the grid for me. I guess, therefore, that some beginners will have found their way in to the puzzle by this means.

Nevertheless, some the anagrams themselves were particularly impressive constructions, especially ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER, with its surface reading conjuring up an entertaining picture.

Another factor contributing to ease of accessibility is that there are no obscurities. OEDIPUS is hardly a recondite answer when “incestuous son” is in the clue. And surely Alice Liddell is sufficiently well known not to have caused too much brow-ruffling.

Like some others commenting on Fifteensquared, my only hesitation was over HET UP, where I initially entered “put up” before realising I couldn’t parse it and so corrected it. It was a candidate for Clue of the Day, but actually I preferred the nicely constructed 17ac with its great surface reading: “Wine to honour hero impaling one vampire? The opposite! (8)”.

Answers and explanations can be found here: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/25/independent-9552-tees/