Toughie No 1424 by Notabilis
Hints and tips by Dutch
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BD Rating – Difficulty *** – Enjoyment ****
Congratulations Notabilis on your 100th Toughie! What an achievement! I was impressed that the previous Notabilis toughie was readily solvable with just newspaper and pen (I was sitting in a caravan with no dictionaries or WiFi). Today’s offering is similar: with very little demand for specialist knowledge (ok, I did check 10d and 20d, but only after filling them in), tight and innovative cluing, beautiful surface readings and some delightful misdirections, this puzzle is quality entertainment. I suggest 4* for enjoyment and 3* for difficulty – a perfect combination for me.
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1a Power one’s written next to variable in base ten? (8)
EXPONENT: This is an all-in-one (&lit) where the wordplay takes up all of the clue and doubles as the definition. Do exactly as the clue says: Abbreviation for P(ower) + “one” (from the clue) is written next to one of the three last letters of the alphabet usually used for algebraic or Cartesian variables, all inside an anagram (base) of TEN, to give you the name for a mathematical symbol showing what power a quantity is raised to.
5a Block electric signal’s unsteadiness, switching current to zero (6)
JOTTER: Take a word meaning unsteadiness in an electric signal, and replace the I with an O (switch current to zero). The definition and wordplay are beautifully woven into the surface
9a Railway yard manoeuvres avoid high metallic noises (9)
SHUNTINGS: Charade of a 4-letter verb for avoid plus a word for high metalic noises
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11a Temporarily stop withholding each son’s tip (5)
UPEND: Take a 7-letter verb meaning to temporarily stop or put on hold, and remove each occurrence of S (withholding each son)
12a Sultanate getting behind the old guard (6)
YEOMAN: Our favourite sultanate follows (getting behind) an old word for “the”
13a Inconveniently mention Right side in Protestant party (6,2)
DREDGE UP: abbreviation for R(ight) + synonym of side all inside the abbreviation for Democratic Unionist Party (Protestant party in NI)
15a Employees, people accepting Old Trafford’s initial use of lines to mark pitch (5,8)
STAFF NOTATION: Nothing to do with sports! First word is a synonym for employees, the second word comes from a word for people or race, into which we insert (accepting) the initials of Old Trafford (initial use of) – thanks to Notabilis for pointing out that “use of” is part of the definition
18a No militia boss dodges calls to active service (13)
MOBILISATION: Anagram (dodges) of NO MILITIA BOSS
22a Subject spaced out with a few Es, something one needs to kick? (3-5)
TOE PIECE: Nothing to do with drugs! A synonym for subject or theme, into which we insert the letter E in three different positions (spaced out with a few E’s)
23a Selection of weapon? Choose a cloak (6)
PONCHO: A lurker… hidden in (selection of) weapon choose
26a Fill most effectively with love? (5)
BESOT: Do exactly as the clue says: fill a word meaning most effectively with O (love), and you realise you have used up the whole clue as wordplay to give you a word meaning the whole clue – another beautiful all-in-one.
27a Quiet listeners: they’re often draining (9)
PLUGHOLES: Musical abbreviation for quiet plus an informal word for listeners or ears
28a Leader of people in Hebridean isle had spoken online (6)
SKYPED: Place the first letter (leader) of people inside our favourite Hebridean isle and add the contraction for “had”
29a All outsiders from Ephesus came inside pound and became calm (8)
QUIESCED: Take the outside letters (all outsiders) from Ephesus and came, and place them inside a colloquial word for pound (as in money)
1d Lamb for one? Yes, as it’s cooked (8)
ESSAYIST: Anagram (cooked) of YES AS IT’s. Lovely example of first word capitalisation helping deception
2d Underworld boss with an additional pair losing their bearings (5)
PLUTO: Think of how else you might say “with an additional pair” (4,3), then remove a compass point from each word (losing their bearings) to give you this underworld boss
3d Direction by Hitchcock maybe excluding Republican and Communist dreadfully (3,4)
NOT HALF: Add a compass direction (written out in full) to Hitchcock’s first name, then exclude the abbreviation for R(republican) and the usual 3-letter word for communist to give an expression that means dreadfully in the sense of very much!
4d Metals used in coins and lamps for Columbian ship (4)
NINA: The chemical symbols of two metals, the first used in coins and the second used in lamps, will give you the common name for Santa Clara, which was one of the three ships Columbus sailed with on his historic voyage. I wondered if this might be a hint for other lurkers, especially considering the centenary
6d Sneakily does up one’s Catholic organisation (4,3)
OPUS DEI: Anagram (sneakily) of DOES UP I (I=one)
7d Article total includes English formally used in connection with that (9)
THEREUNTO: Definite article plus a phrasal verb (3,2) meaning total or add up to, around E(nglish)
8d Ducks again rest with legs wide, facing up (6)
REDIPS: Think of a rest with wide legs (e.g. in snooker) and reverse it (facing up)
10d Agar’s prepared with source of seaweed like this? (8)
SARGASSO: Another all-in-one, since the whole clue is elegantly used in wordplay and doubles as definition. An anagram (prepared) of AGAR’S, plus first letter (source) of seaweed, and a two-letter word meaning “like this” gives you this example of a seaweed that may be used in the preparation of agar.
14d Printer setting is misleading about page (8)
FOOLSCAP: Charade of a verb for “is misleading” (as in tricks), a 2-letter abbreviation for about, and P(age) gives you this printer setting for a page format.
16d Among beers, I am under the table, not by design (9)
AIMLESSLY: Insert I’M (I am) into the bloggers’ favourite beverages, and add a 3-letter word for “under the table” or cunningly furtive,
17d Last of the employed taking surgeries up, given one’s support (8)
ESPOUSED: Take the last letter of “the”, a four letter synonym for employed, and between these insert (taking) the reversal (up, in a down clue) of a colloquial word for surgeries
19d Bowled stone in anger, to show annoyance (7)
BRISTLE: Cricket abbreviation for B(owled), plus the abbreviation for ST(one) inserted into a verb meaning anger or wind-up.
20d Precious weight system finally replaced by revolutionary European metric unit (7)
TROCHEE: The name of a system of weights used mainly for precious metals and gems, with the last letter replaced by an Argentinian revolutionary, plus the abbreviation for E(uropean) gives you a poetic meter (metric system) in which a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed one.
21d Painter using blunt end of brushes, hollowed out (6)
STUBBS: A word for blunt end (think pencil) plus the end letters of brushes (hollowed out).
24d A bad gut feeling, seeing brigadier’s subordinate in command (5)
COLIC: Abbreviation for a military rank that is subordinate to brigadier, plus the abbreviation for In Command
25d Yankee follower mentioned convenience of animal park, perhaps (4)
ZULU: a homophone (mentioned) of a convenience perhaps found in an animal park gives the international radio communication code for the letter following Yankee!
My favourite clues have to include the elegant all-in-one clues 1a, 26a, and 10d. Of these, I particularly liked 26a. The other two clues that stood out for me are 8d and especially 25d! How did you like this puzzle, and which clues did you like?