Difficulty rating (out of five): Not sure; a mixture of 🌟🌟 and 🌟🌟🌟🌟

This was a puzzle that appeared on the i app. If you’re a subscriber to the newspaper it constitutes a sort of bonus puzzle.

It was mostly fairly straightforward but I struggled on a few in the NE and SW and couldn’t do the last 2 – LADY and REPUTE – without using the cheat button.

Here’s a clue I liked:

26a Attempt to catch large blue bouncing blob (7)

and here are all the answers:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/12/08/independent-9721-by-phi

And happy Mothering Sunday to all the Mum solvers who read idothei.

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Setters are always on the lookout for 15-letter entries, and it’s especially nice if they can find two that have a link. Today Serpent gave us WIDE SARGASSO SEA and CHARLOTTE BRONTE. What’s rather pleasing is that the former was written by JEAN RHYS and the latter was the writer of the symmetrically placed JANE EYRE. What’s utterly brilliant is that Serpent has linked the 20th century prequel writer to Ms Bronte’s classic with this clue:

13a 5 rearranged 18 using extremes of speech, rather than central characters (4,4)

I wonder if Ms Rhys realised the similarity between her name and the book from which she drew her inspiration? Probably. And I bet she’d have loved the clue – so it’s my CoD.

I’ve not read her book about the young Rochesters, but do remember the excellent TV film with Rebecca Hall. Oh, and I once played Mr Rochester with the local AmDram, but that’s another story.

There were lots of other brilliant clues too: the theme was linked to AUTHOR derived from Thor[e]au, then ETHOS, KNOWLEDGE, BLACK EYE, JACKBOOTS, and BONFIRE were all stand-outs. For cricket fans the surface reading of 1a is topical – the Windies are 232 for 8 at the time of writing.

And of course Serpent has managed all the above with a user-friendly grid and with no obscure entries needed to squeeze the theme in.

Whilst I didn’t share Bert&Joyce’s quibble about 1d EAGLE, I was unable to parse 9a GRANDPA, having never heard of GPA. It could just have easily have been GMA, but a lucky I guess at the close brought up the yellow tick on the app. For anyone solving on paper, it might have been necessary to look that one up.

I’ve given it 4* for difficulty, but actually it was a fairly swift solve because Serpent is so logical and his instructions so precise.

Here’s the link to the answers:

fifteensquared.net/2017/12/07/independent-9720-serpent

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

A sprinkling of difficult vocabulary today nudged us into 3* territory – BETWS-Y-COED and LINLITHGOW were both okay hereabouts but might have proved troublesome for some, then PONS ASINORUM was almost my, well, pons asinorum – but fortunately with all the crossers in place the remaining bits of anagram fodder meant it had to be Pons something-or-other and the dictionary came to the rescue – something new learned which I’ll have to drop into the conversation a few more times this weekend before it sticks.

Phi doesn’t worry too much about the plausibility of his surface readings sometimes, but when it comes to anagrams and choosing apposite words he is invariably first-rate. Witness my choice for CoD today:

12a Kendal sadly overlooking new firm behind one tourist area (4,8)

Also worthy of mentioning are the excellent clue for EARTHSHINE, the aforementioned Welsh town, and the nice use of ‘switching ends’ in the clue for SILO. My only unparsed clue was 1d SAGE – a deletion of 4 letters demanding too much of this solver – so that one was bunged in from the definition alone.

And, as you hand over the last of your i vouchers to the newsagent Topsy, we wish you well and hope you enjoyed a crossword with no drugs, sex, violence, bodily functions, drunkenness or even so much as an aperitif on show. Happy solving.

Here’s the link to the original blog from late 2017 with all the answers:

fifteensquared.net/2017/11/10/independent-9697-by-phi

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

No theme or Nina from Phi this time – just a good solid mostly straightforward crossword to pass the time for those junkies among us missing their daily cruciverbial fix in the newspaper.

With dog breeds being one of my general knowledge gappy bits,1a SHAR PEIS was always going to be a struggle, but generally I think this was between 2* and 3* level of difficulty – take your pick really.

