Toughie 1384 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1384

Toughie No 1384 by Sparks

Don’t call me Shirley!

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

Anoher fine puzzle from Sparks, well worthy of its Friday slot.

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    Show off magnificent bear (10)
GRANDSTAND: an adjective meaning magnificent followed by a verb meaning to bear

6a    Cockpit  in good condition (4)
WELL: two definitions – a nautical term for a cockpit and an adjective meaning in good condition

9a    Online news partly fabricated? This is (5)
LINEN: hidden (partly) inside the clue

10a    George I put on gold crown, meeting destiny (9)
AUTOPILOT: I from the clue preceded by the chemical symbol for gold and a three-letter crown or pinnacle and followed by (meeting) destiny

12a    Muck-raker to run down mother entwined with one having desire? (13)
SCANDALMONGER: a verb meaning to run down or scrutinize followed by a mother, usually an animal, and a person having a desire where the last letter of the first word and the first letter of the second one are “entwined”

14a    Food’s sizzling, still (8)
SNAPSHOT: a ginger biscuit, the S from ‘S and an adjective meaning sizzling give a still photograph

15a    About to cut one half of starched tight collar (6)
ARREST: the two-letter word meaning about inside (to cut) an anagram (tight) of the first half of STAR[ched]

17a    Imbibe six-pack brother rejected (6)
ABSORB: a slang word for a bodily six-pack followed by the reversal of the shortened form of BRO[ther]

19a    It may support rider put out by legal profession (8)
CROSSBAR: an adjective meaning put out or annoyed followed by the three-letter word for the legal profession

21a    Caution Mrs Grundy — time to stop mixing in Italy (13)
PRUDENTIALITY: from the question ‘But what will Mrs Grundy say?, the type of person that Mrs Grundy was in Thomas Morton’s play, Speed the Plough, followed by T(ime) inside (to stop) an anagram (mixing) of IN ITALY

24a    Maximising efficiency of new income for harnessing source of renewable energy (9)
ERGONOMIC: an anagram (new) of INCOME around (harnessing) the initial letter (source) of R[enewable] and a two-letter word meaning energy

25a    Abandon a missing black vessel (5)
AORTA: a verb meaning to abandon and the A from the clue without the B(lack) give this blood vessel

26a    Quaint material left by duke (4)
TWEE: drop the final D(uke) from a type of material

27a    Man perhaps mostly set on interrupting extremely ghastly old poem (5,5)
GRAY’S ELEGY: a man’s name, most of SE[t] and the on side in cricket all inside the outer letters (extremely) of G[hastl]Y

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign


1d    Fair girl at first sang all day — every second (4)
GALA: the initial letter (at first) of G[irl] followed by the second letters of three words in the clue

2d    One making a trunk call has no such complaint (7)
AMNESIA: elephants don’t forget, so they never suffer from this complaint!

3d    Exotic land set to encourage operator on bridge? (6,7)
DENTAL SURGEON: an anagram (exotic) of LAND SET followed by a phrasal verb meaning to encourage – this bridge is in the mouth!

4d    Collapse following race, a sign of distress? (8)
TEARDROP: a collapse preceded by a verb meaning to race or dash

5d    Former African place  of birth (5)
NATAL: two definitions – the first being the former name of a South African province

7d    Bucolic European block primarily upset by English (7)
ECLOGUE: this bucolic or pastoral poem comes from a charade of E(uropean), a verb meaning to block, the initial letter (primarily) of U[pset] and E(nglish)

8d    Works in university, making contribution to reprint of rare title (10)
LITERATURE: U(niversity) inside (making contribution to) an anagram (reprint) of RARE TITLE

11d    Talk about actors in cast getting put off (13)
PROCRASTINATE: a colloquial verb meaning to talk around an anagram (cast) of ACTORS IN

13d    Face panic in hospital department that’s besieged in the afternoon (10)
ESCARPMENT: to get this rock face put a panic inside a three-letter hospital department and then put it all around (that’s besieged) the two-letter abbreviation for afternoon

16d    Three-man government wanting judge to restrain current chief (8)
TRIARCHY: a three-letter verb meaning to judge around (to restrain) the symbol for electric current and an adjective meaning chief

18d    Wacky single short guy, not one to get close (7)
SNUGGLE: an anagram (wacky) of S[I]NGLE without the I (not one) with most of (short) GU[Y]

20d    Laurel and Hardy on vacation, boarding British plane? (3,4)
BAY TREE: it’s not the outer letters (on vacation) of H[ard}Y that is required here but the outer letters of A[nd Hard]Y – put them between (boarding) B(ritish) and the type of plant of which the plane is an example (indicated by the question mark)

22d    Section of dramatically rising river (5)
TAMAR: hidden (section of) and reversed (rising) inside the clue

23d    Comparatively small book anybody perused on a regular basis (4)
BABY: B(ook) followed by every third letter (perused on a regular basis) of A[ny]B[of]Y

All being well (I’m a bit under the weather at the moment) I hope to see some of you in Cambridge tomorrow.

13 comments on “Toughie 1384

  1. Good stuff today and most enjoyable, favourites were 14a 20d and 21a thanks to Sparks and to Big Dave for the review.

  2. Quite tricky parsing all the wordplay, so the enjoyment came mainly from the work out, but a few clues did have nice surface, an “aha” or a laugh.

    I didn’t think of the elephant never forgetting (2d), I was wondering whether trunk calls involved remembering a lot of digits, so thanks BD!

    took me a while to see “and hardy” as the entity to go on vacation (20d), but we clearly needed an “AY”. I quite liked this clue, good surface too.

    I also liked 8d (works in university), it took me ages to see “works” as a noun. Quite liked the rather cute 18d (wacky single short guy) and 23d (comparatively small)

    7d (bucolic…) was a new word for me.

    Took me a while to see the two-letter word for energy in 24a (maximising efficiency), it didn’t help that I had previously ruled out the answer on the grounds of wrong part of speech ( but BD has def as “maximising efficiency OF”, which works) and thinking that ergonomics wasn’t really about efficiency anyway, but brb disagrees with me.

    many thanks Sparks and Big Dave

  3. Lovely Friday Toughie -thank you Sparks. A couple in the SW held me up for a while, not helped by Mr CS daring to ask me a question mid solve. My favourite was 2d.

    Thanks to BD. Hope you will be well enough for Cambridge tomorrow.

  4. Kept me occupied at the hospital this morning. Very enjoyable. Lots of fine clues. A Friday Toughie worthy of the slot.

  5. Definitely a good Friday toughie. I got off to a really slow start and I was getting to the point when the possibility of not merely a “failed to finish” occasion but a “hardly got started” seemed to be on the cards. Luckily I then managed a few of the long ones in quick succession and the puzzle opened up substantially and I made it to the finishing line fairly steadily thereafter (although having to look a couple of words / poem I had not heard of). Looking at it now 4* difficulty seems appropriate but I did spend a while thinking 5*+.

    Many thanks to Sparks and BD – and I hope tomorrows gathering goes off well.

  6. Our last one in, and favourite once we worked it out, was 20d. How the AY was justified was the stumbling block. Lots to enjoy in this puzzle. There were several where we put in what we were pretty sure was the right answer and then went back to sort out and appreciate the complex wordplay, 12a for example. Excellent stuff and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Sparks and BD.

  7. A good Friday workout from Sparks. Not sure whether I think 20d is really clever or whether I think “and
    Hardy on vacation” is a step too far. Thought 12a was a bit contrived too, but 10a and 14a are excellent clues.
    Could 27a perhaps be a reference to Man Ray the surrealist?

    Thanks to Sparks and to BD for the blog.

  8. Only managed to spare a little time and concentrated on the toughie.
    Started well and managed to complete the top half without much trouble.
    But it was a very different story at the bottom.
    Couldn’t see anything but Bay Leaf for 20d. Mrs Grundy was a no go and the old poem also.
    Was trying to fit Smidget in 18d and it just went silly from thereon.
    But you can always count on BD to come to the rescue and his great review.
    So thanks to him and to Sparks for a real toughie.

  9. A proper Toughie, all right, and l have no quibble with BD’s suggested ratings. I needed 4 hints to complete, all in the bottom half. I was somewhat hampered by trying to work “Clarrie” into 21a – she being the only Mrs Grundy who came to mind! Favourite has to be 27a, because it’s my favourite poem. Thanks to Sparks, and of course BD.

  10. This puzzle was way, way out of my league and I couldn’t even solve many of the clues with Big Dave’s help. “Escarpment” for “face” and the 27a clue were just two of the examples and there were many others just as obscure for me. I use puzzles such as this as a learning tool in the vain hope that it might help me in the future. For BD, there is just one clue that I may be able to throw light on and that is 14a. When I was a teenager in the 60’s, working in a cotton mill in Lancashire during the holidays the workers used to refer to the food they brought in to eat during their shift as “snap”. It was widespread usage and perhaps this is the origin of the first part of the clue. Just a thought. Bring on “easy Tuesday”! Sh-Shoney.

    1. Tha’s reight pal. It wer’t name for packed lunch in God’s Own County too. But tha can’t expect Southerners to know that and it in’t in ‘t BRB either [shame].

  11. Crikey. I think that’s maybe my first 4-star difficulty completion so I’m well proud of myself. Brilliant puzzle I thought, all the long clues were wonderful. Thanks so much to Sparks and BD for having taught me so much!

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