Toughie 1416

Toughie No 1416 by Osmosis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

I am trying something different today which I hope will make the puzzle more widely accessible. I’ve tried to add just a little more of the thinking involved during solving. Of course a different person might think entirely differently, nonetheless I hope it helps. If you are not a normal Friday toughie solver, why not have a go using these hints, and let me know how that worked for you. My hope is this will encourage more people to try the often superb Friday toughies, usually set by the country’s most gifted compilers.

Today is no exception. The puzzle is hard, worthy of the Friday toughie slot, but doable (well, no point having a crossword that isn’t). There are a few lovely penny dropping moments and at least one laugh out loud, with some very nice surface readings. My first one in was 11a. I then looked at crossing clues, 6d, then 13a, then the long 5d which helped a lot. This led to completion of the right hand side. SW followed except for 24d which I left blank until the end. The NW corner was the last.

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    Furnish arch crossing to a higher level with parking (6)
SUPPLY: We see P for parking, crossing as an indicator for going over. Three-letter adjective meaning arch around (crossing) a preposition meaning “to a higher level” and P(arking)

4a    See welcoming doctor after clot in chamber (8)
ASSEMBLY: We can expect a 2-letter abbreviation for doctor. See can mean diocese. So, we have a 3-letter cathedral city around a 2-letter abbreviation for doctor, all after a word meaning clot or idiot. This gives you a word for a body of people, as in chamber of commerce.

10a    Vegetable cultivated, we’re told, that provides more fuel (9)
ARTICHOKE: “We’re told” screams homophone, presumably for the first part of the word. We have a charade with a 4-letter adjective describing a person of culture, and part of a car engine you might use to cut the air to fuel ratio, also called throttle

11a    Bones in ocean luridly reflected (5)
ULNAE: “Reflected” is the word to focus on. Hidden backwards in the clue

12a    Enter data in yellow next to gaffer’s initial (2,2,3)
GO IN FOR: Gaffer’s initial suggest a G, together with “enter” and the enumeration gives us a start here. Next we experiment with separating “enter data” in the clue. So, we have a 4-letter abbreviation for data inside G(affer) plus a 2-letter word for the colour yellow

13a    Excessive musicians from London seen amid smoke (7)
FULSOME: Musicians from London suggests a famous orchestra. Put this inside a 4-letter word for smoke (seen amid smoke)

14a    Boozer‘s similar when one goes from three to four (5)
ALKIE: Obviously something tricky going on here. Remember one can mean I, as in the Roman numeral. We have a word meaning similar in which the I is moved from position 3 to 4

15a    Sort of excavation finding ring with Roman figure in Kent landmark? (4-4)
OPEN-CAST: Hard because answer and clue elements are both somewhat obscure (to me anyway). My strategy was many checking letters as possible, guess then parse. We have a 3-letter verb meaning to ring or contain (or write), one of the Roman numerals, all inside a kind of ancient house found mainly in Kent used for drying hops. I think. The answer refers to a mine with an open surface

18a    Old football team declined around start of season and became rusty (8)
OXIDISED: The trick here is to parse old football team. With a checking X at letter 2, I started with ex=old, bad move. There was too much to fit in the rest of the clue – football team had to be something short. We have the standard abbreviation for old, a roman numeral used for football team referring to its size, and then we need a 4-letter word for declined around the start of s(eason)

20a    Bits of hair? What furry thing put about (5)
TACHE: We quickly see a reversal “put about”. Why is there a “what”? OK, two letter interjection meaning what plus a furry animal which is a common household pet, all reversed

23a    Brother outside in summer’s drinking can perhaps having no cups? (7)
BRALESS: Key is trying to workout what “outside” refers to. Unlikely to be brother, since br is already an abbreviation for brother. Maybe summers? Drinking can be a containment indicator. OK, abbreviation for Br(other) and the extreme letters(outside) in s(ummer’)s, all around something that a can might refer to (“perhaps” suggests “could be”, definition by example), as in a type of beverage. The definition is then pleasantly revealed.

25a    English occupying beach when drained, do this? (3,4)
LIE DOWN: English suggests an E, occupying suggests the E is inside something. The enumeration helps us guess what English people might do at a beach. We have a 4-letter word for a bathing beach or an open pool which contains E(nglish), followed by 2 letters which can only be w(he)n drained, i.e. the outer letters of when

26a    Male duck snatches at unknown bread (5)
MATZO: We recognise some 1-letter abbreviations: Male, Duck, Unknown. Snatches suggests containment. M(ale) and the cricket score for duck go around (snatches) AT from the clue and one of the last three letters of the alphabet commonly used to denote unknowns in algebra

27a    Genuine sporting coach missing midfielder thus? (9)
INTRINSIC: This was another “wait for the checkers”. I started thinking “missing midfielder” indicating a deletion for L (mid-fieLder), another bad move. From the checkers we realise we have a 3-letter latin word for “thus” at the end. Immediately before that we have a 5-letter synonym for coach from which the central letter (midfielder) is missing. We then realise the whole thing starts with a 2-letter word for sporting, as in wearing

28a    One senses den never gets refurbished (5,3)
NERVE END: straightforward anagram (gets refurbished) of DEN NEVER. This might have been another good entry point

29a    Retired group catching local game (6)
TENNIS: “Retired group” suggests the reversal of a three-letter word for group. Sure enough, insert (catching) another word for local – as in pub – (also reversed), and we have a game or sport


1d    Exhibit seen in quiet capital city (8)
SHANGHAI: Strong (and clever) mislead here suggesting Exhibit as the definition. The checkers suggest a city which is not a capital, this was a retro-parse for me. A four-letter verb meaning to exhibit or display, e.g. a painting, goes inside a 2-letter expression meaning be quiet. This is then followed by a two letter classification for capital or excellent

2d & 3d    Friend from Germany I catch throttling kid – he snapped (7,9)
PATRICK LICHFIELD: It takes a while to realise from the checkers we are looking for a name, and that this is a famous photographer (he snapped). This was another retro-parse for me. 3-letter word for friend, “from Germany I” asks for the German for I, 5-letter verb for what (or where) you might be doing in cricket or baseball when you “catch”, and contained inside all of this (throttling) is a 5-letter word for kid, or con

3d    See 2 Down

5d    Metalware the woman very loudly plied, working behind schedule (9,5)
SHEFFIELD PLATE: Very loudly immediately suggests a two-letter musical abbreviation. Put a female pronoun (the woman) before this and we see the beginnings of a city associated with metalware. This is followed by an anagram of PLIED (working) and a 4-letter word meaning behind schedule to give the answer

6d    Leg muscle clipped during the Spanish match (5)
EQUAL: We first see the Spanish definite article (the Spanish), which is two letters. We simply need to place inside this (during) a 4-letter leg muscle that is missing the last letter (clipped)

7d    Ordinary chaps behind bar yet they play music (7)
BANJOES: Clever misdirect to suggest we are looking for musicians, but other things play music. Bar could be a pub but could also mean to forbid. We have a charade of a 3-letter word meaning bar followed by a word meaning ordinary men, esp. in US

8d    European ready in line that’s set up engineering equipment (1-5)
Y-LEVEL: The enumeration helps, especially if you have the first checker. I had the wrong answer for a while by using RY for line around E(uropean) money, reversed. But the reversal didn’t work quite right. We have a 3-letter Bulgarian currency (European ready), inside a reversal (that’s set up) of a type of straight line between features of a landscape

9d    Where Scots are heard flying to Corfu on bender? (5,2,7)
COURT OF SESSION: We recognise flying as an anagram indicator. TO CORFU ON BENDER has too many letters. Hence we have an anagram of TO CORFU on a 7-letter word meaning bender, giving an answer that very pleasingly satisfies the definition

16d & 21d    Novelist Kitty, loveless female star, continues to concoct stories? (9,7)
CATHERINE COOKSON: Like the symmetric counterpart, we are looking for a person, this time a novelist. I fortuitously jumped from Kitty to the first name, which gave me the answer. We have a 3-letter house pet (kitty), a female star (e.g. in a movie or play) without the letter O (loveless), then a phrasal verb meaning continues to concoct (e.g. stories, which works for the surface, but could also be meals)

17d    Liverpool nurses snog some Southerners (8)
REDNECKS: I thought this was a cleverly disguised containment indicator. It reveals itself once you’ve assigned a 4-letter word for the Liverpool football team and a 4-letter word meaning to snog, or make-out. The first surrounds the latter (nurses) to give the answer, which refers (I hope) to the USA

19d    TV series uncovering former mill (1,6)
X-FACTOR: The enumeration gives this away. Another good entry point. Former is strongly suggestive of a 2-letter word, so we get the answer by removing the outer letters (uncovering) of the combination of a 2-letter word for former and a 7-letter word for mill or plant

21d    See 16 Down

22d    Practitioner of witchcraft twice in Middle East country (3-3)
OBI-MAN: We need a short Middle Eastern Country – there aren’t that many. This leaves us with an even shorter word (or prefix maybe) for twice to place inside it (in)

24d    Domestic Cockney lifted skin of the ham (5)
EMOTE: We have some H-dropping happening here (Cockney). This was my last one in, so I had the checkers. Even so, took a while. If Cockney refers to domestic, then ham must be the definition. We have a 4-letter word for domestic, from which the initial H is dropped, and this is lifted (reversed). “Skin of the” refers to the outer letters of “the”. The result is a word that could mean express exaggerated emotion or overact

I hope that was useful to new solvers. My favourite clues are 23a (made me laugh) 9d (penny drop moment) and 17d (more than one mislead). I also liked 14a for the quirky clueing. Please leave a comment telling us which clues you like, and please let me know if the additional comments in the blog are useful.


  1. Charlie3110
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Dutch. Excellent crossword. Didn’t get 23a but also laughed when following Dutchs lead “all was revealed”! I wish! Needed help with 24d because of this. Enjoyable. Thanks to Dutch and Osmosis

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I knew 2/3 was patrick somebody from the checkers but it took me a long time to realise we were looking for a photographer and the parsing was quite hard as, unlike the writer in 16/21, the “friend” goes over to the next word.
    He was my last in this great head scratcher.
    Thanks to Osmosis and to Dutch for the great review.

  3. the dodger
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    A really enjoyable Friday toughie,I needed an explanation for 8dn and Dutch’s excellent review provided it superbly. Bravo to both Osmosis for a great puzzle and to Dutch.

  4. Una
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Dutch for the very clear hints of which I needed 9 to finish.I would never have guessed 9d or 23a without your help.
    Thanks to Osmosis for hiking up the bar another little bit.

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Not a fast solve for me, but a very satisfying one. I completed the grid before the review but did need the hints to parse 8D and 15A. I’m not convinced an oast is a landmark! I loved 16/21 ( I’ve read a lot of her books) and17D ( know a few of those), but 23A is my standout of the day. Thanks to Osmosis and Dutch.

  6. JonP
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    The RHS of this puzzle went in pretty quickly, but I needed a few hints on the LHS to kick start the solving process. Thanks Dutch – I found your review helpful and was interested to read the extra info re: the solving process. Thanks also to Osmosis for an enjoyable and tricky puzzle.

  7. Gaol
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    completed the puzzle more quickly than the previous three days’ offerings so **/*** for difficulty ***** for enjoyment as I must be on Osmosis’ wavelength and ********** for the blog Let s have more like it!

  8. halcyon
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    On the simpler side for Osmosis without much of his usual fiendishly convoluted wordplay but still highly enjoyable. I failed to parse 27a fully [couldn’t spot sporting = in] and the Kent landmark in 15a took a while. Favourites were 14a [so obvious but only once you see what he’s up to] and 20a [bits of hair what!].

    Thanks to Osmosis and to Dutch for the extra-helpful blog.

  9. Kitty
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Dutch. It was a great idea to write a more detailed review. How much longer did it take?

    I wish I could give feedback on how the hints helped the solve, but I found myself unable to at least try to do it unaided. Then Mr K joined the team, and between us (and with a little gentle cheating) we got there.

    The main problem I have with Toughies is not in the wordplay but in their liberal use of words and expressions I have never heard of, not to mention general knowledge. So what would really help me would be a list somewhere of the obscurities in the puzzle. That might be a less time-consuming innovation!

    I really hope people do try this crossword alongside your hints and relate their experience. Thanks again for such an interesting review, Dutch.

    The puzzle was enjoyable but challenging. We had to leave a couple of parsings until the end, but – yay upon yays – figured it all out eventually. One thing that held us up was having CARPET for 1a (P in CARET – well, it kind of worked!) before twigging 1d. The bottom was filled before the top came together.

    23a made us laugh too, and we wondered what the illustration might be. 20a was another chuckle – and a big “d’oh!” It was lovely to see two cats in this one to counterbalance the back pager. My favourite is amongst them.

    Off out now to enjoy a sunny Friday evening.

    • Kitty
      Posted June 19, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      … and thanks to Osmosis, too, of course.

    • dutch
      Posted June 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      it took a bit longer, but hey, it already takes a long time so I was just thinking make it worthwhile and hope for more comments. I’m hoping people would always try to solve unaided if they prefer; the idea was that people put off by difficulty might more easily venture to have a look at these quality puzzles and, eventually, try them unaided as well.

      i’m intrigued by the list of obscurities in a puzzle idea. At the beginning of a blog, we could say “some interesting facts: …….” thereby covering the obscurities in the puzzle. We could even intersperse these with irrelevant facts, just for fun. I have, however, caught my own arrogance in labelling something obscure just because I hadn’t heard of it. I also worry about whether such demystification might spoil the fun (they might be “spoilers”) – though I guess demystification is exactly what the blog aims to do. Is it more fun to explore with google or to look at a quick crib list? Should we try it? I think it is a great thought, thanks for contributing that.

      • Kitty
        Posted June 20, 2015 at 12:01 am | Permalink

        I quite readily class myself as a novice solver when it comes to Toughies!

        The thing is, different people want the hints to do different things – and you can’t cater perfectly for everyone.

        Some people like a quick check that they have everything right, or to fill in a couple of gaps. Concise hints work best for that. Others need more insight or support to get to the answer. And there are those that like to be entertained along the way but also those who don’t want the extra goodies. I think BD has steered things expertly to a place where we have a good balance.

        Your idea about an “interesting facts” bit (which I’d put in a spoiler box) is nice, but might give away answers a bit too readily, even with red-herrings. You are also right that in these Google-powered times, there are plenty of ways to search for information. At some point I bet there’ll be the perfect occasion to include such a section – but I doubt there’d be call for one every time.

        Ahh, obscurities. Defined as everything I don’t know. Solution? Always call them “possible obscurities.”

        Another thought: where bespoke hints are wanted, asking in the comments and getting answers there is hard to beat. (There are always possible spoilers lurking there too, but that can’t be helped.)

        Eek, I’ve rabbitted on again. Must be that Friday cheer :). It’s been a long week, so I should probably put it to bed. Toodle-pip!

        • Expat Chris
          Posted June 20, 2015 at 12:15 am | Permalink

          I absolutely agree, Kitty (see my comment below). I don’t want to see the answer totally spelled out in the hint in what’s supposed to be a tough toughie. I want to be stretched. That’s how I learn. I fall flat a lot of times, but that’s life. And I too like the user friendly interaction of other solvers helping with problem clues.

      • Miffypops
        Posted June 20, 2015 at 2:52 am | Permalink

        I rarely have the time to attempt Toughies (but save up the BEAMS). I like the way Big Dave’s site has evolved and dealt with the problems a blog such as this will throw up. Generally it is very kind and polite. As the site has evolved we have met people who wander in and give thanks that we exist to help. I have said before and I will say it again that it gives great pleasure to see novices progress from needing back page hints to becoming Toughie solvers.

        • Paso Doble
          Posted June 20, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

          Not on this occasion – we had to admit that this one was a step too far for us!

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Let us be the first to point out that we have a PANGRAM. A really good fun puzzle, well worthy of the Friday Toughie spot, but not over the top difficult. Parsing 8d was the last to be sorted out for us. Much appreciated and enjoyed.
    We found it fascinating to read the more detailed hints. Interesting to compare how similar our solving processes are to how you came up with the answers Dutch.
    Thanks Osmosis and Dutch.

  11. Salty Dog
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Tough going, but l managed it all except 26a and 24d. Certainly 4*/4*, and just about at my service ceiling (which has certainly been raised by this site over the past year or so). I think the 16/21d combo is my favourite. Thanks to Osmosis, and to Dutch.

  12. Expat Chris
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Dutch. My two penn’orth. Unless you’re going to be the regular Friday blogger, perhaps you need to clarify that these “extra mile” hints only apply to the puzzles you personally blog! Also, you might consider having a “standard” hint first, with the extra detail hidden, similar to the answer, so that the solver only clicks on the one(s) he or she needs. This would work better for solvers like me who only want a bit of a nudge in the right direction.

    I agree that obscurities are only obscure if you’ve never heard of them (Y-level might be considered obscure by some but though I couldn’t parse the 8D clue the answer jumped out at me because we happen to own a very similar instrument and I did a surveying class in the dim and distant past). I prefer to Google and find out more details.

  13. Kath
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    First of all I would like to say what an absolute star you are to Dutch. A brilliant idea and really well done.
    I never look at Friday Toughies – I can’t do them – I know I can’t and I just get cross and grumpy with myself.
    My first idea was to do the crossword with the hints and then I told myself to stop being a ‘feeble weeble’ (a family expression) and have a go on my own first.
    I did get quite a few which was perhaps because I knew that there was a security blanket – difficulty is so much to do with mind set – for me anyway.
    Having done probably about half of it “all my own self” (another family expression) I resorted to the very excellent hints.
    The only answer that I couldn’t then get from the hints was 8d – I still need to think about that one but whatever . . .
    I spent ages trying to justify what turned out to be the right answer for 23a but couldn’t do it on my own.
    I spent too long trying to make 9d “North of something” which just wasn’t going to work.
    Lovely crossword so thanks very much to Osmosis.
    Wonderful hints and a fantastic idea so thanks very much and a and three to Dutch.

  14. Paso Doble
    Posted June 19, 2015 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the very clear and helpful hints, Dutch. However, this puzzle was well beyond us! We only managed to fill in about half the grid with quite a lot of guesswork so it was really interesting to find out how our brains should have worked.

  15. Markb
    Posted June 20, 2015 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Thanks to setter for a great quiz and special thanks too for the excellent hints, which I found this morning when I still couldn’t work out the last few answers. 4/4.

  16. Hass
    Posted June 23, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    A great Friday toughie. The only one I wasn’t sure about was 2D. For the first part, I was thinking along the lines of a German friend being someone considered sinister (from the war day’s), ie. A pal with a trick inside. Keep up the good work.

  17. molly
    Posted July 4, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    2 weeks behind, Dutch, but I know you’ll read this. I thought your expanded hints, explaining your process, were absolutely brilliant. I do find it hard fully to parse tricky setters like Osmosis (to whom thanks for this excellent puzzle) and often check the hints to be sure I’m right. I know BD has a lot of this sort of info in the Usual Suspects and Wolves sections, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for then you can’t always find it!
    This site has taught me from scratch how to do cryptics. You’ve taken it up a gear. Thank you.