NTSPP – 408 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 408

NTSPP – 408

Hand Signals by Phibs

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.


A puzzle with a gimmick which confused me more than it assisted the solving process, and I never did work out what I was supposed to ‘see’. There’s a pretty grid at the bottom of the review which shows how it works. I haven’t counted them up, but there do seem to be quite a few ‘take a letter away’ or ‘add a letter’ moments going on in this one. I enjoyed parts of this but I’m sorry to say that this was definitely not my favourite Phibs crossword


1a     Countenances following star south (5)
FACES The abbreviation for Following, a person of distinguished achievement (star), and the abbreviation for South

4a     Misery as United demolished Spurs (8)
SOURPUSS A conjunction meaning as, the abbreviation for United and an anagram (demolished) of SPURS

8a     Titanic actor less hot in M Butterfly, or something like that (7)
MAMMOTH A poor actor without the H (less hot) goes between M and an insect similar to a butterfly

9a     House in Rome keeps settled Italian sweet (7)
CASSATA An Italian house (as found in Rome) ‘keeps’ or has inserted another way of saying settled

11a     Registered, like hastily-written letter from Isaac Newton? (6,2)
SIGNED IN If Sir Isaac Newton was in a hurry, he might just finish his letter by putting his initials

12a     One doubting Nancy nicks rings (5)
CYNIC Rings indicates that this doubter is lurking in NanCY NICks

13a     Walter Scott’s capital transformed layabout (7)
WASTREL An anagram (transformed) of WALTER and S (Scott’s capital)

15a     Spar’s tip: root vegetable contains red hairs every so often (7)
YARDARM A type of root vegetable holds the odd letters (every so often) of ReD hAiRs

18a     Trio stripped and in position to streak (7)
STRIATE The inside letters (stripped) of tRIo inserted into a position

21a     One’s to live with Croatian tennis player? That’s silly (9*)
IMBECILIC A way of saying I am going to (One’s) a verb meaning to live and a Croatian tennis player’s surname

23a     In the middle of pummelling no masseuse holds back (5)
AMONG Lurking in reverse (holds back) in pummellinG NO MAsseuse

25a     Caught warming up for extramarital sex (8)
CHEATING The abbreviation for Caught and a verb meaning warming up

27a     Embarrassed about crime, having pinched lead from ceiling void (7)
RESCIND A crime ‘pinches’ the ‘lead’ from Ceiling and the result is inserted into the colour you turn when embarrassed

28a     It’s useful for swelling chickpea not enjoying hard ground (7)
ICEPACK An anagram (ground) of CHICKPEA without (not enjoying) the H for Hard

29a     Lily pad with holes disintegrated (8)
ASPHODEL An anagram (disintegrated) of PAD with HOLES

30a    School returning permit card (7*)
NOTELET A reversal of a well-known public school followed by a verb meaning permit


1d     Case of fiancée protecting American’s reputation (4)
FAME The outside letters (case) of Fiancée ‘protecting’ the abbreviation for American

2d     People supplying food company may initially fail to spot a rodent devouring one (12*)
COMMISSARIAT The abbreviation for company, the initial letter of May, a verb meaning to fail to spot, A (from the clue) and a type of rodent ‘devouring’ the letter that looks like the number one

3d     Rogue count close to lustful nurses and to Angela Merkel (9*)
SCOUNDREL Take a verb meaning to count and the ‘close’ of lustfuL and then ‘nurses’ tells you to insert the word Angela Merkel (or any other German for that matter) would use to say ‘and’

4d     My job’s to organize lucre she spread around Germany (9 *)
SCHEDULER An anagram (spread) of LUCRE SHE around the IVR code for Germany

5d     Strange gents entertained by topless hostess with big ears (7)
UNCANNY An informal term for a toilet (such as gents) is ‘entertained’ by a hostess with big ears without the first letter (topless)

6d     PC turning up deeds in ditch (8*)
POSTCARD A reversal (turning up) of some deeds inserted into a verb meaning to ditch

7d    Spot Russian leader discarding Lenin’s cap (5)
STAIN Remove the L (‘cap’ of Lenin) from a well-known Russian leader

10d     Account originally overlooked maverick cops releasing second conspirator (10*)
ACCOMPLICE The abbreviation for account, the original letter of Overlooked and Maverick, and some cops without the second (releasing) letter

13d     Women’s Institute decides about a cover for calendar they want to appear cute (9*)
WISEACRES The abbreviation for the Women’s Institute, and A (from the clue) and the ‘cover’ of Calendar inserted into a verb meaning decides

14d     Starts to effervesce and takes polish off (3)
EAT The ‘starts’ to Effervesce And Takes

16d     Seek something that links Barton with Washington (3)
AIM The abbreviated way one might refer to the motorway linking Barton in North Yorkshire with Washington in Tyne and Wear

17d     A character who’s desperate is inhibited by toilet water rising (9)
ASCENDANT A (from the clue) followed by another word for perfume (toilet water) into which is inserted a well-known desperate comic character

19d     Suffering droop (no end of alcohol to start with) (7)
ANGUISH Remove the L (no end of alcohol) from a verb meaning to droop

20d     Stop eating fish with a bit of egg, scrambled… (7)
ENCODED Another way of saying stop ‘eating’ a type of fish and the first letter (a bit) of Egg

21d     …suspect I’d bin eel that’s not fit to eat (8 *)
INEDIBLE An anagram (suspect) of ID BIN EEL

22d     Connecting punt on water with Navy (7)
BETWEEN Here punt is a type of wager which goes on an informal word for urine (water) and the abbreviation for Navy

24d     Liam and Noel’s watering hole? (5)
OASIS The pop group founded by the Gallagher brothers (Liam and Noel) has the same name as a watering hole in the desert.

