NTSPP 643 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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A Puzzle by Alchemi

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

While I enjoyed solving this puzzle, I felt that the Nina imposed a constraint which necessitated several obscure answers.


8a 100 books, 1 in 9 producing poison (8)
NICOTINE: the Roman numeral for 100, some books of the bible and I (one) inside NINE (9)

9a Writer in fast ship going to die (6)
EXPIRE: I (the writer) inside an adjective meaning fast without (going) SS (Steam Ship)

10a Requests idiot to guard king (4)
ASKS: an idiot around (to guard) K(ing)

11a Vacant stable impresses nasty Queen’s jockey (5-5)
HORSE-RIDER: S[tabl]E without its inner letters (vacant) inside (impresses) an adjective meaning nasty followed by the Queen’s regnal cipher

12a Children wife defends having entered ring (6)
MINORS: MRS (married woman / wife) around (defends) IN (having entered) O (ring)

14a Craftsmanship, mostly, is protecting paper resort facilities (3,5)
SKI LIFTS: most of a word meaning craftmanship followed by IS from the clue around (protecting) a daily newspaper

15a Vice holds tool essentially rigid for horse service (7)
SHOEING: a three-letter vice around a garden tool followed by the middle letter (essentially) of riGid

17a Understand old character occupying bench? (3,4)
SEE THAT: a character (Ð or ð) used in Old English inside (occupying) a bench or chair

20a Collect suiting a saint (8)
IGNATIUS: an anagram (collect) of SUITING A

22a Lozenge sounding sort of nuts (6)
CACHOU: sounds like cashew (sort of nuts)

23a Posh car stops working without witticisms (10)
DROLLERIES: a colloquial word for a make of posh car inside (without) a verb meaning stops working

24a Happy German boy (4)
GLAD: G(erman) followed by a boy

25a Language of old islander is dextrosinistral (6)
NAVAJO: O(ld) and an Indonesian islander reversed (dextrosinistral / moving from the right to the left)

26a The French go after independent party worshipping cult figure (8)
IDOLATRY: the French definite article and a go or attempt after I(ndependent) and a party

1d Metalworker could somehow mint this (8)
TINSMITH : an anagram (could somehow) of MINT THIS

2d Hills for local cycling display (4)
HOWS: this dialect word (local) for hills is derived by “cycling” the first letter of a verb meaning to display to the end

3d Figures English sense moves south (6)
EIGHTS: E(nglish) and one of the senses with S(outh) moved

4d Titled lady to go with topless gown (7)
PEERESS: a verb meaning to go or urinate followed by a gown without its initial letter (topless)

5d Need fire put out to alter parameters (8)
REDEFINE: an anagram (put out) of NEED FIRE

6d Choose one film I see as offering hope (10)
OPTIMISTIC: a three-letter verb meaning to choose followed by I (one), a film or haze, I from the clue, and a letter of the alphabet (see / cee)

7d Is inquisitive, finally, about Father (6)
PRIEST: a verb meaning is inquisitive followed by to final letter of abouT

13d Cape woven from poor lace gets top honours (5,5)
OPERA CLOAK: an anagram (woven from) of POOR LACE followed by (gets) two of the top honours in a pack of playing cards

16d Certain river drowns Australian academic (6,2)
NAILED ON: an African river around (drowns) A(ustralian) followed by an academic

18d Gave dogs fads from, essentially, a scientist (8)
AVAGADRO: the inner letters (essentially, also used in 15a) of four words in the clue

19d Pitcher leaves when detectives reach Iowa (7)
ASCIDIA: a word meaning when followed by some detectives and IA (Iowa)

21d Foreign police, one a bore on reflection (6)
GARDAI: these Irish police are derived by reversing I (one), the A from the clue and a bore or pest

22d Dot’s frequent companion keeps American time as a habit (6)
CUSTOM: the three letters that frequently follow dot in internet urls, like the url of this site, around (keeps) a two-letter American and T(ime)

24d Foreign dignitary needing good service (4)
GRAF: G(ood) followed by a military service

The Nina starts in the top left corner and continues clockwise around the circumference of the grid.  THE PROPER STUDY OF MANKIND, IS MAN – Alexander Pope

17 comments on “NTSPP 643

  1. Thanks Alchemi, a super puzzle Tricky with some unfamiliar entries but the Nina was a great help, especially in the SW. Too many good clues to pick out any favourites. Thanks again, and in advance for review

  2. IMHO this could have been a Friday Toughie with a few obscure words at 18d,19d & 22a. I’ll need BD’s review tomorrow in order to fully parse my solutions. Thanks Alchemi but next time could you be a little more gentle with those of a nervous disposition?

