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Toughie 1500

Toughie No 1500 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Toughie 1500! What a milestone, congratulations and many thanks to all involved. Today’s puzzle has lots of cleverly disguised definitions, fun wordplay and some great surface readings . After some initial panic (my first one in was 19d!), I finished in normal Toughie time and needn’t have worried, though I did work bottom up with NE last to surrender.  Hence 3* for difficulty and 4* for enjoyment.

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    Very clear signal needed after damaged canals are emptied (5,2,1,7)
CLEAN AS A WHISTLE: Anagram (damaged) of CANALS A(r)E (emptied is the indicator to remove the middle letter of are) followed by a 7-letter signal of the kind a referee might sound.

9a    Posers like to hold a drink when reflecting (7)
ENIGMAS: A 4-letter word meaning like or identical containing (to hold) a strong drink often associated with tonic, all reversed (when reflecting)

10a    Given power to arrest, Yorkshire Regional Crime Squad all finally going round (7)
ENABLED: An informal word meaning to arrest is surrounded by the last letters (all finally going round) of Yorkshire Regional Crime Squad

11a    Public regiment about to accept external cover-up? (9)
OUTERWEAR: A 3-letter word meaning public or in the open, the reversal (about) of a 2-letter abbreviation for a military regiment we often encounter in crossword-land, and a 4-letter verb that could mean to accept in the sense of take on, or carry

12a    Keen backing music that’s half-hearted (5)
EAGER: The reversal (backing) of a type of music originally from Jamaica missing one of the central pair of letters (that’s half-hearted)

13a    A second weapons negotiation stopped by united attack (7)
ASSAULT: A from the clue, plus the abbreviation for S(econd), then the abbreviation for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (weapons negotiation) containing the abbreviation for U(nited)

15a    Final check — business is on target (7)
ENDGAME: An informal word for business, activity or operation (as in what’s your ****?) is followed by (on in an across clue) a 3-letter noun for target or aim

17a    Set against trifle having turned sour (4,3)
PLAY OFF: A 4-verb for trifle or toy plus (having) a short word for turned sour (like milk)

19a    Violent criminal that’s a difficult problem (7)
TOUGHIE: A double definition that describes this puzzle

21a    Plain deliveries arriving with post, finally (5)
OVERT: A word for cricket deliveries and the final letter of post

23a    Fool tackling one English test, getting the bird (9)
GUILLEMOT: A 4-letter word for a fool or easily-duped person containing (tackling) the Roman numeral for one, followed by the abbreviation for English and an annual road safety test (in the UK)

25a    The setter got picked up — not a pretty sight (7)
EYESORE: A (1,3) expression for the setter got, as in the setter twigged, is a homophone (picked up) of the answer

26a    Amaze, as Lennon and Led Zep do? (7)
STARTLE: Split (5,1,1), the answer reveals what LEnnon and LEd Zep both do

27a    Cleopatra’s caress causing flapping in the baths? (9,6)
BUTTERFLY STROKE: This cleopatra is a winged insect (Gonepteryx cleopatra), and is followed by a 6-letter verb meaning caress


1d    Musical city in romance novel (7)
CREMONA: Anagram (novel) of ROMANCE, and the home of Stradivari

2d    Clubs put in correct order (5)
EDICT: The abbreviation for Clubs is put inside a verb for correct, e.g. as you might a manuscript

3d    Big cheese sandwich mainly found in new menu and old (6,3)
NUMERO UNO: Take a 5-letter noun for a sandwich from complete slices of bread, remove the last letter (mainly) and place it between (found in) an anagram (new) of MENU and the abbreviation for Old

4d    Dubious conjecture in action one’s dropped (7)
SUSPECT: An informal shortening of a word meaning conjecture goes inside (in) a 4-letter word for a court action missing the letter that looks like a one (one’s dropped)

5d    Scots separatist with Ebenezer regularly welcoming father (3,4)
WEE FREE: Take the abbreviation for with, then add the odd (regularly) letters of Ebenezer and insert a two letter abbreviation for the religious type of father – and (according to BRB) you get a member of the minority of the Free Church that refused to join with the United Presbyterian Church in 1900. I suspect Terry Pratchett’s version is slightly different

6d    How ‘facile’ ends as ‘vacuous‘? (5)
INANE: Split (2,2,1), the answer indicates how the word ‘facile’ ends

7d    Send a message to us (9)
TELEGRAPH: A double definition that describes the people giving us our daily puzzle

8d    Adopt dialect primarily found in European language (7)
ENDORSE: The first letter of (primarily) dialect is inserted into (found in) the abbreviation for English plus a Scandinavian language

14d    Account portrayed in New Testament (9)

16d    Close-fitting clothing once worn by current entertaining couple (6,3)
DOUBLE ACT: A word for an old-fashioned snug-fitting man’s vest or jacket goes around (worn by) a 2-letter abbreviation for one kind of electrical current

17d    Saw one who verifies book (7)
PROVERB: A word describing someone who verifies is followed by the abbreviation for Book

18d    This would cover indecency in graphic image about flick (3,4)
FIG LEAF: Reverse a 3-letter type of computer image file, then a 4-letter word which could mean flick in the sense of flicking through the pages of a book

19d    Dry T-shirt mangled by skivvy in the end (7)
THIRSTY: Anagram (mangled) of T-SHIRT with the last letter of skivvy

20d    Maximum portion of text rememberable (7)
EXTREME: Hidden, lurking in (portion of) text rememberable

22d    Tried not to open treasure (5)
TROVE: A six letter past-tense verb meaning tried or struggled, without the first letter (not to open)

24d    Saying rather too much in a little while (5)
MOTTO: A three-letter abbreviation for rather too much goes inside (in) a short period of time

Lots of great clues today, though I particularly like 9a. Which were your favourites?

52 comments on “Toughie 1500

  1. Very enjoyable – thanks to Sparks and Dutch. My favourite is 16d.
    There is a Nina but I’m not sure what it means (or whether I’m missing some of it),

    1. I was about to ask about that but pressed send accidentally. Seeing as it’s the 1500th I’ve been looking for a theme/Nina but as usual I can’t even see the Nina.

  2. *****/****

    Really like Sparks so had a big smile on face this morning.

    Well into 5* territory for me. The top half causing a lot more problems than the bottom. To be specific 5d having me against the wall. That was completey new. Couldn’t parse 27a either. Nothing else it could be but didn’t pick up on the whole insect thing.

    So much to like. Have stars by 12 clues but I agree with Dutch about 9a. Yum.

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for a great blog for the 1500th.

  3. I loved this. I definitely needed the blog for 5d as this bit of GK has passed me by! A few of the answers went in quite easily with the checking letters but I had to work hard at parsing them. Difficult to pick a fave but I did like 26a

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  4. Don’t really share your enthusiasm today Dutch.
    I found it definitely lacked in toughness for a Friday.
    In fact I spent more time on the back page.
    Clues such as 15a,17a and 26a were a bit poor and so was the choice of words in 6d.
    Enough grumbling.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

  5. A bit like yesterday’s – straightforward but fun, with some more “crossword” clues. I liked 26a and 6d, even though they’re similar but the top prize goes to 16d which caused no little head-scratching before the LOL moment.

    Where’s the NINA?

    Thanks to Sparks for an excellent puzzle and to Dutch for an excellent blog.

    1. I’m probably missing something but there’s a phrase 2,3,3,2,4 in the middle bits of rows 5, 9 and 13.

  6. I did finish without hints but needed google to confirm 5D, which is new to me, and the review to parse 12A . Liked 9A, 13A, 26A and 18D particularly. Thanks Sparks and Dutch!

    Now I’m going to spend far too much time looking for the Nina!

  7. Not the world’s toughest Friday toughie – but a lot of fun to be had in solving it with the possible exception of 11a. 5d was a ‘gimme’ to me as you would expect – we not only had the ‘wee frees’ but also the ‘wee, wee frees’. As I said, anything to do with free and we Scots are there in a flash. Attendances used to be low in Scottish Kirks until someone thought of prefixing the Church of Scotland with ‘Free’. Church attendance went through the roof (I made that last bit up).

    The rest was very enjoyable with 6d as my favourite. As far as the Niña is concerned, I’m looking how to connect it all up (don’t hold your breath)

    Thanks to Sparks for the puzzle, Dutch for the review and congrats to the toughie team in reaching the 1500 milestone.

    |Have a good weekend everyone.

      1. I think 7d &19a have something to do with it – ish. And as yesterday’s was 1499 and had toughie in the grid maybe 3d got something to do with it – there’s lateral thinking for you.

        As I said – don’t hold your breath – I’ll leave it to Gazza & Dutch.

        1. I did wonder about that….but, is there something else hidden? Been looking for MD somewhere. Brains not functioning, had a busy morning.

                1. I’m a bit behind. First glass of wine now. Drew the short straw and had to drive friends to the pub. I’m now looking to buy a tiny 2 seater convertible that fits me and possibly a card holder with numbers for the local taxis.


                  And all that is just so b****y trivial having just seen the Paris news.

                  1. Several years ago an American friend of ours got divorced. Her beautiful collie, a good friend of our equally beautiful collie, died and she decided she didn’t need a Volvo estate car any more. She has a grown up son and daughter. She rather fancied a two-seater sports car. Her son said, “But Mum, what happens when we’re both home”? Her reply was, “One of you walks”!

                    1. I like the sound of her! I did the whole convertible thing in my 20’s, lovely thing, if you were going to the birthday bash I would tell you a story that seems to reduce most people to tears of laughter. Can’t believe you’re not going to be there. Boo!

    1. If you ticked the box “notify me of following comments” you should get this.
      Do come back please.

  8. Like Dutch, I started out in a bit of a panic and then worked my way up from the bottom! 4*/4* for me.
    Rather liked both 26a&6d (sorry, JL) and 7d raised a smile.
    I reckon that both Sparks and Dada were determined to get the Telegraph Toughie Crossword into their grids – perhaps in honour of the occasion?
    Can’t find the Nina as yet – may have to wait for Gazza to get back to us on that one.

    Thanks to Sparks and also to Dutch – nice pic for 1a and a really quite restrained one for 18d!
    By the way, Dutch, did you spot the postings directed at you in yesterday’s back-page blog?

    1. Ah yes – interesting suggestion – though unlike Tstrummer, I do need encouragement – perhaps alcohol will do that

    1. On in an across clue can mean “added on” or at least that is how I think of it. It’s become a convention that A on B gives BA, though you often see AB, it’s one of the things people argue about. Of course in a down clue, on really needs to mean above, so that would give AB. Hope that helps

  9. We needed a bit of research to justify 5d. It all went together relatively smoothly and then, seeing that it was Sparks, we spent ages searching without success for a hidden message. Pretty sure that Sparks will be watching this blog and smiling to himself before appearing and putting us out of our misery. A clever puzzle and lots of fun.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  10. I normally avoid Friday Toughies like the plague but it’s cold, I’m grumpy and didn’t enjoy the back page one much so decided to try.
    I really enjoyed it – it wasn’t easy and there are still a few that I don’t quite understand but I’m glad I gave it a go.
    Now then – this Nina – think I might have another look tomorrow.
    My last two answers were 19a (spent ages trying to make it something to do with thug) and 7d – how dim is that?
    I loved 26a and 6d. My favourite was 27a – I’m a swimmer but I never quite got that right so there was certainly a lot of ‘flapping in the baths’!
    With thanks to Sparks and to Dutch – I do think it’s very brave of you to do the hints for a Toughie, let alone a Friday Toughie.

    1. really glad you had a go and enjoyed it – something about blogging makes you want to encourage everyone to have a go.

      If it’s any consolation, I wake up in a sweat every Friday morning wondering whether or not I’ll manage to solve and parse the toughie – but there is something about having to do it that pushes you to persist – so far (touch wood) I’ve been lucky.

      I always enjoy your blogs

  11. Not as tough as the usual Friday fare, but by no means unpleasing. I make it 2*/3.5* and liked quite a few clues. I was very tempted by 5d – even before I saw the Terry Pratchett cover – but I think 26a deserves the laurels. Thanks to Sparks, and of course to Dutch.

  12. OK, just finished a very intensive ten-and-a-half hour work day and I’m ready to party. Anybody over there still up?

      1. I had to Google to see what it’s about. Good to learn that the appeal is focused on the home front.

        1. We have similar telethon appeals over here and they can be harrowing to watch. For many years, I have been a supporter of St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which specializes in kids with cancer and provides cutting edge treatment at absolutely no cost. It breaks my heart to hear the stories of parents who have lost children, but it does reinforce my resolve to continue to send that monthly payment.

    1. Just about – ten and a half hours! Poor you. I should take it out on one of your bottles of the amber nectar if I was you.

      1. Unfortunately I am not watching Children in Need, I am taking in the tragic breaking news from Paris………….. what is this world coming to?

          1. Oh my god.
            Just learned about it by reading your comments.
            France has just declared the “state of emergency” . First time since the 50’s during the algerian war. Our borders are now closed. Disaster.

        1. I’ve turned off my AP feed. Can’t read anymore. Very glad J-L is in Hyeres. Happy my Parisian friends are safe. The rest is just too awful.

          1. At least the hostage situation at Bataclan appears to be over without further loss of life. That’s me for tonight – gutted.

  13. Was going to post about puzzle, but it doesn’t feel right after the terrible events in France. My thoughts are with the families of the bereaved.

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