NTSPP 634 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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A Puzzle by Fez

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

In February, Fez joined the ranks of nationally published setters with an Inquisitor puzzle under his pseudonym Cranberry. This means, of course, that he is no longer a Rookie and so I can now say to him ‘welcome to both Saturday afternoons and, as he is a NPS, to my side of the blogging rota’

My top favourite has to be 18d with 22d following close behind


1 Jewellery store‘s fantastic two-for-one deal ends at half noon (5,2,6)
TOWER OF LONDON A place storing some of this country’s most important jewellery – an anagram (fantastic) of two for one and the ‘ends’ of DeaL, the result finished off by the second half of noon

9 Mountain ridge occasionally visible in fair weather (5)
ARETE Found in the even (occasionally visible) letters of fAiR wEaThEr

10 Pompous drunk, howling loudly after husband interrupts (4-5)
HIGH-FLOWN An anagram (drunk) of HOWLING, the result interrupted by the musical abbreviation meaning to play loudly and the abbreviation for Husband

11 Wound up dead following injection (7)
NEEDLED The abbreviation for Dead following an informal term for a hypodermic injection

12 Spain’s navy missing its first chance to reinforce (7)
ENHANCE The IVR Code for Spain, the abbreviation for Navy, and cHANCE (from the clue) missing its first letter

13 Meat packing operation ultimately corrupt (5)
VENAL A type of meat ‘packing’ the ultimate letter of operatioN

15 First course: toast, pain grillé (9)
ANTIPASTO An anagram (one of the meanings of the French word grillé is tortured) of TOAST PAIN

18 Unscrupulous dealer‘s marketing of sex drug leads to enormous riches (9)
PROFITEER The usual abbreviated ‘marketing’, OF (from the clue), one of the two words meaning sexual attraction, the abbreviation for the drug Ecstasy and the ‘leads’ to Enormous and Riches

19 Big sporty car carrying Scotsman (5)
GIANT An abbreviated sporty car ‘carrying’ a Scotsman’s Christian name

21 The man’s beaten up, pointlessly – whilst you just stand there, you drip! (4,3)
BATH MAT An anagram (up) of THe MAns BeATen – ‘pointlessly’ telling you to omit the letters that are points of the compass

24 Swingers’ bar? Tarzan regularly goes, we hear (7)
TRAPEZE The regular letters of TaRzAn and a homophone (we hear) of an informal word for urinates (goes)

26 Left over time, pickled onion possibly a useful energy source? (5,4)
LIGHT BULB Replace the abbreviation for Time in an informal word meaning intoxicated (pickled) with the abbreviation for Left. Then add the type of plant of which an onion, possibly, is an example

27 Fourth-tier Crawley extremely likely to cause an upset (5)
ROWDY A way of describing the fourth tier of something (in a theatre perhaps) and the extreme or final letter of CrawleY

28 Hat and dress you’ve designed for Mardi Gras (6,7)
SHROVE TUESDAY An anagram (designed) of HAT DRESS YOU’VE


1 In addition, present wine cask to nurses (9)
THEREUNTO A wine cask ‘nurses’ an adverb meaning present, TO (from the clue) being added at the end.  It takes a while to realise that, contrary to how the clue reads, the TO doesn’t nurse the present and the wine cask, as if this were the case the first letter of the wine cask would have cycled to the bottom.

2 I’m excited to get a glimpse of Lana Turner (5)
WHEEL An expression of exuberance (I’m excited) with a glimpse (the first letter) of Lana

3 Hot dry weather, leaves beginning to wilt – add water! (9)
REHYDRATE An anagram (hot) of DRY wEATHER (the ‘beginning’ to Wilt leaves)

4 Japanese delicacy’s base composition (5)
FUGUE A type of fish eaten by the Japanese once the poisonous parts have been removed, plus the letter that is the base of the natural system of logarithms

5 Peculiar article Margaret’s ready to wear (3,3,3)
OFF THE PEG A synonym for peculiar, the definite article and a diminutive form of Margaret

6 Go under radar initially, sticking to lower position (5)
DROWN The initial letter of Radar ‘sticking’ in a lower position

7 England’s second XI, in France, essentially comfortable with 0-0? Anything but! (3-4)
NON-ZERO The second letter of eNgland, the French word for eleven (XI in Roman numerals), the ‘essential’ letter of comfoRtable and an O (from the clue)

8 Guidance system was responsible for sending vehicle wrong way (6)
SATNAV Was responsible for followed by a reversal (the wrong way) of a type of vehicle

14 Animated movie with interminable title theme (9)
LEITMOTIV An anagram (animated) of MOVIE and the first four letters (interminable) of TITLE

16 Rearrange desk for record player (9)
TURNTABLE A verb meaning to rearrange and another word for a desk

17 Frighten off a couple of schoolkids on neighbourhood street (5,4)
SCARE AWAY The first couple of letters of SChoolkids, a neighbourhood and another word for street

18 Fred and Wilma’s little precious stones (7)
PEBBLES Fred and Wilma Flintstone’s precious little girl or some stones

20 Patterned material matched precisely? Not quite (3-3)
TIE-DYE A verb meaning matched and almost all of a word of agreement (precisely)

22 Cat at risk in Wild Woods, of course (5)
TIGER A endangered cat (at risk in wild) or the name of Mr Woods, best known for his time spent on a golf course

23 Rely on bent, rusty nails (5)
TRUST Hidden in (nails) benT RUSTy

25 Without drink, terrier dried out (5)
AIRED A type of terrier without that part of its name which is a type of drink

32 comments on “NTSPP 634

  1. Very enjoyable with a good mixture of clues and a few gimmes to get us started – thanks Fez.
    My ticks went to 21a (very clever), 2d, 18d and 22d,

  2. All done with 4d being the last one in ( I don’t fancy that as a delicacy). Most enjoyable however I have ? marks against quite a few clues where I can’t fully parse my answers. Thanks Fez & to our reviewer in advance.

  3. Very entertaining Fez – though 26a isn’t quite the source of the energy…
    Lots of smiles so thank you for a very nice puzzle indeed

    1. Hence the ? in 26a …. I think it’s ok in a ‘non-scientific’ way though! Many thanks, glad it raised a smile :-)

      1. Actually, I thought it was even OK in a scientific way because of the word ‘useful’. Being a site where energy is converted to a different form, 26a can be considered a source of ‘useful energy’ if that’s the form of energy you need!

  4. A lovely puzzle withs lot of smooth well-crafted surface readings – what a treat! 21a was my stand out favourite, with a strong supporting cast of 1a, 11, 18a, 24, 28, 2, 3, 14 & 18d. I was struggling to parse 26 but I’ve had to revise my comments because the penny dropped even as I was writing this… :smile:
    Thank you, Fez.

  5. Enjoyed that! Lots to think through without ever feeling hopeless. No reveals needed though did use the check feature a couple of times to prove/disprove potential ideas. Think I have them all parsed now I’ve finished it. Thanks Fez, and thanks in anticipation to Crypticsue/Prolixic for the review that I’ll come back and look at tomorrow..

  6. Well I found this one particularly tough. Very satisfying indeed to grind out a finish over 3 looks at it & without a letter reveal. I also hit the check button a couple of times so not strictly an unaided finish. Hugely enjoyable & with some super parsings. Tops for me was 21a with big ticks also for 1,18,24&27a plus 1,2,18&22d
    Thanks Fez

  7. For me, this was a puzzle of two halves in terms of difficulty. Some time into my solve the top of my grid was almost blank, but the bottom half, although challenging, was complete. The top half continued to resist for quite a while but I did manage to complete it eventually, although I would rank the whole thing as at least Thursday Toughie standard. I learnt two new words: the answer to 9a; and the Japanese delicacy in 4d.

    Parsing 1a caused me some grief until I remembered that “at” can mean “by”. This has always seemed counter-intuitive to me (and probably will always do so). Also, if I have parsed them correctly, I am not entirely convinced by the use of 0-0 clue an O in 7d, nor by “was responsible for” to clue “sat” in 8d.

    6d remains stubbornly unparsed.

    As well as some very inventive clueing, Fez continues to provide us with immaculate surfaces and that earns a very big tick from me. Overall this was a most accomplished puzzle which was tough but enjoyable with 21a my favourite. Many thanks, Fez, and in advance presumably to Prolixic?

    1. Hello, RD, my suggestion is that if you split ‘0-0?’ into two parts, ‘0 – 0?’ then the second 0 becomes a question rebutted by the remaining words of the clue.

      1. 👍 I was a little unsure about spacing out the 0-0 but decided the dash provides sufficient ‘split’ to go otherwise unindicated.

    2. Top half more difficult for me too RD.
      6d…the initial letter of Radar inserted into a lower position.

      1. I thought of that, SL, but what tells you that the R is inserted into the word “down”?

        PS – having typed that, I see that Fez has explained it below but even so, I still don’t really like that one.

    3. Thanks RD, glad you enjoyed it despite some tough moments (though I’m happy to be in Toughie territory!)
      8d BRB has ‘to stay in or with, in order to look after, as in baby-sit.’ Stretching it a little?
      7d puts an initial letter into (‘sticking’ as in piercing etc BRB sense 2) a word meaning “to a lower position”

      1. Fez, thanks for your explanations.

        I still don’t think 8d works if you apply what to me is the acid test of finding an example where you can switch the two items. I can’t think how you could do this with “sat” (or even “baby-sat”) and “was responsible for”, but I’d be very happy if someone else can come up with something.

  8. Really enjoyable, thank you Fez. Last one in was 27a and we still need to fully parse a couple. Favourites were 7d and 28a. We look forward to your next one.

  9. A very enjoyable accompaniment to an early evening beer Fez, with lots of highly original clueing.
    I have ticks all over the place but I’ll mention 13,21&24a (lol) plus 6&22d.
    Many thanks and in advance to whoever reviews it.

  10. Many thanks to all for the comments, glad it seems to have gone down well – I hoped I’d included enough ‘ways in’ to get the crossers for the tougher clues.
    And huge thanks to BD for the opportunity. This was originally submitted for Rookie Corner (where I hoped it might earn a promotion) but I made it to NTSPP on a technicality, having enjoyed the privilege of setting the i‘s Inquisitor a few weeks ago (as Cranberry my barred puzzle alter-ego; IQ1737 ‘Operation’, Feb 5). Of course I still remain a rookie really so all constructive criticisms very much appreciated
    Thanks too in advance to crypticsue (presumably) for review, very much looking forward to it!

  11. 27a is the one where we are still scratching our heads about the wordplay. Got all the rest sorted. Good puzzle and challenging fun to solve.
    Thanks Fez.

  12. Many thanks CS – love the illustrations (glad to see the Flintstones make an appearance)

    Re grillé, the French word does indeed have connotations as torture but I wasn’t sure if that would be entirely fair – the more ‘obvious’ ttanslation does have precedent, though – Giovanni used it in:
    http://bigdave44.com/2012/07/27/dt-26929/ for 2d. Gazza did raise an eyebrow in the review but the commentariat seemed to approve! (There were a few indicators/constructions I thought might be questionable so I did take care to check for precedents in the Telegraph/BD archives)

    1d proved quite tricky to clue, the whole phrase “wine cask to” nurses “present” – it seemed straightforward enough at the time, but on re-reading I can see why this was tough!

    19a was a last-minute change, as I’d used my preferred original clue in the Inquisitor puzzle: “Big soldiers (5)”

    Thanks again CS and all who’ve commented, and to Big Dave. I hope to return to NTSPP before too long (perhaps with something a little gentler) – and next ambition is to get a puzzle in the EV series!

    1. Thanks for the link, Fez. It’s interesting to read the blogs from a decade or so ago to remember the commenters from that time who are no longer around.

    2. Thanks for the review CS and once again to Fez for the puzzle – I shall look forward to your next appearance in the NTSPP slot. If 19a had been “Big soldiers (5)” I would have added it to my long list of favourites :good:

  13. Late to the party, but only because I didn’t get round to commenting yesterday after solving on Saturday evening. An enjoyable and satisfying solve – what more can one add to the appreciative comments above?
    Thanks, Fez and CS.

  14. So much to like in this crossword.
    Great surface all round.
    Loved the anagram indicator in 15a. Really works for me.
    Thanks to Fez for the super fun and to CS for the review.

    1. Thanks Jean-Luc, glad you liked it – and of course especially glad that 15a gets your approval.

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