On the weekend that large bits of South Wales disappeared beneath the waters, including the kids’ local dance studio, it was left to Kruger to remind us of the lighter side of life. That is presuming you could get into the shops for a paper as every man and his dog rushed to the supermarket before Storm Dennis’ scheduled arrival. As I spent the afternoon and night thinking – I’m not going out in that, and stoking up the fire, perhaps they had a point.

Finally turning to the centre pages we find talk of blank cells which I’m ready for after the past couple of weeks, and also misprints in a few definitions which I’m also fully prepared for. I’d even go so far as to say that I guessed straight off where the blank cells would be – the thematic entries at the top and bottom of the grid – though it took too long to spot that they also encompassed a couple of entries to the left and right, having exhausted several options as to possible entries and parsing, it then occurring that there were in fact several more to leave empty.

If only I’d counted the number of unchecked letters and compared them to ICY BIN FIXES… There’s always one bit of the preamble which the setter has generously supplied to help us bedraggled solvers that I choose to ignore to my peril.

Oh well. CRUCIFIXION fell pretty quickly across the centre, there being little in the way of options there. As did MENUDO which interestingly wasn’t in any dictionaries I own, and FINITO too which I suspect might also have been lacking, but better-known.

As afternoon turned to night, and I got enough of the misprints to work out that we were probably looking for THE LIFE OF… something, and a character called GREGORY, with the fire roaring and the rain generally hammering it down, what did trouble me was what to put in the top and bottom rows. Possible checking letters seemingly pretty un-helpful, if the word searches I utilised were anything to go by.

Now, The Life of Brian is what sprang to mind, of course, and there is a very minor character called Gregory in the film too, not that I noticed on many repeat viewings.

But as it turns out the line we were looking for is one I didn’t remember either, but I have trouble remembering many things so that isn’t much to go by. I’M BRIAN AND SO IS MY WIFE.

Was it a bit naughty those two thematic entries not being actual words? I think so, but I’ll forgive Kruger just this once for generally lightening the mood round here.

On a weekend where much misery was being wreaked locally it would be tempting to put up a link to that song, but I often think its modern-day appropriation is a bit trite. So I will link to my favourite scene from said film, which I suspect is one biblical scholars in particular find to be particularly rib-tickling.

So to close, and one final – damn you, Dennis.

As Jon archly observed yesterday there’s always room for a diversity of opinions here, so I wonder how this crossword will have gone down? There’s a drug reference so that’ll be Topsy out of sorts unfortunately, but nothing else in the potentially offensive line. The level of difficulty seemed to me roughly middling, albeit a little tougher than one generally expects from Radian, so all told I have some hopes that others will share my opinion that this is about as good as it gets.

This setter is a real master of the thematic grid fill, and it’s instructive to do some highlighting to see how he has distributed all the goodies throughout the puzzle. The theme itself is not quite explicit, but it was soon clear what was going on and that helped quite a bit. Incidentally, and possibly coincidentally, there is a tenuous link between 14ac and the great man, not picked up on by RatkojaRiku in his otherwise exhaustive November 2015 write up for Fifteensquared. Anybody else get the feeling we’re missing a window, by the way?

Highlights? Well, take your pick. With oodles of variety (another Radian characteristic) there surely must be something to delight everybody, and I wound up with more ticks than an horologist’s workshop. Here’s my COD; alternative nominations are very welcome as usual.

14ac: “Poles invested in low quality gem (9)”

Rather unexpectedly we have an IoS reprint to start the week, because it feels like an age since we’ve done so. An odd puzzle, in that I finished well under par for the i as expected, but rather than racing through it felt like careful deliberation was the order of the day, especially down in the SE corner. No hold ups as such, apart from 8d which for some reason took me a while to spot, but no sense of this being a write-in either. Nothing that was controversial, though I’m guessing there were tuts in some quarters on entering 4ac, and no fireworks either which again is par for the course. Just a good, solid, enjoyable start to the week.

COD? I’ll go with 11ac – “Vogue article featuring northern Italian city (6)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/29/independent-on-sunday-1344-by-poins/

Saturday 15th February 2020

Tees is definitely one of my favourite setters, but I found last Saturday’s to be a relatively muted affair by his own high standards. The most remarkable clues were so because they had an obscure or difficult-to-guess answer, rather than for showing much of the invention, cleverness and guile he usually gives us in spadefuls. That having been said I still thought it was very good, and much better than you’d see in most newspapers!

Those tricky answers were ‘Ngultrum’ the Bhutanese currency at 2d, 16a the Australian expression ‘Come the Raw Prawn’(which without a dictionary check could just have easily been ‘Come the Bad Prawn’ for me), and my LOI 15d ‘Tailspin’ which with its deceptive wordplay, definition ‘Agitated state’ and the crossing letters all being SENORITA letters had me copping out and looking at a wordsearch, I must confess.  Oh, and I also learned that Clio lived on Mt Helicon – who knew?

For the COD, I did enjoy the acrostic at 21d, which was very nicely done, but I’ll plump for this one:

15d Seed-spiller up and back in very little time (10)

Click here to see all the answers, and also the 3 clues RatkojaRiku picked out as his favourites – all of which were different to mine!

i Cryptic Crossword 2820 Punk

February 21, 2020

A relatively gentle puzzle from Punk, today, solved by me in well under my typical time, and with no need to resort to aids – except to check on two or three of the answers.

A relatively tame one too; I hope Topsy, if she has done this one and is reading this, will have been able to ignore, or at least indulge, the one reference to drugs and the one double-entendre – if indeed it is one.

On completion I had no queries left about the word-play. I needed to go to the internet in order to check that YAOUNDE was an African capital, and that STYLET was a surgical instrument. I also checked on LENTIGO, but that was a word I was sort of sure I had come across before. I was not familiar with the phrase WHO’S YOUR DADDY[?] but it was nicely clued and once a couple of crossing letters were in it seemed obvious.

The one other phrase I had not come across before is my nomination for Clue of the Day as it made me laugh out loud, which was 13ac: “Negotiation of deals OK where working lunch is taken?” (2,5).

Back to October 2015 for its first outing: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/10/29/independent-9061-punk/

i Cryptic Crossword 2819 Monk

February 20, 2020

As I’ve said previously, Thursdays seem to be a toss up between an IoS reprint and something… rather more challenging. This Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint from Monk I’d suggest definitely falls into the latter category, my finish time being (accurately for once having calculated the thing) 1.3 x par. There’s a Nina in the top and bottom rows that certainly helped in the SW corner at the close, having got somewhat more stuck there than I was elsewhere. In retrospect I don’t see why as none of the answers were obscure (even 25ac which I expected to be, dreaming up all sorts of combinations of the letters from the anagram before the obvious sprang to mind). Elsewhere I think only 13ac and 8d caused problems over and above already faced. A very unfriendly grid didn’t help progress, this being in essence four separate puzzles in one.

As is noted over on the other side, “[a] good tussle and definitely worthy of the Saturday spot”, which is perhaps where it should have been scheduled. 🙂

A good puzzle nevertheless, with much to appreciate, my COD going to 20ac – “Tanker was emptied in the name of war (6)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/10/31/independent-9057-monk-saturday-prize-puzzle-24th-oct-2015/

i Cryptic Crossword 2818 Dac

February 19, 2020

Those hoping to rival some of the super-duper quick times reported yesterday I suspect will have come a cropper today, this being about as difficult as Dac gets. Lots of odd words dotted round the grid, and some longer answers that weren’t, at least for me, particularly forthcoming. That said once I’d settled into things and got some answers into the grid everything fell into place pretty quickly. Or perhaps it just took me a while to wake up, as everything was as fairly clued as ever, in particular 15d which I was pleased to get correctly, half-worried there might have been an alternative flying creature for the first part of the wordplay that hadn’t occurred to me.

First in 1ac and the false expectation that this would be a flying solve, last in the French city – I’m never very good with French cities – finish time as it transpires just under par for the i.

COD? As ever lots to choose from, with my nomination going to 13d – “Reckless old man imprisons sappers? Wrong (9)”.

