Toughie 1504

Toughie No 1504 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Pleasant and well-clued puzzle today – definitely not too tough so do try. The top half went in very quickly, then I was held up enough in the bottom half to finish in normal toughie time. In retrospect, not sure why I struggled there as all the clueing is fair and precise; I’d be interested in others’ experiences.

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1a    Middle-of-the-road dullard in a complicated situation (6)
MORASS: Abbreviation for Middle-of-the-road (in music) plus 3-letter word for dullard or fool

4a    Religious rebel keeping mass occult (8)
HERMETIC: A word for a religious rebel contains (keeping) the abbreviation for mass

9a    Reckless plot to seize Washington area (6)
MADCAP: A 3-letter word for plot or chart contains (to seize) an abbreviation for the location of Washington plus the abbreviation for area

10a    Runaway Lord Lucan’s left off large vessel (8)
CAULDRON: Anagram (runaway) of (L)ORD LUCAN without one L (left off)

11a    Uninterrupted narrow passage in the ear? (8)
STRAIGHT: This sounds like (in the ear) a narrow passage of water

13a    Poet works old-style English (6)
GOETHE: Think of a 4-letter verb for works or is functioning (not runs) and then convert this to how you might say it old-style (e.g. Shakespearean), then add the E for English to get a well-known German poet and writer

15a    After writing off sauna, e.g., proposes to discuss Labour venue (6,7)
AUGEAN STABLES: This is the venue of the fifth Herculean labour. Anagram of (after writing off) SAUNA EG followed by a verb meaning puts forward for discussion

18a    Spending one’s way out of a depression? (6,7)
RETAIL THERAPY: Cryptic definition, a phrase used to describe spending that makes you feel better

22a    Politician’s divided influence, referring to first answer? (6)
SWAMPY: The usual abbreviation of a politician inside a 4-letter verb meaning to influence. The answer is an adjective (referring to) describing 1a

24a    Twerps returning dull answer for special marks (8)
STIGMATA: Reversal (returning) of a 4-letter word for twerps or idiots, a 3-letter word for dull and the abbreviation for A(nswer)

26a    Forgetting ‘Massachusetts’, composed ditty about having a stubby feature (3-5)
PUG-NOSED: Think of a simple way of saying “composed ditty” (4,4,2), remove the abbreviation for Massachusetts from the start of the first word, and reverse the lot (about)

27a    Unpleasant clubs blooming (6)
CRUDDY: The abbreviation of Clubs followed by another euphemistic version of bloody, like blooming

28a    Pathetic old father turning into strict right-winger (8)
DERISORY: The abbreviation for O(ld) plus a 4-letter word for father are reversed into a 3-letter word for a strict, hard-line right-wing Conservative

29a    Avuncular head of government in West African nation (6)
BENIGN: Put the first letter (head) of government inside (in) a West African country


1d    Flowering growth of reformed Maoism (6)
MIMOSA: Anagram (reformed) of MAOISM

2d    Robin Day and brother, each beset by all others (9)
REDBREAST: Abbreviations for D(ay), BR(other) and EA(ch), surrounded (beset) by a 4-letter word meaning all others

3d    Heavily taxing family thus with silver rings (7)
SOAKING: A 3-letter word for family surrounded by (rings) a 2-letter word for thus and the chemical symbol for silver

5d    Possibly final half of illustrations (4)
EXAM: Take the first half of an 8-letter word that means illustrations or instances

6d    Country farm’s last out-of-date eggs (7)
MOLDOVA: The last letter in farm, a 3-letter word for out-of-date or having been around a long time like me, and a 3-letter word for eggs

7d    Pack used to divine bit of baking has nothing to eat (5)
TAROT: A 4-letter result of a baking exercise (no, not cake) contains (has….to eat) the letter that looks like zero (nothing)

8d    Boater is at once showing wear and tear (8)
CANOEIST: Anagram (showing wear and tear) of IS AT ONCE

12d    Suit with its top hiding the bottom, where there’s a warm seat? (6)
HEARTH: Take one of the card suits and use its first letter (its top, in a down clue) to displace the letter at the end (hiding its bottom, in a down clue)

14d    Appearance of pressure in a body of dissenters (6)
ASPECT: The abbreviation for P(ressure) goes inside (in) A (from the clue) and a word for body of dissenters

16d    Fast-growing tree ideally in ground (9)
LEYLANDII: Anagram (ground) of IDEALLY IN

17d    Constant hare-brained stuff in emergency housing? (8)
CRASHPAD: Abbreviation for c(onstant), plus a 4-letter adjective meaning hare-brained or lacking in caution, and a 3-letter verb meaning to stuff or fill with something soft

19d    Blaspheming French or almost wicked cases (7)
IMPIOUS: The French word for “or” is surrounded by (cases) a 6-letter word for wicked or mischievous from which the last letter is removed (almost)

20d    Seaweed-covered Bible in Atlantic coastal area (7)
ALGARVE: A 5-letter word for seaweed (plural) goes around (covered) the abbreviation for a version of the bible gives this Portuguese resort area

21d    Preserve that local geological formation (6)
CANYON: Three-letter verb for preserve and a dialect (local) word for that

23d    Some more guarantees over boring device (5)
AUGER: Lurking backwards (some …. over) in more guarantees

25d    Current runs under side of bridge? This may regulate it (4)
WEIR: The symbol for electric current in physics plus the abbreviation for r(uns) follows (under in a down clue) two partners in a bridge game (side of bridge)

My biggest smiles came from the brilliant 15a and 18a – what about you?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Even though I had to start with the Downs, I finished in 2* Toughie time but definitely 4* entertainment. The experience nicely summed up by an email I received this morning with the subject “Rats” and the message – “Notabilis has found the fluffy slippers!”

    Thank you to Notabilis and Dutch – let’s hope next week’s Toughies are as good as this week’s.

  2. halcyon
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I also found the top much easier than the bottom but all good fun. I particularly liked 22a for finding a way to refer one clue to another appropriately, 26a [once I’d figured out the parsing] 12d and 25d.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for a fine blog.

  3. jean-luc cheval
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Notabilis giveth me a hard time today and taketh away the idea that I can solve any crossword.
    I’m afraid to say that I couldn’t complete the SW corner.
    17d (constant hare brained), 22a (politician’s divided) and 26a ( forgetting Massachusetts) remained virtually empty.
    2d ( Robin Day) favourite.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the help.

  4. Hanni
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Permalink


    Definitely into 5* territory as it took three goes to come together, in fact the whole of the bottom half took three times as long as the top.

    Stars by 8 clues today. 13a was bunged in. He seemed familiar but I had to check. Needed the blog to fully understand 22a, 24a and 26a.

    I can’t decide between 15a and 18a as to which is the better. So they both get a drink bought for them. Speaking of which it’s Friday.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for a great puzzle and to Dutch for another great blog. Illustrations were bang on as always.

    Thus has been a fantastic Toughie week.

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s been the pattern this week that I get most of the puzzle completed without any real difficulty then come to a grinding halt. Today was no exception, with most of the SW corner remaining unsolved. I enjoyed what I could do, though, with 15A coming out tops, closely followed by 18A, and 2D. 27A made me smile, too. Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  6. 2Kiwis
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    We needed a bit of research to find a tree that fitted the anagram fodder for 16d which meant that, in combination with the obscure, to us, geography in 29a and 20d, made the SE corner the last to fall. Really enjoyed this puzzle as we always seem to from our fellow-countryman setter. Too many good ones to pick a favourite.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  7. Jane
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Another 5*+ Toughie for me. This week has been really, really hard.
    I didn’t know the required definition of 4a and wasn’t familiar with the ‘famous’ poet.
    Sad to say but I’m also not well-versed in the labours of Hercules so got the answer via the hard route. Have to admit that I was thinking along the lines of a hospital delivery room!
    As others seem to have found – the SW corner put up the strongest resistance and I had to come to the blog for a couple of hints to help me on my way.
    11&18a were the two that made me smile the most.

    Well done, Notabilis – you had me running for cover.
    Grateful thanks to Dutch – without your excellent blog I’d still be sweating blood and tears. Loved the 8d pic and reckon that the model for the 3d pic probably took the honours in the ‘Miss Wet T-shirt’ contest!

    • Jane
      Posted November 20, 2015 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      As chance would have it, I’ve just been watching the latest episode of Michael Portillo’s Great Continental Railway Journeys – The Black Forest to Hanover. I now know far more about Goethe and have looked around his magnificent house.
      Michael’s sartorial choices are rather amazing as well!

      • Hanni
        Posted November 20, 2015 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

        I bunged that answer in. Fortunately I was on the phone at the time and they knew about Geothe. I sort of remembered the name but I’ve never read his work.

        • Jane
          Posted November 20, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

          I wouldn’t have even known how to pronounce it – thank you, Mr. Portillo!

          • Hanni
            Posted November 20, 2015 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

            My German is somewhat lacking…well it’s abysmal. Seem recall I did OK at school with it. I’ll have a look online for the program.

            • Shropshirelad
              Posted November 20, 2015 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

              • Jane
                Posted November 21, 2015 at 12:25 am | Permalink

                Rather odd really – the Germans pronounce the girl’s name Gerta in pretty much the same way.

  8. Salty Dog
    Posted November 20, 2015 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Completed in 3* time, but with rather too many inspired guesses (three of which were wrong) so 4.5*/4*. My favourites were 13a and 6d, but I’d never heard of a 17d at all, and had no idea of that particular meaning of 4a. Still, a thoroughly worthwhile puzzle, for which VMTs to Notabilis, and also to Dutch for the review and explanations.

  9. dutch
    Posted November 21, 2015 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    I was worried the other side had a lot more comments, but they’re all toast

    • Jane
      Posted November 21, 2015 at 12:21 am | Permalink

      There’s a fair bit of crumpet, as well!