NTSPP – 344

NTSPP – 344

Run Down by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This puzzle has a ghost theme, which is alluded to by the title.
But remember that lack of knowledge of a ghost theme does not affect the solving of the puzzle.

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows:

Phibs returns to the Saturday afternoon spot with a ghost-themed puzzle which appears to have gone down well with all the solvers who’ve commented so far.

It has been a long time since any crossword required me to do so much checking in the BRB.   Some of the definitions and the surface readings aren’t the friendliest or most helpful either, but I hope I’ve now managed to sort it all out – I expect when I get back from my walk, my email inbox will be full of messages telling me where I’ve gone wrong, but I can’t devote any more time to this as ‘real life’ including the East Kent tomato mountain won’t wait any longer. 

I did spot the theme, but If you haven’t spotted it yet, have a look under the Click Here at the bottom of the review.



1a           Get belt from puritan running amok with spades I abandoned (7)
UNSTRAP An anagram (running amok) of PURITAN with the abbreviation for Spades but without the I (I abandoned)

5a           Perhaps I dream about capturing Theresa’s heart (7)
ADMIRER I did like the surface reading of this one, although two anagram indicators might be considered excessive!  Perhaps and about tell you to rearrange I DREAM and R (the heart of TheResa.


9a           Withdrawn obsessive hoarding French art, diamonds and German porcelain (7)
DRESDEN A reversal (withdrawn) of an obsessive person (often in matters computer-related) ‘hoards’ the French word meaning art (here the old-fashioned way of saying ‘[you] are’) and the abbreviation for Diamonds


10a         Brief a Conservative, one infiltrating Liberal Clubs (7)
LACONIC The abbreviations for Liberal and Clubs are infiltrated by A (from the clue) the abbreviation for Conservative and the letter that looks like a number one.

11a         Adjusted pistol brought back by an unruly adolescent (9)
REGULATED A reversal (brought back in an Across clue) of a type of pistol, followed by A (from the clue) and an unruly (1950’s) adolescent

13a         Not having Ecstasy, supply crack (4)
QUIP Remove the E (not having Ecstasy) from a verb meaning to supply

14a         Woman in garden constantly scratching rear (3)
EVE There are lots of women in gardens – Kath and me for a start, but here you require the original woman in a garden who can be obtained by scratching the rearmost letter from an adverb meaning constantly

16a         Pedal dropped by irregular mechanic (7)
ARTISAN A mechanic or handcraftsman is obtained by removing the musical abbreviation for  pedal from an irregular soldier

17a         With steps alongside, fighter plane gets ready for take-off (7)
FLEDGES The second “is that really an abbreviation for …?” in a row.   The abbreviation for a fighter plane (usually followed by a number to indicate the particular version of that plane), followed by (alongside) what Phibs calls steps but I’d call shelves.


19a         Essentially, Marston’s beer is flat (5)
STALE The middle two letters (essentially) of MarSTons followed by another word for beer

20a         Risks Mad Hatter’s tarts he dished out (7)
THREATS   Now in 5a we had two anagram indicators, here we have two choices of anagram fodder – HATTERS and/or TARTS HE, both of which can be ‘dished out’ or rearranged to provide the solution

23a         Declare how old someone is? That’s mean! (7)
AVERAGE A word meaning to declare followed by a way of saying how old someone is

26a         Dash off to box in   Swan (3)
PEN Triple definition time.   A verb meaning to write (dash indicating a quick note rather than a well-thought out letter), a verb meaning to put in a small enclosure (box in) or a misleadingly capitalised female swan

27a         One at rank holds ten? (4)
TAXI An anagram (rank) of I (one) AT holds the Roman numeral for ten, although if you take the surface reading literally, it would have to be quite a large vehicle.


28a         What’s required for disco dancing etc one’s missing, lost or forgotten perhaps(9)
ADJECTIVE Discos usually require someone to play the records, so you need A xx followed by an anagram (dancing) of ETC and an informal way  of saying I have (one has = one’s)

30a         Almost inveigle criminal into putting mask on (7)
VEILING An anagram (criminal) of almost all of INVEIGLe

31a         Canine barking a lot – no water, maybe (7)
COOLANT The abbreviation a dentist would use for Canine followed by an anagram (barking) of A LOT NO

32a         New Government prefer hugs to disdain (7)
NEGLECT A verb meaning to disdain, ignore of disregard is the solution to yet another clue that’s easier to solve than explain.   N (new) followed by a verb meaning to choose as the best of the options (prefer) which hugs or goes round the abbreviation for Government

33a         Following introduction to Simon Rattle I’m seen getting measure of conductor (7)
SIEMENS Following S (the introduction to Simon) you need to rattle (or make an anagram of) IM SEEN to get the SI Unit of Electrical Conductance


1d           Deviant departs with nun’s knickers (10)
UNDERPANTS Another anagram (deviate) of DEPARTS and NUN.  I did like this surface reading!


2d           Cunning minor caught (7)
SLEIGHT Another word for cunning or trickery is a homophone (caught) of an adjective meaning minor or trifling

3d           Gets annoyed about daughter repeating obscure questions (7)
RIDDLES Another way of saying gets annoyed goes about two lots (repeating) of the abbreviation for Daughter

4d           Those who rue having entered Fastnet in epic capsizing (9)
PENITENTS A reversed (capsizing) lurker (or should I now call it a rekrul?) can be found in faSTNET IN EPic

5d           TV chef making turnover was sick (5)
AILED A reversal (making turnover) of a TV chef who hasn’t been on our screens for a while but it still recognised by her Christian name alone.


6d           Monkey about under raincoat (only after leaving uni) (7)
MACAQUE An abbreviated raincoat followed by A (about) and an adjective meaning sole or only from which the letters UNI (leaving uni) should be removed.

7d           Class drank in gambling houses (7)
RANKING Another lurker – this one housed by dRANK IN Gambling

8d           Nissan LEAF maybe parked up to charge (4)
RACE Charge in the sense of run at speed.   The Nissan LEAF is an example of an eco-friendly vehicle so you need an abbreviated way of describing it and other vehicles of that type

12d         Stop American tank bearing south (5)
AVAST A nautical interjection that always makes me think of Captain Pugwash!   The abbreviation for American and a type of tank, the latter bearing or having inserted the abbreviation for South


15d         Hospital stopping operation before I upset women in theatre (10)
USHERETTES The abbreviation for Hospital ‘stops’ or goes inside another word for operation or way of doing something, the result then going before a reversal (upset in a Down clue) of the role Phibs (I) is performing here


17d         Female circuit judge wants no end of delightful cakes (9)
FLAPJACKS The abbreviation for Female, a circuit of a track, the abbreviation for Judge, and a verb meaning wants without its first letter, which just happens to be the letter to be found at the end of delightful

18d         Left Eastern character facing Victoria Embankment (5)
LEVEE The abbreviations for Left and Eastern and how you’d spell out the ‘character facing’ or letter at the front of Victoria. Anyone else still singing American Pie since they solved this clue?? :)


21d         Travelling aimlessly round with Garmin out of order (7)
ROAMING An anagram (order) of GARMIN and the letter that is a shortened form of Of.  Because the clue has the word ‘round’ in it, I did wonder whether I needed a round letter and the anagram indicator would then be ‘out of order’ but …..

22d         Going after any one of seven, I nearly catch Dopey (7)
ASININE Dopey in the sense of idiotic.  The seven here refers to the Seven Deadly “naughtinesses” so you need A (one) xxx followed by I (from the clue) and two of the three letters of a verb meaning to catch (eg a fish).

24d         Bound to suffer defeat after surrender of lead to Iceland in Nice upset (7)
ENCLOSE To set bounds to, limit or restrain.  A verb meaning to suffer defeat goes after a reversal (upset in a Down clue) of NICE, once you have ‘surrendered’ the ‘lead’ to Iceland. 

25d         Some idiot engaged in European campaign (7)
AGITATE To campaign by stirring up public feeling.  A (some), a derogatory term for a fool, an informal way of saying engaged in, and the abbreviation for European

28d         First signs of any new guests spreading towels produce terrible anxiety for Germans (5)
ANGST the first ‘signs’ of Any New Guests Spreading Towels

29d         Flush not quite happening (4)
EVEN A word meaning flush or level with is obtained from almost all of a happening or occurrence

The ghost theme is a run of playing cards in sequence hidden in the Down solutions – as Phibs said there is quite a heavy hint to the theme in words included in the clues for 1a, 5a, 9a and 10a.  If you still can’t find them then ntspp_344


  1. Gazza
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I spent ages looking at the completed grid searching for the theme until I spotted the hitherto unnoticed title when all became apparent. Thanks to Phibs for a lovely puzzle (even the large number of anagrams didn’t annoy me) with some great penny drop moments. I’ll nominate one of 13a, 17a, 28a, 6d and 28d as favourite.

  2. dutch
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Solved this in the pub during the man city – Man united game. Didn’t notice a theme during solving so I shall look for it now.

    • dutch
      Posted September 10, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      ok I guess I can see some grid entries related to the title but I’m worried I’m missing something.

      very enjoyable solve. I got 14a as a freebie having solved the down clues. 20a and 26a confused me for a bit until I saw what was happening. Some new single letter indicators for me. Surface grammar grates a little in 32a.

      I really liked 13a, 7d, 22d, 15d, 28a, 28d and many more

      Congratulations Phibs on an excellent puzzle

      • Maize
        Posted September 10, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I got some freebies too- on the right hand side from the Nina!

  3. Jane
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 4:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve completed the grid but, my goodness, I need the review for quite a lot of the parsing!
    As for the theme – like Dutch, I can see some relevant words in the grid but doubt that I’ve got the full measure of it.

    Leader board shows 13,23,28&33a plus 15&28d – the laurels probably go to 28d.
    Thanks, Phibs, sorry to be so bad at the whys and wherefores – I’ll keep worrying at it.

    • Gazza
      Posted September 10, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The title is a big hint to the ‘theme’ – it’s a sequence (run) of cards in the down columns.

      • Phibs
        Posted September 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

        …each of the first four across clues contains a word providing an extra hint…

        • Kath
          Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Thanks – now I think I get it – well, more than I did to begin with.

        • Jane
          Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Ah! Thank you Gazza and Phibs – all becomes clear. Not at all the sort of ‘run down’ that was in my mind!

        • dutch
          Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

          that’s clever too

    • dutch
      Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink | Reply


      many thanks, i thought i was missing something! – very, very nice!

      • dutch
        Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

        AND there are quite a few words in the grid that can be interpreted as run down… very clever

  4. Hanni
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Not straightforward but so much fun!! I like anagrams so no complaints from me. Lots and lots of highlights and I am struggling to name a favourite. Just a lovely solve!!

    Many thanks to Phibs and to CS in advance!

  5. Kath
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That was good fun – actually, it is still good fun because I haven’t quite finished it – several gaps, all in the bottom left corner.
    Like Jane I have quite a few that I don’t understand but having got the theme now maybe I’ll get there in the end.
    Right – back to it.
    Thanks to Phibs for keeping me out of trouble for most of what has been a very wet afternoon.

  6. windsurfer23
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Phibs, very clever, although I only saw the NINAs after reading the comments.

    Many good clues but my personal favourite is 28d. Apparently in some parts of Italy this summer they were fining people who left unattended towels on beach beds.

    • Kath
      Posted September 10, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Re the last bit of your comment – so they should but what would probably be far more effective would be to chuck the offending towels into the sea! Or am I just mean . . . ?

  7. Kath
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Here I go, again.
    First off – when I said that I had an almost completely empty bottom left corner it was my kind of ‘left corner’ i.e. the right one! Oh dear!
    I now have an answer to all the clues – that doesn’t mean I understand all my answers by a very long way.
    I still think that I’m missing a lot but I’m sure that CS will sort me out in her review tomorrow.
    Lots of good clues and when I understand others then I’m sure that I will find even more but, for now, I liked 14a and 1d because they both made me laugh and also 33a and 5d.
    More thanks to Phibs and, in advance, to CS.

    • Jane
      Posted September 10, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thought it might have been the right corner. Not to worry, Kath, I guessed that was what you meant!

      • Kath
        Posted September 10, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Oh dear! :roll:

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 8:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That was quite a challenge and really good fun. We had no idea of the Nina until we read the comments above and now have it sorted. Very clever indeed. 28a had us head-scratching for ages and a real Aha moment when we eventually got it.
    Thanks Phibs.

  9. Maize
    Posted September 10, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Without sounding too boastful I hope, I spotted the Nina about a quarter of the way in, although a) for a bit I was expecting ‘eleven’ in column 9 and b) I didn’t notice the four key words in the first four clues.
    A brilliant grid composition Phibs – with the added bonus of those white blocks near the middle – must have taken quuite some doing, and only one slight obscurity at 33a.
    Many clues ticked – I really, really enjoyed this solve sitting in the Cornish sunshine on my patio – bliss!
    20a deserves mention for an audacious bit of cluing – never seen that before, but my clue of the day has to go to the sublime bit of serendipity which is 1d.
    Many thanks Phibs, I’ll be looking forward to the next!

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    I have 31A, 25D and 8D to go and a print-out littered with question marks. No idea about the ghost theme until I read the comments and not much more now. Back later.

  11. Jane
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks, CS. It was mainly the single letter abbs. that caught me out although I also failed to parse the ‘withdrawn obsessive’ and was still trying to find an American military vehicle instead of the obvious tank in 12d!
    Like you, I used the ’round letter’ in the parsing of 21d and think that actually works more successfully.

    I did pick up on ‘jack’ during the solve and thought 6d was an unlikely word for Phibs to put in a puzzle – if only I’d let my glance wander as far as the first 2 letters in 24d I might have got the theme without the help from Gazza and Phibs. However, it’s easy to say that with hindsight when, in all honesty, a game of cards didn’t occur to me from the title.

    Thanks again to Phibs – a very clever puzzle, but I’m never going to be a fan of the rather more obscure one-letter abbs!

  12. Maize
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    Brilliantly detailed explanations – many thanks CS. In particular for the abbreviations in 16a, 17a and the last three letters of 27a.

    I too thought the ’round’ in 21d had to be the round letter. For 17a I wondered if Phibs had meant edges in its verbal sense, and with 5a I took the ‘Perhaps’ be an indicator that this was definition by example… not sure…

    As for 18d, thanks for the reminder, love that song – my mind had gone to Led Zep IV though!

  13. dutch
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks for the review CS, especially since you were in a rush.

    I agree with Jane that the second take on 21d is correct: an anagram (out of order) of ’round’ (=O) plus GARMIN: though this is getting pretty close to indirect anagram territory.

    In 5a, I thought ‘perhaps’ was not an anagram indicator, but necessary to compensate for mentioning one specific lady (Theresa) – without ‘perhaps’, the implication would be that all people who satisfied the answer would dream of capturing Theresa’s heart, which would no doubt end in tears. So, kind of a definition-by-example indicator (unfortunately, not adjacent to theresa). That leaves ‘about’ as the anagram indicator, as mentioned.

    In 6d the 2nd A comes from an abbreviation for about (another less commonly seen abbreviation).

    Thanks again Phibs for all the fun

    (ah, Maize, I see we crossed – great minds and all that)

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Not exactly a rush blog posting wise – I drafted the review yesterday and was hoping overnight ‘cogitation’ might help me resolve some of my issues such as the possible indirect anagram in 21d.

      I’d marked the A for about on my solved piece of paper so why that didn’t make it to the review, I’ll never know. I’ve added it now.

      I’ve been rushing ever since, 2 1/2 pints of tomato sauce made and in the freezer, five mile walk, lunch, three cheesy bacon loaves in the oven, and so now all I’ve got to do is make two lemon cakes (also for the freezer0, solve and then draft the blog of today’s Virgilius puzzle and then the rest of the day is my own :phew:

      • dutch
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

        sounds busy – you’re making me hungry – I hope blogging the Virgilius is as much fun as solving it,

        thanks again

  14. Expat Chris
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you CS for the review, which took me a lot longer than usual to read because there were half a dozen answers I couldn’t parse…and I now see why. I thought there were some really terrific clues like 28A, 33A, 1D and 28D, and then there were others that, for me, left something to be desired. Thanks, Phibs, but I have to say that the song I now have stuck in my head is “I Did it My Way.”

  15. Phibs
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to CS for the review and to everyone for their feedback; I’m still learning about setting blocked puzzles (probably pretty obvious :) ), so good or bad it’s much appreciated. I know I’m not going to please everyone with every clue, but I was very happy to see that a number of different clues seemed to have been enjoyed.

    Regarding the parsings, the clues for 5a and 21d were changed at the eleventh hour. 5a originally read ‘I dream about capturing Theresa’s heart’, the ‘Perhaps’ being added, as dutch rightly says, to indicate that not every romantic adorer has their affections focused on the PM. 26d was previously an &lit, ‘Wandering round with Garmin’ – in both versions, the ’round’ was the indication of the ‘O’ in the anagram fodder. I think perhaps the paucity of words in the first version makes the indirect indication more obvious.

    20a actually has separate anagram indicators for the two anagrams, ‘Mad’ and ‘dished out’. Sorry about the obscure single letter abbreviations, particularly the two in consecutive clues!

    And I was doing really well at keeping songs out of my head until Maize mentioned Led Zep… :whistle:

    • Jane
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for dropping in, Phibs. Must admit that with both 5a and 21d I preferred your original clues! I don’t see the need for ‘perhaps’ in 5a since ‘I’ relates to a specific person.
      Apology accepted re: obscure single letter abbs. I’d like to add ‘just don’t do it again’ but I suspect that you very well may……..

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’m just wondering whether I’ve worked out the reason why I have problems getting on your wavelength (Phibs not Jane!) – I have terrible trouble solving barred crosswords and much prefer blocked puzzles. Perhaps one day we’ll meet in the middle!

    • dutch
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for dropping in again Phibs. Seems to me you’re pretty good at the blocked puzzles.

  16. stanXYZ
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Some new Abbreviations for me to forget remember.

    6d – A = (A)bout
    31a C = (C)anine
    16a P = (Pedal)

    Thanks to Phibs for the puzzle and to CS for explaining all the many bits that I didn’t understand.

  17. Kath
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks so much to CS for sorting out all my problems and, again, to Phibs for the crossword.
    Lots of new and recognised abbreviations to remember for me.
    I would like to point out that, although CS and I both spend lots of time in our gardens, we’re usually far too busy picking produce, pulling out weeds and cutting grass to be scratching our rears!

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