3D Crossword Solution – September 2021

Sept 2021 puzzle page

Clues and Grid by Shark

Theme: Freddie Mercury and Queen

The winner of the September puzzle was Jake Schumacher from Champaign, IL, USA.

Review of the September 2021 3D crossword

The instructions were lengthy. We were told that the crossword celebrates the unclued 5ac 13ac’s 75th anniversary (and later this year a 30th anniversary). Twenty answers must have the same thematic letter inserted or removed before entry (10 of each).  A further three answers need a two-letter thematic abbreviation inserted before entry. The star’s surname also contains these two abbreviations.

Finally, solvers must change the star’s full stage name to his original birth name, thereby creating 14 new entries. The final grid contains real words or names of five or seven letters in length; it is these final grid entries that need to be submitted.

Solvers should also submit with their entry a thematic title (6,5) which can be derived from the two highlighted words in the final altered grid, by using the red word (running from top right to bottom left) followed by the most appropriate possible example of the blue word.

Well this all takes a bit of unravelling the threads of which, no doubt, will become clearer as we make progress. With a view to adding a little tension and excitement I try and write these little summaries of my solve as if in real time. For some inexplicable reason Cliff Richard and his birth name of Harry Webb come to mind as an illustration of what we’re after. Clearly not right but maybe on the right lines. 

I note that the picture clue reveals our sought for hero. Surely a concentrated effort here might pay dividends. ‘Christ the Redeemer’ is obvious and is preceded by ‘F’ on the stave. So we have F(redeemer) together with the finishing “Y”. Ok take away an ‘e’ for mc2 and add ‘di’ for 501. Freddie Mercury obviously, ah! The dog is a ‘cur’. Maybe the earlier thoughts about Cliff helped subliminally. Either way we’ve made a good start. I note via a quick internet search that Freddie started life out as FARROKH BULSARA, which conveniently fits the grid. 

Solving the first few clues proves a struggle. A trial and error approach eventually produces results. We have to either add or subtract an ‘R’ from lots of clues. No idea yet why an ‘R’ is thematic but it clearly is. A few clues in I get a bit of luck ‘KIL’ emerge as the first three letters of the red shaded squares and KILLER fits. Surely the blue squares must lead to QUEEN. But we already have EULER, the setter’s favourite mathematician in the blue squares. Back to the rubric; a close read shows that we need the finally altered grid. I’m not sure which thought is triggered first but clearly RULER and QUEEN fit the bill and we’re cooking with gas.

Now it dawns (which in passing was a delightful clue 7 (4) Beginning French for DAWN) on me that ER must be the two letter thematic abbreviation. 

That, Shark, had all the ingredients for a cracking 3D puzzle, brilliant. Thank you so much. My favourite comment this week from GS nicely endorses this: Nice one Sharky, Nice one son, Nice One Sharky, Let’s have another one! (adapted from a popular football chant of the 1970s) [GS]

Postscript: We received the following comment from Jake, the winner of the August puzzle:

It is hard to express how much enjoyment the calendar puzzles give me, both the ingenuity of construction and the process of teasing out the answers. If I may ask, what is roughly the size of the “pool” of 3-D solvers?  I feel a great kinship and sense of community with fellow enthusiasts. It is a great project, and I appreciate and applaud all of the hard work you folks put in, and the fact that it is for the benefit of the chosen charities makes it even more meritorious. Well done, indeed!


(Answer to Jake’s question: we sold 322 of this year’s calendars with +-50 regularly submitting their answers and a number of others doing so occasionally. There are those who complete but don’t send in their results, and more who just potter through as far as they can go).

Grid solution

September 2021 solution grid

Visual clue

A complex charade clue: an F note, a statue of Christ against a backdrop of mountains, the right hand side of a famous equation being subtracted and 501 added, a dog and a Y.

F + REDEEMER with the second E (=mc2) replaced by DI (501) + CUR + Y = FREDDIE MERCURY

