NTSPP 600 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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A Puzzle by Hydra

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

To celebrate the 600th NTSPP puzzle, that many headed beast Hydra, last seen in NTSPP 500, is back. 

Can you guess which clue was set by which of the 22 different setters?  All will be revealed in tomorrow’s review.

Special thanks to Prolixic for putting the puzzle together.


A review by crypticsue follows:

A celebratory crossword to mark yet another milestone in the history of Big Dave’s Crossword Blog – it is now over eleven and a half years since Big Dave decided to provide an alternative crossword for solvers who’d finished the DT Prize Puzzle and wanted something else to solve.  A considerable number of setters started here and then went on to become nationally published setters which is a great achievement both for them and the Blog.  This has led to quite a difference in the ratio of NTSPP’s blogged by Prolixic and me, I’ve also worked out that well over a third of the 600 (including this one) had been test solved by me!

There is a Nina round the perimeter of the puzzle Six Hundred Saturday Treats. If you want to play ‘guess the setter’ then the name of the person responsible for each clue is hidden behind the Click Here! at the end of the clue.

Thanks to all the individual members of Hydra for their parts in this crossword, and especially Prolixic who organised it all. Even more thanks to Big Dave as without the NTSPP our Saturday lunchtimes wouldn’t be quite the same.



7    Whispers: “Head of Sadler’s Wells possibly is retiring” (5) Phibs
SIGHS A reversal (is retiring) of the ‘head’ of Sadler’s, the initials of Mr Wells the author and IS (from the clue)

8    Disreputable peacekeepers express hesitation entering hotel (9) Prolixic
UNSAVOURY The usual peacekeepers and an expression of hesitation entering a London hotel

10    Queen performing regularly again, getting over snub (6) Chameleon
IGNORE Another reversal (getting over) of the regnal cipher of our current Queen, a two-letter word meaning performing and the regular letters of aGaIn

11    Left quietly together with a raccoon-like creature (3,5) Kelotoph
RED PANDA The colour associated with Left wing politics, the musical abbreviation for quietly, a conjunction meaning together with, and A (from the clue)

12    One coming back drunk in 10 hours with rock fragment (8) Alchemi
XENOLITH A reversal (coming back) of ONE (from the clue), a synonym for drunk both inserted into the Roman numeral for 10 and the abbreviation for hours

13     One who exploits some serious errors (4) Skinny
USER Hidden in some serioUS ERrors

15    Water features in garden centres holding too much (3,4) Harold
HOT TUBS Some centres ‘holding’ an informal abbreviation meaning too much

17     Drunken aunts do stagger (7) Chalicea
ASTOUND An anagram (drunken) of AUNTS DO

20     At first, get in the way of fundraiser (4) Atrica
GALA The first letter of Get and a preposition meaning in the way of

22     He’s no trouble identifying former student (8) Radler
BACHELOR A cockney without a wife (no trouble and strife) or a graduate with a first university degree (former student)

25    St Carrie oddly wanting to tie knot with UK PM “for richer, not poorer” (8) Elgar
UPMARKET An anagram of the even letters (oddly wanting) of sT cArRiE and UK PM

26    Scene One: Porkie is embraced by a foreign character (6) Foxglove
MILIEU A porkie pie (more Cockney Rhyming Slang) embraced by a Greek (foreign) letter

27     Images of, for example, residents outside (9) Windsurfer
NEGATIVES Some residents of a place or country go outside the abbreviation meaning for example

28    Resort to introducing Labour Party strategy, backing leaders (5) Starhorse
SPLIT A very nice resort is obtained by reversing (backing) the leaders of To Introducing Labour Party Strategy


1    Sole representative of thirteen – a lonely heart perhaps (9) Jaffa
SINGLETON A single card of its suit in a hand of cards

2     Mention worth, perhaps (5,3) Shabbo
THROW OUT An anagram (perhaps) of THROW followed by an anagram indicator

3    Finally, Chalicea, Simon, Atrica, Windsurfer, Prolixic, Hippogryph and Skinny create chaos (7) Encota
ANARCHY The final letters of ChaliceA SimoN AtricA WindsurfeR ProlixiC HippogrypH and SkinnY

4     A murder’s involved parts of body (8) Simon
EARDRUMS An anagram (involved) of A MURDERS

5     Reportedly made notes on rowing crew in turn (6) Silvanus
ROTATE Homophones (reportedly) of a verb meaning made notes and a rowing crew

6    Sherlock’s rival, maybe, abandoning the French job (5) Exit
TRADE Remove the plural French definite article from the name of Sherlock Holmes’ rival

9     Dislike pink bathing cap (4) Hippogryph
KEPI Hidden inside (bathing) disliKE Pink

14     Country home, one said to be refurbished (9) Gazza
INDONESIA The usual ‘home’ and an anagram (to be refurbished) of ONE SAID

16    Spooner’s to nail Bounty captain in formal dress (5,3) Alchemi
BLACK TIE The way the dreaded reverend might nail the captain of HMS Bounty

18    Coincides with cycling enthusiast and amateur rider (8) Radler
OVERLAPS Take an enthusiast and move the first letter to the back (cycling) and then add the abbreviation for Amateur and an abbreviated rider to a letter

19     Helped dizzy debutantes wanting exotic sun (7) Chalicea
ABETTED An anagram (dizzy) of DEBuTAnTEs without (wanting) SUN (exotic telling you that aren’t in that order)

21    A French department enlists former reserves for personal representation (6) Gazza
AVATAR A (from the clue) and a French department ‘enlists’ the abbreviation for the former reserves

23     Shelled seafood for party (4) Silvanus
CAMP Remove the shell from a type of seafood

24     Spotted dick’s introduction after special pastry (5) Windsurfer
SPIED The ‘introduction’ to Dick goes after the abbreviation for Special and a pastry

37 comments on “NTSPP 600

  1. Thanks to all for a great puzzle (I can’t imagine how such a collaboration works!) Consistently excellent but favourites perhaps 7a and 22a.
    Thanks again!

  2. Super good (as the kids say). I have a few clues circled as I can’t fully parse my answers, most notably 6d. Thanks to all the setters and to tomorrow’s reviewer.

  3. I have solved at least one Elgar clue! I wonder if he actually set two of the clues.

    A real head scratcher but very appropriate for this milestone puzzle.

    I really liked 26a, 1d, and 21d.

    Thanks to all the setters, BD, and, at a guess, CS.

    1. With that many nationally-published setters (including Prolixic) providing the clues, your guess would be correct You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how many setters provided more than one clue!

  4. Well I’ve put names by six clues – Gazza, Hippogryph, Prolixic, Chalicea, Elgar & Chameleon (Alchemi, Phibs maybe too)
    Silvanus is hiding, so I guess his is one of the nice smooth innocuous little clues
    What fun! Thanks All

    1. Hi LbR,

      There were actually two Silvanus clues, some setters were randomly allocated one, others had two. It was an honour to be involved.

      1. I’m still thinking on it Silvanus, still thinking…
        None of the long ones are yours nor Gazza or Prolixic or Chalicea, that’s why I’m thinking yours must be one (sorry, two) of the shorties
        You don’t do convoluted but there’s always a clever hook, so I am now looking again

    2. Were you right with your guess for my clue, LBR? I’m interested to know your reasoning!

      Nice work from all the other Hydra heads, by the way :)

      1. No, I mixed up your clue with one of Silvanus’ an in turn allocated him one of Gazza’s – happy to have got any at all right!
        Reasoning is hard to justify, but some setters are quite technical, others favour a more natural verbal approach
        So by process of elimination techies on one side (Phibs, Radler, Elgar, Prolixic et al) and smoothies on the other (Silvanus, Gazza, Chameleon, Hippogryph, Kelotoph, Shabbo et al). After that, guesswork
        Chalicea played hide and seek by putting a lampshade on her head and singing Ting-A-Ling-A-Loo (only kidding Chalicea :smile: )
        Many thanks to all concerned, great fun
        Thanks especially to BD & Prolixic

        1. Well I don’t mind being called a “smoothie”. A chameleon is a blender, after all…

  5. Guessing part of the Nina certainly helped as some of this was no ‘walk in the park’ as far as I was concerned. A very clever joint compilation for which I guess we have Prolixic to thank for organising.
    The NTSPP setters have brought us so much pleasure with their 600 puzzles – thank you to all of them for their efforts. My winner today was 7a so extra thanks to whoever came up with that one.
    Looking forward to reading tomorrow’s review and getting the definitive on who wrote what!

    1. Didn’t spot the Nina til well after filling grid, well done Jane. My guesses are 7a Prolixic (first clue!), 25a Elgar (long tricky and precise) and 21d Chalicea (with a list of French departments to hand) but it’s all guess-work – looking forward to the review and reveals, many thanks in advance CS!

  6. Well spotted, Jane! I completely missed the excellent Nina.
    A great puzzle with some challenging clues. Getting into the setter’s mindset was obviously not possible on this special occasion.
    I can’t parse 25a so looking forward to CSs’s review tomorrow.
    7a, 15a and 26a were my favourites.
    I only managed to identify one setter!

  7. What a treat. Heaven knows the logistics of putting it together so hats off to Prolixic for doing so. The NW was the stumbling block for me & other than 2d&15a it was a no area until I revealed the 9d/12a then immediately twigged the lurker, got the piece of rock & slowly completed. It would have been a darn sight easier had I spotted the message.
    Can’t parse 7a or the last bit of 1d but otherwise ok I think.
    Picks for me were 8,12,15,22,25&26a plus 4,6,16&19d. Top spot goes to 22a (Silvanus ?)
    Big thanks to all involved & eagerly await the review

  8. I came to this late in the day. Full marks to all the setters and to Prolixic for combining the answers into a brilliant puzzle with a super Nina.

    Although the difficulty varied from straightforward to very hard, I did very much enjoy the solve although I did find 25a rather verbose and a bit peculiar.

    My top clues were 7a, 17a, 22a, 2d, 3d & 19d.

    Many thanks to all the parts of Hydra and in advance to CS.

  9. Thoroughly enjoyed this, greatly helped by spotting the Nina early on, giving me eight starting letters. I’ve not worried too much at this stage about parsing them all precisely but will study it later.
    Picking favourites would almost be discriminatory but I did like 8,11,22&27a plus 1,2,3,14&24d with gold going to 7a.
    Many thanks to all concerned, great effort.

  10. Wonderfully varied puzzle and thanks to Prolixic for his organisation. My ticks went to 7a, 15a, 25a, 26a 28a and 18d, with a double tick going to 22a. Thanks to all the setters and in advance to Cryptic Sue for her review.

  11. We always find these collaborations difficult because that magic ingredient of ‘wavelength’ just does not exist. Kicking ourselves now that we did not look for a Nina as it would have been very helpful.
    Won’t even try to put names to individual clues but there are certainly plenty of excellent ones to admire.
    Thanks all.

  12. Excellent after dinner entertainment to round off the day. I spotted the Nina when 3/4 of the way through, and the extra letters were very helpful in completing the NW corner. Thanks to all concerned in creating this celebration of an impressive milestone. I enjoyed the variety of clueing, with 15a, 22a, 26a, 9d and 18d being my favourites of the day. The apropos 3d also brought a smile :smile:
    Hydra is reputedly a scary monster, but this Hydra is welcome any time!

  13. I’d been looking forward to this one for some time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Great fun from start to finish. Among the many stellar clues, 15a and 26a stand out for me. I look forward to seeing who wrote what tomorrow.
    Many thanks to all the setters involved, and especially to Prolixic for putting it all together.

  14. Thanks for the review CS. My only 2 correct guesses were Shabbo at 2d & Elgar at 25a.

  15. Thank you for the review, CS, including a very nice illustration of a xenolith. I didn’t attempt to guess the setters, but I am not surpised to find that Radler’s clues were both amongst my favourites. Thanks again, Hydra!

  16. Many thanks for the review, CS, fascinating to read ‘who wrote what’. The only setter I had absolutely nailed was Elgar – my last answer in by quite a long way!
    BD certainly started something great with the NTSPP series, well done indeed, sir.

  17. My thanks to Crypticsue for the review and to all who have commented. I am indebted to all the setters who contributed to the crossword and provided clues with very little chasing required to complete the grid.

    The trick with a crossword where you have lots of setters contributing clues is to ask each person to provide three clues for each solution that they have been allocated using different wordplay ideas. I was able to use these to create the final set of clues with (I hope) a good balance of wordplay and difficulty levels. I did not impose and editorial constraints on the clues and did not need to go back and suggest amendments to avoid repetitions of wordplay indicators, etc. It is a testament to the skill and quality of the NTSPP contributors that I did not need to do so. We are lucky to have such a talented team.

    The setters were all who had contributed a NTSPP from 501 onwards to the date I began preparing number 600. I am are sure that by the time we reach 700, there will be more contributors as people join from the ranks of the Rookie setters and more who will have moved on to become setters in the national papers.

    As ever, the biggest thanks go to Big Dave who, with the NTSPP and the later Rookie series of crosswords, has done a remarkable job in developing the skills of and promoting new setters to wider recognition. Long may it continue.

  18. Needed to read this post to realize there was a nina around the edges. I agree that 7a was an excellent clue and was my LOI. My rhyming slang got the better of me (well, the worst) and I didn’t understand bachelor as a result. 25a made me the read the Boris Johnson wikipedia page — goodness, he’s been around the block. Oh, I, er, though that, um, 8a was incorrect but looked up UR and there it was in Chambers.

  19. Having ignored (and forgotten) the rest of the grid apart from my allocated word, I found this a stiffish challenge in places and I certainly wasn’t able to guess who set what. And I needed help for 25ac (well, it was by Elgar). It would be invidious to pick a favourite, but thanks to setters as well as Prolixic for compiling the whole thing and to CS and BD.

  20. This was indeed a great treat! Warmest congratulations to Big Dave for introducing the NTSPP to add joy to our Saturdays. And warmest congratulations too to Prolixic for putting it together and to all the setters, including himself, for a truly splendid puzzle. I enjoyed every clue of it! I don’t feel I can single out any favourites as the clues are all excellent and the setters’ styles differ. There is much merit in each. The NINA is super!
    Most appreciatve thanks to all. The NTSPPs have long been a highlight of my week…

    1. I would also like to add a special and most appreciative thank you to crypticsue for her excellent review and for all her test-solving and reviews she does for the NTSPP.

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