NTSPP – 395 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 395

NTSPP – 395

A Puzzle by Silvanus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.


Another nice Saturday afternoon offering from Silvanus – I found it quite tricky to get going on solving, but now I’m typing the hints, I can’t really see why. I did, however, spot the eleven themed solutions which is not something I normally do without prompting.



7a     Point is central to discussion, or theoretical? (5)
NORTH There is a compass point to be found ‘central’ to discussioN OR THeoretical

8a     American militia member, he’s exceptionally lacking in stature (9)
  MINUTEMAN Historically, a militiaman in the American War of Independence, so called because he was ready to turn out at a moment’s warning – if you split your solution 6,3 and pronounced the first bit differently, he might be small in stature too!

10a     Position taken against leaving European lake (6)
 STANCE Remove the adverb meaning against from Europe’s third largest lake

11a     Figure of speech a mother mistaken to keep quiet (8)
 METAPHOR An anagram (mistaken) of A MOTHER into which is inserted (to keep) the musical abbreviation meaning quiet

12a     MP worries about women sacked in plant (8)
PRIMROSE An anagram (about) of MP WORRIES once you have ‘sacked’ or removed the abbreviation for Women

13a     Strip, having retired drowsy, becoming naked (4)
PEEL Reverse (having retired) another way of saying drowsy and lose the outside letters (becoming naked)

15a     Vessel breaks, spills vegetables (7)
 TURNIPS We’ve had so many parsnips in crosswords lately for a moment I wondered if … However, one of Mr CS’s favourite vegetables is obtained by putting a vessel into a synonym for spills

17a     Bank‘s red line for City trafficking is most important (7)
 CENTRAL A triple definition – a usually state-owned bank that amongst other duties, regulates the money supply; the line on the London Underground coloured red (brilliant definition) where the station called Bank is to be found,  and/or an adjective meaning most important. 

20a     Unprecedented to enclose such a delightful place (4)
EDEN Our second lurker – this time enclosed in unprecEDENted

22a     Advanced hunger oddly vanished eating heart covered with breadcrumbs (2,6)
 AU GRATIN The abbreviation for Advanced, the even letters of hUnGeR (the odd ones having ‘vanished’) and the ‘heart’ of eATINg

25a     Boat in dock to the west of Irish islands (8)
 TRIMARAN A verb meaning to dock in the sense of cut short goes to the west of, or before, some Irish islands

26a     Call for return of open coal fire inconsistently half-ignored (6)
 ENCORE You need the second half of opEN, the first half of COal and the second half of fiRE, hence the inconsistently half-ignored

27a     Deceiving former Lib Dem leader, to wit implicated originally (3-6)
 TWO-TIMING An anagram (implicated) of TO WIT goes before (originally) the name by which Mr Campbell the former Lib Dem leader is often known

28a     Sun disappears from covering area of open country (5)
HEATH The abbreviation for Sun ‘disappears from’ a type of covering



1d     Twisting around end of finger is extremely painful (9)
 TORTUROUS Another way of saying twisting goes around R (the end of fingeR)

2d     He executes a spectacular feat training Ann’s mutt (8)
 STUNTMAN An anagram (training) of ANNS MUTT

3d     Tribespeople opting occasionally to cast out every other pair of families (7)
 PIGMIES The occasional letters of oPtInG and every other pair of the letters in faMIliES

4d     Lump I let spread, affecting many parts (8)
 MULTIPLE An anagram (spread) of LUMP I LET

5d     Place where devotees gather, seeing European record equalled in upset (6)
TEMPLE A reversal (upset) of the abbreviation for European, the abbreviation for a long-playing record, and a verb meaning equalled

6d     Key senior officer (5)
MAJOR A fairly obvious double definition

9d     Duck out of boozer often (4)
 ZERO The score known as a duck is lurking in booZER Often

14a     Determine accuracy of scales, interrupting supply briefly (9)
 CALIBRATE The sign of the Zodiac represented by a pair of scales ‘interrupting’ almost all of a word meaning to supply

16a     Prospect of country imprisoning soldiers (8)
 PANORAMA A South American country ‘imprisoning’ some Other Ranks of soldiers

18d     Which singer is producing a traditional Fiddler on the Roof? (8)
THATCHER Split a tradition person who ‘fiddles’ on the roof 4,4 and you’ll see ‘which singer’ Silvanus is referring to

19d     Preserving a town close to the Thames (7)
CANNING This type of preserving goes with TOWN to give us a district in East London close to the Thames

21d     Downgrade status of river fed by Test (6)
 DEMOTE One of Crosswordland’s favourite rivers ‘fed by’ the abbreviation for the annual test on a motor vehicle

23d     Dull characters ultimately in boring manor house party (4)
GREY The ultimate characters in borinG manoR housE partY.  Although I did think of the themed person when solving 18d, it was the linking in my mind of this solution with 6d that confirmed that I had spotted the theme.

24d     Terracotta perhaps, it’s of modest value to potter (5)
BROWN When this colour is used on a snooker ball, it would produce a modest score of four points for the person who pots it

27 comments on “NTSPP – 395

  1. Lovely puzzle – thanks Silvanus. I spent a little while trying to make the former Lib Dem leader in 27a be Mr Farron before the penny dropped. It’s difficult to pick out top clues from so many but I’ll list 8a, 17a, 26a (I like the ‘inconsistenly’), 3d and 18d.

  2. Very good silvanus, thank you. Did not know/could not solve 8a and 25a was new to me.
    A good array of wordplay, and a nice level of difficulty, ie not too tough for a Saturday!
    Many thanks for the entertainment.

  3. Many thanks Silvanus, my first crossword in over 3 weeks.
    First one in was 7a at the top ( which I really liked, especially the precise use of ‘central’), last one in was 28a at the bottom, but i wasn’t that tidy in the middle. Took me a while to see 18d, 26a, but got there in the end.

  4. Bravo, Silvanus. Another fine offering to savour, which I thought was at just the right level of difficulty for an NTSPP.

    8a was new to me but easily derived from the wordplay and checking letters. If I have understood 19d correctly, I don’t think it works. There is an area called “19d Town” which is close to the Thames but it is not a town.

    There are plenty of great clues in the race for favourite. 27a, 3d, 14d & 24d came very close but were beaten on the line by 18d.

    Many thanks Silvanus and very well done.

    1. Many thanks, RD.

      No, not a town in its literal sense, but a town by name nevertheless. If asked the question “What do Camden, Somers and Kentish have in common?”, wouldn’t you answer “they’re all towns in London”? I know I would!

      1. I wouldn’t!

        I certainly wouldn’t want my pedantry to detract in any way from what is an excellent puzzle, but the “town’s” name is “Canning Town”, never just “Canning”. I worked in the East End for 44 years, and the locals of course always dropped the “g” from the end of Canning but they never dropped the Town.

  5. I got well and truly stuck in the SE for quite a while – not being familiar with that particular form of trafficking didn’t help!
    Had to verify the American militia member and was a little unsure about that particular spelling of 3d – BRB to the rescue again.

    A lot of fun and ingenuity in this one – my leader board shows 14,18 & 21d taking the accolades with possibly 18d just having the edge.

    Many thanks, Silvanus, hope to see you again in January.

    1. Thanks a lot, Jane.

      Yes, I definitely plan to be there next Jan, but it seems a long way ahead at the moment. I’m sure that once the clocks go back in October time will accelerate like it normally does!

      1. Yes, it is still a long way ahead but it necessitates so much planning at this end that I’m ‘on the case’ already!

  6. A very enjoyable puzzle indeed. I think it’s probably quite deliberate that you put in some clearly signalled hiddens and anagrams to get us going early doors, but it’s the clever and innovative clues like my favourite 3d that give me the most pleasure. Many thanks Silvanus, there were plenty of excellent clues to brighten the afternoon.
    No problem with 19d here, but I normally do the i or the Indy where, if the grid has unchecked squares around the perimeter, it’s (nearly always) a given that there’ll be either a theme or a Nina lurking, so I went looking but couldn’t see one. Heigh-ho, horses for courses, I know they take a heap longer to compile!

        1. I’ve found eleven. What a clever and intriguing puzzle – many thanks to Silvanus for such a treat. So many favourites including 7a, 10a, 12a, 17a, 22a (always love cooking references), 26a (brilliant), 3d, 16d, 21d, 23d. And no golf or cricket – bliss! 18d was a real puzzler and I only got there initially because of the theme but eventually had the doh moment.
          Quite a workout for the little grey cells, needing a fair whack of lateral thinking helped by a spot of googling (required for 8a). Marvellous.

      1. Brilliant!
        Well I looked for a Nina, then checked the comments to see if there was a theme – but with no mention I didn’t really go looking. Yet there it is as plain as day! Excellent Silvanus – a brilliant grid fill to boot. I should never have doubted you!

  7. That was great fun. Even the specific UK references like 19d and 17a went in without too much fight. Too many good ones to try picking a favourite. However now that we know there is a theme we are going to have to keep looking.
    Having just written the above and glanced back at the grid, the theme leapt out at us. Very clever indeed.
    Thanks Silvanus.

  8. Very nice indeed, though it took a bit of time for the copper coin to drop for the theme.

    I’m going to whinge about “senior officer”, though. I wouldn’t even refer to the next rank up as “senior”. On the other hand, it’s nowhere near as offensive as I find it when someone defines LANCE CORPORAL as “officer”. Yes, I’m aware that technically a lance-corporal is a non-commissioned “officer”, but they’re really “other ranks”. So I’m not aiming at Silvanus here, just using that clue as a jumping-off point to complain about something which my fellow-setters use but which I think is unfair.

    1. Hi Alchemi,

      I agree with you. My intention for 6d was actually a triple definition, so “key”, “senior” (as in the older or oldest of brothers at a school) and “officer” were all synonyms of the answer.

      1. Thanks for the explanation. Unfortunately, it makes me like the clue a lot less. I dislike triple defs. I detest quadruple defs. You may be able to deduce my mood on discovering that a certain clue turned out to be a septuple def. My invariable reaction is “what’s that doing there?” to the excess definition.

        As Jonathan Crowther wrote, a cryptic clue consists of a definition, a fair indication (which could be another definition) and NOTHING ELSE. More than two definitions breaches the “NOTHING ELSE”, and I consider it unfair. Well, maybe “unfair” is a bit strong, but I consider it cheating. If you can’t make a clue intriguing enough with two elements, then perhaps you should try another approach.

        Grump, grump, whinge, whinge, burble, burble.

  9. I still have three to go in the SE corner. Just got the terrific 18D, but 8A is way out in front in the favorites stakes on this side of the pond. And now I have a theme to look for! Be back later.

    1. All done now and I have 11 themed answers, through two of them were G&G (guess and google). I think I’ve managed to fully parse 17A but I’ll wait and see. Magnificent, Silvanus. You are to be congratulated. 8A remains my favorite.

  10. Just printed it off and only because it is by this esteemed setter. The first ten clues begin with an unchecked letter I reckon there are 28 clues but for the life of me I can find twenty unchecked starters and only seven checked starters. Beer may be the key.

    1. Yes, apologies for the grid, MP. It’s not one that I would use in normal circumstances, but, as Maize has said, it is one that is very useful to setters when including a Nina or a theme.

      I do hope that the number of unchecked starters won’t diminish your enjoyment, and I appreciate the fact that you’ve found time to tackle it, many thanks!

  11. Good stuff and I have the 11 themers. Hadn’t heard of the flower one and one of the others is known to me by his title. Never really considered what his actual name was.

    Some ingenious clues and, like Gazza, I particularly liked the “inconsistently” bit in 26a.

    Thanks Silvanus, I enjoyed it.

  12. Thanks for the review, CS. Have to admit that I didn’t go looking for a theme until BD mentioned it and even then I started off by thinking it was going to be stations on the London underground.

    Thanks again to Silvanus – hope you’ve got more waiting in the wings.

  13. Thanks to Silvanus for a good crossword and thanks to CS for the review.
    I didn’t spot that there was a theme until I read the comments and even then it took me ages to find what it was.
    I confess to needing a few hints to understand some of my answers, particularly 17a which had me completely lost.

  14. Many thanks to everyone who tackled the puzzle and especially those who took the time to leave comments, they’re always much appreciated.

    Thanks also to CS for the excellent review, and of course to BD for setting everything up as usual. As mentioned above to Alchemi, 6d was meant to be a triple rather than a double definition, as I wouldn’t define the answer as a “senior officer” either.

    It’s quite rare for me to compile a themed puzzle, but as the reaction to this one was more positive than I had expected, I may well be tempted to do so again, you’ve been warned!

  15. Many thanks for a lovely entertaining puzzle, Sylvanus. I didn’t pick up on the theme, but that hasn’t detracted from the enjoyment. My gold stars go to 8a, 27a and 18d.

    And now, at long long last, I have finally seen the theme! Brilliant!

    Appreciative thanks to CS for the reveiw, excellent as ever. Explanations of parsing are always welcome — I invariably miss something…

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