NTSPP – 317

NTSPP – 317

A Puzzle by Alchemi

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review of this puzzle by Big Dave follows:

Another quality puzzle from Alchemi, this one features the names of four intersecting eleven-letter UK towns.


1a Hospital doctor keeps soft copy smooth (9)
SANDPAPER: a three-letter word for a hospital followed by the abbreviation for D(octo)R around the musical notation for soft and a verb meaning to copy

6a Drunk pickpockets get nothing (5)
DIPSO: a colloquial word for pickpockets followed by O (nothing)

9a Men keeping time bearing cross (7)
MALTESE: some men around T(ime) and followed by a compass bearing

10a More than likely disabled by England’s proof of will (7)
PROBATE: start with an eight-letter word meaning more than likely, drop the ABLE from the end (dis-abled), the add a two-letter word meaning by and E(ngland)

11a Optical device teacher brought back in the afternoon (5)
PRISM: the way in which a (male) teacher is usually addressed by his pupils is reversed (brought back) inside the two-letter abbreviation for afternoon

12a Catchline translated strictly following the rules (9)
TECHNICAL: an anagram (translated) of CATCHLINE

14a Well incorporates a can (3)
MAY: a three-letter interjection similar to “well!” around the A from the clue gives a verb meaning can (although strict grammarians might disagree)

15a Air number performed about daughter in truck (11)
LONDONDERRY: this well-known air or tune from a Northern Irish town is derived from N(umber) and a four-letter word meaning performed around D(aughter) all inside a truck

17a Angry chap sustains broken leg in town (11)
CROSSMAGLEN: An adjective meaning angry and a chap, the latter around an anagram (broken) of LEG gives a Northern Irish townland

19a Essentially superfluous standard (3)
PAR: the inner letters (essentially) of a five-letter word meaning superfluous

20a Have story revised stupidly fast (9)
OVERHASTY: an anagram (revised) of HAVE STORY

22a Child makes comeback taking satisfactory corners (5)
NOOKS: the reversal (makes comeback) of a male child around a word meaning satisfactory

24a She takes on American performer with heart of precious metal (7)
ADOPTER: A(merican) and a performer or achiever around the chemical symbol for a precious metal

26a Old, fat and pompous (7)
OROTUND: O(ld) followed by an adjective meaning fat or plump

27a Bridge players skip the start of meals (5)
EASTS: drop (skip) the initial letter (start) of some rich and abundant meals

28a Thinks about Spooner’s bear friends (9)
MEDITATES: split the answer as (4,5) and swap, Spooner style, the initial letters and the result sounds like some bear friends


1d Depression about university’s close argument (3,2)
SUM UP: a depression into which liquid drains around U(niversity) gives a phrasal verb meaning to close an argument or debate

2d Carefully fill unchecked boxes up to cancel (7)
NULLIFY: hidden (boxes) and reversed (up in a down clue) inside the clue

3d Introductions to first half of pretty walks (9)
PREAMBLES: the first half of PRE(tty) followed by a verb meaning walks at an easy pace

4d Extremely fast grandmothers receive money in town (11)
PRESTONPANS: a five-letter musical term for extremely fast followed by some grandmothers, the latter around the abbreviation for a small amount of money gives a small town to the east of Edinburgh,

5d Blame  music (3)
RAP: two definitions – although some might argue about describing the second one as music

6d Completely cover Republican in blue (5)
DROWN: to get this verb meaning to completely cover in water put R(epublican) inside an adjective meaning blue or depressed

7d Reindeer managed to be arrested by Constable Queen (7)
PRANCER: to get the name of one of Santa’s reindeer, put a three-letter verb meaning managed inside (to be arrested by) the two-letter abbreviation for a constable and then add the Queen’s regnal cipher

8d Some computer games are running at record level (3,6)
ONE PLAYER: a two-letter word meaning running followed by a type of vinyl record, usually with two tracks on each side, and a level or plane

13d Rode holy cow around town (11)
CHORLEYWOOD: an anagram (around) of RODE HOLY COW gives a town where I stayed for a few months while working in nearby Rickmansworth

14d Computer devices containing line active against particular type of transmission (9)
MICROWAVE: some pointing devices used in computing around a three-letter line, A(ctive) and a single-letter abbreviation for against

16d Complaint after row while eating in restaurant (6,3)
DINING OUT: a medical complaint preceded by a row or noise and a two-letter word meaning while or during – I wanted this to be the row and the complaint around (eating) IN, but I can’t see the answer as a synonym for restaurant

18d Cats took company over (7)
OCELOTS: a verb meaning took without permission and CO(mpany) all reversed (over)

19d It’s made for channel (7)
PRODUCT: a word meaning for or in favour of followed by a channel

21d Cheers up boy outside school he can’t stand (5)
HATES: the reversal of a two-letter word meaning cheers or thank you inside the male pronoun (boy) followed by S(chool) – I missed this when I originally solved the puzzle but, unless I’m missing something, S is not a recognised abbreviation in Chambers for school, although GS for Grammar School and HS for High School are accepted

23d Therefore the German pops (5)
SODAS: a two-letter word meaning therefore followed by a German definite article

25d Weight is no good for sheep (3)
RAM: a metric weight without the G(ood)


  1. Gazza
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable – thanks Alchemi. I particularly liked ‘disabled’ in 10a so that’s my favourite clue.

  2. Dutch
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant Alchemi, many thanks, SW (14d, 27a, 24a) held me up a bit. Quite the geography lesson!

    And I’ve only just worked out disabled after gazza’s comment, very good.
    I liked 1d, just because of the adjective/verb thing with close. I liked the republican/blue thing.

    Some bizarre surface readings though..

    • Alchemi
      Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I’ve always thought of Alchemiland (the imaginary place where my puzzles are set) has Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali as the leading hyper-realist painters and MC Escher as its chief architect. I like bizarre.

      • dutch
        Posted March 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        i’m a big fan of dali and escher (obviously), both great artists. i’ll check out magritte

        • Expat Chris
          Posted March 5, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

          Magritte is awesome. A favorite of mine.

  3. stanXYZ
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Alchemi for this week’s NTSPP.

    I enjoyed it but perhaps some of our colonial friends will find the towns somewhat difficult.

    I’ve never heard of 4d … but I now know where it is.

  4. Jane
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Still picking away at the SW corner – must have made a mistake somewhere with 14d or 24a or 27a. Can get any two out of the three but not the ‘full monty’!
    Some very clever stuff there, Alchemi, many thanks for the Saturday challenge. What a random selection of places you chose – maybe you’ve visited them all?

    • Alchemi
      Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Nope. The clue for 17a was one which occurred to me. I selected a grid with four 11-letter lights and decided to make the other three British placenames. I dare say there may be another selection of three other places I’ve heard of which would fit together with 17a in that grid, but they are the ones I found.

  5. Kath
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    This was fun – well, it still is I suppose because like Jane I’m stuck in the bottom left corner – can’t do the same three plus 21d.
    I do like 28a – I may be the only one who does given that most people seem to dislike Spoonerisms.
    Will carry on battling with my last few answers.
    Thanks Alchemi and in advance to Prolixic.

    • Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      I’ll be reviewing this one. As Alchemi sets puzzles for one or more national newspapers, Prolixic is excused.

      • Kath
        Posted March 5, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        OK – in that case thanks, in advance, to you. I always forget the ‘politics’ of this kind of thing and who can review this, that and the other . . .

  6. KiwiColin
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Of course I am going to complain about 17a, 4d and 13d. All totally unknown and no option other than searching Google for places that fitted the wordplay. Not much fun in that. However once that was out of the way I really appreciated and enjoyed the rest. Certainly a lot of head scratching required and the last ones to yield were all in the SW corner.
    Thanks Alchemi.

  7. windsurfer23
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Alchemi; quite tricky in places.

    Luckily, I knew all the places, having lived nearby to the village in 13.

    Having got the first 5 letters in 14d I was a bit baffled by the computer devices for a while; nice!

    …And I very much enjoyed Beet’s puzzle last week – didn’t have a chance to comment before now.

  8. Expat Chris
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Still plugging away at those same pesky three that are troubling others…14D, 24A and 27A. I was familiar with towns except for 4D and I was able to work that out and verify it. I did parse 10A al by my own self, too. Back later.

  9. Maize
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Very accomplished and enjoyable as we’d expect. Like Gazza I loved disabled in 10a, and all four towns were both very well clued and right up my street as a geography addict. I also liked 1a, 11a, 3d, 6d, 18d and 21d.
    I do have one quibble though, relating to 14d: Surprisingly perhaps the plural of mouse in this context is mouses… and not a lot of people know that!

    • Maize
      Posted March 5, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      Ha! Just double checked that, and now I see it’s an ‘either or’. Should have known better than to question the master!

  10. Beet
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Alchemi – as always I was thoroughly misdirected on almost every clue, but I made steady progress and it was a very enjoyable battle. Favourites were 6a, 10a very clever, 6d and 18d .

    (Thanks also to Windsurfer for the mention!)

    • Alchemi
      Posted March 5, 2016 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

      I too forgot to comment how good I thought your puzzle was last week: extremely.

      • Beet
        Posted March 7, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        That’s very kind of you. I have been trying my best to stick to your 9 words per clue rule. I normally end up slipping to 10 or 11 on a couple of clues, but I try not to slip into mini-essays like before!

  11. Expat Chris
    Posted March 5, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    All done now, but I confess to revealing the second letter of 27A before I got the answer. I was on an offbeat track there involving the plural of the initial letter of south and army dining halls. Of all the ones I liked, I think 14A is my favorite, although I too liked the ‘disabled” clue, and 26A is just a lovely word. Thanks Alchemi.

  12. Hanni
    Posted March 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Hope this posts. Damn proxy not working!

    Loved this with 10a and 1d stranding out.

  13. jean-luc cheval
    Posted March 6, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Alchemi for the challenge.
    Only had to check 2 towns out of 4 but the clueing was fair.
    The one that slowed me was 8d and once I got the ” running at record level” it had to be that. New term for me.
    Favourite is 18d.

  14. Alchemi
    Posted March 6, 2016 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, BD. S for School is accepted by the editors of both the Indy and the FT – I therefore presume it’s in Collins.

    • Posted March 8, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      You are right, it is in Collins. It’s difficult to know where to draw the line on acceptability for abbreviations.

  15. Jane
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Taking the chance that this will post via the proxy server!

    Many thanks for the review, BD – helped to clear up a couple of my half-parsings at 19 & 24a. Really must work harder at that periodic table! Not sure that I would have parsed 14d either, had it not been for the comment from Maize about the plural of ‘mouse’.
    26a was a new one for me – very descriptive!

    Thanks again to Alchemi. I look forward to your next puzzle.

  16. Kath
    Posted March 7, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks to BD for clearing up my last three problems.
    Having got the first and third letters of 14d I’d managed to convince myself that the ‘computer’ was a ‘mac’ and couldn’t get beyond that which meant that I couldn’t do 24 or 27a either – oh well, too bad.
    Thanks again to Alchemi for a really good crossword, as usual.

  17. Kitty
    Posted March 8, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I found this tricky to get into, and allowed myself to glance over the comments. Having learned of the four – possibly obscure – place names I decided to just reveal those. It was a nice way to get a foothold, and from there I very much enjoyed the solve. My favourite was 18d. Thanks Alchemi.
    Thanks also to BD.