Difficulty rating (out of 5): ⌛

This puzzle generated considerable comment on fifteensquared – not so much about the content as about the grid pattern. Certainly it was unusual, with no less than ten lights containing double unches, although none had less than 50% checking. Even so I found this on the easy side, even for Tees who is one of the easier setters, and fairly rattled through it. My only hold-up was due to my own carelessness in filling in one answer which affected a couple of crossers.

The anagrams at 15ac and 10dn were easily unscrambled, providing a good framework on which to hang the rest, and there was nothing too obscure anyway. 13ac came easily from the crossing letters, only needing confirmation from Chambers of the reference to whist. 16dn might have been unfamiliar to solvers not acquainted with church music but the wordplay was clear enough, and in 17dn one needed to think of ‘removed’ in the sense of removing oneself as in, for example, going to the pub after a game of whatever sport one is into.

One might quibble about the clue to 11ac; ought not “does” to be “doe’s”? But that, of course, would have made it too obvious. It’s often the case that punctuation in a clue is an intentioal misdirection; here, conversely, it’s the lack of punctuation which is the misdirection.

My shortlist for CoD included 15ac (already mentioned), 21ac and 12dn but my final choice is 1dn: ‘Beast caught between money and love (10)’.

For all the answers and the comments about the grid see http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/16/independent-9830-by-tees/

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Chemistry this week, and weird fever dreams. A German chemist who was evidently on hallucinogenics, or thinking too hard, or possibly both, when he dreamt of a certain well known mythological creature and thought, that looks a lot like benzene, that does.

Rather irritatingly, this would only come to me at the end of the weekend, after a lot of hard Googling, having thought fleetingly at the start of the solve that the creature we were looking for, being represented by a loop, could well be that snake thing that eats itself, if only I could remember its name, and that replacing the letters of another name with one of two other letters suggested a chemical formula or the like.

Then promptly dismissed both, and thus at the close would spend a pretty long time staring at the grid looking for unicorns and the like.

Nul points.

As this again was one of those grid fills that could best be described as challenging, typified by my LOI, SLAM, the SA derived from “without date”, in my defence many brain cells had already been burnt out.

And it was raining, again. It has rained a lot in Wales of late.

The diagram we had to sketch came courtesy, here, of an old West German commemorative stamp, other diagrams online seeming to require a few more angled bits. But at this point Ifor had been somewhat kind, paring off the letters from August Kekulé in order, confirming hopefully the final result.

I would like to say that the clues with misprints had shown which clues weren’t involved in the above, but as my misprints are somewhat incomplete, including assumptions from the eventual names (Couper, Loschmidt and Pauling), all of whom are mentioned on said Wikipedia page. It would be a desperate search based on the former that eventually got me there.

And blimey. The powers that be at the i have evidently decided that we need something to do with these dark evenings, and it is only going to get darker yet as we plunge into the Advent season with its promise of festive puzzles, chocolates, and, yes, beer.

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Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳

A breezy, enjoyable solve from Vigo this morning that won’t have held up solvers for too long. 17d and 6d would be the only clues to cause any real problems, but this being solved about as quickly as I can, the pause was a fleeting one. This being a Tuesday too there’s a theme, based around 1ac 5ac, though I suspect people who spotted it will be in a minority. Certainly here, it’s something that I’ve heard of but will probably never partake of.

CoD? I’ll go with 30ac – “Head of security sacked lenient guard (8)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from April 2018:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/09/independent-9824-by-vigo/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳

We start the new week with a gentle crossword from Peter. All the more accessible for having a high proportion of anagrams in it: nine, I think, either in full or in part. As we have come to expect from this setter, we have been given a pleasing and satisfying solve from nicely plausible surface readings, and little reason to consult the dictionary, there being no obscure words this morning.

Well, I did go to the dictionary to look at PAPOOSE and the crossing PROFLIGATE, but only because I was blogging. Otherwise, I would have been very happy to take them on trust.

There was some humour on the way, particularly with ESPY and MUESLI, and I smiled on seeing PAPOOSE and VAMOOSE alongside each other in the completed grid. I don’t think there is anything in it – certainly no-one on Fifteensquared spotted anything more – but small things like that often please me.

My Clue of the Day is 14ac for its economy: “Butcher’s ultimate ruin?” (8)”. Not sure what the Question Mark is doing, but even so, a neat little Clue.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/22/independent-on-sunday-1469-peter/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

Phi’s back with an enjoyable, fairly straightforward offering, albeit one with a few odd entries. Only the one, at 22ac, contained anything I think in the wordplay to cause difficulty, but as it was readily guessable from the reversed company bit, no complaints here at least. Phi pops up in the comments on the other side to explain that he seeded the grid using some odd pub names, which I’m guessing nobody spotted now either.

CoD? I’m going with 4d, just because it’s a good example of how to clue an obscure word well, and because I felt smug on solving it without assistance – “Italian gangster: “I run Italian city, turning up in criminal acts” (10)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from November 2017:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/11/03/independent-9691-phi/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳

This was only Wire’s third crossword in the i, but judging by Fifteensquared he’s set to become a once-a-month kind of a setter, and if they’re all as good as this one we’ve plenty to look forward to. There’s a ghost theme for you to look for if you didn’t spot it already, that runs through both clues and lights and which might explain why 1a is CRASSUS rather than the Greek ‘Croesus’ that I first entered with a shrug before seeing the error of my ways. It turns out that nowadays the English language permits the use of either in the ‘as rich as’ simile because coincidentally enough they both were.

Anyhow, the rest of the theme is explained by mc_rapper67 on the other side far better than I could do – I think he’s my favourite of their bloggers.

On to picking a favourite: Well, the anagrams today were given excellent surfaces, and I could praise the clues for CRASSUS, PERCHANCE, PLUTO, and TOGA PARTY, but my CoD nomination goes to this one:

13d Servant crosses overthrown city nearly speechless delivering note (10)

Back to the tail end of 2018:

www.fifteensquared.net/2018/12/29/independent-10050-by-wire-saturday-puzzle-29-december-2018

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

This was a splendid crossword, full of inventiveness and ingenuity – just the sort of thing I like. There is an evident delight in words which really brings the clues to life.

Consider the following, in no particular order. In 1ac we are given a rather saucy surface reading (topical too, as it happens) in which an imaginatively misdirecting definition builds on the suggestiveness of the prior word-play. 23ac offers us a suggestion of completely different artistic genres, imagining, say, Margaret, the wife of Jacob Epstein, in an unlikely disagreement with Stormzy, with the added misdirection from the crossing first and last letters suggesting the other Biblical wife. Then there is the humour of the simple charade for GO HUNGRY. There are plenty of others, but I’d probably end up singing the praises of most of the clues.

My Clue of the Day is the corruscating 22ac, which whilst being another simple charade is also factually true: ” Hot, small island Hispaniola’s second republic (5)”. Is it an &lit? Possibly.

Whilst there is but one truly obscure word – OSTRACOD (the crossing letters left only a few options, so not much looking-up to be done) the setter pays the solver the compliment of assuming a broad erudition, taking in the elements, literature, The Simpsons, and the French in Indonesia, among many other things.

This was a very satisfying and enjoyable solve.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for the answers and explanations: https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/12/27/independent-10048-knut/

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

After a difficult couple of days in the i, it is Serpent of all people who offers something a little lighter, and from a Thursday Independent reprint at that. The odd clue took a bit of teasing out, but for the most part this was a fairly steady solve. At the close only 7d evaded my parsing skills, but when you look closely enough it does indeed hold up, as expected of course. There’s a Nina apparently, which I still can’t see, so if fellow-solvers could be less needlessly coy than the folk on Fifteensquared I would be grateful.

COD? Lots to like today, with my nomination going to 1d – “Wanted 100K pumped into revolutionary business arrangement (6)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from April 2018:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/12/independent-9827-serpent/

Difficulty rating (out of 5): ⌛⌛⌛⌛

I’m not sure that I can give an accurate difficulty rating to this. I can usually get onto Klingsor’s wavelength, but maybe because my brain was still reeling from yesterday’s Radian (see my comment there) all I could get on a first read through was 24ac. Then I realised 12ac was an anagram and enlisted the help of an angram solver. Still pretty baffled, I at least managed to locate the 15^2 blog from 12ac and rapidly scroll through to see the last three down answers from which I slowly got the rest, with help from a wordfinder – although several times the answer was obvious in retrospect. Others may have found this less daunting, though, so rather than go for the full 5⌛ rating I’ll just add a single ⌛ to the average for Klingsor.

So much for my difficulties; what of the puzzle? There was nothing really unusual in any of the answers, although some of the parsings escaped me – such as the reverse anagram in 22ac. Knowing that Klingsor frequently included musical references was a good indication that the definition in 11dn was simply ‘opera’ although attention to spelling was called for. According to the 15^2 blog, 8dn seems to have caused some puzzlement back in 2018; I saw the answer as simply a description of the eponymous clergyman in the song – he changed his stance from high to low church to suit the prevailing régime – but apparently it is also an alternative title for the song.

I had a few ticks for clues that I particularly liked. The whimsical definition in 14ac and the crafty cricket reference in 2dn, together with a neat misdirection in 18dn appealed to me; I also liked 5dn. For CoD, though, I’ll go for 13dn, where the surface perhaps reflects my reaction to advancing age weakening one’s wrist: “I’ll break arm getting lid off? That’s an original thought (10)”.

For all the answers and explanations http://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/04/14/independent-9829-by-klingsor/ is the place to go today.

Difficulty rating (out of five): ⏳⏳⏳

Our theme this Tuesday is apparently Elizabeth I’s speech to the troops at Tilbury. I say apparently, because it’s one that I failed miserably to spot, though some bits in retrospect are familiar. It’s also a puzzle that I struggled badly with, as if often the case with Radian, but that could be due to the freezing conditions and your mileage may vary. A brief post today, sorry, as I’m rather short of time.

COD? I’ll go with 10ac – “Outcome of a sharp turn in Northern ocean? (6)”.

All the answers and parsing of the clues can be found in Fifteensquared’s blog from a no-doubt equally cold December in 2018:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2018/12/11/independent-10035-radian/