Nudd? Nope, not a name that rings a bell. Fifteensquared’s handy index to the rescue – yes, it’s been a couple of years, way before the start of my Inquisitor solving career, shambolic though it might be. Will we be left with a sinking feeling at the close or buoyantly upbeat? The preamble looks straightforward enough, extra letters in each clue spelling out a quotation and speaker. So far so pretty standard for the Inquisitor. Hang on, 13 clues that will need to be amended before entry. There’s the joker in the pack.

Put in some earphones, chuck on Bend Sinister, and let’s look at the first across, being 6. Nope, can’t make sense of that – it looks like an anagram, but nothing that fits that length. 12ac? Not that one either. 13ac has got to be ETERNAL though, hasn’t it? Yes it is, and we’re off. An easy hidden at 8d, another obvious definition at 9d, this is looking good. Except that there are loads that aren’t looking so easily tractable, and that sinking feeling begins to set in. Presumably some of the 13 entries that need amending are in there somewhere because I haven’t found any yet.

Take a deep breath, take stock. Have something to eat, try a different puzzle for a bit, cue This Nation’s Saving Grace and LA. What’s going on here? First thoughts – some definitions don’t match up with the wordplay. Definitions literally sinking? Nope, that’s not going to work. What about that wordplay then? Well, 6ac could be OVERWHELMING, couldn’t it? The checking letters we’ve got mean that OVERWING would be a viable grid entry. HEDGESPARROW will work for 47ac, with HEDGEROW in the grid. That’s HELM and SPAR overboard, a most definite nautical theme.

What about those extra letters? Well, I’ve got a few, if not all. What happens if we start Googling what we’ve got, which handily is the first bit of the quotation.

There’s something wrong with our bloody ships today

Which is a paraphrase of Admiral Beatty’s (there’s the last word from those extra letters) infamous quote at the Battle of Jutland.

So we’re jettisoning bits of ships? This proves to be easier said than done, especially for my last two – 15d and 19ac – where a little reverse engineering and scouring of the big red book is in order. We’ve got all the extra letters now, which means the rest of the clues are a doddle, sort of.

Those ship bits in full, in no particular order. GAMMON, CHOCK, BOW, KEDGE, PARRAL, VANG, STERN, SPAR, MAST, HELM, POOP (sniggers), BRIDGE, HOLD. No problem for the nautically minded among us I’m sure, but a few left me feeling all at sea and reaching for the nearest dictionary. All’s well that ends well, though, and we were left safely on dry land, even if I was left staring at the last two clues well into the night, though to be fair with most of my attention on a film, and only a little on the dictionary and that lightly pencilled grid that began to look lighter still as the night drew on and the inadequacies of the energy saving bulb became patently clear.

No doddle then, and not a Harribobs either, but something that’s just, sort of, maybe in my comfort zone, if there’s such a thing as an Inquisitor comfort zone.

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I seem to remember struggling the last time Commoner graced the pages of the i, so when my first answers in were way down in the SE corner I began to worry that this was going to be similarly intractable. As it turns out today’s offering was closer to the expected IoS solving experience, if on the difficult side as far as Sunday reprints go. I made a right hash of the NW corner with multiple crossing outs and changes across 2d / 8ac / 17ac – the latter which doesn’t really work for me, I’m afraid. Never mind, this was an enjoyable solve nevertheless that I should perhaps have taken a little more time over. Blame the combined distractions of work, an impending MOT, broken radiator valve, and perhaps the unsettling effects of the weekend’s earthquake. Did the earth move for you?

COD? 12ac – “More than one hoarding banknotes, getting fed up I hear (10)”.

To October 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/10/13/independent-on-sunday-1233-commoner/

i Cryptic Crossword 2191 Monk

February 15, 2018

So you’re in work and have got a fairly short lunchtime in which to solve and blog the day’s cryptic. What’s in store? Maybe Dac pushed a day later in the week? No, it’s Monk, a setter I’ve got a bit of a patchy record with. As expected progress was pretty slow, though not impossibly so, until halfway through I grew steadily more suspicious about the possibility of a Nina – which was always likely with that grid – and RAINS across the top. Claude Rains? No. PLAIN made itself, well, plain on the LHS. Rhymes? A few more letters and the penny finally dropped, at which point I quickly filled in the remainder of SPAIN and MAINLY, and sorted out a few of the trickier entries on the RHS – I’m looking at you, 13ac and 20ac.

