Toughie 861 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 861

Toughie No 861 by Giovanni


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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

If the formula for a great Toughie was to choose a dreadful grid in which 14 clues have double unches and then throw in a few words that no-one, apart from Pommers, has ever heard of then I would have given this one five stars. It isn’t and I didn’t. I needed a lot of help from Chambers and Google to finish this, so thanks to Gazza and Crypticsue for the portmanteau neologism that I have used for the subheading.

I have suspended the use of the new spoiler facility because of the problem with Internet Explorer 8. While anyone who is using this dreadful piece of software at home gets precisely what they deserve, I do appreciate that those using office networks have no control over the software that is provided. Fortunately IE8 will not run on Windows 7, as I found out when I tried to install it yesterday.

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    Rock, something round to bulge out as seen from behind (6)
{GABBRO} – this coarsely crystalline igneous rock is derived by reversing (as seen from behind) something round that the Queen held at her Coronation and a verb meaning to bulge out

4a    What could be seen as part of recipe, arid! (5,3)
{SPLIT PEA} – this possible recipe item can be described by its position in the final two words in the clue

8a    Foreign city in which nothing’s tightly packed (6)
{ODENSE] – O (nothing) followed by an adjective meaning tightly packed

9a    Weight gained from a combination of pies and mash (8)
{EMPHASIS} – an anagram (combination) of PIES and MASH

10a    Silly talk when port’s been drunk in the monk’s office (8)
{PRIORATE} – some silly talk around (when … been drunk) a Brazilian port

11a    It could be bird compound with name at front (6)
{NESTER} – a general name for any creature which, like a bird, builds this type of home comes from a chemical compound formed by the condensation of an alcohol and an acid preceded by (at front) N(ame)

12a    Religious festival faces criticism, not quite bringing things together (8)
{HOLISTIC} – a Hindu spring festival characterized by boisterous revelry followed by most of (not quite) a slang word for criticism

13a    Bring down old nurse to hug tot (6)
{SADDEN} – an obsolete abbreviation for a qualified nurse around (to hug) a verb meaning to tot or sum

15a    What Jolson’s mother did in a northern region (6)
{BOREAL} – split as (4,2) this could describe what Jolson’s mother did

18a    Lions cavorting in this place, not the foremost place for play (8)
{ELSINORE} – an anagram (cavorting) of Lions inside an adverb meaning in this place without its initial letter (not the foremost) gives the setting for Shakespeare’s play Hamlet

20a    Stirrin’ up something in the cake-making mix? (6)
{RAISIN} – drop the final G from a verb meaning stirring up

21a    Like some games Ian Smith played (8)
{ISTHMIAN} – an adjective meaning like some games that used to be held by the ancient Greeks every other year near Corinth comes from an anagram (played) of IAN SMITH

23a    Morally deviating President facing right angry tirade (8)
{ABERRANT} – the nickname of President Lincoln followed by R(ight) and an angry tirade

24a    Agreeing with others is arch (6)
{INSTEP} – split as (2,4) this means agreeing with others but it is actually an arch in the foot

25a    Request to have food placed in foyer? (8)
{ENTREATY] – a verb meaning to have food inside (placed in) a foyer

26a    Attempt to read out bit by bit short account of holy life (6)
{GOSPEL} – a two-letter word for an attempt followed by most of (short) a word meaning to read out bit by bit


1d    Party organised by adults completely pointless (5)
{GROUP} – a party or set of people is derived by removing all the compass points (W, N and S respectively) from a word meaning adults

2d    Explosive buried under mountain peak to yield clay (9)
{BENTONITE} – a blasting explosive made from guncotton and barium nitrate after (buried under) a Scottish mountain peak gives a valuable clay widely used in industry as a bond, filler, etc.

3d    Dope ranting, not entirely effective (7)
{OPERANT} – hidden inside (not entirely) the clue

4d    Cor, the mysteries about one branch of a particular science! (15)

5d    American plants raised in rows (7)
{LUPINES} – the American spelling of these plants is derived by putting a two-letter word meaning raised inside some rows

6d    Full of sex appeal, was model put forward? (7)
{POSITED} – a two-letter word for sex appeal inside a verb meaning was a model for an artist

7d    A Sun scare unlikely to engender feeling of confidence (9)
{ASSURANCE} – an anagram (unlikely) of A SUN SCARE

12d    One part of Switzerland bathed in exceptional heat for winter (9)
{HIBERNATE} – I (one) and a part of Switzerland inside (bathed in) an anagram (exceptional) of HEAT – the definition is to winter as a verb, even though it appears to be a noun in the clue

14d    Believers in force using Military Intelligence to infiltrate rulers (9)
{DYNAMISTS} – the abbreviation of Military Intelligence inside (to infiltrate) some rulers

16d    Super maiden in torn dress (7)
{RAIMENT} – a two-letter term for super and M(aiden) inside a verb meaning torn

17d    Shrub in ground, mostly brown, beginning to atrophy (7)
{LANTANA} – this tropical American shrub with flamboyant spikes of yellow or orange flowers is derived from most of some ground followed by a shade of brown and the initial letter of (beginning to) Atrophy

19d    What’s laid out on table for crossword compiler’s job (7)
{SETTING} – a double definition

22d    It’s next (just the northern half) to China (5)
{NEPAL} – the first (northern) half of NExt followed by a China or mate

All of the eastern half went in first, then the south west and finally the north west.

21 comments on “Toughie 861

  1. Only three star difficulty?? Really?? It took me 5* time and more even allowing for the googling. I also needed quite a bit of Gnome’s Law while not actually emailing the Gnome! SE, SW, NE and finally the tricky NW for me. Definitely a puzzle of four quarters. Thank you to Giovanni – I suppose if we keep saying Toughies aren’t tough enough, a tricky one is bound to turn up from time to time. I did find, however, that I had worn out my cryptic grey matter a lot which affected my ability to solve the other cryptics, although I did rally post lunch sandwich to complete the Times.

    Thanks to BD for explaining all the ins and outs of this one. Let’s hope tomorrow’s Toughie user-friendly as well as tough, as I have to achieve a lot on my day off to make up for gallivanting on Saturday.

  2. I needed help on 1a (never heard of it, and would never have solved it), and 2d to finish this one. Very tough, but at least I always learn something from a Giovanni toughie.
    Thanks to him, and to BD for the review.

  3. Phew, that was Tough with a capital T!

    At one point I had all the East side and nothing in the west! Then 1d came to the rescue.

    Not really keen on this type of Toughie which relies on obscure words to make it hard, rather than tricky wordplay.

    Thanks to Giovanni and BD.

  4. Too tough for me I’m afraid, managed about threequarters before seeking your assistance. Thanks to Giovanni and to BD.

  5. North west last in for me also in what turned out to be a very difficult puzzle. Favourites were 4a 15a and 22d thanks to Giovanni and to Big Dave for the comments.

  6. I made heavy weather of this, and immediately wondered why after I’d finished it.

    I found it enjoyable, and kicked myself for not having worked out several of the answers sooner. That’s always a good sign in a crossword.

  7. As someone new to Toughies (after a good ten years of DT cryptics) this was definitely something of a culture shock to me!
    Managed most of the puzzle (with a little help from my electronic friends) but had to throw in the towel for the NE quadrant.
    Anyhoo the Little Grey Cells had a good workout.
    Thanks to BD and setter.

  8. Re-visiting after a gap of many, many months. Decided to invest in a month’s worth of DT puzzles. Good value. Have found that I”ve got back in the groove with the Quickies and Cryptics quite quickly, but not this one!

    I’m with Big Boab and Pommers on this one, had to be assisted (cheat) for the NW corner. The rest was a struggle, but achievable, and not very enjoyable I’m sorry to say.

    I see someone is credited with a solution time of 2 mins and 8 seconds. Yeah, right.

    1. If you and MoN can get hold of yesterday’s and Tuesday’s Toughies, they are a lot more user-friendly.

      1. Can do, with my Telegraph subscription! Thanks for pointing that out. I tried a toughie a few days ago and it was quite approachable. Probably a RayT, I seem to be more on his wavelength.

        Just got to find the time now!

  9. This was both challenging and rewarding for us. The last one in, 10a, took a night’s sleep for the subconscious assistance to kick in with Rio for the port. Our experience with the last Giovanni Toughie put us on the lookout for obscure words and we were not disappointed. We’d give it 5*/5* but guess that’s a bit OTT.
    Thanks Giovanni and BD.

  10. Giovanni’s been at the electronics again! The Toughness of a Toughie should depend on clues – not obscure words. Sorry, but thumbs down

  11. Finally cracked the NW corner. I must admit I found it a bit too wordy which is a shame because I started off really enjoying it – there were some very pleasing clues and definitions that I had forgotten by the time I had cracked the obscure ones. In any case thanks to Giovanni and to BD for the review.

  12. My penny drop moment was 1d, but it didn’t help with 1a. I did see the amount of double unches but only after Pommers comment about the unusual grid. I’ve a lot to learn. Thanks BD and Giovanni. Like the rest, NW last to get and as Pommers et al said at one point East completed and west all blank.

    1. To quote from BD’s crossword guide (see the crosswords tab at the top) two consecutive unchecked letters: they are an accepted part of crossword grids although too many of them in the same grid are regarded as an unfair, particularly if the associated wordplay is imprecise.

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