It’s mid-week, the sun’s shining in Wales, and Dac’s on fine form, so all is well with the world. A sprint through the clues here this morning, notching up what I believe is a record time for the i, but enjoyed nevertheless, with all but the one clue (2d) parsed on solving. 20d gave me a little pause for thought at the close (did anybody else get SUM stuck in their head for part of the wordplay?), but the rest went in without too much hard thinking required.

You’ll probably all have your own picks for COD, this being Dac and it being that sort of puzzle, with my nomination going to 24ac – “Separation: it preceded 1981 royal wedding (13)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/01/18/independent-9443-by-dac/

Once again it is my pleasure to sing the praises of a fellow blogger.  I refer of course to Duncan Shiell, who picked all the meat off this Maize masterpiece four years ago.  Really, he’s scarily thorough, so readers who require the pukka gen without flannel should scroll down and follow the link.

The crossword is of course the work of our own Cornick, also known as Maize, and I’ve probably solved it before.  Can’t say for sure, since one of the benefits of having the memory of a goldfish is that old puzzles seem entirely fresh to me.  Here we have a diagonal Brompton with an exceptional clue count and a highly visible theme pervading the across lights.  As is always the case with this setter the clue writing is of the highest quality, and thematic knowledge is optional; furthermore there are no obscurities, unless you’re the sort of slack-jawed, low-browed hobbledehoy who thinks Shakespeare and Kurosawa are elitist.  Solving was breezy and quite swift, helped along by a few generous anagrams, and there’s none of that unevenness discussed yesterday which leads to sticky patches.

Favourites?  All those finely honed surfaces make for a lengthy list, so I’ll employ the old “nominate your own” cop out, pausing only to say that 27ac is my runner up.  Since last night I was supposed to be at the theatre to see Sir Ian McKellan as the world’s oldest Hamlet – put back to next month on account of social distancing requirements – let’s have 2d for the clue of the day:

“Initially obsequious Shakespearean received in court.”

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/01/19/independent-9444-maize/

Things learnt this weekend:

  • It may be nice to sit out in the sun with the Inquisitor, but too much sun is likely to induce only sleepiness.
  • Birthday celebrations are equally unconducive to the required concentration levels needed, especially when they are not your own.
  • If you’re mysteriously struggling to come up with plausible answers in one bit of the grid, it’s probably because the gimmick hinted at in the preamble is to be found thereabouts.

Not one but two grids, mashed together clues, misprints for good measure. This is the IQ on speed.

Needless to say my solving was less speedy, but with the cooling evening a steady progress could be said to be made, especially when it was spotted that some answers in the left hand grid were to be reversed. Sharper solvers will have got BACKING and done the necessary fairly quickly I suspect, but it took me a while longer. Thankfully the down clues could be in one grid only. Which was the sort of generous hint I appreciate and we don’t always get. 🙂

Misprints. I don’t have them all. I’m not sure if the ones I’ve got are correct. COTRANYM. Perhaps there’s an N in there somewhere. Something about opposites would be my best guess. Google gives contronym, but I’m pretty certain of that A. Oh well.

The chap that faces both ways springs to mind as regarding the highlighting bit, and lo, lob a J in the centre and JANUS certainly does.

That looks right to me.

Job done, though I’m still not sure that we’ve had to long awaited “easy one”. As ever though enjoyed and appreciated.

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An IoS reprint from Kairos kicks us off this week, and one that I found to be a little knotty in places. Most of my problems came to the north of the grid, with the complexities of 6d already discussed over on the other side, but 12ac and 9d also caused me some issues (I really must brush up on my state abbreviations and chemical symbols), plus a few unknowns dotted around (the food processor and second definition at 18d). A good puzzle nevertheless, that had me a little more puzzled than expected, coming in at the close a little over par for the i.

COD? I’ll go with 7d, as I thought “leading ladies” was very nicely done – “Leading ladies standing up for chief magistrate (5)”.

