So Dac, and a pretty gentle Dac at that, so what more is there to say? As good as always, as fair and enjoyable as ever, no vocabulary or constructions for the most part that should throw anyone. I say for the most part because 27ac is a little tricky both in the definition and wordplay, but most solvers will have just lobbed it in as I did because it was unlikely to be anything else. First in 9ac, last in 16d, overall time about half par for the i.

COD? 10ac – “Student leaders (American) linked to pro-Democrat city in Connecticut”.

To the distant days of March 2015:


A puzzle about which I find myself with little to say, but in a good way, because while this may be lighter by far than last week’s offering, it’s one I felt a lot more comfortable solving being a bear of very little brain.

So, plus points on the confidence front: Isn’t Opsimath usually straightforward? Normal, alphabetical clues.

On the negative side: We don’t know where to put the answers. Oh well, we’re doing rather well at that sort of thing recently, aren’t we?

Further plus points: Cold solving the first five clues in a row with hardly a moment of hesitation. At the close three of the nine letter clues and three of the eight all ready to go – PROCURERS, PETIT PAIN, SANDGLASS, ALPHABET –  fittingly, EQUITANT, and TAVERNER.

Lob them in. Start fitting in the other clues. Only belatedly realise it would be a good idea to cross out the ones you’ve entered. A little tussle at the close over exactly where BULL should go (a sneaky BELL just above, and yes I did get it wrong first time).

Full grid.

Pick out the letters in the numbered cells: The great emancipator.

Which are real words, another plus point, the grid’s alright, but unfortunately doesn’t mean anything. Google to the rescue. Ah, good old Abraham Lincoln.

A “famous stated preference”? No idea either, but we’ve got to change two cells and highlight his name, and that can only be done by changing BULL to BALL and ETHER to OTHER, or BULLET to BALLOT.

“To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary…”

That title? According to the BRB it means “Freedom-giving”. There you go then.

Neat. Enjoyable. Done and dusted in a pretty neat time too. Huzzah. Short and sweet, but I liked it, oh yes I did.

To Monday’s puzzle proper, and the Don with a relatively gentle accompaniment to Klingsor’s offering. The soup went in following a glance at the definition, length, and first letter, and the troublemaker at 20ac was one I’d forgotten, but elsewhere it was only 5d that I sort of remembered but wanted to be something HAMLET that caused any difficulty. A new word at 7d for some of us, but one that was entirely logical, and it’s Quixote so of course there’s at least one new word. First in a bit of a panicky 12ac (is this going to be more difficult than I’d assumed?), last in 1ac, finish time well under par for the i.

COD? With much to enjoy as ever, 13ac – “What may be exemplified by lives now under strain (7,5)”.

To March 2015:

So, due to Friday’s “production error”, more commonly known as a cock-up, we have a bumper day for cryptics in today’s i. Klingsor’s offering is a Thursday reprint, and scheduled for the end of the week, so as expected it’s a little on the tough side, but thoroughly enjoyable throughout it must be said. Several obscurities in the grid slowed me down somewhat – the amusingly named SACKBUT for starters, and an instrument of an entirely different kind at 17d that could have ended LABE or BALE as far as I was concerned so required a dictionary check. Well done if you were aware of it. The badger I sort of knew, ditto the river and the French city, the source of oil I didn’t, but what else could it be? I solved today’s Quixote first, figuring it was the Monday puzzle proper, so perhaps I wasn’t as sharp as I might have been, but I finished this in a comparatively slow time for Klingsor, and definitely so for the i.

Lots to like, with ticks beside 13ac, 27ac, and 23ac (and I could go on at length – yes, this was a good puzzle!), with COD going to 25ac – “Embarrassed? I lost twice to a kid!”.

To February 2015 for the answers and parsing of the clues:

Was I the only person to assume this was an IoS reprint? OK, we had a couple of unknowns in the answers – 17d and 24d in my case – but both were as fairly clued as everything else in the puzzle leaving little or no doubt as to the outcome. I solved clockwise from NW to NE with half an ear on a workplace presentation and still finished in a time well under par for the i, so I suspect some will have flown through. And there’s little more to say than that – a very good puzzle, enjoyed, and a definitely worthy but surprising pick for the Saturday Independent Prize Puzzle spot.

COD? Lots to appreciate, including the Spoonerism, but 30ac gets my vote just for the Hitchhiker’s reference – “Keen galactic hitchhiker losing a day (6)”.

To the no doubt equally cold and wet days of February / March 2015:

Mid-week and no Dac but Punk instead with an offering that was as lively and enjoyable as you’d expect. A little trickier than is par for a Wednesday perhaps, but relatively gentle still. The puzzle did play to my weaknesses somewhat – a football team I’d sort of heard of, a camel I was also vaguely aware of, and a name for a wellington boot that was new but is gettable and not that far out there. I did question on solving whether a knob is really a switch, but got the idea so no complaints. Elsewhere the definition at 1d seems to be somewhat awry. Lots of long friendly clues to get the grid filled, Uncle Joe and the sizzler in particular being helpful. There’s some debate over on the other side about the parsing of 23ac, but the comments I think have it.

COD? Just because it’s such an amazing feat of engineering, 14/22 – “Fergie, heading for United game, beginning to observe gutless footy held together by idiot (7,2,4)”.

To February 2015:

To the four corners being several stages in the solving process at which I thought I would have been better off giving up. Because yes, it was that sort of puzzle, one where it became apparent very quickly that this was well out of my league.

1. By the close of Saturday afternoon which was one of those currently rare things – a nice day to be out in the garden with the crossword. The only problem being that the crossword in question was particularly intransigent, with only a couple of clues in the NE corner deigning to fall. Forget missing points in eight clues, we’re missing copious.

2. By the end of the night of the same day, when let’s say half had fallen. Among them was BILBO, which the optimist in me hoped might be one of the travellers. But no, no Frodo or Gandalf to be found elsewhere.

At which point far more time than would normally be spent on the IQ has passed with the puzzle far from finished. A small sensible voice says give it up.

3. Sunday night. Sheer bloody-mindedness kicks in and… Full grid, though with loads un-parsed. HATE, obviously, but why? Ditto ANORAK, TOEPOKE, and SETA, and I could go on.

A long stare at the grid and clues later. The description of the travellers is evidently in the clues themselves and not the grid, unless east of them is going to veer far off to the right.

24 hours later…

FRIENDLY FLOATEES, picking letters to the left and right of the missing points in those clues, down, and then up. Don’t ask how much in the way of blood, sweat and tears was shed finding those clues. I’ve not heard of the friendly ones either, but Google has. An amusing incident with a cargo ship later, and 29,000 bath toys go on a slightly longer trip than anticipated…

Wrap this up quickly then, and feet up with a cup of tea? Well, no, because the rest of the preamble at this point is clear as mud.

Another 24 hours later…

OK, there’s the name of the ship in the middle of the grid. Highlight it. Change MADE to FADE, and NO-NO to NONE and we’ve got BEAVERS to the NE, FROGS to the SW, as well as DUCKS to the SE and TURTLES to the NW. After fixing a couple of cock-ups here, there and, well, everywhere. Out with the yellow, green, blue and neon pink (does that count as red?), and… How is NONE FADE supposed to “give guidance for submission purposes”? I don’t know. I’ve probably got it wrong.

Despair sets in again.

The symmetrical partners that we’ve got to change? Many hours later and again the urge to chuck it all in… It’s entries, and not letters. So BATH and not HATE, and TOYS to the SE. (Sssh, I can’t remember the original entry).

Done. Apart from that doubt regarding the guidance bit.

And I didn’t throw the towel in, though it was a close thing throughout. I’m rather hoping that’s about as hard as they get, because my brain hurts. Or did everybody else find it rather easy?

I guessed wrongly that this was an IoS reprint, albeit one that was a little tougher than they sometimes can be. As it turns out this was an enjoyable Monday reprint which was always a day in the Indy that could be a little tougher than expected. To be fair there was just the one unknown, albeit quite a whopping great big one with a tricky last bit of wordplay at 15d, but more than a few elsewhere went in without full understanding of what was going on – 1ac, 11ac, 7d, and 17d being the chief suspects. A tussle at the close in the NE corner and a fixation on how I could possibly shoehorn HARP into 8d also didn’t help matters. A serious case of overthinking things. Time at the close perhaps about par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 8d – “Tone down sound of Welshman’s musical instrument (6)”.

To February 2015:

By chance this was Knut’s second appearance in the Independent, and his second appearance in the i too. There’s a vaguely political feel to the puzzle which I think is his stock in trade, but nothing overly topical that would date this badly or make it unsuitable for a reprint in these parts. All those cross-referenced clues and very long answers made it look a little intimidating at first, but as it turns out this was a reasonably straightforward offering, though with a lot of time spent counting letters in the anagram fodder to make sure I had them all. A slight oddity at 18ac – exactly what is “temple” doing there anyway? One obscurity at 29ac, though one that was fairly clued, and as it was my last one in there were lots of checking letters available. 🙂 And oh yes, a puzzle that was thoroughly enjoyable throughout. More Knut please.

COD? Lots to choose from, with the inventive 24ac getting my vote – “Chose exercise to develop definition in dictionary (5)”.

To February 2015:

A couple of unknowns in the grid today, for me at least, meant this felt a little trickier than Wednesdays sometimes do. A definite oddity at 17ac that I sort of knew with a tricky bit of wordplay round “top grade” was a sticking point, as was sorting out the order of letters for 23ac. PORTAIL was a little too tempting in the NW corner causing no end of difficulties, no matter how hard I tried to shoehorn something other than the obvious, correct answer into 2d. The rebel at 16d is someone I’m going to read up on later as it’s one bit of history I was blissfully unaware of. Elsewhere 6d could be nothing else but let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t have to sort the parsing.

Lots to like as ever from Dac, with the quality as good as always, and I did think 15d was quite neat, but I especially liked the way 14d slotted together – “Priest and faculty head go round University College concerned with ancient Greek? (9)”.

To February 2015 for the answers and parsing of the clues: