Saturday Inquisitor solves usually follow a night of what-I-like-to-call bacchanalian excess consisting of drinks and a marathon Top of the Pops session courtesy of BBC4. The COVID vaccine having put paid to the former (my head being bad enough as it is), and the badly timed demise of Phil to the latter (together with the rest of the TV schedule it would appear for the foreseeable), this one found me decidedly clear headed following a good night’s sleep, if still feeling slightly… odd.

Odd was a word which could best be applied to this week’s preamble, much of which it transpired could be safely ignored. Yes, we had lots of different gimmicks to apply to the clues when solving, and yes there was a spot of highlighting at the close, but all that stuff about grouping gimmicky things could be put to one side, as all that was required was to pick an appropriate gimmicked letter from each clue in order to give a list of tube lines plus the DOCKLANDS LIGHT RY (yep, there’s your abbreviation).

Not that I’m complaining, because my powers of deduction were waning at this point, despite a less than trying grid fill, albeit with some decidedly exciting picks from the BRB. The unlikely looking CTENE, RECOURE and BESSARABIAN were among my favourites, though the latter contains the sort of element that setters must thank the crossword gods for the existence of.

So, at the close with BANK and MONUMENT to the top and bottom of the grid, which link the aforementioned NORTHERN, CENTRAL, CIRCLE and DISTRICT LINES with the DLR, it was just left to work out what to highlight to link them. I guessed several hours before I spotted it what shape would be required, just from a tube map, but it would only be very late that night that I spotted ESCALATOR CONNECTION and finally whipped out the highlighters.

So job done, and enjoyed, but tell me I wasn’t the only person to look at that preamble and think – you what?

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Another week rolls around, and with it another offering by Hoskins, so you know what to expect. It only took until my second one in for a bit of “Congress” to make its first appearance, though it would take a while longer for the anticipated drugs references to appear. A little rock ‘n’ roll courtesy of Macca and Apple completes the set, though to be honest I barely had pause to consider what might be missing, as this was completed about as quickly as I could write. Which is to say, only a little slower than the new beefed up i Concise is sometimes these days. The sign at 12ac raised the proverbial eyebrow, but a glance in Chambers says it’s correct, as expected. Elsewhere there is little to comment on, and lots to enjoy, so thanks, Hoskins, for a good start to the week.

COD? I’ll go with 17ac – “Good drugs seen repeatedly in Hackney? (3-3)”.

To April 2017 for all the answers, parsing of the clues, and lots and lots from Hoskins in the comments:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/24/independent-9525-by-hoskins/

As anticipated this morning something a little more testing in the form of Tyrus, who can often be quite fierce. I found this however to be more accessible than some of his offerings, though very much still a stop start solve. An initial sweep through the clues yielding only 9d was somewhat alarming, admittedly, but from there I began to make inroads, firstly in the NW corner. The actor and magazine opened things up very nicely, together with the pretty easy when you thought about it 16d, but the isolated corners of the grid still meant that when I got to SW at the last it took a lucky guess at 17ac and punt on 18d to get enough checking letters to get the rest. Which is to say that I finished with a complete grid in about average time, but with a number of question marks I may or may not have been able to resolve. Quality stuff it goes without saying, enjoyable in a torturous sort of way, and a little risqué too that will not I know be to some solvers’ tastes.

COD? I’ll go with the nicely spotted 28/2 – “Cast make change with new actor (4,7)”.

To March 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/18/independent-9494-sat-18-mar-2017-tyrus/

An IoS reprint eases us through midweek, and one that won’t have held up experienced solvers for long. If you didn’t know the band or had forgotten the film (as I had) you might have had pause for thought, but I suspect not for long as the wordplay for each was as clear as you would like, and elsewhere most of the definitions were pretty clearly signposted. Both though at least were the sort of contemporary references that the crossword world could do with more of, so ticks here beside both. A good solid puzzle that I would suggest pointing towards new solvers who should be able to make pretty good progress unaided. Finish time here about as quick as they get – first in the meat, which was the first one I glanced at, last the diminutive pet.

COD? I’ll go with 26ac – “Kelly and Morecambe, perhaps, overlapping of a kind? (7)”.

To March 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/19/independent-on-sunday-1412-hypnos/

The question on my lips at least was what was in store for the Bank Holiday weekend. A Carte Blanche with misprints and clashes to keep us usefully occupied over the extra days off, or a swift solve and off you toddle into the (fleeting) sunshine. A bit of the latter, it transpires, with a swiftish grid fill and an odd end game for those of us without copies of the volumes recommended in the preamble to hand.

There are, of course, swift grid fills and there are swift grid fills, this one grinding to a halt round about SPED and EEYORE to the SE (and how I kicked myself on finally twigging the latter), and the rather amusing BELCH and CHUCKLE to the NW. Blame the sunshine. Blame Russian Standard vodka with a healthy dose of Corona. At least we had GOLLUM and the eternal search for his precious to aid with one of the first clashes spotted.

The clashes you will have to take my word for I suspect. I can’t read them anyway. But there are three letters in each – one from each crossing clue, and one “intruder” between to make up real words all round. My copy is barely legible with one letter in each cell, never mind three.

The culprit? It’s got to be a BAD THING, hasn’t it? And what do bad things do? Well, they come in threes. As in, that worrying engine over-heating warning coming from your son’s car, the water dripping down the chimney, and alarmingly mobile bathroom tiles. But I’m sure you have tales of woe all of your own.