Visual clue for FREDDIE MERCURY
Drawing by Frank Paul

Clues and explanations

Thematic insertions and deletions are shown in square brackets.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
1AFT [+ER]11to Moving fine, round behind (3)FAT, with F moved
2ALSATIA11ac Hound lost his tail in London sanctuary (7)ALSATIA[n]
3ANNULET4ba Ring to cancel film (7)ANNUL + ET
  4B [-R] EAST8aw Mamma heads for Barcelona, reversing direction (6)B[arcelona] R[eversing] + EAST
  5CO [-R] RAL16up Correspond with aluminium pen (6)CORR + AL
  6DATE [+R]7d Lacking heart, poet’s to become old-fashioned (4)DA[n]TE
7D [+R] AWN17up Beginning French? (4)Double definition
  8D [-R] INKS7to GP pens in red and white? (6) DR + INKS
  9E [-R] ASES6d Removes periods, apostrophe and colons … finally! (6)ERAS + [apostrophe]E [colon]S
  10EULER6to Mathematician’s backward lesson adopts rubber (5)ULE in RE<
11F [+R] AGS5d Grinds and smokes (4)Double definition
  12FUTON5to Bed made from cut hair leads fashion (5)FU[r] + TON
13G [+R] APE2aw Open clothes shop before 2nd September (4)GAP + [s]E[ptember]
14GASTRIN2ba Crudely staring – it gets the juices flowing (7)STARING*
15G [-R] AMMY2d Simpson nearly returned brother’s award (6)MARG[e]< + MY
16MANT [-R] A9aw Chant from short woman in the art of seducing (6)MAN-TRA[p}
17MOBSTER9ba Gangsta’s playing trombones – not on! (7)TROMB[on]ES*
  18MO [+R] ON 13up Flash in the direction of Paddy’s lantern (4)MO + ON
19PAST [-R] Y20to Used in rotation, baking trays under pressure make pies and tarts? (6)P + TRAYS*; ‘down’ direction needed for “under” must be rotated to obtain the required ‘to’ direction for grid entry
20PEACE20up Quiet musical composition on the radio (5)Homophone of “Piece”
21PH [+R] ASES20ba Keeps parting foot steps (6)HAS in PES
  22RACE [-R] S14aw Group of scientists eating tree snakes (6)ACER in RS
  23RAT [+ER]1d Without limits, foolishly talk shop (3)[p]RAT[e]
24[-R] UDDER15aw Control fish before removing the tail (6)RUDD + ER[e]
25[-R] UMBOS15up Punches oddball manager docking one shilling (6)RUM + BOS[s]
26SC [+R] UM19to Film about cracking 10’s problem (4)C in SUM; 10=Euler
27SEDUCE [+R]18ba Lure immature sweetheart during date (6)DUC[k] in SEE
28SENNA18up Cathartic Queen’s downed? (5)ANNE’S<
29SP [+R] IT12to Perhaps whiskey (not Irish) for gob (4)SP[Ir]IT
30TATA [+R]3d Without record in advance, thematic rhapsody arguably is so long (4)[can]TATA
31T [+ER] RAIN10ac Money required to house artist school (5)RA in TIN
Easter EggKILLER QUEENThematic title (6,5)

Solvers’ comments

Interesting, unusual, made us think [JC]

A good mental workout. Needed to complete the puzzle on two sheets of paper to make sure I was right with the changes needed for the final solution! [JP]

Took us a couple of false starts before we got the thematic letter. We cracked the pictorial clue early on (much earlier than we usually do) which helped enormously. Overall, a very enjoyable puzzle. [CW]

Quite a workout! [SC]

I was lucky enough to guess FREDDIE MERCURY from an F and an E in his name and readily found his birth name as well as his birth and death dates (for confirmation). As well as enjoying solving the clues and discovering the thematic elements I admired, afterwards, the way that so many words could be changed to other real words when the name was changed. Only the F remained unchanged (not counting the unchecked R in both names). Parsing was a luxury with a few of the clues, and I will need to see the published solution to see what I missed. Thanks to Shark for a brilliant composition. [AB]

I never really got into Queen, so I probably missed lots of thematic references, but I enjoyed this anyway. [TH]

Great theme and great crossword. Was fortunate that I saw the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” not so long ago which certainly helped. I absolutely loved it when the penny dropped regarding the “R” and “ER” references to Her Majesty the Queen – terrific wordplay involving Freddie Mercury’s band’s name! And I really liked the way his real name was changed to accommodate his stage name in the grid. Thanks to Shark for a “champion” puzzle. [JA]

Very well constructed👌 Really enjoyed this as it concerned my all-time favourite band, Queen, who I was lucky enough to see live in 1984😍 I was absolutely gutted when I heard of Freddie’s death😭 [MN]

Woman with thematic abbreviation, man with fine skill, a fastener holds true—what this one gave me (5,5,6) [JC]

Liked the puzzle, didn’t care for this form not listing the real letter counts. [AB]

This must have been tricky to construct, with the final changes making proper words. I suppose the addition/removal of R gives more scope for those clues. I hope I’ve done the conversions correctly. 1, 15 & 30 somewhat puzzling. [MJ]

I am enjoying the variety of puzzles and clue adjustments before entry, in the 2021 calendar. Thanks as always! [JN]

As usual, needed to reverse-engineer the drawing to find that the dog is a CUR, and identify the Christ statue is the Redeemer. Although it didn’t too long to guess R as the thematic letter, it was much later, after seeing whose name would fit at 5ac, 13ac (and confirming dates by wiki) that I realised it (and ER) was for Queen. It was clever to be able to take advantage of the coincidence of the names’ lengths to achieve substitution keeping real words throughout. One thing I didn’t quite get was the ‘rhapsody reference at 3d – is the idea that “Bohemian Rhapsody” could be called a canTATA ? P.S. I’ve noticed that this entry form doesn’t have anywhere to submit my answer to 5ac,13ac- Farrokh Bulsara [PM]

A masterpiece of grid-construction by Shark: finding words which can be altered twice in that way and still make sense was brilliant. The clues are good too. This looked very daunting at the start, but in fact the thematic name came quite quickly. What a wonderful, unique voice the man had. [AC]

Very clever grid construction based on the nice observation that all four names have seven letters. We had the advantage of having read a book featuring the old sanctuary Alsatia. Lots of fun in this Bohemian rhapsody! [N&SI]

The most difficult this year, for me. Complicated post-solution manipulation, and I had never worked a Shark before so I had trouble with some cluing. Favorite phrase I had never heard before is “Paddy’s Lantern.” Thanks! [JS]

This was hard but I really enjoyed the challenge. Some of the clues already had letters that needed removing even before further changes before entry. I was very relieved when it all finally fitted in. [MP]

Wasn’t sure I’d ever make it past the instructions.. And proof reading was a nightmare! Good fun though. [DH]

Nice one Sharky, Nice one son, Nice One Sharky, Let’s have another one! (adapted from a popular football chant of the 1970s) [GS]

My head is spinning! [SF]


Once I’d got into it I really enjoyed this puzzle. [EW]

FREDDIE MERCURY -> FARROKH BULSARA! Lovely tribute, and so many changes to fit in, keeping real words…a great grid construction. [MC]

Wow! I thought I would never decipher the rubric. What a complicated puzzle! Hats off to the compiler Shark. [JB]

Pain in the hole to put the answers in; great puzzle! [RS]

Feels like an onion: needs lots of peeling to get to the final thing. Typical Shark puzzle; lots to like, with some obscure words. Just how I like it. Let’s see how many go’s it needs to submit; this is attempt 2. (Scrub, not scrab!) [HS]

Fiendishly clever. For once (and partly thanks to the picture clue) I saw the theme very early – but it did not help as much as I hoped. Convolutions for what is entered above are very convoluted but I think I have cracked it. Many thanks – must have been harder to compile than to solve, with all the substitutable letters to keep track of. [EF]

Wow! This was a challenge to fill in the final answers. I will not be surprised if I get the error message that I need to check my spelling! It must have taken incredible skill to compile it with all those built-in changes and the “Queen” = E(R) idea was sheer genius. Thanks to SHARK for a real brain teaser. [SB]

What a wonderful puzzle! Layer upon layer of trickery to solve and so clever to create the grid without many unusual words. A great achievement. Thanks to all [BS]

This has been a very traumatic month for me, in spite of which I’ve finally managed to complete the puzzle. It was a welcome distraction at times! I needed a couple of the hints to finish it off. Tricky following the instructions at times, but an enjoyable puzzle with a good theme. Thanks! [RS]

Mobster and Gastrin helped get to the R, then E?D?E got me to Freddie, so most fell in then. Complication on making sure to enter correct version of each answer! [DM]

My brain hurts. A lot. [SW]

really not sure about my answer for 3d, but a really clever puzzle and great fun to do [MD]

I have no idea what is going on, doing what I am told by my master. Had to query the last answer, a little clearer now. My master is happy, he enjoyed it. [RG]

Absolutely loved this one, thanks! And not just because I jokingly guessed the theme just from the picture…and then slowly realised my ‘joke’ was right as we went through the clues. My favourite one so far! Now just hoping I wrote the final answers in correctly after all the changes. [AH]

A tour de force !! The grid fill in particular is a work of art: managing to fit in words that cross properly with FREDDIE MERCURY and also with FARROKH BULSARA, always making real words (proper nouns like EULER and ALSATIA are allowed in my opinion!!!) … and without needing *any* snakes !!!!! Absolutely brilliant. [HE]

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for etc. Incredible feat of fiendish crossword construction. [J&JH]

One thought on “3D Crossword Solution – September 2021

  1. The complex instructions completely put me off, so rather than a DNF, this was a DNS. I had vaguely guessed it might be JOHN LENNON so wasn’t in the best shape.
    I think I made a wise decision for me, but looks like plenty of people got some pleasure from what is undoubtedly a most ingenious puzzle.

    Bravo Shark – Killer Setter!

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