With all this talk of restrictions on normal life being lifted, I wonder if we’ll be returning to Prize Puzzles by the end of the month? Well, not yet evidently, but what we do have is a remarkably good example of what we’ve come to expect from Phi. The clues were in the middle of his difficulty range and there was a Nina that it seems nobody back in 2017 could get without entering into a dialogue directly with the setter. But perhaps you did see what eluded me? CLARI/NET, FLU/TE, H/ORN, GUI/TAR, VIOL/IN, and BE/LL form the start and finish of rows 1, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 15. Ah. ‘Very satisfying’ according to some on Fifteensquared, and I suppose to look at after the event it is, but I’m left feeling like one of those rats in experiments who, I recently learned, refuse to playfight with a bigger rat if they lose more than 70% of the time.

I enjoyed the clues with good surface readings in particular. Foremost among those were 15a and 17a. The latter was a simple, short anagram – ‘Appearances – I guess – may be deceptive’ so my nomination for COD goes to the former:

15a Cut short person you want to avoid in pub? Perfectly natural (6)

There were a few obscure-ish entries – BLEAR, STOOLIE and CLARISSA if you didn’t already know them perhaps, then I had a slight question over ‘bronzed’ = TAN in 5d and there was a fairly chewy knot of clues in the SW I thought, with VIOLENCE taking me an age to unpick, so I suspect plenty of newer solvers might have struggled here and there, even if regulars were familiar with most of Phi’s tricks… although maybe not that Nina!

All the answers and parsing can be found by clicking on this link:


Is EVAPORATED MILK a drink? That, fellow-solvers, is the provocative question posed by today’s puzzle. I dare say it might be possible to drink it, but surely it’s no more a drink than is the cream for which evaporated milk was the substitute in times gone by. I suppose the comments section will be filled with reminiscences of tinned fruit and other staples of high tea in the days before the food revolutions of more recent decades.

Jambazi has given us a tough challenge this morning, after a few days of more accessible crosswords. It took me a little longer than usual to complete, but once I got into it, and once I had twigged a little of this unfamiliar setter’s distinctly idiosyncratic style, it seemed easier to finish than my experience at the start seemed to suggest.

Parsing problems included OGLE, PEON, and YOGI, all of which took a bit of niggling at before I could get what was going on. ICONIC seems suspicious as well. But there is, I think, nothing particularly obscure or controversial (apart from the aforementioned EVAPORATED MILK 🙂).

There’s lots of good and imaginative stuff here, which made the puzzle both engrossing and enjoyable. GROOVIEST was a good clue for a fun word. FORM was neat, as was REDRAW. Clue of the day, however goes to 26ac: “Cream cakes round with four lines (5)”.

Back to Easter weekend 2017 for the answers and explanations:

Independent crossword 9518 by Jambazi

Silvanus is one of those solvers where I’m still not sure what to expect, and this being the Thursday slot we can sometimes get something extremely chewy indeed so I approached this with some trepidation. As it was we had a fairly gentle puzzle with a few bits dotted round the grid that required a little more in the way of cognitive powers. Here I floundered on having too many trees to pick from at 12ac, convinced myself 13d was an anagram, and had eaglet stuck in my head causing me no end of problems in the SE corner. On the other hand the longer entries were a lot more straightforward than they appeared at first glance, and much of the bottom half of the grid was a write-in. 7d would have been similarly so it occurs to me on a better day, in other words one where I’m not limping badly towards the end of a long week. Things to like outside of the COD included the Norwegian Blue reference, “IN CARE” which was nicely done, and the very nice surface reading at 1ac. Finish time akin to that of an easyish Dac, and thoroughly enjoyed.

COD? I’ll go with 9ac – “Appearance of married couple losing weight attracts TV channel (13)”.

And so to April 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:


A welcome return for Peter today with an IoS reprint that was finished in a pretty sharpish time, but that also felt a little knotty in places. A few synonyms in wordplay that were a little off the beaten track (STIFF for tiring, the less common RAM, FLY for crafty, etc) will have been mostly responsible for any knottiness, I suspect, but most welcome it was too, making the puzzle feel a little different from the run-of-the-mill, and always engaging and lively. 1ac did make me wonder if some sort of theme might be afoot, but that was because I’d got it mixed up with Krampus. No puzzle is complete here without a chronic moment of misapprehension.

COD? With much to appreciate, I’ll go with 3d – “Minor fairy meeting pantheon’s foremost goddess by lake (10)”.

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


Following Dysart and eXtent, in quick succession comes Eclogue, in almost but not quite alphabetical order. Am I just reading too much into what is evidently random? Would I would be better off spending my time trying to work out what the seemingly random Ransomware in the title is referring to?

Because until I glanced at it a moment ago, having neglected to do so until now, I was feeling quietly smug on a puzzle just about fully parsed and understood. Because, you see, that message. Generated from superfluous words. I have it, and without any question marks.


My solving this week could even be considered methodical, because belatedly it occurred to jot down beside each clue the required letters when they popped up. Helping with the solving process, you see?

Not that too much help was required (I hope), as this was Inquisitor-lite territory. Yes, it’s the long awaited “easy one”. I would like to think that a quick reveal of CUESTA right at the start means that I’m getting better at these, but I suspect this was actually just a gentle puzzle. Albeit with some entries we had to anagram on entry, and weird and wonderful entries such as the handily flagged OOSPERMS. Never mind, there was much that was low brow too thanks to the likes of CONAN who’s one of the few barbarians that readily springs to mind.

