Toughie 1425 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1425

Toughie No 1425 by Shamus

Hints and tips by Dutch

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BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

I’m covering for Toro today – as we move into the summer period there may be more of this sort of thing happening. Today’s puzzle by Shamus left me with a few to parse after completing the grid, and I had to phone a friend for one clue before everything fell into place, nudging this into 4* difficulty for me. I appreciated some nice surfaces and clever wordplay, and at least one laugh so I thought 2*/3* for entertainment.

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 Elite unit with figure like Ali M made ostentatious progress (8)
SASHAYED: We start with a three-letter acronym for an elite military unit. Then we need to realised that Ali M is surname initial, and we are looking to add another surname initial who has the same occupation (figure like Ali M). This was one of the clues I only parsed after finishing

9a A fertile source in river, one subject to test? (8)
EXAMINEE: A from the clue, plus a 4-letter word for fertile source as found under the features tab in BD’s web site, all inside (in) the name of a river

10a Tight-knit group to handle broadcast (4)
CELL: A unit group, especially of espionage personnel, political activists or terrorists, sounds like (broadcast) a verb meaning handle or trade

11a Suffer financially? Help fine tech arranged (4,3,5)
FEEL THE PINCH: Anagram (arranged) of HELP FINE TECH

13a Male servers might be described as so ominous (8)
MENACING: Split (3,5) the answer might describe successful male servers like Karlovic, though he wasn’t quite successful enough

15a President once advancing right in depression (6)
CRATER: Take a US ex-president who was a peanut farmer, and advance R(ight) one position towards the front of the word. I first “advanced” to the right, ending up with the wrong definition/answer combo.

16a Crawl in Finchley (4)
INCH: There is a lurker somewhere in Finchley

17a Fruit not right to go with a cheese (5)
GOUDA: A fruit characteristic of the cucumber family from we remove R (not right) and add A (from the clue) will give you the best type of Dutch cheese (forget EDAM, it’s too rubbery)

18a Make a mistake dropping second carrier? (4)
TRAY: Err as a philanderer might removing (dropping) S(econd)

20a Glittery item is largely typical of runner? (6)
SEQUIN: This glittery spangle used in large numbers for decorating garments is, with one letter changed (largely typical of; typical can mean typographical), also a river in Ontario (runner). This was another clue only parsed much later, but I still find it slightly unsatisfactory that there is no indication for which letter is changed, or perhaps appended. If anyone has a better explanation, or another runner, I’m all ears

21a Menu accepting yen and rupees with single starter of ‘Chinese Rice for one‘ (8)
LYRICIST: Nothing to do with food. Take a 4-letter word for menu and insert into it (accepting) the abbreviations Y(en), R(upee), a Roman numeral depicting single, and the first letter (starter of) Chinese

23a Concerned with tracing a tree? (12)
GENEALOGICAL: gentle cryptic definition where the tree belongs to a family

26a Primate protecting small area of church (4)
APSE: Usual 3-letter primate contains (protecting) abbreviation for S(mall)

27a Doctor covered by popular play almost like a major criminal? (8)
INFAMOUS: One of the two-letter abbreviations for Doctor, placed somewhere inside (covered by) a two letter word for popular or trendy followed by a famous play by Goethe involving some devilish soul trading, without the last letter (almost)

28a Fool losing head getting to peer round moving images? (8)
PUPPETRY: A fool of the Kermit variety without the first letter (losing head) gets wrapped around it (getting to peer round) a 3-letter verb meaning to peer, or stick your nose in someone else’s business, giving you this word that describes the moving of images or likenesses.


2d President on road taken with poetic evening in port (8)
ABERDEEN: This port is up North. First name (short version) of the 16th US President, plus the abbreviation for road, plus a poetic contraction for evening.

3d Norm, maybe, in rehabilitative institution? (7,5)
HALFWAY HOUSE: The definition, enumeration and checkers suggest an answer here, which was originally the name for an inn midway along a well-travelled route. We can see Norm also fits the answer, in a reverse sense (maybe) as first-word (an example of a royal) second-word. Let’s just say Norm has a friend called Andy, and other examples of second-word are Tudor, Hanover and Windsor. I suspect this is the worst job I’ve ever done trying to explain a clue. I went off on several red-herrings here. This was the clue that had me phoning a friend, and many thanks to Gazza and Bufo for steering me in the right direction.

4d Red Sea local with Eastern fellows in first year (6)
YEMENI: A resident of a country bordering the Red Sea is derived from E(astern) plus a 3-letter word for fellows, all inside (in) how you might abbreviate first year.

5d Loss old company avoided, being skilful (4)
DEFT: A 7-letter word for loss from which an old chemical company, which I joined in 1992 and part of which became Zeneca then AstraZeneca, is subtracted (avoided)

6d Very clean ground on northerly route in Spanish city (8)
VALENCIA: Anagram (ground) of V(ery) CLEAN followed by (on) the reversal (northerly, in a down clue) of the name of a main road in the UK (and probably elsewhere)

7d Soon to be a prolific writer (4)
ANON: This word for soon appears at the bottom of so many pieces of writing it might appear to be the name of a prolific author

8d Large old English character, a king grossly discontented, showing torpor (8)
LETHARGY: Abbreviation for L(arge) plus an old English character or letter known as the “barred D” that when googled returns a Swiss university, followed by A (from the clue), abbreviation for King, and the extreme letters of G(rossl)Y (dis-content-ed)

12d I rate lunatic terribly lacking in fluency? (12)
INARTICULATE: Anagram (terribly) of I RATE LUNATIC

14d Thin food not half horrible left (5)
GRUEL: Take an 8-letter word for horrible and leave out the second half (not half), and add L(eft)

16d One in training’s disrupted after leading pair go for badges (8)
INSIGNIA: I (one) is inserted into (in) an anagram (disrupted) of (TR)AINING’S (without the TR, “after leading pair go”)

17d Group followed by rugby international in nerve centre (8)
GANGLION: 4-letter word for group, pack or band followed by any player of British international rugby

19d When retired broadcasting brothers should get insurance man (8)
ASSESSOR: The usual two-letter word for when, followed by the reversal (retired) of a collective description of two brothers in the media game, one of whom is Jonathan.

22d Make good record with publishers (6)
RECOUP: Abbreviation for REC(ord) followed by the acronym for an Oxford-based publishing house

24d Worthless van afforded covering (4)
NAFF: A lurker (covering), hiding in vaN AFForded. This answer may offend when describing a person, being possibly derived from a crude acronym (see brb)

25d Show horror close to terrifying deadly creature (4)
GASP: Last letter of (close to) terrifying plus a poisonous snake

My favourite was 21a – which was yours?

27 comments on “Toughie 1425

  1. I thought that this was mainly straightforward but with a few difficult-to-parse googlies bowled into the mixture. Thanks to Shamus and Dutch. My favourite was 21a.
    I parsed 20a as ‘S (is) + EQUIN(e), but I’m not totally convinced.

    1. I initially and then very quickly rubbished the notion that a runner might seek win, but couldn’t see a homophone indicator so your parsing I think it must be.

  2. This didn’t take me quite as long as the back page crossword.
    I still don’t really get 1a – bunged it in as it seemed like a good idea at the time, and we had it quite recently so I remembered it.
    I liked 13a (very topical) and 7 and 25d. My favourite was 21a.
    With thanks to Shamus and to Dutch.

    1. Hi Kath

      Ali M would be Mohammed Ali. There’s another boxer called David Haye, hence HAYE D. simples!

      1. Thank you – I’d never have understood that without it being spelt out in words of one syllable.

  3. Whilst I found this very quick to complete I, like you Dutch, remained baffled by 1a, 20a and 3d. Many thanks [Gazza too] for enlightenment re the first two but I am still baffled by 3d. Can anyone else help?
    I too thought 21a the best clue and that in 15a “advancing” sucks.

    Thanks for the blog and thanks to Shamus for the head-scratching.

