Toughie 1412 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1412

Toughie No 1412 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Sparks as usual gives us intricate wordplay and cleverly disguised definitions that make for some great “aha” moments. No obscurities, though there were some word uses I didn’t know. Good surface readings, but my head is reeling from reversals so I thought ****/*** sums up today’s puzzle.

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    Recently defeated, crushed by online extremists? (2,4)
OF LATE: Another word for defeated (or apartment, for that matter), inside (crushed by) the extremes of O(nlin)E

5a    Weirdos in daze about netting lawsuit (8)
NUTCASES: Reversal (about) of a word for daze containing (netting) a word for lawsuit

9a    Better rock music – potentially hot stuff (8)
CAPSICUM: A verb meaning better with an anagram (rock) of MUSIC

10a    Buck’s Fizz intend to make comeback around short greatest number (6)
MIMOSA: This alternative word for the cocktail is a reversal (to make comeback) of a 3-letter word meaning intend, around an adjective meaning greatest number missing the last letter (short)

11a    Stingy character is for going round to stop heir (8)
SCORPION: Nothing to do with Scrooge! Reversal (going round) of a 3 letter word meaning is for (as opposed to anti), inside (to stop) a word meaning heir or young family member

12a    People are chopping every English tree (6)
POPLAR: Remove every occurrence of E (chopping every English) from PEOPLE ARE

13a    Scattered property in boxes, about to leave urban area (8)
SPARSITY: A word for boxes, as in fights, followed by a word for urban area from which the abbreviation for about or circa is removed (about to leave)

15a    Cardinal that contributes to every part of Voluntary Service Overseas (4)
FIVE: A cardinal number (i.e., one, two, three, etc – as opposed to an ordinal number which is first second third, etc.) for which the Roman numeral appears in each word of Voluntary Service Overseas

17a    Duration of feeble broadcast (4)
WEEK: A period of time which is a homophone (broadcast) of a synonym of feeble

19a    Doctor is noble, hiding nothing having run into trouble (8)
BARNARDO: A noble without the “O” (hiding nothing), plus the abbreviation for run inside a 3-letter word for trouble gives the name of a doctor who founded a children’s charity

20a    Turkey has one western Prime Minister shunning a European (6)
WATTLE: Not the country. W(estern) plus an ex PM without one letter E (shunning a European)

21a    Browning is thwarted by this daily embargo (8)
SUNBLOCK: Name of a popular daily and another word for embargo. Particularly effective use of first word capitalisation to mislead

22a    Champion immersed in unlimited calm for ages (6)
EPOCHS: Two-letter abbreviation for champion inside (immersed in) a 6-letter word for calm or rest from which both end-letters have been removed (unlimited)

23a    It makes things fine for old Scrooge (8)
ATOMISER: Two-letter word meaning for, abbreviation for old, and a word for a person like Scrooge

24a    Unfinished work of son in Cornish town having to stop (5,3)
LOOSE END: The abbreviation for S(on) inside a 4-letter town in Cornwall, plus a word for stop

25a    Dropped off, mainly outside church, in drag (6)
SCHLEP: word for having dozed off minus it’s final letter (dropped off mainly) outside an abbreviation for Church, gives this Yiddish word for drag or carry


2d    Drink or brawl, ultimately promoted with Italian backing (8)
FRASCATI: This wine comes from a 6-letter word for brawl in which the last letter has been moved up a bit (ultimately promoted, in a down clue), plus a reversal of an abbreviation for Italian

3d    Hidden muscles and a pair of triceps put to some purpose (8)
ABSTRUSE: A word for stomach muscles, first pair of letters from TRiceps, and a verb meaning “put to some purpose”

4d    Pregnant woman, perhaps eating a Mexican meal (9)
ENCHILADA: A woman’s name (think Sharples) contains CHILD (pregnant) into which another A is inserted (eating A)

5d    Famous quotation contradicted in part of the British Isles (2,3,2,2,6)
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND: Quote from John Donne suggesting everyone is connected. Taken in a geographical sense, this contains an apparent contradiction

6d    Marx pulled up your plant (7)
CHICORY: One of the Marx brothers followed by the reversal (pulled up) of an abbreviation for “your”

7d    As a result of which Oxford could be closed (8)
SHOELACE: Cryptic definition. Something used to close an Oxford – not the University

8d    Pretend diamond is a national symbol (8)
SHAMROCK: A word for pretend followed by slang for diamond

14d    Overpowering sort, lacking exercise, chased talent (9)
TYRANNOUS: A word for sort or kind from which a two letter abbreviation for physical exercise is removed (lacking), plus a word for chased or moved quickly, and a word for talent or intellect (or common sense)

15d    Turn overlooked by sly governor (8)
FLYWHEEL: This governor is a device to maintain speed. Five letter word for turn, or something that turns, preceded by (overlooked, in a down clue) a slang adjective for sly or knowing [as of 1:30 pm the online site is only accepting this incorrect spelling FYLWHEEL  BD]

16d    Whizz kids regularly tour around with very ordinary clothing (8)
VIRTUOSO: Anagram (around) of even letters in kIdS (regularly) and TOUR, all covered by (clothing) the abbreviations for V(ery) and O(rdinary). First time I’ve seen odd/even deletion within the anagram fodder. With the letters visible, this probably escapes being called an indirect anagram. I half-expected an indication for the anagram of TOUR to be contained inside kIdS regularly, which might have been tidier – but it’s not there – unless, of course, I’m missing something

17d    Fleece heartless old crone somewhere in London (8)
WOOLWICH: Word for fleece (the sheep variety) plus a word for an old crone with the centre letter removed (heartless)

18d    Cheesed off about north European city (8)
ENSCHEDE: This Dutch city is an anagram of CHEESED around the abbreviation for North

19d    Red symbol shielded in part (7)
BOLSHIE: Hidden in the clue (in part)

My favourites were 12a, 21a, 4d, and of course 18d. Which were yours?

20 comments on “Toughie 1412

  1. Slightly disappointed as with Sparks’ name at the top of the page, I thought I was in for something a lot more challenging.

    8d is just one word different from a clue in last Saturday’s puzzle. I did have the name of the Dutch city lurking in the back of my memory banks, but I can imagine people who didn’t, especially those haters of double unches, won’t have had much fun with the anagram fodder.

    **/** for me – 15a just beats 20a as my favourite clue, but it is a very close run thing.

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  2. Enjoyable as always from Sparks – thanks to him and Dutch for the review. It took me ages to parse 4d because I’d got it into my head that Hilda was the woman – the penny drop moment was enough to make that one my favourite, but I also liked 12a and 20a a lot.
    I presume that the central row of the grid is meant to be a Nina.

  3. Best puzzle this week by a distance, favourites were 5d 11a and 21a , thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for the review, Oh and there’s a Nina hiding in there.

  4. I got about half before looking at the hints, thank you Dutch .By the way , the telegraph on line won’t accept my answer and yours for 15d.
    5d is a fabulous clue. I also really liked 17d.I wonder if anybody else thought that the definition for 24a was “Cornish town” and had lands end ?

    I think this is the second time this week I have had to point out that 8d is not in fact a national symbol, but it was the first clue I solved, so I should be delighted that setters think it is.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

    1. Two points

      The “wrong” answer to 15d is given in my addendum to the hint.

      The shamrock is good enough for the Irish rugby team!

      1. Lovely pics ,illustrating this little plant. It is difficult to imagine a bikini with harps on them.Thanks for replying.
        All government department letters have a harp on them, the coins have a harp where you have the Queens head. I presume the Irish Rugby team didn’t want to seem to be advertising a well known brand of stout(their harp faces the other direction).

  5. The ‘problem’ with 15d online is being corrected as I type this comment.

  6. Now that’s more like it! Clever wordplay, nifty definitions and good fun.Favourites were 9a [rock music, lovely surface] 11a [stingy character!] 12a [nice construction and smooth surface] 4d [pregnant woman – clever] and 7d [a lovely cryptic def].

    My only quibble is with 23a – are “for” and “at” really synonymous? Can anyone provide an example?

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for the blog. The town of Enschede [and it’s pronunciation] are etched into my mind after a long wait for a train on Amsterdam station. Every other train announced seemed to go to “Almelo, Hengelo and Enschede”.

  7. Found it quite tough and managed to complete with a little help from our friend Dutch.
    I didn’t know the other name of a buck’s fizz and forgot about the Jewish expression.
    The town in Holland gave me a hard time and when I was checking different possibilities on the computer, it referred me to a cryptor explanation with over 40000 variants.
    16d was a bit of a strange construction but gettable from the checkers.
    Liked 19d. It almost sounds like an insult.
    The all in one at 7d also.
    Thanks to sparks and to Dutch for the much needed help.

  8. A couple of geography problems for us, particularly the Dutch town, but Google helped. It turned out to be quite a challenge and finally a family conference with contributions from all present got us a completion. Some very clever constructions and wordplay. Well worthy of the Friday Toughie spot we thought.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  9. This was a bit of a struggle but got there in the end. Like the 2 Kiwis we had to look for the Dutch city and had to turn to Dutch himself for the last two in.
    Pleased that we finished it though.
    Thanks again to Dutch….and Sparks.

  10. It’s late in the day here, and the middle of the night there, but perhaps someone will read this. It was not a fast solve for me by any means, but I am pleased to say that, with the exception of 14D, I completed it without any electronic help (except to check that I was correct on 18D and checking isn’t assistance). I liked so many clues, but I have to plump for 25A as my favorite. Such a descriptive word and typical of what I prefer to do on the weekend given half a chance! Many thanks to Sparks, and to Dutch for the review.

  11. Probably our most rewarding unhinted complete to date but it took 4 days and many return visits. Wallowing in it at the moment very satisfying

  12. 15ac and 17ac can be ‘solved’ without solving. My 94-year-old mother and I do the Toughie every day and neither of us remember seeing a grid where this is possible. Is it a new grid?

    1. I presume you are the Billy Busker who has commented in the past using a different email address and capital Bs in your name. Both should work for future comments.

      Not having the grid in front of me any more, I’m not entirely sure what you and your mum mean?

      1. Hi Sue

        You’re very observant and you presume correctly!! I’ve got a new email address and forgot about the capitals. I will now make a presumption that you will know what we mean if you read pommers’ reply underneath yours – it’s far less ‘cryptic’ than my comment! Thanks to pommers for that.

    2. It is very unusual to have a light where every letter is checked but I have seen it a couple of times. I always feel a bit cheated if I accidentaly fill in all the letters before I’ve read the clue.

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