BAD THINGS COME IN THREES

Tell me about it, but thankfully Poat’s puzzle isn’t among them, so cheers, and a belated Happy Easter all round. Finally, with apologies for the scan which appears to have been taken at the bottom of a dark pit:

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This is my first day back in work, the first (proper) day the kids have had back in school since November, and the car is in the garage for repairs, so needless to say the morning has been frantic so far, and I was therefore quite pleased to see Poins’ name above the crossword, and it transpires an IoS reprint too. Thankfully I started as per usual in the SE corner, so that by the time I got to 4ac I had enough checking letters in place not to fall for PIKESTAFF (though I did stare long and hard at what must be the answer afterwards, sure I must have dropped a clanger somewhere, but no). With the slightly odd 6d crossing this meant that corner was probably the trickiest, but the rest went in with little ado and no fuss, with only 4d unparsed at the close. Finish time then comfortably under par for the i, and enjoyed throughout.

COD? I’ll go with 10ac – “Neglected in spite of Newton embracing traditional learning endlessly (7)”.

To March 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/12/independent-on-sunday-1411-by-poins/

My plans for this morning were quite straightforward:

  1. Get up early, breakfast, shower.
  2. Browse the day’s i, do the crossword and blog.
  3. Get the jab, sit back with a well earned cup of sweet tea and relax.

Well, (1) and (3) went as per plan, but (2) was stymied by the paper boy failing to arrive until well after (3). Remind me next time to take the school holidays into account.

I was quite pleased later on popping over to Fifteensquared to note that this was indeed a challenging Thursday reprint, and that my powers of deduction hadn’t completely abandoned me, despite looking at some of today’s clues with something approaching bafflement, even after getting the answers. By 5d for example I’ve scrawled something akin to – where’s the definition? – half suspecting it was probably an &lit, the anagram being easy to spot, but the definition less so, and even after I’m not quite sure it works. Ditto 24ac, but in that case because in my by-this-point quite fevered state of mind, I assumed the definition was something to do with axes (of the kind you see on a graph). The actual one is one that’s rather witty.

Witty being the case throughout if you were on sharper (pun unintended) form than me today, so thanks Anglio for a nice puzzle I was unable to do justice to. Finish time as you might have guessed considerably over-par for the i, with moments when I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish.

COD? Because the definition raised a smile, 15d – “Worker, perhaps the second to drop clanger at yard, is making bay window (4,5)”.

To March 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/02/independent-9480-anglio/

Dac’s back with a puzzle as good as they always are, though perhaps a little trickier than expected. A few unknowns such as the African language, Spanish city and sort-of-known 4ac will have held up many, plus a few knotty bits of wordplay and a sort-of-remembered designer in the wordplay in the already referenced NE corner. A little more time spent in Dac’s company is always a pleasure though, so no complaints here, with lots of ticks along the way, a few smiles, and a raised eyebrow on solving the distinctly un-Dac like 25ac. Finish time comfortably under par for the i.

COD? I’m sure you’ll have your own picks, because there were so many to choose from, with my nomination going to 4ac – “A British fashion designer clothes a posh person taking the plunge (8)”.

To March 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/29/independent-9503-dac/

It is one of those odd coincidences that, this lunchtime, we talked for a while about one of my favourite TV shows, being Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, only for it to rather unexpectedly turn out to be the theme of the day’s Inquisitor. Yes, I’ve been to the location at 1ac, and popped down to the beach where the lines we had to highlight in the finished grid were uttered, visited Number Six’s house which used to be the fanclub shop, and posed for photos in all The Village landmarks. Thus, this for me was the PDM to end all PDM’s.

Before that, though, came a bit of a tussle with a grid that took rather a long time to fill. Clues that were relatively free of gimmickry barring some letters to drop and ones missing from wordplay were ever likely to be so, but I still managed to make heavy weather of them. In retrospect entries such as PARIS, SLALOMS and SPIRIT were gimmes, so it’s possible that my senses were somewhat dulled this afternoon. On the plus side, it was a solve that accelerated rapidly halfway through on divining THE PRISONER along the bottom of the grid, and quickly jotting in PORTMEIRION across the top. I wonder how many solvers in despair turned to word searchers for 1ac only to find that the computer said no?

Just the “guardians” to spot, O’s by the look of things, presumably representing Rover, the weather balloon that was the slightly odd choice of Village guardian (fun fact – it was a last minute substitution after the device put together by the technical crew failed the first time it hit the water). Is my route the shortest across the grid to mark the escape route? That I’m not sure of, but the highlighting looks likely (alternate, horizontally and vertically), so I’m going with it.

Oh yes, I AM A FREE MAN along the bottom, although Number 6 almost certainly wasn’t at the end of Fall Out.

Needless to say, whether my solution is right or wrong, that was one that was right up my street, and thus elicited a very big grin from about halfway through. Here’s The Prisoner by Tears For Fears’ from The Hurting, which back in the day Prisoner fans would swear blind synced perfectly with Arrival. They may have a point.

The warm weather has rudely deserted us (to the surprise of some I’ve seen out and about in shorts and t-shirts this morning), which must mean that it’s a Bank Holiday. Never mind, I have a new bed to construct, and other sundry indoor jobs to ensure that the day is adequately filled.

But first, a reasonably straightforward offering from Peter to start the day, though the difficulty level seems to have been raised a little from previous outings, with 1d a little tricky to unpick, and a few oddities dotted round the grid. The wordplay for each was clear enough though, so no complaints here. On the contrary, plaudits for an enjoyable start to the week. Finished comfortably under par for the i, though perhaps not quite at the gallop I expected.

COD? 13d raised a smile – “Flaps of skin wobbling in big gowns? (5,5)”.

To March 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/03/06/independent-9483-by-peter/