Toughie 1480

Toughie No 1480 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

This was nicely difficult without being fiendish, and I hope it will satisfy both those looking for a challenging Friday Toughie as well as those of us who want the puzzle to remain accessible to mere mortals. Sparks gives us some lovely disguised definitions, although there is a lot of single-letter and outer-letter manipulation. This is not my favourite grid, amounting to four mini-puzzles.

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 Visitors’ centre covered in technicolour designs (7)
LOURDES: lurking in technicolour designs

5a Stuffed permit into fabric without getting caught (7)
REPLETE: A three-letter verb meaning permit or allow goes inside (into) a 5-letter wrinkled fabric from which the letter C has been removed (without getting caught)

9a It’s easy not to entertain wife in the main (2,5)
NO SWEAT: Not from the clue includes (to entertain) the abbreviation for W(ife) inside a 3-letter word for main

10a Good ending for dreadful action film (7)
COATING: The abbreviation for G(ood) comes after (ending for) an anagram (dreadful) of ACTION

11a Endlessly assured upset customers (5)
USERS: An anagram (upset) of (a)SSURE(d) without the first and last letters (endlessly)

12a Reduced time for news update after not getting paid (9)
ATTENUATE: The first five letters in the answer, split (2,3), indicate a time for a televised news broadcast, then add u(pd)ate (from the clue) without the abbreviation for paid. Seems to me the definition should be ‘Reduce”

13a Princess set to stop backing leaders of Eurovision Song Contest (7)
DISPUTE: The Princess of Wales, then a 3-letter verb meaning set or place goes inside (to stop) a reversal of the first letters of (backing leaders) Eurovision Song

14a Report of rapid expulsion announced in question? (7)
ATISHOO: Homophone of (announced) a (2,5) expression meaning “in question”

16a King near two such at the start? (7)
KNIGHTS: An all-in-one (the whole clue is the wordplay and the whole clue is the definition), where “such” is a reference to the answer. The abbreviation for King in cards or chess is followed by a 4-letter word meaning near and the first letters of (at the start) two such.

19a Bank invested in very good new cheese (7)
STILTON: A 4-letter word for bank or lean goes inside a 2-letter word that can mean very good (def 19 in brb), followed by the abbreviation for new

22a Free supplement about vice following exposure, note (9)
EXTRICATE: Place a 5-letter word meaning supplement or additional around (about) (v)ic(e) from the clue with its first and last letters removed (following exposure), all followed by a 2-letter musical note.

24a Accordingly regret going round capital of France (5)
EUROS: A 2-letter word for accordingly (the same word that was used for “very good” in 19a) is followed by a 3-letter verb meaning regret – then reverse the whole lot (going round)

25a Indian taking strike, adding single following entertaining play? (7)
PUNJABI: A three-letter word for strike or punch, with the letter that looks like one (single), all follows a three-letter word for an entertaining (or not) play on words.

26a Desire resistance to stop underground activity (7)
CRAVING: The abbreviation for R(esistance) goes inside (to stop) a pastime which involves underground exploration. “To stop” was also used in 13.

27a Infantile pop music’s introduction is included within movement (7)
DADAISM: What an infant might call their father (infantile pop), followed by the first letter of music (music’s introduction), with the insertion (included) of “is” from the clue.

28a Game animal with extremely leathery exterior (7)
LOTTERY: An aquatic mammal is surrounded by (with extremely) the first and last letters (exterior) of l(eather)y


1d Slow network underwritten by director getting cut off (7)
LANGUID: A network of the local area variety is followed (underwritten is a down clue) by a 5-letter word for director, as in someone who shows the way, with the last letter omitted (getting cut off).

2d Coats left in 11 — about time (7)
ULSTERS: The answer to 11 contains L(eft) + T(ime).

3d Race for lift adjoining public hotel somewhere near Mexico (4,5)
DEEP SOUTH: Reversal (for lift, in a down clue) of a 5-letter word for race, followed by a 3-letter word for public or published and the abbreviation for h(otel) gives a part of the USA that is closest to Mexico.

