Toughie 1588 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1588

Toughie No 1588 by Shamus

Hints and tips by Kitty

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ***


Hello friends!  Thanks to Toro who has done a splendid job of launching the Toughie week but who has decided to scale back his blogging commitments.  I am very sad to see him go but at the same time delighted to accept the position and introduce myself as your new Tuesday Toughie girl.

I found today’s crossword from Shamus very accessible initially (I don’t think in my limited Toughie experience I have ever managed so many answers on first pass) but then I slowed up.  My last answers were all easy enough to get from the checking letters and definitions but figuring out all the wordplay took more pondering.  I think that our seasoned Toughie reviewers would have given this just one star for difficulty, but I’m erring on the side of caution and adding an extra one – if nothing else, for the wordplay in 17d.


The definitions are underlined in the clues below.  The answers are hidden under the all is revealed! boxes.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative – click only if you wish to reveal the answer.

Do leave a comment telling us how you found it and what you thought.  Also, please let me know if you spot any errors omissions or sillies in the hints.



1a    Possible follower of unit disrupted claimed purpose (7,5)
DECIMAL POINT: An anagram (disrupted) of CLAIMED and then purpose or aim

9a    Excite young female with very sweet element in drink (9)
GALVANISE: An informal word for a young woman, then V(ery) and a plant cultivated for its aromatic seeds which are used to flavour some drinks (as well as in cooking and herbal medicine)

10a    Produce not accepted in island (5)
CRETE: Take a six-letter word meaning produce or make and remove from it A(ccepted)

11a    Make allowance for tycoon wanting no end of fine treatment (6)
EXCUSE: An abbreviated businessman without the final letter of (wanting no end of) fine, followed by treatment or utility

12a    Fellow investing in oil with a bet devised commercial rescue (8)
LIFEBOAT: F(ellow) inside (investing in) an anagram (devised) of OIL with A BET

13a    After vacation, steadily check procedure (6)
SYSTEM: remove the inner letters (after vacation) of steadily and then add a word meaning check, stop or staunch

15a    Admire highly elaborate event about period (8)
VENERATE: An anagram (elaborate) of EVENT outside (about) one of our usual three-letter periods of time

18a    Firm very large in China becoming dormant? (8)
COMATOSE: The two letters that usually denote a firm or business and then very large (as seen on clothing labels) inside what China is rhyming slang for

19a    Technologist with confusion heads off in worry (6)
OBSESS: The technologist is the late information technology entrepreneur and inventor who co-founded BD’s favourite tech company.  The confusion is disorder or muddle.  Remove from these the first letters (heads off) and put them together.  To occupy the thoughts of obstinately and persistently

21a    Colossal creature hard to put among smaller ones (8)
BEHEMOTH: H(ard) inside a two insects, the first a stingy fellow who redeems himself by producing a sweet thick fluid that some people drool over, and the second a fragile clothes-muncher

23a    Uncommunicative figure in boys’ territory (6)
OYSTER: This secretive person is hiding in the clue

26a    Sensational top worn by posh Republican (5)
LURID: Single letters for both posh and republican inside (worn by) the cover of a container

27a    Keeping school punishment right for a day (9)
RETENTION: Take a school punishment (which I used to live in fear of) and swap R(ight) for D(ay)

28a    Return with wealth, not admitting that man’s depressed – it looks startling (8,4)
ELECTRIC BLUE: Return here means vote in; after this we need a six letter word for wealth but without “that man is.”  Follow this with depressed or low



1d    Wander like engineers on ship (7)
DIGRESS: A charade of like or appreciate, our usual engineers and our usual steamship.  I am typing the word “usual” a great deal today

2d    Complaint over line held by top brass (5)
COLIC: Abbreviations for over and line inside (held by) another abbreviation, this time for commander-in-chief

3d    Statesmen tinkered with form of assessment (5,4)
MEANS TEST: An anagram (tinkered with) of STATESMEN

4d    Study from ex-PM bringing out book (4)
LAIR: A recent British prime minister without (bringing out) B(ook).  A den

5d    Gag new priest in rising US city (3-5)
ONE-LINER: N(ew) and a crosswordland favourite Old Testament high priest in a reversal (rising, in a down clue) of a city in Nevada.  The gag is the more light-hearted kind – which after my last Toughie review I’m relieved about

6d    Hotel in French resort appealing to a specialised market (5)
NICHE: H(otel) inside a French resort.  I like to refer to this blog as a “special interest” internet site

7d    Failure with promotion beginning to extol drink (8)
LEMONADE: A colloquial term for failure or something faulty followed by a two-letter promotion and the first letter (beginning to) of extol.  The failure is also a fruit, which forms the basis of this drink

8d    Condition in fine bench son removed (6)
FETTLE: F(ine) then a type of bench with S(on) removed.  The condition is usually found after “fine”

14d    Plant becoming current in county (8)
SAMPHIRE: The unit of electric current in a county.  A generic county, not a particular one.  I didn’t know this plant and have no idea whether it’s obscure or just one of the many common plants I’m woefully ignorant of.  Feel free to tell me in the comments

16d    Rudimentary Labour item with Corbyn (not ultimate for revisionist) (9)
EMBRYONIC: Anagram (Labour) of ItEM and CORBYN without the final letter of revisionist

17d    Hidden fabric put on card held up (8)
ESOTERIC: A fabric with a highly glazed finish – ciré – and a word meaning to tease out, card or comb – tose – all reversed (held up).  I had never heard of either of these elements, nor did I know that card is also a type of comb (for wool or flax prior to spinning) – and so the wordplay took some time and brbing to unravel

18d    Element in some bread with note (6)
COBALT: This chemical element is formed of a type of loaf and a high tone (of voice or instrument)

20d    Medical instrument perhaps without a clear match in short (7)
SYRINGE: A word meaning perhaps without the A from the clue and a clear match (often preceded by “dead”) without its last letter (short).  This one took me an age to parse, though I’m not sure why now

22d    Way to introduce second element of Alastair Campbell, say (5)
MODEL: Take way or manner and add the second letter (second element) of Alistair.  The answer describes a different Campbell

24d    Motoring competition is suffering (5)
TRIAL: Two definitions.  The first is a competition which may or may not be a motoring one and the second an ordeal

25d    Activate cooler (4)
STIR: We end with another double definition, the second being a slang term for prison.


Thanks to Shamus for an enjoyable and not too hard puzzle.  Thanks again to Toro for your good work – and also to Gazza over on the other side for all those top quality reviews.

I’ll see you all next week as part of the all-new Tuesday team.


29 comments on “Toughie 1588

  1. This seasoned toughie fan would have given it at least 3* for difficulty – I even ‘phoned a friend’ to make sure it wasn’t just me and they confirmed that the SW corner was a tricky one.

    Thanks to Shamus and Kitty too.

    1. Ah, thanks Sue. I’m still completely uncalibrated with regards to Toughie difficulties. I’ll learn. In the meantime, it’s very helpful when the regulars give their ratings.

  2. Welcome to the regular blogging team, Kitty and thanks for the excellent review. I thought that this was quite tricky (especially for a Tuesday) and remember thinking as I solved it that Shamus had got his pointy shoes on today – thanks to him for a proper workout. I wasn’t helped by not being able to spell 16d which made 23a impossible for a while. I’m not sure that an Exec is a tycoon. Top clues for me were 1a, 19a and 20d.

  3. I rarely rate puzzles for difficulty, but if I did this would have been closer to **** for me. It took ages to get into, and there were half a dozen that I could only partly parse/ not parse at all. That does rather bring down the enjoyment factor. That said, I did like 26A and 28A. I had heard of 14D before, but only in crosswordland. Thanks Shamus and Kitty.

  4. Sorry to say I found the crossword very dull but the blog was great, thanks, Kitty

  5. Thanks for the blog, Kitty. I rated it 2* for difficulty, but that’s partly because I got 1a and 1d straight away, which always helps, I find. 14d is an edible plant which grows on the White Cliffs of Dover, and in former times was harvested by lowering small children on ropes; a few intrepid adults using modern equipment still do it, as shown on the BBC recently.

  6. Thank you for the Hints. Ref 14d.
    There are two types of samphire – marsh and rock – only marsh samphire is widely available. Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste. It can be used raw in salad, though it tends to be very salty so it is more often boiled or steamed for a few minutes. Rock samphire has a rather unpleasant smell and flavour. Occasionally you may also find jars of pickled samphire in gourmet shops.

  7. Great to have you on board Kitty. And thanks to Toro for all the previous reviews.
    Defeated by 19a as I couldn’t make any sense of the clue.
    No problem with the waxed French linen in 17d though.
    Learned a new meaning for failure in 7d. And would have gone very well with Grenadine which was first thought for 9a.
    Favourite is 1d for the smoothness.
    Thanks to Shamus and to Kitty.

    1. Hi JL,
      I was trying to make Galliano long enough to fit 9a – have very fond memories of Harvey Wallbangers…….

      1. Hooray!
        Bring back the Disco years.
        The only problem was all that orange juice. Used to churn my stomach out.

  8. Hello, Girl Tuesday – welcome to your new home on the dark side!

    I do love a Shamus puzzle and got onto his wavelength quite easily today. Only the parsing of 17d caused any real problem – like Kitty, I didn’t know either of the component words.
    Top slots go to 1&28a plus 1&20d.

    Many thanks to the twinkly-eyed one and to Kitty on her Tuesday debut. Loved the cartoons! Samphire tastes delicious with fish – we can collect it from the shore-line over here.

