An enjoyable challenge from Klingsor. A lot of the grid fell very quickly, but the last third held out for long enough to push this into an above par time. One or two I couldn’t parse, including 22d, though thankfully that was a name I knew. 20ac I thought a little unfair – wordplay that was quite tricky, and a definition that meant nothing if you didn’t know Klingsor’s real name, which I didn’t. 14ac required a trip to Google because, well, my knowledge of the periodic table isn’t that good.

COD? 10ac – ‘”Sorry I lied first of all” admits (almost) Conservative leader (9)’.

Back to January 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/01/24/independent-8199-klingsor/

Our usual mid-week treat from Dac that I found to be on the easyish side, though with fewer write-ins than usual, perhaps. If that isn’t a contradiction. A few unknowns for me – 12ac and 17d – but the wordplay couldn’t have been any clearer. Some discussion over on the other side regarding 20ac, but the blogger’s explanation looks fine to me. Hands up who was trying to remember who wrote Tintin when they first looked at 16ac.

COD? 3d – ‘Learner who is working to become wise (6)’.

Back to February 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/02/06/independent-8210-dac/

So this week we’re looking for an image that might well be famous but I suspect I’ll be in complete ignorance of. Extra letters in all but one of the across clues (is that significant?), pop them into the unclued (thematic) entries. Extra words in the down clues. They’re going to give us some sort of hint, together with four unclued entries, to the name of the image. What could possibly go wrong?

The clues? 8ac falls straight away with a little help from Chambers, and from then it’s a pretty rapid fire run through the grid, with only the thematic entries causing difficulties, because – well, crossing letters, or the lack of them. Along the way we’ve got a couple – AFRICAN down near the bottom of the grid, WHOOPER a bit above it. A couple of the others are pretty guessable, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Those extra words. At first sight we’re not going to get a lot from them, pretty random. First letters? Bingo: PARANOIAC CRITICAL PICTURE. According to Wikipedia this is some sort of surrealist technique developed by Dali. And oh, there’s his name jumbled in four of the unclued entries. We’re looking for one of his paintings then. I must have seen loads, but can’t say I know the name of any. And so far the grid isn’t helping.

The extra letters? A few possibilities for the unclued entries. The middle one must be TRUMPETER, BLACK top left? None of this is giving me the name of the painting. Cue much googling. Trumpeter, elephant? One with elephants in?

Swans Reflecting Elephants, which I’ve never seen before.

A trumpeter, far from being one of the elephants, is in fact a type of swan. As is a whooper, believe it or not. We need some elephants down the bottom of the grid. ASIAN elephant, and our fictional character, aided and abetted by Wikipedia’s handy page on fictional elephants. TANTOR from Tarzan. That just leaves TUNDRA to go in the NE corner. Well, that was enjoyable, pretty neat the way the grid did match that painting. And something learnt, again. Until next week when I slowly melt in a seemingly endless heat wave while trying to tackle Lato.

Raich’s puzzles are always a pleasure to solve, and generally on the easyish side. Today was no exception, though I did find the SE corner a bit of a struggle, but looking back now I can’t see why. Some discussion over on the other side about whether 1ac is a county or not, but, well, it is, isn’t it? Pleased to get 9ac from the cryptic part, despite the answer looking more unlikely the more letters went in, starting from the 12ac.

COD? 17d – ‘Men under authority finally liberated here? (9)’.

To January 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/01/28/independent-8202raich/

The original blogger noted that this was very tough, which I agree with, that tough that I gave up in 5d halfway through. About a quarter to be fair fell pretty quickly, but from then on it quickly became a slog with too many answers where I couldn’t fathom the wordplay. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow… I’ll be interested to see what others thought, but let’s just say this wasn’t for me.

COD? 19d – ‘Leaves range when shot in balls (7)’.

To February 2013 once more:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/02/24/independent-on-sunday-1200donk-placeholder/

Quite a tricky offering today, I thought, with a few where I was uncertain about the parsing. 21ac (I cheated to get the answer, and still think the wordplay a little fishy), and 9d (which I guessed correctly, albeit thinking NET = Score) chief amongst them. It seems to have been business as usual over on the other side, so perhaps it’s just me.

Lots of ticks though as ever, with COD going to 2d – ‘Reach end of flight and feel sad (5,4)’.

To February 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/02/13/independent-8216-dac/

In which I mercilessly cheat to get the result, and thank the gods for the combined resources of Google and Google Books. Or, how did we manage before the days of the Internet?

Too late a night, too early a morning, and a complicated looking preamble, not the most winning of combinations. It all boils down to extra words in some clues, extra letters in others, a message and some individuals to find from them, something to highlight. Which no doubt misses the point entirely, but we can worry about that when it comes to the end game. The clues? Not so scary – a few generous anagrams dotted round the place, most of the wordplay fairly apparent, though enough doubt about some to mean any message that’s supposed to appear from the first and last letters of those extra words is going to be severely garbled. Which is exactly the way it ends up. A little solving in the afternoon interrupted by a rainstorm (the first sign a dirty great big blob of water right in the middle of the page), a barbecue (because who knows when we’ll see the sun again), and… A full grid, and… A list of first and last letters from the extra words that appear to be complete gobbledygook no matter which way they’re combined, and superfluous letters that far from revealing “three companions (that) have already fled”, reveal how poor / lazy my parsing skills can sometimes be.

Saturday evening, late… Nothing. Sunday evening… Ditto.

Monday, start at the beginning, and look at some of that parsing again. To get this far:

DIE BREMER S
ROOSTER CAT

What I should do: carry on parsing the clues, to get the complete list of “potential players” and theme.

The reality: consult Google, and find a Brothers Grimm story that I’m vaguely familiar with, having read it to the kids from an old Ladybird book. It’s been 30 odd years since I studied any German, but thanks to crosswords I can still spot the definite article. As luck would have it there’s a handy German & English version on Google Books here: Brothers Grimm Vol. 1: German & English.

I’m guessing then the pick of start and end letters from the extra words will give:

Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten (The Bremen Town Musicians)
Rooster Cat Donkey Dog (not necessarily in that order)

Those are the four players we’re supposed to find in the grid? Not in my grid they’re not. In English anyway – the title is in German, so the players too? To Google Translate:

donkey esel
dog hund
cat katze
rooster hahn

Alter a lazy TSETSE to TZETSE at 20ac, and lo and behold they are.

The 5th individual? Presumably one of the robbers? Or “Rauber”, in the far left column. What separates them “clearly” in the story? A window, “Fenster”.

Presumably the superfluous letters will also spell out robbers in German or some variation on it, but at this point my head feels like it’s going to explode, so… Highlight the 30 cells in the grid, and done. That was tough work, as I thought it might be when the grid fell so quickly. Now to lie down in a darkened room. Thanks Ifor for the challenge and the German lesson. Next time? Serpent’s mirror image.

A nice, straightforward puzzle to start the week. Some complaints over on Fifteensquared regarding how easy it was, but this TBH is the sort of puzzle I’m looking for on a Monday. Lots of opportunities for the harder stuff later in the week. Talking of which, I was surprised how many solvers didn’t know 2d, a phrase which seemed to crop up in many a film / TV show at one time. Or perhaps I’m just showing my age.

COD? 6d – ‘Groups with members one over the eight – and seen to be drunk (7)’.

To February 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/02/04/independent-8208-by-quixote/

It’s a Thursday, and a prize puzzle reprint, so on the hardish side, but not fiendishly so. Tees on inventive form as ever, but perhaps towards the easier end of the spectrum for him. Overall time just above par for the i, with a little tussle at the close on 8d. A hasty INSPECTOR at 2d cost me a lot of time in that corner. Remember to check the wordplay. I must admit to Googling 13ac, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have got that or 16ac either. Questions at the close? Exactly the same ones as the Fifteensquared blogger, but they’re all explained in the comments. Much fun to be had all in all.

COD? 17d – ‘Astride brother, I want to reproduce with relatives (7)’.

To the tail end of 2012:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/01/05/independent-8177-sat-29-december-2012-tees/

Our regular Wednesday setter on top form with a thoroughly enjoyable, accessible puzzle. A rare comment from the editor in the comments over on the other side, and it’s difficult to disagree with him. Dac produces these week in and week out, and I for one would happily solve them every day. Give that man a raise. 😉 Today’s was probably about as easy as they get, though I did get a little stuck in the SE corner until in a rare moment of inspiration the (unknown to me) 27ac fell, and then so did the rest.

COD? 11ac, very easily – ‘Approaching middle age, they might not risk endless revelling (15)’.

To January 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/01/23/independent-8198dac/