Things I have learned today: what a “wang” is (although since I left school several decades ago my opportunities for deploying such slang are strictly circumscribed); that an EANLING is a sort of young sheep (and although I have miles of countryside on my doorstep I don’t think I know any shepherds, with whom I might apparently casually converse with such specialised vocabulary); now I know who MOBY is – I think a different clue might have been devised linking it to the aforementioned “wang”, but clearly Anax has better taste than me: and finally a word for “doubles” very clearly linked to the Heavenly Twins Gemini. All of these required a check on the internet, but only after the word-play had indicated what it was I should be checking.

This was a tough – very tough – but glorious crossword. The cluing was elegant and remarkably straightforward. I think 11 clues relied on simple charades, and 10 were insertions, three included anagrams, three included a subtraction, three were cryptic definitions and only one each were a double definition, a homophone and a hidden inclusion. Every clue has impeccable parsing and the surface readings are never clumsy. This resulted in a very pleasing experience and a satisfying solve. It was originally a Saturday Prize Crossword, and the level of challenge was perhaps better suited to that spot rather than a weekday one.

With so many delightful clues, choosing a stand-out is difficult. The CD-plus-D for CAN’T BUY ME LOVE was splendid, but my nomination for clue of the day goes to the remarkable and unlikely anagram in 14ac: “Gary Neville wants training, so showing off? (11)”.

To January 2016 for Beermagnet’s admirable explanation.

A fairly middling sort of crossword from Donk today. I completed this in around my typical time and did so without resort to aids other than for checking my last one in, SHANDYGAFF. Even so, this was fairly clued and with very helpful crossing letters. The puzzle’s main claim to fame is that it was the last Saturday prize Cryptic in the late-lamented Independent. Mc_rapper67 suggested, in his impressively systematic blog from March 2016 suggested a possible nina, but I am not convinced, and it didn’t garner any support in the comments four years ago.

In one place I was a little disappointed in the cluing. The definition given for DOORKNOB is “need to escape”which is just not quite right. Otherwise, this was a very amusing clue, and I was sorry to have to exclude it from my list of contenders for Clue of the Day. Another candidate was the amusing STAINPROOF, but my favourite today was the delightful 1d: “Fancy Bob Hope (5)”.

This is turning out to be a very good week for i cryptics. Today’s puzzle from Hypnos is certainly at the more accessible end of the scale, but it was good and satisfying to complete. I could do worse than quote and endorse PeeDee’s 2016 blog: “A straightforward puzzle, but said as a compliment.  No gimmicks or clever-clever stuff, just straightforward interesting and enjoyable clues.”. 

There was little in the way of obscurities. I dare say AI WEIWEI is sufficiently well-known. It’s possible EMINENCE GRISE is unfamiliar, but maybe not. Some nice quirky definitions, for example EDITORIAL, VALOUR and LOCKSMITH. But all very fairly clued and all gettable.

Clue of the Day? I nominate the aforementioned 1ac: “Top methods becoming pronounced in Chinese artist (2,6)”.

I like crosswords. I really enjoy doing them. The more accessible ones (provided they are not too easy) offer a few moments of delight, and the tougher ones give me something to chew on and a sense of satisfaction with each clue resolved. The chewier the better, I might be tempted to say. I rarely give up, and even with a very tough one, a determination not to be beaten (bordering on bloody-mindedness) kicks in and compels me to go on.

That shouldn’t need saying on this site, but I feel I ought to, in order to preface that had I not been blogging I would have given up on this one. I completed it, insofar I I had all the boxes filled with the right letters, in the end, but only a after a great deal of trawling through lists and delving into Crosswordsolver. Worse than that, I had to use the “mistake” icon several times, so unsure was I of what I had come up with. (I resisted, despite being sorely tempted, using any of the “reveal” icons.) And even then, there were quite a few I could not parse properly – rather too many to list here.

In short, this was way too difficult, in my opinion, for a daily cryptic, even on a holiday.

I was immensely relieved to see that some good folk on Fifteensquared thought so too. You can read the answers and explanations here.

There was some splendid cluing, of course. A lot of praise was heaped on SHUT UP, on Fifteensquared. I was amused by SCATTERBRAIN, but my nomination for clue of the day goes to the very neat “&lit” 13a: “Using club, short hit to where hole is (4,2)”.

And now I must attend to my dog, who is persistently reminding me that our state-sanctioned outdoor exercise is long overdue.

