Toughie 1424 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1424

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.

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 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

ARVE Error: need id and provider

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)

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?

39 comments on “Toughie 1424

  1. Congratulations to Notabilis on the 100th of his lovely Toughies. I did at one point think we were heading for a pangram which did help me get one solution but sadly we are missing two letters. Lots to enjoy but I’ll pick 8d as my top favourite.

        1. His name appears in two parts in 15a and 18a, that’s about as close as I got to finding anything.

          1. Hi Jezza, I didn’t notice that – so thanks. At a big stretch on that theme, what about:

            NOTA from 15a + BILIS AT IO from 18a + O from 23a

            That’s one small step for Shropshire Lad, one giant leap for……

    1. We also thought pangram and that helped us with 5a. However when we did the count up we found that the Beetle had been left in the garage after all.

  2. As crypticsue says above, I also thought we were in for a pangram, which helped me with 5a (my last in).
    Many thanks and congratulations to Notabilis, and thanks to Dutch for an excellent review.

  3. Like everyone else I thought ‘pangram!’ but no, looked for a Nina but if it’s there I can’t see it. Apart from that what we have here is a lovely puzzle jam packed full with lots of super clues – far too many to single out.

    Congratulations to Notabilis on the 100th Toughie – well done and thank you for giving me such pleasure over the years.

    Thanks also to Dutch for a first class review.

  4. I had a full and correct grid, but definitely needed help with parsing of several. 25D is my favorite. Thanks and congrats to Notabilis, and thanks also to Dutch for the review.

  5. Congratulations to Notabilis on reaching his century and thanks for the hundred lots of enjoyment he’s given us. I thought that this one was well up there amongst his best. Thanks to him and to Dutch for the excellent review. My favourite was 1a but I have to mention 25d for the laugh.
    I was convinced (especially after getting 4d) that there would be a Nina and I did, eventually, spot his name as pointed out by Jezza above, but I still feel that I’m missing something more.

  6. Finished, though I certainly needed help for parsing a few clues. 16d proved the most taxing and I completely missed the hidden in 23a and just bunged the answer in. Even though I’m sure 2d has come up before I needed to check.

    15a also had me confused..I was looking for sports pitches.

    Some absolutely fantastic clues but for me 10d stands out.

    Congratulations to Notabilis on your centenary and many thanks to Dutch for an excellent blog. You’re definitely a natural at it.

  7. Many congratulations to Notabilis for his first century of toughies,this was a lovely puzzle, tough but fair and as ever finely clued.

  8. A very good workout, all completed, but still don’t see why I is current (5ac)

  9. Excellent stuff as always, laugh out loud moment at 25d. Similar to other comments my last in 5a. Many congratulations to Notabilis and to Dutch for the great review.

  10. We found this one really tough and ended up making a mess of a couple in the NW. We had stupidly put in Yemen as the sultanate and then included an O and read guard as a collective noun. This gave us an E instead of an A for 3d which was no help at all. Kicking ourselves when we did get it sorted. Excellent clues throughout and much appreciated.
    Congratulations on your century Notabilis, you have made fellow Kiwis feel very proud, and Dutch for the review.

  11. Thanks for the blog and comments. Just a couple of notes from me:
    In 15ac, “use of” is part of the definition.
    NOTA and BILIS are only two parts of the Nina message; there are six more.

        1. Brilliant, though I don’t think I’d ever have found it without knowing how many bits to look for.

          1. Can someone please spell all the bits out for dimwits like me who never noticed the Notabilis bit in the first place and don’t have a hope in hades of spotting the rest?

              1. Got it! But I never would have if it wasn’t spelled out for me . Thanks, Gazza.

    1. Well, nearly there (not!) – told you it was a leap of faith

      Thanks to Notabilis for dropping in and explaining to this numpty what is now so obvious. I doff my hat to you sir – thanks again for the puzzle.

    2. many thanks Notabilis for dropping in, we appreciate that. Yes, 15a just leapt up in elegance, thank you – I should have sen that. And thanks for the nina hint – a great puzzle is even greater. Congratulations once again

  12. Only just completed this -on & off all day – so it must be 4.5* for difficulty and a 5* for sheer delight. Congrats on the 100 Maestro.
    Favourites 26a [perfect] 27a [lol] 1d [perfectly misleading surface] and 25d [lol again].

    Many thanks to Notabilissimus and to Dutch for a great blog.

  13. Didn’t spot the Nina and needed the hints for 3 clues in the NE corner.
    5a, 13a and 7d.
    Very enjoyable crossword.
    Congratulations to Notabilis.
    Favourite is 22a.
    Thanks to Dutch for the help and an excellent review.

    1. Good grief – by my reckoning you completed the Notabilis and posted your comments all within ten minutes. That’s it – I’m seriously contemplating throwing in the towel.

      1. I wish! I did it partly this morning and during my little afternoon break.

        1. Shouldn’t you have been de-veining prawns or something?
          Really am going to bed now…..

  14. did anyone like “nighttime in the switching yard” by warren zevon? (From excitable boy, same album as werewolves of London, an album everyone should have). Lots of people have tried to make songs sound like trains. In this song which is an unusual diversion from his usual style, I think warren zevon surpasses them all. And his other songs are even better.

  15. Must confess. I am ashamed to say I didn’t finish this one until today at noon. Sometimes walking away for a good while refreshes the little grey cell’s. Even so, a most enjoyable one.

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