We haven’t seen Monk in these parts for a long time, and this puzzle was every bit as difficult as I expected when I saw his name. Lots of easier clues to allow some in-roads into the grid, but this was still a long haul. I guessed there would be a Nina in the top and bottom rows as soon as I saw the grid, so was on the look-out for it, which helped somewhat when I worked out what it was (with a little help from Google). The bottom half of the grid still took a while to fall. Apparently there are no E’s in the grid, so E-no?

Did anyone else think DRAGON… for 19ac? Was I the only person who thought the words in 16d should have been the other way round?

Anyway, my brain hurts now, so no more. COD? 19d – “With which one can’t draw properly (6)”.

To March 2013 once more:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/03/16/independent-8237-sat-9-march-2013-monk/

What can you say? Another enjoyable, not too difficult Wednesday treat. I struggled a little in the SW corner – I desperately wanted 18ac to be REREDOS, even with an unsufficient number of letters, and little support from the wordplay – and couldn’t see 12d for too long. Once the former fell, so did the latter, and the rest of that corner. There’s a rare Nina and theme from Dac that’s explained in the comments over on the other side.

COD? 16ac – “Supplementary part in A Year In Provence is for adults only (6)”.

To March 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/03/06/independent-8234-dac/

In which normal service is resumed, refreshed after a week’s holiday. Well, after acting as an unpaid, over-worked, in-house holiday rep for a week. With the consolation of the local beer and copious bags of chips. A nice easy one to get back into? Not with Schadenfreude’s name at the top. Though Saturday evening the very top half does lead to a false sense of security and the rash decision to leave it until tomorrow, because this is going to a be a doddle. Which of course it isn’t. Cue slow, slow progress throughout too much of Sunday.

Extra letters in the answers to some of the clues? I can cope with that. And the cryptic bits are rock solid, fair, and just need a little careful thought. Which I get round to in the end after all else fails. As is traditional a few answers are guesses, a few must be right but I can’t see the cryptic for the life of me, but I’ve got enough of the extra letters to mean the words they spell out must be:

BORDER WEED FLOWER

When I’ve got rid of those question marks.

So we’ve got four A’s – well, we know where they are. And a few weeds, albeit after a little rubbing out and more than a few corrections. TILT for a fairly desperate GILT (if you squint at Chambers for long enough it sort of works), and 43d I never did get to the bottom of. Got to be EARD, hasn’t it? So here’re our weeds:

FAT HEN
THISTLE
MOSS (is it really a weed?)
NETTLE

Which we need to replace with flowers. Out with the Word Search, a list of possible letters, and we’ve got:

DAHLIA
ANEMONE
LILY
IBERIS

Huzzah! A difficult grid fill, an easy end game. That’s OK with me. A much needed confidence boost after a week of bleary eyed struggling with daily cryptics. Until next time, when with any luck I’ll have shaken off the traditional post holiday illness (a lovely sinus infection, and believe me you don’t want the gory details) in time to be fighting fit come Saturday and Eclogue’s latest offering.

I knew we’d seen Commoner before in these parts, but couldn’t remember how easy or otherwise the previous puzzle was, so approached this with a little trepidation. As it was I didn’t have to worry, as this turned out to be a perfectly accessible, breezy IoS reprint. I couldn’t parse 11ac, and took an age to get 25ac at the end – or rather took an age to decide I’d have to sit down and parse the clue properly – but the rest went in with little trouble. Which was lucky, as a pre-lunch meeting today ate into half my lunch break, as these things tend to do, and anything a little tougher might have gone unsolved. All in all a decent substitute for Quixote.

COD? With lots to like, the succinct 12ac – “Heated, dry out? (9)”.

To April 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/04/28/independent-on-sunday-1209-commoner/

It’s Hypnos, so it’s our second IoS reprint of the week, and a much easier one than the last. I had no idea how to spell 14d so needed all the checking letters, and thought the first word of 3d didn’t need the E at the end, but the rest was plain, enjoyable sailing. In this neck of the woods we like to think of ourselves as a nation rather than a 20ac, but the answer is technically correct. 🙂

COD? 24ac – ‘Republican group attracting gadgeteer in state (4)’.

To May 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/05/05/independent-on-sunday-1210hypnos/

Dac is AWOL again this week, so we have an IoS reprint to fill the Wednesday spot. I made very heavy weather of this, though I haven’t been feeling that clever today, and nobody seems to have struggled over on the other side, so… Some complaints there about 25ac, but that’s the point of checking letters, surely?

Anyway, lots to enjoy, with COD going to 28ac that raised a smile when I eventually spotted it – “Existing for the least amount of time as a celebration of cheese (8)”.

To February 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/02/10/independent-on-sunday-1198poins/

Well I did, honestly. Half an hour while savouring the delights of West Wales and a pint of Rev. James. But it wasn’t going to be enough, was it? A half-hearted attempt on my return a week later, but, well, I was pretty much Schadenfreude’d out by then. So sorry Kruger, but this is as far as I got. It looks like we’re stripping O’s from the answers to fit them into the grid, but I haven’t got enough of the redundant words to tell you why. Hopefully Fifteensquared will later.

I notice that the champagne did make it to Wales after all, only a little further west than I would have liked. Oh well.

So until next time…

First day back in work after a week sunning myself on a far-flung beach – well, West Wales – so a fairly gentle workout from the Don was about all I could cope with. The fox and the plant at 24ac gave me a few problems, what with all the various possibilities, but the rest went in easily enough. An odd looking grid, but no (extremely rare for Quixote) Nina or theme that I can see.

Thanks to Batarde, Cornick and Sprouthater for covering last week. 🙂

COD? 21ac – “Quickly appreciate positive audience reaction (4,3,8)’.

To April 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/04/15/independent-no-8268-by-quixote/

So we reach the grand 1500 with the mysterious SPINK, who I’m guessing is the (ungodly?) alliance of Schadenfreude, Phi, Ifor, Nimrod and Kruger. No doubt that champagne is winging its way here now, unless that’s a hopelessly bad guess, or Nimrod and co quaffed the lot in Manchester. To the puzzle. 35 cells to shade that aren’t in the wordplay, 18 clues with misprints. All leading to something equally mysterious and dubiously relevant.

Onward, with the seasonably torrential rain hammering down outside. To some quite tough clues as it turns out – only 2 acrosses on the first pass, and both of those anagrams. Try again. The SW corner is the first to fall, and then a big leap to the NE, and the realisation that some of these clues are going to be missing large chunks of the letters in the wordplay, 23d being a prime example. Something with BAR in it… Another week looking at the letters we’ve got, bits of wordplay, and a handy electronic edition of Chambers. A little struggle at the close in the NW corner (2d isn’t in said edition, but the online Chambers Word Wizard does have it). And a satisfyingly full grid.

At this point I’ve got lots of misprints that don’t seem to spell out anything sensible. Lots of cells that look like they need highlighting. And lots of question marks scattered around the clues that make me loath to do anything rash.

Step 1: Look at the misprints again; and yes, we do have one word: Mendelevium, which is apparently an element with symbol Md. Remember your Roman numerals…

Step 2: Copy the grid into Excel, and start highlighting cells there. Spot the ones that are obviously wrong. Spot the ones we’re missing, which makes it easier to sort out that wordplay we didn’t get. So Cato was known as Cato the Censor. Who knew? Another great big MD to highlight in the grid.

Step 3: Look at what’s left with the misprinted definitions. Moldova. Guess what, its abbreviation is MD. That’s our third dimension, I suppose.

Well, that was good, and I always enjoy a bit of colouring. I’ll be sunning myself on a far-flung beach when the solution is published, so if the above is hopelessly off the mark, feel free to laugh at my ineptitude. And congratulations to Nimrod and the team on reaching the big MD.

A little on the challenging side, I thought, though I am a little under the weather at the moment so that could be to blame. Especially given how long it took me to spot the hidden clue. There’s a theme, which I totally missed – thinking we were on our way to a pangram – of double letters in each of the clues, which I wish I’d spotted because it would have made life much easier. 10ac I knew thanks to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddbnr-YjmMY, 23ac thanks to the local library when I was young. 15ac I didn’t.

COD? 25ac – ‘Stick at shaving facial hair (6)’.

To March 2013 once more:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/03/30/57283/