  9. Way beyond me, and needed kitty’s help. I have heard of 14d, indeed I ate it with some salt marsh lamb and potatoes in the lake district. Very tasty it was too and much more delicious than this crossword.

  10. Farewell then, Toro – Many Thanks for all your help on Tuesdays.

    Welcome, Kitty! Nice cartoons today!

    The crossword – well for once we know that it’s Shamus today and Petit-Jean tomorrow!

    My favourites: the Alastair Campbell one and the (B)lair one.

  11. Bit late adding my bit, been booking a holiday in Menorca at the end of May.

    Ooph, this took me a while. I had to guess(!) and look up both components of 17d. Didn’t understand the alistair campbell reference – stupidly took the second letter of element instead for the parse, which of course is non-Ximinean. Hadn’t come across the meaning for return in 28a. Took me a long time to get 9a, possibly because I don’t think of the drink ingredient as sweet (and “very” sweet wasn’t helping). Took me a while to see the tycoon(11a), not sure it’s quite the same thing. Nice penny drop for 1a. I liked 18a, and started toying with “Firm very large in China completely out of IT”. Didn’t see the technologist.

    So quite a challenge really – many thanks Shamus and well done Kitty on sorting it all out for us with your usual flair – very glad to have you as a regular blogger. Sorry to see Toro go, but he remains a friend.

  12. I might never enter the category of a “seasoned Toughie” solver.It takes more than just time and trying, I suppose.
    19a,20 d and the last word in 28a defeated me.
    I was pretty thrilled to get the other clues as most of them were hard work. 12a was really hard work.
    Nonetheless, very enjoyable. 1a, 9a, 16d and 23a were among my best liked.
    Thanks Kitty, congratulations on your debut. Thanks also to Toro on all his contributions up till now.
    Finally , thanks to Shamus. You won !

  13. First of all a massive well done to Kitty – terribly brave if you ask me!
    I thought this was difficult – top half was fine, bottom half was anything but and if I’m honest I made a total pigs ear of it and Shamus won, to quote Una.
    Having carbon for 18d was definitely not helpful – don’t ask me why – carb = bread and everyone seems to call carbohydrates ‘carbs’ these days . . .
    I did know the 14d plant but was looking for a specific county with ‘I’ for current – something I’ve only recently learned – so total failure on that one.
    Got totally fixated on the first word of 28a being ‘meteoric’ – again don’t ask me why – then couldn’t think of anything else.
    Etc etc . . .
    It was certainly a good challenge and a very enjoyable one.
    Clues that I particularly liked or a favourite will need a bit more thought – must cook supper now.
    Thanks to Shamus – thanks and well done again to Kitty and bye-bye and thanks to Toro.

    1. Not to worry, Kath. When the first couple of checkers went in for 14d, I spent a while trying to justify ‘Somerset’!

  14. Certainly trickier than 2* for me. The two elements of the wordplay in 17d and the plant in 14d were all new to me and needed research and a few others like 11a and 20d and 19a took some time to parse. Eventually it was all sorted out and enjoyed.
    Thanks Shamus and Kitty. It looks like you have a T-shirt that you wore at a recent ‘do’ that is no longer applicable.

  15. Thanks for the hints, Kitty. Ferreted out with Sherlock Holmes like precision.
    I surrendered very early, but fascinating to go through your hints, thanks.

    1. Well done, Hoofit, being sufficiently interested to give it a go is the first step. You’ll be a regular ‘dark-sider’ before you know it!

  16. The combination of 1/4 and 19/20 held me up for an age at the end, despite all the checking letters. How many technologists did I think of, and was the one I needed amongst them?

  17. Hi again :). Thanks everyone for your lovely comments. And to Physicist and Pedant for increasing my horticultural knowledge, as well as Jane and Dr M for the tasting tips. I bet I’ll see 14d everywhere now.

  18. Adding my congrats to Kitty for filling the Tuesday Toughie slot. With all due respect to the other fabulous toughie bloggers, I have a feeling this is going to be the fun place to hang out.

    Also glad that I wasn’t alone in finding this much more challenging the the usual toughie week opener!

    1. Thanks Chris! The people that really make it fun are all of you – it’s hardly a solo endeavour. But being the fun place to hang out is a worthwhile thing to aspire to. Maybe we can tempt others over to join us here on the dark side…

  19. Thanks to Shamus and to Kitty for the review and hints. I thought this was much more difficult than 2* I would rate it 5*/2* Managed to get 11 answers, including a guess for 17d, before resorting to the hints. Once I got some checkers in, I solved another 4. Needed 15 hints to finish. Way beyond my pay grade, some of the wordplay was so difficult.

  20. ***/** Thanks for the excellent review and the much needed clues for the last few that I just couldn’t manage on my own.

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