The snow is busy being washed away outside by the torrential rain which has followed, so the kids are back in school and normal service is resumed. Well, sort of, because Dac is AWOL and we have an IoS reprint from Commoner in its place. Not that I’m complaining because this was thoroughly enjoyable, perhaps a little easier than Wednesdays often are. A couple of unknowns in the answers at 15d and 20ac, but all perfectly gettable from the wordplay. A good puzzle to show to any aspiring solvers out there.

First in was the NW corner in a flash, last the SW corner at something approaching a crawl. This was partly because I lobbed in 13d from two letters and the definition alone, and then couldn’t find anything immediately to cross it, panicked a little and spent too long parsing the (as it turns out) relatively straightforward cryptic.

I always look for a Nina when I see a row of unchecked letters at the top and bottom of the grid, but well, there wasn’t.

COD? The aforementioned 15d, which is nicely done, and very satisfying to solve – “Zeus can perform lines (4,4)”.

To August 2013 once more:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/08/25/independent-on-sunday-1226commoner/

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It might be December, but I’ve resisted the demands to put up the decorations for one week at least, so instead of crawling round in the attic hunting for a load of dusty bags, I’m settled with the weekend’s i, a newly sharpened pencil, and a copy of the big red book. So what do we have? A cryptic comment regarding one corner that should be filled in, clashes that “must be resolved” to form a three-word phrase, one unclued entry, handily shaded so we won’t miss it.

Once more into the fray. 8ac is the first clue and it’s an obvious one – SLASH. So this is going to be a doddle, isn’t it? Not quite – clashes always leave me feeling unsettled, because you can’t trust any of those entries, can you? But today’s clues are quite forgiving of my solving abilities throughout, though by mid-afternoon I’ve run out of steam. Fast forward to the evening, and the suspicion that those clashes are going to be in a diagonal from NW to SE. Now that makes things easier. The unclued 1ac? It’s got to be GOOSEBERRY, which is a pretty heavy hint as to why we’ve got those three barred off corners. Last in today 14ac, and a pretty tricky definition – veg (out), UNWIND presumably, though it’s ages before I’ve got anything close to the parsing.

To those clashes. Obvious, innit? Including the blank NW corner, TWO IS COMPANY. Except that the preamble is pretty clear that we’re supposed to be left with real words at the close, and VEOTING and TOILEC are certainly not, in the BRB or via a fairly desperate Google search. And I’m pretty sure it’s suppose to be “TWO’S COMPANY”.

So, has there been an almighty cock-up somewhere? Or are we supposed to do something else with those clashes? “Resolved” is a pretty ambiguous term to be using, after all. What other words will fit if we put other letters in place of those clashes? There we go, now we have THREE’S A CROWD across that diagonal. Hurrah. And wasn’t that neat? Very nicely done, and probably a complete nightmare to sort out when trying to put that grid together. Thanks to Shark for a thoroughly enjoyable solve, that for the first time in ages I’ve managed to polish off in just the one day. Azed, anyone?

I have been doing my homework, and can tell you that this is Radian’s eighth Tuesday appearance this year. His lead over Jambazi (five puzzles) is now unassailable – hardly surprising given his obvious aptitude and liking for themed crosswords.

Not one but two themes this time, and plenty of interlinked clues to gladden the heart of … well me, mostly. I understand that many solvers sigh heavily when they see lots of cross references, but honestly, it’s all fair and above board today and rather adds to the fun. In my opinion. The gateway clues are on the gentle side, and once you have a couple it’ll be obvious where all this is going. Possible bones of contention are the need to know (or be able to guess) a spot of French, and an antiquated sporting term which really ought to be in every experienced solver’s vocabulary. Useless for any other purpose, mind you.

Alas, there was another outbreak of hostilities at Fifteensquared when the puzzle first appeared back in August 2013 – why some people get so aerated about something so innocent and inconsequential as a crossword defeats me. Surely 6d is sufficiently amusing to warrant an indulgent smile rather than huffing and puffing? Tempting as it is to pick that as my COD, let’s have a look at a few other options: 11, 19 and 25 all got the thumbs up, but my favourite was 16d:

“Traffic scene where garda ordered some to be had up (4,4)

Well, we’re still well and truly snowed in here, with the added entertainment value of icy roads and pavements, but at least the sun is shining which means the heating is off for the first time since Thursday. All of which makes for a much more pleasant atmosphere in which to solve the Don’s fortnightly Monday offering.

Today’s puzzle was definitely on the easy side, though no less enjoyable. There weren’t any unusual terms on show, which probably explains the rapid progress this morning. I didn’t need to / didn’t bother parsing a lot of clues, so there might be something I’ve missed, but I don’t think most experienced solvers will have been held up for long. There’s some debate over on the other side about CID as hero, but it’s so common in crosswords that I didn’t even give it a second thought.

COD? 3ac – “A point to be made in fast trading opportunity (4,6)”.

To the warmer days of August 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/08/12/independent-8370-by-quixote/

Saturday 2nd December 2017

I’m sure you all spotted that last weekend’s theme was the Gervase Fen detective stories of Edmund Crispin – The Moving Toyshop, Fen Country and Frequent Hearses.  Blindingly obvious of course.

In fact Crispin and Fen Country were two of the few that caused me problems – the former because I had absolutely no idea who the patron saint of cobblers is (although I know the speech from Henry V well) and the latter because I imagined whimsical to be wry so got into a pickle trying to decide between Wet, New or Low Country. Oh well, it all got sorted in the end, even if I had to go to the Fifteensquared blog from 2013 to finish off some tricky bits of parsing (lots of Phi’s trademark deletions). 22d came close to breaking Arachne’s injunction, but I just about remembered Specie, and Spec was guessable.

All-in-all a fairly stiff puzzle that was harder to parse than to solve but had plenty of enjoyable clues to keep us amused.

AndyT will be expecting me to pick 16d as COD, so just to foil him I’ll go for 5d:

Cut to next scene: detectives identify perpetrator (8)

 

Donk has established a reputation as one of the tougher setters but at the same time providing inventive and amusing crosswords and this puzzle certainly enhances that reputation. It took a while to get into this, after reading through all the clues the grid was looking pretty sparse but just a few checking letters helped although some like 2dn/13ac 21ac and 24ac need all the crossers before I could see the answer. 2dn got a large TUT of displeasure being a mixture of Latin and something else I know nothing about. Dutch isn’t something I’m familiar with but 28ac was a fairly obvious anagram. Donk had me fooled for quite some time with 12ac and 20dn  where the answers were there in the clue but the indicators “Boring” and “Frequently” didn’t seem to er indicate. LOI was 6dn and only because it was all I could see that would fit, apparently its a golfing term according to some correspondents on Fifteensquared where you will find much praise and discussion and the revelation of a theme,  its not about  10ac and 27ac but 2dn/13ac

So COD I’m tempted by 24dn but I think

30ac Knocking shop’s doorbell for a change (8)

 

A Thursday Independent reprint today, which usually means something decidedly tricky, but I found this to be a fairly gentle offering, though I must admit to not bothering to parse some of the more complicated cryptic parts, including 24ac which stumped quite a few solvers back in the day. Enjoyable throughout, as Nestor always is. First in 1ac, last in 10ac. 🙂 There’s a bit of a theme going on today…

COD? The aforementioned 10ac – “Internet giant (giant without borders) associated with large-scale streaming? (9)”.

To July 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/07/25/independent-8355-nestor/

In which I made rapid progress at the start, and indeed in the middle, but swiftly ground to a halt near the end. The offending clues were 4ac, 8d (very well hidden indeed!) and my LOI, 3d. I suspect poetic justice, after feeling quite smug at managing to get 6d from the anagram and a couple of checking letters, despite it being new to me. Down in the SE corner actually living in Wales when you’re trying to think of a “Welsh girl” proved to be more of a hindrance than a help, as I could simply think of too many, some more obscure than others.

Anyway, as enjoyable and immaculately clued as ever from Dac.

COD? There was a little discussion about this clue on the other side, but I thought it mildly amusing rather than offensive, but then again I’m not one. 16d – “One showing resentment about couple in partnership? Right (8)”.

To August 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/08/14/independent-8372-dac/

A suspiciously short preamble this week. Normal clues, though don’t expect them to fit the cell lengths, complete the grid at the close to show five thematic names. The title isn’t giving anything away, so there’s nothing to do but leap in feet first.

First in is 13ac, which handily fits the cell length. DOGE, that old crossword favourite. Nothing else falls in that corner, though, with more progress down to the far SE. Answers that are too short (which takes a bit of getting used to when looking for potential entries), chuck them in and hope for the best. Move them when it looks like they’re in the wrong place. Or rub them out altogether when they obviously won’t fit – I won’t reveal how many goes I had at 15d, all of which made a complete and utter hash of the entries around them.

An almost full grid, no names leaping out of the grid, and 1ac refusing to yield. The suspicion that it’s the key to finishing this. The suspicion also based on past puzzles like this that the answer will be very short, and the longer, amended version totally thematic. Scribble above the grid the possible letters from the (to be expanded) entries below. Stare a bit more, frustration levels rising.

Ah, it’s FAWLTY TOWERS (from TOES presumably), and now we can work out what those expanded entries were meant to be – BLURB, not bluer, and so on. The other names (is 1ac really a name)? No prizes for guessing Basil, Sybil, Polly and Manuel. There we are. A slightly frustrating solve, with everything hinging on that first, particularly unyielding across entry. Perhaps if I’d got luckier with my guesses with the expanded grid entries elsewhere I wouldn’t have felt so disgruntled at the close, but well, I didn’t. Or perhaps I was just feeling particularly grumpy this weekend, you decide. Blame the impending festive season…

This is Kairos’ first Tuesday appearance in the i on my watch, and if it’s typical of his non-IoS output I hope it won’t be the last. Quite a decent challenge with some sly clue writing, and there are nine 4ds lurking in the grid. So beware.

This was a slow starter for me, with very modest progress until the theme became obvious thanks to 22d. Thereafter the pace picked up considerably. A couple of unusual definitions and a variant spelling caused a measure of confusion: 11ac is a bit rich, strictly speaking, but given a couple of checking letters it ought to be obvious where to look for it in the dictionary. Two clues stood out for me: 1d and my first one in, 10ac. The latter is easy – but it made me chuckle, and therefore takes the COD prize:

“Question one’s sexuality in North American country (7)”

Duncanshiell’s Fifteensquared blog entry comes highly recommended today: it’s exemplary and he has provided illustrations. As for the comments, there’s some understandable pooh-poohing about a glaring omission; much back and forth about 11 and 26ac, and a one-liner by Dormouse which made me splutter.