Toughie 1575

Toughie No 1575 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

The third toughie from Sparks in a row with double unches! This was great fun with beautifully constructed clues where the definitions blend seamlessly into the surface, and only just creeped into 3* difficulty. I did the right hand side first, paying attention to a possible nina but not finding anything. I then did SW and the nina helped me complete the across clues in NW.

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1a    Noble returned to tour a Boer encampment? (6)
LAAGER: Reversal (returned) of an adjective meaning noble or majestic goes around (to tour) “a” from the clue

4a    Scots man in a depression shows caution (8)
ADMONISH: How the scots say man goes into “a” from the clue plus a 4-letter word for depression or pan

8a    Dropping English books into bottom of bag (6)
EBBING: Abbreviation for English, 2 abbreviations for book (since it’s books plural), a 2-letter word meaning into and the last letter (bottom) of bag

9a    Supplier runs into animals I missed (8)
RENDERER: The abbreviation for runs goes into some sleigh-pulling animals without the I (missed)

10a    Religious image of maiden in cowl briefly put on city church (4,4)
ECCE HOMO: The abbreviation for maiden goes into a 4-letter word for cowl without the last letter (briefly), all following (put on) the 2-letter post-code for the part of London known as the city plus an abbreviation for church

11a     Hold together present company with new order (6)
COHERE: A 4-letter word for present or at this place and the abbreviation for company, then change the order of these two components

12a    Dependent upon extra court pursuing one on the inside (8)
ADDICTED: A past participle meaning extra or additional has the abbreviation for court following the Roman numeral for one on the inside. I’m not sure how well “upon” works, either as part of the definition or as a link to wordplay

13a    Party crashed by regulars in unlit bar (6)
BANISH: A 4-letter party, like our birthday one, contains (crashed by, very nice!) the even letters in unlit

15a    Problem surrounding university, one assumes? (6)
POSEUR: A 5-letter problem surrounds the abbreviation for university

18a    Pause  a jazz song (4,4)
TAKE FIVE: Double definition. I had thought this song title meant “take a break” which would detract from the double definition, but apparently the name comes from the 5/4 time

20a    Mixture of flour and fat vegetables said to make money (6)
RUPEES: A homophone (said) of a 4-letter word for a thickening mixture of flour and fat or butter, and little round green vegetables

21a    Rest after month in France avoiding a disturbance (8)
OUTBREAK: A 5-letter word for rest follows a French month without (avoiding) the initial a

23a    Armed force OK to be included in US soldier’s mural? (8)
GRAFFITI: Three-letter abbreviation for one of the armed forces plus a 3-letter word meaning OK or apt, all inside an abbreviation (Government Issue) for American soldier

24a    Praised woman going about with one left out (6)
HAILED: Reversal (going about) of the woman who tricked Samson without one of the letters L (one left missing)

25a    Head’s extremely smug about smacking (8)
SNOGGING: The extreme letters of smug go around (about) an informal word for the head

26a    Negative MPs shouted out cries from the Shires? (6)
NEIGHS: These Shires are the four-legged kind: a homophone of a 4-letter collective term for MP’s who have voted negatively


1d    Like having to remain outside, being loyal (5)
LIEGE: An abbreviation meaning like or for instance is surrounded by (having…outside) a 3-letter verb that can mean to remain (7th definition under 2nd meaning in my brb app)

2d    One may follow this river northwards when in control (9)
GUIDELINE: Reversal (northwards, in a down clue) of the longest river inside (when in) a verb meaning to control or steer

3d    Weed mainly grows wild in desert (7)
RAGWORT: An anagram (wild) of GROW(s) (mainly) goes inside a 3-letter verb meaning to desert or change sides

4d    Thermal control system indicating Orion has shifted (3-12)

5d    Brief note about to introduce bishop’s service, as called for? (7)
MINICAB: A 5-letter musical note without the last letter (briefly), a 2-letter abbreviation for about and the abbreviation for bishop

6d    Nationality of old PM that hasn’t died (7)
ISRAELI: The name of a 19th century British prime minister without the initial D (that hasn’t died)

7d    Male wrapping up inferior display left by women — good luck with this? (9)
HORSESHOE: A 2-letter male pronoun goes around (wrapping) synonyms (5,4) for inferior + display from which the initial and final W have been removed (left by women)

12d    A source of hot water, one known for firing up plant (9)
ASPARAGUS: A from the clue, a 3-letter word for a hot spring, and the reversal (up, in a down clue) of a TV host known for the catch phrase “You’re fired!”

