Toughie 282

Toughie No 282 by Notabilis

Only one man found it easy?

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BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment ****

After a run of tough Friday puzzles (and similar scattered over the holiday period) this was some respite for a rather tired brain, and a very nice mix of straightforward clues interspersed with a handful of cleverly constructed teasers.

How easy? Well, we don’t give times here, so can we measure in mugs of coffee? Great – thanks! This was half a mugful and the dregs were still hot enough to drink by the time I reached an inexplicable block at 25d (which is ridiculous when you see how easy it actually is; it’s just that Notabilis has disguised it brilliantly). On first pass I had about half of the acrosses in, which helped me to around two thirds of the downs, and most of the first-pass hurdles were then dealt with quickly.

As ever, my favourite clues are in blue.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a    One gathers in folds to picture saint with halo, say (10)
{DRAWSTRING} Looking at it now this is much easier than I found it on cold solve. The wordplay has a word that can mean “to picture”, then the common ST (saint) and the shape of a halo.

9a    British Library I see as insipid (4)
{BLAH} Nice – the only possible two-letter abbreviation for British Library, followed by an exclamation meaning “I see” (Alan Partridge would insist on an extra A at the end).

10a    Respecting detectives, visit crooked person who won’t go straight (10)
{RECIDIVIST} On/about/concerning are the usual pointers to RE, so it’s nice to see Notabilis giving us something a bit more fresh with “respecting”. After that, the abbreviation for some British police and an anagram (crooked) of VISIT to give us the answer, a person who lapses back into crime. Lovely construction.

11a    Hasty in retreat, capturing American soldier in cavalry (6)
{HUSSAR} “Hasty” is RASH – reverse that and place it around US (American).

12a    Rap church popular with footballer’s mate? (7)
{CHINWAG} This is a more unusual interpretation of “rap”, in this sense to just chew the fat/gossip. CH (church) plus a word for “popular” and the acronym for the wife/girlfriend of (typically) a footballer.

15a    Sign of bail out mostly curbing inflationary measure (7)
{SCORPIO} One of those that went in on first pass even though I couldn’t fathom much of the wordplay at first. The hook that helped me was suspecting the unhyphenated “bail out”, so it had to be something like… well, SCOOP was the thing that helped me decide which “sign” served as the answer. Take the last letter away from SCOOP and place it around (so it “curbs”) the abbreviation for Retail Price Index.

16a    Bounce or impact noise’s known primarily as this (5)
{BOINK} Ha!!! Slight diversion here – until I started the puzzle I’d been playing Everybody’s Golf on the PS3. If you hit the ball against a rock or other obstacle you get an animated word which is the answer to this clue. For our purposes it’s made up of the first letters of the first five words.

17a    Empty nutshell with middle half missing (4)
{NULL} If you’ve had any struggles so far this will help you to get started – just remove the four letters in the middle of NUTSHELL.

18a    Archaically illustrate short bit of verse about maiden (4)
{LIMN} This was the only one where I slowed myself down by putting the wrong answer in; thankfully 7 and 8 down were easy enough to point up my error. This old word meaning to draw or paint is made up of all but the last letter of LINE (bit of verse) around the cricketing abbreviation for “maiden”. The surface reading here paints a lovely picture, hey nonny. Incidentally, I started off putting POME. Yeah – go figure.

19a    Returning nobleman imprisons old slaver (5)
{DROOL} Another great – and highly devious – clue whose hook relies on a different pronunciation of the definition “slaver”. Reverse LORD (nobleman) and place this around the abbreviation for “old”.

21a    Request to spread like grass in folds (7)
{PLEATED} This is slightly easier if you know the slightly obscure word TED (to spread grass for drying), which follows a word for “request”.

22a    Russian writer rejected long opening to play (7)
{TOLSTOY} Yet another deliciously smooth reading. For the Russian writer, reverse a word for a long opening (or, arguably, just an opening) and follow it with a verb meaning to play (with).

24a    Hero of Erewhon holds this person responsible for cover (6)
{ROOFER} My penultimate answer because I spent too long believing I needed to find some character from the tale Erewhon. Instead, it’s a very simple hidden answer in “Hero of Erewhon”.

27a    Unusually idealistic and showing an inclination to stress (10)
{ITALICISED} Thank goodness I’ve been setting crosswords for a long time, otherwise this super anagram of IDEALISTIC would have kept me guessing for ages. Thankfully it’s one of those classics which we crossworders keep in the armoury.

28a    Vat brown with potassium (4)
{TANK} For less experienced solvers I’m guessing this may have been the first answer placed with confidence. A nice easy construction using TAN (brown) and the chemical symbol for potassium.

29a    Take this notice, interrupting attorney set for action (2,3,5)
{AT THE READY} Silky smooth reading again, and the wordplay is excellent. Cleverest of all is the first part of it – “take this” leads to HERE, a lovely image of giving someone something. This is next to AD (notice) and the pairing is placed inside an abbreviation for “attorney”.


2d    Folding part of sail may be treacherous for ship (4)
{REEF} Nautical references abound in cryptics – I’m not entirely sure why, but maybe it’s just because there are so many of them available for use. In fact there are two here, serving to create a double meaning clue; the folding part of a sail, and an ocean feature than can be hazardous to ships.

3d    Stop filling glass containing vermouth and bleach (6)
{WHITEN} “Stop filling glass” leads us to the colloquial single-word expression we use if someone’s pouring us a drink. This is placed around (containing) the short version of Italian vermouth. “Bleach” is a verb here.

4d    Adjustable aerofoil’s edge gripped by dry seaman (7)
{TRIMTAB} I didn’t know the word, but the wordplay is clear enough. Take RIM (edge) and place it inside an abbreviation for “teetotal (dry) and AB (seaman).

