A themed puzzle from our setter today, flagged up helpfully in the clue for 27ac. Fortunately for me, when I am blogging, I’m in the practice of reading through all the clues to get a general feel for the puzzle before allowing myself to write anything in. Consequently I saw from 27ac that there seemed to be a theme. I have no idea how I would have got on if I had just done my usual slap-dash, all-over-the-place, solving thing, working randomly through the puzzle, not reading 27ac and missing that there was a theme. Knowing that we were looking for INSECTS was a huge, huge, help. For example, my puzzlement over “project” in 24ac was dispelled by knowing it had to be BEETLE, and I didn’t have to go too far down my mental list of French cities before finding the right one.

I had a few queries: I didnt know IO MOTH; NEO-LATIN, though simple enough, was unknown to me; a “ked” as a sheep parasite was also a new one; I’m not sure why O’CLOCK is enumerated (6) rather than (1,5) which is what I think it ought to be. And there seems to be something missing from the clue for ANITA. Isn’t “nit” a noun, rather than an adjectival synonym for “silly”?

Lots to enjoy, with many penny-drop moments, which makes crossword-solving fun. My nomination for clue of the day goes to the delightful 24d: “Lure company of fliers with hanky-panky (4)”.

All the answers and parsing can be found here: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/29/independent-9530-by-rodriguez/

Today we have an IoS reprint that I found to be a mixture of the pretty easy and the decidedly tricky. The rider took an absolute age at the close, and a few oddities elsewhere needed a little teasing out, though all to be fair were gettable with a little thought. I’m unconvinced regarding the definition at 17d, and must admit that the PM at 19d was the last I thought of (is she doomed to be an unfortunate footnote in political history?), making what would have been a write-in back in the day something a little more arduous. Quite a few elsewhere went in not fully understood, reinforcing the suspicion voiced on the other side that IoS puzzles are / were no longer always the “easy” one of the week. Finished just a little over par for the i, and the challenge enjoyed.

COD? I’ll go with 13ac – “Love of old Corsica among natives – it marked out Napoleon? (5)”.

To October 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues:


Dac’s back with the usual high-class offering. As expected we have a mix of smooth surfaces and fine wordplay, though the likes of the German region and language I suspect will have slowed down solvers a little. Overall this was still pretty breezy, with nothing controversial and nothing amiss, which also means that there is little to say, but in a good way. It’s a pangram, which you won’t be surprised to hear I missed entirely. Finish time comfortably under par for the i, and enjoyed, which goes without saying.

COD? Really, there are lots you could choose from, with my nomination going to 21ac – “Tennis champ once left after middle of Wimbledon final (5)”.

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


If you commence solving by tackling the first across clue, today’s theme will have been immediately apparent – so that’s three more entries that can be ticked off wordsearch-fashion. As for further thematic goodies, Phi’s comment on the November 2016 Fifteensquared blog entry will tell you what you’ve spotted, what’s coincidence, and what went over your head.

In contrast to Saturday’s puzzle, this was one of those occasions when Phi appeared to be freewheeling. If you ignore the surface readings and concentrate on the structures of the clues, the consistency of his method is striking. There’s nothing to complain of, but some more variety would have been welcome – anyway, the business of finding synonyms, mangling them and compounding them proceeded apace until I hit a brick wall with 5d and 14ac to go. These are both very oblique and were solved answer first, the parsing being accompanied by much eyebrow movement. Pretty darn good in my opinion, but in the final analysis of a piece with so many of the others today.

Three clues stood out for me: 12ac, 21ac and 7d. The first will be widely admired for its &littishness, no doubt – or is it? I don’t know and have to admit that I’ve never given a monkey’s about such things. Discuss by all means. 21 just made for a change, and 7 – well, that sneaky little critter is my clue of the day:

“Sitting up, disregarding one source of sibilant sounds (6)”

Or as it will be forever known here, lessons in inadequacy.

Because I’m supposed to be pretty nifty at this crossword lark, so people tell me. A supposition which would be found to be based on very shaky ground indeed Saturday morning. Things which were nice:

  1. The sunshine;
  2. Coffee and croissants.

Not so nice: Staring at a grid in which I’d entered the grand total of five answers for a large part of the morning.

A sensible person would have put the thing to one side for a while, but well, I’m pig-headed like that. Evidently I should have, because after lunch and suitably fuelled, progress was swifter and the grid eventually filled. Highlights? Those would have to be WHIM-WHAM and WABOOM, obviously, a little whimsy in the midst of a pretty gruelling solving experience.

Feelings of inadequacy were forever close to hand, though, in particular on realising that my parsing skills were likely to yield by way of extra letters no more than:

WHAT FORMING NET CLUES CAN GIE (or maybe Y at the end).

I suspect the last one is probably GIVE, but still, that’s not a clue even the best of us would be able to solve, I suspect, so I’ll have to presume that large chunks are pretty random.

Fortunately, the suspicion that the groups of letters struck from the clues were likely to be less so proved to be correct. Uncles, you see. I’ve even got a few. FESTER, VANYA, BUCK and SILAS.

The curves to draw and straight lines are supposed to represent a pawnbroker’s sign, as it said in the title all along, because every good crossword solver knows that’s what an uncle is, though in this neck of the woods at least it’s a usage limited to our own little world. My artistic skills not being up to Ploy’s invitation to embellish to your heart’s content, you’ll have to make do with some dodgy highlighting.

And the phrase? BOB’S YOUR UNCLE, presumably. Though my own feelings when fully expressed would include those of exhaustion, general despair, and loss of faith in my solving abilities. But that’s my fault and nothing to do with Ploy who’s done a nice job of putting me through my paces with a very carefully put together and satisfyingly complete puzzle. Next time I promise I’ll be up to the job. Honest.


We begin the week rather unexpectedly with a Thursday reprint from Tees. Now, this setter is one I usually struggle with, so it was no surprise that I finished with a full grid but no idea how a number of the clues were supposed to work. To be fair I’m not at my best on a Monday morning, and I was in a hurry (thus the rather short summary) so didn’t linger unnecessarily, because looking back everything seems to be fair, clear and above board, which is as expected of course. On the plus side, despite never being able to spell the actor, that Z was a bit of a gift, wasn’t it? Finish time surprisingly at the close under par for the i, though I would never describe it as being comfortably so, this being a bit of a seat-of-your pants solve.

COD? If only for the cheeky definition, 22ac – “Nothing stops Le Pen, the devious dog! (9)”.

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


A puzzle sprinkled with Phi’s hallmark touches this weekend. There were bits of very clever invention like P AND/OR A in 7a which went over my head, deletion-style clues numbering into double-figures, and some obscure words necessitated by a ghost theme relating to the Nina MAHLER in the bottom row. Phi tells us the thematic words come from the apparently wordy titles of the movements of Mahler’s 3rd symphony. I really don’t think we were supposed to realise that. Here on idothei we were recently talking about what constitutes a ‘finished’ puzzle. Perhaps today we could say that spotting MAHLER was more than enough. If anyone feels like researching those themed words though, feel free to let us know in the comments below.

As for those obscurities, 10a PRECENTRESS did ring a vague bell once I’d got it, and the wordplay was reasonably friendly anyhow, 28a is well known in our family since my father made it the oft-repeated rhyme of his father-of-the-bride poem at my sister’s wedding. Sample line: ‘Even Margaret, reckoned the brainy one/ was baffled by 12 down Epithalanium’, but 17d APOTHEGM had me completely baffled.

My COD is 8a:

Love lessened by accepting nothing of threats (7)

To understand how that and all the others work, just click here for Bert & Joyce’s typically convivial and comprehensive blog from its first appearance in the Independent .

Talking of which, Eimi has kindly given yours truly a slot today, under my setting name of Maize (I know, why have multiple names, it’s all a bit silly really) which you could have a go at by clicking here – or else just wait four years!

I hesitate to identify “& lit” clues; I’ve done so before, wrongly, and have been put right by people who know better – ever so nicely of course (as one would expect from idothei contributors) but ever so authoritatively as well. Nevertheless, I think we have two very good ones today. Or at least one and three-quarters.

The first is A SHOT IN THE DARK, a five-word, fourteen-letter anagram, very neatly done. The second is the succinct EBRO. That’s the three-quarters one, as although the Ebro River rises outside of Bilbao and flows west-to-east south of it, it is quite a few miles outside. I suppose it depends on the scale of one’s map. In each case, the word-play indicating the construction of the answer, when taken as a whole, also provides the definition for the answer. I do hope that’s right.

This was a great crossword, in a week of great crosswords. To be sure, it wasn’t set at the most challenging of levels, and I completed it in well under my typical time, without recourse to any aids (well, I looked on Google maps to see where the Ebro and Bilbao might be). There’s lots of creativity on display with a lightness of touch, and every clues surface reading is a plausible English sentence. I liked the definition of INTER, perhaps more topical this week than most, and it was enjoyable to see the Spoonerism which didn’t say “Spooner”.

No obscurities, I believe, other than the delightful TWIGLOO, which I didn’t know but which was easily got and which made me laugh. I doubt that MOIRA for “fate” gave too much trouble.

My clue of the day is the impressive “& lit” (I hope) 7d: “Wild guesswork ultimately that is mostly random, eh? (1,4,2,3,4)”.

To April 2017 for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2017/04/22/independent-9524-sat-22-apr-2017-klingsor/

I was surprised to find that this was an Independent Monday reprint, as it struck me firstly as being something of a tour-de-force worthy of the Saturday spot, and secondly as requiring a little more mental effort than I would usually be able to expend at the start of the week. Admittedly much of the latter was due to my unfamiliarity with many of the 2 downs referenced, though I wasn’t fooled for a moment by the second Ring saga character. 😉 I’m guessing that I won’t be the only solver unfamiliar with many of the answers, but the wordplay throughout is as fair as you would like, though I did check many, approaching the puzzle much as I would something like Azed. There’s one obscurity in the wordplay that I spotted, at 18d, but in this case the answer was as clear as day. In other words, all being as it should be. At the close I had everything fully parsed, finishing a little over par with 20d where I kicked myself, again, the mix of high and low culture elements eliciting many such moments throughout.

I have a quite unprecedented number of ticks beside the clues, with much to appreciate, and much invention shown throughout. 27ac raised a smile, as did 30ac, but my favourite was the really rather clever 17ac – “Linker could be so, showing connection (7)”.

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


We reach mid-week not with Dac, but with a Saturday reprint courtesy of Knut. This was on the easy side as such puzzles go, though there’s a bit of odd general knowledge at 17ac courtesy of a ghost theme involving 9ac 21ac that I’m guessing most solvers missed. I did too, but still enjoyed what was an interesting, engaging solve that I’m guessing will be a crowd pleaser. There were a couple I didn’t parse on solving, and I made a right meal of working out which particular EDWARD was required at 26ac (I never did spot that it was a very well hidden answer!), but the rest went in with little ado. First in 12d having started as per in the bottom right hand corner, last in 21ac, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? Just because I’m utterly flabbergasted at how well hidden the answer was, 26ac – “Mixed ward? These conditions are fit for the King! (6,3,6)”.

To September 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues: