Toughie 1533

Toughie No 1533 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

Thanks to Sparks for a very good and most enjoyable Toughie. He usually incorporates a Nina in the grid and today is no exception – if you’ve not found it there’s more information at the bottom of the review.

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 Wolves etc mostly fair when tackling men (9)
CARNIVORA – a fair or festival without its last letter contains the abbreviation for ordinary soldiers.

6a Service given by adult store (5)
AMASS – a religious service follows the letter once used in UK film classifications to specify adult.

9a Spoke about beginning to calculate root (7)
RADICAL – a spoke contains the first letter of calculate.

10a Pretend one girl is expecting another? (9)
IMAGINARY – start with the Roman numeral for one then insert one 4-letter girl’s name into another. Presumably ‘expecting’ as a containment indicator is being used in the sense of carrying, as in “she’s expecting a baby”.

11a Protected face from devious type, turning left or right (3,4)
LEE SIDE – reverse (turning) a devious, slippery type and add what may be either left or right.

12a Its beneficiaries expect to be under some pressure (7)
SHIATSU – cryptic definition of a form of therapy from Japan.

13a Apple peel, apricot and nuts — Ma prepared too much for a trifle (1,5,2,1,6)
A STORM IN A TEACUP – make an anagram (prepared) of A[ppl]E APRICOTS NUTS MA.

18a Lifts offered by sailor given drink (5,2)
JACKS UP – an informal word for a sailor followed by a verb to drink.

20a Beat victim, a sucker of sorts (7)
LAMPREY – charade of a verb to beat or thrash and a victim or quarry.

22a Great songs hint how to get this (5,4)
SMASH HITS – obey the answer and you get THIS.

23a Rum served in saloon in anything but Holy Island (7)
BACARDI – insert what saloon is a type of (in the motoring world) into the opposite of holy or good, then finish with an abbreviation for island. Did there ought to be some indication that saloon is being used as an example?

24a Stamp on over-sentimental, hollow WWII song? (5)
OLDIE – a stamping device follows the outer letters of over-sentimental.

25a Run away from pedestrian organised fortnightly events (4,5)
NEAP TIDES – remove the cricket abbreviation for run from PEDEST[r]IAN and make an anagram (organised) of what’s left.

Down Clues

1d Lamb under ribbed cloth made by a king’s daughter (8)
CORDELIA – the king is one of Shakespeare’s eponymous heroes. The pseudonym used by the essayist Charles Lamb follows a type of ribbed cloth.

2d Reminiscent of handout contributing to payment (8)
REDOLENT – a handout from the state goes inside a regular payment.

3d Fashionable young one’s current demons (6)
INCUBI – string together an adjective meaning fashionable or trendy, a young animal or person and the symbol for electric current.

4d Bind top of load in sash, say, for lifting (6)
OBLIGE – insert the first letter of load into a Japanese sash then reverse (for lifting) the abbreviation meaning say or ‘for instance’.

5d At Dunkirk, rescuers were so disoriented (3,2,3)
ALL AT SEA – how one could categorise 100% of the rescuers of the British forces from Dunkirk in WWII.

6d Clubs avoiding habit-forming supplement (8)
ADDITIVE – remove the abbreviation for the card suit clubs from an adjective meaning habit-forming.

7d Out-and-out conceited, ignoring sign of damage to one’s team (6)
ARRANT – start with an adjective meaning conceited or haughty and take away the abbreviation for an accidental addition to the opposition’s score in football.

8d Announcement of copper’s farewell (3,3)
SEE YOU – say aloud the chemical symbol for copper.

14d Remain in institution (4,4)
REST HOME – charade of a verb to remain or stay put and an adverb meaning ‘in’.

15d 18 Down literally in unending fix — shut up! (8)
IMPRISON – insert what’s exactly described in the answer to 18d into a verb to fix or embed without its final T.

16d Fuelled by energy, my geek went round the bend (8)
CORNERED – an exclamation meaning ‘my!’ is followed by a geek or knowledgeable but socially inept person containing E(nergy).

17d One catches deep breath, frees oneself of visionaries (8)
PSYCHICS – this is a double homophone (indicated by ‘one catches’). Start with what sounds like a deep breath and add a homophone of an informal verb meaning ‘frees oneself of’ (an undesirable habit).

18d In a precise manner, tilts to move ring to the bottom (4,2)
JUST SO – a verb meaning tilts in a mediaeval tournament has its ring-shaped letter moved to the bottom.

19d Scratched rule in church before end of synod (6)
CLAWED – insert a rule into an abbreviation for church and add the end letter of synod.

20d QC almost picked up scarf in foreign city (6)
LISBOA – this city is spelt here in the way its inhabitants would spell it rather than how we usually see it. Reverse an informal word for a QC without its final letter and add a woman’s long furry scarf.

21d Port   wine (6)
MUSCAT – double definition. The port is on the Arabian peninsula.

Top clues for me today were 22a, 7d and 8d. Which one(s) appealed to you?

As for the Nina – the double unches in the NW, SE and SW spell out (going clockwise in each case) ‘double unches twosomes’ and all four double unches in the NE corner are double letters.



  1. dutch
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I was worried when I first saw the grid with 14 double unches(!), but NE was accessible and I was able to make my way through a delightful puzzle in less than normal toughie time. Enjoyment started early with 7d (out-and-out conceited) and 8d (copper’s farewell). And after that, it just carried on – pretty much every clue was brilliant – great puzzle! I liked the football surface in 1a, “spoke about” in 9a, “expecting another” in 10a, “devious type turning left or right” in 11a, etc etc etc, too much to list. Special mention to 22a (great songs), 17d (one catches deep breath) and 23a (rum served in saloon).

