Toughie 1667

Toughie No 1667 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings everyone, I have just returned from three glorious weeks in Rhodes filled with sun, beer, ouzo and garlic. I didn’t want to come home. However, this puzzle helped to lift my post-holiday blues (certainly more than the cloudy and chilly Macclesfield weather). It was my first puzzle in 3 weeks, and I was happy to finish in 3* time with just a few clues that needed more thought for the full parsing. Sparks has plenty of his usual inventive clueing making for an enjoyable solve.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Kind and shy, in part pigeonholed (8)
TYPECAST: A word for kind and a word for shy

5a    Ready to work once and for all after partial vacation (2,4)
ON CALL: Remove some of the letters (after partial vacation) in ‘ONCe and for ALL’

9a    Ill-defined muscles needing a stretch (8)
ABSTRACT: Some stomach muscles and another word for stretch

10a    Clever old Liberal statesman (6)
BRIGHT: Another word for clever is also the surname of a British Radical and Liberal statesman (1811-1889)

11a    Building on condition that European cuts curtailed housing (7)
EDIFICE: A 2-letter word meaning ‘on condition that’ is contained in (housing) the abbreviation for European plus a 5-letter word for cuts without the last letter (curtailed). It took me a few reads to get the components in order

12a    Material change of sides in siege once king has fallen (7)
BROCADE: Take a 7 letter word for a siege, change the L to an R (change of sides) and remove the K (once king has fallen)

13a    Wound isn’t cleaned in private (11)
CLANDESTINE: Anagram (wound, as in past tense of wind) of ISN’T CLEANED

16a    See about case in a way that invites strong feelings (11)
EVOCATIVELY: Our favourite crossword cathedral city goes around a grammatical case

21a    Runs into bar in passage (7)
EXCERPT: The cricket abbreviation for runs goes inside a word meaning bar or exclude to give us a passage of literature

22a    Choice to get on down (7)
PLUMAGE: Down as in feathers. A 4-letter word meaning choice or first-class and a verb meaning to get on, or to become old

23a    Monster improvement having ditched spin-doctoring? (6)
OGRESS: An 8-letter word for improvement or advancement without the first 2 letters which are an abbreviation for spin-doctoring or organisational advertisement

24a    Blank cheque made without guidance following split (4,4)
FREE HAND: An 8-letter word meaning ‘made without guidance’ (as in a drawing, perhaps) when split as (4,4) becomes a phrase meaning complete freedom of action

25a    In scene, start to move through screen (6)
SCROLL: The 2-letter abbreviation for SC(ene) (Collins) and an intransitive verb that can mean start (meaning no. 15 in brb). 

26a    Limitlessly conceal being personality (8)
IDENTITY: Take a 4-letter word for conceal and remove the first and last letter (limitlessly), then add a 6-letter word for a being or something that exists



1d    North African sheep stuffed by old group of Arabs (6)
TUAREG: A 3-letter word for a sheep in its second year contains (stuffed by) the abbreviation for a former name of Egypt & Syria

2d    Getting on by overseeing PC subject? (4,2)
PAST IT: A phrase that means no longer able due to advancing years comes from a 4-letter word for by that sits on top of (overseeing, in a down clue) a subject involving personal computers

3d    Perhaps automatic help given over first sign of crisis of the heart (7)
CARDIAC: A 3-letter vehicle that could be an automatic (as opposed to a manual), the reversal (given over) of a 3-letterword for help, and the first letter (first sign) of C(risis)

4d    Upwardly mobile valuer in City of London having posed outside an office (11)
SECRETARIAT: The reversal (upwardly mobile, in a down clue) of a 5-letter valuer goes inside a (3-letter!) postcode for the City of London, and then all of that goes inside a 3-letter word for posed

6d    Tense and serious following initial U-turn about volume one being cut (7)
NERVOUS: An initial U-turn in ‘serious’ changes the first S(outh) to N(orth) – then it goes around V(olume) and the I (Roman numeral one) is removed (being cut)

7d    Maybe cheesy guitar playing in band eschewing covers (2,6)
AU GRATIN: An anagram (playing) of GUITAR goes inside (b)AN(d) without the first and last letters (eschewing covers)

8d    In a state of agitation, left head of accounts in it when in debt (8)
LATHERED: The abbreviation for L(eft), the first letter (head) of A(ccounts), and a (3,3) expression for what you are in when you are in debt

12d    Black pants modified (3-8)
BAD-TEMPERED: This mood comes from a 3-letter word meaning pants or rubbish plus a word meaning modified

14d    Motivating words, for example, at the heart of brave men (4,4)
HERE GOES: The abbreviation for ‘for example’ goes inside (at the heart of) a word for brave men

15d    Potter, say, rectified errors about this in Versailles (8)
SORCERER: An anagram (rectified) of ERRORS goes around the French word for this


17d    Spray affected roseola (7)
AEROSOL: An anagram (affected) of ROSEOLA

18d    I agree to challenge solvers, ultimately for a very long time (5,2)
YOU’RE ON: A 3-letter pronoun describing the solvers from the compiler’s perspective, the last letter (ultimately) of (fo)R, and a 3-letter word for a very long time

19d    State shortly to provide a welcome (6)
HAWAII: The 50th state of the USA which in its abbreviated form is a greeting

20d    Bloom‘s colour about to be hidden by grass (6)
HEYDAY: This bloom or prime time places a reversal of a verb meaning to colour inside (hidden by) some dried grass

7d was a clear favourite for me today, though I also really liked 18d. Which clues did you like?


  1. Gazza
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Lovely stuff – thanks to Sparks for the puzzle and to Dutch for the decipherment. Vying for top spot for me were 1a, 1d, 7d and 20d.
    I couldn’t spot Sparks’s traditional Nina but I did notice that rows 2 and 14 are all vowels and columns 2 and 14 are all consonants (possibly of no significance whatsoever).

    • andy
      Posted September 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Probably not easy to hide one in such a strange grid

      • crypticsue
        Posted September 2, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

        It is the only sort of grid I ever notice – the irritating four puzzles in one grid.

  2. Posted September 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It’s good to see you back, Dutch – glad you enjoyed your time away. I take it the 8d illustration is a holiday pic?

    A very nice crossword indeed, providing a plenty of d’oh!s. I started well after printing it out last night, but when I awoke I found I’d left my brains behind in dreamland. Needed a few zaps of electronic help to jumpstart again. The SE held out on me the longest. I agree that 7d was special, and I also ticked 5a, 22a, 8d, 12d and 18d.

    Many thanks to Sporks and Dutch.

  3. crypticsue
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A proper Friday Toughie treat thank you Sparks. I too searched for the usual Nina but couldn’t spot anything apart from the vowel/consonant thing that Gazza mentions.

    4*/4* from me

  4. Jeroboam
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Not sure why, but I really struggled with this. In fact it reminded me of my first car. Having jumped in enthusiastically at 1a, I then found I couldn’t get the thing started. After much head scratching under the bonnet, I eventually got going but found I could only make progress down the left hand side. This left me one side full and one side blank. I suspect that at this point my brain looked much the same. When I tried to turn to the right the engine conked out again. I was just about to bail out when without warning things kicked back into life at 12d. At this point I raced to the end as quickly as possible.
    I’d have to give it at least ****/****. I certainly couldn’t say I beat the clock. Thanks for the puzzle Sparks and Maize for your review.

    • Jeroboam
      Posted September 2, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Sorry Dutch, It appears I am unable to read.

      • dutch
        Posted September 2, 2016 at 8:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

        no worries!

  5. jean-luc cheval
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Some quite convoluted construction like 12a but enjoyable nonetheless.
    Good penny drop moment in 18d.
    19d also made me laugh. Can’t stop thinking of Lloyd Bridges in Hot Shots:

    Thanks to Sparks and welcome back to Dutch.

  6. Expat Chris
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It had not been the best of toughie weeks for me but today I finished the puzzle and eventually the parsing.The SE was the last to fall for me also, not helped by first having free rein in for 24A and then trying to fit a word for “I agree” in 18D. But I did get sorted out. I thought 19D was clever and I loved 24A when I finally got it. Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  7. beery hiker
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is probably not the right place for this comment, but some of you may be interested in John Henderson’s latest messages about next month’s York S & B on fifteensquared – he is trying to firm up the numbers for food and identify any special dietary requirements. The link is here:

    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There is (now) a link in the sidebar, and I will be adding separate posts about this event and the Times Championships the previous weekend.

      • beery hiker
        Posted September 2, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Dave!

      • Expat Chris
        Posted September 2, 2016 at 11:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Now if this had been the end of September and somewhat further south, I would have been able to pop in and say hello. One day….

        • Jane
          Posted September 2, 2016 at 11:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Hi Chris,
          I think you should plan a grand UK tour and come to see all of us. Spare room available here on Anglesey!

          • Expat Chris
            Posted September 2, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Wouldn’t that be loverly? This short visit will be mostly in Wiltshire for a wedding and family time, with a couple of days in my home town of Cheltenham . Maybe when I finally retire from work or win the lottery we can do the grand tour!

  8. Jane
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thought a ‘fail’ was looming but finally got there although I did have to check on the statesman and needed help from Dutch with the parsing of 6d.
    The pennies took a long time to drop over the 21a ‘bar’ and the part played by Versailles in 15d.
    Podium places go to 1&22a plus 8&18d.

    Thanks to Sparks and also to Dutch – nice to see you back and pleased that you’ve had such a great holiday. The 26a cartoon made me smile!

  9. dutch
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I would like to thank BD, CS and Kitty for covering the Friday toughies while I was away – osmosis, notabilis and Elgar!

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We found this one a bit of a grind and spent ages trying to sort out the SE corner. Eventually got it all sorted but it did take some time. 10a was someone we had not met before but Mr Google helped us there. We went looking for a message and found the rows of vowels and columns of consonants as Gazza mentioned above and decided that they must have been more than just coincidence.
    Thanks Sparks and welcome back Dutch.

  11. Sparks
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very many thanks to both me old Dutch and all bloggers for lovely comments; always greatly appreciated from this side. As for the Nina (of course there was one!) all across/down answers have a consonant/vowel in both 2nd and penultimate positions. Simples!

    I just looked at the (stock, preordained) grid and only now do I see what you mean: one spindly connection linking each quadrant to the central elements. This may have been a missed opportunity for a tripangram.

    Sparky says “woof!” to Gazza’s and Andy’s dogs, today’s opening batsmen, but he is confused by Kitty’s cat-slug love child …

    • Jane
      Posted September 2, 2016 at 11:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Nice of you to pop in Sparks. I think Kitty would be distraught by Sparky’s description of her avatar – silly doggy – it’s not a
      cat-slug, it’s a cat-ostrophe!

    • dutch
      Posted September 3, 2016 at 3:21 am | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for dropping in Sparks. I did look for a nina – I’m not sure I would have found this pattern, though I did spot the vowel rows – thanks for letting us know.


  12. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 9:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That Nina is so devious. It looks as if what we picked up was a side effect of it all. Thanks for pointing it out.

  13. Salty Dog
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I needed help with the NE corner, but managed the rest unaided. I found this very tough, and obviously this sort of grid doesn’t help, but enjoyed the struggle. I think I’m still improving, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done as well a year ago. From my perspective, this was a 4*/3.5* puzzle and 22a was my favourite. Thanks to Sparks, and to Dutch for the review.

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