Toughie 1492

Toughie No 1492 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Excellent puzzle from Notabilis today with crisp clueing and great surfaces. With X, Y & Z appearing in the first 3 solutions, I thought we were destined for a pangram, but Q is absent – instead, we have a Nina! Not too hard for the most part, but a few clues had me foxed for a while, pushing it into 4* difficulty for me. But someone else might not have the same difficulties, and I had previously promised not to let my own outliers affect the overall ranking so mainly, it’s a 3*. Ok, it’s 3*/4*, and definitely 4* for enjoyment.

It’s been a busy week – mid-term break, both kids’ birthdays with paintballing and aerial adventures (just a kindle for me, thank you), and a visit from my 29-yr old daughter from Holland. Halloween 50th birthday party for a friend at the Snowgoose tomorrow. An enjoyable sloggers-and-betters in York last Saturday: as a by-product of getting a lift home with Elkamere, a decision has been made – we will brave the open-Mic night again at the Snowgoose on Thursday Nov 5th.

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    Whenever fire’s edging around, guy that’s gutted? (6)
EFFIGY: A timely all-in-one clue. Two-letter conjunction meaning whenever plus the first and last letters (edging) of fire, all reversed (around), followed by g(u)y with the central letter removed (gutted)

4a    Chuck set joint out of whack (8)
JETTISON: Anagram (out of whack) of SET JOINT

9a    Imitation recalled piece from Liszt as Requiem (6)
ERSATZ: lurking backwards in (recalled piece from) Liszt as Requiem

10a    Died, not quite alive, having nothing in extinction (8)
OBLIVION: The whole clue acts beautifully as an extended definition. Two-letter Latin abbreviation for died, the central 3 letters of (not quite) alive, followed by “in” from the clue including the letter O (having nothing)

12a    Irishman possibly linking Europe and Ulster, all about working together (2,6)
IN LEAGUE: Two-letter abbreviation for Europe and a two-letter abbreviation for Ulster, connected by a general word for a Celt (Irishman, possibly), all reversed (all about)

13a    Ring church group and hide? (6)
OCELOT: Hide refers to a fur here. A charade of a letter that looks like a ring, an abbreviation for Church of England, and a word for group or large quantity

15a    Perhaps has-been shows more than one side, dishonest one, in bustling Avebury (9,4)
AUXILIARY VERB: “Has-been” includes two examples of the answer. A Roman numeral that might represent a side or team plus a person who is dishonest in their stories, all embedded (in) an anagram of (bustling) AVEBURY.

18a    Motion failed? If so, once disheartened, pare down computer department (3,4,4,2)
THE NOES HAVE IT: A 4-letter word for “if so” or “in that case”, “once” with the central letters removed (disheartened), a 5-letter verb for pare down (as one might one’s stubble) and a two-letter abbreviation for computer department gives this expression for no-voters having the majority

22a    Junior reporter exemplifies medium’s fractured style (6)
CUBISM: a 3-letter word for a junior or inexperienced reporter, a 2-letter verb meaning exemplifies or has the quality mentioned, and the abbreviation for medium

24a    Annoyed about United, one follows good tip (8)
GRATUITY: a 5-letter adjective for annoyed or grumpy surrounds (about) the abbreviation for United and the Roman numeral for the number 1, and all of this follows the abbreviation for g(ood).

26a    Lacking heat, dish chilled with double energy saving? (8)
PLATONIC: Take a (5,2,3) phrase that could mean a chilled dish and twice (double) remove the abbreviation for e(nergy) to get a boring kind of love.

27a    Nation misspelt as ‘Grease‘? (6)
ANOINT: Anagram (misspelt) of NATION

28a    The authorities taking maid back in Aegean region (8)
THESSALY: A 4-letter pronoun for the authorities (as in **** oughta sort out the hospitals and fix the roads) into which is inserted the reversal of a young girl (taking maid back)

29a    Odd loose stone that gives a bumpy ride (6)
DODGEM: anagram (loose) of ODD plus a word for a precious stone


1d    ‘Sickening’ quote first person brought up (6)
EMETIC: Four-letter verb meaning quote plus a first-person pronoun, all reversed (brought up)

2d    Broadside showing America badly in decline (9)
FUSILLADE: 2-letter abbreviation for America and a 3-letter word meaning badly or poorly, all inside a 4-letter verb meaning decline or slowly disappear gives a word meaning a simultaneous discharge of firearms, perhaps from all the guns on one side of a ship, or any barrage in general

3d    What are grand with an afternoon meal and posh times? (7)
GATEAUX: To see “what” this all-in-one is referring to, take the abbreviation for g(rand), a 1-letter indefinite article (an), a meal you might have in the afternoon (in the UK), the abbreviation for posh or upper-class, and the arithmetic symbol meaning times.

5d    What’s held by Continental banks? Euro’s first, pound sterling’s third (4)
ELBE: First letter of Euro, the abbreviation for pound in weight, and the third letter of sterling gives us the name of a German river

6d    Tense your Bible uses involves understanding chapter (7)
TWITCHY: An old 3-letter version of “your” that the Bible uses, contains (involves) a 3-letter word for understanding or intelligence and the 1-letter abbreviation for c(hapter). I struggled with this for ages as I had latched on to a 2-letter abbreviation for chapter and spent ages trying to find evidence for a strange biblical 2-letter version of “your”. I couldn’t find the 1-letter abbreviation for chapter in brb or Collins [It’s there under caput in my BRB.  BD].

7d    Leave after second large drink (5)
SWILL: The abbreviation for second followed by a verb meaning to leave or bequeath

8d    Cube cannot reform without any carbon in its cylindrical form (8)
NANOTUBE: Anagram of CUBE CANNOT without any occurrence of C (carbon). The “its” in the definition refers back to Carbon

11d    Survive having had Revelations after all the rest? (7)
OUTLAST: A 3-letter word meaning in the open or no longer secret (having had revelations) and a 4-letter word meaning “after all the rest”

14d    Complicated chart covers Arabian disorder (7)
CATARRH: Anagram of (complicated) CHART covers the abbreviation for Ar(abian)

16d    Weaving for example keeps National Theatre triumph popular (9)
ENTWINING: The Latin abbreviation for “for example” includes (keeps) the abbreviation for National Theatre, a 3-letter verb or noun meaning triumph, and a 2-letter preposition meaning popular or current

17d    Animals being bred on grass that’ll provide base for soup (8)
STOCK: A 5-letter word for farm animals and a 3-letter word for grass or dope

19d    Outsize Asian capital’s wanting Liberal made of hard stuff (7)
OSSEOUS: Take the 2-letter abbreviation for a very large size, plus the capital of South Korea without the L (wanting Liberal) but remember to include the apostrophe ‘S

20d    Take pieces from each container before fully closed (3,4)
EAT INTO: The 2-letter abbreviation for each, a 3-letter metal container, plus a 2-letter word that means fully closed (as with a door or window)

21d    Method supporter going after extreme characters in screenplay (6)
SYSTEM: A supporter (of a plant or flower) goes after the first and last letters (extreme characters) of screenplay

23d    Stop giving the audience an interval (5)
BRAKE: Stop as you might in a car sounds like (giving the audience) an interval or a rest

25d    Essential to drop core temperature in bottle (4)
VIAL: A 5-letter word for essential dropping the central T (core Temperature)

Plenty to like in today’s puzzle. I ticked 1a, 10a, 15a, 27a, 28a, 5d and 21d, and I think my favourite is 28a, for inventive clueing and a good surface. Which are your favourites?


  1. Gazza
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Lovely puzzle – thanks to Notablis and Dutch.
    I thought that 10a was OB + LIVIN[g] containing O.

    • crypticsue
      Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      I thought the same.

    • dutch
      Posted October 30, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      Yes that is much better!

  2. crypticsue
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this crossword. One of those that started off feeling as though it was going to be extra tricky but then it finished in about 3.5* time, definitely 4* fun.

    Followers of my inability to spot Ninas will be pleased to know that I spotted this one straight away (although I was prompted to look as Notabilis normally has Ninas).

    On the subject of Ninas, I must share the brilliant contents of an email I received this morning:

    “Do you suppose the puzzle number has significance? If ever there would be a Nina (and a Pinta and a Santa Maria), …. ”

    I’m sure that if Notabilis had known which number puzzle this one would be, he’d certainly have done his best to oblige.

    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch too.

    • Lesley
      Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Still relatively new to this game. Please would you explain what Ninas are. Thanking you in anticipation, Lesley

      • crypticsue
        Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        It is a Frequently Asked Question so have a look under that link above. (No 31 at the end of the list of FAQs)

      • Lesley
        Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. It took your response to Hanni to help me see it. Another dimension to toughies.

        • Jon88
          Posted October 30, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

          An additional wrinkle about Ninas, known, it seems, to few: The usage began as a way to describe the almost daily tricks present in the Times Concise crossword. And the person who first called them Ninas? Notabilis, during our correspondence on the subject.

          • Lesley
            Posted October 30, 2015 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

            I guess a bit like the Telegraph quickie. Had to check yesterdays solution – had it right but could not hear video games! My favorite ever of these was SHAME SPAWNED.

            • stanXYZ
              Posted October 30, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

              Lesley… Shame Spawned appeared about 5 years ago … but it is still the most memorable quickie pun of all time.

              When I finally understood it I was shaken but not stirred!

          • stanXYZ
            Posted October 30, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

            Unless I am wrong … you are right about “Nina” .

            But I think you are wrong … See FAQ #31

            • Notabilis
              Posted October 30, 2015 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

              I’m not sure what you mean, Stan. Nothing in FAQ 31 contradicts what Jon said, which was not about the origin of hidden things in crosswords but about the origin of calling them Ninas.

              • dutch
                Posted October 30, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

                Many thanks for dropping in Notabilis – always highly appreciated by the readers – and for verifying a little-known piece of fascinating crossword lore.

                Wonderful puzzle!

  3. andy
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Loving the Nina :)

    • Hanni
      Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      At least you can see it….I can see one word.

      • crypticsue
        Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Rows 6 8 and 10

        • Hanni
          Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          Oh brilliant. It was the last word I saw. Sums up my attempt today. Thank you.

  4. Hanni
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink


    Well I finished it but I struggled. I made a complete mess of the SW corner by putting the wrong spelling for 23d in. The meant I had ‘K’ as the third letter of 28a. At that point I didn’t realise that Aegean region was the definition and was trying to come up with an anagram of ‘Ionia’+ a 3 letter word for a maid inserted backwards into it. Clearly that made no sense as I had ‘T’ as the starting letter and the stupid ‘K’ from above as the third. See…complete mess.

    6d was a guess. And I can’t see the Nina.

    Lots to like but 15a stoos out for me.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for blogging. Good luck on the 5th and I presume you will enjoy Sunday…dry October being over.

    • dutch
      Posted October 30, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Might go another month for good measure…

      • Hanni
        Posted October 30, 2015 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

        Excellent stuff. Have you and Dean done a set list or are you winging it?

        Edit..thanks for dropping in Notabilis.

        • dutch
          Posted October 31, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

          We did agree a set list would be useful – but it would need to materialise in the next few days!

  5. Lesley
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this, struggled a bit. Had to use hints for 7d and 11d – then I kicked myself. Not too happy about 13a – got the answer, but I think it describes the critter not the hide. Generally followed by skin, fur, pelt etc. Obvious exception to this is mink. How do women get mink? The same way mink get mink!
    Thanks guys for the crossword and the hints.

  6. Jane
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Happy with Dutch’s ratings but sad that I missed the Nina until he pointed it out.
    Took a ridiculously long time to justify 7d – I know, stupid!
    Slight hesitation over 20d – I thought maybe Latin was going to raise its ugly head.
    Had to ask Mr. Google about 8d and also to check on 28a&19d, but the rest went in fairly smoothly. Must be on the right wavelength today.
    My podium list includes 1&18a plus 1&16d – favourite is 26a.

    Thank you, Notabilis – most enjoyable and thanks also to Dutch for a spot-on review. By the way -I think you’ve missed off a bit from the answer for 17d. Pleased to hear that you’re doing another open mic with Dean – any chance of a video clip this time?

    • dutch
      Posted October 30, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Apologies, there should be 3 more letters in the 17d answer beginning with P and ending with OT

      I’ll have to see if anyone in the audience is kind enough to make a video and send it to me

      • Jane
        Posted October 30, 2015 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Maybe Xana would volunteer – unless she’s tied up with a college bonfire night ‘do’? Speaking of which – aren’t you expected to be on fire-watching duty with the paintballers on that night?

        • dutch
          Posted October 30, 2015 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

          Yes, true, we’re struggling and will need a childminder on the 5th since my wife is out doing something as well. Fortunately, most big bonfires in our neighbourhood are on the weekend, so kids won’t miss out completely. Or maybe they’ll go with friends..

  7. Expat Chris
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Thoroughly enjoyable, with lots to like. I didn’t think of looking for a nina until I saw the blog intro, but it was easy to find. I relate to that since I’m in that position for some puzzles, though not for this one. Favorites are 12A, 13A, 15A and 8D, which I thought was really clever. Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  8. halcyon
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Super stuff as always but a bit easier than most from Notabilis. Loved 12a and 6d [your bible uses] and last one in 26a [cunning def].

    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch, as well as CS for pointing out the appropriateness of the Nina!

  9. Wolfson Bear
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    A splendid puzzle to complete a pretty good toughie week. My first two solves were the two all-in-one clues which I wrote in very lightly and without much confidence. I was then fearing something at the upper end of the Notabalis spectrum but it was not particularly hard by his standards. I did have a problem as I chose the wrong way in the stop / interlude clue which led to delays in the SW corner.

    Thanks to Notabalis and Dutch

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    A great puzzle. The brilliant and seasonally apposite all in one at 1a set the tone and wins our vote for favourite today. 11d down was our last one in mainly because we had all the letters for a pangram except for Q and there we had a U sitting in a very convenient place as the second letter. We totally missed the Nina until we read the review. Really good fun and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  11. Shropshirelad
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t had time to look at this today, but looking at the comments, I will save it for tomorrow. I hope you all have a smashing weekend.

  12. jean-luc cheval
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Had a very busy day and could only look at the crossword every now and then.
    But what a joy that was.
    Everytime I sat down a new answer was parsed. Never got bored and didn’t have to pull my hair in dismay.
    Sorting out 18a and 6d took the longest.
    The only one I didn’t appreciate as much was 13a. I’ve heard of leopard skin, doe skin, bear skin, etc . but ocelot skin?
    Liked 1a. Someone trying to blow up parliament would be a hero in France.
    Thanks to Notabilis for the great fun and for popping in, to Dutch for the excellent work and for including a deliberate mistake to make sure we read the review.