A topical crossword today, marking the official opening of the controversial 2020 Olympic Games today. And I think this was set, befitting, at a high level of challenge. It took me well over my typical solving time, although it was thoroughly engrossing. I did need to use electronic aids a little more than I normally do.

My first in was the charmingly apt ELUCIDATE, which lulled me into a false sense of security; subsequent clues proved less tractable on the whole. Few clues were straightforward. For example, of the eight clues that involved anagrams, all but one required some additional treatment as well, such as the insertion of an additional letter, or its inclusion in a charade with another element of word-play.

I think that with the exception of Robert BEAMON, the Olympians in question were all sufficiently well known to be recognised as correct when identified. But unless you had some sort of idea, it was a challenge guessing which particular person we were supposed to be thinking of from the simple “Olympian” (as opposed to, say, “rower”). My last in was COMANECI, largely because I was unaware of the spelling, which distorted my thinking. The Olympians mentioned were, in no particular order: Bolt, Ennis, Coe, Comaneci, Wells, Thorpe, Carl Lewis, Budd, Hoy, Beamon and Pinsent. An impressive haul.

One clue seemed a tad unfair – ALFRESCO, where the solver was required to get “sco” from “James VI… briefly”. I needed all the crossing letters to get the very amusing ROMAN NUMERALS. Clue of the day, however, goes to the wittily self-referential 10ac: “Explain cryptic clue? I see! (9)”.

To the last Olympics, uniquely (I hope) five years ago, for all the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/10/25/independent-9370-punk/

A Saturday reprint from Nestor today that I suspect may be somewhere within Cornick’s Goldilocks Zone – difficult enough in places to be interesting, while being accessible but not a write-in either. A few of the longer entries will probably have tripped up a number of solvers, with temptingly alternative IC and IA endings, especially if like me you’re a little hasty, but thankfully we had some common synonyms for “car” and “win big” to set us straight. At the close 11ac, 21d and 14d were the ones here to cause me issues. Elsewhere there were a few unparsed – well done in particular if you knew the synonym referenced at 10ac. There’s a minor theme that Nestor points out in the comments over on the other side, being so minor that most of us will have blinked and missed it. Excellent as expected from this setter, finished quite comfortably under par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 22ac – “Hard ring made from keratinous growth (4)”.

To February 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/11/independent-9464-sat-11-feb-2017-nestor/

Tees takes the Wednesday slot with a puzzle that in terms of difficulty was just right for a Dac stand-in. I would add the caveat that, if you needed or wanted to parse everything, then your experience may have been a little different as several (notably 9ac and 24ac) I lobbed in based on likely looking checking letters. Don’t ask where I dredged up the former from, as I have no idea. Retail related clues fill the left and right columns, but there doesn’t seem to be any theme beyond that. Interesting and inventive as Tees always is, with a nod I suspect to the Inquisitor editor at 14ac. Finish time on a par with your average Wednesday, and enjoyed throughout.

COD? I’ll go with the aforementioned 14ac – “I set puzzle – am I setting cryptically? (10)”.

To February 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/22/independent-9473-tees/

Passing thoughts this morning will have been engaged mostly with ponderings on the lateness of the paper boy and the vagaries of the Welsh weather. As far as the former is concerned, concerns over the prospect of getting many early solves in over the course of the summer holidays are beginning to trouble me based on the late deliveries now expected on non-school days, and as for the latter, well, we should be used to this sort of thing by now. By the afternoon, though, the paper was duly delivered, suncream and hat in place, ready for a quiet afternoon with the i. Quiet that is if it wasn’t for the kids hurtling up and down the road on their skateboards.

Misprints this week, but only in the across clues, so throwing caution to the wind I started with the downs. An easy (with the help of the BRB) anagram to start with, clues falling in that corner offering up the false dawn of another quick grid fill, which this wasn’t, thankfully, because a bit of a tussle with the clues and scouring of the (virtual) pages of Chambers for obscure definitions is half the fun.

This week both TAFT and PEORIA would be notable by their absence from its pages, because, well, Chambers doesn’t do that sort of thing. Thankfully though Wikipedia is big on obscure US presidents and cities.

Did I mention that all this was fuelled by the last of my boil in the bag barista style coffee? Yet again it will be several days before I can sleep again, and thus comes highly recommended.

Almost forgot, misprints. Animals, a fact which became clear reasonably quickly. Ones too I suspect most solvers realised pretty sharpish were ones swallowed by a certain old lady, confirmed by a glance at the grid and FLY in a diagonal to the NW.

What else might be discovered? DEAD OF COURSE which was her eventual fate, and last but not least I COULD EAT A HORSE which would, if I remember correctly, lead to the same, making up the requisite 30 cells to highlight.

All done before teatime, for which the rather more regular fare of cheese rolls and millionaire bites were in order. And enjoyed? Yes, that too, enjoyed and more.

Here’s a bit of Super Furry Animals, my choice of listening pleasure this evening.

