Saturday 5th August 2017

Am I the only one for whom last Saturday seems an awfully long time ago? We had Phi back in his usual slot with a very respectable crossword puzzle – enjoyable and a shade easier than medium difficulty for the i, I’d say.  No theme or Nina, but the four long clues were all anagrams or substantial part anagrams, which will have appealed to some more than others.

The minor issue of whether or not apostrophes should be enumerated in the clue cropped up again with ‘Pièces d’occasion’ being clued as (6,9)– all I can say is, that’s the convention, so be on the alert for it!

I’ve rather forgotten about this puzzle, alas, so am grateful to the 2013 blog here for reminding me what a good clue 25a was. Here it is again:

NASA’s expertise producing tyre? (8)

i Prize Cryptic Crossword 2020 by Hypnos

Saturday 29th July 2017

Given that Hypnos puzzles typically appear in the Independent on Sunday, it seems only natural to include his/ her puzzles in the Weekend i. The editor’s dilemma is that experienced solvers with more time on their hands at the weekend will want a harder puzzle, whereas potential new solvers in the same situation might be tempted by something of a gateway puzzle.  Clearly the latter won out last weekend and this will have been a very quick solve for the regular contributors to this site – I’d be thrilled to hear from any new recruits to the blog though  🙂

And maybe I should pluck up courage and tackle that Inquisitor?

Clue of the Day: 22a Fantastic honeymoon called for poem (3,2,10)

2013 blog plus a picture puzzle here.

A super example of all that Dac does so well.  Lovely smooth surfaces (of course) and definitely at the easier end of his range, there were still a few bits of innovative jiggery-pokery to keep us on our toes.

There’s some discussion over at Fifteensquared as to whether or not ‘premier cru?’ breaks Afrit’s injunction to ‘say what you mean’ – well maybe it wouldn’t pass by the editor at the Times, but thank goodness the Independent/ i allows for this kind of creativity – I thought 16a was a terrific clue – almost as amusing as that Aussie burglar with a fondness for premier cru champagne…

However, amongst stiff competition from those ‘anagram plus’ clues, I’m plumping for the following neat combination as COD:

20a Mathematician from London college taking part in festival (6)

Saturday 22nd July 2017

Phi at the top of his game last week, I thought. Nothing particularly hard – I agree with the general sentiment that Phi has been going gentle on us of late – but lots of fine crafting went in to those clues.  It’s no mean feat to create a satisfying 7-word clue for ‘half-lives’, for example, and there were plenty of others where Phi showed how he’s a master of creating smooth clues for tricky looking words.

I’m a sucker for the novelty type of clue so, and despite its having a somewhat implausible surface reading and there also being plenty of strong competition, I’ll plump for the following as my COD:

3d Greek mountain, nineteen letters about height (5)

2013 blog with answers is here.

P.S.  Have just read said blog to discover a Cloud Atlas theme – see the final comment on the other side. Didn’t spot it, it’s quite subtle, but I do remember thinking about it whilst solving 11a (I first met the word Orison via a chapter called ‘The Orison of Omni 451’).  Great book and film.

A new setter to mark puzzle 2017, Commoner seems to have been a once-a-month Sunday compiler for a couple of years back in 2013-15.  You can read the full blog from his first outing at Fifteensquared here. So no Dac on a Wednesday, no JonofWales, and the blog’s going out before 9 – better check the world’s still spinning on its axis and the sun came up.

An enjoyable puzzle, when I saw an unfamiliar name I wondered if I’d be able to finish and do the blog over breakfast… I needn’t have worried – this was a continental rather than a full English.  No quibbles, a sprinkling of ticks, one new word (hands up who else had the plant at 12d as their last one in) and the following as my COD:

20a Wickedness shown by masculine aggression – not displaying it at first (11)

Saturday 15th July 2017

Phi has confounded me for the second week running by giving us a ‘normal’ puzzle again. One unfamiliar term for me – ‘Fit to be tied’ – but once I had all the crossers, then it had to be, really.

Quite a few very good clues in there – fully 11 receiving ticks of admiration in the margin – amongst which, and narrowly pipping  1a to my COD award, was the following:

23a Setbacks when invaded by two attacks of illness (5-5)

And here’s the link to the Fifteensquared website from the spring of 2013, where that unfamiliar expression gets a good deal of attention; it seems to be ‘Canadian adopted from American’ – which is presumably different to being, well, American…

Saturday 8th July 2017

One of the quickest solves for a Phi puzzle that I can remember.

In a room full of verbose people, some might call me ‘the verbose one’, but I’ve really very little to say about it.  Just a nice mix of clue devices and lateral thinking but generally – and despite the ‘1,1’ grid – these were 24 pretty accessible clues.

