Toughie 556

Toughie No 556 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

Today we have another really good puzzle from Notabilis – it’s turning out to be a fine Toughie week so far. It’s no mean feat to provide a challenging and entertaining puzzle without needing to resort to a single obscure word or phrase. Let’s have your views in a comment.

Across Clues

6a  Rat’s special hurtful article laid into old city (5,3,5)
{SPILL THE BEANS} – this is an idiomatic phrase meaning to divulge information, i.e. to be an informer and rat on one’s colleagues. Start with an abbreviation for special, add an adjective meaning hurtful and finish by laying an indefinite article inside an ancient city (you can take your pick between old cities with this name in Egypt and Greece).

8a  Means to turn right in panic (6)
{LATHER} – an informal word for the sort of panic that you may get into is made from a machine for turning followed by R(ight).

9a  Military Cross received by hard-line, versatile unit? (4,4)
{STEM CELL} – this is part of an organism which can develop into specialised units and eventually be used to build different bodily organs. Put the abbreviation for Military Cross inside an adjective used to mean hard, then finish with L(ine).

10a  English fleet wanting shelter for amphibian (3)
{EFT} – wanting here is being used in the sense of missing, so miss out a word for shelter from E(nglish) FLEET to leave a junior newt.

11a  Carefully protect soft sound amid racket (6)
{COCOON} – put a soft sound (that of a dove, perhaps) inside another word for racket or scam.

12a  Escape as soon as knight enters lodge (8)
{ENSCONCE} – we want a verb meaning to lodge or settle. Start with an abbreviation for escape (as used on a keyboard) and add a conjunction meaning as soon as. Finally insert the chess notation for knight.

14a  Length must overcome any resistance in bolt cutter (7)
{SCALPEL} – start with an informal verb to bolt or flee, then replace (overcome) both (indicated by any in the clue) occurrences of R(esistance) with L(ength) to end up with something used to cut.

16a  Sweet and flowing in poetic source (7)
{FONDANT} – put an anagram (flowing) of AND inside a word used in poetry to mean source or origin.

20a  Keeping hospital place, a conscious person who was protected from fire (8)
{ABEDNEGO} – this is the name of one of the men delivered from the fiery furnace in the Old Testament. Put the unit used to define the size of a hospital inside an indefinite article and the word used in psychoanalysis to describe the conscious or thinking part of an individual.

23a  Nut right next to heart of a tree (6)
{ANORAK} – start with an indefinite article and a type of tree and put R(ight) next to the tree’s middle letter to make an obsessive person (nut).

24a  Company focused on stock performance (3)
{REP} – the abbreviation for a company with a stock of artistic works to perform.

25a  Everything lacking variation, perhaps lacking depth (8)
{UNIVERSE} – start with a word which doesn’t actually exist (hence the “perhaps”) but which, if it did, would mean lacking variation. Now remove the D(epth) to leave the whole of existence (everything).

26a  Stone left in place in the end (6)
{LASTLY} – insert the abbreviation for stone (i.e. 14 lbs) and L(eft) inside a verb meaning to place.

27a  Tory chatter on changes with conflicting effect? (2,3,8)
{TO THE CONTRARY} – an anagram (changes) of TORY CHATTER ON.

Down Clues

1d  One unused to early retirement? (5,3)
{NIGHT OWL} – retirement here means going to bed.

2d  Historic city boundary encloses nobleman briefly (8)
{FLORENCE} – put a boundary around a nobleman without his final D (briefly) to make an historic Italian city.

3d  Bring down constant speed (7)
{CHASTEN} – a verb meaning to subdue or humble (bring down) is the constant standing for the speed of light followed by a verb to speed.

4d  Crosses border somewhat to the north, to keep occupying (6)
{OBSESS} – a verb meaning to occupy someone’s thoughts continually is hidden (somewhat) and reversed (to the north, in a down clue).

5d  Almost graceless old wrangler (6)
{GAUCHO} – remove the final E (almost) from an adjective meaning clumsy or graceless and add O(ld) to make a South American cowboy or wrangler.

6d  Society who can’t abide wavering opposition leaders (6,7)
{SHADOW CABINET} – start with S(ociety) and follow this with an anagram (wavering) of WHO CAN’T ABIDE to make the collective name for the opposition leaders. How many of those pictured can you name? Could you do much better with the other lot?

7d  Most of deposition I transfer legally covers everything for electronics area (7,6)
{SILICON VALLEY} – this is the name given to an area in California where many of today’s household names in electronics started out and which is now used as a shorthand term for America’s high-tech companies. Start with all but the final T of a word meaning a sedimentary deposit, then add I and a verb meaning to transfer the title of something (a house, for example) with a synonym for everything inside.

13d  Rattan pruned in bog (3)
{CAN} – remove the final E (pruned) from a type of walking-stick or punishment implement (rattan) to leave a slang American word for something for which we may use the slang word bog (not to be confused with blog!).

15d  What’s oddly missed in quip taken the wrong way? (3)
{PUN} – this is a semi-all-in-one. Remove the odd letters of IN QUIP then reverse (taken the wrong way) what you have left.

17d  Nothing to lie in, dozing maybe achieved without effort (2,1,5)
{ON A PLATE} – this is a description of something that’s handed to you without your having to do any work for it (achieved without effort). Start with O (nothing) and follow with a phrase (3,4) which could mean to sleep on past your get-up time (lie in, dozing).

18d  Miserable, sad and moody way the world ends? (8)
{DOOMSDAY} – an anagram (miserable) of SAD and MOODY.

19d  Lack of interest in economic expansion is possible indication of overdraft (7)
{BOREDOM} – inside an economic expansion there’s the colour associated with an overdraft.

21d  Apply to undo suffrage? (6)
{DEVOTE} – a verb meaning to dedicate or apply oneself totally could also (with a question mark) mean to remove the right to participate in the democratic process.

22d  European arrives to tour New England in rewarding venture (6)
{EARNER} – a nice little rewarding venture is built from E(uropean) and the abbreviation for arrives (as seen on a train timetable) around the abbreviation for New England.

The clues I liked today included 14a, 13d and 17d but my favourite was 15d. Let us know what you liked in a comment.



  1. Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Gazza, really needed your hints for a few of these!
    I agree with CS on the other blog that this is the hardest Toughie for some time!
    Thanks to Notabilis for a great work-out.

  2. Qix
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    A very enjoyable puzzle indeed.

    Not one of Notabilis’ most difficult, I think, but some cunning and well-written clues.

    Small note on 9a – the solution isn’t an organism, but one of its constituent parts.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for a splendid challenge, and to Gazza for a very good analysis.

    • gazza
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Qix – I’ve updated it.

  3. crypticsue
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    That was, without doubt, the longest struggle I have had with a Toughie for ages – after a half hour’s solid concentration and then one and off looking while ‘working’, I had exactly 8 clues solved. Further cogitation, much muttering and even resorting to getting the 5 letters that Telegraph Puzzles allow, I have only just finished and I only got there with touch of Prolixic’s law – it’s like Gnome’s Law but he was emailing me to offer a hint and Gnomey is very silent this morning (probably tearing his hair out over the Toughie too). Thanks, I think, to Notablis for the great struggle – some good clues, quite a few of which I should have got earlier – my favourite remains, as it was at 8.40 am, 15d. Thanks to Gazza too for the explanations.

  4. Prolixic
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Another great puzzle. Thanks to Notablis for the challenge and to Gazza for the review. I was fortunate to get the long answers around the edge very early on so it gave a good framwork to put in the other answers. Still a hard puzzle to crack but full of fun and inventiveness. If the puzzles get harder as the week progresses, we will all be in trouble by Friday!!

    Favourite clue for me was 18d.

  5. Jezza
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I am glad I was not alone in thinking this was tough. I spent most of the morning trying to complete this, and eventually admitted defeat with a couple left.
    Many thanks to Notabalis for an enjoyable tussle, and to gazza for the notes and explanations.

  6. Phil
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    No obscure words or phrases? What about made up words? Undiverse??
    Surely this is a new low for the lazy compiler to make up words that don’t exist so that they can create a difficult to solve clue.

    • Qix
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      In fact, it’s not unusual for neologisms to form part of clues, although the solution has to be a legitimate term. The question mark indicates that something “unusual” is going on.

      • Qix
        Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Having said that, of course, most non-crossword enthusiasts would probably regard ABEDNEGO as some what obscure…

  7. pegasus
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Phew ! what a tussle that was it felt more like a friday Toughie than a wednesday one, some excellent clues too numerous to single anything out thanks to Notabilis and to Gazza for a sterling review.

  8. gnomethang
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    What a thoroughly excellent puzzle! I also struggled at the start of this but had a couple of purple patches that resulted in completion. 6a and 7d favourites amongst many. As usual from Notabilis there are some wonderfully misleading definitions. Thanks to him and to gazza.

  9. davelawes
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    This one too hard for me – I needed quite a few tips and hints before I finished . May be sour grapes, but not that enjoyable . However , thanks for the review .

  10. andy
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    With Jezza (5) on this word for word. I did like the 3 letter down clues. Had to look up 20a – only new word to me. Thanks to Notabilis and gazza

  11. BigBoab
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Took me ages to get started but once the 4 biggies were in the rest was fairly straightforward, great fun and a great sigh of relief when the last one went in (8a). Many thanks Notablis and Gazza.