Toughie 1555

Toughie No 1555 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

Having offered to stand in for the Skiing Dutchman, I then mentally drew up a wish list of Toughie setters I’d like to review and was delighted to see that one of my favourites appears in the middle of the paper today.  Notabilis always produces great Toughies, quite often with a Nina hidden within.   At the time of typing, if there is one today, I haven’t found it yet.

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           Strong odour problem returns before week’s end (4)
MUSK    A mathematical problem reversed (returns) goes before the ‘end’ of week

3a           Scottish island Eigg stripped after trouble with bones (5,5)
AILSA CRAIG  The middle two letters of EIGG (stripped indicating the need to remove the outsides) goes after a synonym for trouble and the plural of a large bone found at the base of the spine.

9a           No such booze would repel a petrifying monster (4)
GROG   If you reversed (would repel) NO (from the clue) and some booze (a spirit, usually rum, diluted with water) you’d then have a petrifying monster.


10a         Dire note in brass instrument to meet our needs? (10)
HORRENDOUS   Insert a musical note into a brass instrument and then add a two-word expression meaning would ‘meet our needs’.

11a         What‘s to follow, assuming sedentary period? (7)
OBESITY   A verb meaning to remain inactive (assuming sedentary period) inserted into a verb meaning to follow or comply with.

13a         Introduce rule enforcer, breaking step (7)
PREFACE   An abbreviated [sports] rule enforcer ‘breaking’ a step.

14a         Badly tailored suits including one worn by tricky entertainer (11)
ILLUSIONIST   Another word for badly (in the sense of unwell) followed by an anagram (tailored) of SUITS into which is inserted the letter that looks like a number one and a preposition meaning worn by.


18a         Adaptation of insect to air? I’ll deny it (11)
CREATIONIST  An anagram (adaptation of) INSECT TO AIR

21a         Take advantage of some fires I lit up in revolution (7)
UTILISE   Hidden and reversed (in revolution) in some of firES I LIT Up.

22 Fashion to knock off reverses tedium (7)
BOREDOM   You couldn’t have a clearer indication that you need to reverse a fashion and a verb meaning to steal  (knock off).


23a         Couturier turns in glowing piece with variable decorative stitching (10)
EMBROIDERY   A famous Parisian couturier is reversed and inserted into a glowing piece of coal or wood, then add one of the mathematical variables.

24a         Inclination to skip inauguration of President Bush (4)
SLOE   Remove the ‘inauguration’ of President from an inclined surface.


25a         Dylan suite remixed without consistency? (10)
UNSTEADILY   An anagram (remixed) of DYLAN SUITE

26a         Fleshy feature of judge, member of parliament (4)
JOWL   The abbreviation for judge followed by a member of parliament – the lack of capitals helping you to realise that parliament here is a collective noun.



1d           Set up plan to guard pine arboretum’s first tree (8)
MAGNOLIA   A reversal (set up in a Down clue) of a plan into which is inserted (to guard) a verb meaning to pine and the first letter of Arboretum.


2d           Nothing new in arch needing a brush-up? (8)
SLOVENLY   A score of zero (nothing) and the abbreviation for New  inserted into an adjective meaning arch

4d           First person caught leaving intimate, insincere statements (5)
IRONY    The first person singular and an intimate or friend without the abbreviation for caught (Caught leaving)

5d           Bad options are hiding a vexing subject (4,5)
SORE POINT   An anagram (bad) of OPTIONS ARE, without (hiding) the A.

6d           Banker entering African country: I’m doubtful he likes live music (11)
CONCERTGOER   An abbreviated way of referring to something that is definitely going to win (banker) inserted into an African country, the result followed with one of the informal ways of expressing doubt.

7d           I may obsess over stats and not area covered by Alaska (6)
ANORAK  A conjunction meaning ‘and not’ and the abbreviation for Area inserted into, or covered by, the abbreviation for the State of Alaska.


8d           Church music record involving extended play’s sent heavenward (6)
GOSPEL   The abbreviation for an extended play record and an S (play’S) inserted into a record, and the result reversed or  sent heavenward in a Down clue.

12d         Accepted by faction I have to embrace otherwise I might be a mole (11)
INSECTIVORE    Accepted by a faction (2, 4) and an abbreviated way of saying I have, the latter ‘embracing’ a simplest method of saying otherwise.


15d         Deepen nod, somehow inviting any response (4-5)
OPEN-ENDED   An anagram (somehow) of DEEPEN NOD.

16d         Get wine round to eat lentil dish, a spicy one (8)
VINDALOO  An informal term for wine, and a round-shaped letter ‘eat’ or go round an Indian lentil dish.

17d         Subject of medical research yet to have host almost replacing heart (4,4)
STEM CELL   Take an adverb meaning yet and remove the middle letter, replacing it with almost all of an informal term for a master of ceremonies (host).

19d         Difficulty over Parisian water agency (6)
BUREAU   A reversal (over) of a difficulty followed by the French (as used in Paris) word for water.

20d         With you and me for the last couple, light on one’s feet — or round one’s head? (6)
NIMBUS  An emanation of light surrounding the head of a saint or deity.   Replace the last couple of  letters of an adjective meaning light on one’s feet with another way of saying you and me collectively.


22d         Pale green fruit with no core left (5)
BERYL   A pale green mineral is obtained by removing the ‘core’ of a fruit and then finishing with the abbreviation for Left.


A quick check through the archives reveals that, although there’ve been a couple of Fred & Gingers and even an Antony & Cleopatra in the meantime, this is my first solo review of a Notabilis Toughie since September 2012.   I hope I don’t have to wait as long for the next opportunity to do so.




  1. Hanni
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t find this as difficult as yesterday but certainly challenging and what fun!

    The NE corner took me as long as the rest of the puzzle and then some, particularly 3a…needed all the checkers for that and a quick Google check. Needed all the checkers for 11a too, very clever mind. CS I’m probably wrong but I think the whole clue needs underlining?

    Messed up the SW corner by putting 25a into 23a. Didn’t notice until I got to 19d and the ‘U’ was in the wrong place! 22a was a new definition but was about the only word that seemed to fit.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for a fantastic puzzle and to CS for a great blog and for explaining 9a which despite staring at it I still couldn’t see why it is what it is!

    I’ve got no idea whether there is a Nina or not as I completely lack the ability to see them.

  2. Shropshirelad
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m late getting to this today – so just about to start. If I find a Nina, I will let you know – but don’t hold your breath. I normally rely on the trio of Dutch, Gazza and J-L to tell me.

    I wondered yesterday whether Giovanni was stalking me, what with the answer to 1a and 12a. 12a was the last submarine I served on.

    • Hanni
      Posted February 19, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Oh that’s weird! Almost as weird as being able to actually go in a submarine.

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Failed to finish, with (to my shame) 2D, 4D and 11A unsolved. But never mind. The puzzle was lots of fun. I checked 10A, 18A, 26A and 12D as worthy contenders, but 3A gets my vote today, and for a special reason. When I solved it (at stupid o’clock this morning) I was immediately flooded with 60-year old memories of being a little girl and watching my dad in his greenhouse lovingly tending his treasured tomato plants of that name. A big hug to Notabilis for that, and many thanks to CS for the review and explaining the ones I missed.

  4. JonP
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Needed a gentle nudge in the NW corner with a couple of CS’s hints but Apart from that I found it to be very accessible and an enjoyable solve.

    Thanks to CS and Notabilis.

  5. jean-luc cheval
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Also failed to finish.
    My downfall being 10a and 7d.
    For 10a, I read the clue the other way round and was trying to include an anagram of note in some brass instrument. But couldn’t find any ending in S.
    For 7d, I thought Alaska was Al for some strange reason and got nowhere.
    26a favourite.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to CS for the review.

    • Hanni
      Posted February 19, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      If it makes you feel any better J-L, I tried to do something very similar for 10a.

  6. Jane
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Did myself no favours by getting hung up on the idea of getting crossword land’s favourite ‘odour problem’ into 1a, which left the NW corner shelved for a while. 11a took a while to fathom but, when I did get there, I thought (like Hanni) that perhaps the whole of the clue should have been underlined in the review?

    Think that Kitty will enjoy the 22a pic and that Hanni will appreciate it from a completely different point of view! (How’s the work coming along?).

    A most enjoyable puzzle with plenty of contenders for the top slot – I’ll go with 7d for the smile factor re: ‘I may obsess over stats’.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to CS, whose help I certainly needed to complete the parsing of 14a plus 4&5d.

    • Hanni
      Posted February 19, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Work is good…and yes I have been known to fall asleep on my laptop before. :grin:

  7. 2Kiwis
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    We needed Mrs B’s list of islands to sort out an answer for 3a which is not surprising. Plenty of excellent clues here to keep us both challenged and amused. We were wondering if we would again see the classic pic that Gazza used last week to illustrate 7d but guess the ones shown must be close relations of his. Really good fun and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Notabilis and CS.

    • Jane
      Posted February 19, 2016 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      And there was me thinking that ‘Mrs B’ only wrote cookery books!

  8. Jon_S
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Pretty tough, with the NW corner holding out until the bitter end.

  9. halcyon
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Yes – I had trouble with the NW corner too – 9a being the last one in. But great fun from Notabilis as always. Favourites were 23a, 12d and the quite perfect 18a.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to CS for a fine blog.

  10. Shropshirelad
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t just finished the puzzle but I did find it to be extremely tough. Don’t know why – but this felt as if I’d just attempted my first toughie. Believe it or not, I did exactly the same as Hanni regarding 23 & 25a which really b******d up the SW corner. Nothing to do with Notabilis’s puzzle – just my failure to get ‘connected’.

    Thanks to Notabilis for the head breaking challenge and to CS for her review.

    No – couldn’t find anything hidden in the grid either.

    Have a great weekend all.

  11. Kitty
    Posted February 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I had to start this because it’s a Notabilis, but didn’t have much time yesterday and turned to the hints embarrassingly early. Lovely puzzle, of a difficulty that shouldn’t be out of reach although it was more than I could manage on this occasion. Yes, Jane – I did like the picture for 22a.

    Thanks to Notabilis and CS.

    • crypticsue
      Posted February 20, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I’m pleased you liked the picture – it was the best option for boredom and I knew you’d like it too.