My heart started beating a little faster (in a good way) when early into my solve a Q, a V and an X appeared all fairly close together. But a pangram this was not.

That was the only disappointment in this very neat crossword from Klingsor, who rarely disappoints and who can be relied on for good surface readings and interesting cluing. It seemed a little easier than is usual from Klingsor and I finished it without resort to aids in my typical time.

I did, however need to check a few things on the internet afterwards. The dye “anil” was new to me, and “lam” from escape had me scratching my head. I was likewise puzzled by AUTOPILOT being defined by “George”, not knowing this was colloquial among aviators.

There was one obscurity. The bottom part of LUXURIANT seemed strained; “riant” seemed plausible, from my knowledge of the French for laughter, but combined with the U from “fun”, the word-play seemed less than satisfying and far too opaque. And speaking of obscurities, who had Bob Dole spring to mind when they read “presidential candidate”? How long ago was that?

My Achilles heel is the four-letter entry, especially where the first letter does not cross, and both MUSH and LAIC took disproportionately long for me to get. I did not know that the shaggy ink-cap mushroom was also known as the “lawyer’s wig”, so solving it was a long process of methodically working my may through the alphabet.

Lots of good clues to choose from today. I liked LAIC and SQUASH RACKETS, but my nomination for Clue of the Day goes to the neat and impressively economically clued triple-definition 26d: “Support on stage (3)”.

Back to January 2016 for all the answers: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/01/14/independent-9126-by-klingsor/

Hob is one of my favourite setters, and appears less frequently than most, so it was a great delight to find one today. Perhaps slightly easier than is typical from Hob, this one took me about my average length of time to complete, and I was able so without recourse to aids. This is a tribute to Hob’s faultless setting; I had no queries whatsoever about any clue.

I do wonder, however, what younger solvers than me (and I am not that old myself, being a child of the ’60s) make of references to the Fat Owl of the Remove. Are Billy BUNTER stories still known or read? I’m not sure how or why I know the references to the schoolboy in question and that the ‘remove’ is a year-group in certain independent schools. I never read the books, so perhaps there was some television adaptation from which I may have absent-mindedly absorbed the information.

More puzzling is the defining of CARSON with “republican”. If it refers to a certain current member of the American government, then he is a somewhat obscure (at least in this country, I think) personage requiring rather more than “republican” to point the solver in the right direction. If it refers to Sir Edward, who is a historical figure whom British and Irish solvers might have heard of,  then it is not just wrong but seriously wrong, as he was famously a Unionist.

CARSON is part of a ghost theme based upon fictional butlers, and they are identified in the esteemed BertandJoyce’s original blog from February, 2016. I didn’t spot it myself. I had wondered whether there might be something emerging when I got MAHARAJAH in the top left and SOVEREIGN in the bottom right, but I was wrong.

There are lots of good clues today, making it hard to choose one in particular. I was impressed by the aforementioned MAHARAJAH, an impeccable reverse charade, made all the more entertaining by having only four consecutive As as crossing letters. GEORDIE made me laugh with its neat surface reading. But in the end it had to be the superb double inclusions of 6d: “Those undesirable periods of dishonour if father and mother affected (4-4)”.

A nicely judged crossword, this one, from one of our less frequent setters; combining sufficient accessibility to get the less-experienced solver going with enough interest to keep the older hands engaged. I solved this without recourse to aids, and without the need to check any definitions, etc, online or in the dictionaries. Most of it went in fairly readily, although I was a bit slower in the NW corner.

The only clue that provoked an electronic question mark in my virtual margin was ANTIPASTI. It’s an impressive and very nicely hidden reverse inclusion, and I was disappointed that it didn’t seem to quite work. I was not surprised to discover that most of the commentary on Fifteensquared back in January 2016 focussed on the plausibility of cluing an Italian plural with an English singular. You can read all about it here, and make up your own mind, should you feel so inclined.

Elsewhere, TUNNEL OF LOVE, although easily got from the crossing letters and enumeration, seemed a somewhat opaque cryptic definition, and I did wonder, on solving ORIGAMI, when anyone last used the giro to make a payment. (How old-fashioned does something have to be before it merits a qualifier like “once”?). WHITNEY HOUSTON was a neat clue with a less-than-obvious anagram, and LEVIATHAN was a clever inclusion, but with a rather unlikely surface reading.

Clue of the Day? “What’s left with scrambled eggs missing yolk?” (6) is a splendid example of a so-called “&lit”, where the surface reading of the clue describes the answer and at the same time encompasses the word-play. Neat.

