Radian’s at the top of the Tuesday leader table again, with his third themed crossword of the year. It always seems to me that he gives great value for money, and that’s certainly the case here with an absorbing and intricately interlinked puzzle which was a pleasure to unpick. No wonder the praise was unanimous over at Fifteensquared back in December 2013.

There are two gateway clues, either of which will show the way, and oodles of thematic material. Nothing strikes me as obscure, although if you want a quibble a record is and always will be a thing of vinyl in my opinion, and therefore 11ac got a Paddington stare. Clues of note included the inventive 4d (I don’t recall having seen anything quite like that before); the cheerfully ribald 23ac, and the tricky crossing pair of 24d and 26ac. The latter is my COD for the well concealed definition.

“Mature stage writer rises, bent over (8)”

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Jon is away today so I am covering the fortnightly appearance of Quixote which I found a touch harder than is normal for this setter in fact 26ac was left unanswered. My first one in wasn’t until 13ac the two CD’s at 1ac and 10ac only going in once there were enough checking letters to make the answers fairly obvious, I hadn’t seen 10ac in the singular before which didn’t help. The grid was sprinkled with a few unusual words, 3dn, 6dn, and  11ac  but these were all fairly clued and solvable once a few crossers were in. 17ac was new to me and a search on Fifteensquared only finds it in this crossword so perhaps it is more obscure than it seems. With the exception of 26ac I found this an tougher than expected but enjoyable challenge with the COD going to-

14ac    Pessimistic old rocker rolling over – somehow fate is sealed (9)

Back to November 2013 for all the answers and explanations    http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/11/04/independent-8442-by-quixote/

Saturday 31st March 2018

With Phi doing the Good Friday puzzle, Klingsor stepped into the Saturday slot last weekend with a typically polished and artful crossword, in which you can be absolutely confident that all the i’s will be dotted and the t’s crossed – trust the setter and even the most intricate of constructions will reveal itself. One thing I’ve noticed he does particularly well is assembling anagram fodder from bits and bobs for a plausible surface – for example 1a had SCATT[y] E[nglish] LADY RUINS – all perfectly fair, but the anagram indicator might have been scatty, ruins or, as it happened, exciting. Loads of variety in the clues and all solvable without recourse to dictionaries which, as Batarde would say, is usually a good sign.

My COD goes to another of those clever anagram clues, and done very differently to the hackneyed treatment the answer normally gets:

21d Amazed Nigel Short cracked Azed barred puzzle? (6)

All the solutions from April 2014 can be found here.

By the way – apologies for my lack of contributions to daily discussions – currently in a part of Scotland where the closest newsagent is a 45 min round trip.

We end the working week with an enjoyable offering from Alchemi who we havn’t seen since early January. Nothing too obscure although I do wonder what younger solvers make of 4 and 5dn nevertheless this is a good introduction to cryptic crosswords with various clue types and hardly any obscurities the only question marks I had were for the “Chinese” in 3/13dn and 19ac. These are explained over on Fifteensquared where strangely there are no comments about the puzzle just answers to the accompanying picture quiz.

Quite a few ticks  too many to list so

COD  1/11dn   Joint operation with Phi?  (3,11)

So on a day when I have very little time to solve what with one thing and another, what do we have in store? Ah, it’s a Saturday Prize Puzzle reprint, and one by Tyrus at that. The upshot being that while I’ve made a start, I’m unlikely to have any time to devote to the puzzle until later this evening. So far this seems fairly tough as expected, and also quite inventive and enjoyable. I’ll try to complete later if I’ve got time, but here’s a link to the Fifteensquared blog from 2013 to keep you going in the meantime. Feel free to nominate a COD. 🙂

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/12/14/independent-crossword-8471-by-tyrus-saturday-prize-puzzle-07-12-2013/

Edited to add:

Well, I didn’t have a chance to look at this until early evening, but better late than never. As it turns out this was the sort of puzzle where it paid to dip in and out of the clues, solving here and there. With a couple of the longer answers in place, it didn’t actually feel as tough or scary as it did at first glance. Perhaps better suited though to the Saturday slot than a weekday one.

COD? I’ll go with 14/16 – “Driving cheap Escort? Ah, I’m sorry but — (2,5,3,2,1,7)”.

On a particularly wet Wednesday what better way to while away a little time than with a coffee and Dac’s latest offering. Nothing too tricky or obscure as expected, but good, entertaining clues with a smile here and there, in particular in my case at 8d. Not as straightforward as Wednesdays can sometimes be, but still under par for the i. I had a little debacle in the NE corner with a rash guess at HONOUR for 6d despite it making no sense whatsoever as far as the wordplay was concerned, and had to think a little about 16ac and 21d, but there were few delays elsewhere.

COD? I’ll go with 23ac which is very nicely observed, and a good, smooth surface – “Driver shells out at regular intervals for fuel (6)”.

To December 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/12/04/independent-8468-dac/

So Kruger, who I’ve solved before but can remember little about. Blame my memory rather than any shortcomings on Kruger’s part. What have we got in store? Something suitably alarming it looks like. Definition or wordplay moving back or forward up to two clues in most cases, misprints in the definitions in all down clues. If we ever get that far they’re going to spell out an instruction. Back and forward? No doubt an allusion to the fact that the worst night’s sleep of the year is approaching – yes, they’re about to fiddle with the clocks again, and it isn’t to our advantage this time. A fact which I seem to be getting unreasonably annoyed about, probably because I have to be up tomorrow morning. Gah.

To the clues, and as expected with all that chopping and changing progress is. Painfully. Slow. But we have a few anagrams – CAMEL – L (that well known unit, the Lambert) = ACME. Imagined at 1ac must be DREAMT. A nicely hidden PANAMA. And a smile when it becomes apparent that the “hapless man” is in fact Mr Bean. But still, the suspicion begins to dawn that this is going to be the puzzle that sorts out the men from the boys, and that I’m going to be found sitting firmly in the latter camp.

Take a break. Have some coffee. Look at some slightly easier puzzles – including a rather good one by some chap called Maize in the Independent – and get back to it. And you know, once a few clues are in place it begins to make a little more sense, and progress is made, one slow quarter at a time. What does my paper looks like? A mess of circled bits of clues with arrows pointing here, there, and everywhere. Which is much the way my brain feels. Like mush, only messier.

The misprints, with enough surely we should be able to make sense of them?

SHADE PALINDROME ENTRIES

Which means that progress on the downs moves from first to second gear – even if it is second gear in an old Morris Minor – and we can finish that grid. With the far NE corner last to fall, at which point my head feels like it’s going to explode. Shade those symmetrically placed palindromes, and… Blimey, that’s it. Done it, against all expectations. Nothing to do with the clock change which is still messing with my head. Is it really Spring? Well, it feels warm enough at long last. Satisfying to finish, but I have to say that’s one device I’m not sure I could cope with many weeks. More devilish than the Printer’s Devilry itself.

Punk’s first Tuesday appearance of 2018 is rather a low key affair by his usual standards with nothing much in the way of the ribaldry, innuendo and general mischief making for which he is either revered or reviled according to the solvers’ tastes. In fact it was a bit of a slog, which is in large measure due to the under-checking of all those seven letter down entries. That significant quibble aside it’s all fair though.

For once the theme is overt, and some of the best clues are reserved for those entries: 4, 19, 26 and 30 were all excellent in my opinion. 10ac will please classical scholars … I had a hard time dredging that one up from the memory banks, and assuming that the sport in question would be polo didn’t help. Nor did 6d. My COD is not 20d, although it would be a shame not to give it a mention; instead the prize goes to 31ac which also got a guffaw:

“Rock chick finding wisdom with Garland (7)”

Bertandjoyce’s Fifteensquared write-up from four years ago supplies all the solutions and analysis; the comments are lukewarm going on huffy.

So on a traditionally wet and pretty miserable Bank Holiday Monday we have an IoS reprint to ease us into the day. On the easy side, thankfully, because I haven’t woken up yet as is also traditional on a Monday. Blame the surfeit of Easter Eggs. The puzzle? Nothing too tricky, though my first one in was 15ac at which point I thought we might be in for a tough time, but as it turns out not. 28ac is a bit tricky to spell, isn’t it? The editor’s got his eye on the ball again, as our president at 26ac has been relegated to ex-president. Last in? 11ac followed by 6d – an unlikely looking but correct word followed by a choice of too many Europeans. All in all enjoyable enough and nice start to the week. Now to find some more excuses not to paint those windowsills.

COD? 9d – “Slide headlong (6-7)”.

To a seasonable Advent 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/12/15/independent-on-sunday-1242poins/

Saturday 24th March 2018

In which 15a – One-eyed – was the gateway clue to a group of famous one-eyed figures. Xenekis, Stainer, Cyclops, Tenniel and Thurber.  Which is all quite nifty, but completely went over my head, alas; having Cyclops and One-eyed in the same puzzle didn’t jump out at me, and I’m unfamiliar with the physiognomies of the other gentlemen.

I did notice some other things though:  26d Dry – the phrase is ‘on’ not ‘off’ the wagon. 4d Sis – Girl’s name not implicated in crimes – cropped up again in yesterday’s Phi as ‘Girl’s nameless crimes’. 12d Tricyclists – not wheeled vehicles, obviously.

Why do these things happen with Phi and not other setters?  Well, we could speculate that a) He’s a Titan amongst setters who is trusted by the editor and doesn’t get the scrutiny afforded to a novice b) He’s good enough to feel, maybe, that he doesn’t need to get a mate to do a test solve c) He’s extraordinarily prolific and d) He’s only human after all.

So a few unusual glyphs in my margin from last Saturday, but also some ticks, with the COD going to the afore-mentioned gateway clue:

15a With limited vision, you’ll be absorbed by love and desire (3-4)

More discussion can be seen over at Fifteensquared.