NTSPP – 054 (Review)

Not the Saturday Prize Puzzle – 054 (Review)

A Puzzle by Prolixic

+– + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

Prolixic has delivered another very competent puzzle which has something to offer everyone – some good starter clues then a few more that will stretch most solvers.


1a Jolly tar’s associate in Australia, a bird (8,7)
{LAUGHING JACKASS} – One way of expressing happiness followed by a Crosswordland synonym for sailor (jolly) then the abbreviation for Associate gives an Australian bird named for its distinctive cry.

9a Look askance at as King replaces new jet (6)
{SQUIRT} – A synonym for Look askance with King replacing New. A jet of water.

10a Most push back men with sorrow, but not Penny (8)
{MAJORITY} – The definition here is the first word – most. Take a word meaning ‘push into’ and reverse it (back) then add an abbreviation for soldiers then add a word for sorrow without the Penny.

11a Quay containing zones gets excellent return for restaurant (8)
{PIZZERIA} – A seaside feature containing two Zones followed by the reversal (return) of a term meaning ‘excellent’ will get you a restaurant.

14a Energetic person returns a lot stopping party (6)
{DYNAMO} – A busy bee or powerhouse. Reverse a synonym for ‘a lot’ inside a party. Stopping here indicates that one word id blocking *i.e. inside) another.

17a Informal association let nobody supply labour (3,3,7)
{OLD BOY NETWORK} – An excellent clue for an informal association or clique. We need an anagram (supply as in in a loose fashion) of LET NOBODY followed by a term for labour.

20a Deception of club game entertaining unknown end of play (7-6)
{JIGGERY POKERY} – A tricky construction. An old type of golf club with a narrow lofted iron head and a card game holds (entertains) a letter used in algebra for an unknown variable. Folllow that with the end of play to get a fun word for deception or shenanigans.

23a Focal point of recent returns (6)
{CENTRE} – A word for focal point is hidden in the last two words.

25a Society of Engineers battle furiously for safety feature (4,4)
{SEAT BELT} – Start with the Society of Engineers and make a furious anagram of BATTLE. The result is a mandatory safety feature in cars.

28a I fit nine around in vast numbers (8)
{INFINITE} – A straightforward anagram (around) of I FIT NINE for a word meaning ‘in vast numbers’.

29a Sleazy mad Prince becomes gross (6)
{GROTTY} – A word meaning Sleazy. Start with an informal word for mad and replace the Prince with Gr (gross)

30a Sign of outrageous climax, moan take’r (11,4)
{EXCLAMATION MARK} – An outrageous(!) anagram of ‘CLIMAX MOAN TAKER leads to a sign in punctuation.


2d Free do (6)
{ACQUIT} – A double definition. Free from a charge and Do, perform.

3d Glamour as good hotel changes hands (5)
{GLITZ} – An American word for glamour or pizzazz is created from Good + A famous hotel in London with the Right being changed for Left (changing hands). Lovel clue as the hotel is synonymous with the answer.

4d Between seasons with no hint of warmth or sun (5)
{INTER} – A season of the year, in plural, with the first letters of Warmth and Sun removed. Definition is ‘between’ usually seen as a prefix.

5d Ray’s letter (5)
{GAMMA} – Another double definition. Radiation and a Greek letter.

6d Consider latter-day Deborah, perhaps (7)
{ADJUDGE} – Latter Day means as opposed to Before Christ. Add to that an example of the type of person Deborah was in the Bible to find a verb meaning ‘consider’.

7d Managed to support return of good scriptures (5)
{KORAN} – The Islamic scriptures. Reverse an abbreviation for ‘good’ or ‘alright’ and add a verb meaning ‘managed’

8d Shoot up ice in island retreat, at last (9)
{SKYROCKET} – Add another synonym for ice, as in a drug, into a famous UK island and the last letter in retreat. The definition is shoot up, not in the drug sense but into the sky.

