Toughie 1518

Toughie No 1518 by Sparks

A Trip along the A55

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

Thanks to Sparks for a very enjoyable midweek Toughie which brightened up my day in spite of the seemingly never-ending rain that we’re having here. As usual he’s supplied us with a Nina (it will help if you know the pseudonym that he uses in other publications).

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 TV viewed outside many shops accepting credit (5,6)
SMALL SCREEN – a past participle meaning viewed contains multiple shopping areas and the abbreviation for credit.

7a Around end of Lent, make fast or move fast (5)
MOTOR – a verb to make fast or tie up goes around the end letter of Lent.

8a Don’t upset this old man, returning with outline record for retirement (5-4)
APPLE-CART – reverse an affectionate term for one’s old man then reverse (for retirement) a verb to outline and an old record format.

10a Marched or walked round eastern Europe (7)
TROOPED – a verb meaning walked contains the rightmost (eastern) bit of the word Europe.

11a Assume current puzzle is rejected following month’s late delivery (7)
IMAGINE – start with the symbol for electric current then add the reversal of a puzzle or conundrum which has had its M(onth) delayed to the end.

12a Distinctive character embraced by Internet host (5)
ETHOS – hidden.

13a Confound committee panel in 7 Across (9)
DASHBOARD – charade of a verb to confound (one’s hopes, say) and a committee or council.

16a Disheartened Iraqi orator reforms, introducing force more conclusively (1,8)
A FORTIORI – an anagram of I(raq)I ORATOR with the symbol for force inserted.

18a Double prize-winner, one entering preserve (5)
CURIE – the Roman numeral for one goes inside a verb to preserve.

19a Entrance old French painter with dominant element of expressionism (7)
INGRESS – the name of a French painter, best known for his portraits, is followed by the most frequently occurring letter (dominant element) in the word ‘expressionism’.

22a Pay reluctantly because of fine, about to get extremely upset (4,3)
FORK OUT – string together a preposition meaning ‘because of’, the reversal (about) of a short adjective meaning fine or satisfactory and the outer letters of upset.

23a Runner fell into place going before former baton holder? (9)
STOKOWSKI – this is a musical conductor who had a long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra. I did wonder why there is a question mark in the clue but some investigoogling revealed the fact that he preferred to conduct with his hands so that he wasn’t normally a ‘baton holder’. A runner on the snow is preceded by the abbreviation for a verb to fell or floor inside a verb to place or stash.

24a Financier having name-dropped one who produces waffle? (5)
BAKER – a financier without the abbreviation for name.

25a Gathered to catch moving trains by main route in a channel (5,6)
MENAI STRAIT – a verb meaning gathered or assembled contains an anagram (moving) of TRAINS and the designation of a main north-south road in the UK.

Down Clues

1d Not turning to cut south, going west before old heritage site (6,3)
SUTTON HOO – this is a site, in Suffolk, where significant Anglo-Saxon remains were excavated in the last century. Reverse ‘not’ inside (to cut) an anagram (going west) of SOUTH and finish with O(ld). I do like ‘going west’ as an anagram indicator.

2d By the way, stay in Faroes off and on? (7)
APROPOS – insert a stay or support amongst the even letters of Faroes.

3d Estate feeding game outside new resort (9)
LLANDUDNO – an estate or grounds go inside (feeding) a board game containing N(ew).

4d Semi-changeable island (5)
CAPRI – the first half of an adjective meaning changeable or unpredictable.

5d British man wept pointlessly over little beast (3-4)
EWE-LAMB – join together an abbreviation for British, a masculine person and ‘wept’ without the abbreviation for point. Now reverse it all (over).

6d Sneak affair after regular visits in canteen (5)
NAAFI – take regular letters from the first two words.

7d It’s used to sum up outrageous hammiest act (11)
MATHEMATICS – an anagram (outrageous) of HAMMIEST ACT. An interesting surface given the compiler’s day job.

9d Maybe Westwood runs in to take care of me (11)
TRENDSETTER – insert the cricket abbreviation for runs into a verb to take care of, then add ‘me’ (i.e. the role of the person writing the clue).

14d Hide a source of Sparks who’ll never 22 (9)
SKINFLINT – 22 means 22a. Charade of a hide or pelt and what might be used to produce the falsely-capitalised sparks.

15d Cause of falling pressure in top-notch projectile (3,6)
AIR POCKET – the abbreviation for pressure goes into an abbreviation that looks like a description meaning top-notch or first-rate and a projectile or missile.

17d That is out of order, appearing after time limit (3,4)
TIE DOWN – the abbreviation meaning ‘that is’ and an adjective meaning out of order or broken come after the abbreviation for time.

18d Brains of Britain caught before going ahead with answer (7)
CEREBRA – one of the abbreviations for Britain is preceded by a cricket abbreviation for caught and a poetic word meaning before. At the end we need an abbreviation for answer.

20d Despondency of union member after swapping sides? (5)
GLOOM – this union has only two members (unlike Princess Diana’s which reportedly had three). Change the side in one of them from right to left.

21d Food mentioned in petition by female (5)
SUSHI – a double homophone, firstly of a verb to petition or plead and secondly of a feminine pronoun.

Making my shortlist today were 11a and 15d. Which one(s) appealed to you?


  1. dutch
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Gosh, some lovely clueing that involved quite a bit of head scratching, and a bit of a geography lesson

    For 4d I had bunged in chang(eable), big island in thailand, so I was happy to get 8a eventually with its brilliantly disguised definition and sort that mess out. In 10a I suspected the answer but only filled it in towards the end when I finally realised what eastern europe was. 19a had me quite confused until I really looked hard where the S might come from. I loved “falling pressure” in 15d and “that is out of order” in 17d. I though 23a (runner fell into place…) was very tricky and I wasn’t familiar with the answer. Hadn’t come across 16a before. I particularly liked 12a, 13a, 6d, 9d, 14d & 15d.

    Many thanks Sparks, excellent entertainment and thank you Gazza for the review

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    What great fun indeed.
    And a signed crossword to boot.
    Loved all the misdirections Dutch mentioned. Even picked up on the conductor in 23a using his hands to direct the orchestra.
    Got a bit mixed up with Luton and Sutton in 1d but 1a came to me directly after.
    The only quibble is the inclusion of the word “main” in 25a which sounds like the beginning of the answer and which I got before parsing the clue.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Gazza for the review.

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Had to make use of Goggle to get 23A and the hints to parse it. Also needed the hints (followed by some extra thought) to parse 10A. Otherwise OK. My top picks are 19A, 4D and 9D. I wouldn’t have known there was a nina without the prompt, but found it straightaway then. Many thanks to Sparks and Gazza.

  4. Jane
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Very hard work, but once I’d realised that Sparks had given me the odd one close to home (thanks for that – I could bung ’em in and do the parsing later!) I had to soldier on.
    Things I didn’t know include the French painter, the conductor, the meaning of 16a and the fact that Ms. Curie won two Nobel prizes – although that didn’t surprise me in the least.
    Certainly needed Gazza’s help to parse 11& 23a plus 5&18d.
    Top three for me were 9,14&20d.

    Regarding the Nina – do I take it that our setter is making a rather disparaging remark about one of his pseudonyms?!!

    Many thanks to Sparks (and the four-legged one!) and a big thank you to Gazza for sorting out the ‘twiddly bits’.

    • Gazza
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I did wonder about the ‘inept’ and whether it was connected with the late delivery of a puzzle to an editor (as spelled out in 11a). I don’t think it’s part of the Nina (but I could well be wrong) – I think that after the central across line you’re meant to read the equivalent down line.

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you.
        It makes more sense to say such is such rather than such, such is inept.

      • Shropshirelad
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Ah – got it now, I think. I also saw the ‘inept’ but wasn’t sure if it had any relevance.

  5. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Thoroughly enjoyed this with some really superb clue constructions and surface. 22a was my last one, bunged in what I thought was the answer from the checkers and the word play and Mr Google confirmed I was right. The ? did puzzle me until I read a bit more about him. Lots of clues vying for the podium but I will go with 11a – which just pipped 14d.

    Thanks to Sparks for the puzzle and Gazza for the review.

    I generally never see a Niña and today is no different. I do see some words but I’ll probably have to wait until someone who is cleverer than me (and that’s a big pool) to point it out.

  6. KiwiColin
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Needed a bit of Google help with some of the general knowledge (9d and 23a for example) but all easy enough to find. Knowing who the setter was, I went searching for a NINA and found it. Interesting to note that the ‘Best for Puzzles’ site where I go for biographical details has not yet recognised the pseudonym Sparks. A good challenge and lots of fun.
    Thanks Sparks and Gazza.

  7. Gazza
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Dada tomorrow.

  8. Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    We failed to bring our pile of crosswords to the pub so have had to concentrate on today’s toughie, which G had in his pocket. J
    A good puzzle except for the Russian? bloke 23a. Why do people ‘bung in’ that way lies madness. G
    We persevere, sometimes for days, and won’t put an answer in until we’ve understood it completely. So back to our backlog. J
    Many thanks to Sparks and Gazza (for the hint for 23a which we needed)

    • Gazza
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      I’m with you all the way on ‘bung ins’. If you don’t understand why an answer is correct then don’t guess.

      • Expat Chris
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        Ah, but there’s the last-ditch, grab-at-any-straw-if-the-checkers-fit kind of bung-in, and then there’s the make an-educated-guess-because something’s-scratching-at the back-of-your-mind- and-worry-about-sorting it-later type. Lesser mortals like me have been known to go down either path without a care in the world. If there were money on it, I might think differently, but when all’s said and done, a newspaper crossword is just a diversion in the daily grind ( and I have now probably just committed a mortal sin right out loud!)

        • Shropshirelad
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          No mortal sin seen here.

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        For me a bung in is when I have the right answer from the definition rather than from the word play. As Expat Chris says, you have a very strong feeling of what the answer is but don’t know how you got to it.

      • Jane
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Agree with both the above and would add:- bunging your ideas into Mr. Google to see what he has to say about it!

      • Shropshirelad
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        As I said earlier – I had the feeling that the conductor was the right answer through the word play and checkers. If this blog or the internet didn’t exist, I would have checked in the paper next day as I always did to see if my answer was correct. I would have put the ‘knowledge’ into my memory – where (these days) it would probably get lost.

        There is always a difference between ‘bunging in’, ‘guessing’ and ‘having an educated guess’.

  9. Hanni
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Permalink


    Gosh I do like Sparks! Fantastic clueing, clever misdirection and plenty of humour. What’s not to like? I didn’t know the French painter and it was my last in after some help from Google.

    Favourite is the wonderful 7d with 11a coming a close second.

    Many thanks to Sparks for a first rate puzzle and to Gazza for a great blog.

    P.S I have no objections whatsoever with bung ins.

  10. neveracrossword
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen 19a a number of times before. Unlike Dutch, 16a was my first one in, followed by 19a – then there was a gap before the rest started to fall into place. Much easier and more fun than yesterday’s. 3*/4*. I’m all for bung-ins – the conductor went in once I had the checkers – it couldn’t be anyone else. Thanks to Gazza for explaining the intricacies of 23a and to the setter for a most enjoyable puzzle. Now I’ll consult FAQs to discover what a Nina is!