NTSPP – 538 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 538

A Puzzle by Encota

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.


Lockdown Special: Travel Edition

Last Tuesday, 26 May, Encota posted on Facebook that he’d discovered you could make the most wonderful anagram from the Government’s latest advice on what to do while the coronavirus persists. By Thursday he’d expanded from this one anagram to a whole themed crossword on the matter that seems to be exercising so many of us in these trying times.  He’s even had mentions in the Times and other places for his impressive and timely anagram work.  Very clever, fun to solve, and even more to review.


1a/24a/15d      Government counsel easily survives travel North to castle after liberal interpretation (4,5,7,3,5,4,5)
STAY ALERT : CONTROL THE VIRUS: SAVE LIVES Possibly a candidate for Anagram of the Year – An anagram (after liberal interpretation) of EASILY SURVIVES TRAVEL NORTH TO CASTLE produces the Government’s advice (counsel)

6a     Humble acreage by home (5)
ABASE The abbreviation for Acreage followed by another word for home

9a     Madness in Health dates from this man’s overseeing the flow at Westminster? (3,6,6)

10a     One who puts point across shows hesitation after newspaper’s becoming more explicit (9)
EXPRESSER A daily newspaper followed by an expression of hesitation

11a     Time-worn treasury supply when stormy era has passed (5)
RUSTY Remove ERA from TREASURY (stormy tells you they aren’t in that order) and an anagram (supply) of the remaining letters will produce your solution

12a     He’s back after the event in comfort (5)
ELATE The letter at the back of hE followed by a way of saying after the event

14a     Transport like buses having no application at present (4-5)
BLUE-SKIES An anagram (transport) of LIKE BUSES produces an adjective meaning research having no practical application at the present time

17a     Drama-fest unfolding in these buildings (9)
FARMSTEAD An anagram (unfolding) of DRAMA FEST

18a     Empty vehicle acceptable in Durham area meeting-spot (5)
VENUE The outside (empty) letters of VehiclE, followed by a letter meaning acceptable inserted into the area of the UK where Durham is situated

19a     Pay jokers to swallow drug (5)
WAGES Jokers ‘swallowing’ Ecstasy (drug)

21a    What might be gained from news anchor describing current lunchtime’s intro (9)
KNOWLEDGE A type of anchor into which is inserted (describing) a word meaning current and the introduction of Lunchtime

24a     See 1a

25a     You’re ignoring every lockdown directive for starters – give up! (5)
YIELD The initial letters of You’re Ignoring Every Lockdown Directive

26a Nation broadcast piece: it may indirectly help the wheels keep turning (6-3)
GREASE-GUN A homophone (broadcast) of a European nation and a weapon (piece)


1d     Damage as deft one not capable of listening (5-4)
STONE-DEAF An anagram (damage) of AS DEFT ONE

2d     Point to a reasonable conclusion shown by tot heading Northward (3,2)
ADD UP A verb meaning to tot followed by a word describing the direction you’d take going Northward

3d     Understanding a once prudent head (9)
AWARENESS A (from the clue) an archaic word meaning prudent and a head (land)

4d     Distinctive character of those cycling (5)
ETHOS Cycle the letters in THOSE so that the last one moves to the front

5d     Reverse direction of car, say, and go here and there (4,5)
TURN ROUND A go at something followed by a way of saying here and there

6d     Can’t stand ratings following expression of surprise about Boris’s leadership (5)
ABHORS An expression of surprise and some ratings go around the ‘leadership’ of Boris

7d    Acknowledgement of publicity surrounding M1 and number one’s heading North (9)
ADMISSION Some abbreviated publicity (plural) surrounding MI followed by a reversal (heading North in a Down clue) of an abbreviated way saying Number One’s

8d     Northbound idiot engaged in ‘detailed’ eye test (5)
ESSAY Remove the ‘tail’ from EYe, insert (engage) an idiot and reverse the result (northbound)

13d     Bizarrely came into rose garden after removing moistened pants and showed self-importance (9)
ARROGANCE An anagram (bizarrely) of CAME INTO ROSE GARDEN without the letters MOISTENED (pants telling you that they aren’t in that order)

14d     Curiously large beak brings good luck! (5,1,3)
BREAK A LEG An anagram (curiously) of LARGE BEAK

15d     See 1a

16d     Writer and good man’s calm child at back (9)
STEVENSON An abbreviated very good man, a synonym for calm and a male child

19d     Unpredictable Wet effects change of leader (5)
WACKY Change the first letter of a synonym for wet in the sense of sticky

20d     Destroy paper evidence for one quiet and blushing (5)
SHRED A way of telling someone to be quiet followed by the colour you turn when blushing

22d     Line about castle – it’s gold (5)
OCHRE The line behind which a darts player stands into which is inserted (about) the abbreviation for a chess piece some people call a castle because it looks like a tiny castle.  

I thought, instead of illustrating the gold, I’d take this opportunity to show Rabbit Dave that I always think of him when solving, and more importantly, test solving.  I’m not so bothered about the ‘nebulae’ – I think I’ve been solving so long that the right girl/boy/river usually pops up, but I do always mark unindicated Americanisms and, as shown below, the ‘castles’, even though these things don’t bother me as much as they do him.   I do agree with Encota that, in this instance, the word is a necessary part of the theme and it is right to include it.


23d     Dismantle and remove or regularly die trying (5)
DERIG The alternate letters of DiE tRyInG

25 comments on “NTSPP – 538

  1. I know this has just gone up, but 1a (and the linked answer(s)) is already famous, and by gum, what a spot it is.

    1. Chris Lancaster tweeted Encota’s anagram a few days ago, which is where I first saw it. The anagram is already out-of-this-world brilliant in its own right, add the fitting anagram indicator and the lovely definition (the subtlety escaped me first read) and we have what has got to be the best clue I’ve seen in ages!!

  2. Absolutely brilliant and a barrel of laughs – many thanks to Encota.
    1/24/15 is a masterpiece of course but I also loved 18a, 25a and 13d (and too many others to mention).
    I’m awaiting some spluttering from the warren about 22d.

    1. The Rabbit issue was brought up by the test solver but ‘castle’ is part of the theme so it must be included.

      The Rabbit won’t like 1d in today’s GK crossword either

  3. I found that quite hard and I’m missing a parsing or two in amongst the gems
    A fun challenge, thanks Encota

  4. The 33-letter anagram is sheer genius, but the other themed elements were also very clever, bravo indeed!

    A prescient friend of mine said to me last weekend (so before the press conference) that there was no way DC would resign (too much 13d) and that he and the Government would cobble together some sort of unconvincing story and ride it out. How right he was.

    Many thanks to Tim/Encota for a brilliant and very entertaining puzzle.

    1. I particularly enjoyed the line that DC’s reason for the jaunt to the local beauty spot on his wife’s birthday was the least convincing excuse since the two Russian poisoners’ justification for their trip to Salisbury.

  5. Was there a theme ? Can’t say I noticed.
    Absolutely brilliant – Gazza’s comment said it all. Quite how one comes up with a 33 letter anagram is utterly beyond me.
    Many thanks Encota.
    Ps can’t parse my 12a bung in.

  6. Very cleverly constructed puzzle although I can’t be the only one who’s sick and tired of all the circus that’s built up around Covid 19 and consequently gave a deep sigh as soon as the theme became apparent. Have to say that the thought of the man in the rose garden feeling so uncomfortable cheered me up a little but……….. (remainder of comment withdrawn before either BD or CS wield their big red pens!).

    Splendid effort Tim/Encota, many thanks.

  7. I feel the need to join the blog just to thank Encota for a brilliant puzzle. About my level of skill and some clever clues – just the thing for a sunny afternoon in the garden with a bottle of IPA and KOZT playing 60s/70s classic rock. Loved the theme of disturbed comic mind musing!

  8. Brilliant, entertaining, just the job for a relaxing afternoon in the garden. The anagram was stunning.

    Superb, Encota – many thanks

  9. Many thanks for that Encota. That was an amusing break. I am still missing a couple in the NE but that seems appropriate given the events that precipitated this. I await the revue.
    Cracker of an anagram and would bet that CL includes it in his next newsletter.
    (drinking Black Sheep Bitter and listening to Steve Hackett)

  10. It has all been said above, but it bears repeating. Quite brilliant!
    Many thanks to Encota for a most enjoyable solve whilst enjoying the 14a in my castle, sorry, garden.

  11. Started off with some apprehension that there might be allusions that we did not know, but as it turned out, that was not the case.
    A brilliant puzzle and thoroughly enjoyed, especially the long anagram.
    Thanks Encota.

  12. This is the first NTSPP that I have attempted…..and what an absolute cracker it was !
    Needed electronic help and the hints to parse some, but am delighted both with it and with my attempt at it.

    Thanks to cryticsue and to Encota.

    Brilliant !

  13. Many thanks for the review, CS, and the confirmation of a couple of bits of parsing I’d been slightly unconvinced were correct.

  14. Thanks for all your kind comments – this was fun to write. And thanks to CS for the review above.

    In preparing this I had fabulous test-solving help from person or persons known by initials D and C but whose identity I won’t reveal here, though they helped with its accuracy. Coincidence? I think not!

    Tim / Encota

  15. Clever crossword, only one I failed to parse (12a) – and the long one is certainly very funny with its reference to you-know-who’s clandestine (and visually-impaired?) excursion …..


    Maybe Alberich has missed a cue here, but he has posted explicit instructions on his website: “no COVID-related puzzles please!” (when he’s up and running again).

    So who should we be listening to? Personally, I side with Alberich here. Like many others, I reckon, I come to crosswording as an escape all the dire news about you-know-what. Please!

    Sorry, Encota.

  16. Thanks Encota. That was good fun.
    Had to cheat a bit to get the long government advice when I got the first two words.
    The rest was fairly clued and didn’t need any further fact checking.
    Thanks also to CS for the review.

  17. Great stuff. Thanks. I came following a tipoff on the Guardian Crossword blog on Monday, though I’d already been directed to CL’s tweet about the anagram last week. It helped a lot, of course, knowing what the answer to that one was. However, I only got ELATE after revealing both the unchecked letters and still don’t understand how (in?) comfort defines it. I also only got OCHRE (loi) after using Word Wizard to discover the only word that fits. I only learnt the word ‘oche’ (from a crossword) relatively recently and had completely forgotten it, so thanks, Sue, for explaining.

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