My favourite today was this one, which elicited a groan as the penny dropped:

3d Italian friend capturing DutchΒ linguistic curiosityΒ (10)

Here’s the link to the blog by Bertandjoyce with answers and parsings:

fifteensquared.net/2017/12/01/independent-9715-phi

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

This puzzle seems to be a tribute to Hoskins’ fellow setter DUTCH – apart from 7d you may have spotted DOUBLE, ELM, COURAGE, OVEN, CAP, CLOGS, and UNCLE; all fitted into the grid without needing anything more obscure than the pretty well-known Italian island of ISCHIA. I’m delighted to see Dutch chipping in with the comment ‘Best puzzle ever’ on Fifteensquared!

And an extremely good puzzle it was indeed. Pretty tractable in the 2* sort of region of difficulty for the most part, but with a few clues that needed a bit of chewing over towards the end – like the aforementioned island and RAW DEAL – a film I didn’t know which was clued using one of the less obvious US agencies; hence 3* today.

My nomination for CoD among many strong candidates – like those for ECLECTIC and SIXTIETH – was this one:

23d Family member is dirty, having pinched bottom twice! (5)

Below is the link to all the solutions from 4 years back, as blogged by my favourite blogger in the Fifteensquared team, mc_rapper67. Oh, and he spotted the ghost theme, I didn’t.

fifteensquared.net/2018/02/17/independent-9781-by-hoskins

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

Five CATs hidden in the across lights; four DOGs hidden in the down lights. Did you spot them? Well I didn’t go looking, but it does explain the grid shape, because Phi would never use one like this unless something themed or Nina-ish was going on.

Some amusing clues today – I particularly liked 14a FALCONRY, 22a CLERGY, 26a CICATRIX (because it’s a lovely word that I think I’ve heard before but didn’t know what it meant till now) and 16d WHIT WEEK, but my CoD nomination goes to:

4d Long look suppressed by British singleton (8)

Also worthy of comment was 5d BOONDOGGLE, which as a non-Scout was a completely new word to me; I went to look up ‘Boongoggle’ in the dictionary (work = go seeming to make more sense than work = do) and promptly made the needed correction. Then we had the intersecting 4-letter entries at 10a and 2d, which I’ll wager were the last two in for many a solver today. Very tricky and after staring at them both blankly for ages I cheated on one which then enabled me to get the other. So not a complete solve unfortunately, although the parsing for both was obvious enough in retrospect.

Here’s the link to all the answers from 4 years ago:

fifteensquared.net/2018/02/16/independent-9780-phi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

A reasonably similar experience to yesterday’s puzzle greeted us this morning. There were some very nicely put together clues like those for SCEPTICAL or ADVOCACY but my CoD goes to 1a:

Bachelor pulsating with energy in domestic garment? (8)

Solving was remarkably trouble-free and straightforward hereabouts, but the general knowledge content may or may not have been conducive to everyone, these things being somewhat random of course. There’s Man City’s ridiculously successful manager, a fairly current pop singer, a 1970s Woody Allen film, a model from the same era, a Hollywood leading actor, a G & S operetta, a flowering garden perennial, and a village of 300 souls in Scotland which I didn’t know existed, although the Glen in which it’s located made it obvious.

I suspect any problems that might have arisen will have come from not knowing any of those, rather than the clueing, although there were a couple of unusual ideas in that department too: notably the single letter S was replaced by the 5-letter anagram of ‘Uncle’ in 15d TRUCULENT (an unusual level of asymmetry), and ‘internally upset’ was used to change ‘Nine’ into NNIE in 6d ANNIE HALL.

