Toughie 858 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 858

Toughie No 858 by Osmosis

Hints and tips by Tilsit

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

Greetings from the Calder Valley. Thanks to our lovely double acts for covering while I was incapacitated.

It’s Friday and this week Osmosis is here to taunt and tease us. A pleasant solve with not too much to tax the brain, although there are the usual hallmarks of our setter – unusual indicators of one and two letters, along with elegant and unusual, and occasionally stretchy, definitions.

Incidentally, the new edition of Bradford’s Crossword Solvers’ Dictionary is now out, and I already have my copy (it came in handy today). This is one of the most useful books a solver can have and as one of the erudite setters says, it’s rarely away from my side when I solve.

At the moment it’s on special offer for £10 instead of twice that, so it might be a good time to update your copy, or get yourself an early Christmas present. It really is a must have book.

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 shown in blue.


1a    Horny thing playing erotic parts (11)
{TRICERATOPS} We start today with an anagram (indicated by ‘playing’) of EROTIC PARTS to produce a prehistoric creature known for its horns.

10a    Atlas perhaps having a note on margin (2-3)
{HE-MAN} The name of the man who boasted that you could have a body like his, is an example of this word for a male bodybuilder or hunk. If you take the word for the edge of a garment and add A and the abbreviation for note, unusually not the name of a musical note.

11a    Trace fault with farm worker, in conversation (9)
{SCINTILLA} A word of Latin origin (from the word for a spark) that means a small piece or trace of something is a homophone of two words, one that means a fault or evil deed, and the other for someone who works on the land.

12a    US actor backstage to play soon with genuine clothing (4,5)
{RYAN O’NEAL} An American actor who started out in Peyton Place and went on to star in films with Barbra Streisand and his daughter can be found by taking Y (the last letter [backstage to] of play) adding the poetic word for soon. These two go inside (shown by ‘clothing’) a word meaning genuine.

13a    Hand tool used without opening shed? (5)
{HOVEL} Take The first letter off something to dig the garden and get the name for a (dilapidated) shed.

14a    Car turned from street at seaside (6)
{ESTATE} Hidden backwards inside STREET AT SEASIDE is a type of larger car.

16a    Assumed you texted, having rung through news (8)
{UNSPOKEN} Something that is assumed may be this: Take the way da kidz say you in their text messages and add to it a word that means ‘rung’ inside NN (two abbreviations for new, hence news)

18a    Limitations shown by master with sick animal (8)
{MANDRILL} The name for an animal is found by taking the literal limitations of MASTER (i.e. the first letter + AND + last letter and then add a word that means sick. Not overly convinced this is fair as the clue stands.

20a    Disturb couples inside that grab kisses (6)
{HARASS} Take two letters from inside each of the last three words to get a word that means annoy or disturb.

23a    Relations ring Oklahoma in another US state (5)
{NOOKY} What my late mum used to call ‘carnival knowledge’ can be found by taking O (ring) + the abbreviation for Oklahoma and putting it all inside the abbreviation for the state whose capital is Albany.

24a    Apple gadget entertains one joiner seasoning (9)
{CORIANDER} The name of a herb (seasoning??) is formed by taking a device that you use on an apple to remove its centre and inside this (entertains) place I (one plus AND (joiner).

26a    Off-piste, jubilant with meandering run (9)
{UNRELATED} A word that means not linked or defined colloquially as ‘off-piste’ is made up of something that means jubilant or happy placed after (but not exactly indicated here) an anagram (meandering) of RUN

27a    Silver surfer latterly starts to email — expats correspond (5)
{AGREE} Something that means correspond is made up of the chemical symbol for silver; R (the last letter [latterly] of SURFER and the first letters of EMAIL and EXPATS.

28a    Scientific study here in Switzerland by heartless company jerks (11)
{CYBERNETICS} A type of scientific study is found by taking the name for the capital of Switzerland (English spelling) placed inside the ends of the word COMPANY and a word for twitches or facial movements.


2d    Polish guards mark area for steps (5)
{RUMBA} M (mark) goes inside (guards) a word meaning polish and add A to get the name of a dance probably on BBC1 tomorrow night.

3d    Twist company books to hide rising corruption (7)
{CONTORT} A sort of word sum: CO (Company) + an abbreviation for one of the set of books in the Bible. Often ‘books’ in a clue relates to one of the testaments, not helpful for atheists. Inside this abbreviation goes the reversal (rising) of a word meaning corruption.

4d    Duck removed from chicken roll (6)
{ROSTER} The name for a roll or list is found by taking the name for a type of chicken and removing O (duck).

5d    Petty ménage-a-trois? (8)
{TRIFLING} The question-mark here indicates that Osmosis is asking you to think a little out of the box. A cryptic way of describing a ménage-a-trois using a prefix for three and the name for a love-affair or dalliance is a word that means petty or insignificant. Clever clue.

6d    Youngster nibbles at church settle (5,2)
{PATCH UP} A phrase that means to settle differences is revealed by taking a word for a youngster (think dog) and inserting (nibbling) AT + an abbreviation for Church.

7d    Musician delightful entertaining the French man (7,6)
{CHARLES MINGUS} The clue that has provoked the most pre-blog discussion. Inside a word that means delightful or entrancing goes (another outing for entertaining as a container) the word for THE (PLURAL) in French. However there are two letters at the end (U S) which are defined as ‘man’ If it were man(kind) then the man should be capitalised. Neither Chambers nor Bradford actually gives this definition. My other thought was that it was GUS (man’s name) but it would render the clue faulty. Let’s have a debate. Over to you……

ARVE Error: need id and provider

We won’t mention the person who thought the answer might conceivably have been Shirley Bassey from some of the checking letters. Oh no.

8d    Eggs on king during revolutionary troubles here in Europe (8)
{SLOVAKIA) some eggs followed by K(ing) go inside the reversal (revolutionary) of some troubles. I initially had Slovenia as the answer here, chuntering about how I didn’t understand it! Then a large penny dropped (well, a prompt from BD!)

9d    Scottish pioneer, protecting heather and trees, managed ancient trackway (7,6)
{WATLING STREET} The name of a Roman Road is found by taking the name of a heather (in crosswords it’s invariably Erica or Ling – you decide which!), adding an anagram of TREES and putting the lot inside the surname of a Scottish inventor (think steam engine).

15d    For meal to turn brown, cook, then pour oil regularly (8)
{TANDOORI) The name of a type of Indian dish (not the oven) can be found by taking the word meaning to go brown in the sun, adding something that means cook or fiddle and the alternate letters (regularly) of POUR OIL.

17d    Dodgy cable-knit doorman finally rejected as formal wear (5,3)
{BLACK TIE} The name given to a type of event such as a dinner where formal attire is worn is found by making an anagram of CABLE KNIT minus N (the last letter of doorman).

19d    Orbison style of vocal accompanied by Yankee’s top brass? (7)
(ROYALTY} The name for the ruling class (top brass) is found by taking Mr Orbsion’s first name, adding a high tone (style of vocal) and adding Y (for Yankee – NATO alphabet)

21d    Rigid section of road a man treated (7)
{ADAMANT} Something that means stiff is hidden inside ROAD A MAN TREATED

22d    Poet from German city, unknown for love lyrics ultimately (6)
{DRYDEN} The Surname of a former Poet Laureate is revealed by taking the name of a German city bombed and near destroyed in WW2 and swapping Y (unknown) for ES (the last letters of LOVE AND LETTERS. Perhaps “Spanish art’ – ES might have worked better. This seems clunky, but maybe because of the over-use of last letter indicators elsewhere.

25d    Architectural style upset staff in charge (5)
{DORIC} Reverse the name for a stick or staff and add I C (in charge) to give a style of architecture.

Thanks to Osmosis for an entertaining challenge, although I do tire of the overuse of these last and first letter indicators in clues. Hopefully see you next week!

17 comments on “Toughie 858

  1. I enjoyed this one, and for the most part, found it relatively gentle for a Friday. Still not convinced by 7d, but I won’t lose any sleep over it!
    2.5*/4* for me.
    Many thanks to Osmosis, and to Tilsit for the notes.

  2. Not overly difficult for a Friday Toughie yet still enjoyable, Favourites for me were 5d 11a and 23a thanks to Osmosis and to Tilsit, nice to have you back.

  3. Re 7d: Chambers has the “-kind” sense of the term in question as usually with capital, and I think that it’s OK. SOED has it capitalised, and Collins not. Perhaps “people” would have been better, but it’s no big deal for me.

    I enjoyed the puzzle, and liked the surface readings of the clues.

    1. Anyway, he’s always known with “ie” not “es” on the end of his first name in the circles I move in, so I struggled horribly with this one.

  4. AND I really dislike “backstage” to indicate the last letter in 12a.

    Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle, and the line that contains 23a and 24a is sublime.

  5. We used to call our Biology Teacher “Osmosis” at Beverley Grammar School. You don’t think……..

  6. I enjoyed this a lot ( except for 7d ) so thanks to Osmosis and to Tilsit for a superb review.

    1. Nice avatar Boab…….. do I sense a Dundonian in the room?

      I was working there only yesterday.

  7. We really enjoyed this and completed without too much trouble. In the camp that thinks the clue for 7a works perfectly well for a toughie. us = our species = man. Liked the snigger, snigger, nudge, nudge of 1a and 23a which we are sure will appeal to Kath too. Thanks Osmosis and Tilsit

  8. Agree with Tilsit about 18a, is that entirely fair? But what do I know, re 7d I just thought entertainment was “charming us” with les, hadn’t read the clue properly d’oh and now i think i understand the debate. Lots to enjoy here though, so thanks Tilsit and Osmosis

  9. Hi Tilsit – hope you are getting well again.

    18a works for me but as for 7d????? Never heard of the guy anyway so a bit impossible for me. Got it when I twigged the CHARLES bit and used Google but it’s a bit dodgy IMHO.

    Otherwise a great Toughie which didn’t rely on obscure words to make it harder than a back-pager.

    Thanks to Osmosis and Tilsit.

  10. I know I’m coming very late to the table, but I had no problem with 7d, and got it from the forename before I’d worked it out. Somebody is charming us and in the middle we have the French for ‘the’ [pl]. And – pace Pommers – this towering jazz genius is generally well-known, surely?? :-)

    I only solved about half of the others (without prompts), but this one wasn’t a prob.

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