NTSPP – 586 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP – 586

A Puzzle by Chalicea

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A fairly obvious ‘ghost’ theme from Chalicea this week – I didn’t have to check many of them in Bradford’s Crossword Lists but interestingly, for the one where the solution isn’t in Chambers (18a), its themed counterpart is in both the BRB and Chambers Crossword Dictionary but not in Bradford’s Lists. It is at times when I type sentences like that when I realise how lovely it will be when things return to something approaching ‘normal’ and I can have a bit more ‘life’ in my life, rather than spending sunny Saturday afternoons checking which themed items appear in which handy reference books!

As for whether we should be told that there is a ‘ghost’ theme,  as soon as I see that Chalicea has provided the NTSPP, my first action, even before printing off the crossword,  is to go to the bookshelf and retrieve the books I know I’m going to need.  I will say that it is handy to know exactly how many ‘ghosts’ I have to find.


8     Volunteers consuming a French prickly pear (4)
TUNA The old army ‘volunteers’ consuming the French indefinite article. Having solved the first clue, I said to Mr CS “I know what today’s theme will be” and I wasn’t wrong!

9     Capital city cross after grotesque caper; disappointing follow- up (10)
ANTICLIMAX The capital city of Peru and the letter that looks like a cross go after a grotesque caper

10     Reptile wandering in Switzerland when newts wrongly removed (6)
LIZARD An anagram (wandering) of swItZeRLAnD once the letters NEWTS have been removed (wrongly telling you that they aren’t in that order)

11     Strong fabric; a new outfit finally for police officer (8)
SERGEANT A strong fabric, A (from the clue), the abbreviation for new and the final letter of outfit

12     Problem bar rashly includes this over generous provision of good things (8)
EMBARRAS This expression meaning a perplexing number of things to choose from usually has ‘de choix’ added to the first word – the solution is hidden (includes) in problEM BAR RAShly

14     Eventually small and cosy (2,4)
IN TIME An adjective, taken from the French, meaning small and cosy

16     Some private tuition for housewife (4)
ETUI – You know, the sort of ‘housewife’ that people have never heard of when it appears in a crossword. Here it is found in some privatE TUItion

17     Coronet changing hands for a comic entertainer (5)
CLOWN Change the Right hand in a coronet for the Left

18     Good advanced essentially modern Nigerian language (4)
GADE Abbreviations for Good and Advanced and the essential letters of moDErn

19     Extremes of gear including thick cord for one feeling his way (6)
GROPER The ‘extreme’ letters of GeaR into which is inserted (including) a thick cord (The repetition radar gave a tiny beep here!)

21     Small island well lit? No, it’s the principal stage illumination (3,5)
KEYLIGHT A small island and an adjective meaning well lit

23     Handheld firework could be a gem (8)
SPARKLER A handheld firework or an informal term for a diamond or other gem

26     Vagrants‘ tense rages (6)
TRAMPS The abbreviation for Tense and a synonym for rages as a verb

27     Bird‘s a young unmarried woman (10)
DEMOISELLE A member of the crane family or an archaic term for a young unmarried woman

28     Cup of tea for the Cockney lady who cleans (4)
CHAR Double definition



1     Cunningly mediate our instrument used to measure hearing sensitivity (10)
AUDIOMETER An anagram (cunningly) of MEDIATE OUR

2     Spy a tangled hair on carpet (4,4)
MATA HARI A (from the clue) and an anagram (tangled) of HAIR go on or after a carpet

3     Powerful abrasive tool partly smooths and eradicates (6)
SANDER Hidden in part of smoothS AND Eradicates

4     Greek characters to fully satisfy in retrospect (4)
ETAS A reversal (in retrospect) of a verb meaning to fully satisfy

5     Twisted conspirator lacking subtle art; venomous creature (8)
SCORPION An anagram (twisted) of CONSPIratOR without the ART (subtle telling you that they aren’t in that order)

6     Mum is backing period of fasting (6)
SILENT A reversal (backing) of IS followed by a period of fasting

7     Crude nationalist producing further crop (4)
RAWN A second mowing of grass in the same season – a synonym for crude and the abbreviation for Nationalist No illustration as this is apparently just a Scottish word for a female fish

13     In Lanark sneak about small secluded retreat (5)
SNOOK The abbreviation for Small and a secluded retreat

15     Sailor‘s masculine identity; southern switched-on fellow (10)
MIDSHIPMAN The abbreviation for Masculine, an abbreviated identity, the abbreviation for Southern, an informal word meaning trendy (switched-on)

17     Unconcerned, having no vehicle, we hear, going round Europe. (8)
CARELESS A way of saying ‘having no vehicle’ goes around the abbreviation for Europe

18     Showing the way in grand university intake’s first hop (8)
GUIDANCE The abbreviations for Grand and University, the first letter of Intake and a hop

20     Mindlessly repeat Press Association republican rubbish (6)
PARROT The abbreviations for Press Association and Republican and some rubbish

22     Incessant talk in Holyrood of unstable treaty (6)
YATTER A Scottish word (as used in Holyrood) meaning incessant talk is an anagram (unstable) of TREATY

24     Zest when turning up to plaster with cow dung (4)
PEEL A reversal (turning up) of an originally Hindi word meaning to plaster with cow dung

25     Piece of sacrilege to irritate someone (4)
RILE Hidden in a piece of sacRILEge

I knew ten of the themed items, four solutions which seemed likely candidates were easy to check and the other two were such unusual words, it was fairly clear that their presence in the grid would be for piscatorial purposes

32 comments on “NTSPP – 586

  1. Well that was quite a challenge, thanks Chalicea.
    Although wordplay wasn’t too tricky, there were several unknown words (or known words with unknown definitions!) a couple of which are still not clear to me despite help from Mr Google.
    As for the theme… with a bit of searching I’ve got 15 of them I think (although one seems incomplete), and a few possible candidates for the final one.
    Not sure on spelling (or definition, for that matter!) for 12a so I think I may be missing something there; also not sure about use of “on” in down clue for 2d.
    So all in all good fun and educational… thanks again Chalicea and in advance to reviewer (CS / Prolixic?)

    1. Chalicea is, of course, a nationally-published setter, so I’m reviewing this one

    2. I can’t see your problem with the spelling for 12a Fez as it’s hidden in the clue!

      1. Oh I’ve no doubt about the entry, just thought it would usually have a double at the end… I really enjoy the challenges set by Chalicea, and always learn something new from them. Looking forward to the review to clear up a few things I don’t quite get (but these are certainly my shortcomings!) eg a couple of definitions, and the relevance of “further” in 7d.

        1. Rather than Mr Google, you might find Mr Chambers Big Red Book of use ;)

            1. In addition to the BRB I would also recommend ‘Chambers Crossword Dictionary’ ; ‘Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’ & of course the indispensable ‘Mrs Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary’.

              1. And Bradford’s Crossword Solvers Lists.

                Father Christmas is going to need a bigger sack :)

                  1. Nice!
                    I recall Soup’s (I think) anecdote on visiting Araucaria’s house and wondering where all the reference books were – the great man replied along lines of “I get it all on Wikipedia these days!”
                    But if I can ever make it out of Rookie Corner I may well treat myself :-)

  2. Chalicea is rapidly becoming my favourite setter. I found this a wonderful solve and most enjoyable. I hadn’t heard of the modern language at 18a nor the crop at 7d and I put “a” as the second letter in 27a, which threw me for a while with 24d because it can be spelt either way. Mind you with the “a” it did not mean “zest” although, as a former bell ringer I can assure everyone that “zest” is most certainly required.

    I have yet to work out the theme.

    My thanks to you, Chalicea for the entertainment.

  3. I think I’ve got the theme, but can’t find all 16 – haven’t resorted to Mr Google.
    Most fairly straightforward, though 18a & 7d new to me, and I agree the spelling of 12a unusual.
    Thanks Chalicea, and CS in advance for the review

  4. We are also puzzled by the spelling in 12a, didn’t know 7d or 18a and we’re not sure which vowel to use for the second letter in 24a. We can’t find all 16 ghost theme solutions. Nevertheless we enjoyed the puzzle on a cold 1st May. Favourites were 9a, 17a, 2d and 15d. Many thanks, Chalicea and in advance to CS.

  5. Found the theme although I must admit that I haven’t investigated all of the ‘possibles’ to get up to the required 16.
    15d was probably my favourite.

    Thanks to Chalicea – I’ll look forward to checking the list from CS’s review tomorrow.

  6. I didn’t find this as much fun as I normally do for a Chalicea NTSPP, partly spoiled by, for me, the four letter obscurities.

    And, as for the theme, thank goodness it wasn’t needed for solving! I haven’t spotted it yet. Finding a Chalicea ghost theme is almost as bad as trying to solve a Prolixic MPP riddle!

    I did like 9a and 15d – they used up plenty of Lego pieces between them.

    Thanks to Chalicea and in advance to CS.

  7. Oh dear, Senf – and to replace this one in the file, I’ve just sent Big Dave another with a ghost theme and 19 examples in it – some of them 3 and 4-letter (but even I would spot the very obvious theme and I am a rotten solver, of my own included) :)

  8. Sorry – that last one was from me but I am here in two guises – as the Chalicea setter and part of the Numpties blogging team.

  9. Though certainly not a 9a, like Senf, I thought this lacked a bit of the sparkle associated with this setter. I will say the relative obscurities were quite sympathetically clued, so no complaints there. Surprised to see ‘lit’ in the wordplay of 21a considering the solution but that’s a minor point.
    9a and 15d were my favourites.
    Thanks to Chalicea and to CS in advance.

  10. On a simple technical matter, it’s not a “ghost theme” if you announce it. The whole point of “ghost” themes is that they’re there for those who can spot them and not there for those who don’t care. It is essential to ghosting a theme that the solver doesn’t know that there’s a theme so that they can enjoy the solve unencumbered. If some people spot something is going on along the way, that’s a bonus free gift that the setter has included for them.

    Telling solvers that it’s there in advance means they feel less satisfied at finishing the puzzle if they haven’t spotted it. Revealing that there was a connection between the answers once the solve is over is less demoralising for those who didn’t see it, and is just as good for chest-beating by the setter at how clever their gridfill has been, which, frankly, is why we tell people at all. Even if, as is often the case for me, the only reason for a theme in the first place is to get some words into a grid to start it off.

  11. Not my cup of tea I’m afraid when I need to check some sort of reference source for over a quarter of the answers even though they were all fairly clued. 12a is in the BRB but ascribed there as being French, and there was an unnecessary split infinitive in 4d – “to satisfy fully” wouldn’t have affected the wordplay and would have satisfied me fully. :wink:

    I particularly liked 11a, 2d, 6d and, my favourite, 22d.

    Thanks to Chalicea and in advance to CS.

  12. Whenever we sit down to solve a crossword we always have our BRB and Mrs B right beside us. They both had work to do today.
    Thoroughly enjoyed the solve and then, with further recourse to our references, sorted out all the themed answers.
    Thanks Chalicea.

  13. For once I felt this crossword may have suffered somewhat in the push for thematic entries, but that is only because Chalicea has previously established a high bar. I counted 4 lurkers, for instance. So, for me, a bit of a 9 across after a very challenging MPP earlier in the day. I did find 12 of the 16 advertised ‘ghosts’, however I know I can rely on CS to trawl for the remaining entries and educate me! Thank you, Chalicea, and also to CS in advance.

  14. Gave up with 3 to go (7d, 18&27a) which were all new to me plus there were a couple of educated bung ins to get me that that far. Not my cup of tea which is a rarity for me with a Chalicea crossword. As to the theme not a scooby.
    Thanks anyway & I’ll read the review with interest.

    1. Obvious to you maybe. You knew 10 whereas I knew 3 for certain.
      Thanks for the review.

  15. Many thanks for the review, crypticsue… cleared up all the loose ends. ‘Rawn’ I thought was just a word for ‘barley’ so hadn’t figured out what the ‘further’ was about; didn’t know ’embarras’ with one s but figured I was missing something given the definition… I guess BRB is a must-have. Also missed ‘rawn’ as a fish, I could only find it in sense of fish roe and assumed either ‘sparkler’ or ‘yatter’ would turn out to be the missing fish (plus I could only find ‘sergeant’ as ‘sergeant-major’ in a fishy form, though guessed that was close enough!)
    Thanks again to Chalicea, a great puzzle :-)

  16. Many thanks for the well illustrated review, CS. I was only certain of 8 of the fish and, like Fez, could only find ‘rawn’ listed as fish roe – which seemed close enough!
    I sometimes wonder whether the NTSPP slot is the right home for these themed puzzles from Chalicea but that’s obviously not my decision to make – I just hope there aren’t too many graduates from Rookie Corner still waiting in the queue for their turn.

  17. 3d threw me – I have been fishing since I was a boy and only ever heard of those fish as Zander, a pike/perch cross
    Not big on themes, but enjoyed the puzzle nevertheless
    Thanks Chalicea and CS for the blog

  18. The pleasure of compiling these lies in the knowledge that Cryptic Sue will provide such beautiful illustrations but the discussion of whether a ghost theme can be announced is intriguing – I am listening. I know that solvers have come to expect a ghost theme in mine whether it is announced or not, and including one does put constraints on other words needed to fill the grid. The answer is evident – either don’t announce it, or shock old solver friends by submitting an NTSPP that doesn’t have one. Watch this space :)

  19. Speaking personally, knowing there was a theme didn’t bother me too much and I didn’t really look for it. It was the note about 18ac that caught my attention so I immediately looked at that, came up easily enough with the answer and soon confirmed it via Google. In fact after then going back to 8ac I wondered if the theme might have been homonyms – but I didn’t follow the idea up.
    So this was just a pleasant and fairly gentle solve. Thanks, Chalicea and CS.

  20. Last time I solved a crossword full of fish was a Maskarade and they were missing from the wordplay so this was much easier in comparison.
    The parsing led me to the correct answers and just had to check a few.
    Thanks to Chalicea for the workout and to CS for the review.

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