i Cryptic Crossword 3304 Monk

September 9, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟

A Saturday reprint from Monk today which means on both counts that you’re to expect something a little testing, though not overly so I thought, this being on the gentle side for Monk, with lots of easier ones to give you a toe-hold in the grid, and a few definitions that will have jumped out. There are words (and a band in the bottom row) that involve three letter repetitions, that helped no end with the film star to the NW and to the SW with 22ac and 24ac where I was struggling at the close. Things to like in particular were the misdirection regarding the Grieg opera and the anagram at 9d, with lots elsewhere worthy of praise. Monk and the i crossword at their best?

COD? 19d I thought was very nicely done – “Last exposure and future picture do this (6)”.

To July 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/15/independent-9596-monk/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

Dutch is an occasional setter for the Indy with only seven appearances in the last five years, so it’s not easy to get on his wavelength. Consequently I found this a bit tricky in places and would agree with the fifteensquared blogger’s rating of medium difficulty.

There were some nice touches such as the penny-drop moment in 1ac when I realised the answer was a PI’s typical attire rather than the name of a detective agency. Another nice touch was the ‘unstable summit’ in 21dn. I also liked the (not too) cryptic definition in 13dn in that it implied a different enumeration from the answer.

One or two entries didn’t quite hit the right spot for me, notably 9ac and 12ac although I can’t put my finger on any specific faults with them. I did wonder about 26ac in that the answer is not one of the definitions of GP in Chambers, but then I realised that G and P had to be treated as separate abbreviations.

What I didn’t like was 18dn with its reference to a US communications director no longer in office – in fact he had already departed by the time the puzzle was originally published in 2017. Whether or not topcal references get updated for the i does seem to be a bit hit-and-miss.

Overall, though, a pleasant enough puzzle for my first idothei blog. CoD? 1ac and 26ac came to mind while I was solving but on reflection I’ll go for 20ac – Utterly perplexed as she may be, he treats wind casually (2,3,4,3).

To July 2017 for all the answers and comments – http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/13/independent-9594-dutch/

Inquisitor 1714 Clouds by Phi

September 7, 2021

Prize for the most opaque preamble of the year will I suspect (hope) go to Phi, because after several read-throughs of today’s I was only a little wiser. Letters absent from the wordplay of some clues, thematic clues elsewhere where, suspiciously, word counts and lengths refer to grid entries. I’ve been at this game long enough for that statement to ring alarm bells.

When confused my policy is to jump right in and get on with it, which often bears fruit, but would only do so slowly this time despite TROIC right in at the start. What swiftly became obvious elsewhere was that the crossing letters in several answers seemed to bear little relation to the accompanying wordplay. Almost as if those were the thematic answers we were looking for.

Now, I’d already thought that all that stuff about numbers associated with the answers in different ways might be something to do with atomic numbers, so when it became clear that nothing but BEEHIVE would fit 14d, and that it also happened to be a nebula (clouds, see), I chanced upon a list of such things by somebody I’d not heard of called MESSIER, whose name looked suspiciously like the letters absent from wordplay in a number of clues.

Bingo. The Beehive Cluster is Messier 44, and RUTHENIUM which fits some of the wordplay in the clue is atomic number 44 too. At which point ORION and ANDROMEDA swiftly fell, and with it much of the top half of the grid.

The bottom half? After a false start looking at a contemporary rival of Messier’s, a little more googling found the CALDWELL list, the name again suspiciously similar to other emerging absent letters.

Which also cleared up the mystery of the clues for nebulae that crossed both halves, as they were evidently supplying wordplay for elements with atomic numbers that matched those in both lists, there being a Southern Beehive cluster too for example .

And the one normal one that was wrongly positioned? Well, the CRAB nebula is Messier 1, and therefore in the wrong place among the Caldwell lot.

And there we have it, not as impenetrable as it first looked. Unexpectedly therefore we have the rest of the Bank Holiday free for, well, more puzzles, it being a lovely quiet one here. 

