Toughie 1659

Toughie No 1659 by Notabilis

Hints and Tips by crypticsue

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

The list of Toughie setters hadn’t been updated overnight so it was with a certain amount of trepidation, that I stood outside the local shop, opened the paper and found that I’d got a Notabilis Toughie to review, whereupon apprehension immediately transformed into delight. Not his most difficult Toughie, and not quite a Pangram, but the usual pleasure to solve and explain. I’m even more delighted to report that I actually spotted the Nina*, so I’m one extremely happy solver/blogger.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


7a           Instrumental object that’s non-existent in reflexive Gujarati-Ugrian (3,6)
AIR GUITAR This non-existent musical instrument can be found, reversed (reflexive) in GujaRATI-UGRIAn. 

 air guitar

8a           Dummy ruled lightly (5)
FEINT A dummy attack in boxing or fencing; a description I remember from my childhood of a particular type of paper used on a writing pad or notebook

10a         Workforce roughly reduced joins hands (6)
LABOUR The first four letters only (reduced) of a word meaning roughly goes inside (joins) the abbreviations used for each of your hands

11a         Cook food till ready for late-night play? (8)
FLOODLIT  An anagram (cook) of FOOD TILL


12a         Small person transitioning male-to-female who can’t relax (6)
FIDGET   Simply ‘transition’ the M (male) at the front of a small person to an F for female.

14a         Skip start of terrible harangue (6)
EARFUL ‘skip’ or omit the start of an informal adjective meaning terrible


16a         Short narrative poem about Zulu avoiding work (4)
LAZY A short narrative poem goes ‘about’ the letter represented by Zulu in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

17a         Divided staff marking time (5)
CLEFT A mark used on a musical staff (or stave) to indicate the pitch of music written after it, followed by the abbreviation for Time

18a         Change in nature, losing heart and having no voice (4)
MUTE Remove the middle two letters (losing heart) from a verb meaning to change in nature

19a         Kin could be this happy behind Republican (6)
ELATED Put the abbreviation for Republican in front of this word meaning happy and you’ll see what the kin could be

21a         Killing trade over days and years (6)
DEADLY A verb meaning to trade goes ‘over’ the abbreviation for days, the result then finished with the abbreviation for years

24a         Tarn muddied with haze where preacher was raised (8)
NAZARETH  An anagram (muddied) of TARN with HAZE

26a         Piercing cry or note in racket (6)
SCREAM  A musical note inserted into a dishonest scheme (racket)

27a         Fool in Dublin and in Rome holds back the speaker in London and Paris (5)
EEJIT  The Latin (as once used in Rome) word meaning and ‘holds back’ a reversal of how both an English (in London) speaker and a French (in Paris) speaker would refer to themselves in conversation 

28a         Thus more than half of European country invested in its old money game (9)
SOLITAIRE  An adverb meaning thus, followed by the first three letters (more than half) of a five letter European country, invested in, or inserted into, the currency it used before the Euro.



1d           Up to no good, looking up new moon (5)
TITAN Saturn’s largest moon is a reversal (looking up in a Down clue) of an informal expression meaning up to no good and the abbreviation for New

2d           Do my ironing, right away — it’s a disgrace (8)
IGNOMINY An anagram (do) of MY IRONING without the R (right away).   One of those words like anemone where I have to think really hard to remember which way round the M and N go.

3d           Young woman I love mounts platform (3,3)
OIL RIG  Another reversal, this time mounts tells us to reverse a young woman, I (from the clue) and the letter that looks like a zero, a  score of love in a game of tennis for example

oil rig

4d           The reverse of fine and cool (4)
NAFF This word meaning the opposite of fine and cool is a reversal (as clearly indicated in the clue) of the abbreviation for Fine and a verb meaning to cool with a current of air

5d           what might leave one legless as well as headless, getting into booze? (6)
BENDER   Remove the first letter (headless) from a conjunction meaning as well as and then insert the remaining letters into some booze.

6d           Possible worker with resignation statement, unknown in the past (9)
ANTIQUITY  One of Crosswordland’s workers, a resignation statement and a mathematical unknown combine to give us the far distant past, especially that preceding the Middle Ages.

