There was a comment on one of the linked blog entries last week to the effect that Punk’s unique selling points are ribaldry and lavatorial humour, which struck me as peevish and ungenerous. There’s very little of that sort of thing in this puzzle, but plenty of devious definitions and clever constructions to amuse receptive solvers, and a theme as is the custom on a Tuesday, based on various 19 downs.

Nothing too difficult this time, although a bit of general knowledge will come in handy for those thematic entries and the cricketers. Maybe not quite so general in the latter case. 27ac struck me as somewhat weak, and is anyone else getting fed up with 9ac coming up so regularly? Otherwise, no complaints: for those please see the February 2013 Fifteensquared blog. I particularly liked 3, 5 and 20d, but my clue of the day is the elegantly turned 2d:

“Brave ploy, extremely sinister (6)”

A nice, straightforward puzzle to start the week. Some complaints over on Fifteensquared regarding how easy it was, but this TBH is the sort of puzzle I’m looking for on a Monday. Lots of opportunities for the harder stuff later in the week. Talking of which, I was surprised how many solvers didn’t know 2d, a phrase which seemed to crop up in many a film / TV show at one time. Or perhaps I’m just showing my age.

COD? 6d – ‘Groups with members one over the eight – and seen to be drunk (7)’.

To February 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/02/04/independent-8208-by-quixote/

i Prize Cryptic Crossword 1972 by Phi

Saturday 3rd June 2017

It was only 7 weeks ago that Phi gave us a crossword themed on the vicars of Charles Dickens, and here the great man is again, in a Nina, top and bottom of the grid. I didn’t spot the additional theme, and indeed it needed Phi to comment on it at Fifteensquared here before anyone there did.  I’m uncertain about the purpose of a theme like this – with just carol, cricket, chimes, battle and haunted dotted around the grid – that we don’t notice without it being pointed out by the setter.

All pretty regulation stuff – 14a had me scrabbling around trying to think of a Daphne du Maurier book called Trilby, but the novel in question was written by her grandfather George – I bet AndyT knew that. Eagres at 6d had me scratching my head for a while, 5d ‘Laic’ was tricky to parse, and the second meaning of Merc had one of its two outings this week – otherwise all pretty straightforward and enjoyable.

For COD, let’s go for the loosely topical 1d:

Minister’s angry, dismissing heads of Home Office (6)

And congratulations to Grace Scott of Perthshire, the prize winner, who must have solved the crossword without sneaking a look at the answers on Fifteensquared because they now magically disappear for the prize puzzle during the week between publishing the i and the appearance of this blog. Quite right too.

Another excellent offering from Klingsor which for me was quite easy to get into but difficult to complete. My LOI was 4d, I’m not keen on this sort of clue where the synonym is also part of the cryptic but that’s just me, 5ac was a similar ploy but the solution seemed a bit more obvious. Both 19ac and 27ac provoked a lot of head scratching but it was only 22 and 24d that I had trouble parsing both of which are expertly dissected on Fifteensquared.  Too many candidates to choose just one from but as its customary to do so.

COD 12ac Get a bit lost in New Orleans on the way back (6)

It’s a Thursday, and a prize puzzle reprint, so on the hardish side, but not fiendishly so. Tees on inventive form as ever, but perhaps towards the easier end of the spectrum for him. Overall time just above par for the i, with a little tussle at the close on 8d. A hasty INSPECTOR at 2d cost me a lot of time in that corner. Remember to check the wordplay. I must admit to Googling 13ac, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have got that or 16ac either. Questions at the close? Exactly the same ones as the Fifteensquared blogger, but they’re all explained in the comments. Much fun to be had all in all.

COD? 17d – ‘Astride brother, I want to reproduce with relatives (7)’.

To the tail end of 2012:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/01/05/independent-8177-sat-29-december-2012-tees/

Our regular Wednesday setter on top form with a thoroughly enjoyable, accessible puzzle. A rare comment from the editor in the comments over on the other side, and it’s difficult to disagree with him. Dac produces these week in and week out, and I for one would happily solve them every day. Give that man a raise. 😉 Today’s was probably about as easy as they get, though I did get a little stuck in the SE corner until in a rare moment of inspiration the (unknown to me) 27ac fell, and then so did the rest.