Over to January 2017 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/01/22/independent-on-sunday-1404-kairos/

I really enjoyed this. Plenty of penny-drop moments with twists and turns all over the place. Although I barely noticed it during the solve, there’s a theme signalled in the two long entries ‘TURN a blind eye to’ and ‘TURNED the TABLES’. Had I bothered to investigate further I might have linked them to ROTA(table), and the ghostly mELBA Toast, carpEL BAThtubs and towEL BATtersea hidden in the completed grid. A fun idea that.

Crosophile is quite a risk taker with his clues – ever inventive and original, and occasionally innovative in quite brilliant ways, as in my nomination for today’s CoD which relates to what is surely the televisual equivalent of the cryptic crossword. Here it is again:

24d Capital of Libya. India. The Road to York. Kent area. Only Connect? (6)

Loved that. other highlights include some clever surface readings like 12a 13a, or 26a, the jiggery-pokery in 14d PEN-AND-INK, and the cleverness of 16d BATTERSEA.

Unfortunately 6d was a bit complicated for my brain this morning, so I just bunged it in and went to Fifteensquared to get help from Duncan’s blog. Never mind, at least I twigged the straight cryptic for 2d, which should read ‘Professorial sinecure’ of course.

if you managed to polish that off and still have an appetite for more before Monday comes around, then you could always try to solve my crossword in the Independent online today, where I go under the name of Maize. For the link click here. It’s the puzzle inspired by a doubtless long-forgotten debate I had with Denzo and dtw42 on grid-filling in the comments of idothei earlier this year.

And here’s the link for Crosophile’s puzzle with all the answers and parsings:

Independent 9449 / Crosophile

My knowledge of Russian poets and poetry is sadly lacking. Pushkin I’ve heard of, but never read, and I did manage to dredge up from the dark recesses of my memory that he was killed in a duel with his wife’s lover. But that was no help whatsoever in solving 8ac – how many other people died like that? The crossing lights, however, were very helpful and my first guess at LERMONTOV proved right, and I then appreciated what a good clue it was, giving both definition and word-play, and a neat description of him as well.

Of knowledge of Piezomagnetism, on the other hand, I have NOT A SCRAP. Fortunately the crossing letters were helpful here, too, with a decision only about where the M and the Z should go being necessary. Getting the final C from ARSENIC threw me for a while; having the initial P in place, I took that to have come from “pressure”, and decided the definition was “at top speed”. Remembering that c refers to the speed of light took a while.

Compared to these two, checking up on a list of novels by Stevenson and on where Marx was born seems barely worth worrying about.

This was tough, I thought. There were a few easier clues to get one going, but then a lot of untangling of some cleverly constructed clues was required. Wiglaf is a less frequently seen setter, and sometimes that means it takes me a while to warm to the style, which I did in the end. Favourite clues included CAMELLIA and STOUT, and the deceptive GIRLS. But my nomination for Clue of the Day goes to the entertaining homophone in 17ac: “It’s the state to be in when there’s sun and fresh air, they say (6)”. I couldn’t get “Nevada” to work.

Here’s the link to the original blog with answers and explanations, and a few comments exploring the origins of the D in ESPLANADE:

Independent 9,462 by Wiglaf

A pretty tough offering from Klingsor today I thought. Apart from the bird in the SW corner there is nothing that is obscure, so here at least the problems lay with lots of very difficult to spot definitions and quite tricky wordplay. Exactly the way things should be of course, each answered clue eliciting a – why didn’t I think of that earlier. Perhaps you did, and I’m just being slow today. Of the ones I couldn’t parse, the aforementioned 21ac also featured a river I’ve not heard of, and at 2d the anagram indicator was so well hidden in the surface reading that I totally misread the cryptic part. Elsewhere I was most definitely just being a little dim, as “nerd” for “geek” and the dance required in the far NE corner took far too long to surface. I will claim though that I’m justified in taking an age to get the firearm required in 26ac as the usage feels very old fashioned now.

