Strictly speaking, I failed to solve this properly. At 23d I entered “Edina”, which to my mind answers the clue just as well as ERICA. It’s a girl’s name (seemingly favoured disproportionately by Hungarians, if the wikipedia page is anything to go by) and “port upset” could just as easily be an instruction for an (indirect) anagram of “Aden” as an instruction to reverse “Acre”. The two main ports in Crosswordland, according to my atlas, are Rio and Aden. If Acre features on the map it is as some kind of old castle in the eastern Mediterranean.

Otherwise, this was a straightforward puzzle, solved in well under my average time, and I made no marginalia indictating quibbles or queries, although I did have to check that BALMORALS were boots. It was my last one in, and the crossing letters made the potential answer seem obvious. Crossing as it did with WINDSOR, I did retrospectively look to see if there was a castle theme, but apparently not.

Clue of the Day for me was the aforementioned 20d, for it’s nice misdirection: “Section in party meeting resistance after triumph in House (7).” I wonder if the answer would have come to me quite so readily if it weren’t for a certain item of news filling the airwaves over the last couple of weeks.

An IoS reprint from November 2015:

“Seals bark, they don’t sing” I thought to myself as I completed SEASONAL, my Last One In, with an ominous awareness that yet again my knowledge of Popular Music would be unequal to the moment. Mind you, so too was my knowledge of C19th Swedish opera singers. These two needed googling just to confirm that each was what I inferred it to be.

Otherwise this was a smooth and swift solve, with little to cause any trouble. SERENA WILLIAMS and KATHRYN BIGELOW are, I think, sufficiently well-known to have been unproblematic once the crossers started to go in, likewise the marine unicorn and the relative of the giraffe. CEDILLA I suppose might be unfamiliar (although I remembered it from French lessons at school). Hypnos followed the rule of easy word-play for unfamiliar words, which, combined with the crossing letters, should have made it nicely accessible.

Like Dac, and Vigo yesterday, Hypnos has shown us that a puzzle set at the easy end of the spectrum need not be dull and unentertaining. This was thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying, and all over far too soon.

Three clues really entertained me: COCOON and PROVERB, but my nomination for Clue of the Day goes to the almost paradoxical and very neat 19a; “Decrease, perhaps, to become equal (4,3).”

A Sunday Prize Crossword from the Summer of 2015:

Not one for beginners, I don’t think, or even intermediates, I dare say.

I found this to be very tough, and it took me much longer than average – using Jon’s formula comparing particular time taken to overall average time taken, I would put this down as a 1.666.

Quite a tour de force, with so much to admire in terms of subtle cluing and innovation. But quite a few answers stretched one’s vocabulary – NGAIOS and OCCIPITAL for example, a Russian author and an obscure (to me, at least) Chinese city.

I made a bit of a mess at the top, by entering “fair”instead of NAFF at 4d (it seemed to work at the time) and “agonis” instead of NGAIOS. To be fair to myself, “agonis” is an anagram of Saigon, with the crossing N in the right place and is an Australian shrub (although perhaps not a tree). This meant that I could not get 12a in, until I realised there was something, possibly even two somethings, wrong.

Had I spotted the nina earlier that might have helped. I am familiar with the phrase, but unsure of any relevance.

Lots to admire, but my nomination for Clue of the Day goes to 10d: ” Hands-free devices jerk constantly, leaving last two in dumps.” (7,7).

Back to January 2016 – which doesn’t seem like four years ago – for all the answers:

A gentle and accessible puzzle, I thought, just right for the first normalish day after the festivities. Certainly more so than yesterday’s offering which I really struggled with (although I admit that doing a crossword in the morning may be more productive than late on Boxing Day evening after some over-indulgence – for which I am unapologetic 🙂).

My first ones in were the two long across clues which were perhaps not the most well-known of carols, but they were very obviously clued and were straightforward anagrams so they opened up the grid nicely. Nearly everything else seemed uncontroversial. I struggled to parse CENTRE FORWARD although it was pretty clear what it ought to be when a few crossing letters were in. I know from recent comments that footballing terminology can be divisive in crosswordland, but surely this term is sufficiently well-known to provoke little objection. The parsing of STORM DRAIN also withheld its favours for a while, as I was fixated on “doctor” implying DR rather than MD, and “soldiers” accordingly being the Royal Marines. This left me wondering what “sto…ain” could possibly be. Fortunately a family member looking over my shoulder showed me the error of my ways…

The clues had good surfaces, but only one made me laugh: “Show more ingenuity than fool in adult place of learning (6).”.

Back to this time of year in 2014 for all the answers:

A few days ago we had Iodine clued using the letter I as the definition. Had that not been so recently in my mind I might have struggled with EINSTEINIUM, as I usually miss those element symbols, cunningly and mischievously passing themselves off as pronouns, or, as in this case, mind-changing substances.

I thought this was a tough one, although it rewarded the effort with lots to admire, and was ultimately a very satisfying solve. SPLINTER GROUPS was good, once I had given up trying to get “needles” into it somehow. But in particular the shorter entries, which I often find challenging, were very pleasing: the unusually-clued TOE, ADA, which was very neat (after I had recovered from being misled into looking for French notes…) and the delightfully clued ROO.

I struggled with some. The parsing of ECTOMORPHIC, which I got through definition and crossing letters, held out until I wrote it backwards, when it fell into place. And did anyone at all work out how SELF-DESTRUCTED works? I didn’t.

GO TO ANY LENGTHS was weakly clued, I thought. And I put a question mark next to UNDERFOOT, which I likewise thought strained. (I had written in “underdogs” early on before JESTER showed me the error of my ways.

TURKEY was an early entry, and I wondered about a seasonal theme, but it was not to be.

Clue of the Day has to go to the aforementioned ROO: “A developer in another’s pocket becomes such a bounder. (3).”

December 2014:

i Cryptic Crossword 2761 Vigo

December 13, 2019

Crosswordland is never far away and is a pleasure to visit. The rules work somewhat differently there, and although there are sometimes frustrations, disappointments never last for long and one’s fellow-visitors can usually help when perplexed.

This was a delight. A simple, straightforward puzzle, certainly at the easy end of the spectrum, so very accessible, and none the worse for that. At the end of my solve there were absolutely no question marks and a lot of ticks in the margin. If I had one criticism it would be only that it was a bit heavy on anagrams for my taste. But then again, when I was a beginner-solver, I was glad of the anagrams, as I sort of knew where I was with them.

I struggled only a little in the SE corner, because I could not unthink “columnist” for 24a, when I had the crossing L, I and T.

Special mention must be made of the gendering in 1a – as crosswordland can seem a little patriarchal still – although not when Vigo is our setter.

Clue of the Day for me was the amusingly allusive 4d: “What was lost in the Freudian era?” (9).

First seen in the Independent in October 2015:

i Cryptic Crossword 2749 Anax

November 29, 2019

What is it about crosswords and “ravioli”? It seems to crop up regularly, seemingly with a barely-changed clue. I suppose it makes a change from that other Italian crossword staple, “lasagne”.

This was, to my mind, a fine, absorbing and enjoyable crossword, although a somewhat challenging one. Not because the generality of clues were anything less than fair, but because of elliptical definitions (“See relevant” or “a water feature”, for example) or unfamiliar answers like ORTHOCLASE and OUTLAWRY, and perhaps SASQUATCH.

I could not parse COSTA RICA, but looking at the commentary on Fifteensquared, I think that is me, not the clue. Neither could I see how GRITS works, although that seems to have provoked no comment, so I am probably missing something obvious.

This was a Did Not Finish for me, as FREE at 25d eluded me, as it was one of those annoying four-letter clues with the initial letter not crossing, and too many potential words for me to plough through them and work out the right one.

Clue of the day? Lots of very impressive anagrams, but for neatness alone I propose 26a “One exemplified by ‘good’. (3)”.

