NTSPP – 485 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 485

NTSPP – 485

Up in the Air by Chalicea

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Is there a theme?  Of course there is!  Can you solve the puzzle without knowing it? Of course you can!

You know exactly what you are going to get when Chalicea brings us an NTSPP – a not too tricky solve (in my case post-lunch while sitting in a chair in the sunny garden); a hidden theme with excellent photo opportunities for the blogger; and the requirement to visit several pages in the BRB in order to find out that words you thought meant one thing, could also mean something else entirely (especially the Scottish ones!) I also spent a bit of time checking that some of the answers that sounded like they could be part of the theme weren’t anything to do with it


8a Boast in a Siouan language (4)
CROW Double definition with our first themed solution

9a Tea time for a honey-eater maybe (4,6)
FOUR O’CLOCK The solution is, as well as being time for tea, another name for the Australian honeyeater

10a Lots of simpletons lacking bit of nous (6)
OODLES Lacking indicates the need to remove the first bit of Nous from some simpletons

11a Special device for separating milk; one producing whistling sound (8)
SCREAMER The abbreviation for Special followed by a device for separating milk. The solution is apparently a large spur-winged representative of the theme

12a Electrical instrument cooked her toast (8)
RHEOSTAT An anagram (cooked) of HER TOAST

14a Mongrel working old sheep (6)
MUTTON An originally American slang word for a dog followed by the two letters used to say that something is working. Theme-wise it is an Australasian shearwater

16a Sacred creature rising in visibility (4)
IBIS Lurking in reverse (a reversal indicator – rising – more for a Down clue than an Across one) in visibility

17a Bonus arranged for warrant officer in the navy (5)
BOSUN An anagram (arranged) of BONUS gives us not only a naval officer but another name for the skua

18a Beat covering of mattress (4)
TICK Double definitions both of which appear in the BRB as they are in the clue, as does the fact that this word is also another name for the oxpecker

19a Unwonted danger of a casual quick look (6)
GANDER This slang (casual) quick look, and its themed meaning can be obtained from an anagram (unwonted) of DANGER

21a Person who severely batters large shark (8)
THRASHER Someone who subjects something/someone to a severe beating or an alternative name for type of large shark

23a Vivid colour of part of scratchcard in a lottery (8)
CARDINAL This colour – another themed solution – can be found in part of scratchCARD IN A Lottery

26a Give up employment and take a holiday in Vegas (6)
VACATE To give up employment or an American verb (as used in Vegas) meaning to take a holiday

27a Kitchen instrument removing dreadful hole from damaged rocket launcher (10)
NUTCRACKER Remove the letters HOLE (dreadful telling that they aren’t in that order) from ROCKET LAUNCHER and an anagram of the remaining letters produces an instrument [Mr CS and I don’t keep ours in the kitchen so wouldn’t quite regard it as that sort of instrument] which has the same name as a member of the crow family

28a Ragged mass of hair of singular old witch (4)
SHAG The abbreviation for Singular and an old witch. This particular themed solution always makes me start reciting the Christopher Isherwood nonsense poem, you know the one about the common cormorant or xxxx which lays its eggs inside a paper bag!


1d Abnormal dislike of work, therefore primarily playing hookey or being inexplicably absent (10)
ERGOPHOBIA The Latin word meaning therefore and the primary letters of Playing Hookey Or Being Inexplicably Absent

2d Unquestioningly believes son rolls around in mud (8)
SWALLOWS The abbreviation for Son and part of a verb meaning rolls around in mud

3d Compensate for small deviation of voltage (6)
OFFSET I knew the compensating meaning but had to check the second one in the BRB

4d Served up neat gelatinous sweets (4)
GUMS A reversal (served up in a Down clue) of an adjective, one of several meanings of which is neat

5d These porters are surprisingly so modern (8)
DOORSMEN An anagram (surprisingly) of SO MODERN

6d Flexible sapling enveloping centre of taiga (6)
PLIANT A young growing thing ‘enveloping’ the I in the centre of taiga

7d Virginia creeper covers small piece of ground (4)
ACRE Lurking in VirginiA CREeper

13d Five involved in upset trial for telecommunication gadget (2,3)
TV SET The Roman numeral for five involved in a reversal (upset in a down clue) of another word for trial

15d Carthorses dancing for companies of musicians (10)
ORCHESTRAS An anagram (dancing) of CARTHORSES

17d Type of architecture to forbid on Erie Canal from time to time (8)
BARONIAL A verb meaning to forbid, ON (from the clue) and the third letter of erIe and the last two of canAL – I have no idea how the selection of required letters equates to ‘from time to time’?

18d Examine luggage; outcome of this action might set a precedent (4,4)
TEST CASE Another word for examine followed by a piece of luggage

20d Work out logically that the devil takes in evil-doers essentially (6)
DEDUCE An exclamatory word used to mean the devil ‘takes in’ the ‘essential’ or middle letter of evil Doers

22d Return to former subject concerning forest greenery (6)
REVERT The two-letter way of saying concerning and a term in forest law meaning all greenery in a forest that may serve as cover for deer (you learn something new every day when you solve a cryptic crossword!)

24d Lean on inverted musical instrument (4)
ABUT A reversed (inverted) musical instrument

25d Resembling a corpse in Aberdeen (4)
LIKE A way of saying resembling or a Scottish word for a corpse that I hope I don’t ever need to use should I visit Aberdeen and have the misfortune to find a corpse

25 comments on “NTSPP – 485

  1. Many thanks for the theme, Chalicea. I did have to check out a couple of hunches with Mr Google but I’m up to 12 relevant entries at the moment.
    I’ve got question marks by ‘neat’ in 4d and the Aberdeen corpse – will keep thinking about those.

    Wish I’d known the answer to 1d before today, could have slipped it into many a conversation!

    1. Well – a trip to the BRB has answered my questions. There really are some amazing – and unbelievable – definitions to be found in there!

  2. I was going to start by saying that the theme will be right up Jane’s street but I see she’s beaten me to it. I must say I’m pleased though to have found the same number of themed answers as our resident expert!

    Despite my scientific training, I’ve never come across 3d as meaning a small deviation of voltage so that required a BRB check for verification, as did the language in 8a and “neat” in 4d . Full marks to the setter for indicating the Americanism in 26a and the Scottish word in 25d. However a mark deducted for the misleading and incorrect enumeration for 9a which held me up quite a while. That was a real shame because that would otherwise have been a superb clue.

    Overall this was very enjoyable with nice smooth surfaces and precise cluing. It’s very hard to pick a favourite from so many excellent clues, but I’ll settle for 20d.

    Many thanks to Chalicea for the entertainment.

    1. Hi, RD. I knew 3d from its use in electronics as a measure of imperfections in a real device. Look here, for example.

  3. A very enjoyable puzzle, over a little too quickly especially as I was to solve it pre-caffeine on my Saturday morning. No obvious favourite but I did like 1d.

    As to the theme, I have 8 ‘obvious’ ones; I presume any more are ‘lurkers’ in other answers.

    Thanks Chalicea.

  4. Rabbit Dave, so sorry to have misled you but in 8ac I was following the required formula for enumeration of a word with an apostrophe in it. Many years ago, I took up this issue with Doc, the Spectator crossword editor and he firmly but courteously instructed me that, for example, ‘a l’abri’ is clued as (1,5), ‘a la maitre d’hotel’ as (1,2,6,6). If you look at the solution you are unhappy with, you will see that it appears in its place in Chambers as though it is a single word. I would actually prefer to clue such words the way you clearly would prefer but we are a little bit bound by rules.

    I do appreciate your other warm comments too.

    1. The Telegraph has been inconsistent with their enumeration of answers containing apostrophes. The word required here appeared in a 2018 Toughie without an apostrophe in the enumeration. But the back-page crossword has featured:

      DT 27545 (Jul 18, 2014)   Czar due to travel round holiday region (4,1’4) for COTE D’AZUR
      DT 27518 (Jun 17, 2014)   Introductory cheer? (4,1’6) for HORS D’OEUVRE
      DT 27368 (Dec 23, 2013)   Castro’s first up-to-date planned takeover (4,1’4) for COUP D’ETAT

      There’s even:
      DT 27121 (Mar 9, 2013)   Won’t wash, as bath without plug (5’1,4,5) for DOESN’T HOLD WATER

      So, at least for NTSPP purposes, I think you could claim that there’s precedent for including apostrophes in enumeration, should you ever want to do that.

    2. I’m fairly relaxed about showing apostrophes in the enumeration, and tend to go with whatever the setter has chosen.

    3. Thanks very much for taking the time to comment, Chalicea and thanks as well to Mr K for the Telegraph examples. Those examples illustrate nicely my belief which is that apostrophes really should be shown in the enumeration if they are indicative of a letter (or letters) being removed, which is the case for the French words, words like DOESN’T, and indeed O’CLOCK (diminution of “of the clock”). I don’t however think they are necessary in the case of possessives, e.g. ONE’S.

      Chambers shows both the bird and the plant in 9a as hyphenated (i.e. 4-1’5), but, of course, the time for tea would not be hyphenated.

      Incidentally 9a was the bird I missed in my theme count of 12.

      Thanks too to CS for the review. I put THRESHER as my answer for 21a. Chambers cites THRESHER and THRASHER as alternatives for the bird but only THRESHER for the shark.

      1. I put thresher originally but then having consulted the BRB, I revealed a letter and found that A was the letter our setter had used in her original solution

        1. Count me in to the THRESHER brigade as well. I also wasted a lot of (tea) time by being an hour out with 9a, failing to justify the other part of the clue and not getting 4d as a result.

  5. Good setting to get so many theme words in the grid – I didn’t know a number of them!

    I think 9A was probably my favourite and the enumeration didn’t phase me. I was a little surprised at the use of rising in an Across clue.

    Thanks Chalicea for an entertaining crossword.

  6. Here I am again – I am following the comments with real interest. Oh dear yes, Windsurfer23, so sorry. That is a flaw that so often appears in my compilations and I have been told about it by editors for over a decade. ‘I can only use ‘upset’ in a down clue, ‘returning’ in an across one etc.’ It’s a sort of mental block – I visualise the word, say, with its last letter leaping to the top, rather than seeing it as an item in the straitjacket of its place in a grid. I will try harder.

  7. That was a lot of fun. I can spot enough answers with something in common to identify the theme, but no way am I going to find all of them. I ticked many clues: 12a, 14a, 19a (loved the indicator), 26a, 1d, 7d, and 24d. The difficulty level was perfect for this slot.

    Many thanks, Chalicea, for brightening my Saturday.

  8. A solo solve by one Kiwi this week who enjoyed meeting all his distant relatives here. Really good fun to solve and just the right level of difficulty for a Sunday morning pre-walk solve.
    Thanks Chalicea.

  9. Many thanks for the beautifully illustrated review, CS. The only error I made was, like RD, having THRESHER in as the answer to 21a.

    I think 17d is ‘bar’ plus ‘on’ from the clue followed by every third letter in Erie Canal.

    Just a couple of birdy points:-
    The term bosun bird can be applied to both skuas and tropicbirds, your photo shows the white-tailed tropicbird – a beautiful bird that I’ve been lucky enough to see.
    Amongst the honey-eaters is the Noisy Friarbird (as pictured) whose call does sound as though it is saying ‘four o’clock’.

    Thanks again to Chalicea, I very much enjoyed being Up in the Air.

    1. Hi, Jane. I interpreted from time to time in 17d the same way you did, and I was another THRESHER.

      Thanks for the birdy points, especially your explanation of why the 9a is called that.

  10. I ran out of time to finish this yesterday but can appreciate the puzzle from the review so thanks to CS for that. I don’t think I would have made the count!

    Well done and thanks to Chalicea for the fun.

  11. I loved it – a perfect antidote to this week (not the crosswords, just the week in general) which I’m really glad to see the back of.
    I found it quite difficult to get started but then, gradually, it all fell into place.
    I laughed at 11a – donkey’s years ago I went to Slimbridge with my, then, fiancé and my sister and her husband and saw an 11a – the pair of them (the blokes) spent the rest of the day pretending to be 11a’s – don’t ask – might be one of those you needed to be there for . . .
    Too many nice clues to enumerate them all so thanks to Chalicea for the crossword and to CS for the review and pics.

  12. A relatively quick workout apart from 1dn where the bit derived from initial letters was easy but it took a while to work out what the first bit was until the lightbulb moment and a swift check in the BRB. I spotted a lot of the birds but missed several where I didn’t know rhe solution was also the name of a bird.
    So thanks to Chaliciea – and to crypticsue – for expanding my knowledge of the avian world.

  13. Very enjoyable Chalicea. In particular I have never heard of the four o’clock bird.
    In Chalicea’s defence at 17d I took every third letter ( from time to time) from Erie Canal to get the final three letters.
    Many thanks Crypticsue for the lovely pictures

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