MPP 119 – Review – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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MPP 119 – Review

Monthly Prize Puzzle 119 – Review

April 2022

Valuable Letters by Alchemi

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The instructions were as follows:

Each clue contains a superfluous word to be removed before solving. The first or last letter of the superfluous word should be appropriately outside the grid at the beginning or end of the solution. The question can now be read clockwise and should be answered ignoring possible bonuses.

Clockwise, the superfluous words were: 1d W[ELSH], 2d H[AVILAND], 3d I[NTERESTING], 4d C[OUNTRY], 5d    H[AVING], 6d W[ATERPROOF], 7d O[BSERVATION], 8d R[OASTED], 4a [REDUCE]D, 10a [GROS]S, 12a [CATHOLI]C, 16a [TESC]O, 20a [CIRCULA]R, 24a [COURS]E, 27a [DRES]S, 29a [MATC]H, 17d [IRAQ]I, 25d [BEIN]G, 18d [GARIS]H, 23d [CAK]E, 15d [NACHO]S, 21d [VERVE]T, 14d [PAKISTAN]I, 22d [KEE]N, 28a S[EMINARY], 26a C[OPIES], 22a R[UIN], 19a A[NGRY], 13a B[REATHING], 11a B[ELGIAN], 9a L[ASTLY], 1a E[TIQUETTE]

The applicable first or last letter of the superfluous words put forth a question: WHICH WORD SCORES HIGHEST IN SCRABBLE?


The word which scored the highest was BUSHWHACK

Congratulations to Rahmat Ali for arriving at the correct answer and being this month’s winner of a Telegraph Crossword Book of their choice.  [A brief word of explanation – although Rahmat has written this review he received no help from myself, the setter or anyone else, and will be surprised that his name was first out of the hat! BD]


1a    Good day for jealous Shakespearean to drop E[TIQUETTE] books (5)
HELLO: [OT]HELLO as a character of a powerful and respected Moorish commander who is destroyed by jealousy in a Shakespearean tragedy of the same name to let go of (drop) OT (books) as the abbreviated form of Old Testament that comprise the chief texts of the law, history, prophecy and wisdom literature of the ancient people of Israel, coming to the definition of an interjection used as a parting greeting to say goodbye or good day to someone in the daytime

4a    Unhappy about [REDUCE]D power on boat drawing equipment (6,3)
SKETCH PAD: SAD (unhappy) as feeling or showing sorrow around (about) P (power) as the symbol for power in Physics that is preceded by (on) KETCH (boat) as a two-masted, fore-and-aft rigged sailing boat with a mizzenmast stepped forward of the rudder and smaller than its foremast, arriving at the definition of a notebook or pad of drawing paper for sketching on

9a    Scarlet woman L[ASTLY] projects dozens essentially live large (7)
JEZEBEL: The essence or innermost letters (essentially) of proJEcts doZEns followed by BE (live) as to exist or be present and L (large) as the abbreviation for large lead to the definition of an impudent, shameless or morally unrestrained woman who deceives people in order to get what she wants

10a    Fast living leads to lower [GROS]S yields (7)
QUICKLY: QUICK (living) as an archaic term for those who are living and the first or leading letters (leads) to L[OWER] and Y[IELDS] take to the definition of an adverb meaning rapidly or at high speed

11a    B[ELGIAN] soldier following my dog (5)
CORGI: GI (soldier) as the abbreviation for ‘government issue’ or ‘general issue’ used to refer to a World War II soldier and now as a regular soldier in the US army preceded by (following) COR (my) as a term used interjectionally to express surprise, excitement, admiration or alarm, arriving at the definition of a Welsh-breed of pet dog having a foxlike head and short legs

12a    Evilly use in [CATHOLI]C holy orders (9)
HEINOUSLY: An anagram (orders) of USE IN HOLY leads to the definition of an adverb meaning monstrously or in a terribly evil manner

13a    Guide has no difficulty B[REATHING]that’s my only comment (6,4)
ENOUGH SAID: An anagram (difficulty) of GUIDE HAS NO guides to the definition of a phrase used in speech to indicate that what I have just said is enough to make a point clear and that there is no need to say anything more), leading to the definition meaning desired with emulation or rivalry

16a    [TESC]O preserve black doorframe (8)
JAMB: A charade of JAM (preserve) as a sweet spread or conserve made from fruit and sugar boiled to a thick consistency and B (black) as the abbreviation of black on lead pencils to indicate softness takes to the definition of a side post or piece of a framed opening, as for a door, window or fireplace


