Toughie 350

Toughie No 350 by Notabilis

Five Star Brilliance

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Having had a very late night on Electionwatch and trying to make sense of the whole thing.  I was grateful to Notabilis for giving me something to take my mind off things.  This was a magnificent puzzle, with fine tough cluing leading to a considerable amount of satisfaction as the last answer entered.  Anagrams are suitably masked and Notabilis is not afraid to use unusual words in the subsidiary indications.  However, I am afraid that several clues defeated me.

As usual, have your say after the blog and tell us how you rated the puzzle with the star system.  New visitors should know that the answers to the clues are hidden between the squiggly brackets and you should highlight the space to see the solution.

Off we go.


1a  Yen evident in moving sigh of reactionary (7)
{FOGYISH}  We start today with an anagram  (moving) of OF SIGH, with Y (for Yen) inside.  This gives us a word meaning reactionary or different.

5a  Jammy vegetable the writer gets stuck into (7)
{CHARMED}  A vegetable that rather looks like rhubarb holds ME (the writer) and this leads you to a word meaning lucky or jammy.

9a  Modern company strike back, eliminating army in retreat (1-6)
{E-TAILER}  Not a phrase I was aware of, and in fact had E-TRADER for a while.   It’s a reversal of the word RETALIATE, after TA (for army) has first been removed.

10a  This Bloom is colourful old devil putting his end foremost (7)
{LOBELIA}  Another tough one I guessed and then worked out why with the help of Chambers.  O (for Old) + BELIAL (a Miltonian word for the Devil) with the last letter travelling to the front.

11a  Very innocent shot in talkies (9)
{SAINTLIKE}  An anagram (indicated by SHOT) of IN TALKIES leads to a word meaning terribly innocent.

12a  Scratch shows sign of aging in the ear (5)
{GRAZE}  A word for a scratch or small wound sounds like the verb for “gets old”

13a  Western country rejected legislation of Kent, perhaps (5)
{WALES}  If the county of Kent passed a statute it may be said to be this.  Reverse it and you get a country  to the west of England.

15a  One against entering bustling torrent is probably a loner (9)
{INTROVERT} I (one) + V (against) inside an anagram (bustling) of TORRENT

17a  I easily adapt energy in tea and fruit (9)
{CHAMELEON}  CHA + MELON (tea and fruit} has E (for energy) inside to lead to a creature that might say “I easily adapt”.

19a  Sink millions into trade (5)
{SWAMP}  M (millions) goes inside a word meaning trade or exchange to get a word meaning sink or overpower.

22a  Rooms for hire, some available to migrants heading west (5)
{MOTEL}  This time the answer is reversed and hidden in the phrase “available to migrants”

23a  Spray especially chokes man at plate (9)
{BESPATTER}  I can see the definition but cannot put the indications together.  Any help welcomed.
[It’s BATTER (man at plate) around ESP. Gazza]

25a  Workshop had a diet of offal, excluding heart (7)
{ATELIER}  Likewise this one…..
[ATE (had a diet) LI(v)ER. Gazza]

26a  Routine developing occurs here (2,5)
{IN UTERO}  An anagram (indicated by developing) of ROUTINE leads to a phrase which is defined by the whole clue, if you think obstetrically.

27a  Raw head of lettuce on stone baked pastry (7)
{STRUDEL} A word meaning raw or coarse takes L (head of lettuce), all after ST (stone).  This leads to a delicious pastry often filled with apple.

28a  Ship’s facilities, each facing waves? (4,3)
{HEAD SEA)  The definition, which is a sea’s direction against the course of the ship, is found by taking a word for ship’s loos (HEADS), plus EA for each.


1d  Forte idler raised: one’s good at cutting corners (7)
{FRETSAW}  F (musical instruction: forte – play loud) + a reversal of WASTER (an idler) gives something that’s handy for precision cutting.

2d  Hostile elements held up by formulaic algebra (7)
{GLACIAL} Another reversed hidden answer.  From “formulaic algebra” is a word meaning hostile elements as in very cold weather.

3d  Has a tenant a key? (5)
{ISLET}  I had this as INLET at first, which is why I was hopeless at geography at school..  It’s actually a double definition clue.  If a house has a tenant it is this…..  In Florida, a key is one of these.

4d  The female I caught, having to wait around for exterminator (9)
{HERBICIDE}  HER (the female) + IC (I caught) inside BIDE (to wait around) gives an exterminator for garden pests.

5d  Beware consuming last of oil to produce smaller icebergs (5)
{CALVE}   CAVE (Latin imperative meaning Beware!) with L inside (last of oil) gives a geographical phrase (one of the few I remember, along with moraines and drumlins) that refers to when icebergs break up into smaller floating islands.

6d  A short pointer about large university that can be taken either way (9)
{AMBIGUOUS}  A pointer on your computer is A MOUSE – remove the last letter (short pointer) and insert BIG U (large university) which gives you a word that means swinging either way.

7d  Menelaus, initially left among conscious Trojans etc (7)
{MALWARE} Nicely deceptive clue.  M (Menelaus, initially) + AWARE (conscious) with L (left) inside gives another name for Trojans and suchlike in the computer world, i.e. nasty things that disrupt your machine.

8d  Perhaps OED contains bitter, peculiar language (7)
{DIALECT}  DICT (short for dictionary, hence OED a short name) with ALE inside leads you to a word for unusual language.

14d  Legal graduate, one splitting outlay to get 5 across (9)
{SPELLBIND}  LLB (Bachelor of Law) + I (one) inside SPEND (outlay) leads you to a word with the same meaning as the answer to 5 across.

16d  He mustn’t set out to limit one such as Berlin (9)
{TUNESMITH}  An anagram of HE MUSTN’T  with I (one) inside leads you to a job description for (Irving) Berlin.

17d  Free ticket on dummy range (7)
{COMPASS}   A  free ticket is a COMP (LIMENTARY) and add a word meaning dummy (ASS) to give a word for range.

18d  African with a long nose hates going topless (7)
{ANTBEAR} Another one where I am afraid I can’t see the indications, but the definition is a type of aardvark.
[It’s (C)an’t Bear (hates without first letter). Gazza]

20d  Relevance of point in a letter (7)
{APTNESS}   PT (point) goes inside AN ESS to give a word meaning pertinence or relevance.

21d  Trunk that’s fallen right over, breaking vegetable garden structure (7)
{PERGOLA}  A reversal of LOG + R goes inside PEA to give a type of garden decoration

23d  Stone to remain on railway line (5)
{BERYL}  A word sum.  BE (remain) + RY + L (railway line) = a precious stone of my big sister’s name.

24d  Island area twice invaded by Polish (5)
{ARUBA}  A + A (area twice) with RUB (polish) gives the name for a popular holiday island, especially popular with Americans.

Thanks again to Notabilis for a superb challenge.


  1. gnomethang
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Stunningly good puzzle from Notabilis today!
    The excellent disguise of some of the definitions, coupled with super smooth wordplay led to many AHA! Moments, particularly towards the end of the puzzle (the SE for me!).
    Too many great clues to pick a favourite. Many thanks Notabilis and anax/gazza ( not sure)

    • gazza
      Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      It was Tilsit who wrote the review (I just made a bit of a mess of posting it :D)

      • Posted May 7, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        In that case, Thanks to Tilsit
        Hopefully see you tomorrow.

  2. BigBoab
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    What a stinker! By far the most difficult crossword of the week if not longer. I loved 8d,18d and 11a. I still haven’t managed to get 7d, but I loved the whole thing, it’s the nearest I’ve ever come to completing a Notabilis crossword for ages. Thanks Notabilis and thanks Gazza.

    • BigBoab
      Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, looks like it was Tilsit not Gaza but thanks to whoever. (now see 7d and kicking myself )

  3. Libellule
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Completed well before the blog, but a struggle in parts. Last area to finish NE corner. (cornery grid? I thought so). Last clue to go in 7d. Big smack on the head when I realised. But generally enjoyable. Only 4* for me.

  4. Gilbert
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Very satisfying. There seems to be a superfluous ‘R’ in the hint for 23d.

    • gazza
      Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      fixed – thanks.

  5. NMS
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    Yes, this was very good, very tough. While I did solve it correctly there were one or two wordplays I did not fully understand till coming here. Only one query left, and maybe I am missing something obvious – I did work out the wordplay for BESPATTER but cannot quite yet see why ‘man at plate’ = batter.

    • gazza
      Posted May 7, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      In baseball the plate is where the striker (batter) stands.

    • Posted May 7, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      A batter in baseball stands on a plate.

      Thanks NMS!

  6. mark
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, after managing to finish yesterday’s Toughie, this was a bit of a shocker. My mother and law looked at it and couldn’t get a single one. I will look through the review later. I haven’t totally given up solving a few of these … yet.

  7. NMS
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Gazza and Tilsit, for the explanation of BATTER. Possibly more into cricket myself on this side of the pond but guess that’s where the ‘step up to the plate’ phrase came from…

  8. prolixic
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Phew – this was brilliant but difficult to get into. I have been putting in clues most of the day in the odd minute and lots of pennies have dropped. Many thanks to Notabilis for the workout and to Tilsit for the notes.

  9. mark
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Well, I managed a few of these this morning (after seeing the comment about bespatter). Then my father-in-law got up and got a few more. We managed less that half, all said.
    Thanks for the explanations, Tilsit.

  10. Sue
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    What a proper toughie. In the end after much leaving and returning finally got it all except 23a – hence my visit to the blog. Thoroughly enjoyed the struggle.