Surprisingly easy for the most part from the often-fiendish Punk, and a relief after yesterday’s exertions, I polished off all but the last 3 or 4 in double-quick time, but had quite a pause on the last two – the intersecting 23a PUNCTUATION and 19d DYNASTY. The former I couldn’t fully parse, probably because I was working on-line and had no idea as to the name of the setter (it would be a kindness if the editor could include the name for those of us with painfully slow internet and a 20-mile round trip to the nearest newsagent) and the latter I thought was a bit unfair: ‘one of seven’ is a bit too indirect to indicate ‘day’ for my liking.

When choosing my nomination for Clue Of the Day I was tempted by the dinky idea for KINDER SCOUT at 11a, and furthermore I generally steer clear of gratuitous toilet humour – but this is Punk, so I’m going to make an exception:

COD 30a Swedish exercise to evacuate area in an escape of wind? (7)

All the answers and parsings can be found by clicking here.

Phi was on top form with this one I thought – a good smattering of easier clues to get us started then some really masterful examples of his work with the likes of 9a FINGERNAIL, an excellent reverse hidden in 1d AFFILIATE and 11d MOTHERLESS. 26a and 3d also got approving ticks. However I shall be visiting my Aged Pater and his sickly legs in hospital later today, where I hope to be witnessing the surface reading of today’s COD, and as a result of its solution. Here it is again:

1a Healing action at work around most of leg bone (10)

A propitious omen?

We also saw a repeat of ideas seen in two recent CODs – 8d FATAL (hopefully not an omen!) and yesterday’s ‘Ivan’ returning this time as IRATE. Given that these things are often submitted to the editor months in advance, we’ll just say great minds think alike.

On the other hand I failed to parse either 6a LOAF or 23a KNOCKOUTS properly, so turned to Duncan’s excellent blog over on Fifteensquared (click here), where in the comments Phi tells us the gridfill was inspired by a list of the least sexy-sounding words in English. Can you guess which ones from the puzzle made the list?

I’ll tell you – it’s phlegm, spatula, mutton, wart, ointment, snorkel, fingernail, loaf, and Keith. He also asks us if we can think of any words which have a nicer sound than we might expect given their meaning – my vote goes to the mellifluous-sounding ‘miasma’.

Agelast, Cabochon, Cumarin, Spikenard and Superordinates. Not part of my everyday vocabulary either, but there they were among the canonical clues like Average and Vacant which probably get clued in much the same way in the Junior Puzzle Compendium.

Despite that range of vocabulary in the answers, plus a bit of Latin and the French for pig being required to work out the wordplay, I nevertheless found this to be a pretty straightforward puzzle, coming in bang on average time for a solve in the i.

The pick for COD wins it by a mile, particularly if you come from a Poldark-obsessed family like mine. Indeed if you type ‘Poldark wedding’ into Google images and scroll down past the TV stars, the couple on the beach are Mrs Cornick & me about 25 years ago.

1a This thread cut by Poldark wife? (9)

And for yet more fun, you can read Tees giving it some in his riposte to a critic on Fifteensquared back in 2016 here.

‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ asked the Gileadites. And if he said ‘No’, they would retort: ‘Say Shibboleth.’ He would say ‘Shibboleth’, and because he could not pronounce the word properly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of Jordan. At that time forty-two thousand men of Ephraim lost their lives.

Judges 12 6-7. Let that be a lesson to you.

A Sunday reprint usually means a fairly gentle excursion to Crosswordland, and so it proved again. I must have done scores of Hypnos puzzles, but still his personality seems somewhat elusive. Decent stuff today though. Both long anagrams were very good, I liked ‘Dreamy female’ for ALICE in 12a a lot better than I did ‘woman’ for SAL in 15d, but no real complaints to speak of.

For COD I’m going for one with a topical surface – that being no mean feat to pull off when you’re writing clues 4 years before the event:

20d Effect of holiday for all to see in returning group – infection? (7)

All the answers are here.

This was Peter’s first crossword when it appeared in the IoS online in 2016, and very well crafted it was too. Right at the easiest end of the Indy spectrum, this would be an ideal crossword to recommend for anyone very new to what is obviously the best pastime in the world; on the other hand experienced solvers will have doubtless polished it off in a jiffy.

I did it one quarter at a time, each completed before moving on to the next (this grid didn’t give as much interlinking between them as I would have liked, if your reading this Peter) with only the spelling of Picallily (or whatever it is) holding me up for a bit at one point. Not my condiment of choice that one, but another good clue.

So no quibbles from me, my favourite among the clues being this one:

24d Extolling the virtues of peeled fruit (6)

Peter – who I think I’m correct in saying is a she – is likely to be appearing about once a month for the foreseeable.

Click here for the answers and comments back then.

So JonofWales’ prediction was correct and we do indeed have Dac to keep us company today – and very pleasant company it is too. The editor continues to ring the changes at the weekend then, and I dare say a few new solvers might be hooked in by this one, which had all the trademark Dac characteristics of super-smooth surfaces that actually make sense – consider ‘Not enjoying a night out’ for example, an almost complete lack of obscurities – just Franklin and Matchup this time, neither exactly from Oddsville, and a level of difficulty which, although we must always remember these are fiendishly hard for someone who’s never done a cryptic crossword before, was surely a swift solve for anyone who does them regularly; certainly it came in well below my average solving time.

I’m going to repeat a line from Katheryn’s Dad I’ve just seen in the comments at Fifteensquared (with all the answers, just click here): ‘To quote Virgilius/ Brendan when asked what made for a good puzzle: ‘One that the solver can finish’ ‘.

Hard to pick a favourite in such a well-balanced puzzle, but I do like a good Cornish river, so here’s my COD:

22a By side of Cornish River, left winger collapsed (6,2)

Still no return to prizes on a Saturday, so I’m able to bring you the link to today’s answers right away; simply click here to see RatkojaRiku’s blog from 2016.

A middle-of-the-fairway sort of puzzle from Phi which I enjoyed solving, this came as something of a relief after yesterday’s shenanigans. I tried to start in the NW corner without finding a foothold – when I returned there at the end I got the traction I needed by cracking the excellent use of ‘Wells novel about Earth’ in 2d. Very good that, and Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion are doubtless something I should have known about; Phi does, he’s an astronomer.

There was a subtle theme this week which was nicely done: ‘GREEK LETTERS’ in rows 11 and 13, while the other rows contained, going from top to bottom: RHO, PSI, NU, MU, PI, ETA, PI (again), and CHI – do let me know if I’ve missed any. No, I didn’t spot that myself, but it’s a nice idea from PHI. The obscurities TISRI and TUI were fine – I wonder if New Zealand is the home of the travel company that’s been advertised so heavily in the last couple of years?

My favourite clues were those for Topside, Intoxicant, Base Metal, Emollient, Mushroomed, Childbirth and the aforementioned 2d, but top spot goes this week to a smoothly constructed clue for a word that one might think very difficult to clue at all:

13a Show respect in church, God’s foremost chosen to hold frivolity back (9)

Apparently there’s a ghost theme, presumably related to the last book that Phi happened to read before setting this puzzle. Most annoying. You can read about that in the comments to John’s original blog here. Nobody realised. Completely pointless.

The clues themselves were largely enjoyable, for the most part straightforward, and probably a little easier than average for Phi. Mercifully free from obscurities (Aconcagua is the highest mountain outside the Himalayas so should be known), my only question mark at the end was for the definition of OPERA as ‘Garden display say’ – I thought it must have had a second meaning – although it went down well for those who twigged that that was a reference to Covent Garden. Then LA in 7d was new, but it had to be.

Deletions – which I always think of as a Phi speciality – featured prominently again: abandoned, releasing, cut down, to avoid, leaving, losing, discontinued , and avoids. There was also an interesting pairing of 3d LUCID and 19d UNCLEAR with neither being defined other than as not the other – I quite liked that. Another thing I can’t remember seeing before was the nifty use of ‘@’ in 20a.

My COD nomination, however, goes to the following:

14a I leave after receiving new tirade not affected by knowledge (8)

This crossword had my favourite way to convey a theme: ALL of the across words were thematic – terrific. I like that. I twigged said theme – of Derby Winners with just 3 across solutions entered: Melton, Cicero, and Nijinsky. Rather wonderfully the 241st Epsom Derby, having been postponed from June, is being staged today. Nice work by the editor.

My COD was the following:

4d Physically attractive type creating an exhibition in the street (6)

Which had a surface reading that created a powerful picture for the imagination, playing with two meanings of ‘exhibition’ and having a nice spot of EXPO inside the word we were looking for.  I also quite liked the clues for 5d ‘Sparkler’ and 22d ‘Gentry’

All the answers can be found by clicking on the excellent and comprehensive blog by Beermagnet from right back in 2014 which can be found by clicking here.

Unfortunately with that I’ve completely run out of anything positive to say at all. Amongst the many things I didn’t like in the puzzle, the worst offender was surely the absence of definitions for the across words beyond being Derby winners, which meant that unless we were students of the history of this race, we only had wordplay to work with for most of the across clues without resorting to a list from the internet. And that seems to rather defeat the point of a cryptic clue.

I could go on but fear I would bore you. Sorry Mr Manley, let’s hope some others liked it.

On Fifteensquared this week Kathryn’s Dad wrote these words: ‘There’s an art and a skill to compiling cryptics, but there’s an additional ability to produce interesting crosswords week in, week out’. I couldn’t agree more, and that’s why I will always admire setters like Phi, Quixote, Punk and Dac and those from other papers who can do so.

No theme or Nina this week, and a pretty smooth gridfill hereabouts for the most part. No need to check CAPARISONED or OPERA SERIA because although both were only on the very edges of my vocabulary, they were very clearly clued. My only hold-up came right at the end on the intersecting SHINGUARD and DUKEDOM. I’m no great fan of definitions like ‘one protects’ for the former and fist = duke didn’t come to mind for the latter. I wondered if I’ve heard ‘show me your dukes’ in a gangster movie somewhere, but Collins has it as Cockney rhyming slang: Duke of Yorks/Forks/ Fingers.  Anyhow, all finished with nothing else particularly obscure or difficult – I imagine anyone tackling a cryptic would know the story of Sisyphus and won’t have struggled with 2d, but then again we’re all allowed gaps!

Runners-up for COD were the excellent clue for 11a already referred to, and the nifty Straight Cryptic for SIDEWALK at 16d, but I’m plumping for the following:

22a Angry Left encouraged following protocol in sit-in? (5-6)

All the answers and parsings from March 2016 can be found by clicking here.

Finally I feel duty-bound to point out, whenever it crops up as it did in the comments on the other side, that a tomato is a fruit in the garden, yes, but a vegetable as soon as it enters the kitchen. Strange but true.