Toughie 642 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 642

Toughie No 642 by Notabilis

Lots of four letter words (uttered and entered)!

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

DT Website rating: minus 4539

Greetings from the Calder Valley. As if the day wasn’t bright and sunny enough, we have a splendidly fiendish puzzle from the master setter Notabilis. My plan of action was to print off the puzzle and take it to a hospital appointment this morning. However, due to the dreadful Telegraph website, my plan almost did not come to fruition. I spent an hour between midnight and 1 am trying to get into the site without success. Luckily an American chum persevered and managed to get in after about 40 attempts and was able to send me a copy. Come on, Telegraph IT experts, get your act into gear, or just follow the Guardian’s experience and go free and ditch the competitive elements.

Rant over. Back to the puzzle. When I looked through the clues, I thought that 11 across presented a good place to start and was rather pleased when I entered DIVA (a reversal of AVID – extremely keen). Oh dear! I was wrong. I did think it a bit odd that the next clue I got actually had AVID inside it (9 across), but I was completely stymied in the right corner. However, when I realised what 5 down was, all fell into place. The mark of a great crossword is being nicely deceptive, and today’s challenge achieved it. Thanks to Notabilis for an excellent battle.

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.


6a    Source for complications developing as from now? (3,2,5)
{CAN OF WORMS} We start with a slightly complicated clue. The definition is actually the whole of the clue. C = source of complications and added to this is an anagram (indicated by developing) of AS FROM NOW. A nice start to the puzzle.

8a    Son, to be melodramatic, pretended (4)
{SHAM} A word-sum S (Son) is added to a word meaning to be melodramatic or overact to give you something that means pretended.

9a    American in compound, eager for president’s retreat (4,5)
{CAMP DAVID} The name of the US President’s equivalent to Chequers can be found by taking an abbreviation for American (not the usual one!) and putting it inside an abbreviation for compound. Added to this is the infamous word meaning eager or keen. Friday Fascinating Fact: The official name for this place is Naval Support Facility Thurmont.

11a    Extremely keen in revolt, backing rebellious music (4)
{PUNK} As mentioned above, this clue completely threw me. I assumed it was a reversal of AVID giving me a rebellious musical type. As I didn’t have my dictionary with me to check if DIVA could be used as an adjective. As it happens, it can’t.

12a    Fast Australian creature that gave birth to euro (3)
{EMU} A little general knowledge is needed here rather than knowledge of word play. The clue comprises two definitions. The first straightforward, a fast Australian creature. The second is the abbreviation of the scheme that gave us the Euro currency.

13a    Trap gang’s insiders repeatedly since rave (2,7)
{GO BANANAS) A lovely inventive clue from our genius today. What does the slang word “trap” refer to? Find another slang word for the same thing and add to it the “insiders” of the word GANG, i.e. AN twice. Finally add to this a two-letter word that can mean since. This will give you an expression that means to rant and rave.

16a    What’s produced by part of mouth with end misplaced? (4)
{LISP} Another storming clue. As with 6 across, the whole of the clue provides the definition. If you take the word for the part of the face that stops your mouth from fraying, and switch the last two letters around, you get a vocal effect that can be obtained by having a slightly dysfunctional mouth.

17a    Mum takes drink with lieutenant in furtive manner (7)
{STEALTH} In World War II, there was an expression “Be like Dad, keep mum!” (See, there were ad men around then just like now, but minus the cocaine!) The meaning of mum is similar here. Inside an expression that means “Quiet” goes a drink and LT (Lieutenant). This gives you a word meaning a furtive manner.

18a    Soldier rebuffed in Nazareth giftshop (7)
{FIGHTER} Hidden backwards inside “Nazareth giftshop” is a word that means soldier.

20a    Criticism when side drops Newton (4)
{FLAK} Another one that held me up for ages. A word meaning side (physically rather than the word for a team) in rugby loses N (Newton) to give something that means criticism.

21a    Papers covering US murder left killing (9)
{PRICELESS} An American patois word for murder has L (left) added and it all goes inside the generic name for newspapers. This gives an adjective that means excellent or superb.

23a    Statement from those flocking to Heathrow, the operators (3)
{BAA} A nice cryptic definition for the noise made by a certain creature; this is the same as the name of the organisation(abbreviated) that owns and runs Heathrow airport. It also gives me an excuse for some music…..

ARVE Error: need id and provider

24a    Hack with pressure for deadline’s beginning prank (4)
{JAPE} I needed my new Chambers for this one. A word that means an old knackered horse (I didn’t know it did either!) It also means a type of precious stone. Swap P for D to give a word meaning a prank or trick.

25a    Pressure unit came represented with curves (9)
{PNEUMATIC} Another use of P for Pressure. An anagram (indicated by represented) of P + UNIT CAME gives a word that as an adjective can mean proportioned, as in a woman’s figure (says Chambers!).

29a    Landlord’s crowd (4)
{HOST} A double definition . The word for a pub landlord is the same as a biblical word for a crowd (usually of angels).

30a    She’ll tell tales about deception, to merit employment (10)
{RACONTEUSE} The name for a female story-teller is found by taking a word meaning merit and putting it around one meaning deception. Place this before a word meaning employment, et voila!


1d           Starters of tamale and loose chilli powder (4)
{TALC}  The first letters of “tamale and loose chilli” give a type of powder that has the lowest rating on the Moh’s scale (I remember an ancient themed puzzle by Giovanni on the subject!).

2d           Tidy room, one where many go for the rest (4)
{DORM} – a charade of a word meaning to tidy, tidy up a room perhaps, and the abbreviation of RooM gives somewhere many go for the rest in a boarding school

3d           Area with Miliband possibly fearful (4)
{AWED}   The arrival of the Labour Leader as a crossword indicator (it makes a change from journalist!).  The abbreviations for Area and With are added to Mr Miliband’s first name give a word meaning fearful or stunned.

4d           Motivating runs in Olympic event (7)
{DRIVING}  Place R (runs) inside Tom Daley’s sport to give a word meaning motivating.

5d           Salvation Army hostels welcoming rising Orient scorer (5-5)
{SAINT-SAENS}  A nice use of scorer to mean someone who writes music.  Inside SA (Salvation Army) INNS (hostels) goes the reversal of a word that means the Orient.  This leads you to a French “scorer” who wrote one of my favourite pieces of music.  And here it is…..

ARVE Error: need id and provider

7d           Factions erase memory of passing hit (9)
{SIDESWIPE}  A word sum comprising factions in a conflict and a term meaning to erase a computer’s memory will lead you to a term for a passing hit or glance.

8d           Grave suffering helps cure (9)
{SEPULCHRE}  A word for a grave or burial place is an anagram (suffering) of HELPS CURE.

10d         Pieman hasn’t even ingredients for basis of soup? (3)
{PEA}  The odd letters of the word PIEMAN give a popular ingredient for many soups.  Try this nice recipe.

13d         Looted a gaff, almost duffed up witness (3,1,4,2)
{GET A LOAD OF}  A colloquial expression  meaning to look or watch is an anagram of LOOTED A GAF(F), note the almost indicating not the whole thing,

14d         Combat expert’s to finance gamble, putting pounds in here and there (5,4)
{BLACK BELT}  If you take two words meaning FINANCE and GAMBLE and insert L (pounds) into each one, you get a word meaning an expert in fighting.

15d         Send up salesman to copy to new stationery (9)
{NOTEPAPER}   Reverse words that mean  SALESMAN, COPY, TO and N (for New) to give a form of stationery.

19d         Parasites besieging enclosure in abuse of freedom (7)
{LICENCE}  A word meaning freedom is found by taking the name of tiny parasites and inserting the abbreviation for enclosure.

22d         Field’s reduced initiative (3)
{LEA}  Drop the last letter of a word meaning initiative or front to get the name for a field or meadow.

26d         Cheeky Girl’s claimed fur coats (4)
{MINX}  If you remember Minnie in The Beano  and her sobriquet, you get a word that sounds like some fur coats.

27d         Management finally greeting people in authority (4)
{THEY}  The term for people in authority if found by taking the last letter of management and adding a popular greeting (used on social networking sites) for a hello.

28d         Constant smoking remains possibility for change? (4)
{CASH}  C (Constant) + the word for detritus from a smoker gives you something which means change or small money.

Thanks to Notabilis for a cracking puzzle and here’s to a splendid weekend in the sun (or rain!)

33 comments on “Toughie 642

  1. I think Notabilis must have known it’s my birthday today because he gave us a puzzle that is right on my wavelength! Solved in near record time for a Toughie (only beaten by the Kcit on Weds) but with great enjoyment – I thought it a splendid puzzle and the first Notabilis puzzle I’ve cracked without some sort of aid!
    Too many great clues to pick a favourite but, if pushed, I think I might go for 1a – my first in.
    Many thanks to Notabilis for a great birthday treat and to Tilsit for the review.

    1. Happy birthday to you! :smile:
      Still need some help with a few down clues so will wait for them before I do any commenting.

  2. Many thanks to Tilsit for the review. I found this a gentler Notabalis. For me it was easier than the back page today though that may be the luck of the draw that I was on the right wavelength for this crossword. Thanks to Notabalis for the fun.

  3. I think this was my fastest ever solve of a Toughie. Very enjoyable – many thanks to Notabilis, and to Tilsit for the notes.

    Happy Birthday to Pommers :)

  4. 12 bl**dy 4 letter words! I nearly cried when I looked at the grid. Fortunately all fell relatively into place except for the NE before the thunderous penny drop when got 5d to help with the 4 letter acrosses. Thanks to Notabilis and Tilsit as always

  5. Is there a tad more to 1a? I thought that ‘as from now’ might not just be the anagram fodder but might also refer to the fact that this is the first across clue and therefore the ‘opening’ of the crossword. It’s only the ‘opening’ of the answer that gives you the problems – if you don’t open it the problems stay away! Or am I getting confused with Pandora’s Box?

    BTW – thanks for the birthday wishes Prolixic and Andy. Wasn’t fishing and didn’t realize it might look as though I was until Prolixic posted! Just a bit ‘full of beans’ after such a great puzzle!

  6. What ho Pommers! Have a spiffing good day over in jolly Iberia! Yes I’m re-reading Jeeves & Wooster so excuse the upper class twit idiom old thing.

    1. I say! Thanks Spindrift, love the jolly old Jeeves books but haven’t pointed the monocle at one for about 10 years!

  7. Very entertaining offering from todays setter, I think there’s a connection with the four symmetrical seven letter words. Favourites for me were 13a and 23a thanks to Notabilis and to Tilsit for a great review.

    1. Indeed, I was just looking to see if anyone had caught that. Once I noticed the horizontal pair, I took a closer look for a mate or two — just the one vertical, but still, a nice little extra.

  8. Rarely look at the toughies (mainly because I can’t usually do them) but people seemed to think that this was a fairly easy one and, since I’m stuck inside waiting, hopefully, for our chimney to be swept I had a go. Managed quite a lot of it before resorting to the hints – presumably the best way to learn. Really liked 6a and 13d. Thanks to Notabilis and Tilsit.

  9. Almost my quickest Toughie time ever so definitely 2* difficulty for me, and I finished with a smile so I would say 4 or even 5* fun. Thank you very much Notabilis, that was a great start to Friday. Lots of very nice clues, including 1a, 16a and 23a. Thanks to Tilsit for the very nice review too.

    With regard to 23a, I do remember a time when my boss at the time entered those initials to get information on a particular airport and was greeted with a beautiful picture of a sheep. Priceless.

    Still exceedingly hot here (28 – 30 ish depending on whether you are by the thermometer in the shade or .in my husband’s car) so I am off outside while it lasts.

  10. I only try the toughie when it’s advertised as non-tough, and today I found it fairly tough in that I just about managed to finish it but I needed (thank you Tilsit) explanations for a few answers. For example, 24a had me completely baffled. I found the back page effort today a lot easier, so I must be the ideal person to rate the crosswords!
    I had ‘war of words’ for 1a which sort of works as the crossword, a war of words, does begin with the first clue.

  11. Oh dear!
    It was all going so well this week.
    Most of this seemed straightforward but I still got stuck on 2d and 11ac.
    Also had answer for 24ac bit no idea why.
    13ac was favourite clue.
    So thanks to Tilsit and to Notabilis for stretching the little grey cells.

  12. Thoroughly enjoyable and tough toughie in my opinion, many thanks to Notablis and to Tilsit for a super review. Many happy returns to Pommers though where you get 1a from I don’t know unless the computer version is different from the paper one.

  13. Hi all. A long time lurker here but never got round to posting before. I rate myself pretty quick on the back pager and very rarely need help with that but have only fairly recently started attempting the toughie, usually with pretty poor results. Some of that I’m sure is that my brain is attuned to doing the crossword whilst on the train on the way to work and I always fare much worse when doing it in other circumstances, and as the toughie comes later in the day then my brain isn’t in cryptic mode. That’s my excuse anyway.

    As to this one, would agree with the majority here that this was an eas(ier)y toughie. Needed one hint from here plus had never heard of the composer so was dead in the water with that one but otherwise probably the 2nd or 3rd quickest I’ve done it. Odd that there were 2 very ‘easy’ toughies in a week though, or am I just becoming more attuned?

    If I have a criticism of the toughie it is that too often I find that the wordplay is so dense that I get the answer by identifying the trigger word rather than by working it out cryptically, only doing so after I have the answer which somewhat spoils the point of a cryptic crossword for me.

  14. Indeed I have. Problem is, not being a classical music lover there are many things I’ve heard of but have no idea regarding composers. Where is the setter who is also a Springsteen fan I ask myself??

  15. I certainly found this on the easier side of Notablis. 1a and particularly 5d caused a hold up – I had 5d parsed and written in around the outside of the paper without being ablt to write it in firmly. Thanks to Notabilis and to Tilsit for the review.

    1. I also liked 26d!
      If tonight was pommette’s idea of dinner out – under the trees with a view of the mountains, then I could do that again – as indeed the crossword!

  16. Late input from me as usual. Started this late last night and finished it this afternoon.
    Faves : 1a, 13a, 21a, 25a, 5d, 13d & 14d. Also liked the four three-letter jobs!

    Very enjoyable puzzle Notabilis!

  17. Thanks to Notabilis for a very tricky puzzle and to Tilsit for a great review and hints. This a very well constructed puzzle, but very difficult, I needed 8 hints, 3 of which I had to look up. Favourites were 23 & 14.

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