Toughie 299

Toughie No 299 by Notabilis

Circuits and Bumps

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

Once again an excellent puzzle from Notabilis (who was one of those present last Saturday). This one took quite a while to unravel, but as ever the clues are honest and fair.

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. The answers can be revealed by selecting the space between the curly brackets.


5a    Thrash Ulster in the middle of offensive (6)
{PUNISH} – a word meaning to thrash is built up by inserting the abbreviation for the province of Ulster inside a military offensive

8a    Plain china, whitish with black inset (8)
{PALPABLE} – a word sum gives plain, as in obvious, by combining cockney rhyming slang for china with a word meaning whitish around B(lack)

9a    Greek’s cross, interrupted by vulgar Canadian leader (7)
{TRUDEAU} – the Greek letter T is also a type of cross, just put it around (interrupted by) a word meaning vulgar and you get a former Canadian leader (the one whose wife allegedly loved partying with the Rolling Stones)

10a    Device for spraying glue, extremely sticky stuff (5)
{GUNGE} – a device that can be used for spraying is followed by the outside letters (extremely) of G(LU)E to give the sticky stuff used in Noel’s House Party

11a    Flowering plant and swedes lie abandoned (9)
{EDELWEISS} – a flowering plant, that was immortalised in a song from the Sound of Music, is an anagram (abandoned) of SWEDES LIE

13a    Woods can’t develop past this point involving staggering sensation (4,4)
{TREE LINE} – the upper limit on mountains beyond which large plants with a woody trunk can’t grow (woods can’t develop past) is found by taking one of the points of a fork, or a deer’s horn, and inserting a staggering sensation

14a    Cutter in Welsh river runs beyond Snowdonia’s borders (6)
{SAWYER} – this woodcutter is built up from a river that rises in Wales before meeting the Severn estuary just below Chepstow and R(uns) placed after (beyond) the outside letters (borders) of S(nowdoni)A

17a    Some have gravy as accompaniment for meat (3)
{VEG} – hidden inside (some) have gravy, two of these traditionally accompany meat

19a    Black fly (3)
{JET} – a double definition – a rich variety of lignite and an aircraft with engines invented by Sir Frank Whittle

20a    Slightly wet obstruction in river enclosure (6)
{DAMPEN} – to make something slightly wet is derived as a charade of an obstruction in a river and an enclosure for animals

23a    Hungry sense after wild party (8)
{RAVENOUS} – a word meaning (very) hungry comes from putting (common) sense after a wild party

26a    Drinking establishment backing turf was racing charity (9)
{BARNARDO’S} – start with a drinking establishment and follow it with words meaning turf and racing which are reversed (backing) to get this charity which cares for vulnerable children

28a    This? Dramatic piece in opera, ultimately (5)
{SCENA} – I tried to look too deeply into this all-in-one clue – just take the final letters (ultimately) of the first five words

29a    In France, you sanction legislation reversing industrial action (7)
{WALKOUT} – more reversal here – take the French for you (singular) then a short word meaning to sanction and finally a synonym for legislation and reverse them all to get this industrial action

30a    Going round circuit with acid (8)
{ORBITING} – a word meaning going round is a charade of OR (a logic circuit that has two or more inputs and one output, the output signal being 1 if any of its inputs is 1, and 0 if all of its inputs are 0) with an adjective meaning acid, as in sarcastic – after studying Boolean logic at University and then spending a lifetime in IT, I still needed help from Anax to resolve this one!!

31a    Butt in when hearing gong (6)
{MEDDLE} – this word meaning to butt in sounds like a gong, in the sense of an award


1d    Plug souse with pork as ingredient (6)
{SPIGOT} – to get this plug or stopper put a word meaning a souse, or drunkard, in North America around the animal from which we get pork

2d    Head of falcon with droopier wing forward (7)
{FLANKER} – combine the first letter (head) of Falcon with a word meaning droopier to get the name used these days to describe a wing forward

3d    Dependent worker with an eternity left in movement (4,5)
{WAGE SLAVE} – a worker who is heavily dependent on his earnings is constructed by putting a word meaning an eternity and L(eft) inside a movement, in the sense of either a gesture with the hand, or possibly like the one in French cinema in the late 1950s and 1960s

4d    Constant number generally divided by zero is divided in two (6)
{CLOVEN} – abbreviations for C(onstant) and N(umber) are separated (divided) by a score of zero in tennis to get a word meaning divided in two

5d    Transfix or slay, roughly piercing skin (8)
{PARALYSE} – a synonym for to transfix is built up from an anagram (roughly) of SLAY inside (piercing) a word meaning to skin, as in to remove the skin of an apple

6d    Encourage good among 27 (5)
{NUDGE} – a word meaning to encourage is derived from G(ood) inside a synonym for the answer to 27 down – you need to get 27 down before this one, and this one before 21 down

7d    Airport stoppage detains holy woman (8)
– this airport in Essex has STAND (stoppage) as the container (indicated by detains) and STE (Sainte), the feminine of ST (Saint), as the contents – obvious as it is, I don’t recall seeing this abbreviation used before

12d    United upset by this cause of slippery grass (3)
{DEW} – a word meaning united in marriage is reversed (upset – yes, it’s a down clue) to get moisture that causes grass to be slippery

