Another good one from Dac. There, what else is there to say? Well, the NW corner went in pretty sharpish while the SE corner – and 22d and 26ac in particular – took a while longer, IoW geography or any geography in fact not being my strong point. I was pleased to get 4d from the wordplay realising that I did know it only after the fact. Did anyone else panic at the thought of having to dredge up the name of some obscure Conservative chancellor? I did, and breathed a sigh of relief on finding he was rather well known. Perhaps infamous would be a better word. There’s also some obscure slang for money, but I’m guessing most solvers will have chucked in the answer with little more than a shrug. Well, I did.

COD? Lots to like as always, with my nomination going to the aforementioned 4d, just for that construction – “Fellow imbibes a small amount of liquid after party, showing sign of stress (5,6)”.

To September 2014:


Harribobs, a name to send shivers down the spine. No, I still haven’t quite got over that puzzle. I’m short of time too – baking the Christmas cake. It must be a month to go. Cue ensuing panic and feelings of general un-restfulness.

Today’s preamble looks more tractable though. Extra letters. Tick. A few thematically entered answers. OK. Shading. Tick. Don’t like the sound of “a few variations are acceptable” though, sounds suitably vague with room for error.

Today’s Phi was a piece of cake, so there’s a little time in the morning to make a start. And, I think I can solve these. An anagram of “our times” is TOURISM, the crossing demon is also an anagram, and so on. What, you completely forgot about some answers needing to be treated before entry? Sssh, so I did. Which is why mid-afternoon, the cake in the oven, I got stuck. Until I remembered. How do you reckon you’re supposed to treat them? Well, the title says “Go West”, so let’s reverse a couple. Including TOURISM, which helps, in places.

Onward. A tick for 3d, very smooth. A smile at 10d, perhaps because I’m one episode away from the end of a Twin Peaks marathon encompassing all three series and the movie. I don’t have Blu-Ray, so the Missing Pieces will remain forever missing. A few question marks about 45ac – is it SEMITISE or SEMITIZE? And 39d = CHOTT or SHOTT? What, you couldn’t parse them either?

Let’s look at the extra letters. Look again at some of my parsing, bits of which seem decidedly fanciful now.


Which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the title. Are we looking for state abbreviations? Lots of CA’s in there, and so on, so perhaps that explains the preamble? No we’re not, Harribobs has only gone and constructed a grid that’s a map of the Western United States, the states suitably positioned if scrambled. Blimey. And that explains the shaded border too, I think.

Out with the highlighters (though how many different highlighters does Harribobs figure the average solver owns?) This is where it gets a little tricky – different enjoining colours (no American spellings here), and the choice of A’s at times difficult – don’t want to end up one short. SEMITIZE and SHOTT, evidently. That’s one way of confirming the grid fill. Any mistakes, blame trying to highlight late at night in the dim glow of an energy saving light bulb.

And, done. Dusted. You know what, I thoroughly enjoyed that. Harribobs was voted best Inquisitor of 2017, and I reckon this is another worthy contender. Go West, young man, go west.

Between the musical aspect of the theme, the setter’s smartypants style and the Secretary of State for Transport on the wireless, there was much muttering and disgruntlement this morning. Well, I warmed to the crossword, at least, and surprisingly enough finished it off without recourse to assistance of any sort.

Really quite tricky, wasn’t it? There were a couple of instances of overreach in my opinion, notably 1d and 19ac, which is what I’ve come to expect from Hob, along with some real brilliance. So let’s not dwell on the iffy bits, and instead celebrate some of the crackers, like 4, 9, 12 and 17d. Happily there was no need to go looking for discographies – that would have put me well and truly out of sorts – but a bit of ornithology did come in handy. My COD is the cheekiest one of the lot, 13ac:

“Unconscious state, lacking heart (4)”

Plenty of praise for this puzzle from the cognoscenti over at Fifteensquared when it first appeared in August 2014. Whilst I was there I noted with pleasure that the esteemed Maize has one in the Indy today: kept that quiet, didn’t you? 😉

An IoS reprint to start the week, and one that won’t have caused most solvers too many issues. I had a feeling when I started that Nitsy has sometimes been a little tricky to solve, but if so that wasn’t evident today. 4d was new, but basically a choice between M or D at the start. Last in were 9d, 13ac and 16d which did occasion a little pause for thought, the latter raising an almighty groan. It’s also my COD – “Dead centre (8)”. Overall an enjoyable start to the working week.

Here’s the 2014 Fifteensquared blog, should you need it:

Saturday 25th November 2018

Well Phi got me good and proper last weekend, and no mistake.  Hands up if you too thought the theme was the 9 European locations listed in the clue for 4d EUROPE?  Not a bit of it – that was a canard. The real theme was the stations of the PARIS METRO (17a, 19a) of which there were fully 10 dotted around the grid: Liege, Odeon, Stalingrad, Temple, Abbesses, Europe, Danube, Rome, Pyrenees, and Commerce. Very nice.