Endgame time. Presumably we’re being asked to bring to mind moving the goalposts, moving letters being what we’ve been up to a fair bit throughout. Completing the equally well flagged empty squares gives an equally handy anagram of the last two words in the phrase. A nifty spot of highlighting later, and we’re done.

Another good one, that. And one aimed at us mere mortals too, I suspect. More please, more like this.


A fun puzzle today from the ever-entertaining Vigo, which will be all the more amusing to those who are familiar with the theme.  This will probably turn out to be age sensitive, but if you were in the habit of watching children’s TV in the 1970s you’re certainly in with a good chance of spotting it.

There’s nothing difficult here, I think, and certainly no outlandish vocabulary.  I have no complaints, but you’ll find a few in the comments on the original blog – nothing that signifies, though.  The beauty of Vigo’s crosswords lies in the elegant and often witty turn of phrase, and as such there’ll be plenty of candidates for a clue of the day according to taste.  Don’t be backward in coming forward with them.  My choice, 7d came in for the comment “struggles to communicate what’s required”, which sounds like an attempt to patronise the setter to me.  I think it’s just fine, thank you very much.

“Every Monday performing head stand in a modest fashion (6)”


One of eXternal’s rarish Monday outings kicks us off this week. Of about middling difficulty I thought, with what looked certain to be a pangram when the Z surfaced in 1ac turning out not to be so. We had a bit of geography regular readers will be astonished to learn that I did for reasons I can’t fathom know, a gang member it took me far too long to twig despite guessing the source material immediately, a crossword staple at 9ac, and just the two I failed to parse (24ac and 19d). Elsewhere 5d I discovered I can’t spell, and 2d I was pleased to get despite nagging doubts in my mind as to whether USS was actually a real thing or just a fictional starship prefix. Quality stuff and enjoyable as expected.

COD? I’ll go with 8d – “Gents, maybe, cut up when brought in to view new TV show (5,5)”.

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


Whilst not exactly ENTRY-LEVEL, Phi has pitched this crossword at the more accessible end of his range, and I suspect there was little here to hold up the more experienced solver. Your blogger completed it in a little less than his typical time, and had no question marks in his margin about any definitions or parsing – although he had no smiley faces either, nothing really standing out as being especially witty, or amusing or particularly well constructed. Although far from corruscating, my nominition for Clue of the Day goes to 7ac: “Hotelier who’d generate special quality in right zone (4)”.

Perhaps the only candidate for being an obscurity was RILKE, although since he seems to crop up in crosswords every now and then, perhaps he is more well-known in Crosswordland then in the world beyond, rather like the two daggers.

There’s a gimmick which was, I thought, easily spotted, and having got it, it helped a little. I wondered if and how Phi would incorporate the letters I to R, but having already spotted that this was no pangram, with at least J and Q absent, I decided they were not there. But over on Fifteensquared Phi comments that the letters I to R were covered by 5d and 19d. So there you are.

Here’s the link to the blog at Fifteensquared, should you need further explication:

Independent 9,440 by Phi

One of the incidental joys of solving crosswords is the little excursions one makes into regions of knowledge and experience that one might otherwise never have ventured into. Today I read about an Icelandic indie-folk band, and had a fun couple of minutes watching a video of Sponge Bob Square Pants (it was only a couple of minutes, honest). Both as a consequence of googling SEA BEAR.

This was a medium-to-hard puzzle, I would say; one which took me a little over my typical time, and which required a bit of dictionary- and Internet-checking. But all the parsing yielded in the end, leaving me with no unanswered questions. My parsing problems included the “tall” component of ENVIRONMENTALLY, and most of UP THE GARDEN PATH. Both entries seemed clear once a few crossers were in, but did take that bit of unravelling. Other bits of googling were necessitated by THOREAU and DROP FORGE; and likewise with these clues, the crossing letters were sufficiently helpful for me to know what I should be checking. Obscurities? I know its an old film, but surely everyone’s heard of The Odd Couple with Walter MATTHAU and Jack Lemmon.

One clue I thought a tad unfair. Both of the word-play components of ETHICAL were in Latin. Both in common use, I think, but with no indication in the clue, I did think it a little questionable.

There is a ghost-theme; WHITE and HOUSE in the top-left and bottom-right corners, plus TRUMP in the bottom left could not possibly be fortuitous. Check on Fifteensquared, below, for some suggestions on how other clues might fit in.

All in all, an enjoyable and rewarding solve. Lots of great clues. My runner-up today is TAKE THE SHINE OFF, and my Clue of the Day is 1ac: “You and I eating buffet pasty (5)”.

Here’s the link to Fifteensquared for all the answers and explanations:


It’s that cheeky chap Hoskins again with the requisite amount of bodily functions and slightly risque clues. Fun as always, and yet again over in a flash – if this had appeared earlier in the week it would have been a potential personal best, but as it is was just a tad slower than yesterday’s Dac. Loads went in on definition followed by a quick glance back over the wordplay to confirm, with only 28ac at the close giving any problems in the latter department, though not the former. That was one of many I thought where the surface reading was worthy of Dac – the sort of thing that’s so smoothly put together that the wordplay becomes that much harder to spot. Enjoyed, as always, and yet again – more Hoskins please.

COD? Loads to pick from today, from the smile / groan inducing definition at 17d to the “bellish” 27ac, with my pick going to 18d – “Teacher carrying expensive letter opener? (4,3)”.

And so to January 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues for this IoS reprint: