Clues and Grid by Puck
The winner of the November Extra puzzle was Richard Green of Powys, Wales.
Review of the November Extra 2020 3D crossword
Your comments on this very clever puzzle, set and clued by PUCK, show it was very tough. I’m not sure I agree with those who put it as the most difficult of the year, that in my book was ECLOGUE’s September puzzle, but it certainly was a toughie. For the record ECLOGUE’s puzzle marked the creation of the PEELERS (police) and we had to peel the ends from each solution before entry into the grid.
Rather than my normal puzzle review I thought it might be interesting to talk through the genesis of Puck’s puzzle. The original plan was for me as MANG to construct a suitable grid for the Tie-break puzzle and for Puck to clue it. I finished my grid in late August. Sadly Puck rejected it, nice idea he said, but “I just cannot make it work”. We were running short of time and I was a little edgy about how to fill the void. Puck himself rode to the rescue with this puzzle.
Puck sent it to me for an initial test solve and I freely admit it was a hard solve. The test solving process between a setter and a new test solver is a bit like an intricate and wary dance between partners new to each other. To be honest it was my second test solve of a Puck crossword but the first was pretty straightforward.
One debate we had prior to the test solve was over whether or not the clues should be in alphabetical order as is usual in the Calendar. Because it was a tie breaker we eventually concluded that an extra degree of difficulty was in order.
As a rule in a test solve the vast majority of clues solve pretty readily and there is no discussion necessary but some clues, often crux clues and dear to the heart of the setter, generate serious debate. The sparring is normally, and indeed was on this occasion, good natured and all part of the enjoyment. Nonetheless it is genuine enough.
I initially questioned seven clues. Five of these Puck properly defended and they remained as originally set. Two we debated quite earnestly. The first of these was Clue 27 originally clued as “Like strange pain beginning to bloody hurt, by the sound of it” for BAKED. My problem was the definition “Like strange pain” where strange was used in the sense of foreign. The final clue I felt was much fairer: “Like Nancy’s pain: beginning to bloody hurt, by the sound of it.”
The second clue was a clever use of two lots of word play to help in solving an obscure word. The clue was “Writer’s penning name for players who cut 9 (BREAD) before start of session” for PONES. The fate of this clue remained unresolved between the two of us.
After refinement the crossword then went off to a second and more experienced tester and I see that PONES became PANTS in the final grid. I also noticed that one or two clues that I had nodded through were further refined in the final grid.
The end result was, as your comments confirm, tough and enjoyable but fair and a good test for the year end challenge.
Clues and explanations
Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.
|Day||Solution||Direction, Clue, Count||Explanation|
|1||LYSSA||1ac Rabies? Sally’s saluki has it (5)||Hidden answer|
|2||LARUM||1d Warning of danger once artwork is put up (5)||Mural(rev.)|
|3||SATIE||2aw One showing somewhat avant-garde tendencies? Irreverently experimental, originally (5)||Initial letters; &lit|
|4||*SPELT||2d Something used to make 9 the essential ingredient of sausage batter (5)||[sau]s[age] + pelt; 9=bread|
|5||ANAND||3aw Trailer carrying 9 in Indian city (5)||Nan in ad; 9=bread|
|6||GOTTA||4ac Must try tango featured in Cheers (5)||Go + (T in ta)|
|7||GATES||4d What finally implies scandal by Bob, Bill, or David the original 9 head? (5)||Gate + S; 9=bread|
|8||TRY-ON||5d Politician wants FA move to far right, with new attempt to deceive (3-2)||(T[o]ry/o) + n|
|9||*BREAD||6ac 70s group that was produced by 25, right up to the end (5)||B[r]ake/r; 25=brake|
|10||*BAGEL||6to Set of six to love, in book by advanced setter (5)||b + A + gel|
|11||*BREAK||6d Split bill? It’s split with little resistance (5)||R in beak|
|12||ROTTE||7aw Dutch banker’s gone off briefly, needing 10 shortly after 9’s been cut (5)||Two sets of wordplay: Rotte[n]; and rot[i] + te[n]; 9=bread|
|13||SHEAR||8ba Cut slice’s first picked up? Not quite (5)||s[lice] + hear[d]|
|14||TRYST||9ac One of the dates someone might have kept hidden in pantry, next to stollen (5)||Hidden in [pan]try/st[ollen]|
|15||*AZYME||10to Crazy menu’s Jewish or Christian 9 (5)||Hidden answer; 9=bread|
|16||KEANE||11ba Football player no longer banned, we hear (5)||Two definitions; homophone of “banned”|
|17||KETAS||11to Salmon steak, when 27 (5)||Anag of steak; 27=baked|
|18||*MATZO||12ac Cross beyond China, missing English 9 (5)||mat[E] + zo; 9=bread|
|19||MUSAK||12aw Space race leader nursing an endless assortment of annoying strains? (5)||a[n] in Musk|
|20||OSSIA||13up Alternative piece of music Oasis plays (5)||Anag of Oasis|
|21||PANTS||14ba Something in which 9 might be 27, that’s without a lid? Rubbish! (5)||Pan + t[hat]’s; 9=bread, 27=baked|
|22||*PITTA||14up Hole that regularly appears in 9 (5)||pit + t[h]a[t]; 9=bread|
|23||*KEBAB||15ac Something put in 22 9 – possibly 27 beans, primarily for daughter (5)||Anag of baked, with b[eans] replacing d; 22 9=pitta bread; 27=baked|
|24||BINIT||16to Former resident of Number 10 means to chuck something out? (5)||bin it; 1 or 0|
|25||BRAKE||16up Slower off 11 (5)||Anag of break; 11=break|
|26||BEPPO||17to Pope shot by bishop? The clown! (5)||B + anag of Pope; Beppo the Clown|
|27||*BAKED||17up Like Nancy’s pain: beginning to bloody hurt, by the sound of it (5)||B[loody] + homophone of “ached”|
Whew! This was tough. It took me three or four attempts before I got anywhere. The difficulty level made it all the more rewarding when I saw what was going on with the BREAD theme and managed to fill in every square. Still not sure if I have it right though or whether I will have to tinker some more before getting the confirmatory email to say my solutions are correct. Thanks to Puck for the brain stretch. [JA]
I feared this might be impenetrable, not least because our usual ‘alphabetical order’ crutch had been taken away. But no. Just right for the tie-break, and oh such a clever theme! [PA]
I found this one pretty hard, and don’t fully understand days 10, 21 and 24. Enjoyable nevertheless! [GB]
This took a while to unlock, as the lead clue (9) was so obscure and I was convinced for a while that it must be CREAM that was the link. I should have realised that there wasn’t much of that at the Last Supper! So once the penny dropped and the mixture started to rise, it was not so bad to find all the loaves. [SB]
Puzzles always seem tricky when all the answers are 5 letter words but an enjoyable lockdown/Christmas diversion and well done for getting in so many bread related terms, including references to the pop group Bread who I well remember from my university days in the 70s. [JB]
BINIT (not in Chambers) gave most trouble along with SPELT in Puck’s challenging 3D Extra [PC]
The level of difficulty certainly went up for this one and I realise how much having answers in alphabetical order helped during the year. [PD]
As expected for a tie-break (which I certiainly haven’t qualified for) real toughie in parts. Pretty sure that at least 3 of my answers are wrong. Great fun as ever. [RE]
Clever challenge on the theme of breaking bread! Good luck to those entering the world Championship! [SF]
Brilliantly convoluted. Much enjoyed; I confess two of my answers were rather tentative but they seem to be right; I look forward to finding out why! [EF]
Took me a while to crack but once I twigged the theme progress came easier. A satisfying solve, with some lovely clues along the way. [JG]
Interesting. Richard had a little difficulty with one or two clues. [RG]
Nice puzzle. BINIT held me up for a while. [TH]
Crumbs! There were some chewy bits in this loaf. A few guesses were needed. [J&JH]
We’re not over familiar with Bread, so don’t know if there are any references other than (David) Gates. We enjoyed seeing bagel for a 6-0 drubbing. We wondered for a long time whether Binit was a Downing Street cat, until we discovered its meaning as binary digit. One or two unfamiliar words, but it’s a friendly grid. Thanks! [N&SI]
A nice sprinkling of unusual words. I’m still not sure of 24. Are we suppposed to explain the clues? Maybe they shouldn’t need explanation. [MJ]
Can’t remember! Did it a while ago. [H&CK]
Very good mental workout [ML]
A challenge, as it should be. 😎 [DM]
A nice grid. Two clues gave me a long pause – day 12 (finally parsed) and day 24 (not convinced of solution at all). Thanks for maintaining the standard. It’s enjoyable seeing different setters – and the 5 letter limit is such a nice one. [JN]
I found this to be the most difficult puzzle of the year! A lot of hair pulled out! [MN]
Delightful puzzle. Interesting and well clued. Some head scratching and pleasant penny dropping! [JP]
This was a hard one to break into, but I really enjoyed it once I got going. An additional challenge with the answers not being in alphabetical order too! I liked the bread theme – lots of clever links in the clues and answers. [BS]
Cor, that was hard. Some obscure words. Held up by a few interlocking pairs. Needed a bit of putting down and coming back to. [HS]
I was surprised how much more difficult it was when the solutions weren’t in alphabetical order. [ST]
This was a toughie! [SW]