Toughie 1520

Toughie No 1520 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Much to like here, nice deception, great definitions, surprises, and as always Notabilis is wonderfully fair – I particularly appreciated the extra help with the plants (unflowering plant, low-growing plant), even though the answers are common enough. My solving time put this well into 4* difficulty. One of the pleasures of writing a review is I get to savour all the clues once more, increasing my overall appreciation of the puzzle. Definitely 4* for enjoyment. I’m in a great mood anyway, finally having my car back from a month in the body-shop after what I thought was a fairly minor fender-bender.

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    One lizard primarily lives in sun, like this tropical one? (8)
BASILISK: Take the Roman numeral for one, first letter (primarily) of Lizard, 2-letter verb meaning lives or exists, all inside (in) a 4-letter verb meaning to sun, or to lie in the sun

5a    Keeper fell, following selection for national team (6)
CAPTOR: A word meaning fell or hill follows a word meaning an occasion of being selected for a national team

9a    Boat propeller area in sweeping motion making rapid progress (8)
SOARAWAY: The propeller of a rowing boat plus the abbreviation for area go inside (in) a sweeping or swinging motion

10a    Southern capital included in Eastern European getaway (6)
ESCAPE: Abbreviation for southern plus the 3-letter abbreviation for capital goes inside (included in) the abbreviations for Eastern and European

11a    Prepared to rise and depart lair in turn (8)
LEAVENED: A 5-letter verb meaning depart followed by the reversal (in turn) of a 3-letter word for lair

12a    Stop hiding backward place around Nevada (6)
UNVEIL: The abbreviation for the state of NeVada goes inside the reversal (backward) of a word for place or stead (normally used in the phrase “in ***** of”)

14a    Possibly Japanese patch with stone covered by unflowering plant (3,7)
FAR EASTERN: A 4-letter word for patch or piece of ground plus the abbreviation for stone go inside (are covered by) an unflowering plant that some New Zealanders would like on their flag

18a    What could make hipsters so hip, say, if it’s artificial? (10)
PROSTHESIS: Anagram of (what could make) HIPSTERS SO. I was nicely misled by the anagram indicator which is sometimes used to suggest a reverse clue

22a    Tough guy’s first off going over treeless plain (6)
TUNDRA: Think of a (4,3) expression for tough guy, remove the first letter then reverse (first off going over)

23a    Up for play but not up for helping with encouragement (8)
SPORTIVE: Remove UP from a word meaning helping with encouragement. I first entered this with an ending that matched “helping”, but that wasn’t quite right

24a    Low-growing plant with chlorine in excess (6)
CLOVER: The chemical symbol for chlorine and a word meaning excess or above

25a    Hipsters mostly tolerate having no money around (8)
BEATNIKS: A 4-letter verb for tolerate or stand from which the last letter is removed (mostly), plus the reversal (around) of a 5-letter slang word meaning having no money

26a    Short grass skirts certainly not coming back as beachwear (6)
SARONG: Remove the last letter from grass (short) and place it around a 2-letter word meaning certainly not, then reverse (coming back)

27a    Brawl in wood clearing (8)
DEFRAYAL: A 4-letter word for brawl goes inside (in) a word for wood, generally pine


1d    Back part of dress, not obvious when front half is reversed (6)
BUSTLE: Take a word meaning not obvious, or slight, and reverse the first 3 letters (front half)

2d    Endlessly keep prisoner in place of internment (6)
STALAG: Remove the last letter (endlessly) from a 4-letter word meaning keep or remain and follow with a 3-letter word meaning prisoner (not con)

3d    Someone not quite upright but more efficient? (6)
LEANER: A description of someone who might be listing or not quite upright also means more efficient (often used for example to describe an organisation that achieves more with less)

4d    Trainee astronaut  who keeps taking out-of-this-world trips? (5,5)
SPACE CADET: double definition, the second cryptic: a trainee astronaut or an informal phrase for someone acting as if they are continuously high on drugs. (Just watched “A New Hope”, getting ready for Tuesday’s trip to the IMAX)

6d    Inflammatory person unbalanced on stairs (8)
ARSONIST: Anagram of (unbalanced) ON STAIRS

7d    Pare zest twists in swingers’ bars (8)
TRAPEZES: Anagram (twists) of PARE ZEST

8d    Lingerie’s lingerie? Much of it’s white (8)
RIESLING: Hiding (much of it) in Lingerie’s lingerie

13d    Border company with connections present global 50-per-cent share? (10)
HEMISPHERE: A 3-letter word for a border (e.g. on a dress), a 3-letter abbreviation for a company that will help you connect your computer to the web, and a 4-letter word meaning present or in this place.

