This reprint of a Saturday prize puzzle from Monk is much like his other offerings, a few excellent clues a few easy and some downright obscurities all wrapped up in a pretty meaningless Nina but at least we get to learn something about cows stomachs, at least these were confirmed by consulting Chambers as was the obscure pheasants nest but  I can’t say the same for Joking = Rotting which isn’t in the editions I have, then we have 21d another oddity, confirmed by Chambers though. After all this it seemed that that what started off with a few brisk entries finished as a trudge. I do have two that I awarded more than just a tick to 1dn and

COD 11ac  Bizarre old aunt thrashed his bum (10)

All this is unpicked and parsed by mc_rapper67  over on Fifteensquared


Cain’s Jawbone

October 19, 2017

A brief (and very welcome) commercial break from the Laurence Sterne Trust.

The Laurence Sterne Trust is a charitable trust, museum and gallery who promote the life and works of Laurence Sterne, author of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman – a masterwork of experimental fiction. We are interested in all texts that have nonlinear, unusual or nonconforming structure. Which is where our interest in Torquemada’s Puzzle Book, more specifically ‘Cain’s Jawbone’ lies – the 100 page shuffled murder mystery novella at the end of the puzzle book. ‘Cain’s Jawbone’ is a 100 page murder mystery that the author (Edward Powys Mathers aka. Torquemada – the first cryptic crossword compiler for The Observer) claims was bound in the wrong order – it requires the reader to reorder the pages correctly to successfully solve the murder. When it was published in the 1930s there was a cash prize, only two people solved the murder mystery and the answer was never published. A copy of the puzzle book was donated to Shandy Hall over a year ago and we know the solution. The Laurence Sterne Trust wish to republish the text and reopen the competition for a cash prize of £1,000 through a publisher called Unbound – a crowdfunding website for books, more information of which can be found here:… We thought our project/competition may be of interest to you and/or your readers.

Pierre over on Fifteensquared found this to be quite difficult, and at first sight I did too, struggling to make inroads into the grid. I put it to one side, had lunch, and then promptly flew through the rest of the puzzle, so make of that what you will. One or two obscurities too many for my liking – DO for Ditto, PRO for Tom – but the rest was fair, though I never felt I was entirely on the settter’s wavelength.

COD? A very simple clue, but nicely spotted I thought, and a nice surface reading, 11ac – “Met over a drink (5)”.

To June 2013:

So, belated congratulations to Dac on his 500th puzzle. Did I notice the Nina? No, but at least it explains the comparatively more difficult top half of the grid. Or perhaps that was just down to the smashing 5 hours sleep I had last night. Picking an alternative spelling of 5d also didn’t help. Or Berkshire villages being somewhat of a mystery in these parts.

Anyway, a fantastic puzzle as ever, with surface readings that are as smooth as you could want. COD? Too many to choose from, but I’ll go with  24ac – “I’d feel nervous before opening contest (5,5)”.

To July 2013:

Radler, a setter I don’t remember seeing before, though it appears he crops up once every year with a toughish puzzle. Talking of which, you remember I nominated Ifor for the most difficult Inquisitor of the year? Radler’s topped that this week, and in some style. But to begin at the beginning, with the preamble. Ten solutions to be thematically changed, twelve clues that need a letter added before they can be solved. Put them together to spell out part of the title of a book. Highlight a cryptic representation of the author’s name in the grid. Such fun.

Such fun, indeed. A handful of clues entered Saturday afternoon, and the growing inclination to write the whole thing off as a bad job. A mixture of non-normal clue types is probably partly to blame for this, a case of being completely psyched out by the setter. An answer here, an answer there, and lo and behold one that needs to be thematically changed – a simple anagram, spotted at last, giving us GOURMANDS at 11ac. The entry in the grid is supposed to be a real word, so I guess we need to remove contiguous letters. GOUR(MAN)DS then, at a guess. It’s in pencil, we can change it. You would’ve thought at this point I might speed up, but no. A steady crawl through Saturday evening, Sunday evening, and through into Monday with answers falling at a painfully slow rate.

Three at the close, all evidently themed answers, and all three I should have got earlier. Yes, GEORGE Michael is quite famous. No, AMAZON(IAN) wasn’t a red herring. And yes, we used to grow SWEET(WILLIAM)s in the garden.

