3D Crossword Solution – December 2022

December 2022 puzzle page

Clues by Pickles and Grid by Gin

Theme: A tribute to our yearly calendar

The winner of the December puzzle is Andrew Wyss of Leeds.

Review of the December 2022 3D crossword

This was a witty puzzle to finish the year, and we may surely be permitted to blow our own trumpets once in a while. Both Gin and Pickles may in places be felt to be courting controversy; Frank Paul and Alan Tunnicliffe too, perhaps?

Someone much cleverer than your reviewer will have seen, earlier than he did, the point of the wonderful picture by Mr Tunnicliffe: it is a fox, to celebrate the supplier of most of our gorgeous calendar pictures, Graham of that name. Whether the sorely-tried chicken-rearing community — my father always kept twelve, and we had charts of laying statistics on the kitchen cabinet door for over thirty years — and the rabbit-owners will be happy to see the fox staring them out with just a suspicion of a drool, I am not sure. 

And that sets the theme for the puzzle: it is an inward-looking — though celebratory, not navel-gazing — piece of crossword craft. We are looking at ourselves trying to outfox the setter, who is looking greedily at us. Something close to us is being celebrated. Did we look anxiously around and behind us? Maybe that was just me…

Solving begins with the description of the CALENDAR as ‘vague and clear’ — I love the misleading italics, though some may not — and continues with Pickles’s delightful self-mocking Day 3 for CLUED. To link CLUED with the game Cluedo and to proclaim his own guilt is something which seems obvious in retrospect, but was beautifully found. 

We then get a series of clues referring to setters and elements of the Calendar’s charitable aims, culminating in the clue for SIRIUS. Brilliant star indeed, though some of the Ancients, had they been tackling his puzzles, might have felt he qualified rather as a planet, following his interesting and unruly path through the heavens…

Am I imagining too much, or is it the continuation of this theme that sees the ‘Easter Egg’ required by the rubric to be… just that: EASTER EGG, nicely concealed at 12ac and 14d? I believe this last self-reference foxed a few solvers. I hope they had a think and another look, and reasoned perhaps in this way: ‘This grid is odd in places. Why is the back rank of the top layer so strange, and why has Gin made an up-word start at 23, not 34? And why are we told to look for relevant solution locations instead of looking for Easter Eggs per se? These people are usually quite clear when they ask for things, so why…’ I am reminded of the Tolkien characters looking for the magically hidden entrance to the Mines of Moria, and wondering, as their enemies came ever closer, what was meant by “Speak, Friend, and enter”. Of course, it is one final piece of self-reference. 

My favourite clues are those for RECORDS — beautifully self-referential and respectful, and a nod to the much-missed original of the RPM Trophy; OGLED (it just made me laugh); the very neat &lit clue for SHAKO; the undeniably true one for SISAL; and that for RED NOSE DAY with its excellent play on the word comic.

Our Turkish supporters may be or may not be outraged to see their President turned into Plastic Sam by Frank Paul’s drawing, but the clue to which it related was a splendid example of the Cryptic Definition: the phrase a ‘groaning board’ (which the online site The Word Detective suggests is 17th-century in origin) gives a lovely picture of those directors round their table having a good old moan, when it is the process of what makes a Fat Cat which is the allusion. And it is one of those strange pieces of linguistic history (see guinea-pig, canary etc.) that the American bird with which our boards have often GROANED at this time of year should have been given the name of Mr Erdoğan’s country: it’s no wonder that his government is keen to insist on Türkiye instead.

So this was an unusual, thought-provoking, varied and amusing puzzle. Not something we should do too often, perhaps, but a satisfying way to round off the year.


Grid solution

December 2022 grid solution

Visual clue

Here an anagram is indicated by a very twisted looking President Erdogan (if you don’t recognise him, the Turkish flags behind him and on his lapel pin point you to the relevant country) for:


Visual clue for GROANED
Drawing by Frank Paul

Clues and explanations

Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
1CALENDAR*19aw,22ac-6 What’s vague and clear? This one has us puzzling! (8)ANDCLEAR*
2CASTE2aw Maybe drones register electromotive force (5)CAST E
3CLUED*2d Whodunnit game finishes early — Pickles did it! (5)CLUED(o)
4DEBRA25ba,24aw-3 Retreating, bachelor avoids spiteful woman (5)(b)ARBED
5DECCA5d Reggae singer Desmond in audition for record label (5)DEKKER hom
6DEFUSED8ba Complicated feud seemed explosive — diplomatic overtures calmed the situation down (7)FEUD* S(eemed) E(xplosive) D(iplomatic)
7ERROR*26up Losing head in panic’s a mistake (5)(t)ERROR
8FAITH HOPE AND CHARITY*7d,30ba,28aw,19ac Somehow hint of a pithy charade’s virtues (5,4,3,7)HINTOPITHYCHARADE*
9GENTLY34to,27ba-2 Dirk and George showing amiability? (6)dd
10GERE23up Richard Tiffany’s stuff used in The Faerie Queene (4)dd
11GETS10aw,14ba-3 Reviewing less than a third of the letters, steganographer sees the meaning (4)STEGanographer rev
12GROANED34ba What the board did when provided with excessive catering? (7)cd
13HONEY30ac,31up-3 There’s no positive in artificial sweetener (5)(p)HONEY
14LACAN22to Parisian trick cyclist jumping canal (5)CANAL*
15LETTER*21ba,20aw Phi’s one compiler needing no introduction, following debut in Listener (6)(L)istener (s)ETTER
16OCHRE33to Coach-horse oddly lacking pigment (5)(c)O(a)C(h)H(o)R(s)E
17OGLED11d Searched online without success, and looked like a goat (5)(go)OGLED
18PENANCE29aw,32up Hardship for writer with just over 50% of advance (7)PEN (adv)ANCE
19PUDSEY*29to,25ac-4 Bit of Yorkshire pud knocked back, aye (6)PUD YES rev
20RAITA17aw Author called for side dish in Indian restaurant (5)WRITER hom
21RECORDS1ac Memories of 45, etc. (7)dd
22RED NOSE DAY*1aw,11ac-3,8d-3 See Dandy or other comics fundraising (3,4,3)SEE DANDY OR*
23RNIB*15d Wordplay’s not fully discernible? Definition’s 19ac, which might help! (4)(disce)RNIB(le)
24RUFUS*3aw King of crosswords? (5) dd
25SEDGE4aw Papyrus maybe bearing crest (5)S EDGE
26SHAKO13d Something Hungarian army kept on heads (5)Acrostic
27SIRIUS*18ba August author, our most brilliant star? (6)dd
28SISAL4d A portion of beans is a legitimate source of fibre (5)beanSISALegitimate
29STAMP6d Tramp ignores rule with singular character (5)S T(r)AMP
30STYLE18aw Old writer leaves America and adopts English manner of expression (5)STYL(us) E
31TEAS9aw,12ac-3 Sat struggling with Enigmatist’s opener? Get some refreshments! (4)SAT E(nigmatist)*
32USAIN16aw Bolt upright at the start, Pickles regularly lays back down at the end (5)U(pright) I (l)A(y)S rev (dow)N
Required12ac,14dLocations for an Easter egg within the gridFound at 12ac,14d

Solvers’ comments

Ha! Sirius’ RNIB 3D Charity Calendar were all in the grid, as were other references like Tramp and Enigmatist! A really good and fun way to end the year with this self-referential puzzle, highlighting the gift that continues to give solvers in this community so much pleasure all year round. I particularly liked the final addition to the enjoyment when I saw the highlighted three Ds (3Ds)! Thanks to Pickles and Gin for the early Christmas present! (P.S. Not sure if I have entered the location of the EASTER EGG properly so I might well get a reject notice.) [JA]

A fitting tribute to Sirius and the 3-D puzzles idea. But this had some tricky clues and I may not have completed it correctly. I had resigned myself to giving up over the Easter Egg, as I just could not understand what on earth the clue referred to!! But thanks to the Hints and Tips arriving just in time, it all fell into place… [SB]

The location of the Easter Eggs baffles me [HB]

Fun theme, struggled with understanding how to enter day 15 but satisfying when the penny dropped. Don’t get the drawing – as usual! Thanks Pickles and Gin [JC]

Day 15 had us puzzling for ages until we realised we had the directions wrong! Good fun. [SC]

A lovely tribute to some of those involved in – and benefitting from – these wonderful 3D crosswords. Festive greeting to all! [MC]

An excellent end to another GREAT crossword year with some of the most difficult puzzles you’ve ever set us – in my opinion. Merry Christmas & a Happy 3D Year xx [RE]

A lovely puzzle to round off the year, reminding us of our debt to Sirius and his vision to support charities close to his heart. [SF]

A nice sting in the tail which I did not see coming until I had answered all the clues. Scratched my head and then spotted “Easte”. Some lovely witty clues here, but I am prepared to go on being the pedantic bore who points out that decca is not a homophone of decker and raita is even less a homophone of writer. With so much wit at your disposal why do you resort to such lazy clueing? And I will also go on pointing out that it must feel excluding to new members (whom we presumably want to attract and welcome) when so many puzzles and clues amount to in-house mutual back-patting amongst the setters’ club. [EF]

Fingers crossed for full house this year. Enjoyed this very much although the Easter egg took some thinking about. Thanks for a year of fun. [HH]

Nice gentle puzzle, though I spent too long looking for a thematic Easter Egg and overlooking what was staring me in the face! [TH]

Splendid tribute to our shared activity and fundraising. I was a bit confused by Tiffany until I looked up Richard Gere’s middle name. Thanks! [NI]

Oh dear! This brilliant series of crosswords deserves a celebration within its own pages. Sadly, this is not it. A contrived and needless ‘Easter egg’ as an Easter egg, presumably because such things are now mandatory, has nothing whatsoever to do with the theme, I would imagine for the first time. Sirius and Rufus have been included in the solution but a five minute check of the letters within the grid shows all the letters of Araucaria, Chalicea, Puck and Enigmatist; I am sure other people could find others and perhaps more than four of the fine minds that have made the 3D ‘project’ so outstanding. Would not such have made for more fitting Easter eggs? RNIB has been included in the solution but ‘Children in Need’ can be picked out among the letters of the grid and while ‘BBC’ can not, would not this, again, have been better as an Easter egg? The clueing throughout this December puzzle, and indeed all through 2022, has been first class and I congratulate all those involved with the ‘project’ and the way they have given their time to not only produce another year of entertaining puzzles but also raise funds for the two charities. That said, I believe I could have done better myself with this December puzzle theme and this makes it the most disappointing of all the forty or so 3D puzzles that I have had the privilege to solve through the last three years. A very sorry way to end the year. Sorry, but you are better than this. [IL]

Liked DDD [GL]

Great fun. Took ages to see Easter egg in the grid! [DM]

Enjoyable, but more difficult than usual🤔 Then came the Easter Egg(s)…. Having ‘D’ shaded 3 times, ‘3D’ obviously led to (19aw,22ac)’CALENDAR’, but on inserting in various ways, was informed I had the “wrong number of characters” so??? OUCH!!🤕 [MN]

Thoroughly enjoyed this, though the picture clue defeated me yet again! Liked the Easter Egg. Thanks, Pickles & Gin! [RS]

Really enjoyable, thank you. Frank’s cryptic illustration was cheeky. All wordplay was fair. Learned a few things (eg papyrus being a type of sedge). Somehow took far too long to see the Easter Egg, even though it was hiding in plain sight. I take my shako off to you! [JT]

Cracking puzzle! [SW]

Really enjoyed this — thanks Pickles and Gin. A new word for me, which was also one of our favourite clues as an &lit — SHAKO. We also liked the virtues, and it was good to have a Douglas Adam’s reference. Lovely to see so many setter references, especially to the much-missed Rufus, who gave lots of fun on Monday mornings. One clue we couldn’t parse (Day 2, CASTE), so we’re looking forward to the newsletter. Last of all, what a moment of triumph when my better half decoded the Easter egg! [CW]

Finishes on high? Puzzler enjoys break after Egyptian nightmare! [RS]

I liked the literal Easter egg! [RS]

Lovely end to the year, thanks, although not entirely sure of the easter egg location! [MD]

A good one to end a year of fun puzzles [PD]

My favourite clue was number 17 ogled. It took me a long while to find the Easter egg and then I did! Another enjoyable puzzle although I found it quite hard. [MP]

Excellent puzzle but really struggled with Day 4. Liked the Theme. [RG]

A very appropriate and enjoyable puzzle to end the year. [JB]

Not too tricky, though 14 LACAN needed some research, and 25 SEDGE and 32 USAIN wordplay still puzzling. [MJ]

A delightful ‘meta’ puzzle to end the year on. I may be one of the few solvers to have got day 14 right away, having been reading a lot of Lacan recently, and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen him appear in a cryptic crossword! Finished on Christmas day, having saved the last few clues for then, so it was odd looking for an Easter egg at Christmas, though it makes perfect sense in the overall Christian narrative arc. I loved Frank Paul’s twisted Erdogan picture clue! And I was thrilled to discover the 2023 calendar among my presents today. [MS]

We adored this puzzle, thanks so much. The theme, related clues, grid hint and Easter egg were all wonderfully done, making solving such a cozy and satisfying experience. [AH]

Great puzzle to complete the year. Thanks to everyone for all the puzzles this year! [BS]

Thank you. He sat and did it very late one night. Loves his crosswords. [RG]

Great crossword only just finished in time [JM]

A nice tribute to a brilliant project! [AR]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *