Saturday 7th December 2019

Phi gave us a ghost theme last weekend that was hopefully obvious to everyone – Pyramus & Thisbe as staged by the rude mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. No Nick Bottom (though I kept expecting him to turn up) but we did have the following: PYRAMUS, as played by the aforementioned weaver, THISBE as played by Flute, MOONSHINE played by STARVELING, the WALL by SNOUT, the LION by SNUG and then the prologue Peter QUINCE. I once saw a production of The Dream by the RSC where this play within a play was the highlight of the evening and had us rolling in the aisles, memorably with the physical comedy around “I kiss the wall’s hole, not your lips at all!” – bawdy.

Those 9 mostly short theme words amounted to medium theme density I suppose, and given the (1,1) grid, I did wonder if our estimable grid-filler Phi had given us something extra – R-E-L-S-T-E along the Bottom might be a Flute, perhaps? But no, apparently not.

In truth I made slow progress with this one, particularly the NW corner with Isomeric and Nightpiece (a possible extra theme word?) , although the ghost theme was apparent from quite early on, and that certainly helped. Some of the clues were quite good, but for me it was that theme that was the most enjoyable thing in the puzzle by a margin. As RatkojaRiku says in the 2015 blog here, ‘the whole was greater than the sum of its parts’.

My COD is this one: 14d Expert is working with plastic to store energy (10)

i Cryptic Crossword 2761 Vigo

December 13, 2019

Crosswordland is never far away and is a pleasure to visit. The rules work somewhat differently there, and although there are sometimes frustrations, disappointments never last for long and one’s fellow-visitors can usually help when perplexed.

This was a delight. A simple, straightforward puzzle, certainly at the easy end of the spectrum, so very accessible, and none the worse for that. At the end of my solve there were absolutely no question marks and a lot of ticks in the margin. If I had one criticism it would be only that it was a bit heavy on anagrams for my taste. But then again, when I was a beginner-solver, I was glad of the anagrams, as I sort of knew where I was with them.

I struggled only a little in the SE corner, because I could not unthink “columnist” for 24a, when I had the crossing L, I and T.

Special mention must be made of the gendering in 1a – as crosswordland can seem a little patriarchal still – although not when Vigo is our setter.

Clue of the Day for me was the amusingly allusive 4d: “What was lost in the Freudian era?” (9).

First seen in the Independent in October 2015:

Our second IoS reprint of the week comes courtesy of Hypnos. A little trickier than par for such puzzles, perhaps, I was surprised at the close to finish about par for the i having felt that I struggled throughout, solving in fits and starts. Perhaps a pretty rotten night’s sleep is to blame, or having a lot of other things I should really be getting on with. 4d in particular caused issues – I needed all the checking letters to complete, and then had to refer to Fifteensquared for the parsing. 7d I’m unconvinced by – the UN bit doesn’t really work for me, but your mileage may vary. Elsewhere everything was understood and enjoyed.

COD? 15d – “Criminal fellow restricted by tight pledges for repayment (9)”.

And now for lunch, and to vote, which I would urge you all to do no matter which party you support, or if you support none at all.

To October 2015:

i Cryptic Crossword 2759 Dac

December 11, 2019

Hands up if you knew 8d. I didn’t, and thus had some doubt about whether the second letter was an I or an A, the i‘s policy on such things being somewhat looser than other papers. 🙂 Elsewhere though there was nothing that was obscure, assuming that you knew the spirit and could work out the noble land if you didn’t know both already.  Clear wordplay as ever, nothing tricksy, just Dac doing what Dac does best, and thoroughly enjoyable throughout.

I’m guessing this puzzle will have pleased solvers disgruntled with the likes of Hob. Variety is the spice of life, though, and that’s what we get in the i and is one of its strengths, though don’t remind me I said that the next time we get a particularly tricky Anax or Nimrod.

First in 22d where I started, last in 8d, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 16ac – “Devon’s equivalent to Rushmore, might one say? (8)”.