  3. The unknowns were a bit of a struggle leaving me with a couple of ‘must be that’ answers
    Thanks for the challenge

    1. Filling grids with Ninas is quite a challenge, and it’s almost impossible to avoid having more obscure answers than I consider an ideal maximum (one). However, I always hope to clue them so that the solver can say “It must be that because that’s what the clue says, even though I’ve never heard of it”.

  4. Thanks Alchemi. I think I got there but there’s a couple I’m struggling to parse so look forward to the review tomorrow.

  5. Gosh, that was a challenge indeed! In my scale of things a contender for the Friday Toughie spot without a doubt. Thank you Alchemi for the rigorous workout, and I really look forward to reading BD’s review to see if I’ve understood the parsing correctly.

    Couldn’t help thinking of a ‘miserable’ old radio sitcom part way through; clever wording delayed 20a almost to the end; my BRB was a ‘constant’ companion throughout, with 19d new to me and 22a extracted from the deepest mental recesses.

    The SW was disturbingly blank until I realised what the Nina was going to be, which proved invaluable.

    Thank you again for a super puzzle.

  6. What a struggle! We certainly needed the help of Google, dictionaries and bung ins. We missed the Nina which might have helped us. Several unknown words but nevertheless enjoyed the challenge. Thank you Alchemi and we shall look forward to BD’s parsing tomorrow.

  7. Guessing the Nina quite early on was a big help as was a touch of electronic assistance here and there but I have a full grid, phew!
    16&22d took the honours for me as they made me smile but I appreciated the cleverness of several others.
    Thanks Alchemi and I look forward to BD’s review

  8. Getting the Nina quite early on was certainly a help and then the BRB was called into use for the last couple in the SW.
    Quite a challenge and a real pleasure to solve.
    Thanks Alchemi.

  9. I missed the Nina (as usual) so that didn’t help me out with a very tricky puzzle! The last few answers to go in were a bit of a grind as Alchemi was taking me out of my GK comfort zone and I was definitely in “It must be that because that’s what the clue says, even though I’ve never heard of it” territory. I also learned another runic character. I was happy to see 25a spelt with a ‘j’ as a recent puzzle had used an unfamiliar ‘h’. Despite the grind along the finishing stretch, I very much enjoyed the challenge with 9a, 12a, 26a, 4d, 6d and 16d my top picks. Thanks, Alchemi, and – in advance – to BD for his imminent review.

  10. That was a definite challenge and I doubt I’d have managed it without help from Mr G. In fact, we lost internet connection here for much of yesterday so the grid remained half empty until it sparked into life again this morning.
    I was unfamiliar with the quote in the Nina so that was something of guessing game which had to be thrown into the mix.

    Thank you, Alchemi, although much of it was well outside of my pay-grade.

  11. I’ve come to this a day late and enjoyed it – thanks Alchemi. As with others finding the Nina helped a lot, especially round the SW corner. I needed to verify the local hills and 19d, both of which were helpfully clued.
    My ticks went to 9a, 25a, 26a, 16d and 21d.

  12. My usual late Saturday solve gave me a relatively early night for once. Thanks, mainly, to spotting the nina about half way through which helped with the bottom half of the grid. The only obscurity was 19dn, but it was clear enough from the wordplay and easily checked in the BRB. All very pleasant and satisfying. Thanks, Alchemi and BD.

  13. Many thanks for the review, BD. Certainly a few obscurities – including the Nina from my point of view! – but nothing that Mr. Google couldn’t deliver. Such a shame about the wordplay for 4d, I’m not sure why so many setters are obsessed with bodily functions!
    Thanks again to Alchemi for the challenge.

  14. Thank you for the review, BD – while I knew the required answer would be as you have parsed it, on a rather less intellectual level I did so want the old character in 17a to be Eth from The Glums!

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