Firstly, many thanks to everyone for covering in my absence, much appreciated! 🙂

So, first day back in work, and I’m about as focused as you’d expect. Luckily as expected we have a fairly straightforward IoS reprint to kick us off, though was I the only person to struggle a little in the NE corner? The inn referenced in 10ac was unfamiliar, and the fruit wasn’t the first to leap to mind. 8d crossing it is a term I’ve heard, though rarely in everyday conversation in these parts. Perhaps rapid progress elsewhere had occasioned a false sense of security.

There were a couple of lesser known bits and bobs about the grid – the hammer and cooking term in particular – but Hieroglyph couldn’t have been more careful about the cluing of each. If you had to recommend a puzzle to a new solver, this one I suggest would be a good candidate.

First in 1ac, last in 8d, finish time under par for the i which today was something of a miracle.

COD? 5d – “Unmissable target on board, right? Wrong! (4,4)”.

To May 2015:


Saturday 3rd August 2019

Phi is a former ASTROPHYSICIST – hence also NOVA, ALPHA and EPSILON perhaps, with a fondness for classical music – PHILHARMONIC, O SOLE MIO, and also likes to throw in little-used words like PHILIPPIC, DIGLYPHS, OENOPHIL (not oenophile) or PSEPHOLOGIST (a word I only learnt with John Curtice coming to prominence in recent years). Also of note, if you’re interested in such stylistic things that is, was a pretty high count of 18 abbreviations and three foreign words (eine, trop, est) in the wordplay elements of the clues.

Which I had thought was all there was to this puzzle, but it turns out there’s actually a Nina of sorts with the digraph PH appearing fully 12 times in the gridfill; the setter’s real name is Paul Henderson, you see.  Apparently Phi tried for his trigraphic nom de plume to start with but it seems there aren’t many words which include all three letters.

So all pretty good stuff and solvable in about average time – just that Hampshire village and the bit of trickery at 26a ETHNIC causing me any real hold-ups.

Because I always like a compelling surface reading, here’s my nomination for Clue Of the Day:

17d Shifting rocks hitting children – horrified cry? (7)

And here’s the link to the Fifteensquared blog from 2015, where RatkojaRiku did spot the Nina.

We end the working week with a Donk which I found harder to parse than to solve. Starting was fairly straightforward with 6ac, 6dn and 9ac going straight in but it also produced the first ?’s for 1dn and 2dn fortunately we have the excellent Fifteensquared blog to turn to where Bertandjoyce do an admirable job of explaining it all especially 24/15 which I like others it seems happily bunged in the answer whilst missing the point of what Donk intended, it is all very clever but if B&J hadn’t spotted it it would have gone right over my head. The word play at 7dn had me completely bewildered as did 25 and 26dn I also didn’t know 11dn was paid in tips however the only one I really disliked was 5dn Champers = Orally.

Having finished it with so many question marks leaves me a little dissatisfied, no doubt its all very clever but for me perhaps a bit too clever.

COD well I’m tempted by 6dn because its one of my favourite words but 12dn just takes it.

Too much bottom’s covered briefly  (4 – 3 – 3)

A trip to the higher altitudes of Crosswordland from Tyrus today – wonderful setting for those who enjoy such rarefied air, but for the non-Sherpas among us it was tough going with precious little to get a grip on and plenty of slippery surfaces.

Slow to get a foothold, I pencilled in the first few (can you do that with a biro?), and frankly made pretty glacial progress for the whole journey. But I could see it was high quality stuff. Actually nothing much that was particularly obscure – just 20d Almeda really, where the wordplay was plain enough – but oh the deceptiveness! I eventually got to my last one, 3d, without realising that ‘Master plan are not’ means ‘take A from Master and make an anagram of what’s left’. Perhaps I should have kept struggling on a bit longer with that one…

As I say lots of high quality clues, some of which – like the homophone of ‘Adie vies’ at 18d – needed Duncan’s admirable blog at Fifteensquared to fully parse.

Bit of a six-way tie for top spot. I’ll go for the following, but feel free to mention your choice below:

19d What’s Thumper doing? Bambi’s outside swearing head off (7)



Its Wednesday and its Dac and as per usual there is not a lot to say its all so well clued even if you can’t quite fully parse the solution its all apparent once its written down or you go to the Fifteensquared blog where you end up giving yourself a slap, in my case it was primarily the Louse in 4ac and the Stalk in 10ac, I also didn’t know Sake was a beer but whilst the Ton = Fashion wasn’t a problem my personal blind spot of W = With was which is why 20dn and 27ac were my LO’sI. 14ac got a grimace, not that there was anything wrong with the clue just the whole thing is best avoided.

COD well 13ac, 20dn and 15dn are all worthy my pick is 5dn

It’s tough travelling without information (12)

Firstly, many thanks to the other bloggers who are covering in my absence! 😀

This will of necessity be a short post as I’m ensconced in the wilds of West Wales with no data connection and sporadic wi-fi. And, oh, there’s a cold bottle of beer with my name on it waiting.

So points of interest:

Wasn’t this tricky? I only had the odd session here and there between trips to the beach and rounds of crazy golf, but progress let us say was slow.

The unclued entries? Obviously STONES and VENICE, giving The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin as our first work.

The unclued perimeter? POWER and BEAUTY look pretty self-evident. The rest? With a little help from Google, they’re the other Seven Lamps of Architecture by, yep you gussed it, Ruskin again.

The 13 misprints in the definition? Well, this is where it all falls apart. I’ve only got 12, which sort of make sense. MIDDLE FOURS with an O pretty randomly before that S. I’ve evidently slipped up somewhere.

The shading therefore could be the letters from RUSKIN in the middle four columns which are presumably supposed to represent a lamp. Though I’m not 100% convinced mine is right.

So, with fingers suitably crossed…

Having polished this off in short order (by Batarde standards, that is) I set down my pen with the strong feeling that a great deal had gone over my head. The nature of the theme is clear enough, but the grid contains some rather interesting and unusual words which have to be there for a reason, surely? If anybody else is wondering what’s going on with the town in Co. Tipperary, the cycling competition, the yachting class, the singing sisters and PT Barnum, Bertandjoyce’s Fifteensquared blog is recommended. Back in April 2015 this puzzle marked a significant anniversary.

Alchemi’s crosswords always have plenty of variety and entertainment value whilst remaining accessible, so the solving process was brisk and enjoyable. I was sidetracked briefly trying to come up with a four-letter descriptor of Boris and Nigel, but that’s my problem, not the setter’s. All is fair and above board as far as I can see, and the clue writing is of characteristically high quality throughout. My COD is the chucklesome 16d:

“It might be found on Highway 101 (4)”

An IOS reprint to start the week and whilst not terrible difficult there were a few that provided me with a bit of a tussle either because of the wordplay or the definition didn’t seem to match the clue, 21ac was one, an anagram which gave Generates or Teenagers defined by Awkward evidently the setter thinks Teenagers are awkward. Quite a few anagrams here with a nice long one at 3dn which didn’t really need working out but if you did use the apparent anagram fodder it doesn’t work, this it seems isn’t an error as the setter explains over on the Fifteensquared blog.

An enjoyable puzzle with some good clues but nothing that really stood out so for COD I will nominate 1ac because the wordplay had me scratching my head for a while

Getting tips from speakers after function gives comfortable feeling (8)


Saturday 27th July 2019

With Phi you normally get an end game, so what was going on last weekend? No obvious Nina, so it’s probably going to be a ghost theme… Ah-ha! Paranoid Android is there – a superb track from the seminal album ‘OK Computer’ by Radiohead. Excellent! Phi is venturing outside his comfort zone… But no, upon further Googling it turns out that the ghost theme is Douglas ADAMS and ‘MARVIN the PARANOID ANDROID’, which is much more the kind of thing we’re used to, although not really my cup of char-char, alas.

I can’t quite remember who among the regular bloggers and commenters is a HGTTG fan – if that’s you, then you may also have realised a quote from the aforementioned metal Mickey alluded to in the grid: “And then, of course, I’ve got this TERRIBLE PAIN in all the diodes down my left side.”  Arf.

And what about the clues? Well they were fine. Just a few minor bits of stylistic quibbling occurred to me while solving, but nothing worth mentioning here.

Of the seven clues I liked, the following paints a vivid picture:

18d Hurried round to one in flat, having deluded ideas (8)

For full details visit the Fifteensquared website from 2015 by clicking here.


Puzzles from this setter seem to appear mostly in the IOS and are generally pretty straightforward and this is exactly what we have here. I surprised myself by answering the first five across clues which made 5dn and subsequently 11dn write-ins, this unfortunately made the setters clever clues rather Pointless (Another quiz show presented by S.T.) 17dn was solved from the cryptic with no idea why it should refer to a uniformed schoolboy and 20dn my LOI went in with a shrug. Over on The Fifteensquared blog the main point of discussion is 15dn and what the “Hands” has to do with it, I thought that at first but The BRB gives Attrition as “Decreasing by rubbing” so that seems to make some sense.

Only two needed any checking, 23ac an unknown artist and an equally unknown footballer that got a grimace and 3dn which purely on the basis that it was solved from the cryptic will be the COD

Fish produced by a cricket club I love as a starter (9)