Toughie 1535

Toughie No 1535 by Firefly

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

I did this puzzle when it came online at midnight, after going out for a curry and many beers, and perhaps not too surprisingly I did stare at the grid for a long time before anything happened – a bit unnerving when you know you have to write a blog. But, once I got started, it was very addictive and I finished in one and a half normal toughie time, which I call 4* difficulty. I went to bed without having parsed everything and was relieved that it all made sense this morning.

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.


5a    ‘Cracker‘ is essentially most unnerving (7)
STUNNER: Hiding (essentially) in most unnerving

7a    Caught delving into theosophy off and on: ‘It’s moonshine!’ (5)
HOOCH: The abbreviation for caught goes inside (delving into) the even letters (off and on) of theosophy

9a    I must be sober in Sibyl’s arms (6)
SETTER: The abbreviation for teetotal (sober) goes inside (in ….’s arms) a word for an oracle or a sibyl (= a prophetic woman in ancient Greece)

10a    Render hostile arguments honestly (8)
CONSTRUE: A 4-letter word for hostile arguments (if friendly arguments are “pros”), followed by a word meaning honestly or correct

11a    After surgery, mopy pup I treated gets original form of drug (5,5)
OPIUM POPPY: The 2-letter abbreviation for surgery is followed by an anagram (treated) of MOPY PUP I

13a    Son’s after a quarter deposit (4)
LEES: The abbreviation for son comes after a quarter towards which the wind blows (and if you are on the ***side, you’re sheltered from the wind) to give a word that means deposit (of the kind you might find in a wine bottle)

14a    Olive Spear‘s to stand tall, with evening dress being on credit (8,5)
COCKTAIL STICK: A 4-letter word for stand tall or set upright or tilt up inquiringly (one’s head, ears, etc.), plus a 5-letter word for a type of men’s evening dress, and the little mark a teacher might give you if she gives you credit for a correct answer

16a    With sun going down, sweet time’s ahead — sweet indeed! (4)
TWEE: Remove the abbreviation for sun (with sun going down) from sweet, and move the abbreviation for time to the front

17a    Former officers dispersed in 10 (10)
CENTURIONS: Anagram (dispersed) of IN + the answer for 10a

19a    Trusted friend‘s to modify construction kit student rejected (5,3)
ALTER EGO: A 5-letter verb meaning to modify or change, followed by a 4-letter brand name for toy building blocks without the initial L (student=learner rejected). I keep forgetting that the answer can also have this meaning

20a    Income tax being incorrect, unhappy man’s out striking (6)
EXOTIC: Remove (out) an anagram (unhappy) of MAN from an anagram (being incorrect) of INCOME TAX

22a    Lavish bonus had up front (5)
PLUSH: A 4-letter word for bonus or advantage plus the first letter (up front) of had

23a    9 and sibling framing ‘a far-off moon’ as rhetorical device (7)
MEIOSIS: A 2-letter personal pronoun which is a self-description of the person in 9a, and a 3-letter abbreviation for a female sibling go either side of the innermost moon of Jupiter


1d    Back of boat (4)
PUNT: A double definition – back as in to bet in horse racing

2d    Inebriate given lift to go to hospital department’s warehouse (8)
ENTREPOT: The usual 3-letter abbreviation of a hospital department is followed by the reversal (given lift) of someone who drinks a lot

3d    This doodah‘s delicate with fringes of greenery (6)
THINGY: A 4-letter word for delicate or meagre is followed by the outer letters (fringes) of greenery

4d    Nothing’s allowed to go bad over on island — hence these savouries (10)
TORTELLINI: Reversal (over) of: a 3-letter word meaning nothing or zero AND a 3-letter word meaning allowed or permitted AND a 3-letter word meaning to go bad or decay – then add the abbreviation for island

5d    Gambling where odds may be about negligible (5)
SWEEP: The abbreviation for starting price (odds) goes around (about) a Scottish word meaning negligible or little

6d    Leaving North on one occasion, once more in port collapses into lounge (9,4)
RECEPTION ROOM: An anagram (collapses) of O(N)CE MORE IN PORT without one of the N’s (leaving north on one occasion)

8d    Listen: embed leaders of unit by evening — in body armour (7)
HAUBERK: A 4-letter word for listen, as in “**** the herald angels sing”, goes around the first letters (leaders) of Unit By Evening

