Poor Andy Lemon…

And the poor solver too who’s got to make sense of that preamble, or was it just me? Let’s cut it down to size. All clues normal except six with misprints, six with a superfluous letter in the wordplay. There, that’s better, isn’t it? And with the heartening news that “help” with maths homework can be deferred until Sunday, straight to it.

First thoughts, these clues are pretty tough. First in all the way down at 26, SCALA, which unexpectedly isn’t a cinema but rather something to do with the ear. Perhaps I should have started with the downs because the first is a simple anagram giving ITERANT. Lots of question marks by the answers, though, due to fragments of understood wordplay. Those extra letters? Could be, but I’m not doing so well with those.

The misprints though are coming along nicely – the displaced letters I’ve got so far being QUAR. No prizes for guessing we need an S and an E to complete. The S I can see – CHEST, and not CHESS. The E? Well, no.

Times Square? Tiananmen? Who can tell?

But look, I’ve got a full grid:

The misprints… We’re supposed to do something with the corresponding solutions. Chuck them in a SQUARE, as they’re all 6 letters long? Could be, including an educated guess at INLIER for the last one. No phrase revealing itself there. Arrange them otherwise in some sort of square? If Crossword Compiler’s to be believed that isn’t going to help either.

Three bleary eyed hours gazing intermittently at the thing with half an eye on a pretty trashy film. Nothing. Pass me a beer.

Sunday, post help with maths homework. For which read teaching, because we don’t set homework on things the kids have actually done in these parts, evidently.

What if the six clues to be squared are in a different order? What, you thought of that straight off?


A careful examination of the 2nd and 5th columns later… ON CIRCLE LINE. And look, the other columns have real words which may or may not be significant. Chuck it in. Out with a tube map. There are two squares on the Circle Line – Euston and Sloane. Which one should we discount? Well, the extra letters I’ve managed to glean are TEUSO. Sloane Square it is then. Landmarks? Thankfully Wikipedia knows more about the geography of the area than I do. Amend 5 letters to give the Peter Jones department store, and the Royal Court Theatre, or at least bits of them. Sloane Square has little else to boast, apparently.

Andy Lemon located, and hopefully liberated too. Phew, I need a lie down now. Pass me a whisky, presuming the other half hasn’t swiped it all.


Hob, n. a rustic; a lout … a clownish person … mischief.

This setter continues to impress and annoy in roughly equal measure, which is to say rather a lot. It would be a grand thing were Hob to rein in his delight in puerile innuendo and the scatological, or a least deploy a modicum of subtlety, but that seems unlikely. That said, if your tastes run to butting heads with a too-clever-by-half mischief maker this crossword is quite outstanding.

Although it was originally timed to coincide with an actor’s birthday, what we have is a puzzle with a gimmick rather than a theme as such – and a real crinkum-crankum it is too. Fortunately for me 8/9 did ring the faintest of bells, the 9 part becoming pretty apparent thanks to 7d and the first word clearly being an anagram indicator. Getting that out of the way early on certainly helped, but there were plenty of tortuous constructions to pick apart before I managed to haul myself over the finish line. Everything worked out to my satisfaction (eventually), and I have no quibbles, believe it or not.

Mixed reviews over at Fifteensquared back in November 2014, with the disgruntled outnumbering the delighted, unsurprisingly. This crossword seems to me to be pushing pretty hard at the boundaries of what’s reasonable to ask of solvers of a weekday cryptic and would have been better suited to the prize slot in my opinion. As regards noteworthy clues there’s an embarrassment of riches, 3d being quite brilliant; 19ac eminently chortleworthy, and 13ac distinctly devilish. There are many more besides, of which my pick for COD is 18d:

“An example of which turns up in Dante’s Inferno, potentially (7)”

An IoS reprint to start the week that a solver on better form would have found to be pretty straightforward. As it was I hurtled through three quarters of the grid before coming to a grinding halt in the SW corner. The killer, yes, pretty obvious. The rest? 16d left me overly hung up on looking for a hidden word, and at 15d I just couldn’t get POST out of my mind. A walk and a coffee later and a clearish head, 15d fell and the rest with it in moments. LOI though was over the other side of the grid at 7d. One where I’d actually thought of half the answer (the first half, naturally) and then discounted it. See comments above regarding my current state of mind. Finish time still under par for the i, though it should have been half that.

COD? 15d – “Ordinary job in Gap (8)”, though I did wonder if the capital G is strictly Ximenean. I can never remember.

To October 2014:


Saturday 26th January 2019

No getting away from the do-it-yourself-special Clue of the Day last Saturday:

4d/26a  2 22 6 13D could be over-familiar (4-6-4-3)

Of course the convention on idothei is that we bloggers leave the COD hanging there, tantalising you to try and solve it perhaps – but without all the crossing letters you’d have if you were solving it for real.  Unfair I know.  But not as unfair as what I’ve just done, which is to present you with, well, gobbledygook.  So here it is again, in translation, by dint of substituting the answers to those four clues:

Stones equal source opera house could be over-familiar

Any clearer? Have a look over on Fifteensquared here and you can see how that led to ‘Hail-fellow-well-met’.  Nice that.

18a with its ‘total failure of energy’ also gets an honourable mention, in a pleasingly high quality set of clues. Thanks due to Phi, then, and also to my better half for her knowledge of slinky Chinese outfits.


