A bright and breezy crossword which took only about a quarter of the time of yesterday’s puzzle – both of which I completed this morning as it happened, but with very different expressions on my face I dare say.

Anglio is one of the newer setters to appear in the i, and whilst I find him(?) to be towards the easier end of the difficulty spectrum. NealH, who gives us all the answers in the original blog on Fifteensquared clearly doesn’t. ‘Gosh I found this hard going’ for the last time he blogged Anglio and ‘a bit of a grind’ this time. Not my experience at all, I found this to be sprinkled with a light touch of humorous wordplay and, although a little intricate here and there, pretty accessible by and large.

1a GOLF COURSE was excellent, as were the amusing 14d COURGETTES and 4d UNHITCH but my COD nomination goes to this fine example of an &Lit clue:

24a Washing one left around, possibly wet? (7)

It’s been a good week for crosswords – especially if you like a challenge. And if you like a challenge, this was certainly one to get your teeth into. I would rate it as tough.

But only tough while you’re doing it, if you see what I mean. Each clue that I struggled with seemed obvious after it was solved. And that’s the mark of a tough-but-satisfying crossword, in my book.

Since I was blogging I was particularly alert to the possibility of a nina, and I wasn’t disappointed. I couldn’t see the connection between top and bottom, and I wondered if the ninas signified a theme. But no. No theme and no connection, other than enumeration.

Some clues seemed particularly chewy, and I struggled to unravel the word-play for CYBERTERRORISM and ACUTE ANGLE. As for SUE – did anyone manage to parse it? I dare say this clue could provoke controversy. You can read what the setter has to say about it in the original Fifteensquared blog.

So many good clues to short-list: STRANGEWAYS, SCRAP IRON and ENGLISH CHANNEL were all impressive. But my Clue of the Day nomination goes to the marvellous 21ac: “Poles bound by Latin and English instructions to seize reptile (6,5)”.

An enjoyable challenge from Klingsor that I found to be on the tough side, but doable with a little thought applied. Did you know 1ac? I must admit to not knowing it either, but with all the checking letters in place (yes, it was my LOI) and some perfectly clear wordplay, there was little doubt at the close as to the outcome. Elsewhere I wasn’t sure what was going on with 15ac despite being pretty sure of the answer, and would have managed to parse 19ac on a better day, but I’m not having a better day. Roll on the weekend. Finished somewhat over par for the i, though in less time than it took to solve Tuesday’s Radian, should that be a useful measure of difficulty for anyone. 🙂

COD? In another puzzle 1ac and 9ac might have been hands-down winners, but Klingsor being Klingsor we have loads to pick from, with my nomination going to 12d – “Group of isolated geographical forms… this? (11)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/11/10/independent-9384-klingsor/

i Cryptic Crossword 3135 Dac

February 24, 2021

Dac’s back with what I thought was a puzzle of about average difficulty. Which is to say that this was a bit of a stuttering solve for me, where I frequently got a little stuck and had to give a little more thought to what to be fair is always clear, fair wordplay. I say always, but 16d did cause some issues – thankfully I knew the old nickname for the Times, but the wordplay required a trip to the comments section on Fifteensquared, and I’ve only just really twigged how it works. A most un-Dac like clue in a very Dac-like puzzle. In the NW corner we have some sort-of contemporary references, which are always welcome, I suspect partly because I’m still making my way through a book of Times puzzles where such things are strictly off limits. Fun throughout as expected, and a welcome return after a few weeks off.

First in 25d where I started, last in the missing Lord, finish time a little under par for the i.

COD? Well, it’s got to be the aforementioned 16d – “The Times – as seen in Perth? (9)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/11/09/independent-9383-dac/

Today’s theme will find favour with the mycologists amongst you, but your humble blogger is struggling somewhat to raise enthusiasm for the subject. Nothing better in a risotto, of course. Anyway, beneath the surface of this crossword puzzle there lurks a creeping, pervasive mycelium of 22d matter, and if you want to compare notes with the Fifteensquared foragers, please click here. Eileen’s link in comment 2 is well worth five minutes of your time.

