Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳

We start the new week with a gentle crossword from Peter. All the more accessible for having a high proportion of anagrams in it: nine, I think, either in full or in part. As we have come to expect from this setter, we have been given a pleasing and satisfying solve from nicely plausible surface readings, and little reason to consult the dictionary, there being no obscure words this morning.

Well, I did go to the dictionary to look at PAPOOSE and the crossing PROFLIGATE, but only because I was blogging. Otherwise, I would have been very happy to take them on trust.

There was some humour on the way, particularly with ESPY and MUESLI, and I smiled on seeing PAPOOSE and VAMOOSE alongside each other in the completed grid. I don’t think there is anything in it – certainly no-one on Fifteensquared spotted anything more – but small things like that often please me.

My Clue of the Day is 14ac for its economy: “Butcher’s ultimate ruin?” (8)”. Not sure what the Question Mark is doing, but even so, a neat little Clue.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/22/independent-on-sunday-1469-peter/

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Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

This was a splendid crossword, full of inventiveness and ingenuity – just the sort of thing I like. There is an evident delight in words which really brings the clues to life.

Consider the following, in no particular order. In 1ac we are given a rather saucy surface reading (topical too, as it happens) in which an imaginatively misdirecting definition builds on the suggestiveness of the prior word-play. 23ac offers us a suggestion of completely different artistic genres, imagining, say, Margaret, the wife of Jacob Epstein, in an unlikely disagreement with Stormzy, with the added misdirection from the crossing first and last letters suggesting the other Biblical wife. Then there is the humour of the simple charade for GO HUNGRY. There are plenty of others, but I’d probably end up singing the praises of most of the clues.

My Clue of the Day is the corruscating 22ac, which whilst being another simple charade is also factually true: ” Hot, small island Hispaniola’s second republic (5)”. Is it an &lit? Possibly.

Whilst there is but one truly obscure word – OSTRACOD (the crossing letters left only a few options, so not much looking-up to be done) the setter pays the solver the compliment of assuming a broad erudition, taking in the elements, literature, The Simpsons, and the French in Indonesia, among many other things.

This was a very satisfying and enjoyable solve.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/12/27/independent-10048-knut/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

We start the new working week with an interesting and enjoyable crossword from Sylvanus. Most of this I found to be straightforward – and I don’t mean that in a pejorative way at all. But there were some chewier corners which required a bit more work, which added to the enjoyment, for example JEST. It’s just the sort of entry I panic over*, and even once I’d guessed it, the word-play took a bit of thinking about, as it involved a sort of crossword version of a double-negative.

I made one error, lazily entering a mis-spelt LIPPIZANER instead of the correct LIPIZZANER (the word-play should have put me right). This made the crossing 20ac more challenging than it needed to be, forcing me to accept I must have made a mistake – which doesn’t come naturally to me, I am informed 🙂. The lesson for me here is to check spellings of odd words like that. I’m not sure how well-known the horses in question are, although they do fall into the once-heard-never-forgotten category, I think. You also need to know, or at least find out about, some parliamentary convention, and a bit of technical church-speak. One I couldn’t parse was APPALACHIANS. I guessed the entry early from the definition and enumeration, but failed to realise it was a homohone rather than a charade involving a non-existent state. Another lesson for me.

I loved the whimsical clue for KING-SIZE, but my Clue of the Day is 25d. We have a delightfully plausible surface reading with a neat use of word-play: “Second grade airline defends regularly vacant seats (4)”.

Is it a pangram? I thought it was. But then I checked.

A note on timing: I completed this in under my typical time, and on that basis would have rated it as⏳⏳. Some over on Fifteensquared thought it tougher, so following our protocol I have given it ⏳⏳⏳.

* Four letters. Initial letter not crossing. Crossing letters being fairly common ones, leaving a wide variety of possibilities. My Crosswordland nemesis.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/11/independent-9826-by-silvanus/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

A glance at any map of Crosswordland will confirm that the main port of that much visited country is Rio. However, it has a rich and diverse geography, including several other ports, including one remarkably similar to a very pretty old one in Sussex.

Having got the R from APRICOT, I’m afraid I rather rashly entered “Rio” at 9ac, aware that I couldn’t parse it, but thinking I would return to it later. Only when I came to 2d, which had to be ELECTRONICS, did I discover my mistake. Sometimes just guessing an entry (“it’s a three-letter word for port beginning with R, so it’s got to be…) just won’t work.

Otherwise, all else went in fairly steadily. That’s not to say quickly, as I did have to work hard unravelling some clues, but throughout the cluing was clear, if at times nicely misdirecting. There were a couple of odd definitions that I had to check, that for TOOL, and the euphemism for an overhanging belly (why was that clue changed from the first publication, I wonder?). I did struggle to parse THOUGHT for a while, before realising that a grand is a thousand.

What we do have is splendid surface readings across the board. Each clue being more than a series of linked ciphers, but rather forming plausible English sentences which often misdirect the solver. The blogger and commenters at Fifteensquared noted the same.

My Clue of the Day is the aforementioned 9ac, which is an example of a splendidly misleading surface reading, ostensibly about football, and nicely precise cluing: “Port Vale’s openener goes in very scrapping (3)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/10/29/independent-9998-anglio/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

We start the new working week with an enjoyable and satisfying crossword from Kairos. This was largely very accessible – but in a few places we were made to work a little harder to get our results.

For example, SECONDI is a rather technical music term. The clue is very nice, having a splendidly apt surface reading and some imaginative word-play – but I suspect more than a few solvers would have been unfamiliar with the term. As it happens, I was aware of it, but still over-eagerly entered “soprani” on the strength of the definition and crossing S and I. The pretty straightforward GREENHORN alerted me to my error. One of the things I didn’t know was that MASHED POTATO is, or at least once was, a dance.

I don’t think anything else is too recondite, although I did wonder about “lo” from “watch”, and I share the mild disquiet about it expressed on Fifteensquared. There was some humour on display, and the surface readings are nicely plausible – the puzzling one for me being the “pruned grass tree”. Perhaps a horticulturist will put me right. In the same clue I was a little surprised by the infelicitously tautologous “A container contains…”.

These are but mild quibbles, outweighed by the points to like, for example the surface reading in GODZILLA. My Clue of the Day is 11ac. We have misdirection towards football, topical for so many disturbing reasons, and an imaginative definition: “Liverpool, for example welcomes European players (5)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/11/04/independent-on-sunday-1497-kairos/

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

Some of the things that can make a clue great: a good surface reading; misdirection; humour; creativity and innovation in word-play; imagination in definition; an evident delight in ambiguity; finding a good balance between allusiveness and precision.

This crossword had all of this going on. To be sure, it’s not one for beginners – and I suspect some improving solvers might have given up. I consider myself to be an experienced solver, and I did find it tough, needing more than a bit of inspiration from lists to complete my solve. But there was so much to admire on the way, and a real sense of achievement on completion.

Consider my nomination for Clue of the Day, 21d: “Ravel pirated timeless rag from one of Gershwin’s earliest movements (6)”.  We are given a perfectly plausible surface reading which misdirects us towards thinking of names for musical movements, such as scherzo. We have an imaginative definition, which includes a hint that its an Americanism. The word-play is precise (we have seen this anagram-indicator elsewhere recently, which helped) but without deadening the creativity in play. And when I got it it made me smile.

Likewise the clues for IN THE RAW, OVULATION, OCTAGONAL and LAID BARE are all great, each showing something of the qualities listed above. I dare say you have your own favourites.

To show a bit of balance, I have two minor criticisms. The first is the use of a song, albeit very popular apparently, from 75 years ago. A little niche, one might say. And I really don’t like crosswords to perpetuate pejorative objectifications of female anatomy, even if the clue is a good one.

Hard work, but such a good crossword. Bravo, Wiglaf!

Here’s the link you are looking for: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/11/01/independent-10001-wiglaf/

i Cryptic Crossword 3672 Tees

November 14, 2022

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳⏳

This was surprisingly tough for a Monday morning. A fairly challenging solve, I thought – not for the fiendishness of some clues alone, but for the niche knowledge called upon to complete the solve.

One such was the ballet. I think this was a splendid clue. It used the composer of the ballet in question as an anagram indicator, which was a very neat touch, and it has a good and amusing surface reading – the idea of dolphins dancing being no more implausible than a nutcracker coming to life. In terms of construction, it was an clearly indicated anagram, with all the fodder together in one place. Nevertheless, unless you are familiar with the work, or with the Greek myths, I should imagine it would be a tough anagram to unravel (if you’ll pardon me) even with a few crossing letters.

Elsewhere we needed to know about a very early film actor. This was likewise a clear anagram, but again I think it would be a tough one to work out, and the crossing letters left plenty of room for guesswork. We needed to know the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet (I suppose there’s a clue in the word alphabet) although the play is so well known this is less contentious. I didn’t know Imperial as a form of beard, but here the crossing letters left no room for doubt. And I wonder if the rather technical description of regular state schools is widely known outside the education sector.

Nevertheless, I found this an enjoyable and satisfying solve. There were lots of smiles on the way, and a good sense of achievement on completion. There were plenty of good clues to choose from, and my Clue of the Day is the whimsical 27ac: “He paid through the nose for his pork pies (9)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/11/02/independent-10002-tees/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳⏳

This was right up my street and in my Goldilocks zone. It was certainly a very challenging puzzle, requiring a fair bit of unravelling in more than a few places, and no little experience in solving, I would say. But I never felt completely befuddled, always being able to glimpse, if ever so dimly, a way ahead – and when the clue was solved all became crystal clear. This made for a very satisfying solve; I was required to work hard, but was amply rewarded with things to admire, and a warm feeling of appreciation at the end.

To be sure, there was one entry I could not parse – SENSATIONALIST. This was my Last One In, and it went in on the definition and the crossing letters. I could parse the A-list / “celeb” bit, but not the parts before.

There’s no recondite vocabulary. There’s one old-style word – PLIGHT – and a truncation for an Italian restaurant, a word I used to hear a lot a few decades ago, but no longer. What, however, was required was a little arcane knowledge of graffiti in the days of wartime and rationing. I put in ON TOW from the definition and the crossing O and W, and dredged up the meaning of the word-play from some deep recess of my mind, not being entirely sure how it got there.

Highlights for me included the implied anagram / cryptic definition (&lit?) in HURRICANE, the simple but contentiously topical IRON OUT, SWEEPSTAKE, which was obviously something to do with the rightly-famous film scene, but which still took a bit of working at and the rather cheeky right-to-left prostitute. My Clue of the Day was hard to choose from so many good ones, but is 2d, for its &littish simplicity: “Old enough to start having a smoke? (2,3)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/10/13/independent-9985-by-morph/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳

A pleasing and enjoyable crossword from Peter sends us on our way this morning. Most of this was much as we have come to expect from this setter: very accessible, good surface readings and no little charm. However, Peter does seem to have ratcheted up the difficulty rating, with a few clues being a bit chewier than we, or at least I, have come to expect.

There’s a bit of knowledge from the more arcane realms used today. We have a Caribbean tree; new to me, but very clearly clued, as should be the case with unusual entries, and with a helpful crossing letter K should the solver have remained in any doubt. We had some heraldry, and an old-fashioned term for a babe-in-arms. There was a smattering of Americanisms, too (personally, I fail to see the resemblance between the purple vegetable and an egg, but there you are).

There’s a touch of humour here and there; constitional changes sine this puzzle’s first publication has made the clue for SHERATON a little, erm, cheekier. My Clue of the Day is the splendid 4d: “Sow eating cow’s food on the beach? (7)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/09/19/independent-9964-peter/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳⏳

Quite a chewy challenge, this morning. Filbert has earned ⏳⏳⏳⏳⏳ on the idothei chart of Setter Ratings*, so I was expecting something difficult. I’ve rated this a mere ⏳⏳⏳⏳, on the grounds that I did manage to complete it in rather less time than I expected, given my past experience, although still rather more time than is typical for me. Moreover, recourse to the dictionary was not called upon, neither is there any unusual vocabulary, and all was within the bounds of general knowledge, for example the Scottish play and the famously holey Swiss cheese. Even the Latin was fairly commonplace.

I loved this. It was just right for me. Certainly a challenge, but never intractable; very satisfying to solve and with so much to admire during the process. There was misdirection, as in INCHES, the simplicity of CHARM, and humour, for example in the finely crafted clue for WEEVIL. The surface readings are on the whole plausible, although I do have my reservations about whether anyone would ever refer to a smell as being audible. (even though we all know what is meant). As to 14ac, at first I didn’t notice that the clue said lowcoach, seeing, I suppose what I expected. Then I thought it must be a rare misprint. Actually it was a neat, if cheeky, bit of creative word-play. But my Clue of the Day has to be the delightfully well crafted 14ac: “Adapt – no; lob, mall -yes (12)”.

* An entirely unofficial, but utterly definitive (🙂), of course, chart of average solving times, according to the experience of the bloggers. You can find it by clicking on the tabs at the top.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/10/14/independent-on-sunday-1494-filbert/