3D Crossword Solution – October 2023

October 2023 grid page

Clues and Grid by Shark

Theme: Disney

The winner of the October puzzle is Ben Jewell of Chorlton.

Review of the October 2023 3D crossword

The mezzanine floor lives (thanks to Shark and his little grey cells)!

I have always thought that we could do more with our interstitial levels — anagrams, Ninas, patterns — and this month Shark has filled them — with words

He has also taken us deep into the realm of highly successful popular culture — as, I suspect, has Frank Paul, of whom more later — where your reviewer is not at his most comfortable!

Nevertheless, I did succeed in identifying the theme, all but two of the thematic four- and five-letter characters, and carrying out the really excellent post-solve task.

Now, let’s get the tough stuff out of the way first: there is, for the first time I can remember, a mistake in the instructions. By now solvers will have been made aware that the direction for Day 11 DECANT should be 35up-2,28aw, not ba as stated in the printed calendar. Of course I must apologise and hope that no-one has lost out on a possible World Champion’s crown as a result of writing in all good faith DEVAER and wondering about the empty cells. I can only say that, knowing a bit about checking and refining these grids as I do now, I am amazed that it doesn’t happen more often. However, I have faith in our solvers and imagine that many will have found and corrected the error without help.

I found my way into the puzzle via APPOSED (a nice anagram, always helpful), WAIKIKI, TARCEL and PEKOE. The neat CHESS followed quickly after (changeless minus the angel), and when I had realised that the three on each side of the hairdressers must be in for a BAR-HOP, things began to become clear. From my O-Level Geography I knew that part of the crust was the SIMA layer, and I seemed to be presented on the grid with SIMBA. The mysterious but believable CHI(M)P followed, and I knew that there was a duck called DEWEY to go with the book taxonomist, the philosopher and the presidential candidate — I naively wondered if they might all be related — and suddenly we were in the world of cartoon creations. When DUMBO, BELLE, ARIEL and LA(L)DY followed, it was clear that we were in Walt Disney country. Now that is not my home territory (though I will shed tears at the conversion scene in Mary Poppins along with the next man) and I did need to look a few people up — along with PAD THAI, SHASTRA and this sense of the word ICTUS. 

I imagine that BASHFUL was a great help to many, though I only saw it when clearing up at the end. My favourite clue was the one for FLYMO, which is a superb misdirection, as is PANAMA HAT. I remember reading in one of the comment sites something to the effect that outdated words like tile for ‘hat’ should be phased out. I’m afraid my reaction will probably be to apply the word even to my green gardening bobble-hat and the fascinators I learnt about so gratefully last year. What a beautifully sustained misdirection: tile — roofs; slate — still roofs; hard — suitable for roofs; dull coating — perfectly believable for roofs. Great stuff.

But what is Frank Paul’s cartoon telling us? P + YOUNG WOMAN + BACKGAMMON + AT was as far as I got with that. Are we to believe that the woman depicted was an amah? Surely that would require too brilliant a piece of guesswork. No, I was forced to the conclusion that she was just another of those very famous people that I have never heard of, and called ANA, which probably makes her Romanian, and that MAH is another word for Backgammon, perhaps Chinese: if Mah Jong is the game of sparrows, could Mah be just ‘game’? [Good theory but no. See actual answer below. – Ed]

Thus what passes for thinking in the mind of your reviewer. But back to Shark, whose ideas are far more interesting. All the time I was solving I had been assuming that in the end we would have to cut out parts of the grid and stick them over the black rectangles. When ROTATE emerged, I assumed that we were to rotate the small secondary grid. But then I wondered about the centenary. I found out that Disney had signed his first contract in October 1923 — cue Graham Fox’s fireworks*, or is there something more subtle going on there? — there usually is — (*my first idea had been that we were to celebrate the founding of the modern Turkish state!) — but that he only achieved real success once that famous Mouse had come along. I knew that the relevant vehicle had been Steamboat Willie, and therefore began to look online for posters or stills from the film. Eureka! The resemblance is much greater and well-proportioned than one could ever expect from a few squares of various colours. And the fifteen extra letters (even if I was still short of a T and an I) made the anagram. 

Another splendid puzzle from Shark, who always provides a fascinating and rewarding task.


Grid solution

October 2023 grid solution

Visual clue

This drawing is a four-part charade including a lift-and-separate reversal: (1) a penny; (2) Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas; 3) a game of backgammon, whose parts taken separately tell you to reverse (back) another word for gammon (ham); and 4) the ‘at’ symbol. Altogether we get:


Visual clue for PANAMA HAT
Drawing by Frank Paul

Clues and explanations

Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
1ABYSMAL36up Very bad answer from minor forgetting last letter (7)A BY SMAL(l)
2ADIOS26to Satellite splitting trailers being so long (5)IO (inside) ADS
3AGAIN6aw Clear almost 30% of ebbing river once more (5)NIAGA(ra)<
4AINEE9ac Elder pupil wanting translator (5)(tr)AINEE
5APPOSED2d Cooked peapods placed side by side (7)PEAPODS*
6BAR-HOP11to,10ac Only three on each side of hairdresser’s for pub crawl (3-3)BAR(bers)HOP
7BASHFUL*4d Unclued
8BEREAVE29to,27ac Deprive Bill of exchange of ecstasy in dance party (7)BE E (inside) RAVE
9BLATANT29ac,30aw Naked bachelor left swimming (top’s been nicked) (7)B L (n)ATANT
10CHESS15ba Game’s fixed — no spirit! (5)CH(angel)ESS
11DECANT35up-2,28aw Drain in the ground shortened by worker? (6)DEC(k) ANT
12DISMAY24to-2,23ba Trepidation might possibly follow Pluto (6)DIS(ney) MAY
13EPHAH14to Amount of drapery in rubbish heap beginning to honk (5)HEAP* H(onk)
14FLYMO25to It cuts race by a second (5)FLY MO
15HASN’T18to With society moving away, county is lacking (5)HANTS with S moved
16ICTUS1aw Fit in computer studies at University before the beginning of September (5)ICT U S(eptember)
17INTEL3ba Half masterminds battle plans (5)INTEL(lects)
18LEAPED39to,34ac Vaulted exercises in first place (6)PE (inside) LEAD
19LOOSENS40up Relaxes being next to WCs (7)LOOS ENS
20MAHDI12ac Great leader bringing back fish and meat (5)(ID HAM)<
21OCKER16aw Without origin, term of familiarity for uncultivated Australian (5)(c)OCKER
22OCTET16ba Only child alongside festival group (5)OC TET
23OMASA32to Stomachs old Mayan dough (5)O MASA
24PAD THAI34up Oral restraint after stuffing noodles (3,4)“TIE” (after) PAD
25PANAMA HAT34aw-3,37up Tile and slate are hard with a dull coating (6,3)PAN H A (inside) A MAT
26PANEL34aw Board aircraft — line’s moving (5)PLANE (with L moved)
27PEKOE7aw In China, dog gulps, without class, orange _____ (5)PEKE (around) O(range)
28ROTATE27up Unclued
29SADDO22ba Anorak’s peculiar when back to front (5)(ODD AS)<
30SHARK17ac Bruce perhaps is me? (5)double definition
31SHASTRA13d-2,18ac,20d-2 Holy writing in books has transgressed (7)Hidden
32TARCEL33up Male hawk flying through Gibraltar celebration (6)Hidden
33U-BOAT31ac Sub about to be devoured (1-4)ABOUT*
34UMBER31to Colour of 31, perhaps (not navy) (5)(n)UMBER
35WAIKIKI38up One introduced to shell money once used in beach resort (7)I (inside) WAKIKI
36ALICE*2ba Insects (4)LICE + A
36ARIEL*2aw Currency (4)RIEL + A
36BASIL*4ac* Security (4)BAIL + S
36BELLE*4to Ring (4)BELL + E
36CHIMP*15to Ape (5)CHIP – M
37DEWEY*35aw Moist (4)DEWY + E
37DUMBO*21aw Goofy (4)DUMB + O
37FLORA*25ac Marketplaces (4)FORA + L
37KIARA*8ba Bangle (4)KARA + I
37LALDY*39ac Beating (Scot) (5)LADY – L
38SCART*19to Plug (5)SCAR – T
38SIMBA*13to Crust (4)SIMA + B
38TIANA*5aw Shrew (4)TANA + I
38TRAMP*5ac* Incline (4)RAMP + T
38WANNA*38ba Wish to (inf) (5)ANNA – W

Solvers’ comments

It took us a while to get going but once we’d got 3 or 4 thematic answers, it confirmed our suspicion of the theme – which was hinted at by the fireworks for sure! As usual, some new words to enjoy, but some parsings have eluded us – as has the iconic picture to be revealed by rotating the grid. Looking forward to the explanations in the newsletter 🙂 Thank you Shark. [CW]

The puzzle was in two halves, one solving the clue and one solving the disney characters. Both were challenging. [RC]

Rather cunning and tricky: it took me a while to spot Steamboat Willie! [NI]

Fount this tough — might have helped if I’d seen a Disney film in the last 50 years! [TH]

I’m still puzzled by this puzzle! [SF]

A very impressive design and gridfill, with a set of very good clues. I much enjoyed working out all the thematic bits of this puzzle. [AB]

Giving myself plenty of time to reconsider if any of these answers are reported wrong! Could make no sense of the 15-square supplementary grid or the allegedly iconic picture, never having heard of Steamboat Willie, but my daughter spotted the pattern when I said it was often based on diagonals – still took me a while to see how that worked! So although it is brilliantly intricate, this is a slightly grudging thumbs-up from me. Especially if it turns out I’ve got something wrong! Oh yes, and I still have no idea what the point of the grey cells is. [EF]

A very tricky puzzle with lots of references to the theme. Enjoyable but still can’t parse a few of the clues. [JP]

The hardest 3D calendar crossword we’ve ever done! Enjoy a challenge and a bit of research, but some obscurities (Omasa, Ainee, Ictus) and I still haven’t parsed Days 10 or 19! I didn’t know all of the Disney characters but mostly gettable. Intriguing grid – got quite frustrated with the ‘think of a word and take a letter away’ bit at the end – just couldn’t see the point of it at first. But it was made easier when the penny finally dropped that it was an anagram of Steamboat Willie – possibly would have helped to have given a hint about that?? Amazingly, I got the picture clue this month so pleased about that (even though I didn’t recognise Ana). A good, fun brain work out. Thanks to Shark et al. [JC]

Hardest one yet but always satisfying when they’re cracked. Disappointed to see Steamboat Willie wasn’t a necessary entry after all the head-scratching to get him. Good fun though, thanks to Shark. [SC]

Found this difficult but rewarding. The thematic anagram took a while to coalesce, and it took several goes to get the answers entered correctly! [RS]

I had to look up some of the more recent characters, whose presence became clear before too long. I’m not sure what the centenary is, as Steamboat Willie came out in 1928 according to wikpedia. I’ve just spotted that SW appears reading diagonally; I was wondering what was going on. A few puzzling clues: 1, 6, 10, 11, 15, 17. 13 Drapery might be dry, but I’m not sure it could be measured in ephahs. [MJ]

Theme: 15 Disney characters, separate grid spelling out another STEAMBOAT WILLIE. Very enjoyable again, with a lot of head scratching. 👌🤔 [MN]

I found this very difficult, especially the 36 to 38s. I’ll be amazed if I get it right first time, I’m pinning my hopes on Hints and Tips later in the month. [RS]

That was a toughie! Took me a while to work out what was going on. [PD]

A clever offering from Shark, I thought. Complicated end game though: the removal and addition of letters for “Days” 36, 37 and 38 took me forever and a fair bit of looking things up, as I am not overly familiar with Disney characters. Still not 100% sure that I’ve entered everything correctly but we’ll see. I didn’t really recognise the photo that provided the backdrop to the grid, but once I twigged that the puzzle was Disney-related and I googled “Disney fireworks” in Images, I found the iconic photo of Disneyland and then found out about the October 16 Anniversary of the Studio opening in Hollywood in 1923. Many thanks to Shark for the fun and games. [JA]

I was pleased to have solved this just before the centenary appeared in the news! Although I note that “Steamboat Willie” did not appear until 1928. Finding the various characters (4 and 5 letters) was quite a challenge at the end – but an interesting exercise. [SB]

Very intricate – delightful puzzle, with an ingenious final twist – literally! [MC]

Found this rather hard, but once solved the clues are fine. I have been struggling with the definition only clues, clearly need a crash course in Walt Disney characters. [GW]

Whew! I’ve had to chisel away at this one on numerous occasions and needed the Hints and Tips this morning for a couple. Unusually, discovering the theme did not lead to a rush of answers for me. Still not sure what the two black rectangles on the picture are meant to signify. Quite a challenge this month! [JB]

This was the hardest puzzle for me for a long while. I took ages to work out the theme and my knowledge of Disney characters is pretty poor so that didn’t help. However I really enjoyed the challenge. [MP]


Excellent 😎👍 [DM]

I really enjoyed this, though it was so hard at the start I nearly gave up. But it repaid the persistence and gradually light dawned as I chipped away at the clues. A great theme and amazing inclusion of so many characters, old and new. Well done Shark, and thanks. [BS]

Great puzzle. Probably the hardest 3d I’ve tackled, despite working out the theme early on. All clues were fair but, wow. Thank you. [JT]

Jiminy Cricket this was hard ! [SW]

Oh dear fun entering it. Joint effort, me with Google, him with brains. [RG]

Not sure I’ve got this one right, got the disney link, but didn’t understand what rotating the grid or the sub-grid was all about. [MD]

Phew. I look forward to finding out what the rotated iconic image is in due course! [RP]

Really good fun to do. [TC]

4 thoughts on “3D Crossword Solution – October 2023

  1. I must say that I am very much encouraged by these comments. Shark does not give it away: he is from the Listener* stable, where he is very highly thought of, and we are very thankful that he is allowing us to share in his rich vein of form. With every solver who said that it was tough, but that they enjoyed it, I feel a bond across the waves and/or particles.
    Thank you (personally) to those clever, well-rounded people who can both recognize an actor and put together a “four-part charade including lift-and-separate” (!)
    Congratulations to all those who persevered, and thank you for making and keeping this a civilised forum even in your time of trial!

    *wish I had time for that every week… (at least that’s my excuse)

  2. Thanks for the review and kind comments. Although it seemed tricky, I’m pleased that it has been well received for those that got there and even those that didn’t quite make the Disney connection with the steamboat. 2023 was the 100th anniversary, but not a lot happened for the first 5 years to make a puzzle from and the iconic first motion picture of Mickey seemed to work well in 3D land. My thanks to the editors for adding the funnels subtlety enough not to give it away, but hopefully give that nice penny drop moment after rotating.

    I had great fun setting it, hunting through lists of Disney characters adding or subtracting a thematic letter to make real words. I tried to keep all the entries as basic vocab as possible, but with the amount of restriction a few crossword-ese words crept in, which often come up in newspaper cryptic thematics. I hope for you it was more fun than frustrating when solving it.

    A few comments, including AGC’s editorial, suggested STEAMBOAT WILLIE is jumbled in the extra grid. In fact it is precisely laid out row by row when rotated (just a little diagonal as it doesn’t quite work in 3D reading across the grid … I had to change that at the last minute!). AGC’s letter colouring beautifully shows the reading order.

  3. I enjoyed this puzzle and have continued to enjoy all the explanations and comments, but am still perplexed (and intrigued) by one detail. Since we are told where all the up and down clues start and how long they are, what is the point of the grey squares and how is it helpful or necessary for us to be told that they ‘signify that no up or down clue can cross these regions of the grid’? I’m sorry if I am being dense, or even missing a witticism!

    1. I was initially perplexed by the grey squares too. I find it simplest to think of them as having bars above and below. If they were normal lights, you’d expect all the intersecting up/down strings to be real words, whether they are clued or not. In a normal 3D cubic grid, the greys would be darks and every second level would not contain any ac/ba/to/aw solutions. Here, Shark’s grey cells allowed him to pack in a lot more solutions than there otherwise would have been room for.

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