Toughie 526 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 526

Toughie No 526 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Tilsit

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

Greetings from the sunny Calder Valley. I managed to escape from the clutches of Calderdale Hospital and am getting back to a state of normality. Looking forward to the annual Listener Crossword Dinner tomorrow night in Sheffield. Incidentally, if anyone is in the Sheffield area tomorrow afternoon, a number of your favourite setters, including Elgar will be gathering for a natter at The Sheffield Tap in the railway station, and you will be given a warm welcome if you arrive there as well. Anytime from about 12 noon. Unfortunately, I have an important FA engagement which will prevent me from joining them, although if the promised snow materialises, I will be there.

Today we have a lovely puzzle by one of our finest setters which for me is the perfect Toughie. Indeed, this was a real Toughie for me, as I struggled with several clues that normally I wouldn’t have. I suspect my biorhythms are a bit out of kilter today. Thanks to BD for a couple of nudges.

Solvers may have spotted the Nina which is concealed downwards from the first and last letters of 1 across. If you wondered these devices are so called, visit here:

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. Favourite clues are highlighted in blue.


1a    Wearing a robe and cape when belted (9)
{CASSOCKED} We start today with a wordsum. C (abbreviation for cape) + AS (when) needs a word meaning belted, as in received a punch. Put all these together and you get a word that describes someone, usually a cleric, in his attire.

8a    Perhaps ladies’ doctor recalled story in memoir — note, more than an in-law (5,8)
{BLOOD RELATION} This clue held me up for a while as I had CLOSE RELATION. Another word for the ladies’, is added to an abbreviation for doctor and a reversal of the word for a story. This all goes inside a short word that means a life story or memoir. Finally a letter used in music to mean a note is added to the end to give someone that is related to you closely.

11a    German wife had a deceptive trick (5)
{FRAUD} The name for a woman in German is added to D (for had as in she’d) to get a synonym for the word “trick”.

12a    House-sitter, first female one since coming to prominence (5)
{ASTOR} A nice clue relating to the first female Member of Parliament. A word that means “since” is added to one that relates to a type of hill or prominence. This lady is famous for an exchange with Winston Churchill when she told him “If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea,” to which he responded, “Madam, if you were my wife, I’d drink it!”

Incidentally the present holder of the title is David Cameron’s mother in law.

13a    Report of possible utterances by fledgling writer (5)
{PEPYS}    A homophone clue. A word meaning noises made by small birds sounds similar to a famous writer and diarist.

16a    Coastal city with disturbed seas turning in increasing pattern (6)
{SPIRAL} Quite a poignant clue, given today’s dreadful news and images from Japan. The abbreviated name of a famous (American) coastal city is added to a word that refers to disturbed tides and then all reversed to give the name of a type of pattern that grows and increases.

17a    The kind of length collaborators may go to? (6)
{LEAGUE} A double definition – measure of distance is the same as the name for a meeting, think Sherlock Holmes’ Red Heads!

18a    Where wooden horse was placed without end or start of piece (5)
{INTRO} If you answered the question as to where a famous Wooden Horse was placed in mythology, and remove its end, you get a musician’s word for the start of a piece of music.

19a    Bet I go bust in extremity (3,3)
{BIG TOE} A word for a body extremity is an anagram (indicated by “bust”) of BET I GO

20a    Mathematician’s system of salary grading, having each part cut (6)
{PASCAL} A word for a system of grading your wages, comprising two words, each having the last letter removed forms the name of a famous French mathematician whose first name was Blaise and sadly died rather young.

21a    Beam is small, less than 17 (5)
{SMILE} A word meaning to beam is found by taking S (for small) and a word for a distance shorter than the answer to 17 across.

24a    Tweet mostly about old group of warblers? (5)
{CHOIR} Another word for a noise made by a bird, well most of it, again lose the last letter. Insert O for old and you get the name for a glee club.

26a    Hard back (5)
{STERN} Double definition, a word that means severe, or the back of a ship.

27a    Ignorance is to remain, with thing sensed imperfectly (13)
{BENIGHTEDNESS} An unusual word, one of those, I would have defined incorrectly if pressed to. A word that means to remain is added to an anagram (indicated by “imperfectly”) of THING SENSED. This will give you a word that means ignorance.

28a    Unsay, say, backing for gangster film (3,6)
{GET CARTER} Love this clue. If you unsay something you do this, add to it an abbreviation meaning say, as in for example. Reverse the lot and you get a fine British film from the 1970’s which typified British gangster movies of that time. We shall not mention the remake that was a pile of pants.


2d          Duck keen to eat duck (5)
{AVOID}  Nice use of “duck” with two meanings, neither of which is feathered.  A word that means keen or eager, often found in puzzles has a letter used to mean duck in cricket

3d           Trim evergreen tree (6)
{SPRUCE} Another double meaning clue, a word meaning it’s trim or in good shape means the same as a type of evergreen tree whose Latin name is picea.

4d           Pound acceptable in modest settlement (6)
{COLONY}  The standard abbreviation for pound is added to a word  meaning acceptable (think of the hippie expression “Right __!”) and place this all inside a word meaning modest or bashful.  This gives you a word meaning settlement as in geography.

5d           Previous flame temperature on Sun is more than usual (5)
{EXTRA}  A wordsum.  A small word for an old flame or partner is added to T (for temperature) and to the name of the Egyptian god of the sun to reveal a word meaning more than the norm.

6d           When crossing (at sea?), I could go to either side (8,5)
{FLOATING VOTER}  A nice cryptic definition, although the “at sea” is a little too misleading for my liking unless I am missing something.  Someone who is undecided when they need to place a cross in a certain box is who you are looking for.

7d           Low-fat food the EEC confused with sago etc (7,6)
{COTTAGE CHEESE}  Something to eat that I am rather familiar with is  obtained by unscrambling THE EEC and SAGO ETC.

9d           Easy money from racing stag? (1,4,4)
{A FAST BUCK}   An expression that means easy money is also a cryptic way of describing a particular speedy male deer.

10d         Rugby in setting that’s arduous (9)
{GRUELLING}  The abbreviation for the posh Southern version of rugby (awaits comment from BD) goes inside a word meaning setting or solidifying to produce something that means difficult or arduous.

13d         Works of 11 in later writing (5)
{PLIES}  A word that means the same as 11 across goes inside an abbreviation that signifies something extra at the end of a letter.  This gives you a word meaning “works” as in “____ ones trade”.

14d         Half turning to stone dish creator (5)
{PETRI}   The sort of dish a chemist or biologist uses is made by taking the first half of a word that means turning to stone.

15d         Pitch dark fruit around edge of pastry (5)
{SLOPE}  A word for a type of fruit that makes nice gin goes around P (edge, i.e. first letter of pastry).  This gives a word that describes pitch.

22d         Imaginary crumbs itch awfully (6)
{MYTHIC}  Quite a tough one, given the double unchecked squares, a word that means the same as the expression “Crumbs!” is added to an anagram of the word ITCH to reveal something that means imaginary.

23d         In a row about North European, someone dishonest (6)
{LINEAR}  NE (North European) goes inside the name for someone who is economical with the truth to get a word that means in a row, in order.

25d         Promote worship without pressure (5)
{RAISE}  The word for worship loses P (for pressure), its first letter to give you something that means promote.

26d         Blacken almost one in 24? (5)
{SINGE}  This word meaning to blacken or scorch is a member of a 24 across without the last letter

Thanks to Notabilis for a splendid challenge.  See you next Friday!

16 comments on “Toughie 526

  1. Excellent and beautifully put-together puzzle.

    I’d struggle to give more than two stars for difficulty, though I’d agree with the four for enjoyment.

    Too many good clues to pick a favourite.

  2. After yesterdays distorted effort where, in several cases, answers were in the wrong tense, this was a treat.

  3. 12a did for me in what was a splendid puzzle with some ace clues, the sea crossing one in the downs being favourite.
    Many thanks to Tilsit and Notabilis – hope everybody has fun tomorrow in Sheffield.

  4. I am much relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one to have CLOSE in the first part of 8a and causing myself unnecessary difficulty in getting 6d. A very enjoyable proper Friday Toughie, thank you Notabilis. Thanks to Tilsit for the review too.

  5. A nice challenge for a Friday afternoon. Very distracted by the cricket….. oh dear…we’ve just lost. Really liked 28a. Last to go in ws 6d. Thanks setter and Tilsit.

  6. Eight of the six-letter clues had double unches and while acknowledging that half of the letters were checked in those clues it certainly made them more difficult.

    Notwithstanding the above, it was still an excellent puzzle. 28a got my vote.

  7. Absolutely superb offering from Notabilis took 2 hours and I enjoyed every minute, favourite clues 6d 8a 9d but the best is surely 28a.Thanks to Notabilis and Tisit for the review.

  8. I really enjoyed this one with so many good clues that I find it hard to pick a favourite – last to go in were 6d and 8a. As usual with this setter’s puzzles I found it a easier than I first thought probably because, with a little concentration, all the clues were fair and solvable.

    Great fun – thanks to Noabilis and to Tilsit for the review.

  9. I managed most of it without too much problem, then I was left with 27a, which after a while I referred to ‘onelook’ to solve (not a word I have heard before). In terms of difficulty, I found it slightly easier than the Giovanni Toughie on Wednesday.
    Thanks to Notabilis for an enjoyable puzzle, and to Tilsit for the review.

    Just returned from 3 hours at the sauna – beer is required!

  10. Many thanks to Notablis for a very fine crossword which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks also to Tilsit for a masterly review. My personal favourite was 6d.

  11. A great crossword with some brilliant clues, especially 28. Not too difficult in my opinion as the long clues were easy to solve. The rest all seemed to fit in then. I would have said 2* for difficulty. I recommended this to Mary so I hope she is doing OK. 20d was the last to go in – I vaguely remembered the unit named after him. 13a and 19 made me 21.

  12. For me this was BRILLIANT! First ever Friday Toughie completed so don’t all say it wasn’t hard enough! I don’t need to hear that!

    28a – who spotted that reversal? Clue of the year so far IMHO!

    Real thanks to Notabilis and Tilsit for the, suprisingly, unused hints!

  13. I thought it was brilliant too – since I managed to complete it unaided, eventually. It left me mentally drained but happy! I’m getting slightly more acclimatised to Toughies but need plently of time and no distractions.
    Thanks for puzzle and review, and also to BD who answered my cry for help on the DT puzzle. I did solve them before I saw his hints – honest!

  14. Tilsit, Re: 6d. I re-read it as a cryptic definition + definition: The voter (making a crossing) at sea would be floating, and the ‘I could go to either side’ is the straight definition. Still my favourite clue!.

  15. I have just finished this – with lots of help and explanations from Tilsit! Many thanks!

    Did anybody spot the Nina before reading the introduction?

    How spooky is the Nina considering yesterday’s terrible events in Japan! And more particularly, today’s latest news about the nuclear power plant!

    1. It’s Tuesday and this first chance I’ve had to peruse this crossword. Loved 8a, 19a, 20a, 28a, 2d, 5d, 22d, 23d. Lots to admire.

      But it’s such a strange coincidence to see the nina, Courting Disaster, the clue for 16a SPIRAL (bringing to mind the coastal city hit by the tsunami and also the ship struggling to escape the whirlpool) and the clue to 6d FLOATING VOTER bringing to mind the man rescued 9 miles out to sea floating on the roof that was detached from his home by the tsunami.

      It just shows how we’re wired to identify patterns in the world around us that the coincidences of a crossword with a random event and the vivid images resulting from it can look so connected.

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