It’s a Wednesday, it’s Dac, and another lesson in how to set a cryptic crossword. I started off at a gallop, with only a few stupid errors – first POSTMAN, then BETUGA (?!?) – an unknown at 5ac, and then a long, long pause at the close on 23ac causing much of a delay. Oh, and a few false starts on 10ac where I decided to do all my workings in pen, on the grid. Regarding 23ac, I must admit that I was blissfully ignorant of the bank in question’s existence, but eventually spotted the definition. Finish time under par for the i, but should have been quicker.

COD? With 21d a close runner-up, 20d – “Current Hamlet production interrupted by onset of rain (7)”.

To June 2013:


So the i’s new souped up weekend paper and first thoughts are:

  • The cryptic’s moved, help.
  • There’s a lot more to skim through before I get to the crossword. 😉
  • Hasn’t the Inquisitor grown? Perhaps the editor’s taken note of my fading eyesight and poor writing.

So Schadenfreude, who I’ve got a feeling can be a little difficult at times, but let’s see. Single letters to remove from clues to give a bit of a quotation and its originator. Then reveal the missing word by delineating (curious turn of phrase) five examples of it. Doesn’t sound that scary. The rain’s hammering down, so onward, with brief interruptions to aid and abet with the youngest two’s homework. World War II. Again.

The NW corner’s a fairly logical place to start, and isn’t it easy? The rest is more like the Schadenfreude we know and love though, with lots of trips required to the big red book, a couple of wrong turns, eventually limping home quite late in the evening. Ok, with a couple of breaks along the way, but still.

Those extra letters. Usually at this point they look like a right dog’s breakfast, but for once they sort of make sense. Have a look again at the clues where they don’t. Blimey, we have a message:

gentlemen do not take at luncheon lord curzon

Google to the rescue. Apparently gentlemen don’t take soup at luncheon. Who knew? So we’re looking for five soups in the grid. And presumably none of them are going to be a Cup a Soup. Let’s get some synonyms up, and hunt through the grid. That term, delineate – outline, depict, portray. And CONSOMME is there in a wiggly line in the NW, swiftly followed by CHOWDER. S. Ah, we’ve got to draw the letters. COCKIELEEKIE to describe the O in the NE, VICHYSSOISE the U in the SW, and then MULLIGATAWNY for the P last, but not least. SOUP. The last two remain a mystery to me, but I’d at least heard vaguely of the first few.

An enjoyable, and hopefully successful start then to the new look weekend i. Let’s just hope there weren’t any Gila red herrings tucked away in there. 😉

This is a first: a Scorpion puzzle which left me underwhelmed. There’s an obvious Nina and the theme concerns a long running TV programme of which I have had no experience since the early 1980s when 3d and 15d were the leading lights. The solutions include seven surnames (one non-thematic), and although it didn’t bother me at all a number of Fifteensquared blog comments criticise the grid – and they’re right. I suppose we can at least be grateful that the infuriating blister in a novelty jumper didn’t feature.

The clues aren’t a problem though, and there are flashes of the brilliance we’ve come to expect from this setter. 4, 10 and 21 all went down well, with 27ac winning the coveted clue of the day prize by a short head:

“Equine mate threatening to abandon us (8)”

This crossword dates back to June 2013; Scorpion fans who fancy more will be interested to hear that he has another in today’s Independent.

A nice, straightforward start to the week from the i. Nothing that will have held up seasoned solvers for long, apart maybe from 18d if, like me, you were only vaguely aware how to spell it and had to untangle the cryptic part. Another Monday, another good beginner’s puzzle.

COD? 29ac – “Dad needs representation when they make further progress impossible (4,4)”.

To May 2013 for this IoS reprint:

Saturday 30th September 2017

Four 15-letter lights is always nice to see, and overall this puzzle was a fine one. However it did contain three of my bêtes noires so, if you’ll forgive me, I shall take the opportunity to offload:

17a. The use of wordplay components like San for hospital. ENT or A&E are fine, but nobody uses words like san (or gam, lam etc.) except crossword setters. These imports from the world of barred puzzles must be off-putting for people new to crosswords.

1a. Using a girl’s forename to clue an obscurity. Well Lemma is obscure to me, at any rate, and there are literally hundreds of 4-letter girls’ name, scores of which begin with a vowel. Then there’s that word ‘used’ doing nothing in the middle.

24a. Clueing obscurities with anagrams – especially foreign terms.  We had ‘Tiers Etat’ defined as ‘Commons’ and the anagram was ‘treaties + t’.  Without searching through a dictionary, this only works if you know the term already. If an answer is obscure, the wordplay must be tight to compensate, and anagrams could be anything.

And that’s without mentioning Nicodemus – a pivotal character from the gospels – being clued as ‘guy’.

Heigh-ho, it was all solved easily enough, so I’m not complaining really, just expressing my preferences.

COD: 9a Warlike? Slight switch in that to describing matrimony (7)

Fifteensquared blog from 2013 here.