So what do we have? Five clues where we’ve removed the word MAN, five others where men’s names have been removed. Those letters that are supposed to spell out a title. I’ve got too few and lots of question marks, which isn’t a good start. HE?IN?IBL, to be exact. Go through the clues you’re not sure of again. Ah, a T at the start. Hang about, THE INVISIBLE… Man, of course. Obvious, in retrospect, and perhaps it was obvious to anybody with half a brain from the start.

So this cryptic representation of HG Wells. After an extremely difficult grid fill an easy end game? No way. Nothing obvious to highlight. No obvious letters. Time. Goes. By. To cut to the chase – Hg is the chemical symbol for Mercury, a synonym of which is QUICK SILVER, which indeed is in the grid. Wells? Well, apparently FLOWS is a suitable synonym, and there it is following on.

Phew. Collapses. Am I glad I persisted with that one? Most certainly, the way it all fell together was very satisfying. Would I persist with Inquisitors that taxing every week? Well, probably not. But thanks to Radler for a challenge that I must admit almost had me beat.

This felt like two puzzles in one to me, being entirely straightforward at the top and distinctly thorny at the bottom. There is a musical theme which I really ought to have spotted or at least suspected, but it doesn’t get in the way and needn’t trouble the solver who takes no interest in such things. All was explained back in April 2013 at Fifteensquared.

A couple of gripes this time. 14d does not convince, and I take issue with Alchemii’s contention that all Hollywood Hitchcocks are created equal and can be clued simply as a “film”. Some are more canonical than others, surely, and 25ac therefore seems a bit rich. Otherwise a nicely varied mixture today with a few clues which stood out, of which my favourite is 27ac on grounds of sneakiness and a fine surface:

“Figure on the right in America is a fool (5)”

Maybe it was the gloom that means it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to get light today,  the slight anxiety engendered by the approach of Storm Ophelia, or more prosaically just my inability for an age to spot the long answer, but I found this much harder than usual for the Don. Or perhaps on the other hand it was just Mondayitis. But whatever, I struggled from start to end, and wonder if I should just have put it to one side for a bit and tried again later, at which point I would most likely have flown through.

Quite a few unknowns for me today – the sugar, the food at 10d, and the place in Oxon which is obvious, of course, in retrospect. But they all added up to make an already difficult solve that much more so.

Anyway, lots to like as always, with COD going to 18d – “Source of finance originally making one comfortable (4-3)”.

To June 2013:

Saturday 7th October 2017

I can only remember encountering this particular grid before in a Phi puzzle, and once again I struggled with those crossing four-letterers in two of the corners – in effect 8 letters with just two checking squares. Last ones in again.

The theme was clear enough – I got there via the Jubilee clue at 3d – and it added an extra dimension of fun to proceedings, without making it a write-in by any means. I suppose it felt a bit unfamiliar once 28a was solved because it then became a guessing game of words which precede silver, but altogether an enjoyable puzzle and completed in fairly short measure.

COD? Now I’ve seen the Fifteensquared blog here, I think I agree with RatkojaRiku:

11a Meadow flowers shaking off drops following 28 (4)

Todays puzzle is a reprint of a Saturday prize puzzle from June 2013 and I for one found it very difficult although in hindsight there is only 27ac that was new to me as both a definition and as a cheese and 9ac was only solved once all the crossing letters were in as “Wagner Lover” meant nothing to me. After reading all the across clues I had only solved with any certainty 15 and 25 with a few others penciled in lightly as I couldn’t fully parse them, luckily the first few of the down clues were all quite gettable even if I did have to look up Medick. It was the NW corner that was last to fall with 23ac only going in after taking a punt at 23dn , “vital structure” being a bit vague I thought, then resorting to a wordfinder for 27ac. On completion I had plenty of ticks among them were 5ac, 24ac, 5dn and 16dn but for its clever misdirection

COD      18ac   A head’s no time to take class (4)

The original blog and all the parsing can be found  here at Fifteensquared

Well, that was good. When I saw eXternal’s name I expected this to be inventive, but also for some reason a lot more difficult than it was. It turns out this is a reprint of a Thursday Independent, which is traditionally home to the hardest puzzles of the week, but this one was very accessible, and I can’t say that I really got stuck at any point. I needed to check 23ac (TRILODINE, anyone?) and 19ac in the dictionary, but the vocabulary elsewhere was pretty commonplace.

COD? The slightly controversial to a strict Ximenean 15ac – “Harmony from trio of entertainers seen two to three times (7)”.

To June 2013: