NTSPP – 540 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 540

A Puzzle by Hippogryph

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Welcome back to Hippogryph.  I enjoyed solving this after working on the allotment so the theme of noted gardeners was appropriate.


7 Instrument provides change within the hour? On the contrary (9)
ALTIMETER – What an hour is an example of inside a five letter word meaning change.  The “on the contrary means that you have to read the clue as hour within change provides instrument.

8 Reportedly dull place near Oxford (5)
THAME – A homophone of tame (dull).

9 One stoops to catch food – ripe green bananas? (9)
PEREGRINE – An anagram (bananas) of RIPE GREEN.

10 Small flower Romeo held in reserve (5)
BROOK – The letter represented by Romeo in the Nato phonetic alphabet inside a four letter word meaning to reserve something.

12 To catch men misbehaving she cycles behind (6)
ENMESH – An anagram (misbehaving) of MEN followed by the SHE from the clue with the last letter moved to the front (cycles behind).

13 Idiot replacing Conservative leader in parliamentary break is to tax again! (8)
REASSESS – A six letter word for a parliamentary recess with the C (Conservative leader) replaced by a three letter word for an idiot.

16 Patient manner possibly shown by Mr Sheeran during minor recording (7)
BEDSIDE – The first name of the singer ?? Sheean inside (during) the name given to the second track on the reverse of a single record (minor recording).

19 Ravioli, for example stuffed with saltimbocca trimmings and tomato sauce (7)
PASSATA – The food of which Ravioli is an example includes (stuffed with) the outer letters (trimmings) of saltimbocca.

22 Lewis speed merchant moves heroin to Milan (8)
HAMILTON – An anagram (moves) of H (heroin) TO MILAN.

25 Anxiety results from opening of seized lock (6)
STRESS – The first letter (opening) of seized followed by a five letter word for a lock of hair.

27 Little one causes havoc at first chasing bird (5)
TITCH – The initial letters (at first) of causes havoc after (chasing) a three letter bird.

28 Wenger upset by nil-nil draw with Forest (9)
GREENWOOD – An anagram (upset) of WENGER followed by two Os (nil-nil) and the abbreviation for draw used in football results.

29 Slough gangster escapes from line up (5)
MARSH – Remove the two letter name of an American gangster from a seven letter word meaning to line something up.

30 Clean Tsar’s refurbished royal house (9)
LANCASTER – An anagram (refurbished) of CLEAN TSAR.


1 This? Northern for casually inform (4,2)
CLUE IN – What the first part of a crossword puzzle is followed by the abbreviation for Northern.

2 Going on and on, name-dropping – listener’s furious! (8)
TIRELESS – An anagram (furious) of LISTENERS after removing the N (name dropping).

3 Ransack and burn church (6)
SEARCH – A four letter word meaning to burn followed by the abbreviation for church.

4 Yearned excitedly for religious office (7)
DEANERY – An anagram (excitedly) of YEARNED.

5 Irish are sensibly protecting allotments (6)
SHARES – The answer is hidden in (protecting) the first three words of the clue.

6 Decorate English Bond manager – top man! (6)
EMBOSS – The abbreviation for English followed by the name of Jame’s Bond’s master and a four letter word for the top man in a company.

11 Sculptor heard fizz (4)
CAVA – A homophone (heard) of CARVER (sculptor).

14 Age starts to erode reader’s abilities (3)
ERA – The initial letters (starts to) of the final three words of the clue.

15 Lots of water seen after terminal failure of washer perhaps (3)
SEA – Remove the last letter (after terminal failure) of the type of thing of which a rubber washer in a tap is.

16 Oddly brash expression of disgust (3)
BAH – The odd letter in brash.

17 Short change in America – not bright (3)
DIM – The name of an American coin with the last letter removed (short).

18 Gen up a little bit (4)
DATA – Reverse (up) the A from the clue an a three letter word for a little bit.

20 Ill-tempered live wire has quiet sandwich (8)
SHREWISH – An anagram (live) of WIRE inside two indications of the word meaning be quiet.

21 Ask hospital department about appointment on vacation (7)
ENTREAT – A three letter word for a hospital department followed by a two letter word meaning about and the outer letters (on vacation) of appointment.

23 Graduate cloaked in indigo ermine, for instance (6)
ANIMAL – A two letter abbreviation for a graduate inside (cloaked in) a four letter word for a type of dye that is indigo in colour.

24 Wine may be delivered like this, just to be safe (2,4)
IN CASE – Double definition of where to find wine in a container holding several bottles and phrase meaning to be safe.

25 Without major limitations, respect Chechen language (6)
SPEECH – The inner letters (without major limitations) of the fourth and fifth words of clue.

26 Level access to Reykavik’s houses (6)
STOREY – The answer is hidden (houses) in the second to fourth words of the clue.

23 comments on “NTSPP – 540

  1. Not too tricky and a pleasant solve – despite a poorly interlinked grid
    I am not sure 20d quite works as it is but it didn’t stop me getting the answer so perhaps I’m misinterpreting it
    Thanks for the entertainment Hippogryph

  2. Good fun – thanks Hippogryph.
    I liked all the clues (except the non-homophone at 11d). I can’t find the abbreviation for the 28a draw in either BRB or Collins (but it probably should be).
    Top clues for me were 1d, 20d and 25d.

    1. Thanks Gazza. You definitely have a valid point about 11d. One of my test solvers pointed out that if your English is rhotic (R pronouncing I understand) then the homophone doesn’t really work. I took the view, rightly or wrongly, that for the majority of people the homophone would be OK

      1. Thanks Hippogryph. I know I’m fighting a losing battle (because most crossword setters seem to be based in S-E England) but the majority of native-English speakers round the world do use the rhotic R. I can’t imagine the villainous Mr Doone (from my part of England) being very happy if he were addressed as a sparkling wine.

  3. Great stuff, Hippogryph. Good clues and smooth surfaces made for a fun solve, which was not too difficult.

    I was worried by 30a at first as I instantly saw the anagram “ancestral” and was going to comment that your definition of “royal house” was inaccurate. Then after I had solved 26d, fortunately without looking at the checking letters, I realised I needed a different anagram for 30a.

    I can’t disagree with Gazza (except that I thought 11d was fine) and so 1d, 20d & 25d make it onto my podium too.

    Thanks very much, Hippogryph. This was just the job for an NTSPP slot.

  4. Very enjoyable, perfectly pitched for a lunchtime solve, crossword – thank you Hippogryph

  5. Just right for the NTSPP slot with a few easy entry points and some that demanded rather more thought.
    I rather liked the use of ‘patient manner’ and my top two were the last to fall here – 29a & 23d.

    Many thanks to Hippogryph, good to see you back again.

  6. I found this nicely challenging and good fun.
    I still have one in the South that I’ve yet to parse (no its not the lurker!) but I’ll keep looking at it. If I have one slight quibble, it’s that I wasn’t keen on the all too obvious homophone at 8a. However I did like lots of others, 7a, the “flower” at 10a, 16a plus the clever 18 &20d in particular.
    Thanks to Hippogryph for the entertainment.

    Ps shouldn’t 9a be one ‘swoops’ not ‘stoops’?

  7. Thanks Hippogryph

    very pleasant, especially after attempting the enigmatist in the guardian. my favourite was 21 because the surface is so natural. Also liked 24 & 3. I thought you could have omitted “royal”, though it’s fine as is. my oxford geography is not that good, i had to go look at a map!

    thanks for sharing, lots of fun

  8. Thanks Hippogryph, I enjoyed it a lot … especially 20d (the quiet sandwich), 16a (Patient manner) and 6d (the Bond one).

    My last one in was the sculptor in 11d – but I was looking for a famous Sculptor. The homophone works for me. (Sorry, Gazza)

  9. Thanks for all the generous comments so far. I’m really glad that you are enjoying the puzzle. Just wondered whether anyone had spotted a ghost theme yet?

  10. Good fun – some witty clues, overall good surfaces and some unusual synonyms. Lower half went in first, top half had me ‘up in the air’ for a while. Only whinge is having double the number of hidden clues I like. Props to 9a, 16a, 11d and prize goes to 1d which brought a smile. Thanks Hippogryph and I look forward to the next one.

  11. We had to search a Google map to get 8a and although we had met it before now know how to pronounce it.
    Enjoyable solve for us.
    Even though we now know there is a ghost theme haven’t managed to find it yet.
    Thanks Hippogryph

    1. Hi 2Kiwis, yes apologies both 8a and the theme are a bit UK-centric. Glad that you still enjoyed it

  12. Thanks Hippogryph. Most enjoyable. I think 27, 29 gives best clue to the ghost theme.

    1. Very enjoyable. Thanks, Hippogryph. I can confirm that peregrines stoop having seen one in the middle of town on my walk yesterday. Fabulous birds.
      I also liked the reference to green bananas in the same clue. I keep reminding my ageing mother not to buy them!

  13. Just finished this one while watching the PGA golf. Very enjoyable with nice surface & well clued throughout. No issues for me with the homophones at 8a & 11d.
    Not great at spotting themes – ghostly or blindingly obvious but I’ll take a punt at celebrity gardeners.
    Thanks for the entertainment.

  14. As Jane said, “Just right for the NTSPP slot with a few easy entry points and some that demanded rather more thought.” The NW corner proved trickiest – as with a few other puzzles this last week, and I couldn’t see the parsing of 2dn. And although the answer to 11dn was obvious I took ages to realise what the answer was a homophone of. It goes without saying that I failed to spot the theme.
    Thanks to Hippogryph for the enjoyment and to Prolixic for the review.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. Despite being an avid follower of Monty Don’s programmes, there were several gardeners on your list who were unfamiliar here. To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have picked up on the theme at all without the prompt from Gordon!
    Thanks again to Hippogryph – hope your own garden is looking good!

    1. Yes many thanks Prolixic for the review and the excellent illustrations! We also have an allotment which has been a godsend, particularly in the first few weeks of lockdown, and did provide the inspiration for the theme. The “themers” are all former presenters of the Monty don programme – I really should have tried harder to get Don and Swift in the grid! – and some go back a fair way in time, particularly the lady at 3down and the gentleman at 15d/10a.

      Both allotment and garden are indeed looking good at the moment. We’ve also been doing more birdwatching but haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing a 9a over the house/allotment – regular red kites though – so I’m particularly jealous of Shabbo.

      Thanks all for having a go at the puzzle and taking the time to write your comments – it is very much appreciated. Hope to be back soon

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