Toughie 878 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 878

Toughie No 878 by Notabilis

The Twang’s the Thang!

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley! One of my favourite setters is here today and as usual we have a high quality and stiff test for the Friday slot. Lots of great quality clues that demonstrate a setter right at the top of his game and caused plenty of head scratching. I spent quite some time staring at a blank grid before things started to materialise and fall into place.

I would happily nominate 24 down as one of the best clues I have seen this year.

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 as usual highlighted in blue and to help you, the definitions are underlined.


1a    To shame holding company receding in time, it helps to avoid drips (6,7)
{SHOWER CURTAIN} Quite a complex clue to start today. The device found in most bathrooms that prevents floods can be found by taking the word for company or a team and reversing it inside a period of 60 minutes. This all goes inside a word that means to shame or tarnish something. Phew!

9a    Try empty tomb to put away sign of life (9)
{HEARTBEAT} An indication that someone is living is revealed by solving a word sum. Something that means to try (as in court) is added to TB (empty, i.e. end letters of TOMB) and finally add a word meaning to put away (food).

10a    Australian native tenor forgetting word in chant, … (5)
{DINGO} The name of the famous tenor with the first name Placido needs to have two letters (the noise made by someone chanting a mantra) removed to give the name of a creature found in the Antipodes. Note the little dots which means the clue is linked to the next one…..

11a    … after which period, retiring last character (5)
{OMEGA) and the little word removed is added to a period of history that is reversed to give the last letter of the Greek alphabet.

12a    Brother’s nose, ten times bigger at the front (4)
{MONK} Take the slang word for your proboscis and take the first letter, which is a Roman numeral and place the equivalent symbol for the number ten times larger and you get the name for someone that might be termed a brother.

13a    Hardly any on return trip’s first shuttle line (4)
{WEFT} A term used in weaving to mean the downward thread (cryptically described here as the line from a shuttle – a term for a weaving machine) is revealed by taking a word that refers to not many, reversing it and adding to T (first letter of trip).

15a    Lost track of phones over on motorway (7)
{MISLAID} Something that means lost is found by taking two letters that could represent a motorway and adding the reverse of the verb meaning calls, as in a phone.

17a    Strider’s element, both in short and with late run (7)
{ARAGORN} When I was nobbut a lad, I was introduced to JRR Tolkien by Miss Maher at Halsnead School. And so began a lifelong hatred of the works of this author. This is the name of one of the central characters of his main work, who was known as Strider at some point in it, I gather (I have to be aware of it for taking part in quizzes). Wasn’t sure about this but I think the name of one of the Noble gases needs to have its chemical symbol placed inside. However the second letter of the symbol needs to be placed a bit later (hence “late run”). Another phew!

18a    Are warblers surrounding tree affected by flood? (7)
{SOAKING} The third person plural of a verb meaning to warble has the name of a traditional English tree inside to get a word meaning to be damp.

20a    Wrap up lumber with splits (7)
{SWADDLE} A word that means to lumber has W (with) inside it to get a word for wrap up that is usually associated with Nativity scenes.

21a    Regularly neglected Freudian downfall (4)
{RUIN} Remove the alternative letters of Freudian to reveal a word that means downfall.

22a    Theologian delves into each book of mythology (4)
{EDDA} The name for books of Norwegian myth is revealed by taking the standard crossword abbreviation for a theologian (the abbr. of his qualifications) and placing it inside a short word for each.

23a    Male hugs male sporting star (5)
{CHAMP} An abbreviation for a successful sporting personality is found by taking a word for a man and placing inside it the abbreviation for one.

26a    Run-down of view on Debussy’s limits (5)
{SEEDY} A good description of how I am feeling at the moment! Add the first and last letter (limits) of DEBUSSY to a verb meaning to view and you get something that means run down and grotty.

27a    Eastern Arab state following cycling with the German film about bikes (4,5)
{EASY RIDER} The name of the film that launched the career of Jack Nicholson is found by taking E (Eastern) and the name of the Arab country much in the news. The indicator “cycling” in a clue usually means moving the letters around without disturbing the order, so not an anagram as such. With this country, move the last letter to the front. Add to this the German word for the definite article and hey presto! You have a film about men with enormous choppers.

28a    Waiting for day to stop backing agreement necessary for expenses (8,5)
{SPENDING MONEY} Sometimes setters use unusual words to indicate that things are contained inside other words. Here the word “stop” as in to stop a river flowing is used. A word that means waiting is added to the abbreviation for the first day of the working week and this goes inside a reversal (backing) of something that signifies agreement.


1d    She might take form displayed in Cosmo, shirtless (14)
{SCHOOLMISTRESS} A word for someone in charge of a form in education is found by making an anagram (displayed) of COSMO SHIRTLESS. Of course you all know the apposite anagram of THE CLASSROOM, don’t you? And no, we are not having a smutty picture here to keep BD happy.

2d    Note lost in overwritten lecture (5)
{ORATE} If you take a word that means overwritten or flourishing or decorative and remove N (note lost) you get something that means to lecture.

3d    European Union, as compared with China etc, produces a happy ending? (10)
{EUTHANASIA} Ooh! Controversial! Our setter joins a debate by defining a way to end it all. It’s made up of taking the abbreviation for the European Union, adding the word used to compare something and the name of the region that includes China.

4d    Trapped by dogma, a maiden is beaten (7)
{CREAMED} A word that means beaten when making a cake (and in a sporting context too!) is found by taking a word that means dogma and inserting A M (a maiden)

5d    Moving right to the top in old Arctic plain’s circular structure (7)
{ROTUNDA} another moving letter clue. This time take O and the name of the frozen Arctic plain and move the R (right) to the first letter and you get the name of a circular construction.

6d    This African princess and I’d make double donation (4)
{AIDA} Not terribly sure about this. I initially wondered whether there was a word missing (perhaps first?) The name of an Ethiopian princess immortalised in opera is revealed (we think!) by taking A (African) and adding the name of another princess made famous in opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. The ‘double donation’ I think refers to using the definition as the indicator. Of course, as the big-toothed woman used to say on TV, we could be wrong. Over to you.

7d    Unrepeated utterance about church swamped by rising flood (5,4)
{NONCE WORD} Had this been Private Eye, I guess it would have been clues as “Savile? Unrepeatable! (5,4)”. But this is the far more genteel (ish) Telegraph and so we must behave with decorum. A phrase for a type of saying is made up of something that means ABOUT, added to an abbreviation for Church (of England) and this goes inside the reversal of a word meaning to flood.

8d    Youth keeps tons in weight aside for tax protest (6,3,5)
{BOSTON TEA PARTY}The name of a famous historical event that was a protest against the imposition of a tax is revealed by taking a word that mans a young man and then inserting T (tons) inside another weight (14lbs) and adding a word that means aside or distinct. Time for some music!

ARVE Error: need id and provider

14d    Strong spirit to push a failed flyer having reduced mass (7,3)
{JAMAICA RUM} Another marvellous clue. A word meaning to push or force something is added to the A from the clue and the name of a famous person in mythology who wasn’t much cop at flying. Lose the last letter of his name (having reduced) and add M for mass to get the drink!

16d    Disreputable quality some youths had in Essex (9)
{SHADINESS} After spending some time looking for the names of places in Essex that had the same meaning as some youths , it then hit me that this was a hidden answer and that a word for a disreputable quality in a person is hidden in the phrase “youths had in Essex “. Our Sunday puzzle setter who produces clever hiddens would approve of that one.

19d    Contrived new dodges which would be surprisingly helpful (7)
{GODSEND} I know I must be ill when I fail to work out a seven letter anagram, but I really couldn’t work this out and needed crossing letters to help me! An anagram of N (new) and DODGES gives something that is described as helpful.

20d    Actress of yesteryear cut short final appearance (7)
{SWANSON} The name for the famous US actress named Gloria is found by taking the word for a final appearance and removing the last letter.

24d    Lyric writer seeing Duane Eddy? (5)
{AUDEN} One of the best clues I have seen for a while! The name for a poet (original def of lyric) is revealed by making an anagram (Eddy) of Duane. Lovely!

25d    What’s said to cloak an evil personality? (4)
{HYDE} A homophone of word meaning to cloak or conceal is the name of a famous evil literary alter-ego.

Thanks to Notabilis for a splendid challenge and some really brilliant clues. See you next Friday.

20 comments on “Toughie 878

  1. Truly fabulous toughie, best of the week by a long long way. My favourite clues were 1a and 8d. Many thanks to Notablis and to Tilsit for a super review.

  2. I thought this puzzle was BRILLIANT – best Toughie for some time. Not relying on obscure words to make it tough, just mind-boggling wordplay!

    Re 6d. The answer is the African princess of opera but if you put ID on the end and split (3,3) you get AID AID = double donation, clever or what?

    To good to pick out favourites.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and Tilsit.

    1. 17a You didn’t find 17a obscure? As someone who could never get beyond page 3 of any Tolkien work it seemed extremely obscure to me. In spite of that I did enjoy the puzzle. Thanks to Notabilis and Tilsit.

      1. Hi Gazza – see reply to JB below. Last in for me and a bit obscure I agree but at least I remembered “Strider” for some reason :grin: Couldn’t parse it though!

        1. I thought 17a should be more familiar these days, since the blockbuster Jackson films.
          The wordplay is a bit simpler than Tilsit surmised, by the way: it’s the element’s symbol (in short) followed by its name with the R late.

          1. Thanks Notabilis!

            I am so glad everyone else had as much pleasure from this as I did.

            Just the perfect Toughie!

      2. First answer in for me,I first read Tolkien at the tender age of 10 and have read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit at least 30 or 40 times since, though I was never too keen on the Silmarillion, they were responsible for my love of Fantasy novels all my life.

  3. I was furious with myself at missing 17a., my last clue. I knew who Strider was. Why couldn’t I think of his alter ego to finish a puzzle that is more entertaining and, at this time, easier than the back page?

    I’m sorry Tilsit is feeling 26a.

    1. Hi JB – I’m with you about 17a could remember Strider but not the other. I got out my copy of Lord of the Rings and had a browse. Might actually be time for a re-read of it :grin:

  4. Good stuff from todays setter favourites were 1a 8d and 14d thanks to Notabilis and to Tilsit for the review.

  5. I tried & I persevated but had to stop when I noticed the blood coming out of my eyes. I doff my cap in admiration not only to Notabilis but to Tilsit and all of those who completed the solve. TFI it’s Saturday tomorrow followed by the usual treat on Sunday only to be interrupted by the NTSPP.

    Can’t watch the England/Australia match as I cancelled my subscription to Sky when it became so monotonous in its programming.

  6. As others have said, a perfectly brilliant just right Toughie to end a week of puzzles in the wrong envelope – my only problem was with the Strider as like Gazza I tried the books once and gave up and Mr CS refuses to take me to the pictures on the grounds that ‘it is too expensive and it will be on television soon’.

    Thanks so much to Notabilis for confirming that my cryptic brain cells haven’t left me and to Tilsit for the comprehensive explanations.

  7. Excellent puzzle, very enjoyable.

    A great mixture of clues, with some inventive stuff and cleverly spotted wordplay opportunities.

    1a is tricky, but once solved it opens the puzzle up.

    This ranks alongside yesterday’s Morph in the Indy for puzzle of the week, I reckon.

  8. A nice end to the week. Mostly straightforward, but the NE caused a few problems.
    I failed to understand 17a.
    Thanks to Notabilis, and to Tilsit.

  9. A truly wonderful puzzle. Have been reading though the puzzle again this morning before commenting, chuckling all over again at the cleverness. 12a would rate for us as the best clue in a long time. We had the right word in and when we did at last parse it correctly, broke into spontaneous roars of laughter.
    Many thanks Notabilis and Tilsit.

  10. Superb offering, not as brave as Pommers and Gazza to have commented on Tilsits hint for 6d, they read it as I did, but who am I !! The one I Couldn’t parse was 2d, d’oh. Thank you Notabilis and Tilsit

  11. At last, a Friday Toughie that was doable without a degree in rocket science. Didn’t like 17 or 7 but rest were pretty good. 1a was last in but not sure whether it avoids drips or makes them!

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