26d     King buried in south/centre of Leicester? Reveal bones (8*)
SKELETON – The abbreviation for King ‘buried’ between the abbreviation for South and the ‘centre’ of LeicEster followed by a verb meaning to reveal

Still confused as to how it works then here’s the answer:

Yellow = one answer  Green = shared by two answers  Orange = shared by two answers, but used twice in one of them

19 comments on “NTSPP – 408

  1. Quite a feat, Phibs – as I mentioned on the ‘other side’ the penny drop moment (which came in the SE corner) was a delight!
    Still have one bit of parsing that I’m not sure about but everything else is now hunky-dory (apologies to RD!).
    Think the strange gents took my clue of the day award.

    Many thanks, Phibs, for a good start to the weekend.

    1. No need to apologise for that one, Jane. It’s long since become entrenched on this side of the pond.

  2. A puzzle from Phibs is always going to be an enjoyable challenge with a lot of unusual constructions and well disguised wordplay, and this one certainly fitted the bill. I twigged the logic to use early on in order to fit in most of the oversized answers but the very clever 21a & 30a confused me for quite a while until, like Jane, the penny dropped with a very loud clang.

    There were a lot of clues to like here, but, as a rabbit, my particular favourite was the one about big ears.

    Many thanks, Phibs, for the great entertainment.

  3. I’m clearly not as smart as Jane and RD.
    I’ve got the answers – I’ve got the ‘spare’ letters all over the place and the question now is what to do with them? Oh dear!!! :unsure:
    Oh well – all good fun if rather mystifying – maybe the light will dawn but I suspect not.
    I particularly liked the 4a misery, the 8a Titanic and the 5d hostess with big ears.
    With thanks to Phibs and, in advance, to CS.

  4. That had us struggling for a very long time before we worked out what we had to do with the over-length clues. It became much more doable once we had sorted that but still not a fast solve for us particularly with the U- turns. Still not sure of the connection required for 16d. A huge challenge and highly amusing.
    Thanks Phibs.

  5. Oh dear. I’m not doing very well. I have 1a, 1d, largely the SW corner, and smatterings in the SE corner. I also have half of the asterisk clues, but I’ve no idea how to adapt them for entry. I think I give up, and hope that others are enjoying this, and are having more success than I.

  6. There are some excellent clues here (though I’m not overly keen on the gimmick) – thanks Phibs. I liked 4a, 3d and 14d but my favourite was 11a.

  7. Many thanks for the review, CS. Have to say that, unlike Gazza and yourself, I quite enjoyed the ‘gimmick’ – rather clever I thought.

    Thanks again to Phibs – I wonder what you have in store for us next time!

  8. Thanks to CS for the review, and to everyone who attempted the puzzle. The rule for entering all solutions (oversized or not, across or down) was “Whenever you enter an R, subsequent letters should be entered to the right; whenever you enter an L, subsequent letters should be entered to the left.”

    I’m glad that some of you enjoyed the puzzle, and those that didn’t will be relieved to know that I’ve now got that particular gimmick out of my system :phew: . Next time…who knows what is in store (I certainly don’t :unsure: )

    1. Completely missed that extra twist, Phibs – I guess the title of the puzzle should have alerted me!

  9. Thanks to CS for the review and, again, to Phibs.
    I didn’t get to the bottom of what was going on but now I have a cast iron excuse – I’ve never been very good at lefts and rights.

  10. I’m part way through this and enjoying it very much. 30a – 26d were among my first in, so knowing how the oversized clues worked from early on has made it fun. Am studiously avoiding looking at the review and comments!

    Thanks to Phibs for the entertaining ‘jigsaw’ crossword.

    Thanks, too, to CS in advance for the review.

  11. Having seen how the wordplay for 16d works it is not surprising that we could not understand it. We totally missed the significance of the L and R until it was pointed out here. A whole level of cleverness that we missed but seems we were not the only ones to do so.
    Thanks again Phibs.

  12. I did make a start on this, but I eventually gave up trying to fill the grid. and just went through the clues instead which was enjoyable enough.
    The twist was, and still is to some extent, beyond me.

    Many thanks for a cleverly constructed crossword Phibs, and thanks CS for the review

  13. I only got around to this today. Having solved an end crosser, i was lucky enough to see the gimmick at the first *clue. Took me a while to twig 21a and 30a. I had first sent 21a in the wrong direction, but then saw what was going on when i solved 10d.

    I did wonder about the hand signals and only realised the R/L feature when Phibs explained it. Very clever! Thanks CS for the parsing of 16d. I was thinking capital districts in Australia and USA.

    I hadn’t come across the use of water in 22d, and was thinking “to go” instead of “on water” might have raised more a chuckle for me – I’m sure it did for others.

    Many thanks Phibs, I was determined to get around to this and glad I did. Thanks CS for the review.

  14. Just caught up with this today. I thought it an excellent trick which eventually helped with getting plenty of clues. I bunged them in whichever way they fit and didn’t twig the L/R thing until reading comments. but that makes it extra good . All very enjoyable – thanks Phibs and CS.

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