NTSPP – 324 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

NTSPP – 324

NTSPP – 324

“Ale Here” by Elgar

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

The last time we had an Elgar puzzle in the Daily Telegraph was Toughie 1559 on 26th February, so we are very privileged to be able to bring you his latest puzzle right here in the NTSPP series.  The puzzle has a special theme – when you have worked it out please don’t spoil it for others, by mentioning it in the comments, until after the review has been published.

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows:


The instructions say:  This puzzle marks a major anniversary of the death of an important figure in English history, referred to in clues as “X”, and to be identified by solvers under the grid. The entry at one number is a (weak!) cryptic clue to the name by which X is best known; two other (one 5- and one 6-lettered) answers, together with the title of the puzzle, identify him in anagram form.

A big thank you to Elgar.   As BD says, a privilege to have this special  treat of an anniversary celebration  to solve (and in my case,  enjoy twice while I sort out the review)    Most crosswords from  Elgar (and his alter egos)  take a lot longer to solve this one and  I was surprised how relatively short a time I took to solve and parse the clues, and with only three ?s to check in the BRB too.  I did spend some of the time barking up entirely the wrong important historical figure!  If you still haven’t worked out who it is yet, have a look at the end of the review.


6a           Write “Elgar”, as I might do function for The Listener (4)
SIGN      Write ones name on a document or a homophone (for the listener) of a trigonometrical function.

sign7a           Cheek’s needing vital hot air (8)
MALARKEY   I did know this  adjective meaning of or belonging to the cheek which needed to be followed by another adjective meaning vital.

9/13 X so 15, comedian gives edge to very poor shag? (4,4,5,4)
WITH ONES PANTS DOWN    A comedian (3)  sharpens (gives edge to) an informal term meaning very poor, and some  hair (shag here meaning ragged hair).   You need the solution to 15d at the start to produce a well-known expression which might describe how  X is remembered.   The last word of the clue was one of my ? but a visit to the BRB soon found the right definition.

10a         Who’s in charge of the Automobile   Club? (6)
DRIVER   The person in charge of the car or a golf club.

driver12a         Having received help to sort out compiler getting 50% off, thanks Manhattan hotel (3,5)
THE PLAZA    Insert into an informal way of saying thanks, firstly an anagram (to sort out) of HELP and half of the name of a setter of  crosswords for The Observer.

14a         Officially got together over deposit (3)
DEW   This watery deposit is a reversal (over) of  part of a verb to do with marriage (officially got together)

16a         X so 15, suddenly biting head off? (7)
NAPPING    Remove the ‘head’ from a verb meaning suddenly biting (as a dog might do).   Again start with the solution to 15d to get another expression which might relate to X.


17a         A deck operative, note, limits our stay (7)
ADJOURN   A (from the clue) someone who operates musical decks and the abbreviation for note, OUR from the clue being inserted (limits) before the note.

19a         And this, as “handbags” got out of control? (3)
GBH   Our Elgar does love a compound anagram and here’s another one.   Remove AND and AS from HANDBAGS, and an anagram (out of control)  of the remaining letters give you the abbreviation for the crime  you’d be charged with if some ‘handbags’ (a facetious term for incidents in which people fight or threaten to fight without causing injury) got out of control.

handbags21a         See 5 Down

24a         Punch atheist in “God” parades (6)
STINGO  An informal term for punch in the sense of alcoholic refreshment is hiding in (parades) atheiST IN GOd

25a         See 11 Down
27a         Advisably, source and spring do have good intentions (4,4)
MEAN WELL        In addition to being an alternative way of saying ‘have good intentions’, the solution also explains  how you can define  each of the three words – ‘advisably’ ‘source’ and ‘well’.

28a         Pop bothers to make the return journey (4)
SODA   This American pop is obtained by reversing (to make the return journey) of some ‘bothers’.

1d           New Zealand team crushing West Indies is climax for Black Caps (5)
KIWIS     IS from the clue ‘crushing’ or having inserted the abbreviation for West Indies, the result then ‘capped’ by the climax or last letter of black.


