So the start of another working week and, as expected, an IoS reprint to kick things off. I found this to be a 12ac of two halves – the NE and SW corners flying by in no time at all, but the rest took a little more thought. A cunningly concealed definition at 26d combined with a usage for “drab” I wasn’t expecting at 18d caused me difficulty in the bottom right. Over the other side of the grid it was the lesser-used synonym for mother that gave me a bit of a headache. Oh, and my certainty that 2d began with RE. Once I’d resolved those two, well, it was game over. I suspect 21ac may have caused some solvers difficulties, but thankfully the poet’s name sprang to mind with ease, unusually so for this end of the week. Overall time round about par for the i, so on the difficult side for a Sunday reprint.

And that was really quite good for a Monday puzzle, wasn’t it? Well disguised definitions, some nice wordplay to get your teeth into, a few synonyms that weren’t obvious at first glance. All in all well done, especially compared to some IoS reprints that can sometimes be, yes, a little bit drab.

COD? It took me ages to spot the definition, and is rather well done, so I’ll go with 26d – “Part of answer found after time’s up (4)”.

To March 2014 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/23/independent-on-sunday-1256-by-poins/

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Needless to say I’m pleased as Punch with the mention the blog gets on page 46 of today’s i Weekend. Thanks to John Henderson for the write-up, and to Cornick, Batarde and Sprouthater for all their work. Without them the blog would have ground to a halt long ago, and would be sadly lacking posts which I suspect are far more interesting and erudite than my own efforts. Now to today’s Inquisitor…

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A Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint from Nestor, though one that’s on the easier side as far as these things go. I struggled with the parsing of one or two – notably 28ac – but in each case the definitions were clear enough that it didn’t matter. The SW corner as a whole I found to be a little trickier than the rest, but eventually spotting 18d and why the answer was an “(o)ld hand at direction” proved to be the key, with the rest then flying by. Strange how these things go. Only the one word I was unfamiliar with at 13d, but I’ve unfortunately had enough experience of the condition named after it that the answer was a write-in. 🙂 There’s a cross of C’s in the middle of the grid, though the reason why remains a mystery.

COD? Lots to enjoy, with my nomination going to the aforementioned 28ac – “Printer’s stock description of Alpha Papa, with leads switched? (9,5)”.

To March 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/15/independent-8548-nestor-8314/

What can you say? Dac’s back after a week AWOL and with a puzzle that’s as watertight and enjoyable as ever. I didn’t know the Spanish inn, but fortunately did know the tennis player so no problems there. The Notts town took a bit longer to fall – did I mention that Geography isn’t my strong point? – but thankfully I twigged SWELL for smart pretty sharpish. The only issue remaining was the little woman’s name required at 21d, with thankfully not that many candidates to choose from. Kathryn’s Dad’s prediction back in the day that “MIDDLEMARCH won’t date well, so the editor might have to be careful if he recycles this one in the i in five years’ time” proved to be false in my case, but I’m guessing memories of it won’t be as fresh now, four years later. Yes, it does look like we’re slowly catching up with the Independent…

COD? Lots to like as ever, with an extra tick by 11d – “Goes off with crew aboard a boat (6,7)”.

To March 2014 for all the answers and analysis of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/03/12/independent-8551-dac/

The British summer being unusually, well, summery, much of Saturday is spent doing vaguely summery things. Which means the Inquisitor has to take a back seat for a while. So it isn’t until quite late, and suitably fortified, that an opportunity presents itself to get to grips with that preamble. 24 grouped letters not indicated by the wordplay which could be a cinch or a right pain, depending. A quick glance through suggests we won’t actually be in too much trouble. 21ac screams hidden word, mixture as the definition, with SALAD minus an A inside a troublesome nasal drop. Sounds nasty. Rewind to 1ac and there’s a nice friendly anagram. A JUNTA would be a group seizing power, of course, so we need J to go with the letters in TAUN(t).

A pretty straightforward grid fill then. A suspiciously straightforward grid fill some might argue, this being the Inquisitor. Let’s see if they’d be right. The letters additional to the wordplay are supposed to help us identify the theme. Except in the order I’ve got them they look pretty random, and there are more than 24 of them. Cue a frantic back and forth through the clues to see what I’ve missed, except that I haven’t.

What if we, as pretty heavily hinted in the preamble, look at the groups the letters are in? I’m not going to bugger up that grid by shading any bits of it, and it’s a pain typing a letter per cell in Excel, so a handy demo version of Crossword Compiler to the rescue, and… Well, I don’t know about you but I was a pretty big fan of Blake’s 7 back in the day, from its beginnings through to that pretty grim finale. The names of the first crew are hidden in the grid – AVON, CALLY, GAN (poor Gan…), JENNA (who didn’t have a thing for Jenna back in the day?), VILA (no, I didn’t know his name was spelt like that), and the computer ZEN.

We’ve got to reveal a craft at the close, which must be the LIBERATOR, meaning LITERATOR is going to have to change, the T to B with BLAKE the “aptly located” replacement for 7d. And I think that means that we’re done?