Breathtakingly good cluing.

This was a very tough challenge I thought. Yes, there were two or three write-ins to get the solver going (ALPS, EGO and PAVLOV for example) and some straightforward anagrams, like TEENAGER and BANALITIES, but most of the rest required a lot of head-scratching. But throughout the solving process I was figurative doffing my cap in respect at Punk’s brilliance as I untangled the clues, bit by bit.

We had a triple definition: STILL. Better still we had clues where the surface readings were neat and nicely consonant with the answer. TRAJECTORY and TIME PLEASE are exemplars of the setter’s craft. In the former the clue as a whole serves both as a definition by example and as the wordplay, combining an anagram and a synonym. Likewise, in the latter, where the whole clue suggests the answer, with the anagram word-play clearly signalled within.

Also worthy of mention are the “whimsical definition” as the word-play for IMPART, and the marvellous homonyn SUEDE.

I managed to solve this without resorting to help, although it took me well above my average time. I did have to check on VOLVOX and SISKIN, as these were unknown plants and birds to me, but they did follow the rule in being straightforward clues for obscure(ish) answers. Similarly I needed to confirm that “halmi”was a game, although it was vaguely familiar. It took me a long to recognise that in HOLST, “hols” was short for “holidays” and (despite having flown with them) that Lot is a Polish airline. I wonder when any of us will be doing those sorts of things, again.

With so many corruscating clues, it is hard to choose, but my nomination for Clue of the Day goes to 14d: “High arc jet’s taken over the blue?” (10).

All the answers and Pierre’s wry commentary can be found here.

A real toughie, this one, with quite a lot of clues that I struggled with. Just as well that I’ve got a bit of time on my hands at the moment. A shopping trip for essentials meant that I had the now luxurious experience of solving it on paper.

Rather too many queries for this to be truly satisfying, although there was some pleasure to be found in completing it from sheer determination not to be outdone. There might be something of a Grand National ghost-theme, but that’s cancelled…

I can’t find a Fifteensquared blog for this one, so below are my own answers. Corrections, clarifications and comments more than gratefully received. I’ve got only my tablet at present, no laptop, so it’s a fairly basic layout, I’m afraid.

Across

1. Sun always gets riotous darts coverage. DAYSTAR. Definition is “Sun”, ay for “always” in an anagram of “darts”.

5. Wordy stanza Diddley penned? VERBOSE. Defined by “wordy”, “Bo” (Diddley) inside “verse”.

10. Some separation anxiety for Judah’s second son. ONAN. The second son of Judah, hidden inside “separation anxiety”.

11. Parody scripture in accurate representation? CARICATURE. Defined by “parody”. “R(eligious) I(nstruction)” for Scripture lessons, inside an anagram of “accurate”.

12. One stranded sailors thus hailed. CRUSOE. Robinson crusoe being the famous fictional strandee, the word-play being homophones of “crew” and “so”, for “sailors thus”.

13. Chaps when old discuss Jack’s impulse buy. BEANSTALK. “(Old) beans” are “chaps” and “talk” is “discuss”. Definition is “Jack’s impulse buy”. Now, it’s been some time since I took anyone to the pantomime, but from what I recall, the beans were a swap, and no beanstalk was bought, on impulse or otherwise.

16. Axes chopped up elm’s woody tissue. XYLEM. Definition is “woody tissue”. “Axes” as the plural for the X axis and the Y axis on a graph, plus an anagram of “elm”. Nice misdirection here, and a nice surface reading, with a near-literal clue, so this is my nomination for Clue of the Day.

17. Songbird at maximum speed in Kent. CLARK. Defined by “Kent”, as in Superman’s alter-ego. “Lark” as a “songbird” next to “C” for 100[mph] (although in what way this is a maximum speed rather than a significantly high speed I do not know).

19 Third-rate actor and writer encompasses Mjolnir’s work. HAMMERING, defined by “Mjolnir’s work”, this being the name of Thor’s hammer. A third-rate actor is a “ham”, but how the mering/writer thing works I do not know.

23. Apprehensive about many a Berkshire town. DREADING. Defined by “apprehensive about”. Word-play is “D”, Roman 500 as “many”, plus Reading as the Berkshire town.

24. Something expressed or deposited in some amount. SPUTUM, being defined by “something expressed”, with “put” for “deposited” inside “sum”, for “some amount”.

