An IoS reprint to start the week that was a little trickier than expected. Nothing that couldn’t be resolved with a little attention, and nothing that was unfair, but I’m not used to having to think this early in the week. 🙂 1ac I could parse and enter but couldn’t think of the colours for the life of me. 19ac I probably could have but didn’t bother. Elsewhere progress was steady if slow with some surprise on finally spotting the inventor, and not finding 13ac in my copy of Chambers. Perhaps I didn’t look hard enough. EO in 30ac was a little obscure, but guessable and, well, the answer was obvious, wasn’t it?

COD? Much to enjoy, with my nomination going to 29ac – “Divine office that was something unparalleled (8)”.

To January 2014:


Saturday 1st December 2018

Looking at the original blog for this Phi puzzle on Fifteensquared, I’m struck once again by what nice people Bert & Joyce must be – reliably generous towards Phi, they are; never the grudging ‘it was all right I suppose’ tone in their review that I half expect.  Heigh-ho, maybe I should try to be more like them.

The puzzle was dominated by an unusual clue inviting us to see how RAT was a drunken version of TAR (sailor) and arrive ‘airily’ at ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor’. I didn’t see that from reading the clue, alas – largely because I was fixated upon RAT being a reversal of TAR rather than seeing it as an anagram – so I just waited until I had enough crossers to guess a song title that fitted the enumeration.

I would forgive the everyday sexism at 9a because although Miriam was indeed a prophetess in her own right, defining her as ‘Prophet’s sister’ worked well with the surface reading of ‘sister and mother’.

The only other clue to receive much attention back in 2014 was the following – a good spot, I thought, and also my nomination  for Clue Of the Day:

12a Politician avoiding disgruntled sound, turning to cheer (6)

More football, a bit of cycling, and some politics, but it turned out quite nicely. Yes, there are some quibbles… 5/12 – what was that about? Well, you have to be familiar with Harry Potter to understand it. Both 11ac and 26ac are perhaps slightly a bit too cryptic, but it’s all explained in Gaufrid’s excellent blog over on Fifteensquared  where some mention is also made of 23dn and 31ac, and the vulgar slang used for bottom. While the setter tells us it’s American in 31ac, he doesn’t bother in 23dn where it’s also American. We say Arse not Ass. My first in was 10ac – a well hidden word, but a word I hate so that went in with a grimace. Subsequent progress was quite rapid until I got stuck in the SW corner where I hadn’t read the clue for 30ac properly and entered Gas instead of Ski (this of course made 20d a bit difficult), and my LOI 18dn which took me a while to decipher. Lots of good stuff though – even the anagram 19/1 was a good clue. I did Google him to make sure of the spelling. 28ac and 6dn  were considered for COD but 18dn just takes it:

“Thoroughly punctures slicks? They’re shafted!   (3,5)”

Tees can sometimes be somewhat tricky, but I found today’s puzzle to be accessible and quite enjoyable too, finishing about par for the i. Let’s brush under the carpet an incorrect ODESSA (who needs to bother with the wordplay?) and a number of question marks elsewhere. I thought we might have been in for a Wild West theme for one fleeting moment, but no, it wasn’t to be. A pity, as that’s something I know a little about, while football is something I don’t. First in 11ac, last in the far SE and NW corners.

COD? I’ll go with 13ac – “Harassment in GCHQ? (11)”.

To September 2014:

Another good one from Dac. There, what else is there to say? Well, the NW corner went in pretty sharpish while the SE corner – and 22d and 26ac in particular – took a while longer, IoW geography or any geography in fact not being my strong point. I was pleased to get 4d from the wordplay realising that I did know it only after the fact. Did anyone else panic at the thought of having to dredge up the name of some obscure Conservative chancellor? I did, and breathed a sigh of relief on finding he was rather well known. Perhaps infamous would be a better word. There’s also some obscure slang for money, but I’m guessing most solvers will have chucked in the answer with little more than a shrug. Well, I did.

COD? Lots to like as always, with my nomination going to the aforementioned 4d, just for that construction – “Fellow imbibes a small amount of liquid after party, showing sign of stress (5,6)”.

To September 2014:

Harribobs, a name to send shivers down the spine. No, I still haven’t quite got over that puzzle. I’m short of time too – baking the Christmas cake. It must be a month to go. Cue ensuing panic and feelings of general un-restfulness.

Today’s preamble looks more tractable though. Extra letters. Tick. A few thematically entered answers. OK. Shading. Tick. Don’t like the sound of “a few variations are acceptable” though, sounds suitably vague with room for error.

