NTSPP – 418 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 418

NTSPP – 418

A Puzzle by Italicus

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Congratulation to Italicus on this promotion to the NTSPP pages.  A well deserved debut from the Rookie corner as this crossword shows.


1 A match for the Devil (7)
LUCIFER – Double definition, the first being an old word for a match.

5 Difficult to straddle a horse when rundown (7)
HAGGARD – A four letter word meaning difficult around the A from the clue and a two letter word being a childish word for describing a horse.

9 Proceeding across Congo in gunboat (7)
ONGOING – The answer is hidden in (across) CONGO IN GUNBOAT.

10 Pale, sickly hog left in pen (7)
GHOSTLY – An anagram (sickly) of HOG following by the abbreviation for left inside another word for a pen where pigs are kept.

11 Based on stories of monstrous cane toad seen by lake (9)
ANECDOTAL – An anagram (monstrous) of CANE TOAD followed by the abbreviation for lake.

12 Part of market surrounding hotel in fashionable resort (5)
NICHE – The abbreviation for hotel surrounded by a fashionable French resort.

13 Abandon daughter with slight feeling of discomfort (5)
DITCH  – The abbreviation for daughter followed by a word to describe a slight feeling of discomfort.

15 No longer appreciating popular soap opera villains (9)
OFFENDERS – A three letter word meaning no longer appreciating followed by the name of a popular BBC soap opera without the East.  I am not sure whether the soap opera is commonly shortened to remove the East.  A quick google search did not reveal the shortened form as a reference to the soap opera in the top hits.

17 Foreman’s running rings round English journeyman, say (9)
FREEMASON – An anagram (running) of FOREMANS around the abbreviation for English.

19 Pole has drink with contrary compiler (5)
TOTEM – A three letter word for a shot or drink followed by a reversal (contrary) of a two letter word for the compiler.

22 Run ancient city and a large part of the country (5)
RURAL – The abbreviation for run followed by a two letter word for a biblical city, the A from the clue and the abbreviation for large.

23 Stern doctor accompanies a barbarian around India (9)
DRACONIAN – A two letter abbreviation for a doctor followed by the A from the clue and the name of a fictional barbarian around the letter represented by India in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

25 Has love died in quarantine? (7)
ISOLATE – A two letter word meaning has followed by the letter representing love and a word meaning died.  I am trying to think of a sentence where the first two letters could be used as a synonym for has.

26 Demanding general interrupts leave (7)
EXIGENT – The abbreviation for general inside a four letter word meaning to go or leave.

27 Figures in book (7)
NUMBERS – Double definition, the second being a book in the Old Testament.

28 Letters carved into table (7)
TRESTLE – An anagram (carved) of LETTERS.


1 Up and coming horror writer welcomed by fat cat (7)
LEOPARD – A reversal (up and coming) of an American horror writer inside a four letter word for fat.

2 The most secretive orders CIA gets (7)
CAGIEST – An anagram (orders) of CIA GETS.

3 FBI agent takes Rhode Island prisoner to be electrocuted (5)
FRIED – The abbreviation for Rhode Island inside (takes…prisoner) a word for an FBI agent.

4 Godly sorts hug Tories (9)
RIGHTEOUS – An anagram (sorts) of HUG TORIES.  As an imperative anagram indicator, this should be sort, rather than sorts.

5 A thinking man’s male hair product (5)
HEGEL – A two letter word meaning male followed by a three letter word for a hair product.

6 Prohibit maniac from leaving the house for some food (9)
GROUNDNUT – A six letter word meaning prohibit a leaving the house (as a parent may do to a teenager) followed by a three letter word for a maniac.

7 E.g. The Thing (7)
ARTICLE – Double definition.

8 Arid state of Yemen heartlessly accepted by 23d (7)
DRYNESS – The first and last letters for Yemen (heartlessly) in the answer to 23d.

14 Shame of motorway tailback captured in colour (9)
HUMILIATE – The abbreviation for one of Britain’s motorways and a reversal (back) of TAIL inside (captured) a three letter word for a colour.

16 Entertaining theatre featuring drag queen as Bottom (9)
FUNDAMENT – A three letter word meaning entertaining and the abbreviation for National Theatre includes a four letter word for a drag queen.

17 Outlandish opinion originally held by lunatic fringe (7)
FOREIGN – The first letter (originally) of opinion inside an anagram (lunatic) of FRINGE.

18 It’s hard to forget war Rome lost (7)
EARWORM – An anagram (lost) of WAR ROME.

20 River bordering Idaho offers several points for fishing (7)
TRIDENT – A five letter name of a river that flows through Nottingham around (bordering) the abbreviation for the state of Idaho.

21 Consumed energy supporting fellow creature (7)
MANATEE – A three letter word meaning consumed and the abbreviation for energy beneath (supporting) a three letter word for a fellow.

23 Compulsion to remove uniform or clothing (5)
DRESS – Remove the abbreviation for Uniform from a word for compulsion.

24 Flipping wicked old fruit! (5)
OLIVE – Reverse (flipping) a four letter word meaning wicked and the abbreviation for old

30 comments on “NTSPP – 418

  1. Up where you belong, Italicus – and I can see the ‘nationals’ beckoning ‘ere long.
    So nice to get a setter who pays such good attention to surface reads, well done indeed.

    I did need to look up the barbarian and check on the definition at 17a but that just adds interesting facts to the memory bank.
    I’m thinking that you must have included 18d specifically for CS!

    Top three for me were 15&25a plus 16d but many others in close contention.

    Many thanks – I had high hopes and you certainly didn’t disappoint.

    1. A big thanks to my no.1 fan for all your support and encouragement. Glad this one didn’t disappoint! You are right about 18d. I actually first came across the word in a comment CS wrote on one of my Rookie Corner puzzles. So I thought I’d try it out here.

      1. Hi Italicus,
        We were looking forward to meeting you at the Birthday Bash – I’m sure you said that you’d booked your train ticket? Please don’t tell me that you came along and didn’t make yourself known – there were quite a few of us hoping to make your acquaintance.

  2. Perfectly pitched in difficulty to fit in that period between finishing lunch and ‘I really must get on with housework/crosswords/stuff’. Most of it went in on first read but the NE corner held me up the longest.

    Thank you Italicus. I agree with Jane that if you keep this up, it won’t be long before you’ll transfer to my side of the NTSPP blogging rota

  3. I agree with the above. A very enjoyable puzzle which I found similar in difficulty to today’s back pager but actually more fun.

    My favourites are 5a, 4d, 7d and 16d.

    Thanks and well done Italicus and thanks in advance to Prolixic for the review.

  4. What an enjoyable puzzle. Just the right balance of difficulty and really entertaining. Thanks Italicus!

  5. The last few took a while, but my page is littered with ticks. This was so good, and fun too. 21D has been in the news lately because they really suffered during the recent unseasonably cold weather to my south. If I had to pick a top three, they would be 23A, 28A and 18D….and 15A and 5d. OK, top five. Thanks Italicus!

  6. A nice challenge for a rare Saturday afternoon at home – and a pretty miserable one at that. Thank you Italicus. Lovely surfaces and smooth wordplay. I though they were all pretty good clues, 16d probably the pick.

    I was struggling with the SE corner for a while but realising that 23a started with “stern” not “stem” made life rather easier. I’ve tried searching but can’t see anything that explains 17a definition – is it cryptic or something?

        1. I did check in there first, CS, but couldn’t find a direct link between the two. Perhaps I didn’t look far enough?

          1. Well I had tried both of those, and nothing sprung out but where it seems I’d gone wrong was not googling both words together. That nails it. Topical clue given the pot and kettle advert they placed this week.

  7. Excellent fun that we really enjoyed. For some reason 4d took us ages. It was only when we had eventually got a word that fitted the definition that we realised what type of clue it was. Tories fitted the first part of the answer so well. You seem to have judged the difficulty level just right for the NTSPP slot and a thoroughly professional puzzle.
    Many thanks Italicus.

  8. Very enjoyable, completed in two sessions – before breakfast and grocery shopping and before a late lunch of a nice gooey brie, crackers, and a very pleasant Bordeaux. I really liked the anagram indicator in 28a. Thank you Italicus.

  9. Lovely stuff, Italicus. We are currently being regally served with a broad variety of excellent crosswords and this one is certainly not out of place in such august company.

    I agree with earlier comments that it is pitched at just the right level for the NTSPP slot, and all the surfaces appear to have been lovingly crafted.

    My list of top clues is: 25a, 7d, 16d & 17d,

    Well done and thank you, Italicus. Please keep them coming.

  10. Thanks Italicus, good, entertaining crossword.

    I thought the picks of the bunch were 15 and 16, although there were lots of other good ones.

  11. Welcome to the NTSPP ranks, Italicus.

    I’ve been looking forward to solving this ever since I saw your name listed by BD earlier this morning, but a busy day has prevented me from devoting the time it richly deserved until now. Ultra smooth surfaces, humorous wordplay, clever anagram indicators – all these and more I expected to be in evidence and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. As Jane appears to have your No 1 fan position sewn up, please could I apply to be your No 2 fan?!

    Virtually every clue had a tick from me, but the ones receiving double ticks were 15a, 5d and 23d. For most other setters I would have considered eight anagrams to be close to the limit of acceptability, but in your case I would have turned a blind eye if every clue had been one ;-)

    Congratulations, a superb puzzle and more please soon. Like Jane, I was disappointed not to meet you at the Birthday Bash, but perhaps you’ll be able to attend next time.

  12. Well, I’m somewhat at a loss for words as to how to express my gratitude for all the kind comments above. Let me just say that they have really made my day! I was delighted to read that my first effort in the NTSPP slot was enjoyed by so many people.
    I’d also like to take this opportunity to apologise for my absence from the Birthday Bash, this was due to my inability to read dates. I did buy rail tickets, but for Sunday the 28th! I logged onto the site before setting off and realised my mistake. As you can imagine I felt like a right eedjit! But I hope I will have the opportunity to meet you all at some future date.
    Finally, if any of you would like to try a puzzle of mine in a slightly different style, I have posted one on the 1across site
    Off to bed now – hope the big head you have all given me, will still fit on my pillow!
    My sincerest thanks once more

  13. Only got to this late in the day, but what a treat! Oozing with quality throughout – great surfaces and very user-friendly, which made for a pretty quick solve.
    My favourites were 1d (superb), 16d, 5d and 20d, but there were so many others I could have mentioned.
    If I was being picky, I could question ‘tailback’ for a down clue in 14d, and maybe the word ‘or’ would have been better omitted in 23d, but both are a matter of taste rather than anything absolute.
    Congratulations – brilliantly pitched for NTSPP – and pitching the level of difficulty is surely the hardest thing to get right!

  14. A real cracker from start to finish.
    Just a couple of interrogation marks in 12a (surrounding and in) and 25a (has/is).
    Great surface all round and plenty to like.
    Ticked 10a, 18d and 20d.
    Thanks to Italicus.

  15. I’ve not much left to say after all the comments above – this was really enjoyable. I could pick lots of clues as ‘likes’ but I’ll restrict myself to 25a, 6d and 16d. I though that ‘rundown’ in 5a would be better hyphenated.
    Many thanks to Italicus – please keep them coming.

  16. I started this yesterday before the rugby & several bevies & completed it this morning after a recuperative bacon sarnie.

    Most enjoyable from beginning to end. Please sir, can I have more? Puzzles not bacon sarnies!

  17. I don’t think that I can add much to what’s been said already – a really good crossword.
    I confess to having quite a few answers that I can’t explain although I think they have to be right.
    It always makes me cross when people mention particularly good clues/answers and they’re so often the ones I don’t ‘get’ – all my fault, I’m not blaming anyone else here. :sad:
    Thanks and congratulations to Italicus for such a good crossword and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

  18. Thanks Italicus, another big tick here. I found the bottom half required a bit more thought, and liked 18d, 20d best. Are all the U’s merely coincidence?

    1. I hadn’t noticed the number of U’s until you mentioned it, so if there was any intention it must have been subconscious!

  19. All very straightforward and completed on paper in a couple of passes in under half an hour (I guess – I didn’t actually time myself). 20 and 21 took a moment or two longer than most, but nothing to complain about. All in all a pleasant solve just before bedtime.

  20. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and I’m pleased to see that you found little to query in this one.
    As far as the Eastenders clue is concerned, I felt that the ‘soap’ is sufficiently well known for a little latitude to be shown and with 25a I thought that the first three words of the clue taken together produced the required answer.
    Perhaps I’m simply too biased in favour of this particular setter?!!

  21. Many thanks to Prolixic for his kind words and review, and for some entertaining illustrations – I particularly enjoyed seeing the Python song!
    With regards to 25a, my intention was (as Jane and Exit picked up on) that the first 3 words of clue be taken as a whole to give the answer. The 3rd word is a synonym for ‘dead’ rather than ‘died’ hence the need to change ‘has’ to ‘is’. Perhaps this is too much of an ask for the solver, but as it was one of the clues that received the most likes, I’m not so sure.
    I knew that the ‘soap’ clue was pushing things a bit, but I have often heard and seen it used in a similar way to ‘Corrie’ for ‘Coronation Street’, perhaps ‘pointless soap’ would have been fairer.
    Anyway, this is just the kind of constructive criticism that has helped me make my puzzles fairer and more accurate, and the desire to compile a puzzle for which Prolixic can find no fault is an excellent motivation for the future!
    Thanks once again to Prolixic and to everyone for their comments.
    Hope to be back again soon in the NTSPP slot

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