ST 2684 (Hints)

Sunday Telegraph Cryptic No 2684 (Hints)

Hints and tips by Big Dave

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

Tilsit took this picture of four Toughie Setters at the recent Listener dinner in Chester.

Toughie Setters

Micawber, Warbler, Busman & Elgar

As is usual for the weekend prize crosswords, I will select a few of the more difficult clues and provide hints for them.

Don’t forget that you can give your assessment of the puzzle. Five stars if you thought it was great, one if you hated it, four, three or two if it was somewhere in between.

Could new readers please read the Welcome post before asking questions about the site.

Most of the terms used in these hints are explained in the Glossary and examples are available by clicking on the entry under “See also”.  Definitions are underlined in the clues.

A full review of this puzzle will be published after the closing date for submission


1a           Ferociously attack a guy initially in bar (6)
Put the A from the clue and the initial letter of Guy inside a word meaning bar or except for

4a           Finishes off operation for pains (8)
Two definitions – finishes off an operation by closing any incisions and pains often encountered by athletes

11a         Crazy British lawyer’s brief (5)
B(ritish) followed by a four-letter abbreviation for an American lawyer

12a         Without energy, again experience ease (7)
A verb meaning to experience again around (without) E(nergy)

13a         Start off part of ‘Hamlet’ with new speech (7)
A character in Hamlet without (off) his initial letter (start) followed by N(ew)

18a         Driver, in turn, gripped by epic scorer (8)
A turn or attempt inside a classical composer (epic scorer)

20a         Head of state moving to centre, in a sense (5)
Start with STATE and move its initial letter (head) to the middle

27a         Getting through, carry a head inside (9)
A verb meaning to carry with a word meaning “a head” inside

29a         Gold put in cast, mostly, for old coin (6)
Insert the heraldic term for gold inside most of a verb meaning to cast or throw


1d           Squash and second form of exercise switched (8)
S(econd) followed by a form of exercise (5,2) with the two words switched

2d           Ordinary article hidden under ceiling in house (7)
An adjective meaning ordinary or insipid is derived by putting the indefinite article after (under in a down clue) the initial letter (ceiling in a down clue) of a large house

5d           Fearful inaccuracies are misleading in part of political address (6-8)
Put some inaccuracies and a verb meaning to mislead inside the first part of an address occupied by a very senior politician

7d           In violent row, victim may need to call on it (3,4)
A three-letter adjective meaning violent followed by a row

8d           Saw a year in prison cut by precisely 50 per cent (6)
To get this saw or adage put the A from the clue and Y(ear) inside either half (cut by precisely 50 per cent) of a famous US prison

17d         Military HQ in which sides’ meetings are invariably obtuse (8)
The sides of this AmericanMilitary HQ  all meet at an obtuse angle (108⁰ to be precise)

19d         Relatively loud speakers — they can be heard in court (7)
Proverbially these speak louder than words

24d         Troublemaker that affects concentration when drinking (5)
Something that, when added to a drink, dilutes the concentration of alcohol

If you need further help then please ask and I will see what I can do.

As this is a Prize crossword, please don’t put whole or partial answers or alternative clues in your comment, else they may be censored!

Today it’s Happy Birthday to Lord Sugar (66)


  1. Rabbit Dave
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Phew! I found that really hard today but very enjoyable. In the end I managed without help but only thanks to the bad weather stopping me from doing other things and giving me time to keep working on it.

    I got the answer to 19d early on but didn’t write it in until last because I couldn’t see at all the relevance of the first part of the clue. I kept saying the first three words of the clue and the answer out loud (driving Mrs RD completely 11a); what a relief when the penny finally dropped! That gets my vote for clue of the year!

    I have also been driven 11a by 11a, and still couldn’t understand why my answer, which is obvious from the three checking letters, was correct. Thanks BD for your enlightment! I’ve never come across that not very abbeviated abbreviation before.

    8d was another favourite for me and it also took me an age to work out why my answer was right.
    Top marks to the setter today for a really excellent crossword. Thanks very much too to BD for his hints, which I thought I was going to need a lot of but surprised myself in the end when I didn’t.

  2. Sweet William
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Rather like yesterday, found this harder than the usual Virgilius ( if it was you ! ) decided to stick it out without hints and got there in the end. It is a good job that one cannot disclose the solving time – it would be most embarrassing ! Some really good clues, well disguised. Liked the simplicity of the surface reading of 22d. So thank you for another enjoyable challenge and thank you BD for your hints which I was determined not to use today !

  3. mary
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for explainations Dave particularly of 2d I couldn’t see where the ceiling came in at all! I thought this was a tough one today with two clues particularly being worthy of a toughie i.e. 5d and 18a but maybe that’s just me? At least a three star edging into 4 for myself with the top R/H corner being last in, fav clue 3d

  4. John
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Think it must be the cold weather, been struggling all week.

    Many thanks BD needed your hints for the NE corner. Couldn’t for the life of me see why 5d was what it was!

    • mary
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      I’ve found this week pretty tough too John, think I’ve got brain freeze!

      • John
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Glad it’s not just me! At least the snow’s stopped here.

      • Rabbit Dave
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        I completely agree, Mary. But why doesn’t the cold weather affect the brains of the setters too?!

        • crypticsue
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          Because they set the puzzles some weeks/months before they appear in the paper.

          • mary
            Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink


    • Merusa
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Frankly, still don’t get the “why” of 5d. Very difficult puzzle

      • crypticsue
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Presuming you have the correct solution, remove the first letter and the last two letters. Have a look at what you have left – the inaccuracies misleading bit and then the ‘address’ should become clear, although it is a British address.

        • Merusa
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but how convoluted! Very clever. What weird brains these setters have, that’s why they do such a good job of setting and confuse us poor solvers.

  5. crypticsue
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Virgilius with his tricky hat on today (probably one of those fur lined ones with ear flaps – that’s what I’m wearing – I’m indoors, in a room with no heating on,!) but what tremendous fun. I put dots by the clues I ‘like’ as I solve them, and my piece of paper is very spotty.

    • Rabbit Dave
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I was given one of those hats as a birthday present this week. Not a moment too soon! Perhaps I’ll try wearing it indoors tomorrow when doing the crossword :-)

      • mary
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Belated birthday wishes RD, good idea, it might help with brain freeze :-)

      • Tantalus
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        The Mad Bomber variety? With real bunny rabbit fur?

        • Rabbit Dave
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think my real bunny rabbit would approve of that.

    • steve_the_beard
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      OK, I’ll bite – on a day like today, why is there no heating in the room ???

      • crypticsue
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        Because its a spare room known as the ‘office’ mainly because it has the computer in one corner. The rest is storage of household files, family archives, spare china, boxes of old books, photographs etc. The radiator is hidden behind a huge heap of son no 1s girlfriends ‘junk’ but I am promised that will be going soon. I normally have a fan heater in here but someone appeared to have ‘borrowed’ it this morning. A bit of ranting mother soon brought it back again after lunch . Hat back in the hall – still wearing the fingerless gloves though!

        • gnomethang
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          Put your foot down with a firm hand! ;)

          • crypticsue
            Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

            I did – they are all in hiding now :D

  6. Only fools
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Another personal milestone -my slowest ever Virgilius solve .Loved it !
    Faves 2d,3d,5d,18a,17d etc etc etc .
    Sunny,2C and 33mph winds in N Yorks.
    Thanks very much .

  7. Jezza
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Best puzzle of the week for me! 5* enjoyment all the way..
    Many thanks to Virgilius, and to BD for the hints.

  8. una
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Certainly a struggle today,with25a, and21d yet to solve .Thanks to BD for clues so far.

    • crypticsue
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Perservate Una – its worth it.

      Mary – I had to write the word ‘persevere’ in a crossword yesterday and couldn’t for the life of me think how to spell it properly any more :D

      • mary
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        I know it happens to me too :-)

      • una
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, I did, with Mary’s help, though I can’t for the life of me see what persuasion has to do with it.I’ll have to wait for the full review.

        • mary
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          If you are persuaded to do something Una you might be said to be the first four letters on it

    • mary
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Hi Una

      25a, think of the two letter abbreviation for business and a four letter word for plan, put this last word around the one letter abbreviation for island, this will give you your ‘second flier’

      • mary
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        27a… as Daves hint, for head think per head

        • mary
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          21d… a four letter word for persuaded followed by a one letter abbreviation for current, followed by the two letter abbreviation for our monarch gives you a type of private

      • una
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        I am doing my best with quite this complicated instruction. I wish I knew what a second flier is.sorry finally got second flier.Let’s blame frozen brain.

        • John
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

          Think of the second in charge on an aeroplane

        • mary
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          sorry couldn’t think of a way to make it any easier without being sent to the naughty corner :-)

          • crypticsue
            Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            Pineapple upside down pudding??? Its very good and we resisted seconds so there is some left

            • mary
              Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

              Mmmmm sounds delicious, recipe please??? so that I can have some even if I don’t go to naughty corner :-)

              • Tantalus
                Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

                Just say ******* and you will be there in a plover!

              • crypticsue
                Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

                Put some light brown sugar in the bottom of a baking dish with a little of the juice from the tin of pineapple, then put in the pineapple rings, filling in gaps with cut up rings, and glace cherries. Cover with a ‘usual’ sponge mix and bake in the oven. Serve turned out off the dish for the full upside down effect.

                • Tantalus
                  Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

                  Looks delicious, and geometric!

                • mary
                  Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

                  Thanks sue I will certainly try that :-) Love pineapple and sponge

  9. Colmce
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Really hard for me, took a very long time to do, like yesterday some of the word play unclear.Enjoyable despite that.

    Thanks to BD for the review.

    Thanks to Virgilius for a tougher than usual Sunday morning

    • Tantalus
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Thanks to BD and Virgilius for a longer than normal “tea & toast”. The Tantali.

  10. MichaelP
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting contrast with the Saturday puzzle which I got through reasonably quickly and didn’t get stuck on any clues. This one gave me a lot more trouble (and took over twice as long to complete) but despite that was actually more enjoyable because of the cleverness of some of the clues (once I’d got there!)

  11. gnomethang
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    A wonderful puzzle where the last few took a long time to fall into place – I couldn’t think of the epic scorer for ages!.
    Hats off to Virgilius for the excellent 10a and thanks to BD for the hints.

    • mary
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Hi gnomey, can you explain to me why 10a is excellent, there must be more to it than I can see??

      • Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        Apart from the whole clue proving an excellent definition, it’s an anagram (could be) of PERSON IN with the final letter/quarter of the four-letter word lifE – and that final letter is a quarter on the compass!

        • mary
          Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

          Thanks Dave, I knew there had to be more to it than just the whole clue as a definition, just didn’t see it

  12. Tantalus
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Almost complete without help, but still we do not understand the logic of 8d. A Y(ear) in half of famous NY prison. But where does SAW come in? Or are we completely bonkers?

    • Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      It’s there in the hint! Saw, adage and the answer are all synonyms.

      • Tantalus
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        So Occam sometimes used a saw instead of his razor?

  13. Chris
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Like most everyone else, I found this hard going today. I finally finished without hints but an awful lot of “D’oh!” moments when the pennies finally dropped. 18A was the last one in. Double D’oh for that. I needed your hints, BD to unravel why a couple were correct, so thanks once again. I can’t say I really enjoyed this puzzle, but appreciate the wily mind of the setter.

    I’m following your terrible weather from snow-free and relatively mild Maryland. Stay safe and warm, y’all!

  14. The Tantali
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    He just won’t listen, think I will have to put more yew berries in his muesli.

    • stanXYZ
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      The Tantali,

      Hmm? Muesli? Yew berries? Anything to do with today’s crossword?

      Am I missing something?

      Please tell!

      • crypticsue
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        I think Mrs T is trying to stop Mr T making comments like the second one at 12 above. Either that or she’s after the insurance money and the blog comments are just an excuse :D

  15. steve_the_beard
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    What a belter! Five-star hard but about eight-star pleasure :-)

    Much thanks to Virgilius and BD.

  16. Franny
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Yes, an enjoyable challenge. Thanks to BD for the hints. I’ve now done it all except for 3d where I’m completely stuck, though I think I’ve got all the right across letters.
    The pineapple upside-down cake looks delicious. I’m trying to make a blueberry clafoutis at the moment for my dinner guest. Hope it’s sunnier tomorrow. Thanks again BD and setter. :-)

    • gazza
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      3d Piece of gold and lump of iron someone experimented on (6,3)

      The definition is someone (who is) experimented on. It’s a charade of piece or coin and a lump of iron.

      • Franny
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, Gazza. There are times when the penny just doesn’t drop. Also, I’d mis-spelled 18a. Now, good-night. :-)

      • Franny
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

        Thank you Gazza. Sometimes the penny just doesn’t drop. Also I’d mis-spelled 18a. :-)

  17. Merusa
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Did eventually finish with hint helps and comments. I found this one super difficult, though a lot of it my not thinking too clearly. Eg, 1d and1a both gave me cause for much wringing of hands when they are both pretty plain and uncomplicated. Grrrr. Cross with myself.

    Also, frustration with power going off for an hour or more, hence no wifi access. FPL reason for power outage? “Stormy conditions,” meaning a little “breeze blow”, little gusty wind from time to time; no rain, sleet or snow. Talk about third world and God help us if we get a hurricane this year.

  18. Roger
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Oh way way too hard for me. Filed in WPB. I find that my brain gets locked into a way of analysing a particular clue. I try looking at it from different viewpoints and sometimes something ‘unlocks’ and the answer drops out. But all too often the brain just sits there, I get demoralised and chuck the damn thing away as I know that I won’t be able to solve it….nor, if truth be told, have any interest in finding out the answers.

    One needs a certain amount of enjoyment to persevere…something like the delightful Giovanni on a Friday. Sorry, but this one was sheer drudge.

    • Kath
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      I agree with gnomey and CS – definitely not a drudge although I agree that it was difficult. For some reason that I find impossible to put into words Sunday puzzles are completely different to all the others – I think it takes a while to get used to them but they are SO worth ‘perservating’ with. Fish it out of the bin and have another go would be my advice! :smile:

    • Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      The other way round for me – I lked this one a lot more than Friday’s.

  19. gnomethang
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I would disagree on the drudge. There is much to admire here as crypticsue will explain in 10 days (or so) time.

    • crypticsue
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Hear hear.

    • Merusa
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      I also agree on the non-drudgedness of these difficult puzzles. It is always a good feeling to work your brain backwards, forwards, inside-out, etc., so you miss a few, think of the words you come across in the seeking of the answers! Always good to learn new words.

    • gnomethang
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      Sorry this should have been under Roger’s comment. I’ve gone back to pick the bones out of this and can’t really fault it.

      • Kath
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        Could be wrong but I think it started its life under Roger’s comment – I think that’s where I replied to it.

  20. Annidrum
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I found this very hard today so didn’t enjoy it although I appreciate how clever the are.

  21. Doodah
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Found this very heavy going and needed not only the hints ( thanks to BD) but recourse to Lexeme……

  22. Kath
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    A brilliant if very tricky puzzle – glad to find that I’m not the only one to think so.
    Had a quick look this morning but didn’t get far as we were going to a 60th birthday party at lunchtime – I’d said that I’d make several different kinds of bread to take and, needless to say, it just wouldn’t behave and took ages to rise etc etc so I was a bit distracted.
    Anyway, finished now apart from STILL not really understanding 8d – can’t think of any American prisons let alone one that I can chop half off . . . Oh dear!
    I’d be here for the rest of the day if I wrote down all the good clues so will just pick a few – 4, 13 and 26a and 1, 5 and 19d.
    With thanks to Virgilius and BD.
    Going to light fire now.

    • steve_the_beard
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Re 8D. If you have the answer, then you have a four-letter word to work with; if you say that four-letter word twice then you have the name of a New York State prison. Hope that helps :-)

      • Kath
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. New York State prisons are yet another thing about which I know nothing – long may that continue until it comes to crosswords! However, husband has heard of it . . .

    • stanXYZ
      Posted March 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      8d – I know the answer and the wordplay: but, alas, I am incapable of giving a hint without breaking the rules for a prize puzzle!

      Hats off to gazza and his fellow bloggers for making the great art of “hinting” & “nudging” appear so easy!

      • Kath
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        i knew the answer too but just couldn’t see why. I agree with you about the art of hinting and nudging and, in some cases pushing us to get the answer AND see why. They’re all very clever and remarkably patient. Hats off and thanks to the bloggers.

  23. Hrothgar
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyable, though quite tough.
    18a and 21d sheer brilliance.
    Thanks Virgilius and BD for the review.

  24. Derek
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed solving this one from Virgilius!
    Did most of the right hand side then remembered that I had forgotten to empty the load from Saturday’s clothes wash!
    Ouderdom is echt vrezelijk! Old age is really dreadful!

    Having disposed the wash in warm places I got back to the puzzle.

    Faves : 14a, 18a, 25a, 27a, 2d, 3d 5d & 17d.

    Weather here is dry but damned cold.

    You folk in GB are having a really tough winter!