Toughie 146 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 146

Toughie No 146 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Tilsit

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ****

An elegant and challenging puzzle from one of the best crossword setters and a personal favourite of mine.  Some very clever and thought-provoking clues mixed with accessible ones provide a good challenge for solvers.  The clues have beautiful surface readings as well.


1a Requirement for thriller from American writers in southeast (8)
{SUSPENSE}  A nice clue to start with.  An abbreviation for American and a word for “writers”, here the tools of writing rather than the people.  All this is inside SE to give something that every good thriller gives its reader or viewer.

5a Classy fur with a practical purpose (6)
{USABLE}  One of the standard crossword abbreviations relates to being posh and derives from the 1950’s when after being cited by a Professor in Birmingham, it was taken up  by Nancy Mitford. (“U or Non-U”) It refers to Upper Class and Non-U refers to the aspiring middle class.  So here take the abbreviation that refers to “classy” and add it to a type of fur to get a word meaning practical and serviceable.

9a Unreliability of feminine girl rounding aged cattle (9)
{FLAKINESS}  Here aged refers to an old word for cattle, biblical I think.  This is surrounded by and abbreviation for Feminine (F) and a word for a girl.  This leads to a word for unreliable that seems to be back in vogue nowadays.

11a Poker of holes in “sure-fire” guarantee, partly retracted (5)
{AUGER}  The phrase “partly retracted” is key here and refers to a hidden answer, but in reverse. So, hidden backwards within the phrase “sure-fire” guarantee is a word for a device that puts holes in things.

12a Drift net initially chokes shore bird (6)
{WANDER}  Although a rather unpleasant  image, a clever surface reading to this clue.   Initially invies you to take the first letter of “net” and “chokes” suggests it is used to block (i.e. go inside) a generic name for a shore bird.  This leads to the definition, which is “drift”.

13a Note dwelling in manageable home (8)
{DOMICILE}  Take one of the notes of the musical scale and insert it inside a word meaning “manageable” or placid.  You should find yourself with a legal word for a home.

15a What shall we do with the drunken sailors? Maintain discipline (3,1,5,4)
{RUN A TIGHT SHIP}  Terrific clue.  A double definition, but one of these is rather cryptic and uses a variation on the title of an old sea shanty!  Think of a word for “drunken” and add it to where you find them.  The alternative definition of “maintain discipline” can refer to within any organisation.

18a A chance for social mixing? (8,5)
{COCKTAIL PARTY}  Think “mixed drinks” and where you might get them.

22a This highlights the way a confused lad gets into marijuana (8)
{HEADLAMP}  About the only benefit of the drug culture is that it has provided crossword setters with some new abbreviations (E for Ecstasy, for example).  Here it’s a bit more “old-fashioned” in that we are looking for the plant that produces the drug  and inside goes A plus an anagram of LAD.

23a Improve form of current measure by minister (6)
{REVAMP}  The minister you are looking for here is clerical rather than political, and in abbreviated form.  Next to this shortened form, you should please the unit of measurement relating to electric current.  You should find a word for a makeover.

26a Signal disturbance: it’s beginning in front of aircraft (5)
{NOISE}  A word for the front of an aircraft with the beginning to the word “it”, and that will give you a word that relates to a disturbance of a signal.

27a President’s unexpected vote loser (9)
(ROOSEVELT}  Lovely apposite anagram of VOTE LOSER to give the surname of two of America’s Presidents

28a Investigator unravelled hustle (6)
{SLEUTH} Another pleasing anagram.

29a Stealing billion with one attempt (8)
{BANDITRY}  A simple word sum works out a clue with every word counting.  B (Billion) + AND (with) + I (one) + TRY (attempt) = a word for stealing.


1d Computer application’s forte was crashing! (8)
{SOFTWARE} Again you have to admire the elegant surface reading.  Anagram of FORTE WAS for

2d Length divided by width is 4 (5)
{SPAWN)  A word for length (as in life length) with an abbreviation for width inside gives you a word with the same meaning as the answer to 4 down.

3d Noticeable depression after I have flipped (7)
{EVIDENT}    Word sum.  The shortened way to say  I have reversed (flipped) +  a depression = A word that means noticeable.

4d One who’s been given a court order? (4)
{SEED}  A cryptic definition.  Think of Wimbledon and its top players rather than  anything illegal.

6dStart of something extravagant but unoriginal (7)
{SLAVISH}  Another sum.   The first letter of “Something” + a word meaning extravagant = a word for unoriginal.

7d Hollywood stars taken for a hair-raising ride? (3,6)
{BIG DIPPER} One of my favourite clues. A double definition.  Hollywood stars does not refer to films or celebrities but matters celestial.  The American name for a constellation, probably the most famous one.  The other definition refers to somewhere you’ll never find me when at the funfair.

8d Student’s less latitude in source of income (6)
{EARNER}  A different type of word sum.  A word for a student minus the letter L (for latitude) =

Arthur Daley’s favourite word for a source  of income

10d Charmer open to debate — in silence, that is (8)
{SMOOTHIE}  A  word for debate, quite an old word, think of something that goes after “Shire” and before “point” to make reasonably common phrases.  Pop it inside an abbreviation for “Silence!” Add the abbreviation for “that is” and you’ll have a word meaning a lounge lizard or charmer.

14d Get grime shifted by this kitchen utensil (3,5)
{EGG TIMER}  An anagram of “Get grime” will reveal something used to help with breakfast.

16d Fruit aren’t nice if mashed (9)
{NECTARINE} An anagram of “aren’t nice” reveals a fruit.  Again surface reading to admire.

17d Fellow feeling self-conscious about my upward caress (8)
{SYMPATHY}  The definition here is “Fellow feeling”.   A word meaning “self-conscious” with MY reversed and a word for “caress”.

19d Green bottom in French drain (7)
{CULVERT}  The expression “cul de sac” derived from the French meaning “bottom of bag”.  So it’s the word for “bottom” in French together with the word for Green in French.  Put together they reveal a word for a type of drain.

20d Clergyman’s income to prove flexible in advance? (7)
{PREBEND}  Here we are looking for the old name for a Clergyman (the crosswording forefather Afrit was one of these).   If you note the question mark here, it means the setter is probably asking you to think a little outside the box.  So, “to prove flexible in advance” here means a word for “be flexible” with a prefix for “advance” at the front.

21d Gist of Oscar acceptance speech from F. Gump actor (6)
{THANKS}  My favourite clue, quite clever and breathtaking.  Again it’s a sort of double definition.  What do most Oscar acceptance speeches major on?  The second half is asking you to work out the name of the actor who played Forrest Gump.  Note that in the clue it’s shown as F Gump, so the name you want might just need to be similarly abbreviated.  Very clever and one of the best clues I have seen recently.

24d Perhaps fail to get older person acting for another (5)
{AGENT} Again a little outside the box thinking, shown by the use of ”Perhaps”.   Fail to get older could be AGE NOT but as in the expression “Don’t” etc.  so here we want AGE N’T.  This gives a person acting for someone else.

25d Prolonged unconsciousness leads to cessation of mental activity (4)
{COMA}  The first letters of(“leads to”) four of the words will give you a word for “prolonged unconsciousness”.

A superbly –crafted puzzle and thanks to Notabilis for this outstanding challenge.

6 comments on “Toughie 146

  1. Tilsit, couldn’t help but notice that 1a “Requirement for thriller from American writers in southeast” looked very much like the 8d “American writers in south-east creating tension” from 25927 from yesterday

    1. Ah! I haven’t had chance to do yesterday’s yet, he said rather

  2. I agree with tilsit – a very enjoyable puzzle, with nothing overly taxing in it.

  3. Hot Lips liked 21d too and would like to nominate it as his clue of the week (if thats still an option!!). As for it being too simple, BB, it was just about my level!

  4. If I’ve got the pseudonyms right and Notabilis is also Kea of the Listener and Nestor at the Indie, this was unexpectedly easy for me! But still a very classy puzzle. Not sure that all his editors would have allowed “AGEN’T” but the answer wasn’t hard to find.

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