NTSPP – 296 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 296

NTSPP – 296

Brilliant by Shark

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows.

I really like solving cryptic crosswords but one thing guaranteed to make my heart sink (or in this case use language unbecoming to a lady, because I knew I couldn’t give solving the puzzle a miss as I had to review it) is one with ‘structions at the top, especially those which for the first few readings are, as an email correspondent said to me,   ‘as clear as mud’.

In eight clues the definition leads to the entry with one letter missing (the wordplay cluing the full entry). These missing letters must be anagrammed to form an eight letter word, being the fourth word of a quotation. In the final grid the first three words and its speaker must be highlighted (28 cells).

Following my usual practice of ignoring the instructions to begin with, I didn’t take that long to solve the puzzle and then read the instructions again and find the less obvious missing letters. It does help no end if you remember that the missing letters are in the wordplay and not in the solutions as if you don’t you end up with an interesting email ‘conversation’ about whether we’d missed a famous quotation about ADENOIDS!

I will admit to having help to find the quotation and the “speaker” [although as I reveal at the end of the review, our setter is not entirely correct here] as I had so much other stuff to fit into the weekend that I couldn’t spend any more time looking.   If you are still none the wiser, the ‘missing’ letters are in brackets in the relevant solutions (once you ‘click here’) and a completed highlighted grid can be found at the end of the review.



8a           Mozart, Haydn or Schubert perhaps holding note back for country (10)
AUSTRALIA[N  Reverse (back) the sixth note of the musical scale and insert it into a native of the country where the three composers were born.

9a           It is found on a keyboard a letter typed initially alongside zero (4)
ALT[O] One of the keys at the bottom of the keyboard – A (from the clue) and the initial letters of Letter and Typed, the zero is handily there at the end to tell you you’ve found your first ‘missing’ letter.


10a         Skimpy special underwear (6)
BRIEFS Skimpy or short followed by the abbreviation for Special.

11a         More than one bird encircles about ground dew (8)
REDWINGS   A verb meaning encircles goes round an anagram (ground) of DEW.


12a         Timothy’s a jazz fan – Shadows finally coming to the fore (4-4)
CAT’S TAIL I did know the alternative name for Timothy grass as it is one of the pollens that gives me hay fever.   A jazz fan goes before a verb meaning shadows which has its last letter moved to the front.

14a         Balance almost identical wood (6)
BALSA[M] A bookkeeping abbreviation for balance and almost all of a word meaning identical.   To ‘see’ the wood, you need to remove another ‘missing’ letter.

15a 14 rocks around yard? Dreadful! (7)
ABYSMAL   An anagram (rocks) of the solution to 14a goes round the abbreviation for Yard.

17a         Garland originally performed new line in German city (7)
LEIPZIG A Hawaiian garland, the ‘original’ letter of Performed and a new line or change in direction of a course.

20a         Plenty of hesitation surrounding AC/DC’s heavy metal (6)
ERBIUM    Two different ways of expression hesitation go round an informal term for liking both sexes (AC/DC)

22a         Without money, Moroccans cooked animals (8)
RACCOONS Remove the M (without money) and then make an anagram (cooked) of the rest of the letters of MOROCCANS.


24a         A long time follows to make fun of coloured body parts (8)
RIBCAGES A verb meaning to ridicule, an abbreviation for coloured and a long time.

25a         Responsibilities I start to see round America (6)
ONUSES   How the Queen is supposed to refer to herself rather than using I goes round the abbreviation for American, the result finished off with the ‘start’ to see.

27a         Third letter from intelligence department (4)
CE[D]E   The third letter of the alphabet, plus one of the ‘missing’ can be found in intelligenCE DEpartment.

28a         Time stereo was repaired in sporty car? (10)
TWOSEATER[S  An anagram (repaired) of T (time) STEREO WAS – noting that the definition is singular helps to point out another of the ‘missing’.


1d           Tom’s sounding nearly flawless over river (4)
PURR  Almost all of a word meaning flawless goes over or before the abbreviation for river.

2d           Without limits Kate robs believers (8)
[A]THEISTS Remove the outside letters (without limits) from kATe and follow with a verb meaning steals in a robbery.

3d           Sickness from operation tucked into cut bread (6)
NAUSEA   Another way of saying the  operation of something  inserted into almost all (cut) of some Indian bread.

4d           Disorder is right in hybrid (7)
MISRULE IS (from the clue) and the abbreviation for Right inserted into a hybrid equine.

5d           Preposterous dropping councillor off? (8)
INEDIBLE Remove the abbreviation for councillor from a synonym for preposterous.

6d           Criminal nailed judge (6)
DANIEL One of the Old Testament judges is obtained from an anagram (criminal) of NAILED.


7d           Doldrums to follow community (10)
STAGNATION A verb meaning to follow or shadow (thank you BRB, for a long while I thought the letter at the start of this solution was one of the ‘missing’ but as the instructions say, it is the wordplay that is deficient, not the solution) followed by a community or set of people.

13d         Fruits fashionable amongst inns (10)
AUBERGINES An adjective meaning fashionable inserted into some French inns.


16d         Invincible gangster Mike topping 80 (8)
ALMIGHTY The abbreviated Christian name of Mr Capone (gangster), the letter represented by Mike in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, and the word 80 without its first letter.

18d         Results from Times? (8)
PRODUCTS   The results of some multiplication (times here indicating mathematics)

19d         Pictures virtually unpolluted island (7)
FRESCOS Almost all (virtually) of a word meaning unpolluted followed by a Greek island.  It had to be this illustration because I’ve actually seen these ones when we visited Pompeii.


21d         Longed for sex with chief editor (6)
ITCHED   An informal term for sexual magnetism and the abbreviation for chief and editor.

23d         Call mixed school about Oscar s English (6)
COOEE[D] The abbreviations for Oscar and English inserted into an abbreviation for a school for both boys and girls. Another ‘missing’ letter here too.

26d         Before end of ceasefire finds anger (4)
E[I]RE   The last missing letter can be found once you’ve followed the ‘end’ of ceasefire with another word for anger.

If you want to see where the ‘missing’ letters and the quotation are to be found just ‘click here’


Thank you to Shark – I do appreciate all the hard work that must have gone into cluing this crossword to get the Nina without using obscure words – it is just a shame that the ‘speaker’ in the Nina didn’t actually say that part of the quotation as is revealed here:

ARVE Error: need id and provider


Entertaining but very time-consuming.   I do prefer a ‘straight’ puzzle so that the NTSPP fits nicely into the post-lunch period where you really ought to be doing something more domestically useful, but can’t resist solving  another crossword first, not least to stop Mr CS coming in and saying ‘Weren’t you going to do ….. and …. this afternoon?’


36 comments on “NTSPP – 296

  1. argh – completed grid, but I count only 7 missing letters, and can’t see the anagram!

    Brilliant puzzle.

    1. I’ve got the opposite problem – I’ve got a completed grid with nine missing letters and can’t see a sensible anagram by perming any eight from nine.

        1. Yes I did – thanks. I’ve now checked the BRB and removed that letter, so I’m now down to the required 8.

          1. yes, was a new one for me and caught me out, but anyway its the definition that is meant to be a letter short..

  2. got the missing letter from the title hint! and then found it in the grid. Now, the quote…..?

  3. I’m having enough trouble just filling in the grid! I have three letters so far. Not coming back until I’m finished (one way or the other) because I don’t want to see hints in the comments at this early stage of the thread!

    1. You’re doing better than I am, Chris. Made a late start but I’ve got very few answers and only one letter so far! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_unsure.gif

      1. Have been staring at the last four with no joy at all for much longer than I care to admit. As for getting anywhere near the quotation……..http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_unsure.gif

  4. What a clever and excellent puzzle – Apart from the endgame, too many good clues to list, all with rather excellent surface readings (with some very minor exceptions, e.g. “encircles about” reads funny in 11a) and fun wordplay. Congratulations Shark, a wonderful piece of art.

        1. Phew! At last! Still, it broke up cleaning the oven nicely, and now I have two senses of achievement!

  5. A pleasant workout filling the grid, but I question the utility of instructions which cannot be fulfilled unless you feel like printing out a paper copy of the puzzle. At least the extra bits are not essential to filling the grid correctly, so I don’t have to fiddle around with them.

  6. Just being pedantic, but the quote is said to the person mentioned among the 28 letters, not by them. Not that it really matters…

  7. I must be being thick again but as far as I can see there were lots of clues which were far from brilliant.Take 26d , for example , what does the clue have to do with the answer , or are definitions not needed any more with cryptic clues ?27a also lacked a definition, as far as I could make out. 3d and 18d fall into the category of “what was that about ?”, as I just guessed the answer from the checkers.I am obviously missing something.

    1. Hi Una, both 26d and 27a have a rogue extra letter – as explained in the rubric – which means the definition (which is there) refers to, in both those instances, just 3 of the letters. For 3d, think ‘in operation’ for a machine, then find your synonym. 18d I don’t really get either! Suspect it to be a cryptic definition as per primary school maths lessons.

      1. Ah well – that’s just cheered me up a bit, Maize. I may not have got the anagram, the quotation or a clean oven, but I did get 18d very early on! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_smile.gif

  8. I’m done. The grid is not completed, I do not have the letters, and of course I have no idea of the quotation or it’s speaker. Consequently not a happy camper. But I made Boeuf Bourgignon from scratch so at least dinner will lift my mood.

    Aren’t we overdue for a Gazza puzzle in this slot?

  9. That took an awful lot of time and hard work BUT we eventually got it all sorted and even worked out the quote and the speaker. Unbelievably abstruse.
    We refused to even take a tiny peek at the comments before we had it all done. We are certainly much better informed about one of the books of the Old Testament than we were before. A pity it was an absolute red herring.
    Thanks Shark, it certainly lived up to its title.

    1. Yet again, we were in accord, 2Ks! Having finally abandoned that idea I then, courtesy of having got 19d wrong, spent a while watching a ‘brilliant’ youtube clip of one of the star acrobats in Cirque du Soleil. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_smile.gif

  10. Many thanks for the review, CS. I had definitely struggled to justify the last few clues (27a+23&26d) and then found it far more difficult than anticipated to sort out the eight required letters. In fact I had two of them wrong initially but managed to see what word was almost there. I recalled reading that Sparks is fond of incorporating pictorial representations into his puzzles so went looking for the shape. Fortunately, the lady’s name jumped out at me and the rest was fairly plain sailing. I think she appeared in a recent puzzle (or was down one of the blind alleys I often follow during a solve) and I had watched some of her film clips.
    So there you have it – rather ‘arse about face’ but I got there!

    Thank you, Sparks – and my apologies for not sticking strictly to your instructions. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_smile.gif

  11. Excellent review, Cryptic Sue.
    And thank you Shark for bags of entertainment from your shaped Nina – that’s a first for me and I loved doing it – eventually!

  12. For 20A I had (F)ermium….”erm’ (which I’ve seen written as a hesitation loads of times on social media) and “”um” around the symbol for current I (AC/DC). I think that’s a perfectly valid parsing. Thus, I had F as one of my letters.

    Thanks for the review and enlightenment CS. Before I had started the puzzle, I was encouraging folks over in the other place to have a go. Now I wish I hadn’t!

    1. That is fine, except that the wordplay gives the whole answer and one of those letters is dropped for the definition, not the other way around. Thus all of the eight “extra” characters can all be found in the finished grid.

  13. This took a while and managed to complete the grid with 12a and 27a being the last pieces of the puzzle.
    Guessed the word when I had the first 7 letters thanks to the title but didn’t get any further. I even thought we were looking for a biblical quote.
    Needed the review to see the Nina.
    The diamond shaped answer is just brilliant. Shark can be really proud of him or herself.
    Thanks to Shark and to CS for the help.

  14. I don’t watch reality television, is the person in the answer one of “those ones” in 19d? oj

  15. I admit to total failure – well, I admit to chickening out having read the instructions. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_sad.gif
    This kind of thing completely “does my head” in – it’s my problem and in no way reflects on the setter who, I’m sure, is really clever.
    I take my hat off to anyone who even attempted it, even more to those who weren’t scared off from the beginning and, most of all, to CS for not only doing it but finishing it and providing the review, the hints and the answers.
    I’ll read it all tomorrow but, for the moment, am off to bed. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/smiley-yawn.gif

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