Toughie 866 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 866

Toughie No 866 by ______: 13 6 27

Consider this!

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley!

Well, we have a Toughie by a mystery setter, or perhaps not? I’m not going to spoil it for you here and will try to keep things as much under wraps as possible. It’s a ferocious beast and you’ll need to know your music. Fortunately the key to this is one of my favourite tunes. I suspect some of you will not like this one bit, but I would encourage you to persevere and use a few hints, it is worthwhile. If all else fails, I’ll link to the music at the end of the blog.

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. Definitions are underlined and favourite clues are in blue. Our mystery setter’s name is found by following the instructions in the title!


1a    Top man in N5 fears enemy kidnaps (6)
{ARSENE} The manager of a famous soccer team from N5, of whom it can be said BD is not a fan, is hidden in the phrase FEARS ENEMY.

4a    Deviously, it’s me caring about a linguistic family (8)
{GERMANIC} An anagram (deviously) of ME CARING gives you a description of Teutonic languages.

9a    Take care of fine tenor locked in little room (4,2)
{LOOK TO} A two-letter abbreviation for “Fine!” is added to T (tenor) and placed inside a word for the smallest room in the house to give a phrase meaning to take care of.

10a    See 26 across

11a    In communication with  rocket (7-2)
{TALKING-TO} A phrase that means to be in communication with (as in two computers) is also a noun that means a rocket or telling-off.

13a, 6d & 2d    Line from 21 5 version of Hamlet hits top ten — this good! (5,2,2,3,9)
{THAT’S ME IN THE SPOTLIGHT} An anagram (version) of HAMLET HITS TOP TEN THIS G (good) gives one of the memorable lines from the theme song (21,5).

14a    Passes a gambler sees and raises (4,3,6)
{GOES ONE BETTER} A word that means passes is added to the number to which ‘a’ relates and a cryptic description of a gambler to give a phrase that means raises or surpasses.

17a    In this state, we can tell dragoons beset neutrals (13)
{UTTERABLENESS} An abstract noun for the state of being able to tell is an anagram (dragoons) of BESET NEUTRALS.

21a & 5d    Does this falsely represent ‘I’ve one empty dream’? (5,3,8)
{RAPID EYE MOVEMENT} An anagram (falsely represent) of I’VE ONE EMPTY DREAM produces a phrase that could be defined by the whole phrase, which is something that can go on while your asleep and may be associated with vivid dreams.

23a    Champions League pundits, so to speak, selling themselves? (2,3,4)
{ON THE GAME} Another double cryptic definition. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink from our setter. An expression that is a slang word relating to prostitution is also how you could describe the punditry of soccer experts.

24a    This office-worker‘s in to redesign silk screen (8)
{CLERKESS} An old name for a female office-worker is revealed by removing IN from SILK-SCREEN and jumbling the remainder. Basically this clues is saying IN plus the name of the office-worker jumbled gives silk screen.

25a    21 5 singer embraces leader of rock band (6)
{STRIPE} The surname of the gaunt shaven-headed lead singer of the band takes R (leader of rock) to give a word for band. A certain other person will have an interesting spin on this clue shortly……..

26a & 10a    Forgoing the theology riling me, sin is rife… (6,2,8)
{LOSING MY RELIGION} If you take THEOLOGY RILING ME SIN and remove the definite article (forgoing THE), and then jumble it all (is rife) you get the theme song which is loosely defined by the whole clue.

27a    See 22 down


1d    Adjutant-general and I think we should dangle — they do! (6)
{AGLETS} The name for those little bits of plastic on the end of your shoe-laces (yes, there is a word for ’em!) is revealed by taking AG (Adjutant-General) and adding the expression that means “I think we should”.

2d    See 13 across

3d    Brazilian, could it be, lit spinning in microwave? (7)
{NUT-LIKE} Inside a slang word meaning to cook in a microwave to extreme goes an anagram of LIT to give a description of something cryptically that could be Brazilian or similar to a cashew.

5d    See 21 across

6d    See 13 across

7d    Here’s African ready to mount ram (5)
{NAIRA} The name for the currency (ready) of Nigeria is a reversal of a word that means ram-like. Think Zodiac!


8d    Certain to support small business outside Big Apple getting up something very attractive (8)
{CYNOSURE} A really unusual word. Something that attracts attention by sparkling or similar is revealed by taking the abbreviation for a company (small business), putting it round a reversal of the abbreviation for the city known as The Big Apple and adding (support) something that means certain.

12d    Coach describes our Olympic team failing to win as ‘ruddy habitual characteristic‘ (4-7)
{GROG-BLOSSOM} An expression that means having a red face, usually a nose caused by alcohol intake is revealed by taking an expression that means our country’s defeat inside a phrase meaning to coach, now used in expressions relating to the practises of people like J Savile.

15d    One transmitting cross-dressing fact number 1 to the north (2,7)
{TV STATION} The name of a company that transmits things is found by taking the abbreviation for someone who cross-dresses, adding a word for a fact (an abbreviation of statistic) and I ON (Number 1 reversed).

16d    Roman Catholic burial arrayed in red (8)
{RUBRICAL} An anagram (arrayed) of R C BURIAL reveals a word that has several meanings one of which is red.

18d    The Stalin family footballer in Washington? (7)
{REDSKIN} The name for a gridiron footballer from Washington is a cryptic description of Stalin or other communists and their family.

19d    Chosen right old dance music (7)
{ELECTRO} The name for a style of music popular with da yoof of today, think Pet Shop Boys and Erasure, is a word that means chosen and to it is added R(ight) and O(ld).

20d    What shoots dazzlingly out of electricity? (6)
{METEOR} If you are out of electricity, especially if you are a prepay customer you may be this (the fifth letter inside the other five), which cryptically describes something that flies across the night sky.

One of my favourite lyrics from Billy Bragg and sung by Kirsty McColl in the song New England is:

I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care

And here’s the song…. (which is not the theme today!)

ARVE Error: need id and provider

22d & 27a    Nasty to peer nursing contempt for Chaucer’s ultimate destination (5,6)
{POET’S CORNER} An anagram of TO PEER has a word meaning contempt inside to display where Chaucer is buried.

Well, did you get there? I hope you did. It is a very fine puzzle but one which does require some thinking, especially if you are not a fan of the band.

Thanks to our mystery setter who if you follow the instructions of 13,6,2 will expose himself appropriately.

And here’s the song if you are really stuck!


[The song in question is by one of several hundred 1980s groups in whom I have no interest whatsoever, but I got there by solving a couple of the anagrams and letting Google do the rest. BD]

60 comments on “Toughie 866

  1. Oh my! What an absolute corker. Many many congratulations to the mystery man, and thanks to T for the explanations.
    Now for a well deserved lie down in a darkened room.

  2. Before I start, let me just say that I am agreat fan of the setter and his crosswords – his Owl and the Pussycat Puzzle being my all time top favourite cryptic. However, this beast was a whole different ballgame.

    I read all the clues and decided that 25a must be STRING – Sting with an R in it! This held me up no end and didn’t help with investigoogling the group’s music as I hadn’t worked out the semi-&lit anagram of 16 letters needed to find 21/5 (hard but fair) and then know that the answer as abbreviated is the name of a band (I did know that but by the time I had solved 21/5 the grey matter was starting to crumble). You then have to know the name of the band members to get the right name in 25a and know their lyrics to get 13/6/2 via solving a 21 letter anagram (totally and well and truly stuffed there). Interestingly I managed to eventually solve it all apart from 20d which is when I finally realised that I had the wrong singer.

    I did like 12d (Mr CS and I were only discussing the other day how you don’t see them any more) and 23a.

    I do understand that this theme was right up the street of the younger people, but doesn’t help us old people when we aren’t supposed to access the interweb during working hours.

    Sorry setter if that is too grumpy but when I emerged from the darkened room that was how I felt. Thank you and well done to Tilsit.

    1. Oi Mrs misery guts whoa right there, I think the setter is redressing the balance, said connections are early 90’s i.e. 20 years ago. I knew the lyrics , do I remember the lines from the owl and the pussycat do i heck without investigoogling. Excepting 16d which despite checking letters i still didn’t know prior to cheating, thought this more straightforward than earlier offerings this week. hugs from cynth and cuth

      1. So I am not allowed to say how and why I found something too tough, nor am I allowed to say that I find a puzzle easy or straightforward, because I make people weep. I think I am going to turn the computer off and have a large piece of stem ginger cake, with lemon icing and little pieces of stem ginger on the top. I don’t know whether it will render my comments neutral but I will certainly enjoy the eating of it.

        Night all.

        1. Oops, sorry if i’ve upset you crypticsue, you know that I didn’t mean any offence ( I hope). 25a, yup, did the same. Glasgow tomorrow, can I have some virtual cake for the train journey?

      2. I concur. They are not my favourite band (by a long shot due to musical differences) but I defy anyone to have not heard that particular song. snogs dogs

  3. I really enjoyed this puzzle. I guess it helps to be on the right frequency (Kenneth). Superb stuff. Tilsit’s Bragg quote at 20d is one I like too.

    This was the first DT puzzle I’d solved on paper for ages, and I enjoyed it all the more for that.

    Many thanks to setter and Tilsit.

  4. Totally and utterly defeated by this one, I generally enjoy this setter’s puzzles but I’m sorry this one was not for me. Thanks to Tilsit for the explanations.

  5. Tilsit and I went to great lengths to avoid mentioning the name of the setter so as not to spoil the bonus clue. Please respect that in the comments.

  6. It certainly helped that I’m a fan of this band.That was definitely a Toughie worthy of its name. Discovering the identity of the setter was as devious as most of the clues, but I had a very good idea early on – mainly when hitting a brick wall with the first read through! After finally finishing it I’m feeling that I deserve a reward.& I’m just deciding between a cuppa & a cake……. or a glass of something.

  7. Rather like pulling teeth for me. Got most of it in the end apart from 1a (they may be a famous team, but they’re not famously in N5 as far as I’m aware) and 24a.

    I don’t see the &Lit in 26/10. The first three words define the answer, but the rest is just rambling.

    And having watched as much as could stand of the video I still don’t know who the setter is.

    Thanks to Tilsit for filling in the blanks.

  8. It was a real slog for me to get through this with many visits to Googleland. I don’t like long anagrams and on getting to the end my feeling was one of admiration for the setter’s ingenuity but with no great feeling of enjoyment. Thanks to Tilsit for the review and the Kirsty video (much better than the other one!).
    (I was looking for a totally different sort of Brazilian at 3d :D ).

    1. a real slog…long anagrams…anagrams not on grandma alice (17a) and a lot of clues tied in together….overall worth the effort!

  9. 1a – where did you find a picture of the Gooners’ manager smiling? Is he smiling? Almost!

      1. Or perhaps, on hearing of the appointment of André Villas-Boas as manager down the road.

        Ps. This Toughie is far too tough for me – all the white squares are still white. But I am enjoying reading the review. Thanks to all!

  10. The only person I can see in the corner is you Tilsit.
    Surely not? What am I missing?
    An email or postcard will suffice to protect anonymity!

  11. Had a quick look at this and got nowhere.

    Thanks to Tilsit for the illumination. I think I’ll have a glass of red to maintain my GROG-BLOSSOM [has anyone ever heard of the expression before?]

  12. Cracking stuff from the Hastings,ahem, mysteron (although i still wondered why Visit Tilsit might be bringing blogging his own creation!).
    I found this fine after STRIPE then REM and only had to check a couple of unfamiliar words which were clued more gently. Thanks to Tilsit et al for the review.

  13. This is one for the aficionados of *****. Not much to my liking, I’m afraid.

    However, I’m full of praise for the effort that must have been involved in producing a puzzle like this.

  14. Although I am 83, and much more Glenn Miller than REM, I managed this without any help(except from Google!) the only thing I can’t work out is the name of the compiler!

    1. Peg, Think I’ve sussed it – Top left hand corner – as Qix says “clockwise…”. Blimey!

      I knew it was him, because I couldn’t solve any of the clues!

  15. I found this relatively easy to complete apart from 15d but I can’t truthfully say I enjoyed it, thanks to the setter in the corner and to Tilsit for the great review.

  16. I should really comment on this seeing as I have sometimes been vociferous about older cultural references. Thanks to setter, even though I don’t particularly like the group of the theme, at least I knew them, the lead singer and the lines to the song. 20 years ago is probably the best I could hope for in terms of modern references. I thought the clues were pretty much knotty enough for a Friday Toughie and liked some inventive up-to-date wordplay ie ‘microwave’ and ‘cross-dresser’ to name a couple. I await with enormous trepidation the hopefully inevitable Spice Girls Toughie, my dream. In case you are wondering – Baby Spice ;)

  17. anyone out there got radio 2 on, just heard carl perkins and a reference to the millionaire quartet. The things you learn courtesy of this blog, thank you all

  18. This corner lurker usually defeats me utterly, but this one I thought was solvable and brilliant, so I thought I’d post to congratulate the setter. Great fun!

  19. Too clever for me. Got there by doubling Google’s average daily hit rate and it was more hard work than fun. Got the corner bit but already guessed the setter – who else would it be? Also I think it’s been said that he sets his puzzles when sitting in the corner of the pub :grin:r.

    Not a lot of fun but thanks anyway to both the setter and also Tilsit and BD.

      1. Met the guy once and, surpisingly, he sems a very nice chap! Not much of the “Vlad the Impaler” in evidence, but he must have hidden depths, not to mention a brain the size of a planet!

  20. Only my third toughie, will need therapy! Needed three clues from the blog and a whole day to solve. Am I thick? Copious amounts of red wine now correcting insecurity. Enjoyed.

    1. Hi Balliejames – welcome to the blog.
      You picked a difficult Toughie to practise on! Those earlier in the week are normally easier.

  21. Thanks to Tilsit for mailing me this – I thought it was a cracker, though had I not an inspired leap to “THAT’S ME IN THE SPOTLIGHT” I doubt I would ever have solved it.
    The clues I thought, given the obscurities of vocab and theme (for some) were as fair as could be. As a fellow Arsenal fan I am somewhat ashamed that it took me so long to get one across …

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