12d    Rum clue one’s composed with old neglected storyteller (5,5)
UNCLE REMUS: Anagram of RUM CLUE (O)NES without the abbreviation for O(ld)

14d    Primrose restrains impertinence (7)
COWSLIP: A 4-letter word for restrains or subdues and a 3-letter word for impertinence or cheek

15d    Remembrance Sunday offers up varied events — not involving religion for starters (8)
SOUVENIR: First letters (for starters) of eight words in the clue

17d    College park Hove excavated for nursery (6)
CRECHE: The abbreviation for C(ollege), a 3-letter word for park or recreation ground, and the outermost letters of Hove (excavated)

18d    Captures little photos — get digit out of the way (5)
NAILS: A word for the mini versions of graphic images from which one of your five digits is removed

21d    Take the place of Jack, absent from tournament (4)
OUST: Remove the abbreviation for Jack (as in playing cards) from an old-fashioned tournament involving knights, horses and lances

My favourite is the acrostic at 15d. It was one of the clues I did not parse until morning! This type of clue is very hard to write with a smooth surface and gets harder the longer the word – the example here is just brilliant. What did you like?


  1. Jane
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    One day I’m going to find Toughies easier – today is not that day!
    Three new words at 23a plus 2&8d and failure to parse three that I should have seen – 20a plus 5&15d
    Best smile moment came from 14a.

    Thanks to Firefly for the challenge and to Dutch for the help with the parsing – no-one could ever accuse you of missing out on an opportunity to include the odd scantily clad damsel in your reviews! :wink:

    • dutch
      Posted January 15, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      It’s not me – it’s the clues

      • Hanni
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t that the equivalent of saying ‘a big boy made me do it’?

      • Jane
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Maybe one’s interpretation of the clues?!!!
        Not that I’m complaining – Miss Derek did look absolutely ‘stunning’ in Ten (great film) and, to judge by photo’s, she is still an extremely beautiful woman.

    • Jose
      Posted January 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Jane. I just came on here, had a quick scroll down looking at the pictures and quite naturally I paused on Bo Derek and then the girl below wearing the flesh-coloured bikini. Now, my eyes aren’t all that good and it initially looked like she was completely starkers – so scrutiny was necessary! Anyway, I went back to the top of the page to read Dutch’s comment, where he says he came in at midnight full of curry and many beers to do the crossword. But I read it as: “…I did stare at the girl [instead of grid] for a long time before anything happened” (perhaps my mind was distracted somewhat). Well, for a moment I was too wary and embarrassed to continue reading… :wacko:

      • Kitty
        Posted January 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        I doubt you were the only one to find it necessary to scrutinise that picture, Jose!

  2. Hanni
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    A couple of new words in 2 and 8d. Also had to look up 23a. Safe to say that I found this quite difficult. Took me awhile to click to 17 and 19a along with 4d.

    Really good challenge with a 14a/d bringing the biggest smiles.

    Many thanks to Firefly and to Dutch for a great blog. Nice work on the pics again. No idea how you managed to solve this after having a drink. Amazing.

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Stared at the puzzle for some time before things began to click. I did complete it, though not all that quickly. Some new words, but not too difficult to sort out the answers. I couldn’t parse 15D and 20A and I didn’t even try to parse 6D. It made my head ache just looking at it. Favorites are 9A and 14D (just because I love them and we don’t get them here so I haven’t seem them for years and years). I did enjoy it, so thanks to Firefly and to Dutch for the review.

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    New words for me were 8d, 23a and the storyteller in 12d.
    All easily got from the parsing though.
    8d made me think of the joke about the actor who’s line was: Hark, I hear the cannons roll. Do look it up if you don’t already know it.
    Found today’s the easiest toughie of the week.
    Thanks to Firefly and to Dutch for the review.

  5. Shropshirelad
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable way to finish off the toughie week with this cleverly constructed puzzle. Like Dutch, I sat through the first read wondering where my ‘in’ was going to appear and that was without a few beers and a curry. So, out came the wine and ‘Lo and Behold’ it all became clear (I wish). Once I had a few solutions in the rest coughed up their secrets in due course. The only 2 words I hadn’t come across before were 2 & 8d so the BRB was consulted to confirm my answers.

    I will opt for 15d as my favourite as I had all the checkers there but the penny didn’t drop for a while – very clever.

