Toughie 864

Toughie No 864 by Notabilis

A Touch of The Glums? Not a Bit.

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

We have a rare (and very welcome) appearance by Notabilis in the mid-week slot and very enjoyable it is. It’s not quite as tough as some of his Friday puzzles but not far off. I’ve looked for a Nina (having missed some from him in the past) but can’t find anything.
Do let us know how you got on and also click on one of the stars below to indicate how much you enjoyed it.

Across Clues

1a  Spoil island group (6)
{COSSET} – a Greek island followed by a group or social circle.

5a  Asian state spies capturing American individual (8)
{CAMBODIA} – the US spying organisation contains (capturing) one of the abbreviations for American and an informal word for an individual.

9a  Bound to back support for displaced person (8)
{DEPORTEE} – reverse (to back) a past participle meaning bound or tied up and add a support on the golf course.

10a  Burning fuel‘s smoke was irritating (6)
{FAGGOT} – smoke here is an informal word for a cigarette – substitute another informal word for the same thing and add a verb (another informal usage) meaning irritated or exasperated.

11a  Most of Greek bailout ultimately covers its initial set (4-4)
{HELL-BENT} – the definition here means determined. Start with a Greek citizen and drop the final E (most of) and add the ultimate letter of (bailou)T, then insert (covers) the initial letter of the same word.

12a  Professional concern about backtracking (6)
{CAREER} – the definition is an adjective, not a noun. A synonym for a concern or anxiety is followed by a reversal (backtracking) of a preposition meaning about or concerning.

13a  Wave like tiny particles? (8)
{FLOURISH} – double definition, the second a cryptic description of how you might describe finely ground grain used in baking.

15a  Drink for which abnormal thirst is too much (4)
{MALT} – hidden in the clue.

17a  Much less energy when turning svelte (4)
{SLIM} – start with an informal word for much (years ago Glasgow had a campaign to attract tourists with the slogan ‘Glasgow’s ***** better’) then take out the E(nergy) and reverse (turning) what you’re left with.

19a  Loss of rank disregarding upright pair’s faithful service (8)
{DEVOTION} – this is very clever. The third letter of a word meaning loss of rank is M – take off the two upright strokes and see what you have left.

20a  Fool screwed by Old One (6)
{NOODLE} – an anagram (screwed by) of OLD ONE.

21a  Worshipped husband, within bounds? (8)
{HALLOWED} – when I was dragged to Sunday School at the age of about seven I thought that this word from the Lord’s Prayer that we had to recite was ‘Harold’ (well I was bored to tears and Harold seemed as good a name as any and made as much sense as all the rest of it). H(usband) is followed by an adjective meaning within the bounds of what is permitted.

22a  I had mounted battles since retreating in mad rush (6)
{HUSSAR} – a conjunction meaning since gets reversed (retreating) inside an anagram (mad) of RUSH.

23a  Living muscle to freeze with injection of nitrogen (8)
{BENEFICE} – this is the sort of living that a man (or woman) of the cloth enjoys. A charade of a synonym for muscle or power and a verb to freeze have N(itrogen) injected.

24a  Child with heroine from Alps in 19th-century novel (3,5)
{THE IDIOT} – this is the title of a Dostoyevsky novel. A word for a small child contains (with … in) the name of the young Swiss heroine of stories by Johanna Spyri.

25a  At last, Eth’s radio betrothal came from Ron Glum (6)
{SOLEMN} – for solvers who are too young to remember steam radio in the 1950s the Glums were a dysfunctional family in sketches within a comedy show called Take It From Here by Muir and Norden (with the wonderful June Whitfield as Ron’s girlfriend Eth). Years later Muir and Norden referred to Les Misérables as ‘The Glums’. Anyway, you don’t need to know any of that to solve this clue – just take the last letters of six consecutive words.

Down Clues

2d  Light entertainment to repeat in new production (8)
{OPERETTA} – an anagram (in new production) of TO REPEAT.