      1. Thanks Gazza, shows how much I know. I thought a halfway house was somewhere you went to get back to normal, after you had been in an institution :-)

        1. That’s the definition (rehabilitation institution), Heno. The Norm bit is the wordplay.

  4. Same problems with the parsing of a couple of clues but everything was falling into place so nicely.
    Not sure the brothers in 19d share the same name. One of them is woss surely!
    21a made me laugh too.
    Thanks to Shamus and to Dutch for the review.

  5. I completed the grid with the exception of 20A and didn’t understand your hint at all Dutch, so had to look at the answer. I needed Google for 19D and the review for the definition of 1A, 20A,and 21A. 7D was my favorite. Thanks to Shamus and to you Dutch.

    1. i think my hint for 20a is wrong ( I was thinking of the river Seguin) – see gazza’s comment at the top of the list.

  6. Thanks to Shamus and to Dutch for the review and hints. I really enjoyed this, and just needed the hints to parse, 3,19,22d&28a. Favourite was 5d. Was 3*/4* for me. Brian’s missed a treat if he doesn’t try this!

  7. Just finished the puzzle with Mrs B and we thought it was a **/***’, we do the back page solo, but tend to join forces on the toughie; we struggled with the parsing of sequin and each got one of the halfway house definitions ,assessor produced the d’oh moment with Mr Ross ! thanks to Dutch for the ‘barred D .

  8. Gave it my best shot but have to admit to 9 complete guesses and a total failure on 21a – mostly caused by having bunged in ‘gaunt’ for 14d just because it fitted with the two checkers I had!

    4*/3* with 13a taking favourite slot.

    Thanks to Shamus – enjoyed it despite lacking the skill to sort it all out – and many thanks to Dutch for sterling service with the review.

  9. Like everyone else it seems, I found this one much, much easier to solve correctly than to fully parse. I had a filled grid in a shorter time than the back-pager but there were several (yes the same ones) where I did not get all the wordplay.
    Thanks Shamus and Dutch, glad it was you and not me doing the blogging.

  10. I managed to muddle my print offs of Friday’s Toughie with today’s. So this lunchtime I fought my way through the Notabalis puzzle thinking it was Shamus. I thought it was quite hard for a Tuesday. When sorting out the remaining puzzles I spotted my error which somehow spurred me into action for an early evening go at today’s Toughie. Strangely both puzzles were blogged by Dutch and I found his difficulty rating the exact opposite I would have chosen. It is quite likely I would have thought Friday’s puzzle was fairly straightforward if I had attempted it on Friday but I thought it was a Tuesday puzzle. Expectations perhaps affect judgement

    1. Thanks, I’m sure expectations do affect the rating, which I think is already subjective (it’s just an opinion), and people will also use the rating scheme differently. I found the Notabilis puzzle to have a consistent difficulty but it was precise and I would suggest very doable, without need for external aids. I agree with the sentiment for most on this one that it was a quick fill but the parsing for a few eluded most (I missed two), and more specialist knowledge was needed. In that sense I think our experiences may not be that different, it’s just that having missed some parsing I thought I should rate this one high in difficulty.

      Anyway I will take this on board, together with some other comments, and try to rate the overall puzzle rather than be influenced by a few outlier clues since that appears to be more useful to people.

      I thoroughly enjoyed the Notabilis with its beautiful Nina, hope you did too.

  11. 2* time, but a few inspired guesses (all correct!) so on balance 3*/4*. My last in was 21a, and just pipped 17d as favourite. Thanks to Shamus for a quality puzzle, and to Dutch for the review. Rather you than me!

  12. Hi,
    Thanks to Dutch & Shamus.
    A fun puzzle but really unsure how it rated **** for difficulty it wasn’t exactly Vlad like!
    20a very much my fav.
    iS/EQUINe – made me smile.

  13. A great start to the Toughie week. this puzzle had 2 really standout clues in 1 and 21 – both brilliant and i can’t choose between the two. Not sure what the setter meant in 20 as it can be read as ‘seek win’ or ‘is equine’. Will Shamus tell us?

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