Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Or, we’re going to need a bigger difficulty rating. If we just note that I’ve solved some Inquisitors in less time than it took for today’s Tyrus, then that should sufficiently scope the size of today’s mammoth task. There’s a Nina, and theme, and whether or not that “necessitated” the number of obscurities in the grid, I’m not sure. Tyrus is usually pretty tough anyway, but said obscurities made it doubly so, and some would argue that the German town and Irish name were definite no balls. Elsewhere 19d surely doesn’t work, as we have a link word between “costs” and “run” which in my book gives CHARGETOR, and not the desired answer. IC for “in van” is also clever, but probably a step too far for me. Over on the other side the consensus seems to have been that this was worth the time, but tbh I found it a bit of a slog, and often unfair. Sorry Tyrus!

COD? I’ll go with 13ac – “Man U get beaten by Spurs at last! They will make changes (8)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from October 2017:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/10/21/independent-9680-by-tyrus/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Matters 25ac today? Apparently there is a theme, and as the game of needling poor Pierre over on Fifteensquared regarding his hatred of all things to do with 14/19 seemed to still be going strong, I’m going to assume that’s what it is. All of which means little to us now (and I suspect then either), which doesn’t matter, because this is a decent puzzle enjoyed nonetheless. A few obscurities dotted around, notably in the wordplay for 1ac, and a nice bit of misdirection that I fell for in the wordplay for 1ac, ie “1 Down’s neighbour” kept me on my toes. The font used for the clues also gave brief pause when trying to identify the Shakespearean character, but everything else went in with little ado.

COD? I’ll go with 6d – “See stars with really good ecstasy taken in pub (5,4)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in the Fifteensquared blog from September 2017:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/09/25/independent-9657tees/

More than 50% extra free is what we had this week courtesy not only of an extended title and setter’s name (welcome, btw), but also a hefty preamble. When faced with such a beast my policy is always to look at what we need, in this case clashes and extra letters, and ignore the rest until all becomes clear at the close.

Or not, on the other hand.

After an early start necessitated by the twins’ second Covid jab at what could only be described as an ungodly hour for a Saturday morning, with the added excitement of somebody else’s child fainting and a tsunami halfway through, to the main event.

Slowly, it must be said, this being what could best be described as a fairly rigorous solve, though one that elicited a smile courtesy of the Star Wars reference, even if I must admit that the Jedi in question was the last I thought of.

Extra letters. Having disposed of an unwanted ASS (yeah, your parsing skills were pretty rubbish too): BEST TONY MUSICAL WINNER.

Clashes duly noted… After calling on the services of an anagram solver to help untangle them, a little tweaking revealed that one possible combination, in order, in the shape of a figure 6 in fact, was the lesser spotted ANNA OF CLEVES, from the musical Six.

All good then? Read the preamble more closely, Jon. It’s “a work”, so I think it’s safe to say the figure drawn is correct, but the character isn’t a thematic one, because said musical hasn’t (yet) won a Tony.

The alternative, reading from the other direction, though, is: GUIDI CONTINI, from another musical, Nine, which did win a Tony or two. So those are the choice of clashing letters, I suspect. And, rather neatly, it fits in with all that 50% extra stuff, both in the title and addition of extra letters.

The work it was inspired by? 8 1⁄2, which I must admit to not writing in properly first time, having not read the preamble carefully enough.

But first we were asked to manipulate the grid. I can only think that it needs to be turned upside down, to change that 6 into a 9, and thus the required thematic work.

Probably wrong, and no doubt I’ve missed something else in the mother of all preambles, but there you go.

Done, and dusted. A debut, and what a debut, from the mysterious Nathan Panning. Pseudonym, or just one of the many Google failed to link to any crosswordy types? Perhaps Nathan him (or her) self will reveal all.

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Difficulty rating (out of 5): ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A pretty tricky offering from Scorpion today, due not only to the always fiendish cluing we have come to expect from him, but also because of the sheer volume of obscurities on offer in the grid. To some extent I’ll forgive Scorpion because the name of one of my favourite bands is smack bang in the middle of the grid, but obscure long dead sports people, odd British towns, and French regions together with some forays into the less known parts of the dictionary is all a bit much. There’s a ghost theme explained by our very own Cornick over on the other side – songs and albums from the 10ac band Half Man Half Biscuit who I vaguely remember, but I’m guessing nobody noticed. Not my cup of tea then overall, but well scheduled for a Sunday I will say when solvers will presumably have more time on their hands.

COD? I’ll go with 6d, if only for the bit of Welsh mentioned – “During party in Wales, note semi-cropped style of hair (7)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in the Fifteensquared blog from August 2017:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/08/08/independent-9616-by-scorpion/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Who would have thought that a Thursday reprint from Knut would turn out to be the most straightforward puzzle of the week so far? There were a couple of potential obscurities in the grid, notably the hidden word to the SW, but throughout the clues were pretty gentle, with only the Indian spinach in the wordplay at 3d and the odd reversed word at 29ac causing any real difficulty. In each case the answer was pretty apparent, so in they went with a shrug. You might have picked up on the anagrams in some of the answers, and the start of what looks like a Nina in the bottom row, all of which was apparently due to an old, abandoned grid fill based on anagrams followed by a re-write of the puzzle.

As well as being fairly gentle, this was thoroughly enjoyable too, with much to appreciate. A political slant to proceedings as expected for Knut, and so inevitably the COD goes to the well spotted and probably controversial 13ac – “E. Macron turned out to be a political failure (7)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in the Fifteensquared blog from October 2017:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/10/19/independent-9678-by-knut/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A fairly tricky offering today from Radian on the subject of 16ac. This was a perfect example though of a puzzle that was solvable without knowing that, and I for one didn’t find the theme to be of any help when filling the grid. Nice and chewy throughout, especially to the NW and SW corners, the wordplay all perfectly fair but needing a little teasing out to fully unpick. The answer for “Prince” at 12ac was one I suspect won’t have left me alone a little puzzled, and it appears from looking over on the other side that I wasn’t alone too in getting 13ac before the referenced 4d. Elsewhere the parsing for “Engineers in university” defeated me, but everything else was entered understood, if rather slowly.

COD? Lots to like, with “stay in less” from the wordplay for 25ac tickling me, but my nomination goes to 8d for the very nice piece of deception that was “water deity” – “US writer ignoring French water deity (4)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in the Fifteensquared blog from October 2017:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/10/17/independent-9676-radian/

The latest in Serpent’s irregular series of mirror images continues, invariably a good excuse to whip out the drawing and colour materials. Double the fun, double the chance to cock-up the endgame.

Extra words this week in some across clues and most of the downs. Extra words I’m pretty good at spotting, even after having made a good dent in the remaining stock of Christmas alcohol the night before, fortuitously accompanied by the plentiful supplies of Christmas chocolate jamming the kitchen cupboards to soak up the liquid content. And, oh, copious quantities of coffee to sharpen the mind the next morning.

Mind duly sharpened I got up at an ungodly early hour, no doubt disturbed by the torrential rain and sound of the other half coming down with a chronic sinus infection, to fairly sprint through the day’s i cryptic and then Serpent’s grid. Extra words and all, though it would only be when tackling the endgame that a blunder on RAISER (or is it, I still can’t parse it), would become apparent, in that elusive final hunt for SYMMETRIC LETTER PAIRS.

Because yes, gentle reader, that was the message revealed courtesy of the down clues, though it would only be later that evening that I would think to do the obvious with the repeated letters that seemed to be the only thing in common between them.

I had, however, spotted the artist, the name of the painting resulting from the extra words in the across clues, and duly entered them into the grid.

Duly armed with a copy of the painting to hand, behold. Some would argue that my COW’S SKULL looks more like a giraffe, and that I’ve taken some liberties with the requisite RED, WHITE and BLUE colours required, but, well, such are my artistic skills and such was the closest match I could manage with the crayons to hand.

I do like a nice bit of colouring, accompanied by a thoroughly pleasant grid fill… As if the Inquisitor was a crossword puzzle, after all. 😉

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Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A thoroughly enjoyable offering from Klingsor eases us towards the end of the working week. The right mix of accessible clues with some that took a bit of teasing out (especially to the SW corner here), no obscurities, just some fine wordplay to get your teeth into and smiles along the way. The latter came in particular by way of the cheeky 26ac, my LOI. More than a few went in unparsed on solving with some generous checking letters and easy to spot definitions, especially with the longer answers which helped fill the grid very nicely. Question marks at the close on 13ac and 24ac, but only the latter I think was particularly difficult in retrospect.

COD? With 12ac, 2d, 3d, 27ac and 14d all worthy of praise also (it was that kind of puzzle), I’ll go with the lovely smooth surface reading of 20d – “Bill’s singing well (7)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from November 2017:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/11/09/independent-9696-klingsor/

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

A challenging offering from Filbert today on the theme of a film I haven’t seen, though some of the thematic elements, notably the wedding bits, jumped out nevertheless. I sort of assumed this had been produced for a real wedding, being that of 1ac and 5ac on solving, to show how little I know. Talking of which, this was solved very much on a wing and a prayer – Filbert’s style could best be said as being very individual, and one I never really got to grips with. In common with the Fifteensquared blogger the definition of 5ac baffled me, perhaps because in these parts we have never really accepted the prince in question as being so. 😉 Lots of others went in partially understood, or not at all (notably 25ac), my solving experience I would say all in all being a not particularly satisfactory one. I wouldn’t go so far as some of the very downbeat assessments over on the other side, but I would say that it was clear that this was a new setter finding their feet.

COD? There was much that I liked too, so it could be said to be an offering overall that showed promise, with my pick going to 30ac – “Endures meals with volume consumed dramatically increased (7)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in the Fifteensquared blog from November 2017:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/11/07/independent-9694-filbert/

This puzzle appeared on New Year’s Day, but no provision was made for the extent of solvers’ hangovers, the preamble being quite something. Answers that can be potentially treated, but aren’t, only “imagined”, but appropriately placed, although only “arguably” so in one case.

Best to get on with it then, and try to pretend you weren’t up until some ungodly hour more akin to morning than night. Thankfully the clues were more forgiving, single superfluous letters identifiable with little ado, even if somewhat complicated by the unclued entries that as ever made for a dearth of crossing letters.

To be fair all were perfectly guessable, but any significance would require the entirety of the message from the aforementioned extra letters to tease out. Not just anagram, as I’d already tried and failed to do, but remove a letter first, to reveal…

PRESIDENTS

In one form or another, by way of confirmation via another anagram, courtesy of the letters omitted from the unclued entries. We’re anagram-a-go-go this week.

Has anybody ever called Trump “Don”? That’s how we’re addressing him, anyway, presumably as the lowest of the low, “appropriately” placed as he is at the bottom of the grid.

The highlighting would take a while longer yet, but finally, after a hearty New Year’s Chinese the word JAIL split across the treated Trump finally leapt out, presumably revealing where Lato thinks said ex-president should be, and I’m not inclined to disagree. Or argue that ultimately this was a puzzle appropriately scheduled, requiring just the right amount of mental leaps and hops, and one ultimately of faith, so thanks to Lato and all involved.

20220102_163748~2