Toughie 1096 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1096

 Toughie No 1096 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

This is Sparks’s second Toughie and the first one that I’ve attempted. I made slow but steady progress until I hit a brick wall in the shape of the last clue (27 down). I have finally come up with an answer for it but I’m not convinced by it. I have assigned the stars by considering the puzzle without 27 down. If I were to include 27 down I would add a star to the difficulty and deduct a star from the enjoyment.

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 Christmas Eve, so I fixed a label (3,7,5)
{HIS MASTER’S VOICE} An anagram (fixed) of CHRISTMAS EVE SO I gives the name of a record label

9a Managed to harbour American vessel, one from the east? (7)
{RUSSIAN} ‘Managed’ goes round a ship prefix in the US Navy and I (one)

10a Capture those who might follow Legolas from the east? (7)
{SNAFFLE} Split the reversal (from the east) of this word (3,4) and it could denote followers of creatures like Legolas in The Lord of the Rings

11a In which dials appear on screen (1-3)
{E-FIT} A cryptic definition of a form of identikit in which images of faces (dials) are built up on a computer screen

12a Weighty king needs to take food (5)
{GREAT} King George + ‘to take food’

13a Outfit securing new contract (4)
{KNIT} Outfit goes round N (new) to give ‘to contract’

16a Those who prefer cream would indulge in it (7)
{ELITISM} Another cryptic definition for the favouring of a select group (the cream)

17a Is admitting crashing around courses (7)
{SYLLABI} Courses of study = a reversal (round) of IS round ‘crashing’ where ‘crashing’ is an intensifier as in ‘crashing bore’

18a Adult parties repeatedly centred around sofa (3-1-3)
{DOS-A-DOS} A (adult) is placed between two occurrences of a word meaning ‘parties’ to give a sofa on which two people sit back-to-back

21a Japanese artist is fine with America having blocked welcome (7)
{HOKUSAI} This Japanese artist (1760-1849) is known for his 36 Views of Mount Fuji (or so Wikipedia tells me). Fine (2) and America (3) go inside a welcome (greeting) (2)

23a Mark round collar, perhaps? (4)
{ETON} A reversal (round) of ‘to mark’ gives a word that can go before ‘collar’

24a Initially kept on poor judge (5)
{THINK} K (first letter of kept) goes after (on) ‘poor’

25a Stars requiring cape to be cut out of stretchy fabric (4)
{LYRA} A small constellation (stars) which includes Vega = a stretchy fabric with the letter C (cape) removed

28a Britain to fall before East European republic (7)
{UKRAINE} Britain (2) + to fall from the sky + E (East)

29a People I left by a hospital in Westminster (7)
{SWAHILI} A people of Zanzibar, etc. = I L (left) after A H (hospital) inside the postcode for Westminster

30a Musical arrangement of tune enraging solver to the core (5,3,4,3)
{ANNIE GET YOUR GUN} The name of an Irving Berlin musical (that also featured in last Thursday’s Toughie) is an anagram (arrangement of) of TUNE ENRANGING round the solver (i.e. you)


1d Chief hack’s up-front, unable to change what’s below the belt? (9,6)
{HORSEHEAD NEBULA} A feature of the heavens located just below Orion’s Belt = a hack + a chief + an anagram (to change) of UNABLE

2d Crack troops going on proper character over one that’s raw? (7)
{SASHIMI} A crack regiment of the British Army + the proper character of a person (as in ‘that’s not like ***’) + I (one) = a Japanese dish of raw fish

3d Right-wing coalition prepares for lift-off — time to exit (4)
{AXIS} A right-wing coalition in World War II + ‘prepares for lift-off by moving along the ground at an airport’ with the letter T (time) removed

4d Pet tournament must first eliminate one mongrel (7)
{TANTRUM} A pet (fit of bad temper) = an anagram (mongel) of TURAMNT (i.e. TOURNAMENT less ONE)

5d Unlimited bamboo in which climb short monkeys (7)
{RASCALS} Remove the first and last letters from the 5-letter word for what bamboo is a type off. Put what’s left round a word meaning ‘to climb’ with the last letter removed. This gives monkeys (mischievous children)

6d Not much bottle shown by one cracking girl (4)
{VIAL} A small bottle (usually for medicine) = I (one) inside (cracking) a girl’s name

7d Child accompanied by a noble abroad (7)
{INFANTA} A child + A = a prince in Spain or Portugal

8d Choose endorsement having lost at outcome of charge (15)
{ELECTRIFICATION} ‘To elect’ (5) + an endorsement (12) with the letters AT removed

14d Takes care of a way to read DMS? (5)
{MINDS} DMS is as a cryptic indication for the answer in that M is inside DS

15d Equally valid tokens cut out symmetrically? (5)
{ALIKE} Take the middle three letters of ‘valid’ and the middle two letters of ‘tokens’

19d Old bishop once turned around for a poke up north? (7)
{SPORRAN} O (old) and an abbreviation denoting bishop go inside an archaic past participle of a verb meaning ‘to turn around’. ‘Poke’ is a Scottish word for a pouch,

20d Chisel forged by English artist (7)
{SCHIELE} An anagram (forged) of CHISEL + E (English) gives the surname of an Austrian painter (1890-1918) who I have never heard of

21d I can’t believe you left out a plant (7)
{HONESTY} Remove L (left) from a word used as an interjection expressing disbelief to give a garden plant much used in flower arrangements

22d MI5 possibly finish off enemy source for hiding (3,4)
{SPY RING} The last letter of enemy goes inside a source

26d Cable by banks of Windermere (4)
{WIRE} The first two letters and the last two letters of WIndermeRE

27d Bring to light unfinished, doubly delicate matter? (4)
{RAKU} Removing the last letter of each word from RAKE UP give a form of Japanese pottery (delicate matter?). I don’t like it at all

Definitely one to make you think

21 comments on “Toughie 1096

  1. This wasn’t a cryptic but a test of general knowledge and ability to – correctly! – search the internet.
    It quite defeated me – even 21a which I’d worked out as Ishioka – a Japanese art director (1938 -2012) was wrong!

  2. Oh that’s a relief, 27d is still bugging me. An interesting Nina in the Grid as well. Thanks to Sparks and Bufo

  3. I thought this was very difficult. I’m glad the hints were blown away in the gale because if they’d been here earlier I wouldn’t have ‘perservated’ for as long as I did – because of that I ended up doing far more than I would otherwise have done.
    Of the four long ones round the outside I only got 30a.
    I liked 24a and 4 and 5d. My favourite was 14d which I thought was the kind of clue that we would get in a Sunday crossword.
    With thanks to Sparks and bufo.

  4. Apart from 27d which I didn’t get (if that site was working, I wuold definitely have gone in search of a helpful letter) and having to look in the crossword dictionary to make sure the artists that went with the wordplay actually existed, I thought it was great to have a toughie to solve, one that made you niggle away at the clues until the pennies dropped.

    Thanks to Sparks and Bufo.

  5. Thoroughly enjoyable and very tricky toughie, many thanks to Sparks and to Bufo, I also could not get 27d and finally settled for “tabu” but without rhyme or reason.

    1. I was another in the tabu club. Thanks to Bufo for teasing out what I think is the right answer, but it’s a very poor definition, in that raku is a chunky, coarse-grained pottery, which is only delicate in the sense that, like other earthenware, it will break if you chuck it on the floor.

  6. I found this really tough today, and just when I thought I’d cracked it I find 27d is wrong. Thanks to Sparks for challenge and to Bufo for the unravelling.

  7. I must have missed Sparks debut. Some clever clueing here, but nothing very chuckleworthy, except perhaps 10a. I too had tabu at 27d.
    Thanks to Sparks and Bufo.

  8. TABU for us too. Found it really tough, lots of “perservation” needed to nearly get a completion. Appreciated the challenge.
    Thanks Sparks and Bufo.

  9. Really enjoyed this and even managed to figure out the wordplay for RAKU – however, had to throw in RASCALS from the definition alone – Thanks to Sparks and Bufo for some excellent comments.

  10. I seem to remember Sparks apologising for his first “toughie ” being too gentle !
    Very very challenging by comparison and would not have parsed 27d if I had thought from now until Christmas Eve !
    Thanks very much Bufo and admiration to Sparks (Monk) for the test which I failed but enjoyed .

  11. Although the rest of the crossword was suitably challenging and clever I felt that 27d was not a fair clue, even for a Toughie. You would never think of ‘delicate matter’ as a very obscure piece of Japanese pottery, and you wouldn’t readily think of ‘bring to light unfinished, doubly’ as ‘rak(e) u(p)’ especially as the pottery concerned is so obscure. I’ll certainly look forward to further Toughies from Sparks, but trust that the editor will intercept this sort of clue in future !

  12. Too much space and Japan for me. Never heard of 21a and needed the hint to send me to google. 27d too baffling – I still don’t get why “doubly”. 4* difficulty and only 2* enjoyment. Thanks to Bufo for your efforts on my sorry behalf

  13. Many thanks to Bufo for the blog and also to all those commenting. I apologise unreservedly for what transpired to be a less-than-helpful definition of 27D RAKU, whose wordplay is correctly explained by Big Dave in the reply to Tstrummer@13. May I add that, despite the apparently eclectic content, there is genuinely not a single entry in this puzzle that was not already well known to me. (This raises a whole new debate about editors and setters moving proactively to eradicate the apparently increasing occurrence of obscure entries that result from automated and/or Nina-driven grid fills.)

    Re the Nina. This grid contained a central ring of four 3-unched-5-letter words, which is just about the least favourable configuration for solvers. So I used Tea to find a (5,5,5,5) phrase that would help Nina hunters and, to my amazement, there were none in the Core English dictionary and only (this) one in the Edited English dictionary: descent into the Unedited English dictionary would, IMHO, not have been fair on solvers.

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