NTSPP 648 – 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.

Fez provided a tricky but very enjoyable test of our cryptic grey matter on a very hot Saturday afternoon


1a    Fraud discovered in last month’s match returns (6)
DECEIT The last month of the year and a reversal (returns) of a match

4a    Infinitely detestable, recalling royal character from Hamlet (8)
VILLAGER A synonym for detestable without its last letter and a reversal of another word for royal

9a    Penniless fellow in trouble after head of Mafia rings offering protection (5,4)
CHAINMAIL Remove the P (penniless) from an informal word for a man (fellow) and then a synonym for trouble goes after the ‘head’ of Mafia

11a    Inspired by extra-terrestrial, I study the stars (1-4)
A-LIST Hidden in (inspired by) terriAL I STudy

12a    Professor’s dull lecture, one that never got off the ground (5,3)
GREAT AUK A homophone (professor’s) of GREY (dull) TALK (lecture)

13a    Save time, teaming up to produce puzzle (6)
ENIGMA An anagram (up) of tEAMING, save time indicating the need to omit the T

15a    Once called daughter in state of distress (4)
NEED An adjective used to show a women’s former surname (once called) and the abbreviation for Daughter

16a    Disable SIM when mobile is allowed in court (10)
ADMISSABLE An anagram (when mobile) of DISABLE SIM

19a    Losing money is reportedly what versatile musician does (10)
MISPLACING The abbreviation for Money, IS (from the clue) and homophones of what a versatile musician can do

20a    If I bounced about I’d look like Sir Cliff! (4)
SCAR If I ‘bounced’ or removed I from SIR and replaced it with the Latin abbreviation for about, I’d have another word for a cliff

23a    Protective tissue put on silver boxes (6)
TONSIL Hidden in (boxed by) puT ON SILver

25a    Opportunity to install new university statue (8)
MONUMENT An opportunity into which is inserted (to install) the abbreviations for New and University

27a    Pool, or lido – ultimately, just the same (5)
OASIS The ultimate letter of lidO and a two-word expression meaning just the same

28a    On vacation, maybe get high snorting fashionable drug (9)
MESCALINE The outside (on vacation) letters of MaybE, a verb meaning to climb or get high, into which is inserted (snorting) the usual two-letter synonym for fashionable

29a    Will the writer retire as Middle East correspondent? (8)
SELFSAME The surname of a writer called Will (and no, not Shakespeare!), a reversal (retire) of AS (from the clue) and the abbreviation for Middle East

30a    Offer replacement to Cambridge University (6)
SUBMIT A replacement (on a football team perhaps) and the abbreviated university found in Cambridge, Massachusetts


1d    Dance exercises – go to get in shape (7)
DECAGON An anagram (exercises) of DANCE into which is inserted (to get in) GO (from the clue)

2d    Unrelenting cold to reduce comfort? (9)
CEASELESS The abbreviation for Cold and a way of saying reduce comfort

3d    Catch current front-runners in Grand National at Aintree, defying the odds (6)
IGNITE The symbol for electrical current, the ‘front’ letters in Grand and National and the even (defying the odds) of aInTrEe

5d    Man perhaps lies about part of this legally divisive area to auditors (4)
ISLE This piece of land, of which Man is an example, has three separate pieces of wordplay – an anagram (about) of LIES, hidden in thIS LEgally, or a homophone (to auditors) of a division in a church

6d    Muscularity displayed by the French queen’s son (8)
LEANNESS The French definite article, a Queen who reigned in the early 1700s with an S added (‘s) and the abbreviation for Son

7d    Composer in despair, revising last note (5)
GRIEF Change (revise) the final letter in a synonym for despair to another musical note

8d    Run a little competition daily (3,4)
RAT RACE The cricket abbreviation for Run, A (from the clue) and a small quantity that can be detected (little)

10d    Performer entertains endless queue crossing Dutch canal bridge (8)
AQUEDUCT A performer (3) ‘entertains the first four letters (endless) of QUEU, the latter ‘crossing’ the abbreviation for Dutch

14d    Woody Allen, essentially flawed genius, has nothing to hide (8)
LIGNEOUS The ‘essential’ letter of alLen and an anagram (flawed) of GENIUS into which is inserted O (has nothing to hide)

17d    Possibly a crime, but one that’s hard to see causing harm? (9)
BACTERIUM An anagram (possibly) of A CRIME BUT

18d    During review of sales I spilled (8)
ELLIPSES Hidden in reverse (during review of) salES I SPILLEd

19d    … a bit of milk, tipping it over on salesman’s lead proposals (7)
MOTIONS The first letter (a bit of) Milk, a reversal (tipping) of IT and O (over), ON (from the clue) and the ‘head’ of Salesman

21d    Go back to doctor again (7)
RETREAT With a hyphen this verb meaning to go back would mean to doctor again

22d    Tropical islands finally tempt you with reduced price (6)
TUVALU The final letters of tempT and yoU with a truncated synonym for price

24d    Spacemen left sounding congested (5)
NASAL The American space agency and the abbreviation for Left

26d    Muslim prayer mat at mosque is originally back to front (4)
IMAM Prayer here meaning someone who prays. A reversal (back to front) of the ‘original’ letters of Mat At Mosque Is

24 comments on “NTSPP 648

  1. Oops, this isn’t a Fez production – though does seem familiar .. as it’s Twmbarlwm’s NTSPP 644!
    (There *is* a Fez puzzle though, hopefully Prolixic/Tilsit can make it available – do let me know if you need anything further, and thanks in advance)

    1. This is what happens when you let an idiot like me loose on updating the pages! There was some hidden code that Big Dave uses to display the interactive version of the crossword. I have gone in and updated it so it should now point to your crossword. Apologies for the mistake.

