NTSPP 636 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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A Puzzle by Starhorse

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

A review by Prolixic follows.

I have joined Tilsit on the Covid list (other bloggers beware!) but, fortunately, have only the mildest of symptoms so far.  Thanks to Starhorse for the weekend workout though the solutions give very little scope for illustration.


1 Nice area, perhaps one in favour (8)
QUARTIER – The letter representing one inside a seven-letter word meaning favour or mercy granted to an antagonist.

6 Stops carriers hiding drug (6)
CEASES – A five-letter word for carriers or boxes includes (hiding) the abbreviation for ecstasy.

9 Talks endlessly of small income in retirement (4)
YAPS – The abbreviation for small and a three-letter word for income all reversed (in retirement).

10 Prince not around for a dance (10)
CHARLESTON – The name of the eldest son of the Queen (prince) followed by a reversal (around) of the NOT from the clue.

11 Crazy sons trap eagle in jungle? (10)
WILDERNESS – A four-letter word meaning crazy and the abbreviation for son twice (sons) includes (trap) a four-letter word for an eagle.

12 Those opposing a breather on air (4)
NOES – A homophone (on air) of the facial organ used to breath.

13 How teams played fairly (8)
SOMEWHAT – An anagram (played) of HOW TEAMS.

15 Remember – spin material in both hands (6)
RECALL – Reverse (spin) a frilly sort on material inside the abbreviations for right and left (both hands).

17 A maths working that takes your breath away (6)
ASTHMA – An anagram (working) of A MATHS.

19 Pupils in the past smoked out of sight (8)
OBSCURED – The abbreviation (in the plural) of old boys (pupils in the past) followed by a five-letter word meaning smoked.

21 We chose to show repeat (4)
ECHO – The answer is hidden (to show) in the first two words of the clue.

23 Speaking about quarrel and spreading the muck? (10)
TROWELLING – A seven-letter word meaning speaking or narrating around (about) a three-letter word for a quarrel or argument.

25 A French worker pens excuses for being rude (10)
UNPLEASANT – The French masculine singular for “a” and a three-letter word for a worker includes (pens) a five-letter word for excuses.

26 Approve old gossip’s return (4)
OKAY – The abbreviation for old followed by a reversal of a three-letter word for gossip.

27 Hollow award given to docked explorer (6)
COOMBE – The name of one of the honours or awards bestowed on notable individuals in the UK after (given to) a four-letter name of a naval explorer with the final K removed (docked).

28 Touching lines from columnist’s last article found by WC? (8)
TANGENTS – The last letter of columnist followed by the two-letter indefinite article and a five-letter word for men’s toilets.


2 As one, you twice said mansion needs to be rebuilt (9)
UNANIMOUS – An anagram (need to be rebuilt) of U U (you twice said) MANSION.

3 Remains in capital of Uganda, imprisoned in lodge (7)
RESIDUE – The first letter (capital) of Uganda inside (imprisoned in) a six-letter word meaning to lodge or live somewhere.

4 Become liable for popular dog (5)
INCUR – A two-letter word meaning popular followed by a three-letter word for a dog.

5 Ruler impressed by top grade – it may provoke a reaction (7)
REAGENT – A six-letter word for a ruler includes (impressed by) the letter used to indicate the top grade. 

6 Blisters evident when low temperature reportedly rises (4,5)
COLD SORES – A four-letter word for a low temperature followed by a homophone (reportedly) of soars (rises).

7 As nice as a small portion of rabbit stew (7)
ARSENIC – An anagram (STEW) of NICE AS R (the initial letter – small portion – of rabbit).

8 Instalment is missing old Greek verse (5)
EPODE – A seven-letter word for an instalment of a TV programme without (missing) the IS from the clue.

14 Earth shaking with speed likely to increase this? (5,4)
HEART RATE – An anagram (shaking) of EARTH followed by a 4l2 for speed.

16 Ignore alarm, bide your time, be ready to pounce (3,2,4)
LIE IN WAIT – What you would be having if your ignore the alarm clock and stay in bed followed by a four-letter word meaning bite your time.

18 Yob covering chimney (7)
HOODLUM – A four-letter word for a head covering followed by a three-letter word for a chimney.

19 It smells – I urge you to complain loudly (7)
ODORANT – A phrase 1,2 meaning I urge you followed by a four-letter word meaning to complain loudly.

20 Turn regularly, relaxed and set free (7)
UNLOOSE – The even letter (regularly) of turn followed by a five-letter word meaning relaxed.

22 Positive about new fleece (3-2)
CAN-DO – A two-letter abbreviation meaning about followed by the abbreviation for new and a two-letter word meaning fleece or con.

24 Defeated having lost the lead, had lunch (5)
EATEN – A six-letter word meaning defeated without its initial letter (having lost head).

19 comments on “NTSPP 636

  1. Thanks, Starhorse.
    I’m taking this one on holiday with me – our first in more than two years… :yahoo:

  2. A very pleasant puzzle – thanks Starhorse.
    The clues I picked out were 19a, 16d and 22d.

  3. I found the LH side trickier than the Right and I will admit to revealing a couple of letters to finish

    thanks to Starhorse and, I hope/think, in advance to Prolixic

  4. An enjoyable pre-caffeine solve although, like CS, I did have to use the reveal button a couple of times in the NW. It didn’t help that I had made a complete horlicks of 11a.

    Smiles raised by 19a and 28a.

    Thanks to Starhorse and in advance to Prolixic.

  5. Very nice for a Saturday lunchtime solve. Three quarters of it were not too difficult but I found the NW much more challenging, with 1a my last one in even though I twigged the Nice reference instantly. The surfaces were a joy to behold although 7d made me a little nervous.

    With ticks aplenty, 19a was my runaway favourite.

    Many thanks to Starhorse, and presumably in advance to Prolixic.

  6. Can’t tell you how long I peered at 13a before the tea tray moment happened! Also had a bit of a sticky time with 1&9a – has our setter upped the ante a bit for this outing?
    I’ll join the chorus voting for 19a as favourite.

    Thank you, Starhorse, nice to see you again even if you were baring those teeth more than usual!

  7. Many thanks Starhorse, good fun – a couple needed Mr Google to confirm. Many to choose from but my favourites were 13a, 19a, 28a, 7d & 19d. Thanks again, and in advance to Prolixic

  8. Finally completed at the 4th go. Like others the NW was the problem. 1&11a plus 3&5d the ones I struggled with but eventually twigged the right ruler & crazy synonym & staggered over the line without a letter reveal. Thought the puzzle way better than today’s SPP, elegantly clued throughout & a good bit trickier than this setter’s usual level of difficulty.
    Another vote for 19a with ticks for 23,25&27a plus 6,7&14d
    Thanks Starhorse – shame we don’t see you more often

  9. 7D was a bung in since I couldn’t see anything else that it could be, but for the life of me I can’t parse it. 1A was my last one in, and 19A gets my top vote. Thanks, Starhorse.

    1. Hi Chris. 7d…As is the chemical symbol of the solution. Stew is an anagram indicator. Does that help?

      1. Thanks, SL In that case, I don’t care for the clue. But my post-comment googling took me to a report of a poisoner called Chapman who was a pub landlord at the turn of the 20th century and who blamed the death of one of his barmaid victims on the portion of rabbit stew she’d eaten!

  10. Great puzzle Starhorse, a lovely accompaniment to an early evening cool beer. Would have sat very comfortably on the Tuesday Toughie page.
    As soon as I solved 19a I thought “that’s got to take top spot” though it had stiff competition in 23&28a and 3&7d to name but a few.
    Many thanks and thanks in advance to Prolixic, whose reviews I always enjoy reading.

  11. Good afternoon all. Hope this gets through – a few links seem to be broken at the moment but I got here the long way round.

    Didn’t see this until late on Saturday night as I was singing at the Bridgewater Hall all afternoon and evening in a poignant performance of Sir Karl Jenkins’s “The Armed Man”, which had been scheduled for 2020 and then 2021. Not surprisingly given the circumstances he dedicated it to Ukraine. There is a particularly gruesome section describing the horrors of war which suddenly seemed rather more real than when we last performed it with him….

    Anyway, the puzzle.

    I’m always grateful for the feedback. It wasn’t specifically intended to be tougher than usual, although I guessed that 1A would not be a write-in, and the eagle synonym in 11A might not give itself up easily, so I can see why the NW corner was a bit trickier. But I can’t really claim to be expert enough like the proper setters to set a “quiptic” or a “toughie” – I just set the clues and see what happens really. I did make sure there were none of RD’s disliked random boys and girls (went for a random explorer somewhere instead…)

    Interesting that so many resonated with the “sneaky fag behind the bike sheds” clue!

    I’d love to claim that 7d was inspired by the publican’s tale that Expat Chris mentions, but no – pure coincidence. I thought the definition would be a bit chestnutty to be honest, it must surely have been done many times.

    Cheers, Starhorse

  12. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, my only downfall was opting for the wrong 3 letter income in 9a – fortunately it didn’t matter. Hope you shift that wretched lurgy quickly – it does seem to be spreading like wildfire at the moment.

    Thanks again to Starhorse, hope you don’t stay away too long this time.

  13. We have struggled to get Big Dave’s site today but we have obviously conquered ‘error 44’! Really enjoyed the puzzle, NW corner last to be completed. Many thanks, Starhorse, for a great puzzle. We look forward to your next one. Thanks also to Prolixic and hope Covid causes no problems. Just had our spring jab today!

  14. Took me most of my flight to solve this – but to be fair it was only LHR-AMS :wink:
    Favourites were 12a, 15a, 16d and 19d. Thanks, Starhorse for entertaining me in mid-air!
    Thanks to Prolixic for the review and saving me the effort of checking 27a and 8d in my dictionary. I hope your symptoms remained mild.

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