NTSPP – 397 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 397

NTSPP – 397

A Puzzle by Gazza

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review by Prolixic follows.

It is always a joy to have a Gazza crossword to blog.  He always delights and brings lots of pleasure (and this is not a cryptic reference to the Nina (hidden message) that reads down the left and right outer columns) of the grid.


1 Area of Christianity more or less on the level? (6)
PARISH – Split 3-3, this would give a word that fancifully (hence the question mark) might mean on a par with or more or less on the level.

5 Crew member smears forbears (8)
ABSTAINS – The abbreviation for able seaman (crew member) followed by a word meaning smears.

9 I’m counting the minutes until soldiers see action (3,5)
EGG TIMER – A cryptic definition of a device used to prepare a breakfast item into which soldiers may be dipped.

10 Author enlarging at first on upper storey (6)
BRAINE – The first letter of enlarging after (on) a word for the part of the body that might be described as the upper storey.

11 Live right over jailbird? Think again! (10)
RECONSIDER – A six letter word meaning live followed by the abbreviation for right all around a three letter word for a criminal or jailbird.

12 Try husband’s organ (4)
HEAR – The abbreviation for husband followed by an organ of the body.

13 Retaliate after two characters leading scatter grub around (8)
SCAVENGE – The first letter letters (two characters leading) of scatter followed by a word meaning to retaliate.

16 Talkative guide starts to sound as though nanny’s aboard vehicle (6)
SATNAV – The initial letters (starts to) of the final six words of the clue.

17 Stripped for a clever mentor (6)
ORACLE – The answer in hidden in (stripped) FOR A CLEVER.

19 Film mogul‘s one of the Greens (8)
BROCCOLI – Double definition of a the film mogul responsible for (among others) many of the Bond movies and a green vegetable.

21 Writer’s flippant name for his lordship (4)
NIBS – The end of a pen (writer’s) maintain the s from the ’s.

22 Following appeal from 1980 US campaign one’s caught with bags of chips? (10)
ELECTRONIC – An appeal to vote for Ronald Reagan (5,3) followed by the letter for one and the abbreviation for caught.

25 Most of Georgian place is impressive (6)
AUGUST – Remove the final letter (most of) a US city in Georgia.

26 Paris academics feeling disgruntled with previous capital investment (8)
SORBONNE – A four letter word meaning disgruntled around the former capital of Germany.

27 Environmentally friendly ringleader thus becomes fraudulent substitute (4-4)
LEAD FREE – A cryptic instruction of the letters to be removed from ringleader that would give ringer as a result (fraudulent substitute).

28 Pulls forcibly and audibly breaks (6)
WRESTS – A homophone (audibly) of rests (breaks).


2 Use guile to clinch, brushing aside women’s viewpoint (5)
ANGLE – Remove the abbreviation for woman from a word meaning using guile to clinch.

3 Start appearing in moleskin trousers (5)
INTRO – The answer is hidden (appearing in) in MOLESKIN TROUSERS.

4 Focuses on institution’s wrongdoing (5,2)
HOMES IN – A four letter word for the institution that embodies the family and a three letter word for wrongdoing.

5 Prune some sections of awkward brigade (7)
ABRIDGE – An anagram (awkward) of BRIGADE.

6 Locums cover sixty percent of city’s residential areas (7)
SUBURBS – A four letter word for locus (short for substitutes) around (covers – although in a down clue this would imply goes over) 60% of a five letter word meaning of the city.

7 Reluctant to introduce English to stuffed chapatti (9)
APATHETIC – Include the single letter abbreviation for English in an anagram (stuffed) of CHAPATTI.

8 Group of musicians consuming a whole duck? (4,2,3)
NONE AT ALL – Include the A from the clue inside (consuming) a word for a group of nine musicians and follow with a three letter word for whole.

14 Tiered cut styled to give confidence (9)
CERTITUDE – An anagram (styled) of TIERED CUT.

15 Deputies head Yard team tackling bad behaviour (4,5)
VICE SQUAD – A five letter word for deputies before (head) a four letter word for a yard or quadrangle.

18 Competitive rider, just retired, making comeback (7)
EVENTER – A four letter word meaning just or fair followed by the abbreviation for retired with all of the letters reversed (making comeback).

19 I’m surprised Belgium seems prepared to support sterling (5,2)
BLESS ME – The IVR code followed by an anagram (prepared) of SEEMS after (to support) the abbreviation for pounds sterling.

20 Get too big for old-fashioned farm (7)
OUTGROW – A three letter word meaning old fashioned followed by a word meaning to farm.

23 Underweight individual’s a gas (5)
OZONE – After (under) the abbreviation for ounce (weight) add a three letter word meaning individual.

24 Isn’t it commonplace among young people to have sex after pub? (5)
INNIT – A three letter for a pub followed by a two letter word meaning sex.

28 comments on “NTSPP – 397

  1. Thanks gazza, I was pleased. To see it was your ntspp today. very enjoyable with brilliant definitions. I’m stuck on 10a and 21a at the moment , will keep at it.

    1. I didn’t realise quite how many emails Gazza and I had exchanged until I had to search for this crossword to remind myself of the Nina.

      As to your wondering – I think I’ll leave Gazza to say!

  2. omg & lol – as the youth of today would say – i’ve cracked the nina twice in 2 days!

    thanks gazza & i’ll wait for prolixic’s review for clarification to some of my answers especially 10a & 27a.

    1. 10a – Didn’t he write “Room at the Top”?

      27a – If you apply your answer to “ringleader” you are left with a fraudulent substitute.

  3. I really enjoyed this offering from Gazza!

    Full of wit and wisdom with a soupçon of innuendo!

    There are many contenders for the top place on the podium – but it has to go to 9a – even though it was my first one in.

    Too lazy to look for a Nina!

        1. Thought so, thanks.
          I remember the 1980 US election clue, from the said year when I used to help my grandad do the DT back pager.

  4. Very smooth clues. Favourites were the soldiers in action and young people after the pub, and very pleased with myself for getting the 1980 US campaign appeal before getting to end of the clue. Thanks

  5. What a treat to return home to after a week spent on IOW with younger daughter and her new son.

    Got the old grey matter ticking over again with the back-pager before tackling this one – probably just as well!
    So much fun here from our shining knight – the surface read of 16a in particular made me smile having just completed two 10 hour road trips in the company of my elder daughter – a trained Nanny – who argued with said piece of equipment almost the entire way.
    My favourite is definitely 9a – it’s doubtless a chestnut in many ways but this was so neatly constructed.

    Many thanks, Gazza – for this and for all the ‘Ninas’ you bring to the BD site.

  6. I spotted the nina with the top half mostly done and that was a great help to completing the grid. My contenders are 1A, 9A 22A, and 25A (shame on me for taking so long to solve that one!). 22A takes my top spot for the chuckle when I solved it. Lots of fun. Thanks Gazza!

  7. Many thanks Gazza, very enjoyable.
    A few I could not parse, so looking forward to the hints.
    Needless to say the nina went straight over my head.

  8. It seems a long time since we had a Gazza NTSPP but, as always, it was worth waiting for – I loved it.
    When I first started it I thought it was going to be really tricky but then got going – not that it was easy.
    I wonder when I’ll learn that if a particular corner seems impossible then I’ve probably got something wrong. :roll: Don’t ask.
    My last two answers (not counting the wrong one) were 27a and 19d.
    Too many brilliant clues to put them all down – I’d be here all evening – so a few are 9 and 27a and 19 and 24d.
    My favourite is either 1a because I’m such a sucker for anything that ends ‘ish – they always make me laugh – or 16a.
    Thank you and three :yahoo: , Gazza – you’ve cheered up a wet afternoon.

  9. Super Saturday Splendiferousness – thanks Gazza!

    (This jumped the queue (nearly typed “jumped the clue” there …) as next on the list was Friday’s Toughie. I suspect that one will now have to wait until tomorrow because some nice person made me a cocktail or two …)

    A strange solve in that first pass left me feeling that this would be beyond me today, but then I pulled myself together and found it all came together fairly smoothly. Did just need a couple of checkettes at the end, so not quite a clean sheet.

    Having looked at comments, it seems I had a similar experience to Kath.

    Like Expat Chris I spotted the nina (yay!) with the top mostly filled (and the bottom mostly empty), and it helped enormously. I couldn’t quite work out its significance though. Prolixic’s comment at #2 made me laugh! I look forward to Gazza’s explanation. :)

    Favourites are the simple but lolsome 12a, 22a for the definition, 8d for the surface, 14d for simple elegance, 19d (have to admit that was partly the routes my brain led me down before I came to the right answer) … and 24d.

    Thanks Gazza. You clearly have the talent to be published, but instead you give your time for free creating puzzles and blogs for your friends on this site. We all appreciate it very much.

  10. A rare sport-free Saturday happily coincided with a Gazza puzzle. It took quite a while, and I failed on four, even with the Nina, but thought it was fantastic, favourite 24d. Many thanks.

  11. Excellent Sunday morning fun for us. The last acts were sorting out the wordplay for 27a and where the second letter in 19d came from.
    Many thanks Gazza.

  12. What a treat to find another Gazza puzzle today. This was an absolute delight – a lot of fun and nicely challenging, although I made the SW corner more difficult than it should have been by putting in “rectitude” initially for 14d. I was going to say that I thought it was very unusual for Gazza to use such a stretched definition until the penny finally dropped that I entered the wrong anagram!

    22a made me laugh and I particularly liked 9a, 12a, 27a, 8d & 24d.

    Many thanks, Gazza, and well done for giving us such a first rate offering.

  13. Great fun Gazza – many thanks! Thought 16 + 24 particularly witty :-) And I hadn’t managed to parse the ‘ringleader’ one until reading stanXYZ’s insight above.

  14. After all this time, completed my first NTSPP, albeit with some electronic assistance – thanks Gazza for some great entertainment!

    Several candidates for favourite, but I think 9a takes the honours with 21a close behind.

  15. Couldn’t possibly ignore a crossword from Gazza.
    Great fun as per usual.
    Always like definitions like 16a, 22a and 15d. So much more interesting when the def is a bit cryptic in itself.
    Loved the construction in 27a.
    Only needed a bit of investigoogle for 10a and 21a.
    Thanks for the super crossword.

  16. Great stuff, Gazza. Nicely challenging, plenty of humour as one has come to expect and delightful surfaces. Even though I didn’t have time to tackle it yesterday, I was determined to rectify that omission today!

    Like others, 22a produced the widest smile, although my top three, in solving order, were 9a, 24d and 26a.

    Many thanks for a splendid puzzle.

  17. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. The gentleman illustrating 1a looks rather familiar!

    Thanks again to Gazza – hope you’re hard at work on the next one?

  18. Thanks, Prolixic, for the review – you do look very grand in your photo.
    Thanks again to Gazza for such a terrific crossword.

  19. Thanks a lot to all who commented and especially to Prolixic for the write-up. The Nina was a bit of an accident – after I’d filled about a quarter of the grid I noticed that with a tweak or two I could make a meaningful phrase, but it has no relevance to the rest.
    For 10a I was pleased to find ‘upper storey’ in the BRB as a slang term for the brain, enabling me to use it make what I thought was an all-in-one (relating to the author’s first major work as illustrated by Prolixic).

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