2d           X so 15, discussing what flavours beer? (2,3,3)
ON THE HOP     Discussing (with respect to)   ‘what flavours beer’

3d           Bad 6 typifying hen night? (4)
OMEN     A hen night might have eight or more  women present but would rarely have more than x xxx!!

4d           Dad carrying large (and mum carrying small) percentage of blood (6)
PLASMA    Insert the abbreviation for Large into an informal term for a dad, then insert an S (carrying small) and finish with an informal term for your mum.

5d/21d  X so 15, bum, bum Shed clue? (6,8)
BEHIND SCHEDULE   A synonym for bottom (bum) and an anagram (bum) of SHED CLUE.   Put the solution in front of this and you get another way of describing  X.

8d           X so 15, having been dealt no spades or clubs? (3-6)
RED-HANDED    Follow the solution to 15d with the group of cards you’d have if you haven’t been dealt any spades or clubs.

red handed

11d/25a                Incongruously wreathed in red, led out one of X’s predecessors (6,3,5)
EDWARD THE ELDER   An anagram (out) of RED LED goes in[side] an anagram (incongruously) of WREATHED.

13d         See 9

15d         Might batter be this 5 about anything? (6)
CAUGHT     The cricket clue!    The abbreviation for about followed by another way of saying anything.

18d         Picaresque fellow’s glow cast over Scots maid (3-5)
OWL-GLASS  The English translation of the name of a German folk-lore trickster is an anagram (cast) of GLOW put over a Scottish young lady (maid).  Yes, I knew him too!

20d         Watch  horse in pursuit of fox (6)
HUNTER   A watch whose face is protected by a metal case or a horse used when chasing a fox.

hunter22a         Friendly greeting checked on the way to join us? (6)
HITHER  An adjective meaning coming towards this place –  An informal friendly greeting (2-5) with its last letter removed (checked).

23d         Familiarly for 11, an all-in-one   companion in early life (5)
TEDDY   A familiar way of addressing someone called 11d, a one-piece ladies undergarment or a toy (companion in early life).   I know which of these definitions the gentlemen of the blog might choose to illustrate this solution but I’m going for the companion!!


26d         Evasive court painter’s added a couple of strokes up top (4)
EELY   An adjective meaning evasive or slippery.   I knew the name of the court painter and eventually understood that the first letter needed two horizontal strokes to make it look like the fifth letter of the alphabet rather than the twelfth.


The 23rd of April has a number of anniversaries to celebrate so of course you naturally start of thinking of the most obvious one,  not least because once you start solving and combine some of your solutions with the ‘Ale Here’ , he can be ‘identified in anagram form’  from ALE HERE  +  KIWIS  + PLASMA = WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.   A splendid red herring if ever there was one.

But then you realise that (a) all those clues with ‘So 15’ have nothing to do with your important figure  and (b) then you get the ‘one of X’s predecessors’ by solving 11/25 and  eventually all becomes clear as an anagram of ALE HERE  + TEDDY + HUNTER = ETHELRED THE UNREADY.    Our book of The Kings and Queens of Britain [purchased from Sainsbury’s for the  sum of £1 way back in 1992 when the boys were 8 and 6],  confirmed that 11/25 was X’s great-grandfather  and  I was interested to read that apparently X was more badly advised than he was unprepared.   ETHELRED the Badly Advised doesn’t have quite the same je ne sais quoi as UNREADY – I just hope by mentioning this,  I’m not giving Elgar ideas for another themed crossword.


57 comments on “NTSPP – 324

  1. Brilliant puzzle that my computer and I solved.

    All very clever and the denouement is worth the effort.

    Some unusual terms like 18 and the first part of 7. 15 was difficult but caused a smile when resolved. 19 was my LOI (and only three letters!) 9/13 very jolly although I’m not sure I completely understand it.

  2. Another amazing composition by Elgar – thanks for the stimulating puzzle. I got the important figure early on which helped enormously and I think I can parse all the clues, but I wrestled for ages with the anagram until I noticed the words before the X in the title when it all worked. There are loads of clues I liked but I’ll pick out 17a, 15d, 23d and 26d.