14d    Enter, if it moves the queen (9)
NEFERTITI: Anagram (moves) of ENTER IF IT

16d    After stoppage of play, intially fled over pitch (7)
SOPRANO: After the initial letters of “stoppage at play”, we have a 3-letter word meaning fled plus the abbreviation for over

17d    Italian footballer concerned with making a comeback — he hasn’t scored for years (7)
ROSSINI: Poor fellow. A 5-letter Italian footballer plus the reversal of a common 2-letter word that can mean “concerned with” (definition 15 in brb) gives the name of an Italian composer

19d    Know to make cladding for pine room (7)
KITCHEN: Scottish word meaning to know goes around (to make cladding for) a 4-letter verb meaning pine or long

22d    Credit card, finally found in market abroad, returned (5)
KUDOS: Last letter of card is found inside the reversal (returned) of an Arab market

I got to relish all the clever surface readings once more as I wrote the blog – I like so many: 8a, 25a, 3a, 22a, 3d, 19d, 22d and more – and, I did enjoy the homophone in 20a. Which clues did you like?


  1. jean-luc cheval
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Super fun.
    Only noticed the alphabet thing once the grid was filled. Told you I was having a dim day.
    Played Tom Jones too after completing 24a.
    26a made me laugh and think about Hanni. The French word being “hennir”.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for this Good Friday.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted March 25, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that bit of knowledge J-L. Now, where and when will ‘Hennir’ post? :)

    • Hanni
      Posted March 25, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      Honestly…the things that amuse you two… :-)

      OK you made me smile.

  2. Kitty
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I really wanted to attempt this properly, but got sidetracked earlier and won’t have time later, so I’m afraid it’s another case of using plenty of hints to move things along.

    12a – I think “upon” is part of the definition.

    1a was a mystery to me because I am woefully ignorant of that type of thing. I always forget the 4a depression, and don’t know my religious images (10a). I had forgotten my footballers and Arab markets.

    I liked 13a and 26a, but 25a totally wins.

    It was a very clever crossword and I enjoyed half-solving it, but can’t shake the belief that I will never get the hang of Toughies. Still, what does it matter if I can never do a Friday Toughie?

    Once again I have to give the setter my apologies for not giving due attention to such a marvellous crossword – sorry Sparks, but thank you. And many thanks to Dutch for the top-quality review which I have made good use of. I appreciate the illustrations too.

    Now, where is that nina? …

    • dutch
      Posted March 25, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      yes, i think “upon” was intended to be part of the definition, but doesn’t that require an additional “to” in the answer.

      I was hoping you would like the pics. I had dogs first but changed it.

      • Kitty
        Posted March 25, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        The BRB gives the (second) meaning of “addicted” as “dependent on.” So the definition is just that – a definition of the answer rather than a synonym of it; the latter would indeed require an extra “to” to work in the substitution test.

        I did indeed very much like the 25a pic, thanks.

        • dutch
          Posted March 25, 2016 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          thanks, i should have checked brb. Hope you have a great time in london

          • Kitty
            Posted March 25, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            I intend to – cheers!

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The NW corner took ages but I got there in the end. Slight hold up in the NE by having the wrong two initial letters for 11A. A big groan when I twigged the parsing for 7D. Quite smug because I did know the gentleman in 12D though I’ve never seen the UK version. Didn’t spot the nina. Very enjoyable solve, so many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

  4. Peter Langlois
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you

    A happy Easter to you all!

    Peter L

  5. crypticsue
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Thank you to Sparks and Dutch – for a while I had everything in the RH side and not a lot in the left.

    As for spotting the Nina – that was last year’s resolution – and I hardly ever noticed them then either.

  6. Shropshirelad
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    On the first read through. I got the answer to 1 & 10a as I’d come across them before. That led to looking more carefully at 12, 15, 20 25a. Those solutions helped immensely and with the anagram at 4d the rest started to cough up their secrets. Hasn’t Sparks done something similar with double unches before? I seem to recall they were in each corner and rotated anti clockwise or the like.

    Lots and lots to like about this and I have too many favourites to pick just one.

    Thanks to Sparks for the puzzle and the fun, and thanks to Dutch for the blog.

  7. Hanni
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I was looking forward to this and I wasn’t disappointed. So much fun.

    Got very confused in the NW corner and had to check 1 and 10a, the latter being vaguely familiar.

    Wonderful surfaces and so many smiles…8a, 20a, 14d (brilliant) and 22d.

    The two clues that stood out are 13 and 25a. Lip smackingly good.

    Many thanks to Sparks for a fantastic puzzle (hi to Sparky) and to Dutch for a brilliant blog. It seems I’ve been wearing my apron all wrong. When I wear one…which isn’t very often.

    Now about this Nina…I’m up ‘i’…what next?

    • Kitty
      Posted March 25, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      The nina took me a while too, Hanni – have a look at those unches.

      I hope you had a lovely time at the Gare.

      • Hanni
        Posted March 25, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        I did thank you.

        • Kitty
          Posted March 25, 2016 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

          Yay, that’s good to hear.
          Glorious day down south too.

  8. stanXYZ
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Double letters in double unches to the left made it quite easy … but made the right-hand side far more difficult!

    I presumed that it was going to continue.

    Thanks to Sparks & Dutch!

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Excellent fun. Although we were alert for a Nina possibility, we did not notice it until we had a completed grid, so no help with the solving.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  10. Salty Dog
    Posted March 25, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Yes, 3*/4* is about right. I’m afraid I needed 3 hints in the SW corner, but that’s just me being dense. In fact, I found all clues on the left-hand side of the grid more difficult. I enjoyed 26a, so that’s my favourite. Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  11. Jane
    Posted March 26, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Found the Toughies even more difficult than usual this week and only really appreciated this one after I’d completed it and looked back through the clues.
    Made a couple of silly mistakes and needed to Dutch to help with the parsing of 7&12d.
    No problem with ‘dependent upon’ as the definition of 12a.
    My top three are 15,20&25a although there are plenty of other contenders.

    Many thanks to Sparks for the work-out and to Dutch for the very articulate review. Enjoyed hearing Dave Brubeck again, liked the 25a pic for Kitty and the least said about Tom Jones the better………..

  12. Sparks
    Posted March 26, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Many thanks to Dutch for an accurate and entertaining blog, and to all posters for your positive and encouraging comments, which are much appreciated. As for the flurry of double-unched puzzles, it’s simply that I work through the prescribed grids in order, so it looks as though a few variations (some quite minor, it would seem) on a theme were constructed back-to-back while the grids were at the production stage.

    As a trained (in my youth) kitchen fitter, I was interested to see how the corner unit abutted the appliance in the picture at 19d but, alas, the callipygean occupant is covering the feature of interest. You win some, you lose some.

    • Hanni
      Posted March 27, 2016 at 2:05 am | Permalink

      What a great word..callipygean. That should be in a puzzle.

      What concerned me most about the kitchen pic (apart from the awful counter top and units) was the lack of handles? How is she supposed to open anything?

      Look forward to your next Toughie.

    • dutch
      Posted March 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Sparks for dropping in – that is always something special. Apologies for delayed reply, I am away from home for most of the easter break. I have just popped into “the beach” at Pendine, where i can have a bit of wifi (and a beer).

      wasn’t complaining about the double unches, just beginning to think you had a thing for them. Interesting working through the grids in order.. aren’t there times when you are tempted to let a must-have clue determines the grid?

      best wishes

      • Sparks
        Posted March 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        Actually, Dutch, no! Well, at least not for the Toughie or Times, where the grids are established. It means that there’s one less decision to worry about. Now that you mention it, work and hobbies outside matters cruciverbal now seem to be so all-consuming that must-have clues are a distant memory; in rare occurrences, they can be accommodated quickly into an organic FT or Independent [now online only] grid. Finally, rumour has it that the weathermen are advising solvers to wrap up warm in view of the more double unches on the way … ;-) Cheers, Sparks.

        • dutch
          Posted March 28, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          Thanks – very impressive. It takes me so long to put together a crossword, I find it really interesting to understand how the pros go about this. I am impressed that you start with a grid, fill & then clue. (which is all I’ve ever done – only twice – I thought perhaps i was being naively inefficient)

          More double inches are welcome – they’re great for ninas. Thanks again

  13. Sparks
    Posted March 26, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    PS Hanni @ 7 … Sparky says “woof!” in return ;-)

  14. Jon_S
    Posted March 26, 2016 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it was the hangover, perhaps this was a real Toughie, but I found this quite a challenge. Solved one quarter at a time, last in the SW.