On the weekend that large bits of South Wales disappeared beneath the waters, including the kids’ local dance studio, it was left to Kruger to remind us of the lighter side of life. That is presuming you could get into the shops for a paper as every man and his dog rushed to the supermarket before Storm Dennis’ scheduled arrival. As I spent the afternoon and night thinking – I’m not going out in that, and stoking up the fire, perhaps they had a point.

Finally turning to the centre pages we find talk of blank cells which I’m ready for after the past couple of weeks, and also misprints in a few definitions which I’m also fully prepared for. I’d even go so far as to say that I guessed straight off where the blank cells would be – the thematic entries at the top and bottom of the grid – though it took too long to spot that they also encompassed a couple of entries to the left and right, having exhausted several options as to possible entries and parsing, it then occurring that there were in fact several more to leave empty.

If only I’d counted the number of unchecked letters and compared them to ICY BIN FIXES… There’s always one bit of the preamble which the setter has generously supplied to help us bedraggled solvers that I choose to ignore to my peril.

Oh well. CRUCIFIXION fell pretty quickly across the centre, there being little in the way of options there. As did MENUDO which interestingly wasn’t in any dictionaries I own, and FINITO too which I suspect might also have been lacking, but better-known.

As afternoon turned to night, and I got enough of the misprints to work out that we were probably looking for THE LIFE OF… something, and a character called GREGORY, with the fire roaring and the rain generally hammering it down, what did trouble me was what to put in the top and bottom rows. Possible checking letters seemingly pretty un-helpful, if the word searches I utilised were anything to go by.

Now, The Life of Brian is what sprang to mind, of course, and there is a very minor character called Gregory in the film too, not that I noticed on many repeat viewings.

But as it turns out the line we were looking for is one I didn’t remember either, but I have trouble remembering many things so that isn’t much to go by. I’M BRIAN AND SO IS MY WIFE.

Was it a bit naughty those two thematic entries not being actual words? I think so, but I’ll forgive Kruger just this once for generally lightening the mood round here.

On a weekend where much misery was being wreaked locally it would be tempting to put up a link to that song, but I often think its modern-day appropriation is a bit trite. So I will link to my favourite scene from said film, which I suspect is one biblical scholars in particular find to be particularly rib-tickling.

So to close, and one final – damn you, Dennis.

Rather unexpectedly we have an IoS reprint to start the week, because it feels like an age since we’ve done so. An odd puzzle, in that I finished well under par for the i as expected, but rather than racing through it felt like careful deliberation was the order of the day, especially down in the SE corner. No hold ups as such, apart from 8d which for some reason took me a while to spot, but no sense of this being a write-in either. Nothing that was controversial, though I’m guessing there were tuts in some quarters on entering 4ac, and no fireworks either which again is par for the course. Just a good, solid, enjoyable start to the week.

COD? I’ll go with 11ac – “Vogue article featuring northern Italian city (6)”.

To November 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/29/independent-on-sunday-1344-by-poins/

i Cryptic Crossword 2819 Monk

February 20, 2020

As I’ve said previously, Thursdays seem to be a toss up between an IoS reprint and something… rather more challenging. This Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint from Monk I’d suggest definitely falls into the latter category, my finish time being (accurately for once having calculated the thing) 1.3 x par. There’s a Nina in the top and bottom rows that certainly helped in the SW corner at the close, having got somewhat more stuck there than I was elsewhere. In retrospect I don’t see why as none of the answers were obscure (even 25ac which I expected to be, dreaming up all sorts of combinations of the letters from the anagram before the obvious sprang to mind). Elsewhere I think only 13ac and 8d caused problems over and above already faced. A very unfriendly grid didn’t help progress, this being in essence four separate puzzles in one.

As is noted over on the other side, “[a] good tussle and definitely worthy of the Saturday spot”, which is perhaps where it should have been scheduled. ๐Ÿ™‚

A good puzzle nevertheless, with much to appreciate, my COD going to 20ac – “Tanker was emptied in the name of war (6)”.

To October 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/10/31/independent-9057-monk-saturday-prize-puzzle-24th-oct-2015/

i Cryptic Crossword 2818 Dac

February 19, 2020

Those hoping to rival some of the super-duper quick times reported yesterday I suspect will have come a cropper today, this being about as difficult as Dac gets. Lots of odd words dotted round the grid, and some longer answers that weren’t, at least for me, particularly forthcoming. That said once I’d settled into things and got some answers into the grid everything fell into place pretty quickly. Or perhaps it just took me a while to wake up, as everything was as fairly clued as ever, in particular 15d which I was pleased to get correctly, half-worried there might have been an alternative flying creature for the first part of the wordplay that hadn’t occurred to me.

