NTSPP – 293

NTSPP – 293

A Puzzle by Alchemi

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week Alchemi has given us a puzzle with a very topical theme – how long will it be before you spot it?

A review of this puzzle follows.

Timed to coincide with the start of the World Cup, several of the answers in this puzzle have a Rugby based flavour.  The clues for these thematic entries are highlighted in blue.


1a Keep one’s distance from Francis of Assisi, possibly at one remove (8)
STANDOFF: The two-letter abbreviated status of Francis of Assisi followed by the two-letter indefinite article (one) and a verb meaning to remove, as in to remove one’s hat

6a A little ready? Not even half ready? Somewhere in the middle? (6)
CENTRE: a small amount of a foreign currency such as the US dollar followed by 40% (not even half) of RE[ady]

9a Camp officer, overwhelming with books (10)
COMMANDANT: the punctuation mark in the clue is expanded to five letters and placed around a three-letter word meaning with and followed by some books of the bible

10a Put a stop to losing brown hair (4)
LOCK: a verb meaning to put a stop to without the B(rown) – as has been pointed out this is not a supported abbreviation and although B(lack) would have worked it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it

11a In Split, surrender back part of ship (8)
FOREDECK: start with a split in the road and then insert the reversal (back) of a verb meaning to surrender

12a Fine to interrupt gardener John Lee? (6)
HOOKER: a two-letter word meaning fine or satisfactory inside a gardener who is using a particular implement gives the surname of John Lee, the late American bluesman

14a The Spanish-French radio band (3)
ELF: The Spanish definite article followed by F(rench) – again an unsupported abbreviation – the setter added that he had intended the clue to read “The Spanish head of French radio band”

15a Something causing heightened response right after Stone Roses break-up (8)
STRESSOR: R(ight) preceded by ST(one) and followed by an anagram (break-up) of ROSES

17a All  the dogfood in Oz went here! (2,4)
IN TOTO: two definitions – a Latin phrase meaning all or entirely and a phrase suggesting that, in The Wizard of Oz, all the dogfood was inside Dorothy’s dog

18a Bird possibly one constantly complaining hydrogen is leaking away (6)
WINGER: someone who is constantly complaining without (is leaking away) the chemical symbol for Hydrogen

20a Supplies more jokes when on about Spain (2-6)
RE-EQUIPS: some jokes preceded by (on in an across clue) a two-letter word meaning about and the IVR code for Spain

22a The language of sublieutenants (3)
UTE: this Native American language is hidden (of) inside the clue

23a Beat  unreliable contraceptive method (6)
RHYTHM: two definitions

24a Defender of unconventional American folk club misses out (4,4)
FULL BACK: an anagram (unconventional) of A(merican) F[O]LK CLUB without (misses) the O(ut)

26a Support very conventional queen leaving (4)
PROP: an adjective meaning very conventional without (leaving) the Queen’s regal cipher

28a Improving stories of large bricks filling house (10)
ALLEGORIES: L(arge) and some children’s building bricks inside (filling) one of the twelve houses in astrology

29a What’s 14? 14, of course! (6)
ITSELF: split as (2’1,3) this could be the answer to the question “What’s 14 Across”

30a Star that is least gaseous (8)
SOLIDEST: the Latin for our nearest star followed by the full Latin expression for “that is”


2d Killed time before guard left off (4,3)
TOOK OUT: T(ime) followed by a guard without (off) the L(eft)

3d Rugby player finds brown earth during the hours of darkness (6,5)
NUMBER EIGHT: a shade of brown and E(arth) inside the hours of darkness

4d In the past kept uniform weight (5)
OUNCE: an adverb meaning in the past around the letter in the NATO Phonetic alphabet represented by Uniform

5d 27 royal couple would find deceitful if pulled (7)
FLANKER: a type of 27 Down followed by two (a couple) of abbreviations for royals gives an action that one would find deceitful if pulled

6d Tom about to meet man carrying tree light (5,4)
CATCH FIRE: a creature of which the male is called a tom followed by the single-letter Latin abbreviation for about and the male pronoun around (carrying) a type of tree

7d Nothing extra missing from identity parade? (3)
NIL: start with an identity parade (4-2), use the last part as a reversal indicator for the rest then drop (missing) E(xtra) – our third abbreviation that is not supported by Chambers

8d Be relaxed about one child having most (7)
RICHEST: a verb meaning to be relaxed around I (one) and CH(ild)

13d Fewer exposed without feeling less (11)
OUTNUMBERED: a verb meaning exposed or made public around an adjective meaning having less feeling

16d Regular bouts of such potentially harmful for rugby player (5,4)
SCRUM HALF: the odd letters (regular bouts) of S[u]C[h] followed by an anagram (potentially) of HARMFUL

19d This person (a fool) inspiring that woman to get an estate (7)
INHERIT: I (this person) and a fool around the pronoun meaning “that woman”

20d Tops up official pains (7)
REFILLS: a sports official followed by some pains or troubles

21d Crumples ice hockey enthusiasts? (7)
PUCKERS: this could be (indicated by the question mark), but isn’t, a name for ice hockey enthusiasts

25d Allowed to set up advanced league (5)
LEGAL: a verb meaning to set or harden reversed (up in a down clue) followed by A(dvanced) and L(eague)

27d Writer gets involved in exercise which is supposed to be easy (3)
PIE: the first person singular pronoun (the writer) inside some Physical Exercise


  1. gazza
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff – thanks Alchemi, though based on her comments elsewhere Kath may want to give this one a miss. I did find three single-character abbreviations which aren’t, as far as I can see, listed in the BRB.
    My favourites were 9a, 17a and the excellent 29a. I’m now off to watch some of the players featured here.

    • Hilary
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Moi aussi, give it a miss seems like a very good idea. Ice pack here I come.

  2. Alchemi
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Gazza. I was actually nervous about 29a because I had to convince myself that it actually works, which is never a good sign. And I apologise if I’ve used non-canonical SLAs, because I didn’t mean to.

  3. Franco
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Alchemi … I might need the TMO to justify some of my decisions! But I think I’ve got them all right!

  4. Kath
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to have a go at this one later – don’t imagine that I’ll get very far but not all the clues can be football/rugby (sorry folks!) related and I’m armed with the sports section of the paper!
    Back later . . .

  5. dutch
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Alchemi – most enjoyable. I struggled a bit with the rugby, being no expert, however I realise it is topical and even I enjoyed the ghost theme clues like 10a, 12a,26a, 18a, 6a, 5d, etc. Very nice.

    I encountered gazza’s unconventional SLA’s early in the solve in 10a, 14a, and 7d. In 6a I wondered if you needed “somewhere”.

    Lots to like. I wasn’t sure about 21d, but I loved the definition in 19d, enjoyed 17a, and also 28a (great def), 29a ( of course!) and 30a, very good.

    Respect, thanks a lot

    • Alchemi
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      I’ve seen the one in 7d used in The Times, so I assumed it was kosher, and I’ve seen 10a used as well. 14a is a mistake and should have read “The Spanish head of French radio band”.

      • dutch
        Posted September 19, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        Ah, yes, that is a nicer clue. Why would b=brown? Can’t just be the colour. I know b=black from soft pencils, eg 2B. I can see e=extra from cricket although it isn’t in chambers (which rightly or wrongly I tend to consult for abbreviations, easy with the iPad app). I just want to re-emphasise that it is a brilliant puzzle, the abbreviations didn’t hold me up or anything.

        • Alchemi
          Posted September 19, 2015 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          If e=extra is OK in The Times, it must be in Collins (which is the Thunderer’s reference dic). And I don’t know in what context b = brown.

          I was thinking about your “somewhere” comment; It’s true that it’s not strictly necessary, but it’s also not actually incorrect as part of the def. It seemed to read better with it in than with it out – though I’d also agree that that’s a matter of personal taste. And I don’t think it’s really misleading. It seems to me that the injunction about words which aren’t necessary refers a lot more to things which are irrelevant than to whether you’ve used the most economical phraseology possible.

          • dutch
            Posted September 19, 2015 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

            yes, “somewhere” reads nicely. i was just thinking centre is exact not approximate – so accuracy as well as economy – but not a big deal. I liked the clue a lot.

  6. Jane
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Well – I managed to get there despite having little interest in sport (this one in particular), which must prove that all the clues were fair and ‘do-able’. Come on, Kath and Hilary, there’s some good stuff in there – just wing it!

    Great stuff, Alchemi. My personal hot list is 12,17& 29a.

