Happy Non-Eurovision Day. This being the latest in a series of non-days. No Easter, no holiday, no school, and so on. In Wales we’re still in strict lockdown which seems to me to be to be eminently sensible. In England the London-centric government having taken the view that as the worst is over in the SE, the rest of the country will have to follow. This side of the River Severn our government is thankfully more cautious, even if it has been forced to state that it doesn’t have the power to set up border patrols. I was only joking when I suggested putting the toll barriers back up on the Severn Bridges, you know. (It will never be the Prince of Wales bridge in this house.)

So it feels somewhat fitting that today’s offering is on the subject of omissions. In the letters missing from the answers entered in the grid, and in the quote from Marianne Moore they make up – OMISSIONS ARE NOT ACCIDENTS. This being one of those things you know from somewhere but can’t think where.

Accident seems somewhat pertinent too, the current one being handled in a manner that, were I to manage something similarly in work, would be viewed as gross-misconduct. Is a HAZARD an accident, though, presuming I’ve got that right?

To add insult to injury, the promised heatwave that had threatened to flood various beauty-spots and beaches with unwanted visitors has, in Wales at least, failed to materialise, and after half an hour of shivering in the garden I had to give up and retire to the kitchen where there is at least a modicum of quiet.

Finally that grid fill, that could best be described as being slow after a quick start in the NW corner. I’ve got two I’m unsure of – 34d looks like being VDTT from the wordplay, but I’ve no idea what answer we’re supposed to be constructing. Ditto 33d, which in retrospect I appear to have guessed, and which I also suspect is miserably wrong.

Quite the challenge overall, though thankfully finished before the distraction that is this evening’s Non-Eurovision programming. Dare I suggest that the replacement programming was better than the real thing, being several hours shorter and finishing on time?

After a few days of some pretty tricky puzzles, it felt good to enjoy Bank Holiday Monday (yes it is) in the sun with a pretty easy going IoS reprint. A couple of ticks, a few smiles too, I’ll take that this morning. The full explanation for only the one eluded me – 20d employing a pretty obscure Indian city, but the answer was clear enough so no complaints.

We’re still in lockdown here in Wales, so I’ll shortly be taking my daily allocated exercise, lunching, then settling down for the afternoon with Children of Dune. I think I quite like quiet Bank Holidays, you know.

COD? Well, 1d raised a smile – “Fool performer with good write-up (6)”.

To January 2016:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/01/31/independent-on-sunday-1353-poins/

After a week dominated by some new guard Libertarians like Donk, Rorschach and Knut, it was reassuring to see Klingsor’s name on this weekend’s puzzle – a setter who tends towards the Ximinean end of things and most definitely always follows Afrit’s famous injunction:ย  ‘You need not mean what you say, but you must say what you mean’.

Which is not to say we didn’t have plenty of creativity in the mix today. My Last One In was 19d ANAGRAM clued by ‘Her vet Betsy is one of the very best’ which was brilliant, and well-deserving of CoD status, despite the fact we had something a bit similar (from Anax was it?) a couple of months back. However my top award goes to this example of a 19d, which shows it is possible for a clue to be both easy and delightful:

11d Never tiring of being a fat, idle drunk (13)

Also worthy of note were 16a FLOUNCE, with a very plausible surface reading, a nifty bit of misdirection for the anagram fodder in 4d BOSWORTH FIELD and more good clues for 10a, 12a, 24a… well lots of them really.

That having been said, I did struggle to parse 22d whilst solving – I suppose itโ€™s impress as in what a press gang does.

Here is the 2016 blog with all the answers from mc_rapper, who I’m pleased to say liked pretty much the same clues as I did. ๐Ÿ™‚

A fairly middling sort of crossword from Donk today. I completed this in around my typical time and did so without resort to aids other than for checking my last one in, SHANDYGAFF. Even so, this was fairly clued and with very helpful crossing letters. The puzzle’s main claim to fame is that it was the last Saturday prize Cryptic in the late-lamented Independent. Mc_rapper67 suggested, in his impressively systematic blog from March 2016 suggested a possible nina, but I am not convinced, and it didn’t garner any support in the comments four years ago.

In one place I was a little disappointed in the cluing. The definition given for DOORKNOB is “need to escape”which is just not quite right. Otherwise, this was a very amusing clue, and I was sorry to have to exclude it from my list of contenders for Clue of the Day. Another candidate was the amusing STAINPROOF, but my favourite today was the delightful 1d: “Fancy Bob Hope (5)”.

This isn’t turning out to be my week in the i. Hopes were raised with a flying start in the NW corner, but from that point on I swiftly ground to a halt, and got increasingly frustrated with wordplay I just couldn’t parse. 15d as mentioned on the other side would be the chief culprit, but much else went in on a wing and a prayer. Oh well. Perhaps I just need a nice long weekend, which thankfully is what we’re about to get. For once I started in the NW corner with 1ac, and finished there too with 9ac which is another where the parsing totally eluded me, finish time considerably over par for the i.

COD? Well, overall this wasn’t my cup of tea, but the surreal image conjured up by 12ac did raise a smile – “Bemused after removing bed and finding these? (4)”.

To January 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/01/21/independent-9132-rorschach/

Dac’s back with an offering that hopefully will be less divisive than recent puzzles. I fairly shot through the NE and SE corners, slowing down a little to the NW, only to find that the SW corner was a step up again in difficulty again. Finally twigging the arcane film certification referenced at 26ac, and unpicking what was a lovely bit of wordplay at 21d proved to be key, and the rest duly fell. We have a slightly odd definition at 3d that arguably could have done with a “Scots” reference, but I doubt it held up many solvers for long. I did have to confirm the song title referenced at 1ac, assuming that it was something rather longer, but as expected Dac was quite correct. Despite this I finished well under par for the i, so overall a nice easy, and as ever thoroughly enjoyable puzzle.

COD? As ever loads to pick from, with my nomination going to 22ac – “Novel delivered by a northern writer once (8)”.

To February 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/02/10/independent-9149-dac/

To begin at the end then, as it were. It took until Sunday, a whole day following Shark’s inquisition, before I realised that the general flurry of activity regarding Nurse Nightingale in crossword circles was down to her fast approaching bicentennial. In my defence the fact has been somewhat overshadowed by other newsworthy items.

And it was only several hours after completion, feeling generally disgruntled with the outcome of the puzzle down to the various incongruous elements – TETRADRACHM, ATHENA, LADY, LAMP – before Google leapt to Shark’s defence. Ms Nightingale had a rescue-owl you see called… ATHENA, and said coin had an owl on one side too for good measure.

Oh yes… MONA. NESH. TOGLATTI. I take it you spent as much time solving those as the rest of the puzzle too?

Previous to that I’d identified NIGHTINGALE, and duly highlighted it, though it took a while longer to work out what had been pocketed, even with the list of extra letters. That bit in the preamble about crossing bars having been characteristically glossed over until it came to the crunch. Perhaps because I was feeling pretty pleased with myself on getting the correct multiple letters, and spotting CRIMEAN WAR in the misprints. Pride as ever coming before a fall.

Which is a pity, because up until then the solve had been a rapid one in the rapidly dissipating heatwave, and rapidly dissipating lockdown too it must be noted, with the entry for NUZZER winning the prize for unlikely looking word of the week.

Back to the start then, and an uncharacteristically early start down to a surprisingly easy Saturday puzzle, and an early night occasioned by the wish to avoid the general nonsense surrounding VE Day. Though I will admit to raising a glass of vodka to toast our Russian comrades in arms. Na Zdorovie.

Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly four and a half years since the subject of today’sย theme died, and Knut’s tribute appeared a week later. Let’s just say that this is not my specialist subject, and I confess to having been mystified by the hysterical weeping, wailing and hullabaloo at the time. This placed me at something of a disadvantage this morning, but I managed to dredge up the relevant not-so-general knowledge. I concur with Flashling’s opinion, expressed in his Fifteensquared write-up, that this puzzle isn’t really soluble without it.

Anyway, it’s a perky one, this – or infuriating according to your taste. The clues range from corny write-ins like 11ac to cor blimey: I was happy enough with 22ac, but 23d, anybody? Sheesh. The two thespians are reasonably famous / infamous, but you’d have to be of a certain age to remember the cabaret singer, surely? Interestingly (or not), 29d turns out to be a registered trademark, something of which I’d usually disapprove in a crossword, but the penny drop moment was rather satisfying. Is it a fair clue? Not so sure about that. There are quite a few more quibbles, but you get the idea: Knut is one of the exuberant setters. High points for me included the cellist, naughty Kate, and this one which is my COD:

31ac “Refugees embrace Sharon, returning after university (9)”

All told I did enjoy solving this puzzle, but chances are that mileages are going to vary considerably today.

To the other bloggers: are you block editor ready? I’m dreading it. ๐Ÿ™‚

I wasn’t sure if we’d met Anglio before in these pages, so did a quick Google to find that indeed, I had blogged him / her a while back, noting that I struggled. Today I finished with a time that was under par for the i, but it must be said that I only managed to parse about half the clues on solving. No doubt with a little more thought I could have, but after what was a very uncomfortable solve that left me feeling somewhat disgruntled I left it to the experts on the other side. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Things that left me particularly disgruntled were the cryptic definition at 5d which, if you didn’t know what for me was an obscure answer, left you somewhat high and dry. And elsewhere there seemed to be rather a lot of superfluous words, 3d being rather a good (or poor depending on your point of view) example.

Overall a little up and down, but for an Independent debut (as this was) perhaps forgivable. As always, your mileage may vary.

COD? I had a few ticks at the close, with my nomination going to 11ac – “Unblemished English apples, say, turned into pulp(5)”.

To April 2016:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/04/04/independent-9195-by-anglio/

Well I thought that was terrific. A good example of the fun generated by a witty Nina being well worth a pretty lengthy battle to get to the point where the penny dropped. For me that was with _ _ HCN_B at the bottom and TNORF _ _ at the top. When I realised that they both seemed to be running backwards, that led to BACK-BENCHER and BACK-TO-FRONT. From there it was an easy step to realise that the columns to left and right contained UP HELLY AA and UPSY-DAISY.ย  Brilliant!

You might expect a few obscurities with all that happening in the peripheral unches, but Phi managed to avoid all but BACCHIC in 20d, which I was quite happy to learn as an alternative to bacchanalian (although Mrs Cornick knew it perfectly well of course), and in any case a four-letter composer being Bach was hardly difficult. The ten 4-letter entries were pretty gettable this time – although I needed the help of the Nina to get the indirect hidden word DELI in 16a. Bit of an envelope-stretcher that.

Plenty to choose from for COD, including 22a, 7d and 15d. but I’ll go with this one by a nose:

3d Old German man blocking military vehicles and solders (5,5)

Answers and parsings from 2015 here.