Toughie 251 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 251

Toughie No 251 by Notabilis

The right stuff

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

A good, solid and challenging workout from Notabilis, aka Kea, aka a long-established Times setter. I made pretty rapid progress to complete the NW and SE corners, but the other two gave all kinds of trouble. In almost all cases it was down to me not spotting the right things, although one hold-up was due to not knowing the reference at 18dn.

Quality setting throughout, and definitely on the tough side of tough.

Please let us have your comments and questions; and don’t forget the curly brackets contain the answers – left-click and drag the cursor over them and all will be revealed.

In a slight deviation from the norm I’ve shown in blue any clues that rocked my boat. You will no doubt have others.


1a Bishop that is put in a home avoided questions (7)
{PARRIED} It fooled me for a while until I realised the Bishop abbreviation isn’t B but RR (Right Reverend). Pair this with I.E. (that is) and place inside a word for “a home” – as in, one’s place – for the answer.


5a Pulpy fruit broth to get right in order sent in (7)
{SOURSOP} Tempting to read “Pulpy fruit broth” as one thing, but the definition is just “Pulpy fruit”. What the “broth” contains is R (right) and SO (for Standing Order). This held me up as I thought the answer was hyphenated, until Chambers put me right.

Wrong parsing by me. Thanks to gazza for pointing out the SO component is just a definition “in order”.

9a End chapter is somewhat dry (4-3)
{DEMI-SEC} Simple construction; a word for the end/finish of something plus C (chapter). “Somewhat dry” refers to wine.

10a Unfortunate jingle? (7)
{ADVERSE} A verse specially written to be used in an advertisement would be an ___.

11a Start of calm peace following fury? (9)
{CEASEFIRE} A beautiful all-in-one clue. The start of “calm” is C, then a 4-letter word meaning “peace”, then F (following) and a word for “fury”. The whole thing makes sense as a (sometimes temporary) cessation of armed hostilities.

12a Polish river comes before French one (5)
{RHONE} “Polish” in the clue is actually a verb, meaning to get something into a perfect form. Before this is R (river) – the answer is a well-known French river.


13a Rector in a low voice often rubbed church plate (5)
{BRASS} Another ecclesiastical abbreviation R (rector) inside “a low voice”. The clever definition uses “plate” as any metal surface, from which rubbings may be taken for artistic purposes.


15a Misuse of relic guarded by wise elder, perhaps (9)
{SACRILEGE} Another good all-in-one, perhaps slightly looser in definition than 11a. “Misuse of relic” leads to an anagram of RELIC, which is inside a word for a wise person (possibly an elder – not always).

17a Minutes and minutes wasted on a dream (9)
{MEMORANDA} Very nice build here. The “minutes” at the start is the definition, but not minutes as in time – they’re minutes as in notes. For the answer, use M (minutes) and an anagram (wasted) of ON A DREAM.

19a Dispute generally involves backing such a striking outfit (3-2)
{GET-UP} Simple but annoyingly well-hidden reversal inside “dispute generally”.

22a Sacred piece of spiritual symbol with ends transposed (5)
{MOTET} Swap round the first and last letters of TOTEM. Little known fact: the Anax family tree goes to Canadian Indian stock only a handful of generations ago – so words like “totem” are very familiar, although I have little use for such a thing personally.

23a I may suggest a red battle site remain with Resistance (9)
{SOMMELIER} Possibly a very minor weak link in terms of surface reading, but lovely definition in “I may suggest a red”. The battle site is a famous/infamous one from the Great War. Add to this LIE (remain) and R (resistance – doesn’t need the capital letter but it looks better in the clue).


25a I’m going to run away from border in disgrace (3,4)
{ILL FAME} Don’t know why I struggled with this as it’s very straightforward. In “disgrace” (our definition) we have a shortened form of “I will” and then R (run, as in cricket) removed from a word for a border.


26a North in control, besieging South incessantly (3-4)
{NON-STOP} The mentions of North and South in the clue lead to the abbreviations N and S, the latter being placed in a short phrase meaning “in control” – (2,3).

27a Shellfish and several cod rejected after potassium is extracted (7)
{SCALLOP} The only mild obscurity in the grid as far as I can see, the cod (plural) being POLLACKS, from which we remove the abbreviation for potassium and then reverse the result.


28a Current crew dressed in back-to-front sailor’s garb (7)

{RAIMENT} Amusing surface reading and tricky wordplay here. I is the abbreviation for impedance (current). Add MEN (crew) and place these inside a reversal of a word for “sailor”.


1d Costly cycle of human traffic? (7)

{PEDICAB} Not-too-complicated cryptic definition. Not entirely sure that such a thing is necessarily expensive to hire, though.


2d Encore given by final couple in dance item that’s sticky and sweet (3,4)
{RUM BABA} “Item that’s sticky and sweet” is the definition. The wordplay uses a type of dance in which the last two letters are repeated – “Encore given by final couple”. Clever!


3d Variation of 24 with opposite poles in spring (5)
{ISSUE} Nicely spotted anagram of 24d in which the two letters N & N are changed for S & S – opposite poles. The definition “spring” is a verb.

4d Detective favoured child for unusually dashing poet (9)
{DICKINSON} Another fantastic definition here. Our answer is the name of a poet (Emily) whose verses were noted for their unusual punctuation, in particular dashes usually at the ends of lines. For the wordplay, use a colloquial word for a detective, add IN (favoured – nice!) and a male child.


5d Charming and classy in bar (5)
{SUAVE} “Classy” is U (as in posh), placed inside an unexpected take on “bar”; in this sense it means “except for”.

6d Flat top cut off bread roll swimming in gravy (9)
{UNVARYING} A horrible word to clue but Notabilis has done a fine job. A bread roll is a BUN but we need to remove the first letter, then add an anagram (swimming) of IN GRAVY.

7d I and ogres called up someone mean (7)
{SCROOGE} This one nearly did for me. Spotting the presence of OGRES in the answer, Notabilis misled me by suggesting those letters were somehow to be used. It was a ruse! Instead we reverse EGO (I) and ORCS (ogres).


8d Go before preparation of crepe from within France (7)
{PRECEDE} Pretty easy in retrospect but another clue which took an unreasonable amount of time to fathom. “Go before” is the definition. Make an anagram of CREPE then add the French word for “from”. “From within France” is a crackingly smooth way of describing this component.

14d Extended canvas shows one escaping soul’s distress (9)
{SPRITSAIL} My knowledge of sailing is zilch but after solving a couple of acrosses I was confident of the answer ending in SAIL. In the wordplay, I escapes from SPIRIT’S – then a 3-letter word for “(to) distress”.


16d Lull during hospital drama, nursing old person exposed to black lung? (9)
{COALMINER} Very close to being a truly terrific clue; only the surface reading seeming a tad clumsy. A lull during a hospital drama (on TV) could be a CALM IN E.R. That is placed around (nursing) the abbreviation for “old”.

17d They have children who are wrapped up when cold (7)
{MUMMIES} Ho-ho double definition. In “who are wrapped up when cold” reference is made to “cold” meaning “dead”.

18d Liar’s written up literature in the first person (7)
{MATILDA} A little bit of Eng Lit is needed here. Hilaire Belloc wrote a poem (a cautionary tale) entitled “___ who told lies and was burnt to death“. Nice. The wordplay uses a full reversal in which LIT (literature) appears inside the first person (think Bible).

20d Time to replace top of pipe in plant (7)
{THISTLE} A WHISTLE is a sort of pipe. Take away the first letter and replace it with the abbreviation for “time”.


21d Mimic staying in character as a defensive barrier (7)
{PARAPET} Inside PART (character) place a verb meaning to mimic. The whole is a wall designed to protect soldiers from enemy fire.

23d Range of species, including Lilliputian, … (5)
{SWEEP} SP = “species” is an abbreviation you don’t see very often; in fact I’ve never seen it outside the Telegraph. Inside this, a word meaning Lilliputian (or, simply, very small). I do like the slightly misleading use of “range”.

24d … on which is expressed weariness (5)
{ENNUI} Ellipses are too often used simply to link clues where one (possibly both) don’t read very well as stand-alone. Here, though, a direct reference is made to the “Lilliputian” part of the answer to 23d, and this is placed after “on” to make a double homophone. The answer means “weariness”.

Beautifully constructed puzzle with challenges in all the right places. How do you regular solvers feel this one’s difficulty compares to typical Friday fare?

13 comments on “Toughie 251

  1. I made the mistake of doing this soon after midnight on CluedUp – resulting in a very late night.

    Thanks for the explanations Anax – I missed the load of pollacks completely and struggled with a few others.

  2. I think this was one of the most difficult crosswords I have ever attemped, 5a I had never heard of ( I had to use your hint Anax and even then I had to recheck it in Chambers) Having said all that I really enjoyed todays, loved 17 & 18d and 11a. More of the same please Notabilis. Brilliant review Anax, I like the blue highlights.

  3. A first-rate puzzle and excellent review. I was held up a long time in the SW corner.
    In 5a I thought that “in order” was just SO, as in “They whispered so that nobody else could hear”.

    1. 5a: Correct! Don’t know what convinced me to look for the abbreviation as the “in” can’t work as a container indicator. Damn – I thought I was good at this!

  4. I agree with Big Boab. One of the toughest Toughies for a while – come back Elgar all is forgiven! The bottom right corner completely messed me up particularly as I thought that 14d might originally have been sailcloth or then at an even more inaccurate attempt stretcher.

    Loved 17d and 23a as a clues.

  5. One of the best Toughies in a long time, and deserving of its name. No bonus points for me on CluedUp. This has taken me all day off and on. I am not so sure I like your definition of “Somewhat dry” for 9a. “Medium dry” is probably the more common usage nowadays. But what a superb clue. I also thought 23a was brilliant too.

  6. I think I’m getting worse at these Toughies! Thats two in a row I’ve had real trouble with! Do you think I might have caught the flu and its addling my brain? Liked 1a and 9a

  7. Thanks BD for your site, this one had me beaten after several hours, Anex your analysis of the clues made me think, why hadn’t I read it that way for quite a few, many thanks for your insight. Can’t say I enjoyed the puzzle, but I suppose this is an example of what a Toughie should be!.

  8. I agree 11a is good, especially ‘following’ being not a positional indicator as I first thought it was but having a role of its own as a component in the charade.

    But –

    I thought ‘calm peace’ was tautological.

  9. This one was too hard for my holiday brain!
    If I were to be on top of my game I may have scraped 60%, at a push.
    Thanks for the review , Anax, which exposed some lovely clues.
    23a really stood out for the definition.

  10. Gave up with two left – 27 and 14. I’d pencilled in an E for the second letter of 27 and was looking in vain for SEA-something. Doubly annoying when I’d seen SPRIT as a possible beginning of 14, and “canvas” should have told me the rest. But lots of great stuff here.

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