An IOS reprint and a new setter which some, me included, found a bit tough. I do like a puzzle that I can get straight into it but no chance of that here because solving 1ac relies on first solving 17ac which fortunately wasn’t too difficult. The linked clue device was also used in 11ac/12ac, where again 12ac being a bit of a write-in worked just fine. But 14ac and 19ac, while I had solved their associated clues, they needed some outside assistance to solve. Quite a few went in unparsed – 6ac where “in the theatre” is a homophone indicator that was new to me,  1dn Sister = Twin hmm and both 23ac and 24ac where my lack of Latin left me scratching my head. 6dn was one of those clues that the setter goes to a great deal of trouble to concoct but with a few checking letters this solver just bunged the answer in.

As I said I found this quite difficult, whether that was just unfamiliarity with the setter’s style or my lack of French, Spanish and Latin I’m not sure. There were of course some good clues – 25ac was well constructed although the “Jack” part seems a bit contentious and 28ac also got ticks but for COD mainly because I like the word

15dn   Crazy drugs  (8)

Fifteensquared provides all the answers and explanations plus a few comments including one from the setter Click here

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You wait an age for a Punk puzzle to come along and then we get two in a fortnight. Not that I’m complaining because this was another good one. Pitched at just the right level of difficulty for me – neither falling too easily, or on the other hand requiring most of the day to solve. Nothing too 4d – even I’d heard of the football team, and the actors were anything but. There’s a bum and a boob on show, but apart from that this wasn’t as rude as Punk sometimes can be. I thought I wouldn’t know the number / battle, but obviously did, didn’t know 3d was / is a trail, and was convinced I had 21d wrong, but couldn’t think of any other cars, and well, I didn’t. More like this one please.

COD? 21/7, 13d, 2d and 25ac were all worthy of praise, with my nomination going to 9ac – “Appear friendly hugging British loafer by the sea (5,3)”.

To the tail end of 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/12/29/independent-8800-by-punk/

No Dac this week, so as expected an IoS reprint which is a more than satisfactory substitute. I polished off about three-quarters in next to no time, but then took a while to finish off the last few. Part of the problem was an inability to read my own writing, with the W at the end of 1ac mysteriously morphing into a U. Another was a drink I sort of knew at 13d crossed with, in the wordplay, a college I didn’t. You learn something new every day… At 23d the Scottish town could really have been anything as far as I was concerned, because, well, geography, but what else was the answer likely to be? Ditto the well known vessel, and the lesser known clay. Enjoyable through and through, finish time probably about par for the i, probably because of interruptions throughout.

COD? It’s nice and straightforward, but equally nicely done – 30ac. “Switch linked to light (6)”

We’ve jumped forward in time to January 2015:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2015/01/18/independent-on-sunday-1299-by-poins/

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

The best laid plans, as they say. Let’s run a themed puzzle to mark B Day, Nimrod mused, get two of my best setters on the job. Puzzle delivered, tested to satisfaction, feet up, tea, cake and congratulations all round. And our glorious leaders? Deliver they did not. What to do? Evidently, run the thing anyway. And why not? There’ll be many more meaningless votes to come.

My wife claims she guessed what it was all about when I mentioned the X at the close. It took me until the bitter end and a desperate last gasp in the SE corner – stuck as I was on the empress and the mythological thingummybob – to figure out that the grouped letters I’d been agonising over the placing of were actually countries, and that we would be left on removal of the UK with a dirty great big BREXIT across the middle of the grid.

I never claimed to be that sharp on a Saturday, in particular after self-medicating the night before on, well, alcohol to banish a lingering, nagging headache. A sensation I suspect may have been shared with Nimrod following that 40 years in the business bash. Belated congratulations.

21 clues omitting a letter, 17 clues too long for the space available. I never did get to the bottom of that. EU countries, evidently, but surely there aren’t 38? The omitted letters weren’t difficult to spot, anyway, even if the grouped ones were a little trickier to come by, and place, being a matter of trying this, that, and the other, and eventually spotting that they were country abbreviations all handily documented in the big red book.

Ah yes, the grid fill. Pretty generous on the setters’ part? An anagram of BOY GIRL to start. What else would a hazardous material be except ASBESTOS? I don’t think I’ve heard of an OVATOR before, but tax in a crossword can only signify a few things.

And if I fell asleep, that was because the weather has been remarkably spring-like given that it is… spring, and I’ve got the garden table and chairs out.

That said it wasn’t done until the early hours, so perhaps I’m underestimating the difficulty bit.

The empress? Not Victoria. Not Catherine. But a Russian one. And one I should and probably would have got sooner on a better day.

Grid complete. Theme spotted. Puzzle enjoyed. Happy Non-Brexit day everybody.

Full disclosure: today I have had assistance, not from the cat who has made herself scarce, but from a garrulous six-year-old. If this blog is even more scintillating than usual, there’s your reason.