  3. what a treat, thanks to JH and BD.
    I managed to fill the grid relatively quickly (by Elgar standards) but scratched my nut for a while afterwards until I read the blurb below the grid on the interactive tool! (which I see is above the grid on the pdf…)
    Two of the longer clues are quite brilliant and couldn’t be by anybody else, I think

  4. A big honour to have Elgar provide us with an NTSSP. Very clever. I instantly jumped to another historical figure with the same anniversary – knowing Elgar that was likely intentional. Eventually, the multiple references sunk in. I have a full grid but I eagerly await the review to confirm my parsing. Favourite probably 3d ( I had first put in GINS). Many thanks Elgar and BD

    and just twigged 19a, very clever.

    1. Good plan! I’ve walked away and come back several times, and finally I’ve got a completed grid, even though I still can’t fully parse about a third of my answers.

    2. I’m down to the last three and slowly losing my sanity. Good thinking, Chris, I’ll follow your advice.

  5. Finished, but needed to reveal a letter for 19A. Ugh. Parsing is another matter. I got the important figure, and the “so 15” but I’m at a loss as to why the X before in the clues. As of now 9/13 is my top of the pops but that might change. I did like 12A a lot but wondered how it would sit with British audience.

    1. I agree with you totally about 19a, but I can’t comment on 12a as I bunged the answer in and half of the wordplay remains incomprehensible to me. Perhaps I won’t like it tomorrow when all is revealed. I’ll let you know!

      1. Now I have seen the explanation for 12a my comments about it are unprintable except to say that for me 19a and 12a spoil an otherwise splendid puzzle, and I thought 26d was a bit iffy. As CS says, the identity of X is a brilliant red herring, which becomes apparent from the answer to 11/25. As a lifelong wicketkeeper, 15d was my runaway favourite; I just love it when this happens, and my season starts again next weekend!

    2. Yes, such is elgar’s way. I guess you can replace all the “X so 15” with “so 15” and the clue would still make sense, though perhaps there is some historical justification.

      1. I can’t see how the clues work without the X which is part of the definition. The relevant clues need to be read as “X (i.e. what the important figure is known as) is 15 …”.

        1. yes, agree with gazza X needs to be included, else the definitions are insufficient. I think what may be making it harder to see is that these clues seem to be more general attributes of X-likeness than specific references to the historical figure (as Gazzais suggests).

          I found it a lot of fun.

    3. 19a was my last one in and took me ages to see. i think it’s very clever. “this” refers to the answer, you’ll notice a relationship between the first 3 words and “handbags”. Must be hard to achieve the first letter of the answer in this way, you’d have to be a pretty vicious handbag pro.

      1. Oh, I don’t know about that. I drop all my loose change into mine. It gives it a nice heft. A good swing that connects in the right place could probably do some considerable damage.

    4. Curiously I wondered how one element in the wordplay of 12a might sit with non-British audiences!
      The answer itself rings a distant bell despite never having been to Manhatten, and the definition couldn’t have been more helpful.

      1. I have the advantage of being British by birth (and still a citizen by inclination), so the older slang words are familiar. It’s the new ones that give me trouble, like the third word of 9/13. Fortunately, I learned that on Big Dave’s blog.

  6. Being used to doing battle with Elgar in his Nimrod guise over at the Independent (where he’s produced some of the very hardest blocked puzzles I’ve encountered) I was expecting a tough challenge, and this certainly was that. It’s great to see him here in the NTSPP series – especially with this theme.
    “X” was apparent from the preamble alone, but the other ‘gateway’ clue of 15d didn’t fall until about half way through the solve. So for me this puzzle fell into three chapters: Slow on the low hanging fruit (which were still pretty lofty!); then a rush of themed answers which followed cracking 15d; then slow again on the fiendish ones at the end like 19a (as with Windsurfer my LOI).
    Loads to like here, especially 6a, 14a, 17a, 19a, 20d, 23d and my very favourite 5d.