    Thanks to Firefly for the challenge and Dutch for his usual enlightening review.

    Have a great weekend everyone.

    • Hanni
      Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Tis Friday SL…the day of new wine recommendations?

      Quite in the mood for reds and whites, unusual for me.

      • dutch
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        Unusual to be in the mood for reds and whites? What is usual then, rose?

        • Hanni
          Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink


          Nooo..what I meant is that I usually don’t fancy drinking both, and I predominantly drink white anyway. However you’ve got me thinking now about the mixing of the two, could you create a stunning rose? I have my doubts. I don’t think I’ll try that particular cocktail.

          • dutch
            Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

            When in the mood for both – drink both

            • Hanni
              Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

              Absolutely! And I shall. I’ve just found an article in the Telegraph from 2009 saying the EU says you can just mix red and white to make rose. I’m still not convinced but in the interests of science I may try it at the pub on Sunday. The stuff in there is b****y awful to begin with.

              • dutch
                Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                Love it.
                “May I please have a glas of red and a glass of white and a pint glass?”

                • Hanni
                  Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

                  That is exactly what I plan on doing. I’m also going to ask for a straw and an umbrella thing. Sunday bar staff boy gets confused easily.

                  I shall take a picture of the result and use it as my avatar on Monday. Along with the painkillers I’ll no doubt need. I’m rubbish at drinking.

              • Shropshirelad
                Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

                Nothing new to report I’m afraid – I’ve just purchased a few (?) bottles of the Roc St Vincent which is on offer at £6 from Sainsbury. As you know, a very fine slurping wine AND from France. Won’t JL be pleased :yes:

                • Hanni
                  Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

                  Oh excellent. I have to do a Sainsbury’s run too. Thank you. :good:

  6. halcyon
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I agree that 15d was v well done and I liked 14a – Olive Spears? how can she be the definition?? Then, with a couple of checkers for the 2nd word, the penny dropped! Also thought the subtracted anagram at 20a was neat.

    Thanks to Firefly and to Dutch for an excellent blog and his dedication to the task!

  7. Gordon
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    This was not unenjoyable – to coin a 23a.
    LOI was 1d – I could not get raft out of my head, though I did not pencil it in, then spotted the wonderfully disguised lurker at 5a, and in the answer became obvious enough.
    Needed Dutch’s help to parse 15d (simply brilliant) and 18d (I’ve never heard of the little photos).
    I remembered to look for a Nina, given the shape of the grid, but could not spot one.

    Thanks to Firefly and Dutch

    • dutch
      Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      I’m really beginning to think 15d is genius – despite “for starters”, the clue is so beautifully constructed that it escapes most people at first (myself included)

      • Hanni
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        Having just looked at it again, I think you’re all correct. It is a very clever and such a smooth surface read.

        • halcyon
          Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

          It was one of my last in

      • Shropshirelad
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        I agree – as I said earlier, it was my last one in and even though I had all the checkers, it still took a bit before the penny dropped.

  8. dutch
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Are people aware of the name of the plush toy pic at 22a?

    • Hanni
      Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      Dave the minion? If so that is funny.

      • dutch
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Yes! Dave.

        When I mentioned big Dave to my kids, they asked whether he was a minion.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Hard not to be, even for an grey-haired old granny like me. :smile:

      • Hanni
        Posted January 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        I had to ask my child type thing. She then asked me why I was looking at minions for work. Hmmm, no answer to that.

    • Jane
      Posted January 15, 2016 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Thanks all for the info. I hadn’t got a clue about the 22a toy!

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    We are kicking ourselves that we had not been able to parse 15d. Yes, a brilliant clue. We had to use BRB to check a couple, the non-biological meaning of 23a and 8d which was completely new to us but we had got from the wordplay. Lots of fun and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Firefly and Dutch.

  10. Chris
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this very much and there was just enough success to entice me to spend more time – I almost finished it without the hints. (I had “extant” for 20 across unfortunately which messed up two others.) Quite agree about the brilliant 15d, which sent me well up the garden path until I finally realised it contained the magic word “starters”. Thank you Firefly and Dutch.

  11. Sheffieldsy
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Similar to Gordon, we had raft for 1d, thinking it was the back end of the word craft. We got all the other clues except that we eventually failed at the last because we couldn’t solve 5a without Dutch’s nice blog.

    Favourite clue was 19a. Agree with Dutch’s ratings and thanks to Firefly.