Toughie 953 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 953

Toughie No 953 by Notabilis

The Master at work!

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

Notabilis is one of a handful of Toughie setters who consistently produce five-star puzzles.

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.


1a    Breaking with courtesy, in France it’s a harsh regime (6,5)
{POLICE STATE} – inside (breaking) an adjective meaning with courtesy put the French for it’s/it is and the A from the clue

7a    Sweep often accompanies me, describing chimneys (5)
{SOOTY} – two definitions – Sweep’s glove-puppet friend and an adjective that describes chimneys

8a    Gold single mother keeps in vault (9)
{MAUSOLEUM} – the chemical symbol for gold and a four-letter word meaning single inside a three-letter word for mother

10a    Spray crumbs with common stuffing ingredient (7)
{CORSAGE} – a three-letter exclamation meaning crumbs! followed by a common ingredient, along with onion, of stuffing

11a    Commended about protecting island of those not expecting divine intervention (7)
{DEISTIC} – a verb meaning commended reversed (about) around (protecting) IS(land)

12a    Stage reportedly ‘owned’ by Ms Dunaway? (5)
{PHASE} – sounds like (reportedly) a word meaning belonging to Ms Dunaway

13a    One’s abstract expressionism’s beginning without detail (9)
{IMPRECISE} – the abbreviated form of one’s / “one is” in the first person followed by an abstract or summary and the initial letter (beginning) of Expressionism

16a    Change financial inspection, regularly substituting workers (9)
{AMENDMENT} – start with a financial inspection and replace each of the even letters (regularly substituting) with a three-letter word for workers

18a    Fur one wants on marine mammal (5)
{MINKE} – a popular fur is followed by (ON)E without the ON

19a    Matching kit is a triumph in review of international match (7)
{TWINSET} – a triumph or victory inside the reversal (review) of an international cricket or rugby match

22a    What gutter removes when crossing road behind pub (7)
{INNARDS} – a two-letter word meaning when around (crossing) R(oa)D preceded by a pub

23a    Cold wrought iron to reinforce stiff framework (9)
{CRINOLINE} – C(old) followed by an anagram (wrought) of IRON and a verb meaning to reinforce or strengthen gives a stiff framework worn to make a long skirt stand out

24a    Angel backing the vintage drama (5)
{HONEY} – reverse (backing) an old-fashioned form of “the” and a Japanese drama

25a    Cafe meal’s an unpalatable offence (11)
{MALFEASANCE} – an anagram (unpalatable) of CAFE MEAL’S AN


1d    Make young corporal upset, worried about sappers (9)
{PROCREATE} – this verb meaning to produce offspring is derived from the reversal (upset) of CORP(oral) and a verb meaning worried or nagged around the Royal Engineers (sappers)

2d    Show segment uploaded from al-Jazeera by al-Jazeera (3,4)
{LAY BARE] – this phrasal verb meaning to show or disclose is hidden (segment … from) and reversed (uploaded) inside the clue

3d    British ruler voided community decoration policy (9)
{CYMBELINE} – CommunitY without its inner letters (voided) followed by a decoration or award and a policy or ideology

4d    Skip last couple of bits of pulpy, wet seafood (5)
{SQUID} – drop (skip) the final two letters (last couple of bits) from an adjective meaning wet and pulpy

5d    Sweat from generation spanning working lives (7)
{AGONISE} – a generation around a two-letter word meaning working and a verb meaning lives

6d    Master with hidden pawn to bring into play (5)
{EXERT} – a master or professional without (hidden) the chess notation for Pawn

7d    This can copy indiscriminately like a crawler (11)
{SYCOPHANTIC} – an anagram (indiscriminately) of THIS CAN COPY

9d    Moisture distribution shown by meteorological scales? (8,3)
{MACKEREL SKY} – a cryptic definition of a cloud formation that resembles the scales of a fish

14d    In double-bottomed baked goods, dilute concentrated substance (9)
{PITHINESS} – start with some baked goods, repeat the final letter (double-bottomed) and then insert a verb meaning to dilute

15d    Not being educated and not into acing first of exams somehow (9)
{IGNORANCE} – a word meaning “and not” inside an anagram (somehow) of ACING and the initial letter (first) of Exams

17d    Dissembled to cover military actions, lifting rifle (7)
{DESPOIL} – a verb meaning dissembled or cheated around (to cover) some military actions,all reversed (lifting)

18d    Bowman‘s list of options reduced suspicion (7)
{MENUHIN} – this famous bowman or violinist comes from a charade of a list of options followed by a suspicion without its final letter (reduced)

20d    In dialect, it’s one mode to start with (5)
{IDIOM} – the initial letters (to start with) of five words in the clue

21d    Bunk with a strong smell after time (5)
{TRIPE} – an adjective meaning with a strong smell, often applied to a cheese, follows T(ime)

Happy Easter to all our readers.

8 comments on “Toughie 953

  1. Just snuck over the border into 4* difficulty for me (mainly due to my inability to put the right letters in the correct squares :( ) but oh what 5* entertainment. As someone said in an email to me first thing this morning “Best Puzzle of the Week” Lots of dots by clues again but I have to express extra fondness for the simple but lovely 7a.

    Thanks and Happy Easter to BD, Notabilis and everyone else too.

  2. Absolutely brilliant toughie from one of the best compilers, this was a joy to solve. Many thanks to Notablis yet again and to BD for the usual excellent review. Happy Easter to all.

  3. Went well past my normal tolerance time but was so enjoyable .Completed left hand side reasonably quickly (for me) and then came to a halt and had to revisit ,looking back I don’t quite know why .If I could give more than 5* on both counts then I would .
    Faves 9d,7a,18d ,22a etc etc .
    Thanks very much to both .
    Happy Easter too.

  4. Superb Toughie 5 stars on both counts for me, favourites 3d 8a 12a and 22a thanks to Notabilis and to Big Dave for the review.
    Dave 16a the answer needs amending.

    1. Thanks to both of you.

      I wrote down audit to double check that it was the correct starting point and then forgot to change it!

  5. I enjoyed it … nearly solved it!

    I will not be sycophantic so … a few marks off for some very clunky surface readings!

  6. An absolute pleasure from start to finish. Right at the top end of our solving capabilities but it all went in smoothly after diligent application, without the need of electronic assistance. Parsing 24a was the last act. Really satisfying and enjoyable.
    Thanks Notabilis and BD.

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