Oh no not Monk again, his last puzzle went down like the proverbial lead balloon with some correspondents here. There seemed to me quite a few on the easier side to get started with but there are also quite a few that only went in once I had all the crossers and they seemed the best fit, chiefly amongst these was 1dn closely followed by 11ac and 8dn. 4dn wins the most obscure answer prize, at least a normal anagrid “about” is used compared to “high” and “totty”.

I don’t usually spot themes and apart from noticing “Me” being used a couple of times nothing was apparent, however being Monk there is something just as obscure as some of his wordplay. Its all revealed over on Fifteensquared but it took two months!

Overall I quite enjoyed this and had quite a few ticks including 17ac, 25ac, 6dn and 7dn but I think COD must go to

1ac  A beastly pair paralyse bait for one (7)

A thoroughly enjoyable, slightly tricky offering from Donk today. Always inventive, I kicked myself several times when I eventually worked out where the wordplay was (in retrospect very obviously) leading me. There’s a theme, which I wish I’d spotted as it would have speeded up solving no end – anagram couplets in all the across answers. Shows how observant I am. Last in 25ac, probably because – quite rightly I suspect – AOL is at the bottom of most people’s list of Internet providers these days.

Lots of ticks today, with COD going to 22d – “Treat harshly, bringing up common hotel rule (4,2)”.

To June 2013:

An enjoyable solve from our regular Wednesday setter. This must be my quickest ever i solve, so either my solving skills have come on leaps and bounds this week, or this was Dac on most definitely benevolent form. A little uncertainty over the parsing of 11ac, which is explained ably over on the other side, and I had no idea how to spell 25ac (was it ENTREMETS or ENTRETEMS, only Google knew), but the rest was plain sailing.

COD? Lots to like as ever, but I’ll go with 4d – “Singer performing nicer ballad with Lindisfarne, maybe (7,8)”.

To June 2013:

Nutmeg, an infrequent name around these parts, so I’ve no idea what to expect today. The preamble looks straightforward enough – one letter from each answer to be shoved into the grey border, giving six names, a bit of highlighting at the end. Oh, and clues to the perimeter entries that I wish I could solve because it would make life a lot easier. But it’s sunny, sort of, so a bit of fun in a dampish garden with power tools to start with.

Later, first thoughts are – now it’s dark in the evenings, I can’t make out my pencil scribblings so easily. Energy saving lightbulbs…

Second thoughts – without, effectively, knowing where to put any letters, this is going to mean a lot of cold solving. Mind you, 9ac first off is pretty simple, though I don’t know what to do with it. Jot the answer by the clue. And do the same for the rest, staring all the while at a mostly empty grid (the crossing of two clues resolved by a mutually exclusive letter means it doesn’t look quite as appalling as it could). Saturday evening staggers by, subjected all the while to over two hours worth of Strictly. To hell with it, just start putting those entries in the grid, they’re in pencil, we can always shift the letters afterwards. This proves to be the key to making progress, because we can see what the crossing letters might be. And get some letters in that perimeter. With any luck some sort of pattern will emerge.

Fast forward to Sunday, and the sinking feeling that this will be the week I admit defeat. The grid is looking a bit random, with letters that may or may not be in the right place, and progress on the remaining clues is looking, well, not good. Let’s have a look at the perimeter clues. And look a bit more. And a bit more. Oh, the second name, if I’ve got these right, ends ON. The child in the clue is SON then, but elder? Luckily Mel GIBSON springs to mind – BIG = Elder, of course, and reverse it. That’s one name, at least, though searching in Google for groups of six containing Gibson doesn’t help much. “Coldness of relations” is the clue for the first. I’ve got ??O??. FROST…

A quick(ish) Google search later gives us the Dymock Poets. I’ve not heard of them as a group, but one or two are certainly familiar. So together with the perimeter clues we can fairly confidently fill that border. I say fairly confidently, because I still can’t parse the last one. FROST, GIBSON, DRINKWATER, ABERCROMBIE, BROOKE, THOMAS. With those in place, quickly sort out the clues solved so far, and then, well, filling the rest of the grid is child’s play.

That highlighting? DYMOCK POETS reversed NE to SW. Eleanor FARJEON crossing it NW to SE. Huzzah! Thanks, Nutmeg, for a puzzle that made me think for a whole day that my head was going to explode, and which then fell into place neatly, and elegantly, at the close.

Radian’s last Tuesday puzzle caused a certain amount of consternation, and a cri de coeur from one commenter concerning the elitist nature of crossword themes. Today we have the neutral subject of rocks and stones, and it seems a little more straightforward to me – but like last time I can’t congratulate the setter on his choice of grid. A game of four quarters once again, with somewhat ungenerous checking.

Whilst the clue writing is for the most part well up to Radian’s usual high standard, I did think some definitions were open to debate, and my two last-ones-in caused a curling of the lip. 24ac I simply dislike, and if anyone cares to supply a lucid explanation of 25d I’d consider it a kindness. A quadruple definition? RatkojaRiku’s blog at Fifteensquared provides an admirable analysis otherwise, but that one still has me shaking my head.

Never mind. Plenty to enjoy, and a superabundance of Qs, oddly enough. The amusingly apposite COD chose itself:

9d: “Old rockers, rich individuals who have essentially lasted (7,6)”.