Well, that was good, wasn’t it? An engaging solve, and a bit of classic Sci-Fi with a pretty classic theme too. Enjoy.

In which the Don shows that he too can set puzzles at the harder end of the spectrum. He usually saves these for other outlets, and usually under different pseudonyms, but today we have one that I’m guessing will have taken most solvers longer than they’d anticipated. 5d, 17ac and 13ac will be unknown to most, I would have thought, and elsewhere we have wordplay that is a little tricky, in particular 26ac. 12ac provoked a – where? – and a quick consultation with Google, and at least five other answers led to a visit to the big red book. Last in the SE corner, with 19d also causing issues, and 1d the other side of the grid.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 26ac – “French person with nothing on – not a fashionable style! (6)”.

To February 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/02/17/independent-8531-by-quixote/

Something a little meatier to get our teeth into today, and a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle it was too. Progress could best be described as non-existent to start – any optimism on solving 6ac was swiftly dispelled when my next answer in was 26ac. Thankfully, however, the downs were a little more forgiving of my solving abilities and, with a few answers in, the rest fairly flew by with the SE corner in particular for the most part going in on checking letters and / or definition alone. A bit of a tussle with 20ac at the close dragged things out a little, but my finishing time was well under par for the i, more akin to a Wednesday than a Thursday reprint. The only question remaining was why Shona is African, but Duncan’s explained that ably as expected over on the other side.

COD? Lots and lots of ticks by the clues today, with 25ac I thought very nicely done – “Counter-revolutionary avoids opening in Leicester Square (4)”.

To January 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/01/23/independent-8510-klingsor/

Wot no Dac? Instead we have our second IoS reprint of the week, and another fairly straightforward puzzle. I had to give some careful thought about how to spell 24ac, and raised the proverbial eyebrow on solving 1d, but there’s little to discuss elsewhere, this being a good, enjoyable, pretty solid offering. Lots went in on definition alone, lots just on seeing checking letters. A good one I’d suggest for beginners or anyone wanting to find out what this cryptic lark’s all about.

COD? Not a great deal leapt out as is common for IoS reprints, but I’ll go with 9d – “Outlaw grabbing weapon – he might be responsible for you getting shot (6)”.

To February 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/02/23/independent-on-sunday-1251-by-poins-2/

How Schadenfreude and Nimrod probably hoped solvers would approach today’s puzzle:

  1. Pick their way through all the lovingly crafted clues, gradually uncovering the nine answers lacking a common definition.
  2. The moment of recognition when it became clue what they were.
  3. Or, failing that, when the jumble of letters in the unclued entries eventually made sense.
  4. The tying up of loose ends, working some arithmetical magic on the clues with the surplus words.
  5. The highlighting of (3,5) using knight’s move at the close.

And this is how I approached it:

  1. Get lots of coffee in. Copious, unreasonable amounts of the stuff, because it is Saturday and I’m not feeling my best.
  2. Struggle badly with the clues, because, well that’s what I do with Schadenfreude. Though to be fair clues like 12ac are pretty straightforward because Porter’s got to be COLE and the other’s often IT in a crossword though never in the real world these days. CITOLE which is a stringed instrument and might be “tuned” but we don’t need that for the definition. 10d our first without a definition – NEVER SAY DIE which sounds a bit like a Bond film but isn’t. Still struggling, by the way. Until the second one with a common definition falls. Good old SIR IVOR.
  3. I wonder what Google makes of those two? Well, it turns out they’re both Derby winners, and both Derby winners ridden by Lester Piggott for good measure who’s probably sadly better known by punters nowadays for his dodgy tax affairs than his riding prowess. I wonder how many Derby winners he rode? Quelle surprise, nine in all, so that’s what the common definition answers are all about. I’m guessing the three jumbled entries will read Lester Keith Piggott. So let’s go looking for likely candidates in the grid, for wordplay that fits, and then chuck them in. At which point the rest becomes a bit of a doddle, what with all those checking letters. Even the jumbled entries, oh yes.
  4. Knight’s move is easy enough, famous last words. Highlight the relevant entries in a lovely shade of green, lob in that last Y in the middle.
  5. A nagging feeling of doubt. Is that really it, or have I missed something again? Let’s do some arithmetic on the extra words and corresponding answers, with a bit of jiggery-pokery where it becomes clear I’ve plumped for the odd wrong extraneous word. And lo, the corresponding trainers:

Lawson
Murless
O’Brien
Zilber
Wragg

That’s good then? I think so, even though I feel a bit guilty for not having solved it “properly”. Only a bit, mind. 😉

Following on from a weekend when I was struggling to solve even the simplest puzzle, this was exactly the sort of confidence boost I needed. Nice and straightforward, well flagged definitions, clear wordplay, in other words a good IoS puzzle and a good one to schedule for a Monday morning when perhaps many solvers aren’t feeling their best. 🙂 Nothing controversial I think, but fun throughout.

COD? Not a great deal leapt out, to be honest, so I’ll go with 8d which older solvers will have seen before, but is still a nice clue – “Old-fashioned, as Rupert Murdoch is? (6,3,5)”.

To February 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/02/02/independent-on-sunday-1249-commoner/