It often falls to me to deal with Radian, and I have a great deal of respect for his diligent, solver friendly approach. This crossword is on the difficult side by his standards, which may be on account of rather ungenerous checking, especially of the across lights. That said, as usual there are no real hotspots and one gets the impression that he’s careful to provide a balanced puzzle with toeholds dotted around so you shouldn’t come to an impasse in one corner, say. We also have the customary wide assortment of cluing strategies, ranging from the very straightforward like 26 and 18 to the more tricksy, such as the subtractions at 4 and 8d. I imagine that all solvers will have made ready headway, but finishing off might have caused some head scratching.

Never an easy task, singling out a Radian clue of the day. Please feel free to chip in with your own. As far as I can see there’s only one potential controversy, so let’s try that:

2d: “Gutted co-op boss? He bounces back nearly (7)”

This week’s Inquisitor was hidden in the middle of the i‘s expanded weekend puzzle section. Brief hopes that the 5k on offer were for a successful completion of the IQ appear to be unfounded, and nobody will have struggled with Poins’ enjoyable offering either, so it’s back to work Monday. 😉

Planes, and debacles involving the infernal things (I refuse to fly as a matter of course even in non-Covid times) was this week’s theme. A few years ago this particular one would have been fresh in the mind, but as it was I’d forgotten all about it. Thankfully Eclogue has been kind and left clues that, if only you were to go looking for them, led neatly to what I hope is the required solution. It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that my first attempts at the end-game involved looking randomly and increasingly desperately round the grid in the hope that inspiration would suddenly strike. Just like the geese.

The two cells with clashes were easy identifiable, all four intersecting answers being too long for the space available. It would only be later after a little fruitless googling regarding TEXANs and GEESE, that I thought to check what the clashing letters actually were, and came up with the name of two airports, and hence the rather unfortunate series of events that led to flight CACTUS 1549 ditching in the sea, with, yes, SKILES in the co-pilot seat.

Perhaps the straightforward grid fill lulled me into the false belief that the rest would fall quickly into place. Maybe I was just losing the plot, as I see noted beside the grid that ONCUS tickled me for reasons I’m unable to fathom now. Perhaps late-lockdown hysteria has set in.

Because by the evening I’d spotted HUDSON, but took until the next day to find RIVER (I’ve highlighted both in an optimistically “appropriate” blue), and then even longer to spot that the flight path was handily marked out by the name of the plane’s pilot, the hero of the day. Yes, I’ve attempted to use two colours to mark the final R in SULLENBERGER, but agree that if they were still marking that the judge would be quite justified in disqualifying my entry, the dual highlighting really being not up to scratch.

Yep, there was a lot to complete / think about, but it was all rather neat, I thought. A welcome change of pace for those of us who can do with the occasional confidence boost. And, shush, don’t tell the other setters, but this one’s already on my voting list for next year.

i Cryptic Crossword 3133 Vigo

February 22, 2021

Another fairly straightforward, thoroughly enjoyable offering from Vigo kicks off the week, though at times I did wonder if the weekend had left me a little 10ac, as I felt that I made heavy weather of this. A fixation with GENT for “chap” at 17d will be partly to blame, a failure to pluck the needed river for 6d out of thin air, and a bit of a tussle with the wonderfully terse 24ac too, as well as general shock on having to stagger out of bed earlier than accustomed now that half term is over, schooling from home or not. That said I still finished comfortably under par for the i, though with a little more concentration required than I expected based on Vigo’s previous outings. After having said last week that I was looking forward to more from Lohengrin, only to find it was probably his finale, I’m a little hesitant to say that I’m looking forward to more from Vigo, but, well, I am!

