Our reprint today is all the way back from 2009, I suspect because of today’s date. Beyond a handful of references in the clues though there doesn’t seem to be anything else going on, so… Shrugs.

It’s Scorpion, so it’s a little tough. I was pretty pleased however to come in just a little over par for the i, though with a load of question marks at the close. Perhaps I got lucky, or perhaps I’ve just been solving Scorpion for a long time. Chief among those not fully understood were 1ac and 6ac, with queries elsewhere about the vehicle tax and exactly how 12ac was supposed to work. The latter’s very clever, but doesn’t work in a Welsh accent. For the others it took the mighty Gaufrid to make everything clear.

But was it enjoyable? Yes it was, thoroughly, with lots of ticks to go with the equal number of question marks. As it’s Valentine’s Day, for COD I’ll go with the one I suspect Eimi spotted, 21d – “More than one X on side of Valentine present perhaps (5)”.

To October 2009:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2009/10/15/independent-7176scorpion/

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No Dac this week, but an IoS reprint from Poins that is a more than ample substitute. Pretty smooth surfaces, though not as smooth as the master’s, of course, and enjoyable throughout. Finish time a little under par for the i. A couple of trickier bits along the way – a pretty obscure bit of slang at 20ac, unless you’re an avid Beatles fan or from that neck of the woods, an Egyptian goddess I bet few will have heard of, and a knotty bit of wordplay I thought at 11ac. Well, it took me an age to spot it. 10d also gave me a little grief, but only because I couldn’t spell the sewer at 21ac. 🙂

COD? I’ll go with 25ac – “Offer of support to keep North Dakota republican (6)”.

To October 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/10/26/independent-on-sunday-1287-by-poins/

Always make a point of reading the preamble properly, that’s my advice. I never do mind, and sometimes come a cropper…

Perhaps it was the lack of grid lines, always a little alarming. 9 clues with wordplay omitting a single letter. 11 others generating a single extra letter. What about the last bit that mentioned, as if in passing, another 11 that needed a word removed? That would be the bit I completely missed, for at least half the solve. What alerted you? The more than is usual sense of mystification that overcame me on looking at some of the clues. Are we looking for effects, or a painter, or something to do with both? As it turns out just the former, extremely trippy meaning what you think it should – TY at the end of PROPER. Now, that makes a little more sense. Just the last bit of the preamble to make sense of then.

It’s Saturday. I’m never feeling my best on a Saturday, especially when frozen through. Yes, it snowed again.

Blank grids. Well, Gila’s been a little generous. The first four across clues fill both rows, an INTERRAIL PASS all of one. Jigsaw and Chambers time. Last in DAFTIE down in the bottom right which is generally how I was feeling by the close.

OK. I haven’t got all 9 of the omitted letters. That’s not going to help with that route. Ditto the 11 extra, so bang goes the name. Let’s have a look for 17 cells to highlight. I never was any good at word searches, and we’re getting a lot of them of late. Quinapalus has got a handy grid search though. But did it help? Well, sort of. It only took me 24 hours from noting with interest the name of a Mac operating system somewhere in the grid, a hunch that given a “Blank Face” we were possibly looking for something to do with rock climbing, and a bit of fun with partial anagrams to come up with:

EL CAPITAN, YOSEMITE and Alex Honnold. And no, I never did manage to parse all of them. Only missing two, mind you, not bad.

The 9 omitted that show the route? According to Wikipedia Mr Honnold followed something called the FREERIDER line. Nope, doesn’t mean anything to me either, but some of the letters I’ve got match. Drawing lines from the ones I’ve got to the ones I haven’t (notably two E’s), and staring hard at some of the parsing again, gives a route that looks a lot like the one here:

Phew. Could be right. Could be wrong too. Fifteensquared will know for sure. Me? I need another whisky. Gila’s beaten me in the past, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s done so again this week, but for what it’s worth… Voilà!

The Don is back in his rightful Monday spot, at least temporarily. As expected we’ve got a fairly straightforward offering with a couple of unknowns chucked in for good measure. Both were unfortunately over on the far LHS – the naturalist and the beast at 7d – which meant that I struggled a little after flying through the rest. The definition at 22ac earned a question mark – it’s been a long time since I’ve read the book in question. 13ac I made a bit of a wild stab at. PENS, anyone else? Finish time though was still well under par for the i, albeit with the unforced error.

Elsewhere 15d unfortunately doesn’t seem to be quite right, we’re missing an “of”, and I’d forgotten the saint too, not that it mattered. 12ac was also a little… Odd. It made sense on solving, sort of, but that’s as far as it goes.

A thoroughly good puzzle with lots of ticks, my COD goes to 10d – “Evil folk joining renegade, one emerging as anti-establishment figure? (12)”.

To September 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/09/24/independent-8719quixote/

I think it’s fair to say that this is about as difficult as the i crossword gets. I clocked up a time that was completely off the scale, and only then with a few electronic nudges along the way. Like yesterday my first one in was somewhere down the bottom of the grid, but instead of then making steady progress I crawled along, dotting in answers here and there. The longer ones did fall fairly quickly, but didn’t help much in terms of more rapid progression. All seems to be fair and above board, with only a couple of question marks at the close, but still, extremely tough for a weekday.

A smattering of geography (never my strong suit), combined in one case with a bit of obscure celebrity knowledge (he has come up before, but I can almost see Sprouthater’s hackles rising), and at least one (19ac) that isn’t in Chambers all combined to further up the ante.

Engaging, and enjoyable in a masochistic sort of way. 🙂

COD? 23ac – “Herbivores love to feed on greens (8)”.

