3D Crossword Solution – November 2023

November 2023 grid page

Clues and Grid by Soup

Theme: Alphabetical jigsaw

The winners of the November puzzle are Jenny & James Hatchell.

Review of the November 2023 3D crossword

Someone will correct me if wrong, but this is the first Alphabetical Jigsaw (AJ) which I recall seeing in the 3D Calendar. I enjoy them very much: they present a different sort of challenge, while obviously offering crucial help, in that one knows — more or less — the initial letter of each item.

Since they may be new to some solvers, I will just explain my own procedure for solving them. I first established that there were three 9-letter words, of which one would have a C as third or seventh letter. Solving those three clues would clearly give a good start. And — what do you know? — the devious Soup had made sure that the nine-letter words’ clues were among the most difficult, clapping a stopper over that caper. Next, I counted the seven-letter words, though they offered no immediate help. RATTLED was my first solution, going with ALIBI and CHUMP, LOOSE and YOGIS. But it was a long time before anything could be written in the grid.

With 33 clues for 26 letters, it was clearly useful to try to solve some, spaced out in the alphabet, in order to establish which letters might be used more than once. There were nice helpful runs from FLIES to IMMIX and from JEEPS to MACHO. The seven-letter words eventually all gave way. At this point I should mention the lovely clue for PRE-SHOW. Those Whooper swans I imagined trying to get through their dessert quickly before settling down to watch the ballet; but the real distinction was in Soup’s finding that anagram-plus as being suitable. My favourite clue up to that point was, however, the one for CAJUN: LA is a beautiful misdirection. 

By this stage I had twenty-odd solutions, and felt I must take the plunge — you have to, at some point, but should always use a pencil, and make sure you use a double crossing-out system to identify clues whose solutions have firstly been found, then entered. CAJUN, JAMMING and JEEPS allowed me to establish with a fair certainty that the J must be on one corner of the middle layer: ‘Power tiles’ to use the Scrabble parlance, are always very helpful, and Soup had given us a big leg-up with that multiple use of the J. The other thing which was necessary for a correct solution was that bit of asymmetry provided by the pre-filled A. I would assume that, since our puzzles allow words to be entered in reverse and to rise as well as fall, without that we could have had two possible solutions, both requiring more guesswork than one would wish. Thanks, then, to Soup or his editor for providing that. For what good it did me…

My technique, thus far, had probably been faultless, and permitted the filling of the middle layer, once ZECCHINOS had been checked with Chambers. However, I then proceeded to waste many minutes in looking for a word **JA* — some sort of O*JAM, or a more exotic (and non-existent) word such as the Mexican cider known as oljan‡ or similar, forgetting that I could simply put in CAJUN and go on to the top layer with its helpful C-words.

QUAVERING was a late find for me, and my last ones in were some of the best clues of the lot: BILLHOOKS — I was looking for some sort of lumberjack type for ages — and DEIGN — an acrostic or a hidden clue, where the solution is visible in plain sight, has to feature brilliant misdirection to work, and here that was accomplished by the inclusion of iron, which sends you off on a wild-Fe chase, and not, which just gets ignored — and finally WINDY, which misdirects because of the non-homophone (these days) of two of the meanings of wind. The cider girl was, of course, Laurie Lee’s Rosie, and the OSIER tree was, I suppose, justifiably ‘sticky’ since sticks from it are used for all those lovely baskets one resolves one day to make for oneself at a tenth of the cost, but never does.

I could perhaps take Soup to task on his use of NEXUSES, where Chambers insists on the plural nexūs; however, his word is attested in many places online, so we shall not complain too much.

The yellow cells form an appropriate and timely tribute to the inventor of the Alphabetical Jigsaw, the late and great John Galbraith Graham (Araucaria) who died ten years ago on 26th November. In the world of Cryptics we all owe him so much.

A beautifully domestic note was established by the photograph of Alphabetti spaghetti on toast from Graham Fox — your monthly tip: butter and Marmite the toast first —  and the superb visual clue from Frank Paul. Although (as usual) your reviewer did not solve it (CC in HEINZ* + OS) in real time, it was highly appreciated retrospectively, and praised by Mrs Reviewer, who rarely opens a tin of any kind, except of tuna for a very fussy cat. The tin should of course have been one of Symington’s (the Y being long, as in rhyming) but no doubt the setter will forgive that.

Upon which recklessly informative note, your reviewer thanks you for reading him for the last two years (‘if’, as the late John Ebdon used to say so memorably, ‘you have been’) and hangs up his mouse, having Other Things To Do. It has been a great pleasure.


Grid solution

November 2023 grid solution

Visual clue

The number 200 appears in the middle of the pieces of a can of baked ‘beanz’, the letter z indicating a well-known brand name. Beside the broken can is a bone. Putting the pieces together using Roman numerals for the number and the Latin term for bone (as used in medical terminology) gives us a name for old Italian coins:


Visual clue for ZECCHINOS
Drawing by Frank Paul

Clues and explanations

Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
1ALIBI16to In trial, I bid “it shows I did not sin” (5)triALIBId
2BILLHOOKS20ac They cut down posters captain’s featured in (9)BILL<HOOK>S
3CAJUN1d One from LA, about five months ago… (5)CA JUN (this puzzle is NOV!)
4CHIEFLY1ac …first seen touring Finchley, third to go (7)FI(n)CHLEY*
5CHUMP1aw Camel’s head and back — or maybe just the head… (5)C(amel) HUMP
6DEIGN23to …to stoop down, eating iron grass (not as led) (5)Acrostic
7ENVOI9to In leaden voice, disclosed one’s final words (5)leadENVOIce
8FIRTH3aw Mouth-ful I fork Steph — we’re having thirds  (5)FulIfoRksTepH
9FLIES3d Lures with elfish cunning (it’s not hard) (5)ELFIS(h)*
10GLOSS14aw Explain away perfunctory façade (5)dd
11HEART10d Try tackling on the head — red card comes out  (5)HEAR T(ackling)
12IMMIX2d 999 (!) and ten more swirl about (5)IM (improperly for 999) and MIX (1009)
13JAMMING12ac Getting stuck in posh car — just a m-minute (7)JA<M MIN>G
14JEEPS12aw Some 4x4s? Oh my, the Queen’s not in it (5)JEEP(er)S
15KNOWN22up Much recognised to be in work now? No! (5)worKNOWNo
16LOOSE24up Free direction on where one might go (5)LOO SE
17MACHO13aw Butch physicist who’s paired with third of blondes (5)MACH O
18NEXUSES18ac Told ‘snogs turn Sue to jelly, son’ — make bonds (7)NECKS hom SUE* S
19OSIER21up Cider girl goes top to tail — it’s sticky! (5) [R->end]OSIE
20POSED8d Was what artist painted Spode? It’s tricky (5)SPODE*
21PRESHOW8ac Whoopers, ringless, flap before Swan Lake? (7)WHO(o)PERS*
22QUAVERING5ac Queen swearing King’s away, with voice a-shake (9)QU AVER(r)ING
23RAKES26to Swiftly covers playboy’s inclinations (5)triple def
24RATTLED26ba Dart let loose — it’s suffered from vibrations (7)DARTLET*
25SHADOWS17ba Cliff’s ahead of them — they follow every move… (7)dd
26TOOTS25to …blows a saxophone for Hibbert (he’d a groove!) (5)dd
27UTERI6d Where some develop chopped charcuterie (5)charcUTERIe
28VOCAL7d Said cavolo nero’s end’s cut free (5)CAVOL([ner]o)*
29WINDY11to Beat dry, but only keep the outside turning (5)WIN D(r)Y
30WISER11d Scrooge’s hat’s tipped up — it’s more discerning (5)[M->W]ISER
31XYLOL19aw Solvent with which unknowns laugh out loud (5)XY LOL
32YOGIS4d Mystics see a bear with head in shroud (5)YOGI S(hroud)
33ZECCHINOS15ac Artist girl’s fired — upset, trousers cash (9) CEZ(anne) rev CHINOS
Yay! No more clues to set! Now Soup must dash 🙂
OptionalARAUCARIAHighlighted cells (9)The originator of the alphabetical jigsaw

Solvers’ comments

A delightful puzzle – fun to do and a great tribute to our favourite ever, and much missed, setter. Thank you very much Soup. [CW]

A very elegant grid and puzzle for this alphabetical jigsaw. I’m completely baffled by the message in the bottom left box (reproduced before the Easter Egg in the entry form). [NI]

Really entertaining clues; an absorbing, fresh type of challenge; and a fine tribute to Araucaria! [AJ]

Charming tribute. I wonder if I was the only one who found the “Z” clue rather… tortuous? But v grateful that was the one with Frank’s drawing to be able to cross-compare. [BJ]

Ingenious gridmanship and very enjoyable to solve [RG]

I always liked Araucaria’s alphabetical crosswords so this was an interesting challenge to have it transposed to a 3D. It looked impossible at first, but once the 9 letter words were sorted, progress could be made. A couple of obscure words (Xylol, Zecchinos) and some difficult parsing – Windy, Wiser and Zecchinos again! In fact, only got the latter from the picture clue, I still don’t understand the cryptic! I’m still working on the final comment (“Yay etc”) as I’m sure it has a purpose that I haven’t seen yet. Nice and chewy – thanks Soup et al [JC]

An interesting variant without too many struggles. Did Soup set the Guardian Genius this month (theme “alphabetti spaghetti”)? 18 Chambers has the plural nexus. 33 I got from the illustration, and still can’t parse the whole clue. [MJ]

I really enjoyed this, I love a good alphabetical jigsaw. Great to see the nod to the king of alphabetical jigsaws, Araucaria. Thank you Soup. [RS]

Very enjoyable again, once I’d started slotting answers in👌😀 [MN]

Wow. Rhyming couplets and an alphabetic jigsaw a fantastic homage to Araucaria. Really didn’t think a jigsaw was possible for a 3D grid. Cajun was very clever. [GW]

This was certainly a struggle but I eventually got all the words in the grid and then discovered when I tried to do the anagram that I had it upside down! I really enjoyed the challenge and had a real sense of satisfaction when I finished. [MP]

Managed to get the thing mirrored, which made the anagram tricky! [RS]

Well, that gave my eraser a good work-out! [TH]

An intriguing jigsaw from Soup. Not for the faint-hearted. Can’t tell you how much time I spent on one day alone – Day 33 ZECCHINOS (an unfamiliar word) was a real tease, even with the help of the Frank Paul picture puzzle. Well worth it though for the satisfaction of finishing. I really liked the photo of the mixed-up alphabet soup by Graham Fox that accompanied the grid. The yellow squared anagram was also a worthy tribute to a legendary mentor and iconic compiler. [There is a lovely interview in the Meet the Setter series about Hamish Symington (“Soup”) which I recommend – it includes the story of how The Reverend and “Soup” first met and how they helped each other with the craft of cryptic crosswords.] Many thanks to Soup for the November fun. [JA]

I liked the challenge and once I’d sorted the 9 letter words I was away. I particularly liked turning M of Scrooge – clever cluing. [PD]

As ever, a good education, a few new-to-me words, didn’t know Toots was a Hibbert and took ages to parse WISER. Scrooge’s hat’s tipped up – ha! Souper. [SC]

Lovely tribute to the alphabetical jigsaw! [AR]

Enjoyed this one [EW]

A very enjoyable, if challenging, puzzle. Filled in the whole grid and then realised it had to be wrong as the Easter Egg made no sense. Penny dropped a few days later with much satisfaction. I tip my hat to Soup for the rhyming clues and a fitting tribute to the master of alphabeticals. [JT]

Great, challenging but achievable, actually able to parse most of the clues for once. Impressive alphabet grid. [J&JH]

This was a devil of a challenge! But I think I’ve got there in the end. RIP Auricaria! [SF]

A good challenge, with enough solutions I could get without using the grid before jamming in as many words as I could to cross reference the final few. [DR]

As expected, a tour de force from Soup! Favourite clue must be day 19 – lovely surface reading and definition. [JN]

The great man referred to in the anagram was the master of the alphabetical puzzle. [RP]

Really enjoyable puzzle, thanks [MD]

Very hard, so I am pleased to get this in before Hints and Tips (if they are coming)! Having solved a lot of clues (but not at that stage ZECCHINOS which does seem very obscure for these circumstances), I had no idea where to start with the jigsaw, so started fairly randomly with CHIEFLY along the top row and it is amazing how far I’d gone before it became clear that that wouldn’t quite work!! (POSED and ALIBI told me I was wrong, and it was then not too hard to invert things and reach the final solution.) I appreciate that the Easter Egg was not compulsory but it was reassuring (when I looked up the correct spelling!) but I do think that if you want to continue to attract new members you really do have to stop producing puzzles where the punchline is an in-joke in which you pat each other on the back. I continue to find that off-puttling. [EF]

A splendid alphabetti Soup! A fitting tribute to Araucaria, who was the inventor of the alphabetical jig-saw crossword. [SB]

However long Soup spent devising this, it was well worth it. An extraordinary accomplishment, very fun to solve and very challenging. I really enjoy the Alphabetical puzzles and this was a tour de force – a worthy tribute to the great man. Thanks to all involved. [BS]

Hints and tips helped as did the numbered version. [RC]

A very difficult puzzle, especially as answers couldn’t be inserted immediately to get checkers. I needed the Hints and Tips to get me over the line. Phew! [JB]

Needed the hints to get Zecchinos so that I could decide how to start filling in the grid. Tried not to resort to the directed grid but did use it for reassurance! Favourite answer Wiser – not seen the device before. Thanks for the fun and reminder of the great Araucaria who started us off on crosswords. Apologies to Soup for not noticing the rhyming couplets! [HH]

Wow – first 3-D jigsaw I’ve tried…quite a challenge, although the ABC and a couple of educated guesses helped get it done…and a lovely tribute to the ‘father’ of Alphabetical Jigsaws… Thanks to Alphabet Soup! [MC]

Alphabet Soup! Always enjoy these [JG]

Enjoyable and my first try at doing the jigsaw worked with Cajun and jamming. Surprised that this template shows the jigsaw positions of the solutions! [DM]

Great. He did this without me up to two one morning. I was asleep. Hope your soup was hot. The slave [RG]

The spirit was willing but the flesh weak–I just had too many unknowns to do the jigsaw solve, so many thanks for the directed solve! [JS]

Very tricky, not being able to enter anything in the grid until about 80% clues solved. It was a joy when some started fitting together. [SB]

What a wonderful, wonderful puzzle, and an extraordinary tribute to Araucaria’s amazing rhyming alphabetical jigsaw puzzles. I only noticed Soup has also managed to rhyme clues in pairs very late on, and also very cleverly linked them thematically (eg 25 and 26, and 27 and 28). Plus of course the spaghetti letters, and Frank Paul working that into his pictogram too. I spent a long time working out how to fit the clues, and only when entering realised this didn’t even seem to be necessary for submitting the answer, since they were all indicated. But it was a lot of fun working it out, and seeing it all finally fit together, Araucaria’s puzzles were such elegant works of genius, and always the ones of his I most looked forward to and enjoyed. How I miss him! [MS]

I greatly enjoyed Araucaria’s alphabetical grids but the extra rotational possibilities in 3D proved a step too far. Whoever made the decision (perhaps because entries were coming in slowly?) to lend us mortals a directional grid, many thanks. [PA]

3 thoughts on “3D Crossword Solution – November 2023

  1. Thank you very much to everyone for the comments. The puzzle has gone down very well, it seems. Soup should be delighted. It was good to see that Hints and Tips and particularly the ‘directed version’ were helpful and that some solvers took advantage of them. Thank you enormously Nick, alias etc, who produces that incredibly helpful and recommended document.
    Thank you also MS, JT and HH for alerting me to the rhyming couplets, another Araucaria speciality. I can’t believe I missed that, and Soup is fully entitled to kill me when he next sees me, particularly since I have plagued him with rhyming clues more than once.

  2. Thanks for the very kind comments, all – this was a lot of fun to set, though it took a while to work out the programs needed to generate the grid. (I briefly tried doing that by hand but it was simply too hard.)

    NI (second comment): You may not have noticed – in which case, I am quietly smug – that all the clues are (approximately) pentameter rhyming couplets. (BJ@3: this is why the Z clue, and maybe some others, are a bit tortuous.) There is an odd number of clues in this puzzle, so to make that extra rhyming pair, I needed to write ten more syllables.

    No more alphabets from me next year. Something perhaps more difficult? I don’t know….

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