9d           Spy stumped by bug (6)
MOLEST An informal term for a spy, especially one who has infiltrated an organisation, followed by the cricketing abbreviation for stumped

13d         Rough material affected daughters (5)
TWEED  An informal term meaning affectedly sentimental or sweet followed by the abbreviation for daughters


15d         Upset about second article expunged from pontiff’s canon as part of a cover-up? (9)
WALLPAPER  Another reversal (upset in a Down clue).   The two letters used to mean about, especially in an email subject box, and a simpler way of saying a pope’s decree (pontiff’s canon), without the second A (second article expunged) should all be reversed to get a type of ‘cover-up’.


17d         Food partially processed and set in batter (6)
CUDGEL  Partly processed food (usually eaten by a cow or sheep) and a verb meaning to set like a jelly

18d         After whisky, soak boxes a bully (8)
MALTREAT A type of whisky followed by a verb meaning to soak flax or hemp to soften the fibres, into which is inserted (boxes) A (from the clue)

20d         Pathetic jerk trapping badger (6)
TRAGIC  An involuntary twitching (jerk) trapping a verb meaning to badger

22d         A nurse’s aide periodically absent could be Victorian (6)
AUSSIE  Not necessarily as old as someone who lived in the reign of the dear old Queen, but someone from the State of Victoria can be found in the odd letters (periodically absent indicating that we don’t need the even ones) of A nUrSeS aIdE

23d         Run into murderer’s simple grave marker (5)
CAIRN  The abbreviation for Run inserted into the name of the first murderer in the Bible.


p>25d         Cover the upper part tough Bronx district (4)
HOOD A cover, upper part, a tough – HOOD(lum )- or a slang term for an inner city neighbourhood such as the Bronx in New York, which I don’t believe is quite as ‘tough’ as it once was.
Thanks to Gazza and Jon for their assistance in “definition counting”

*No excuses for not spotting the Nina as the grid is one of those that is perfect for a message round the outside, and one should always look for a Nina when Notabilis is the setter.

Back to the day job now, including sending a note to the boss to request a copy of the BRB, as our office Collins Dictionary purchased back in 1994 hasn’t heard of a scam or a hood when I went to see whether it said anything interesting or witty about either of those words – I bet when I get home the BRB will be much more helpful/entertaining!

Kitty will be in the Friday Toughie hot seat next week


  1. Gazza
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A lovely puzzle for Friday – thanks to Notabilis and the overworked Crypticsue.
    I’m not sure now that I’m right but I thought when I solved it that 25d was a triple definition – cover / first bit of hoodlum (tough) / Bronx district.

    • crypticsue
      Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I thought that and then I changed my mind – now I’m wondering again…. so I’ve changed it although I can’t get gaps between the three parts of underlining.

      • Jon Delfin
        Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’ll see your triple and raise you. I split the clue into four nouns: “cover,” “the upper part,” “tough,” and “Bronx [meaning NYC slang] district.”

        • crypticsue
          Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Yes – that’s it. I’ve amended the hint

  2. LetterboxRoy
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    How you have done this and written it up already is impressive, CS. I’ve got the top half ( so half of the Nina ), but now I’m stumped. I love a tough toughie, occasionally.

  3. halcyon
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good fun. A bit easy for a Friday but no reduction in the fun quota so 3/4 is right by me.
    Favourites were 17a [staff marking] 27a [cleverly done] 2d [lovely surface] and 4d [small but perfectly formed].

    In the hint for 15d you need to remove the second article CS.

    Thanks for a fine blog and to Notabilis for a fine puzzle.

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Was left with 8a and 15d unsolved.
    The rest wasn’t easy either but perseverance paid off.
    Such long clues for such little words. Not my favourites.
    Didn’t think about a possible Nina.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to CS for putting extra time into the blog..

