NTSPP – 500 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 500

NTSPP – 500

A Puzzle by Hydra

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Hydra is the many headed beast represented by Alchemi, Artix, Atrica, Chalicea, Dill, Elgar, Elkamere, Encota, Exit, Gazza, Giovanni, Harold, Howzat, Italicus, Jaffa, Kelotoph, Knut, Marg, Mucky, Phibs, Prolixic, Radler, Shabbo, Silvanus, Skinny, Snape, Starhorse and Windsurfer.  Together this illustrious group of setters have combined to produce a special puzzle to celebrate the 500th NTSPP.


Time to celebrate – this is the 500th NTSPP and the twenty-eight headed Hydra has produced a special crossword to mark the event – if you know your Roman numerals, you should soon notice a certain something round the outside of the grid – I know about pangrams and lipograms, but is there a term for a crossword where the same letter appears in every solution?

I wonder how many people matched the setter and their clue. I got two – 3d because our Prolixic quite likes a clue with a madam in it; and 7d because of the setter’s Christian name!


8a Ocado’s business separated from very expensive food shop (4) [Mucky]
DELI Ocado provide a particular type of service, separate the first four letters from the VERY and you have an expensive food shop

9a Spoke about independent cotton machine being invented (10) [Snape]
ORIGINATED Part of a verb meaning spoke lengthily or pompously goes ‘about’ a cotton-processing machine

10a Back trouble kept perennial beauty in bed (6) [Gazza]
DAHLIA A reversal (back) of trouble and kept

11a Dodgy deal in cards for bluff (8) [Shabbo]
HEADLAND An anagram (dodgy) of DEAL inserted into a set of cards

12a Sound new excavation outside (4) [Alchemi]
DING A (possibly archaeological) excavation goes outside the abbreviation for new

13a Disconcerted to recall dress is dull up in town, oddly (10) [Silvanus]
NONPLUSSED Found in reverse in the odd letters of DrEsS iS dUlL uP iN tOwN (something that is easier to see than type!)

17a Bloke going for a spin in Nevada? (4) [Starhorse]
DAVE Our favourite ‘bloke’ found in reverse (going for a spin) in nEVADa

18a Poet‘s anguished composition with tormented sigh recalled (5) [Atrica]
AUDEN An anagram (composition) of ANGUISHED once you have removed (recalled) SIGH (tormented telling you that the letters aren’t in that order in ANGUISHED

19a Greek documents…that you are trying to fill in? (4) [Skinny]
GRID The abbreviations for Greek and some documents

20a Sobriety represented by object with Eastern head(10) [Windsurfer]
DEMURENESS A verb meaning to object, the abbreviation for Eastern and a head(land)

22a `Recording captures only vocal bit of Toby Belch (4) [Artix]
VOID An abbreviated recording captures the only vowel in Toby

23a Art attraction near Islington gets evacuated (8) [Italicus  Wire (see comment 10)]
DRAWINGS An attraction followed by the outside letters (evacuated) of IslingtoN GetS

27a Sailor with a way to foreign parts (6) [Alchemi]
ABROAD An Able-Bodied seaman (sailor) with a ‘way’

28a Shot rabbit in rear; part of buck about ready to eat now? (10) [Elgar]
DINNERTIME A shot (on a target perhaps), the ‘rear’ letter of rabbit inserted into part of a buck (this one being a slang term for an American coin)

29a Typed, omitting letter K in clocked (4) [Radler]
EYED Omit the K in part of a verb meaning typed


1d Make the drink potable (10) [Knut]
DESALINATE A cryptic definition – the drink is an informal term for the sea

2d Expected to keep a record after one head-to-head (8) [Giovanni]
DIALOGUE A synonym for expected into which is inserted (to keep) a type of record which goes after I (one)

3d Raunchy on-line madam left out her address? (6,4) [Prolixic]
DOMAIN NAME An anagram (raunchy) of ON lINE MADAM without the L (left out)

4d Bolt has one instead of a Sky receiver (4) [Phibs]
DISH Change the A in a verb meaning to bolt for an I (has one instead)

5d Upset passionate and demanding woman (4) [Radler]
DIVA A reversal (upset in a Down clue) of an adjective meaning passionate

6d Cowboys’ home is entirely in the hands of US lawyers (6) [Kelotoph]
DALLAS These particular Cowboys play American football professionally. Insert a synonym for entirely into the abbreviation for District Attorneys (US lawyers)

7d Chapter number 1 (4) [Elkamere]
DEAN A cryptic definition giving us the person in charge of a cathedral chapter

14d Jog naked around centre of Wigan (5) [Chalicea]
NUDGE A synonym for naked goes round the letter at the centre of Wigan

15d Goes ashore, dressed as Batman and the scenery improved (10) [Jaffa]
LANDSCAPED A way of saying goes ashore followed by the way Batman is usually dressed

16d Very happy outside, I’m popular and taken out (10) [Howzat]
ELIMINATED Part of a verb meaning very happy goes outside IM (from the clue) and a way of saying popular

19d Directed Edmund to support grand balls (8) [Marg]
GOVERNED An informal name for Edmund supports or goes under in a Down clue the abbreviation for Grand and six balls in a game of cricket

21d Relax with German boxing success (6) [Dill]
UNWIND The German word for and (with) ‘boxing’ a success

24d Police action leads to rapid arrest in Dover (4) [Harold]
RAID The leads to Rapid Arrest In Dover

25d False rumour about missing plant (4) [Exit]
NARD One of the names for a plant in the Valerian family can be obtained by removing the Latin abbreviation for about from a false rumour

26d Children cycling leave rubber on the road (4) [Encota]
SKID Cycle the S at the end of an informal term for children to the front of the word

Many thanks to Hydra – and to BD for the NTSPPs that keep crossword addicts happy every Saturday afternoon. Here’s to the next 500!



43 comments on “NTSPP – 500

  1. Lovely puzzle, well done to all. 15d had me grinning and is my pick of a good bunch. Could you put names to clues in the review? (though I have my suspicions)
    Thanks for the entertainment folks

  2. What a perfect antidote to today’s back-pager! This was brimful of excellent clues – almost none of these would disgrace a spot on my crowded podium, which comprises 10a, 13a, 28a (despite this particular rabbit’s concern about the surface reading), 3d, 4d, 7d (the answer leads me to guess this one may have been by Elkamere?) and 15d.
    My only issues were that I didn’t know the answer to 25d and needed to reveal the missing two letters to complete the grid, and also I can’t see how the second letter of 22a is clued.
    Many thanks to all the setters and to Prolixic for putting it all together. Congratulations to BD for having the brilliant idea of a weekly NTSPP slot and reaching the wonderful milestone of 500 – something England’s cricketers would dearly love to do but seem incapable of.

  3. Such good fun – now trying to decide who wrote which clue, which is driving me mad. I’ve definitely decided three of them but I could, of course, be completely wrong!
    I do hope our blogger is enlightened ‘ere long – it’s going to be hard enough waiting until tomorrow as it is!

  4. I noticed the common thread early on, which was a great help in completing the grid, though I have the same issue as RD regarding 22A and had to reveal a letter for 25D. Thanks to all. That was fun.

  5. Very enjoyable although some head scratching required. Since I can rarely detect a single setter, detecting 28 is slightly more than impossible for me, so I just hope that CS is enlightened by BD.
    I think my favourite has to be 19d.
    Very many thanks to BD and Prolixic and the team, and thanks in advance to CS for tomorrow’s review.

  6. Loved this much more than the backpager. Twigging the Nina early on gave me a lot of help but had a few difficulties. I suspect my doubts about 25d are the same as Expat Chris but a wikipedia search gave me some ideas towards the parsing.
    Thanks to BD and “Hydra” I look forward to finding out who did what.

  7. That was fun. I’m glad I spotted the nina after writing in 6d after 5d or it might have taken me a while. I had to reveal a letter to solve the 19d-22a intersection and then kicked myself as I’d considered *that* meaning of “vocal” in 22a but dismissed it as I couldn’t see how the rest of the clue worked. My favourite clues were 8a, 19a, 29a, 3d and 15d.

    I’m interested to know if the grid was put together by one (or more) of the setters or by Dave himself. Thanks “Hydra” and thanks to the blogger in advance.

    1. The introduction to today’s DT back page hints says

      “we have a superb NTSPP to celebrate the 500th puzzle in the series – this puzzle has been put together by Prolixic with the help of 27 other setters, many of whom have been published in the National press”

  8. lovely, many thanks Hydra. Perfect entertainment while i’m in hospital. It’s always fun trying to guess the author of each clue, but the opportunity for error is enormous. Let’s just say it is clear the excellent quality of our setters is represented throughout, and the level was perfect for an entertaining celebratory puzzle.

    Congratulations especially to Big Dave on the milestone of this iconic feature

    1. Sorry to hear you are in hospital, Dutch. I hope it’s only a brief stay, and I wish you a speedy recovery.

    2. Get well soon, Dutch.
      Great fun. I didn’t spot the Nina, despite having forewarning of the grid!!
      8a, 1d, 3d and 14d were my personal favourites.

  9. Excellent fun and thoroughly appreciated. It is a good thing that we spotted the NINA well before the end as we needed its help in the SE where we had the biggest struggle.
    Thanks Hydra. Now we are looking forward to finding out who set what.

  10. Credit where credit is due. The clue attributed to me was actually an invention of Wire’s. So thanks to him and all the other setters who contributed to this and the other 499 crosswords.

    1. The list I was sent definitely has you as the setter of 23a – I’ll change it to show Wire rather than you

      1. Many thanks. I was struggling to come up with 3 definitions, so asked Wire if he could come up with something. It was his clue that was selected, so I thought it only fair to credit him with it

      2. Thanks crypticsue for the edit… and thanks Italicus! What a great project to be a part of. Well done to all.

  11. Sometimes a composite effort can lead to an unbalanced puzzle so many thanks to Prolixic for producing an appropriate grid and corralling the setters into producing top-class clues which came together so smoothly that one not in the know would never guess that it wasn’t the work of a single compiler.

    Thanks also to Crypticsue for the explanations and to BD for having the idea of the NTSPP series in the first place and nurturing it through to reach such a significant milestone.

  12. Goodness, I was miles off with most of my guesses – just Elkamere whom I correctly identified and he had given a rather large hint!
    Anything I could have said about this celebration NTSPP has already been put very eloquently by Gazza so I hope he won’t mind if I piggy-back and say ‘ditto’.
    That was tremendous fun, many thanks to all the setters, to Prolixic for organising and to CS for the review.

  13. Although Prolixic provided all the setters with a completed grid and a list of who was to clue what, I promptly forgot most of it (apart from the occurrence of D in every answer) so it was an interesting exercise to solve and try to remember which of my fellow setters set what. And it may be just me but I have the impression that those with the reputation of being difficult were not necessarily at their most difficult here.
    Thanks to Prolixic for organising it, to my fellow-setters for an entertaining solve, and to crypticsue for explaining all.

  14. Delighted to have been asked to contribute to this, and indeed to have had a few puzzles appear here. I thought the grid was superbly put together, especially without having to resort to obscurities to make it work (although I’ve not heard of the plant in 25d). Many lovely clues on offer too – though on reflection I wish I’d considered something less mundane than “bloke”. “Gentleman” would have been much better.

  15. A pleasure indeed to be part of the celebration of this impressive milestone. The NTSPP offers in particular an unparalleled opportunity for setters without regular newspaper contracts to get their work in front of a wide, informed audience and to receive helpful (and entertaining :smile: ) feedback. Long may it continue to prosper! Prolixic might need to start work again soon, though, as a grid with an ‘M’ in every entry is going to be a challenge…

    PS I suppose you could describe the completed grid here as a Box of D-lights. Possibly :unsure:

  16. What a tour de force! Warmest congratulations on the 500th NTSPP to Big Dave and to all those who have contributed along the way to reach this splendid milestone.

    I’m thoroughly enjoying this crossword, and find it very difficult to single out any clues for special mention. They are all very individual, and I’ve had some good chuckles along the way. As I haven’t quite finished, I haven’t read the review yet and merely skimmed through the comments. I look forward to reading the former and the latter.

    My most appreciative thanks to you all, and to crypticsue in advance for her review.

  17. Thank you to all for the comments and to CrypticSue for the review. Special thanks to the many heads of Hydra who provided the clues and responded without grumbling to my chasing and requests. Nobody has questioned the appearance of Howzat among the setters. He is Tim Moorey, a well-known setter and former editor of the Times cryptic crossword who also set NTSPP 18. He and Giovanni were kind enough to respond to Big Dave’s request to provide a clue for the crossword.

    Dean (Anax) provided the first NTSPP crossword closely followed by an obscure rookie setter and rapidly joined by a series of familiar names including Radler, Alchemi and Gazza as the grand “old” men of the series. Since then the series has gone from strength to strength boosted by new setters coming up from the Rookie Corner. The NTSPP has also been a springboard for new setters into to the national papers.

    Above all thank you to Big Dave for the vision for the NTSPP and for continuing to support it.

  18. What a delightful way to celebrate this milestone. Many thanks to Prolixic for the ingenious grid, and to the other setters for the very fine clues. Incidentally, we were asked to contribute more than one clue for each word, so it might be possible to enjoy another version or two of this at some point!

  19. A big thank you to Prolixic and Big Dave for making all of this possible.
    For someone who still considers himself to be very much a Rookie it was an honour to be able to contribute to it, especially given the pedigree of some of the other setters.
    On a personal note I was relieved, after several weeks, to (a) be able to remember which clue was mine and (b) be able to solve it!
    Not totally gaga yet….😂

  20. I enjoyed this puzzle. Progress was slow at first but speeded up once I spotted the Nina and finished with me learning the name of a plant.
    Many thanks to all contributors.

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