Toughie 886 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 886

Toughie No 886 by Elkamere


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

Tilsit has made an unscheduled trip to hospital, so I’m filling in again. I would have awarded this one five stars, but I think that the wordplay for 1 down is so grossly unfair that it tainted the whole puzzle.

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.


7a    Mobile phone or one going nowhere? (2-5)
{NO-HOPER} – an anagram (mobile) of PHONE OR

8a    Try to hold the broom? (7)
{HEATHER} – a verb meaning to try in court around THE – broom is another name for this shrub

10a    His scrambled egg isn’t full of soldiers (9)
{GREETINGS} – his here is not a pronoun but the plural of hi – when you’ve stopped wincing, the wordplay is an anagram (scrambled) of EGG ISN’T around (full of) one of our usual regiments of soldiers

11a    Adult ‘freedom’ — Independent ‘story‘ (5)
{ALIBI} – A(dult) followed by a shortened form of a word meaning freedom and I(ndependent)

12a    German city fortress enlists guards (5)
{ESSEN} – hidden inside (guards) the clue

13a    Is alternative title ‘We show where t = x‘? (9)
{ISOTHERMS} – IS followed by an adjective meaning alternative and a title adopted by a married or an unmarried woman – a contour line of equal temperature, i.e. where t (temperature) = x, for any given value of x

15a    Unwarranted award out of play? (3,4)
{TOO MUCH} – this two-letter award could be regarded as out of play on the rugby pitch – i.e. {in touch}

17a    Golf and old Ford are focuses of interest (7)
{GANGLIA} – the letter represented by Golf in the NATO Phonetic alphabet followed by an old model of Ford car

18a    Braying from male — what a player! (9)
{HEEHAWING} – the male pronoun followed by an exclamation meaning “what?”, the A from the clue and a football or rugby player

20a    Pilot runs into nightclub (5)
{DRIVE} – R(uns) inside a nightclub

21a    Rather informal family lawyer (5)
{KINDA} – an informal way of saying rather comes from a charade of a family and a US lawyer

23a    Outbreak of leukemia around western US city (9)
{MILWAUKEE} – an anagram (outbreak) of LEUKEMIA around W(estern)

24a    It may be used to remove  sound? (7)
{SOLVENT} – a double definition – a liquid used for removing impurities and financially sound

25a    Old colour’s gone (7)
{EXTINCT} – a two-letter prefix meaning old followed by a colour or tinge


1d    R 60 (10)
{THREESCORE} – I agonised over this before contacting the setter – my original thought was that R was a Medieval Roman numeral (it is, but it represents 80 not 60) but it is actually R is the middle letter or core of the numeral thRee – please address all complaints to the setter

2d           Textbook in purse carried by child (4-2)
{SPOT-ON} – textbook is used here as an adjective – a purse or kitty inside a male child

3d           Wave like a comedienne? (8)
{BRANDISH} – could be an adjective describing a generously proportioned comedienne

4d           One of backroom staff delivered bubbly — well I never! (6)
{PHYSIO} –  two syllables that sound like an adjective meaning bubbly followed by a single letter exclamation meaning well I never

5d           Greatest challenge in running old bar (8)
{MARATHON} – what a Snickers bar used to be called in the UK

6d           Sort of boxing match, say (4)
{THAI} – sounds like a match in a knockout tournament

7d           OK to anger? (2,5,6)
{NO GREAT SHAKES} – the answer could indicate an anagram that results in TO ANGER

9d           Return to post and check report (13)
{REINSTATEMENT] – a charade of a verb meaning to check and a report

14d        Lively lecture (10)
{ROLLICKING} – a double definition

16d        North America’s pottery in America, unexpectedly (8)
{UNAWARES} – North America and some pottery inside the United States

17d        One playing around starts to like more laughing (8)
{GIGGLIER} – one playing concerts at different locations (rather like our setter!) around the first two letters of Like – for me “starts to” indicates initial letters of the following two or more words

19d        Lag using some satin material (6)
{INMATE} – hidden (some) inside the clue

20d        Want love? This is not needed (6)
{DEARTH} – an affectionate term for a partner (like love) followed by TH(IS) without (not needed) the IS

22d        Duck on English river (4)
{NILE} – a score of zero (duck) followed by E(nglish)

Sorry Elkamere but clues that may work well in a clue-writing competition aren’t always suited to crossword puzzles.

32 comments on “Toughie 886

  1. I would give this the full 5* for difficulty and am not sure what to award it for enjoyment as it took me so long and completely wore out my cryptic grey matter so that I struggled with the rest of today’s puzzles.

    Thanks to BD for the explanations, get well soon Tilsit, and Elkamere – give those boots back to Vlad immediately! – and thank you for making me work extremely hard when I should have been working hard on the day job.

  2. An excellent puzzle, which I completed and understood fully bar 1d.
    Last one in was 17d – that one is not up yet, but I presume the fifth and sixth letters are the first couple of letters (starts) of LI(ke).
    Thanks to Ellamere, and to BD. 4*/5* for me.

  3. I didn’t think it that hard. Sure it was a challenge, but all totally fair and gettable. Totally disagree 1D is unfair, although only parsed it after working out the answer that fit from the definition. Would say that I am quite underwhelmed by the surface though. Setter at the top of his form, great puzzle.

  4. Thanks to Elkamere for stretching me to the limit and to BD for the review, I needed the explanation for 1d although the answer was fairly easy. I’m not sure I understand it even so. Happy St. Andrews’Day to all.

    1. The letter R is the core letter of three, i.e. thRee’s core. Unlike BD I quite liked this clue – it’s certainly cryptic (and I don’t think it’s unfair in the same way as Elgar’s sol-dier for Icarus was).
      Happy St Andrew’s Day to you.

  5. Brilliant stuff from my favourite setter.
    17 down and 1down were last in. (I had no idea why the R was there.)
    ***/***** for me.
    Thanks to BD and setter.

  6. Afternoon all, and many thanks to BD for the review.

    The polarised opinions about 1d are expected and very interesting (not that it was my motivation for using it, of course!). It does go to show how these reverse-engineering clues can delight/annoy in equal measure, despite the fact that they get used quite a lot. Not so long ago a clue for SHOPPING CENTRE exploited the presence of PP (indicated as ‘double parking’) and quite a few hailed it as a truly great clue. Mechanically this one does the same thing, the only difference being it doesn’t attempt to disguise the R in any way. Had the clue read:

    60, right? (5,5)

    …then to all intents and purposes it would be mechanically identical to the SHOPPING CENTRE clue.

    I’m not complaining! It’s actually good to know that this type of clue has as many fans/detractors as any other.

    1. Have to say I sided with Big Dave on 1 down. Perhaps it should have had LITERALLY before R or ONCE after 60, to make you think about what or why the R was doing what it did. At least a question mark would have helped.. Not sure any of the other editors would have let it through in that form.

      Thanks to BD for covering for me while I had to go for an urgent scan. Hopefully all is clear, but a couple of hours waiting around does nothing for me.

  7. I really don’t see the issue with 1d. You have wordplay R and definition 60. Perfectly sound. 7d uses exactly the same device. You even see the device used on the back pages.

  8. Excellent puzzle from a setter at the top of his game, Favourites were among a host of others 4d 17a and 17d thanks to Elkamere and to Big Dave for the comments.

  9. Phew, that wasa Tough one and no mistake!

    I didn’t have a problem with 1d, The answer became obvious from the checkers but it took a while to spot how it works, d’oh!

    4*/4* for me.

    Many thanks to Elkamere and BD.

  10. I’m with eXternal here, both in thinking that it wasn’t that tough, and in thinking that 1d is perfectly fine. Tricky, but fine. Crosswords would be difficult to solve if all clues worked that way, but, carefully, placed, they add to the variety of the puzzle.

    I also echo eXternal’s comments about the setter. I though that this was a great crossword.

  11. I managed to get 1d eventually, but I took R to be the abbreviation for Recipe (as used on old prescription forms), thus meaning a recipe for making 60. I don’t think I would ever have got “three’s core”!

    1. I know that a number of solvers have come to the defence of 1 down, but to me it was an anal clue – I leave the reason why to your imagination!

  12. Just driven back from Yorkshire to be greeted by this. If my brain wasn’t frazzled already by the behaviour of the numpty truckers travelling two abreast uphill on the A1 then it is now. Time to wave the white flag & break out the single malt which has been put away for Christmas. I know it’s only 4:40pm but sod it!

    1. We can but dream. If, at some point in the future, I ever put together a collection of my crozzers in book form, I’d want to have a selection of reviews printed on the back. I’d want one of them to be “Bloody hell!” Nothing else. Just that.

  13. At what point in time did 1D become a 10 letter word? Why isn’t 7A a seven letter word? This really was 15A for me and I extend no 10A to the compiler whatsoever for this 7A of a clue which really could have been 2D if he’d 21A hadn’t spent so much time 16D about his 7D enginuity

  14. Having seen Gazza’s explanation I now understand 1d, in my naivety I simply thought what “are” (r) 60 .Back to the drawing board ! Haven’t forgiven him for vlei in any event.
    Thanks for the review
    Off to the re opening of a village pub shortly which is another bit of reverse engineering in this day and age !

  15. This one beat us. Turned to the hints with 3 gaps left and then found that we had the ending of 17d wrong as well. Which did not help with 25a. Got 5d correct but failed to parse. 10a really stretched us until we realised that ‘His’ was not a pronoun.
    Thanks Elkamere for the workout and BD.

    1. “His” is appearing more often in this sense nowadays. Watch out for “does” as well (more than one deer).

  16. I’m totally in agreement with W B Geddes on this one, also Big D’s closing comment.

    Clever for the sake of being clever.

    1. Nothing wrong with a bit of intellectual masturbation – so long as you don’t inflict it on others!

  17. I loved it- particularly 10ac, 13ac and, yes, 1d. I just wonder whether, had it been a regular Friday setter, there would have been an equal amount of fuss?

    I’m much more concerned about the definition of 8ac – which I understood to be a completely different plant – heigh ho.

    1. Jo Brand IS genuinely funny.

      I bet you like Victoria Wood, Sarah Millican and Miranda Hart, who are three of the least funny women I have ever seen. All three seem to think that silly = funny and they ain’t.

      1. I’ve never seen the latter two so cannot comment on them. And no, I’ve never found VW remotely amusing, let alone funny. At least we agree on something!

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