We end the working week with a fairly straightforward reprint of a Monday puzzle by Alchemi, nothing much in the way of obscurities here. Although both 1ac and 29ac aren’t words in everyday usage, they can be assembled by following the wordplay. A couple went in on definition alone – 20ac and 24ac. I’m not familiar with Greek islands, but “This place” in the clue had to be “here” which made the answer fairly obvious.

Over on Fifteensquared NealH had quibbles regarding 3dn and 17dn but they both seem fine to me. 3dn was originally entered with a question mark, but on seeing it written the parsing got a tick, and as there isn’t a lot else that stands out I will make that my COD:

If the Queen took up roller – skating, might she break this? (8,5)


Our reprint today is all the way back from 2009, I suspect because of today’s date. Beyond a handful of references in the clues though there doesn’t seem to be anything else going on, so… Shrugs.

It’s Scorpion, so it’s a little tough. I was pretty pleased however to come in just a little over par for the i, though with a load of question marks at the close. Perhaps I got lucky, or perhaps I’ve just been solving Scorpion for a long time. Chief among those not fully understood were 1ac and 6ac, with queries elsewhere about the vehicle tax and exactly how 12ac was supposed to work. The latter’s very clever, but doesn’t work in a Welsh accent. For the others it took the mighty Gaufrid to make everything clear.

But was it enjoyable? Yes it was, thoroughly, with lots of ticks to go with the equal number of question marks. As it’s Valentine’s Day, for COD I’ll go with the one I suspect Eimi spotted, 21d – “More than one X on side of Valentine present perhaps (5)”.

To October 2009:


No Dac this week, but an IoS reprint from Poins that is a more than ample substitute. Pretty smooth surfaces, though not as smooth as the master’s, of course, and enjoyable throughout. Finish time a little under par for the i. A couple of trickier bits along the way – a pretty obscure bit of slang at 20ac, unless you’re an avid Beatles fan or from that neck of the woods, an Egyptian goddess I bet few will have heard of, and a knotty bit of wordplay I thought at 11ac. Well, it took me an age to spot it. 10d also gave me a little grief, but only because I couldn’t spell the sewer at 21ac. 🙂

COD? I’ll go with 25ac – “Offer of support to keep North Dakota republican (6)”.

To October 2014:


Always make a point of reading the preamble properly, that’s my advice. I never do mind, and sometimes come a cropper…

Perhaps it was the lack of grid lines, always a little alarming. 9 clues with wordplay omitting a single letter. 11 others generating a single extra letter. What about the last bit that mentioned, as if in passing, another 11 that needed a word removed? That would be the bit I completely missed, for at least half the solve. What alerted you? The more than is usual sense of mystification that overcame me on looking at some of the clues. Are we looking for effects, or a painter, or something to do with both? As it turns out just the former, extremely trippy meaning what you think it should – TY at the end of PROPER. Now, that makes a little more sense. Just the last bit of the preamble to make sense of then.

It’s Saturday. I’m never feeling my best on a Saturday, especially when frozen through. Yes, it snowed again.

Blank grids. Well, Gila’s been a little generous. The first four across clues fill both rows, an INTERRAIL PASS all of one. Jigsaw and Chambers time. Last in DAFTIE down in the bottom right which is generally how I was feeling by the close.

OK. I haven’t got all 9 of the omitted letters. That’s not going to help with that route. Ditto the 11 extra, so bang goes the name. Let’s have a look for 17 cells to highlight. I never was any good at word searches, and we’re getting a lot of them of late. Quinapalus has got a handy grid search though. But did it help? Well, sort of. It only took me 24 hours from noting with interest the name of a Mac operating system somewhere in the grid, a hunch that given a “Blank Face” we were possibly looking for something to do with rock climbing, and a bit of fun with partial anagrams to come up with:

EL CAPITAN, YOSEMITE and Alex Honnold. And no, I never did manage to parse all of them. Only missing two, mind you, not bad.

The 9 omitted that show the route? According to Wikipedia Mr Honnold followed something called the FREERIDER line. Nope, doesn’t mean anything to me either, but some of the letters I’ve got match. Drawing lines from the ones I’ve got to the ones I haven’t (notably two E’s), and staring hard at some of the parsing again, gives a route that looks a lot like the one here:

Phew. Could be right. Could be wrong too. Fifteensquared will know for sure. Me? I need another whisky. Gila’s beaten me in the past, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s done so again this week, but for what it’s worth… Voilà!

What to make of this? It’s Tuesday and it’s Radian so there must be a theme, surely? Unfortunately the setter didn’t drop in at Fifteensquared to elucidate when the crossword first appeared in November 2014. My initial impression on completion was that it’s a remarkably downbeat set of words, but on reflection I suspect that there’s something else going on. Let’s see if anyone else is thinking along the same lines.

This was typical Radian: not too difficult with quite a wide variety of clue types. Rather a lot of anagrams, you might think. At any rate there was near unanimous praise for the puzzle in the other place and it was certainly enjoyable to solve. It’s rarely an easy matter to find an obvious COD with this compiler, the standard being pretty high throughout, so alternative nominations are welcome. 22 and 25 caught my eye, but since it gave me a spot of bother and a nice penny-drop moment right at the end I’m going for 12ac:

“Mexican team caught out in base (4)”

The Don is back in his rightful Monday spot, at least temporarily. As expected we’ve got a fairly straightforward offering with a couple of unknowns chucked in for good measure. Both were unfortunately over on the far LHS – the naturalist and the beast at 7d – which meant that I struggled a little after flying through the rest. The definition at 22ac earned a question mark – it’s been a long time since I’ve read the book in question. 13ac I made a bit of a wild stab at. PENS, anyone else? Finish time though was still well under par for the i, albeit with the unforced error.

Elsewhere 15d unfortunately doesn’t seem to be quite right, we’re missing an “of”, and I’d forgotten the saint too, not that it mattered. 12ac was also a little… Odd. It made sense on solving, sort of, but that’s as far as it goes.

A thoroughly good puzzle with lots of ticks, my COD goes to 10d – “Evil folk joining renegade, one emerging as anti-establishment figure? (12)”.

To September 2014:


Saturday 2nd February 2019

Hands up who spotted the Nina?

Well I spent a good couple of minutes looking at the end of last Saturday’s crossword, and completely failed to notice the procession of CA through the across solutions – CAttle, sCAmpi, voCAls, outCAsts, deliCAte then, niftily, sceniC, AgoraphobiA, Coward, ACt of God, lACtific, reACts, lunACy, maniAC. Remarkable that, and a good example for the uninitiated of what a Nina is as opposed to a theme.

Over at Fifteensquared here, Phi declares ‘it’s just something I put in to get over the ever-recurring dread of having to fill a new grid’. Well, maybe, but it must be fun to compose too.

Another remarkable thing was the complete absence of anagrams. Again, hands up if you can remember ever seeing that in an i crossword before?

I didn’t find the clues as difficult as Phi can be though. My last two in were the long entries at 8d and 11a, which were both a little tricky, but generally there were no complaints.

Indeed, some goodies in there, amongst which my pick for COD goes to the following:

5d Second son emerging from nearest cupboard (6)

A straightforward-ish IOS reprint from Hypnos which probably comes as a bit of a relief to some and slightly disappointing to others due to it being finished quite quickly. Well, you can’t please everybody. It has a varied selection of clues of the more traditional sort and nothing that could be described as obscure, although 16dn went in only because it fitted, was a bit convoluted and got a question mark. I see from the Fifteensquared blog that the “Little” refers to somebody who plays the violin. Hmm. While I breezed through most of this it was the NW corner that caused a problem. I really should have seen 1ac earlier but even with 2dn in it remained, like my brain, blank. 1dn too – I had considered the correct answer but discarded it thinking it was a tree. Oh well, it made it last a bit longer.

COD? Well, many ticks but I quite liked 28ac

Irregular American at heart protecting strikebreaker (7)

I think it’s fair to say that this is about as difficult as the i crossword gets. I clocked up a time that was completely off the scale, and only then with a few electronic nudges along the way. Like yesterday my first one in was somewhere down the bottom of the grid, but instead of then making steady progress I crawled along, dotting in answers here and there. The longer ones did fall fairly quickly, but didn’t help much in terms of more rapid progression. All seems to be fair and above board, with only a couple of question marks at the close, but still, extremely tough for a weekday.

A smattering of geography (never my strong suit), combined in one case with a bit of obscure celebrity knowledge (he has come up before, but I can almost see Sprouthater’s hackles rising), and at least one (19ac) that isn’t in Chambers all combined to further up the ante.

Engaging, and enjoyable in a masochistic sort of way. 🙂

COD? 23ac – “Herbivores love to feed on greens (8)”.

To October 2014:


After yesterday’s offering from Hob a bit of light relief from Dac? Well, not quite, as this was Dac upping the difficulty level a notch. My first one in was down in the SW corner with 24ac, though with a complete balls up regarding the parsing – yep, I missed the anagram, but still got the right answer from CAST = actors which wasn’t what was going on at all, of course. I should have stopped to worry about the IRON bit, but figured what else could it be? At this point I thought I was in trouble, though the bottom half of the grid did then fall without too much ado. The realisation that it was a battle we were looking for at 10ac did for the NE corner, and hence anti-clockwise to the NW. 9ac was a definite unknown here and last to fall, and a perfect example of how cleverly Dac hides his wordplay in a surface reading that is as smooth as you’d like. Elsewhere I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with 21ac or 12ac, but it transpires it was just me being a bit dim. Overall time well under par for the i, though not for our Wednesday setter.

COD? So many to choose from with 14ac, 18ac, 5d and 10ac all getting ticks, but I particularly liked the aforementioned 9ac – “Old man relaxes, as it were, having drink (6)”.

To September 2014 where there’s some intriguing discussion about a cock up the previous day: