Difficulty rating (out of five):  🌟🌟but maybe a bit more than that in places?

I very much enjoyed solving this puzzle – many thanks to Hoskins for providing such a well-crafted piece of work. I have put at least one tick against all clues but one, (more on that shortly), and several have two or even three, reflecting how carefully and imaginatively the setter has tackled this. Lots of humour is also in evidence, and Hoskins has been sensitive in the amount of slightly risqué content he has included. There’s nothing which is in the least offensive here, as far as I’m concerned.

I hesitated to enter FOOTPRINT in the Long John Silver clue, imagining it must be some sort of cryptic definition, and it was only when I looked at Fifteensquared that I properly understood this. However, I must admit that if this is the only bad clue in the puzzle, it’s still perfectly possible to work it out.

Personally, I was fortunate to experience little difficulty in recognising elements in several clues which perhaps some other solvers will have found obscure, which is why I have suggested this possibly edges towards a three-star level of difficulty. These included LOUT for YAHOO in 6; GOUT as THE KING’S DISEASE in 20A; ORAL for SAID in 23, and how to replace the O with RU; LOAFERS as a form of footwear in 29; the fact that two setters are indicated in 4; DOVE for PEACENIK in 9; and the Latin RES for THING in 27. I thought these were all excellent, and that those for ENDORSE, HEADFIRST (good to see a lovely Spoonerism), RIO GRANDE and OTTER were outstanding.

However, the Clue of the Day I’ve chosen is 11: “Wearing retro Levis or elegant clothes (7)” A very fine example of a fluent surface reading which gives the reader entirely the wrong idea at first glance, and yet contains a concise set of logical instructions showing you how to get the correct answer.

Here’s the link for all the answers and explanations:

Difficulty rating (out of 5): 🌟🌟🌟

Three stars represents the overall level of difficulty, as most clues were easier than that, or at that level, but several were considerably more demanding.

Around a dozen clues were what I would regard as beautifully crafted, and good, solid fare for the solver. They included 8, 13, 18, 23A, 27, 3, 14, 17, 19, 20 and 22, and getting their answers gave me a firm base from which I was able to branch out and solve the rest.

Other clues needed greater analysis, sometimes because their definitions were somewhat abstract, as in 5; sometimes because the wordplay was intricate, as in 23D; and sometimes because it was unclear how to interpret an Arabic number given in the clue: for example “10” in 6 is to be taken as IO, but “9” in 5 refers to the answer in 9 across.

Having completed about a third of the grid I was able to guess the Nina hidden in the left and right sides of the perimeter, although at that stage I had no idea why that particular person was mentioned. However, it did greatly assist me with getting answers which crossed with those letters. At the end I also noted the Ninas in the top and bottom rows, but it was only when I read the comments on Fifteensquared that it all made sense. And then I saw the relevance of the italicised words in 3 and 4, and of the clue for 2.

Some brief notes about certain things which stood out for me: A being the leader of ANTS rather than of THEIR in 6; AMAH in 12 – I only got this by guessing AYAH and then trying to turn the YAH bit round, getting HAY, and then seeing it might refer to HAM; POOL in 26A – having got the P and also the L (from the Nina), I was thinking PEAL meaning RING, before the real answer came to me.

However, I have to say that I was greatly frustrated by the unnecessarily complex wordplay in 11 and by the abstruse nature of 28, in which ORD is not the centre of OFORD – OXFORD without the X. Linked with this, I found the wordplay in 1 – COLORADO – unsatisfying as well. Fifteensquared has a slightly different clue for 28, so maybe the setter was trying to improve it here. In the end I had to enter these answers without fully understanding how they were parsed. Having said all that, I did enjoy solving much of this puzzle.

The Clue of the Day I’ve chosen is 7: “Asian from East China, UK resident (6)” Not the most straightforward of clues, but very neat, and indeed witty, once you understand it.

Here’s the link for all the answers and explanations:

Independent 9,671 / Hob

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟

I greatly enjoyed solving this puzzle – many thanks to Tees. All the clues were very good, several were absolutely excellent, and some were refreshingly humorous. The fact that I finished it in just over an hour has prompted me to give it two stars, although there are a handful of clues which are more demanding, perhaps suggesting the overall difficulty level might be more like three stars. But I don’t want to put any potential solvers off from having a shot at it.

Early cracking of some long anagrams, such as in 8, helped me get a good start. LYE and CORSELET were new terms for me, but the wordplay in those respective clues, (14 and 4), was logical and I was able to confirm my hypotheses in Chambers. STORE in 17 could have turned out to be any number of words, (AMASS, BETRAY, SHOP …), so I needed the crossing letter with PING-PONG to see that it must be PILE. And 27 was my LOI as LENDL the tennis coach was not someone who sprang immediately to mind. You will be pleased to know, however, that I have at least heard of Andy Murray. And I got there in the end. Maybe AT THE BAR is something of a loose definition for GETTING DRINK, but again the wordplay in the clue led me directly to the answer.

The clue for COMPREHEND needed the most working out, but I smiled a lot when I got it, and at QUINTUPLICATION (lovely, subtle misdirection) and REMAND (a man in the red), but the Clue of the Day I’ve chosen is 24: “Greek hero recognised in Florida and Georgia? (7)”. At first it struck me that the answer might be the name of a city common to both states, (similar to how there is a Springfield in both Massachusetts and Illinois), but the penny eventually dropped.

Here’s the link for all the answers and explanations – although I think they found it tougher than I did:

Independent 9,647 / Tees

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

It took me a while to get into this, but once I had done so I found it very enjoyable and engaging, despite several of the answers being words I had never heard of before: CI-DEVANT, ILLITE, AMAH, STEAM, (as a games platform), ALLENTOWN, STELA and NICOTANIA. Also, BALLAST as a verb. They were all clued logically, though. Fortunately I had encountered ESSENE previously, and was familiar with AHORSE.

Two of the answers, WEASEL and OVARIES, I sketched down provisionally on a separate piece of paper, wondering how the parsing worked, and looked at them for absolutely ages before it came to me. I thought the clue for TOLLBOOTHS was a bit vague, and equating MY with I’LL BE … took some thought, but these were the only small quibbles in what was otherwise a brilliant puzzle – many thanks to Anax.

The great majority of the clues were excellent, and maybe four or five might be worthy of being CoD, but I’m going for 3: “Minor charge a result of naughty videotape (no sex) (7).“ I particularly appreciated the use of VI for SEX – Latin for SIX – which you have to remove from VIDEOTAPE before jumbling the remaining letters. I originally tried it out by removing IT – also a synonym for SEX, of course.

Here’s the link for all the answers and explanations:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/08/19/independent-9626-anax/

i Cryptic Crossword 3297 Vigo

September 1, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟 

Many thanks to Vigo for providing a really enjoyable puzzle today, in which I found some clues quite straightforward, but others distinctly more challenging, several of which I would never have got without the help of crossing letters provided by the easier answers. So, less experienced solvers should have found much of this approachable, I think. It is also a pangram, not that I spotted that myself.

All clues are carefully and thoughtfully crafted, and the majority have absolutely excellent surface readings. I smiled at the seemingly naïve simplicity of 9 (FLEE) and 16 (OBJECTS), and appreciated the clever construction of 19 (WASTED), in which the definition might either have been DRUNK or DEVASTATED. 1 (BUREAUCRAT) held me up for a while as I was originally thinking of REF rather than RAT for the WHISTLE-BLOWER, and I hesitated over 5 (JUNG) before writing it in, as the word GERMAN in the clue distracted me, until I twigged it was simply part of the wordplay: Jung was Swiss. I should have got 15 (GADZOOKS) much earlier, but initially dismissed the possibility of there being a word in which D was immediately followed by ZOO; and 6d (ST LUCIA) was my LOI, partly because of the misdirection afforded by COMING FROM SOUTH (I already knew there was an S to start with …) and partly because I had to search my memory before realising that CULT can be a synonym for FASHION.

12 (OVERDO) might have been my nomination for CoD, but this is one of the few clues in which the surface reading is actually less than effective, so instead I am going for 3:  “Starting off chaos and confusion bears fruit (7)”

A full analysis of today’s puzzle can be found by following the link below, and I for one am most grateful that the Fifteensquared bloggers tackle their work with such enthusiasm and dedication: