Toughie 1539

Toughie No 1539 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Solid and fun puzzle from Notabilis – the top half went in reasonably well and a few spicy bits in the bottom half slowed me down, but it still yielded in normal toughie time. Smooth surfaces and great definitions make for a most enjoyable puzzle.

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    Animal repelled by feline and ovine males (6)
MARMOT: Reversal (repelled) of male cat and male sheep

5a    Go round about America, backing state funds (8)
TREASURY: A 3-letter verb for go or attempt goes round both a 2-letter word for about or concerning and a reversal (backing) of the 3-letter abbreviation for America

9a    One expected to attack hub to benefit person in care (6,7)
CENTRE FORWARD: This football position is formed by a charade of hub (6), to benefit (3), and person in care (4)

10a    World group court involved in absolute cause of deflation (8)
PUNCTURE: Abbreviation for an international organisation (world group) and the 2-letter abbreviation for court go inside (involved in) a 4-letter adjective mean absolute or unmixed

11a    Left Europe in short flight to go into hiding (4,2)
HOLE UP: The abbreviations for L(eft) and EU(ropean) go inside an informal word for a short airplane flight

12a    Mistreatment here sullies retreats somewhat (3-3)
ILL-USE: Hidden backwards (retreats somewhat) in here sullies

14a    Drink before noon, with too much time to knock back (8)
AMARETTO: The 2-letter abbreviation for the part of a day before noon, then a reversal (to knock back) of both a 3-letter abbreviation meaning too much and a word for time or age

16a    Reduction in motion leaving duke with anxiety issues (8)
NEUROTIC: An anagram (in motion) of RE(d)UCTION without (leaving) the abbreviation for duke

19a    Uncivilised person taking salt with nuts mostly (6)
TARZAN: Another word for salt or sailor followed by the first 3 letters (mostly) of a 4-letter word meaning nuts or crazy

21a    Local female to cut and run (6)
GALLOP: A word for girl in dialect (local) followed by a 3-letter word meaning cut the top or ends off (e.g., of a tree)

23a    Words from personnel when interrupting microwave warning? (8)
PHRASING: The two-letter abbreviation for a department that used to be called personnel and a 2-letter word for when go inside (interrupting)
the sound a microwave makes when it’s ready

25a    Brains in order, working at clues (13)
INTELLECTUALS: “IN” from the clue, a 4-letter verb meaning to order or instruct, followed by an anagram (working) of AT CLUES

26a    Dud and Pete both ultimately fool about turning classic (4,4)
DEAD LOSS: The last letters (both ultimately) of and + Pete, followed by a 3-letter letter word for fool going around a reversal (about turning) of a 3-letter word for classic (as opposed to modern)

27a    Arabian traveller‘s précis of moral lesson? (6)
SINBAD: Split this legendary Arabian sailor (3,3) to give a succinct moral lesson


2d    Announcement of an inhumane collection (7)
ACCRUAL: The answer is a homophone (announcement) of a (1,5) equivalent of “an inhumane”

3d    Crazy American guy clutching nickel (5)
MANIC: American informal address for a man whose name is not known goes around (clutching) the chemical symbol for Nickel

4d    Disturbed nut cavorting with butler (9)
TURBULENT: Anagram (cavorting) of NUT + BUTTER

5d    Grease over cheese cloth (7)
TAFFETA: Reversal of a 3-letter word for grease plus a Greek cheese

6d    What frames paintings etc, to make less shocking? (5)
EARTH: A 2-letter interjection meaning what? goes around (frames) a collective word for paintings, etc.

7d    This trifle won’t get you drunk (5,4)
SMALL BEER: An expression for something that is unimportant when taken literally is something that won’t get you drunk (if you have just one)

8d    Perhaps hesitate over something fortified (7)
REDOUBT: Again (over) hesitate or be unsure about

13d    Not put into report for Independent? (9)
UNRELATED: Something which is not included in a narration can also describe an independent or isolated occurrence

15d    The object is to support king dismissing united or joint complaint (9)
ARTHRITIS: A 2-letter pronoun describing The object plus “is” from the clue go underneath (support in a down clue) a king whose court is the centre of many legends, without the abbreviation for U(nited)

17d    Dissect or chop up quarry? (7)
EXAMINE: Reversal of a 3-letter verb meaning chop, followed by a word for quarry or excavate

18d    City crowd loses it, mourning symbol (7)
CYPRESS: City from the clue and a 5-letter verb meaning crowd or squeeze, without (losing) “it”

20d    Is a name irretrievably lost in this? (7)
AMNESIA: Semi all-in-one. Anagram (irretrievably lost) of IS A NAME

22d    Promotion of ointment and surgery nearly eradicated virus (5)
POLIO: Reversal (promotion) of a 3-letter word for ointment or lubricant plus a 2-letter abbreviation for surgery

24d    Spring with new produce (5)
SPAWN: A mineral spring and the abbreviations for with and new

I liked 19a (where I desperately tried to fit in a different uncivilised person), 26a for the disguised definition, 6d for construction and 22d for great surface – what did you think of the puzzle and which clues were your favourites?


  1. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    It looks like Groundhog day is approaching as the animal in 1a makes another apparition and we have the same picture as Falcon for the trees in 18d.
    Love that feeling of déjà vu.
    26a brought back some great memories of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. Great clue.
    Lovely crossword with joint Favourites in 25a and 5d.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the great review.

    • dutch
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      thought it looked familiar! Mine was labelled “Italian cypress trees” while Falcon’s has a label “poplar” – so which is it? Is there a botanist in the house?

  2. Hanni
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I started off quite quickly with about 10 clues going in OK. Then I ground to halt, ended up just bunging a few in from the definitions and figuring them out later. Good fun though.

    Really liked 20 and 22d.

    Oh I also made a massive mistake on first pass by putting in ‘tipsy cake’ for 7d. For goodness sake Hanni.

    Although I plan on being tipsy tonight.

    Great puzzle.

    So many thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for a great blog.

  3. Gazza
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable – thanks Notabilis and Dutch. The top half went in much easier than the bottom half for me. Favourites were 6d and the simple but very effective 27a … and the sporting Nina made me laugh.

    • Hanni
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Nina? What Nina?

      • dutch
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink


        a comment on the grid, I think – if you’re old enough!

        • Hanni
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

          Oh b****y hell, I’ve been looking for about 45 mins now! I don’t even get the reference? It says Moari PE towards the bottom of the grid and wondered what I was missing?

        • dutch
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          could be my imagination, but I think the grid looks like an old arcade video game, with paddles in the left and right columns

          • Hanni
            Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            My head is in my hands. Oh God. I can’t see regular Nina’s let alone grid ones. I was seriously looking at Maori PE. Thank goodness it’s Friday and nearly wine o’clock. :yes:

            • dutch
              Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

              It is a regular nina – just read down the middle bits of columns 1 and 15

              • Hanni
                Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                That’s it. I’m opening the wine now. I really didn’t spot it. :oops: Stupid girl.

      • Gazza
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        Left and right columns.

  4. halcyon
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Excellent puzzle- top half much easier than bottom. Favourites 23a [microwave warning!] 27a [once the penny dropped], 6d [lovely def] and 20d.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the blog.

  5. dutch
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I thought it looked familiar! Mine was labelled “Italian cypress trees” while Falcon’s has a label “poplar” – which is it? Is there a botanist in the house?

    • dutch
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      sorry, this was meant to be a response to comment 1.

  6. 2Kiwis
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Really great stuff. We had spotted the NINA as well as the one in the 12th row of the grid. Considering Notabilis’s native country we did wonder whether the first 5 letters of that line were by accident or design. We like to think design for that one but suspect that the last 3 letters of row 14 being IWI which is the Maori word for a tribe is pure chance. Not a quick solve for us but good fun all the way and nothing that had us reaching for our references.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch

    • Jane
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Goodness, 2Ks, I never even knew about Notabilis’s native country, let alone the Maori word for tribe! After your revelation, I tried to make the letters in rows 12 and 14 into a sensible phrase – that got me into all sorts of trouble with Mr. Google! :oops:

  7. Jane
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Now that I’ve recovered, I did actually find this one rather enjoyable. Spent ages getting 19a plus 2&18d and needed the review to correctly parse 16&26a.
    A little worried about 17d. I’ve been for many medical examinations in the past but no-one ever suggested that I was likely to be dissected whilst undergoing them!
    Top three for me were 23&27a plus 6d.

