Toughie 1222 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1222

Toughie No 1222 by Messinae

Hints and tips by Toro

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

A more stretching puzzle than recent Tuesday Toughies, very solidly clued with excellent surface readings, a couple of pukka &lits, and some uncommon words and meanings in both clues and solutions. Also virtually anagram-free. Very enjoyable stuff indeed – thanks Messinae.

Definitions are underlined. Highlight between the braces {LIKE THIS} to reveal the answer to each clue. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought and add your assessment by selecting one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a    What old Lib-Dem leader might assume is like junk (5-7)
{HABIT-FORMING} – … junk here being a slang term for a “narcotic drug, especially heroin” (Chambers). Split (5,3,4), the clue reads like a garment ready to be assumed or put on by a certain former leader of the Lib Dems.


9a    From Yorkshire, the odd safe blower (9)
{TRUMPETER} – A charade of the definite article in Yorkshire speech, a synonym for odd or strange, and a slang term for a safe or cash-box.

10a    Mammal cry is audible (5)
{WHALE} – A homophone (is audible) of a long cry of grief or pain.

11a    Cooker hurt one of the little people (6)
{HOBBIT} – A charade of the hot part of a stovetop and a word meaning hurt or caused injury to (Suarez-style).


12a    Boy engrossed by a Country and Western star (4,4)
{ALAN LADD} – A word for boy goes inside (engrossed by) A from the clue and a synonym for country.


13a    Draw from favourite part of engine (6)
{TAPPET} – A verb meaning to draw from (a water source, say) plus a word for favourite.

15a    Run into second rustic only perversely awkward (8)
{STUBBORN} – The abbreviation for Run(s) in cricket goes inside (into) the abbreviation for Second(s) plus a reversal (perversely) of a rustic or dialectal word for only or nothing but.

18a    Apollo perhaps wanders about in fashion (8)
{MOONSHOT} – … the US Apollo space program(me). A charade of wanders about and in fashion.

19a    Intoxicated, this person in grip of shakes relapsed (6)
{STONED} – A stilted word for the first person goes inside  a reversal of (relapsed) an abbreviation for the shakes and anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal.

21a    Official to reward workers (8)
{TIPSTAFF} – … a court officer or judge’s assistant. A verb meaning to reward (a waiter or taxi driver, say) plus a word for workers or personnel.

23a    The woman’s taken in by trainee’s angelic child (6)
{CHERUB} – A word for the woman’s goes inside (taken in by) (or else a word for the woman goes inside (‘s taken in by)) a trainee, especially a rookie journalist.


26a    Bring back something for the better boat (5)
{SLOOP} – A reversal of (bring back) something you can bet on.

27a    Do backing act make Los Angeles comeback nightly? (9)
{NOCTURNAL} – A reversal (backing) of do in the sense of to swindle, then a stage act or performance, then another reversal (comeback) of the abbreviation for Los Angeles.

28a    Annoyed actor’s assistant in TV (5-7)
{CROSS-DRESSER} – … the other TV. A charade of a word for annoyed or angry and a person who helps actors get into costume.


1d    Chopper that’s seen on helipad squashed the cat (7)
{HATCHET} – The symbol painted on a helipad plus an anagram of (squashed) THE CAT.


2d    Group book promotion piece (5)
{BLURB} – A 1990s rock band plus the abbreviation for Book.

3d    Hints for going round functions in drunken state (9)
{TIPSINESS} – A word for hints or bits of advice goes round a trigonometric function in the plural.

4d    Tyro at hockey showing promise (4)
{OATH} – The answer is hidden in TYROATHOCKEY.

5d    Test appeal in gracious good behaviour (8)
{MORALITY} – A kind of test or exam plus a word for appeal or X-factor goes inside an exclamation meaning gracious or goodness me.

6d    Such an unfortunate situation presently available (2-3)
{NO-WIN} – A word for presently or currently plus a word for available or in stock.

7d    Mother to sing swallowing a biscuit (8)
{MACAROON} – A short word for mother plus a word for to sing that goes round (swallowing) A from the clue.

8d    Leg-puller perhaps plants ‘X’ on professor (6)
{TENDON} – The number denoted by the Roman numeral X followed by a word for a professor.

14d    Bears ridicule (4-4)
{POOH-POOH} – A bear from children’s fiction, written twice, gives a verb meaning to ridicule or dismiss.

16d    Building primarily engaged in H2O application (4-5)
{BATH-HOUSE} – A very nice all-in-one or “&lit” clue in which the clue is both wordplay and definition. As wordplay, we have the first letter of (primarily) Building, plus a word for engaged in (work or play, for example), plus the letter combination suggested by H2O, and finally a word for the application or employment of something.


17d    Imprisons criminal with financial penalties (8)
{CONFINES} – A charade of a convicted criminal and sums of money exacted as a penalty.

18d    It’s involved in keeping quiet! (6)
{MUTISM} – Another &lit clue, c.f. 16d. An anagram of (involved) ITS goes inside a word for tight-lipped or keeping quiet.

20d    Someone with passing interest in authoress right to the end (7)
{DABBLER} – The surname of a major modern English novelist who may or may not appreciate being referred to as an authoress, with the abbreviation for Right shifted to the end.


22d    Person making recording fade out (5)
{TAPER} – A person making a sound or video recording on a reel is also a verb meaning to narrow to a point or (if followed by off) to diminish or fade out.

24d    More than one spoke of what selective school’s head does (5)
{RUNGS} – A word for spokes or horizontal supports of a ladder, if split (3,1,1), looks like the job description of a head teacher of pupils who have passed the 11+.

25d    Missile to move like a cloud (4)
{SCUD} – A missile of First Gulf War fame is also a verb meaning to be driven along by the wind.


This was my first encounter with Messinae and I found a lot in it to admire and enjoy. Of many good clues, I’ll point out 28a and especially 16d, a none-too-common example of a full-blown &lit that really works. I liked 14d too, although nothing will ever beat Anax’s “Rubbish dumps (4-4)” for the same word. But you’ll have your own favourites, so let’s hear them.

Over to you – please rate and comment on today’s puzzle.

15 comments on “Toughie 1222

  1. Very enjoyable toughie but I thought 2*/4*, many thanks to Messinae and to Toro for a very entertaining and informative review.

  2. Great puzzle with some really nice surfaces, favourites were 1a 16d and 27a, Re 15a I read it as another word for only that is reversed, thanks to Messinae and to Toro for the comments.

  3. Tuesdays are looking up. Thanks to Messinae for the enjoyable puzzle and to Toro for the review.
    In 15a I think the word being reversed is a rustic word for ‘only’ as in ‘She were nobbut a girl’.

    1. I’ve changed it – thank you Pegasus and Gazza for spotting. I was in a desperate rush to get this one out after a drive from Exmoor to the East Midlands late last night and there are a number of things I haven’t checked. Better do that before you lot spot any more errors!

    2. Sorry – Pegasus’s comment wasn’t there when I started the above. I’ll have to enrol in crypticsue’s course for speed typing.

  4. Not so easy for an expat! I eventually got 1A but had no idea why. Ming, I presume is a nickname. 2D was mystery, as was 10A. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word hob used in 34 years. As for 15A, nobbut, if that is the rustic, is another word I’ve never heard before. I also missed out on 24D. No excuse there, since I attended one. On the plus side, I did work out 9A and loved 20D.

    Still, I choose to do British crosswords so I expect to be stumped at time. Thanks to Messinae for the challenge and the new words, and to Toro for putting me out of my misery.

    1. Chris, Sir Menzies Campbell’s first name is pronounced “Ming-is” (don’t ask me why) and therefore shortened to “Ming”. “Nobbut” is simply a contraction of “Nothing but..”

  5. completed but.. missed the group in 2d! Had never heard of nobbut. had to look up the western star. and missed the wordplay for head teacher’s job making me doubt the answer and consider rings or ranks. So, some nice challenges and lovely clues – TV was great! 18d was lovely when i finally got it, took me a while to get 6d as well.

    great puzzle thanks messinae and Toro

  6. I found this pretty tricky but really enjoyed it – it’s taken ages.
    I ended up with gaps for 12a and 8d and needed the hints to understand a few other of my answers.
    Now that I have an answer and understand it I think 8d might be my favourite.
    With thanks to Messinae for the crossword and to Toro for the much needed and appreciated hints.
    I think I’m probably being really dim but what other TV in 28a?

  7. As a Southern softie I thought I did well to get t’answer for 9a but 15’s Nothernism was a stretch too far (and reversed to boot!). Thankfully not hard to guess it from the definition once the checking letters were in. 9a and 28a were favourites. A stiff test but very enjoyable 4*/4*

  8. Terrific puzzle with some lovely clues making it difficult to pick a favourite but I’ll plump for 24d .
    Thanks Messinae and Toro

  9. I enjoyed the struggle. Thank you Messinae and Toro. The bottom half was relatively easy although I needed help with 24d. I liked 18d very much. I then got very stuck with the top half needing Toro’s help for several. I would never have got 1a or 12a. Liked 3d & 5d. Best clues probably 16d and 15a once I had help to understand the why.

  10. Thanks to Messinae for this testing and entertaining puzzle, which was getting close to 4* for me in terms of difficulty. Some of the clues were excellent, such as my favourite 9a. Thanks too for the review, Toro.

  11. Very enjoyable but needed a deal of help. Started well and thought I would get there alone but dried up with about 4 to go. 18a&d proved particularly difficult for me as did 24d

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