NTSPP – 300

NTSPP – 300

A Puzzle by Hydra

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Many thanks to Prolixic for assembling this puzzle, with help from Alchemi, Beet, Bufo, Chalicea, Gazza, Hieroglyph, Imsety, Radler, Shark, Soup, Toro, Vigo, Wiglaf and Windsurfer.  Whoever thought that when I started this series it would still be here, 300 puzzles later?

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows:

Time to celebrate another landmark in the NTSPP series – this particular ‘Hydra’ puzzle being a collaboration between those who set NTSPPs during the last year. I hope you saw the Nina – I spotted it quite early on!   If you want to know who set which clues, all is revealed at the end of the review.

Thanks to all of the setters and especially Prolixic not only for organising this celebratory puzzle but also for his sterling work in reviewing NTSPPs, although I do seem to filling that role more and more lately now that several of our setters have graduated and gone out into the world of the national newspapers. I am particularly delighted to celebrate the “promotion” of the two ladies in my ‘crèche’: Vigo, who now appears in the Independent  and Beet who has moved from Rookie Corner to the NTSPP and so now appears here as one of the Hydra ‘heads’.

The biggest thank you should, of course, go to Big Dave, without whom none of this would be possible.


8a           CIA men operating in this theatre (6)
CINEMA   An anagram (operating) of CIA MEN.

9a           Bricks not left for me (3)
EGO   Remove the L (not left) from some toy bricks.

10a         Promise to be open, accurate, truthful and honest – at least at first (4)
OATH   The ‘firsts’ of Open Accurate Truthful and Honest

11a         Radler cavorting with maid – a certain Vanessa (3,7)
RED ADMIRAL  I did know what this particular  ‘Vanessa’ was (as well as being a a girl’s name) which helped no end with this anagram (cavorting) of RADLER MAID.

red admiral

12a         Idiot takes loss of 90% of capital in stride (4)
LOPE   A word for an idiot has the Roman numeral for 500 as its first letter.   Remove 90% of that number and then put the Roman numeral for the amount you have left at the front of the word.

13a         An officer put into solitary (3-3)
ONE OFF A number that isn’t two or more  (an) and the abbreviation for officer.

16a         Pub involved in unethical purchase, ultimately for large containers of wine (8)
AMPHORAE   The abbreviation for a public house inserted into a word meaning unethical, the final letter of which, an L (large) should be replaced by the ultimate letter of purchase.


17a         Politician‘s trashy clothing is found in street (7)
STATIST   Trashy clothing (3) and IS (from the clue) inserted into the abbreviation for street.

18a         One who flies planes lacking map? Jump! (7)
ESCAPER   Remove the ‘map’ from PLANES and follow with another way of saying jump, which the BRB defines as to leap or skip like a goat.

22a         Young man investing money in altos’ composition (8)
SONATINA   A young male child followed by two lots of the abbreviation for Alto (altos) into which is inserted an informal word for money.

25a         Predominantly raw food (6)
RADISH   Most of the letters (predominantly) of RAw followed by a particular type of food.

radish26a         I had a whiskey on the way back to bed with no water (4)
WADI A reversal (on the way back) of the abbreviated way of saying I had, A (from the clue) and the letter represented by whiskey in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet.

27a         Protest about spot for diver (10)
PICKPOCKET A group standing outside an establishment to make a protest goes round a spot resulting from an eruptive disease.


30a         Drinks unlimited slime (4)
OOZE Remove the outside letters (unlimited) from an informal verb meaning drinks.

31a         Leave Asia’s premier holiday resort (3)
GOA   Part of a verb meaning to go followed by the ‘premier’ or first letter of Asia.

32a         Inside outside area? What could be more silly? (6)
INANER   An adjective meaning inside into which is inserted (outside) the abbreviation for Area.


1d           Infectious diseases in hospital department. Help! (4)
AIDE   The abbreviation for Infectious Diseases inserted into the abbreviated way of referring to the hospital department dealing with accidents and emergencies.

2d           Some have disbelieved reactionary god (4)
DEVA   Reversed (reactionary) and hidden in hAVE Disbelieved.

