Toughie 1405 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1405

Toughie No 1405 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Toro

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BD Rating - Difficulty ** - Enjoyment *****

Four English novelists, an English philosopher, at least three saints, Oxford shoes (and academics), a cathedral city, a classical language and a Tribe of Israel. Yes, folks, it's the Don, who is all over the papers today on the occasion of his 70th birthday. (Mind you, there is a piece of multicultural English slang in there too!)

[EDIT: Not just all over the papers, but all over this puzzle too -- look carefully!]

Happy birthday, Don Manley, and thank you for a characteristically flawless puzzle pitched just at the right level for a Tuesday Toughie.

Definitions are underlined. 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 Funny male involved with his pig primarily -- a bit of Wodehouse? (6)
PELHAM of Wodehouse's forenames. Anagram (funny) of MALE and H(is) P(ig). The surface cleverly alludes to Lord Emsworth, a recurring character in the Blandings stories, who is above all devoted to his pig.


5a Fast-moving to catch evil drug supplier (8)
PHARMACY Fast-moving (as of a novel, say) around a word for evil or mischief.

9a Sloppy dons in faculty not working properly (13)

10a Letter that's the reverse of funny -- and piercing (8)
LANDLORD A word for funny or witty, in reverse, and 'pierced' by AND.

11a Dorothy? A philosopher among saints (6)
SAYERS Surname of a British philosopher (d.1989) inside the abbreviation for saints.

12a One will have let the French find out (6)
LESSEE 'Let' here must be read as a noun. One the definite articles in French plus a common word meaning find out.

14a Causes to divert sports official -- right little performances! (8)
REFRACTS A charade of a judge in a sports match, R(ight) and performances in a comedy night or variety show, say. (Rooney's little performance below annoyed me because it helped knock Preston out of the FA Cup!)


16a One to remove defences or ridicule protection, we hear (8)
DISARMER A relatively recent slang word for ridicule or offend plus a soundalike of protective wear.

19a Cordial Conservative given inadequate help (6)
CASSIS C(onservative) plus a word for help minus its last letter.

21a African city offers atmosphere in which old tribe can settle (6)
AGADIR A word for atmosphere or aura around one of the Tribes of Israel.

23a Big mammal placed on a vast continent reportedly (8)
CETACEAN A double soundalike of a word meaning placed and a now quaint pronunciation of the adjective meaning of the largest continent.

25a Meat dish that could do for a US VIP eater, OK? (5,2,6)
STEAK AU POIVRE Anagram (that could do for) A US VIP EATER OK.

26a Language of saint carrying a new and terrible risk (8)
SANSKRIT The abbreviation for saint around A N(ew) and an anagram (terrible) of RISK. (Solution below!)


27a Waifs bringing glimmers of sunshine to street (6)
STRAYS The abbreviation for street plus sunbeams.


2d Board action when BBC boss intercepts English celebrity (7)
ENDGAME The acronym of the head of the BBC inside E(nglish) and a word for a celebrity.


3d Orthodox Jew can prove who he is, it seems (5)
HASID Split (3,2), the solution reads like a phrase meaning can prove who he is.

4d Silence engulfing a superior part of Oxford? It's a gloomy place (9)
MAUSOLEUM A word for silence around A + crosswordese for superior + part of an Oxford or other shoe.


Your blogger (left) in August 1989, with a young Soviet woman, laying a wreath in front of the Georgi Dimitrov mausoleum in Sofia having been nominated to do so by the organisers of the 26th Summer Seminar in Bulgarian Studies. Communism ended a few months later and the mausoleum was abandoned, defaced and eventually bulldozed.     

5d Fighter to choose love, from what we hear (7)
PICADOR Another double soundalike involving a word for choose and a verb meaning love.

6d Writer's or writer's writing son's out of order (5)
AMISS The surname of either of two English novelists who are father and son, with possessive 's,

7d Rich man goes by man suffering (9)
MONEYBAGS Anagram (suffering) of GOES BY MAN.

8d Copper came down, having caught pair who did the dirty deed? (7)
CULPRIT The chemical symbol for copper, then a word for came down or landed around the abbreviation for pair.

13d Sober quality of Thames-side town restricting daughter and son (9)
STAIDNESS A town within the M25, now officially styled as being "-upon-Thames" in reaction to its association with the fictional Ali G (pictured), goes round D(aughter) and is followed by S(on).


15d Joking and argumentative about source of energy (9)
FACETIOUS Argumentative or quarrelsome around E(nergy).

17d Nourishment provided by catering establishment (7)
INGESTA An obscure word but easily spotted inside CATERINGESTABLISHMENT.

18d Maybe convert ground and it can hold game (7)
RECRUIT Acronym of a sport in between the abbreviation for recreation ground and IT.

20d Favoured an exceptionally small city in a silly way (7)
INANELY A word for favoured + AN + one of England's small cathedral cities.

22d Soldier abandoning battalion finally to become gardener? (5)
RAKER An army private minus (battalio)N.

24d Explorer to get cold, say (5)
CAVER C(old) + say, state or declare.


He may be prone to 13d, but this Don is never sloppy, and the close attention to surface readings and use of double meanings in today's puzzle produced some particularly nice clues, such as 1a, 9a, 14a, 16a, 4d, 7d and 18d. It's worth re-reading them to appreciate just how thoughtfully crafted they are.

Over to you - please rate and comment on this puzzle below.

50 comments on “Toughie 1405

  1. I thought this was surprisingly manageable for a toughie as I usually struggle mightily. The anagrams helped though.


  2. Good puzzle for a Tuesday, favourites were 3d and 18d , thanks to Giovanni on this auspicious day and to Toro for the comments.

  3. Many thanks — the nina might have been harder to spot in this one, mind!

    1. Ladies and gentlemen, we are looking for a NINA! I never spot them at the best of times!

  4. The only thing I don’t like about the Don are his homophones. The set Asian and pick ardour just didn’t make it for me.
    Really liked 3d though. When I was looking for the different branches of the Jewish faith, I came across a listing which contained in it’s last entry ” Just Jewish”. That made me laugh out loud.
    Happy birthday and thanks to the Don.
    Thanks also to Toro.

    1. Look again at the explanation to 5d – it’s a verb (not a noun) meaning love.

      1. Oh yes. Adore. That’s definitely better.
        A little help for the Nina thing would be much appreciated.

          1. Thanks. I got the end of the word but can’t see the seventy bit yet.
            Hold the phone as Expat Chris says. Got it.

  5. Happy Birthday Don!

    today I particularly liked 14a (causes to divert) and 2d (board action). LOI was 16a.

    I did struggle with the old tribe (21a), big mammal (23a – how do we get “of” the largest continent from the clue?), nourishment (17a), parsing the writer’s in 6d, the writer and philosopher in (11a), and the orthodox jew (3d). Having only just finished extolling the virtues of limiting your obscurities on Rookies corner, it feels like we have a counter-example – yes I know, it’s a toughie.

    many thanks Giovanni and Toro

    1. In 23a, the second part of the homophone is clued by “on a large continent”. The “on” cannot be a juxticator for a Ximenean setter because it would reverse the order of the parts in an across clue.

  6. Sweet celebrations of seventy.

    I’ve been playing at Schrodinger’s cat with this puzzle. Both looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. It wasn’t until I started solving it did I realise that the former applied. I smiled throughout.

    I didn’t spot the hidden in 17d but it fitted. Nor could I parse 2d and I had to Google check 21a. Non of this mattered as the whole thing has made me smile. I cannot name a favourite.

    Don, I hope you’re having a wonderful day and thank you for your efforts. Might have to go and buy the others now.

    Many thanks to Toro too for blogging and parsing the clues I failed with. Great picture and interesting story re 4d.

    1. A bit more on that story, then. That photo was taken by the official photographer for the month-long event, who told me political jokes in the bar one night and then urged me not to tell anyone. I bumped into him a few months later and he invited me to his home, where we turned on state television to find Bulgaria’s communist leader of decades, Todor Zhivkov, being ousted at a televised Politburo meeting. He had clearly been drugged. Romania’s Ceausescu fell a day or two later, shot with his wife. Zhivkov had apparently been threatened with the same. When I went back to Bulgaria in 1991 the mausoleum was daubed with the words: “The most luxurious bog in Europe”.

      1. Good grief Toro! Fantastic story. I bet the jokes are worth hearing too. I remember the fall of Ceausescu’s regime seemed to receive more coverage than that of Zhivkov’s, or perhaps that’s just my recollection?

        Did you take pictures in ’91?

  7. I have solved all the ‘National Manley Day’ puzzles bar one (and I’ve read the blog of that one -the Times Quick) and saw all the Ninas in the others but thought (and I did check with a friend) that there wasn’t one in this Toughie. In my defence this one is the best hidden of the lot.

    Thanks to Toro and Happy Birthday Giovanni.

    1. Oh pity me. I never see them. Never. Ever. If this one is well hidden I just give up.

  8. I really enjoyed this, particularly 10A, 3D and 4D. Yes, I had racquet for 18D with absolutely no justification except if fit. And I was defeated by 23A, but having read the hint it’s become my favorite. Someone will have to take me by the hand and lead my to the nina, because I do not have a clue!

    Thanks and happy birthday to Giovanni, and to Toro for the review.

    1. Hi Chris, took me a while but start with the unchecked letters of the fourth line, then line 8 then 12.

      1. Didn’t help that I misread your directions and was trying to use the unchecked letters on the first line! Got it now. Many thanks!

  9. That was a pleasant experience from start to finish & is the quality of puzzle that all aspiring setters should aim for.
    Too many good clues to opt for a favourite but as a life long fan of Plum I’ll go for 1A
    Many happy returns of the day to The Don & thanks to Toro for a superlative review.

  10. Congratulations to Giovanni and thanks to him for the entertaining puzzle, and to Toro for the blog. I was amongst those who failed to spot the Nina before being prodded. My favourite clue was 4d.

  11. Mea Culpa! Thanks to Toro for the Toughie review & to Gazza for the back pager!

  12. Happy Birthday Giovanni (and all your other guises). I thoroughly enjoyed it with one minor exception (24d) but hey, it’s your birthday

    Loved 13d as Mrs SL and I were there this weekend (stopping over for the rugby), also 1a and 4d. My favourite was 25a because it’s my signature dish.

    Thanks to Giovanni and Toro for the review – I still can’t see the Niña

      1. Thanks Expat Chris and Jean – Luc, it helps if I’d put in the correct word in 24d, D’oh. Also apologies to Giovanni – 24d now makes perfect sense

  13. Elkamere will be tomorrow’s Toughie setter – I don’t think it is his birthday so we should be Nina-free.

  14. Happy Birthday Giovanni,

    We are in total agreement with Toro’s ratings on this puzzle. A pleasure to solve from start to finish. However we must admit that we completely failed to spot the Nina so have the opportunity to appreciate that now.
    Many thanks Giovanni and Toro.

  15. 3*/4*, l think. So many splendid clues to choose from, of which my pick is 10a. Many thanks to the Don ( it is an honour to share your birthday, albeit 7 years astern of you) and to Toro for the review.

      1. Happy Birthday to you too Salty Dog. It was mine yesterday but no-one seems to have noticed. That must mean that I’m not older

        Then again, it’s just another year, as Mr Logan sang. It’s just the accumulation of them that’s a bit of a b****r.

          1. I have discovered a splendid Sancerre (ish) from my local Majestic. I will hold back a couple of bottles for BD’s next birthday party

        1. I didn’t know, Guv! Happy belated for yesterday and I hope it was a lovely day!

          P.S. It was mine three weeks ago, but these days I tend to ignore them and hope they’ll just go away.

  16. “At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.”

    As P G W would have said there’s still time Don ,Happy birthday and thanks .Thanks also to Toro .favourite 18d ,never look for Ninas so thanks to those that do ,well hidden indeed .
    Cheers .

  17. Thanks to Giovanni and to Toro for the review and hints. Was most enjoyable, especially the bits I could do. Needed 11 hints to finish, just ran out of brainpower in the end. Happy Birthday to Don Manley, fantastic Nina.

    1. Agree with you wholeheartedly on the NINA Heno. Dark and not raining in Central Shropshire.

  18. Could only get about halfway through yesterday, then rattled the rest off this morning, with the exception of 2d. Ashamed to admit that I do not play chess and was trying to think of the current DGs name. All clear now with your help. Thanks guys and happy nonbirthdays now.

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