NTSPP 644 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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A Puzzle by Twmbarlwm

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.


1 Relaxed NY gals using informal language… (6)
SLANGY – An anagram (relaxed) of NY GALS.

4 … and also drinking wine or liqueur (6)
PASTIS – The abbreviation for post script (and also) includes (drinking) a four-letter word for a sparkling Italian wine.

8 What wasp might do, trapped by fools in seaside town (8)
HASTINGS – A painful thing that a wasp may do inside (trapped by) a three-letter word meaning fools (usually used only in the the passive).

10 Apologetic, runs back to Daihatsu with free fuel (6)
RUEFUL – The abbreviation for runs followed by the last letter (back to) of Daihatsu and an anagram (free) of FUEL.

11 Parties together in pub lock-in (4)
BLOC – The answer is hidden in the last two words of the clue.

12 Sampan she and I manoeuvred with such skill? (10)
SEAMANSHIP – An anagram (manoeuvred) of SAMPAN SHE I.

13 Among the stars, playwright heading off right behind McCartney? (12)
INTERSTELLAR – The surname of the playwright Harold followed by the name of Paul McCartney’s daughter.  As the playwright appears at the front of the solution, perhaps in front of or ahead of would have been better.

16 It can play back minor hit – the last for Billie Piper (4,8)
TAPE RECORDER – Reverse (back) a three-letter word for a minor hit or blow and follow with the last letter of Billie and an eight-letter word for musical instrument.

20 Toast I propose for humanitarian (10)
CHARITABLE – A four-letter word meaning to toast or burn followed by the I from the clue and a five-letter word meaning to propose a motion.

21 Feel second-rate in contest (4)
VIBE – The letter representing second rate inside a three-letter word meaning to contest.

22 Villain among spies, a loud and chirpy crawler (6)
CICADA – A three-letter word for a villain or disreputable person inside a three-letter abbreviation for the American spy organisation.

23 You might see us in a school game (8)
SARDINES – Double definition of type of fish (seen in schools) and a party game.

24 Upsets in Open? Out of bounds, Ballesteros withdrawing (6)
PEEVES – The inner letters (out of bounds) of open followed by the first name of the golfer Ballesteros reversed (withdrawing).

25 Not much change for the Kremlin (6)
KOPECK – Cryptic definition of a Russian coin.


1 Transport smoother under water? Yes and no (8)
SEAPLANE – A tool used by a woodworker to smooth wood under a three-letter word for a body of water.

2 Lorry contributing to particulates (5)
ARTIC – The answer is hidden in (contributing to) the last word of the clue.

3 Opening book group (7)
GENESIS – Double definition for the first book of the Older Testament and the name of a rock group.

5 Start of match between one fine side and another that’s delivered by Sky! (7)
AIRMAIL – The initial letter (start) of match between a two-letter word meaning fine and a side repeated.

6 Darling second to Brown? He looks after the money (9)
TREASURER – Cryptic definition of the role played by Alistair Darling under Gordon Brown’s premiership.

7 Lock up vice that’s outside shed (4,2)
SHUT-IN – A three-letter word for a vice around (outside) a three-letter word for a shed.

9 Unmanned vehicles with room for live rats at the rear (5,6)
SPACE PROBES – A five-letter word for room followed by a three-letter word meaning for or in favour of, a two-letter word meaning live and the final letter (at the rear) of rats.

14 Delete first of apps installed by busy IT expert (9)
EXTIRPATE – The first letter of apps inside (installed by) an anagram (busy) of IT EXPERT.

15 Delivery left for one on a kerb, damaged (3-5)
LEG BREAK – The abbreviation for left followed by the abbreviation of “for one” or “for example” and anagram (damaged) of A KERB).

17 Servant eating too much soup (7)
POTTAGE – A four-letter word for a servant includes (eating) the abbreviation for over the top (too much).

18 First half cheats in the middle bothering Port Vale (7)
CHEERIO -The first half of the word cheats followed by the middle letter of bothering and a three-letter name of a South American port.

19 Wrap up side and starter of potted seafood (6)
SHRIMP – A two-letter word meaning be quite or wrap up followed by a three-letter word for the edge or side of something and the first letter (starter) of potted.

21 Come out with TV movie crew regularly (5)
VOICE – The even letters (regularly) of TV MOVIE CREW.

27 comments on “NTSPP 644

  1. Very enjoyable with smooth surfaces and some nicely disguised definitions – thanks Twmbarlwm.
    The clues I liked best were 4a, 13a, 24a and 6d.

  2. Thanks Twmbarlwm for an enjoyable second solve of my Saturday morning (and the first was not the SPP) with the first caffeine of the day at my side but not really needed.

    Smiles for 13a, 24a, and 5d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. What a lovely puzzle with super-smooth surfaces, accurate clueing, and lots of clever disguises!

    I got in a bit of a mess in the SE corner by originally putting in “kopeks” as my answer to 25a until I realised that something needed to be changed.

    With plenty of choice for top clues, my short list is 13a, 24a, 6d & 15d.

    Many thanks to Twmbarlwm. More like this soon please!

  4. Very enjoyable indeed Twmbarlwm, full of inventive and witty clueing.
    I liked all of it but I’ve marked 10,13&20a plus 6,17&18d as podium contenders.
    Many thanks and to whoever reviews it.

  5. A most enjoyable NTSPP with just a couple of question marks here – wouldn’t 21a be better having ‘feeling’ as the first word and I’m unsure about rim = side in 19d.
    Top three for me were 13&24a plus 6d.

    Many thanks, Twmbarlwm, nice to see you again.

    1. I don’t know if it justifies the synonym for 19d but, when teaching youngsters to play chess it helps them to remember that a knight is generally more useful if it is in the centre of the board and not at the side by saying “a knight on the rim is dim”. :smile:

      1. Not sure that it helps to persuade me, RD, but I did like the rhyme! Wish my dad had taught me more about chess than just the names of the pieces and how they were allowed to move. Mind you, we still had some quite enjoyable games.

        1. From Collins Online Dictionary:

          1 (noun) in the sense of border
          the area at the edge of something, as opposed to the centre
          Park at the side of the road.
          verge (British)

          As in: There was a large chip on the side/rim of the plate.

          Convinced, even a liitle bit?

  6. Many thanks Twmbarlwm for another super puzzle – I found this a little ‘frendlier’ than expected, but still just as enjoyable with too many good clues to pick favourites. I’m happy with both rim=side and “feel” (though agree “feeling” would work equally well) – my one tiny quibble is in 18d, where “first half” I’d think really needs to be followed by “of”/”in” or similar? But the excellent definition working into the surface makes this very forgiveable! Thanks again, and in advance for review.

  7. Jane, I have to admit I didn’t think twice about side for rim, but it is supported by other thesauruses apart from Collins.
    The difference between feeling and feel is negligible I think, but I was going for an informal ‘vibe inside the nightclub’ meaning with feel.
    Fez, I wrote that clue advisedly having seen the same wording at least once in a national. I agree “first half of” would have been unequivocal, but to me “first half cheats” with an elided comma is a colloquially more acceptable indicator of 50% of the letters than, say, “start cheats” – which I definitely wouldn’t use – would be for ‘c’ (instead of “start of cheats”), even though they’re logically the same.

    Thank you all for the appreciative comments and thanks for solving.

  8. Nice one, Twmbarlwm, very enjoyable. 20a was the standout for me, but there was much else to like here.

    “Feel” as a noun works just fine for me. I don’t have a problem with “side” for “rim” either.

  9. A late evening solve at the end of a sunny summer’s day but there was nothing to bring about nightmares, only adding to my day’s enjoyment. Of many fine clues I particularly enjoyed 12a, 24a, 3d, 6d, 9d and 18d, but 5d was my clue of the day! Many thanks, Twmbarlwm.

  10. Thank you, Widdersbel and Spartacus.
    I’m glad 5d was a favourite – I worried that I was trying too hard to come up with something original for that one. Maybe it didn’t need the exclamation mark after all.

  11. Thank you for the review, but you seem to have parsed some clues wrongly:

    13a INTERSTELLAR is Pinter less P (heading off) with Stella + R (right behind McCartney). I don’t understand the objection “As the playwright appears at the front of the solution, perhaps in front of or ahead of would have been better”.

    6d TREASURER isn’t a cryptic definition. “Darling second to Brown? He looks after the money” = Darling (treasure) + r (the second letter to Brown).

    Although your explanation of 16a TAPE RECORDER does work, I intended the minor hit to be ‘tap’ – it’s not meant as a reversal of ‘pat’. The definition is therefore “It can play back”, which I think is fairer to the solver than “It can play”.

  12. I needed two sessiona for this but it all came out in the end. Very satisfying. Thanks, Twmbarlwn – and to our reviewer.

  13. After a day at the cricket enjoying Root and Pope, this was a nice distraction on the way home. But I am going to be a lone voice here and say, only because I know what quality you are capable of Twmbarlwm, that this fell a little below my expectations. I don’t deny for one moment there was plenty of quality on show, but I didn’t think Piper a fair part-definition and I think 18d in Rookie Corner would be criticised for not including “of” in at least 1 of 2 cases. Add to that that 1a and 12a seem a bit glaringly obvious, though technically fine, 6d seems a barely cryptic clue, I can’t really see “yes and no” adds anything to 1d and there were virtually identical indicators – start of, first of, starter of – on 3 occasions. So rather than impress me as you have always done in the past, I got the impression that this was perhaps compiled in more of a hurry than normal. Sorry!

  14. Thanks for the reply Dr Diva @15. Points taken, although I don’t agree with all of them.
    The lack of ‘of’ in 18d is covered in my reply @8. I think it’s just about okay, but I understand the opposition.
    As for 1a and 12a being ‘glaringly obvious’, I made 1a deliberately simple (and there were complaints about my previous NTSPP being on the tough side); 12a is a tough one to clue so I was happy with a near/semi &lit, some of which can be straightforward, but I don’t see anything wrong in that.
    6d ‘barely cryptic’? The review classed it as a cryptic definition, which it isn’t. Alistair Darling was Brown’s Chancellor, the second most important post in the cabinet, in charge of the money. Darling = ‘treasure’, and second to Brown = ‘r’.
    1d ‘I can’t really see “yes and no” adds anything to 1d’ – the clue wouldn’t make any sense without that bit as a seaplane which is smooth over the water because of its floats, and obviously wouldn’t be smoother under water (although it is smoother under water in the wordplay).
    Three similar starter indicators: Telegraph guidelines say ideally no more than three first letter indicators per puzzle. I think it’s fine that all three aren’t exactly the same and at least I managed to avoid an ‘initially’!
    I don’t think this one was set in ‘more of a hurry than normal’. It took me between 8 and 10 minutes like all the others.

    1. Well, perhaps it was in part just your deliberate (and successful) intention to set an easier puzzle that threw me, Twmbarlwm. I am more used to your very clever deceits and delightfully devious, Gazza-esq misdirections.

      Re 1d, the clue makes perfect sense to me, and is a good clue, without the Y&N. (I might amend to TRANSPORT’S SMOOTHER UNDER WATER though). I’d not thought of it travelling below the surface, though under water, one could argue, it would just sink smoothly to the bottom.

      6d – TBH I got nowhere near TREASURE + R, but thought immediately of Darling being i/c the Treasury, which fitted the definition. I initially dismissed this as too simple until the checkers confirmed it had to be correct.

      Re starter indicators, I would have no issue with, say, AT THE OUTSET, FROM THE BEGINNING & AT THE START OF, but your choices, esp. start of and starter of, seemed too similar to me. They certainly leapt out, but then again you were deliberately trying to set an easier challenge!

      If the ‘set in more of a hurry’ comment irked, I apologise. As I said above, I’ve come to admire your deliciously devious misdirections, even when they’ve been beyond my simple brain to unravel unaided. So, as a much easier solve, it just seemed very different from what I expected. Having said that, if 8-10 minutes really is your norm for setting a puzzle, I’m seriously impressed!😄

      1. I agree it’s good to vary first letter indicators where possible (although ‘starter’ was integral to the food clue).
        Glad you finally appreciated the TREASURER clue because I was quite pleased with the real-life surface reading to it. As I said before the review misinterpreted it as a CD too (as well as misunderstanding 13a), but I believe the reviewer (Prolixic?) had to stand in at short notice and didn’t have the .ccw file with my explanations.
        The 8-10 minutes was just a weak joke. After 8-10 minutes I’m lucky if I’ve got as far as ‘Queen’ for ER. :lol:
        Cheers for now!

  15. Been away for a couple of weeks so late to complete but thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you Twmbarlwm and we look forward to your next puzzle. We didn’t know Sardines was a game and we struggled with 24a. Favourite clues were 8a and 12a.

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