Clues by Nutmeg and Grid by Mang
The background for this puzzle is a Graham Fox photograph showing the centre of a plasma ball.
This puzzle uses a conventional 5x5x5 grid by Mang and concerns a process by which in past eras someone might have dreamed of using the yellow cells (6,3,5) to change to pink cells (4,5,2,5). The pairs of letters in the mauve cells should be altered to three elements involved in this change, making real words which read in the same direction as the original grid entries. In clue order, definitions for the words which result from this change are “drums, disconcert, gazelle, knees, knife, girder, crude”.
Solvers are required to submit with their entries a 7-letter word describing the whole process. Clues are presented in alphabetical order of their solutions except that Days 17 and 18 are the wrong way round.
For the seven clues involving a mauve cell, the amended words rather than the original clue answers should be submitted. The amended words are unclued, but have definitions listed in the preamble.
I have to admit to being confused by the use of the term “clue order” mentioned in the instructions, so I shall now explain in pedantic detail my understanding of this. “Clue order” is not the order in which the clues are actually presented, but the order we might have used if we had not chosen to present the clues in alphabetical order. This means that to identify the amended words with the definitions these clues should be ordered first by increasing number of the initial cell, and then (in the case where two clues start at the same cell), by the directions ordered as follows: ac, ba, aw, to, d, up. [This is not an arbitrary list: we number the cells, first across the rows, then away among the rows on each level and then down the levels, so ac (then ba) then aw (then to) then d (then up).]
For example: Days 11-14 (none of which involve a mauve cell) have direction indications 10aw, 10ac, 1ac, 7ac, but in “clue order” these would be 1ac, 7ac, 10ac, 10aw.
Finally a word about the phrases in the pink and yellow cells. The pink message (4,5,2,5) paraphrases the intention of the thematic process.
I don’t know the official explanation of the yellow phrase, but here is my understanding. The yellow phrase relates to something much sought-after for the thematic process (not the Chamber of Secrets!). The yellow phrase has taken the first possessive word of this two-word notion and replaced this general word with a particular example (still in possessive form) and followed this with a word to indicate that we are taking a specific example.
Nutmeg and Mang have created a fabulous construction enabling solvers to transmute worthless letters into precious solutions.
Arsenic divided by Republican running serious crime (5)
You need the chemical symbol for Arsenic split (divided) by abbreviation for Republican followed by another word for ‘running’ to give you serious crime. [JP]
Nice moggies and rabbits (5)
As it is the first word in the clue, “nice” is correctly spelt with a capital letter, but it is a bluff. This is not nice as in nice but nice as in Nice, the French city. The French word for cats is literally also a word in English for informal conversations. [GS]
Grass needing energy to stab criminal (5)
This surface cunningly suggests a falling-out among villains, but here stab indicates one word inside another. Look for a short word for energy inside a slightly longer word for criminal. The answer (not in Chambers, but in Collins or the ODE) is a tropical grass of the Philippines. [NI]
Thracian tribes’ guests are regularly seen off (5)
Not sure how warlike they were, but regularly seen off is not about fighting invaders. It tells you to get rid of (“see off”) the regular letters of “guests are” to leave you with the Thracian tribes. [JP]
Relish hosting us top shows (5)
For me, this is the most annoying type of clue in the book! The solution is simple once you know the trick. It is “hidden” within the words of the clue itself. So a synonym for Relish as is shown in the three middle words. [GS]
Disorderly striker reportedly (5)
For those solvers with no interest in football whatsoever; this man was given the award of Best Player of the Tournament in Qatar last year (2022). [GS]
Grounded flier reaches river in China (5)
This clue has the very simple construction of a double definition. There is more than one river in China that fits the checked letters, but only one that is also a Tupí word for a South American bird similar to the ostrich. [NI]
Travelling, you sat beside mum, dressing (5)
Not on holiday with your mother! Travelling is an anagram indicator referring to ‘you’. Put that beside another word for mum to give you the dressing (Japanese name for soy sauce). [JP]
I am grateful to the other members of the Hints & Tips team: Garry Stripling (Gin) and Jim Pennington (Philostrate).
Nick Inglis (etc)