COD, which was also the trickiest to parse:

19a Arrogant personal quality, boarding boat and tucking into trifle (5-5)

Fortunately the problems in earlier weeks with linking to Fifteensquared blogs for prize puzzles seem to have been ironed out.  Here’s the one you might be after.

Saturday 1st July 2017

In which Phi seems to have started with a skeleton of four long idiomatic phrases and then, in yet another example of his extraordinary grid filling, he peppered the rest of the puzzle with a selection from his list of ‘new and interesting’ words; maintained in his whare, no doubt.

So we had: Scofflaw, Simoom, Ramjet, Wazzock, Woomera and Bisque (in the croquet sense). I’m guessing that Damask, Neutrino, Zeeland, Owleries, Quinine, Ambrosial, Aloe Vera and Roman (as a novel) will have already been familiar to anyone fond enough of words to be tackling cryptic crosswords in the i.

Having knocked about a bit in a pretty eclectic sort of a way I have variously encountered all of those apart from scofflaw and ramjet. Fortunately they were both very clear from the wordplay, so I was able to score a satisfying unaided home run.

For the COD, I’m minded to agree with Eimi in the comments on Fifteensquared underneath the answers.

13a How to silence a brogue (3,1,4,2,2)

And here’s that link.

Saturday 24th June 2017

Given that this was a Phi, and with a grid like that, regular solvers doubtless went in search of a possible Nina. All I could see was ‘PROSCENIUM’ in an arch shape across the top – slightly wonky or no, it was an idea waiting to be done, and Phi got there first. J

There was also a thin sprinkling of theatrical content underneath said arch at 13d, 17d and 19d,which seems slightly too much to be pure coincidence.

All pretty much regulation Phi quality stuff and enjoyable as per – although Rutabaga needed me to guess the Nina first, which then gave me that very useful first letter.

COD? Let’s go for 24a: Highly rated cold dessert with centre scooped out (6)

And here, thanks to JonofWales, in the comments below, is the link to the answers from 2013.


Saturday 17th June 2017

I was cruising along thinking this was going to be a breeze until I hit a bit of a brick wall on the last few – 12a, 26a, 2d and 24d which were stubborn enough for me to abandon the paper for a later sitting – whereupon all miraculously became apparent. Funny how that happens.

Phi gave us an especially ingenious grid fill: In case you didn’t notice, every answer started and finished with the same letter. I love that sort of thing, as is evident in a rather less original way in the few puzzles I’ve compiled myself (tenuous excuse for plugging my next in the Indy on-line, this coming Friday).

With some trepidation (people who live in glass houses and all that) I can’t help wondering if anyone else found some of the surface readings a bit clunky – by Phi’s normal standards that is? 11a seemed uncharacteristically so, for example… Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyhow, my favourite clue, taken from amongst several write-ins, was the following, because it was nice to see that ‘H’ indication again after what feels like decades:

24a One good between rugby posts, having senior ranking? (4)


It’s 11.30 and still no sign of the original blog being restored to Fifteensquared, so I’ve quickly rattled off my parsings. Apologies for any errors.


7 ANGELICA – middle letter of sweet inside Anglica{n}

8  EQUINE – quin inside last 2 letters of Aintree

10 TEXT – abbreviation for Texas + last letter of Department

11 KEEP IT DARK – IT (computer stuff) + D{uke} inside keep (castle) + ark

13 TOMCAT – MC (host)+ a{nnounced} inside tot

14 DETERRED – abbreviation for detective + erred

16 ENTIRE – 1 inside 6d (entrée) less its last letter

17 TRUEST – E inside trust

20 O SOLE MIO – (loose)* + I inside mo

22 MEDIUM – Ed{itor} + 1 inside mum

23 RESPIRATOR – (Reports air)*

24 See above

25 ERMINE – ER + in inside me

26 TRANSMIT – N{umber} inside (Tim’s art)<



1 ENVELOPE – n{ew} + (pole+v)< all inside middle letters of week

2 TENT – if you put ‘in’ with the answer (in this) you’d get intent (purpose)

3 TICKET – t{h)icket

4 REGISTER – Regis ter{m}. Almost my COD

5 DUNDERHEAD – under + h{ope} inside dead

6 ENTRÉE – E + {A1}ntree

8 AGENDA – gen inside ADA – presumably a computer language ?

13 CATALEPTIC – tale inside Capt. + i.c. – another terrific clue and word

16 REMARKER – re{d} marker

18 TRUE GRIT – rue + gri{p} inside TT

19 TOMTIT – t + omit including last letter of extinct

21 SWEARS – s + wears

22 MARRAM – a palindrome

24 HASH – double definition (Chambers has hash as number, U.S.)