Toughie 1289 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1289

Toughie No 1289 by Notabilis

Don’t look back!

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

As always with Notabilis, this was a very enjoyable puzzle. Although a few of the answers were new to me, they were readily derived from the wordplay. Watch out for the reversals – there are six of them in all!

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    Like aging hair, absorbing when full of oil (6)
GREASY: the colour of aging hair around (absorbing) the two-letter word meaning when

4a    Exaggerated passion of (Proustian) volume in recall (6)
EMOTED: the French (Proustian) for “of” and a large volume or book, all reversed (in recall)

8a    Duke dispatched by clever, cold-blooded creature (3)
EFT: drop (dispatched) D(uke) from an adjective meaning clever or adept

10a    Exterminator outflanking circle that’s about to rally (7)
REGROUP: An exterminator or eradicator around (outflanking) the circular letter, all reversed (that’s about)

11a    Negative net result (3,4)
OWN GOAL: a cryptic definition of a defensive error that results in a score for the opposition

12a    Taking temperature, test for weight (5)
THEFT: T(emperature) followed by a verb meaning to test or judge weight

13a    University gets deceived with pastoral god in religious text (9)
UPANISHAD: U(niversity) and a phrasal verb meaning gets deceived, the latter preceded by (with) a Greek pastoral god

14a    New, popular and supported by backing, took care of disclaimer for double entendre (2,3,8)
NO PUN INTENDED: N(ew), a two-letter word meaning popular and a preposition meaning supported by, all reversed (backing) then followed by a verb meaning took care of

17a    Hoard gift, keeping certain range (8-5)
TREASURE TROVE: a gift around a four-letter word meaning certain and followed by a verb meaning to range or wander

22a    Choked, spoiling exercise in navigator’s cabin? (9)
DECKHOUSE: an anagram (spoiling) of CHOKED followed by a three-letter verb meaning to exercise or employ

23a    Increase lead for Sunday press (5)
SURGE: S(unday) followed by a verb meaning to press or persuade

24a    Partridge-like bird some eat in a mouthful (7)
TINAMOU: hidden (some) inside the clue

25a    Czech scorer’s rubbish at names (7)
SMETANA: this Czech scorer is a composer – an anagram (rubbish) of AT NAMES

26a    Something witty or something catty in a comeback? (3)
MOT: the reversal (in a comeback) of a male cat

27a    Oasis city‘s hot period with boundless dirt to the west (6)
RIYADH: H(ot), a period of time and [d]IR[t] without its outer letters (to the west in an across clue) all reversed

28a    ‘Seize‘ is a number (6)
CLUTCH: while seize is sixteen in French, this is actually a double definition


1d    Turn back to honey in jar (6)
GYRATE: the final letter (back) of [hone]Y inside a verb meaning to jar

2d    Painter‘s eye up to the sky, taking in sports ground (2,5)
EL GRECO: a verb meaning to eye up reversed (to the sky in a down clue) around a three-letter abbreviated form of a sports ground

3d    Tobacco inside, tin not! (5)
SNOUT: this word used by prisoners (inside) for tobacco is derived from the chemical symbol for tin and a word meaning not “inside”

5d    Inn room’s roughly accommodating good person high up in church (9)
MONSIGNOR: an anagram (roughly) of INN ROOM’S around (accommodating) G(ood)

6d    You, once holding stone, cut foot (7)
TROCHEE: an old-fashioned (once) word meaning you around most of (cut) a stone gives this term used in poetry for a foot of two syllables, a long followed by a short

7d    Fool taking depth for flood’s gallons (6)
DELUDE: start with a flood and replace its G(allons) with D(epth)

8d    Unusual umpire somehow receiving billions for a seal’s motto (1,8,4)
E PLURIBUS UNUM: an anagram (somehow) of UNUSU[A]L UMPIRE with (receiving ) B(illions) replacing the A gives the Latin for “one out of many” (the motto of the United States)

9d    Utter minimum, putting it mildly (2,3,3,5)
TO SAY THE LEAST: a verb meaning to utter (2,3) followed by the minimum (3,5)

14d    Gull egg (3)
NIT: two definitions – a gull or fool and the egg of a louse

15d    Nude dancing round an impostor without embarrasment (9)
UNASHAMED: an anagram (dancing) of NUDE around A (an) and an imposter

16d    A Study in Scarlet might use such regular characters of Doyle’s (3)
DYE: the odd (regular) letters of the final word in the clue

18d    New condition: finally, for good behaviour, getting day off (7)
RECENCY: thye final letter of [fo]R followed by some good behaviour without (off) its initial D(ay)

19d    Lush has drunk red in vehicle before time (7)
VERDANT: an anagram (drunk) of RED inside a commercial vehicle and followed by T(ime)

20d    English couturier welcoming first of those who may suggest cuts (6)
EDITOR: E(nglish) followed by a French couturier around the initial letter (first) of T[hose] gives someone who may suggest that cuts be made in a newspaper article

21d    Hospital cuts upset one on the side of the angels (6)
SERAPH: H(ospital) followed by a verb meaning cuts or trims, all reversed (upset in a down clue)

23d    Laboriously read  charming words (5)
SPELL: two definitions

Sorry for the late posting but I have been recovering from a long, exhausting day yesterday – we took Miffypop’s advice and went to see the poppies at the Tower of London, a very moving experience.

17 comments on “Toughie 1289

  1. Found this tricky – I decided to try it this morning without hints and managed to complete it (with electronic help). Very enjoyable puzzle though and glad I made the effort to try it. Thanks BD for the hints after your busy day, which I will now go through and unravel some of the wordplay that I was unable to work out earlier. Thanks to Notabilis too.

  2. A decent challenging toughie which I found harder than the Mr T yesterday – too much use of obscure words for my taste. I would invert BigDave’s assessment to 4*/3* and give yesterday’s Beam 3*/4*

  3. Dave, in 8d you have to replace the A of UNUSUAL with B(illions) – bilions for a – to get the right number of letters in the anagram.

    Thanks to Notabilis for an enjoyable puzzle, and to DT for overcoming ‘poppy lag’.

  4. 5* fun indeed. And it crept over into medium Toughie time too! Thanks to BD for the blog (glad you went to see the Poppies, definitely an experience not to be missed).

    Thanks to Notabilis too for a very enjoyabe solve – My top favourite is 3d although 26a and couple of others are close runners up.

  5. Been waiting all afternoon for this post as I was stuck on the NW corner. Just 4 clues. As one was 3d I don’t feel too bad at not knowing thieve’s cant.
    8d: What a pity there was not room to enter the US Navy Seal’s motto. I feel “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday” so epitomises a toughie!
    Yes, the poppies are amazing!

  6. I finished this, but was off the mark with my parsing of a couple of the answers.
    Many thanks to Notabilis for a superb puzzle, and to BD for explaining my shortfalls.

  7. Some very clever clueing in a most enjoyable puzzle. 2d took me ages to parse, even tho the solution was obvious. Favourites were 4a, 12a [cleverly “hidden” definition – from me at least] and the superbly misleading 18d where I spent a long time playing with conditioN finally and G for good – neither of which were part of the answer].

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to BD for a fine analysis.

  8. Quite a few words I’ve never heard of – I admire much of the puzzle but i don’t really understand why it is clever to use obscure words.

    i liked the czech scorer (25a) and the lush (19d)

    many thanks notabilis and admiration to BD for the enlightening review

  9. Defeated by the gull. Thanks to Notabilis and BD. Me and the after work Friday night club (local bar) eventually got there but the gull….why….why… finally resorted to hints. I’d never have have got it but the rest did.

  10. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that it’s clever to use “obscure” words. But it is clever to write neat, original clues with smooth surfaces and there are lots of those here. OK, we don’t use tinamou, trochee or upanishad in everyday speech but if they’re the only words that will fit in the grid and the setter is compiling for the toughest crossword of the week in the Telegraph then I, for one, will forgive him.

    1. you’re right: i hadn’t twigged that for these words, nothing else fits the grid! Perhaps the complier did not go out of his way to include obscure words, but was forced to do so by choice of grid (which i thought was something compilers tried to watch out for). Or maybe Notabilis genuinely does like these words, I don’t know.

      I can handle the odd obscure word, it’s just I felt hit repeatedly with this puzzle. I also hadn’t come across snout with this meaning before. I agree completely there is some lovely clueing going on, and I’m in awe of Notabilis as a setter/editor.

      1. As you’re asking, no, I don’t choose wilfully obscure words for Toughies, though I allow myself a bit more freedom of vocab than in an ordinary daily cryptic.
        In this grid, all the entries are words I’ve encountered in real life, apart from TINAMOU, which I’ve only seen in crosswords. I could have got rid of it by rejigging the whole south-west corner, but I wasn’t sure whether it was obscure enough to warrant the extra work, so I asked the Toughie editor, who “thought it was either a bird or an island” and said it seemed ok.

        1. I really appreciate the fact that you are replying, thanks so much for that. It is so nice to understand what the compiler was thinking. I wish more compilers would discuss on the blog, we could all learn more.

          Meanwhile, my vocab can only develop.

          Best wishes

    2. My ’email correspondent’ suggested yesterday morning that Notabilis had borrowed Giovanni’s Book of Obscure Words for Crosswords. My reply was to the effect that I had heard of them all and so had no problems.

  11. Got about halfway through this last night and started yawning, so tried again this morning. filled the grid correctly in the end, but confess to electronic help for the four words l’ve so far been blissfully unaware of. No complaints on that score – l can always use a bit more education. 4*/4* for me, and pretty close to my service ceiling. I liked quite a few clues, but 20d just gets the nod. VMTs to Notabilis, both for the challenge and increasing my vocabulary, and to Big Dave for making it all possible.

  12. Just finished this with the help of many reference books, etc. It wasn’t a perfect solve, though as I had to use Big Dave for the answer early on for 8d as I kept getting the same result as JB at 5 above for the Seal’s motto. Also right at the very end I lost the will to live and looked up the answer to 18d. By my standards this was a very difficult puzzle (****+0.5*) that has taken hours to complete. I’m going to keep this one to show off to family & friends when they ask – “can I help with a clue?” Sh-Shoney.

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