3d  Knock off work, having left during work period (8)
{SHOPLIFT} – the abbreviation for an artistic work and L(eft) go inside a scheduled work period.

4d  Count on unity to enfold Hebrews deeply (2,3,4)
{TO THE BONE} – a verb to count or add up precedes (on, in a down clue) a synonym for unity and between them they contain (to enfold) the abbreviation for the Old Testament book in the clue.

5d  Reach out to protect rival with routine upset slightly: he hates change (8,2,5)
{CREATURE OF HABIT} – this is slightly complicated. An anagram (out) of REACH goes round (to protect) a rival or enemy and a word for a dreary routine all reversed. Finish off with a phrase (1,3) meaning slightly.

6d  Player managed in Iraqi city after Dad’s departure (7)
{BRANAGH} – another verb meaning managed goes inside the capital of Iraq from which DAD has been removed to give a player or luvvie.

7d  Stalker on end of the line exposes bad lines (8)
{DOGGEREL} – start with a stalker or follower (try to ignore the more modern slang meaning!) and add the end letter of (th)E and L(ine).

8d  Place to cool one’s heels when climbing, right inside low volcano (8)
{ANTEROOM} – insert (inside) R(ight) between a verb to low and the most active European volcano and reverse the lot (when climbing).

14d  They may ascend in the cold intention to enter heavens (9)
{SKIPLANES} – these may take off even when there’s snow on the ground. Insert an intention or scheme inside a synonym for heavens.

15d  Working belt up in dispute, one has very high target (8)
{MOONSHOT} – insert an adverb meaning working or operating and an exhortation to belt up or keep quiet inside an old-fashioned verb to argue or debate.

16d  Large fire engulfs small French publisher (8)
{LAROUSSE} – this is the name of a French publishing house specialising in dictionaries and other reference books. L(arge) is followed by a verb to fire or stimulate containing (engulfs) S(mall).

17d  Stupefying amount of Luton’s in disrepair (8)
{SNOOTFUL} – this is a (new to me) word for as much booze as you can take (based on a slang word for the nose). It’s an anagram (in disrepair) of OF LUTON’S.

18d  Talk facilitator for building company breaks during school time (8)
{INTERCOM} – an abbreviation for company goes inside (breaks) a phrase (2,4) meaning during a part of the year when a school is open.

19d  Fool, appropriately short and fat (7)
{DULLARD} – drop the final Y (short) from an adverb meaning appropriately or correctly and add fat from a pig.

My favourite clues today were 19a, 24a, 25a and 3d. Let us know which ones entertained you.



  1. Jezza
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was very tough! I put two clues in quickly (22a, 6d) then stared blankly at it for quite some time.
    I got there eventually. Thanks to Notabilis, and to Gazza for the explanations.
    4*/4* for me.
    I did not spot a NINA, but there were a lot of answers with 2 letters the same next to each other (I made it 16 answers).

    • Jezza
      Posted October 24, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      …actually, I think it is 15 (I must be bored!) :)

  2. crypticsue
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I would award this about 4.75* difficulty – there have been tougher Notablis puzzles but I did need several goes, three applications of Tippex, an email to check that it wasn’t just me and quite a bit of muttering. I did think 19a was particularly good and I seem to remember my Grandpa referring to a 17d from time to time.

    Thanks to Notabilis and gazza too.

    The question has to be, however, if this is the Wednesday Toughie, what on earth are we going to get on Thursday and Friday?

    • gazza
      Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      … We haven’t had an Excalibur for a long time.

      • Jezza
        Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        I’ll have a punt on Warbler for tomorrow..

        • gazza
          Posted October 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          I guess you’ve lost your stake. As I (sort of) predicted it’s Excalibur.

          • Jezza
            Posted October 24, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink


          • pommers
            Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

            Hmmm . . . I stand by my previous post.

  3. Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Managed 2d and 5d…..stared for an hour or so…..then BINGO!…..I threw it in the bin……

  4. pommers
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Phew! That was a tough Toughie and I have to confess to a bit of, what was the word, “investigoogling”? Got there eventually though but if that was Weds I think I’ll give the Toughie a miss tomorrow and Friday!

    Favourite was 17d.

    Thanks to Notabilis and gazza.

    Think I might have a cold shower now :grin:

  5. Big Boab
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Too difficult for me I’m afraid, thanks to Notabilis for stretching me beyond my meagre capabilities and to Gazza for his invaluable assistance.

  6. Pegasus
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Usual high standard from todays setter and it wouldn’t have been out of place on a Friday. Favourites for me were 3d 13a 19a and 25a thanks to Notabilis and to Gazza for the explanations especially 19a.

  7. pommers
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Because I’m a bit of a masochist, and pommette’s out this afternoon, I’ve just had a go at Toughie No 75, published Friday 9 Jan 2009, and set by Notabilis!

    It’s the usual elegance from Notabilis but it’s a hell of a lot easier than this one – took about a quarter of the time and with no investigoogling or any other aid :grin:

    Highly recommended if, like me, you didn’t do the early Toughies.

    • steve_the_beard
      Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Pommers, thanks for the pointer to Toughie No 75.

      I’ve only done a handful of Toughies (my crosswords are done at lunchtime or late in the evening), so your comment caught my interest nicely.

      Your evaluation is spot on too! :-)

      • pommers
        Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Permalink


        Only really got back into crosswords about 3 years ago when I found this site and the DT puzzle site. Started looking at Toughies from about number 650 I’d guess. So,set myself the challenge of catching up and a few months ago started at No1. Now up to No75 and by the time I reach No86 I’ll have the help of BD, because that’s when he started the blog – life will get easier :grin:

        The archive on the web site is a lot of fun!

  8. eXternal
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this taxing puzzle. Thought the wordplay was spot on and it put up a nice fight. Loved 19A.

    • Qix
      Posted October 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      Exactly what I was going to say.

      Many thanks to Notabilis and Gazza.

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    We feel very chuffed that after a lot of hard work, managed to get it out. For 19d we had the right answer but had not twigged the letter adjustment to make the M into V. Last in for us was 11a. The correct answer was our first guess, but when we couldn’t justify, went round and round in circles for ages looking for alternatives (such as “bell-tent” and “meal-rest” etc) before set = determined clicked in.
    An enjoyable afternoon’s work.
    Thanks Notabilis and Gazza.

  10. ChrisH
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I suppose I should be pleased with completing about half, albeit with some electronic aid.

    After that it was cheat time. Thanks to Gazza’s excellent explanations, put in 2 or 3 ‘key’ words which helped with others. However, there were still 3 or 4 that were at least 2 notches beyond my intellectual level. This does tend to reduce the enjoyment.

    4.5* for difficulty, 2* for enjoyment.

  11. gnomethang
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    A game of 4 halves today – end of the commute, Bacon Sarnie, Lunch and train home. I think this puzzle had a cogitation factor that bought me a couple of clues every time I came to it after a pause. A rewarding solve so thanks to Notabilis and to gazza for the review.

  12. steve_the_beard
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Gazza, and much kudos to Notabilis.

    This was so hard that I decided to treat it as a training exercise; answer two, get Gazza’s help, answer a couple more, etc.

    A fascinating crossword, with a nice mix of different techniques. I’ve never seen anything using that of 19A, though…

    I’ll call this “hard but fair”, even though I’m drawn towards a Monty Python term (harsh but cruel).

    • eXternal
      Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      19A device is very unusual, because it obviously does not work for too many words. It is by no means unprecedented, however. One of the most quoted is:

      Carefree Scottish dance missing two bars in opening (9)

      LIGHTSOME formed from EIGHTSOME

      now that is difficult!

  13. steve_the_beard
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    BTW 17D is a word that Bertie Wooster uses to Jeeves, I’m sure…