This will necessarily be a short blog as, well, I haven’t finished the puzzle. The Fifteensquared post notes that this was quite the challenge, and it certainly appears this is the case. I’m halfway through and out of time having more pressing things to be getting on with today. If I have time later I’ll have another look at the puzzle, but in the meantime you’ll have to make do with my initial thoughts. 🙂 Was this offering a little much for a weekday? At the moment I think so, and TBH I’m finding it a bit of a slog. But let me know how you got on.

No COD, then, necessarily so…

Postscript. 14:06

As if to demonstrate that I solve a lot better after lunch and a strong coffee than before it, I promptly polished off the second half of the puzzle in less than half the time it took me for the first. The first being the LHS… OK, there were lots of questions marks along the way – in particular at 5ac and 21d – but get there I did, and thoroughly enjoyed the second sitting. It’s just a pity I don’t wake up earlier.

There were also loads of ticks by the close. My COD of necessity comes from the second half of the puzzle I solved, so let’s go with the quite succinct 24ac, though it is a pity it’s somewhat given away by the enumeration – “Explain vote (3,6)”.

Here’s the Fifteensquared blog:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/01/01/independent-8803-donk/

And finally just to note that this Sunday we have our second guest puzzle in store from a first time setter. Enjoy.

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Dac’s back with an offering that was perhaps a little trickier than is par? The short story was new to me but very fairly clued it must be said, and down in the SE corner we had a former pin-up who was probably unfamiliar to some solvers, and a playwright who I’m guessing was unfamiliar to most. The latter was one I was both surprised and pleased to get correctly from the wordplay. Is it politically correct these days to refer to an Apache as Indian? I can’t keep up with these things. Does sun really=heater? I don’t think so, but the answer was clear enough. Overall time about par for the i, but above so for a Wednesday, though solved in the midst of complete bedlam which may have had an influence. Yes, the kids are off school…

Lots to like as ever, my COD going to 18ac – “Rich bread bun, popular with gin and Vermouth (7,2,2)”.

To January 2015:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/01/07/independent-8808-dac/

It’s the return of the long preamble which wouldn’t normally be a problem. If it wasn’t for…

  • The obligatory Friday night which if we’re to believe Friday’s i is going to finish us off sooner than might have been expected.
  • Coffee, and lots of it, which is normally a good thing until you remember that if you don’t put the pod in the coffee maker properly first it has a habit of exploding everywhere.

Oh yeah, that.

On the other hand it’s warm enough to sit outside, and the preamble on second glance looks pretty pliable. Theme words and variations. Worse case we’ll use a word finder. Extra word in six others seems to be the gist of it, word to be gleaned from the first letters. A name to be written under the grid similarly deduced from that pretty mystifying looking title. Pitch black, indeed.

The first two would be theme words, unless Variation C1 (6) is a particularly obscure bit of cryptic. So to CIRCLE, which is fairly obviously a figure. The artistic woman’s a MADAME, but shush, I missed the extra word. ELDRICH reminded me of this band.

The only thing that seems to be slowing down progress? That would be all those theme words that are leaving gaping great big holes in the grid.

And then MUNICH fell. Swiftly followed by LINCOLN. All of which rings a bell, very faintly. Films? Yep, they’re both Spielberg ones. The other two? HOOK and ALWAYS which I’ve not heard of fit quite nicely, thank you. That title? SPIEL B ERG. Chuck it under the grid.

Variations, yeah. Well, Lincoln was a president, and so were REAGAN and TAFT. What, you hadn’t heard of the latter either?

Munich’s a German city, and so are BONN and ULM. Ditto the latter.

HOOK, LINE and SINKER. Me, every time.

Finally ALWAYS, REMEMBER (why?), and MAN?Y. Manky? Seems unlikely. Oh yes, the extra words and first letters were going to tell us something. Remember those bucks we forgot to omit from 14ac? That would give the first letter or BERLIN, which isn’t only yet another German city but also the surname of this composer. Yep, he wrote Always, Remember, and, wait for it, MANDY.

Well, that all fell together very nicely, didn’t it? Done in an afternoon. Time for a cup of tea and a vanilla flavoured doughnut. The only saving grace of Brexit being the hope that we’ll be able to eat custard doughnuts again, and be allowed to continue to eat Glamorgan sausages. Oh yes, the puzzle. I enjoyed that too. More Wiglaf, please.

As expected Quixote to start the week with the usual mix of straightforward clues and slightly obscure, perfectly gettable answers. For me it was the images, long plant, and island I was slightly unsure about. OK, the latter’s pretty famous, but I can never remember what the second letter is. Apart from that there’s little to say – finish time well under par for the i, and all in all an enjoyable start to the week. Handily so, as the rest of my day seems to have been fully booked with a spot of DIY. But you were supposed to be on annual leave? Hopefully a change is as good as a rest.

COD? 15ac – “Madam? She may be one in library (5)”.

To November 2014 where there’s an interesting explanation from the Don regarding his increasingly fleeting appearances in the paper:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/11/26/independent-8773-by-quixote/

You wait an age for a Punk puzzle to come along and then we get two in a fortnight. Not that I’m complaining because this was another good one. Pitched at just the right level of difficulty for me – neither falling too easily, or on the other hand requiring most of the day to solve. Nothing too 4d – even I’d heard of the football team, and the actors were anything but. There’s a bum and a boob on show, but apart from that this wasn’t as rude as Punk sometimes can be. I thought I wouldn’t know the number / battle, but obviously did, didn’t know 3d was / is a trail, and was convinced I had 21d wrong, but couldn’t think of any other cars, and well, I didn’t. More like this one please.

COD? 21/7, 13d, 2d and 25ac were all worthy of praise, with my nomination going to 9ac – “Appear friendly hugging British loafer by the sea (5,3)”.

To the tail end of 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/12/29/independent-8800-by-punk/

No Dac this week, so as expected an IoS reprint which is a more than satisfactory substitute. I polished off about three-quarters in next to no time, but then took a while to finish off the last few. Part of the problem was an inability to read my own writing, with the W at the end of 1ac mysteriously morphing into a U. Another was a drink I sort of knew at 13d crossed with, in the wordplay, a college I didn’t. You learn something new every day… At 23d the Scottish town could really have been anything as far as I was concerned, because, well, geography, but what else was the answer likely to be? Ditto the well known vessel, and the lesser known clay. Enjoyable through and through, finish time probably about par for the i, probably because of interruptions throughout.

COD? It’s nice and straightforward, but equally nicely done – 30ac. “Switch linked to light (6)”

We’ve jumped forward in time to January 2015:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/01/18/independent-on-sunday-1299-by-poins/

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

The best laid plans, as they say. Let’s run a themed puzzle to mark B Day, Nimrod mused, get two of my best setters on the job. Puzzle delivered, tested to satisfaction, feet up, tea, cake and congratulations all round. And our glorious leaders? Deliver they did not. What to do? Evidently, run the thing anyway. And why not? There’ll be many more meaningless votes to come.

My wife claims she guessed what it was all about when I mentioned the X at the close. It took me until the bitter end and a desperate last gasp in the SE corner – stuck as I was on the empress and the mythological thingummybob – to figure out that the grouped letters I’d been agonising over the placing of were actually countries, and that we would be left on removal of the UK with a dirty great big BREXIT across the middle of the grid.

I never claimed to be that sharp on a Saturday, in particular after self-medicating the night before on, well, alcohol to banish a lingering, nagging headache. A sensation I suspect may have been shared with Nimrod following that 40 years in the business bash. Belated congratulations.

21 clues omitting a letter, 17 clues too long for the space available. I never did get to the bottom of that. EU countries, evidently, but surely there aren’t 38? The omitted letters weren’t difficult to spot, anyway, even if the grouped ones were a little trickier to come by, and place, being a matter of trying this, that, and the other, and eventually spotting that they were country abbreviations all handily documented in the big red book.

Ah yes, the grid fill. Pretty generous on the setters’ part? An anagram of BOY GIRL to start. What else would a hazardous material be except ASBESTOS? I don’t think I’ve heard of an OVATOR before, but tax in a crossword can only signify a few things.

And if I fell asleep, that was because the weather has been remarkably spring-like given that it is… spring, and I’ve got the garden table and chairs out.

That said it wasn’t done until the early hours, so perhaps I’m underestimating the difficulty bit.

The empress? Not Victoria. Not Catherine. But a Russian one. And one I should and probably would have got sooner on a better day.

Grid complete. Theme spotted. Puzzle enjoyed. Happy Non-Brexit day everybody.

As expected from Raich an enjoyable, fairly straightforward start to the working week. 1ac was a little tricky to parse, I’ll grant you, and to be honest I didn’t bother – chucking in the answer on B?C? and the definition alone, knowing full well Pierre would have things covered over on the other side. Nothing controversial elsewhere, nothing to trouble seasoned solvers, just a nice Monday offering. Finish time on a par for an IoS reprint, which this is not, and easier than I would find a Quixote to be.

COD? Well, among many good ones 10d raised a smile – “Place of relaxation for PM once – or distant forebears? (6,2,4)”.

To December 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/12/01/independent-8777raich/

A Thursday Independent reprint, and as expected when I spotted Tees’ name at the top something a little meatier. I can sometimes find Tees’ puzzles to be a little intractable, but today’s was quite the opposite – pretty accessible with lots of easier ones to get you started. I did end up with a load of question marks at the close – primarily regarding the definitions at 9ac and 17d – but as it turns out both were pretty clever, and any fault was on my part. I also had a big “who?” by 27ac, got the monastery on checking letters and definition alone, had to check the Hebridean location with Google, and fully expected 2d to be wrong and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t. I’m not sure the i in 24ac really equates to US – is US the setter / newspaper team, or we the solvers? I can never remember. Everything else though seemed to be fair and above board and, really, rather quite enjoyable.

COD? In retrospect I really do like that definition, so I’ll go with 17d – “One trained takes minute replacing power in electronic device (8)”.

To December 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/12/04/independent-8780-tees/

Another enjoyable offering from Dac that I would say was on the easy side, except for 23d which wasn’t. If you didn’t know your ancient history or your constellations then you were well and truly stuck, as can often be the case with double definitions. Thankfully we have word finders to help, but still. I suppose I won’t forget either now… Elsewhere I was pleased to get the Asian island from the wordplay, and took a while to spot 10ac. First in 4ac, last in 23d as already mentioned, finish time comfortably under par for the i with one cheat.

Lots to appreciate as ever of course, with my COD going to the fortuitously topical 4ac – “Say nothing during Disney film with unspeakable acting (4,4)”.

To November 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/11/19/independent-8767-dac/