20210710_170135~2

You’re not Batarde, I hear you say. Well, yes, because sadly he’s decided after many years of service to retire from blogging here. I know that his entertaining posts and insightful comments will be missed by all, so can I just say thank you again for all the hard work over the years, and for contributing so much to the overall tone and ethos of the site.

This leaves me to blog Phi’s latest offering, which also brings a bit of a surprise as, surprisingly for a Tuesday, there appears to be no theme. I looked for a long time at the C’s to the NW, and CONTRAINDICATE / COUNTERATTACK, but can’t see anything, in common with the blogger on Fifteensquared. In common with solvers back in the day I also struggled at the close with 20ac, but the rest fairly flew by with little to comment on, to be honest, except to say that this was a good puzzle thoroughly enjoyed.

COD? I’ll go with 25ac – “Lady disheartened after writing in suitable terms? (15)”.

To April 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/14/independent-9517-phi/

An IoS reprint today that will perhaps divide opinion. I finished in a time that was fairly sharpish that led me to believe that this was on the easy side, but on Fifteensquared the consensus seems to have been that this was the exact opposite. So, let me know how you got on… I only struggled on 3d and, at the close, 26ac (which was fairly obvious with all the checking letters but the parsing was quite something else), but perhaps solving when I’m awake for a change has sped things along, though the heat needless to say won’t have. I had to check if 14ac had already died when this was published, and was astonished and slightly alarmed to find that it’s already been that many years. Time flies.

Much to appreciate, including the slightly rude 21d which did I’m afraid raise a smile, with my COD going to 15d – “Minister never flustered when indebted? (8)”.

To February 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/26/independent-on-sunday-1409hypnos/

After a mixed bag of puzzles in the i this week, normal service has been resumed with Phi on a Saturday. There wasn’t a theme exactly, more of what I believe they call an ‘Easter Egg’ in gaming circles – a little something to go looking for by way of a bonus once you’ve finished. If you didn’t notice it, you might like to go and have a look at your grid now, it’s not too hard to spot…

There. BarTER/ TERabyte in row 1 etc. Quite nice that. And if I’d spotted it sooner it might have helped me with my LOI 12a where I had I_E_R_A_E_ and couldn’t see past ‘Inebriated’. I did wonder if that was another clerical error with the wrong clue written (it has happened in the app before) but a list of ships soon put me right. Level 2 cheating that 🙂

So what about the clues? Well pretty standard Phi material – 6 or 7 anagrams including one for an unknown-to-me American author DREISER, a very nice cryptic definition for DUST BATH – dry cleaning indeed! – and a few other nifty bits of lateral thinking.

Completed in less than average time for the i, my pick for Clue Of the Day is this one:

24a Place with lots of phones but only one line, it seems (4,5)

Full parsings with all the answers can be found from the ever-reliable BertandJoyce by clicking here:

Independent 9475 / Phi

This was Dutch’s debut in the Independent, and I believe in the i too. Congratulations then are in order for a fine first outing.

Much to admire today with good surface readings and wordplay that made me at least think a little without being a write-in, while as a whole being nice and accessible. There was just the one on solving I failed to parse – 21ac, though the answer was clear as day – largely because the two potential anagram indicators left me seriously befuddled. I also learnt of a Bogart film of which I was previously unaware, so a definite thumbs up all round. First in 20d having started as usual with the last down clue, last in 13d which did give a little pause for thought at the close, finish time comfortably under par for the i.

COD? With 10ac and 20d close runners-up, I’ll go with 3d – “Dutch will produce gibberish after this generous drink (6)”.

To February 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/13/independent-9465-by-dutch/

This puzzle was originally published on Valentine’s Day 2017, which does make you wonder who thought it was a particularly appropriate bit of scheduling – Eimi or Knut? But let’s not dwell on that any longer, and just say that there’s a certain theme running throughout revealed at the start (or close to the finish in my case) by 1/3/6 (which I did spot, otherwise I suspect 6ac may not have fallen at all). Fun throughout whether or not you appreciated the theme, with much invention on show, and clues that were solvable with a little careful thought, though the parsing of one or two (22ac and 32ac in particular) eluded me. All is explained though over on the other side. Finish time about average here, and thoroughly enjoyed.

BTW, is it just me, or do we seem to be getting a run of themes that indicate that the editor is all in favour of a bit of schoolboy naughtiness and / or edginess?

COD? I’ll go for the combination of 1ac and 17d (because the former doesn’t make sense without the latter!):

1ac: “Censor 17 (4)”.
17d: “Take a bullet for Kitty (4-5)”.

To February 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/14/independent-9466-knut/

From one extreme to another this week – yesterday we had a puzzle from Hob that was about as difficult and experimental as they get, to Dac, which was about as easy as they get, and I would say more traditional in its construction, but Dac’s clues are always inventive, well-observed, but accessible at the same time. So needless to say this was a pleasure to solve throughout, with no real hold-ups encountered apart from a few unforced errors in passing, but such is my daily solve.

COD? I suspect everyone will have their own pick today, but I’ll go with 1d, just because it’s a perfect example of how to clue a probably quite unknown word – “Givin’ name to waxy substance (6)”.

To February 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/15/independent-9467-by-dac/