Toughie 658 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 658

Toughie No 658 by Notabilis

“Three words, darling; A-may-zing!”

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BD Rating – Difficulty *****Enjoyment *****2

Greetings from the Calder Valley. Thanks for all the nice wishes and I am home from hospital, although feeling a little fragile, so our leader is going to assist with the Downs.

Today we simply have a thing of beauty. An absolutely stunning crossword from Notabilis, a ferociously tough struggle, but like the best meat when you dine, when you see the explanations for the clues, they fall apart beautifully in the brain. I know some of you will have probably given up but quite simply this is a puzzle by a setter at the top of his game, and I cannot praise Notabilis high enough for it. Thanks to Phil McNeill, the Telegraph Puzzles Editor, for publishing it.

21 across has already gone in my book of favourite all-time clues.

A final reminder for you all to try and get to Hamilton Hall on the Concourse at Liverpool ST Station in London for tomorrow’s Cruciverbalists’ Gathering. A chance for you to meet some of your favourite setters, but do try refraining from strangling the setters, it always looks a bit unseemly and Elgar is a bit cheesed off and bruised already!

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, though they all could have been.


1a Smartphone possibly taking rental contract turned companion rapturous (7,2,5)
{PLEASED AS PUNCH} An expression meaning delighted or rapturous is found by taking the name for a type of smart phone, one used by business executives and a forerunner to the Blackberry, inserting a word meaning a rental contract. Add to this a word meaning turned round and add CH, a standard companion. Et voila!

9a Wyoming withdrawing breaks over tools for data collection (7)
{SPYWARE} The abbreviation for Wyoming is reversed (withdrawing) and goes inside (breaks) something meaning over or extra. This gives you stuff that advertisers place on your computer when you reply to them to get information on how you behave on line.

10a Back trouble linked to part of brain that grows on stem? (7)
{LOBELIA} Reverse a word meaning to trouble and attach it to a word for a division within the brain of which there are four. This will give you the name of one of my favourite plants (nice cryptic definition that links to brain)

11a Inspection taken to the limit, halfway over? (4)
{EXAM} half of a two word expression (5,3) meaning to the limit (as in your credit card limit) is reversed (over) to give an abbreviation for an inspection or test.

12a Group embracing shifting apart is … (10)
{SEPARATIST} There’s been a debate on a couple of forums recently about an “&lit” clue and this is a fine example. The whole clue provides the definition. Inside a word meaning group, place an anagram (shifting) of APART IS. Stunning!

14a Selling without middlemen, subsequently keeping current returns (6)
{RETAIL} Return a word meaning subsequently with inside the scientific symbol for current to give a word meaning selling without middlemen.

15a Devious cat marks a hole (8)
{MACAVITY} The abbreviation for marks goes before A and a word meaning a hole (in a tooth, for example) to give the name of a famous fictional feline felon.

17a Perhaps American longs to have form of doughnut instead of first of the French rolls (8)
{BRIOCHES} Take what an American calls ‘longs’ and replace T (the first of ‘the’) with the letter of the alphabet that is shaped like a doughnut. That gives you some French rolls.

18a Lip having large teeth almost covering length (6)
{FLANGE} A lovely word for the lip of something is obtained by taking a word that means having teeth like Dracula, remove the last letter (almost) and insert L for length.

21a Group of stars contributing to Republicanism in Oregon (5,5)
{CANIS MINOR} I suspect our Sunday setter who is the master of hidden clues is applauding this as we write. A fabulous hidden clue. Inside “Republicanism in Oregon” is a the name of a group of astral stars. Possibly my favourite clue this year!

22a Defensive position with backer leaving couple of scores (4)
{FORT} – this defensive position is created by dropping the final letter (with backer leaving) from a couple of scores, i.e. 2×20

24a Offbeat performances reject a quote containing bull (7)
{EXOTICA} The name for offbeat art or cabaret performances is a reversal of A + something that means “quote” with the name for a male member of the cattle family.

25a Directors maybe engaging good English actor (7)
{BOGARDE} The name for a team of Directors has G (good) placed inside. Add to this E for English to get the surname of the quintessential English actor.

26a Forbade sprouting? Either could come from this lunatic (5,2,3,4)
{WRONG IN THE HEAD} This should be blue with flashing lights as with 21a. A phrase that means “lunatic”, probably a northern expression is exemplified in this clue by the words FORBADE and SPROUTING. Think of them as Dingbats! Just magnificent!

Down (from BD)

1d    Chemist shortened way to get straight to website? (7)
{PASTEUR} – To get this famous French chemist start with a way to get straight to a website (5,3) and drop (shortened) the final L

2d    Fourth Labour mayor in Barnet? Ah, nuts! (11,4)
{ERYMANTHIAN BOAR} – no, it’s nothing to do with Ken Livingstone! – what’s needed here is the fourth labour of Hercules which is an anagram (nuts) of MAYOR IN BARNET AH – I had to look this up in my Pears’ Cyclopaedia, if only to be sure of the spelling

3d    Decline involving heroin and tobacco (4)
{SHAG} – put a verb meaning to decline around H(eroin) to get this kind of shredded tobacco

4d    German engineer stops working on American train (6)
{DIESEL} – a German engineer is a charade of a verb meaning stops working and the EL(evated) railroad

ARVE Error: need id and provider

5d    Go off course with map reference contrarily put aside (4,4)
{SALT AWAY} – start with a charade of a three-letter verb meaning to go off course and a reference book containing maps and reverse them (contrarily) to get a phrasal verb meaning to put aside

6d    United carefully note each mob without repeating too much (10)
{UNBEARABLE} – a charade of U(nited), an abbreviation indicating that what follows is a note, EA(ch) and a mob without one of the central repeated letters gives an adjective meaning too much or intolerable

7d    Destructive path by which stunt drivers are trained? (9,6)
{COLLISION COURSE} – this destructive path could cryptically define training for stunt drivers

8d    Support of intrepid behaviour when all is lost (6)
{GANTRY} – this support for, say, a train signal, is derived by dropping (lost) ALL from a word meaning intrepid behaviour or chivalry

13d    Almost comfortable in hold in wrestling, it helps not to lose points (10)
{PINCUSHION} – put four of the five letters from an adjective meaning comfortable inside a wrestling hold to get something that helps protect thin pieces of metal with sharp points

16d    Kite flying with airy speciality from Japan? (8)
{TERIYAKI} – an anagram (flying) of KITE with AIRY gives a speciality dish from Japan

17d    Come down heavily to oppose vacuous entertainment (6)
{BUCKET} – a verb meaning to come down heavily, especially applying to rain, is constructed from a word meaning to oppose and E(ntertainmen)T without its internal letters (vacuous)

19d    Get shot of balletomane’s foot in first position? (3,4)
{EAT LEAD} – a verb meaning to get shot by someone is built up from the final letter (foot) of balletomanE two words (2,4) indicating in first position

20d    Excerpt understood to include Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s first pieces turned up (6)
{GOBBET} – this excerpt is created by putting a verb meaning understood around the initial letters (first pieces) of Elizabeth Barrett Browning reversed (turned up)

23d    Complaint of former Opposition leader abandoning initial aspiration (4)
{AGUE} – this complaint is derived by dropping (abandoning) the initial H from a former leader of the Conservatives when in opposition

Nina Hunters may be pleased to spot that many across rows and down rows pair off to form names of failed punk bands. Well that’s as good as BD and I can offer, anyway! Toodle-oo!!

20 comments on “Toughie 658

  1. I finished my pint long before I finished this puzzle so it must be a real Toughie. I then had to come home to check how 26a works. Thoroughly enjoyable. I hope all those going to tomorrow’s get-together have a good time. I had hoped to join you but unfortunately I can no longer make it.

  2. Found the South much easier than the north, although 26a took me ages to reverse engineer to get the splendiferous wordplay. Had to look up 5d – a new phrase for me. Thanks to Tilsit for explaining 4D, I always miss the EL railway connection. Thanks to Notabilis for such an excellent crossword.

    1. I wrote that hint!

      I like the deception caused by having D as the first letter and German in the clue – I wasted a lot of time trying to build D and RE into a train

      1. Oops didn’t read Tilsit’s introduction fully. Hope Collywobs didn’t scoff all the lemon cake.

      2. I got the EL bit very early on and then spent ages trying to get the first four letters.

  3. A Toughie of the highest order, although I might have ‘squared’ the difficulty factor too when I awarded the stars. This took me on and off all morning with muttering, groaning, trying to invoke Gnome’s Law and any other law that might help. I am grateful to Tilsit and BD for explaining the ones I didn’t understand. Many thanks also Notabilis for giving us the Toughie of the Week, had I not been running an illicit cake sale in aid of the Breast Cancer Campaign’s Wear it Pink day, I would definitely have crept off to find the proverbial darkened room.

    Very sorry that neither Tilsit nor Bufo will be there tomorrow – a full report will be provided in due course, providing any of us can remember what went on :D

    1. Forgot to say, my favourites of the many excellent brain stretchers were the evil 21a and the d’oh inducing 19d

  4. Agreed a lovely puzzle – 17a had me stumped and needed Tilsit to solve . Best clues for me 1a, 8d and 21a.
    Thanks to Notabilis and Tilsit

  5. Quite stunning this setter is certainly on the ball, If I tried to list my favourites I’d be here all night but 21a was brilliant. Many thanks to Notabilis and to Tilsit – Big Dave for the superb review.

  6. Strewth!
    Managed about two thirds before resorting to the hints. NE corner was where I failed miserably.
    Thanks to Notabilis for a fantastic puzzle and to Tilsit/BD for putting me out of my misery!

  7. Totally outclassed – me, that is. I managed to solve 5 clues so there’s little point in me cribbing the remainder. As my school reports used to say, must try harder. :-)

  8. The most ferocious Toughie (for me) for a long time! – I completed it, but the reasoning behind a couple of them totally defeated me.
    Thanks to Notabilis for an excellent crossword, and to Tilsit and BD for putting me out of my misery with their detailed explanations.

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