Toughie 985 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 985

Toughie No 985 by Osmosis

Putting faces to the names

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

Greetings from the Terpsichoreans (that’s not a recently discovered group of Greek islands!) As you may know, there was a gathering of the great and the good of the crossword world in Wapping yesterday and your dancing duo were there.

Ginger had a good time catching up with some of the gang that she nurtures through her test-solving of their oeuvres, while Fred wandered around and renewed acquaintances with a great many folk. There were a number of Toughie tormentors present including Elgar, Micawber, Notabilis, Shamus and for the first time Osmosis. It was lovely to meet and talk to him and in true crossword tradition, he looks nothing like you’d probably expect him to. BD will be putting up photos of the event in due course, so you will be able to judge for yourselves [Here they are! BD].

This was a pleasant solve, probably our favourite of the week, and filled with some of the usual Osmosis trademarks of part indications, shortened words and cunning wordplay plus some fiendishly difficult constructions and definitions. All in all, this more than justified its Friday slot and provided Fred with some head-scratching on the overnight coach journey home – Ginger had a good night’s sleep before solving the Toughie so her head remained unscratched!

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 Alarm at Batman residence earlier (6)
{CAVEAT} Let’s start with the name of the type of place where Batman and Robin hang out and add AT after it to give the name for a legal warning or alarm.

4a Ecclesiastical passage, a thoroughfare taken by lady (3,5)
{AVE MARIA} The name for a prayer used in the Catholic church, set to music by Schubert is found by taking the abbreviated name for a thoroughfare and adding to it a girl’s name. Here’s one of the most beautiful versions, sung by opera singer Barbara Bonney.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

9a Language — around centre of Venice (6)
{DANISH} A European language, the native one belonging to the winner of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, is revealed by taking the centre of Venice (NI) and placing it inside what – represents! Clever.

10a Human decline? Principally ignoring the Holy Book (8)
{FALLIBLE} An adjective meaning human can be found by taking a word for a decline and adding to it the name of a Holy Book, minus its first letter (“Principally ignoring”)

11a Briefly beat drugged swimmer (8)
{FLOUNDER} The word meaning to beat or whip is taken with its last letter missing (“Briefly”) is added to a word used when you have been drugged or had an anaesthetic.


13a Stamp out depicting monarch without middle child (6)
{QUENCH} The name for our ruler without its middle letter is added to the abbreviation for a child and leads you to find a word meaning stamp out or dampen.

15a Award winner, with caveat? (8,5)
{VICTORIA CROSS} Quite a clever twist to a device sometimes seen in a puzzle. Often you will see a number in a clue that relates to another answer that makes up that solution. This is the reverse of that idea and in fact here you need to the location in the puzzle of that answer! A word for someone who triumphs in a contest is added to the location of that word in the grid. This gives you our highest award for gallantry.

Victoria Cross

18a My drink’s knocked over by Olympic sprinter in audience for festival (6,7)
{CORPUS CHRISTI} The name for a Christian feast day which occurs just before Easter is found by taking an expression you utter that could mean “My (word)!”, add to this a reversal of something that means drink and a homophone for a champion British sprint gold medal winner.

22a Vauxhall last in rally, off course (6)
{ASTRAY} Something that means off course is found by taking the name for a model made by Vauxhall and adding to it the last letter of RALLY

24a Wriggly thing, hopping mad, needing pee? (8)
{ASPIRATE} This is probably the clue that has sparked most discusssion between your Dynamic Duo. The word play is reasonably straightforward. The name for a type of snake most associated with Cleopatra is added to something that means hopping mad or cross. This gives you a word, which does have a meaning in Chambers as an adjective, more commonly associated words that start with H, but presumably can be extended to P, though the Big Red Book doesn’t actually say this. [Gazza read further in the BRB than we did and correctly spotted that this can be a verb meaning to draw liquid from a body cavity]

26a Save article by writer for Arts Centre (8)
{BARBICAN} The name of a famous Arts Complex in London is found by taking a short word mean save (as in except) and adding the name of a manufacturer of pens (and pretty useless disposable razors!) and adding the indefinite article.


27a Old American‘s hard, roughly reflected in mirror (6)
{APACHE} The answer for this clue became clear when you had the crossing letters, but as for the remainder of the parsing… Fred is certainly scratching his head, so much so we’ve had a fire alarm go off with the sparks! Luckily Ginger is on hand to help the old fool out: H (hard, as in pencil quality) and CA (roughly, circa) go inside a word meaning to mirror or copy something.

28a Wickedness of Gary, Tim, Ron, Eric backfired (8)
{ENORMITY} This is a hidden reversal clue with the definition, for Fred, a little weak. Poor old addled Fred did wonder if you can have a wickedness of something, as you do with a parliament of owls, crash of rhinos, (any thoughts as to what you call a group of crossword enthusiasts??), etc. However, Ginger pointed out that the BRB does define this word as a ‘great wickedness’ so she doesn’t really see what he is wittering on about – no change there then!

29a Seaside wall‘s an area for hanky-panky, we hear (6)
{GROYNE} Nudge nudge, wink wink from Mr Osmosis! An area of the body that gets used when indulging in hanky-panky (just pausing to explain to Fred what hanky-panky is – Ginger!) sounds like the name for a beach wall down by the shore.




1d Systematically set up fake suspect, without force (6)
{CODIFY} A verb meaning to systemize – an adjective meaning fake or sham, followed by an informal way of saying dubious, fake, which needs one of the Fs removing (without force).

2d Vehicle insurance needed around top-class city (9)
{VANCOUVER} A Canadian city – a light vehicle used to transport goods plus an insurance policy, into which is inserted the single letter used to meet top or upper class.

3d As and Cs are in anagrams (7)
{ARSENIC} The first part of this clue is a chemical symbol – anagrams is the indication that you should rearrange CS ARE IN to get the chemical in question.

5d Native Alaskan consuming flesh (4)
{VEAL} A type of meat is hidden in (consuming) natiVE ALaskan.

6d Slug perhaps producing instant lines on tussock periodically (7)
{MOLLUSC} The family to which a slug belongs – An informal abbreviation for a short period of time (instant) two lots of the single letter abbreviation for line (lines) and the even letters (periodically) of tUsSoCk.


7d Symbol of Christmas Day? (5)
{ROBIN} Something found on many a Christmas card as it is linked to the story of the infant Jesus in the manger, is also the Christian name of an old political commentator and broadcaster – ‘Day ?’.


8d The steamy novel lacks taste ultimately — one shade of purple? (8)
{AMETHYST} Remove an E (lacks taste ultimately) from THE STEAMY and make an anagram (novel) of the remaining letters. One of those words (like anemone)that Ginger can never quite remember how to spell when they appear in crosswords.

12d Heath absorbed old symphony (6)
{EROICA} Beethoven’s symphony no 3 – insert O (old) into the genus of plant to which heath belongs.

14d Quantity of beer perhaps brightened others mostly (6)
{LITRES} It will be a sad day when we drink British beer served in these measurements! Part of a verb meaning to provide light (brightened) followed by most of a noun meaning all others.

16d Peak I see scaled by extremely healthy powerful few (9)
{OLIGARCHY} Government by a small executive class – Reverse (scaled) a rough steep rock (peak), I (from the clue) and an archaic interjection meaning see or look and then follow with the outside letters (extremely) of healthy.

17d S. Coe’s rival to stand around lake and see cross-country race (8)
{SCRAMBLE} A motor trial on rough or hilly terrain. The initial and surname of Sebastian Coe’s rival on the athletics track (S.Coe so….) followed by a verb meaning to exist or , in this instance, to occupy a position in space, into which should be inserted the abbreviation for Lake. Ginger isn’t sure what the ‘see’ is doing here apart from making a whole sentence of the wordplay.

19d Element in uniform, skull cap removed (7)
{URANIUM} Follow the abbreviation for uniform with another word for the skull which has its first letter (cap) removed.

20d Footwear used by ballerina who falls? (7)
{SLIPPER} A lightweight dancing shoe might also describe a ballerina who falls accidentally.


21d Composed last of letters before half nine (6)
{SERENE} The final letter of letterS, a literary preposition and conjunction meaning before, and the second half of niNE.

23d Body part scientists probe excessively (5)
{TORSO} The abbreviation for the organisation whose members are the world’s most eminent scientists is inserted into an adverb meaning extremely.


25d Current wife’s stern (4)
{WAFT} The abbreviation for Wife followed by a word used to refer to the stern end of a ship or aircraft produces a rush of air or a current.

Thanks to Osmosis for both the Toughie and your company yesterday. Hope we see you again at future S&B events.


17 comments on “Toughie 985

  1. Thanks to Osmosis for a very enjoyable puzzle and to the terpsichorean twins for the analysis. After some scratching about I thought that 24a was referring to the medical procedure known as bladder aspiration.

    1. We obviously didn’t read far enough down the definitions. And how I so wish I hadn’t read your explanation just after lunch :)

    2. The wriggly thing and hopping mad (identified by cryptic sue) require the verb pee (as gazza explains). Does the clue picture a poor thing (a child?) wriggly, hopping, mad and needing (to go)?

  2. My favourite of the week. Lots of head scratching and lots of fun. More than *** difficulty for me but we’ll worth the time and effort. Not quite happy with 24a. Many thanks to Osmosis and to Fred and Ginger.

  3. How about a “quincunx of cruciverbalists”? Don’t why but I’ve always wanted to use that word somewhere.

  4. Not the toughest Friday Toughie but there was plenty to unravel in a fun crossword. Thanks to Osmosis and the toe tapping twins.

  5. Probably taken me longer than Fred’s coach journey to solve but enjoyed .
    Favourite clue 9a .
    Thanks very much Osmosis and F and G

  6. 9a – My Favourite Clue of the Week!

    If only I could have solved it without help from Him & Her!

    Dash it all, Jeeves, you’ve failed the test!

  7. What a wonderful puzzle. Loved 15a – so clever.
    Thanks Osmosis and F & G.

  8. We found it a lot of fun and really enjoyed it. Had the same problem with the parsing of 24a and it was last one in for us. We had put down our assessment as ****/**** and looking over the grid this morning, that still looks right for us.
    Thanks Osmosis and F and G.

    1. I have been giving 24a a lot more cogitation and a bit of searching via Google. My conclusion is that the definition is “Pee” which is, phonetically, an example of an aspirated consonant or simply an aspirate. The example I found on Google talked about saying “pin” and “bin” in front of a candle. Both of these are bilabials but only the former is said with a slight expulsion of breath that will disturb the candle flame. Hence”P” or “pee” is an example of an aspirate, and the question mark makes sense. Justification in BRB. “a consonant sound, a stop followed by an audible breath…”
      I rest my case. Cheers.

  9. So grateful for the discussion re 24a, after the week i’ve had was convinced I’d missed something blindingly obvious. I really enjoyed this, possibly 4* difficulty rating for me . Thanks to Osmosis and Nureyev and Fonteyn

  10. 18a Because the Triduum focuses on the passion of our Lord, our medieval forebears desired a feast to remember the institution of the Eucharist they introduced the feast of Corpus Christi!
    The feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, “where the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a Holy Day of Obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day”.[1] At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, generally displayed in a monstrance. The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
    source Wikipedia.
    Many glorious memories of the processions.
    Still love your blog.

  11. I took a while to read through the clues and took a couple of peeps at the hints and thought, ‘I’m never going to understand this, let alone solve it’. However, I did a few, then took the paper with me to continue puzzling while I relaxed in the bath – and like Archimedes I had a few ‘eureka’ moments as the clues all fell into place. So thanks to Osmosis for a most enjoyable ‘soak time’ – the paper remained surprisingly dry too.

  12. I’m a fan of Osmosis and thought 9a, 15a and 3d terrific clues. But 24a is a stinker. It may just be possible to justify the definition “needing pee?” as a question, to which the solution is the [urologist’s] answer – but that’s pushing it. Otherwise I just can’t see how the solution can be defined by “needing pee”, rather than, say, “take the pee”.

    But still fun! Thanks to Osmosis and F&G.

  13. Got to the Telegraph very late today having been on Grandpa duties today with my 15yrs old gorgeous Granddaughter who was coaching younger gymnasts. I enjoyed this offering from Osmosis and the review from F & G. Not very tough but very enjoyable.

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