NTSPP – 403 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 403

NTSPP – 403

Theme and Variations by Elgar

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

This puzzle was distributed at the S&B meeting in York on Saturday 28th October.

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It is important to bear that in mind while solving that this puzzle is intended for attendees at the above meeting.  The post on this site about this meeting may prove useful, especially its links to fifteensquared.net and any links on those posts!  The puzzle is hybrid barred/blocked and the enumeration will help with the length of the answers that are to be inserted.


Sloggers and Betters York 2017: “Theme and Variations”
Set by Elgar

The instructions said: An actress, on fire at The Fringe, should assist solvers in identifying a two-word phrase (the THEME, to be highlighted in the completed grid) that connects three groups of answers, each with four members (the twelve VARIATIONS).

I must admit that I spotted and highlighted the theme long before I worked out the actress and the ‘on fire at the Fringe’ bit, and then found a useful website to help with one of the groups; information provided to the Friday night S&B attendees proved helpful for another; the third, being one of my specialist subjects needed no outside help whatsoever ;) Still confused – see the end of the review.


7a     Hosting a party in America, Dad knocked back Stateside fizz (4,3)
SODA POP To get this American term for a fizzy drink, insert (hosting) A (from the clue) and an informal term for a party into a reversal (knocked back) of how an American might call their Dad

8a     Local “Monkee-babble” quoted by Spooner? (4,3)
YORK TAP How the dreaded Reverend might say the name of one of the Monkees and a babble

10a     Put hotel’s vacation of Iceland House in writing; storage facility needed (8)
MALTINGS The Iceland House in question is the name of their Parliament – remove (vacate) the letter represented by Hotel in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet from that name and insert what’s left into the abbreviation for a piece of writing

11a     For some Listeners, solver’s in a pet (6)
YORKIE How some people might hear a homophone of the solver’s (belonging to you) and something you’d use as a way in

12a     Now start to cheer (3)
HIP A word meaning fashionable (now) is the first word in a three word ‘cheer’

13a    Returning Head of BBC securing Tony Hall a cut (8)
EDGEBONE The abbreviated way we refer to the head of the BBC inserted into a reversal of the sound of the letter at the ‘head’ of BBC, and a single thing (sneaky use of ‘a’ in the clue) gives us an alternative name for a particular cut of beef

15a     A Yorkshire-based compiler making series in York – no Michael Curl! (4)
MONK Misleading capitals time, although Michael Curl is a setter who was born, and still lives in Yorkshire, here curl is being used to tell you that you’ll find a Yorkshire-based compiler lurking in reverse (curl) in YorK NO Michael. I understand this Yorkshire-based setter will be at the S&B so I hope he liked his [also part of the theme] clue

17a     A figure of love can’t get quite enough of chopper? (4)
AERO Chopper here being something that flies, not something that chops – A (from the clue) and most (can’t get quite enough) l of a god of love

19 a    See 21 Down

20a     Talk about Fedora or Trilby? (4)
CHAT The abbreviation for about followed by a particular type of clothing of which Fedora and Trilby are examples

23a/26dn     Old people take it with bangers and mash (9)
BRIGANTES ‘Take’ IT and BANGERS and mash them together to get a Celtic tribe that ruled over most of Yorkshire in pre-Roman times

24a     Gentle Ben’s first milk gets confused with ale (8)
LAMBLIKE An anagram (gets confused) of the first letter of Ben plus MILK and ALE

26a    More of the same following one song and dance (3)
ADO An abbreviated way of writing more of the same following A (one)

27a     Rejected two ways of ID’ing champion steeplechaser (3,3)
ONE MAN A way of identifying, for example, a member of the armed forces is reversed to get a champion steeplechaser

29a    Sports car breaking 13dn rules over way (8)
WALMGATE A way we know a particular sports car (2) inserted into (breaking) a reversal of the solution to 13d and some rules

30a    Itinerant‘s towelled feet? (7)
DRIFTER The abbreviation for feet put inside something that is used to dry (towelled)

31a     In district cricket great shot by all-rounder (7)
BOOTHAM One of our finest all-round cricketers is ‘shot by’ or has put in the middle the letter that is ‘all round’



1d     See 21

2d     “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory”? Perhaps – sadly not with best gal (6,4)
BATTLE SONG This earworm (well I’ve been stuck with it in my head)) is an anagram (sadly) of NOT with BEST GAL

3d     Supported Charterhouse pupil who’s extremely garlicky, containing personal pong (7)
GOWNBOY A supported pupil at Charterhouse School – the extreme letters of GarlickY ‘containing’ a word meaning personal and a bodily ‘pong’

4d     Old college principal’s first aquatic animal (5)
POLYP An abbreviated old college followed by the first letter of Principal

5d     Cheesy bit from broadcaster on recipe (4)
SKYR An Icelandic cheese product – a well-known broadcaster on (in a down clue) the abbreviation for Recipe

6d     One works thawing ice blocks on a farm (8)
HACIENDA An anagram (thawing) of ICE blocks a manual worker, the result followed by A (from the clue)

9d     What it raised for Arthur 1 around the courts? (4)
ASHE A famous Wimbledon champion named Arthur – a reversal (raised) of an interjection meaning what and an abbreviation for sex appeal (it)

13d     A long letter due when? (3)
ETA A Greek letter originally sounded as a long vowel can be, when capitalized, the abbreviation for the time someone is due to arrive

14d     Novice British agent Spanish golfer’s cut up (4)
NOOB Reverse the abbreviation for British and the way we’d refer to probably the best-known fictional secret agent – remove the affectionate way we refer to a Spanish golfer, and you should be left with someone we used to call a newbie (novice)

15d     Fleetwood perhaps taking diplomat on road (10)
MICKLEGATE The Christian name of the Fleetwood part of Fleetwood Mac plus (taking) a diplomat

16d     Symbol of Sikhism a rescue vessel’s sealed up (4)
KARA A (from the clue) is inserted (sealed) into the first rescue vessel on earth and then reversed (up) to get one of the symbols of Sikhism

18d    ` Seduce this undersecretary, wandering about? (8)
ERRANTRY Remove the letters of SEDUCE from UNDERSECRETARY and rearrange the ones you have left

21/1/19 Here‘s person of authority round Oxford with a name for puzzling (3,3,3,5)
THE FOX AND ROMAN A person of authority (3,3) goes round an anagram (for puzzling) of OXFORD with A (from the clue) and N (name), here being the place that many people would have been given this puzzle to solve

22d     Uplifting Christmases? Elgar is in favour (5,2)
SMILE ON Insert how Elgar would refer to himself in a reversal (uplifting) of a way of saying Christmases

24d     Group absent, letting down Arthur 2 on the boards? (4)
LOWE Remove a group from a verb meaning letting down

25d    Catch Kelvin King Kutting it at the Kabaret Klub! (3,3)
KIT KAT Start with the abbreviation for Kelvin and then insert the abbreviation for King between IT and AT (from the clue) to get the name of the seedy nightclub in Cabaret

26d     See 23

28d     Something to warm hands and balls up (4)
MUFF Something to keep hands warm or a [slang] verb for a bungled action (balls up)

The theme was YORK BARS revealed in Across rows 7 and 9

Theme One referred to the drinking establishments which formed part of the Friday night Quiz/Pub Crawl – The York Tap, The Maltings, and Brigantes – and the venue for the S&B on Saturday afternoon.

Theme Two refers to the historic gateways of the city of York – http://www.yorkshire-england.co.uk/YorkStreets.html provided very useful assistance when checking that I’d got the right members of this particular group

Theme Three (the one I knew most about) refers to products made by Rowntree’s of York

The actress is Jane ASHER who can be found going downwards in the centre of the grid , jump over the M in the middle and you’ll see ALOWE (an alternative spelling for a Scottish adverb meaning ablaze – so ‘on fire at The [Edinburgh]Fringe)

Thanks to Elgar for the usual brain stretching exercise – I really must get to a York S&B one day, not just for the cruciverbal company, but also to visit the places in two of the themes while eating a 25d.


If you’ve highlighted the theme and  variations, your grid should look like this: 

12 comments on “NTSPP – 403

  1. Everyone else who might try this puzzle must be either at the S&B meet or dead in the water, like me. Even following the hint under the grid didn’t help much. I have a mere dozen answers and very little hope of getting anymore. Ah well. I hope everyone’s having a good time in York.

  2. I’m like Expat Chris – dead in the water – the only difference between us is that she has five more answers than I do. Oh dear. :sad:

  3. Well I was there and I have only got 3 so far and one of those only because I bumped into 15a and saw his name badge. Gonna keep at it tho until Senf comes to the rescue with todays hints and I can do a bit better at sundays offering.
    I have done ok at Anax and Exit’s puzzles and am near to those.

  4. Should have got more souvenirs back from my last visit. My York mugs aren’t enough to find all the references.
    Found the theme and two of the related groups. Right side almost done except 31a and working hard on the left.
    Good thing the clocks went back.
    Gives me a little bit more time to solve this wonderful head scratcher from Elgar.
    Shall report later again.

  5. As a person who spent his first 30 years as a citizen of York I hang my head in shame…I failed miserably and will have to wait for the review to be put out of my misery.

  6. Well, that was a toughie! Eventually established the themes but had to resort to the review for half a dozen or so. Didn’t help that I’d got the anagram in 24a wrong. Some very obscure answers in there (thinking of 3d in particular). Very cleverly put together, but probably a bit too much on the tough side for my personal liking. Thanks to Elgar for the puzzle though and to CS for the review. I still don’t get the reference to ‘On fire at The Fringe’. Hope those taking part enjoyed the S&B.

  7. I spent quite a time struggling with this yesterday. Looking at the blog, this was clearly very clever, and appropriate for the occasion, However, there were 17 references to things, places, and people I had not heard of (I suspect 18 if you include ‘on fire at The Fringe’). Sadly, I was definitely a fully paid up member of the dead-in-the-water club.

  8. :phew:
    Having now read the review I have only a couple of things to say and they are, firstly, well done to CS and secondly there is no way at all that I could ever have done this so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.
    I hope that everyone had a good time in York.
    Night night all – the clock change has just about finished me off so :yawn:

  9. We did this in York. I say we, but much of it involved watching Verlaine. I did ask him to slow down. We got there in the end though, and the puzzle was much helped by having spent the previous evening in the establishments mentioned – which I remembered, sort of.

    a great puzzle, congrats John, and a wonderful meeting as well.

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