NTSPP – 258 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 258

NTSPP – 258

Happy Birthday by Alchemi

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This is not an early celebration of the blog’s birthday, but that of a number of people born on 18th January.

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows.

So you get the usual weekly(ish)  batch of three crosswords to test from Alchemi and he says that this one has a theme as the people mentioned all share the same date of birth.   You send him your comments and a week or so later you get an email saying that Alchemi 236 will be the NTSPP on 18 January.   ‘That’s very specific’ I thought and then I realized which puzzle he meant!!  Don’t think it matters that he was a day out with this enjoyable puzzle, the themed clues being clear enough for me to get all the birthday people without investigoogling.


1a           Goes further away to hear plants again (7)
RECEDES   The two letters that mean ‘again’ followed by a homophone of a word meaning plants.

5a           Not being definite about  erecting borders for the garden (7)
HEDGING   Being evasive or shifty; erecting a close row of bushes serving as a fence.

9a           Grand golf club by Delaware’s wine-growing region (7)
GIRONDE   The abbreviation for grand, a type of golf club and the abbreviation for the State of Delaware.

10a         Aviator‘s order to stay silent about work by comedian (7)
SOPWITH – b 1888 An interjection requesting silence is put about an abbreviation for work and a person endowed with humour.

11a         Removing the head of a deer is child’s play (3)
TAG   Remove the initial letter (head) from a male deer to get a childish chasing game.

12a         Actor right to stop very short holiday being ruined (6,5)
OLIVER HARDY – b 1892 An anagram (ruined) of HOLIDAY and R (right) and then the first three letters (short) of VERY inserted into the result.

Oliver Hardy

13a         Retired footballer has to put up with detective by the side of the field (9)
BEARDSLEY – b 1961  A verb meaning to put up with, the abbreviation for Detective Sergeant and an alternative spelling for a type of meadow (field).

15a         Asian myth still current (4)
YETI   An adverb meaning still followed by the abbreviation for electrical current.


18a         Dwellings which would be closed when back to front (4)
HUTS   If you move the last letter of some simple dwellings to the end of the word, you’d get another meaning closed.

19a         Bar bill incurred by general accepting victory drink (5,4)
TABLE WINE   An informal term for a bar bill followed by a famous general with another word for victory inserted.

22a         Emu question puzzled French philosopher (11)
MONTESQUIEU – b 1689   Never heard of this philosopher whose name is an anagram (puzzled) of EMU QUESTION.


24a         Head of cricket increasing prize (3)
CUP   The ‘head’ of cricket followed by an adverb meaning increasing .


26a         Writer‘s fifth article about backing South American capital (1,1,5)
A A MILNE – b 1882 AN (article) E (fifth letter) put round a reversal (backing) of the capital of Peru.

27a         Actor tore back to function (7)
COSTNER – b 1955 One of six trigonometrical functions followed by a reversal (back) of a word meaning tore.

28d         Drugs passed a test held internally (7)
SEDATES   Found ‘internally’ in pasSED A TESt.

29a         Grammy winner from Britain – is she in Strasbourg? (7)
ESTELLE   – b 1980 How a French person (who may or may not be in the city of Strasbourg) might ask ‘is she?’

1d           Crossword solver’s friend runs over twig (5)
ROGET – b 1779   The gentleman who produced The Thesaurus of English Words, a useful friend for any solver – cricketing abbreviations for Runs and Over followed by a verb meaning to get or understand (twig).

2d           Star roughly tracks relative time (4,5)
CARY GRANT – b 1904 The Latin abbreviation meaning roughly, about; the abbreviation for railway (tracks), a relative (I’m one  ;) ) and the abbreviation for time.

3d           Jockey of the French north-west rings deserted deanery (8)
DUNWOODY – b 1964 A French word meaning ‘of the’ , the abbreviation for North West, two ‘rings’ and the outside letters (deserted) of DeanerY.

4d           Small circuit being blocked by rocks in the northerly direction is unexpected (7)
SPECIAL   The abbreviation for Small followed by a reversal of a circuit into which has been inserted a slang term for diamonds (rocks being another).

5d           Military personnel get hot, mostly, before getting rid of old socks (7)
HOSIERY   The first two letters (mostly) of HOT followed by a term for military personnel from which the OLD has been removed.


6d           Department hides missing fish at the bottom of the sea (6)
DEPTHS   The abbreviation for department followed by the word HIDES once you have removed a particular type of fish from the middle.

7d           Colder one that’s in credit (5)
ICIER   I (one) followed by the abbreviation for credit with the Latin abbreviation meaning ‘that is’ inserted.

8d           How a grey I trained could run amok (2,7)
GO HAYWIRE   An anagram (trained) of HOW A GREY I.

13d         Louche characters‘ loose circle banish me (9)
BOHEMIANS   An anagram (loose) of O (circle) and BANISH ME.

14d         Film Australian character (3)
ETA   A Greek letter is obtained by following a two letter film about an alien with the abbreviation for Australia.

16d         Could be a real nice American waterway (4,5)
ERIE CANAL   An anagram (could be) of A REAL NICE.

17d         Be discomfited as Pete’s gut rumbles (3, 5)
GET UPSET An anagram (rumbles) of PETES GUT.

19d         Children receiving what Manuel said are Little Chef hats (7)
TOQUETS   To get small versions of chefs hats, insert the word often said by Manuel in Fawlty Towers into some small children.


20d         Port in ancient times starts to handle exotic food (7)
BRIOCHE   A South American port inserted into the abbreviation meaning Before Christ (ancient times) followed by the ‘starts’ to Handle and Exotic.


