Saturday 7th October 2017

I can only remember encountering this particular grid before in a Phi puzzle, and once again I struggled with those crossing four-letterers in two of the corners – in effect 8 letters with just two checking squares. Last ones in again.

The theme was clear enough – I got there via the Jubilee clue at 3d – and it added an extra dimension of fun to proceedings, without making it a write-in by any means. I suppose it felt a bit unfamiliar once 28a was solved because it then became a guessing game of words which precede silver, but altogether an enjoyable puzzle and completed in fairly short measure.

COD? Now I’ve seen the Fifteensquared blog here, I think I agree with RatkojaRiku:

11a Meadow flowers shaking off drops following 28 (4)


Saturday 30th September 2017

Four 15-letter lights is always nice to see, and overall this puzzle was a fine one. However it did contain three of my bêtes noires so, if you’ll forgive me, I shall take the opportunity to offload:

17a. The use of wordplay components like San for hospital. ENT or A&E are fine, but nobody uses words like san (or gam, lam etc.) except crossword setters. These imports from the world of barred puzzles must be off-putting for people new to crosswords.

1a. Using a girl’s forename to clue an obscurity. Well Lemma is obscure to me, at any rate, and there are literally hundreds of 4-letter girls’ name, scores of which begin with a vowel. Then there’s that word ‘used’ doing nothing in the middle.

24a. Clueing obscurities with anagrams – especially foreign terms.  We had ‘Tiers Etat’ defined as ‘Commons’ and the anagram was ‘treaties + t’.  Without searching through a dictionary, this only works if you know the term already. If an answer is obscure, the wordplay must be tight to compensate, and anagrams could be anything.

And that’s without mentioning Nicodemus – a pivotal character from the gospels – being clued as ‘guy’.

Heigh-ho, it was all solved easily enough, so I’m not complaining really, just expressing my preferences.

COD: 9a Warlike? Slight switch in that to describing matrimony (7)

Fifteensquared blog from 2013 here.

Saturday 23rd September 2017

Phi has been enjoying a rich run of form with his crosswords over the last 3 or 4 weeks, and for me this was the best of them – worthy of Puzzle of the week status I thought, even if the praise over on Fifteensquared is less than fulsome – ‘Clever rather than fun’, says one… Eesh, there’s no pleasing some people!

Each across clue was for a two-worder split across the lights of consecutive rows, so that they all flowed together and from the bottom round to the beginning again. And the clues were just the sort I like –plenty of challenge to unpick the complexities, but no need for a dictionary or going on-line.

My favourite was one that I’m sure had most of us puzzled until a few crossers were in place. Here it is again:

11/12a PTO, in various cases, for measure of sales? (8, 4)

Saturday 16th September 2017

A super puzzle from Phi last Saturday which reminded me of the early days of the i, when the paper cost 20p and Phi, along with Virgilius, was my favourite setter.

29/9 meant Tempest character, of course, and we had to discover Prospero, Ariel, Caliban, Ferdinand and Stephano. To shoe-horn a couple of 15-letterers into the grid along with the theme was quite a feat, and I found the whole thing very pleasing indeed.

Some discussion over on Fifteensquared as to whether the Caliban clue is breaking the ‘double duty’ rule. I took ‘imprisoned?’ to be a cryptic direction meaning ‘put in the can’ – a bit like ‘on board’ for put in SS – so with the question mark it was definitely fine in my book.

Also an enigmatic comment from Phi at comment 16 – will we find out today?

COD: 21d Shock with priest leaving, ushering in new dawn (7)



Saturday 9th September 2017

Phi on good form, I thought with a pleasing spread of clue types and difficulties. Just one at the end, 23d, which stayed unsolved until the following day – a clever bit of ‘misdirection-via-punctuation’.

Full answers and clues from 2013 can be found here, where I’m grateful to learn that in 7a the second definition, ‘when we all learn to fly’ is related to the answer by whimsy – I did wonder.

And what of the Latin in 24a? To some it will have been a mystery, some will have known the phrase perfectly (stand up AndyT), my Dad (on the other side of the kitchen table now) just sang the whole thing to me, gave me a translation and is currently giving a linguistic analysis (the things I have to put up with) but all I could muster last Saturday was ‘Gaudethingummy whatsit’ – and that only from an earlier crossword by Phi!

Heigh-ho, at least it’s easy enough to find in Chambers once you’ve got those first 5 letters. And click here for a refreshing version – worth it for the guy in the lab drinking what is presumably a glass of Grappa.

