Toughie 696

Toughie No 696 by Notabilis

The Triumph of Hope over Experience?

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

This is a thoroughly enjoyable Toughie from Notabilis, worthy of the name Toughie but not so mind-blowing that you have to go and lie down in a darkened room after solving it. Let us know how you got on.
Notabilis often hides a Nina in his puzzles, but I can’t find anything today. Can you?
Please take the time to rate the puzzle by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

1a  I’ve several mates (lairy, extremely good European friends) aboard vessel (10)
{POLYGAMIST} – to get this person with multiple partners put the extremities of L(air)Y, G(ood) and French friends inside a cooking vessel.

6a  America backing military action’s composition (4)
{OPUS} – an abbreviation for America follows (backing) the abbreviation for a military operation.

9a  Original sin with start in unruly school (2,8)
{ST TRINIAN’S} – by a remarkable coincidence the death of the creator of this unruly girls’ school, Ronald Searle, was announced yesterday and the news bulletins were full of tributes to him. Its name is an anagram (original) of SIN and START IN.

10a  Idiot’s to voice disapproval of madhouse without repetition (4)
{BOZO} – put together a verb meaning to voice disapproval and how you might describe a place of confusion and disorder, then remove one of the repeated letters in each.

12a  Possible need for water temperature by shark exhibitor (6)
{THIRST} – T(emperature) is followed by the name of the Turner Prize-winning artist who is apparently infatuated with dead animals.

13a  Consult native about European decline (8)
{NOSEDIVE} – the latin word used in a text to tell a reader to consult another referenced work or author for more information is followed by a native, then all that is reversed (about) and followed by E(uropean) to make a steep downward plunge (decline).

15a  Ring true? (5,2,1,4)
{SOUND AS A BELL} – we had a very similar phrase to this in yesterday’s Toughie. It means in excellent condition, but literally could be a definition of the verb to ring.

18a  Second grade engine reversing round cross after church is having sentimental appeal (9-3)
{CHOCOLATE-BOX} – reverse a word meaning second grade (so not alpha) and a short railway engine, then add a round letter and the letter that looks like a cross. All that then goes after CH(urch) to make a description of something that’s pretty in a sentimental way.

21a  Deserter somewhat miffed a general in retreat (8)
{RENEGADE} – this deserter is hidden (somewhat) and reversed (in retreat) in the clue.

22a  Peaks are behind gnome (6)
{MAXIMA} – this is not saying that Gnomey’s best years are behind him! The definition is peaks or the highest levels recorded. The abbreviation for are (the metric land measurement, not the verb) goes after a gnome or nugget of wisdom.

24a  With an initial switch of taps, beguile fool (4)
{HOAX} – start with a verb meaning to beguile or entice and change the initial tap from cold to hot.

25a  Person sharing address that’s surprising slightly in odd talk (10)
{COHABITANT} – an expression of surprise (2) and slightly (1,3) go inside an affected or odd style of speech to make someone you live with.

26a  Major astronomer losing place over tainted atmosphere? (4)
{REEK} – this was the last answer I got. The definition is tainted atmosphere or offensive smell (sometimes associated with Edinburgh in the past). Start with the name of a German astronomer and mathematician who defined the laws of planetary motion, then remove the abbreviation for place and finally reverse (over) what remains.

27a  Cue heard by lunatic for wild behaviour (10)
{DEBAUCHERY} – an anagram (lunatic) of CUE HEARD BY.

Down Clues

1d  After pressure, Madrilenian is with Basque agitators — not much change once there (6)
{PESETA} – P(ressure) is followed by the word someone from Madrid would use for “is” and the acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (the Basque freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on your viewpoint) to produce the pre-Euro currency in Spain (not much change because at the time of conversion you needed more than 166 of them to get one Euro).

2d  Almost passed through Baltic state (6)
{LATVIA} – a word meaning passed or dead loses its final E (almost) and this is followed by a synonym for through to make a Baltic state.

3d  Painter to receive punishment for hooliganism, but not a hooligan (12)
{GAINSBOROUGH} – this is an English painter who was a founder member of the Royal Academy. String together a verb meaning to receive or earn, a restraining order for a hooligan without the A (but not a) and another word for hooligan.

4d  English breaching border upset former prime minister (4)
{MEIR} – this former prime minister of a Middle-Eastern country comes from inserting (breaching) E(nglish) in a border and then reversing it (upset, in a down clue).

5d  Unusually stressed church council welcomes chapter and head (slightly later) (10)
{SYNCOPATED} – the definition here is unusually stressed (the accents in music becoming misplaced so that strong beats become weak and vice versa). An ecclesiastical assembly (church council) has C(hapter) and a synonym for head inserted, but not contiguously (the head being slightly later).

7d  Turn about impertinence, gripping for sketch writer (8)
{PROFILER} – this is someone who produces a brief description of a person (sometimes for the police when they are looking for an unknown serial offender). Start with a preposition meaning about or concerning, add a slang word for impertinence then insert (gripping) FOR. Finally reverse the lot (turn).

8d  Careless attachment with Trojan finally insinuated in scheming (8)
{SLOVENLY} – the definition here is careless (normally used as a description of someone who takes no care with their appearance). Put a synonym for attachment or affection plus the final letter of (Troja)N inside another word for scheming or cunning.

11d  Fellow in a claim distorted with ego? (12)
{MEGALOMANIAC} – this is an all-in-one clue. Put another word for fellow inside an anagram (distorted) of A CLAIM and EGO.

14d  To release certain people is not fair (10)
{UNHANDSOME} – this is an unusual adjective to describe someone who is not good-looking (not fair). Start with an archaic verb meaning to let go of someone and add a word used to mean a certain number of people.

16d  Check into person who orchestrates Lulu (8)
{SCORCHER} – ignore the false capitalisation of lulu – this is not the pocket-sized Scottish singer, rather it’s someone or something remarkable and we want another, informal word for the same thing. Put the abbreviation used for check in chess inside someone who produces a musical composition.

17d  Mathematician’s tiny dot, saving time and trouble (8)
{POINCARÉ} – this is a French mathematician (not one I’d heard of, so it’s just as well the wordplay is straightforward). A word for a tiny dot loses its final T (saving time), then this is followed by a synonym for trouble or conscientiousness.

19d  I’m disgusted about rising tariff and obsess (6)
{FIXATE} – an old exclamation indicating disgust contains a reversal (rising) of what a tariff is to make a verb meaning to obsess.

20d  Unworthy comrade shot (6)
{PALTRY} – an adjective meaning unworthy or meagre is a simple charade of a comrade and a shot or attempt.

23d  A clash’s overturned foreign leader (4)
{RAJA} – a leader from the sub-continent comes from reversing (overturned) A followed by a verb to clash or grate.

My favourite clues were 25a, 1d, 2d and 3d. How about you?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Had I not been at work, this might not have taken me quite as long but as it is, that darkened room would be very handy at the moment. Thanks to Notabilis for a Toughie worthy of the name and to Gazza for the hints and explanations – one of which I needed but I am not going to say which one!

  2. Jezza
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I found this really tough today. My last three (13a, 17d, 19d) took an age to work out.
    Thanks to Notabilis for the workout, and to Gazza for the explanations (in particular 13a, where I had the answer but did not know why!).

  3. BigBoab
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    After yesterdays wee stroll in the park, this brought me downt to earth with a bump, I have struggled all morning with it and finally had to use your hints for the last 3. ( Same as Jezzas’ last three ) Thanks to Notablis for stretching me beyond my meagre capabilities and Gazza for the excellent review and very handy hints.

  4. andy
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Unlike BigBoab I struggled yesterday, but not as much as I did with this, my last in were 10a (wasn’t sure if in chambers or i’d made it up!!) and 17d. 13a was in but it was a fingers crossed entry as i’d never have been able to get (and still dont) the latin connection. Live and Learn. Thanks to Notabilis and to Gazza

    • gazza
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      The latin word is vide meaning “see …. for further information”.

      • andy
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        Of course it is, thanks Gazza – memory issues!

  5. pegasus
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid it’s the darkened room for me, really struggled with this one. Favourites among a host of others were 2d 10a 22a and 25a thanks to Notabilis for a proper Toughie and to Gazza for the explanations.

  6. spindrift
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I hope the darkened room is going to be big enough to accommodate all of the damned souls who will be residing there….thanks for the review Gazza but I think Notabilis is in a particularly outré frame of mind today.

    • crypticsue
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      I just hope there is tea and cake as there is iin the naughty corner, or perhaps something stronger should be prescribed :D

    • andy
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I’m definetely in there today, and it’s a bit more crowded than normal I must say.

  7. gazza
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit surprised that everyone seemed to find this so tricky. I definitely thought that it was a “Wednesday Notabilis” rather than a “Friday Notabilis”.

    • crypticsue
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      I emailed Prolixic first thing to ask if it was just me or whether the Toughie was ‘tricky in places’ His response was to ‘delete the “in places”.

    • pommers
      Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      Gazza, you must have had a third Weetabix for breakfast!

  8. pommers
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Phew! Would those in the darkened room please move over a bit so I can get in. Just glad I didn’t tackle this before my blood pressure check!

    Too much for me I’m afraid and needed half a dozen hints to finish. Thanks Gazza, you were much needed today.

    Two coincidences in this one! 9a as mentioned by Gazza in the blog and 12a is another one in view of 1d in the back pager!

    Thanks to Notabilis for the workout, now to see if they’ve made room for me..

  9. Heno
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Notabilis & Gazza for the review & hints. On first read through I only had a theory for 15a, but had to look at the hints to get the first word. I reckon many stars for difficulty :-)

    • Heno
      Posted January 5, 2012 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      Well, I decided to give it a go, to see if I could learn something. Learnt a bit, but much too tough for me. Needed 21 hints, 8 of which I had to look up, which meant I solved 7! But that was because I had the checkers from the hints. A very well constructed puzzle, but seemed so difficult that I was unable to get into it.