Toughie 368

Toughie No 368 by Shamus

Peripheral Greetings

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

As well as producing a fine Toughie today, Shamus has incorporated in a Nina (hidden message) a greeting to BD and the rest of us. So, of course, that earns it five stars for enjoyment (I just hope that 1d, 2d isn’t meant to be a second hidden message!). If you haven’t found the Nina yet there’s an explanation of how to find it at the bottom of the review.
Let us know in a comment what you think of the puzzle, and whether you found the Nina!

Across Clues

7a  Largely old, aristocratic French city (8)
{GRENOBLE} – start with a colour associated with age and drop the last letter (largely old). Now add a synonym for aristocratic to get a city in South-East France which is best known for its proximity to a number of ski resorts.

9a  Small cigar hidden by bric-a-brac on chair (6)
{CONCHA} – hidden in the clue is the name of a small cigar tapered at each end. This is a pretty obscure meaning of this word, and of the dictionaries I consulted only Chambers had the cigar meaning. Luckily it’s easy to get once you have the checking letters.

10a  Timeless classical river by capital flowing west in peninsula (6)
{IBERIA} – the name of the river of Rome loses its initial T (timeless) and then has the abbreviation for capital or excellent added but reversed (flowing west, in an across clue).

11a  Protestant backing crazy customs (8)
{PROTOCOL} – the definition is customs or established etiquette. Start with an abbreviation of Protestant and add a slang word for crazy which has to be reversed (backing).

12a  Defence hearing about Republican taking part in exchange of favours (14)
{BACKSCRATCHING} – if the forwards constitute the attack then what we want is the defence. Add a present participle meaning picking up or hearing about with a R(epublican) inside (taking part in) to get a practice involving a mutual exchange of favours.

15a  Retracted objections a bit after a drag? (4)
{STUB} – the amusing definition is a bit after a drag, i.e. the bit that’s left to be discarded after you’ve had your dose of nicotine. It’s a short word for arguments against (objections) reversed (retracted).

17a  Book in fashion gets cut? (1-4)
{T-BONE} – “cut” looks very much like a curtailment indicator but is, in fact, the definition. Put the abbreviation of B(ook) inside a word meaning a prevailing quality or style (fashion).

19a  Communications common in Jersey? (4)
{MOOS} – so, what sounds do Jerseys make?

20a  Board theft? Hero reformed prestigious body (5,2,3,4)
{ORDER OF THE BATH} – an anagram (reformed) of BOARD THEFT HERO produces a body to which worthy people may be elevated, in one of four classes of membership.

23a  Memorable live tune broadcast, not one grabbing fellow (8)
{EVENTFUL} – the definition is memorable and it’s an anagram (broadcast) of L(i)VE TUNE (dropping the I, not one) around (grabbing) F(ellow).

25a  Potter’s device found by road and a ridge (6)
{CUESTA} – who could this Potter be? Beatrix?, Dennis?, Harry?, a maker of pots? None of these – it’s a snooker or billiards player and what we want is the equipment that he or she uses to pot balls. Add an abbreviation for street (road) and A and we have a geological term for a ridge with a gentle slope on one side and a steep one on the other. I’d never heard of this word and this was the last clue I got.

27a  Japanese flooring one stuck in middle of letter, Nancy’s friend (6)
{TATAMI} – stick A (one) inside the central characters (middle) of leTTer and add the French word for a (male) friend (i.e. the word that an inhabitant of Nancy would use) to get the mat made from rice stalks that you traditionally find on Japanese floors.

28a  Place where lots appear so morale is affected (8)
{SALEROOM} – an anagram (is affected) of SO MORALE.

Down Clues

1d  Dull poet brought up (4)
{DRAB} – we want a synonym for dull or dreary, and it’s also a word for a poet which is reversed (brought up, in a down clue).

2d  Rank a technophile at heart possibly as this? (6)
{ANORAK} – this semi all-in-one gives us a slang term for someone with an obsessive, and largely solitary, interest in some technical area. It’s an anagram (possibly) of RANK A plus the central letter (at heart) of technOphile.

3d  Gore, say, displayed in clips from very excruciating exploitative picture (4)
{VEEP} – the initial letters (clips) of the last four words display an informal US term for the position that Al Gore, for example, once held.

4d  European selection mostly imitative (6)
{ECHOIC} – string together E(uropean) and a synonym for selection without its final E (mostly) to get an obscure adjective meaning imitative.

5d  Endless wit in English number getting high praise (8)
{ENCOMIUM} – put a word for a wit or comedian without its final C (endless) between E(nglish) and an abbreviation of number to get a eulogy or song of praise.

6d  What might be emitted in audience everywhere (10)
{THROUGHOUT} – what sounds like (in audience) a phrasal verb meaning emitted or jettisoned is an adverb meaning everywhere.

8d  Care deployed when detained by blind figure, large creature (7)
{BEARCAT} –an anagram (deployed) of CARE goes inside (detained by) a flying mammal which is proverbially blind to get a South-East Asian climbing animal also called the binturong (large creature).

13d  Tour nave decked with gold in decorative style (3,7)
{ART NOUVEAU} – an anagram (decked?) of TOUR NAVE is followed by the chemical symbol of gold to get a decorative style from the early part of the last century.

14d  Cold potato? It’s twice seen in buffet (5)
{ALOOF} – I knew that my assiduous patronage of Indian restaurants over the years would pay off eventually. We want a Hindi and Urdu term for potato. Follow this with the letter which can be seen twice in the word buffet to get an adjective meaning cold or unsociable.

16d  Two-pronged offer on upcoming channel? About time (8)
{BIDENTAL} – an adjective meaning two-pronged or having two teeth is constructed from a synonym for offer (as made at an auction, say) followed by a reversal (upcoming, in a down clue) of another word for channel or path with T(ime) inside.

18d  Proper doctor turning up to protect poor no end (7)
{ETHICAL} – the definition is proper or morally correct. Reverse (turning up, in a down clue) a verb meaning to doctor or spike someone’s drink and put this around a synonym for poor or sparse without its final N (no end).

21d  Palms? Sweaty affair (6)
{RAFFIA} – an amusing clue. An anagram (sweaty) of AFFAIR gives us the fibres from the leaves of a palm tree (which has the same name, but possibly different spelling) which are used to weave bags, hats and baskets.

22d  Labour politician is patient around rear of hospital (6)
{BLEARS} – this is probably not the first Labour politician that comes to mind. She was in the cabinet until last year when she resigned after adverse publicity about her expenses. To get her surname put a verb meaning is patient or endures around the last letter (rear) of hospitaL

24d  Explanation not good for defeat (4)
{LOSS} – remove the initial G (not good) from a word meaning the explanation, given in a margin or between lines, of an obscure word to leave a synonym for defeat. The original word for explanation is also used in a more modern sense to mean the spin or superficial veneer that can be applied to unwelcome news to make it less unpalatable.

26d  In short, grand notions? Not half (4)
{THOU} – take the number that grand is used to represent and think of an informal abbreviation (in short) for it. What you should have is also the first half of a word meaning notions or ideas. Beautifully deceptive clue!

The clues I enjoyed included 12a, 15a, 17a, 2d and 21d, but my favourite was 26d. Which ones did you like? Let us know in a comment.
If you haven’t yet found the Nina, start at 3 o’clock on the outside of the grid and follow the letters round the perimeter in a clockwise direction. Thanks to Shamus for the greeting and the puzzle.



  1. Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Shamus told me at the last Sloggers and Betters do to expect something special today, but this was far better than i could have hoped!

    Thank you Shamus, it was a great puzzle as well.

  2. Posted June 9, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Lots of fun to solve so thanks Shamus!. Need your help on 5d and 11a (although I should have got that!) so I got most of the NINA. To be honest I should have seen the Latin phrase at the end!.
    Thanks for the review, gazza. Favourite for me were 13d and 3d

  3. BigBoab
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Pure Dead Brilliant as we say up here in the frozen North. Thanks Shamus and thanks Gazza, I needed your assistance with 5d and 17a. Loved the Nina which is thoroughly deserved.

  4. Prolixic
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Top notch crossword from Shamus today (and not just because of the Nina). Great fun to solve and the more unusual words were clearly clued so it was a simple matter of double checking a few in Chambers where I had not come across the word before. Many thanks to Shamus and to Gazza for the notes.

    • Posted June 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      I would certainly agree with the ‘unusual word’ assessment. Given that the only fully Enrish speaking channel I can get on the is Turkish satellite is a Japanese hosted channel (including easy language and culture lessons) I got Tatami straight away!

      Gokigen’yō !

  5. Harry Shipley
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    25a I had heard of CUESTA, but it was still the last in, and I didn’t find the Nina, either. The water feed flows the last portion of the way into the summit level of the Canal du Midi along the side of a convenient cuesta.

  6. Rishi
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I was detained for a while by a couple of clues, viz. 25a, 18d. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing. I liked 14d, 16d and 26d, among others. Some clues such as 15a have familiar wordplay but the surface reading is fresh. I spotted the Nina as the grid pattern alerted me that there might be something in it and as 1d, 3d and 4d were among the earliest answers that I put in.

  7. Libellule
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Got to this late today, after a a very enjoyable lunch out at a local restaurant. 3 courses, inc. entrecote et frites, plus vin inclus all for 10 Euros a head… so it made this slightly more difficult than it should have been.
    But having been given a heads up by BD this morning about the nina, I enjoyed it immensely.
    Thanks for the nod Shamus, appreciated. I tried to explain what was happening to my lunch companions, but after 10 minutes I felt a veritable 2d.

    • Posted June 9, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      A few Gallic shrugs, “Bof”s and “Il sont fous, ces anglais” no doubt!.
      Sounds like a cracking lunch!

      • Libellule
        Posted June 9, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        Eight of us, loads of fun :-) And as much Chinon rouge as you could drink! (I am still wondering how I managed to get through it (the Toughie, not lunch :-))

  8. Posted June 9, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink


  9. Nubian
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I always prove to myself how much of a novice I still am at this game when I try the toughie, but seing it was a rainy day here Carcassonne I decided to have a go. After 4 hours I have cracked and poured a large Napoleon, at the end with loads of help from Gazza I enjoyed the puzzle, the nina and the cognac, so there !
    Thanks for a great afternoon Shamus.

  10. moonstruckminx
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Nice one Shamus!

  11. BillyBusker
    Posted June 9, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant crossword. I managed to finish it with the help of my mother who is 89 but still in possession of her marbles. Didn’t spot the Nina and have never heard of the term. Looked it up in vain in Chambers. Can anyone explain the term and can anyone explain how a Nina can be found if you don’t know there is one to be found. I agree with previous comment about the Nina being very appropriate. Keep it up guys!

    • Rishi
      Posted June 10, 2010 at 2:51 am | Permalink

      Well, to know what exactly a Nina is, please visit, for example,

      If you still don’t have the solved grid with you, you may look at a copy of it here:

      To read the message along the perimeter, please start from S on the right side and go clockwise.

      Remember, Shamus is the setter of this puzzle.

      • BillyBusker
        Posted June 12, 2010 at 12:48 am | Permalink

        Thanks for that Rishi. It’s very much like the Daily Mail cartoonist, whose name I can’t bring to my beer-befuddled brain, whose cartoons always include a little drawing of his wife (unless they’ve had a fall-out – in which case he leaves her out!) which is extremely difficult to find. Even more so if she’s not there and there’s no way to know if they’ve had a fall-out or not. Hope that makes sense.

  12. tilly
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Have only just got around to finishing this. Great puzzle, Shamus. A true Toughie. And thanks to Gazza, too.

  13. Shamus
    Posted June 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Gazza for his excellent blog and all for comments. The Nina necessitated a few more obscure words but hopefully that didn’t detract from the enjoyment.