21d         Wearing fur, the French get shot (6)
PELLET A small shot used in air rifles –   The French word for ‘the’ inserted into (wearing) an animal hide with the fur still on.

23d         Called to withdraw all but the last ultimatum (5)
NAMED   Reverse (withdraw) all but the last letter of an ultimatum or request.

25d         Super smashing prize (5)
PURSE   An anagram (smashing) of SUPER.


25 comments on “NTSPP – 258

  1. I have to confess to being hugely embarrassed by my inability to read a calendar. I meant to produce a puzzle for an actual Saturday and was out by a day.

  2. Very enjoyable – thanks Alchemi. I didn’t know the French philosopher or the 19d answer but both were gettable from the wordplay and checking letters. My favourite clue was 2d.

  3. I’ve enjoyed this a lot – thought it was quite difficult – well, it was for me anyway.
    12a took me ages to untangle and so did 4d.
    I’ve never heard of the 22a philosopher or 19d and I still can’t see how the Little Chef got in there.
    I can’t sort out 26a although I’ve found the South American capital.
    Now completely stuck on 13a and 5d – have an idea for that but don’t know why.
    Thanks to Alchemi and looking forward to the review . . .

    1. For 19d ignore the capitalisation and read it as little chef hats.
      Around your reversed capital in 26a you need a way of writing ‘article no. 5’ (2,1).
      You’ve probably never heard of the old footballer in 13a. It’s a charade of a verb to put up with, a police detective’s rank and a variant spelling of a word for meadow.
      5d is a word for military personnel without the word OLD with most of the word ‘hot’ preceding it.

      1. Thanks gazza – that’s what I was trying to make 5d.
        You’re right – I’ve never heard of the old footballer – however did you guess?! I was just being dim about 26a.

  4. OK – hands up – how many of us didn’t have to check a single name or birthday? Certainly not me!

    6d – another new word to remember in this one.
    13d – bung it in, parse it later!
    16d – shame on me, had to use Mr. Google for this one.
    27a – quick pause to swoon over one particular role of his. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_heart.gif

    Awaiting CS’s review to check the full ‘why’ of one or two but do have a full grid and thoroughly enjoyed the journey – many thanks, Alchemi.

  5. Too many individual people’s names , 6. I got them , but it was annoying because I never heard of most of them, well not the aviator or the footballer or the singer.

  6. Finally finished after a lot of “pick up and put down and pick up again”. My stumbling block was the SW corner, particularly 13A ( because I was trying to fit DI in) and 13D. Once I’d twigged 13A, 13D fell into place. Surprisingly, I have heard of most of the people, albeit very vaguely in some cases, except 23A and 29A. I was familiar with the big chef’s hat in 19D but not the little one. Once I had the answers, I could see how fairly and cleverly the clues were constructed. I’m still going through, but right now 29A, 2D and 20D tickle my fancy.

    By the way, did you know that the original bear on which the 26A stories were modeled is languishing in a North American library?

  7. Thanks Alchemi, 1, 8 and 25 down were my favourites. And I’d heard of all the birthday boys and girls except the philosopher.

  8. Found this very enjoyable, and I’d actually heard of all the people, so got it filled in without resorting to Google. I’m stuck on trying to parse 23d though, so looking forward to the review to explain why I’m being dim. Favourites were 1d and 2d.
    Great stuff, thanks Alchemi.

    1. Another word for an ultimatum or final offer without its last letter and tipped upside down means to have given something a title.

  9. Que… SI. Quesi? Who is he? The manager? That Fawlty towers made me laugh so much.
    Apart from that I found it quite difficult but with the help of a good birthday site, I managed to find all the celebs as 10a and 13a were unknown to me.
    Favourite today is 19a. And probably 5d also.
    Thanks to Alchemi and to CS for the review.

  10. Thanks for the review CS.
    Did manage to finish this one yesterday but only with some help from gazza. Even with his help I had two goes at the detective in 13a – started off with Morse rather than Lewis!
    I had the right answer for 20d but for the wrong reason – oh dear!
    Thanks to everyone.

  11. Thanks, CS – the last couple of parsings are sorted now!
    Well done to you for sorting out the philosopher from the clue without resorting to checking with Mr. Google – I think (and only think!) that he made an appearance on QI a short time ago in a question related to brain sizes. Anyone able to confirm?

  12. Thanks for the review, CS.

    For those who haven’t heard of the philosopher, he was the bloke who invented the “separation of powers” between legislature, executive and judiciary and can thus be regarded as the theoretical father of the US Constitution. From a setter’s point of view, the fact that his name ends …Q_I_U just seemed too gorgeous not to use, since it would get solvers scratching their heads about what could possibly end that way.

    The one I hadn’t heard of before she went into the grid was the Grammy winner.

    Of course one can google anything these days, but since nobody sane would know the birthday of every famous person who’s ever lived, this is a rare example of a theme which is of absolutely no help or hindrance to the unaided solver. If a puzzle focuses on people whose bicentenary falls in a particular year, the solver can quickly reject some ideas for solutions because they’re too young or too old, but noone says to themselves “oh, it can’t be him – he was born in September or so” when it’s birthdays (with the exception of people actually born on Jan 18, who might well know some of them off the top of their head – I know a few famous people who share my birthday, for instance).

    And thanks to all those who enjoyed solving it.

    1. Hello Alchemi,
      Being born on March 17, I spend that day with my Irish friends and often forget it’s my own birthday let alone anybody else’s.

      1. Lucky you – I was born on the Queen Mum’s birthday and she never once turned up to help me celebrate. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_sad.gif

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