To November 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/11/04/independent-9066-dac/

The day before Storm Ciara gatecrashed the weekend, the i offered up the last in our series of female setters, finishing with the inestimable Skylark. We’ve had a good solid couple of weeks, so if I had a request for Nimrod it would be to see more of these setters the rest of the year. If only we had more Saturdays to play with I suspect the answer would be.

This week sees a pretty straightforward preamble involving superfluous letters in some clues, and an unclued border to be filled with a handy set of other letters that turn out to be thematic in their own right. No trickery afoot, it appears, unlike that presaged by the gathering clouds.

A fairly straightforward grid fill too, once I’d got my head round having to look for those sneaky extra letters. Subconsciously I suspect that I inherently trust what the clues are saying, even when I’ve been told not to. So that it took far too long to spot the superfluous R in Ayer, though even I know what EMO music is, or that M would be a more appropriate abbreviation for Mega than Megan. In fact the only one which still has me floored is the plant at 27ac which I’m assuming is DICOT given the checking letters, though I couldn’t tell you why.

When solving though my chief concern was regarding 3d, and what the synonym for “fussy” or “suspect” might be, depending on which was the anagram indicator and which the definition. As the checking letters fell into place it became clear that it was STEPHEN somebody, but it was only at the close that it became obvious that we were looking for STEPHEN NORTON, the villain of Curtain, the final Poirot novel. Bang, one “suspect”.

I’ve read one or two most of the novels, btw, so all this went in pretty quickly. 😉

And that message revealed by superfluous letters? Ah, another message hidden in plain sight in the clues, this time in the fourth letters. CHRISTIES TOP SLEUTH MUST OUST THE JEOPARDY.

So in goes HERCULE POIROT instead, who was indeed renowned for being “fussy”, though not before I’d realised that the list of novels in the border featuring he of the little grey cells and incredible tache wouldn’t fit until he was indeed in place.

Done then, and all in a single session. Looking back the attention to detail is quite something, from the letters to be used in the border to the innocuous looking 3d. Attention to detail that for once I appear to have appreciated in its entirety. Blimey.

So time to batten down the hatches, grab a stiff drink, and ride out the rest of the weekend. Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy one.

A crossword with an otherworldly theme today courtesy of our friend Alchemi, who can be relied upon to supply something which ought to appeal to everybody. There’s a remarkable instance of brag-and-bounce in the comments on the November 2015 Fifteensquared blog, and I’m sure we’re all dumbstruck with admiration for the intellectual titan who can dash this one off in five minutes. The rest of us mere mortals can take consolation in getting better value for our money.

That said, this puzzle is certainly at the gentle end of the spectrum for a Tuesday, and it’s only the large flightless bird which needed checking for its other usage – not that I did, the clue being admirably clear. 27ac is now established as a classic construction, and whilst it was familiar I’m not tired of it yet. A few smiles today, for 12ac, 8d (chiefly because of that utterly uncool synonym for “fashionable”), and the remarkably dated 20d. Remember those two? Four years or so is a long, long time in politics. That can be the COD:

“Dave’s mate looks for gold boats (7)”

Finally, ta ever so to the advertising department for the free iDoku.

When I spotted Kairos’ name I firstly assumed this was an IoS reprint, and secondly that this would be on the easy side. As it turns out I was wrong on both counts, this being a Monday reprint, and one that for me at least was little above average difficulty. It’s possible on the other hand that a severe case of Mondayitis has set in, having spent large parts of the weekend fretting about floods and various other bits of storm damage. As it turns out we got away with it, though lots in the immediate vicinity didn’t. In other words your mileage may vary.

On the other side Kairos in the comments hints mysteriously at an “unusual feature” that turns out to be the lack of anagrams, which may explain why I struggled more than expected. Talking of which, I failed at the close to parse 14d, though everything else went in fully understood and with a number of ticks beside the clues too, so I’d rank this as being a pretty decent puzzle, though with a bit of a gripe regarding the pretty obscure abbreviations utilised in 17d.

COD then? I’ll go with 2d which was very nicely done – “Picture of empty box? (7)”.

To October 2015:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/10/19/independent-9052-by-kairos/