NTSPP – 029 (Review)

NTSPP – 029 (Review)

Strains of Blue by Radler

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This was an excellent puzzle from Radler with lots to get your teeth into and savour. It felt a lot like a Guardian crossword and was definitely in the Toughie spectrum. My favourite clues are shown below in blue.

There is a theme to this puzzle, alluded to by the title. Although the preamble says that finding the theme will assist with the nine themed clues, in practice, I think its is essential to find the theme to assist with solving the crossword as the definitions for some of the themed clues are very wide and would not lead you to the answers without the theme to guide you. The theme is that of royal houses.

I did have a few niggles with some of the clues. I have tried to indicate these fairly and they did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the puzzle.


1a Family returned to join class (6)
{WESSEX} – The answer is one of the royal houses defined as family. It is made up from a word meaning to join reversed together with a word meaning to class (as in to determine if something is male or female).

4a Crack attack (7)
{ATTEMPT} – Double definition. A word meaning crack, as in try, also means attack, as in get started on a task. I wonder whether the two meanings of the word in the clue are a little too closely related for a double definition clue.

10a Another topless woman with the first woman (5)
{NAOMI} – The answer is a woman’s name. It comes from an anagram (another) of woman with the W removed (topless) with a final I for the first. I am not too sure about the first indicating I but I think it works.

11a It requires one to act a bit like a snake’s belly (9)
{UNDERPART} – This minor role in a play or film might fancifully be described as the lower half of a snake.

12a Green town caught out potential problem with instrument maker introducing line (4-6-5)
{SAXE-COBURG-GOTHA} – Another of the royal houses, defined as line. The wordplay is complex. Take the name of an instrument maker first (introducing), a modern definition for green, from ecology, a German term for a town, and a word for a potential problem with the C removed (caught out). The wordplay is excellent though the resulting surface reading is a bit contrived.

13a African navy catches so-called fish (7)
{RWANDAN} – The answer is an African person. It is made up from the abbreviation for the Royal Navy with an eponymous fish (so-called) that appears in the title of a film starring John Cleese.

14a Dire possibility – stay or leave? (4,3)
{RIDE OUT} – A phrase meaning stay (as in weathering the storm) or leave (as in depart on a horse) could also be the anagram fodder indicator that lead to the word “dire”.

16a They don’t turn up without entertainment (2-5)
{NO SHOWS} – Double definition. If there are no performances in a theatre you have a phrase that also means that people have not turned up for, say, a doctor’s appointment.

18a Stock having no good after-effects (7)
{HANOVER} – Another of the royal houses, defined by stock. Take a word describing the after-effects of alcohol and remove the G (having no good) to find the answer.

21a 12′s house? (5,6,4)
{ROYAL ALBERT HALL} – A major musical venue in London, home to the proms, is named after the husband of Queen Victoria, who was one of the members of the royal house in the answer to 12a.

24a A brown fish? Not true! (2,2,5)
{AT AN ANGLE} – The answer is not true, in the sense of not being straight. It is made up from an A, a three letter word for brown and a word meaning to fish.

25a Sweet sound of soprano’s utterance? (5)
{ICING} – The definition is sweet (as a cake covering perhaps). It is a homophone of how a soprano (or indeed a bass, tenor or alto) might describe their profession or hobby.

26a Land of alien Men in Black (7)
{DENMARK} – An anagram of men inside a word meaning black gives the name of a country (land) where Hamlet was a prince.

27a see 7
{AGENET} – See 7d.


1d Bag like that in doctor’s place (7)
{WINDSOR} – This place, with a royal castle, in Berkshire, is the made up from a word meaning to bag (as in gain or succeed) and a word meaning “like that” inside an abbreviation for doctor. It is also the name assumed by the reigning royal family in 1917 when it was thought that having a German sounding name would be a little embarrassing in the light of World War I.

2d Court makes cuts from Spooner’s American conflicts (5,4)
{SIOUX WARS} – The answer is the name given to a series of American conflicts with the indigenous Americans. Spooner might have described them as woo saws (court / cuts).

3d Clearly shown drug’s positive – cheat excluded (7)
{EVINCED} – A word meaning clearly is made up from E (drug) together with a word meaning positive without the first three letters (con – cheat excluded).

5d Henry died in beating up (5)
{TUDOR} – Another of the royal houses, loosely defined by Henry (the Eighth being one of its more notable members), is made up from a word meaning beating reversed (up) around the letter d (for died).

6d Fashion target around cross (7)
{ENRAGED} – A word meaning cross comes from a word for a target (as in aim or purpose) around a word for fashion (as in the latest thing or craze). Slightly Yoda like in the construction.

7d Set out, get on and bring in succession (11)
{PLANT} – The answer is another of the royal houses, defined by succession. Although the answer is 11 letters it is split between 7d / 27a. The wordplay requires a charade of “set out” (as you might do with seedlings in the garden), a word meaning get on (as in growing older) and bring in (as in the takings from the business). Where a word is split in two like this, I would have thought that the individual words resulting from the split should be able to stand on their own. I cannot find any reference to the 6 letter part of the answer in 27a in Chambers or on-line. What do you think of this? Personally, it feels unsatisfactory.

8d Men joined majority of immoral women outside party (8)
{HUSBANDS} – Take a word meaning immoral women, shorten it, and put it around a word meaning party (or group). To find the answer to this clue, you do not have to remove just the final letter of the word meaning immoral women but the final three letters. I think that this is a slightly libertarian approach to cluing as it leaves the solver with no real means of knowing which word is required. At least when majority means only removing the last letter, you stand a better chance of finding the right word.

9d Union leader developed trust about first character (6)
{STUART} – Another of the royal houses, defined by union leader. The answer comes from an anagram of trust (developed) around the letter A (first character). It was this clue and 5d that enabled me to twig the theme and was a considerable help in finding some of the other answers.

14d Cobbled for nouveau riche? (8)
{REHEELED} – The answer is cobbled (as in a repair to part of a shoe) that might possible describe the nouveau riche. If some one is this, it implies that they once were rich and are now rich again which I would not necessarily describe as nouveau riche.

15d Forestalling by entering boot in cobblers (9)
{OBVIATION} – The answer is a word meaning forestalling. Take a word meaning by (as may be used on a journey) and put it inside an anagram of boot in (cobblers).

16d French resistance invading Donne’s island (6)
{NORMAN} – Another of the royal houses, indicated by French. Put an abbreviation for resistance inside a reference to an island in the well known poem by John Donne to find the answer.

17d Give tip… “use moisturiser” (3,4)
{OIL PALM} – An expression meaning giving a tip (as in handing someone money) might also be what you are doing if you are using moisturiser.

19d It’s hard making music about love (7)
{NOTHING} – The answer is love (as in the tennis score or zero). Take an expression that might be what you are doing if you write a musical score and put an abbreviation for hard inside. Another slightly Yoda like construction but solvers of Excalibur’s puzzles will know this trick well.

20d Manoeuvre the girl to arouse again (7)
{RELIGHT} – A word meaning to arouse again comes from an anagram (manoeuvre) of the girl.

22d Mary’s American hunk together in the past (5)
{YSAME} – The answer is an old Spenserian word (in the past) for together. It is hidden (hunk) inside Mary’s American.

23d Rising like the strains of blue, something to be downed (5)
{LAGER} – The answer is a drink to be downed. It comes from a word that may describe the royal lines reversed.



  1. Radler
    Posted August 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Prolixic for another very comprehensive and very much appreciated review.

    4a, the Oxford Thesaurus gives “attack”, “assault” as a separate meaning of the answer, but in hindsight I agree with you and would clue it differently.

    10a, I think “the first” is OK for “I” because that’s what it is in, for example “King Richard I”.

    7d, I knew I was taking a liberty splitting the answer like that. I had in mind “a genet” (1,5) for the second half, and thought I might just about get away with that.

    All other niggles gratefully taken on board, though I think I might occasionally use “majority” to mean “over half the letters” (8d), but I’ll certainly think carefully before doing so. (Incidentally, I was pleased with the definition “men joined”, in that clue.)

  2. crypticsue
    Posted August 29, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Following my struggle yesterday when I had quite a lot of the bottom half and very little at the top, I got up with rested cogitated brain cells and finished all but four clues. Thank you Prolixic for the hints. I could see the hidden letters in 22d but couldn’ believe such a word existed. Thank you Radler for the challenge. As I said yesterday, I did like 13a but there are lots of other good clues there too.