4d Set under tension, one’s going over the top of Everest (7)
SITUATE: a 4-letter adjective meaning “under tension” followed by the letter that looks like one together with the apostrophe ‘S, all reversed (going over), followed by the top of E(verest).

5d Dairy product is mostly full-flavoured, having too much fat in the middle (7)
RICOTTA: A 4-letter word meaning full-flavoured (normally because it is full of calories) without the last letter (mostly), followed by a three-letter abbreviation meaning too much and the central letter in fat.

6d Flat  open country (5)
PLAIN: Double definition, with the whole clue as a third.

7d What may be on stone heap abandoned outside mine (7)
EPITAPH: An anagram (abandoned) of HEAP outside another word for a mine

8d Artist and composer missing a writer from Italy (2,5)
EL GRECO: English composer (Enigma Variations) without the letter a (missing a), plus a modern Italian writer (The Name of the Rose)

15d Migrant worker seen south of Italy with money about to be returned (9)
ITINERANT: Our 3-letter insect worker follows all of (seen south of, in a down clue) the abbreviation for I(taly), a 3-letter slang term for money, and the reversal (to be returned) of a 2-letter word for about or concerning.

16d Finally thank father in call for joint protection? (4-3)
KNEE-PAD: Start with the last letter in thank, and follow it by a 2-letter word for father inside a 4-letter verb meaning “call for” or require

17d Chanted, enthusiastic about Kelly (7)
INTONED: Split (4,3), the answer could mean enthusiastic about or interested in the first name of the revered Australian outlaw Mr Kelly

18d Unnamed substitute Man United initially rejected in ground (7)
STADIUM: A (5,2 or 5-2) phrase for substitute with all the letters N removed (nameless), followed by the reversed initials of Man United

19d Core elements of council estate misrepresented in print (7)
STENCIL: An anagram (misrepresented) of the central 7 letters in “council estate”

20d Dry up current source of nuclear energy, getting power generator (7)
TURBINE: The reversal (up, in a down clue) of a word meaning dry (as in Champagne), the physics symbol for electric current, and the first letters (source) of nuclear energy

21d Bouquet wrapping for grandma? Yes and no, after a fashion (7)
NOSEGAY: An anagram (after a fashion) of the first and last letters (wrapping) of G(randm)A + YES + NO

23d Starts to interrogate refugee, angling questions in a foreign language (5)
IRAQI: First letters (starts) of five words in the clue

My favourite was the lovely all-in-one 16a. Which were yours?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Well I’m very happy 4* 4* for me too thank you Sparks and Dutch. I too liked 16a.

    There is something going on in the middle of the grid but neither Gazza nor I can work out what it means!

  2. andy
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    The four mini puzzles appear to be linked by four Ts, not sure if by design or accident. The former I hope else why choose this grid :)

    • crypticsue
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      There are more than 4 Ts – highlight them and a particular shape appears

      • andy
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Yes – did that but didn’t make my point very well.

    • dutch
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      bit of a Tease..

    • dutch
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Telegraph Toughie?

  3. gazza
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable – thanks to Sparks and Dutch.
    Attenuate can be an adjective (according to the BRB) and it means (wait for it) attenuated.
    My favourite was 16a.

    • dutch
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      ah! thanks, I should have checked. Seems an unnecessary complication to me – I don’t see how it helps the clue.

  4. the dodger
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    A very elegant offering from Sparks. Not too tough and some lovely clues. The central feature is a masterful final flourish.

  5. Hanni
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Maltese cross?

  6. Hanni
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink


    Well into 5* difficulty for me. In fact I got 3 on first pass. And not many more on second.

    Had to tease each answer out.

    Got lots of asterisks next to clues but loved 16 and 27a.

    Many thanks to Sparks for a great end to the Toughie week and to Dutch for another great blog.

  7. Jane
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Crawling in with a *****+ for difficulty and a large G&T for enjoyment.
    Didn’t manage to fully parse either 6 or 18d without help from Dutch and didn’t know (or more likely had forgotten) the 2d coat.
    16a is the obvious choice for the day but I rather liked 9&14a as well.
    I’ve highlighted the Ts as per instruction from CS but seem to have too many going on in one corner courtesy of 12a. Can someone enlighten me?
    Clever indeed, Sparks – thank you for the almost insurmountable challenge – and thank you, Dutch, for knowing all the ‘hows and whys’.

    • dutch
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      I’m guessing only the first T in the answer to 12a is part of the central pattern – but who knows?

      • crypticsue
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        That’s what I thought – then tou get a diamond shape

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    A really good fun puzzle we thought. The possibility of a pangram occurred to us quite early on but in the end it ended up 2 letters short. Knowing that Sparks usually adds a cleverness we went looking for something and found the T pattern. Just the level of difficulty we like in a Friday Toughie. Not a quick solve by any means but the answers all revealed themselves regularly with a bit of diligent application.
    Many thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  9. Shropshirelad
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Lovely way to finish off the week – a tough ‘Toughie’ and a hard back pager. Far too many good clues on a crowded podium to mention, so I shall keep myself in check so as not to incur the ‘Wrath of Kath’

    Thanks to Sparks for the puzzle and Dutch for his review. I’m far too thick to see what the theme is, so I shall just have a slurp and enjoy myself.

    Have a great weekend everyone.

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Finished it up at the hairdressers in my lunch hour. The right hand side wasn’t too bad but several in the left hand side put up quite a fight! Spent far too long trying to make knee cap fit for 16D. 12A was a bung-in because I couldn’t see anything else that fitted and made sense of the definition, but I didn’t like the tense change. And of course “News at Ten” has not been a part of my TV viewing for decades so hardly sprang to mind. Loved 16A, but also 14A, 27A and 18D. Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  11. Sparks
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Dutch and all bloggers for the lovely feedback. I think everything’s been parsed correctly. I popped in only to say that, whenever I use my knee-pads for dry-stone walling, the view is never quite as that at 16dn above. (Mental note: find more glamorous hobby.) For a start, she’s got neither protective gloves nor stout footwear, and would thus jeopardize any H&S risk assessment. So, at any walling event, we’d have to leave her behind.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      Nice to see you drop in Sparks – lovely puzzle. Please put me out of my misery and tell us what’s hidden in the grid.

      • Jane
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Yes, please!
        Thanks for popping in, Sparks.

      • Sparks
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        There was a rhombus of 8 x T (i.e. 4 x T T = Telegraph Toughie) symmetrically disposed around the centre of the grid. But it wasn’t that clever, since there were other non-Nina Ts that confused the issue.

        • Shropshirelad
          Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

          Thanks Sparks – I see it now (I think). Have a great weekend.

    • dutch
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      Many thanks for dropping in Sparks – glad you noticed the knee-pad illustration. Many thanks for the puzzle.

    • Hanni
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sparks. Thanks for dropping in. As a Cumbrian girl originally, I know that dry stone walling seems a dying art. My grandfather did it out of necessity. Not once have I ever seen it done in 16d attire. It could become a huge spectator sport.

      Great puzzle. Say hi to Sparky.

      • Sparks
        Posted October 9, 2015 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        Thanks! And Sparky says “woof!” in return

  12. Salty Dog
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I seem fated never to finish a Friday Toughie! I filled the NE and SW corners with relative ease, then utterly failed to get more than a tiny foothold in the other two. Certainly 5* difficulty by my standards, and not much less for pleasure (although l would have enjoyed it more had l been able to solve it!). Of the clues l did solve, l liked 17d the most. Thanks to Sparks, and to Dutch for the much-needed hints.

  13. Robin Hill
    Posted October 9, 2015 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Superb Toughie to end the week. Challenging but fair, with no obscure words or dubious wordplay. I particularly liked 27a, 7d, 13a and 16a. Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

    • Sparks
      Posted October 9, 2015 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Very many thanks indeed RH: “challenging but fair, with no obscure words or dubious wordplay” is any setter’s ultimate goal, so that is very much appreciated.

  14. Kitty
    Posted October 10, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    This took us a lot of work, but we got there in the end. Lots of credit has to go to Mr Kitty – I wouldn’t have finished without him.

    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch – we needed you for a few clarifications.