NTSPP 696 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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A Puzzle by Madcap

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

 Welcome on board to Madcap.


1a  Sailor from Plymouth area is a sponge (4)
SWAB: The area of England where Plymouth is located followed by the abbreviation for able seaman (sailor).

4a  They emphasised the document written by mischief-makers (10)
THEMSELVES: The THE from the clue followed by the abbreviation for manuscript and a five-letter word for folklore mischief makers.

9a  Returning into media's nobody's way to cultivate a low profile! (6)
BONSAI: The answer is hidden and reversed (returning into) in the third and fourth words of the clue.

10a  Revolutionary eagerly receives king and leaves (4,4)
EARL GREY: An anagram (revolutionary) of EAGERLY includes (receives) the chess abbreviation for king.

11a  Rich and idle suffering socialist cut following Labour's second and third terms (8)
ABUNDANT: An nine-letter word meaning idle or unemployed has a three-letter word meaning socialist removed (cut) after (following) the second and third letters of labour.

13a  "How's your father?" "Cracking, really, in truth" (6)
VERITY: A two-letter word for sexual intercourse (how’s your father) inside (cracking) a four-letter word meaning really.

14a  Established and connected with assets (10)
PROPERTIED: A six-letter word meaning established followed by a four-letter word meaning connected.

16a  Charge rent (4)
TEAR: Double definition, the first meaning to move quickly and the second to rip up something.

17a  Ring, Harry, ring! (4)
HALO: The three-letter diminutive form of Harry followed by the letter shaped like a ring.

18a  Girl taking train's tumbling amid debris (10)
BRIDESMAID: An anagram (tumbling) of AMID DEBRIS.

20a  Arab and I tailing enemy in disarray (6)
YEMENI: The I from the clue after (tailing) an anagram (in disarray) of ENEMY.

21a  Police force takes an eternity to make measurements (8)
YARDAGES: The four-letter shortened name of a London police force followed by a four-letter word meaning an eternity.

23a  Norma's texts perhaps noted for their tenor (8)
LIBRETTI: Cryptic definition of the words to operas such as Norma or other musical works.

24a  I love to eat after one (6)
IODINE: The letter representing nothing or love and a four-letter word meaning to eat, all after the letter representing one.

26a  They help sow's young one's eating routine (4,6)
SEED DRILLS: A five-letter word meaning young one’s includes (eating) a five-letter word for a routine.

27a  Bugs in drains (4)
TAPS: Double definition.


2d  Question leader in White House (3)
WHO: The first letter of white followed by a two-letter abbreviation for house.

3d  Buffalo Bill's losing pounds by working (5)
BISON: Remove (losing) the abbreviation for pound twice (as pounds is plural) from BILL’S and follow with a two-letter word meaning working.

4d  Whence a surprising appearance might make you breathless (4,3)
THIN AIR: Double definition.

5d  Charge of the light brigade? (11,4)
ELECTRICITY BILL: Cryptic definition of an invoice from a utility company.

6d  Whirling Dervish absolved (7)
SHRIVED: An anagram (whirling) of DERVISH.

7d  They say feller beat system to make product once (9)
LOGARITHM: A homophone (they say) of LOGGER (feller or lumberjack) RHYTHM (beat).

8d  Needing to get flexible? Venues with naked Pilates come into being! (11)
EVENTUALISE: An anagram (needing to get flexible) of VENUES ILATE (the inner letters – naked – of Pilates).

12d  Pub rant passion results in heavy assault with battery (7-4)
BARRAGE-FIRE: A three-letter word for a pub followed by a four-letter word for a rant and a four-letter word for passion.

15d  Looked around - no-one from the South discovered (9)
PIONEERED: A six-letter word meaning looked put around the NO from the clue and the letter representing one.

18d  Possible result of heat from star with less sparkle (7)
BLISTER: The term that might describe a star or celebrity that is not on the top-flight list.

