NTSPP – 351 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 351

NTSPP – 351

Meeting Points by Elgar

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

This puzzle was distributed at the S&B meeting in York on Saturday 29 October.

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review of this puzzle by crypticsue follows:

“Meeting Points”

In twelve clues wordplay ignores one of six two-letter pairs (each pair therefore occurring twice). All other clues (though not some letter counts) are normal. 1 & 6 (across different time zones) and 31 may be considered meeting points.  Purists will argue that this preamble and square 1 should both contain a comma. 

I read the preamble and then, after a bit of a lie down, followed my usual practice of ignoring it until I’d solved a few clues.  I always work my way down the Across clues and then the Downs, filling in solutions as I ‘get’ them.   One of the members of my crèche once commented to another that ‘you know you’re in trouble when the first clue Sue gets is 23d’.   Well, I’m not entirely sure who is in trouble here apart from me, but the first clue I solved in this tricky S&B Special was 21d! 

I would imagine that those attending the S&B and solving this in groups of two or more, with access to the interweb or a copy of the BRB, might have finished the solving process of this very difficult crossword a lot quicker than I did on my own.   It is one of the four hardest crosswords I’ve solved in the last week ;) but at least I had lots of time and the assistance of my friends Mr Chambers and Mr Google to help me to complete this one.

I did wonder whether the addition of varying quantities of real ale might have helped or hindered the solving process but decided not to test the theory! These Elgar special puzzles usually have a Nina and this one is no exception.   Indeed, it was spotting the possibility of certain words appearing at the top right and bottom left of the grid, and reading the preamble again, that helped me to solve the Down clues in the top left and bottom right.    There is a solved grid at the bottom of this review which highlights the ‘missing’ pairs.   I’ve also added the full explanation of the preamble and how it relates to the Nina.


4a           With added cocaine, I’m thinking (3)
CUM The abbreviation for cocaine and an interjection used when hesitating before speaking.

9a           Dubai’s new numerical puzzle finally in the Listener’s domain? (7)0
AUDIBLE An anagram (new) of DUBAI followed by the final letters of numerical and puzzle.

10a         Ronnie and Reggie’s very fine travel organisation? (7)
AIRLINE One of the clues I put a * by.  You have to know who Ronnie and Reggie were, and which part of London they came from, and therefore how they might say an adjective meaning very thin (fine), and then you can smile as you realise what the travel organisation must be.

11a         Please help us habitual drinkers! (5)
SOAKS A three-letter appeal for help or rescue has one of the two-letter pairs inserted to get some heavy or habitual drinkers

12a         Starts back, but not with Atahualpa among them (4,5)
INCA KINGS Remove the W (not with) from a way of saying shrinking or starting back, insert two of the missing paired letters and you get the people of whom Atahualpa was one.  Alternatively, do what I did and look him up and then work out the wordplay. 

13a         Rampant dingo impregnates the whole Biology group (10)
SUBKINGDOM An anagram (rampant) of DINGO inserted into another way of saying the whole, together with another pair of missing letters.

14a         Something circuitous in logic dismissive of N Circular of old (4)
ORBY An old and now rarely-used adjective meaning circular or spherical is obtained by removing the N (dismissive of N) from a logic circuit in computing and adding another of the missing pairs.

17a         Means to spend a day at the Colosseum, having got on (7)
READIES The two letters used to mean ‘on the subject of’ (on), A (from the clue) and the Latin for day (as used at the Colosseum in Rome)

[Thanks Maize]

19a         Whenever drinking ale rounds, hope eventually for this? (7)
FREEBIE A two-letter conjunction meaning whenever ‘drinking’ or having inserted some ale is then reversed (rounds) and followed by the final (eventually) letter of hope

20a         Unpackaged utensils for afternoon refreshment facility (4)
EASE ‘unpackaged’ indicates the need to remove the outside wrappings of a set of utensils for afternoon refreshment

21a         “No mistake”, Dynamo team source admits, not playing club in Transvaal (10)
KNOBKERRIE My sister-in-law lived in South Africa and has a collection of the clubs that might be used in the Transvaal so I’m prepared to admit that once I had a couple of checking letters, I wrote in the club and then worked out the wordplay.  

There is a Ukrainian football team called Dynamo xxxx, the last letter of the second word can be used as an abbreviation for versus as in Man U versus Man City.  You need to remove that last letter (not playing) and then put  NO (from the clue), one of the missing pairs  and a ‘mistake’ after the first letter of the name and then finish with the second and third letters of the team name.


24a         Missing mass, soldier enters cathedral without delay (9)
INSTANTER Remove the M (missing mass) from a cathedral (such as the one those at the S&B might have found time to visit) and insert one of Crosswordland’s soldiers

26a         Musical or poetic legend, but not the last (5)
OSSIA An Italian musical conjunction meaning ‘or’ is obtained by removing the last letter from a legendary Gaelic poet

28a         How showy quartz/mica rock can be without one (7)
GAYNESS An archaic way of saying gladsome or showily happy is obtained by removing the I (without one) from some quartz/mica rock, and putting in another of the missing paired letters.  This picture turned up when I was searching for an illustration for ‘gladsome’ and I liked it so…


29a         Perverse tree-hugging aspect to personality, summing up (2,1,4)
IN A WORD A reversal (perverse) of another name for the mountain ash tree is inserted (hugging) into one of the three parts of a personality

30a         Plant, essentially, needs pruning (3)
ERS A member of the vetch family is obtained by removing the outside letters (needs pruning) of a Latin expression meaning essentially.


1d           Does business with computer networks, not women (5)
EBAYS Not in the BRB but I found online examples of this verb meaning to do business with a particular online site.   Remove the W (not women) from some networks and add another of the pairs of letters.   This is the first of eight clues where the solution is longer than the number of lights available, so you have to put the first two letters in the top square, so that you get the first bit of the Nina.

2d           Reasoned in error new lab’s probing poisoned seeds (6,5)
ORDEAL BEANS These poisoned beans were administered as a test of people accused as witchcraft.  An anagram (in error) of REASONED into which is inserted an anagram (new) of LAB.   You will need to put the first two letters of the solution into the top square for Nina purposes

3d           Afternoon at work, is it, looking over old country? (9)
ABYSSINIA A reversal (looking over) of the abbreviation for Afternoon, the adverb meaning at work, is (from the clue) and the two-letter abbreviation for sex appeal (it) into which is inserted one of the ‘missing’ pairs to give us the former (old) name for Ethiopia.

4d           Surrender forced in glass houses? (6)
CEDING ‘Houses’ helpfully indicates that you are looking for a lurker in forCED IN Glass

5d           With a month’s holiday, take military leave? (5,3)
MARCH OFF The third month of the year and a way of saying you might be away from work (on holiday for example)

6d           Year on vacation north of a Californian city (5)
YREKA So you read the first three words and realise that ‘on vacation’ means I have to take the middle letters from YeaR.  Then you wonder whether there is a Californian city that starts with YR and ends in A (from the clue).   A quick investigoogle reveals that if you put another of the ‘missing’ pairs of letters in the middle, the Californian city does exist.

7d           Stars getting in on 2016 Olympic stage? (5)
ORION Simply insert the city where the 2016 Olympics was held into ON from the clue.   Another solution where the first two letters share the first square.

8d           Back from Limerick, crossing Irish Sea to Calais? Stuff! (10)
KERSEYMERE Sharing Elgar’s obvious love of words, obscure or otherwise, meant that this fine twilled cloth (stuff) was lurking in my memory banks.  You need the ‘back’ from Limerick, another name for Irish Gaelic into which is inserted the French (as used in Calais) word for sea.  You’ll also need to insert another of those pesky pairs of letters to get the ‘stuff’

13d         Wails carols about first 60 mins of Life? (10)
SHRIEKINGS Carols here is a verb so you need a synonym for carols into which is insert the abbreviation for the time taken by 60 minutes, I (one, first) and another pair of ‘missing’ letters

15d         Falcon Crest broadcast in Metal Mickey time? (6,5)
ROBERT SCOTT A clever and sneaky and penny-dropping definition –  Falcon is the middle name of a polar explorer, his first and last names are obtained from an anagram (broadcast) of CREST inserted into a mechanical man such as Metal Mickey and followed by the abbreviation for Time.  The last two letters share the bottom square

16d         This way brave chap quits, having lost heart (4,3,3)
HERE YOU ARE Put together a brave chap and an adjective meaning quits or even, remove the middle two letters (having lost heart) and insert another ‘missing’ pair into the result.  Again the last two letters share the same square

18d         To decontaminate all there, it is installed (8)
SANITISE IT IS (from the clue) installed or inserted into an adjective meaning all there or sound in mind

22d         “Willin'” suitor’s short snog under the counter (6)
BARKIS One of my favourite Dickens characters.   If, like me, you ‘did’ David Copperfield for O Level, you should remember Peggoty’s “willin’” suitor; a shortened word for a snog goes after a counter such as might be used by Miffypops.

23d         Democrat perhaps now secure, common perception of Trump? (3,3)
BAD EGG The abbreviation for Democrat and the abbreviation meaning for example (perhaps) inserted into the receptacle used in the phrase meaning that something is as good as secured.  The definition is a double one, with a small T for trump, a description of the aroma produced when breaking wind; with a capital T, a perception of the person who scarily might very soon be the President of the USA.  The last two letters go together in the final square

25d         Left toys in play pen (5)
STYLO An anagram (in play) of L (left) and TOYS.   Again, put the last two letters in the final square.

27d         Capacity of Nilots to break bread (5)
ARDEB An anagram (to break) of BREAD produces an Egyptian unit of capacity used for dry measure – Nilots being people indigenous to the Nile Valley.  Again, the final two letters share the bottom square.

The highlighted solved grid can be found – just ntspp_351

As for the preamble:

The top line has names for the same place in different time zones –  EBORACUM – the Roman name for   YORK – look at the top line and you can read it as EB or A cum (with) Y or K.
So the letter pairs are EY/EK, BY/BK and AY/AK. You could put a comma after ‘across’ and in square 31 . There is also a Nina across the bottom between SLOGGERS and the reversed BETTERS

23 comments on “NTSPP – 351

  1. It’s very quiet here today … almost like John Cage’s “Four thirty-three”.

    I haven’t been able to solve a single clue … so looking forward to the review tomorrow.

    Elgar wins again!

  2. Umm, well above my skill level, cheated a few answers, and still no further on.
    Look forward to the review for enlightenment.

  3. Oh dear – I haven’t even looked at the crossword but have just read the comments so far – it’s not looking good as far as I’m concerned.
    I’ve been in the garden all day – all the beastly bitey bugs are out :sad: but got lots done :smile:
    Need food and wine and want to watch the dancing – might leave this one until tomorrow or might just give it a miss.
    In the meantime good luck to CS with the review tomorrow – you’re very clever and very brave – I’m full of admiration.
    Please try to play nicely and have a good time in York to all of you who are there – is that an oxymoron? I do hope not . . .

  4. I didn’t even understand the blurb at the top.
    That will teach me to trespass where I shouldn’t.

    1. My view is that our setter likes you to feel comfortable with what he is doing and then he ramps it up a little more just to push you.

      Sometimes it works, but for many it doesn’t.

  5. The question is, do I just accept my limitations and move on, or do I keep banging my head against the wall in the hope that something breaks loose? Oh well, it’s only 7 pm here…

  6. THUD. That’s the sound of realization hitting me in the face. It actually woke me up (4:30 am here). At least I think I’ve got it.. So can’t look at the clues or the intro. Not that knowing (perhaps) what to do will help a whole lot with answers….

  7. Sue, I am filled with admiration.
    That’s the first time I’ve encountered a crossword with more than one letter in a square. I gave up early on but your explanation was quite an education – many thanks.
    Are we in the realms of Listener/ Inquisitor type puzzles, I wonder? One day I might tackle them…
    Meanwhile, a small point, but I think 17a might have the Latin for ‘day’ at the end, rather than the more familiar ‘ides’ which is the 15th, of course.
    Bravo to anyone who got past the first few!

    1. That’s what comes of spending so long learning ‘chunks’ of Julius Caesar. Now corrected.

  8. Many thanks to CS for explaining it all. I admired the cleverness of this (thanks to Elgar) much more than I liked it. I’m not a great fan of ‘special instructions’ especially ones as complicated as this and I would probably have binned this straight away after reading the preamble if the setter had not been Elgar. As it was I solved the ‘normal’ clues (with much help from Google) and did find the six pairs of 2-letters, but I had no idea how to handle the clues where the grid didn’t match the enumeration so I didn’t fill in any of those answers. Now that CS has explained the ‘two letters in one square’ solution I’m left feeling that this was rather unfair.
    The best clues for me were 10a and 15d (though I didn’t write the 15d answer in, because I couldn’t see how it fitted).

  9. Well, I filled the grid yesterday by a combination of checking, cheating and word searches… but I failed to see the NINAs and the missing paired letters, doh!

    Thanks John and crypticsue; very clever, too clever for a dullard like me. Let’s hope next week’s one is a bit easier!*

  10. Thanks from me too, CS. I eventually reached a grand total of 10 answers, and could parse only 8 of them.

    (I think your comma description may have gone walkabout while writing up that excellent thesis – it belongs in square 1, not 31, to make “E, B or A cum Y or K”.)

  11. We had a busy day but worked on this in fits and starts and then had another determined effort in the evening. The result of all this was that we ended up with two answers, one of which we were not certain about and no ideas for the letter pairs or false enumeration.
    Thanks for the explanations Sue.

  12. Well, I did sort out the “two letters” thingy…kind of. I woke up with a start to the voice in my head telling me to think outside the box. I took that literally and drew an extra across grid top and bottom and penciled the first or last letter in that. I’m afraid that wasn’t much help overall, though and I ended up with just six answers, though I thought 24A was an iffy word. Can’t say I enjoyed it but I have to respect Elgar’s ability. The blog was much needed and I thank CS for that. Hat’s off to anyone who got even halfway, let alone finished it.

  13. A bit late now but only just got round to looking – at the hints I mean – gave up on the crossword very quickly.
    I’m going to have a proper look and a proper read of the hints, and probably the answers too, tomorrow.
    In the meantime thanks, admiration and congratulations to CS.

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