When you’ve got a busy day ahead and just want a quick solve and spot of blogging around breakfast time, what you’re not necessarily looking for is an offering by Anax. As it turns out though this was very much on the accessible side of things, with a couple of nice long entries to get a foothold in the grid (in particular 2d, 14ac and 18ac), and some simple anagrams, with the result that much of the south half of the grid went by in a flash. That said obscurities like 9d, 7d and 10ac (VO for “order”!), and BOO for “partner” elsewhere slowed things down somewhat, the upshot being that I finished just a little above par for the i. 13ac in retrospect I suspect will be less obvious to solvers from other parts of the country, but as I regularly have to put up with Essex villages and the like I think it’s perfectly fair. 😉 Did I need a dictionary and Google to finish? Yes I did. But overall this was pretty gentle by Anax’s standards, thoroughly enjoyable, and a nice pick for the Thursday spot.

COD? With 17d and 3ac in hot pursuit, I’ll go with 2d – “Crumbs of old salt (6,2,7)”. Though it did make me wonder if Eimi missed a trick by not scheduling this for Talk Like A Pirate Day.

To a Saturday long ago for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/23/independent-9290-by-anax/

You go for weeks without an IoS reprint, and then like buses two come along at once. Today’s was perhaps a little knottier in places than Monday’s, with a fair few answers lobbed in with a bit of a shrug and a – well, it’s got to be that with those letters. Perhaps if I’d taken the trouble to look at the parsing in more detail that wouldn’t have been the case, but I often skip such niceties. 27ac I wasn’t quite sure worked as an &lit, but perhaps I’m just being picky. The rest though seemed to be fair and above board, and passed the time pleasantly enough in Dac’s absence.

First in 19d, last in 11ac, finish time a little under par for the i.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/24/independent-on-sunday-1379-by-anglio/

Inquisitor 1668 Q by Vismut

October 20, 2020

I know, you saw Q, thought Question, and then this too.

Though I bet you didn’t have to guess as much as I did. Letters, you see, ones we have to overlook for one reason or another. And to be quite frank after a late night followed by hours lying wide awake worrying about things that are completely beyond my control as I’m guessing lots of us do nowadays… Yep, my already flaky parsing skills weren’t up to it.

My “25 letters” jotted across the top of the grid being somewhat akin to REC?LLE?TYI?ON???OC?HA??PPYLLFE. Now, I don’t know who’ll be blogging this over on Fifteensquared, but I’m betting their version will be a lot more coherent. And that they didn’t need to get down to some hard googling to find Recollections of a Happy Life, and hence Marianne North. But there’s her gallery in the middle of the grid, highlighted a fetching shade of pink, and within that something about SOIL and PAINTING. Because that was her thing, apparently. I went for green for those. It felt more thematic than my earlier choice.

The other letters, the 10. I only managed to get 6, being WADKNR, but if I were a betting man I’d say they constitute KEW GARDENS, which is where said gallery is situated.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Said guesswork is a pity, because the grid fill consisted of little except where I needed a modicum of luck. Even the feared obligatory Scottish word being one that took the briefest scouring to find in the BRB.

Prize for the most interesting word to GILGAI, for the cutest to TALCY. We don’t often get cute words in the IQ.

And Q? I guess because it sounds like, well, Kew.

Listening en route: Don’t Get Lost, including the irresistibly titled Throbbing Gristle. Enjoy.

The long awaited IoS reprint kicks us off this week, courtesy of Gila who we tend to see more of in the Inquisitor I believe. Nothing too tricky today, apart from 10d which is a completely unfamiliar term to me and which I therefore… well, got horribly wrong. Oh well, the rest went in in a jiffy, and was thoroughly enjoyed. 11ac and 19d I suspect you might have struggled to find in the dictionary should you have had recourse to do so, but the rest was pretty common vocabulary with the exception of 29ac which couldn’t have been more plainly clued.

COD? Let’s go with 14ac – “Supplying alcoholics with assorted ales and gin shows a complete lack of feeling (9)”.

To the warmer, gentler days of July 2016:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/17/independent-on-sunday-1378gila/

I was half expecting an IoS reprint at the latter end of the week, and seeing Crosophile’s name presumed this was it, but no. It’s a Tuesday reprint, which usually means a theme, but in this case a Nina concerning what I suspect remains a little known book. It was generous of Crosophile though to give it a bit of a publicity boost.

The puzzle itself was fairly straightforward, though I must confess to struggling with the parsing of one or two, in particular 9ac where I needed the Fifteensquared blog to help. The same clue made me wince somewhat, though I’m not sure if that was just me being overly sensitive. Elsewhere this was an enjoyable offering, fairly clued, though it helped to know your classics in the SW corner. I didn’t, but Google did.