Today’s Phi was a piece of cake, so there’s a little time in the morning to make a start. And, I think I can solve these. An anagram of “our times” is TOURISM, the crossing demon is also an anagram, and so on. What, you completely forgot about some answers needing to be treated before entry? Sssh, so I did. Which is why mid-afternoon, the cake in the oven, I got stuck. Until I remembered. How do you reckon you’re supposed to treat them? Well, the title says “Go West”, so let’s reverse a couple. Including TOURISM, which helps, in places.

Onward. A tick for 3d, very smooth. A smile at 10d, perhaps because I’m one episode away from the end of a Twin Peaks marathon encompassing all three series and the movie. I don’t have Blu-Ray, so the Missing Pieces will remain forever missing. A few question marks about 45ac – is it SEMITISE or SEMITIZE? And 39d = CHOTT or SHOTT? What, you couldn’t parse them either?

Let’s look at the extra letters. Look again at some of my parsing, bits of which seem decidedly fanciful now.


Which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the title. Are we looking for state abbreviations? Lots of CA’s in there, and so on, so perhaps that explains the preamble? No we’re not, Harribobs has only gone and constructed a grid that’s a map of the Western United States, the states suitably positioned if scrambled. Blimey. And that explains the shaded border too, I think.

Out with the highlighters (though how many different highlighters does Harribobs figure the average solver owns?) This is where it gets a little tricky – different enjoining colours (no American spellings here), and the choice of A’s at times difficult – don’t want to end up one short. SEMITIZE and SHOTT, evidently. That’s one way of confirming the grid fill. Any mistakes, blame trying to highlight late at night in the dim glow of an energy saving light bulb.

And, done. Dusted. You know what, I thoroughly enjoyed that. Harribobs was voted best Inquisitor of 2017, and I reckon this is another worthy contender. Go West, young man, go west.

Between the musical aspect of the theme, the setter’s smartypants style and the Secretary of State for Transport on the wireless, there was much muttering and disgruntlement this morning. Well, I warmed to the crossword, at least, and surprisingly enough finished it off without recourse to assistance of any sort.

Really quite tricky, wasn’t it? There were a couple of instances of overreach in my opinion, notably 1d and 19ac, which is what I’ve come to expect from Hob, along with some real brilliance. So let’s not dwell on the iffy bits, and instead celebrate some of the crackers, like 4, 9, 12 and 17d. Happily there was no need to go looking for discographies – that would have put me well and truly out of sorts – but a bit of ornithology did come in handy. My COD is the cheekiest one of the lot, 13ac:

“Unconscious state, lacking heart (4)”

Plenty of praise for this puzzle from the cognoscenti over at Fifteensquared when it first appeared in August 2014. Whilst I was there I noted with pleasure that the esteemed Maize has one in the Indy today: kept that quiet, didn’t you? 😉

An IoS reprint to start the week, and one that won’t have caused most solvers too many issues. I had a feeling when I started that Nitsy has sometimes been a little tricky to solve, but if so that wasn’t evident today. 4d was new, but basically a choice between M or D at the start. Last in were 9d, 13ac and 16d which did occasion a little pause for thought, the latter raising an almighty groan. It’s also my COD – “Dead centre (8)”. Overall an enjoyable start to the working week.

Here’s the 2014 Fifteensquared blog, should you need it:

Saturday 25th November 2018

Well Phi got me good and proper last weekend, and no mistake.  Hands up if you too thought the theme was the 9 European locations listed in the clue for 4d EUROPE?  Not a bit of it – that was a canard. The real theme was the stations of the PARIS METRO (17a, 19a) of which there were fully 10 dotted around the grid: Liege, Odeon, Stalingrad, Temple, Abbesses, Europe, Danube, Rome, Pyrenees, and Commerce. Very nice.

The clues were all solvable without recourse to electronic aids or dictionaries (or atlases), which is a definite plus in my book, and were mostly pretty straightforward, but there were a few examples of inspired clue-smithery too; I had ticks in my margin for 15a, 1d, 17d, and 21d and my double tick for COD went to the following:

10a Twelve letters left for island (5)

All the solutions and comments from 2014 can be found by clicking here.

A Saturday prize puzzle reprint from Klingsor which proved a fairly rapid solve even if quite a few went in without fully understanding why, the two main culprits being 7dn and 10ac which figure largely in the posts over on Fifteensquared,  although personally I found the cryptic part of 26ac far more vague than those two even though the answer was obvious once the checkers were in. Similarly 24ac where the solver is expected to dredge up an actress, all I could think of was mint cake which was of no help. The rest of it was fine – a couple of old chestnuts with the treaty at 13 dn and the princess at 19ac, a dubious homophone at 8dn, and a face palm moment at 2dn all adding up to a fairly satisfying puzzle.

COD?  17ac – “After opening of Savoy Hotel stops for a drink (8)”