15d    Bank job possibly held by a jerk denying being who’s in charge? (9)
{ATHEISTIC} – put a slang word for a bank robbery inside A TIC (a jerk) and you get someone who does not believe in God (being who’s in charge)

16d    Protective shell of automobile at speed (8)
{CARAPACE} – this protective shell of, for example, a tortoise is familiar to most cruciverbalists – it’s a charade of an automobile and a word meaning at speed

18d    Wrapped in pastry and cooked once? True (2,6)
{EN CROUTE} – a term used in cookery for something that is wrapped in pastry is an anagram, indicated appropriately by cooked, of ONCE TRUE

21d    Ace and 6 short (3)
{PRO} – this expert (ace) is created by dropping the last letter (short) from a synonym of the answer to 6 down

22d    Compile stirring diatribe (7)
{POLEMIC} – an anagram (stirring) of COMPILE gives a diatribe

24d    No cooler in crowds? (6)
{ASWARM} – split this word meaning “in crowds” as (2,4) and you have a phrase meaning no cooler

25d    Attempt to restrict gag that’s rambling, long and coarse (6)
{SHAGGY} – put an attempt, perhaps at trying to win a coconut, around an anagram of GAG and you have a word meaning rambling, long and coarse which is often followed by dog and story

27d    Writhed with no top on, nor anything else (5)
{NAKED} – remove the first letter (no top on) from a word meaning writhed, as in moved like a serpent, and you get a word meaning wearing no top or anything else – this is the starting point for two other down clues

It’s always hard to single out clues from a Notabilis puzzle, but I have highlighted, in blue, a few of my favourites



  1. gazza
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Loved it!
    “Push” in 5a reminded me of the need to differentiate between the use of a word as a noun and a verb, as demonstrated by the wartime headline “Eighth army push bottles up German rear”.

  2. BigBoab
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Superb crossword , 15d was my favourite clue. Great review as ever Dave. Many thanks due to Notablis for the best crossword for some time.

  3. Mike (Touchwood)
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Excellent stuff and most enjoyable, many thanks as usual for the review.

    I found this very challenging, just about at the limit of my current expertise, and needed all 5 prompt letters from clued up. Several answers needed some thought before I could see the logic, in particular 15d, but all fair and above board.

    A minor quibble – I’m haven’t seen the answer for 1d used as it was defined – in some types of pipework we get ****** and socket joints but this isn’t a plug – neither is the device on beer barrels which is the other usage I’m familiar with. Perhaps someone with access to Chamber’s will put me right!

    • Libellule
      Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Online Chambers:
      a peg for a vent-hole,
      or peg used to close the opening of a tube or pipe
      an end of a pipe that fits into another
      a tap or faucet (North American)
      an interface (computing)
      Hmm no plug, but you could (possibly) stretch definition two into plug if you tried.

      • Mike (Touchwood)
        Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Definition 2 “peg used to close the opening of a tube or pipe” looks to be pretty spot on for a plug to me! Thanks Libellule.

    • Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink


      Firstly, it’s ok to mention answers in the comments to weekday puzzles – anyone who reads the comments must expect that.

      Secondly, Chambers has spigot under plug in its Thesaurus

  4. Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Edelweiss seems to have shot up all over recently, but this was a good clue for it. Got ORBITING, but needed your debrief as to why, thanks Dave! And 5d was very well constructed I thought. Excellent puzzle and debrief – definitely 4+++ stars for both.

  5. Prolixic
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Great cluing and all the fun we expect from Notabilis. I’m going to buck the trend and say that I found it one of his easier puzzles with only perhaps 4 or 5 clues that required backward explanations once I had the answers. This did not detract from the enjoyment of the crossword though.

  6. Anax
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m probably crosswordland’s number one fan of smooth, convincing surface readings, and there are times when the clues of Notabilis are sort of 90% there. That said, the majority of clues in this puzzle really were bang on (and his clues are consistently smoother than those of most other setters). More importantly for most solvers, though, is the attention to detail and clue-writing rules which he sticks to with a passion. Even on those rare occasions when you have to double-read in an attempt to latch onto the imagery, you have to marvel at Notabilis’ technical skill. Super puzzle!

    Incidentally, this is one of those Tele grids I really don’t like – not entirely sure why, but it just feels a bit old-fashioned and, of course, with no long answers it always feels like you get the minimum of help with the rest of the puzzle when you find an answer.

  7. gnomethang
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Got to this a bit late – was halfway through on my newly shortened journey to work (note to self – don’t check on the Toughie if you haven’t finished in the morning!)
    Great puzzle. 15d definitely my favourite. I was a bit flummoxed by the Ste abbreviation.

    Thanks for the review, BD.

  8. Greenhorn
    Posted February 10, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    With two 4 hour train jounrneys, had a go at this after solving the ordinary cryptic.
    Still finding toughies too hard but got about 1/3 out.
    8a Can you please expand. Palpable.
    “a word sum gives plain, as in obvious, by combining cockney rhyming slang for china with a word meaning whitish around B(lack)”
    China=china plate =mate -but isn”t it a step too far to then say mate=pal?
    I’m not keen on clues such as 6d &21a where you asre snookered if you don’t have the answer to refer to.

    • Posted February 10, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink


      China => Pal is no different to any other synonym.

      On the linked clues, welcome to Toughieland. Wait until you get one of Elgar’s specials.