Hints & Tips November 2023

November 2023 grid page

Clues and Grid by Soup

Enter the prize draw by 30 November.

The background for this puzzle is a Graham Fox photograph showing a meal of alphabetti spaghetti on toast.

This puzzle uses a modified 7x5x5 grid by Soup in which the central 7-letter entries have been extended to 9 letters. Clues are given in alphabetical order of their solutions, which should be fitted into the grid jigsaw-wise wherever they will go.

Solutions may read across, back, towards, away, up or down but there are no snakes. Each letter of the alphabet is used to start at least one solution; where two or more solutions begin with the same letter, they start from the same square in the grid. Letters in the yellow squares can be anagrammed to an appropriate word.

This beautifully designed puzzle (runner-up in the RPM trophy) is designed as an alphabetical jigsaw and the clues come in pairs as rhyming couplets (the sentence in the box on the last row forms a couplet with Day 33). I will give some advice below on solving the puzzle as an alphabetical jigsaw, but it should be noted that a directed version of the puzzle is being published on Saturday 25th November.

The blank grid for this puzzle is preserved by three separate reflections (up/down, across/back and to/away) and this means that there would be eight ways of filling the grid. The required way is precisely determined by the specified A, B and C. I found that rather than waiting until one had enough information to determine precise locations, it is easier to start filling in a blank grid and then one can always adjust to the correct orientation once the grid is complete. A suitable blank grid is the 7x5x5 grid found on the third page of the 3D grid templates provided here (you’ll have to extend the middle entries on each level to by adding a square at each end).

It is particularly important to note the highlighted sentence above. Every letter is used to start at least one solution (so we know that Day 1 starts with an A and Day 33 starts with a Z). And whenever two or more solutions begin with the same letter, they start from the same square in the grid. There is one letter that begins three different solutions and if you find it then this is a great place to start filling in a blank grid (this letter must appear in a corner on the top or bottom level).

Soup has served up a tasty dish of elegant design and clever cluing. Bon appetit!

Day 2

They cut down posters captain’s featured in (9)

You need a specific captain (afraid of a crocodile) inserted in a word for posters. The answer is the final word (seen, but not spoken) in a celebrated Two Ronnies sketch. [NI]

Day 3

One from LA, about five months ago… (5)

LA usually means the US city, but here it means the US state. A short abbreviation for about followed by a longer one for five months ago gives an inhabitant of the state. [NI]

Day 5

Camel’s head and back — or maybe just the head… (5)

A single letter for camel’s head followed by something on a camel’s back gives us a word whose less familiar meaning is the head. [NI]

Day 8

Mouth-ful I fork Steph — we’re having thirds (5)

Nothing to do with food. Think of another word for a mouth then choose every third letter after the hyphen. [JP]

Day 9

Lures with elfish cunning (it’s not hard) (5)

The trick with this clue is to treat lure as a noun rather than its more common use as a verb. And if cunning indicates an anagram (as indeed it does) where are the 5 letters needed? Take the remaining 6-letter word and before treatment remove the letter as suggested within the brackets. [GS]

Day 17

Butch physicist who’s paired with third of blondes (5)

A scientist interested in the relative speeds of stuff followed by the third letter in the word blondes. Pedants might say not a direct synonym but hey, live and let live. [GS]

Day 22

Queen swearing King’s away, with voice a-shake (9)

Swear here is not bad language but four letters promising the absolute truth: when we add the -ing we double the last letter giving an 8-letter word. Two letters representing Queen before our word for swearing assuming King has gone AWOL gives our word for with voice a-shake. [GS/NI]

Day 30

Scrooge’s hat’s tipped up — it’s more discerning (5)

What is Scrooge famously? Hat’s tipped up refers to the first letter being turned upside down to give you a word for more discerning. [JP]

Day 33

Artist girl’s fired — upset, trousers cash (9)

You need to think of an artist (hint, it’s a French artist). Then remove (fired) a girl’s name and reverse (upset) what’s left. Follow this with a type of trousers to give you an old currency (cash) that the Doge might have used before 1797. [JP]

I am grateful to the other members of the Hints & Tips team: Garry Stripling (Gin) and Jim Pennington (Philostrate).

Happy solving!

Nick Inglis (etc)

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