The clues were all solvable without recourse to electronic aids or dictionaries (or atlases), which is a definite plus in my book, and were mostly pretty straightforward, but there were a few examples of inspired clue-smithery too; I had ticks in my margin for 15a, 1d, 17d, and 21d and my double tick for COD went to the following:

10a Twelve letters left for island (5)

All the solutions and comments from 2014 can be found by clicking here.

A Saturday prize puzzle reprint from Klingsor which proved a fairly rapid solve even if quite a few went in without fully understanding why, the two main culprits being 7dn and 10ac which figure largely in the posts over on Fifteensquared,  although personally I found the cryptic part of 26ac far more vague than those two even though the answer was obvious once the checkers were in. Similarly 24ac where the solver is expected to dredge up an actress, all I could think of was mint cake which was of no help. The rest of it was fine – a couple of old chestnuts with the treaty at 13 dn and the princess at 19ac, a dubious homophone at 8dn, and a face palm moment at 2dn all adding up to a fairly satisfying puzzle.

COD?  17ac – “After opening of Savoy Hotel stops for a drink (8)”

A good challenge from Morph today. A swift entry at 9ac raised hopes of a quick win, with further entries dotted throughout the grid raising hopes further, but well, it wasn’t to be. The only obscurity was at 3d – in both the answer and wordplay – but the rest of the puzzle took a little teasing out with some attention required to the wordplay. At the close I had a number of question marks, all ably explained over on the other side. Enjoyable, even if my finish time was well over par for the i.

COD? 20d – “Costume of Hun finally toned down? (6)”, even if I did need the Fifteensquared blog to explain it.

Talking of which, here it is:

i Cryptic Crossword 2436 Dac

November 28, 2018

Wednesday comes round again and with it another enjoyable offering from Dac. Maybe it’s just me but I thought this is a little trickier than par, particularly in the NW corner where both 1ac and 3d were new to me, as was the tomato sauce used in the wordplay for 2d. Elsewhere I forgot the plural for 17d and failed to parse more than one or two. Well, it was still rather 14ac. Is to hum to sing? It’s probably in the dictionary but it foiled me for ages. Good fun nevertheless.

COD? He’s in the news rather less these days, apart from this slightly bizarre story, but for me it’s got to be 7d – “Mr Doherty is about, concealin’ drug (9)”.

To August 2014:

An unfamiliar name, so welcome Penumbra if you’re a new setter, or welcome back if you’re an old one in disguise. A bit of a rush job this time round because I’m acting as a taxi service between various doctors and A&E departments, and holding the fort so to speak in the meantime. The joys of winter.

Extra letters spelling something this week, a couple of unclued entries, shading, bish bash bosh. Oh, and some downs to be treated. Penumbra shares an inadequacy. Don’t we all.

So to start at the beginning. Or close to it. A cure for poison’s an anti-something, one partial anagram giving ANTIVENIN, and we’re away. Step back, to a DADO rail. And forward UNDINTED. A pretty easy grid fill. OK, I haven’t got all the extra letters, but what did you expect? The treated downs? A pretty fair guess after a few crossing letters is that they’re to be written upside down. Confirmed by a very long anagram for INGRATITUDE, which I struggle to read upside down.

Two unclued entries in the grid – BUDDY (Holly) and (Holly) GOLIGHTLY – pretty obviously. The bottom long unclued entry? IDENTICAL TWIN. And, oh, the top is too. Let’s sort the extra letters. THE HOLLIES I CAN’T TELL THE BOTTOM FROM THE TOP. A song I’ve never heard of. Does this tell us anything about any inadequacy that might be shared by Penumbra? Nope? Do the upside down entries provide further evidence of anything? Nope. And the two hollies? Are we looking for identical twins? A pretty thorough search through Wikipedia says no.

So how long did you spend staring at the grid, looking for something to shade in an appropriate colour? Too long. Even resorting to online word search solvers. Which yielded little. But there is ILEX in the centre. It’s a holly. Does it fit with anything else in that preamble? I don’t think so. Did I shade it green? Yes I did, because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Did I wish we’d been given more of a clue, perhaps an enumeration, to help with the shading? Yep. Oh well… Back to waiting on a phone call, and nagging recalcitrant children to get ready for bed. Is there any whisky left?

Last time I blogged an Alchemi we had a visit from the setter, so Michael, if you’re passing – well done. I have a palm print on my forehead, no doubt as intended. Yes, 3d was my last one in, finally explaining what the theme was about.

This puzzle was pretty much as expected: not too difficult with a gratifying variety of clue types and a generally jaunty feel. (Not to say racy, in the case of 10/29). Everything works like clockwork, although solvers who spotted the connection between the thematic items early may well have skipped the parsing of the longer entries. The consensus at Fifteensquared in September 2014 was that this was a particularly enjoyable crossword, and I certainly concur.

Now then, clue of the day time. Plenty to choose from but two stand out, and it’s a coin toss. Nope, not 10/29 – step forward 14ac:

“Ha! Without current the race is off (8)”