5d    In the same place lives a leggy bird (4)
{IBIS} Admit it – you put IBID (short for “ibidem” – in the same place) and couldn’t work out the wordplay. Well, I did anyway. Then I noticed “ibidem” is also IB, and adding a word for “lives” gives us the long-legged bird.

6d    Having features that are gloomy and become dense (7)
{GOTHICK} This less common spelling of a gloomy architectural style can be split into a two-word phrase meaning to become dense (or thick).

7d    Fire remains very serious in igniter’s burning threshold (10)
{FLASHPOINT} “Fire remains” may make you think “fire is still…” but it means the remains of a fire. To this, add PO (another version of po-faced, very serious) and put them inside a type of stone used to ignite fire.

8d    A white Italian lady in suspicious surroundings (10)
{CHARDONNAY} Another good ‘un. For “a white”, read “a white wine”, and place the Italian word for “lady” inside CHARY (suspicious).

12d    Early-closing scheme one closed animatedly (3,7)
{CON SPIRITO} Perhaps the only clue where I thought the wordplay definition might be stretching things a little. “Early-closing” cleverly indicates the removal of the last letter of a word defined as “scheme one closed” – the word in question is for a person who conspires (or schemes). Not sure it’s presented entirely fairly. Thanks Dave for putting me right; it’s far simpler – a word meaning “to scheme” minus its last letter, then I (one) and TO (cleverly defined as “closed” as in “pushed the door to”).

13d    No doubt they’re going to tie me up (3,2,5)
{I’LL BE BOUND} A very easy double definition but a lovely image. Make the split between “doubt” and “they’re”.

14d    Man dismissed by one who eats too much fruit (5)
{GOURD} A person who eats too much is a GOURMAND, from which we have to remove MAN to give a type of fruit.

15d    Conk not out in drunk’s embrace (5)
{SNOOT} Another cricketing abbreviation is used here – “not out”. Put this inside (in the “embrace” of) and word for a drunkard, for a none-too-common word for the nose.

19d    Deconstructionist’s blunder in completed answer (7)
{DERRIDA} This was one of the last handful of answers I got. Frankly I was almost oblivious to the deconstructionist’s name but the clever positioning of the answer (with 5 out of 7 potential cross-checkers) gave me every chance of working it out. To blunder is to ERR, which is inside DID (completed) and the abbreviation for “answer”.

20d    Is tower with top removed rebuilt with length to be this? (3-4)
{LOW-RISE} With 27 and 29 across in place I knew what the last part of this answer had to be but struggled with the substitution anagram because I was trying to unravel LS TOWER instead of what’s required – IS LOWER.

23d    Songbird’s piercing scream when its tail is twisted (6)
{SHRIKE} Such an easy – even obvious – treatment (just twisting the last two letters of a word meaning “to scream”) but Notabilis has found an utterly perfect way of turning it into a hugely convincing image.

25d    Tease a bit with a shake? (4)
{BAIT} It really is amazing to think this was my last answer in the grid. Perhaps my crossword setting brain was in overdrive because I kept telling myself the answer had to be W (with) and a 3-letter word meaning “shake”. Instead it’s a monstrously simple anagram of A BIT. Well done Notabilis – this is the art of “hiding things in broad daylight” at its absolute best.

26d    Tie knot round top of leg joint (4)
{WELD} And a nice one to finish. To “tie knot” is in the marital sense, and this is placed around the first letter of LEG to give an answer which can mean a joint (especially where two bits of metal are heated and joined together).

The “I should be feeling guilty about this” part of me says this puzzle deserves a 5-star enjoyment rating and I’m hoping you solvers will buck my selfish trend and award it thus. For me, the only thing that shaved the single star off the end was that I found the puzzle easier than I might expect for a Friday, but that’s entirely personal. Entertainment-wise it’s another superb offering from a truly great setter.

PS: I’ve noticed a few comments elsewhere indicating that others found this really tough. What can I say? Can’t pretend I found it difficult if I didn’t, so it just goes to show what a difference it can make if you find yourself on the setter’s wavelength from the off!


  1. Libellule
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Certainly not a two star Toughie for me, but an enjoyable crossword, none the less.

  2. Prolixic
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks to Notabilis for a wonderful puzzle. I agree with Anax that this was not as challenging as might have been expected on Friday. I had all but one clue done before reaching the office today (18a which I had to look up). The clues and surface readings were superb. Fantastic stuff. Favourites were 7d, 8d and 19a.

  3. Jezza
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for putting me out of my misery for 18a (I’d never heard of the word) … I too thought of POME until I got 7d

  4. gnomethang
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the review, Anax, and to Notabilis for a very fine puzzle. Failed on a cuple before I picked up the ‘blog at lunch – had an inkling on 18a but didnt know the word and was foxed by 19d.

    Favourites were 10a, 16a and 7d but best of all for me was 12a for the use of rap and the surface.

  5. BigBoab
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyable crossword but I have to say I found it very difficult. Liked 10a and 19a best, did not get 18a or 19d till I checked your review. Great blog!

  6. Anna Gramme
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Never heard of DERRIDA, but finished the rest eventually – after much head-scratching and several cups of coffee. For me Difficulty**** Enjoyment**** Favourite clue 8d.

  7. Alastair cannon
    Posted January 8, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Difficult but, as ever – new things learnt. Limn??!!
    Well done to all who finished without consulting this site for guidance – I didn’t!

  8. Derek
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    I had a wee bit of trouble with the NE corner of this puzzle.
    Some nice clues -very entertaining.

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