3D Crossword Solution – February 2024

February 2024 grid page

Clues by Arachne and Grid by Rikki

Theme: Alan Turing

The winner of the February puzzle is Hannah John of London.

Review of the February 2024 3D crossword

Pretty straight road this month, but smooth cluing and a lot of thematic content makes this one a fun ride. The diagram is a 7 x 5 x 6, which doesn’t increase the word count but makes the vertical lights longer (and only 50% checked so there’s probably a little more latitude in word choice).

There were a few uncommon words in the puzzle, none that were too difficult to suss from the clues and checks. The oddest of the lot was probably IMBOLC, but without snaking, there aren’t better alternatives. Its cluing was straightforward, and—knowing that it’s Celtic—one should expect the collision of some usually unfriendly letters.

Similarly, we get the delightful SMERSH, which is fun to say and comes from a Russian phrase meaning “Death to Spies”. It’s a lot more interesting than, say, NORAD.

On the thematic side, we have words running from the modern CAPTCHA, to the period ENIGMA, and from the triumph of WARHERO to the tragedy of CYANIDE.  Along with many words that are tech-, crypto- or genius-adjacent.

I don’t have many complaints about this one. Using “gene” as a definition of FACTOR was a little iffy, but led to a very smooth surface for the clue. There’s little I like better than a smooth surface.

The bonus for the month was found in the yellow cells of the puzzle which could be used to spell THE IMITATION GAME, the 2014 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.

Overall, not a great challenge, but a well constructed and presented puzzle.


[The background photo by Andrew Littlewood is of the Bombe, the device used by the British to crack the German Enigma machine messages. – Ed]

Grid solution

February 2024 3D grid solution

Visual clue

A straw hat is cut into three pieces, with the arrow indicating we need the large middle section. Beside it stands Batman’s foe the Riddler. The letters E V E N indicate we only need every second letter. Together, these make:

(st)RAW H(at) + (r)I(d)D(l)E(r) = RAWHIDE

Visual clue for RAWHIDE
Drawing by Frank Paul

Clues and explanations

Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
1AFFAIR25up Intrigue after banks leave Jaffa and Cairo (6)(j)AFF(a) (c)AIR(o)
2ALLIES4d Everything that is ultimately precious in friends (6)ALL, I.E., (preciou)S
3ATARI12aw Video games company is Arabian, no question (5)(q)ATARI
4CAPTCHA*1ac About to welcome suitable companion for 31 test (7)[APT, CH] in CA
5CHEST1aw Box in revolutionary way (5)CHE, ST
6CLAVIS3d Russian perhaps swapping tips for key to cipher (6)S and C swapped in “Slavic”
7CLEAN18aw Wholesome family, full of energy (5)E in CLAN
8CURVE3aw Worthless dog with extremely vile wind (5)CUR, V(il)E
9CYANIDE*13ba CIA deny circulating cause of 31’s death (7)*[CIA DENY]
10ENIGMA*9d Imagine heading off to crack cipher 31 helped to break (6)*(i)MAGINE
11EVENTS5d Rising scientist never conceals results (6)<(scienti)ST NEVE(r)
12EXCEL16to Some sex cells are better than others (5)(s)EX CEL(ls)
13FACTOR6d Gene Wilder or Hackman perhaps supporting film’s lead (6)F(ilm), ACTOR; def.=”gene”
14FORESEE6ba Preview on Radio 4 oddly skewed (7)FORE=homophone of “four”, S(k)E(w)E(d)
15GENIUS*24up 31 for one is remarkably sanguine after article rejected (6)*S(an)GUINE
16IMBOLC23up Big mobs on loch regularly for Celtic festival (6)(b)I(g) M(o)B(s) O(n) L(o)C(h)
17MACHINE*17ac 10 or 31 for example originally held in Barking cinema (7)H(eld) in *CINEMA
18MUFTI21to Reportedly missed one in plain clothes (5)MUFT=homophone of “muffed”, I
19OFFBEAT19ba Old females with best rum (7)O, FF, BEAT
20OVERALL11ac Boy stops sweetheart cycling in altogether (7)AL in OVERL i.e. LOVER “cycling”
21PIERCE2d Run through church after walk on water (6)PIER, CE
22POSES2aw Pretends to be positive, carefree and joyous at last (5)POS, (carefre)E, (joyou)S
23RAWHIDE14ac Gallop round America with hard whip (7)[A,W,H] in RIDE
24SEWING8d Hiding rear, swinger collapses in stitches (6)*SWINGE(r)
25SHONE22to Was brilliant introduction to spit and polish (5)S(pit), HONE
26SIMENON22ba Crime writer from Minnesota working thanklessly (7)*MINNESO(ta)
27SMERSH10d Counter-intelligence organisation’s silence about state scientists (6)[ME, RS] in SH
28SOFIA10to Eastern European capital initially invested in Chesterfield? (5)I(nvested) in SOFA
29STOMACH20to,17ac-4 Digest special books about physicist (7)S, <OT, MACH
30TESTERS7ac People who try out bed covers (7)Double def.
31TURING*7d Heartlessly reversing tendency in computing pioneer (6)TUR(n)ING; Chambers Def 7 of “turn”: “To change or reverse direction or tendency”; implicit ref to Turing’s chemical castration
32WAR HERO*15ba,14to How rare to develop into what 31’s work on 10 made him (3,4)*[HOW RARE]
33WHILE15to Time and trouble spent listening in on subterfuge? (5)Homophone of “wile”. See Chambers noun def. 2
RequiredTHE IMITATION GAMEYellow cells (3,9,4)The 2014 film based on the 1983 biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Solvers’ comments

What an absolute joy this was to solve. Wonderful balance between themed and non-themed words. Fairly easy but lovely clues throughout. Thank you. [JT]

Got the theme instantly, which helped a bit. Having said that, the clueing was pretty fair so no real struggles. A new word at day 16, keeping up the monthly education shot that 3D provides. A very enjoyable puzzle, though couldn’t properly parse the drawing. I have an idea, but I don’t find it very satisfactory, so looking forward to the reveal in the newsletter. Thank you Arachne and Rikki – and sorry Frank Paul! [CW]

Some tricky bits which required some background research, but a fascinating theme. Many thanks to Arachne for all the intricacies of the clueing and to Rikki for the intriguing grid. No luck this time with the picture quiz for Day 23 but I did like the photo by Andrew Littlewood. [JA]

Excellent puzzle (and subject matter) [RG]

Cracking puzzle that introduced me to the derivation of the word CAPTCHA. [NI]

A well-crafted puzzle on an interesting and worthy theme. [AB]

ok [RC]

Really enjoyed it. [LA]

Nice puzzle – Imbolc was new. Actually worked out the picture clue this month! Thanks to all [JC]

Nice puzzle with enough thematic entries. Kept me thinking for a while.👌🤔 [MN]

Even having solved the clue I have no idea what Frank Paul’s drawing represents. [RS]

Top stuff – love seeing ‘captcha’ as a crossword answer! [DB]

Good theme, some cracking clues, thanks. [J&JH]

A nice commemoration. Nothing too difficult, though SMERSH took some decoding. I can’t make much of the pictorial clue: (st)raw(hat)? [MJ]

A fitting tribute. [RP]

Interesting and well clued puzzle, although I thought the anniversary was supposed to be the same month (Turing died in June 54). [JP]

Excellent. [RE]

A well-deserved tribute to a genius. [JM]

Brilliant and delicious. Great to have a scientific theme and some of the thematic clues are particularly good. My wife is delighted to learn that the T in captcha actually stands for turing-test! If Atari and Rawhide have thematic significance it eludes me but they seem rather odd words to have included if not. [EF]

Found it relatively easy compared to previous entries but still very enjoyable, thanks to Arachne and Rikki. [SC]

A lovely puzzle with a good theme. A few clues held me up but all were fair. Thanks to Arachne and Rikki. [GW]

Great subject and clever clues. One of the easier ones to complete I found. [SB]

The clues are so clever! [PD]

Great! [JS]

The whole Alan Turing/Enigma machine story is pretty well trodden ground in Crossword-land, but this was a nice variation on the theme, and good to see him acknowledged as a WAR HERO. Once TURING, ENIGMA and MACHINE had appeared among the solutions it was clear where things were going. SMERSH added a fictional element to the intrigue; CAPTCHA had a nice reference to the Turing test; and CYANIDE a poignant reference to his suicide. Thanks to Arachne and Rikki for an enjoyable diversion. [MC]

I enjoyed this challenge on an unusual theme at just the right level for my little brain! [SF]

Loved it. [JM]

A worthy tribute to a war hero who is only now getting the recognition he deserves. What a tragic story… Some neat clues – though I am left flummoxed by the picture puzzle! [SB]

The usual enjoyable combination of clever clueing, vocabulary extension and cracking a theme. [JB]

😎Took a while to solve the anagram until inspiration came. Easy theme. [DM]

Another relatively gentle one, which for me fell into place quickly since I got day 31 quite quickly. I am not sure I would have worked out Frank Paul’s picture clue without getting it as a regular clue first, but seeing it retrospectively, it is very clever, as always. [MS]

Worthy tribute to a great man. The 31 17 cropped up in my undergrad days, and though the details are long-forgotten now, I have found the concept fascinating ever since. What a judgement on the British establishment of the 50s, that they could hound such a 15 and 32 to his early death. [PA]

Enjoyable solve with a thought provoking theme. Really liked the spy refs in the hints and tips too. Thanks as ever. [HH]

A pleasant diversion. [DR]

Lovely puzzle – perfect balance of challenging and doable with some great clueing and a worthy theme. Thanks to all. [BS]

Great puzzle, lots of thematic material [MD]

I enjoyed the puzzle. The thematic element was straightforward for me as I am a computer scientist, and the Bombe machine for decrypting the Enigma cipher was easy for me to recognize. [SC]

I enjoyed this one very much. [NC]

Great. [RG]

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