Toughie 993 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 993

Toughie No 993 by Notabilis

Fridays don’t get better than this

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

Tilsit spent a few hours in Calderdale Hospital, his second home, today. Once again he has missed out on a real cracker of a puzzle that was a pleasure to review.

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    Beer run follows a polite word at Oktoberfest (6)
{BITTER} – a proper English beer is derived from R(un) preceded by the German (at Oktoberfest) for please (polite word)

4a    Striking Canadian artist pocketing last of the rent (8)
{DELETION} – the surname of a Canadian songstress (artist) around (pocketing) the final letter (last) of thE and a verb meaning to rent out a property

8a    Drink slowly, taking in drink with tongue, befitting posh restaurant (4-2)
{SLAP-UP} – a verb meaning to drink slowly around one meaning to drink with the tongue

9a    Butcher’s working with hare, finally in place at table (4-4)
{ONCE-OVER} – butcher’s is Cockney rhyming slang for look (butcher’s hook) – a two-letter word meaning working followed by the final letter of harE inside a place laid at the dining table

10a    Rest required when shooting fails four times? (4,4)
{TAKE FIVE} – what a director might call for when the first four attempts at filming a scene have failed!

11a    Something irrational in sign of doubt about arbiter (6)
{UMPIRE} – an irrational number between a sign of doubt or hesitation and a two-letter word meaning about

12a    Set of deliveries meeting principal background cost (8)
{OVERHEAD} – a set of six deliveries in cricket followed by a principal or chief

13a    Seizing power, wield authority (6)
{EXPERT} – a verb meaning to wield around (seizing) P(ower) gives someone who is an authority on a given subject

15a    Spiritualist claimed to skip a beat? (6)
{MYSTIC} – sounds like (claimed) a verb meaning to skip followed by the beat of a clock

18a    Little pressure for a bill I must back somewhat (8)
{MILLIBAR} – a small measure of atmospheric pressure is hidden (somewhat) and reversed (back) inside the clue

20a    Note depression’s overcome one spending lots of time on Web (6)
{SPIDER} – the second note of the scale in sol-fa notation followed by a depression and the S from ‘S all reversed (overcome)

21a    Poisoning‘s set brute back months (8)
{ERGOTISM} – poisoning caused by eating bread made of diseased rye is derived by reversing (back) a verb meaning to set or put in position and a brute and then adding M(onth)

23a    A desert stunted breed of eagles (8)
{AQUILINE} – the A from the clue followed by a verb meaning to desert without its final letter (stunted) and a breed or pedigree

24a    Measurement system not strict over regressing plant (6)
{OXALIS} – the two-letter abbreviation for the modern scientific system of measurement followed by an adjective meaning not strict and O(ver) all reversed (regressing) gives a plant of the wood-sorrel genus

25a    Trumpeter‘s pale, then baroque (8)
{ELEPHANT} – this animal known for its trumpeting is an anagram (baroque) of PALE THAN

26a    Feminist poet, one with lines collected by Home Secretary (6)
{MILLAY} – I (one) followed by two of the abbreviations for L(ine) inside(lines collected by) the surname of the current Home Secretary


1d    Drive mad with passion, finding love in prime (5)
{BESOT} – O (love) inside an adjective meaning prime or optimum

2d    Classified notice put up, sort of ‘erect’ (3,6)
{TOP SECRET} – a verb meaning to notice or observe reversed (put up in a down clue) followed by an anagram (sort) of ERECT

3d    Bring back tour guide, say on climb (7)
{REPRISE} – a tour guide is an example (say) of this agent for a company – add a verb meaning to climb or ascend

4d    Demented so-and-so resolved to try as hard as possible (2,4,9)
{DO ONE’S DAMNEDEST} – an anagram (resolved) of DEMENTED SO-AND-SO

5d    Temptation to restrict European Court’s rebuke (7)
{LECTURE} – a temptation around (to restrict) E(uropean) C(our)T

6d    The Bill involved with criminal activities, incarcerating ring (7)
{INVOICE} – a two-letter word meaning involved with and a collective word for certain criminal activities around (incarcerating) O (ring)

7d    A hard blow from confection of Rowntree’s (3-6)
{NOR’-WESTER} – this strong wind is an anagram (confection) of ROWNTREE’S

12d    A person’s wise to accept minutes, following approved policy (2-7)
{ON-MESSAGE} – a three-letter word meaning an individual or person, the S from ‘S, and an adjective meaning wise around (to accept) M(inutes)

14d    Distress unlikely to involve British skirmishing where combatants get decorated (9)
{PAINTBALL} – some distress and an adjective meaning unlikely, as in an unlikely story, around (to involve) B(ritish) gives a rather pointless activity indulged in by people who have failed to grow up

16d    Fit Aznavour’s final couplet into French number seen here (7)
{SEIZURE} – a fit or xxx is derived by putting the final two letters (couplet) of AznavoUR inside the French for the number of this clue

17d    A reptile crossing island to the North Mediterranean one (7)
{CORSICA} – the A from the clue and a four-letter abbreviation of a reptile around IS(land) all reversed (to the North in a down clue)

19d    Need for sitter to appear vaguely to grasp such as ‘undressed’ art (7)
{LEGROOM} – to get what a sitter needs, especially on an aircraft, put a verb meaning to appear vaguely around (to grasp) the two-letter Latin abbreviation of such as / for example and aRt without its outer letters (undressed)

22d    Strong-smelling sludge mostly on top of vault (5)
{MUSKY} – most of a three-letter word for sludge followed by (on top of in a down clue) the vault of heaven.

Far too many excellent clues to be able to name them all, but I particularly enjoyed the wordplay in 10a and 16d and the definitions in 14d and 19d.


As usual, I missed the Nina – even though I did look for one!  As has been pointed out by Jon88 and Notabilis, the unchecked letters in the columns that only contain one solution give four words which are related in some way.  The words and their relation ship can be revealed between the curly brackets below:

{TAKE, DIP, TOP and BILL can all be preceded with DOUBLE}


23 comments on “Toughie 993

  1. Spent more time (a lot) on my last 3 all SE corner than all the rest .
    A very satisfying and enjoyable solve .I always persist with his puzzles as always feel I will get there in the end ,though I did doubt this for a while today .
    Favourites 19a ,14d,22d .
    Thanks very much to Notabilis and BD.

  2. There’s a Nina. Notice the synonyms for 6d and 16d that share those columns. (And 2d and 14d? Harder to justify.)

    1. You just beat me and Gazza to it – he spotted the Nina, I tend not to notice them even if they really really obvious. Very clever – the Nina, you and Gazza too!!

    2. Interesting. You’ve correctly identified the four parts of the Nina but not the connection, which is related to the grid pattern. The synonyms at 6 and 16 were pure coincidence!

      1. Have switched to Only Connect Mode and think I have identified it!

        Four words that can be preceded……

        Thanks to the Genius for pointing it out.

  3. An excellent puzzle which took me ages to finish! The bottom right segment was where I ended up, and spent as long there as the rest of the puzzle. 4.5* on both counts for me.
    I guess the picture at 11a is of David Shepherd, and judging by his stance, someone must be on a score of 111 or 222…
    Thanks to Notabilis, and to BD.

    1. I went to school with David Shepherd (although he was 3 or 4 years ahead of me).

  4. Excellent Toughie indeed – the LH side went in first and then I stared quite a while at the RH side, and then spent longer and employed Tippex on the SE corner. Thanks to Notabilis – that is just what a Toughie should be – and to BD too.

  5. Excellent toughie from Notablis and a most amusing review from BD, many thanks to both. I did not spot the Nina but then I rarely do.

  6. Took me nearly all day to complete this puzzle but well worth it. Found it really tough, but fair. Absolutely loved 10a. Thank you all for allowing me to find my first nina, now I know what to look for. Thank you Notabilis for an excellent puzzle and BD for a brilliant review.

  7. Had to finally concede defeat today. Seven unsolved and one (26A) completely wrong. I had Howell in quite early, having vaguely remembered Geoffrey Howe as minister for something or other. And she was a poet. So that threw the southeast quandrant for a loop. I had 17D but had no idea why. But I am not disheartened! Many thanks to the setter, and to BD for the review and needed hints.

  8. I thought that this was a really enjoyable Toughie – thanks to Notabilis and BD. My only reservation is about the wisdom of using a ministerial position as part of a clue (26a). When this puzzle appears in the DT Book of Outstanding Toughies in 2025 how will the solver be expected to know the name of a here-today-gone-tomorrow politician (to quote Sir Robin Day)?

  9. Super stuff on offer today, missed the Nina as I was convinced it was a pangram but sadly one short. Favourites among a host of others were 9a 14d and 24a thanks to Notabilis and to Big Dave for the review.

  10. Another splendid puzzle from Notabilis. Concur with all the plaudits. A masterclass in clue writing.

    Aspiring setters should study each clue’s construction.

    Lovely anagram indicators and witty definitions.

    Perfect end to a good week of Toughies.

  11. Brilliant crossword, but defeated me in the end and I needed hints for 4A and 22D. Very enjoyable, and thanks to Notabilis. Firmly agree with BD’s rating today.

  12. Oh thank goodness, for a while I had all the western side finished and a couple on the east, ending in the SE so I seem not to have been alone. Superb stuff even if i did need tome electronic help to confirm the yes but why on a couple. Thanks to Notabilis and BD

  13. A really good puzzle that we thoroughly enjoyed. We even managed to solve and parse everything correctly, although it did take considerable time and effort. Had to investigoogle the guy in 26a. Had a quick glance through for a NINA and totally failed to spot it. Did note that it was a pangra_ though, with just the J missing.
    Thanks Notabilis and BD.

    1. Hi Colin
      Was it the Theresa guy you investigoogled or the Edna guy ?
      Cheers .

      1. The Home Secretary “guy”. Perhaps I should listen more carefully when Carol reads out what she has just found on Google. She did actually know the Edna one.

      2. Just made me smile .I will pass on your comment to the Home Sec Theresa

        Best regards and congrats on parsing throughout which strangely after an eternity I just about managed .

        Best regards


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