        1. Thanks for the explanation! After 10 days of Covid, I thought I had brain fog …

  2. An excellent puzzle with cunning misdirections and smooth surfaces throughout – many thanks to Fez.
    My last clue to parse was 10d because I made my usual mistake in spelling the word.
    My shortlist of clues to be applauded is 20a, 29a, 5d (with its multiple bits of wordplay), 8d and 18d.

  3. Thanks Fez. An enjoyable second solve of my morning which needed the assistance of the first caffeine of the day.

    Although, for me, the 12a homophone doesn’t really work partly because I am not sure about professor as an indicator.

    Smiles for 15a, 27a, 30a, and 26d.

    Thanks again and thanks in advance to Prolixic(?).

  4. Another very competent NTSPP from Fez which I enjoyed in the main although thought a few of the clues fell into ‘trying a bit too hard’ territory.
    Ticks here went to 1,4&25a plus 24d.

    Thank you for your hard work, Fez, much appreciated.

  5. I found this a delight from start to finish, with plenty of misdirection and ‘1a’. Of the many smooth-surfaced clues my favourites were 13a, 19a, 25a, 29a, 5d(x4!), 8d and top-of-the-pile 20a. My last quadrant in was the NW and I was too intent on solving to add ticks, so have probably left out a few worthies from my list of favourites :wink:
    Thank you, Fez, and I look forward to enjoying CS’s review tomorrow.

  6. We were very slow to find a toehold and get started but are so glad that we persevered as it was an absolute pleasure to solve once we got onto the wavelength. Lot’s of possibilities for favourite but we’ll go with 4a for the brilliant misdirection.
    Thanks Fez.

  7. Glad the wrong puzzle was swiftly replaced as I’m not a fan of that other setter. :yes:
    I thought this was a superb puzzle with lots of stand-out clues. Perhaps more convolutions than usual, which made it pretty tough, but the pay-offs were fantastic.
    I thought ‘professor’ as a homophone indicator was nicely done – hadn’t seen it before, but if ‘reporter’/’reportedly’ is accepted there’s no problem for me.
    My three favourites were 20a (laughed), 14d and 17d, all brilliant, with 16a, 29a, 10d and 18d not far behind. And kudos for the ambition in 5d!

  8. I needed a couple of letter reveals to complete this but what a very fine puzzle, would have been great as a midweek Toughie. I also need CS to explain my 20a bung in.
    I particularly liked 4&27a plus 3&14d.
    Many thanks Fez and CS for the review.

  9. Many thanks for the review, CS, always satisfying to have one’s parsing attempts confirmed!
    Thanks again also to Fez for the challenge.

  10. Many thanks for all comments, and to CS for the review and illustrations, much appreciated. And thanks to Prolixic and Tilsit for sorting thongs out in BD’s absence – get well soon Big Dave! Very pleased that there seems to be quite a range of favourite clues (for what its worth, 20a and 17d were the ones I was happiest with).
    Thanks again!

  11. Thanks to Fez for a “toughie” that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Lots of clues to admire … but I thought the 18d/19d combo was brilliant.

  12. Thanks for the review and the colourful illustrations, CS. And thanks once again to Fez – for the puzzle and the colourful insight (#10) he has provided to us… :smile:

  13. Thank you Fez. We struggled at times and needed CS to parse a couple. Favourite was definitely 4a, closely followed by 17d. We look forward to your next puzzle and wish BD a speedy recovery.

  14. Tough, but I got it all apart from the grounded bird – “professor’s” as a homophone indicator never occurred to me. I guessed the first word of the answer from crossers but had no idea what the second could be. Apart from that no real problems apart from brain functioning too slowly. Thanks, Fez and CS.

  15. Many thanks again for all comments. Just a couple of final thoughts:

    – I like “professor’s” for a homophone. Although it’s not seen often it does have good precedent (see e.g. 5a in Radler’s NTSPP 439 (http://bigdave44.com/2018/07/07/ntspp-439/). I do accept that the ‘gap’ in the pronunciation of great/auk probably makes the homophone a bit off for some, but for a sloppy spaker like myself it works … and I often prefer slightly dodgy homophones (and Spoonersisms too) for the groans induced!

    – Very happy to be thought of as worthy of ‘mid-week Toughie’ (thanks SL!) There were probably fewer ‘gimmes’ than ideal (and therefore more convolutions / ‘try-hards’!), hence the difficulty getting toehold – but I very much appreciate 2Kiwis’ (and others) persistence and glad it was felt to be rewarded. I agree there’s probably a ‘wavelength’ element to it too (perhaps if I’m ever lucky enough to get a regular gig solvers might get more used to the style – plus with far less time for ‘tweaking’ there’d probably be a lot more straightforward clues!)

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