    I had entered an alternative spelling for 12a that did not affect the grid, and my last to parse was 20d

    I forgot to look for a nina so rushed back to the puzzle when I read the first line of the review – yes, of course!

    Many thanks Sparks and thanks very much Gazza

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Great challenge today.
    Found it quite tough (as it should be really) but not too obscure.
    Some of the parsing eluded me even if the answers made sense.
    That was the case for 7d: Arrogant to arrant. Didn’t realise og was short for own goal..d’ oh.
    11a too totally stumped me too and so did 15d.
    I was pleased to see the Portuguese Capital in its original form.
    Had to check 3d in the dictionary. Not very nice creatures.
    Favourite is the homophone in 8d. C U indeed.
    16d is not far behind.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Gazza for the explanations.

  3. Jane
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Quite a struggle (as you would expect!) but I made it despite being short of a couple of parsings – 15d I was looking for a word meaning ‘just so’ to fit into a word for fix (dim!) and 7d where I failed on the football reference.
    3d was a new word for me and I took a long time to spot the homophone in 17d.
    Favourite was 8d.

    I did get part of the Nina – but forgot to look in the SE corner!

    Thanks to Sparks and to the knight in shining armour for helping me to see the light!

  4. Expat Chris
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I found it quite challenge, and it took some while to get going. I needed Google’s help for 1A and 12A, and shamefully failed to get 6D. I couldn’t parse 23A. The initial letter had me thinking of bar and I couldn’t get away from that. But it was a wonderful puzzle with so much to like. Top of my Pops are 20A, 22A, 7D, 8D, and 17D. Many thanks to Sparks and to Gazza.

  5. halcyon
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Yes, very enjoyable with loads of excellent clues. Favourites were 13a [best anagram clue for quite a while – well constructed and lovely surface] 22a [not far behind] 8d and 17d [refreshingly well-done homophones] and 16d [I loved “my geek”].

    Noticed the “twos” in the SW but failed to see the rest of the NINA – must try to remember his reputation for them.

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Gazza for a fine blog [must book my car in for a service]

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted January 13, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Now. That is what I call lateral thinking.

  6. KiwiColin
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Who can possibly be churlish about double unches when they are put to such good use as Sparks has done here. I finished the puzzle, enjoying it all the way and then went looking for a message that we have come to expect from this setter. Found it and laughed all over again. An excellent puzzle at just the right level of difficulty for maximum enjoyment for me.
    Thanks Sparks and Gazza.

  7. Gazza
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Beam tomorrow.

  8. Sparks
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Very many thanks to Gazza for a fine blog, and to all for the encouraging comments. The Nina was an aside on this remarkably double-unched grid (not the only one in the set, BTW). I have a vague recollection that Notabilis did a related “double-y” Nina on a TT grid, perhaps this one (?), a good while back.

    There seem to be no loose ends, except to pursue Halcyon’s implication by asking where Gazza gets his car serviced, as my MOT’s shortly due for renewal. I’d not go to the portrayed garage, of course, because their H&S standards are demonstrably lacking with regards to appropriate safety gear: what a waist [sic].

    • Gazza
      Posted January 13, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for dropping in, Sparks (we do appreciate it when setters leave a comment) and thanks for the very enjoyable puzzle.

    • Hanni
      Posted January 14, 2016 at 12:17 am | Permalink

      Thanks Sparks. Can’t like this puzzle enough!

      And re cars…I’ve taken apart bits of my Defender before in shorts and t-shirt, no H&S stuff needed. Just common sense. But then again I’m a girl so it comes naturally to me.

      • Sparks
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 2:18 am | Permalink

        I can’t say that H&S has ever been high on my agenda! As a lifelong car-tinkerer, I still sport a chipped tooth from trying to loosen a solenoid nut on a starter motor, errr, orally, because I couldn’t be bothered to reach for a spanner. Re comment@10: Sparky says “woof!”, BTW.

        • Hanni
          Posted January 15, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

          Now that’s an interesting one to explain to a dentist!

    • dutch
      Posted January 14, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Thanks for dropping in Sparks – great puzzle

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted January 13, 2016 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Such a shame that this smashing puzzle didn’t generate more comments. Maybe we need a “Lurkers Welcome” sign on the front door. Still, “we happy few” were clearly just that.

    By the way, finding the nina was way above my pay grade.

    • Hanni
      Posted January 14, 2016 at 12:19 am | Permalink

      I agree Chris. Excellent puzzle. Oh and I never spot the Nina.

      BTW I read up on Canada Geese, gosh yes I can see why they cause problems!

  10. Hanni
    Posted January 14, 2016 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    Oh yes!

    I would happily solve puzzles like this all day long. What a joy and certainly a challenge. Like Dutch I looked at the grid and panicked a bit but it slowly fell corner by corner. I had to double check 1a was a word, although I’m sure it’s come up elsewhere before. 13a was bunged in and figured out later and I had I misspelled 12a to start with. Not a bit of that matters. Loved the whole thing.

    I needed Gazza’s help for the Nina, always do, but it made me laugh.

    Kath’s away so the mice will play. Favourites are 10a, 22a, 24a, 7d and last but not least is the lovely 8d. What a clue!

    Many thanks to Sparks (and hello to Sparky), and to Gazza for a great blog.

  11. Heno
    Posted February 25, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Sparks and to Gazza for the review and hints. Beyond my comprehension, needed 15 hints to finish. I thought the Nina was fantastic, but needless to say, I didn’t see it.