NTSPP – 285 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 285

NTSPP – 285

Odds & Sods by Alchemi

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review of this puzzle by Big Dave follows:

This was a super puzzle in its own right, with the added bonus of a “ghost” theme which featured no less than nine albums by The Who – starting with the title of the puzzle.


1a Marine bank less good for Western Australian widow (7)
DOWAGER: a submerged sandbank in the North Sea with the first G(ood) replaced by the abbreviation for Western Australia(n)

5a Description of diamond essentially fits London building (3,4)
IT’S HARD: The middle letters () of [f]IT[s] followed by London’s tallest building

9a Cat confronts gracious British soldier (5)
TOMMY: a male cat followed by an interjection similar to Gracious!

10a Pastry that’s brought back in shock (9)
MADELEINE: the Latin abbreviation for “that is” and a verb meaning brought or guided both reversed (back) inside a shock of hair

11a Perhaps Eric will just tick over (4)
IDLE: two definitions – the surname of Eric, an English comedian, actor, author, singer-songwriter, musician, writer and comedic composer, and a verb meaning (of an engine) to tick over or run gently

12a Here in Spain solid figure welcomes king for swift libation (1,5,3)
A QUICK ONE: the Spanish for here followed by a solid figure around K(ing)

14a Engineers have little trust in small strongholds (8)
REDOUBTS: the usual engineers followed by a verb meaning to have little trust in and S(mall)

15a Place one left married having got drunk (6)
STEWED: a place or location without (left) the I (one) followed by a verb meaning married

18a Europeans holding coloured balls (6)
DANCES: some Europeans around the single-letter (South African) abbreviation for C(oloured)

19a Film‘s a knockout, featuring Miranda and… I’m not sure (8)
KHARTOUM: the abbreviation for knockout around (featuring) the surname of Miranda, a comedienne who turned out to be better at acting after playing Chummy in Call the Midwife, followed by an interjection expressing uncertainty

22a Method of painting coming from anaesthetists (2,7)
BY NUMBERS: a preposition meaning coming from or through followed by a word that can be used for anaesthetists

24a Missing ace, cards go quite quickly (4)
TROT: some cards used in fortune-telling without the A(ce)

26a North-eastern state about to replace books – it won’t happen again (9)
NEVERMORE: The abbreviation for North-Eastern and a US state with a two-letter word meaning about replacing the two-letter abbreviation for a set of books of the bible

27a Nitwit crosses next to deep chasm (5)
ABYSS: a nitwit around (crosses) a two-letter preposition meaning next to

28a Make very clear president must leave when there are no tickets left (7)
SELLOUT: a phrasal verb meaning to make very clear without (leave) the P(resident) – for some reason P = President is not supported by Chambers but it is in Chambers XWD: A Dictionary of Crossword Abbreviations

29a You once held back objection to trains in London (3,4)
THE TUBE: an objection reversed inside (held back) an old word for “you”


1d More eccentric cat loses heart after a period (7)
DOTTIER: a large member of the cat family without (loses) its middle letter (heart) preceded by a period or full stop

2d West Indian doctor seduced in London suburb (9)
WIMBLEDON: the abbreviations for West Indian and a doctor followed by a phrasal verb meaning seduced (3,2)

3d Makes fun of   ropes (4)
GUYS: two definitions

4d Sheep breaks fortifications (8)
RAMPARTS: a male sheep followed by a verb meaning breaks

5d Popular university surrounded by stupid element (6)
INDIUM: the usual two-letter word for popular or trendy followed by U(niversity) inside an adjective meaning stupid

6d Star in charge of organising riots gets lawyers (10)
SOLICITORS: our nearest star, especially when personified as a god, followed by the abbreviation of In Charge and an anagram (organising) of RIOTS

7d Friend‘s note buried in the past (5)
AMIGO: the third note of the scale in sol-fa notation inside (buried in) a word meaning the past

8d Hang around eastern part of swimming pool (4,3)
DEEP END: a verb meaning to hang around E(astern)

13d Terrible as umpire or plumber (5,5)
SUPER MARIO: an anagram (terrible) of AS UMPIRE OR gives the name of a plumber in a platform video game

16d Perverted voyeur losing head after order to stop being asked for identity (3,3,3)
WHO ARE YOU?: an anagram (perverted) of [v]OYEUR without (losing) its initial letter (head) preceded by an order (to a horse) to stop

17d Sex won’t start to help terribly – it’s someone else’s turn! (4,4)
WHO’S NEXT?: an anagram (terribly) of SEX WON’T and the initial letter of (start to) H[elp]

18d Fillets of French lamb ultimately belonging to somebody (7)
DEBONES: this verb meaning fillets comes from the French for “of” followed by the final letter (ultimately) of [lam]B and a word meaning belonging to somebody (3’1)

20d Forget about being engaged with English artist (7)
MATISSE: a verb meaning to forget around a two-letter word meaning being engaged with followed by E(nglish)

21d Leave complaint about empty escargot (3,3)
GET OUT: a medical complaint around E[scargo]T without its inner letters (empty)

23d Book against spoiling Christmas (5)
NOVEL: the single-letter Latin abbreviation for against inside (spoiling) another word for Christmas

25d Total shambles isn’t right as a climbing area (4)
FACE: a total shambles without (isn’t) R(ight) gives an area for rock climbing

Combine 25d with 18a to get the thematic answer

53 comments on “NTSPP – 285

  1. very nice Alchemi, thanks for the entertainment. I particularly liked 18d (fillets of french lamb), and 17d as well (sex won’t start…). But there were many more that were nice 5a (description of diamond), 22a (method of painting), 13d (plumber), etc.

    I liked “swift libation” (12a) but the rest of that surface wasn’t gripping, and I winced a little at the south african abbreviation for coloured(18a).

    My last one in was 25d (total shambles….). The SW gave me most problems, I’m still not convinced I’ve parsed 20d correctly.

    I wondered whether there was a bit of a theme (9a, 17d, 16d) but maybe i’m seeing things after yesterday’s elkamere

    many thanks, great fun. not sure if i should be looking for something that matches the title odds and sods….

    1. Yes, there’s a theme, and yes, you’ve got four of them (including the title of the puzzle).

      1. ah yes, just realised significance of the title, plus 5a, 12a, 22a, 28a

        very nice

  2. Finished a little while ago, then BD over at the other place told me there was a theme. I had wondered what I was missing, since it’s Alchemi, and what the significance of the title was. Now I’ll spend the rest of the day looking! Loved the puzzle, particularly 5A, 19A, 16D and 22D. 19A gets the nod from me, because for once I knew who Miranda was ( I watch Call the Midwife on BBC America). Thanks, Alchemi Now back to that elusive theme…

  3. I’m interested in clues that have internal hints – is there a word for that device? tthinking about 26a, “north-eastern state”

  4. Absolutely loved it, Alchemi, thank you so much for this one.
    The title and getting 9a aroused my suspicions and I did manage to get the full theme list before you gave it all away! Shame you did that before many people have had time to work it out for themselves.

    Too many potential favourites to mention but 2d certainly made me laugh!
    Well done indeed – a very worthy NTSPP.

  5. Despite the fact that they were my generationhttp://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_smile.gif, I wouldn’t have had a clue to the theme without the comments above, and of course Mr. Google.

  6. Very enjoyable – thanks Alchemi. 25d was my last in and took about as long as the rest of the puzzle. My favourites were 22a and 2d.
    For the second day running I failed to twig a theme, although with this one I knew there was one from BD’s comment on the other blog. At least I understood it once the relevant clue numbers were listed (which is more than I did with yesterday’s Toughie).

    1. Relevant clue nos. now posted by Elkamere on the Toughie site – along with an amazing clip of his bass playing!

    2. Two musically themed puzzles in two days, neither of which I had the ‘ghost’ of a chance with. Never mind. One day, there will be a Bakersfield Sound theme or “Songs you never knew Kris Kristofferson wrote” theme and I’ll leave y’all in the dust!

    3. For yestraday’s elkamere puzzle, now that the YouTube videos are visible rather than just the links, and elkamere has listed the theme clues on the blog, I’d like to think the theme is more accessible. Anyway, the theme was titles of songs by the band Muse.

  7. Well I just thought I’d let you all know that I’m feeling dim/inadequate today in general and in Alchemi’s NTSPP in particular. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_sad.gif
    I have answers for most of the clues apart from a few in the bottom right corner plus 18 and 5a (that one looks so unlikely that I think something is wrong).
    I can’t catch on to the theme – BD mentions ghosts, the title is ‘Odds and Sods’ and then we have, I think, a 1960’s/1970’s group – honest guv, I’ll go quietly now.
    I really loved 2d.
    Off to have wine and supper – back later . . .
    Thanks to Alchemi – this is my problem not yours – your Xwords are always wonderful – I’m being stupid.

    1. You’re not being stupid at all. I don’t understand why setters of themed puzzles imagine that their specialized interests are shared by the average solver. At least with this puzzle one had a fighting chance of working out the band, if nothing else (as was the case with me). Not so for the Elkamere.

      1. There’s a big difference between themed puzzles where you need specialised knowledge to solve the clues and ones like this one and the Elkamere Toughie where you don’t need to know anything of the theme (or even that there is one) to solve the puzzle. I wouldn’t have known of the existence of a theme in either had not others pointed it out but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of both puzzles (and, like you, I’d never heard of the band in the Toughie).

        1. I understand, and I suppose that’s what’s called a ghost theme. But two obscure (to me) musical themes in a row made me testy. I will try harder, Guv, honest.

        2. I am a great fan of Sixties music, but, for me, The Who where never of much interest so the only album featured here I could have named was Tommy, having seen a later London production featuring Kim Wilde.

          While I couldn’t have named one recording by Muse, I did remember that they performed at the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics!

          1. The only thing I remember about the Olympics ceremonies was a whole lot of hospital beds being pushed about!

      2. At least some of us don’t think that our specialised interests are shared. That’s what ghost themes are for. I specifically make sure that there is no reference to the theme whatsoever in the clues, because the theme is just there for those who do share our passions to enjoy as a bonus. Sometimes a theme I choose is so obscure that the chances of anyone picking it up are basically nil: I did one which had the complete track listing of Pawn Hearts by Van der Graaf Generator, who had a small (if quite fanatical) cult following in the 70s – I know about four people who would connect the words PLAGUE and LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS, and none of them do cryptic puzzles. In other words, that ghost theme was purely for my own entertainment.

        As you’re well aware, I can make a puzzle insoluble unless you twig the theme, but I only do that when I think the majority of solvers will have a pretty good chance of doing so.

        1. Late to the party on this one… In this month’s 1 Across there’s one of my puzzles where every clue is related to bees or beekeeping (one of my hobbies) but no beekeeping knowledge is needed to solve the clues. (A couple of dictionary uses, perhaps!) It’s rather the reverse of this one – in mine the theme is all-pervading (I’ve heard it called a ‘theme blitz’) but in all other respects it’s just a normal crossword…

  8. I mentioned this on the other page, but it seems appropriate to mention it again since we are dealing with an Alchemi puzzle here:

    today’s guardian prize puzzle has something in common with an Alchemi prize puzzle that appeared on this web site a few months ago…

    1. Thanks. I knew I’d seen a puzzle like that fairly recently. I hadn’t realised it was one of mine!

  9. Wait for me. I haven’t finished yet. Still stuck with Miranda, the English artist and the missing ace.
    But I will finish it when I get home.
    Just took a break to eat something and post a comment.
    As far as the theme is concerned I see some connection between 9a, which I had the immense pleasure to see at the Albert Hall in the late eighties and the word starting in 17 and 19d. But that is about all.
    No doubt the review will reveal all.
    Really enjoyed your crossword Alchemi.

  10. I really enjoyed that – thanks Alchemi.

    Like Gazza my last in was 25d, and like Dutch I took a while to parse 20d. Dutch has saved me from looking up that particular abbreviation in 18a. Wince indeed.

    I liked too many of the clues to list them all. Plenty of fun and laughs http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif.

    I knew from the other thread that there was a theme, and twigged it at 16d. It didn’t help me to get any of the answers (not even 17d – d’oh), but fortunately I got them from the clues themselves, which was nice! With my limited knowledge I very much doubt I’ve spotted all the themed answers, but will wait for the review tomorrow. And then maybe queue up a playlist :).

    Many thanks again for the crossword and thanks in advance for the review.

  11. We also had 25d as our last one in. A good fun clever puzzle we thought but have still no idea what the theme is all about. From reading all the comments we gather it has to do with a band and its titles but neither the band nor what they played means anything to us. Never mind it was still enjoyable without being able to appreciate that extra level.
    Thanks Alchemi.

    1. I must say I have the advantage on you all re 25d. Total shambles is so French.
      Still struggling with 19a 24a and 20d.
      M’aidez please.

      1. Since you asked, and I’m still up because it’s early here…

        24A…cards believed by some to predict what’s in store, minus the letter (missing ace).

        19A…the usual 2-letter abbreviation for elimination in a boxing match around the surname of a British comedienne and actress, followed by a two letter word denoting hesitation (not being sure) gives the name of a (I think, war) film.

        With those two, I’m sure you can work out the artist in 20D, who is a favorite of mine and definitely not English!

        1. Thanks Chris.
          All done.
          Your hints were so clear, it was a write in.
          You might end up reviewing soon!

          1. Not a chance!

            I have a much loved 20D cut-out print hanging on my bedroom wall (along with a Picasso and a Van Gogh street scene, both also prints, needless to say). I was fortunate to see an exhibit of the cut-outs in Washington D.C. They blew me away.

            I do remember when a theatrical productions of 20D, with the R, was always described as a French *****.

  12. I think the word that springs to mind is beaten. Having finished GK and back page tried this, turned out to be not one of my best ideas. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_cry.gif http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_cry.gif

  13. Many thanks for the review, BD. Like you, I was only familiar with ‘Tommy’ but the puzzle’s title seemed so ‘odd’ that I asked Mr. Google if it had a relevance to The Who and – bingo – I was on my way!
    As you rightly say, it was a super puzzle in it’s own right, the ghost theme was just an added bonus – although it did explain a couple of the somewhat unusual answers eg 5a!

  14. Thanks to BD for the kind comment and blog, and to everyone else who has been so enthusiastic. It comes as a huge relief that it has been so well received because from my point of view this was a real Toughie. A puzzle usually takes me 2-3 days, but this one took more than a week, which is, like, literally forever. Coming up with definitions for the multi-word titles was probably the most difficult aspect, though finding any wordplay for WHO ARE YOU I remember as being particularly frustrating too. That each of them have been commended by at least one commenter is therefore particularly gratifying. So thanks again to everyone.

  15. Like BD, I am a huge fan of 60’s music but, unlike BD, The Who were one of my favourites. Somewhere in my loft I have five of the albums included in the puzzle. I do think however Alchemi has failed by not including Quadrophenia and Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy …

    … only kidding! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_wink.gif
    I am full of admiration for anyone who can set a cryptic crossword, and to manage to do one as good as this is deserving of the highest praise. Very well done, Alchemi. Thanks very much for the entertainment and for the great memories.

    Many thanks to too BD for revealing the wordplay for my answers to 10a, 28a & 20d.

    1. MBB&B is a “Best of” so doesn’t count (and none of the live albums include material which is otherwise unreleased in any form). I also failed to get My Generation and Endless Wire in, but I felt I had to leave out Quadrophenia because it isn’t a word and it won’t split into recognisable words either. Even if it is my second favourite after Who’s Next. I didn’t get to see them until after Keith passed, but even with Kenny Jones there was nothing quite like getting just about blinded by the searchlights behind the band as they crashed back in after the twiddly bit in the middle of Won’t Get Fooled Again. The BBC only showed about half their set at Glasto, which was irritating, but someone kindly uploaded their complete set from the Amsterdam gig the following Thursday, and it’s amazing how good they are. Musically, they’re probably better than they were in 1972, even if they are considerably less maniacal.

      1. I was lucky enough to see them at the Isle Wight Pop Festival in 1970. Absolutely mind blowing. I agree with you about Who’s Next – I would definitely want Won’t Get Fooled Again with me on my desert island.

          1. Wasn’t it brilliant? I was also there in 1969, when my girlfriend and I were stupid enough not to have taken a tent. We slept outside and woke up damp from dew, but happy. The things we did when we were young …

            We did wimp out and take a tent in 1970! What a shame we’ll never know if we were next to you!

  16. I should have googled The Who and the title of the crossword – I didn’t. Oh well, it didn’t stop me enjoying the crossword.
    With more thanks to Alchemi for the fun and thanks to BD for sorting out the answers that I failed to manage for myself.

  17. I have been well and truly taken to task for my grousing about the themes in this puzzle and the Elkamere. I can only offer my apologies. Now that things have been explained, I appreciate that I was wrong. As I said in my very first comment, I loved the puzzle itself.

    1. There was a time when you got irritated by there being any theme at all. I like to think that one of my minor achievements in this field is demonstrating to you that themed puzzles can be fun (even though I’d freely admit that some themed puzzles are less fun than others).

  18. As someone who had no idea of theme I still found this really good fun. There were a few answers that were strange phrases for a crossword answer, so I knew something was up, but that was as far as I got. Thanks Alchemi

  19. Many interesting comments to read. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHY “Queen = cat”. Hopefully the weekend crew will not just say “it does”.j.P?

    1. Not sure how this relates to this crossword but maybe I’ve missed something – whatever, as they say! A Queen is a female cat just as a Tom is a male cat.

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