COD? Quite a few to pick from today, it must be said. I’ve already mentioned 24ac. 19ac is equally succinctly and nicely done, and 15d struck me as being a good spot, with loads more I could recommend, but I’ll go with 21ac – “Cow on top of a headless sheep (7)”.

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

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/11/07/independent-9381-by-vigo/

And just a note finally, after what struck me as being some tense exchanges over the weekend, to all be nice to each other. 🙂 Ta.

When this puzzle first came out in October 2016, Bert&Joyce – usually two of Phi’s greatest supporters – found little good to say about it and their review (click here) prompted a slew of comments which were all positive – well, four of them at least. I’m expecting a similar story today, because without any ticks at all by the clues, I’m struggling to even come up with a Clue Of the Day for this one.

Having said that, and now that Fifteensquared have explained it to me, I do think 7d is rather brilliant. Here it is again:

7d Cross lines, failing to engage with dancing dog (9)

My mistake was thinking that ‘cross lines’ meant CHI rather than just ‘cross’. It would have had to have been ‘crossed lines’ of course.

Anyhow the answer was clear enough, and apart from that everything was all solved and parsed successfully. As Virgilius once answered when asked what makes a good crossword: ‘One you can finish!’

No theme from Phi for once, and no comment from him at Fifteensquared, which is even rarer.

Of the newer setters, Serpent is now a firm favourite for me, and I take a real pleasure in solving his crosswords. They are beautifully crafted, where fine surface readings combine with impeccable word-play, neither compromising the other.

Previous offerings have included self-referential ninas, and looking at the grid I expected something similar today. I patted myself on the back for my prescience when I got a P,E,N in one corner – and then getting an E,N,T in another seemed to confirm it, leaving me wondering how he was going to fill the gaps between them. Just goes to show how wrong I can be.

Serpent was kind to us today with a puzzle gentler than previous offerings. In particular, there were some simple clues to get us going in the top left. But these were balanced by plenty of chewier ones: DEBRIS and EUPHORIA had me struggling over the word-play for some time, before it rewardingly yielded.

Thats not to say the crossword is without flaw. ITAL seems very obscure, at least to me, never having come across it in the rather limited and provincial circles I move in (or used to move in, at any rate). Only that there were only a very limited number of options available when the crossers and nina were in place made it solvable. But even then the clue was very neat, in terms of its construction. CENOTE was another unknown, but rather more plausible. These two were the only ones where I needed to resort to the Internet – well, for those, and to look at pictures of HAWKSBILL TURTLEs, one of the joys of a crossword being these little opportunities to discover something new.

Clue of the Day to me has to be 2d, a delightful clue, with a great surface reading and neat word-play: “Essentially they vacuously cheek live routines (8)”.

To December 2016 for the answers and explanations: http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/12/03/independent-9404-by-serpent/

With most setters I can sort of gauge what kind of puzzle is on offer, in terms of style and / or difficulty, but Lohengrin is one of those (newer) setters who I feel I haven’t quite got a handle on yet. As it was today was one of those odd solves where I finished comfortably under par for the i, but with loads lobbed in on definition, with some of the wordplay remaining a bit of a mystery. Could I have untangled them if I’d taken the time? Maybe, but answers like CATERER, PLEASED TO HEAR IT, EXHIBITOR, etc, were pretty fair bets based on checking letters. The long answers across the top and bottom of the grid (what else was dangerous game likely to be?) were pretty generous on the part of the setter too. Overall enjoyable and not too challenging, though I’m still not sure what to expect the next time we get a Lohengrin puzzle.

COD? I’ll go with 14d – “The gap developing between infection and food (9)”.

To November 2016 for all the answers and parsing of the clues, though it should be noted that there may be two versions of 8d doing the rounds, at least based on this puzzle’s original appearance. My paper copy parses as an anagram of 25ac, with S and the last letter from “silver”, as per the clue noted at the end of the comments on the other side.

http://www.fifteensquared.net/2016/11/16/independent-9389-lohengrin/