My head being somewhere else due to A Level results day and the unnecessary amount of chaos surrounding it this year (passed with honours and university place 17d  in this household, though with AS Level results in the bag we knew that already 😉 ), I was pleased to find an entertaining, pretty breezy puzzle from Vigo. I’d go so far as to say that it’s been a while since I enjoyed a crossword this much. Ticks throughout, in particular at 9ac, 10ac and 16ac, with a smile raised on finally getting 2d (my LOI). Lots of fun contemporary references, and a reminder at 28ac that the female as well as the male personal pronoun is permitted. The latter I took to be a CD and was somewhat bemused to see debate over on the other side. Finish time easily under par for the i, and if the editor’s reading – more like this one please. 🙂

COD? While I was tempted by the Chuckle Brothers reference, and 9ac which is pretty neatly done, I’m going to go with 2d just for that definition – “Nuts put TV upside down (6)”.

To May 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

A bit of a Gallic flavour to today’s puzzle which didn’t cause me any issues until I reached the resort in the SW corner. Yes, the wordplay was clear enough, but Googling the thing involved getting past repeated warnings that the area is most definitely out of bounds during the current pandemic. Such are the times we live in. In the same corner the name and more importantly associated Chinese city gave me issues, my ignorance regarding things geographic once again coming to the fore. Everything else went in apace, finishing easily under par for the i, for a puzzle that was much more to my taste.

COD? I’ll go with 13ac – “Requirement for endorsement on passport not revealing a blood group (7)”.

To May 2016 and lots of complaints about the Independent’s website:

I’m usually a fan of Eimi’s puzzles, and equally usually find them to be on the easy side, but today find that I struggled pretty badly, and can’t much say that I enjoyed the solve either. Oh well!

Spotting the theme pretty early did little to help as beyond a few of the big hits and albums I know little about the purple one, though I suspect if you did the song title hidden in the top and bottom rows would have helped no end. We had obscurities throughout in both wordplay and answer, 11ac and 30ac being the biggest culprits – both being pretty difficult to get if you weren’t au fait with either little known trees, spears, crosses and football players I’m guessing only fans of the game are familiar with. Elsewhere ROVER is surely as good an answer as LOVER at 18ac, and I’m not sure what “rated” is doing in 19ac except to help the wordplay. As I solved I could almost hear Topsy tutting at some of the content, and was inclined to agree.

Not my day then, though there’s always tomorrow, and I’m sure this will have been a hit elsewhere.

First in an encouraging 28d (that’s where I started), last in 19ac, finish time considerably over par with help needed here and there.

COD? I’ll go with 17d – “A rolled-up piece of paper in spliff leading to censure (8)”.

To May 2016:

More problems than Ifor bargained for here because I’m blogging a week on from solving and my already shot memory is failing me badly. Much sunshine, sea, sand and alcohol having been enjoyed in the meantime. Let’s see what I can remember.

Oh yes, I struggled. Badly. Late evenings drunk on sun and general merriment not being conducive to solving a quite testing puzzle.

Moving letters, advice, source, blah. And problems. Egads. Thankfully I’m a persistent so and so, and can Google, so DON’T FORGET THE DIVER ITMA and vague recollections regarding It’s That Man Again mostly courtesy of my father were of… little help.

More so were the gaps in the bodily parts dotted round the top of the grid (though ENDS wasn’t one, unexpectedly), and the missing CONSCIOUSNESS that just wouldn’t fit in the spaces to the south.

Diver+those gaps = BENDS at the top, and if we’re looking for another symmetrically placed answer to the south that’s got to be NARKS, though colour me confused as to why. What I can see though is a word ladder joining the two which looks convincing, and the lot gives the 25 highlighted cells required, so, with fingers most definitely crossed:

First off I must say thanks to the other bloggers for covering during my holiday – much appreciated.

My solving skills being somewhat blunted I was pleased to find a puzzle today at the easier end of the difficulty range, solved somewhat on a par for an IoS reprint (which this is not). It might help that I’m familiar with Gila from the Inquisitor and elsewhere, though I’m guessing most solvers won’t have been held up for long anyway.

28ac I couldn’t parse in common with the Fifteensquared blogger, though it’s picked up in the comments on the other side. I went with HECKLING for 25ac, which I believe is correct, though the first definition is somewhat obscure. I agreed with Kathryn’s Dad that 17ac is an illness (though it could be caused by a virus), but given the obvious anagram fodder that will have caused little difficulty. 24d I checked in the dictionary after solving, though it could be nothing else. There are suggestions on the other side that the checking letters for 11d were less than helpful, but as the middle obviously contained EVER I’m inclined to disagree.

Overall an enjoyable start to the week, and a welcome daily debut.

COD? I’ll go with 28ac which really is rather neat when you get it – “Truly, how can the end become detailed? (6)”.

To June 2016:

Little that looks overly complicated in this week’s preamble, amounting to multiple letters in some cells and a spot of highlighting. We’re in the middle of a decidedly odd holiday in the wilds of West Wales, so thankfully the above looks less than mindbending, and I’ve remembered to bring my highlighters.

Things are beginning to open up in this neck of the woods, but only slowly, for limited hours with distancing, gloves, hand sanitiser and masks de rigueur. None of this was what we had in mind when we booked last year, and trips to the beach are a mix of a sort-of much needed taste of all we’ve been missing together with undue anxiety about finding a quiet spot and quite how difficult that can get at low tide. Thank the gods then for takeaways rather than eat-ins at the local pubs, and the copious volumes of alcohol on tap.

None of which has much to do with the puzzle, which was completed leisurely over two evenings, with hold ups only on TOXIC DEBT and ALPH. That said, progress was faltering in places until it became clear that the multiple cell entries were all triplets.

Surely the highlighting will present an opportunity to come unstuck? Well, it appears not because there are the required four entries making up ALPHABET and TRIPLETS.

Job done. Which leaves plenty of time to catch up on some reading, a jumbo collection of Times Puzzles, and much needed sleep.

Nudnix, while sounding a lot like Artix, I suspect is new to these parts, so welcome.

Lots to the preamble, which as per Saturday I find myself in not much of a state to untangle. Thankfully it all appears to pertain to the endgame, which leaves… Normal clues. Normal clues I can cope with, even ones which seem to be a little on the tough side. Careful readers will have noted that this, accompanied by a lucid endgame, is right up my street.

Thankfully we also have things I do know, years of Avengers viewing meaning that Dame+Diana leads in an instant to RIGG, otherwise SCRIGGLE might have been a little less forthcoming. Other clues seemed designed to be user-friendly but didn’t anticipate the levels of incompetence they would face here, as I can never remember Paul REVERE no matter how often he crops up. Ditto AVOURE, which looked impenetrable, but really. Well, it wasn’t.

Silver cells (I still think they could more accurately be described as grey). NEW JERSEY looks likely, the one at the bottom pretty random, but the other two lie to the NWish of the grid where I was struggling. Struggling that is until it occurred that perhaps the top lot weren’t that random, and lo… GUACAMOLE. A suspicion that the bottom one with a couple of amendments might spell out MANDELSON led to an almost certainly apocryphal tale about said politician’s inability to differentiate between one mass of green stuff and MUSHY PEAS, which is presumably what we amend the top lot to.

With loads more checking letters to play with, out pops DAN QUAYLE, who apparently while in New Jersey revealed a misapprehension regarding the spelling of POTATO. An exta E the last in a series of changes that have led from CARGOES to CARGEESE.

Job done, in a jiffy too, and more importantly rather enjoyed.

Here’s the grid before I started shifting some of the letters.

And behold, after.

A moderately difficult, enjoyable puzzle from Punk today with a Nina it would have helped to spot to make head or tail of 5d. Needless to say I missed said Nina, which meant that 5d went in on a bit of a wing and a prayer. I did go looking for such things when badly stuck in the NE and SW corners, and didn’t find anything, though in my defence end of term exhaustion has set in which means it was a miracle I managed to solve at all. 🙂 Elsewhere I failed to parse 4d and 15d fully, but everything else went in understood if at a moderate pace.

COD? Well, love it or hate it, 5d is certainly a little different – “Ambitious foursome you’ll find on the periphery from 17, did you say? (8)”.

To March 2016 for the answers and parsing of the clues:

Dac’s AWOL again this week, Phi standing in ably with a pretty straightforward offering befitting the Wednesday spot. That said I lobbed in lots based on definition, so if you were stuck I’m unclear how fiendish some of the wordplay might have been, but there you go. Only the one I couldn’t parse – 11ac – but in retrospect it’s clear I was just having an all too frequent blank regarding the obvious. There’s something going on with the grid Phi explains in the comments over on the other side, but I must admit that I’m still none the wiser. My first thought was that there was something nautical (again) going on, but it appears not. First in 12d because that was the first clue I glanced at, last in 9ac, finish time well under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 6ac – “A girl returning to claim gold in miniature scene (7)”.

To April 2016:

It transpires that not only do we have a setter with a quite implausible name, but also an implausibly long word to look for at the close. FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION if I’ve managed to type that properly, which means, well, look at the title.

This makes it sound like I made the logical leap in a jiffy, when in fact I spent an age staring at the grid that had taken next to no time at all to fill and wondering whether I needed to block out T’s and Z’s (following the logic elsewhere, you see, when we picked the letters for the hidden message). So while others seemed to be celebrating the easing of lockdown in Wales by travelling far and wide, I, well, spent it safely in the garden staring blankly at a crossword grid. Never let it be said that my anxiety levels are less than stratospheric.

That grid. It looked a lot like this:

Oh yes, the message. SHADE SYMMETRICAL CELLS WITH TITLE’S ANSWER. The notion of symmetry is one that sends shivers down my spine as I can never seem to get it quite right. This time though, on eventually spotting that (29) was, as per, the implausible length of the answer (there being only one word according to Chambers that fits), and figuring that a good old spreadsheet would help with my inevitable errors, I have, I think, produced something that looks symmetric, and that seems to leave real words including the two we had to jumble. No doubt Cornick will tap me sharply on the shoulder now and point out where I’ve gone amiss, but I don’t think I have.

Et voila.