First in today 23ac, last in 20d, finish time just a little slower than yesterday’s.

COD? Nothing really leaps out, tbh. But whether you liked it or loathed it, the most inventive clue was the aforementioned 9ac – “Move fast when making bitch brunch? (3,3,2)”. This being COD in the same sense that Time named Hitler man of the year. 😉

To July 2016:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/05/independent-9274-crosophile/

A gentle offering from Dac eases us through mid-week, with little that will have troubled seasoned solvers. For my part I struggled a little towards the close with 5d and 25ac, and failed to parse 11ac and 18d on solving, but the rest went in with little ado finishing in a time more akin to the Telegraph than the i. There is little more to say, just because Dac is so consistently good with little if anything to quibble about.

Top notch entertainment all round, of course, being our usual Wednesday setter, with my COD nomination going to 5d – “Annoying shop assistant providing ointment for example (15)”.

To July 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/13/independent-9281-dac/

So, you’re feeling somewhat frayed too. Autumn is here with the added frisson this wonderful year of Covid. Reasonable excuse. What does that mean, anyway? It’s raining, we’re all getting claustrophobic, and the memory of last week’s Inquisitor rout looms large.

For a while this looked like being another. Is it just me or were the clues this week particularly fiendish? Consisting of not just extra letters in some, but of entries that needed adjusting before entry in the grid. The latter is wont to result in much soul-searching on my part. A quarter of the solving time resulting in only four entries in the grid I was indeed ready to throw in the towel.

TRUMPET TREE to the rescue, being a nice long entry. We like nice long entries. The belated discovery that we have RATs missing from the adjusted ones. PratING, PIratES, and so on. Rats everywhere, but not being indoors the council won’t dispose of the things in “the current climate”, almost as if that were a convenient money-saving-excuse. At least they’ve cut the grass. Small mercies.

False step alert. Rats being disposed of, and leaders to follow, means the central entry is obviously the PIED one himself. Well, he will be at the close, but the crossing entries don’t work for the moment. Getting ahead of myself again. Our favourite old tax lies to the SW, though the volunteers are at least acknowledged as being “old”, a blow to crossword setters everywhere.

And, oh, if 5ac is BUKSHI I’ve no idea why. But what’s new.

Grid full. See, I managed it this week.

The hints from the extra letters. The first couple, well, I don’t where they fit. S something? The rest though is all about the piper himself AND IN DID COME THE STRANGEST FIGURE. At last we can amend BOYS AND GIRLS for what is not only a strange but sinister FIGURE. Yep, the child snatcher always frightened me too. Still does, truth be told.

Phew. Done, I think. Good stuff, Serpent, good stuff. But my brain. It hurts.

eXternal welcomes us to the start of another week with a puzzle that was three-quarters pretty plain sailing, and one-quarter being that to the SW somewhat chewier. In retrospect as two of the clues that held me up were anagrams I don’t really know why, apart from a careless crossing SCOUTED for 18d. Perhaps I just ran out of steam. 7d I suspect on a better day I would have got in no time at all, and hence the rest. Lots of fun to be had along the way nevertheless, with impeccable wordplay, and nothing that most solvers shouldn’t be able to get with a little patience. A pretty good start to the week, finished about par for the i.

COD? Let’s go with 26ac – “Small hero nervous of big dragons (5,7)”.

To July 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/11/independent-9279-external/

A Saturday reprint today that I found to be a little tough in places, especially in the NW corner. In common with Gaufrid back in the day lobbing in COCKSPUR will not have helped matters, followed by a conviction that 2d ended in NOUS. Ah well. One unknown for me at 23ac, but the rest was pretty common vocabulary. Being Klingsor this is of course top quality, fair, and above all enjoyable. And, oh, it’s a pangram, which I didn’t spot, and didn’t need to finish. Time at the close somewhat above par for the i, though scrappily in spare moments, so your mileage may most definitely vary.

COD? 9ac – “Close to broke and left overdrawn apparently? He wasn’t ready! (8)”.

To July 2016:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/16/independent-9284-klingsor/

Normal service is resumed with an enjoyable, pretty straightforward offering from Dac. There is little to say really, because the clues are all top notch, fair, with surface readings as smooth as you would like. 13d I couldn’t parse on solving, though it could be nothing else, and I thought for too long that 9ac was obviously going to be a bird – because singers always are in crosswords – but the rest went in with little ado. I started for a change at 1ac because the definition fairly leapt out, finished with the “angel”. Finish time considerably under par for the i.

COD? So many to pick from, but I’ll go with 7d because it seems to me to be quintessential Dac – “River in northernmost part of Delaware, America (5)”.

To July 2016:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/07/27/independent-9293-dac/