Toughie 1529

Toughie No 1529 by proXimal

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

I made heavy weather of this one with most of the answers needing to be teased out, but I enjoyed the tussle so thanks to proXimal for a proper Toughie.

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 Make divine covers pong, ironed without the lining being dry (10)
DEHUMIDIFY – a verb meaning to make divine contains a pong and the outer letters of ironed.

6a Favour beginner after swapping tips (4)
BOON – swap the outer letters of a slang term for a beginner or new arrival.

9a Sailor overboard presumably rejected navigation aids (7)
ATLASES – an informal word for a sailor is immersed in the briny (overboard presumably) then it all gets reversed.

10a Competitor chased in races by opponents (7)
ENTRANT – a verb meaning chased or hurried goes inside the Isle of Man races and that all follows opponents at bridge.

12a Oldest red silk wound in fine threads (7,2,4)
DRESSED TO KILL – an anagram (wound) of OLDEST RED SILK.

14a Son on river involved in another display (6)
EXPOSE – the abbreviation for son follows an Italian river and that goes inside another river (one in Devonshire).

15a Rebel regrets keeping to degree course in revolution (8)
SABOTEUR – a verb meaning regrets contains TO and a degree course with the whole lot needing to be reversed.

17a Dislike a mobile with no light (8)
LOATHING – an anagram (mobile) of A and NO LIGHT.

19a Spiky plants caused splits inside of case (6)
AGAVES – a verb meaning caused (as in ’caused concern’) goes inside the middle letters of case.

22a Song‘s opening covered by support group disheartened boss (4,2,1,6)
AWAY IN A MANGER – an opening or entrance (3,2) is contained in the abbreviation for a support group for alcoholics. After that we need a boss without the middle letter (disheartened).

24a Far from rubbish journalist’s written down (7)
NOTATED – when split 2,3,2 the answer could describe a senior journalist who’s far from rubbish.

25a One who feels sympathy burying old actor (7)
POITIER – a person who feels sympathy contains O(ld).

26a Eastern side of European resort where many crash (4)
DORM – we need the right-hand (Eastern) half of a Spanish resort.

27a Leaving adobe with no fuss, desires property (10)
BELONGINGS – take the word for fuss away from adobe then add desires or yearnings.

Down Clues

1d What you could see on TV   move across the screen (4)
DRAG – double definition. This was my last answer and there was a loud clunk as the penny dropped – TV is a transvestite. The second meaning is what you might use a mouse to do.

2d Told ‘Stay hidden‘ (5,2)
HOLED UP – this is a homophone (told) of a phrasal verb (4,2) meaning to stay or support.

3d After disorder, English strict about protecting monarch’s aircraft (13)
MESSERSCHMITT – start with a word for disorder or confusion and E(nglish) then make an anagram (about) of STRICT containing the abbreviation for a monarch’s title.

4d Wanting spades not no trumps, one who might propose bridge is to stop (6)
DESIST – start with someone who might suggest a bridge (if you have problems with your gnashers) and change the abbreviation for ‘no trumps’ to that of spades.

5d Become confused if upcoming year is productive time (5,3)
FIELD DAY – put together a verb meaning to become confused and IF. Now reverse that (upcoming) and add Y(ear).

7d Like gemstone ring left in possession of political activist (7)
OPALINE – start with the letter that’s ring-shaped then insert L(eft) into the surname of Thomas, the eighteenth century political activist who operated on both sides of the Atlantic.

8d Bug confidently assured to ignore bee’s hives (6,4)
NETTLE RASH – a verb to bug or annoy is followed by an adjective meaning confidently assured or cocky without the letter bee.

11d Hot buggy, bumpy in motion to the end (13)
THOROUGHGOING – start with an anagram (buggy, i.e. with bugs or faulty) of HOT and add an adjective meaning bumpy or uneven and a present participle meaning ‘in motion’.

13d Justified the Spanish academic having week up north (4-6)
WELL-EARNED – a Spanish definite article and an adjective meaning academic or well-read are preceded (having … up north) by the abbreviation for week.

16d Unstable land used to shift from mount (8)
UNSADDLE – an anagram (unstable) of LAND USED.

18d It enables fit player to get rid of cold — eating stuff up (7)
ADAPTOR – a player or performer without the C(old) contains the reversal of a verb to stuff.

20d Kind king in row, very upset (7)
VERSION – insert an abbreviation for king in a row or din, add V(ery) and then reverse it all.

21d Poet‘s to make weak noodle soup (6)
SAPPHO – charade of a verb to weaken or exhaust and a Vietnamese noodle soup. I hadn’t come across the soup before (or, if I had, I’d forgotten it) but given the checking letters it couldn’t be much else.

23d Plant found in fair isle (4)
IRIS – on my preliminary scan through the clues I hadn’t solved any by the time I got to this point so I was pleased to find an easy lurker.

In a photo-finish for my favourite clue were 9a, 1d and 4d. Which one(s) did you judge to be best?


  1. dutch
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Phew, that was a bit of a struggle. Took a while to get an inroad, but things did speed up (a little) after some initial checkers were in place. 4* difficulty for me. Last one in was 1d – good penny drop moment, should have seen it earlier. I thought the 17a construction was a little naughty, well it fooled me for a while anyway. I did quite a lot of retro-parsing after guessing the answer. First one in was 12a.

    Lots of great clues 1d, 26a, 21d, 5d are just a few that had me scratching my head for a while… many more..

    Thanks Gazza for the political activist in 7d, I realised on reading the review I’d bunged it in.

    Thanks proXimal for a great work out and thanks Gazza for the review

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    This is what I call a toughie.
    Took me forever to get Sydney in 25a as I couldn’t get that Olivier again out of my head.
    Slowed down in the SW corner too as I wrote Naps in 26a: Spa for the resort and the last letter of European, the lot reversed (eastern).
    Couldn’t parse 7d. That was my only bung in.
    Favourite is 9a.
    Thanks to proximal for the challenge and to Gazza for the useful review.
    Love the picture of the Rocky Horror. I used to go to watch it in Leicester square at midnight with a copy of the telegraph to put over my head and a bit of rice. Dancing the time warp. Damn it Janet. What a laugh.

  3. halcyon
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Cor! Pretty tough and pretty clever. Pushing 5* for me. Fortunately there were enough gimmes [eg 23d] and enough [relatively] obvious anagrams [eg 12a] to provide a start. Then the rest gradually yielded from the SE upwards. 1d was last one in and a big chuckle for me too.

    Favourites amongst many were 9a [overboard] 14a [the 2 rivers] 19a [sneaky construction with lovely misleading surface] 1d and 13d [week up north].

    Many thanks to proXimal and to Gazza for an excellent blog – but I preferred Priscilla QOTD to Rocky!

  4. the dodger
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I found this very heavy going, hard if not impossible to get on Proximals wavelength. So many really convoluted clues, with their reversals and missing letters and obscure definitions. It was really tough… and that is the name of the game,but for me no fun.Many thanks to Gazza for the umpteen explanations (and many answers) Congratulations to the setter with grudging respect.

  5. Una
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
    And I needed several hints.
    Thanks to ProXimal and Gazza.
    My favourite is 15a or 21d. I had quite forgotten about Sidney.

  6. Shropshirelad
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I now have an extremely sore head having battled with this toughie. I nearly gave up at one point but was determined to complete it.
    Tough? – yes
    Fair? – yes
    Enjoyable? – Not quite. There were some lovely clues (9 & 15a) but others were a touch too contrived for me (isn’t 22a a bit too late?)

    Thanks to proXimal for the challenge and Gazza for the splendid review (glad it was you and not me – you would have been waiting past midnight for my review)

  7. Gazza
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Dada tomorrow.

  8. Jane
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Probably well above my pay grade but I did finally get there without resorting to the hints. Certainly needed the review to parse four of my answers.
    The abbreviations in 1&4d caught me out and I wasn’t familiar with the slang term in 6a – only heard of ‘newbie’ before today.
    Had to consult with Mr. Google to get the poet (and the soup) and the 19a plant.
    As for 1a – can’t tell you how many houses I went round before getting that one!
    Top spots go to 9&12a with a special mention for Mr. Tibbs – what a brilliant film.

    Thanks to proXimal (I think!) and definitely to Gazza for some much-needed explanations.

    • Kitty
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      N00b is l33t, Jane. Pwned!

      • Jane
        Posted January 6, 2016 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

        Good grief! Just followed the link – if they start using that in crosswords on a regular basis I think I’ll throw in the towel!

  9. andy
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Very glad to see the ratings, thought it was me having a bad day, very bad day. Thanks to Gazza and proXimal

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Spent a short and not very productive time on this very early this morning and was hoping to get back to it later this evening. Not looked at the hints, but judging by the comments I won’t get very far. Perhaps I’ll just cut out the agony and wait for Dada, which should be up in an hour or so.

  11. Salty Dog
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Too hot for me. I needed 5 hints to complete, 3 of them in the NE corner. I suppose 3d is my favourite clue, but I liked 24a as well. I’d have to score it 4.5*/4*. Thanks to proXimal, and Gazza.

  12. KiwiColin
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I did this one in Turere Lodge. Started off in daylight, then got a few more by candle light and eventually finished it off using a torch. It took a long time and a lot of effort but a very clever puzzle and good fun. It was probably a good thing that I had no possibility of electronic assistance as I might have been tempted.
    Thanks ProXimal and Gazza.

  13. molly
    Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Crikey that was hard. I’ve never managed more than a few clues in a ProXimal puzzle before so was well pleased to only need one hint, for 9ac, super clue though. So thanks to the setter and to Gazza for an excellent review of a first-rate Toughie.