NTSPP – 576 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 576

A Puzzle by Harold

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

It has been a while since Harold appeared on a Saturday lunchtime to provide a test of the cryptic grey matter. This one certainly had quite a few tricky moments for me, both solving and explaining, but I enjoyed the battle

There is a Nina in columns 7 and 9



1     Sketch writer taken on by Daily Express initially (8)
DESCRIBE Start with the initial letters of Daily Express and then add a writer

6     He’s sponsored police officer to probe thug (6)
GODSON An abbreviated police offer goes inside (to probe) a US slang word for a hired thug

9     Dons meet here to copy and fiddle (6)
SCRAPE The abbreviation for a place where dons and other university staff may meet followed by a verb meaning to copy

10     Tools producing half of suture lines? (8)
UTENSILS An anagram (producing) of the first half of SUTure and LINES

11     Good girl about to swallow lie that’s material (5,5)
GLASS FIBRE The abbreviation for Good, a girl and the preposition meaning about ‘swallow’ a lie

12    Boy with poor A-level grades gets to university at last (4)
EDDY Three letters representing poor A-level grades and the last letter of universitY

13     African branch development is last item on agenda splitting airline board’s leadership (6)
BAOBAB The abbreviation for the last item on an agenda ‘splitting’ or going between an abbreviated airline and the ‘leadership’ of Board

15     Metal money apparently good? I’m not sure (8)
EUROPIUM A type of currency, the two-letter word meaning good or sanctimonious, and an informal expression of uncertainty (I’m not sure)

18     Places to cultivate award-winning tournament players (8)
SEEDBEDS In addition to being places for cultivating plants, they can also be an environment that fosters a particular desirable thing, such as producing award-winning tournament players.  I did toy with the idea of the clue requiring a question mark at the end, but having consulted the BRB, I decided it worked without

20     Incentive to change vehicle? (6)
CARROT Split this incentive 3,3 and you’ll spot a possible incentive to change your vehicle

21     One prejudiced to some extent knows no better (4)
SNOB Hidden in knowS NO Better

23     An emphasis on cooking vessel skills? (10)
SEAMANSHIP An anagram (cooking) of AN EMPHASIS

25     Woman playing topless, like a tease (8)
ANNOYING A woman’s name and a synonym for playing without its first letter (topless)

26     Bulb lit up grail before start of Christmas (6)
GARLIC An anagram (lit up) of GRAIL goes before the ‘start’ of Christmas [Neither lit nor up are listed in Chambers 12th edition list of anagram indicators, but drunk (lit up) is there]

27     Sophy’s recycling makes a mint (6)
HYSSOP An anagram (recycling) of SOPHYS produces a member of the mint family

28     What might be tabled in European Parliament by assembled Greens? (8)
EPERGNES The abbreviations for European and Parliament inserted into an anagram (assembled) of GREENS


2     It’s clear former Head entertains baseless religion (9)
EXCULPATE The usual two-letters meaning former and an old or humorous word for the head ‘entertains’ almost all (baseless) of a religion

3     Men sacrificing pawn for nothing creates confusion (5)
CHAOS Take an informal term for men and sacrifice or remove the P and replace with O (nothing)

4     Unutterable, or incapable of being sworn? (9)
INEFFABLE If you split this adjective meaning incapable of being described 2, 7, you could describe something as being incapable of being sworn

5     Uniform just has no appeal (7)
EQUABLE Remove the two-letter word used informally to mean sex appeal from a synonym for just

6     Diver capsized shipping hazard leaving Channel Islands (5)
GREBE Reverse (capsized) a hazard to shipping without (leaving) the abbreviation for the Channel Islands

7     Paint in hellish mood (9)
DISTEMPER A name for hell and a mood

8     I’ll shortly be entered in dictionary as “drunk” (5)
OILED The first two letters (shortly) of ILl inserted into the abbreviation for a particularly dictionary

14     Fan props up person beginning to suffer setbacks (4,5)
BODY BLOWS A verb meaning to fan ‘props up’ or goes after in a Down solution a person, the result finished with the ‘beginning’ to Suffer

16     Spooner’s dispute with busy figure on plane (9)
RECTANGLE How the dreaded Reverend might talk about a dispute with a detective (busy) Watch enough Liverpool-based drama and you’ll know that a busy and a detective are the same thing!

17     Dutch killer, 50, escaping from Egyptian city that is without police force (9)
UXORICIDE Here you need to know what Dutch is in cockney rhyming slang. Remove the Roman numeral for 50 from an Egyptian city, then add the abbreviation meaning that is which goes outside part of the police force

19     Bridge and Elgar retrospective lacking A&R glitter (7)
SPANGLE A verb meaning to bride and the reversal (retrospective) of ELGar, without (lacking) the A and R

22     Woman knowing best takes setter for a fool (5)
NINNY Change the A in the child carer who knows best for I (the setter)

23     One running mile has power to spare (5)
SKIMP A piece of sporting equipment that runs and the abbreviations for Mile and Power

24     Every now and again, superego checks over youngster (5)
SPROG The odd letters (every now and again) of SuPeReGo ‘checks’ or restrains the cricket abbreviation for Over

33 comments on “NTSPP – 576

  1. Very enjoyable – thanks Harold.
    I’ve spotted two bits of a Nina – not sure if there’s more that I’ve missed.
    My first thought was that 17d should be ‘killing’ rather than ‘killer’ but a visit to the BRB put me right on that.
    Lots of good clues – I’ll pick out 9a, 21a and 22d.

  2. Lovely – thank you. Just need the Reds to beat the Blues at 5.30 and it will have been a perfect day.

  3. Parts of this puzzle were very challenging and I learnt two new words along the way in 13a & 28a. I did enjoy most of it but with a tiny sprinkling of niggles/queries:

    – I’m not entirely convinced by 18a (although I think it would be fine with a “?” at the end).
    – Shame about the vague woman in 25a.
    – Is “lit up” OK as an anagram indicator in 26a?
    – I can’t parse the Spoonerism in 16d.
    – Pedantically speaking, the police in 17d are a branch of the police force not a police force per se.
    – What on earth is the surface of 19d supposed to mean?

    I got held up trying to parse “sparkle” as my answer to 19d which fitted the definition and the checking letters that I had in place at that stage, but I eventually realised something was wrong as this would have meant having a K as the last letter of 25a.

    With lots to like, my podium choice is 9a, 7d, 17d (definition of the year!), & 22d.

    Many thanks to Harold and in advance to CS.

      1. But how is a detective a ‘tec’? Are we looking for a slang abbreviation of a slang word?
        As far as I can see a busy is a copper on the beat rather than a detective

        1. BRB says:
          a) busy is a slang word for a detective.
          b) ‘tec is an informal word for a detective.

    1. Hi RD
      18a agree, a simple QM would improve
      26a I think either ‘lit’ (drunk) or ‘up’ (thrown) can work, but not sure about the two together
      16d me too, I don’t get the first part tec = busy?
      19d Bridge is a composer too, but ‘retrospectively lacking’ maybe? Not sure if that helps the surface much though

  4. Very enjoyable to solve Harold, a couple of head scratchers is always welcome
    As Gazza says, I can see two relevant Ninas but nothing to connect them
    Like RD, one or two made me think twice, but that did not detract from my overall enjoyment so well done and thanks

    1. Just a few pointers at this stage.
      BRB defines “busy” as “detective”
      18A I agree that a question mark would be needed if this were a DD, but it’s not – it’s D + wordplay
      26A BRB has “lit up” = “drunk”.
      As far as the Nina is concerned – the intention had been for this puzzle to be published around January 20th. Nothing more subtle than that.

      1. Thanks for clarifying Harold – I don’t have a copy of the BRB and Collins does not support that definition, just an inquisitive person, possibly ‘busybody’ shortened or Liverpudlian slang for a PC
        Not seeing the wp in 18a, more a def/cd to me

        1. The Chambers app is well worth the money (not very much), Roy, as it incorporates a word search facility. I use it a lot when solving and setting, as it usefully supplements the “one look dictionary” (available free on the web), which does not incorporate Chambers, although it does have Collins and a version of the Oxford amongst others.

          I’d better not pre-empt what Sue has to say about the parsing of 18A by giving anything further away at present.

          1. Good morning, Harold, and thanks again for a challenging and enjoyable puzzle.

            I still feel none the wiser about 18a. The dictionary definitions suggest two related meanings:
            – soil beds where plant seeds are germinated
            – places for the development of people (often, but not always, in an undesirable sense)

            Unless I am missing something (which is more than likely!) the whole clue is an almost straight definition of a place where the top players in, for example, a tennis tournament might be developed. Hence my thought that adding a ? could perhaps turn the whole thing into a mildly CD.

            1. So glad you enjoyed the puzzle, Dave. I see that Sue had the same idea as you about 18A, and I’ve provided an explanation of my intentions at 15. below.

  5. Crikey. Is this difficult or is my brain not functioning? Struggling 10 answers in & they haven’t come easily. Think I’ll leave it & return later.

  6. Found it quite hard but enjoyed the nice penny drop moments when I twigged.
    The SW was probably the hardest. Having not spotted the lurker in 21a, I thought 22d was Silly and was looking for a song called Sally knows best.
    In 26a, Playing was Acting in my mind and got me nowhere.
    What a relief when 21a fell, everything became obvious.
    Got 18a after peeping in the blog.
    Thanks to Harold for the workout.

  7. Started slowly and a bit fragmented, went though the middle part slowly and – picking it up again later – ground it out to the end. Phew – that was quite tricky! Very happy that my answers to 15a, 27a and 17d were duly confirmed by the dictionary. I thought 23a was perfect, with the herring as red as it can get. Other ticks went to 9a, 20a, 6d and 7d. Assuming I have the correct answers, I was somewhat uncomfortable with 16d – plane as the definition? – and 28a – a couple of unparsed letters. I look forward to the review and further comments. I really enjoyed the challenge, Harold, thank you!

  8. We are finding this a real challenge. So far only about a third completed. 13a and 27a are new to us but hopefully correct. Thank you Harold, we’ll try again in the morning over breakfast – brains are tired! – and then check answers later.

  9. Thought you were definitely back into Toughie mode this time, Harold, which took the edge off it a bit for me – I do like rather more humour in a solve. Not to worry – 18a was a little gem!

    Thank you for the puzzle – I’ll look forward to checking my parsing with CS’s review tomorrow.

  10. Fully agree with Jane’s comment re humour & difficulty. I found this extremely tough but it was cleverly clued & hugely satisfying to very nearly complete albeit using 1 letter reveal (15a/17d checker) & the check if correct (aka cheating as I had bags for beds initially for my seeds) function a couple of times as well as Mr G for confirmation. Very annoyingly I couldn’t crack 13a despite correctly figuring the 1st letter from the wordplay but wrongly thinking the 2nd was part of the airline – my excuse for missing the the acronym that everyone used to keep their fingers crossed there wasn’t (but always was) at the end of tortuous dull & interminable meetings.
    Tough to pick a podium with so many contenders but I’ll go for – 3&17d with 23a atop the podium for the surface & the anagram indicator deliberately misleading.
    Looking forward to the review as don’t get latter part of 15a wordplay & only got the Spoonerism from the comments.
    Many thanks for the workout Harold – enjoyed it.

  11. I’ll echo Jane’s comments, in fact I had to resort to one or two reveals to get it finished.
    My picks were the well concealed lurker at 21a, the nice misdirection at 23a, the witty 4d and the clever and smooth 22d.
    Thanks Harold, but a bit more accessible next time please!

  12. Thanks for the illuminating review, CS. My 28a was indeed wrong, I thought ENERGIES could be something the Greens might table in parliament, but hd no justification for the IE… I have never heard of the table decoration, and even if it had come to mind I would have dismissed the word as too unlikely before turning to the dictionary for support! Another lesson learned… :scratch:

  13. Thanks to Sue for the excellent review. It might be helpful if I clarify the parsing of 18A, as there have been a number of queries about it and I said yesterday that clue is intended to function as D + Wordplay. The first three words provide the definition, the wordplay gives SEE{DBE}DS: “award” is DBE, “winning” is a containment indicator, and “tournament players” gives SEEDS. Also, in 27A, the idea is that “recycling” gives a cyclic shift of the letters in SOPHY’S without changing their relative positions.
    Many thanks, also, to people who commented on the puzzle. I did realise that it was tough, but the intention was that the clues should be wholly fair and provide some entertaining “penny drop” moments, and that the puzzle should provide a satisfying solve, even in cases where solvers were unable to complete it. I well remember when I cut my teeth on the Times crossword in the 1960s and 70s being enormously pleased if I could solve 10 or more of the clues. For my own part, I do not regard using solving aids as cheating. It is much better, in my view, to use a hint to solve a clue that is causing problems rather than be defeated by it, and if, knowing the answer, one is then able to work out the parsing that is a good thing. It’s all part of the process of learning how to solve puzzles.
    I hope to appear here again before long. I haven’t been able to compile any new puzzles since I produced this one in early December, but I do have some on the stocks which were intended for publication in the Indy.

    1. Thanks very much for the explanation for 18a, Harold. Very clever, and it earns a big tick from me now that I understand it. I’m looking forward to your next one.

  14. Many thanks for the review, CS, and thanks to Harold for popping back in to clarify his intentions where a couple of clues were concerned. Look forward to seeing more from you but I hope they’re not all quite as tough!

  15. I found this a tough challenge – I just didn’t manage to get on Harold’s wavelength. Eventually got there but needed a wordfinder for 18ac. Some great clues, though, 2dn, 23ac and 27ac to name just three. Thanks, Harold and CS.

    1. PS BRB ordered so in future I can check my facts before making a fool of myself :smile:
      Apologies to Harold

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