COD? 11ac, very easily – ‘Approaching middle age, they might not risk endless revelling (15)’.

To January 2013:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/01/23/independent-8198dac/

A traditionally grey, damp Bank Holiday weekend, and my third encounter with Schadenfreude of the year. Lots of time to solve then, hiding in the kitchen from the equally traditional half term colds brewing in the other room. The preamble looks straightforward enough. Misprints in the definitions of twelve clues to form a thematic phrase, some empty cells we’ve got to fill later – a “cryptic representation” of the phrase. Empty cells equals lots of pencilling and rubbing out later. Fab.

Cue quick progress, jotting in the answers that are too short for the entries with best guesses, because otherwise we’re left with a lot of cold solving which is slow work indeed. We can always move them after, based on crossing letters where they look likely, shifting letters when they don’t. The misprints in the definitions are pretty generous, straight as they are from the big red book. And those empty cells? It becomes clear in the NW corner that there’s a pattern, a diagonal line. Follow that round the grid, surely it’s a diamond shape? Solving steps up a gear. A distinct lack of question marks at the close, Schadenfreude on relatively gentle form.

To the end game. Those misprints. Well, they don’t make much sense. Try an anagram solver. Still no sense. Let’s look at what words might fit the empty cells, in the hope the “cryptic representation of the phrase” is going to be a message and not just the shape of a diamond. Look at what will fit, what makes sense, and then start at the bottom of the diamond: ILL OR PHYSICALLY UPSET.

OK. To those misprints again. Perhaps one is wrong? Yes, 19d which I was never sure about. The answer’s KEEN, and the definition must be ‘low’, not ‘raw’.

ROUGH DIAMOND

Very nicely done, and not too difficult as it turns out. The tally for 2017? Schadenfreude 1, Jon 2. Huzzah! Until next time when Ifor lands a quadruple whammy. Ouch.

It being Tuesday, there’s bound to be something devilishly clever going on. The pangram alert klaxon went off when 7d went in, but that’s not it. No hints from me, but I’d urge solvers to have a good old hunt around in the completed grid before resorting to Fifteensquared – there’s something hiding in there and a nice little theme too.

None of that got in the way of a polished and fairly straightforward puzzle which was a pleasure to solve. There are some commendable clues today – 6, 8, 10 and 11 for instance – my favourite being 29ac:

“Return of short Romany girls – good lookers? (10)”

We’re back to wet and windy January 2013 this time.

A reasonably straightforward and enjoyable puzzle to start the week, just right for those of us who’ve yet to wake up, and may not do so for the rest of the day. I thought we might have a pangram for a while, especially when the implausibly named 9d appeared in the grid, but unless I’m missing something I think we’re at least one letter short. Couldn’t / didn’t fully parse 24ac, 9d and 20d (the equally implausibly named sloth), but the rest went in easily enough.

COD? 2d – ‘Bit of excellent work in NY by top volunteers brought up for refinement (11)’.

To February 2013 already:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2013/02/03/independent-on-sunday-1197-hypnos/

Saturday 27th May 2017

My favourite Phi for quite some time with Puck’s commentary on humanity (Act III Scene ii) ‘Lord what fools these mortals be’ appearing as a peripheral Nina, with the four specimens of humanity in question being Hermia in 25a, Helena in 19a, Demetrius as the initial letters of the first nine clues, and Lysander as the initial letters of the last eight. Rather wonderful that.

I must confess to failing to go looking for those missing male lovers – but I should have done. There was some talk after Scorpion’s similar ruse on Thursday about whether such things constitute a setter being self-indulgent. Well, don’t we do these puzzles for the joy of solving? Isn’t this another potential thing to solve? So as (and if) we twig the theme, Nina or even the acrostic in the clues, don’t we, as solvers think: ‘How clever am I?’ So I say ‘Bring it on!’

COD 9a Expanse surrounding lion or Christian, ultimately? (5)

All the answers from 2013 plus comments on grid asymmetry and 28a can be found here.