Toughie 558 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 558

Toughie No 558 by Osmosis

Creatures of Habit

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

Osmosis is back with his fiendishly complex clues to torment us today. A very enjoyable puzzle with a few creatures featuring in the solutions, as well as some contemporary references and clever surface readings. One of the attractions of the Toughie for me is that we get up-to-date and topical clues in many of the puzzles (the Rooney clue in yesterday’s Giovanni made me giggle!). I particularly liked today’s offbeat clue at 25a, but quite a few of the others were equally clever.

The only thing that spoiled the puzzle slightly was that I was trying to enter the answers on the website screen and when entering answers my cursor decided to keep going off at right angles, often ruining existing answers. This added an extra five minutes to my solving time.

Favourite clues are highlighted in blue. 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.


1a    Bird wanted from environs of Reeperbahn? German please, preferably (7)
{BITTERN} Nudge nudge, wink wink!! We start with a sort of word sum. Take RN (extremities (environs) of ReeperbahN) and add them to the German word for please. I think preferably to indicate it goes first is a bit weak. Might have been better with “primarily”, but the clue of course loses a bit of the effect.

Anyway, for those of warped mind, this is what you are looking for:-

5a    Animal place to open (7)
{POLECAT} An anagram of PLACE TO leads you to another creature.

9a    More contemporary fleecy item available in navy backing (5)
[NEWER} A word that means “more contemporary” is found by taking the female version of a fleece carrier and placing it inside the initials for the Royal Navy reversed.

10a    Promotion features centrepiece of ‘Dickens — The Complete Works’. Here? (9)
{BOOKSTALL} K is the centrepiece of Dickens and place that inside a word that means a promotion (in the advertising sense) and add to it a word meaning “complete”. That should give you somewhere where you find a Dickens promotion perhaps (i.e. the clue is an all-in-one).

11a    Film actor having row about bog provided (4,6)
{OMAR SHARIF} The man nicknamed Cairo Fred (by Peter Sellers. I think) is found by taking a word for a bog (the traditional type not the vernacular type, per-lease!) and inserting it into a word which is a verb meaning to row (as in Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race) and the whole thing is rounded off by the addition of a short word meaning “provided”.

12a    Record company pursued by new artist (4)
{EMIN} An artist famous for her unmade bed is found by taking the name of a famous record company, known by its initials, and adding N (for new).

14a    Rode badly round Uttoxeter, veering primarily into racer’s course (4,8)
{HORS D’OEUVRES} The name for a starter dish can be found by taking an anagram of RODE and placing it round U V (Uttoxeter, veering “primarily”, i.e. first letters) and put this inside the name for something that races, the apostrophe “s” in the clue is essential as well here.

18a    Frogman, for your information, takes part in talk. What struggling workers are doing? (12)
{DIVERSIFYING} Another word for a frogman is added to a word meaning to talk (as in reveal a secret) and the abbreviation for “for your information” placed inside. This gives a buzzword that means branching off from a norm.

21a    Rejected some dark oven-ready vegetable (4)
{OKRA} Hidden backwards in the phrase “some dark oven-ready” is the name of a vegetable also known as ladies’ fingers.

22a    Move fake by artist, in hindsight. ‘Whistler’ that’s perching in the room? (10)
{BUDGERIGAR} A word meaning to move or shove is added to one meaning fake and the standard abbreviation for an artist is reversed and placed at the end. This gives you the name of an Australian Tweeter (not in the computer sense!).

25a    Dec publicises courtship openly, whereas his partner ___. Horny creatures (9)
{ANTELOPES} A great clue. One that is a bit off the wall and makes you smile. When you see a clue like this it usually means it’s asking you to complete the sentence and the phrase makes a word, a bit like Blankety Blank! The Dec in this clue refers to one half of the popular TV double act. So if his partner got married secretly, he might be said to do this. Put the two words together and you’ll see the name of a creature with horns!

26a    Perfume, rearmost couple declined, that’s quite close to Cologne (5)
{ESSEN} A word meaning perfume loses its last two letters to become a German City. I remember a Jeux Sans Frontières final coming from there if that’s any help.

27a    Centre for ski-trips safeguards piste after avalanche one forecasts (7)
{TIPSTER} The centre for SKI TRIPS – T R holds an anagram (avalanche) of PISTE TO produce someone like John McCririck (his job, not the fact he is an odious oaf – personal opinion, not those of the site!)

28a    Single, surrounded by flighty nurses — time for a lark? (7)
{SUNRISE} An anagram (flighty) of NURSES goes around I (single) to give the time of day to hear the Dawn Chorus.

Apologies for the lateness, back with the downs anon.


1d First point retracted (foot fault) (6)
{BUNION} If you finish first you come this, in short, and a word meaning a point. Reverse the lot and you get something painful on the foot.

2d Direction of alcoholic drinking whisky? AA offers such support (3,3)
{TOW BAR} Think of the direction where a person fond of the sauce heads and insert W (Whisky – in the NATO Phonetic alphabet). That will give you something that is offered by the other (non-alcoholic) AA.

3d Later, arranged housing hunt here in London (5,5)
{EARLS COURT} A word meaning search or hunt goes inside an anagram of LATER to give a district of central London.

4d Perfect 60s hairstyle reflected antiquated place (5)
{NUBIA} The old name for an area of Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan can be revealed by taking the abbreviation for perfect and adding the name of a 60’s hairstyle for ladies, and then reversing the lot.

5d Nose contains no sun protection? It’s temporary (9)
{PROVISORY} A word meaning to nose around has inside O (no) and the ultimate sun protection for a knight’s face (the question-mark indicates something unusual about the definition, i.e. a joke). This gives a word meaning temporary.

6d Coiffeur discards pen catalogue (4)
{LIST} The word for a hairdresser (usually accompanied by the word hair) needs to lose a word meaning a pen (for a pig) and that gives you a synonym for a catalogue.

7d Which steel, ultimately in conflict, may pierce heart? (8)
{CLAYMORE} The last letter (ultimately) of STEEL goes inside a word meaning heart, along with an anagram (indicated by “conflict”) of MAY to give the name of a weapon (defined by the whole clue) popular north of the border.

8d Ten rounds enthralling — everyone peripherally sees attribute of heavyweight? (8)
{TALLNESS} An anagram (indicated by “rounds”) of TEN surrounds (indicated by “enthralling”) ALL, and SS the peripherals of SEES to gives something attributed to a heavyweight boxer.

13d Athlete reaches peak, holding third place to measure pulse (6,4)
{RUNNER BEAN} The name for a type of athlete is added to the name for a Scottish mountain inserting an A (third place to measure) to give a versatile member of the pulse family, and one I am sadly still unable to eat following my bypass six months ago this week. (9.5 stone off and still dropping!)

15d Sportsman to economise when eating — just half King Edward? (3,6)
{SKI JUMPER} A type of sportsman is obtained by taking half of JUST, placing it inside a word meaning save or economise, and adding the regnal abbreviation for King Edward (or the Queen!).

16d For booze at do, Cava’s ordered (8)
{ADVOCAAT} The Dutch drink, now seemingly out of favour, popularised by Mr Warnink, can be found by solving an anagram of AT DO CAVA.

17d Element in cricket match periodically attempt to transgress (8)
{OVERSTEP} A load of balls! Well, those in cricket!, gets added to the alternative letters of ATTEMPT (indicated by periodically) which gives you a word meaning go too far.

19d Dip into investment account upset ex-tennis player (6)
{AGASSI} The abbreviation for a type of saving and investment account holds a word meaning droop or dip, this is reversed to produce the surname of a famous man of the nets.

20d Latest ones to daub factor 11 for a Parisian tan (6)
{BRONZE} The last letters of DAUB and FACTOR are added to the word for 11 in French to give a word meaning tan.

23d Waffles producing much flatulence (5)
{GASES} A double definition. You need a word that means waffles, prattles, as well as what you have with a lot of wind.

24d Cold place to park dope (4)
{CLOT} C (for cold) is added to where an American parks his car to reveal the name for an idiot.

Thanks to Osmosis for a stiff and very enjoyable test today. See you next week!

12 comments on “Toughie 558

  1. Master craftsman at his best. Very enjoyable puzzle for which 25a was pick of a very good set of clues. Many thanks to Osmosis for the crossword and to Tilsit for the review.

  2. I thought this a wonderful Friday Toughie. I started to put my usual dots by my favourite clues but the paper got a bit spotty so I gave up. Probably easier to say that I struggled with the NE corner so my least favourites are there. Thanks to Osmosis for the great entertainment and to Tilsit for the review.

  3. 1a was my favourite in a highly enjoyable puzzle. May be more accessible than some osmosis puzzles but a really fun thinker. Thanks to him and to Tilsit for the review.

  4. Very nice crossword with plenty of twists and turns.

    Many thanks to Osmosis, and to Tilsit for the commentary.

  5. Just read the end of the 13d hint – shame about not being able to eat them, but well done – a marvellous achievement. I love 13ds so will be happy to eat your share for you this summer :) (Incidentally the picture seems to be of the French variety, not what one of my sons used to call when he was very little, a rubber ****

  6. Very good week for Toughies rounded off by the majestic skills of Osmosis. Favourites for me were 7d and 25a, thanks to Osmosis and to Tilsit for the comments.

  7. 5a Animal place to open (7)

    I presume that “open” is used as the anagram indicator? Why? How?

  8. Thank you to Osmosis and to Tilsit.

    However, I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy this one. Sorry. As I’m apparently in a minority of one, I’ll bow out politely and confess that I must just be having a grumpy day.

    Have a nice weekend.


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