First in 1ac and the false expectation that this would be a flying solve, last in the French city – I’m never very good with French cities – finish time as it transpires just under par for the i.

COD? As ever lots to choose from, with my nomination going to 13d – “Reckless old man imprisons sappers? Wrong (9)”.

To November 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/04/independent-9066-dac/

The day before Storm Ciara gatecrashed the weekend, the i offered up the last in our series of female setters, finishing with the inestimable Skylark. We’ve had a good solid couple of weeks, so if I had a request for Nimrod it would be to see more of these setters the rest of the year. If only we had more Saturdays to play with I suspect the answer would be.

This week sees a pretty straightforward preamble involving superfluous letters in some clues, and an unclued border to be filled with a handy set of other letters that turn out to be thematic in their own right. No trickery afoot, it appears, unlike that presaged by the gathering clouds.

A fairly straightforward grid fill too, once I’d got my head round having to look for those sneaky extra letters. Subconsciously I suspect that I inherently trust what the clues are saying, even when I’ve been told not to. So that it took far too long to spot the superfluous R in Ayer, though even I know what EMO music is, or that M would be a more appropriate abbreviation for Mega than Megan. In fact the only one which still has me floored is the plant at 27ac which I’m assuming is DICOT given the checking letters, though I couldn’t tell you why.

When solving though my chief concern was regarding 3d, and what the synonym for “fussy” or “suspect” might be, depending on which was the anagram indicator and which the definition. As the checking letters fell into place it became clear that it was STEPHEN somebody, but it was only at the close that it became obvious that we were looking for STEPHEN NORTON, the villain of Curtain, the final Poirot novel. Bang, one “suspect”.

I’ve read one or two most of the novels, btw, so all this went in pretty quickly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And that message revealed by superfluous letters? Ah, another message hidden in plain sight in the clues, this time in the fourth letters. CHRISTIES TOP SLEUTH MUST OUST THE JEOPARDY.

So in goes HERCULE POIROT instead, who was indeed renowned for being “fussy”, though not before I’d realised that the list of novels in the border featuring he of the little grey cells and incredible tache wouldn’t fit until he was indeed in place.

Done then, and all in a single session. Looking back the attention to detail is quite something, from the letters to be used in the border to the innocuous looking 3d. Attention to detail that for once I appear to have appreciated in its entirety. Blimey.

So time to batten down the hatches, grab a stiff drink, and ride out the rest of the weekend. Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy one.

When I spotted Kairos’ name I firstly assumed this was an IoS reprint, and secondly that this would be on the easy side. As it turns out I was wrong on both counts, this being a Monday reprint, and one that for me at least was little above average difficulty. It’s possible on the other hand that a severe case of Mondayitis has set in, having spent large parts of the weekend fretting about floods and various other bits of storm damage. As it turns out we got away with it, though lots in the immediate vicinity didn’t. In other words your mileage may vary.

On the other side Kairos in the comments hints mysteriously at an “unusual feature” that turns out to be the lack of anagrams, which may explain why I struggled more than expected. Talking of which, I failed at the close to parse 14d, though everything else went in fully understood and with a number of ticks beside the clues too, so I’d rank this as being a pretty decent puzzle, though with a bit of a gripe regarding the pretty obscure abbreviations utilised in 17d.

COD then? I’ll go with 2d which was very nicely done – “Picture of empty box? (7)”.

To October 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/10/19/independent-9052-by-kairos/

Another puzzle I fear will be a little contentious, your enjoyment value depending on how much you appreciate a little smut in your crossword, and how much you enjoy IoS reprints. It’s Hoskins, so regarding the former you know what you’re getting, and regarding the latter – yes, I enjoy these lighter offerings too, though I fear Pierre is correct in his criticism over on the other side regarding some of the surface readings. I nipped through this in next to no time at all, anyway, and must admit to the occasional wry smile. I didn’t know the vegetable, or a couple of the beasts in the SE and NW corners, but they could be little else and were all fairly clued. In other words a big thumbs up here.

