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: