Toughie 1571

Toughie No 1571 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greeting from Macclesfield, today a cruciverbalist Mecca. It has been a foggy morning – possibly a metaphor for the next two days. I am looking forward to meeting many of you at the Snow Goose.

NW went in smoothly but the rest of the puzzle took longer, taking me well into 3* difficulty. Given the grid I wondered if there might be any hidden messages, but all I noticed was that the symmetry-related 4-letter words differ in just one letter. Tight, fresh and fair clueing from Notabilis as always, it is a delight to blog his puzzles

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    Amount of life as mob is unruly (7)
BIOMASS: Anagram (unruly) of AS MOB IS

7a    Causing dread in flight (5)
AWING: Split (1-4) the answer means in flight

9a    One whipping second sponge? (6)
SWIPER: S(econd) + something you can use a sponge as, for example, to clean a table (a definition by example, hence the question mark)

10a    Records office apparently full of opportunists (8)
CHANCERY: A whimsical interpretation of the answer would be a place for people taking chances

11a    Academic to tie up a libertine (10)
PROFLIGATE: A 4-letter abbreviation for a senior academic + a verb meaning to tie up

13a    Small women rating cleaning equipment (4)
SWAB: Three abbreviations: Small, Women, and rating or sailor

14a    Old county obstacle I had overturned in rental of vehicle (13)
CARDIGANSHIRE: Reversal (overturned) of a 4-letter word for obstacle or hitch plus the contracted form of “I had” from the clue goes inside (in) a (3,4) phrase meaning vehicle rental

16a    Decline to accept wife’s hot stuff? (4)
SWAG: A 3-letter word for decline or hang down contains the abbreviation for wife to give a slang term for stolen goods (I didn’t find this meaning explicitly defined in my Chambers app, but it is in Collins)

17a    Still time before island queen interrupts visit (10)
STATIONARY: Abbreviation for time + an island in the Inner Hebrides + a single letter abbreviation for Queen (or King) all go inside a 4-letter word for visit, typically overnight

19a    Sack over broadcasting with style (8)
DEBONAIR: Reversal (over) of sack, the kind where you go to sleep, plus a (2,3) phrase meaning broadcasting

20a    Pure spirit in antibody samples with measure of alkalinity (6)
SERAPH: A 4-letter plural version of a word meaning blood containing antibodies used for immunisation plus the abbreviation for the scale of alkalinity (or acidity)

22a    European having penned triplets primarily? (5)
DANTE: A brilliant all-in-one with a cryptic definition (I first thought of siblings in a playpen). Take a European from a country on the northern border of Germany and insert the first letter (primarily) of triplets to get the name of a European indeed known for writing triplets.

23a    Tate’s opening with seemingly moving works divided (3-4)
TWO-PART: The “opening” letter of T(ate), the abbreviation for w(ith), and a (2,3) expression for the type of drawings or paintings with the optical illusion of apparent movement (moving works)


1d    Energetically play piano appearing late in concert (4)
ROMP: Take a word for concert and move the P(iano) to the end

2d    Gulf resident: I hate it to be wet on island (8)
BAHRAINI: A 3-letter expression of disgust (not ugh), a word for wet (out in the wet), and a 1-letter abbreviation for island

3d    Bit of posh food may take off (6)
CANAPE: Split (3,3), this means “may imitate”

4d    One’s supposed to get stuck with a lot of points (10)
PINCUSHION: a cryptic definition for a sewing aid

5d    Person showing deference in shady retreat (5)
BOWER: The answer could also be taken as someone showing deference (to royalty perhaps)

6d    Gutted, suffering psittacosis? (4,2,1,6)
SICK AS A PARROT: Taken literally, this expression for extremely disappointed suggests you have a bird disease

8d    Hollywood actor’s valet in fitting (7)
GERMANE: Take the surname of an American actor and insert a word that can mean valet or servant. (Read the ‘s as possessive in surface, but abbreviation for “has” in cryptic reading)

12d    Rally mostly visible in warm spotlight (10)
FOREGROUND: Take a 7-letter verb meaning rally and remove the last letter (mostly), then insert into (visible in) a word meaning warm or affectionate

14d    Tender for stock in the place that suffers reduction in fish (7)
COWHERD: Remove the last letter (suffers reduction) from a 5-letter word meaning “in the place that” and insert into a 3-letter fish

15d    Casual sexism initially verges on bricks-and-mortar support (8)
SLIPSHOD: The first letter (initially) of sexism + a word meaning verges or rims + a tool for carrying bricks and mortar

17d    Smooth start to sounding retreat (6)
SHAVEN: First letter of (start to) sounding + a word for retreat or shelter

18d    Business agent to set up plant elsewhere (5)
REPOT: The abbreviation for a business agent or representative and a reversal (set up) of “t”

21d    Run out before noon and travel free? (4)
ROAM: The cricket abbreviation for run out + the abbreviation meaning before noon

My favourite has to be 22a, and 6d raised a big smile – even though I’ve seen psittacosis used before. Which clues did you like? Plenty of outstanding ones to choose from..


  1. Shropshirelad
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Late to this one today and, as always with Notabilis, had a bit of a struggle – I really don’t know why. I’m sure it must be ‘nameaphobia’ that affects me. As Dutch has said, some really good clue constructions and smooth surfaces. I have to go with 6d as my favourite as it brought the biggest smile and always brings Monty Python to mind.

    Thanks to Notabilis for the puzzle and Dutch for his review. I hope that all attending the ‘Macc Bash’ have a great time – hopefully I’ll see you at the next one.

  2. 2Kiwis
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    We started off with a real gallop but before very long came to a few fences that slowed progress until a few flashes of inspiration got things moving again. 14a was totally got from wordplay as we’d not heard of the county before. Lots to keep us amused and really good fun.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.
    Coincidentally, just before starting on the puzzle, we had been admiring a print of the bird that the setter uses as his pseudonym.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      I had no idea it was a bird as well – you live and learn. Thanks 2K’s

      • crypticsue
        Posted March 18, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        Google Kea which is another of Notabilis’s aliases

  3. JB
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    A devil this one with a couple of answers I just did not like. For example, I really do not see 12d as “spotlight”.

    • dutch
      Posted March 19, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      in the spotlight = in the foreground

      • Notabilis
        Posted March 19, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Actually, it’s the verb, “foreground” = “to spotlight or emphasize” in Chambers (“to emphasize (an issue, idea, or word)” in Collins and “place in the foreground” in the COED).

        • dutch
          Posted March 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

          Many thanks for pointing this out and also thank you so much for dropping in, always appreciated – yes, i hadn’t thought of the verb

  4. Kath
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    I normally run a mile from Friday Toughies but got fed-up with digging in the garden in cold grey drizzle so had a go.
    I loved it – only failed on two – 22a and 14d.
    10a and 2 and 6d really made me laugh – next time I see a Notabilis Toughie I’ll try it again.
    With thanks to Notabilis for such a fun crossword and the boost to the morale and to Dutch for sorting out my problems.

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted March 18, 2016 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Yes Kath, we agree that Notabilis is good value, but of course that is what we would expect from a fellow Kiwi.

  5. Sheffieldsy
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Dutch’s ratings. This deserves the ‘Toughie’ appellation. Just managed to finish it with recourse to the blog.

    Our favourites were the magnificent 22a and the lovely 5d.

    Thanks to Dutch and Notabilis.

  6. Expat Chris
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    I just couldn’t get into it. I filled the NW corner, 6D and a few others and that was it. Not helped by only realizing when I read the review that 14A was county, not country. On the basis of my utter failure, I can’t say I enjoyed the ride, but I nevertheless salute Notabilis and thank Dutch for the review. Have a lovely time at S&B. I am green with envy.

  7. Salty Dog
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Too hot for me, I fear. I needed 11 hints to complete (so I did well over half before reaching exasperation point). I rarely finish a Notabilis unaided, but I’ll keep trying. My favourite clue was actually the easiest to solve – the answer just leapt out at me, but it did serve to replace my puzzled frown with a big grin. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

  8. halcyon
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Maybe today’s boozy lunch was the reason but after the NW corner I really struggled with this. It seemed like a devilish hybrid between Notabilis and Excalibur [eg 7a, 10a, 3d, 8d] and the NE was particularly resistant. Not helped by deciding that 7a should be “adder” [think Snakes on a Plane and it works]. Eventually got there and 14d gets my vote – for both the cunning def and “in the place that suffers reduction”.

    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch -and respect to the latter if it only merits his 3 toughie points.

  9. jean-luc cheval
    Posted March 18, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Thought I already commented here.
    Well, never mind.
    All I said was that the NW corner held me up in 1d, 5d and 9a.
    Learned a new term in 20a but a quick check proved my answer was right.
    Favourite 22a.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch.
    Have a good time with Anax et al.

  10. Jane
    Posted March 19, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Finally admitted defeat this morning, having failed on 7&22a plus 8&14d.
    20a was a guess – didn’t know the required plural and 12d=spotlight seemed a bit of a stretch.

    Those that I liked include 10a plus 3,6,15&18d.

    Thanks to Notabilis for the object lesson and to Dutch for the much needed explanations.