Toughie 1506

Toughie No 1506 by proXimal

Hints and tips by Gazza

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

I had a bit of a struggle with this one so no complaints from me that it’s not a real Toughie, but I thought that some of the surfaces (e.g. 21a and 4d) weren’t terribly smooth. It’s good to see ‘on’ in across clues being used correctly (i.e. A on B leads to BA) but there are no less than five uses of this construct here, which does seem a bit excessive.

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.

Across Clues

1a Soldiers reportedly capture Scotsman’s province overseas (12)
SASKATCHEWAN – string together the soldiers normally called part of our ‘special forces’, a homophone of a verb to capture and a Scottish male forename.

8a Secretly not shocked, base infiltrated by English close to midnight (2,3,2)
ON THE QT – an anagram (shocked) of NOT is followed by the two letters used for a base with E(nglish) inserted between them. Finish with the closing letter of midnight. Although there’s agreement that the last ‘word’ of the answer comes from the outer letters of quiet, nobody seems to know how this usage came about.

9a Two stage productions nearly a failure (2-5)
NO-HOPER – firstly a traditional Japanese drama then a musical production without its last letter (nearly).

11a Wearing pattern that’s appropriate (2,5)
IN ORDER – a preposition meaning wearing and a synonym of pattern or sequence.

12a One in church on seat of old poet (7)
HOMERIC – insert the Roman numeral for one in the abbreviation for a church or Christian denomination and append that to what seat means when applied to an aristocratic family.

13a Upright piano scratched from lever meeting resistance (5)
RISER – a verb to lever or wrench without the abbreviation for piano is followed by R(esistance).

14a Flash around cash for foreigner’s ambitious contract (5,4)
GRAND SLAM – an abbreviation meaning flash or smart goes round a South African’s cash.

16a Article on imperialist acquiring posh lover (9)
COURTESAN – an indefinite article follows the name of the Spanish imperialist who overthrew the Aztec empire and colonised what is now Mexico, with the letter used to mean posh inserted.

19a Layer on skirt of Angus for pasty (5)
ASHEN – a laying creature comes after the outer letters (skirt) of Angus. Skirt of Angus in the surface is presumably a cut of meat from an Aberdeen Angus cow.

21a Regularly ignored tapioca on a sheep’s tongue (7)
ARAMAIC – ignore regular letters from tapioca and append what’s left to A and a sheep. How much more tapioca can we stomach?

23a European set on a piercing to stud back (7)
LATVIAN – the abbreviation for a set or receiver follows A and that all goes inside (piercing) the reversal of a verb to stud or fix.

24a Vigour gives life to non-European revolutionary (7)
STAMINA – drop the E(uropean) from a verb meaning gives life to and reverse it.

25a Aged fellow on stand, not the last to relent (4,3)
EASE OFF – an alternative for ‘aged’ in a phrase such as ‘he was a man aged 42 years’ and the abbreviation for fellow come after a stand without its final L (not the last).

26a Follow street and go round the bend to keep hospital engagements (3-9)
GET-TOGETHERS – a verb meaning to follow or understand is followed by an anagram (round the bend) of STREET and GO containing the abbreviation for hospital.

Down Clues

1d Month after month one’s put up with Sweden’s programmes (7)
SITCOMS – the abbreviation of month, the abbreviation for one specific month, the Roman numeral for one and the ‘S are strung together and then reversed (put up). Add the IVR code for Sweden.

2d Source of message about learner driver’s fine (7)
SLENDER – the person from whom a message comes contains the usual learner driver.

3d Relate badly and upset extremely good confidants (5,4)
ALTER EGOS – an anagram (badly) of RELATE is followed by the reversal of an adverb meaning extremely and G(ood).

4d One’s sometimes pulled in to beach child’s play — I must be old (5)
CONCH – start with a word for child’s play or a doddle and replace the I with O(ld).

5d Missing one part, exhibit originally under sea brought to surface (7)
EXHUMED – the word exhibit without one and part is followed by the original letter of under and the abbreviated name of a sea.

6d With note for installation, alarm kit (7)
APPAREL – a verb meaning to alarm has a note from tonic sol-fa installed inside it.

7d Secretive types turned up gold, mostly testing in faults (12)
ROSICRUCIANS – these secretive types are members of a sort of secret society whose symbol is a rosy cross. Reverse the usual tincture of gold then insert an adjective meaning testing or pivotal without its final letter into faults or vices.

10d Composer‘s note in arrangement for harmonica — fortissimo (12)
RACHMANINOFF – insert an abbreviation for note into an anagram (arrangement for) of HARMONICA and finish with the musical abbreviation for fortissimo.

15d Countermand an admirer hugging large people (9)
ANNULMENT – countermand here is a noun, not a verb. String together AN and an informal word for an admirer or obsessive fan, then insert the abbreviation for large and a word for people.

17d Ignorant Frenchman’s one with sore over in A&E (7)
UNAWARE – start with a French word for ‘one’ then insert the reversal of an adjective meaning sore or chafed between A and E.

18d One supporting ruler‘s flowing garments in case of torrent (7)
TSARIST – flowing garments from Asia go inside the outer letters of torrent.

19d Player‘s heart is tested to some extent (7)
ARTISTE – today’s lurker.

20d Loathsome hot woolly is one stifling uniform (7)
HEINOUS – the abbreviation for hot followed by an anagram (woolly) of IS ONE containing the letter that uniform is used for in the Nato Phonetic Alphabet.

22d Sound collective noun — origin of genealogists? (5)
CLANG – a collective noun (I had to look it up to find what creatures it’s a collection of – hyenas, apparently) followed by the original letter of genealogists. I thought that the collective noun for hyenas ought to be a giggle.

My choice of favourite today is 20d. Which one(s) appealed to you?


  1. Jane
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Just popped in to look at your rating, Gazza. Thank goodness for that – now I won’t feel so bad when I lurch into 5*+++ time!

  2. halcyon
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Certainly tough enough but rather a slog without much joy! Can’t complain about the cleverly constructed clues but, as you say Gazza, some clunky surfaces [also 13a]. A lack of any military experience left me unaware that countermand could be a noun and that added to the difficulty. I thought 5d was rather good tho’. Thanks for the blog and thanks to proXimal for the contest.

  3. dutch
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks Gazza. I thought it was a collective noun for scots.

    thanks for the parsing of 25a where I thought I had an F too many (aged=o), and 5d where I lazily bunged it in.

    certainly tough enough, foi was 19a (after having stared at the top half for a while), loi was 7d – I vaguely remember having heard of these guys but not enough to help the solve. Quite a few clues took me a long time to see, e.g. 24a. Luckily we discussed the confidants meaning of 3d on this web site not too long ago.

    I quite liked 1a and 14a. This puzzle seems to focus on wordplay rather than surface

    many thanks proXimal, quite a challenge.

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Had to read the clues about three times before any answer came. But slowly the whole SE corner was solved and worked anticlockwise.
    Was left with 8a and 7d and could not see what was going between the checkers.
    Some really clever clueing like “upset extremely good” in 3d or the reversal in 24a and the “missing one part” in 5d.
    10d conjured up images of “Shine” with Geoffrey Rush. Loved that film.
    Favourite is 5d.
    Definitely a tough toughie.
    Thanks to Proximal and to Gazza for the review and help to get the last two.

  5. Shropshirelad
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    This really took me a while to find a foothold to build on and eventually (reluctantly) it coughed up the answers. However, now it’s completed I really don’t know why. As it took me a long time to complete, it rather took the enjoyment out of it – but that’s me being dim and not the fault of proXimal. My favourite is also 20d – being an ex-matelot, in winter you had to wear a seaman’s jersey under your rig instead of a white front – they didn’t half itch.

    Thanks to proXimal for the challenge and Gazza for doing the review.

  6. Hanni
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 4:26 pm | Permalink


    Gosh. Well into 5* today. And it’s only Wednesday. I actually started off quite well and thought I was in for an easy solve. I was wrong. I got completely tied up on the top half. Ended up needing most of the checkers to get 1a. However I found it a very enjoyable solve, took two goes to finish though.

    Favourite is 10d….what a lot of pianos on the blog today.

    Many thanks to ProXimal and to Gazza for a great blog. Needed help untangling a couple of things.

  7. Jane
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    A sudden rush of blood to the head at the halfway mark almost carried me across the finishing line but in the end I was beaten by 7d, even with all the checkers in place. Thank you for enlightening me about that one, Gazza, and also for the wordplay in 24&26a which had eluded me (stupid me, on both counts!).
    Timing? Let’s just say that I didn’t get much else done this afternoon, but plenty of enjoyment until I hit that 7d.
    Leader board shows 8a plus 4,18&20d

    Thanks to proXimal (any chance you could catch up on the housework for me now?) and also to Gazza, both for the help and the glorious piece of music.

  8. OlgaTheOwl
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Just a thought – the first step for 4d also means to pull in tightly, eg with a belt or a girth (on a horse). Not my cup of tea today I must say :o (

    • dutch
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      ah – that is interesting..

    • Gazza
      Posted November 25, 2015 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      But “One’s sometimes pulled in (to beach)” has to be the definition and the answer is conch, not cinch – so I can’t see how it works with the horsey meaning.

  9. Kath
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m ashamed to admit just how far beyond me this one was – going to call it a wrong wave-length day but I think a dim, stupid and thick-headed day is probably more truthful.
    I managed the top left and most of the bottom right corners but the rest of it was pretty sparse.
    I’ve only ever seen 10d spelt with a ‘V’ at the end so thought I was barking up the wrong tree with him and didn’t put him in.
    Nuff said, I think.
    Anyway, thanks to proXimal and to gazza for the much needed hints, and a few answers too. Oh dear!

  10. KiwiColin
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Not a puzzle to be solved quickly. I found that by just pecking away at bits and pieces while doing other things, it eventually all fell into place. I did bother to check that 8a was in BRB and there it was, right at the end of the entry for ‘quiet’. I enjoyed the process.
    Thanks proXimal and Gazza.

  11. Gazza
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Shamus tomorrow.

  12. Salty Dog
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    I needed help with 26a and 10d (the first I wouldn’t have got, but I’m annoyed that I didn’t spot 10d). Certainly gusting 5* for difficulty, and say 4* for enjoyment. Lots of clever clues, but 1a was my favourite. Thanks to proXimal, and to Gazza for the review.

  13. Expat Chris
    Posted November 25, 2015 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I ran out of time before my work day began with half a dozen left to solve, but having read the review I probably wouldn’t have got most of them anyway, particularly 7D. 1a was a no go since I had Punch for 4d (no, I couldn’t parse it). The only one I had a check mark by was 16A. Hat’s off to ProXimil, who has once again defeated me. Appreciate the review, Gazza.

  14. Alex Gordon
    Posted November 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I liked 1ac simply because I thought it ended ian (scotsman is usually this) and it threw me for quite a while.