3D Crossword Solution – September 2022

September 2022 puzzle page

Clues by Imogen and Grid by Patch

Theme: The Hobbit

The winner of the September puzzle is Robin Stephenson of London.

Review of the September 2022 3D crossword

I quailed when considering Imogen’s September puzzle, for of all the Guardian daily setters, he is the one I often find the most difficult. He was once Editor of crosswords for the Times, and I am sure that on the days when I could not get a foothold in that puzzle, it was usually one of his. However, I actually found this to be one of the year’s easiest so far: it helped that I am very familiar with the works of JRR Tolkien.

Patch’s grid is a superbly controlled production: while there is a window, a musical direction and an instrument, there are no bars; while there is a dragon and various kinds of non-human, there are no snakes (whatever Day 4 might suggest). I must say I don’t mind snakes when solving, but they do often suggest (if non-thematic) that something has got slightly out of hand. I don’t know what happened to the yellow cells: they were rather transparent, making filling in the grid slightly difficult, with my tentative pencil anyway; but that was a minor inconvenience.

The LONELY MOUNTAIN (Erebor) was nicely distributed through the levels, as was THE HOBBIT. Those thematic items which appeared as entries were not cruelly disguised: I liked the way the elements sword, receptacle and drinks were incorporated into BILBO BAGGINS, while there and back again was one of the many titles that reluctant hero himself proposed for his book. BOMBUR was of course only ‘so small’ in one dimension: we should perhaps give the 3D facts here with the update from The Lord of the Rings that he had later become so fat that several colleagues were needed to carry him to the table to eat. THORIN’s clue neatly brings in something of Tolkien’s own story: his way into the writing of fiction was through his scholarship in various mediaeval languages (though The Hobbit was composed for his children, while he continued that lifelong digestion of ideas linguistic, cultural and religious which would ultimately produce what he saw as his real work, The Silmarillion).

Imogen is good at misdirection: here he was in a very helpful mood in general, but there were some nice examples of clues whose subject seems far from that which is really defined. IMSHI as shove off was nice, and probably generated by his decision to work Loch Ness into the following clue; OUTSING does that sneaky thing, defining a verb by using what in the clue plays the role of a noun: our grandparents in Cryptics would not have let us get away with that, but I am very glad that the cause of mystification today is served by a greater variety of devices. Finally UNDUE is another tricky customer, repeating the change in part of speech but also requiring the subtraction of three initial letters from the half-way stage undulate: I must admit I reverse-solved that one, and even that took most of the month.

Other clues I particularly enjoyed were those for PSALM – still without work giving the S which remains when till is taken off – which is one of the trickier ones; the smashing SINGED, which gives a giggle over the grammatical error at the same time as we appreciate the neatness of the barbershop double meaning – perhaps the best clue here for the purist; and the juxtaposition of ELVES and DWARVES (a proximity that’s been risky ever since the Nauglamir incident) with the very felicitous link referring to the imprisonment of the questing group by Thranduil’s forces. Incidentally, what a great episode that is, with its echoes of Robin’s escape from Nottingham, The Borrowers Afloat (published two decades later, but never mind) and even the doomed Babington Plot.

Frank Paul’s visual clue gives us another feature of Tolkien’s books: for they are page-turners which do indeed forbid the Zs of sleep. Does the recumbent figure conceal a torch under the covers, as many will have done when first reading The Hobbit and other works? Graham Fox has again risked life and limb to bring us our splendid background photograph. BEORN may have a small role in the story, but he is one of its most mysterious figures; and at any rate it wasn’t GOLLUM.

All together a fine and very approachable tribute to one of the master’s early works, and to him (see his published Letters) likely to have been much more acceptable than some of the excesses of Hollywood.


Grid solution

September 2022 solution grid

Visual clue

Two lizards and a no sleeping sign give:


Visual clue for LIARDS
Drawing by Frank Paul

Clues and explanations

Thematic solutions are indicated with an asterisk.

DaySolutionDirection, Clue, CountExplanation
DaySolutionDir Clue Letter countExplanation
1AGITATO15ac Musician’s nervously excited by a soldier regularly beating out tattoo on time (7)A / GI / T(ime) / tAtToO
2AROUSE8d Evoke love, taken in by a trick (6)A / R(O)USE
3ARSENAL8ba Learns about keeping arms, initially here perhaps (7)LEARNS* round A(rms)
4BEORN*14aw Giant bear sometimes, cobra regularly, seen in mountain (5)Thematic Character. cObRa in BEN. (“Giant” and “bear sometimes” are two definitions)
5BILBO BAGGINS*9to,9ac He went there and back again with sword, receptacle, and drinks (5,7)Thematic Character – Hero. BILBO / BAG / GINS.
6BOMBUR*9d Fail badly, extremely unfair for one so small (6)Thematic Character – one of the dwarves. BOMB / UnfaiR
7DWARVES*19ac Questing group departs and signals when across river … (7)Thematic Characters. D / WA(R)VES
8ELVES*22to … their captors themselves half destroyed (5)Thematic Characters. (thems)ELVES. Capture is in chapter 9
9GEMINI23up Sign for one to return car (6)EG< / MINI
10GENET10to Spotted animal in information film (5)GEN / ET
11GOBLIN*4d Malicious creature commonly eating ravenously, it’s said (6)Thematic Character. “GOBBLIN(g)”
12GOLLUM*10d He had a precious piece of wood put back by chimney (6)Thematic Character. LOG< / LUM
13IMAGE17to Statue of one leading sorcerer (5)I / MAGE
14IMSHI3aw Shove off: I’m on powerless vessel … (5)I’M / SHI(p)
15IN ESSE3d … that is touring loch, actually (2,4)in actual existence. I(NESS)E
16INSPIRE18ba One sniper relaxes to draw breath (7)I / SNIPER*
17ISSUE18aw Big publication for children (5)Ref. The Big Issue
18LIARDS5d Old French coins detective found on dishonest witness? (6)small coin formerly used in France LIAR / DS
19MILLION16ac Working at factory, one huge number (7)ON (working) after MILL / I
20NAIRAS6d Colourful wrap, article returned for cash in W Africa (6)the basic monetary unit of Nigeria (SARI / AN)<
21ORIEL13aw Men lie, misbehaving in college (5)OR (other ranks) / LIE*
22OSPREY1d One taking fish, very large pair you put back (6)OS / PR / YE<
23OUTSING1ac Excursion includes small defeat at Eisteddfod (7)OUT(S)ING
24PROVERB12ac Saw spin deliveries bowled (7)PR / OVER / B
25PSALM12aw One may be in service, still without work in hand (5)S(till) in PALM (Psalm as part of church service)
26SINGED11d Treated in barbershop perhaps, sang all wrong? (6)Pun on “barbershop”; ref. inaccurate past tense of “sing”
27SMAUG*11to Smirking, having captured a terrifying creature (5)Thematic character – a dragon. SM(A(UG
28STARVE7d Have no food? With very little to take in, tears flow (6)TEARS* round V(ery)
29THORIN*2d Letter in Old English about one diminutive lord (6)Thematic character – Dwarf King. THOR(I)N
30UKULELE20ac Plucky little thing from Britain united with two of the French (7)UK / U(nited) / LE / LE
31UMAMI21to What’s offered by plum? A mild flavour (5)A savoury, satisfying taste. Hidden
32UNDUE20to Extraordinary wave dumps litter, all tossed along the front (5)UNDULATE minus L(itter) A(ll) T(ossed)
RequiredLONELY MOUNTAINDestination (orange highlights) (6,8)
RequiredTHE HOBBITTheme (yellow highlights) (3,6)

Solvers’ comments

Nice memories of reading this in the ’60s [GL]

Richly themed, nicely clued, and an anniversary worth commemorating. Having said that, I was never a great fan: I read LOTR in one marathon session when I was a student (but we all did in those days), but never got around to reading The Hobbit. Somebody misguidedly gave me The Silmarillion and it sat unopened on my shelf until a recent clearout — hope the charity shop managed to sell it! [TH]

Enjoyable again😃 Not too difficult with so much thematic material included. Thanks👌 [MN]

Great to meet so many old friends from The Hobbit in this excellent puzzle. Some words new to me, notably the Arabic for s** off! As so often, I only sussed the picture clue after solving it from the text. Many thanks to Imogen and Patch. [RS]

Fairly straightforward once the theme was identified. [HB]

A very enjoyable reminder of a great story. [RE]

Excellent puzzle. [RG]

Nice theme + a lovely puzzle! [JG]

The name of Imogen normally strikes fear in the heart of this Guardian solver but this proved to be a gentle solve with a theme that 3D setters must surely have been itching to get their hands on. A bit naughty of Patch not to wait for the centenary in 2037! A nice bit of misdirection from the photograph, but the rebus proved gettable too. [PA]

Quite difficult to start, but once the theme became apparent went in quite easily. [RC]

I guessed the theme from the first line of the instructions, confirmed by the remainder. I particularly liked 24. 25 puzzling. [MJ]

Maybe my favourite theme so far, even with the obscure coins and currencies. Over far too quickly. Thanks again. [HH]

Got theme quickly which helped. Good clueing made it a fairly straightforward solve. [JP]

Very enjoyable! Got the theme straightaway, and nice to see so many themed clues and solutions. “IN ESSE” was new to us, keeping up the vocabulary extension that’s happened every month in 2022. We particularly enjoyed the clues for days 17, 25 and 30. Thank you Imogen and Patch. [CW]

Started early this month in the expectation of a difficult one since I thought they got harder through the year – but this was the easiest puzzle for ages, with an obvious theme, mostly easy clues and very straightforward to fit the answers in! All very welcome after the torturings of May, June & August! As always, I appreciated the wealth of thematic features although I didn’t know the books well enough to identify them all without recourse to Google! [EF]

No difficulty in finding the theme this month, as I remember when the book first came out and being disappointed that there wasn’t any more then. I’ glad that the wordplay was helpful in reminding me of the characters, as it’s a while since I last read the book, . [PM]

An enjoyable puzzle, themed on the only work by Tolkien that I have read (its sequel being too long!). I thought it was a good example of this type of puzzle, with an easily readable layout, a good set of clues given in the customary order, and a well-executed theme. I look forward to more of the same: meanwhile, thanks to Imogen and Patch. [AB]

Satisfying to recognise such a well known theme, and be able to solve it wlithout recourse to Wikipedia. Although it turms out that we struggled with our unches. We particularly liked the dwarves, the elves and the goblin. [J&JH]

I much appreciated the clever clues [PD]

I found this a much more accessible puzzle than August’s…..and much easier to put the solutions in the grid too! A very satisfying challenge. Thank you Imogen and Patch. [JB]

Thanks to Imogen and Patch for an enjoyable puzzle. Hard to believe “The Hobbit” is 85 years old! I recall teaching the novel in the 1980s to several bunches of Year 9s (usually aged about 14 years) in English classes. Lots of drawing of display maps and posters of the what the characters and creatures might have looked like, discussions about the nature of heroism, the journey themes, and the notion of good triumphing over evil. Sorry – off the track. Some very clever wordplays and I even understood the picture clue! [JA]

A most enjoyable puzzle to solve, and I certainly know a lot more about Tolkien’s creations now! Thank you for the challenge everyone! [SF]

A lot easier than August for which I personally am grateful [RP]

Lovely puzzle, thank you. One of my favourite books and one of the first computer games I remember playing too. All the clues were fair and I learned a couple of new words for currency, if I should ever travel to Nigeria or mediaeval France! [JT]

Stuck for ages due to having ‘OUSTING’ for ‘OUTSING’ in 1AC! Sneaky! [RS]

Enjoyed the theme! [EW]

I don’t know anything about the Hobbit but the answers were gettable from the clear clueing. Interesting puzzle [JC]

Struggled due to lack of Hobbit knowledge but all worked out thanks to the fair wordplay. [SC]

As well as general appreciation for another excellent puzzle, we particularly enjoyed reaching clue 22 on the exact day we saw “one taking fish” for real! [AH]

The theme was not too taxing to spot! Well done on incorporating so many of the names into the puzzle – I only had to look up one, which was not too bad. Some clues were unnecessarily tricky, I thought, especially Day 26 which was unsolvable without the hints!!!. [SB]

Excellent puzzle, packing so many different references in quite a restricted space, and I loved how many of the clues were quite descriptive and evocative of the book too. [MS]

Theme immediate from Reluctant hero, which helped! Lovely puzzle. As ever a few new words that only needed dictionary check 😎👍 [DM]

A delightful trip through a classic. Imogen and Patch take us entertainingly There and Back Again! [NI]

Great book, great puzzle, thanks! [AR]

Very Clever [JM]

Lovely theme – both grid and clues a fitting tribute to imaginative world created by Tolkien. Thanks to all involved. [BS]

Great. But stunned by the fact we were celebrating 85 years. [AM]

Maybe if I had ever managed to finish the books it might not have been such a struggle to complete! Still enjoyable, as always, but not convinced it’s all correct. [DB&MJ]

I always love it when a puzzle turns out to be something I actually know about. Many fond memories jogged by this one, and several new words learned. Also loved the bear photo! Many thanks to the setters and illustrators. [JS]

What a great puzzle. This took me back years to when my son loved the book. …and the films. A lot of great clues and I even figured out the drawing this time. [SW]

Great, but my master had never read it, and I was drawing on long time ago memories. Got there I think. Thank you [RG]

Clue 32 was a NIGHTMARE, and nearly stopped our clear run [RS]

Been a long, long while since I read this, but still remembered enough to complete a fun puzzle [MD]

A fairly well-trodden theme, but justified here by the anniversary, and impressive as usual for the amount of thematic material packed in…some of which was a bit faded and needed e-assistance…maybe time for a re-read! [MC]

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