3d           Suffer with a migraine in the head, shivering – put these on to warm up (8)
EARMUFFS    An anagram (shivering) of SUFFER A and M (the ‘head’ of migraine).


4d           Being taken to court again? It rarely fails to end badly (7)
RETRIAL An anagram (badly) of IT RARELy (fails to end indicates that you don’t need the last letter of rarely).

5d           Party overturning unpopular tax – that’s a scoop (6)
DOLLOP An informal way of referring to a party followed by a reversal (overturning) of an unpopular tax from the 1990s.

6d           He dramatised a Christmas carol, during Cod War (4,6)
NOEL COWARD Another word for Christmas used in carols followed by the insertion (during) of WAR into COD.

Noel Coward

7d           University served up high-quality marijuana – what a great place! (6)
UTOPIA The abbreviation for University followed by a reversal (served up in a Down clue) of the two letters used to indicate top quality and an alternative word for marijuana.

14d         Old school nurse was called such    a ninny (3)
NIT    A clue guaranteed to make your head itch when you think of the old school nurse.   The word can also be used to describe a ninny.

15d         Blackballed? It’s a d____ score settled! (10)
OSTRACISED  An anagram (settled) of IT’S A D SCORE.   Having solved so many Elgar clues with ________ in them, I did spend a while trying to work out whether the underlined section had anything to do with the wordplay.

19d         Cuts back “Sound of Music” for higher powers (8)
SERAPHIM    A reversal (back) of another word for cuts followed by a homophone (sound) of a song (music) sung in church.

20d         German banker‘s system before Euro (3)
EMS    A German river or the monetary system before the Euro was introduced.

21d         French stage performer needs his brandy and water (7)
MARCEAU  The French (his) words for brandy and water.


23d         Painter misses deceased Cicero? (6)
ORATOR  Remove the abbreviation for deceased from a particular type of painter and you’ll discover what Cicero was.

24d         Attack dog involved in filming regularly (6)
IMPUGN   A type of dog inserted into (involved in) the regular or even letters of fIlMiNg

28d         Credit sailor with something oarsmen may catch (4)
CRAB   The abbreviation for credit followed by one of the ways we refer to a sailor, especially in Crosswordland.


29d         Spain’s number one brand (4)
EPEE    The IVR code for Spain followed by an informal term for what is sometimes euphemistically called a ‘number one’.

The Hydra heads were   Chalicea (8a and 1d) Windsurfer (9a and 2d ) Soup (10a and 3d) Toro (11a and 4d) Beet (12a and 5d) Wiglaf (13a, 32a, and 6d) Imsety (16a and 7d) Gazza (17a, 14d and 29d) Hieroglyph (18a and 15d) Prolixic (22a and 19d) Radler (25a and 20d) Bufo (26a and 21d) Shark (27a and 23d) Vigo (30a and 24d) Alchemi (31a and 28d)

And the Nina:   Round the perimeter of the crossword it says A CROSSWORD NUMBER THREE HUNDRED.



  1. windsurfer23
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Prolixic for the hard work and to Big Dave and crypticsue for such a great series of puzzles.

    Well, it’s a good job I’ve got such a rotten memory. When I started this I couldn’t solve one of my own clues. Forgot the message as well!

    Nice cooperative and a fun solve. I ticked 18 & 32 across and 3,15 & 19 down. It’ll soon be 400!

  2. silvanus
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Another landmark reached by Big Dave that deserves great congratulations. Well done indeed too to all the contributors and to Prolixic for assembling such a superb collaborative effort! Have all these clues previously appeared individually in various puzzles?

    As often is the case, the Nina was extremely helpful in the solving process. My personal favourite clues were 26a and 24d.

    I’d love to know who compiled which clues, even if I have my suspicions for a few!

    Thanks to all concerned for a superbly entertaining puzzle.

    • crypticsue
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      You’ll have to come back in the morning – there’s a list of who did what at the end of the review. Interestingly, I only guessed at a few of the setters/clues when I tested the puzzle and I was mostly wrong!

      As is normal with a Hydra puzzle, Prolixic will have prepared the grid and then allocated words to each of the ‘heads’ for them to provide the clues.

      • silvanus
        Posted November 8, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Many thanks for the review, CS, and for the individual clue attributions. Very interesting. Like you, I was mostly wrong with my hunches as well!

  3. stanXYZ
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to all the NTSPP setters for producing so much enjoyment for me on Saturdays – always much appreciated!

    I have no idea which setter set which clue …

    … but 29d seems as if it could be Gazza?

    Therefore, my No 1 clue today is 29d.

    • crypticsue
      Posted November 7, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Permalink


  4. Maize
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to each and every head of the Hydra, and congratulations to the BD site on reaching such a landmark.
    Did anybody else put in ‘stallion’ for 22a? With only the S and the I in place I had it as L(£) for money in an anagram of ‘in altos’. Only me? Heigh ho. Didn’t hold me up too much though!
    I ticked 27a, 30a, 5d, 6d, 21d, 24d and 29d and my double tick for favourite clue went to 19d.
    Bravo to all concerned!

  5. Jane
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Goodness knows how so many heads get together amicably to produce one puzzle!
    What a superb way to reach such a BD milestone.
    Personal favourites are 12a plus 5&29d.
    Many thanks to you all. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif

  6. dutch
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear – I’m really sorry, I didn’t like this at all. Poor clues for the most part and poorly collated, lots of checking vowels, poor grid with e.g. 17 and 18a more unchecked than checked letters – the rookie puzzles excel by comparison. Not worthy of the slot. Even the nina has an awkward “a”. As I said, sorry – i’d have to lie if I were to say i thought this was any good. A great pity, I very much like the idea of multiple contributors, especially for a milestone puzzle – but that should result in a much, much better puzzle than this.

    well, I did like Radler cavorting…

  7. Expat Chris
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    I am having difficulties with this, mostly I think because I have trouble changing hats. I did the MPP first so I have to get into another mindset altogether. Maybe by tomorrow…

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    Late getting on to it this week as we have been away for a few days. We enjoyed it and are somewhat kicking ourselves for not looking for a Nina until we had finished. It would have been a big help with some of the last ones to yield, particularly 19d. Looking forward to seeing the list of who did what.
    300 NTSPP is a very significant milestone and great to see it celebrated in this way.
    Thanks to all the contributors and Prolixic for putting it together.

  9. Jane
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for the review, CS and also for the ‘who did what’ breakdown. Interesting that my favourites came from Beet and Prolixic.
    As usual, it was my failure with abbreviations that let me down on a couple of parsings – ID in 1d and A in 22a.
    Some great pics, CS – especially the one at 27a!

    Sorry that Dutch didn’t enjoy this – I don’t really understand why as he’s generally the first to accept something a bit different.

  10. Kath
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was difficult and ended up with several that I couldn’t do – oh well – you can’t win ’em all!
    What I managed I enjoyed and thought that it was a feat of crossword engineering so thanks and congratulations to all concerned, not to mention those who finished it.
    Thanks also to CS for quite a few explanations and even a few answers – not admitting to how many!

  11. Maize
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Interesting to see who wrote what…StanXYZ called it right on Gazza at 29d.

  12. jean-luc cheval
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Can’t wait to see Bufo in London. Obviously likes a drink or two.
    Had a few stars next to 29d too. Should have guessed really.
    But favourite of all is 28d.
    Thanks to all involved.

  13. Beet
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Prolixic for doing all the heavy lifting on this one – it was fun to contribute.

  14. Expat Chris
    Posted November 8, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Phew. This was hard going for me. I was laboriously picking off one clue at a time and then suddenly I saw the Nina. That helped enormously. I was still left with 20D and 29D at the end, though. I certainly needed the review for some of the parsing, so many thanks, CS. Thanks also to all the setters and especially Prolixic. I had not marked any favorites since I did struggle, but when I go back later and look through I am sure there will be several to highlight. Right now, it’s time to get ready for lunch and a glass of wine.