COD? It’s got to be 22d, hasn’t it? “Result of sex being banned from bathroom? (5).

Over to November 2015 when, if I remember rightly, my kitchen was at that particular phase of refurbishment where the old one is being torn out messily piece by piece. Happy days.

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/15/independent-on-sunday-1342hoskins/

i Cryptic Crossword 2812 Dac

February 12, 2020

The puzzles so far this week in the i could best be described as being contentious, but hopefully most solvers will have found something to enjoy with today’s offering from Dac. Very much on the easy side, finished comfortably under par for these parts, there were though a few nice bits of wordplay to get your teeth into, and the odd obscurity, notably at 20ac, to test our parsing skills. Talking of which, said skills failed me at 2d, but as the answer could be little else in it went. Elsewhere progress was steady with no hold-ups, and thoroughly enjoyed.

COD? There are loads to pick from today as expected, with 14d in particular being a close runner-up, my nomination going to 1d – “Recognising what plain cake has on top? (8)”.

BTW, am I the only Inquisitor solver who, following last week’s Mr Men theme, is being generally plagued by adverts from Amazon for said books?

And so to November 2015, where I assume the lack of comments indicates a general satisfaction with the puzzle:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/11/independent-9072-dac/

What was almost missing this week was any blog on my part regarding the puzzle because – was I the only person to find this a little on the tricky side? I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m prone to go to pieces when answers prove unexpectedly to be too long for the space available, no matter how many clear indicators there are in the wordplay. So despite 4ac evidently being a simple anagram, I took one look at the enumeration and moved on. Because we were looking to leave blank cells, meaning some answers would be too short for the space available. Obviously. Duh.

Which made for a very slow grid fill indeed. Admittedly I spent most of Saturday night watching the truly inspiring Hidden Figures instead of cracking on with the puzzle, despite having spotted that the extra letters in the across clues spelt out the name of a rather well known children’s author.

In the depths of the night the likely NOSEY PARKERS and GREEDY GUTS occurred to me, and having read the books both as a youngster many moons ago and many times to my own children – we’ve got a pretty good set of them round the house – the fact that we were to omit certain characters – Mr Nosey, Mr Greedy, and so on – from the grid finally occurred to my frankly quite addled thought processes. In factย the first eight in the series, the last being Mr Messy, who is presumably supposed to occupy the centre square.

Done.

Except for that instruction extracted from extra letters in the down clues, which took an age again, my parsing skills proving somewhat lacking when it came to the all important BOOKS bit between COLOUR OF and CHARACTERS. But get there I did, armed with a set of Frozen pencils to colour each blank cell with the relevant character’s colour. After doing so I can see that my shades of blue weren’t what had been promised on the tin, so that any adjudicator would be quite correct in marking my Mr Sneeze and Mr Bump as being bang out of order. Mr Snow of course didn’t need any shading.

It must be noted also that those very long answers required by the theme provided a veritable feast of words. SNEEZEWORTS, TICKLEBRAIN and FERNITICKLE being worthy of particular mention. Who said that trips to the dictionary had to be boring ones?

Anyway, I got there in the end, and must admit to smiling several times throughout as this puzzle was right up my street. From opera to children’s books in the space of a week, never let it be said that the Inquisitor is anything less than varied. Here, btw, is a picture I snapped of Adam Hargreaves at the quite magnificent and sorely missed Doctor Who Experience a couple of years back, following in his father’s footsteps.

And, oh yes, that all important grid.

i Cryptic Crossword 2810 Hob

February 10, 2020

An interesting puzzle to start the week, with a bit of a theme revolving round 4/17. In case you hadn’t noticed, look at the vowels used in the answers throughout. For those of us with a background in IT it was as clear as day what was going on, but I’d be interested to know what those ignorant of the inner workings of computers made of it. I twigged pretty quickly what with all those capitalisations, but still managed to flounder a little working out what the second name of our mathematician might be. Never mind. The rest went in with little ado, finishing in a time comfortably under par for the i, though with more than a little concentration required throughout. A good start to the week.

10ac has been brought up to date, just to prove that the crossword editor’s on the ball. ๐Ÿ˜‰

COD? Lots to enjoy, with the contemporary references in 14d and 21ac in particular most welcome, and 30ac raising a smile, with 21ac getting my nomination – “Sheep cloned by surgery found in M&S tarts once (5-4)”.

To November 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/02/independent-9064hob/