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Rule of thumb: if you misread a clue the first time, you’re likely to misread it every time. I had stumble instead of stumped stuck in my head, so I couldn’t solve 9D. I also missed out on 1D because I thought the definition was new moon. Oh, well. I sorted the rest out, though I admit 15D was a bung-in. I found this quite a challenge and it’s probably a good job I didn’t know who the setter was or I might have given up instead of persevering. I’m glad I did though, because I enjoyed the tussle. 22A (which is how I feel a lot of the time when tackling toughies) is my favorite. Thanks to Notabilis, and to CS for the review and for stepping into the breach.

  6. LetterboxRoy
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Found this difficult, and needed hints for the last few in. I kept on finding words that I couldn’t be certain of because I just couldn’t see the parsing, so very cleverly constructed. 24a was key to solving the bottom half. Liked 5d, 4d & 19a.
    What I did solve on my own was thoroughly enjoyable – but 27a? I’ll ask an Irish friend to spell it later, I’ll bet he says ‘I.D.I.O.T’.
    Agree with JLC about the somewhat verbose clueing.

    Many thanks to the setter and CS – no way I would have finished this one solo. ****/***

  7. Jane
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Got on better than I expected but still got stuck on some of the parsing in the last few.

    27a – forgot the Latin bit (silly woman).
    1d – surely ‘a tit’ describes a person who is up to no good rather than just ‘up to no good’?
    5d – forgot about ‘as well as’ = and.
    9d – I only knew the answer as used in a rather more physical sense.
    15d – got hung up with ‘papal bull’ and ‘canon law’. Don’t think I’ve come across the combination previously.
    18d – new word for me in ‘ret’.

    Amazed to have filled the grid and definitely enjoyed the solve – thank you for that, Notabilis. Also, thanks to CS for the overtime and help with the parsing.

    • andy
      Posted August 19, 2016 at 4:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Jane I split 1d as “at it” as opposed to “a tit”

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted August 19, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      1d is ‘at it’ I think, but you made me laugh!! The 1,3 version is a silly s*d.

    • crypticsue
      Posted August 19, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink | Reply


    • Jane
      Posted August 19, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Really laughing at myself now! Even Kath would find it hard to fall into that one!
      Never let it be said that Toughie comments lack humour………..

  8. LetterboxRoy
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Am I right in supposing that the Nina words are a reference to the shape of the grid?

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We solved this without knowing who the setter was as it was not (and still is not) listed on the DT site. We found it a real challenge and took us a long time over several sessions to eventually get it all sorted. That is all sorted apart from totally missing the Nina. Perhaps we would have looked further if we had known the setter. The NE corner was our last in. It took inspiration while one of us was having a shower that revealed 11a and gave checkers to unlock the others.
    Thanks Notabilis and CS.

  10. Sheffieldsy
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Seems we’re out of step with the other posters. We thought this was a mixed bag. 4*/2*. On the positive side, we loved 4d and thought 27a was magnificent. 28a was very clever but quite obvious.

    Thanks to CS and Notabilis.

  11. Salty Dog
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Too hot for me, l fear. I got nearly half of it, then resorted to the hints. Pathetic, I know, because experience tells me that I would have made inroads had I put it down and come back to it later. On that basis I might even have finished by this time next month! Thanks to Notabilis for reminding me of my limitations, and to CrypticSue for showing how I should have done it.

    • bifield
      Posted August 19, 2016 at 9:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I concur, way above my pay grade but I had a go and what I solved was correct.

  12. Expat Chris
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I have the nina now.

  13. andy
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Notabilis and CS. How lovely to see a Nina possible grid being used as such, after the non unchecked starts on another page (18 of them )I resorted to the FT, and guarniad, but glad I came to this. Mounts podium and does ironing both superb

  14. Posted August 20, 2016 at 12:10 am | Permalink | Reply

    This was easy to start (7a went straight in) but hard to finish. I did half or so earlier in the day but had to put it aside until late. For much of the evening wine and music proved more attractive propositions, but what better way to end the day than by finishing off a Toughie before bed?

    It took a long time, but I got there by myself, with only a question about how many definitions there were for 25d. Wondered about the third; missed the fourth. The nina helped a little.

    I can’t choose a favourite, but if I could it would probably be one of the single-digit down clues.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to CS. Liked the 14a pic!

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