COD: 7d Extended sentence? Prisoners not initially angry (4-9)

Saturday 2nd September 2017

IT IS THE NINETEENTH OF APRIL appeared around the periphery which was the date that the puzzle originally appeared back in 2013 – see the Fifteensquared blog here. I spent most of the puzzle trying to work out what the Nina was likely to be – a bit like this Topic advert from my childhood.

Up until yesterday (when Rorschach’s 6-month-old nephew’s name appeared in full) that was the least significant Nina I’d ever seen, but who knows, maybe next week we’ll get ‘Ooh, look at that great big spider’ or ‘Do you fancy a cup of cha-cha luv?’

Clues a tad harder than usual , with Arpeggione being new to me. I recommend this bit of playing for anyone interested.

And here’s what I’m sure will be a popular nomination for COD:

11a Prominent part of male anatomy appals dame when waved (5,5)

Saturday 26th August 2017

Another Phi without theme or Nina, I’m guessing that the long anagrams at 10a and 26a were the starting points with which our setter seeded the puzzle this time.

Not too much to say about this one really. In common with the impeccable duncanshiell at Fifteensquared back in 2013, I question the linking of the clues for 9d and 21d, giving neither a definition other than the other’s answer.  Never mind rules or no, libertarian or Ximinean, I just didn’t enjoy the ruse, sorry Phi.

Other than that, this was good solid fare, with quite a few ticks and more than the usual ration of fairly unusual words, one of which is the answer to my COD:

6d Reappearance of the old crumpled visa in hole in wall (7)



Standing in for JonofWales with some trepidation on a Thursday, I was delighted to see Klingsor’s name – I’m a bit of a fan, you see. He didn’t disappoint, with plenty of ingenuity to keep me gripped and some beautifully constructed clues, including a generous serving of &Lits (where the definition is also the wordplay  & the whole clue).  Mind you, there were a couple I couldn’t parse (1a, 27a) and one, 21a, I gave up on.  Maybe if I’d left it and come back later in the day it would have been obvious, but with the answer just a computer click away and a blog to be posted, I gave up at the death.

Just right for what is traditionally a fairly stiff challenge sort of a day (for some reason) I can see why its original Monday appearance raised a few eyebrows over at Fifteensquared.

COD: 15a. Primarily, any thing embodying parts evil and doubly good? (7,3)

Genius, I thought, even if it was one where you get it and only realise why afterwards.


Saturday 19th August 2017

If there was a theme here – something to do with Captain Kirk/ the USS Wayfarer & aerospace, or perhaps Jane someone – then I couldn’t spot it. Rather does it seem like this was a grid built around that top rate 15-letterer down the spine of the grid, which is my stand-out choice for COD:

5d Struggle against puzzle’s ingenuity around second hour (5,6,4)

Mind you, there were a few other clues from Phi’s top drawer, plus an interestingly light use of anagrams, so this was all things considered one of my favourite Saturday offerings in a while.

Just a few in the SE corner which held things up at the end until my sister came to the rescue – but she’s the sort to polish off the Inquisitor in a couple of hours, so consulting her feels a lot like cheating.

Update:  Now that I’ve seen the 2013 blog here, it turns out that there is a theme – of Star Trek captains – Way, Archer and possibly one or two more hidden in the unches – not my specialist subject though!

In the comments section Phi opines that ghost themes are the best sort of themed puzzles, and says why.  I agree with him, although I would add that I think they are best when flagged clearly enough for a significant minority to spot them (rather than a minority of one!).


Saturday 12th August 2017

In which we had a theme of Salman Rushdie novels – well, three of them, all from the 1980’s. Namely Midnight(‘s) Children, Shame and (The) Satanic Verses.

We also had fully twelve deletions – Dan(e), Ger(man), (re)verses, cras(he)s, (f)orint, Tren(t), (o)rgy, rotte(n), se(t), (t)ex(t)ile, and enac(t) – which might possibly be a record, even for Phi.

A sprinkling of words and phrases which were unfamiliar too – Avernus, white leather, and the aforementioned forint – plus the only Emil I ever met was French!

In truth I rather ran out of steam on this one, turning to Wordsearch for help with four or five still to go. I think it’s the deletion thing; in my book it ranks as a relatively tricky wordplay device. Once solved though, all was able to be parsed, and at least I spotted the Rushdie thing.

COD: 17d Nick’s appropriate for some prisoners at a nick (7)

2013 blog here.