Here’s the link to the blog with the answers from 4 years ago. Thanks to S & B.

fifteensquared/2018/02/18/independent-on-sunday-1460-hypnos

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

Which was as bright & breezy as the weather here in Cornwall this morning, completed with a good few smiles along the way. In general this was a good level of puzzle for newer solvers, with lots of anagrams clearly flagged, but one where we were also required to have a bit of general knowledge – a couple of rock groups, some school level French, the word BICAMERAL (means ‘having two chambers’, like the Houses of Parliament; passive vocabulary sort of word) and a phrase I’d never met before ‘PONY UP’. That second star of difficulty is also there for the unusual ‘Pated’ in the wordplay of 20a and for the only clue that gave me any significant head-scratching, my LOI RULES, which is apparently a restaurant in Covent Garden and which could have surely been clued more kindly for those of us who didn’t know that. Oh well, a bit of GK picked up I suppose.

I liked the clue for CLIMBER very much, loved ‘Born On The Fourth Of July’ to clue ‘BY’ in 24d, enjoyed 1a WHERE IT’S AT, 1d WHELP, 22a LE MONDE, and 26a MARQUEE, but my favourite today was this outstanding anagrammed clue which might not be an original idea (The Times had it first), but was new to me:

14a Wacky baccy – free in a place frequented by surfers? (9)

Thanks to Gila for the entertainment and RatkojaRiku for the original blog with all the answers which can be found by clicking the link below:

fifteensquared.net/2017/12/06/independent-9719-gila

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

For the benefit of our less-experienced solvers, there exists a style of crossword called an alphabetical jigsaw, invented by Araucaria where (typically 26) clues are given by their initial letters rather than numbers – you have to solve the clues first and fill them in the grid afterwards wherever they fit. Phi tells us how, about halfway through its construction, he noticed how this puzzle was starting to resemble an alphabetical crossword, so he pursued the idea to its conclusion. This would explain the odd entries like GUIACUM, JAMBOK and CATALPAS. I’m sure it would have been well within Phi’s capabilities to fashion the grid without such obscurities had he decided on such a puzzle at the outset. I didn’t notice, but probably should have.

I learn from the internet that STOP ME AND BUY ONE was a 1920s slogan for Wall’s ice-cream – but one that hadn’t trickled down to my consciousness unfortunately. Some of the surface readings today made little sense, although I know some solvers don’t mind about that at all. Amongst the clues I did like were 7d QUID where the wordplay was consistent with the definition and answer and the whole clue read like a proper sentence. 14d HOT-BLOODED was also pretty good. However my CoD goes to this one, which was excellent:

5d What’s going down around rear of car, alerting after a crash? (7,8)

I’d say that the clue is an &Lit, because I saw ‘What’s going down’ as the definition for ‘waning’, but the original blogger John thought ‘What’s’ couldn’t be part of the wordplay, therefore the clue must be a Semi&Lit, presumably. Well, perhaps it doesn’t matter too much!

Here’s the original blog with all the answers:

fifteensquared.net/2017/09/15/independent-9649-by-phi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

This is the eighth of the nine puzzles Quaiteaux had published in the Indy over a period of that many years – which might give hope to occasional setters like yours truly that Eimi the editor tends to keep his door open, despite our limited creative output. Of course it may be possible that Quaiteaux has stopped producing puzzles altogether now, it being nearly 4 years since her last, but that would be a shame as this was an enjoyable offering.

The theme is JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, GRACE SLICK, their songs WHITE RABBIT, SOMEBODY to LOVE, plus for cogniscenti other references to KINETIC playground, Spencer DRYDEN, GOD, PEYOTE, ALICE (in Wonderland), MEXICO, TRIAD, LATHER, SUMMER of LOVE, and possibly some others like E.S.P. TREBLE and HARMONY to boot.

My poor spelling held me up a bit on INNISFREE (despite my mother once stayed in an old-people’s home bearing that name) and IMMANENT, but I found it fairly straightforward for the most part, with lots of initial letters clearly indicated to help things along.

For my CoD I’m going for a druggie clue, which might upset some people but surely in the context of this ‘Tune in, turn on, drop out’ era puzzle it’s thematic:

7a You once flipped, getting into cannabis, ecstasy and mescal (6)

Here’s the original blog from 2017:

fifteensquared.net/2017/08/29/independent-9634-quaiteaux