19a    Japanese noodles a couple of A[NGRY] sailors sent back (4)
SOBA: AB and OS (a couple of sailors) as the abbreviations for ‘able-bodied seaman’ and ‘ordinary seaman’ respectively returned (sent back) as a reversal in the across clue, arriving at the definition of Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour

20a    Colliery features [CIRCULA]R handles on explosives (10)
MINESHAFTS: HAFTS (handles) as handles of weapons or tools such as knives or axes is following or preceded by (on) MINES (explosives) as type of bombs placed on or just below the surface of the ground or in the water, which detonate on contact with any person, vehicle or ship, taking to the definition of deep narrow vertical holes, or sometimes horizontal tunnels, that gives access to coal mines

22a    R[UIN] online talk about someone apparently panicking became more solid (9)
THICKENED: TED (online talk) as an online chat site for watching talks and chatting with other attendees is placed around (about) [C]HICKEN (someone apparently panicking) as a cowardly person appearing, without the head or the first letter C, ‘like a headless chicken’ a phrase meaning in a panic-stricken or unthinking way, leading to the definition of a verb in the past tense meaning became more closely grouped together or more solid than it was before

24a    Finishing [COURS]E after three weeks partners correct stitching (5)
RESEW: The finishing or last letters (finishing) of [AFTE]R [THRE]E [WEEK]S is followed by EW (partners) as two partners or players with successful cooperative relationships in a game of bridge, leading to the definition of stitching again, with a view to correcting the faults appearing in the original stitching

26a    C[OPIES] senior officer wearing tartan resembling shark scales (7)
PLACOID: CO (senior officer) as an abbreviation of commanding officer or the officer in command of a military unit covered by (wearing) PLAID (tartan) as chequered on tartan twilled cloth, typically made of wool, taking to the definition of an adjective referring to shark scales that are toothlike, being made of dentine with a pointed backward projection of enamel the roof of cars

27a    Maybe Aston defends old Roman [DRES]S standards (7)
VEXILLA: VILLA (Maybe Aston) as perhaps the short name for AVFC or Aston Villa Football Club based in Aston, Birmingham takes in (defends) EX (old) as someone with whom a person was once associated in a relationship or marriage, leading to the definition of military standards or banners, especially each one, a vexillum, belonging to one particular maniple, in ancient Rome

28a    A priest leaving Kalamazoo S[EMINARY] in ruins about to go back as big cat expert? (3,6)
ZOO KEEPER: A LAMA (a priest) coming out of (leaving) K[ALAMA]ZOO that is subject to an anagram (in ruins) followed by the preposition RE (about) as a commercial jargon used to indicate ‘with reference to’, ‘concerning’ or ‘about’ and PEE (to go) as to go to the toilet for urination making a turn (go back) as a reversal in the across clue, arriving at the definition of a person who works in a zoo taking care of wild animals, including the big cat, that are on display for visitors to see

29a    Second high [MATC]H point, say (5)
SPEAK: S (second) as the abbreviation for second and PEAK (high point) as the pointed top of a mountain in a charade, arriving at the definition of a verb meaning to say something in order to carry information or to express a feeling


1d    W[ELSH] people changing flight plans greeting judge with money (9)
HIJACKERS: A charade of HI (greeting) as an exclamation used as a friendly greeting or to attract attention, J (judge) as the abbreviation for judge and (with) ACKERS (money) as an informal term for money takes to the definition of persons who illegally seize an aircraft while in transit and force it to go to a different destination or use it for their own purpose

2d    Old leper left H[AVILAND], Arizona essentially wary (5)
LAZAR: A charade of L (left) as the abbreviation for left, AZ (Arizona) as the postal abbreviation for the state of Arizona in the United States and AR as the central or the innermost letters (essentially) of [W]AR[Y] leads to the definition of a poor and diseased person, especially one afflicted by a pestilential disease such as leprosy

3d    Universities getting nothing I[NTERESTING] by contract? (8)
OXBRIDGE: A charade of O (nothing) as nought or nothing, X (by) as representing the preposition ‘by’ expressing multiplication, especially in dimensions and BRIDGE (contract) as a development of auction bridge, in which tricks beyond the number bid for count as honours sums up as the definition of Oxford and Cambridge universities, especially as typifying as upper-class-oriented kind of education

4d    Stormzy’s last C[OUNTRY] album inspired by quiet, slim beauty (5)
SYLPH: A combo of Y as Stormzy’s last or the last letter of [STORMZ]Y and LP (album) as a full length album and standing for Long Play in music is breathed in (inspired) by SH (quiet) as an exclamation used to call for silence, arriving at the definition of a slender, graceful girl or young woman

5d    H[AVING] quiet sex, I gather, is delicately refined (9)
EXQUISITE: An anagram (gather) of QUITE SEX I leads to the definition of an adjective meaning marked by flawless craftsmanship or by beautiful, ingenious, delicate or elaborate execution

6d    Country seaman replacing anonymous W[ATERPROOF] trousers (6)
CHINOS: CHIN[A] (country) as the world’s most populous country having OS (seaman) as the abbreviation for ordinary seaman who is a member of the deck department of a ship coming in place of (replacing) A (anonymous) as the abbreviation for anonymous, taking to the definition of a casual cotton trousers made from a cotton twill fabric, typically khaki-coloured, of the same name

7d    It’s very plain fish fill O[BSERVATION] posts (9)
PIKESTAFF: A charade of PIKE (fish) as a voracious freshwater fish with a pointed snout and large teeth and STAFF (fill posts) as to provide or supply an organisation or business with people as a workforce takes to the definition of a staff with a pike at the end that, though present in the simile ‘as plain as a pikestaff’, meaning perfectly plain or very obvious or clear, is in fact the altered version of ‘as plain as a packstaff’, the staff being that of a pedlar, on which he rested his pack of wares that, by the mid-1500s, saw packstaff switching over to pikestaff for no known reason and the association of packstaff or pikestaff to plainness is obscure except for the obvious alliteration

8d    Medical professional R[OASTED] on radio too wise to swallow line with deadpan sarcasm (5)
DRYLY: DR (medical professional) as the abbreviation for doctor and YY or ‘2Ys’ (two wise) as a homophone heard by the audience (on radio) to take in (swallow) L (line) as the abbreviation of line, leading to the definition of an adverbial phrase meaning in a humorous but quiet or serious way or in a way where one doesn’t need any change of facial expression, use of body language or props to get the joke right, but one’s tone of words or witty words suffice

14d    Big lab too sprawling for [PAKISTAN]I musical accompaniment (9)
OBBLIGATO: An anagram (sprawling) of BIG LAB TOO guides to the definition of an instrumental part, typically distinctive in effect, which is integral to a piece of music and should not be omitted in performance

15d    Possibly barely float [NACHO]S in low-fat guacamole? (6-3)
SKINNY-DIP: A charade of SKINNY (low-fat) as low in fat, used especially of coffee made with low-fat milk or having very little bodily flesh or fat, often unattractively so and DIP (guacamole) as an avocado-based greenish dip with onions, tomatoes and spices leads to the definition of a verb meaning more commonly to bathe nakedly, especially in a public place or someone else’s private property with a large group or one other person, who usually is a hook up or love interest, but also rarely to swim using underwear as a substitute for swimsuits, usually with friends

17d    Lie in wait to attack former President with [IRAQ]I journalist (9)
BUSHWHACK: BUSH (former President) as former President of the United States, George W. Bush, W (with) as the abbreviation for with and HACK (journalist) as a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work in a charade, leading to the definition of a verb meaning to attack someone by surprise from a hidden place

18d    God chops parts of [GARIS]H insects (8)
THORAXES: A charade of THOR (God) as the Norse god of thunder, weather and crops and AXES (chops) as chops, splits or severs with an axe takes to the definition of plural form of part of the middle section of the body of an insect, between the head and the abdomen, bearing the legs and wings

21d    Wild [VERVE]T monkeys mark out channel (3,3)
SKY ONE: An anagram (wild) of [M]ONKEYS having M (mark) as the abbreviation for mark removed (out), leading to the definition of a British pay television channel operated and owned by Sky Group that existed until 1st September 2021

22d    [KEE]N to use microwave, turn over precious stone (5)
TOPAZ: TO from the clue followed by ZAP (use microwave) as use a remote control to operate a microwave or other piece of electronic equipment to come back (turn over) as a reversal in the down clue, arriving at the definition of a mineral that occurs in crystals or various colours and is used as a gemstone or a yellow quartz

23d    Port director finished [CAK]E (5)
DOVER: A charade of D (director) as the abbreviation of director and OVER (finished) as an adverb for finished or no more takes to the definition of a town and major ferry port in Kent, South East England

25d    Welcome rehearsal [BEIN]G very restricted (5)
SALVE: Part of or hidden inside (restricted) rehearSAL VEry leads to the definition of a sentence substitute meaning an expression of a cordial greeting used to address a single person whose arrival is desired or pleasing

Thanks to Alchemi and Mrs & Mr BD for playing their parts in this month’s competition process


10 comments on “MPP 119 – Review

  1. Many thanks to Alchemi for a top-rate puzzle. I bet I wasn’t the only solver to be surprised at which word answered the question – I had to do the calculations twice to be sure I had it correct.
    Thanks as always to Mr & Mrs BD and to RA for the write-up (and congratulations on being the first out of the hat).

  2. Congratulations Rahmat – and many thanks for the comprehensive review. And thanks Alchemi for a great puzzle, like Gazza I found the answer surprising and had to double/triple-check. Thanks too of course to Mr & Mrs BD.

  3. Many congratulations to our reviewer for being the winner and thanks to Alchemi for the puzzle and the BDs for hosting.
    I did eventually manage to fill the grid (with a couple of entries I had to check along the way) but gave up when faced with selecting the superfluous words and taking the required letter from them.
    Lack of determination certainly in evidence!

  4. Thanks everyone. I’m glad to see from the comments above that it was worth scattering J, Q, X, and Z all over the place to distract from the humble-looking answer.

  5. Yes. I too was surprised to discover that the winning word had none of the top-scoring letters in it.
    Congratulations and thanks to RA for the comprehensive review and for also being this month’s winner.
    Thanks again Alchemi for a most enjoyable challenging puzzle.

  6. Thanks again, Alchemi, for all the fun. The crossword was enjoyable to solve, pitched only just outside my abilities, and the 9-year-old enjoyed finding the phrase then calculating the scores. I’d been planning on commenting, once the review appeared, that this was my favourite crossword of the past year — but then this morning I opened a birthday card on which the aforementioned 9-year-old had created a crossword especially for me (with the letters in the highlighted squares spelling “happy birthday”) … so I suppose I’d better say your MPP is my second-favourite!

    I worked out the phrase after solving half the clues (exactly 8 acrosses and 8 downs, as it happens); that helped with identifying superfluous words in many of those remaining. It also meant it was theoretically possible to enter the competition without actually solving every single clue. Having got stuck with a few entries in the bottom-right corner still to go, I was so sure that ‘exquisite’ was going to be the answer I considered submitting it anyway. And even once I’d got a finished grid, I would probably have only spot-checked a few likely looking words; fortunately the 9-year-old is more thorough than I am.

    Congratulations to Rahmat on your win. If I’m right that Rahmat lives outside the UK and the ‘punitive postal charges’ clause means he won’t actually get a physical prize, I’d gladly pay for the postage myself as a gesture of appreciation for all the enjoyment and education Rahmat’s comprehensive reviews have brought me.

  7. Congratulations to Rahmat Ali for the trophy.
    French letters have different values and had a hard time adding up with the English tiles.
    Was extremely fun nonetheless.
    Thanks again to Alchemi.

  8. Well done Rahmat Ali both for winning and for your most excellent review.

    Thanks to Alchemi for a super puzzle I enjoyed very mucn.

    Thanks also to Mr and Mrs Big Dave.

  9. As one who found Alchemi’s instructions difficult to decipher and who then struggled to solve only 5 of the clues, I am in awe of those who completed this puzzle and of the skill shown by the compiler in setting it.
    Many congratulations to all who were successful, and, especially to Rahmat Ali for both emerging from the hat as the winner and for his excellent review. I love reading the comments and the learning opportunities they provide.

  10. Another fine moment of my life to see my name appearing for the second time in the ‘Roll of Honour’. Once again my sincere thanks to Mrs BD for pulling my name out of the hat and my heartfelt prayers to the Almighty for her good health and happiness. My sincere thanks also to BD for his congrats and comments. Once again, thank you Alchemi for your majestic creativity. My congratulations to all those who also arrived at the final answer. To Smylers, thank you for sharing the creative moments of your 9-year-old that was very interesting and your kind gesture of bearing the postal charges. Jazakallah Khairan. I pray to the Almighty for your prosperity and happiness. However, BD himself is going to bear the postal charges. Last, but not the least, thank you Gazza, Fez, jane, KiwiColin, Smylers, jean-luc cheval, Ora Meringue and Essar for your liking my review and for your compliments and other commendable and significant comments.

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