To October 2015:

i Cryptic Crossword 2758 Hob

December 10, 2019

My initial thought on seeing Hob’s name next to the grid was that Topsy will be displeased; however on completion I think perhaps almost everyone will be pretty happy today. The rather curious grid contains a theme so big you can see it from space, and it’s made glaringly obvious by 10ac. Hardly my specialist subject, but as it turned out no references were required and everything was sort of familiar.  Done and dusted in about the same time as yesterday’s, surprisingly.

It might be said with some justice that 5d is an unnecessarily obscure word given that there are common alternatives for that space, but it’s a fine clue and picks up on a running pattern of numerical misdirection which pleased me a good deal. Never let it be said that this setter is shy about putting his cleverness on show. The “shining example” in 11ac still baffles me, unless it’s an idiom like “bright as a pin” I haven’t come across, but the required entry was perfectly clear and elsewhere everything parses to my complete satisfaction. John at Fifteensquared had all the explanations back in October 2015 if anything remains mysterious, and there are some amusing comments from curmudgeons. Standouts for me included 2, 5, 14, 20, 21, 25/28 and 30ac, the last being my choice for COD:

“Where reaction might occur when opening bars around 6 (2,5)”

Myth by Dysart

December 10, 2019

So from a preamble that couldn’t have been more succinct to Dysart and one where there… Appears to be rather a lot. I’m writing this up several days after the fact, having been waylaid by Christmas preparations (it being December I guess we dare utter the word now), sorting out blocked toilets and gas leaks (the two entirely unconnected), and generally trying to hide from the sundry viruses of the non-computer kind doing the rounds. The upshot being that I’m realising again quite how much there was to get through this week.

Deep breath.

Unclued entries, ones with words requiring reversal, some without definition and corresponding clashes, a character to highlight, resolution of clashes, something to change at the close.

Head explodes.

Let’s just concentrate on filling that grid, which thankfully seems to be on the easy side again. Straight in at 1ac with TAQUERIA, a reversed “air”, and a nice confidence boost, through SNOD, all the way down to a cat that for some reason I failed to spot at all quickly. Blame the issues noted above.

Oh yes, the clues without definition. Well, it became clear quite quickly that they were guns. REVOLVER, LUGER, DERRINGER and RIFLE, all ones I knew. And the unclued entries – it looked early on like they were going to be NEWMAN and PENN, though with some confusion because said actors never appeared in a film together. It was only on spotting the last – GORE VIDAL – that I realised that we were looking for this film, and that PENN was Arthur and not Sean.

This lovely looking fellow?

Who also appears anti-clockwise in an arc in the middle of the grid. Out with the highlighters. And to confirm, the first and last letters of the reversed words do indeed spell PAT GARRETT, one time friend and nemesis of the above if my memory serves me well.

How to resolve the clashes, and two other cells with them? Got to be L for R, hasn’t it?

Staggering towards the end of that preamble… Two letters to change to reveal “the creator of an earlier musical work”. A musical work of the classical sort that for once I’m aware of. Bang – COPLAND.

Wasn’t there a lot to do? Thankfully on the gentle side as far as the IQ goes, but now I need a drink, if only to brace myself for an inspection of the swiftly burgeoning credit card bill.

Now, talking of Billy the Kid

An IoS reprint to start the week that was neither too easy or too hard, and always interesting. We had a graduate that wasn’t the usual MA or BA, bits of juicy wordplay sprinkled throughout, notably 9ac I decided to sidestep altogether given a likely answer, a hidden word that was indeed very well hidden (they usually are for me though, to be honest), and a couple of bits of vocabulary that may have been new to you. Hold ups? The duchess needed for 22d was never likely to be one I remembered quickly, being generally ambivalent regarding things royal, the instrument – somewhat obscure though fairly clued, and the subatomic particle. There were a fair number of ticks beside the clues too, so all in all a nice start to the week.

First in 25d, because that’s where I started, last in the small things at 12ac, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? Just because it’s a bit of slang I don’t believe I’ve seen used in a crossword before, and it’s nicely done, 25d – “Resist wicked Yankee (4)”.

Is this our first visit to 2016? I think so…

Congratulations to Mark Goodliffe, btw, on his 12th Times Crossword Championship win.

Saturday 30th November 2019

As regulars at idothei will know, I am a massive fan of Klingsor’s puzzles, so it’s a real treat to have one of his on my Saturday blogging spot. And it was straight out of his top drawer too (mind you, they all are in my view).

His style is scrupulously fair – no abstruse vocabulary or specialist general knowledge, no stretched synonyms, instructions are given the right way round, link words are minimal and never in the wrong direction, grids always interlock nicely, cop-outs like girl’s names and obscure fish are practically never seen, clue types are varied, clue difficulty is fairly and consistently judged at a little harder than average for the i, there might be the occasional innovation but they are judiciously rare; oh and the surface readings are always a joy.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride! To my mind he’s the perfect template for any aspiring setter.

I had 9 ticked clues plus another 4 with double ticks: 14a, 5d, 13d, and the pick of the bunch was this one:

20a Continent, oddly not one seen in map collection (8)

I filled in the grid nice and steadily, with no questions about parsing until my LOI, 22d; I could see that ‘it’ meant sex and that we were supposed to insert A into BED, but I was really surprised to see that ‘bed’ has a nounal definition as sexual intercourse. ‘Let’s do some bed’; ‘it’s ages since I’ve had any bed’. Really? It’s there in Chambers so it must be, but how come I’ve only ever met it as a verb before, as in to bed someone? Oh well, live & learn, live and learn.

All the answers are to be found  by clicking here.


Michael’s busy today, so I’m afraid you’re stuck with me again.

Alchemi to end the working week with a Thursday Independent reprint that was quite challenging in places. I start in the SE of the grid these days with the downs, and didn’t get anything until 4d which was somewhat alarming. The top half of the grid then fell rapidly, raising hopes that I’d just had a bad start, but the bottom half then took an absolute age, with unknown plants and an alleged Spoonerism (it wasn’t really, was it?) causing no end of difficulty. 19d I plucked from the dim recesses of my memory, 13ac I should have got straight off but didn’t, being on not particularly good form this week, the honey bears I needed to check, though the beast’s entry in Chambers doesn’t seem to mention bears anywhere. I note that my finish time was only slightly over par for the i, though, so perhaps the one half balanced the other. Sort of.

It’s a pangram, which I should have spotted sooner if at all, but didn’t, meaning the famous line took longer than it should have, as did the synonym for “gives up”.

But did you enjoy it? Well, yes I did, feeling particularly pleased on getting the philosopher whose work remains a mystery to me, and the food(s?) immediately to its right for that matter too, for starters.

While I remember, was I the only person to assume wrongly that 20ac was a hidden word and lob in REACH for far too long, or figure that the hound had to be GREY rather than DEER, albeit with no support from the wordplay? Which goes some way to explain my problems in that part of the grid.

COD? Lots to like as expected from Alchemi, with my nomination going to 23d – “One cross over current order given (5)”.

To October 2015 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

I think it’s safe to say that this Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint from 2015 is probably one that would have been best left in the prize puzzle spot. Most definitely on the tricky side, I suspect that few solvers will have finished without a little help from Mr Google. Did you know Dante’s surname, the work referenced at 5d, or the one at 19ac? All the pieces were there in the wordplay, but it would be a brave or very knowledgeable solver who put them into the grid with any confidence without checking first. Finished in a time perhaps twice that par for the i, with a feeling of relief more than anything else, and several question marks to boot. 🙂

To be fair there was lots to appreciate too, with a fair few ticks beside the clues, but this was one to savour rather than knock out over the course of a lunchtime. Talking of which, I’d better dash.

COD? I’ll go with 17d – “Apparently carnivorous French dad to pass through! (8)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found here: