Toughie 1404 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1404

Toughie No 1404 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Tilsit

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley!

In between revision for my OU exams, this came as a lovely welcome relief. One of my favourite setters and Notabilis hasn’t disappointed today (not that he ever does!). Lots of beautifully-written and clever clues that make solving a real fun. One or two recently have been a bit tedious and dull but this is just splendid.

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. Definitions are underlined.


9a    Underwear exhibited by several in England (5)
LINEN:    We start today, rather unusually, with a hidden answer clue. Hidden in the phrase ‘SeveraL IN England” is a synonym for underwear or what is can be made of.

10a    Flog hospital before men suture joint (9)
HORSEWHIP:    An old word meaning to chastise or flog someone is found by solving a wordsum. H (hospital) + an abbreviation for (non-commissioned) men in the army the ordinary ranks + a word meaning to suture + one of the largest joints in the body.

11a    Racket protecting a very contrary slipperiness (7)
EVASION:    A word meaning slipperiness or avoidance can be found be taking a word for a racket or din, inserting A and V (very) and then reversing the lot (indicated by contrary).

12a    Hosting goes wrong as soon as it’s presented (2,5)
ON SIGHT:    You are looking for an expression that means as soon as it is presented, or when you can see it. It’s an anagram (goes wrong) of HOSTING.

13a    Irritation exercises woman without parents (5)
PEEVE:    A word meaning irritation is revealed by taking the abbreviation for (school) exercises and adding a Biblical name for a woman who didn’t as such have a mother!

14a    Northern area with king gathering in olden times (9)
YORKSHIRE:    Inside a word meaning olden times – ‘in days of ___’ goes K (king) and a word that means gathering in a needlework sense. This gives you the name of the area not a million miles from me!

16a    Gay entertainment — garbage? Hope rest is funny (3,7,5)
THE BEGGAR’S OPERA:    You’re not looking for anything edgy or rude, just the name of a celebrated piece of work by John Gay. It’s an anagram (funny) of GARBAGE? HOPE REST.

19a    Reckless drive around centre of Slough (9)
IMPETUOUS:    A word meaning reckless can be found by taking something that means drive or urge and inserting OU (the centre letters of Slough).

21a    Impatient with lots of exams, perhaps (5)
TESTY:    A double definition, where one half is cryptic, indicated by the use of ‘perhaps’. If there was a lot of wind it would be windy, so if you (like me) had a lot of exams or tests to do, you’d be…. This is a word that normally means impatient or crabby.

23a    Briefly nail floor covering with a hands-on approach (7)
TACTILE:    A word that refers to being touched or handled is the name of a type of nail, minus its last letter (briefly) and add the name of a floor covering.

25a    Remains caught when surrounded by some traffic (7)
CARCASS:    Something that means the (dead) body or remains of an animal is found by taking C (caught) and adding AS (when) and placing it inside a number of vehicles.

27a    Drink providing legless creature’s poison? (9)
SNAKEBITE:    Depending on where you live, this foul concoction is an equal amount of lager and cider mixed, sometimes with the addition of blackcurrant juice. It’s a double definition clue with the second half cryptic asking you what will provide the poison of a certain creature that has no legs.

28a    Companion of Buzz A. returning from space? (5)
ALIEN:    This is rather clever, the first half provides the indication, while the whole clue, or the second half, provides the definition; note the question mark which is usually an indication that you need to think outside the box. If you remember Apollo 11, think of the three astronauts who took part. One was Buzz A, Michael C didn’t go down to the moon, but… did! Write his name in this style and reverse it and you have the name of another space traveller.


1d    What’s burned for power, the last of it taken up chimney (4)
FLUE:         This held me up for longer than it should have as I was looking for something involving LUM, which is the Scottish word for a chimney and is One Of Those Words That Only Appear in Crosswords. The answer is a bit cleverer than that. Take the generic name of the substance you burn to generate heat and move its last letter upwards (it is a down clue – so this works) and you get the name of a chimney.

2d    Commission, say, bringing in new generation (6)
ENGAGE:    This was my Last One In today, again more because I saw the answer but was looking for something more complicated. A word that means to commission someone or something is revealed by taking the abbreviation for say, or for example and inserting N (new). Add to this a word meaning generation or epoch and voila!

3d    Computer department replacing line in severe provocation (10)
INCITEMENT:    Another very clever clue. Take a nine letter word meaning severe (as in weather) and replace the L (line) with IT (computer department). This will give you a word meaning provocation.

4d    Roughly handsome, not svelte (6)
CHUNKY:    A word meaning not svelte, rather corpulent, is found by taking C (roughly, approximate, circa) and adding a word meaning handsome.

5d    A Royal Mail server, powerless as a mail keeper (8)
ARMOURER:        You’re looking for someone who keeps mail, not the postal type, but the chain type that knights wore! A + RM (Royal Mail) + a word meaning a server like a teapot, minus its first letter (P, powerless). Terrific surface reading, a lovely clue.

6d:    Maybe little more than an alley cat’s cries (4)
MEWS:    Another double definition clue with one part cryptic. The noises cats make is the same as the name of a very small street. This gives me an excuse to share with you my one of my favourite twitter sites…..

7d    Good letter to stop possible fracking target producing softness underfoot? (8)
SHAGPILE:    The definition here is producing softness underfoot and you are looking for a type of carpet. Inside a type of rock that is likely to be fracked goes G (good) and the name of the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet.

8d    Try a cheap high, with nothing in it for drug supplier (10)
APOTHECARY:    The name of someone who dispenses drugs and other medication ( I have my own branch of Boots, you know!) is an anagram (high) of TRY A CHEAP with O (nothing) inside.

13d    Facile revolt is primarily marking support for state (10)
PATRIOTISM:        Support for state is the definition. A word meaning facile (to know something off …) is added before one for a revolt and then place IS and M (first letter, primarily, of marking) to give you the answer.

15d    What might suggest Doug or Pitt is sweet but easily crumbling (10)
SHORTBREAD:    Probably the cleverest clue today, and worth the admission money alone! The name of something that is sweet and crumbles easily is a word that itself could be a cryptic clue to two answers DOUG(H) and PITT(A)! Thanks to a certain lady for working this out, though I had the answer right away, I kept thinking it was to do with a certain film actor or two! Nice deception and virtual 15d to the lovely lady!

17d    Particular area in hazy eclipse (8)
ESPECIAL:    A word meaning particular is an anagram (hazy) of ECLIPSE with A (area) inside.

18d    Rising smoke consuming English poems with many superficial aspects? (8)
GEODESIC:    Inside the reversal of a short name for something you smoke goes E + types of poem to give an adjective meaning having many superficial elements.

20d    Stone pine is enclosed within a small parcel (6)
SACHET:    A word meaning to pine (for) something goes inside the abbreviation for stone to give a small packet often containing salt, sugar or coffee.

22d    Branch of Islam preserving Arabic legal system (6)
SHARIA:    Inside the name of a branch of Islam goes AR (Arabic ) to give the name of the Islamic legal code.

24d    Story the author collected from the South (4)
ITEM:    A (news) story is revealed by taking a letter that refers to ‘the author’ or the first person and adding something that means collected or encountered, but reversed (from the South – it is a down clue!)

26d    Polish or French novelist (4)
SAND:    A word meaning to polish or buff something is the surname of a French female novelist who was the love interest of Chopin.

Hope you enjoyed the puzzle as much as I did. I’d recommend a lot of the Rookie Corner setters look through this and see what can be achieved with thoughtful wordplay! See you all again soon.

26 comments on “Toughie 1404

  1. A joy from start to finish – in a ‘toughie’ time too – this is the standard that all Toughies should be IMHO.

    Thanks to Tilsit and Notabilis – lots of clues with * by them but I’ll keep Kath happy and pick the literal and metaphorical ‘dough’ moment as my clue of the day.

  2. I loved it, and had checked several clues, including 10A, 13A, 14A and 7D. I needed the hints to confirm my answer for 24D (always forget the newspaper story thingy), I had the right answer for 15D but no idea why, and having seen the explanation it is my favorite even though I couldn’t parse it. Suspect the clever lady is CS so hats off to her. Many thanks to Notabilis for the fun and to Tilsit for the review.

  3. Got all but 1… 24d. I couldn’t work it out.

    Missed the hidden in 9a.
    Had to check 20d was an actual word.
    Had to check 26d which was hugely embarrassing as I love playing Chopin.
    Couldn’t parse 15d, just bunged it in.
    And I’m still confused about the last part of 14a?

    Having sat back and looked at the whole thing again, my appreciation has only deepened. Just so very clever.

    So many thanks to Notabilis and to Tilsit for your much needed help. Hope the revision is going well.

    1. The last part is when one uses skinny elastic threaded through a needle to pleat, or gather, fabric. I believe that’s how smocking is done, though you don’t really see much of that these days.

      1. I’ve still got some of the elastic, inherited from my mum, but the last time I did any smocking was in 1967 – a very nice Mary Quant dress pattern as part of school sewing lessons.

  4. Tilsit
    As an ex pat of God’s Own County I’m struggling to recognise the image for 14a. It’s not York itself so please enlighten me. Thanks to N & to you for the review.