12d Supply opposing players with enough (5)
{ENDUE} – A different use of supply here – as a verb and definition. Take two opposing players in the game of Bridge and add a short word for ‘enough’ or ‘as is owed’

13d Cream of American league going round circuit (5)
{IVORY} – Easy to get the answer (a cream colour) from the checking letters but the wordplay tripped me up. Place a famous US University League around a short word for a logical operation circuit in electronics – the term is also an operator in Boolean Logic.

15d This uncle could be kinky, young and clean (5)
{AGONY} – A composite anagram here. One needs an anagram (kinky) of YOUNG & CLEAN having first removed UNCLE> The result is a type of Uncle that helps out with marriage and relationship advice.

16d Real target (9)
{OBJECTIVE} – Another double definition. Real (concrete not dependent on opinion) and target or intention.

17d South Africa quits material publication (5)
{ORGAN} – A periodical publication, Private Eye, for example. Remove the abbreviation for South Africa used as an Internet suffix from a type of woven silk material.

18d Menial finds nothing in office (2,3)
{NO ONE} – A Divine Office – one of the times for prayer – with O (nothing) inside gives a word for a menial or unimportant person.

19d Crime of paper supporting article (5)
{THEFT} – Place a short name for a newspaper and place it under (supporting) a definite article. This is a type of crime.

21d Element briefly described by engineers (7)
{RHENIUM} – The element in the periodical table that is also an abbreviation for the Royal Engineers.

22d Breaking the rules, he left province (6)
{ULSTER} – A province in Ireland. Remove HE from THE RULES and then break (make an anagram) of the result

24d In rehearsal bring in learner for a warble (5)
{TRILL} – Start with a rehearsal or test and substitute the A for Learner to get a high warbling sound.

25d Bad weather? Shelter in vacant spot (5)
{SLEET} – A type of bad weather can be found by adding a word for shelter into SpoT having been vacated (its contents removed).

26d Irritation of confused waggoners lacking any bits of news (5)
{AGGRO} – Another subtraction then anagram. This time remove all the bits of NEWS from WAGGONERS then confuse the result. This will lead to a synonym of ‘irritation’ or ‘argy-bargy’.

27d Flush after doctor is in the toilet – just the opposite! (5)
{BLOOM} – A flush or florescence. The instruction first says place a (less usual) abbreviation for doctor into a word for toilet. Just the Opposite means actually place the toilet inside the doctor.

Thanks to Prolixic for another fine tussle. Favourites for me were 1a, 3d and 17a


  1. Prolixic
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to the Gnome for the review. One small correction – in 29a, the replacement is Gr for gross not King George (that was the earlier version of the clue that he test-solved!)

    • crypticsue
      Posted February 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      I have sorted this out for Gnomey as he is not by his computer at present. Perhaps like me he still thinks GR means the King as I don’t think I have ever abbreviated the word gross before.

      Great review of an equally great crossword. Can’t wait for the next one.

      • Qix
        Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

        Sounds to me like the earlier version of the clue was pretty good.

    • Posted February 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Thanks to you both! – I must confess to not checking for changes on this one!

      • Qix
        Posted February 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        Yes, a fine review of a very fine puzzle. I particularly liked the cartoon-style illustrations.

        Well done both!

  2. pommers
    Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Managed all but half a dozen in this one before resorting to the hints so either Prolixic has lowered the bar a bit or I’m getting better!
    Favourites were 21d (well i am, or was, a chemist) and 3d.
    Thanks Prolixic and Gnomey for the hints.

    • Franco
      Posted February 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Pommers, I think that the bar has been lowered.

      I have tried the NTSPP previously, but always found it far too demanding! This one, I managed about 3/4 before seeking assistance from the blog.

      21d – RHENIUM – (I failed ‘O’ Level chemistry) and what is the reference to the abbreviation for the Royal Engineers.

      Thanks all!

      • gazza
        Posted February 21, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        The chemical symbol for rhenium is RE which is the abbreviation for the Royal Engineers.

        • Franco
          Posted February 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Gazza! That’s why I failed Chemistry ‘O’ Level! :oops:

      • pommers
        Posted February 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        Franco, like you I think the bar is lowered. I’ve never got anywhere near a Prolixic before – about 50% would be average. I exchanged comments with him a while ago and said I have a 40-50% success rate with DT Toughies and he was then happy that he was pitching at the level he aimed for.
        Some of the other NTSPP have been easier and some unfathomable but always well worth alook

        • Franco
          Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

          On the few times that I have attempted a Prolixic puzzle before, I have failed miserably!

          I have noticed that Prolixic oftens comments on the Cryptic. Is he/she ever the setter for any DT crosswords under another name?

          On the subject of setters, I would find it very interesting to know how they set about compiling a crossword! Could we have a volunteer setter to explain all?

          • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

            You can read a little about him here:

            He has been published in the Church Times, but never in the Telegraph (yet!).

          • pommers
            Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

            There’s an article somewhere on this blog by Anax (a Times setter) about the setting and construction of crosswords. It’s very educational and well worth a read. I can’t remember where it is but BD will tell I’ve no doubt.
            As far as I know Prolixic isn’t a professional setter but had at least one puzzle published in the last few months – in the Church Times I belive but he is a man of the cloth! Pretty sure Prolixic has never done a DT.

          • Franco
            Posted February 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

            My question is – how does a setter compile a puzzle?

            1. He/she chooses a grid ……

            2. ? No Idea ?

        • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

          My personal opinion, having test solved the puzzle along with crypticsue (and BD for final approval) is that this was more accessible than some NTSPP and was much better balanced than a couple of Prolixic’s earlier NTSPPuzzles. I struggled on a few clues a few of which were rewritten (and subsequently missed by me!) but in reality the failings were mine.
          Without knowing Franco or Pommer’s absolute solving standard I would have said that a regular solver would get 75% to 95% and be flummoxed by some, as I was.
          It is actually very hard (I have heard!) to pitch the difficulty level!

          • pommers
            Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

            Gnomey, you’re probably right in what you say there. I got all but 6 but didn’t really have a solid go at it. It was a dip in and out over a couple of days and eventually I guess I got a bit bored and looked to your hints to clear it up. Having read the hints I guess I’d have been around only 3 or 4 missing if I’d really stuck into it. See my reply to Franco about converstaion with Prolixic. I told Prolixic my skill level and my success rate on his puzzle and he seemed to think that he’d got it where he wanted. Fair do’s – he’s aiming a bit above me and that’s where he seems to be hitting. I’ll get him one day though!

            • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

              Yep! – Missed that but I think he is about there (and so are you!). I can’t remember if I rated it in those terms but hard DT or middle Toughie might call it – I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not very good at his puzzles as compared to others!

              • pommers
                Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

                I’d agree that middling Toughie is about where Prolixic is pitching.
                As for the NTSPP in general, it’s Radler I struggle with! Can’t seem to get on his wavelength but when I read the hints it’s bash myself on the head time because they’re doable – if you can get on the same wavelength!

                • Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

                  You and me both, brother!

                  • pommers
                    Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

                    Glad it’s not just me!

                    • Qix
                      Posted February 22, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

                      For me, the difficulty level was about par for a DT back page puzzle, but I thought that the quality of the clues was high.

                      I would have been very happy to have found this puzzle in a broadsheet newspaper.

  3. pommers
    Posted February 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Time for bed said Zebedee – boyiing! (not sure how to spell that)!

  4. Prolixic
    Posted February 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Thought I had better add my two new pence worth!

    For this crossword, I selected a pre-set grid from Crossword Compiler – an excellent software package for setting crosswords – and allowed the program to pre-fill the grid. Looking through the grid, I changed some words to ones that were easier to provide clues for; though quite why I retained Jiggery Pokery is now beyond me! I tend then to go through the clues in order from start to finish to write them.

