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Toughie 978

Toughie No 978 by Shamus

Mulling it over

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

A tougher-than-usual Tuesday Toughie, but one that I enjoyed.

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    A mark hidden by chap taking out new cosmetic (7)
{MASCARA} – the A from the clue and a mark left after an earlier wound (hidden by) inside a chap with the N(ew) dropped (taking out)

5a    Save Dutch partner? (7)
{HUSBAND} – this verb meaning to save or use economically could also be the person who is the partner of a Dutch or wife

9a    Mayor, say, on song and fit for high-level activity (9)
{AIRWORTHY} – a mayor or other notable person preceded by (on in an across clue) a song

10a    Ladies, perhaps, mentioned means of identifying flower (5)
{LUPIN} – what sounds like (mentioned) a toilet (ladies, perhaps) followed by a means of identification used in conjunction with a bank card

11a    Severe figure of authority in force getting backing (7)
{DRASTIC} – a figure of authority inside a police department, all reversed

12a    Shout in argument by opponent in custody case? (7)
{EXCLAIM} – this verb meaning to shout comes from an argument or declaration preceded by a former partner (opponent in custody case)

13a    Lyricist with a competitive set cultivated area in the East? (4,5)
{RICE FIELD} – the lyricist who worked with Lloyd Webber followed by a collective word for the runners in a race (competitive set)

16a    Couples spot that’s shunned by principal feminist (5)
{ITEMS} – couples or pairs of people who go out together are derived from a spot from which the initial letter (principal) is dropped (shunned) followed by the title which does not indicate a woman’s marital status (feminist)

17a    Toughie on website say recalled as solemn composition? (5)
{DIRGE} – split as (1-4) and reversed (recalled) this could be (say) the starting point for an online crossword (Toughie on website)

18a    Material is type loser mislaid (9)
{POLYESTER} – an anagram (mislaid) of TYPE LOSER

21a    Military governor holding middle of fatal weapon (7)
{SHOTGUN} – a Japanese hereditary military governors around (holding) the middle letter of faTal

22a    Indication of agreement unlikely in a sauna? (2,5)
{NO SWEAT} – a condition that is unlikely to happen in a sauna!

25a    Brown drinks being raised? (5)
{TOAST} – this verb meaning to brown by direct exposure to heat also means to raise one’s glasses and drink together in honour of a person

26a    Filming device? It could be taken in restaurant to follow around host (9)
{CAMCORDER} – to get this device used for home movies start with what the waiter in a restaurant takes to the kitchen so that the correct food can be prepared and precede it with (to follow) the two-letter Latin abbreviation for around and the two-letter abbreviation for the host at a public occasion

27a    Plain look that is trailing work of spin-doctors? (7)
{PRAIRIE} – a three-letter word for a look or appearance followed by the Latin abbreviation for that is and preceded by the two-letter abbreviation for the work done by spin-doctors

28a    Teachers right to cut part of course, source of hard material? (3-4)
{NUT-TREE} – the trade union for school teachers followed by R(ight) inside a part of a golf course gives a source of hard wood


1d    Ramble in marital declaration by Prince Philip? (7)
{MEANDER} – this verb meaning to ramble could, if split (2,3,2), be how Prince Phillip describes himself together with the Queen

2d    Unconfined sun uplifted country (5)
{SYRIA} – An adjective meaning unconfined or spacious followed by S(un) and all reversed (uplifted in a down clue)

3d    Stop in cab or taxi (5)
{ABORT} – hidden inside the clue

4d    Aid to anchor boat at sea, not black, including posh line reportedly (7)
{AUTOCUE} – this aid is one used by the anchor who is responsible for the smooth running of a TV program – an anagram (at sea) of (B)OAT without the B(lack) around (including) the single-letter used to indicate posh and followed by what sounds like (reportedly) a line of people

5d    Bumpkin perhaps to look after according to Spooner? (7)
{HAYSEED} – take a three-letter word meaning perhaps and a verb meaning to look after or take care of and swap their initial letters, Spooner style

6d    Note touch of venom in Cleese being funny in a discriminating way (9)
{SELECTIVE} – the seventh note of the scale in sol-fa notation and the initial letter (touch) of Venom inside an anagram (being funny) of CLEESE

7d    Bowler, perhaps, entering staple ground getting early try-out? (5,4)
{ALPHA TEST} – the type of headwear of which a hat is an example (perhaps) inside (entering) an anagram (ground) of STAPLE

8d    Energetic people getting degree, such a huge number to be promoted (7)
{DYNAMOS} – D(egree) followed by two words meaning such a huge number both reversed (promoted in a down clue)

14d    Working in saloon, say, and pub attracting a cheer among Italians (9)
{CARBONARA} – a two-letter word meaning working inside a vehicle of which a saloon is an example (say) and a pub followed by (attracting) the A from the clue gives a pasta sauce (cheer / food among Italians)

15d    Load is carried by this pugilist boxing latest from junior stable (9)
{FREIGHTER} – a pugilist around (boxing) the final letters of (latest from) junioR stablE

17d    Moving depot receives request to despatch a computer (7)
{DESKTOP} – an anagram (moving) of DEPOT around (receives) a verb meaning to request without (to despatch) the A from the clue

18d    Slate a revolutionary style (7)
{PANACHE} – a verb meaning to slate or criticise followed by a well-known revolutionary

19d    Website might feature this crew and figure on TV programme (4,3)
{LINKMAN} – a website might feature this to provide an easy way of accessing another page on the web – follow it with a verb meaning to crew

20d    One’s finished work on island (7)
{RETIREE} – a two-letter word meaning on followed by an island in the Inner Hebrides – it’s unfortunate this puzzle was in the Crossword editor’s inbox at the same time as DT 27163, which featured the same wordplay “One no longer working on Hebridean island”, but Virgilius beat both of them to it in ST 2659 with “Person who’s stopped working on Scottish island”

23d    Maybe, squash wear (5)
{SPORT} – the game of squash is one of many examples of this – it’s also a verb meaning to wear

24d    Church official and priest restricted article from Luther? (5)
{ELDER} – the name of an Old Testament priest without his final letter (restricted) followed by the German (from Luther) definite article

Could be another excellent week in prospect!

17 comments on “Toughie 978

  1. This puzzle almost makes the back page look good. Heavy-handed and boring with iffy surface readings. Thumbs down

  2. Many thanks to Shamus for a proper toughie, I had to wrestle with it all morning, thought I had finished only to discover I had got 19d wrong, for some reason I put Long Man in. Thanks Dave for the review/hints, all in all a good wee toughie.

  3. I found this quite a struggle to finish, but got there eventually, ending up with the last few in the top right.
    Thanks to Shamus, and to BD for the notes.

  4. Unlike Michael I thought this was a pleasure after the back pager.
    Took longer than I would admit to but plenty to like for me eg 1d,5a ,9a ,22a.
    Thanks very much for the explanations and to Shamus .

  5. Good stuff on offer today, favourites for me were 4d 17a and 19d thanks to Shamus and to Big Dave for the comments.

  6. Feeling extremely smug because I finished a **** toughie without hints by 10:30 am EST and even managed to figure out the word play for all but two (16A and 8D). Well, I did get 4D completely wrong. I penciled in attache — sounded good to me at the time — but since it didn’t impact any other answers harm was minimal. Many thanks to the setter for the nice work-out and to BD for the review and unravelings.

  7. I’m always amazed when some of us dismiss crosswords as being “pedantic”, “pedestrian” or “boring” for example. As a Yorkshireman I would be the last to blow smoke up someone’s a~se but I can only admire the setters who have mastered the skill of taking 225 little squares and then creating the clues to supply the words that fit those squares.

    1. I’m with you spindrift. I don’t see too many puzzles created by those who use the terms you have listed. I’m reminded of the old saying “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time” – apparently coined by Abraham Lincoln (according to Google).

  8. I’m with Expat Chris except I’m smug rather than extremely smug – I finished it but needed far more explanations than she did!
    Got into a terrible muddle in bottom left corner and kept deciding something was wrong which made something else wrong etc etc.
    This has taken me HOURS, but it’s raining so so what.
    I liked 10, 22 and 27a and 1 and 14d.
    With thanks to Shamus and BD.

  9. Some nicely misleading definitions and clues made this a good stiff challenge that took a while to finish. NE corner was my finishing point as well. thanks to Shamus and BD.

  10. With you on the NE corner gnomey. Found this a difficult challenge, unfortunately interrupted by occasional work. Could not believe was correct when submitted so good job done Shamus. Also many thanks to BD for explanation of a couple of the word plays.
    If the toughie week continues in this manner, work will suffer!

  11. I’m also a victim of the NE corner which I got eventually then wondered why it took so long, just nicely misleading clues methinks. Thanks to Shamus and BD whose ratings I agree with

  12. Strangely, we found this one easier than the back-pager. We tend to enjoy Shamus’s style and get on his wave-length quite quickly. Our last corner in was the SE. Took us a little while to work out 26a, and then the others became apparent.
    Thanks Shamus and BD.

  13. So I was the only one who really screwed up the bottom left corner? Oh dear! :roll: Never mind – feeling pleased to have got as far as I did with a 4* Toughie.

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