Toughie 1626

Toughie No 1626 by Shamus

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I think I struggled with this more than perhaps I should have done and it took me an above-average time. But I did enjoy the challenge. The corners were done in the order NE, SW, SE, NW

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    With switch of direction, denigrate hillside growth (7)
BRACKEN: Take a word meaning ‘to denigrate’ and change L (left) into R (right). This gives a fern abundant on hillsides

5a    Item that could be sorted from short break (4,3)
TIME OUT: This is a short break during a sporting contest. The answer could be used as a cryptic indication for ITEM in that the first word is an anagram of ITEM and the second word is an anagram indicator

9a    Authorise retreat of army section holding prisoner (7)
EMPOWER: A reversal of a corps of engineers in the British army goes round a prisoner of war

10a    Flier‘s decoration (7)
BUNTING: 2 meanings: a small finch-like bird/strips of cloth hung from strings as decorations

11a    Difficult / mean-spirited customer (5)
STIFF: 2 meanings: difficult/a customer who fails to tip. I didn’t know this second eaning

12a    Mind busy place overlooking hotel? That’s the aim (9)
OBJECTIVE: ‘To mind’ + a busy place with the letter H (hotel) removed

13a    Remove swearing maybe in talk (7)
DISCUSS: This word for ‘to talk’ could conceivably also mean ‘to remove swearing’ because it consists of a prefix indicating a removal and a word meaning ‘curse’

14a    Basis for supporting / area around home (7)
GROUNDS: 2 meanings: the basis of justification/an area of land surrounding a building

16a    Unreal appearance of supporter with stomach, we hear (7)
PHANTOM: A homophone (we hear) of a supporter and a stomach. The homophone doesn’t really work for me

19a    Lunches terrifically hosted in Northern city? Quite the opposite (7)
CHESTER: This Northern city is hidden in (or hosted by) LunCHES TERrifically

22a    Bottle from which one takes a dry wine ultimately? It’s green (9)
COURGETTE: Courage (firmness of resolve) with the letter A removed + dry (not drinking alcohol) + E (last letter of wine) = a green vegetable

24a    Tory patrician in the East End, we hear, made a bloomer (5)
ERRED: A homophone (we hear) of the surname of a former Conservative minister as it might be said by an East-Ender. I’m not convinced by this homophone either

25a    Surprisingly moronic foreign character (7)
OMICRON: An anagram (surprisingly) of MORONIC gives a letter of the Greek alphabet

26a    European once put off by repeated byzantine bureaucracy (3,4)
RED TAPE: An anagram (byzantine) of RPEATED, i.e. REPEATED without one letter E (European)

27a    Inspire fear for at least eight days (with last couple gone) (7)
OVERAWE: Eight days is **** * **** Remove the last two letters

28a    Old man left in port area as security measure (7)
PADLOCK: Old man (father) + L in an area of a port


1d    Actor showing ironic affection for ex-Labour leader? (7)
BLESSED: The answer is the surname of a Yorkshire born actor (who never quite managed to reach the summit of Everest). The first part is an interjection expressing ironic affection (5) and the first name of the last Labour leader (2)

2d    Domestic supporters? Such can be assumed after a success (2,5)
AU PAIRS: Domestic helpers from abroad = something that can be assumed (4) after A and a success

3d    Mention important small product of labour? Nutritious food (4,5)
KIWI FRUIT: A homophone (mention) of ‘important’ and ‘small’ + a product of labour?

4d    Sorry souvenir I discarded showing butterflies? (7)
NERVOUS: An anagram (sorry) of SOUVENR, i.e. SOUVENIR minus the letter I

5d    Vessel closed near prison (4-3)
TOBY JUG: A mug shaped like a man = ‘closed’ + ‘near’ + ‘prison’

6d    Very busy Scotsman touring province (5)
MANIC: A Scotsman (from a Gaelic prefix) round a province of the UK

7d    Cause of tears overwhelming notable number in view (7)
ONION: A pungent bulb that may make you cry goes round an important number in mathematics

8d    Cat that’s stray having time for daughter (7)
TIGRESS: A female big cat = ‘to stray’ with D (daughter) replaced by T (time)

15d    Where course might be finished by journalist without limitations (4-5)
OPEN-ENDED: This is a competition held on a golf course + a finish + a journnalist

16d    Source of music in film company parking area mostly (7)
PICCOLO: A musical instrument = a film (3) + the abbreviation for ‘company’ (2) + a parking area (3) with the last letter removed

17d    Top-class coach not recorded dismissing league as insulting (7)
ABUSIVE: A letter denoting ‘top-class’ + a coach (for travelling on) + ‘not recorded’ with the letter L (league) removed

18d    End of game interrupted by penalty, obscuring fine performance (7)
MATINEE: The end of a game of chess goes round a penalty with the letter F (fine) removed

19d    Explain what ten can represent? (5,2)
CLEAR UP: This answer could provide a cryptic indication for ‘ten’ because ‘ten’ is a reversal of ‘net’. Thus the first word means ‘net (as in net profit)’ and the second word is a reversal indicator

20d    In view of service, a sign of repetition in weather phenomenon (7)
TORNADO: ‘In view of’ + one of the armed services + A + an abbreviated form of ‘ditto’

21d    Poor labourer, one put in frame with audacity (7)
REDNECK: A poor white farm labourer in SW USA = a snooker ball of the colour that is put in a triangular frame + audacity

23d    Policeman abroad raised a habitual experience? (5)
GARDA: An Irish policeman is a reversal of A and a habitual experience

Fair enough



  1. halcyon
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Despite the rock-bottom grid this was quite fun. I liked 22a, 5d and 19d. 26a is nicely topical and apt. I’m OK with the 24a homophone Bufo but less so with 16a. Thanks for explaining the frame in 21d – I didn’t mis-spend enough youth.

    Thanks for the blog and thanks to Shamus for the little puzzles.

    • dutch
      Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      not very keen on 21d… I know it’s in brb, but some poor labourers are highly literate with liberal views. I associate the answer with the other kind.

      • halcyon
        Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Yes – it’s a stereotype after all. At least the BRB notes [derog]

  2. crypticsue
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I struggled with this too but I don’t think its just because I solved it after being up for nearly 12 hours.

    Thanks to Shamus for the entertainment and Bufo for the explanations.

  3. Hanni
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Another proper challenge of a Toughie. I guessed at 21d as I had not heard of the snooker stuff (yes I know balls go in frames) but I’ve never played a game in my life. Also had to check the second meaning of 11a. I am going to have 22a in a salad later and I really liked 13a, 25a, 5d and 22d.

    Favourite is 4d.

    Many thanks to Shamus for a good challenge and to Bufo for a great blog and sorting out what on earth 21d was all about.

  4. Gazza
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Notabilis tomorrow.

  5. Verlaine
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Really liked this one, it was pretty tough, with the NW corner giving me the most gyp, but continually rewarding as the pennies kept on dropping.

    Nice to see a rare namecheck for the city where I went to school at 19a. Yeah, the school dinners at King’s were nothing to write home about, IIRC.
    22a was also good because that’s just an intrinsically funny vegetable.

    Thanks Shamus and Bufo.

  6. Jane
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Phew – at least I got a full grid today although I was very glad that it wasn’t my job to explain all of the parsing, particularly for 26a plus 19&21d.
    Thought the homophones were OK but it took me a long time to register the one at 3d – really cringe-worthy!
    No new words which makes a pleasant change this week and quite a few that raised a smile.
    Podium places go to 9&27a plus 1d.

    Many thanks to Shamus (nice to see your Irish trademark back in operation!) and gratitude to Bufo for the help with parsing.

    If anyone has chance to alter it – the answer given in the hints for 7d is missing the ‘notable number’.

  7. 2Kiwis
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We must confess to our shame that we failed to parse 26a. We felt very clever that we had worked out 21d but with 26 we were reading byzantine as part of the definition and not as an anagram indicator. How stupid can two people be? A good level of difficulty and plenty to keep us smiling. There is no doubt about our favourite clue of course, 3d and it is good to see it given its full name and not just the shortened version.
    Thanks Shamus and Bufo.

  8. Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A very pleasant accompaniment for a few pints of Oakham Citra. Not too many problems, but it wasn’t all plain sailing…
    G: Your round
    J: I bought one last month (reaching for knitting needle – a number 8!)
    G: Same again?

    Thanks to Shamus for the enjoyment and Bufo for the reassurance.

  9. jean-luc cheval
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This was good fun.
    On the right wavelength for a change.
    Nothing held me up for too long apart from two or three clues in each corner!
    Mainly because I guessed the answers from the definition but was having trouble with the parsing.
    1d wins my top prize today.
    Thanks to Shamus and to Bufo for the review.
    Btw. Chester is a walled city just like Carcassonne.

  10. Salty Dog
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 10:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I needed 3 hints to complete – all in the NW corner – so l suppose 4*/4* is about right. I liked 24a and 5d, but the laurels go to 1d. Thanks to Shamus and Bufo.

  11. Expat Chris
    Posted June 23, 2016 at 11:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I seem to be having a tougher toughie week than most. I have most of the bottom half done and the top is still virgin territory. I am not looking at the hints and soldiering on though (which is what I said yesterday but it didn’t make much difference then).

    • Hanni
      Posted June 24, 2016 at 12:35 am | Permalink | Reply

      Chris, it is not just you. This has been a ‘proper’ tough Toughie week.

  12. Wolfson bear
    Posted June 24, 2016 at 12:09 am | Permalink | Reply

    The most enjoyable toughie this week so far despite a silly grid. All have been a touch tricky which is nice. Can’t imagine Notabalis letting the team down tomorrow

    Thanks to shamus and bufo

  13. Posted June 24, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I really enjoyed this. A Goldilocks level of difficulty for me (11a enough to be immensely satisfying but attainable) … except that I had two parsing fails (and not on the 11a-est ones either) and a further stupid failure caused by carelessly writing a letter down in such a way that it looked like another one, and then not noticing. I don’t even usually solve from a printout except on blogging days. So my shins are bruised. I wasn’t familiar with the abbreviated form of ditto but it had to be. I also didn’t know that second meaning of 11a but it didn’t cause any difficulty.

    My favourite is obviously 8d, but it shares my top spot with 3d, because Mr K is one (not a fruit!).

    Many thanks to Shamus and Bufo.

    • stanXYZ
      Posted June 24, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Kitty, could you, please, explain what a “Goldilocks level of difficulty” means?

      (I think that I have asked this question before?)

      Something to bear in mind in the future!

      • Posted June 24, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Not too hard; not too soft. Just right. :)

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