NTSPP 615 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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A Puzzle by Exit

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review by Prolixic follows.


1 Excellent salesman back aboard boat (6)
SUPERB – Reverse (back) a three-letter word for a salesman inside (aboard) a three-letter word for an underwater boat.

4 Nancy’s husband: grand old flower! (8)
MARIGOLD – The French (Nancy’s) for husband followed by the abbreviation for grant and the OLD from the clue.

10 Band overwhelmed by support for chief (7)
PREMIER – The three-letter name of an American rock band inside (overwhelmed by) a four-letter word for a support.

11 Polish queen and son: they’re at the end of the line (7)
BUFFERS – A four-letter word meaning to polish followed by the regnal cypher for the current queen and the abbreviation for son.

12 Rich emperor providing pot plant? (4)
HEMP – The answer is hidden (providing) in the first two words of the clue.

13 Special case: Nietzsche almost cooked escalopes (10)
SCHNITZELS – An anagram (cooked) of SL (outer letters, or case, of special) + NIETZSCHE without the last letter (almost).

15 Called police – no good, gone off (6)
RANCID – A four-letter word meaning called and a three-letter abbreviation for a police division without the abbreviation for good.

16 Graduate with weapon to weigh? (7)
BALANCE – The two-letter abbreviation for a graduate followed by a five-letter word for a weapon.

20 Wine and cheese rejected by Gershwin? (7)
MADEIRA – A reversal (rejected) of a four-letter name of a Dutch cheese followed by the first name of the songwriter Gershwin.

21 Tail-less cat’s country once? (6)
PERSIA – A seven-letter word of a breed of cat without the last letter (tail-less).

24 “I can share top billing” – first for a Central American? (5,5)
COSTA RICAN – A phrase 2-4 meaning share top billing before (first) the I CAN from the clue.

26 See 3 down.

28 Standard higher education class (7)
UNIFORM – A three-letter abbreviation for university (higher education) followed by a four-letter word for a class.

29 Offensive racket about sacred syllable (7)
NOISOME – A five-letter word for a racket around a two-letter for a sacred syllable intoned in meditation.

30 Teaching shut-in codebreaker (8)
TUTORING – A two-letter word meaning shut in the name of the famous British codebreaker.

31 Rioting blamed for uproar (6)
BEDLAM – An anagram (rioting) of BLAMED.


1 County adopts program for Stone (8)
SAPPHIRE – A five-letter word for a county includes (adopts) a three-letter word for a program.

2 Opium Anne dispensed for illness  (9)
PNEUMONIA – An anagram (dispensed) of OPIUM ANNE.

3/26 Dragoon’s tracks in Chicago, say? (8)
RAILROAD – Double definition of word meaning to Shanghai or dragoon and an American term for a railway.

5 Scotsman following English saint – one found in Tirana? (8)
ALBANIAN – The five-letter name of an English saint (the first to be martyred) followed by a three-letter Scottish name.

6 Dane, if taut, could be besotted (10)
INFATUATED – An anagram (could be) of DANE IF TAUT.

7 Part of globe seems well-rounded (5)
OBESE – The answer is hidden (part of) in the third and fourth words of the clue.

8 Lay off fancy diets containing minimal salt (6)
DESIST – An anagram (fancy) of DIETS includes the initial letter (minimal) of salt.

9 Plant artist found in loch (not lake) (5)
ORACH – The two-letter abbreviation for an artist inside the LOCH from the clue without the abbreviation for lake.

14 Niece Margo disturbed – might she be watching The Exorcist? (10)
CINEMAGOER – An anagram (disturbed) of NIECE MARGO.

17 Beaver fat medicine? (6,3)
CASTOR OIL – The six-letter name of the genus of beavers followed by a three-letter word for fat.

18 Coach fellow 3 26 employee? (8)
TRAINMAN – A five letter word meaning to coach followed by a three-letter word for a fellow.

19 A Yankee medic with drug in mother’s reverie (8)
DAYDREAM – The A from the clue, the letter represented by Yankee in the NATO phonetic alphabet, a two-letter abbreviation for a medic and the abbreviation for ecstasy (drug) all inside a three-letter word for a mother.

22 Free island welcoming Catholic queen (6)
ACQUIT – A three-letter word for a small island includes (welcoming) the abbreviation for Catholic and queen.

23 See 25 down

25/23 Asses at inn upset composer (5-5)
SAINT-SAËNS – An anagram (upset) of ASSES AT INN.

27 New president formerly a personification of victory (4)
NIKE – The abbreviation for new followed by the nickname of Dwight D Eisenhower.

48 comments on “NTSPP 615

  1. Enjoyable puzzle – thanks Exit.
    I’m not sure that splitting 25/23 is allowed when one part is not a real word.
    My ticks went to 12a, 24a and 30a.

    1. I disagree that there’s anything unfair about 25/23. The convention is about avoiding unfair deception, such as clueing two 3-letter entries as 4,2 giving something like MAK EUP. There is no deception even attempted in that clue – the name has two words connected by a hyphen, and I can’t see why you can’t spread a 5-5 over two 5-letter lights like that. Were I to set a puzzle involving a lot of composers’ names, I’d have no compunction about doing it.

      This isn’t a thematic puzzle, so I’d agree that it’s not very pleasing, but it’s docking of 0.1 style points for not quite landing with both feet together after a gymnastics vault rather than an actual fault.

      1. A. Sorry to be late, but I can’t see anything wrong with this clue either – it’s just a straightforward anagram of the hyphenated surname of a late French composer, split over 2 answer slots. Isn’t it? But then, I’m just a veteran solver and not necessarily a technical/academic expert. Please, have you any idea which part isn’t a “real” word?

        1. Actually, I was just coming to post something similar because I realised my previous post, though reasonable, misses the point entirely.

          Although the second half of the name isn’t a word you can find in an English dictionary, it’s still a real word, like any proper name. Just as both words in, say, CERNE ABBAS are real words, and I can’t believe anyone would think of raising this objection if that answer were to be entered in two different lights.The slightly surprising thing is that the first half of this solution happens to be a word which means something in English, which is certainly need not have done.

          1. As I see it the difference is that Cerne Abbas (like Buenos Aires, say) consists of two words which can be entered in two separate lights with no problem but the answer here is a single word, albeit hyphenated. So to me it’s like splitting Harrogate into Harro and Gate.

            1. “SAENS” is not a proper grid entry.

              The question seems to be how much you forgive/tolerate that.

            2. But if someone was called Fred Harro-Gate (it could happen!) then splitting the answer 5/4 would be valid because the Harro would be a bona fide proper noun as part of a hyphenated surname. But if that composer’s surname is actually a single (hyphenated) word, then that’s a different story. Having said that, I’m sure the great Petitjean would have got away with this clue in a DT Toughie!

              1. It’s a double-barrelled name, not a 10-letter name with an artiticial hyphen, which definitely would be impermissible. It’s a proper name of two hyphenated real words, in so far as proper names are real words. If the first half of the name were SEINT, neither part would be English words, but it would be perfectly reasonable to put them in separate lights.

    2. G, 25/23. I think I must be missing something (maybe be something obvious to others) with this split clue. Please, can you tell me which part isn’t a real word. Cheers.

      1. I’ll try. Basically, the rule is that every single grid entry has to be a real word. Sometimes, people split an 8-letter word across two grid entries, each 4 letters long. This is allowed, as long as each 4-letter entry is a word in its own right. The debate here is that while saint is obviously a word in its own right, saens is not. I have enormous respect for alchemi, but I doubt he’d get this clue past a proper editor.

        1. Thank you Dutch – that’s a good explanation, well-written/easily understandable and I seem to remember a similar explanation on here before. But does it necessarily apply to famous peoples’ names, which are proper nouns and plenty of them could well be regarded as not being “real words in their own right”? If any “word” is a person’s Christian or surname (or half of it, hyphenated), then that is a proper noun and therefore a “word in its own right” by virtue of its existence. If Saens isn’t part of a surname, a proper noun and therefore a “word” – then what is it?

          1. Yes, the grey area comes when (1) using names and (2) hyphenation. And, of course rules are forever being stretched more and more. Saint-Saens is a person. Is Saens? If a person’s name were Butterbum, you could elegantly clue that with enumeration (9) across 2 grid entries of length 6 and 3. That, I think, is the intended idea behind cluing a single word across two entries.

            1. Suggested compromise: you can put them in the grid in two different places, but you also have to have the word HYPHEN clued separately and appearing in the grid between them.

              1. That is one compromise, but not really workable because the grid would need to be at least 18×18 squares.

            2. Butterbum is a poor example, ideally the split is not obvious and should raise a smile. Also, this device is extra information for the solver – allowing a more difficult clue.

        2. I wonder who Dutch considers a proper editor. I’ve certainly seen this in the Guardian and Independent, and on checking back, I’ve done it myself in the FT.

          As I hinted in my first comment, mine was a themed entry, which may therefore attract a bit of leniency, but sections of proper names are words.

          It seems bonkers to me to say that, for example, FORTESCUE-SMYTHE can only appear as a 15-letter light.

          1. sorry, a thoughtless thing to say. Of course all editors are proper, and may have differences in taste and style.

            1. It occurred to me after posting that I remembered a puzzle from my favourite setter ever, Bunthorne, which was strung around a line from a poem “THE WINE WAS GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN”. Neither part of the wine’s name is a proper “word” and they are connected by a hyphen. Since it’s 16 letters, the two parts of the name were in separate lights. It stuck in my mind because I’d never heard of the wine before, and every time I’ve seen the name since, I’ve remembered that puzzle.

              1. A. I think you can claim a victory on this one (I’m convinced), especially since the clue has received no italicised remarks in the review/analysis. But then, I’ve always been a bit of a rebel and maybe not the best judge?

              2. Ah, a top Burgundy that I’ve only received as a present, never bought (it’s expensive)

                A related liberty some setters take is to spread a long phrase across multiple grid entries – sometimes each grid entry is ok, sometimes a grid entry means nothing by itself. In general these are far more experienced setters than I (any guesses folks?) so what can I say, except that experienced setters seem to get away with more. I don’t mind – like in music, once you are absolutely solid on the basics, you can improvise, whereas that tend to fall flat if you are not expert.

              3. Alchemi, I remember that puzzle too! As far as I can recall, the clue was “High vintage, memorable yet, but fie! For the wench, I regret, wasn’t.” This was an anagram of “I forget the name of the girl; but the wine was Gevrey-Chambertin”, which is a line from Belloc (although I can only find it quoted without ‘Gevrey’). It remains one of my favourite clues.

            2. I happened upon this discussion, and will chip in, if I may, with a couple of points. The first is that in the sort of puzzles that interest me as solver and setter (themed cryptics) Saint-Saens is viewed as one word, enumerated (10), and so any attempt to split it, whether at the hyphen or elsewhere, except for signalled thematic purposes, would mean instant rejection. The second is an endorsement of Dutch’s final point. We are playing a game whose rules are consensual and so arbitrary, specified only by convention, as demonstrated by the absence of dogmatism in the discussion.

  2. A perfectly pitched lunchtime solve (apart from one fairly-clued but unknown plant) ideal for someone who has to fitthe things she’d planned to do this morning into the afternoon.

    Thanks to Exit and in advance (I hope) to Prolixic

  3. A gentle cruciverbal romp, if I can romp before 7:00am my time, which was completed without the need for caffeine.

    Like CS, I did not know the 9a plant but it was fairly clued.

    Not often that I pick an anagram, but one of my favourites was 13a – a 10 letter word with 8 consonants, 4 of which were in a row!

    Other favourites were 4a (after the PDM on Nancy) and 1d.

    Thanks Exit and in advance to Prolixic.

  4. This was excellent for the NTSPP slot. It was light and fun with great clueing and super-smooth surfaces throughout.

    I didn’t know the plant in 9d nor the specific meaning of the first word of 17d, but both were fairly clued and just needed a quick BRB check as confirmation. I agree with Gazza about 25d/23d, and, despite being spoilt for choice when trying to pick a favourite, his podium choice of 12a, 24a & 30a will do nicely for me too.

    Many thanks to Exit and in advance to Prolixic(?)

  5. Surprisingly I was OK with the 9d plant but I did have doubts about 18d which I’ve never heard used.
    1,4 &11a raised smiles and my favourite was the simple but clever 12a.

    Thanks to Exit for a most enjoyable NTSPP.

    1. Jane, 18d is an American term but I think it is OK here as the cross-reference is to another (indicated) American expression.

      1. Thanks RD – I didn’t even know of it as an American term. I’m sure Michael Portillo never uses it on his American rail journeys!

  6. We had some red 9d in our vegetable garden this year. You can use the leaves in much the same way as spinach. I was advised not to allow it go to seed or you may have a ‘red sea’ the following year! An enjoyable puzzle from Exit, which I managed to work on sporadically whilst watching Scotland and, fortunately, just finished before the start of the England match – during which there was no time to look away from the action! My favourites were the fairly straightforward but rather elegant 12a, 28a and 8d. Thanks, Exit.

  7. Thank you exit. I enjoyed this, though it took me a while. In terms of surfaces, I thought 8d was your best.

  8. A little late to this thoroughly enjoyable puzzle, many thanks Exit. Not exactly a “gentle romp” for me, but all came together in the end. I knew the plant but not the beaver, and “shut-in” had me head-scratching for a while. I didn’t see any ‘problem’ with the 23/25 pair but can see the argument – I guess plenty of other words could have fitted 23’s crossers so may have been better to save the composer for another puzzle? Favourite 28a.
    Thanks again!

  9. Very enjoyable Exit, had a nice fresh feel to it, elegantly and smoothly clued throughout.
    I liked several but definite favourite for me was 24a.
    Thanks for the entertainment.

  10. A lovely pre Match of the Day solve. Never heard of the plant but the wordplay got me there. 24a was my favourite with big ticks for 13&20a plus 5&14d. Still have a couple to parse but the quick solve has restored a wee bit of faith (much dented this week) in my solving ability.
    Many thanks Exit

  11. We have been away so late getting on to this one.
    Thoroughly enjoyed it when we did and lots of ticks on our pages.
    Thanks Exit.

  12. Given all the discussion in the blog about the 25/23 combination, and with Prolixic’s assessment still to come, I wonder if BD might consider including the term ‘settiquette’ in the glossary…?

  13. 25/23 seems to have stirred up, if not exactly a hornet’s nest, some controversy. Some solvers obviously didn’t like the split whereas others were happy with it and quite a few passing it without comment. Maybe it’s something that could be OK in the Guardian but a no-no in the Times – and probably best avoided as I will note for future reference..
    Anyway, the puzzle as a whole seems to have been well received. Thank you all for your appreciative comments, and particularly to Prolixic for the review and illustrations – musical as well as visual.

  14. I really enjoyed this one, but left off commenting until I read Prolixic’s review since I had difficulty parsing a couple of clues: 4A & 22D.

    Firstly, was I the only one who winced at 13A because the plural of schnitzel is schnitzel not schnitzels?

    Secondly, I read 17D as referring to the oily substance extruded by Beavers, rather than their genus which I think makes the clue even better.

    Many thanks to Exit and Prolixic.

  15. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, and also the opportunity to listen to the work of the composer whose name caused some controversy on the blog.
    Have to say, I had far more admiration for the skill of the organist than for the piece of music he was playing!

    Thanks again to Exit – a very worthy NTSPP offering.

    1. Jane, Prolixic has posted an arrangement of this movement for organ alone, very skillfully performed by the organist. I hope you can find an opportunity to listen to the full orchestral version (which does indeed feature the organ). My recommendation is to play it through a hi-fi system having speakers with a good bass response! I don’t think you can fail to be moved by the power of this piece of music.
      It really is to be admired! :yes:

      1. Thank you, Spartacus. I couldn’t agree more. The symphony deserves to be heard with a full orchestra.
        I heard it played live in the RAH and the organ opening of the final movement almost made me jump out of my seat! A fabulous symphony, IMO.

        1. A live performance is an even better recommendation! I haven’t yet been fortunate enough to attend a performance of this symphony, and the RAH ticks all the boxes as a perfect venue. Glad to hear you had such a great experience – maybe one day….

          1. It was a few years ago now when the organ in the RAH had just been refurbished. Wonderful stuff!

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