286. God’s power in unbridled emotion (NT). OMINPOTENT. There’s something not quite right about this. It’s an anagram of emotion, NT and the P from power. Annoyingly, neither God nor God’s power define omnipotent with sufficient precision.

27. Devil’s daughter inspires a Welsh name. I suppose that, whimsically, one might call sin the offspring of the devil. Add an A and you have SIAN, “a Welsh name”.

28. Catcher stops crooked playwright. BENNETT. “Net” inside “bent” gives us the playwright Alan.

Down

2. Here they run from arboreal apes’ leader. AINTREE. Defined by “here they run”, for the Liverpool racecourse. “In tree” gives us “arboreal”, with A in front for “apes’ leader”. Something not quite right here…

3. Arias from G&S supporting one from Trinity. SONGS. Defined by “arias”. Word play is “Son” (Second person of the Holy Trinity) plus G and S.

4. Greek, Roman or Hebrew flag. ANCIENT. Other than that these are representative of ancient languages, I don’t know how this works.

6. Suggestion upset top mathematician. EUCLID. Again I’m not too sure about this, other than it being at least in part an anagram of clue for “suggestion”.

7. Blair type to play Hamlet? Hardly. BIT PLAYER. An anagram of “blair type”. Hamlet is a lead role, so the actor would hardly be a bit player.

8. Weird as quarks in certain hardens. STRANGE. “Weird” is the definition, but also a description of the wordplay, which is beyond me.

9. Bad for everyone in butcher’s whichever way we look. FROM ALL ANGLES, which is fine for “whichever way we look”, but how the “bad” and the “butcher” fit in I do not know.

15. Managed to get raise with share account. Narration. Defined by “account”. “Ran” going up, plus “ration” for “share”.

18. Wyoming place keeps top grade butter in lounge. LARAMIE, defined by “place in Wyoming”. Wordplay is A for “top grade”, “ram” for “butter” all in “lie” for “lounge”.

20. Mum on floor legs hot brewing vessel. MASH TUN, which is a “brewing vessel”, made by “ma” plus H inside “stun” for “floor”.

21. EU bloke in news is architect. NEUMANN. A nice simple clue for an obscure answer. EU plus “man” inside N and N for “news”. The architecture in question is to do with computer design, not buildings.

22. Make verbal attack greeting racecourse spy. HIT OUT. Definition is “make verbal attack”, created by the greeting “hi”, plus “tout”, the “racecourse spy” (spy?).

25. Having advantage over storm god produces surprise result. UPSET, which is a “surprise result”. “Up” comes from “having advantage over”. “Set” is the Egyptian god whom I was aware of although his precise area of competence was news to me; I didn’t know he was in charge of storms.

Errors and omissions all mine…

Just the sort of crossword I like!

Forbidding, even alarming, on first sight (particularly when a blog is to be written); discreetly welcoming when the territory had been surveyed and a port of entry had been discovered; ultimately very satisfying to visit, offering as it does a variety of landscapes and features.

Klingsor’s clue-writing is usually impeccable, with neatly written clues which rarely compromise on the surface reading – I do like the sentences to make sense! And quite often they have a literal feel to them; 11a’s ECONOMY and 16d’s UKRAINE being very pleasing examples of this.

Even so, there were a couple of clues where nice bits of misdirection meant that the word-play eluded me. SHUT-EYE was a write-in from the definition and some crossing letters, but the word-play troubled me, until I realised that “soundly” indicated U as a homophpne for “you” (I had erroneously identified “ye” as “you”). RESENT, too, took a while, as I wrongly thought that “about” took care of “re”. It took me a while, when doing 7d, to remember that there was another academic Cambridge, other than the chilly and misty one in the fens.

Some things required an online check: LIEF worked and sounded plausible, and so it turned out to be; and my dim recollection of the Pilgrim’s Progress turned out to be sufficient to get DESPAIR – but I thought it best to check. WANNABE took me a while, it not really being part of my vocabulary.

My one criticism is for 1d: SHARPIE. It was unknown to me as “cheat”, and the word-play was far from obvious. I don’t believe this follows the rule of “easy clues for obscure words”.

So many good and enjoyable clues make it hard to pick out a favourite, and 21a was a strong candidate as an implied reverse anagram. However, although I’m not generally a fan of homophones, 20d did make me smile: “Beast’s command to beloved oarsman overheard? (3,4)”.

All the answers and explanations can be found here.