19d  Creepy-crawlies are all over the place covering rugs (7)
EARWIGS: An anagram (all over the place) of ARE followed by a four-letter word for rugs (as a description of hair pieces).

22d  Australian inspector's tense in investigation (5)
AUDIT: A two-letter abbreviation meaning Australian followed by a two-letter abbreviation for a police inspector and the abbreviation for tense.

25d  Snooze by winding back clock (3)
NAP: A reversal (winding back) of a three-letter word meaning to clock or see something.

14 comments on “NTSPP 696

  1. A very entertaining puzzle with pdms all over the place – many thanks to Madcap.
    I ticked 4a, 13a, 24a and 7d but my favourite was the excellent 18d.

  2. Caffeine and some head scratching required for Madcap’s first time in the NTSPP ‘slot’ – well done.

    Smiles for 1a, 21a, 24a (that pesky chemical symbol), 5d, and 18d.

    Thanks Madcap and thanks in advance to Prolixic.

  3. I made very weather of some of the definitions in this one and relied far too heavily on checkers to get me through.
    A couple that made me laugh were 5&18d but didn’t really feel that I’d got properly onto our setter’s wavelength.

    Many thanks for all your hard work, Madcap, and welcome to the NTSPP slot.

  4. Required a glass of Rosé in the evening sunshine to resolve the SW corner. Still not sure what ‘Norma’s’ role is, but I will find out tomorrow! The ‘clock’ in 25d also has a question mark beside it, so I expect I will learn a couple of things in the review. My ticks came for 18a, 24a, 4d, 15d and 19d, which apart from 4d had lovely surface readings – I just enjoyed 4d! My favourite was 18a, which conjured up some nice images!
    Thanks, Madcap. I’ll look forward to your next puzzle.

    1. If you are still up on Saturday evening – ‘Norma’ is an opera by Vincenzo Bellini from 1831.

      1. Thanks, Senf, I’m still up after watching the football this evening – so I found out Norma’s role today after all! I’m not sure the tragic lady really needed to make an appearance though…

  5. I’ve been out all day so only just got around to solving this. I found parts of it very tough indeed, but I liked the brief cluing and clever wordplay.

    My only question marks were for two of the cryptic definitions. I would be happy if someone can explain 4d to me as I always thought that “thin air” was something you disappear into not appear from. Also, although it’s a clever idea, 5d doesn’t work for me.

    Many thanks to Madcap for a fine debut in the NTSPP slot.

    1. Conjure something out of thin air…?
      5d was not one of my favourites, but it happened to be my first one in (long ones and short ones can sometimes help to establish a foothold, I reckon) and I am OK with the odd tongue-in-cheek clue, they can often bring a smile :smile:

  6. Pretty chewy but I got there in the end with only one visit to the BRB to check the validity of an answer. Last one in was the low profile – very neat! Thanks, Madcap, and welcome to the NTSPP slot.

  7. SW corner was the last in for us as we didn’t know Norma was an opera and we were stuck on 26a. Favourites for us were 4a, 18a, 5d and 24a (once we had the only possible answer to 24a from our other answers!). Thank you Madcap. We look forward to your next one and also to Prolixic’s review.

  8. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. I’m still struggling to equate ‘pan’ with ‘watch’ but you’ve taken it on board so I guess it must be acceptable.

    1. Hi Jane. Interestingly Prolixic’s explanation is different from mine. He has ‘clock’ meaning ‘see’ whereas I had intended ‘clock’ as ‘face’.

    2. Jane, I took “pan” to mean watch/clock as in the action of a camera panning or to sweep/follow/track whilst observing. For example: The cameraman decided to pan/track/watch the crowd. Not sure if I’m entirely right …

  9. Most enjoyable puzzle for blowing away the early morning cobwebs of sleep. Happily reasonably straightforward, with much wit and deceit on display. Highlights for me were 24a and 18d.

    Many thanks to Madcap and Prolixic.

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