NTSPP 664 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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S&B 2022: “Starred Connections” by Elgar

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This special puzzle for the 2022 York Sloggers & Betters event happening this weekend is available by clicking on the above grid.

The instructions said:

[Note: Ignoring asterisks, the puzzle may be solved as a normal cryptic crossword.]

When the grid is filled, solvers may – as an optional stage 2 – make the asterisked number of changes to unchecked letters in the answers to marked clues, to produce segments of the puzzle’s theme (in which 24 is, sadly, fruitless). Despite its relevant characteristics, 15 is not one of them, as three further such changes to one unasterisked answer will reveal.

A review by crypticsue follows:

I will be interested to learn how the people attending the S&B got on with this one, not least because they’d probably have solved it in small groups rather than on their own.  I didn’t find this crossword as tricky as Elgar’s previous York Specials – and although I started off ignoring the asterisks, I did find after a while that it helped to spot the theme (one he’d used in a previous York special back in 2017!) as this gave me a few checking letters to help solve other clues

And did you notice the significance of the title – all the starred items are examples of a word obtained by changing the fourth letter of connections!


7 Caulfield, say, one clobbered by another maverick? (4-4)
ANTI-HERO Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye is an example of the solution – I (one) clobbered by or taken in by an anagram (maverick) of ANOTHER

8 Obsessive retreating inside, anticipating rain? (5) *
MANIC changes to MAGIC A reversal of IN inserted into what you’d wear if you were anticipating rain. Combine the new word with that in 26a and you’ll get something that I don’t think has been quite the same since they took away the butterscotch one

10 “So-so” international tenor admits he’d welcome better (6) **
BOOKIE changes to YORKIE Another way saying so-so and the abbreviation for international inserted into a well-known tenor

11 Aim to get Brown University mark well up to what society contrarily will accept (8)
SUNBATHE The abbreviation for University and the Latin abbreviation meaning mark well inserted into a reversal (contrarily) of AT (up to) and an interjection of surprise (what) and the abbreviation for Society

12 Nothing that turns Roman emperor’s head (4) *
ZERO changes to AERO Turn the letter at the start of a Roman emperor’s name anti-clockwise

13 Closely examine ways to secure underwear (8) **
SCANTIES changes to SMARTIES Closely examine followed by some ‘ways to secure’

15 This then will burst with cacao galore! (9,6)
CHOCOLATE ORANGE An anagram (will burst) of THEN with COCOA GALORE – This isn’t one of themed items because this is made by Terrys and all the others are made by the company revealed when you change the letters of the solution to the unasterisked 19a

19 Tale of Elsa, heartless as OAPs on bus? (4,4)
BORN FREE changes to ROWNTREE Remove the middle letter (heartless) in a way of saying that OAPS are carried on a bus without paying

21 Can name diving bird (4) *
LOON changes to LION An informal name for a lavatory and the abbreviation for name

23 Pest keeping ale badly is what annoys your setter (5,3)
MEALY BUG An anagram (badly) of ALE inserted into something that annoys your setter

25 A bit troubled packing knapsack, smiling in the end? This one, maybe (6) **
KITBAG Changes to KITKAT An anagram (troubled) of A BIT packing or going between the ends of knapsacK and smiling gives you somewhere, according to the WW1 song, you’d pack up your troubles!

26 Mass initially brought forward (5) *
BLOCK changes to BLACK The initial letter of Brought and a forward in a game of rugby (see 8a)

27 Jazz composer and epic poet has no love of Asian languages (3-5) ****
MON-KHMER changes to MUNCHIES The surname of a jazz composer and a Greek epic poet without the O (no love)



1 It‘s being prepared with chef 9 (8)
INFOTECH Another name for IT is obtained by an anagram (prepared) of CHEF and the solution to 9 Down

2 Producer of Asian wood spirit that will ruin mum’s £1000 bet (6)
GINKGO A spirit often described as mother’s ruin, the letter representing 1,000 and a verb meaning to bet

3 Contribution from forever salient Opposition movement (8)
REVERSAL Hidden in (contribution from) foREVER SALient

4 Flip of coin for Stokes succeeded (4) *
TOSS changes to TOTS A preposition meaning to and the abbreviations for stokes (the CGS unit of kinematic viscosity) and succeeded. This combines with the solution to 22d to give us.

5 A forbidding female grabs a dance (8)
HABANERA A female ‘grabs’ A (from the clue) and a noun meaning forbidding, the result followed by A (from the clue)

6 Facile answer to crossword clue (5) *
LIGHT changes to EIGHT A word that is the answer to a crossword clue can also mean facile. This combines with 14d to give us

9 Duck egg solving that problem! (2,2)
ON IT The letter representing a duck in cricket scoring and a type of egg, the cause of many a letter from school each time there was an outbreak!

14 Picked up support for mass change (5) *
ALTER changes to AFTER A homophone (picked up) of a table used to support various items during a service of mass See 6d

16 From below, see tree monster soaring over hard rock group (8)
CROMLECH A reversal (from below) of a letter that sounds like see, a type of tree and a monster, the result followed by the abbreviation for hard

17 Unduly generous relatives coming from Kent coast on a cycle (8)
OVERKIND Cycle the first letter of a way of referring to family coming from a Kent coast port

18 Responses to like about X and Y? (8)
GEOTAXES A reversal (about) of TO (from the clue) and the abbreviated way of saying for example (like) followed by what X and Y are on a graph

20 VIPs crushed coffee beans (4)
NIBS A slang term for persons of the upper classes or some crushed coffee beans

21 Chinese native ignited Greek cross (6)
LITCHI A simple way of saying ignited and a Greek cross

22 Spelt out last element of proposal to be taken on board by corporation (5) *
BELLY Changes to JELLY A way of saying the final letter of proposaL inserted into (taken on board) BY. See 4d

24 Village idiot‘s common sense lacking 9, sadly (4)*
GUMP changes to GUMS Some common sense lacking an anagram (sadly) of the solution to 9d – as the instructions say ‘this themed item is sadly FRUITless’

Thanks very much to Elgar for another great York special – I can’t decide whether to be pleased or sorry that my nearest source of the themed items is a ten-minute drive away!

10 comments on “NTSPP 664

  1. Well I’ve finished stage 1 but stage 2 will have to wait for the time being as I have other things to do. There are some lovely pdms here and I’ll select 12a,19a, 2d, 17d and 24d as highlights.
    Many thanks to Elgar.

  2. Tough clues (for me anyway) but rewarding at the end. Very appropriate too! Thanks for the puzzle and for sharing with those of us who couldn’t get to York.

  3. Very tough! I’m quite a slow solver anyway, but I’m not used to drawing so many blanks. Of the six clues I solved (which I subsequently checked by revealing their answers), I don’t understand two of them, and I now wait to see what the reviewer has to say about the parts of the puzzle I could not reach. The optional part 2 (which I was looking forward to) was a luxury I could not afford!

    1. I printed mine out so didn’t notice the “reveal” button. Now THAT would have speeded things up :)

  4. My grid may be 50% complete, but I get the feeling that my glass is half-empty… My vocabulary was increased by two this morning, albeit I may never come across these two again! I have enough entries to begin to see a theme emerging (and as I quickly scrolled past the hints it looked like my hunch was correct), so perhaps that may help me cross the line. Time for a break and a relaxing(?) Sunday Toughie before the start of the second half. Hopefully I will be be back to report on what I thought of a full grid before comments become closed :unsure:
    Just in case I’m too late – thanks, Elgar!

    1. The comments never close! You can comment on a blog post years after it was first published, and the blogger (and others) will always see it

  5. An excellent puzzle – now that I see everything. I really needed a collaborator to supplement not only my GK but also my limited knowledge of sweet-stuff-displayed-near-checkouts. (The ‘fruitless’ hint would have worked for me, but I needed to get GUMP first.) I liked CHOCOLATE ORANGE (my first entry), but of course that was not one of the special ones.

  6. Much to my surprise (and, I confess, a fair amount of self-satisfaction) I managed to complete the puzzle and then figure out all the second stage segments, despite the distraction of a tense T20 international. The Asian languages, 18d responses, 5d dance and ‘rock group’ were completely unknown to me, the latter two requiring word searches once I had all the checking letters. Also, many thanks to CS for explaining 4d; not the first time I’ve been caught out by this particular unit appearing in a crossword – perhaps I’ll remember next time. No particular favourites – my printout is too littered with markings to leave any room for ticks – but the whole puzzle was a most enjoyable challenge, exactly what I have come to expect from Elgar :yes:

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