A few names in the grid some solvers will be unhappy about, especially I suspect Michael to clue CAINE in the NE corner. Luckily I vaguely knew the name of the computer, and with the C at the close quickly filled it in.

At 23ac I wonder if I was the only person to momentarily fail to consider P before H when jotting down possibilities? Never mind…

In common with the original blogger I couldn’t parse 27ac, but the rest went in pretty much without any question marks.

Anyway, all in all an enjoyable and fairly challenging solve, perhaps more accessible than some of Monk’s previous offerings.

COD? I’m going with 6ac – “He could transport van of Hugh Laurie after a crash (7)”.

To October 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/10/24/independent-8433-by-monk/

It’s Wednesday, and it’s not Dac. So we’ve got something to mark either Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday? No, it seems, just an IoS reprint to fill one of Dac’s occasional weeks off. It’s never a chore to solve a puzzle by eXternal so no complaints here, though today’s offering was most definitely on the tricky side. I’m guessing this would have come as a bit of a shock to IoS solvers who’d until recently been used to Quixote on a Sunday.

I ended up solving in two sittings – the first of about the normal length for a Dac solve, at which point I was beginning to get stuck and thankfully got sidelined by a phone call. Thankfullly when I came back everything fell into place with few problems, so perhaps I just ran out of steam.

One or two not understood on solving, I must admit, as often seems to be the case. The chief suspect today being 13ac where, given enough checking letters and a likely definition I decided the wordplay really wasn’t worth the trouble and went for it.

Much to like today as ever with eXternal, with the surface reading for 16ac one that was indeed worthy of one of Dac’s puzzles. My COD though goes to my LOI, 2d – “Men, hot rampant horny beasts (6)”, a clue that looked like it might be an anagram, but wasn’t, and also looked likely to contain an H, but didn’t either. Nicely done.

Back once more to the latter part of 2013 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/11/10/independent-on-sunday-1237-external/

Forewarned is forearmed in the form of a cryptic tweet about scissors being of use this week. Are we doing a crossword or origami? Time will tell. Instructions. One, complete the grid. Two, carefully cut out the shapes and arrange them to reveal an identity. Three, move seven letters to other cells to reveal a phrase. Glances at a blunt pencil, an even blunter pair of scissors. Ok…

The grid fill? Suspiciously easy. A faster solve in fact than the same day’s Phi. Here’s the end result in glorious monochrome:

Hagbut. Cue sniggers from the back of the class.

Step two, cut out the shapes. The first goes exactly as badly as expected. What do we need? Something good and sharp. When do we need it? Any time now would be good. I knew I’d find a use for that Stanley knife one day. A much easier if ill-advised way of cutting out those shapes. Don’t try this at home. And if you do, make sure you’ve read the paper already because you’re going to lose more than one or two pages.

Step three – arranging them? Nope, that’s not going at all well. Move onto step four.

A phrase, for which we need seven letters moved from elsewhere to share other cells. Well, there appears to be the start of one along the SW to NE diagonal – ON THE… Presumably we’re looking for unique letters to move, so L? No, that doesn’t help. There are seven S’s in the grid too? Taking the SW to NE diagonals and the NW to SE gives us:

She sells sea shells on the sea shore

Try saying that after a couple of whiskies. Back to step three, and a quick bit of Googling gives us Mary Anning who was apparently the inspiration for that particular tongue twister. Turn a couple of the pieces upside down, and there we have it:

Palaeontologist Mary Anning

Scribble it under the grid, and hey presto, that’s our lot. And wasn’t that fun? Something a little bit different. The paper’s even more of a hash than it usually is, and not with copious scribbling this week, but never mind. More like this please.

PS 1ac now appears to read SHAGBUT. A coincidence? Surely not.

A slightly trickier offering from the Don this week, with one I was unable to parse, which almost never happens with his puzzles. Yes, 19d, which I dredged up from the depths of my memory somewhere and lobbed in on a bit of a wing and a prayer. Perhaps not knowing how it should be pronounced may have contributed to this confusion. My last one in though was 15d, where I was flummoxed for no good reason I can see now by the need to find a bird that matched the letters I had, including a dastardly H in second place, despite it being pretty obvious, and the cryptic being pretty clear too for that matter. Well, it is Monday, which was the excuse I gave myself when I was extremely slow to get started, not getting anything until 10ac.

COD? Lots I enjoyed today, with the nice spot at 8ac getting my nomination – “Laborious patch in puzzle engenders feeling of being badly stuck in a corner? (14)”.

To October 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/10/07/independent-8418quixote/

It’s a Thursday Independent reprint (and our second one of the week I can’t help but note), though perhaps on the gentle side as far as they go. I found the RHS to be a lot more straightforward than the other half, though I should have got 1ac a lot quicker than I did, as it’s pretty common in crosswordland, which would have helped somewhat. Certainly, when I did cotton on 3d followed immediately, and then much of the rest of the grid. One or two I didn’t / couldn’t parse, though perhaps if I’d given the clues more thought I would have. An excellent puzzle to ease us towards the end of the week.

COD? Well, it’s got to be 26ac – “Ham producer concerned about animal welfare (4)” which elicited a rare smile here.

To September 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/09/26/independent-8409-by-external/

Three quarters of today’s puzzle was the usual straightforward, breezy solve we’ve come to know and love on a Wednesday, but for me at least the NW corner was much more difficult. I’d never heard of the Cumbrian town, though obviously it had to end …MOUTH, and needed to Google to check the answer. Vichy water was similarly new, as was the composer at 1ac – was I the only person to go through an increasingly desperate list of Welsh singers before settling on the rather more prosaic ALTO in the wordplay? Jones, Jones, Bassey, Tyler, Jones… 23ac on the far side of the grid was also new, but could be nothing else.

Lots to like as ever, with my COD going to 19ac – “Shocking report of animal breeding (4-7)”.

To October 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/10/09/independent-8420-dac/

Battered and bruised after doing twelve rounds with Harribobs, Inquisitor solvers the country wide look tentatively at the Weekend i and wonder, what next? Well, it’s Schadenfreude, who’s sometimes eminently solvable, and sometimes about as difficult as they come. So what’s been asked of us this week? Seven titles to highlight, extra letters yielded from the wordplay to “spell out thematic material”, seven greyed out squares in the centre of the grid and no clue as to what to do with them. Make some very strong coffee and leap in.

1ac, well that couldn’t have been much easier. CARTWHEELING, yielding an S. Something to do with herbs at 4d, a nice easy one at 5d even if the word’s probably new to most of us and, blimey, before you know it that’s a full grid. Yes, that’s about how quickly it happened. Did somebody swap Phi’s prize puzzle and the Inquisitor this week? I’m guessing this is the one star to follow on from Harribobs’ XXX.

What do the extra letters spell out? As is de rigueur there are a number of question marks, and loads that are clearly nonsense and need a second look. But…

SERGEANT, TEACHER, CONSTABLE, COWBOY, COLUMBUS, BEHIND

Which can only mean one thing, we’re looking at the Carry On films.

Seven titles to highlight, got to be round those blank spaces. As chance would have it one answer I’m not sure of and it turns out is wrong is 22ac, unless Carry On Doktor is a thing. Perhaps somewhere in Scandinavia it is.

Anyway, what we have is CARRY ON along that diagonal, and CLEO, ABROAD, MATRON, NURSE, CABBY, DOCTOR and HENRY crossing it. Fantastic. There are one or two there I haven’t have seen, and Schadenfreude’s omitted two of my favourites – Carry On Screaming and Carry On Up The Khyber – but thanks still for a welcome bit of light relief that was nearer my level of competence than last week’s magnum opus. Which leaves me time to do, well, other things. The household will be fed this week. Clothes will be cleaned. Children bathed. Sleep will happen. Other puzzles.

An IoS reprint to start the week, and a pretty straightforward one at that. Thankfully on a day when this is about the amount of time I’ll have to devote to crosswords. 🙂 That said I thought 17ac was a little tricky if you didn’t know the flavouring or the cinnamon, as was the case here, though in retrospect it was a term I’d met, somewhere, vaguely. 14d I didn’t know either, but it had to be a something TREE. Good to see that 1ac has been rewritten to keep up with present-day politics, though Mr Hinds is perhaps a little less infamous than his predecessor. 10ac was probably a gimmee for solvers of a certain age bracket, though perhaps mystifying for those above and below it.

COD? 19ac – “Cheeky thing to almost steal poison (7)”.

To September 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/09/22/independent-on-sunday-1230nitsy/