NTSPP 665 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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NTSPP 665

A Puzzle by Conto

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Since his last appearance in Rookie Corner back in November 2021, Conto has had five crosswords published in the Independent under the name ‘Bluebird’, hence his promotion to the NTSPP

I found this quite difficult to solve, particularly on the RH side and will admit to revealing several letters to get to the end. In quite a few places, it was even more difficult to explain

Across

9a Cut Melvyn’s introduction on ‘In Our Time’ (5)
MINCE: The ‘introduction’ to Melvyn, IN (from the clue) and the abbreviation for the alternative used instead to AD to mean ‘our time’

10a At first, during sex, one is accompanied by partner (9)
INITIALLY: A preposition meaning during, an informal term for sex, I (one) and a partner

11a Political reform that takes place following a reshuffle? (3,4)
NEW DEAL: A government initiative (political reform) could also be something that takes place after a reshuffle of playing cards

12a The ladies work in France and Sweden (7)
TOILETS: A verb meaning to work, the French word for and plus the IVR code for Sweden

13a Summit hosted by NATO representative (3)
TOR: Hidden in (hosted by) naTO Representative

14a Striking hot iron club upon pot’s rim (11)
OPPORTUNISM: An anagram (club) of UPON POTS RIM

17a Foremost among original American series is ‘Band of Brothers’ (5)
OASIS: The ‘foremost’ letters of Original American Series followed by IS (from the clue)

19a Party time for one of these… (3)
DOT: A party and the abbreviation for time

20a & 28. Pop group‘s opening parts of ‘5,4,3,2,1’ (5)
GIRLS: The first (opening) parts of the solutions to 5d, 4d, 3d, 2d and 1d are homophones (as indicated by the second name of the pop group) of names for young ladies [Lyn, Millie, Jean, Ann and Emma]

21a Engineer shines tyres with an electronic instrument (11)
SYNTHESISER: An anagram (engineer) of SHINES TYRES

23a The head of monetarism within the European Union is a puppet (3)
EMU: The ‘head’ of Monetarism inserted within the abbreviation for the European Union

24a Prince with a maroon tail coat that’s made by a tosser (7)
PANCAKE: The abbreviation for prince, A (from the clue), the ‘tail’ of maroon and a verb meaning to coat

26a Increasingly peaky, sick writer is admitted to hospital emergency room (7)
HILLIER: A synonym for sick and how Conto (our writer) might refer to himself inserted between (admitted to) the abbreviation for Hospital and what the Americans would call the emergency room

27a Your uncle Mike’s transfixed, son; he will get a beautiful woman (9)
BOMBSHELL: Insert the letter represented by Mike in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet into a word put before ‘your uncle’ to make a slang expression of completion or satisfaction, then add the abbreviation for son and a less formal way of saying he will

28a See 20a
ALOUD:

Down

1d They come out and dash, leading amateur races (10)
EMANATIONS: A printer’s dash, the leading letter of Amateur and some races of people

2d A wren’s animated response (6)
ANSWER: An anagram (animated) of A WRENS

3d Liberal that is, say, upset, and trying not to show face (8)
GENEROUS: A reversal (upset) of the abbreviated way of saying ‘that is, say’ followed by a synonym for trying or burdensome without its first letter (not to show face)

4d A long way round piled bananas? They’re actually shorter than 500 feet (10)
MILLIPEDES: A long distance goes round an anagram (bananas) of PILED

5d Cryptically, tangelo may emerge when one ungathers this thread (4)
LINT: I hope my explanation isn’t going to be as cryptic as the clue. If you look at TANGELO, there is a letter that is the 12th letter of the alphabet, The letters outside that are a word that represents a letter in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. This particular thread could be described, therefore, as x xx x

6d Scene from The Road that is inspired by Skyfall‘s finale and Naked Gun (6)
MILIEU: A major road, followed by the finale of Skyfall inserted into the abbreviation meaning that is, the result finished with the inside (naked) letter of gUn

7d Concealed lute broken by carnival queen (8)
ULTERIOR: An anagram (broken) of LUTE followed by a place famous for its carnival (rather than, as the clue implies, a carnival) followed by the regnal cipher of our late Queen

8d Oddly, Iris heard spies (4)
EYES: What you’d hear if you said the odd letters of IrIs out loud

15d This baron is the descendent of an American novelist (10)
ROTHSCHILD: The name of this baron sounds like he could be the descendant of the American novelist who wrote, amongst many other things, Portnoys’ Complaint

16d Front of square, half rotated, bound by cross upon base (10)
MASQUERADE: The ‘front’ of SQUare followed by the second half of that word ‘rotated’ inserted into (bound by) cross in the sense of infuriated by anger. The letter that is the base of the natural system of logarithms should then be added at the end

18d In text, ‘an unknown value and its inverse produce equivalent terms‘ (8)
SYNONYMS: Insert into the abbreviation for the text messaging service a mathematical unknown and its inverse

20d Our relatives leave train, heading off before grandpa dies at last (8)
GORILLAS: A verb meaning to leave, a verb meaning to exercise by repeated practice without its first letter (heading off) followed by (before) the last letters of grandpA and dieS

22d Harsh play on the radio (6)
HOARSE: A homophone (on the radio) of something that goes with play to mean some rough boisterous behaviour

23d He invented the means of making ledger longer (6)
EDISON: To make ledger into longer you’d change the second and third letters of each word, the solution being a way of describing this change

24d One crawls between these and starts to pick up rubbish (4)
PUBS: The starts to Pick and UP and the abbreviated American slang for rubbish

25d Such characters from Asgard are sad still (4)
EVEN: If you look at Asgard, which letters make the word SAD?


16 comments on “NTSPP 665
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  1. Very enjoyable with some nifty wordplay – thanks to Conto.
    I can’t parse 17a which I only got from the definition and checkers.
    I’ve ticked 11a, 17a, 27a, 3d and 5d.

    If you want still more crosswording today I do recommend the top-class QPP from Phibs.

  2. Sorry, Conto, this was a curate’s egg for me with much of it too tough needing a few reveals to get me over the finishing line. That said, there were some really good clues mixed in with ones which I found impenetrable.

    I can’t parse my answers to 20a/28a, 5d & 18d, and I don’t think 22d works unless I am missing something as the homophone (which in itself works!) is not a synonym for “play” without being preceded by the homophone. I also think the definition for 4d is a bit dodgy, albeit amusing.

    My top picks were 10a, 11a, 17a, 3d & 23d.

    Thanks Conto, and in advance to Prolixic (assuming Conto is not a nationally published setter).

      1. Thanks, Gazza. I would never have worked that out in a million years. I won’t say what I think about it for fear of sounding like Brian.

  3. I submitted this puzzle in part to provide an opportunity to thank everyone involved with this website for helping me at the beginning of my setting journey. I had my first ever puzzles published here, so it shall always hold a special place. Thanks everyone!

  4. Curious puzzle to work through – some very well constructed clues but a couple of nose-wrinklers and I have no idea what 20/28 is about at all
    Thanks for the entertaining challenge Conto

  5. Super puzzle, Conto, with trademark ingenuity on display. A bit too tricky for me in a few places – but that’s nothing new – and I’ll look forward to the review to enlighten me in one or two places. Favourites:12A, 14A, 24A and 7D. Thanks.

  6. Thanks Conto – very enjoyable, albeit a little too tough for me in places. Couldn’t parse 5d or 20/28a … clever but I don’t think I’d ever have got those! Love the ambition though, with many other cunning tricks on display too. Favourites from many contenders, 27a and 16d. Thanks again!

  7. I have a backlog of crosswords this morning after a very full day of sporting entertainment on various media yesterday. The NTSPP was first up and I have to admit that this turned into a bit of a slog towards the end, which reduced my overall enjoyment level. I had the answer and the right idea about 5d but failed to spot the actual construction. The parsing of 25d also stymied me. As for 20/28, I got the pop group from the checkers but had zero insight into the wordplay involved! Many thanks to CS for explaining all, plus the reminder of Parkinson’s chaotic interview with Rod Hull and his mischievous companion.
    Thanks Conto – my favourite clues were 27a, 8d and 23d.
    Now back to the rugby… :smile:

  8. Well, I managed to fill in about three-quarters of the grid. I found the crossword very tricky in places. Without Crypticsue’s excellent explanations I would still be completely in the dark as to the rest. Although very clever, I thought some clues were perhaps too esoteric. Certainly, for me…
    Thank you very much Conto but I would really enjoy something a little less tough next time… Much appreciation to Crypticsue.

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