Scenes of domestic chaos notwithstanding, this was a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle and a welcome reappearance by Rorschach who hasn’t turned up in the i for quite some time. There’s a clever and extensive theme which was ably explained in the original Fifteensquared write-up from November 2014 by Gaufrid, who also raises a couple of quibbles which were immediately addressed by the setter in the comments. Therefore I’ll gloss over 24ac except to express mild surprise that it’s been allowed to stand unedited in the reprint. Otherwise all good, but several definitions required some mental gymnastics and that will not please everybody.

The style is peppy throughout, going on ribald here and there with more slang than we generally see. This is just fine by me, and it makes a change – but I fully expect opinion to be divided today. The bit of French will certainly ruffle some feathers. Rather than run through the clues which particularly amused me, and there were plenty, I’ll just go straight to the COD which is 11ac:

“Panic as bugger’s returned to take 1 of 10 (5)”

As expected from Raich an enjoyable, fairly straightforward start to the working week. 1ac was a little tricky to parse, I’ll grant you, and to be honest I didn’t bother – chucking in the answer on B?C? and the definition alone, knowing full well Pierre would have things covered over on the other side. Nothing controversial elsewhere, nothing to trouble seasoned solvers, just a nice Monday offering. Finish time on a par for an IoS reprint, which this is not, and easier than I would find a Quixote to be.

COD? Well, among many good ones 10d raised a smile – “Place of relaxation for PM once – or distant forebears? (6,2,4)”.

To December 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/12/01/independent-8777raich/

Saturday 30th March 2019

I really enjoyed the whole solving experience last Saturday, with clues right in my Goldilocks zone of difficulty, plenty of invention, and some little discoveries to be made along the way.  It was just what a good crossword should be, in fact.

It also turns out that there’s some kind of ghost theme associated with the life and work of G K Chesterton – feel free to investigoogle if you so wish – but quite how one is supposed to work that out from little more than the fact that a recent Phi puzzle had Gilbert and Keith in it, beats me entirely. So entirely forgivable that the esteemed blogger Gaufrid and commenters missed that back in the 2014 blog here.

I do have a question about 24a though. MAURITANIA is the spelling of the modern African state, but the anagram fodder led to MAURETANIA which is an ancient Roman province, roughly where Morocco now is and equivalent to BRITANNIA, say. Can that be defined by ‘state’?  By the way, it was also the name of the sister ship of the doomed Cunard liner Lusitania, the sinking of which brought America into WWI; and when the Mauretania was scrapped in the 30s some of its green marble bathroom tiles went into the house of my childhood in  Portishead.

That little controversy+anecdote aside, I only had ticks in my margins, the largest of which went to the following:

28a Article in Madrid gallery – it recalled apparently irrational situations (9)

A Monday reprint from Punk in which he proves just how clever he is and in some cases just a bit too clever for this solver at least. Like Gaufrid who originally blogged this puzzle my first pass through the clues produced very little. Unlike him I didn’t get 1dn which would have been helpful, it was fairly obvious that an anagram was involved but dashed if I could see of what though. It was only after completing the SW corner that I filled the answer in with a question mark, the parsing of this didn’t exactly go down well at the time being described by one solver as “an atrocity”. Another minor quibble of mine was 17dn – where did the “I” come from? It seems that it was there when first printed so it must have fallen off!  Similarly 4dn where the U got a question mark.  22ac should have been solved quicker but I was looking for a solution beginning with S or B as the clue seemed to indicate, and the devices used at 11ac and 7dn both got tuts of disapproval during solving, but in hindsight they both get a tick of approval. I am sure 22/10 was a write in for everybody as the Hip – Hop band in question is so well known. Hmm.

For COD I found 20ac clever and amusing

Winged god changing direction, one at home on the range ?  (6,3)

All the answers and parsing can be found here http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/11/24/independent-8771-punk/

A Thursday Independent reprint, and as expected when I spotted Tees’ name at the top something a little meatier. I can sometimes find Tees’ puzzles to be a little intractable, but today’s was quite the opposite – pretty accessible with lots of easier ones to get you started. I did end up with a load of question marks at the close – primarily regarding the definitions at 9ac and 17d – but as it turns out both were pretty clever, and any fault was on my part. I also had a big “who?” by 27ac, got the monastery on checking letters and definition alone, had to check the Hebridean location with Google, and fully expected 2d to be wrong and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t. I’m not sure the i in 24ac really equates to US – is US the setter / newspaper team, or we the solvers? I can never remember. Everything else though seemed to be fair and above board and, really, rather quite enjoyable.

COD? In retrospect I really do like that definition, so I’ll go with 17d – “One trained takes minute replacing power in electronic device (8)”.

To December 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/12/04/independent-8780-tees/

Another enjoyable offering from Dac that I would say was on the easy side, except for 23d which wasn’t. If you didn’t know your ancient history or your constellations then you were well and truly stuck, as can often be the case with double definitions. Thankfully we have word finders to help, but still. I suppose I won’t forget either now… Elsewhere I was pleased to get the Asian island from the wordplay, and took a while to spot 10ac. First in 4ac, last in 23d as already mentioned, finish time comfortably under par for the i with one cheat.

Lots to appreciate as ever of course, with my COD going to the fortuitously topical 4ac – “Say nothing during Disney film with unspeakable acting (4,4)”.

To November 2014:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2014/11/19/independent-8767-dac/