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: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/09/17/independent-9025-nestor/

Another tough but thoroughly rewarding solve to end the week!

Entering 1a – OVERSEAS – instantly lulled me into a false sense of security, making me think that this would be an usually (given my previous track record in solving Rorschach’s puzzles) accessible crossword. But then I read all the Across clues until the last – MEANTIME – before having any idea about anything; and likewise on my first read-through of the Down clues. My solving experience was not helped by some people with completely misplaced priorities – what could be more important than a crossword? – making demands on my time. But once I got going then slowly but surely the clues began to become unravellable.

There were some impressive anagrams: ESCAPE MECHANISM, SPECTATOR SPORTS, and IVAN THE TERRIBLE, the last being particularly entertaining.

There were quite a few which I struggled to parse, notably OXBRIDGE, KIMONO, and FERRIS, none of which made sense to me beyond their definitions. BATHE being defined by “cover”, “speed” for BREEZE and EFFETE to mean “spent” all seem to me to be close to dubious.

No need to resort to aids today, except to check that AGRESTIAL was a real word. It seems it is.

Lots to enjoy, and the anagrams were hard to beat, but my nomination for Clue of the Day goes to 7D “One engaging in manual work for butterfly producer?” (4-5).

A Saturday prize puzzle from July 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/07/25/independent-8943-by-rorschach-saturday-prize-puzzle-18-july-2015/

Yesterday Jon commented on how easy he found that day’s offering; I struggled with at least part of it, and so did one or two others, I believe. Consequently, all I am going to say is that today I must be on Klingsor’s wavelength.

This seemed to be an enjoyable romp which was all over a bit too quickly. Most answers went in fairly readily, although I did have to work on the parsing of one or two answers. Most were resolved without qualification, but two of them irked me. Should the “house” in 15d – the easily-got YORKSHIRE – be “houses”? There would be no detriment to the surface reading of the clue if it were, and the grammar of the instruction to insert would then be correct. And what is “lassie” doing in 13a? I’m still not sure, despite considering the musings on Fifteensquared.

I was temporarily stalled by an imagined “speed bump” at 1d, which I put in while saying to myself “I’ll go back and parse it later”. When the crossing 14a refused to yield I spotted my mistake.

5d and 10d are joint runners-up,but the prize today I award to 17d: “One at party making cryptic threat? (3,6)”. It made me smile and was nicely done.

First appearance in August 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/08/13/independent-8995-klingsor/

A very clever offering from Morph today with an unusual, possibly unique, nina linked to two ghost-theme linked entries across the middle. On getting a Q and a J I half-expecting a pangram, but it was something rather more pleasing than that.

This seemed hard to me, with quite a few where the parsing was somewhat elusive, including the two long connected entries. It was a relief to see that the good folk over on Fifteensquared thought so too. There was extensive discussion about AUTOMATE, but since French genders were never my strong suit (see what I did there!) that all passed me by… The “Be”in 17d irritated me, as did COPYCAT for reasons I could not quite pin down.

Clue of the Day? I bid 7d “Kind of acid remark heard by those leaving Casablanca bar.” Quite why some at Fifteensquared thought it could be something other than it was is beyond me.

July 2015: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/07/02/independent-8959-by-morph/

How many crosswords, I wonder, have the same entry twice? In how many crosswords would putting the same entry twice be not only pleasing but most appropriate? I’m interested – curious – to know. ☺

Hob has created a veritable gem of a crossword today, with a theme permeating both clues and answers and a nina to boot. Often I find Hob to be on the the challenging side, but I positively raced through this one finishing it in about three-quarters of an hour. There was a nice mix of clues, if somewhat heavy on anagrams. The crossing UMBEL and CEMBALI were both unknown to me, and I had to guess them – correctly, as it happens! – from the clear word-play and the four given letters from the other clues, and confirm them by googling.

ROOT at 10A I could not parse, and I was relieved to read that there was a little puzzlement about this over on Fifteensquared. I am inclined to agree with Sidey that it is a cryptic definition referring to the book in question.

Lots to enjoy, but the nomination for Clue of the Day has to go to 2D “After a piece of cake, no longer small – 15 and 17, she said.”