3D Crossword Solution – July Extra 2023

July Extra 2023 puzzle page

Clues by Curmudgeon and Grid by Bozzy

Theme: A tribute to Margaret Irvine, aka Nutmeg

The winner of the July Extra puzzle is Michael Syrotinski of Glasgow.

Review of the July Extra 2023 3D crossword

Having written only two months ago of the love which cryptics fans have for Nutmeg, it is sobering now to be reviewing the puzzle — as solvers will have worked out — composed specially to commemorate her after her passing. But what a tasty puzzle it is. There is no shortage of the SPICE, which once supposedly merely preserved our food, but for the last sixty-odd years has given us so much more pleasure than our ancestors enjoyed.

Here are CHILLI and PEPPER, SALT(S), THYME(S) and ROSEMARY, and your reviewer’s favourite, GINGER. And, lest we should blow our tops, we can cool the palate with LITCHI and CREAM.

Not all life is pleasure, however, as BORSTAL and ENEMAS may remind us (I am thankful never yet to have experienced either) — and indeed the reminder of that tragedy of the 1970s which did away with the ELMS, until then so much a part of our landscape — but I do know something about that ETHMOID bone. Like a sieve, and in the skull? I have something in that area which these days perfectly fits the description. I wonder if Bozzy and Curmudgeon were teasing us?

Those who have had a DNF earlier in the year will, I fancy, have enjoyed the fact that Curmudgeon was being quite gentle in her clueing. That World Championship is still on! You know you want it. The most obscure word, RYMME, was helpfully given a ‘hidden’ clue — the perhaps not very well-known poet and essayist R W EMERSON was given similarly kind treatment — while the teasing desire will have steered us all, I hope, towards that unusual but accepted spelling of LITCHI. 

My favourite, though, was the tawdry little company, making all that cash. CHEAPO seems somehow to deserve the clue, which hits the tone perfectly. My unfavourite word — no reflection on the setter or designer, since Chambers is happy, and gives that curious piece of etiquette advice, once it has made you navigate in its annoying way from p936 to p914, dropping the book off your lap in the meantime — is MARM. Really? Oh, well. I was reminded of something my mother used to quote, which may be familiar to one or two others. Superior lady customer to plebeian tinker in workshop: Are you aluminiuming ‘em, my man? Tinker: No, I’m copper-bottoming ‘em, Ma’am [pronounced here as Mum, since the visitor was not Mary of Teck, but I suppose the wife of some local dignitary].

After which, one must come with relief to what really makes this puzzle superior, and which is, as the rubric kindly hints, suggested by the spiked war-club, or MACE. I am sure — as Curmudgeon surely intended — that when we found that the ace in question was not, thanks to the magic of cryptic clues, actually a masculine one at all, we all thought of the excellence over so many years of Margaret Irvine. She took on as pseudonym the name Nutmeg, as depicted by that fruit beautifully featured in the background photograph (hands up all the others who’ve never seen a living one, either!) and I suppose that we could say that a setter’s pseudonym is like a shell — the MACE — surrounding the kernel of genius which she, at any rate, displayed. For, has anyone ever seen a poor Nutmeg puzzle? A poor Nutmeg clue, even? I suspect there never were any. She was one of our sadly still fairly small, but growing number of female setters, and in the very top class. Her surfaces in particular, and often when associated with anagrams, are legendary. May her memory inspire many more to join the lengthening list of fine female published setters.

Which leaves the lovely use of the mezzanine level 4: mezzanines, tunnels, balconies, flumes and escalators are, I feel, under-used in our puzzles. Here we see the botanical name of the nutmeg, MYRISTICA (lovely word, isn’t it?) and MEG, the short form of Margaret, which, as I am sure we have all read by now in the obituaries, led to her choice of pseudonym. Well done Bozzy for that inspiration — to say nothing more of the beautifully spicy grid — and for coping so well with the constraints that such a construction imposes. Thank you Curmudgeon for commemorating her, and thank you to the Calendar Team for letting us play our part in celebrating her life and work.


Grid solution

July Extra 2023 grid solution

Clues and explanations

Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
1ALIBI9to Self-justification in fib I laughed about (5)Hidden reversed
2AMISH19aw French friends hard, belonging to a strict sect (5)AMIS + H
3BORSTAL27up,9to-2 Smell rotten rats left in detention centre (7)BO + RATS* + L
4CHEAPO1d Inferior and tawdry little company pocketing a pile (6)CO around HEAP
5CHEWING1ac Start of clumsy hacking and chomping (7)C(lumsy) HEWING
6CHILLI25up Capsicum pod is sensitive to cold, we hear (6)“Chilly” heard
7CREAM1aw Occasionally scarce farm dairy item (5)(s)C(a)R(c)E(f)A(r)M
8DERIDE10d Laugh at Dutch-English journey (6)D E RIDE
9ELITISM5ac Belief of superiority of eastern limits inordinately (7)E + LIMITS*
10ELMS5d Trees affected by disease in Chelmsford (4)Hidden
11EMEND20aw Journalist takes in male employees to put text right (5)ED around MEN
12EMERSON11ac Poet amid schemers once (7)Hidden
13ENEMAS2d Fluids injected into backsides of unhappy seamen (6)SEAMEN*
14ETHMOID22ac Square cranial bone like a sieve (7)Double definition
15GAMED4aw Plucky daughter gambled (5)GAME D
16GINGER*4d Enliven Fred Astaire’s partner (6)Ref: F Astaire and Ginger Rogers
17INSERT3d Sluggish involving section that’s put in (6)INERT around S (&lit.)
18LITCHI24up Unit in Beijing nursing teasing desire for Shanghai’s fruit (6)LI around ITCH
19MACE*15to Spiked war-club of masculine person who excels (4)M + ACE
20MARM7d Fawn unctuously but not initially in polite address for royal lady (4)(s)MARM
21MECHLIN13ac Regularly impeach hallion producing Belgian lace (7)(i)M(p)E(a)C(h)H(a)L(l)I(o)N
22MINCED6d Tunnelled round opening of common ground (6)MINED around C(ommon)
23MUSTARD*7ac Condiment for Cluedo’s colonel (7)Ref. Colonel Mustard
24OTHER23to Parent—not the first—second (5)MOTHER less M
25PEPPER*18aw,22d Liberally shower the Beatles’ sergeant? (6)Ref. ‘Sergeant Pepper’
26PRAIRIE18ac Quiet, surprisingly airier, treeless plain (7)P + AIRIER*
27PRITHEE21ac Put right the pier in an old-fashioned manner, I beg you (7){THE PIER}*
28ROSEMARY*16ba,14to-2 Two ladies’ herb (8)ROSE + MARY
29RUN-IN16to Wreck involving northern quarrel (3-2)RUIN around N
30RYMME14to Antique membrane, part of item myriads sent back (5)Hidden reversed
31SALTS*12aw Adds flavouring for competent sailors (5)Double definition
32SPICE*8to Zest of outlandish epics (5)EPICS*
33SPY17d Oddly soppy look (3)S(o)P(p)Y
34THYMES*26up Seasons, we’re told for varieties of shrubby labiate plant genus (6)“Times” heard
Easter eggMYRISTICAFourth level lights (9)MYRISTICA – the nutmeg genus
Easter eggMEGFourth level lights (3)MEG – abbreviation of Margaret and included in setter’s name

Solvers’ comments

Great puzzle, great setter being commemorated. [DT]

The condiments of the seasoning to Curmudgeon and Bozzy! But seriously, a fitting tribute to the brilliant setter Nutmeg, who will be sorely missed. [RS]

Good fun. Liked the herbs and spices. [AH]

Great fun, mostly straightforward with a few very obscure ones thrown in! [MD]

Charming. I don’t follow crosswording news, so it was only well after completion I realised it was a tribute. Warmest consolations to any friends or family of the subject. [BJ]

A lovely tribute to Nutmeg. [RP]

Only found this puzzle when I downloaded August puzzle! Not too much of a challenge, but enjoyable as usual!😀 [MN]

Easier than usual; most clues solved on first read-through. Nice to see many other herbs and spices mixed in. [MJ]

Having set to and solved this extra puzzle, I wanted to send it in straightaway with a big ‘thankyou’ for the wonderfully spicy and thymely (!) tribute to our Nutmeg. I always looked forward to her puzzles both here and in the Guardian and this was certainly worthy of her. I was intrigued to discover in the Easter Eggs the correct name of the Nutmeg genus, which I never knew, and also that it is a variety of mace. I was misled for quite a while by discovering that it also spelt out “Mystic Meg air” , which somehow seems appropriate!! [SB]

A fun puzzle to do. [RC]

Great to see a tribute to Nutmeg (aka Margaret Irvine). Some nice clueing and a couple of new words. And of course her other pseudonym. Thank you, Curmudgeon and Bozzy. [CW]

What a pleasure to zip through this one, in a nutshell! A welcome relief from Sirius’ August challenge which continues to defeat me …. Thank you, Curmudgeon and Bozzy! [SF]

Very glad to see a tribute puzzle to Nutmeg. [AJ]

Clear clueing, generally on the easier side with a few hard thrown in. Fourth level anagram was quite challenging. [JP]

I enjoyed every moment of solving this puzzle. It was a wonderful tribute to Margaret Irvine (Nutmeg/Mace), who will remain as one of my favourite setters always. Her puzzles sparkled with smooth surfaces and she always added that sprinkle of SPICE which lifted them. This grid gave me a lot of joy despite my ongoing sadness at her death, which has been such a loss to the entire cryptic crossword community. Thank you to her soul sisters Curmudgeon and Bozzy for this appropriate and consoling “In Memoriam”. [And on a less serious note, I’m sure Nutmeg herself would have loved the fun and slight irreverence of Day 13, ENEMAS!] [JA]

Spent some time working out an anagram for the easter egg before I saw I didn’t have to. [PD]

Found this easier than the July puzzle – still struggling to correct that one. This had some very easier ones but also some tricky ones still not quite parsed. Thanks for the extra fun. [HH]

What a lovely tribute to Margaret Irvine! [JT]

A tasty puzzle from seasoned setters! [SW]

Done in a sitting but enjoyably witty with a pleasing sting in the tail! [EF]

A lovely spicy little number! The easter egg anagrams baffled me for a long time, and then the penny dropped (unless it fell down a crack), so I hope I have that right. I appreciate the opportunity to catch up after one failed month earlier in the year… and from here, quite the leap to get my head around Sirius’s torus puzzle. P.s. I sent this before I heard the very sad news of Margaret/Nutmeg’s death. It is a wonderful tribute to her as it stands. [MS]

Great to get a bonus puzzle and a lovely tribute. [BS]

An enjoyable themed puzzle to solve in 3D and a worthy tribute to Nutmeg/Mace. All credit to Curmudgeon and Bozzy. [AB]

😎👍 [DM]

Very nice summer puzzle..… enough of a challenge and satisfying to solve. Thank you. [JB]

RIP dearest Margaret, thanks for all the fun. [SC]

Lovely tribute to the much-missed Nutmeg. with thanks Curmudgeon and the team. [JC]

A lovely tribute to a great crossword setter! [AR]

A lovely tribute – thanks to Curmudgeon and Bozzy, and RIP Margaret/Nutmeg. [MC]

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