Toughie 1521

Toughie No 1521 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Toro

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

A rock solid puzzle with a fair bit of sparkle. I found it a pleasure to solve.

Definitions are underlined. 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 Go into school square — find something poisonous (10)
STRYCHNINE A go or attempt inside SCH(ool), then a square number.

6a Nick heading off for island (4)
INCH To nick or steal, minus the first letter.

9a Notice graduate in work following right plan (4,3)
ROAD MAP R(ight), then a word for work around (both of) a notice + an academic degree.

10a Mary runs, coming in sixth out of twelve — one to swear? (7)
JURYMAN Anagram of MARY inside the sixth (abbreviated) in a certain series of twelve. (Not the twelve pictured, though!)


12a Many a gunboat may be deployed to protect a harbour (10,3)

14a Cockney gets duck, Poplar’s no. 2 being caught in gully (6)
ARROYO A man’s name in Cockney pronunciation + duck or zero, around (P)O(plar).

15a Panic about potassium in cosmetic treatment (8)
SKINCARE Chemical symbol for potassium + IN, all inside a panic or alarm.


17a Presentation rude, not one to entertain old women (8)
BESTOWAL Rude or brutish, after deleting Roman numeral one, and with O(ld) W(omen) inserted.

19a State of senselessness in places after retreat by soldiers (6)
STUPOR Reversal of places or lays down, + one of those military abbreviations.

22a New teacher to help rival educational establishment? (3,5,5)
THE OTHER PLACE …what Oxford and Cambridge Universities call each other. Anagram of TEACHER TO HELP.

24a Essential Conservative charm lacking heart? (7)
CENTRAL C(onservative) + to charm or captivate minus the middle letter.

25a Dire expression when first hint of fear is expressed? (7)
GRIMACE Dire + a visual expression minus F(ear). (Expressed here means squeezed out, i.e. deleted.)

26a Weak material (4)
LAME Weak or unconvincing, and a kind of fabric.

27a Captivity of any number in underground activity (10)
INTERNMENT Letter meaning any number or umpteen, inside a word for burial.


1d Person that is dumped by Sally (4)
SORT A military raid minus the two-letter Latin abbreviation meaning that is.

2d Mineral in concrete covering over half of growing area (7)
REALGAR Concrete or not abstract + first half of a small cultivated plot.

3d This health professional may briefly suggest an Italian lake (7,6)
COMPANY DOCTOR Each word of the solution suggests a two-letter abbreviation familiar in crosswordese, which together spell an Italian lake.

4d Catmint eaten by one pet apparently (6)

5d Dancer terribly skinny I judge should be tucking in (8)
NIJINSKY Anagram of SKINNY around I J(udge).

Vaslav Nijinsky

7d Excellent bishop, this person’s a name for revolutionising country (7)
NAMIBIA An excellent grade + B(ishop) in chess + the grammatical first person + A + N(ame). Now reverse the lot.

8d Spooner’s name for pet rabbit, similar creatures being wild animals (5,5)
HONEY BEARS Cute word for a pet rabbit + a word for relatives of rabbits. Then Spoonerise.


11d Turning violently on traitors, men protest (13)

13d Working at basic lab giving fresh opportunity for university don? (10)

16d Good girl protected by fellow explorer (8)
MAGELLAN G(ood) + a girl’s name, all inside a fellow or chap.

18d Something bony presents problem when eating bird (7)
STERNUM A problem in arithmetic around an elegant gull-like bird.


20d Signal before appearance of wise man (7)
PRESAGE Prefix (whoops, there it is) meaning before + a wise man.

21d Highest point of a river leading to exclamation of surprise (6)
APOGEE A + Italian river + US exclamation of surprise.

23d Brutal person won’t want son round (4)
BEAT Someone who’s a bit of an animal, minus S(on).

Lots to enjoy here, including the very tidy &Lit (all-in-one clue) at 25a and the Spoonerism at 8d. I thought the anagrams at 12a and 22a were excellent.

The sting in the tail for me was the 2d/14a combo. Being pressed for time today I resorted to aids after a minute or two of headscratching and am glad I did, as I’m not sure I’d have got them otherwise.

Over to you – please rate and comment on this puzzle below.


  1. Hanni
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink


    I found this decidedly tricky. Like Toro, I found the 2d/14a combination a problem. 4d was new too and needed all the checkers before I could solve it, although amazingly I did know it was hidden somewhere! I rarely get Spoonerisms so just bunged that one in.

    The rest was a slow and steady solve. Loved the anagrams.

    Nice start to the Toughie week.

    Many thanks to the Don and to Toro for blogging, especially as I had to check I’d parsed a few correctly. Happy Christmas and thank you to you both,

    Back to work whilst my boss is skiing in St Anton.

    • Jane
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      That’ll be a Marriott he’s staying in, no doubt?

      • Hanni
        Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

        Honestly there are no words. I didn’t realise he’d gone! His works phone went to voicemail saying he could be contacted in an emergency at his chalet there. Definitely not a Marriott. Gives me quite a few bargaining chips though!

  2. Giovanni
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    No puzzle from me on Christmas Day, so the Compliments of the Seaason to one and all. Giovanni

    • Jane
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      Compliments to your good self as well, Giovanni, from one of those ‘entry level’ solvers. I may struggle to complete some of your puzzles (especially the Toughies) but derive much pleasure from the workout.

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Compliments of the season from us Giovanni and very many thanks for all your puzzles during the year.

    • Miffypops
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      Merry Christmas from me too. I have had a pop at this one. Very enjoyable so far. Thank you

    • Miffypops
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Merry Christmas from me too. I have had a pop at this one. Very enjoyable so far. Thank you Giovanni and Thank you Toro

  3. Jane
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Giovanni on a Tuesday seems altogether wrong – fills me with dread at the thought of who’s down for the rest of the Toughie week.
    Having said that, I did manage to get most of the way on my own, just needed to check with Mr. Google for 14a plus 2&4d.
    I did also need Toro’s help to fully parse 3d and that pesky abb. in 10a (I know, that was me being ‘dim’ as Kath would say).

    Quite happy for the honours board to host both the anagrams and 25a but can’t quite put the Spoonerism up there – it will be a long time before anyone betters that from Gazza in his recent NTSPP! I did, however, have a sneaking regard for 9a.
    Many thanks to DG and also to Toro – is that your last appearance before Christmas? If so, all the very warmest of wishes and hope you’ll be back with your expert blogs in the New Year.

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Very much helped by the long anagrams as they pretty much jumped at me except 22a which was got once I had enough checkers.
    The Spooner took a while as I had the bunny/bears connection but couldn’t think of the other pair.
    Finally got it and finished with 6a.
    Needed google to check the mineral in 2d as the parsing led me to the solution.
    Same when I checked catmint on 4d.
    Favourite is 12a.
    Thanks to Giovanni and Toro. Have a Merry Xmas.

  5. KiwiColin
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Needed a bit of checking to confirm 2d 14a and 4d, but I always have the reference material handy when Giovanni is the setter. Do not usually think of 12a being a harbour so took some time to work out the anagram. Enjoyed 22a as I had convinced myself that it must an institution I had not heard of until the penny dropped. Good fun and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Giovanni and Toro

  6. Jane
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone else bothered to read through the ad. at 15a? Ye gods – I dread to think what was in the stuff!

    • Hanni
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      Yes I did…the thought of it makes me shudder! Just why?

    • Miffypops
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Snake oil Jane.

    • Toro
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      It was probably radioactive. But what’s a muddy, homely girl to do?

      • Hanni
        Posted December 22, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        What’s a little radioactive material and bleach when you can have men admiring your milky write skin?

  7. Gazza
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Elkamere tomorrow.

    • Hanni
      Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Yay!!! And you get to blog it.

  8. Una
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    A lovely puzzle , but of course very tricky, not at all helped by my many mistakes.
    To start with , I decided that 23d was Yobo, leading to difficulties with 25a and 27a..
    I loved 1a , 22a and 12a and 8d.
    With thanks to Giovanni and Toro..

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    The right hand side and 12A went in readily enough, but I made very heavy weather of the left and had to resort to anagram solver for 1A before the rest of SW corner opened up. I also stared at 13D for too long before the anagram jumped out. 2D and 4D were new to me but doable. I didn’t enjoy it all that much, I’m afraid. Anyway, my thanks to Giovanni and hugs to Toro for the review, particularly the parsing of 3D.

  10. Salty Dog
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    3*/3.5*, and I too was held up by the NW corner. 21d, I think, is my favourite clue (although I had little ticks against quite a few others as well). Thanks and Merry Christmas to Giovanni as he lays down his pen, and thanks to Toro for the review.

  11. Heno
    Posted December 23, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Giovanni and to Toro for the review and hints. I can’t normally get into a Giovanni Toughie, but I managed the right hand side ok. Needed the hints for the left, and there were three new words for me in 2&4d & 14a, although the latter seems to ring a distant bell. Favourite was 22a. Last in was 2d. Was 4*/3 * for me.