Toughie 838

Toughie No 838 by Notabilis

Poetic Licence?

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

Today’s blog was supposed to be a joint Fred/Ginger production but sadly he is currently stuck in his ‘second home’ without access to the web.     Notabilis quite often provides us with a tricky Toughie, but I found today’s puzzle on the ‘fluffy’ side of hobnailed,  very enjoyable with some splendid d’oh moments.    As far as I can see, there isn’t the usual Notabilis Nina, but I am sure someone will let me know if I am wrong.

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 Foundation has to beg and so on in financially hopeless state (6,4)
{BASKET CASE}   A slang term for a hopeless state, either financially or mentally.  Insert into a foundation (4) a verb meaning to beg and  the short way of saying and so on, splitting the result 6,4.

6a Goethe’s first person to encapsulate time and desire (4)
{ITCH}  Insert T for time  into the German  word for the first person (Goethe being a German writer)  in order to get a desire or strong wish for something.

9a Elated murmur, if you’re listening to it, here’s an example (5)
{HAIKU}  A type of Japanese poem, split 3, 2, might sound like an elated or raised murmur.  Thanks to Jezza for explaining about the poem.

10a Eddy Merckx, initially behind noted leader, overtaking cyclist in the middle (9)
{MAELSTROM}  Misleading capital time.   Eddy here refers to a swirling mass of water.   A title of respect given to an esteemed musician, with the middle letter of cycList inserted, the resulting word is finished with the first (initially) letter of Merckxx.

12a Farcical travails with nanny like a notorious bloodsucker (13)
{TRANSYLVANIAN}    From the historical region of Romania said to be home to Dracula.   An anagram (farcical) of TRAVAILS and NANNY.

14a Beset by pains, problem for manual workers goes on (8)
{PERSISTS}   Insert into pains or nuisances, the three letters used to indicate the problem suffered by many manual workers doing repetitive tasks. 

15a Intended expelling first pair for insubordination (6)
{FIANCE}  Remove the first two letters from a synonym for insubordination to get a male engaged person (intended).

17a Unreliable patch results when arbitrator’s lead is replaced by two successors (6)
{KLUDGE}  I bet Gnomey knows all about this botched or makeshift device or computer program which is unreliable or inadequate in function.   However, even if you haven’t heard of it, the wordplay is very clear.   Remove the first letter of an arbitrator and replace it with the two letters in the alphabet which follow the removed letter.

19a Hobnail boot’s tip damaged in cross-country event (8)
{BIATHLON}   An event combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.   An anagram (damaged) of HOBNAIL plus T (the tip of booT).

21a They’re gone in fantastic sale prices (7,6)
{SPECIAL OFFERS} An anagram (fantastic) of SALE PRICES plus the three letters of  an adverb meaning gone or departed.

24a Exodus accepted by a settler who created an ancient empire (9)
{ALEXANDER} A famous Greek empire builder.  Insert the abbreviation for Exodus (2) into A (from the clue) and someone or something that settles on the ground.

25a Travellers touring university recalled intrigue (5)
{AMOUR}  A romantic intrigue or love affair.   Reverse travelling people  around U (university).

26a Natural drug blotting out time in Illinois, etc (4)
{EASY}  Remove the abbreviation for the time zone in which Illinois lies from a drug taken for its stimulant and hallucinogenic properties and you are left with a synonym for natural.  The solution was fairly obvious from the checking letters but it took me the longest time to work out why(not  least because the abbreviation of the time zone concerned isn’t the main one that comes up on an internet search) and is the sole reason for the extra 0.5* difficulty rating.

27a Frosty field with runny liquid (10)
{UNFRIENDLY}  Frosty in the sense of not very welcoming.   An anagram (liquid)  of FIELD and RUNNY.


1d Heating surface set up right for quantum physicist (4)
{BOHR}  A reversal (up in a down clue) of that part of a cooker used to heat something followed by R (right) produces the name of a Danish physicist who contributed to the understanding of atomic structure and quantum mechanics.

2d A tot and Batman ultimately entrapped by Riddler (7)
{SNIFTER}  An informal name for a tot or dram, although I thought it mainly referred to brandy, as a type of brandy glass has the same name.  The capital R for Riddler is misleading as you need something that riddles or sieves into which is inserted (entrapped) the final letter of BatmaN.  

3d Comedy about classes, each retaining old money by way of toughness (9,4)
{EDUCATING RITA}  A stage comedy, subsequently made into a film, about university life (classes).   Take the abbreviation for each (2) and then insert a gold coin used in Europe before the first World War, a word  meaning by way of, and a synonym for toughness, splitting the result 9,4.

4d Acts theatrically, skipping up English pitching area (8)
{CAMPSITE} Remove the UP (skipping up) from an expression means acts theatrically or ostentatiously, merge the remaining letters and finish with E (English) to get somewhere one might pitch a tent.

5d Besides doffing cap, one dressed stylishly (5)
{SWELL}   Remove the first letter (doffing cap) from a two word expression meaning besides, in addition to,  to get a slang name for a dandy or fashionably dressed person.

7d Rising number consists of deterioration in strain (7)
{TORSION} Rising indicates that you need to reverse the abbreviation for number, part of a verb meaning consists of, and a word meaning deterioration in the sense of decay, to get strain caused by twisting.

8d Person having mother carefully observe German one in clinch (5,5)
{HUMAN BEINGEasier to solve than explain.    Insert into a clinch or cuddle (3), an informal way of saying mother, the two letter abbreviation for the Latin expression meaning note well (carefully observe)  and the German for the number one.   The result should be split 5,5 to get a person.

11d Insult result of eating pancake (instead of wearing it)? (4,2,3,4)
{SLAP IN THE FACE}  An informal way of describing an insult.    You might get hit in the face with a pancake as an insult or joke, although it might be better to eat it.   The ‘instead of wearing it’ refers to the fact that with a change to ON as the second word of the expression,  it would refer to an informal way of describing someone wearing pancake makeup.

13d Stelios finally pushes own plane (10)
{SPOKESHAVE}    Not one of Stelios’ Easy Jets but a small woodworking plane used for shaping surfaces (originally used to make parts of wooden  wheels) .   The last letter  (finally) of StelioS, a synonym for pushes, and a verb meaning to own or possess.

16d Crook is for the third time to switch second home designation over? (8)
{PILFERER}     The term used by an MP when they switch from one property to another its official designation as a second home required for the fulfilment of parliamentary duties, especially to claim upkeep allowances and avoid Capital Gains Tax.  However, the clue tells you that this has been done three times so we need two lots of the prefix denoting again.  Reverse (over)  the lot to get a petty thief.   Is this clue suggesting that our elected representatives may be crooks??! 

18d Incompetent former Yugoslav racketeer entering America (7)
{USELESS}  Insert the surname of a famous Serbian (ie former Yugoslav) tennis player  (d’oh of the day has to be ‘racketeer’) into the abbreviation for the United States (of America). 

20d Girl due to lose weight, caught with a line (7)
{LASSOED}  A nice simple charade –   a girl is followed by part of a verb  meaning due or indebted from which the W (weight) has been lost.

22d Dive in Hollywood could be packed (5)
{LADEN}   Packed or loaded –   Follow the abbreviation for the city where Hollywood is situated with a dive or underground room for pleasure.

23d Crowd full of upper members? (4)
{ARMY}  A cryptic double definition – a crowd or multitude  sounds like it might be  full of upper limbs.

Thanks to Notabilis for a nice stretching of the grey matter including the extra head scratching required to sort out 26a.   Other clues I liked include 9a, 10a, 16d and 18d, the latter being Tilsit’s favourite too.   Hopefully he will be back in the hot seat  next Friday so that instead of explaining the toughie, I can spend my lunch hour solving crosswords as usual!


  1. Jezza
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    9a – a 3 line verse of 17 syllables, split 5,7,5.
    Thanks to Notabilis for a tough challenge and to crypticsue for the review.

  2. Qix
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Notabilis for a very enjoyable puzzle and to CS for the write-up.

    I think that, in 9a, “here’s an example” refers to the clue itself, since it has 17 syllables in 5/7/5 configuration, and is, in that respect, somewhat haiku-like.

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks to both – I did look at the definition of the haiku but my poor brain just didn’t get any further than that. Losing one’s ‘dancing partner’ at short notice, can do that you know :)

  3. pommers
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Wee, that was a ‘proper’ Toughie and no mistake! Great fun though.

    favourite has to 18d but lots of other good stuff.

    Thanks to Notabilis and to CS for explaining 16d.

    • Jezza
      Posted September 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      I spent more time trying to parse 16d than any other clue.

  4. gazza
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable puzzle by Notabilis, if not quite as tough as we’ve come to expect from him. Thanks to him and to CS for the excellent review. My favourites were 16d and 18d.
    (The answer to 23d is visible)

  5. BigBoab
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Phew!, if that is your idea of fluffy I bow to your magnificent intellect. A very enjoyable and extremely tough toughie in my humble opinion. Thank Goodness Notablis took pity on us mere mortals and inserted a few wee easy clues to get us going along with a couple of anagrams or I would have still been struggling at midnight. Many thanks to Notablis and to Crypticsue for a brilliant review. Loved 6a and laughed at 12a.

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I said on the fluffier side of hobnailed, I didn’t actually say really fluffy! I did think that it was easy for a Notabilis that is, rather than easy generally.

  6. Pegasus
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I also thought this was pretty tough but still a pleasure to solve, My favourites were 10a 13d 18d and 21a thanks to Notabilis and to CrypticSue for the comprehensive review.

  7. gnomethang
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Not quite finished yet – I have had a bust day (and week hence the lack of posts!) but I just wanted a nod to 9a which I thought was ace!. Thanks to CS and to Notabilis. I’ll catch you all at some time tomorrow during the Anax 50th celebrations and S&B (Northern).

    • gazza
      Posted September 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      I suppose a bust day is better than a thighs day. :D

      • crypticsue
        Posted September 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        He keeps telling me he is working hard in a basement – perhaps it is the sort of basement mentioned in the wordplay of 22d :D

        • gnomethang
          Posted September 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

          Could have been worse (or better!), it could have been busty!

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Boy, did we have to work hard for this one. Hours of effort were rewarded though, except that, although having 26a correct could not parse it, even with the help of an overnight sleep. Tried to pick a favourite but too many good ones to be able to choose. We were treated to two excellent puzzles today (yesterday for us) weren’t we. Thanks Notabilis and CS.

  9. steve_the_beard
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I, too, would like to say “Thanks to Notabilis for a very enjoyable puzzle and to CS for the write-up”.

    As one who has only ever done a few Toughies (shortage of time, mostly, not of interest) I may perhaps be easily impressed, but I thought 9A was brilliant!

  10. gnomethang
    Posted September 8, 2012 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    OI! I just read the 17A hint!. We fix ’em not create ’em!

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 8, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      I said you knew about them, didn’t say you created them :D