To October 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/10/09/independent-8732-external/

After yesterday’s offering from Hob a bit of light relief from Dac? Well, not quite, as this was Dac upping the difficulty level a notch. My first one in was down in the SW corner with 24ac, though with a complete balls up regarding the parsing – yep, I missed the anagram, but still got the right answer from CAST = actors which wasn’t what was going on at all, of course. I should have stopped to worry about the IRON bit, but figured what else could it be? At this point I thought I was in trouble, though the bottom half of the grid did then fall without too much ado. The realisation that it was a battle we were looking for at 10ac did for the NE corner, and hence anti-clockwise to the NW. 9ac was a definite unknown here and last to fall, and a perfect example of how cleverly Dac hides his wordplay in a surface reading that is as smooth as you’d like. Elsewhere I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with 21ac or 12ac, but it transpires it was just me being a bit dim. Overall time well under par for the i, though not for our Wednesday setter.

COD? So many to choose from with 14ac, 18ac, 5d and 10ac all getting ticks, but I particularly liked the aforementioned 9ac – “Old man relaxes, as it were, having drink (6)”.

To September 2014 where there’s some intriguing discussion about a cock up the previous day:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/09/17/independent-8713-dac/

Poor Andy Lemon…

And the poor solver too who’s got to make sense of that preamble, or was it just me? Let’s cut it down to size. All clues normal except six with misprints, six with a superfluous letter in the wordplay. There, that’s better, isn’t it? And with the heartening news that “help” with maths homework can be deferred until Sunday, straight to it.

First thoughts, these clues are pretty tough. First in all the way down at 26, SCALA, which unexpectedly isn’t a cinema but rather something to do with the ear. Perhaps I should have started with the downs because the first is a simple anagram giving ITERANT. Lots of question marks by the answers, though, due to fragments of understood wordplay. Those extra letters? Could be, but I’m not doing so well with those.

The misprints though are coming along nicely – the displaced letters I’ve got so far being QUAR. No prizes for guessing we need an S and an E to complete. The S I can see – CHEST, and not CHESS. The E? Well, no.

Times Square? Tiananmen? Who can tell?

But look, I’ve got a full grid:

The misprints… We’re supposed to do something with the corresponding solutions. Chuck them in a SQUARE, as they’re all 6 letters long? Could be, including an educated guess at INLIER for the last one. No phrase revealing itself there. Arrange them otherwise in some sort of square? If Crossword Compiler’s to be believed that isn’t going to help either.

Three bleary eyed hours gazing intermittently at the thing with half an eye on a pretty trashy film. Nothing. Pass me a beer.

Sunday, post help with maths homework. For which read teaching, because we don’t set homework on things the kids have actually done in these parts, evidently.

What if the six clues to be squared are in a different order? What, you thought of that straight off?

COCKLE
INLIER
SCULLE
CISTIC
ORIENT
SCARES

A careful examination of the 2nd and 5th columns later… ON CIRCLE LINE. And look, the other columns have real words which may or may not be significant. Chuck it in. Out with a tube map. There are two squares on the Circle Line – Euston and Sloane. Which one should we discount? Well, the extra letters I’ve managed to glean are TEUSO. Sloane Square it is then. Landmarks? Thankfully Wikipedia knows more about the geography of the area than I do. Amend 5 letters to give the Peter Jones department store, and the Royal Court Theatre, or at least bits of them. Sloane Square has little else to boast, apparently.

Andy Lemon located, and hopefully liberated too. Phew, I need a lie down now. Pass me a whisky, presuming the other half hasn’t swiped it all.

An IoS reprint to start the week that a solver on better form would have found to be pretty straightforward. As it was I hurtled through three quarters of the grid before coming to a grinding halt in the SW corner. The killer, yes, pretty obvious. The rest? 16d left me overly hung up on looking for a hidden word, and at 15d I just couldn’t get POST out of my mind. A walk and a coffee later and a clearish head, 15d fell and the rest with it in moments. LOI though was over the other side of the grid at 7d. One where I’d actually thought of half the answer (the first half, naturally) and then discounted it. See comments above regarding my current state of mind. Finish time still under par for the i, though it should have been half that.

COD? 15d – “Ordinary job in Gap (8)”, though I did wonder if the capital G is strictly Ximenean. I can never remember.

To October 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/10/19/independent-on-sunday-1286kairos/

Crosophile’s usually on the easy side, isn’t he? Well, not today, with a puzzle that I found to be a bit of a grind to be honest. I started well enough over on the RHS of the grid but struggled elsewhere, and at the close couldn’t get a foothold in the NW corner at all. Cue much cheating to finish the thing, and lots of question marks throughout. Lunchtime rapidly running out, and the sandwich and coffee still not consumed, I was just relieved to finish. The question marks still stand, having lost the will. 🙂 Not my favourite ever i puzzle, though your mileage may vary.

COD? To be fair there were some ticks as well, though they were outweighed by the negatives for me – “Salon, say, that’s rather snotty? (5)”.

To October 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/10/20/independent-8741crosophile/

Midweek wheels round, and not a moment too soon, with another fine offering from Dac. Nothing overly tricksy, nothing controversial, just the usual good puzzle. Unusually for a Wednesday there were one or two I couldn’t fully tease out – the name of the saint referenced in 3d I did know but couldn’t remember, the first part of the double definition at 20d left me suitably bemused, and I should have been able to but couldn’t parse 23d. My failing, and not Dac’s. Solved while engaged in a seemingly endless 2 hours and counting conference call in a time well under par for the i.

COD? Lots to pick from as ever, with my nomination going to the re-tooled 19d – “Unconventional rebel has captivated i reader (3-3)”.

To November 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/11/05/independent-8755-dac/