    1. I’m fairly sure it’s Pulteney Bridge in Bath, a long way from Yorkshire. Pretty, though.

      1. D’oh! it is the Pulteney Bridge. Type in Beautiful Places in Yorkshire into Google and that’s what you get in the top pictures! I’d though it was York from the River. Oh well have this

  5. Great crossword indeed.
    But managed to parse 15d only after getting the answer. These are probably my favourite biscuits ever. Always buy them in a lovely tartan 20d. In fact biscuits mostly come in sachets in France.
    20d and 25a were my last ones in.
    Needed the very sprightly review to parse the “up north” county in 14a.
    5d is my favourite.
    Don’t know if I’ll get the chance to have a look at the back page.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to Tilsit for the said review.

  6. Not often I am moved to add to your comments after my miserable attempts at some toughies but always read the comments and see if someone agrees with my thoughts. However today is a gem and cannot pass without praise. Whether I complete the puzzle or not I can still appreciate the skills employed in the composition. I loved this one today and must praise Notabilis who becomes my favourite compiler. Thanks also to Tilsit even though today I didn’t need his help. I couldn’t parse 24d but guessed correct. My favourites are 13a and 28a.

  7. Really tough toughie for me. Needed to cheat on five clues. Not helped by spelling carcass as the alternative carcase – didn’t stop to check. I do tend to be rather 19a.

    Snakebite with orange cordial was known as a doofer in Devon in the 1970s.

  8. No tricky vocabulary or GK problems for me today (although I think I was lucky to remember the opera – I dont think I have heard a single bar from it) which put it in my 2* category (note that this does not mean I solved it more readily than Tilsit or CS – quite the opposite!- it is all relative) A meeting cut my crossword time today so I was glad it was not an Elgar stinker – the two DT puzzles filled the time available to the minute so I am a happy bunny. Notabalis puzzles are always a joy

    The Doug and Pitt one missed me – it is a shame the answer was quite easy to guess

    Thanks to Tilsit and Notabalis

  9. Loved it. A gem indeed. However, we did fail to parse 15d, the letters B R A D appearing in the answer kept us barking up the wrong tree and we guess we were not the only ones on that tree. Right in the Goldilocks Zone for difficulty for us and lots of chuckles along the way. What more could one ask for.
    Thanks Notabilis and Tilsit.

  10. We thought that this was fabulous puzzle which took us a light year to untangle. We had to resort to a bit of help from the net and Tilsit for the last three clues.
    Just the job for a lazy Friday afternoon/evening. ****/*****

  11. Many thanks Tilsit for the review.

    I did this in a caravan in Wales, just a newspaper and a pen, and was very pleased to complete it. Lovely puzzle, many thanks Notabilis. Meanwhile, after a 6 hour drive in heavy traffic, I am happily reunited with my home wifi and phone signal.

  12. Certainly 4* difficulty by my standards. I managed all but two, for which l needed Tilsit’s hints. I actually got 15d right on a “bung it in” basis, but – even with the hint – l can’t see how l was supposed to get there. A very clever clue, but too clever for me, l’m afraid, and anyone who managed to unravel it has my undying admiration. A minor quibble: surely 13a should start with “irritate”, not “irritation”. Still, many thanks to Notabilis, and to Tilsit.

  13. Not an easy one for me and I have to confess to using a few hints. Nevertheless, this was thoroughly enjoyable and gets a good 4* on both counts from me.
    3d – got the right answer but had never realised that this implied ‘severe’ with regard to the weather. I’ve been using it incorrectly for years.
    15d – another right answer but only because I could just about reconcile ‘bread’ for ‘Brad’ – for the life of me I couldn’t think of a short bloke called Doug!
    18d – well out of my pay grade.
    20d – once I realised there was no way I could get ‘fir’ into the answer, the little grey cells went AWOL.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for the master class and to Tilsit for being clever enough to help some of us to see the light!

        1. Hi Hanni – I found that a sufficiency of red wine during the solve broadened the mind and diluted the pain.
          BTW – 14a made me think of you. Have you set the date with the AA man yet? Pick a golfing weekend and the OH will be none the wiser.

  14. Possibly one of my favourite puzzles of the year to date ,tough but no dictionary required ,lovely ! Favourite for me 28a .More of the same please and thanks Tilsit for your enthusiasm and enlightenment .

  15. Thanks to Notabilis and to Tilsit for the review and hints. I really enjoyed this, first time I’ve managed to get into a puzzle from this setter. I got a couple wrong, 26d&28a, needed the hints for 2d & 13a. Favourite was 5d, once I got the explanation from Tilsit’s super hint. Was 4*/4* for me.

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