As predicted something a little more testing today courtesy of Monk. I must admit to not understanding all the parsing at the close, lobbing in answers such as 22ac on the bits gleaned and an educated guess, though as explained over on the other side everything is perfectly fair and above board. Talking of boards, there’s a Nina, which I didn’t look for and didn’t spot, which is a pity because it would have helped no end, and some thematic elements I also failed miserably to connect.

First in one of those elements down in the SW corner, last in another one to the SE, finish time comfortably over par for the i.

COD? Let’s go with 10ac – “In which woman’s knickers may end up in a slight twist? (3-7)”.

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

A lovely little puzzle from Dac to ease us through midweek – very much on the easy side, a nice confidence boost before the no doubt stiffer puzzles that await us at the week end I suspect. Any problems encountered were of my own making, as I assumed for some reason that Vermeer was French, otherwise my LOI 12ac would have fallen a lot sooner. Oh well. A finish time that was about as quick as they get nevertheless.

COD? As ever you were spoilt for choice, with my pick going to 3d – “Cambridge college academic welcomes northern historian (9)”.

To March 2016:

Which could be subtitled the blog which almost wasn’t. As predicted the Bank Holiday weekend opened with unseasonable and arguably unreasonable wind and freezing temperatures, with the result that I spent Saturday hiding in the kitchen with the weekend’s i. As morning turned to afternoon and the grid remained stubbornly blank, much amusement was occasioned hereabouts, and I was urged repeatably to give up on it. Now, these blank jigsaw things aren’t really my thing so I was inclined to agree, but I can be stubborn too. Let’s just get some answers in that grid. Some of the downs having fallen, with associated extra letters, lob them in I did across the top row, only on finally solving the unlikely looking THIOURACIL to realise that none of them were actually in the right place.

Cue recourse to the eraser and a still blank grid come Saturday evening. Cue more amusement from the kids. Any illusion that I was actually any good at this game fading fast in a shower of well-deserved derision. By bedtime in my defence I’d:

  • Worked out that the across answers sort of weave back and forth from left to right and back again, for reasons unbeknown.
  • Filled the top half of the grid. Sort of.

And, oh yeah, come to a grinding halt with a grid on paper that had actually begun to decay from the degree of rubbing out.

Sunday. Azed. Everyman. The Telegraph Cryptic. Harribob’s Enigmatic Variations. One last, desperate push at the IQ. A last throw of the dice. And recourse to a spreadsheet because to be quite frank I couldn’t work out my scribbling anymore.

Things noted:

  • While COLLAGEN might be a valid anagram of some of the letters from “long and clear”, there’s no way it meets the requirements of any sort of definition in that clue. CALENDAR, Jon, CALENDAR.
  • We’re supposed to be highlighting something at the close. Highlighted things are often in a diagonal. There’s a phrase beginning to run down the NW to SE diagonal that I’m going to say is TO MOW A MEADOW.
  • Ergo, the remaining extra letters are going to give a question that probably looks a bit like WHY DID MAN AND DOG GO OUT?

Cue a finally completed grid, with GRANITA falling at the close, and a general feeling of release. Relief. I failed to complete a puzzle by Ifor elsewhere a couple of weeks ago, and I suspect will fail again in the future because that was tough, hopefully as tough as they get because my little brain cannot cope.

Bank Holiday Monday? Oh yes, the sun came out.

The week starts with a puzzle from Alchemi that I found to be on the challenging side, finishing a little over par for the i. I seem to remember not particularly getting on with his previous appearance, but found myself this week to be thoroughly entertained by the close. Perhaps I’m just in a better mood this week. 😉

5d it must be said was particularly obscure and took more than a little teasing out. I also wonder how well known 1ac is, and if I was the only solver to raise an eyebrow on D for “down” at 13d, but when the puzzle overall was as lively and inventive as this, perhaps one raised eyebrow is to be forgiven.

There’s a theme regarding anniversaries of some description which I haven’t followed up, but there’s more detail on the other side.

Lots to like, with a fairly unprecedented number of ticks, including the long phrase at 12ac, that scourge of guitar shops everywhere at 22ac, and the nicely misleading 27ac for starters. But just because it raised a smile, my COD nomination goes to 21d – “Pokes fun at bum (6)”.

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

I think the best summary of today’s puzzle would be that it was indeed a good one, a very good one actually, but one that was too difficult for a weekday. To be fair I made good progress to the south, filling in the bottom half of the grid with little ado, but the rest, well… It was only after a lot of staring at blank space, much soul searching, and finally getting 1/8 that the rest fell, albeit with most of the answers guessed based on definitions and checking letters, just because of time constraints. Which is a pity, because there’s lots of nice stuff going on, with I note a couple of smiley faces jotted beside the clues which is always a good sign. Can we please have Tyrus on a Saturday again next time, though, please?

First ones in down to the SE, LOI 11ac, finish time as it transpires over par but not considerably so, so perhaps this wasn’t as difficult as it felt while solving? Or a case of needs must.

COD? Well, I couldn’t resist nominating this one. 15ac – “Frenchman with female is the right size for mounting – Viagra? (9)”.

Over to March 2016 for the answers and parsing of the clues, which I’m suspecting might be needed more than usual today:

What’s there to say? Another lovely little puzzle from Dac which was for the most part pretty straightforward. There’s a bit of a Gallic flavour, including a phrase that may have caused a little difficulty, but the letters were all there for you to pick from. 😉 We seem to have a superfluous “after” in 19ac, but elsewhere everything was as fair, above board, and entertaining as you would like. Aspiring setters could do worse than copy Dac’s style. First in 23d, last in 5d, finish time comfortably under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 10ac – “Street on island in which you’ll see bird, one flying high (10)”.

To January 2016:

Happy Non-Eurovision Day. This being the latest in a series of non-days. No Easter, no holiday, no school, and so on. In Wales we’re still in strict lockdown which seems to me to be to be eminently sensible. In England the London-centric government having taken the view that as the worst is over in the SE, the rest of the country will have to follow. This side of the River Severn our government is thankfully more cautious, even if it has been forced to state that it doesn’t have the power to set up border patrols. I was only joking when I suggested putting the toll barriers back up on the Severn Bridges, you know. (It will never be the Prince of Wales bridge in this house.)

So it feels somewhat fitting that today’s offering is on the subject of omissions. In the letters missing from the answers entered in the grid, and in the quote from Marianne Moore they make up – OMISSIONS ARE NOT ACCIDENTS. This being one of those things you know from somewhere but can’t think where.

Accident seems somewhat pertinent too, the current one being handled in a manner that, were I to manage something similarly in work, would be viewed as gross-misconduct. Is a HAZARD an accident, though, presuming I’ve got that right?

To add insult to injury, the promised heatwave that had threatened to flood various beauty-spots and beaches with unwanted visitors has, in Wales at least, failed to materialise, and after half an hour of shivering in the garden I had to give up and retire to the kitchen where there is at least a modicum of quiet.

Finally that grid fill, that could best be described as being slow after a quick start in the NW corner. I’ve got two I’m unsure of – 34d looks like being VDTT from the wordplay, but I’ve no idea what answer we’re supposed to be constructing. Ditto 33d, which in retrospect I appear to have guessed, and which I also suspect is miserably wrong.

Quite the challenge overall, though thankfully finished before the distraction that is this evening’s Non-Eurovision programming. Dare I suggest that the replacement programming was better than the real thing, being several hours shorter and finishing on time?

After a few days of some pretty tricky puzzles, it felt good to enjoy Bank Holiday Monday (yes it is) in the sun with a pretty easy going IoS reprint. A couple of ticks, a few smiles too, I’ll take that this morning. The full explanation for only the one eluded me – 20d employing a pretty obscure Indian city, but the answer was clear enough so no complaints.

We’re still in lockdown here in Wales, so I’ll shortly be taking my daily allocated exercise, lunching, then settling down for the afternoon with Children of Dune. I think I quite like quiet Bank Holidays, you know.

COD? Well, 1d raised a smile – “Fool performer with good write-up (6)”.

To January 2016:

This isn’t turning out to be my week in the i. Hopes were raised with a flying start in the NW corner, but from that point on I swiftly ground to a halt, and got increasingly frustrated with wordplay I just couldn’t parse. 15d as mentioned on the other side would be the chief culprit, but much else went in on a wing and a prayer. Oh well. Perhaps I just need a nice long weekend, which thankfully is what we’re about to get. For once I started in the NW corner with 1ac, and finished there too with 9ac which is another where the parsing totally eluded me, finish time considerably over par for the i.

COD? Well, overall this wasn’t my cup of tea, but the surreal image conjured up by 12ac did raise a smile – “Bemused after removing bed and finding these? (4)”.

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

Dac’s back with an offering that hopefully will be less divisive than recent puzzles. I fairly shot through the NE and SE corners, slowing down a little to the NW, only to find that the SW corner was a step up again in difficulty again. Finally twigging the arcane film certification referenced at 26ac, and unpicking what was a lovely bit of wordplay at 21d proved to be key, and the rest duly fell. We have a slightly odd definition at 3d that arguably could have done with a “Scots” reference, but I doubt it held up many solvers for long. I did have to confirm the song title referenced at 1ac, assuming that it was something rather longer, but as expected Dac was quite correct. Despite this I finished well under par for the i, so overall a nice easy, and as ever thoroughly enjoyable puzzle.

COD? As ever loads to pick from, with my nomination going to 22ac – “Novel delivered by a northern writer once (8)”.

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