    Worry not, Hanni, I could only find Maori PE until we were given the hint. The actual answer put me in mind of my granddad’s favourite Chinese restaurant in Manchester. It was called Ping Hong but he always insisted on calling it as per the Nina!

    Thanks to Notabilis for the challenge and to Dutch for the review – although I wish you’d found it a bit more difficult!

    • Hanni
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Hehe…not just me that looked at the Maori thing. Very funny re your grandad.

      FYI..the wine is open.

      • dutch
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        red or white?

        • Jane
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          Definitely red for me – probably white for Hanni, but she has confessed to having found some brandy lurking in a cupboard. :smile:

          • dutch
            Posted January 22, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            not another lurker!

            • Jane
              Posted January 22, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

              It would seem so! Sadly, having rooted through my own cupboards, there doesn’t seem to be any lurking here. :sad:

        • Hanni
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

          Hehe re lurker! That’s funny. :good:

          And Jane is right I am drinking a very nice Sauvignon Blanc that is going down remarkably well. I sent her the pic of my cocktail attempt from last weekend, she was heartily impressed. At least that’s how I remember it.

          If I could get the Brandy to you I would Jane. :smile:

  8. Shropshirelad
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable way to end the Toughie week. Some severe head scratching was required after my initial flurry of answers in the top half. Isn’t it amazing the coincidences that occur from different setters – you wait all year for a marmot to appear and then you get two in as many days. Some excellent clue constructions and surfaces but also a few dodgy ones IMHO – ‘local female’ in 21a is one example. But, hey, they’re easily outnumbered by the rest.

    Thanks to Notabilis for the puzzle and Dutch for his review.

    I even got the NINA – I’ll go lie down in a darkened room.

    Have a great weekend all.

    • Jane
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Aha – so you do need some beauty sleep after all! :smile:

      • Hanni
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        Oh well spotted!

  9. andy
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    As usual very late and all has been said. I did like 6d , a guarniad clue today was. Tolkien’s art? (6,5) Thanks as always to Notabilis and Dutch for the review

    • Jane
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Middle earth?

      • dutch
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        well done, art being the middle of earth like in 6d – not everyone on fifteensquared liked the Guardian clue, what exactly is the definition? But a fun clue.

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Focused on other things today so I’m not looking at the hints yet. Top half is done, but snow has interrupted play. Maybe tomorrow

    • Hanni
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink


      I hope Mr Chris is still recovering and that things aren’t too bad with the snow. :smile:

    • Jane
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      Hi Chris,
      As Hanni said, I hope Mr. Expat is on the mend – he’s fortunate to have someone by his side who cares as much as you obviously do. Even you have limitations when it comes to dealing with the snow – hope it doesn’t prove to be too much of an added burden. :rose:

      • Expat Chris
        Posted January 22, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        Hello Jane and Hanni. Mr. Expat is getting better, and we have had several calls already from neighbors offering to dig us out. We are surrounded by very good people.

        • Jane
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

          That’s nice to hear, Chris. Good friends are what life’s all about.

        • Hanni
          Posted January 22, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

          Good to hear. Hope things improve soon.

  11. Salty Dog
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    This one was pretty close to my service ceiling, I’m afraid, but apart from 4 clues (for which I needed the hints) l completed in 3* time. Honesty, therefore, decrees that I award this 4* for difficulty. As for enjoyment, there was plenty, albeit laced by frustration when I saw the answers I didn’t get (and now cannot see why not!), so 4* for that too. As for my favourite clue: either 6d or 23a. Thanks to Notabilis, and Dutch for getting me across the finishing line.