NTSPP – 421 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 421

NTSPP – 421

A Puzzle by Radler

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

When Radler sends a crossword for testing, he always says what he thinks the difficulty level might be – he thought this was ‘average’, I disagreed! Such a lot of things to check in the BRB and elsewhere, in the case of some of them, twice, the second time dly when I came to prepare this review as I’d forgotten a few of them in the interval between December 2017 and now.

However, I’m chuffed to report that I did notice the Nina at the top and bottom, having seen the very obvious letter to go into the middle of the grid – what we have is a variation of a well-known 17a/19a – Woman goes into a bar, asks for a drink and says 16/17a, the Nina being the punchline of the “joke”.


8a Charge imposed by “listening bank” (5)
LEVEE A homophone (by listening) of an imposed charge may or may not leave you with an earworm!

9a Boasting lecturer fondling American’s Australian wife – as a rule, it’s physical (6,3)
GAUSS’S LAW A word with many definitions, one of which is boasting, round a way of saying American’s (don’t forget the ‘s, even though RD says it shouldn’t have one), followed by the abbreviations for lecturer, Australian and wife

11a Blasted by missile, one’s captured (9)
PERISHING A word meaning blasted in the sense of cursed is obtained by ‘capturing’ I (one) in an American nuclear missile. Quite a lot of us have used this word this week in another context to do with the freezing cold. I know this photo I took on Saturday morning isn’t illustrating the right meaning but it definitely illustrates the result of strong wind and the second definition, where the bank of the stream is usually to be found approximately where the dark line in the middle of the snow drift can be seen

12a Retired doctor presses Italian for more drug (5)
OPIUM A reversal (retired) of one of the abbreviations for doctor around (presses) the Italian word for more – one of those ‘see the solution, check the bit you didn’t know clues’

13a Catch too many of public sheltering, essentially lonely (7)
OVERNET A synonym for public ‘sheltering’ the middle letters (essentially) of loNEly

14a Nice Keith making reappearance after I’d gone … (7)
EMERSON Remove the I (after I’d gone) from a reappearance of a heavenly body. This particular Keith was a keyboard player in both a band called Nice and one most of us would be more likely to remember!

16a … to be successful Grandma, Keith has bits removed (4,2)
MAKE IT Lurking (has bits removed) in GrandMA KE ITh

17a/19d Stiff one? Two nurses on something risqué (6,8)
DOUBLE ENTENDRE A stiff drink might have more than one measure; you then require the abbreviation for a Enrolled Nurse, a verb meaning to nurse and the two letters we used to mean on (the subject of)

22a American star in jazz? … (7)
SINATRA – An anagram (jazz) of A STAR IN

24a … player in jazz clubs for one outfit (7)
CATSUIT A jazz player followed by a set of cards of one domination, such as clubs

25a Football team, right-half sent off field (5)
REALM Take a ten-letter Spanish football team and ‘send off’ the five letters on the right side

27a Moving into ghetto originally in former capital, he rose to fame (9)
BONINGTON “he rose to fame” is a cryptic way of telling us that we are looking for a famous mountaineer. An anagram (moving) of INTO and G (Ghetto ‘originally’) inserted into the former capital of Germany

28a Offer succeeds, saving local worker (9)
BARTENDER An offer succeeds a preposition meaning saving, except for

29a Turkey stuffed with trouble, is one worth 17 (5)
TWOER One worth 17a – The IVR code for Turkey ‘stuffed’ with some trouble


1d Cast able to move: film pros directed (8)
SLIPFORM In building, a cast that can be moved slowly as work progresses – here obtained from an anagram (directed) of FILM PROS

2d Incompetent crook: never rate too highly (10)
OVERRECKON An anagram (incompetent) of CROOK NEVER

3d He and neighbour at table, eating down in city (8)
HELSINKI HE (from the clue) which here represents a chemical element, so you need to find its ‘neighbour’ in the Periodic Table and then insert (eating) a verb meaning to down in the sense of drink quickly

4d My people say it’s so sad (7)
EGOISTS The abbreviation meaning for example (say) plus an anagram (sad) of ITS SO

5d Wrap around legs disguised noises from stomach (7)
GURGLES A reversal (around) of a wrap followed by an anagram (disguised) of LEGS


6d Head of Admiralty to stay away from sea (6)
ASHORE The ‘head’ of Admiralty followed by a verb meaning to prop up (stay)

7d Marshy land: alternately (or alternatively) vile and evil (4)
VLEI African marshy land – you can take ‘alternatively’ two ways in this clue – as an instruction to take the alternate letters of ViLe and EvIl, or as an anagram indicator as both VILE and EVIL rearrange to give you the solution

10d Finished first stocking middle of Xmas Eve? (5)
WOMAN A way of saying finished first ‘stocking’ the two letters in the middle of Xmas

15d Process involving plates, sandwich and pipe I lit (10)
SUBDUCTION A type of sandwich, a pipe, I from the clue, and ‘lit’ in the sense of working

18d Phrase repeated in bars: “Nothing drunk in toast” (8)
OSTINATO A musical phrase that repeats in the same pitch. An anagram (drunk) of O (nothing) and IN TOAST

19d See 17 Across

20d Proposed plumbing charge for WC? (7)
CARBIDE The chemical symbol WC gives you one example of the solution. A verb meaning proposed inserted into a synonym for charge

21d Beg to get school with no reading and writing perhaps (7)
SCHNORR Another work it out from the clue and then check moment – the three-letter abbreviation for school, NO (from the clue) and two lots of the letter used in a well-known expression to mean reading and writing. Apparently, it is a Yiddish word meaning to beg in a way as to make the giver feel beholden

22d Polish boat going under, half of crew aboard (5)
SCRUB An abbreviated boat which goes under the sea into which is inserted (aboard) the first half of Crew

23d Anger lessened given hot soya meal (6)
TEMPEH Truncate (lessened) a synonym for anger and then add the abbreviation for Hot

26d Some ground Arabica coffee refreshes early starters (4)
ACRE The ‘starters’ of Arabica Coffee Refreshes Early

41 comments on “NTSPP – 421

  1. As always I’m full of admiration for Radler’s inventive clueing although I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I usually do his puzzles because there are lots (too many?) references and answers which were new to me and which required Google to explain. I think I understand it all now, but I’m going to have to lie down in a darkened room to recover.
    Thanks to Radler and best of luck to whoever’s doing the review.
    The clues I liked best were 28a, 4d and 6d.

    1. Radler is a ‘nationally published setter’ so I’m the one reviewing this week

  2. Surely he won’t use that 17/19, I thought – but he definitely did! Actually that was just as well because, without being able to fill in quite a few vital letters as a result of knowing some slightly unladylike terminology, I wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance with this one.

    Nine elements that I had to consult the reference library about which seemed excessive. You’re a fiendish setter to start with, Mr Radler, I can’t see that you need to make life even more difficult for us.

    Any space for me in your darkened room, Gazza?

    Can’t wait to see how you handle the review of this one, CS – could prove to be interesting!

  3. I’m comforted to read Gazza’s comments as, in order to complete this, I have practically worn out my BRB by thumbing through it as well as needing to use a lot of electronic help. I’m off now to join him in his darkened room.

    Fortunately I am a great fan of “Nice Keith” in 14a and I was able to dredge up some of my long dormant scientific knowledge to help me with 9a, 3d & 20d. I can’t imagine why anyone (apart from a crossword setter perhaps) would want to put a third S in 9a, although I see it is included in Wikipedia (but that doesn’t make it right, of course). I would also question 22a being a jazz singer, but that’s probably a moot point.

    Despite the toughness, I did enjoy the challenge and there was a lot of clever stuff on show. I particularly liked the special instruction across the middle row as well as 17a/19d, 28a, 3d, 4d & 20d.

    Many thanks to Radler and in advance to CS.

    1. I see the darkened room is filling up fast as Jane too has already gone there.

      1. I was in the darkened room for this one back in January so I’ve been there, recovered and may possibly be back there later!

          1. We do have cake, but having witnessed amazing scenes in Sainsbury’s this morning, where people who had been stuck indoors for over four days seemed to have forgotten how to drive and park and once inside the shop were panic-buying everything in sight, including one lady who obviously has some serious custard cream addiction problem, Mr CS says we’ve got to keep hold of every food item we possess.

            1. Yes, that reflects Mrs RD’s experience today too. She popped to our local Sainsbury’s just to get some milk and bread, and it was complete mayhem just as you describe with almost no milk nor bread available.

  4. I liked what I got, but some was beyond me. After grinding to a complete halt, I revealed 4, 14, 20 and 21 to get me going. After that, it was a doddle, with the mystery instruction helping at the end. WC was in a Puck puzzle last year: Disturbance gent brought about in WC (8,7). I got it then, but there were loads of crossers and a theme to help.

  5. Like a 24a, this suited me down to the ground!

    Was thrilled to get all but one of the answers and rationales (I think) despite a considerable number of bits that had to be inferred, to be looked up later. Was not thrilled by the one exception, 20d, where I resorted to a dictionary search, because I have no excuse for missing that. The one parse that I’m still not sure about is 14a.

    The nina certainly helped. I would definitely have cheated on more without that, and got some wrong (my original guess for 21d ended in S). Naturally I enjoyed the reference to one of my favourite jokes of all time.

    I couldn’t believe 9a turning up in the grid. That was an answer which evoked some happy memories of university days.

    Much as I enjoy your company, Gazza, Jane and RD, I won’t join you in the darkened room but instead take a nice head-clearing walk. The difficulty was a little bit more than I generally want on a Saturday (for me a slightly stiffer-than-average Friday Toughie level) but because of the above all is forgiven!

    Many thanks Radler, and thanks in advance to CS for the review.

    1. D’oh – only just seen the full Nina – thanks Kitty. I had scanned the relevant lines before but thought there was nothing there.

      1. You must have wondered what on earth I was ‘going on about’ with my mention of requiring knowledge of some unladylike terminology!

        1. Yes, I did, but very stupidly I only tried reading the bottom line from right to left and assumed it was nonsensical :wacko:

        2. I just assumed that the unladylike language was what you were muttering when trying to solve the puzzle. :D

      2. Likewise. A very clever 17/19 indeed!

        Now how come Kitty spotted that and Gazza and I missed it?

      1. Thanks Maize. I did get there in the end. Only knew Keith from the band with his name in it, not Nice!

        (Actually, aren’t we all missing a The?)

  6. Phew! Quite a struggle, but definitely worth it for the big pay-off near the end. Plenty to enjoy and admire in there, but the real winner was that big joke. Brilliant! Amongst the clues, I particularly liked 25a, 26a, 3d, 4d and 15d.

    Unsurprisingly some of the vocabulary required use of the internet, which always dampens my enjoyment a bit, but obviously that was inevitable with there being theme plus Nina like this.

    Can someone put me out of my misery on 20d please – I have the answer and the WC bit, but why ‘Proposed plumbing charge’?

    1. You’ve got a verb meaning ‘proposed’ inserted into (plumbing) a synonym for charge

    2. Ah, got it. Plumbing is insertion indicator. Nothing to do with bidets at all!

      Thanks Gazza and Sue. Got there on my own eventually – honest!

  7. We managed to get all the West half but very few in the East so ended up revealing letters all over the place so we could go for our Sunday morning walk. Totally missed the Nina which is a pity as it might have helped with a few more.

  8. I have almost all of the top half, about half of the SE corner, and almost nothing in the SW corner. I can’t see a Nina (I am useless at spotting them even with a completed grid). Too hard for me, I’m afraid.

  9. Ouch. I have barely made inroads thus far. I’ll plug away a bit longer before i read the review or comments, but my expectations of getting very far are low.

  10. Many thanks for the review, CS.

    If this is what Radler describes as average difficulty, remind me not to attempt something which he feels is difficult.

  11. Many thanks for the review, CS – I particularly admired the way in which you skirted round the issue of the Nina!
    The cartoon at 5d made me laugh and I wanted to ask whether anyone has tried the 23d concoction – didn’t look at all as I’d imagined.

    Think the reds & blues have got a little mixed up in 7d.

    Like RD, I think shall steer clear of any puzzle that Radler feels is difficult!

  12. Thank you for all the comments, and to Sue for the review.
    Sorry about the number of obscure answers, which resulted from the self-imposed constraints of a theme plus Nina. I’ll aim to reduce the difficulty level in the next one.

    1. Good of you to call in, Radler. Please can you make sure that your ‘aim’ for next time is extremely accurate!

  13. Thank you all for the enlightenment, especially CS for the review. When the dust settles, I hope some kind person will enlighten me as to where the Nina is (are?)!

    1. Hi Tony. Look at the top and bottom rows of the completed grid, as well as the middle one. The joke goes something like this:

      A woman walked into a bar and asked the bartender for a double entendre. So he gave her one.

      1. Hi Kitty. Oh my – I see it now, and thank you very much! (Having very few letters in the bottom row didn’t help!)

        1. Whenever you get a grid where the top and bottom rows look like this one, it is always worth looking for a message there, although more often than not you’ll be disappointed.

          1. Thank you – the silly thing is that this exactly what I did, and I still didn’t ‘see’ it! Mind you I think I would have been the half of Dutch’s audience that needed the explanation! Thanks again.

  14. This was a very long way beyond me – Radler’s crosswords always are – one day I’ll remember that.
    Having now read the hints, in some cases several times, and looked at lots of the answers too I’m going to stop beating myself about the head.
    Thanks to Radler (I think), admiration to anyone who solved this one and thanks and oodles of admiration to CS for finishing it and managing the review.

  15. loads of fun, many thanks Radler.

    I was once handed the mic at a conference while the speaker was getting ready, with the instruction “tell a joke”. Yep, i’m afraid this was it, though i had the woman asking a cocktail waiter for a 17/19. i spent much of the rest of the evening explain it to about half the audience, so it got plenty of mileage.

    many thanks sue, especially for the explanations of 3d and 14a.

    i wondered whether radler meant lit=drunk=on in 15d, not that it matters.

  16. I scored a DNF I’m afraid, too much like hard work. Never mind.
    Thanks Radler and CS

  17. Got there in the end and parsed everything except 14a where ‘reappearance’ left me totally baffled and I only got the answer from crossing letters and knowing the ‘other’ band. Several answers had to be checked in the BRB to confirm that they really were words. And I only got 1dn because of my professional involvement in concrete technology.

  18. What a brilliant puzzle. I’m so sorry I didn’t manage to get to the joke, as it’s one of my favourites too. I was actually looking at DOUBLE E_______ and thinking “it’s got to be a joke”. Brain freeze.

    This is the first NTSPP I’ve tried and having only completed about 3/4 of it (and understood less), I’m relieved to hear they’re not all this hard. Might come back for another one later.

    As any Physics graduate will tell you, Gauss’s Law is, of course,… (no looking it up now) …

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