NTSPP – 560 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 560

A Puzzle by Jaffa

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review by a grumpy old man.

Perhaps I am feeling too grumpy following the weekend’s announcements, necessary though the second lockdown appears to be from all the evidence.  However, I did not enjoy this as much as many of Jaffa’s previous crosswords.


1 Migratory bird, spoken of as an oenophile (4,6)
GREY PLOVER – A homophone (spoken) of grape lover (oenophile).

6 Siren needs two electrical units (4)
VAMP – The abbreviation for volt and the unit of electrical current.

9 Simple diet varied for drug control? (5,5)
SPEED LIMIT – An anagram (varied) of SIMPLE DIET.  Although a solution can be described cryptically, case has to be taken that there is a direct link between the cryptic definition and the solution.  Therefore, for example, a “stomach” could be defined as a food processor but not as a grizzly animal = bear = stomach.  Here, I am not convinced that the link between drug control and the solution is direct enough.

10 Odd apostasy back in Zeno’s lecture theatre? (4)
STOA – A reversal (back) of the odd letters in the second word of the clue.  Normally, you would need oddly to indicate the odd letters.  Perhaps “Apostasy oddly returns in…”

12 Springbok cooked polenta with last sausage (8)
ANTELOPE – An anagram (cooked) of polenta followed by the last letter of sausage.  You should use “lastly” to indicate the last letter.

13 Favourite digested by Tijuana chomper (5)
NACHO – The answer is hidden (digested) in the final two words of the clue.

15 Decidedly dotty mutual exchange employed by Schrödinger (6)
UMLAUT – The dotted notation above the O is an anagram (exchange) of MUTUAL.

17 Rude man overboard from the Isle of Wight ferry? (8)
INSOLENT – Split 2,6, the solution would describe where a man overboard from the Isle of Wight ferry would be.

18 Dog gets help for Manx cat’s reconstructive surgery? (8)
TAILBACK – A four-letter word meaning dog or follow followed by a four-letter word meaning help.  Another clue where the cryptic definition of the solution whist witty does not define the solution.

21 Gangster comic is said to be lacking in colour (6)
ALBINO – The two-letter word name of a famous American gangster followed by a homophone (said) of Beano (comic).

24 Avian rerouted for Donald’s First Lady (5)
IVANA – An anagram (rerouted) of Avian.

25 A Highlander’s cudgel, reportedly not electric (8)
ACOUSTIC – The A from the clue followed by a homophone (reportedly) of how a Scotsman might pronounce cow and stick.  To ask the solver to get from Highlander to Highland cow stick and then how a Scottish person would pronounce it is too many steps for the solver.

28 Virtual assistant performs volte-face for girl (4)
IRIS – A reversal (performs volte-face) of the name of the Apple virtual assistant.

29 Confusing telly based consumer advice. Biblically seventy? (4-2,4)
SELL-BY DATE – An anagram (confusing) of TELLY BASED.  I would have omitted the final two words of the clue as they are too confusing.

30 Belittles men and supporters (4)
GUYS – Triple definition.

31 Initially Del Boy’s nous acquires French and German articles for plonker (10)
DUNDERHEAD – The initial letter of Del and a four-letter word meaning nous includes the French indefinite article and the German definite article.  The Boy in the clue should have been omitted as it is simply padding.


1 Grand tree is split (4)
GASH – The abbreviation for grand followed by a three-letter word for a type of tree.

2 Indestructible schooner harboured by ale being drunk (7)
ETERNAL – A four-letter word for a three-masted schooner inside an anagram (being drunk) of ALE.

3 Rooms for theological studies delivered by chaplain (5)
PADRE – A three-letter word for rooms and a two letter abbreviation for theological studies.  I think delivered by is one of those link words that only works in one direction.  The solution is delivered by the wordplay, not the reverse.

4 Senior losing energy and getting old resorts to prayer (6)
ORISON – An anagram (resorts) of SENIOR O (old) after removing the abbreviation for energy.  For the cryptic grammar to work here, resorted would be better than resorts.

5 Down to earth Greek gourmet drops dog for good (7)
EPIGEAN – A nine-letter word for a gourmet as a three-letter word for a dog removed and replaced by the abbreviation for good.

7 Newsreader’s aid announcing 18? (7)
AUTOCUE – A homophone (announcing) of auto queue – a tailback.

8 Applied soap lotion can control rise and fall at the keyboard (5,5)
PIANO STOOL – An anagram (applied) of SOAP LOTION.  

11 Straighten a Parisian contraceptive (6)
UNCOIL – The French indefinite article followed by a four-letter word for a contraceptive device.

14 Limiting old veterinary practice? (10)
CURTAILING – What vets would do docking part of a dog’s anatomy before the practice was banned.

16 Ghostly medicine man, appearing in painting, decapitated (6)
UMBRAL – A two letter abbreviation for a medical person inside a five-letter word for a wall painting with the first letter removed (decapitated).

17 Type of  lawyer, no saint (3)
INK – Another name for a QC without the single letter abbreviation for a saint.

19 At home, auntie regularly has time for unknown silliness (7)
INANITY – A two-letter word meaning at home followed by the odd letters in auntie, the abbreviation for time and a letter representing an unknown amount.  The for in the clue is out of place as the abbreviation for time does not replace the unknown letter which is what, cryptically, you are telling the solver to do.

20 Fellow taking the water at Aix-les-Bains has a beret perhaps (7)
CHAPEAU – A four-letter word or a man followed by the French word for water.

22 Fake, I note, at art gallery (7)
IMITATE – The I from the clue followed by a two-letter musical note and a four-letter word for an art gallery.

23 Parliamentarian discovered in the sack – he’s out! (6)
BOWLED – A three-letter word for the bird whose collective noun is a parliament inside a three-letter word for a sack or sleeping place.

26 Aerial shot for broadcaster to the Queen (5)
SKYER – A three-letter word for a satellite broadcaster followed by the abbreviation for the current queen.

27 Heavy metal axeman (4)
LEAD – Double definition.

28 comments on “NTSPP – 560

  1. Well that’s brightened up a dull and rainy afternoon.
    Smiles and “dohs”, some nice wordplay and a couple of new (to me) words.
    Thanks Jaffa.

  2. Very entertaining – thanks Jaffa.
    I was a bit puzzled by 18a – unless I’m missing something it has two lots of wordplay but no proper definition.
    My ticks went to 1a, 16d and 23d.

  3. A couple of definitions raised an eyebrow but enjoyable nevertheless
    I smiled at 1a too and liked several other clues
    Thanks for the entertainment Jaffa

  4. I enjoyed this on the whole, but a handful of clues puzzled me:
    – 12a : Is “last” acceptable? Shouldn’t it be “last of”?
    – 18a : As Gazza says, there seems to be no definition.
    – 25a : I must be missing something but I can’t see how to get from “Highlander’s” to COU.
    – 29a : Although it is amusing, “Biblically seventy?” seems to be superfluous.
    – 14d : I can’t parse my answer.
    – 22d : Is “at” an acceptable link word? It’s not listed in CL’s book as such.

    My podium comprises 1a, 30a & 31a.

    Many thanks to Jaffa and, in advance, presumably to Prolixic.

    1. Hi RD,
      18a I was assuming the first part of the answer is ‘dog’ followed by another word for ‘help’ leaving the remainder of the clue as the definition. Does that not work?
      25a Think of what a Scotsman might use to control his bovine herd!
      14d I think, to be strictly accurate, the practice involved requires ‘de’ to be added but that obviously wouldn’t work for the answer.

    2. 22d – ‘at’ is not a link word here as in definition at wordplay (or vice-versa), rather in the sense of attending or beside, so the ‘tate’ is added
      12a – agree, it needs to be ‘last of’, but then ‘last of sausage’ doesn’t read well as one would expect ‘last of sausages’ – ‘last of ghee’ etc would work

      1. Thanks very much, Jane and Roy, you may well have heard the loud clang when I finally twigged the Scotsman’s equipment!

        – 18a : as Gazza has said both parts of this clue provide wordplay. However neither part actually defines the answer. “Queue for Manx cat’s reconstructive surgery” would be fine, for example.
        – 14d : I would have agreed with Jane’s point about “de-” but I’ve just checked my BRB and it does give “to remove the tail from” as one of the definitions of “tail”, so that would seem to pass muster.
        – 22d : my understanding is that there are two types of link words: those linking the wordplay with the definition, for which “at” is clearly not acceptable; and those joining parts of a charade. In CL’s book, his (undoubtedly incomplete) list for the latter includes e.g.: adjoining, by, against, and, by, on, etc. but notably not “at”. I’m probably wrong but I don’t feel fully comfortable about using “at” in this context particularly in a down clue.

        1. I do see what you mean, but ‘Article by lake at bottom of mine shaft (4)’ clearly clues AXLE

    3. Re 25a and ‘Highlanders’, I can’t help thinking of a certain Mr McGonagall’s classic:

      “On yonder hill there stands a coo
      If it’s nae there, it’s awa’ noo”

  5. Couple of things I needed to check on – the definition of 5d and the 2d schooner but all else slotted in readily enough with a question mark against 14d.
    1a wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of any list of migratory birds that I could construct but it made me laugh once the penny dropped so goes to the top of my list along with the really funny 25a.

    Thanks to Jaffa – nice to see a bit of your old humour poking through today!

  6. This brightened our very wet East Sussex afternoon! We discovered we’d always pronounced the bird incorrectly in 1a which held us up. We loved 17a, 18a, 14d and 1a once we’d clicked. NW corner went in last. Couldn’t parse the last part of 31a following the articles. Also needed to read comments above to understand the first part of 25a.
    Many thanks Jaffa – and thanks in advance to Prolixic and of course BD.