    • Kath
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      Ah – you beat me to it by a whisker – both posted at 7.31! Back tomorrow – if you can do it so can I! There again http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_unsure.gif

    • Alchemi
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      There are only two clues which refer to the theme, and one which refers to a lot of sports, not just the theme. The rest of the thematic solutions just happen to have a meaning for those who know.

      • Jane
        Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        In that case I must know more than I thought! I counted far more than that. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_yes.gif

  7. Kath
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    My bloody-mindedness won’t let me give up.
    I haven’t yet had much chance to look properly but, please, someone be proud of me for getting 16d.
    More tomorrow . . .

    • Jane
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely proud of you, Kath. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif
      Like me, you’ll find that you recognise more than you think! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_mail.gif

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Huge distractions got in the way of a straightforward solve as we have a visitation of family and friends celebrating Alice’s (our eldest granddaughter) 12th birthday. So a special Sunday morning breakfast with all the trimmings has been the competition. Have now got a completed grid which we are pretty sure is correct and a few pieces of final parsing to sort out later. Very clever and great fun.
    Thanks Alchemi.

  9. Una
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I blame the awfully straightforward prize puzzle for not warming me up properly as I found this very hard and I couldn’t parse quite a few including 2d,4d, 6d.
    Since I couldn’t remember 8d, in the prize puzzle, from a few days ago , you can understand my difficulty with a rugby themed puzzle.
    I liked 23a , 17a and 3d.

  10. Snape
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    I managed the left half OK, thanks to the comments about the theme, and once I’d worked that out I got several by thinking of the answers and then finding the clues to fit. Got not so far on the right, but cheated because I wanted to see what delights I was missing. Liked the clue for 30, but think the word jars horribly! Also liked 28, 12, and 17 a lot, but like others my favourite was 29. I don’t know if Beet is about, but she will also love that clue, I think, it’s right up her street.

    • Beet
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Sorry I haven’t had the time to do this one, but I have had 29 brought to my attention by Snape, and he’s quite right I think it’s a fab clue.

  11. jean-luc cheval
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t come on the blog as I wanted to crack this puzzle unaided.
    It took quite a few seatings but eventually got there.
    Unfortunatly some of my answers although correct remained unparsed.
    Namely 9a, 10a and 24a for which I didn’t see the anagram at all.
    Clues that stood out for me were 6a (a little ready), 29a (what’s 14) and 17a (dogfood in Oz).
    Thanks Alchemi.
    I can’t see who did the review, but thanks to him or her.

    • Posted September 20, 2015 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      It was I.

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

        Thanks BD. Your name appears now.

        • Posted September 21, 2015 at 12:08 am | Permalink

          I changed it after reading your comment!

  12. Jane
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for the review, BD. I hadn’t got all of the parsing – the ‘AN’ in 1a, ‘O’ for out in 24a and the use of the punctuation mark in 9a (very sneaky!).
    I’m glad that you found eleven thematic answers – so did I – and there was Alchemi telling me that there were only two! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/icon_rolleyes.gif

    • Posted September 21, 2015 at 12:04 am | Permalink

      I think what Alchemi was saying was that only two of the thematic answers, 3 down and 16 Down, were clued as rugby players.

      • Jane
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 12:13 am | Permalink

        Ummm – I suspect he was pulling a 5d, myself. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_cool.gif

        • Alchemi
          Posted September 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          BD had it correct.

  13. Kath
    Posted September 21, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I never did manage to finish this one – to be entirely honest I failed by quite a long way – I don’t know why as, although I know that Alchemi can be tricky to put it mildly, I can usually do them with ‘perservation’.
    Oh well – too bad – I really enjoyed what I did manage.
    I thought 29a was brilliant as was 17a.
    With thanks to Alchemi for the crossword and to BD for sorting out my numerous problems.

  14. Maize
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Apologies for commenting so late on this – life does have a habit of getting in the way of crosswords sometimes – but if you do read this, Alchemi, I just wanted to say thank you for what I thought was a cracker of a puzzle. Twigged the theme relatively early (sometimes they pass me by altogether) and failed to parse 9ac – although the answer was clearly what it was. As was the novel 29ac, which worked for me. Too many fine clues to pick a favourite, though maybe mine would be 16d. Great grid, great clues, thank you!