To September 2015:

If “business” needs certainty, as we have been regularly informed over the last couple of years, how much more do crossword-solvers feel frustrated by a lack of clarity?

Often we have a few question marks in the margin and I for one never feel truly satisfied with my solving experience if these queries are not resolved. In today’s puzzle it was DENIAL that caused the disappointment. I got the answer from an electronic trawl and – eventually – twigged that the definition was Negation; the word-play completely eluded me.

But the real frustration came from strangely wanting to know more about the story behind the nina and the mini ghost-theme. Duncan over on Fifteensquared did a nice imaginative job telling the story, and I found myself drawn in…

I had a few other question marks. I could not work out the word play for TABLOID. I wondered, when solving EN ARRIERE, about how much foreign language answers have a place in a daily cryptic. And how much knowledge of German suburbs does one need; although WEDDING was fairly obvious from the definition and crossing letters?

Clue of the Day? When the day in question is the bicentennial of her birth, it has to be 5d: ” ‘ Love isn’t to be trifled with.’ (Eliot?)” (8)

September 2015:


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” opined Tolstoy in Anna Karenina – and something similar can be said about the fairness or unfairness of crossword clues.

Some of this puzzle was quite straightforward – with a fair combination of definition, word-play and crossing letters – and a good three-quarters I was able to enter readily and with confidence. But then it got more difficult and I started to struggle, and in the end I needed recourse to electronic lists and the suchlike.

REMORA was an unfair clue. The anagram of “more” was clearly signalled; but RA for (Republic of) Argentina is unhelpful. AR would have been ok, I think, if there had been some sort of reversal indicator. And REMORA is an obscure answer, and difficult to find in the thesaurus when you don’t have the initial letter.

KRAY, whilst being a very amusing clue, was also unfair. It’s a four-letter word, and they are often more difficult than one would think. Both the two uncrossed lights could have taken either vowels or consonants, which means there is a high number of potential answers. And we are not given the first letter which again makes it much harder to trawl through lists.

I could moan about a couple of others as well, but I’ll hold back and wait to read what others think.

On the positive side, there were some very amusing ones. I liked SAFARI PARK and the old chestnut IBERIANS. My nomination for Clue of the Day, though, goes to 15d: “Purchase one of two farm tools, say, no matter how. (2,4,2,2,5).

Initially published in September, 2015:

One measure of when cruciverbaphilia tips over into cruciverbamania could be how excited the solver feels at the prospect of a possible pangram. Getting a Z in the second clue I read, and my first one in, ELIZABETH, had me positively brimming over with anticipatory delight. Of course, as we now know, this was nowhere near a pangram, so perhaps that sort of excitement, generated by a mere crossword, is more a measure of the limited horizons in my otherwise, dull and probably meaningless life…☺.

This was a nice, straightforward and, I believe, accessible puzzle. Only TITLARKS caused me to put a question mark in the margin. I suppose TLA is indeed a three-letter acronym, but not one, I venture, that anyone beyond this crossword has ever used, and it is in danger of disappearing into itself in a kind of self-referential loop. Once the crossing Ts and K were in, the only three-letter acronym I could come up with was the commonplace TLC. The answer was pretty obvious, even to one with a limited knowledge of birds – but that bit of word-play seemed unsatisfactory, shall we say?

I was momentarily tempted to enter “noggin” at 2d, seeing the crossing O, G and N, and thinking how unbearable a lack of booze having no gin would be. But the only Noggin I knew would not have turned anyone to stone. Fortunately, my childhood reading stretched beyond Noggin the Nog to Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of the Greek Heroes, so I was able quickly to put in the right answer.

RARA AVIS caused a moment’s frowning, but once the crossers were in the word-play left only limited options, and googling confirmed the answer, even if the definition was a touch allusive.

I enjoyed the clue for LITTLE JOHN, which made me smile, but the nomination for Clue of the Day from this solver, who eagerly awaits Topsy’s recently-promised puppy-themed crossword, goes to 24a: “Produce litter with assistance (5)”.

From the Independent in September 2015: