MPP 063 (review) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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MPP 063 (review)

Monthly Prize Puzzle – 063

August 2017

Quinquennia – A Puzzle by Phibs

The August MPP from Phibs was, as someone said to me in an email, possibly the easiest MPP ever, both from a solving point of view and for finding ‘the solution to 40’ to enter in the box. I spotted what 40 represented once I’d solved 35a as Mr CS and I got married 35 years ago next month and I’ve been trying to persuade him, so far without much hope of success, that we should return to Capri so that he can buy me a larger piece of the appropriate jewellery than the very tiny stud earrings which were all we could afford last time we were there. Phibs has been exceptionally clever with his anniversaries and their clues as the solution to 10a is indeed the gift for ten years of marriage; and in turn: 20a 20 years; 25a 25; 5d 5 years; 15d 15 years; and 30d 30 years – but would you have noticed if you hadn’t been the blogger muttering to herself that she needed a picture of ‘china’ for 20a?

RUBY was the solution that needed to be entered into the box for submission to the competition. The name drawn from the electronic hat by Mrs BD was Tim King (who you’ll probably know as the setter Encota) , he wins his choice of a Telegraph Crossword Puzzle Book.


1a    Was nearly correct about one standing out in their field (9)
SCARECROW – An anagram (about) of WAS and nearly all of CORRECt

6a     Attempt to hug quiet English man perhaps (5)
BIPED – BID (attempt) ‘hugs’ P (musical instruction to play quietly) and E (English)

9a     Scruffy, wet – our Carol’s no oil painting (11)
WATERCOLOUR – An anagram (scruffy) of WET OUT CAROL

10a     Money idiot sent back (3)
TIN – A reversal (set back in an Across clue) of NIT (idiot)

11a     View snake given shocking treatment (6)
ASPECT – ASP (snake) given ECT (shocking treatment)

14a    Site offering drug intended for those trying to lose weight? (6)
LOCALE – LO CAL E (a drug for people on a low-calorie diet)

16a     Country gentleman setting aside a little earth for minute worm (6)
SQUIRM – Set aside the E (a little earth) at the end of SQUIRE (country gentleman) and replace with the abbreviation for Minute

17a     Conflict about new underground network (6)
WARREN – WAR (conflict) RE (about) N (new)

18a     Tree from the Old West (3)
YEW – YE (‘old’ the) W (west)

20a     Country rich in ancient houses (5)
CHINA – Housed in riCH IN Ancient

21a     Cheers character winding up Gordon Brown (3)
TAN – TA (cheers, thank you) N (the character ‘winding up’ Gordon

23a     Dainty bird pecked (6)
TITBIT – TIT (bird) BIT (pecked)

25a     Reward for second pirate (6)
SILVER – The colour of a medal for second place or the name of a fictional pirate

27a     Sorted out number 1’s replacement locks (6)
TOUPEE – An anagram (sorted) of OUT followed by PEE (number 1!)

28a     Model rabbit’s tail holds record (6)
SCULPT – SCUT (rabbit’s tail) ‘holding’ LP (record)

33a    Boy set out without one (3)
LAD – Remove the letter that looks like a number one from LAID (set out)

34a     Cast involved with hit Lear? (11)
THEATRICALS – An anagram (involved) of CAST HIT LEAR

35a     Many marine bodies take on board fossil fuel (5)
CORAL – R (take) in COAL (fossil fuel)

36a     Violent criminal left bound by unknown person (9)
STRANGLER – L (left) ‘bound by’ STRANGER (unknown person)


1d     Regularly swap wise sayings (4)
SAWS – The regular letters of SwAp WiSe

2d     They’re against outrageous behaviour, avoiding clubs (5)
ANTIS – Remove the C (avoiding Clubs) from ANTICS (outrageous behaviour)

3d     Ale with no head? That is weird (5)
EERIE – Remove the B from the head of BEER and add IE (that is)

4d     Corruption involving exceptionally large home for birds (5)
ROOST – ROT (corruption) ‘involving’ OS (outsize, exceptionally large)

5d     Deal possibly essential for bowling club (4)
WOOD – Deal, possibly, here being a type of wood; the second definition being an essential piece of equipment at a bowls club

6d     I steal around Australia, turning up Russian wolfhound (6)
BORZOI – I ROB (I steal) goes round OZ (Australia) and the result is then turned up or reversed in a Down Clue

7d    Babe maybe waving pen at me (3,4)
PET NAME – An anagram (waving) of PEN AT ME

8d     What might become raised part-way through Naked and Erotic (6)
DANDER – A word meaning to erupt into a sudden rage is to be found part-way through nakeD AND ERotic

11d     Tailor, one returning stuff ahead of time (5)
ADAPT – A (from the clue) and a reversal (returning) of PAD (stuff) go ahead of T (time)

12d     Usual to trim root vegetable (7)
PARSNIP – Time for an old friend- PAR (usual) SNIP (trim)

13d     Depressed about entering nunnery without New Testament (7)
CONCAVE – CA (circa, about) ‘entering’ CONVE (convent without the N[ew] T[estament])

14d     Crackpot embroiled in a cult (7)
LUNATIC – An anagram (embroiled) of IN A CULT

15d     Burst into tears, with largely worn-out material for ball? (7)
CRYSTAL – CRY (burst into tears) with most of (largely) STALe (worn out)

16d     Thinner, forsaking pub? I could be going downhill fast! (5)
SKIER – SKINNIER forsaking or going without INN (pub)

19d     Said to sap the strength of narrow part of trunk (5)
WAIST – A homophone (said) of WASTE (sap the strength of)

22d     When posing nude, start to redden up (7)
ASUNDER – AS (when), an anagram (posing) of NUDE and the ‘start’ to Redden

24d     Infant that’s abnormally large is christened originally using a modified font (6)
ITALIC – The original letters of Infant That’s Abnormally Large Is Christened

26d     Fast – almost unhealthy – pulse (6)
LENTIL – LENT (fast) ILl (almost unhealthy)

28d     Flipping unsavoury task clothing lecherous man! (5)
SATYR Lurking in reverse (flipping) unsavouRY TASk

29d     Harmony leaving second marriage (5)
UNION – S(second) ‘leaving’ UNISON (harmony)

30d     Ringing about Queen’s prized gem (5)
PEARL- PEAL (ringing) goes ‘about’ R (Regina, Queen)

31d     A smaller amount belonging to Paul or Dennis? (4)
LESS – LES’S – belonging either to Mr Paul or Mr Dennis

32d     Heartless doorkeeper’s employer (4)
USER – Remove the heart from an USHER (doorkeeper)

If you’ve been married a while and are not sure where you’ve got to in the present giving/receiving cycle, the following may assist:


Thanks to Phibs and the BDs for their parts in this month’s MPP production

14 comments on “MPP 063 (review)

    1. We sneak in just before you and will be having our 50th on 28th October.
      We plan to reveal how we will be celebrating it in our blog on Wednesday.

  1. Goodness, you have been busy on the site’s behalf this weekend, CS – don’t know how you’ve fitted it all in with so many of your flock around you. Thank you for your dedication.

    Congratulations to Tim/Encota who I’m sure has absolutely no need of a Telegraph Crossword Puzzle Book – doubtless he’ll utilise it to encourage one of his protégés. I was recently directed towards an interview he gave on Radio Suffolk and what a consummate interviewee he turns out to be. He did give a great plug for the BD site – perhaps the electronic hat was listening in and decided that he deserved a reward?

    This may not have been one of the most difficult MPPs but I thoroughly enjoyed it – many thanks, Phibs.

  2. Congratulations Tim/Encota.
    A well deserved win.
    Thanks again Phibs and CS for the review.

  3. Heartiest congratulations to Tim King for winning the Monthly Prize Puzzle – 063. I could not guess the mystery of wedding anniversaries and chose PEARL as my entry based on the premise that it was the answer to the 40th clue among the total of 42 clues. Anyway, I am now happier to feel the part of the entertainment that I missed and thank Phibs once again for the artistic presentation! I also thank Crypticsue for the wonderful review!

  4. Congratulations to Encota for winning the prize. Many thanks to CS for the review, particularly for explaining the final letter of 21a which I completely missed, and thanks again to Phibs for the fun. Nice to see two clues (17a & 28a) which were right up my street!

    In 35a “r” is a bizarre abbreviation for “take”. However I did find it in my BRB when I was solving.

    The only thing I still don’t understand is “up” as the definition for 22d. Looking up the answer in my BRB simply gives “apart; into parts; separately”.

    1. RD, 22d. Yes, that’s a weird definition, unknown to me as well. But Google gives this, if it’s any help (see the synonyms):

      adverb archaic literary
      “those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder”
      synonyms: apart, up, in two.

    2. And in the SOED, which gives no less than 45 definitions for up:

      Into an open or loose condition of surface; so as to sever or separate something, especially into many parts, fragments or pieces [= asunder].

    1. The MPP is available on the first weekend of the month – by my reckoning that means the next one will be out on the weekend of 2nd/3rd September.

  5. Thanks to CS for the review, and congratulations to Tim King. I realised that the clue for 5d (WOOD) could be interpreted as two defs, although it was intended as three, to include a golfing reference, ie ‘Deal possibly / essential for bowling / club’.

    RD – ‘up’ for ‘asunder’ was the definition which I thought longest about, but both the Chambers and Oxford thesauri list ‘up’ under their entries for ‘asunder’. The Oxford gives the usage example ‘The fabric of society may be torn asunder’, where I believe ‘asunder’ and ‘up’ could be used interchangeably, whilst the omission of the final word (‘The fabric of society may be torn’) significantly changes the sense.

    Incidentally, this was one of the trickiest grids that I have had to produce – the first couple of times that I managed to get entries of the required lengths at 5/10/15/etc it turned out that one of the ‘quinquennials’ had both an across and a down entry and would therefore have had two solutions (eg 15d would have accommodated CRYSTAL, but there would also have been a 15a, with an entry such as CHIPBOARD, which could have led to considerable marital disharmony amongst those who tied the knot in the latter part of 2002).

    Taking the comments on my previous MPPs into account (eg ‘tough, tough, tough’) I tried to reduce the difficulty level somewhat for this one – but did I go too far? Any feedback on that point would be appreciated…

    1. I think it is nice to have a less difficult MPP as it will encourage those who wouldn’t normally finish some of the really hard ones and enable them to enter the competition.

      Speaking as the blogger who did the first draft of the review on the day the puzzle was published but then had to find time to check it all, add pictures etc and set it up for publication, during a weekend of entertaining 15 relatives, I found it perfect!

  6. I thought it was perfect too……

    Thanks for the fun and thanks to Crypticsue for the review.

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