Well here I am blogging at you, not, as predicted in my last blog two weeks ago, from New York after a cruise down from Canada, but instead from the majestic streets of Hammersmith as per usual. A family illness sadly caused us to abort our holiday, so instead of soaking up North American culture for a couple of weeks I find myself collating receipts and medical reports to support an insurance claim, which I calculate should occupy a similar amount of my time. (Sorry, that’s just me being grumpy. It’ll probably only take me a day.).
Partly as a result of that, and partly just because it’s been the way my crossword life has been going the last few weeks, I am writing this from a very limited viewpoint. If you have been reading my recent fortnightly blogs you will realise that I have been doing the 15 x 15 as regularly as ever, but that I have only been looking at the quickie on my appointed blog days (so I don’t know in the intervening time what the difficulty level has been like – sorry). All I know is that on my last two blogs I have encountered what you might call ‘quickie stiffies’ (stop sniggering there at the back). I have written the blogs on these days thinking that dementia is setting in and that my mental faculties are rapidly deteriorating, only to find from the comments that everybody else has found them difficult too, and that I am in fact providing a more useful service than normal, with several people being genuinely grateful that I have been able to shine some light into their darkness (for which, of course, I am in my own turn grateful).
So once again, this is the first quickie I have done since my last blog two weeks ago, and I would say it is a return to normal standards. Medium difficulty, with no fewer than six pretty straightforward anagrams that I can count on a quick read-through and at least two fairly obvious double definitions, with two or three slightly more difficult clues to push me up to the 10-minute mark. Overall I found the clues pleasant and witty and I am grateful to Felix for taking me on a nostalgic tour of some of my youthful enthusiasms (such as T S Eliot and topology). Great fun.
And before signing off perhaps I could just give my personal comment on the ‘stiffies’ mentioned above. There were a lot of comments on the blog complaining that they were too hard for quickies, but personally I disagree. I found them genuinely enjoyable. I am sorry if they put some people off, but equally well I am sure that there were some people who are working up to the 15 x 15 who found them a very valuable stepping stone. You can’t have a ‘standard difficulty’ every day for either the quickie or the 15 x 15, you can only have a range of difficulty with any single crossword falling either side of the mean. In terms of the 15 x 15, we tend to talk of ‘Monday’ and ‘Friday’ puzzles, and when we encounter a particularly elegant example we all stand back and applaud. I felt similarly with those last two quickie puzzles because they show how far you can go with that format (and to be honest I am sure that if the setters really tried they could go a lot further). There have been some people commenting on the blog asking if we can ‘flag up’ when there is an ‘easy’ 15 x 15 that the inexperienced population can have a go at. Such people could presumably also regard a ‘difficult’ 13 x 13 as a similar scale of challenge.
Inevitably, there will be easy and difficult 13 x 13s, and the same for 15 x 15s. Together they form a spectral ladder which the novice can aspire to climb until they reach a level at which they can look down and regard a successful daily 15 x 15 solve as a formality rather than an occasional cause for celebration.
It remains for me to say:
FOI 1A, as it should be. A nice welcoming anagram to kick off with.
LOI 14D (I think).
COD? I think I will go for 15A. An elegant mechanism that took me drifting gently down the Thames with my beloved Mr Eliot to finish up (as I see it) on Margate Sands. Even though this location is mentioned earlier in the poem and not specifically referred to in this final part it seems likely to me that this was his intended final destination.
Definitions are underlined and everything else is explained just as I see it in the simplest language I can lay my mental mitts on.
|1||I miss pub: sort that’s put out special ribbons? (6,6)|
|MOBIUS STRIPS – straight anagram of I MISS PUB SORT gives these topological curiosities. A Mobius strip is a band which has only one surface. If you want some fun you can make one yourself by taking a strip of paper and putting a single twist into it before gluing it into a band. You can then draw a line from any starting point and follow all the way round the strip back to the starting point and realise that your line has passed through the whole surface of the strip thus demonstrating that the structure has only one surface. Then if you cut the strip down the middle, that is, along the line that you have just drawn, instead of ending up with two strips as you might expect, you get just one larger strip. Even more strangely (or maybe less strangely, depending on what sort of scale of strangeness you are using) if you then cut that resulting strip down the middle you do now end up with two strips, but they are linked together as in a paper decoration chain.|
|2||Actress filling sugar bowls and cigar boxes (5)|
|GARBO – hidden word: ciGAR BOxes. [jackkt has kindly pointed out that I omitted to mention the other hidden GARBO in suGAR BOwls, see comments below.]|
|3||Girl’s warning oddly ignored (3)|
|ANN – take wArNiNg and ignore the odd letters…|
|4||An uncannily grim, upsetting story, that’s initially impressive (6)|
|AUGUST – … and now take all the initial letters (initially): An Uncannily Grim Upsetting Story That’s.|
|5||Male deity unexpectedly requiring a pause in operation? (4-5)|
|TIME-DELAY – another straight anagram of MALE DEITY (‘unexpectedly’).|
|6||Keep signalling vessel (6)|
|FLAGON – if you keep signalling with a flag, you might be said to ‘FLAG ON’.|
|7||Luther’s prose adapted for stuffy artisans? (12)|
|UPHOLSTERERS – straight anagram of LUTHER’S PROSE (‘adapted’).|
|11||Metal rod, old penny and diamonds for gambling game (5,4)|
|POKER DICE – POKER (metal rod) + D (denarius: an old penny as in pounds, shillings and pence (l. s. d.) in the days before the decimal scourge washed ashore) + ICE (diamonds). (NB no BREXIT opinion is being expressed here, just a simple nostalgic fondness for the eccentric old British monetary system).|
|14||“England”: book penned by a famous author (6)|
|ALBION – B (book) ‘penned by’ A LION (a famous author). A lion in the modern sense can be any sort of celebrity but was much more likely to refer to an author back in the days when literature was king. Albion is a romantic name for old England (when everybody used to reckon in pounds, shillings and pence, see above).|
|16||Nude DA, wandering around like a zombie? (6)|
|UNDEAD – straight anagram of NUDE DA.|
|19||Dodge publicity, going in the night before (5)|
|EVADE – AD (publicity) ‘going in’ EVE (the night before, as in Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve).|
|21||Vehicle that’s about right (3)|
|CAR – CA (circa, about) + R (right).|