  7. Wow, that was hard. Our first one in was of course 1d and with a wee bit of thought we had identified X at that point. Not that it helped us very much as almost our very last word to get was the crucial 15d. There are still a few of the finer points of the parsing that we will work on later in the day but need a break and other things to be done in the meantime. Very challenging and satisfying.
    Thanks Elgar.

    1. We were totally sucked in by the red herring. We even went looking through the grid, and found, where PLASMA would fit in to complete the anagram. No wonder we could not make much sense of the X + 15 clues despite searching for their origins. We feel suitably humbled and only have the fact that we did have a completed grid to console us.
      Thanks again Elgar and Sue for the enlightenment.

  8. With only about three in the grid I was on the verge of commenting to report abject failure and a total block when it comes to this setter.

    … but then another fell … and then another…

    In the end, over many sittings, I made it to a grid fill bar three with most of the parsing sorted and no egregious cheating (just had to look up to check the 7a cheek, 12a, 24a and 18d).

    So I am a happy bunny, despite not having that pesky 15d and so not being able to work out how it fits into all the other clues referencing it. I’ll sleep on it.

    I don’t have a favourite yet (am a bit too dazed), but will decide on a pick of clues tomorrow.

    Many thanks to Elgar for a stunning, cunning, punning puzzle and in advance to CS for the review.

  9. OK – think I’ve got there, but the ‘important figure’ didn’t seem to play as much part in it as I expected. Unless, of course, I’m missing something – which is entirely possible.
    Needed to check on the same ones as Kitty and my last ones in were 19a plus 15d.

    Tick list comprises 3,8 & 20d plus the combos of 9/13 & 11/25.
    Many thanks for gracing the NTSPP with one of your puzzles, Elgar!

  10. Now it all makes sense! And I am kicking myself because I solved 11/25 early in the puzzle and a bit of googling gave me the relevant king but I abandoned him quickly in favor of Will when I saw from the DT that it was his anniversary too. Apologies to Gazza. That will teach me to listen to my betters. Hats off to Elgar for a brilliant puzzle (though I still don’t like 19A) and many thanks to CS for sorting me out.

    Now if someone can explain to me how the third word of 9/13 came to mean what it does these days, I will be a happy puppy.

    1. It’s an abbreviation of pantaloons, which even I must admit makes the US usage of pants meaning trousers more logical than the UK usage meaning underpants. On my first visit to the States in the 70s to a snow bound Chicago, I was met at airport by a colleague and his wife who shocked me when she stepped into a pile of snow and exclaimed, “I’ve just wet my pants”.

        1. its just a slang word for rubbish or nonsense or anything useless, see brb – actually it gets used as an anagram indicator a lot.

          oh, and pantaloon was a character in venetian comedy. pantaloonery = buffoonery

    2. It is to do with pants being knickers -when the latter is a form of exasperation or swearing.

  11. Many thanks for the great review CS

    I had picked up on the same anniversary, but hadn’t spotted the alternative anagram using ALE HERE and KIWIS and PLASMA – how amazing is that? Well spotted!

    I didn’t know the court painter, and I had concocted a far more convoluted way of arriving at AZ in 12a which is too embarrassing to mention, so many thanks for the enlightenment.

    many thanks again CS and Elgar

  12. Many thanks to CS for the excellent review. The possibility of the “red herring” anagram totally passed me by – how brilliant is that!
    I’m still not sure which entry is being referred to in the preamble as “a (weak) cryptic clue to the name …” – I assumed yesterday that it was 8d because ‘caught red-handed’ doesn’t really mean not ready, but now I’m wondering whether I’ve missed something else.

    1. i wondered that too, originally thought 5/21 as it translates closest to unready, but then it also uses that in the clue so is that fair? So I thought I was missing something too.

      1. My thinking was that the other three “X so” answers can all mean unready but 8d (caught red-handed) doesn’t really.

          1. For ‘caught with one’s pants down’ the BRB has ‘in a state of extreme unpreparedness’ so I don’t think that’s the weak one.

            1. yes, maybe the instructions mean “one of the 4 X so 15 is a weak cryptic definition rather than a direct synonym” or maybe it is any other clue. So wouldn’t red-handed (reddy?) still have to be a cryptic clue albeit weak for unready?

              1. I think it’s got to mean unready somehow because it’s one of the ‘X is so caught’ clues. Perhaps if you’re caught red-handed it just means you’re not ready for the arrest, say. It’s very weak but that’s what the preamble says.

                1. Can I please ask that you all put a cushion on the table to protect your head when you bang it after you’ve read this.

                  If “(the) unready” counts as an anagram indicator then THE ELDER is the answer in question.

                  1. Good grief – at the risk of casting ‘nasturtiums’ did you work that out, CS, or did Elgar tell you?

                  2. ah, brilliant. I was hoping it wasn’t one of the X so 15 clues. The reason no-one(?) got this is that we were searching for a cryptic clue as described in the preamble. I see this as the other way around, it’s an answer, not a clue. But, I am still annoyed at myself for not spotting it having combed the grid several times. Thanks again Elgar – genius.

                    1. I was looking for a solution – that’s what I thought ‘entry’ meant but failed to work out which one – so obvious when you know! I wonder if I might get away with claiming Post Elgar Blog Drafting Syndrome as an excuse.

  13. Argh! I didn’t google 11d/25a at the point of solving and then never got round to it. So I was completely stuck with my anagram of ALE HERE, 1d and 4d and totally baffled as to the function of X in the clues. Also had no idea which of the clues (EDIT: and I now see that it’s actually one of the answers, not clues) could possibly serve as a weak cryptic definition of X. Gah.

    Having thus utterly failed to find X, I have to say that Elgar won. Well done him. Also well done, and many thanks, to CS for untangling it all and writing a super review.

    Regarding the solving of the clues (ignoring the X parts) I enlisted Mr K’s help over Skype for the last three bits I couldn’t manage on my own, and his sporting knowledge and clever thinking with 26d got us there in the end. But after all that … again, arghhh! I am off to cry in the Dunce’s Corner.

    1. There used to be a special Club on this site called the ‘Clueless Club’ which sounds a lot better than the Dunce’s Corner. There was virtual cake there too.

  14. Abso – bloody – lutely brilliant although I spent some time trying to make WS the important figure. This, combined with the back pager was a real workout. Many thanks to both setters.

  15. Many thanks for the great review, CS – your knowledge of words and people continually amazes me!
    Must admit that it was only this morning that I got round to investigating further into 11/25 and came up with the intended important figure. Even then, I neglected to look for the relevant anagram construction of his name.
    As others have commented, it proved possible to solve the grid without knowing either X or the answer to 15d, although I know the ‘purists’ amongst us (Hi, Gazza) would disagree.
    My personal triumph was to pick up on the compiler in 12a – for which, many thanks to Hanni, who often tells me about the fights she has with his puzzles elsewhere!

    Thanks again to Elgar and to CS.

  16. another one here with filled grid and the wrong answer. I even bloody knew it was the wrong answer simply because a) it didn’t feel right b) it’s himself.
    Great execution of course, but I’m lost for words at the brilliance of the idea.
    Thanks again to JH CS BD

  17. Biggest ‘Doh!’ of the year! I fell completely for the Shakespeare red herring and had assumed the ‘caught’ idioms were all from his plays. Brilliantly done by the maestro!

  18. So far beyond me, as Elgar’s crosswords always are, that even with all the hints and the answers now in front of me my head is still reeling.
    Like Kitty I did eventually have three answers and was on the point of giving up. Unlike Kitty I did give up and admit defeat totally.
    With thanks to Elgar for what I’m sure is an amazing crossword, with thanks to CS for all the sorting out, and huge congratulations to all the normal mortals who did manage to finish this one.

  19. Not bad.
    Managed to solve most of it without knowing who X might be.
    In fact I thought it was Elizabeth the first, but that’s not a him, then Alexander the third but it was Scotland. Oh dear. Then I did spot Ethelred in 25a and bingo, everything made sense.
    Didn’t get 26d though.
    Elgar is really unique. Total respect.
    Thanks to Him and to CS for the wonderful review.
    Progressing well on the Enigmatist from the Graun too.

Comments are closed.