20210828_171445~2

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟

Singers of the feathered kind are mostly definitely part of our theme today, though I wasn’t sure if the human ones down in the SW corner were deliberately chosen too. Which is all pretty academic, as I suspect many solvers won’t have noticed in what was a pretty bright, breezy puzzle that was over in no time at all with no hold-ups of note. Some of Hoskins’ trademark references seem to have been reined in a little this time round, which will please some and disappoint others I’m sure. Lots to enjoy, good, solid clues throughout, lots of smiles, so I’m hoping this will be a bit of a crowd-pleaser in the midst of what has been a pretty tough set of puzzles of late.

COD? Just because the definition made me smile (and in spite of my statement above), 2d – “English people occupied by old lady gas? (9)”.

To July 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/03/independent-9585hoskins/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

In terms of word-play and accessibility, this fun and enjoyable puzzle from Hypnos merits a two-star rating, I would say. But it a few of the references seemed to require somewhat niche knowledge (or to presume age and memory from the solver): Evelyn Waugh has fallen from popularity at present, and although the erudite solvers of the i would be able to name quite a few of his novels, I doubt that BLACK MISCHIEF would be among them. Likewise, James HUNT and Stefan EDBERG, great as their achievements were, are sportsmen whose names are no longer at the forefronts of our minds. DAVID HOCKNEY and Giles BRANDRETH, (and indeed Jo Brand) on the other hand are well-known enough.

I enjoyed this one, which took me about my usual time to solve. Everything seemed to parse perfectly, and the surface readings were plausible throughout. Five clues made my shortlist, which is, in my book, a sign of a good and entertaining crossword. The winner, by a narrow margin, is 7d: “Apple technology’s latest found in place for courses? (6)”.

Here’s the link for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/07/23/independent-on-sunday-1430-by-hypnos/

Difficulty rating (out of five):  πŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

After a week with two 5* puzzles – without even including the Serpent on Thursday – it feels quite reassuring to get back to Phi on a weekend, and this one was bang down the middle of his particular fairway. We had a theme which with CASABLANCA at 1a and CHINATOWN at 1d you hardly needed to be a film buff to notice – if you bothered looking that is. Given that there must be thousands of titles to choose from, I did wonder if there might be some extra connection between the seven I spotted, and there is – sort of. But it’s not that they share a director, or that they’re all Oscar winners for cinematography or anything, rather is it their symmetrical positioning in the grid, which means MATADOR must be a film title too, though not one I’d heard of.

The two new terms for me were RE-EDIFY and MODERN LATIN, although I guess HYMENEAN isn’t exactly everyday usage for most of us. And then for some reason I was unsure how to spell VINAIGRETTE, which is daft because I know how to spell vinegar in French better than in English. The clues from Phi were mostly pretty straightforward. TIN ‘T’ at 28a is a device Phi uses a lot, and having a hefty 10 deletions is also characteristic of this setter. My only unparsed clue was the ‘bra in’ at 3d which Phi wanted us to imagine as a text message, despite it’s not including any texting language. Oh well, Duncan realised on the other side, so perhaps that’s just me.

Favourite clue? Well I liked the ones for CABARET, SPARTACUS, and CHINATOWN very much, but my pick today goes to one from the (relatively) tricky NE corner:

11a Recalled me being like a Romantic poet (with a twist) in the early stages (9)

Click below for a link to the original blog from 2017 with all the answers:

fifteensquared.independent.puzzle-phi

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I think the star-rating system is working well. Quite often there is a bit of minor disagreement about just how easy or difficult a puzzle has been, but that is only to be expected. Unless I have been particularly obtuse this morning, I doubt that there will be much disagreement that today’s offering from the always erudite Tyrus was Very Hard.

It took me considerably longer than usual. When blogging, I solve on the dead-tree version (which I much prefer) but I needed to use the app today in order to check that a few entries were correct, not least the gateway 16ac, which yielded far too late to be particularly useful. I might have been tempted to use the “cheat” functions to reveal the occasional letter – or even a complete word – had I not been determined to write the blog having actually solved the puzzle.

In that self-challenge I failed. Yes, eventually I got all the right letters in the right boxes, but there were several which I just could not for the life of me parse. Quite often the gateway clue can be a little more easily solved, in order to give the solver a break, but that was not so today, and the mystery of 16ac remained even after I had cracked a couple of the themed entries. There were four multi-entry, multi-word answers, which compounded the difficulty level. I don’t think there are any particularly obscure words – with the exception of the gateway clue itself. I’m sure we’re all familiar with “solecism” but this adjectival derivative was far from obvious.

It is, of course (having seen my unparsed answers on Fifteensquared) impeccably clued, and was another impressive construction. But it was very tough. My Clue of the Day is a fairly simple and straightforward one, and the only one which raised a laugh: “Say John Lennon’s old name out loud (5)”

Follow the link for the answers and explanation, commentary from other solvers who also found it tough, and including some thoughts from the setter: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/06/10/independent-9566-tyrus/

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟

A lightly themed puzzle eases us towards the end of the week, based around 17ac. I suspect though that I wasn’t alone in finding that most of the themed entries were a bit of mystery and thus no help with the solving process. There was nothing mysterious about the wordplay though, so I expect that most will have found this to have been a fairly steady, enjoyable and pain free solve. My only question mark at the close was regarding the definition at 20ac, it being seemingly quite outlandish, but evidently correct. Lots to appreciate too, outside of the COD ticks beside 12ac, 14ac, 23ac and 2d. Yes, it was that sort of puzzle.

To the COD then, with my nomination going to 21d – “Witness observed pivotal childhood experience (6)”.

To May 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/18/independent-9546-serpent/

i Cryptic Crossword 3297 Vigo

September 1, 2021

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟 

Many thanks to Vigo for providing a really enjoyable puzzle today, in which I found some clues quite straightforward, but others distinctly more challenging, several of which I would never have got without the help of crossing letters provided by the easier answers. So, less experienced solvers should have found much of this approachable, I think. It is also a pangram, not that I spotted that myself.

All clues are carefully and thoughtfully crafted, and the majority have absolutely excellent surface readings. I smiled at the seemingly naΓ―ve simplicity of 9 (FLEE) and 16 (OBJECTS), and appreciated the clever construction of 19 (WASTED), in which the definition might either have been DRUNK or DEVASTATED. 1 (BUREAUCRAT) held me up for a while as I was originally thinking of REF rather than RAT for the WHISTLE-BLOWER, and I hesitated over 5 (JUNG) before writing it in, as the word GERMAN in the clue distracted me, until I twigged it was simply part of the wordplay: Jung was Swiss. I should have got 15 (GADZOOKS) much earlier, but initially dismissed the possibility of there being a word in which D was immediately followed by ZOO; and 6d (ST LUCIA) was my LOI, partly because of the misdirection afforded by COMING FROM SOUTH (I already knew there was an S to start with …) and partly because I had to search my memory before realising that CULT can be a synonym for FASHION.

12 (OVERDO) might have been my nomination for CoD, but this is one of the few clues in which the surface reading is actually less than effective, so instead I am going for 3:  β€œStarting off chaos and confusion bears fruit (7)”

A full analysis of today’s puzzle can be found by following the link below, and I for one am most grateful that the Fifteensquared bloggers tackle their work with such enthusiasm and dedication:

Difficulty rating (out of five): 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Our Tuesday theme this week is on the subject of map-reading, and for once it’s one that I spotted. I would like to say that it’s because my powers of observation are improving, but I suspect it’s more likely because I had plenty of time to mull over the grid and spot some pretty blatant references. At this point I was then on the lookout for further thematic entries, which certainly helped, but unfortunately less so in the NW corner where I struggled at the close. On looking back nothing was unfair, so no complaints here over having to spend a little time on some pretty neat wordplay followed by lots of – “of course” – moments. At the close only a few went in not fully understood, all of them thematic entries I’d spotted, so I’d have to say that Radian made me work hard today.

COD? With lots to pick from, I’ll go with 7d – “Line with a pole at each end led outing astray (9)”.

To May 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/05/30/independent-9556-radian/