  7. We found that tough and ended up revealing a couple of letters in the SE. Lots of clever clues and some great penny drop moments.
    Thanks Jaffa.

  8. Thank you for all of your comments. It is quite instructive for me when the blog heavyweights start debating the finer points of cruciverbalism. I must confess that when it comes to cryptic grammar, link words, indicators etc. I still feel that I’m in the “I hope that’s right” rather than the “I know that’s right” camp.

    I’ll comment in more detail tomorrow about some of the clues but a word of explanation about 18a may be in order now. Earlier in the year I spent 17 weeks in isolation in Scotland but I’m now home in Guernsey where I have been reunited with my Uxbridge English Dictionary, a book that never fails to make me smile. The “definition” for 18a (along with a few others) came from this source. I think that I need to stop smiling so much and realise that its definitions are not quite so rigorous as those of the BRB. They do brighten wet afternoons however….

    1. Nice to hear from you, Jaffa.

      Although cruciverbal niceties are desirable, an injection of humour such as you have managed in this puzzle is just what the doctor ordered, particularly given the doom and gloom we are all suffering from at the moment. 👍

  9. Well at least Jaffa supplied a liberal dose of humour somewhat lacking in the prize puzzle & after that grind this was a comparatively breezy solve. Other than my anagram bung in at 15a, my last in & completely new to me, pleasingly straightforward & thoroughly entertaining. Loved the 2 homophones at 1&25a though only got the cou bit of the latter from reading Jane’s comment. The others I’d highlight were 17a along with the downs at 14,16&23. Am trying to start to look at crosswords a bit more critically so was quite pleased I noticed the apparent lack of a definition in 9&18 not that it bothered me in the least.
    Thanks Jaffa & look forward to reading proliXic’s review.
    Ps necessary or otherwise I didn’t understand the biblically seventy bit of 29a

    1. Huntsman, there is a reference in one of the Psalms in the Bible to “three score years and ten”, i.e. seventy, being the nominal lifespan of humans, so you could consider that to be our 29a, which would mean that I am only fit for the scrap heap …

    2. Thank you for the comments. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      Re 29a – Psalm 90 v 10 begins “The days of our years are threescore years and ten….” Given my perception of the age profile of the blog readers it was there for some comedic value to make us feel good. It is however, as RD said, superfluous and I should perhaps have overcome the temptation to include it. Psalm 90 does go on however to say that fourscore years are a possibility…😂

      1. It works best in my experience if you always resist the temptation to resist temptation….
        Thanks both for the explanation.

  10. Plenty of amusement, thanks Jaffa.

    Having noted the debate about 18a lacking a definition, at least not in its single-word sense, I see it has an obvious connection with the other clue appearing to lack a proper definition. Perhaps the frustration of one attempting to circumnavigate London was in Jaffa’s mind? Anyway, I liked the humour in those clues! There’s a lot that could be said about Manx cats besides the obvious (sometimes they hop like rabbits, leading to the myth that they’re a cross between cats and rabbits) …. and there’s a folk myth that the Manx Cats were the last creatures to board Noah’s Ark, and it was raining so hard that Noah slammed the doors before they were fully inside.

    The clue I like least is 24a, sorry! Rather on the easy side; the definition is probably inaccurate (knowing a certain individual’s reputation!); and the surface makes little sense on first reading – unless one interprets ‘Avian’ as a type of aircraft (yes there was one with that name once).

    And I can’t parse 27d – not yet. No doubt the explanation is forthcoming.

    But on the whole, plenty to enjoy here, thanks.

    1. Thank you for the feedback.
      Re 27d LEAD = heavy metal = guitarist (a player of an “axe”) 🎸

      1. Thanks. And there I was trying to figure out a connection with Thomas More, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles I, etc. etc.!

  11. A generally enjoyable solve but I was left with 25ac and 23dn for which I had to resort to a wordfinder – but I still couldn’t parse them. For 25ac I agree with Prolixic that the clue requires too many steps for the solver, but I could have solved 23dn unaided if I’d remembered the collective noun for that nocturnal bird – D’oh! But I liked 1ac, 15ac and 20dn.
    Thanks, Jaffa and Prolixic.

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, but I have to say that I think you were indeed being a little unnecessarily grumpy. The humour in this puzzle made up for any slight infringements in my eyes!
    Thanks again to Jaffa for a very enjoyable NTSPP.

  13. Thank you Prolixic for your review which is as insightful as ever. I like to think that my compiling skills are improving but as I said in an earlier post I think cryptic grammar is one of my weak spots and it needs work.
    One lives and hopefully one learns. 25a originally had a slightly different clue but because cattle is plural and coo singular I perceived a problem and changed it. With hindsight I think my original clue, being a homophone, would have been more acceptable than its new alternative! Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned there.
    Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment and as about a third of the clues get mentioned in despatches I’ve hopefully entertained you. Thanks also to everyone who gave feedback during the construction of this crossword and obviously to BD for making this all possible.

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