NTSPP – 326

NTSPP – 326

A Puzzle by Lohengrin

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Some of you may have met Lohengrin in Macclesfield recently.  He sets for the Independent (his most recent was last Monday, 2nd) and we are privileged to be able to offer one of his puzzles here in the NTSPP series.

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows:


Firstly, I should probably admit that Lohengrin is one of those setters whose crosswords, more often than not, end up as one of my ‘three goes and in the recycling bin’ experiences, so it was with some trepidation (knowing that I’d be the reviewer) that I sat down to solve this one.

The crossword would have fitted well in the Telegraph Toughie spot, rather than as a Saturday lunchtime diversion, which is how I always view the NTSPP.   It took me a long time to solve, more than twice as long as the previous day’s Elkamere Toughie, with a fair amount of dictionary checking and a bit of investigoogling to make sure that if I had the right solution, it was for the right reasons.   Quite a few of the clues fall into the [relatively] easier to solve than explain in simple terms category too.

I really liked the splendid clues that are 5a, 3d and 7d, plus a couple of others,  so, I’m hoping that as Kath knows how difficult (she and) I found the crossword, she’ll let me get away with three favourites this time.


1a           Talk about America and Ireland retrospectively (8)
CAUSERIE    Idle chatter  – the abbreviation used to mean about, an abbreviated way of referring to America and a reversal (retrospectively) of the Irish word for Ireland.

5a           Proverbially more working class (6)
LESSON     If you know your proverbs, you should have remembered that XXXX is more.   Follow the XXXX with the adverb meaning working.

9a           European grant backing game show (8)
TELEPLAY    A drama specially written for a particular medium.   A reversal (backing) of the abbreviation for European and a verb meaning to grant or allow, followed by a game (the BRB refers to this as Shakespearian)

10a         Street with falling water pressure (6)
STRAIN    The abbreviation for street and the water that falls from the sky.

12a         Speak for a terrorist group (5)
ORATE   This lurker  is easier to spot when the clue is printed all on one line, and not over two when you print off the pdf.     It is hidden in fOR A TErrorist

13a         Proof of pilot visiting crew bars (9)
TESTAMENT    A verb meaning to pilot, a preposition meaning an activity such as visiting, into which is inserted (bars) another word for crew.

14a         Drum and Bass production? (12)
PISCICULTURE   Thank goodness for checking letters and Mr CS who knew that the drum is indeed a fish, just like the bass, which enabled me  complete this word meaning  the rearing of fish by artificial means.


18a         Revolting action taken with dimple or spot (7,5)
DECIMAL POINT    An anagram (revolting) of ACTION taken with DIMPLE.

21a         Real feather in cute hat (9)
AUTHENTIC    I hadn’t seen feather as an anagram indicator before (presumably when it means to rotate in manner of an oar) , but it is what tells us  to rearrange IN CUTE HAT.

23a         Firm dropping book off (5)
STALE    Remove the B (dropping book) from an adjective meaning standing firm.

24a         Whole Navy draped with English flag (6)
ENTIRE    The abbreviation for Navy is draped with, or goes between, the abbreviation for English and a verb meaning to become weary (flag)

25a         Anonymous newspaper probing second home of minister (8)
VICARAGE    A and an informal term for a newspaper put inside (probing) a preposition used to denote someone second in command of something.


26a         Gear stick on limited edition vans (6)
TACKLE    To stick (fasten in a loose, often temporary manner) followed by the ‘vans’ or leading letters  of  Limited and Edition.

27a         Heartless star in Speed (8)
CELERITY   Misleading capitals time – all you need to do is remove the ‘heart’ of a person for distinction or fame (star) to get another word for speed or quickness.


1d           Prisoner smuggling outrageous material (6)
COTTON     An informal term for a prison ‘smuggling’  the three letters used to mean outrageous.

2d           YouTube video over weight? (6)
UPLOAD   A adverb meaning above and a burden or weight.

3d           It’s one or the other, for example (9)
EUPHEMISM    “It” and “the other” are examples of milder terms used in place of something that might be deemed to be offensive.


4d           Where trucker might be delayed around university is unclear (12)
INARTICULATE    Something not uttered clearly could be described as this  as, probably, could the following explanation.   A trucker might be IN his easily-manoeuvrable lorry,  this should be followed by a word meaning delayed, and the abbreviation for University placed between the two.  

6d           Theatre opening with artist in support of old actor (5)
EXTRA    A prefix meaning former (old), the ‘opening’ of Theatre and the usual abbreviation for artist.

7d           Small (possibly Chinese) watch (5-3)
STAKE-OUT   The abbreviation for Small and what I think of the American expression for food cooked by a restaurant (possibly Chinese)  and then eaten back at home.


8d           20-1 outsiders in Italian event ensure breaking news (8)
NINETEEN    This really clever wordplay means that you don’t notice the definition until long after you should.   The answer to the sum is obtained by taking the ‘outsiders’ of ItaliaN  EvenT and EnsurE and putting them between (breaking) two lots of the abbreviation for News.


11d         Film on classification of drugs like LSD (12)
PSYCHOACTIVE   Another clue where the checking letters and some muttering finally did the trick.   One of Mr Hitchcock’s films followed by another word for on in the sense of working.


15d         Get cloak worn by Special Constable, perhaps (9)
LANDSCAPE   The abbreviation for Special is worn by or put inside a verb meaning to get and a type of cloak.


16d         Next to nothing cut during American depression (8)
ADJACENT     Almost all of the first (non-offensive part) of a hyphenated American slang expression meaning nothing at all is put between (during) the abbreviation for American and a depression.

17d         Sent base change of tactics (8)
ECSTATIC   Sent into raptures –  the letter representing the base in the natural system of logarithms (where would I be without the BRB?) followed by an anagram (change) of TACTICS.

19d         Republican organisation notes climbing expedition (6)
SAFARI   A reversal (climbing) of an Irish Republican organisation and some musical notes.


20d         Within where systematic blasphemy is to be found (6)
HERESY   Another lurker that’s easier to find when the clue is all on one line.  This one is hidden within wHERE Systematic.

22d         Myths offered up about national record (5)
ENROL   To enter in a list (record)  –  a reversal (offered up in a Down clue) of traditional learning (myths) into which is inserted the abbreviation for National.

Waking early and deciding not to lie in bed mentally rewriting this review but to get up and publish it, I see, from the few comments posted, that I wasn’t alone in finding this a tough crossword.   Thanks to Lohengrin for the challenge.  I am now, literally, going back to lie down in a darkened room!



  1. Gazza
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Lohengrin for the lunchtime enjoyment. I managed three-quarters of this at a reasonable pace then took an age for the NW corner. There are loads of clues to like, including 5a, 14a, 3d and 15d, but I’ll pick 8d as my favourite for the penny drop moment.

  2. dutch
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    All done and parsed – bloody hell Lohengrin, that was hard work. Extreme lateral thinking required – didn’t come naturally. Congratulations, quite a masterpiece. I’ve done enough work for today, now I’m going to have a rest (I hope) with the MPP.

    Many thanks

  3. Kath
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I can’t do this at all. :sad:
    Going to cut the grass and see if that helps . . .

    • dutch
      Posted May 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I think you can – maybe you need to do a toughie review to realise you can do anything

      • crypticsue
        Posted May 7, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’ve done a fair number of Toughie reviews but it doesn’t necessarily help you solve difficult crosswords, of which this one.

      • Kath
        Posted May 7, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I think you must be having a laugh.
        Have cut 1/2 acre of grass – it didn’t help – I didn’t really think that it would – it’s quite nice to be right about something.

        • Lohengrin
          Posted May 8, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink | Reply

          I’m sorry you’re finding it tough, Kath, hopefully crypticsue’s write-up will help somewhat. Thanks for the feedback.

  4. baerchen
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    whoa this was really hard and I had to cheat on 4, 13 and 14. Lots to admire here, many thanks to Lohengrin

  5. windsurfer23
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Lohengrin for a tricky challenge.

    1A is not the place to start. Nice clue for 14 although a missed opportunity for a homophone there!

    One or two I BIFD but I think I’ve got most of the parsing done now. Pretty much the same list of good uns that Gazza gave above.

  6. Maize
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A high quality puzzle with some answers which came by wordplay alone, like 1a and 27a, and some which had wordplay I’d never met before, like the anagram indicator in 21a (which I still don’t quite see how it can be – hairdressing perhaps?) and a few abbreviations new to me, like the end of 26a.
    Of course Lohengrin has balanced obscure words with clear wordplay and obscure wordplay with familiar answers, so no complaints, but definitely a tough workout – took me ages!
    Here’s a list of the clues I ticked: 5a,10a, 14a, 18a, 23a, 24a, 3d ( v.hard though), 4d, 6d, 7d, 11d, but my runaway favourite was 8d – laugh out loud!
    Many thanks Lohengrin and Big Dave.

    • dutch
      Posted May 7, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

      end of 26a – not a standard abbreviation, vans = fronts of previous 2 words

      • Maize
        Posted May 7, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Ah – then an unusual indicator for first letter, only ever met it as a juxtaposition indicator before. Thanks Dutch.

  7. Jane
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Goodness, that was really tough for me! Still haven’t managed to complete either 9 or 23a.
    Think my top two are 5&21a – loved the anagram indicator in the latter.

    Thanks to Lohengrin – you’re a hard taskmaster!

  8. Expat Chris
    Posted May 7, 2016 at 10:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am struggling, I have a tiny toehold but by no means a foothold.

  9. Lohengrin
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks crypticsue for the review and others for the comments.

    It would be disingenuous of me to say that I don’t think this puzzle is particularly difficult in light of the comments above; it certainly wasn’t intended to be particularly hard, bar 3 or 4 entries. As a setter I find judging the difficulty of any given set of a clues a struggle but take all feedback on board.


    • Maize
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink | Reply

      It was a doddle compared to Radler’s MPP!
      And thanks for the review Sue – beautifully done as ever.

      • crypticsue
        Posted May 8, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink | Reply

        So very true (the comment about the MPP)

        I’ve talked to a number of setters over the years about difficulty level – as one of them once said, it is hard to tell as they know all the answers!!

        • Maize
          Posted May 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I th that’s why so many setters are ex-teachers. You get a sense of where to pitch the difficulty level…A class of teenagers will soon rebel on you if the work is too hard!

  10. dutch
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    many thanks for the review CS. BRB also has feather=shape (as in hair), but not sure which was intended. In 9a i just read game as a verb (gaming = playing computer games). And I wondered whether “one” might be a third example in 3d (though it reads better with just 2)

    now to return to MPP, which I was hoping would be a rest but I seem to have a few left in NW.

    • crypticsue
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      I too orginally took game to be a verb but then I did what I’m always telling Brian to do and checked the BRB. As Shakespeare is everywhere at the moment, it seemed only right to add that reference.

    • dutch
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Game as a verb is in brb too, without the need to invoke old language uses – or perhaps Lohengrin did intend the Shakespearean version….

      • Lohengrin
        Posted May 8, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

        No reference to SP on my part: game the system, play the system.

        • dutch
          Posted May 8, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Thanks – it’s nice to understand setter’s intentions

  11. Jane
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks for the review CS – I’m so relieved to learn that even you found this one to be a toughie.
    My hairdresser always uses the word ‘feathering’ to describe ‘messing a style up a bit’ rather than leaving it in straight cut lines, so it made perfect sense to me as an anagram indicator!

  12. Kath
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    :phew: Having read the hints, and in several cases the answers too, I now feel slightly better – I’d never have got quite a few of these.
    If I possessed a hat I’d take it off to CS but I don’t so maybe I’ll just say that she can add a few more favourites as far as I’m concerned!
    With thanks to Lohengrin and thanks and admiration to CS.

  13. Tedgar
    Posted May 8, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink | Reply

    Being a not very good solver I was expecting to find this impenetrable after reading CS’s intro, but must have been on Lohengrin’s wavelength today as got through it at a fairly steady pace bar two or three stinkers. Loads of great clues here and lots to admire. Favourites: 3D, 14A, 10A, 7D and stand-out clue 8D (love the def). I’m all for expanding the hackneyed set of indicators, but still have a QM against ‘feather’ after checking meanings in Collins. Also not crazy about the construction in 13A, but these are minor quibbles in an excellent puzzle.

    Thanks Lohengrin and CS for the blog.

    • Lohengrin
      Posted May 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Tedgar

      I used the feather clue in the DIY comp for this word a couple of years ago. Anax was judging that week and was OK with it. I always took it in the shape (hair) sense. The bars stuff is flagged by some and not by others, I’ve been pulled for it before. :)

  14. 2Kiwis
    Posted May 9, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    We did not get on to this when it was published but printed it out a day late and have been quietly picking away at it all day between other duties. Eventually we managed to get everything sorted with the NW being the last to yield. We are in awe of the very clever cluing and it was very satisfying to finally sort it out.
    Many thanks Lohengrin.

    • Lohengrin
      Posted May 9, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Cheers, 2Kiwis, I’m glad you managed to get through it


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