Toughie 285 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 285

Toughie No 285 by Busman

Can you tell your Arias from your Elbows?

(thanks to Prolixic for the subheading)

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***

This puzzle was only slightly spoiled by the serious error at 13 across – checking letters and the wordplay mean that the Verdi red herring shouldn’t hold you up for long. Busman’s previous Toughies have tended towards the easy side, this one is more difficult without being impenetrable.

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    How to spend holiday in Italy that could be murder (3,6,3,3)
{SEE NAPLES AND DIE} – a faintly cryptic definition that gives you a good start to this puzzle

9a    Cowboy on board? (9)
{STEERSMAN} – the question mark tells you that the setter thinks the definition is dodgy – he’s right

10a    Tailless creature by eastern river (5)
{RHINE} – combine RHINO without the final O (tailless) with E(astern) to get this European river

11a    Hinder leading bridge opponents first (5)
{ESTOP} – a word meaning to hinder is built up from E(ast) and S(outh) (opponents at bridge – you have eight combinations to consider!) followed by a a synonym for first, as in first in the table

12a    Dallas, maybe, where small pensioner works (4,5)
{SOAP OPERA} – Dallas is just one example of the genre of TV shows – to get there run together S(mall) OAP (old age pensioner) and a word meaning musical works

13a    Spiv returning clutching money for Verdi composition (8)
{TURANDOT} – red faces at the Telegraph today! – take TOUT (spiv) reversed and put it around the South African currency to get this Puccini composition.

Tilsit will be pleased that I resisted the temptation to provide a link to the Paul Potts version: instead you will just have to put up with the Three Tenors singing Nessun Dorma

ARVE Error: need id and provider

14a    Boat’s first trip? (6)
{LAUNCH} – a double definition that also works as a triple definition!

16a    Dramatist’s true lines coming first (6)
{BRECHT} – I guessed the name of this dramatist from the BR (lines) at the beginning (the name was unlikely to start RY or LL) and then looked up ECHT to confirm that it meant true.

18a    Exotic divan by John Curry (8)
{VINDALOO} – An anagram (exotic) of DIVAN is followed by another informal word for a lavatory (john) to get this very hot curry

22a    Those holding forth about ten works (9)
{ORATORIOS} – put ORATORS (those holding forth) around IO (ten) to get these works – I don’t like ten = IO at all, 10 would have been much better

23a    Car plant (5)
{LOTUS} – a double definition

24a    Felt silly returning some fibre (5)
{ISTLE} – this valuable fibre obtained from Agave, Bromelia, and other plants is hidden reversed inside the first to words of the clue

25a    Vehicle holding a West End pamphleteer (9)
{TRACTATOR} – start with a farm vehicle and put A T (A WesT end) inside to get a word meaning a pamphleteer

26a    ‘London Taxi’, sorry horse, grey — in a race, nobbled (7,8)
{HACKNEY CARRIAGE} – the definition made this easy – you get there by taking a HACK (sorry-looking horse) and follow it with an anagram (nobbled) of GREY IN A RACE


1d           Fishy group holding marketing feature (7)
{SUSPECT} – a synonym for fishy is generated by putting SECT (group) around USP (Unique Selling Point / marketing feature)

2d           Start of evensong with minor churchman and constituent (7)
{ELECTOR} – E (start of Evensong) is followed by LECTOR (minor churchman – I couldn’t resist this definition from Chambers: “an ecclesiastic in one of the minor orders, lowest in the Orthodox, second-lowest (next above doorkeeper) in the Roman Catholic”)  to get this member of a constituency

3d           Minimal amount for a watery touch-down (1,4,2,3,5)
{A DROP IN THE OCEAN} – a part-cryptic double definition alluding to the way American space missions used to return to earth

4d           Capital’s currency in Cyprus (8)
{LIMASSOL} – the capital of Peru is followed by S (from the ‘s) and SOL (the currency of Peru) to get a resort in Cyprus

5d           Sailor points out one German spa (6)
{SINBAD} – the famous sailor of ancient Middle Eastern origin is constructed by putting S(outh) and N(orth) around I (one) and adding the prefix of several German spas

6d           Tory lord earns UN review for King of Arms (6,3,6)
{NORROY AND ULSTER} – I had to look this one up – an anagram (review) of TORY LORD EARNS UN gives the junior King of Arms of the College of Arms

7d           Cinema showing medic (one with humour) (5-2)
{DRIVE-IN} – this type of cinema, more common in warmer climates, is built up from DR (medic) I (one) and VEIN (a mood or humour)

8d           Loop off Lincolnshire coast? Nonsense (7)
{EYEWASH} – combine an EYE (a wire loop or ring as used in a hook and eye fastening) with the area of sea off the Lincolnshire coast to get a word meaning nonsense

15d         Rough skin has a following in Africa (8)
{KINSHASA} – an anagram (rough) of SKIN is followed by HAS A to get the site of the Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman

16d         Uncivilised mayor clutching love hard (7)
{BOORISH} – a word meaning uncivilised is constructed from the first name of the current Mayor of London around (clutching) O (love) and followed by H (that Hard pencil again) – I trust this is not intended as a description of the said Mayor!

17d         Bouncy castle I demolished (7)
{ELASTIC} – a word meaning bouncy is an anagram (demolished) of CASTLE I – superb surface reading!

19d         Girl lifted top title, turning tail (7)
{LETITIA} – a girl’s name is generated from AI (top) and TITLE with the last two letters swapped and then all of it reversed (lifted, as it’s a down clue)

20d         Watch non-studio based programme for action at Wimbledon (7)
{OBSERVE} – a word meaning to watch is a charade of OB (Outside Broadcast) and how the ball is brought into play in tennis (at Wimbledon and elsewhere)

21d         Cheerless victory attempt (6)
{WINTRY} – a very appropriate word meaning cheerless is a charade of WIN (victory) and TRY (attempt)

Early comments seem to confirm that the incorrect information in 13 across had little impact on the puzzle as a whole.

16 comments on “Toughie 285

  1. Failed on 16a – Echt was new to me!.
    Re 13a – I frowned slightly as I put it in (from the wordplay) but didn’t think too much more.
    Favourites were 18a.26a and 8d

  2. Busman is much more fun when he provides a more challenging puzzle like today’s one. Favourites were 1a, 18a and 16d. Thanks to Busman for entertaining us and thank for the hints BD and the compliment in the sub-heading!

  3. Enjoyed this – despite the mistake. Never heard of 25a, entered with some doubt as it sounded like a made-up word. Also 16a, again entered and correct but new usage to me. Needed a few letter prompts from cluedup (I wish that wasn’t there, I don’t have the self discipline when I’m really stuck!) but very pleased to have finished it before the blog.

  4. Why all the references to curry in the last two days? Liked 16d. Got 6d by working out second and third words and seeing what remained in the anagram letters.

    1. I think that Big Dave now has the ear of the DT Crossword Editor and is currying favour.


  5. I know this is completely O/T but could I just jump in to recommend our friend Radler’s latest puzzle at Free Crosswords Online – it’s another top effort.

    Radler – with crosswords like this I can see you going places. Great stuff!

    Here’s the link:
    As you’ll see in the preamble, Alberich was so impressed with it he took the very unusual step of getting it posted straightaway, so keen was he to share it.

    1. If the last one is representative then the Toughie ‘blog is the right place to mention it!
      Thanks, I’ll grab a print for the train home.

  6. I can never remember whose opera is whose anyway so the error didn’t matter to me. Managed to guess words unknown to me: 24a, 25a, and get answers without understanding exactly why: 4d, 16a, but left with 6d at the end and had to call on Google. Enjoyed it and happy to almost complete it.

  7. Never heard of ‘Norroy and Ulster’. Otherwise an enjoyable Toughie today.
    Favourite clue: 18a.

  8. Note for Gazza. I did it all except 24a, 5d, 9a ! I am now going to read the clues above and shout “Oh God Yes”

  9. Well, we did very well on this but got absolutely stuck on 13a and 6d. As usual the boys came to the rescue -thanks!!

  10. Managed this OK from the print version- forgot that Turandot wasn’t Verdi. But unable to submit as all we have had In Spain today is “Fatal error: Call to undefined method MDB2_Error::fetchAll() in /home/sites/ on line 352”

  11. Someone at the Telegraph must monitor your site. As soon as I posted my comment…problem solved. Thanks!

  12. Telegraph Puzzles Editor replies:
    Well, I feel a right turandot. I like to think it’s rare for a mistake like this to slip past my radar — apologies to any solvers thrown by it.
    Regarding Maagran’s CluedUp problem, I’m afraid the Telegraph’s round-the-clock team of blog monitors can’t claim the credit for its speedy resolution. But if the problem recurs, please let me know:
    Best wishes

Comments are closed.