3D Crossword Solution – March 2024

March 2024 grid page

Clues by Carpathian and Grid by Patch

Theme: Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)

The winner of the March puzzle is Alison Ramage of Saltcoats, Scotland.

Review of the Month 2024 3D crossword

Carpathian and Patch provided us with the second maritime themed puzzle of the year — from disastrous storms at sea in January to lifeboats in March. It was simple to track down the theme using Google (other search engines are available), which maybe begs the question: does “founded two hundred years ago this month” provide too much information? 

Of course, no one is obliged to seek to identify the theme before solving the clues, but one of the pleasures of these 3D puzzles is delving into areas where one’s knowledge is limited and this was no exception. Who knew that the RNLI was originally called “The National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck”, founded in March 1824? Perhaps NIPLS was an acronym too far?

On this occasion, knowing the theme in advance made one appreciate more the wealth of maritime allusions and terminology scattered through the clues. There were many pleasingly elegant features, such as appropriate anagram indicators in “love shipwrecked by male” for (OPHISM) and “I’m at sea with bosun” (OMNIBUS). The reminder of the Titanic disaster in “a steamship’s first to help” (ASSIST) was even more brilliant since the first ship to attend the stricken liner and rescue some of its passengers was, indeed, the RMS Carpathia. Our setter exploited these opportunities expertly, with, I suspect, a well-placed tongue in their cheek and a twinkle in their eye. Clueing throughout was varied, neat, inventive and fair — personal favourite clues were for NOOKIE (“Corner that is for hanky-panky”) and STEWARD (“Crew member wasted, drunk across middle of berth”).

Even though I have been solving 3D puzzles for many years, I had not realised, before volunteering for the reviewer role, that the grid designer is also responsible for coming up with all the entries, so special mention goes to Patch (and belatedly to all our other grid designers). Here the six-tiered 7×5 grid served the theme extremely well: all entries were of five, six, seven or eight letters, with no unduly obscure words, only two (sea-)serpents and a good sprinkling of theme-related entries, such as STORMS, CAPSIZE, MAYDAY, LAUNCH, RESCUE; the latter five entries would qualify handsomely for what the New York Times crossword editor states is “sometimes described among cruciverbalists as a progression theme”.

The thematic integrity of the puzzle was concluded with a novel touch in omitting the letters SOS “sent out of necessity” from three entries, leaving RNLI and LIFEBOATS in the highlighted cells.

Moreover, a sigh of relief that, following my abject failure in January, I was able to solve Frank Paul’s visual clue: H (for hospital) replacing TIM (Curry, I think) in OPTIMISM = OPHISM.

In conclusion, a perfectly judged March puzzle — both interesting and accessible. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this solver’s pleasure.


Grid solution

March 2024 3D grid solution

Visual clue

A glass half full represents OPTIMISM, which then needs to be modified as shown by the reverse arrows: replace TIM (Curry) with H(ospital), giving:


Visual clue for OPHISM
Drawing by Frank Paul

Clues and explanations

Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
1AMORO* 11aw* Soldiers indifferent coming back after morning sherries (8) OR (ordinary ranks – soldiers) SOSO< (indifferent coming back) after AM (morning). Minus SOS.
2ANOMY 9to Rootlessness of Australian naval officer managing yacht initially (5) Initial letters
3AREAS 18aw Songs one dropped for European regions (5)AS (like) following A (adult) + RE (about)/ARIAS (with I (one) replaced with E (European)
4ASSIST 9d A steamship’s first to help (6)A (a) SS (steamship) IST (first)
5CAPES 21to Paces around headlands (5)Anagram (around) of PACES*
6CAPSIZE* 19ac Tip over hat to get measurement (7)CAP (hat) SIZE (measurement)/.
7HARBOR* 6d Tree planted by husband provides shelter over the pond (6) H (husband) ARBOR (tree)
8HELMSMAN* 6ac,9to-2 One guiding vessel left manuscript in grip of hunk (8) HE-MAN (hunk) around L (left) MS (manuscript)
9HUMUS 6to Decomposed matter smells around 2nd of August (5)HUMS (smells) around U (2nd of August)
10LAUNCH*7d Adult tucks into meal when boat gets underway (6)A (ace) in LUNCH (meal)
11LIMIT 7to  Restriction illuminated across motorway … (5)LIT (illuminated) around M1 (motorway)
12MAYDAY*24up … 24 hours after former PM gives distress call (6) DAY (period of time) after MAY (former PM)
13MEMENTO 4ac Souvenir in trireme men took (7)MEMO (note) around ENT (hospital department)/hidden
14MENACE 4d Carpathian holds back outdated form of punishment for troublemaker (6)ME (Carpathian) around CANE< (back form of punishment)
15NOOKIE 5dn Corner that is for hanky-panky (6)NOOK (corner) IE (that is)
16OCCUR 20to Old volume leads ancient city to be found (5)O (old) CC (volume) UR (ancient city)/
17OMNIBUS 22ac-2,23to,17d I’m at sea with bosun getting public transport (7)Anagram of BOSUN+IM
18ONCOMES 20ac Sudden falls in Scotland: some NCO bungled (7)Anagram (bungled) of SOMENCO*
19OPHISM 25up Love shipwrecked by male serpent worship (6)O (love) SHIP* (ship wrecked) + M (male)
20RAUCOUS 13ac Artist with posh company (you and me) gets rowdy (7)RA (artist) U (posh) CO (company) US (you and me)
21RESCUE*16ac Engineers second prompt salvage (6)RE (engineers) S (second) CUE (prompt)/RES(t) almost break) CUE (signal)
22RINGS 13to Fits sails involving new loops (5)RIGS (fits sails) around N (new)
23SATISFY 1ac Meet model returning with force in voice (7)SIT< (model returning) + F (force) in SAY (voice)
24SINGS*8to* Lays about sushi, oddly producing sloppy Scottish dishes (8) SONGS (ditties) around SSI (sushi oddly). Minus SOS.
25SISTRA 1d Perhaps painting little sibling turning over old rattles (6)ART (painting perhaps) + SIS (little sibling) all reversed
26SLUED 15to Roman god upset about line being turned (5)DEUS< (Roman god upset) around L (line)
27STATUS 3d Condition of figurehead missing base on front of schooner? (6)STATU(e) (figurehead missing base) + S (front of schooner)
28STEWARD 10ac Crew member wasted, drunk across middle of berth (7)Anagram (drunk) of WASTED across R (middle of berth)
29STORMS*8d Keeps dropping drug for mass raves (6) STORES (keeps) dropping E (drug) replacing it with (for) M (mass)
30TEENSY 2d Very little support for ball New York holds successfully at first  (6)TEE (support for ball) NY (new York) around S (successfully at first)
31TENUTO*26up* Sustained unusual touchstones church dropped (9) Anagram (unusual) of TOUCHSTONES without CH (church dropped). Minus SOS.
32UNITE 14to Number of French embrace Italian get together (5)UNE (number of French) around IT (Italian (as in gin and IT))
33UTOPIAN 12ba Uniform shirt possibly Scotsman finds perfect (7)U (uniform) TOP (shirt possibly) IAN (Scotsman)
Easter eggRNLIRed cells: the initials of a body founded 200 years ago (4)Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Easter eggLIFEBOATYellow cells: the means by which that body carries out its work (8)
OptionalAMOROSOSThe complete solution to Day 1 (8)Before sending out the SOS
OptionalSOSSINGSThe complete solution to Day 24 (8)
OptionalSOSTENUTOThe complete solution to Day 31 (9)

Solvers’ comments

An enjoyable puzzle. A few new words, the thematic Sostenuto and Sossings but all fairly clued. Thanks Carpathian and Patch. [GW]

A fairly quick romp. There’s Archive on 4 on this subject on radio 4 as I type. 26 I’ve not met SLUED spelling before. 24 Chambers doesn’t actually give a definition of SOSSING. OED appears to have it only as a participle of SOSS. Pictorial clue comprehensible when the answer is known, though TIm barely recognisable. [MJ]

Super, we guessed the theme from the photo and description so it was very satisfying to then find everything fitted. [J&JH]

Very enjoyable, with plenty of thematic material.👌❤️🛟 … ___ … 😀 [MN]

Puzzle fun to do. The theme became obvious from the picture. [RC]

Well put together with an interesting theme. Extra ‘maydays’ a nice touch. A few obscure words but all clearly clued. [JP]

Really lovely puzzle with lots of themed clues and solutions and minimum of fuss. Thank you. [JT]

Good to see this great institution, the RNLI, being celebrated. As usual some words were new to me, and again as usual, I’m afraid the picture clue didn’t help! Thanks to Carpathian and Patch for an entertaining puzzle. [RS]

Another great puzzle. As you can see, I’m puzzled by Day 24. [RE]

An enjoyable puzzle with a worthy theme. Despite finding the thematic item SOS easily enough in three of the answers, I had to wait for the four letters of RNLI to appear before I got the theme itself. [AB]

Floated my boat! [JM]

Excellent [LA]

I enjoyed the nautical/maritime rescue theme even though I was unfamiliar with the actual name of the RNLI. I found it interesting going down the research rabbit-hole to find out about the anniversary. The picture clue helped this time as OPHISM was an unfamiliar word to me. Some clues I thought were pretty straightforward, and others were much more difficult. I did like the three SOS calls for help – as well as the MAYDAY at Day 12. Many thanks for the fun, Carpathian and Patch. [JA]

Sending (or leaving) out an SOS, very droll. Most enjoyable puzzle. [RP]

A nice gentle puzzle — I didn’t need rescuing! [TH]

An enjoyable puzzle and an excellent tribute to a venerable and important institution. Some nice clueing, some smiles and at least three new words. The face in the visual clue must be a “Tim”, but no idea who it is. We wait with baited breath… Thank you Carpathian, Patch and Frank Paul. [CW]

Not too many unfamiliarities and clear clueing – decent hit rate for thematic answers too. [PA]

Elegant puzzle and a nice trick with the SOS’s. [NI]

Very nice. Perhaps the picture gave too much away too quickly and the clues were seldom very testing. Brought up in a lowly Scottish household I had never heard of sossings (we had stovies) but it does seem to be justified by the reference books! [EF]

I had an educated guess at RNLI and LIFEBOAT from the preamble and enumerations – and the seaside picture, although that looks more like a Greek island harbour scene than a UK one?! [Well spotted. The photographer lives in Greece. – Ed] This was soon backed up by some nautical answers – HARBOR, LAUNCH, HELMSMAN, CAPSIZE, MAYDAY, ASSIST, RESCUE. A nice touch with the ‘SOS’ clues as well! Thanks to Carpathian and Patch for an enjoyable diversion, and a wonderful tribute to this great organisation. [MC]

Nice theme, and answers related. SOS clues clever. Enjoyed it. [SB]

Good challenge, interesting topic. I thought picture was Jeremy Beadle so took a little while to work out! Thanks Carpathian and Patch. [JC]

Very enjoyable! Thanks to Carpathian and Patch. [JS]

An education as usual, a few new-to me words. Plus I love RNLI stuff! Thanks to Carpathian and Patch. [SC]

Most were fine then completely stuck on the sossings…if that is correct! Thanks as always for the fun…particularly enjoyed the picture clue this time. [HH]

Challenging and satisfying! [DB]

Very interesting but had difficulty with day 24, unusual word when adding sos. [NC]

Lovely puzzle thanks [MD]

I’m glad we had the chance to send our SOSs! This was a lovely gentle puzzle, with some fun surface clueing, but I recall doing this same theme last year (it must have been a different anniversary?). Also, should this one not have been handed to Boatman, tailor-made for him? [See the review for the connection between the setter and the theme. – Ed.] Could he not be persuaded to join the merry gang (he’s one of my Guardian favourites)? [He has, and you can look forward to more from him – Ed.] I’m stumped by the ‘Tim’ in Frank Paul’s picture clue, but chuffed I managed to work it out this month (I think!). [MS]

Nice puzzle – some new words for me which I always enjoy. [JG]

RNLI was highly featured in press, so theme was quickly evident. Liked the * clues – clever! [DM]

A clever and fitting tribute to a fantastic charity which has saved countless lives owing to the selflessness and bravery of fellow men. [SF]

I really enjoyed this – good surfaces and a clever twist to complement the theme. Good to work in appropriate references in the clues and answers. Many thanks to all – although I couldn’t unscramble the picture clue this time. [BS]

An enjoyable challenge. Some very satisfying clueing with only the Scottish vocabulary preventing me from solving the puzzle at one sitting. The Easter Eggs became obvious early on too! [JB]

Many celebrations here in Exmouth for the RNLI. [JM]

SOS I have never heard of sossings. Learn something every day. Otherwise a straightforward puzzle. [MM]

Some tough clues, nice overall. Day 7 clue was probably my favorite. [SC]

Lovely celebration of a fantastic organisation [AR]

A splendid tribute to the RNLI, with so many references to seafaring and their rescue work – not to mention the SOS’s! For once, I even worked out the Frank Paul picture…. [SB]

Tricky but paid off in the end. [JH]

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