COD? With lots to pick from, and I’m sure you’ll have your own favourites, I’ll go with the wince inducing 9ac – “Players facing pace slice balls away (8)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/23/independent-9474-klingsor/

An enjoyable, pretty straightforward offering from Eccles this week that was a more than able substitute for Dac. At the close 1d, 4d and 7d gave a little pause for thought, but the rest fairly flew by which was a relief to be honest after a few tough days in the i. I half expected to go onto Fifteensquared to find a theme that I hadn’t quite fathomed out, 9ac and 29ac being indicative of things stateside, but it appears not. Perhaps that was just the drift of Eccles’ thoughts when he was filling the grid. Non horse-racing fans may have been a little stumped by 1d I suspect, but the name was familiar enough here that, after working out that we were looking for an unexpected acronym (do we get many of those?), in it went.

COD? I suspect this will be a day when there will be lots of different nominations, because there were quite a few worthy of note, with mine going to 22d – “How Sesame Street might describe scimitars and sabres? (6)”.

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

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/02/08/independent-9461-eccles/

There’s no yardarm available to check, but if you ask me it’s a bit early for this sort of thing.  Riotous carousal is the order of the day and Hoskins does not seem to be one to do things by halves.  We have a comparatively rare variation on the theme theme, with most of the fun stuff in the clues, although the grid is certainly not innocent of Bacchic content.  Congratulations are probably due: this must be the louchest crossword so far this year.

Inevitably surfaces are to the fore, and I can’t say that many of the constructions struck me as especially unusual or noteworthy.  27ac was the sneakiest, alas, but there’s no way that’s going to be CoD on my watch.  Dearie me … no.  2d is inherently amusing; 11ac is surprising, and 17d tickled me especially when reminded by one of the Fifteensquared commenters that it refers to Homer Simpson’s favourite beer.  However, I think we’ll have 14d:

“Private chap after a Martini drinker’s job? (6,5)”

Good-oh.  An enjoyably lively sort of puzzle with the emphasis on entertainment, which appears to be Hoskins’ main priority.  We’re back to Dry January 2017 for the original blog:

https://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/01/17/independent-9442-hoskins/

Heavenly deductions are what I thought I was going to need to rely upon for a long time with this week’s offering, my solving abilities such as they are having found themselves to be somewhat stretched. This was a week, you see, when the chances of being able to fill the grid seemed remote, never mind fathoming the endgame.

Solving conditions could best be described as being fair – sunny, with a nice spot out of the breeze, and a home-made lasagne being prepared in the kitchen. Conditions so favourable, indeed, that I found myself drifting off to sleep part way through the afternoon, though the rigours of the week and subsequent celebration marking the end of same may have had something to do with that. Oh, and the effort required to slog out one clue at a time, which not surprisingly may have left me a little punch-drunk.

Having failed to parse several, and others puzzling altogether (GEOS notably would only be revealed thanks to the endgame), a lot of hunting through the Big Red Book was required to stagger, eventually, over the finishing line. Though of those that puzzle me, HOREB if correct does the most, the origin of the H despite being required for Elijah’s mountain remaining stubbornly hard to come by.

Thankfully I parsed enough to get the definition given by the extra letters in the across clues, being DIVINATION BY MEANS OF ARROWS, and the subsequent BELOMANCY thanks to Google. Remove the W from BELOW giving the relevant prefix.

At this point I’m sure other solvers twigged what the letters to erase elsewhere were getting at, but I, I didn’t. So that despite having a full set of superfluous words from the down clues, a first erasure of the M from the end of ZOOM and TELESM led me merely to conclude that the first led to “animals”, and the second “boxes” (did I mention that I’m still unsure of some, as the last looks rather iffy).

It would take until Sunday afternoon to work out that we were looking for things MANCY as a result of the erased letters. Being GYROMANCY, LITHOMANCY, CHIROMANCY, etc.

The practitioner to highlight? Well, it was always going to be Crowley or NOSTRADAMUS wasn’t it? The letters erased consisting predominantly of N’s and S’s being the extra push required to help me spot the latter. Who said that preambles are only there to confuse and mislead the poor solver?

Job done, as relieved as I was on realising that my solution to 1700 was unexpectedly correct. Thanks to Dysart and all concerned then for a fine workout that definitely delivered on the value for money front this weekend.

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