    The crossword then sat in a drawer until needed – probably a month or so. I revisited the grid and tried to solve it. It is amazing how easily you forget the wordplay you have created. This highlighted a handful of clues that needed further work. The crossword then went to Gnomethang and CrypticSue for a test solve. This provided a much needed sanity check and the final grid and clues when off to Big Dave. He suggested four or five additional changes to give you a chance at solving it before it was published on the Saturday,

    The test solve is the most important part of the process. I invariably find that something that I think perfectly fair produces a raised eyebrow. I test solve a number of Radler’s crosswords and hope that constructive comments help improve the final puzzle.

    For a themed crossword, the process is slightly different. I start with a skeleton grid with alternate rows and columns all filled with white squares and then try to get as many of the theme words in as possible. This usually takes nine or ten tries before I am totally happy. I can then fill in the remaining words. This is often where you tend to get more obscure words as the only ones that will fit. If there are too many weird ones, I may start again or remove one or two themed words to get something more manageable.

    I also use an Iphone web app that I can copy the grid to and add clues. This enables me to spend time on the train filling in some of the clues. The completed grid can be e-mailed back to my desktop and ovewritten in Crossword Compiler. It may take a week or more on and off to produce the clues required. Sometimes, they will roll off themselves. Others are a really struggle to clue successfully.

    When I am setting the crosswords, I aim, as Pommers has indicated, to be just above the backpage in terms of difficulty but with a range of clues to enable all abilities to get at least a foothold.

    I have only been setting crosswords for a year – following a conversation with Big Dave in the White Horse, where I foolishly agreed to have a go. I was amazed to get a crossword published in the Church Times on my second attempt. Don Manley was gently encouraging when my first (and on reflection hurried and lamentable grid) did not make the grade! Another of my crosswords will appear in the Church Times in Apri.

    I am not sure that Big Dave’s “(yet!)” is justified in terms of a wider audience – flattering though it would be to see your crosswords in one of the broadsheets. There are many much more talented and experienced setters looking for an opportunity to have their crosswords published in the broadsheets. If someone of Anax’s ability has not yet been accepted for the Toughie in the Telegraph or the Guardian, it shows how difficult it must be. It usually takes many many years to achieve that sort of grade. Persoanlly, I think it a crying shame that we don’t get the benefit of Anax’s crosswords in the Toughie.

    Anyway, that’s enough of my ramblings.

    Glad to see that the NTSPP is generating some more comments and thanks to all for your encouragement.

    • Franco
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Prolixic, Thanks very much for your comments. I found it very interesting.

      I was very surprised to see that compilers use a software package to select and pre-fill the grid.

      I realise that you then have to set about the difficult task of setting clues – but now I feel less guilty about using computer aids to solve!

      Many Thanks!

      • Franco
        Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

        PS! There is no way that I could possibly manage setting a crossword – so thanks to all setters!!

        • Franco
          Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

          Which genius writes “Crossword Compiler”?

          • Prolixic
            Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

            The brainchild of Anthony Lewis:


            There is an article by Anax on this and another software package here:


            • pommers
              Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

              Had brief look at both of those and will revisit tomorrow. Time for bed now as I’m on CET.
              They both look very interesting articles for a crossword nerd like me so I will read with interest, although setting puzzles is not on my horizon!.
              Have to ask though – How did Ximenes manage it? And I might add all the compilers in the early 70’s when I first attemted cryptics – Araucaria et al. No computers then!

              • Franco
                Posted February 23, 2011 at 12:24 am | Permalink

                How did they do it before computers?

                I spent many hours in the office in the ’70’s & ’80’ s (pretending to work) but normally just failing to solve an “Araucaria ” and the dreaded “Bunthorne” in the Guardian!!

    • pommers
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Hi Prolixic
      An interesting insight there so thanks for that. I also (as Franco said) didn’t realize that computer generated grids and fills were used. Isn’t this making a rod for your own back?
      IMHO you are a bit above “just above the backpage in terms of difficulty”. I would say middling Toughie at least and usually with at least a couple of clues in the hard Toughie range. I’ve noticed you give a few easier clues to get one started but the rest have always been a challenge to me
      I’ve enjoyed all your puzzles even though I’ve always been defeated but MY TIME WILL COME!