15d    Leave problem with one of computer’s arrow keys? (2,6)
UP STICKS: This informal expression for leave or go and live somewhere else could also mean one of your keyboard arrow keys is not working as it should

16d    Inordinately proud to possess personal power shower? (8)
DOWNPOUR: Anagram (inordinately) of PROUD contains (to possess) a word meaning personal or belonging to one’s self

17d    Stuart reign’s ending with King George installed as Scottish leader (8)
STURGEON: Familiar form of the name Stuart plus the last letter of reign go around (have installed) the Latin abbreviation for King and the abbreviation for George

19d    Composer more appropriate for radio? (6)
WRITER: Homophone (for radio) of more appropriate, or more correct

20d    Persistence of team in healthy years (6)
FIXITY: The roman numeral for the number of players on a football side (team) goes inside (in) a 3-letter word for healthy or having athletic strength and stamina, followed by the abbreviation for year

21d    Perfidious person, Liberal, going after women’s facility (6)
WEASEL: The abbreviation for Liberal comes after the abbreviation for women plus a 4-letter word for facility, as in lack of difficulty

I think my favourite is 26a, although I also very much liked 18a, 6d, 8d, and 20d. Which clues did you like?


  1. Gazza
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Lots to enjoy here – thanks to Notabilis and Dutch. Having had a very sheltered upbringing I didn’t know the cryptic meaning of 4d and thought it was just a weak cryptic definition – so thanks for explaining that. I thought that 1a, 18a and 22a were really good but my favourite was 1d.

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Took me a couple of sittings to come to terms with the toughie today.
    Was very blocked in the NW corner for a while having only 2d and 4d.
    Lots of clever clues.
    1d was great but favourite is 17d. Love the picture Dutch.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the review

  3. Heno
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the review and hints. I enjoyed what I could do, but after getting 10 answers, I had to look up resort to the hints. Managed 2 more when I had more checkers. Had to look up the rest. Way beyond my comprehension. There were 5 answers, where I’d never even seen the word. Was 6*/2* for me.

  4. bridgenut
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Absorbing, clever and fun. As near perfect as makes no matter. Great entertainment for a dull December afternoon. 1d was my favourite. *****/**** Thanks to Notabilis.

  5. Hanni
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink


    Gosh that was not easy. Like J-L it took 2 sittings to complete and I had to wait for the blog to see if I had parsed everything correctly. I hadn’t.

    Having never heard if the word before, 20d has become my favourite. Other candidates were 8a….lingerie, lingerie, 1d and 17d.

    Nice way to end the Toughie week.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for the challenge and to Dutch for the very needed blog.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 18, 2015 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Hi Hanni – I thought 8a might have appealed

      • Hanni
        Posted December 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        8d is a lovely clue, in every sense. Although I’m frequently reluctant to buy the answer as I’ve had some bad ones. I’m quite happy buying the first part of the clue, along with shoes.

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

          Oo-er Missus

          I take it you have now recovered from the trauma of the ‘never to be mentioned again’ nativity play?

          • Hanni
            Posted December 18, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

            Nope. Hence why I’m making mulled wine tonight. I had to watch it again to edit it. I forgot to put the bit in about the terrorist shepherds making the sheep route march across the desert at gun point. Mostly because by that time I was laughing so much and only spotted it later when I uploaded to my laptop. It was singly the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen.

            • Shropshirelad
              Posted December 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

              Hope to see part of that in January.

              Hope you’re using proper spices and not a ‘T bag’

              • Hanni
                Posted December 18, 2015 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

                That’s why I’m editing it!

                Oh yes. Mulled wine has to be done properly! Although I might omit the brandy as I shall be working tonight. Well working ish. My friends are being very helpful about that by sending pictures of themselves from the’s something called ‘Mad Friday’ apparently. No earthly idea what they are on about.

                • Jane
                  Posted December 18, 2015 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

                  No. 1 daughter got involved with ‘Mad Friday’ when we first moved here. I thought it was something specifically Welsh – obviously not!

                  • Shropshirelad
                    Posted December 18, 2015 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                    I thought I had an idea of the area you resided – I believed it was in the NE. Obviously wrong D’oh

                    • Jane
                      Posted December 18, 2015 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

                      Hi SL,
                      You obviously don’t give your full attention to my comments! Cast your mind back to Sparks’ Trip along the A55 on Wednesday – I thanked him for including two places that were close to home for me. I live on Anglesey within a few yards of the Menai Strait and can look out of my windows across the strait to the A55 and Llandudno. Do pay attention!

                    • Hanni
                      Posted December 18, 2015 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

                      I live in the NE SL…on the NY moors.

                    • Expat Chris
                      Posted December 18, 2015 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

                      Bet y’all can’t guess where I live!!

                    • Jane
                      Posted December 18, 2015 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

                      Umm…… some sort of cookies spring to mind.

                    • Shropshirelad
                      Posted December 18, 2015 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

                      Sorry Jane, I have inadvertently picked up the wrong thread. I recall you live in the North Wales area with connections on the IOW – I just got confused

                    • Hanni
                      Posted December 18, 2015 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

                      Wouldn’t worry SL. I’ve been in a car park before clicking my keys at the wrong car…in my defense it was a company car. Sort of. Ish.

                • Shropshirelad
                  Posted December 18, 2015 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

                  It appears to relate to the last ‘working Friday’ of the year when all those ‘workers’ get absolutely legless before embarking on a ‘dry January’ in the new year. Is that what the workers get up to these days?

                  • Hanni
                    Posted December 18, 2015 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

                    Quite a few of my friends are retired…some aren’t. All of them are getting erm ‘merry’, given some of the pictures I’ve been sent. I’m writing client reports and wading through some data. They are playing ‘put odd things in peoples drinks’. You’d have thought retired teachers and doctors would know better.

                    • Shropshirelad
                      Posted December 19, 2015 at 12:11 am | Permalink

                      With all this riding out on thoroughbreds – are we going to see you winning somewhere in the ‘Flat Season’ as a jockey ?

                    • Hanni
                      Posted December 19, 2015 at 12:38 am | Permalink

                      I’ve scared myself enough over the years doing point-to-point. No chance. Riding out is fine. The thrill of their speed is fine. In terms of showing?…give me side saddle class any day now.

                      EDIT..still think Mrs SL should come to London.

                  • Expat Chris
                    Posted December 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

                    Dry January is such a bad idea! It would quite upset my routine and I do like to be consistent.

  6. Hanni
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Dutch, I’ve just noticed your bit about the car. A month? Dear God. Were they rebuilding the whole thing?

    • dutch
      Posted December 18, 2015 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      No, just a tap by the right front wheel – but they discovered “additional damage” and the car had to go on the jig – though from the figures I have seen it was all relatively minor. The rear view mirror fell off on my clio courtesy car on day 2 which frustrated me no end – I have to admit though that these urban challenges fade into nothing compared to what really matters in the world

      • Hanni
        Posted December 18, 2015 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        Very well said Dutch…the things that really matter.

        In this deep, complex and confusing world, I’m going to make some mulled wine. Although the rear view mirror thing would have vexed me.

  7. Expat Chris
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I was left with 9A not completed, but worked it out from the hint. The answer is something I’ve not seen as one word before. I was wrong on 23A. Having decided that ‘praise’ was the encouragement part, and having the P in place from 13D, the only word that fit was ‘appraise’, which I couldn’t justify but put it in anyway. Oh, well. So much to like here, though…1D, 8D ( my white wine of choice), 13D, 21D…but my absolute favorite is 15D, which made me laugh. Many thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch.

  8. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Well, that required a great deal of brain power – so thank heavens it’s Friday

    Really good clueing going on throughout as you would expect from the man. I will go with Dutch’s favourite at 26a as my favourite of the day. But I’m sorry to say I didn’t enjoy the pictorial hint at 17d of the Devil Incarnate – she has what we Ayrshire bred Scots call ‘a nippit mooth’ (miserly and not to be trusted).

    Anyway, thanks to Notabilis for the hard challenge and Dutch for his usual comprehensive and informed review.

    Have a super weekend all.

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    We are grateful that the back-pager did not take too much time as it left us plenty to devote to this puzzle. It certainly needed lots of it. The last two to sort out were 9a and 23a where we went through similar processes that others have described above. Really good challenge, really good fun.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted December 18, 2015 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      Dutch, in reply to your comment for 14a. In the recent referendum three of the five alternatives that we were choosing from had that symbol on them. If the flag does change in the next referendum in a couple of months the Union Jack will go and the fern will replace it, and a little bit of black will be in one of the top corners.

      • dutch
        Posted December 19, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        thanks, I wasn’t sure when the referendum would be

  10. Jane
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Just as well you were there today, Dutch, as I was in Heno’s camp with this one. Got 10 answers and then resorted to the hints. There were still five words I wasn’t familiar with and I certainly didn’t know the ‘cryptic’ at 4d.
    I had ticks by 1,18&21d. I’ve seen the latter somewhere before – can’t remember whether it was in a puzzle or one of those ‘meet the setter’ type of articles where someone nominated it as one of their favourite clues.

    Thank you, Notabilis – sorry I wasn’t up to the challenge – and gratitude to Dutch for, yet again, showing how it should be done!

  11. Salty Dog
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    I thought I was “on” for a completion in 3* time, but couldn’t clear up the NW corner. I resorted to Dutch’s hint for 1d (which annoys me intensely because it isn’t difficult). Before that I was held up because I had managed to convince myself that 11a was “awakened”, until I smelled a rat and had another look at the clue. Anyway, call it 3.5*/4*, and that pesky 11a was my favourite clue. Many thanks to Notabilis, and to Dutch.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 18, 2015 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Are you planning to attend the birthday bash SD? I need a partner for the Uckers challenge