An enjoyable and fairly tricky in places Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint From Tees today. I was pleased to get 9ac straight away and with a few of the down clues solved the top half quite quickly, which didn’t help with the bottom half as it was almost entirely disconnected. However, 15ac is a well used clue and will be familiar to most solvers, much like Neat for Ox in 3dn, but others in the lower half proved a bit more difficult. The rather complex clue at 16dn where the hidden answer remained, er, hidden for a bit too long and the (to me) unknown poem at 19dn… Well, that needed a bit of electronic assistance. And then there was 24ac – just the one little word, it would have helped if it was printed in a larger size, but after trying all sorts of phrases consisting of “leading” I looked more closely and spotted the italic font. Bingo. None of this was helped by being unable to solve 23dn. I don’t know many Shakespearean characters, and know nothing of Latin, so I consulted a list of characters and bunged this in because it fitted.

And so to pick one for COD. Well, 24ac is certainly a candidate, as is 6dn and 9ac, in fact most clues except 23dn, but, and I don’t really know why but I liked it –

17dn  Say a cart goes uphill – say how far? (7)

All the solutions and parsing can be found  in the excellent blog by Bertandjoyce over on Fifteensquared


Crosophile’s usually on the easy side, isn’t he? Well, not today, with a puzzle that I found to be a bit of a grind to be honest. I started well enough over on the RHS of the grid but struggled elsewhere, and at the close couldn’t get a foothold in the NW corner at all. Cue much cheating to finish the thing, and lots of question marks throughout. Lunchtime rapidly running out, and the sandwich and coffee still not consumed, I was just relieved to finish. The question marks still stand, having lost the will. 🙂 Not my favourite ever i puzzle, though your mileage may vary.

COD? To be fair there were some ticks as well, though they were outweighed by the negatives for me – “Salon, say, that’s rather snotty? (5)”.

To October 2014:


Midweek wheels round, and not a moment too soon, with another fine offering from Dac. Nothing overly tricksy, nothing controversial, just the usual good puzzle. Unusually for a Wednesday there were one or two I couldn’t fully tease out – the name of the saint referenced in 3d I did know but couldn’t remember, the first part of the double definition at 20d left me suitably bemused, and I should have been able to but couldn’t parse 23d. My failing, and not Dac’s. Solved while engaged in a seemingly endless 2 hours and counting conference call in a time well under par for the i.

COD? Lots to pick from as ever, with my nomination going to the re-tooled 19d – “Unconventional rebel has captivated i reader (3-3)”.

To November 2014:


Winter having arrived proper with an icy snap, an on the face of it gentle offering from Dysart. Luckily, as my solving abilities seem to have seized up in sympathy. Mind you, I always think a puzzle’s going to be easy on being presented with normal clues and it often doesn’t work out that way. Loads of unclued entries. Something to highlight. The rest I can make little sense of, let’s hope it’s not important.

First in should have been 1ac, but see comments on the state of my mind above. So the actual first in was RED LETTER. A lifelong obsession with the good Doctor again proves useful at 28ac. The TARDIS is full of the things, see? For once I seem to have exercised a remarkable sense of restraint and not put in random guesses for the unclued entries, despite “green tea” fitting in rather nicely on the RHS.

So where did you decide to make a random stab in the dark? That would be at 14ac, and AST, having concluded that an “Advance Skills Teacher” might tenuously link to “ready to learn”, noting that I should really go back and check. Fateful words. Especially on deciding that the grid fill is going so well a break and a bit of telly wouldn’t do any harm.

Cue the unclued entries. Countries evidently with the i’s missing, and a choice of IRELAND or ICELAND to the top right. Well, the preamble did mention an ambiguity.

Let’s look at the name to highlight.

Nope, not coming.

Saturday night, nothing.

Sunday morning, nothing.

Sunday evening. Oh yes, that random stab. How about APT, giving PARNELL? Yep, that’ll do nicely. But what colour? I’ll go with green, because it’s Irish, innit?

Done, having made unnecessarily heavy weather of things. Perhaps if I’d been in a fit state to pay better attention things might have been different. Or if I’d just made a note of the as per random guesses. Must do better. That’s me, not Dysart.

Jambazi, better known to most as the Guardian’s Tramp, was entirely absent from the i last year. His reappearance with this fairly tricky crossword, originally timed to coincide with the 80th birthday of the now late Laughin’ Lennie in September 2014, is a welcome one.

Knowledge of the thematic gentleman is not required – just as well in my case, although on the occasions when I’ve encountered his work it has tended to make me feel rather cheerful. Experts on the subject are invited to chip in if they have spotted anything relevant in the solutions, but as far as I can see he only crops up in the clues. John produced an excellent write-up for Fifteensquared which explains everything, and the tenor of the comments is largely appreciative, going on ecstatic in a couple of cases. I wasn’t entirely gruntled to find a word like 22ac in a daily, but otherwise the unpicking process was gratifying. Plenty of good clues today, with 10ac standing out but the COD for me is 17d:

“Open union, end for independence? (8)”

An enjoyable IoS reprint from Commoner to start the week, sound throughout, which is more than can be said for yesterday’s Everyman. But there’s plenty of talk about that elsewhere… Today’s puzzle was pretty straightforward, enjoyable, and totally gettable with a little trust in the wordplay. What, 25ac was new to you as well? Well, that’s what the cryptic says, so go with it. First in was 1ac which is always encouraging, followed by most of the crossing answers. Last in 23ac which I struggled, rather embarrassingly, to parse. I suspect I was looking for something a little more complicated. Overall time well under par for the i, though perhaps not as fleeting as a Quixote Monday would have been.

COD? Yep, it’s 25ac again – “Belch leads to ravening, unpleasant creature appearing in Alien (5)”.

To November 2014: