Toughie 1208

Toughie No 1208 by proXimal


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

This is the first time I have been exposed to a proXimal Toughie and I struggled throughout. I only got one answer on my first read-through of the clues but this gave me a toehold in the SE corner from which I managed to fill the left-hand side of the grid without too many problems. I then stalled completely on the left-had side and I had to tease out just about every answer. It was definitely my slowest solve of a Toughie for a long, long time. I’m not sure why I found it so difficult because all the clues are perfectly fair and I didn’t have to do much head scratching to untangle the wordplay. I’ll be interested to know how the rest of you fared so I can see if it was just me who couldn’t get on proXimal’s wavelength.

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    Prompt dig without detective uncovered traps (5)
{NUDGE} Remove the abbreviation for Detective Inspector from DIG and trap the remaining letter inside ‘uncovered (or naked)’

4a    Gracious king breaking bread with Brit abroad (3,6)
{COR BLIMEY} ‘Gracious!’ = R (king) inside a round load of bread + a slang nickname for a British person used in North America and Australia

9a    Not providing bouquet as stingy Valentine is said to have done (9)
{SCENTLESS} ‘Not providing bouquet (aroma)’ is a homophone of what a stingy Valentine would have done (4,4). Does this refer to a particular Valentine?

10a    Soldiers invading defile remains of the dead (5)
{CORAL} An abbreviation for part of the British army inside a defile (mountain pass) = a rocklike substance formed from the skeletons of certain invertebrates

11a    Guarantees damages after son’s knocked out judge (7)
{INSURES} ‘Damages (harms)’ with J (judge) replace by S (son)

12a    Run ahead wearing Scandinavian socks (7)
{LARRUPS} R (run) and ahead (2) inside a common male name in Nordic countries = socks (flogs or thrashes)

13a    Put away tools left on the lawn for this reason? (6)
{NOSHED} When split (2,4) this word meaning ‘put away (food)’ may provide the reason why tools have been left on the lawn

15a    Poor reason to consume port (8)
{INFERIOR} ‘To reason’ round a South American port much featured on the TV at the moment

18a    Learner moved left somewhat in avidly making room for a swimmer (5-3)
{EAGLE-RAY} Take a word meaning ‘avidly’ and move the letter L nearer to the beginning. Then insert (make room for) A to give a large fish with a barbed dorsal spine on its tail

20a    Look around before Parisian in east of street is knocked off (6)
{STOLEN} A reversal of ‘Look!’ and a French word for ‘in’ both follow the abbreviation for ‘street’

23a    Train sheep, in essence (7)
{CORTÈGE} A train of attendants = a sheep in its second year inside essence (central part)

24a    Elizabeth regularly seen with novel like old book (7)
{EZEKIEL} Every third letter of EliZabEth + an anagram (novel) of LIKE = a book of the Old Testament

26a    Drug record a cheat fills in (1-4)
{L-DOPA} A naturally occurring amino acid used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease = the abbreviation for a long-playing record + A round ‘to cheat’

27a    Bird and man at odds (9)
{DIVERGENT} An aquatic bird (a loon) + a man

28a    Fringes those fashionistas wouldn’t sport (9)
{OUTSKIRTS} When split (3,6) it might be ‘unfashionable garments for women’

29a    Following sex-change, inevitable to get wed (5)
{MATED} Take a word meaning ‘inevitable’ and change F (female) to M (male)


1d    Ignorance that is dividing neighbouring states shackled by inadequacy mostly (9)
{NESCIENCE} Put the abbreviation for ‘that is’ between the abbreviations for South Carolina and North Carolina. Then put the result inside a word for inadequacy with the last letter removed

2d    Compulsion to skip second highest gear (5)
{DRESS} Remove (skip) the second letter of a 6-letter word meaning ‘compulsion’ to give an item of women’s clothing

3d    Reflecting quietly on day, Eastern deity (7)
{EUTERPE} A reversal of quietly (1) and ‘on’ (2) and a day of the week (3) + E (Eastern) = one of the Muses

4d    Broad, as pizzas often are (6)
{CHEESY} 2 meanings: broad (as in a ****** smile)/containing a certain foodstuff (like many pizzas)

5d    Desire jewellery to change hands, breaking the law in America (8)
{RUSTLING} Put together 4-letter words meaning ‘desire’ and ‘jewellery’. Then swap an L (left) from the first word with an R (right) from the second word to get ‘stealing cattle’ in the US

6d    European city‘s university physicists in French article (7)
{LUCERNE} A city in Switzerland = U (university) and an organisation based in Geneva that does research into particle physics inside a French word for ‘the’

7d    This spin-off might find supercriminal often changing (9)
{MERCURIAL} An anagram (off) of UERCRIMAL (SUPERCRIMINAL without the letters of SPIN)

8d    Agreed to squeeze double-length bellows (5)
{YELLS} ‘Agreed’ goes round LL (L = length) to give ‘bellows (cries out)’

14d    Sweeten up Greek characters from the south punched by curt waiter (9)
{SUGARCOAT} A reversal of more than one of the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet goes round (is punched by) a French waiter with the last letter removed

16d    Curly-haired girl upset with teen daughter (9)
{RINGLETED} An anagram (upset) of GIRL TEEN D (daughter)

17d    Press set up account with building society or similar (8)
{CALENDER} ‘To press in a machine with rollers’ = a reversal of the abbreviation for ‘account’ + an organisation like a building society that loans money at interest

19d    Store with better looking customers (3,4)
{EYE BANK} A cryptic definition for an organisation that procures and distributes corneas for transplant. Thus its customers will end up being able to see better

21d    Arena excluding couple, American band supports that principle (7)
{THEOREM} Remove the number 2 (a couple) from the name of an arena in SE London. Then add the name of an American rock band

22d    Is perhaps Latvia stopping visits? (6)
{SELVES} Is has to be read as the plural of I. The IVR for Latvia inside ‘goes to visit’

23d    Group that’s hidden old instrument (5)
{CELLO} A group of espionage personnel, political activists or terrorists + O (old) = a musical instrument

25d    Foolish insect heartlessly biting rampant waterfowl (5)
{INEPT} The first and last letters of InsecT round a reversal of a female swan

I think I enjoyed the challenge


  1. crypticsue
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t just you – I did email ANO and ask why had no-one told proXimal it was Thursday! The RH side went in after what I might consider a ‘normal’ Toughie time but the LH took a very long time to sort out and I don’t think I enjoyed the process much either – sorry proXimal. Thanks to Bufo for the explanations.

  2. BigBoab
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    I found this extremely difficult and indeed needed assistance with 26a, it was nice to see 17d, this is a word rarely used these days, I only knew it because I live in a street named after one of these machines which was used in the linoleum industry many years ago. Many thanks to proXima and to Bufo for a masterly review.

  3. stanXYZ
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    My rating: X-Certificate!

    (Well done, Bufo!)

    • stanXYZ
      Posted June 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      ps. 8d has a typo in the {curly brackets} – one of the few that I solved.

  4. the dodger
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    This was very tough! I needed much help and failed miserably in the SW corner. I too just couldn’t get onto proXimals wavelength, but as Bufo says- when you know the answers it is all there in the clues. Fridays in future for this setter I suggest. I doff my cap to proXimal and thank Bufo for posting this so promptly thus saving me hours of agony.

  5. spindrift
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Had a look, thought it was going to be difficult, came to the site, saw Bufo’s comments, then Cryptic Sue’s & after that I made a things to do list on the reverse side of my print out. Hats off to those who succeeded in solving what (imho) must be the most difficult Tougie in many a long while.

  6. Jezza
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I did not have enough free time to complete this today, but what I managed, I enjoyed.
    Many thanks to proXimal, and to Bufo for an excellent review.

  7. Pegasus
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    After this setter’s debut offering I was looking forward to this, sadly 1 found this torturous. Thanks to proximal and to Bufo.

  8. Physicist
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I found this satisfyingly hard; like Bufo, I started in the SE corner (with 29a in my case) and slowly worked upwards and leftwards, finishing in the SW corner with 23d, and had to check several guesses in the BRB on the way. A good challenge; thanks to ProXimal and Bufo.

  9. JB
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    An absolutely horrible crossword. The answers were crude (4a) and obscure 22d. I’m sorry I wasted so much time trying to solve it.

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    4A!! This is hard work. Not ready to look at the hints yet. I have the right hand side done, with a couple of questionables, and most of the NW corner. Back later…probably much later!

  11. 2Kiwis
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Well we did get there in the end but it did take us an awfully long time and all the electronic assistance (short of revealing a letter) that we could muster. SW corner sat empty and mocking us at the point where we had to interrupt the process to attend a funeral. When we got home 23a became much more gettable. Really we prefer not to have to work this hard for a completion. Appreciated the challenge.
    Thanks ProXimal and Bufo.

  12. Chris
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Seems a huge step up in difficulty from the back page (which I’d completed first). I could do nothing. Not a single clue
    Well done to those who managed it, I can only gaze admiringly from the sidelines.

  13. Expat Chris
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Well, in the end I was left with 4 unsolved…3D, second word of 19D, 13A and the awful 26A. I also had 22D wrong. I did like 5D and 28A. Pleased with my effort, but I can’t say I enjoyed it much overall. To much of a slog for a Thursday, or as my old dad would have said “too clever by half.” Nevertheless, I respect ProXimal’s skill. Much appreciate Bufo’s review and the help on the last few.

  14. Wolfson Bear
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Wow! This was tough for a Thursday. Agree with the stars for difficulty but not so sure about the ones for enjoyment.

  15. halcyon
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Blimey! Just finished, after spending most of the day on it [punctuated by England’s dismal showing]. I agree completely with Bufo that there are no justifiable grounds for complaint re fairness of clues. In fact several [eg 18a, 20a, 22d] were models of accurate clueing. So why were they so difficult??
    Move this man to Friday.

    Thanks to proXimal and to Bufo.

  16. reggie
    Posted June 20, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Well I managed a single clue (9a) so Proximal must try a bit harder on that one! Then I used Bufo’s hints but even then I struggled mightily! Don’t understand 22d at all.

    • spindrift
      Posted June 20, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      First person singular? I = SELF ergo Is = SELVES

  17. Molly
    Posted July 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Thanks Bufo for your work, I am lost in admiration for anyone who managed this. But I worked through your review, and as you say all the clues were fair. Another tutorial under my belt!