Toughie 1690

Toughie No 1690 by Shamus

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I don’t know if it was just me being obtuse but I had a very slow start and only solved two clues on the first run through. One of these answers contained a Z and so alerted me to the possibility of a pangram though I can’t say that it helped me much. I finally got going in the NE corner and then slowly but surely completed the puzzle. But I enjoyed the challenge

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Run into spring haze in game (8)
LEAPFROG: ‘To spring’ + R (run) inside haze = a children’s vaulting game

5a    Sing in Western ball forgoing money (6)
WARBLE: W (Wetsern) + a little glass ball used in children’s games with the letter M (money) removed

9a    Venial act almost disrupted foreign city (8)
VALENCIA: An anagram (disrupted) of VENIAL AC gives the name of a Spanish city

10a    Embody in practise a cold solicitor (3,3)
ACT OUT: A + C (cold) + someone who solicits

12a    Arresting sort enthusiastic about special muscle? Right (9)
INSPECTOR: A police officer (arresting sort) = ‘enthusiastic’ (4) round S (special) and a muscle (3) + R (right)

13a    English city first to last taken with a dance (5)
RUMBA: An informal name for a large English city with its first letter moved to the end + A

14a    NI party’s put back source of chips (4)
SPUD: A reversal (put back) of a Protestant loyalist party of Northern Ireland and ‘S = an informal name of the vegetable from which chips are made

16a    Musical figure suffers setback in shock coverage (7)
HAIRNET: The title of The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical + a reversal of a cardinal number = something worn on the head (covering the shock)

19a    What’s hunted endlessly by the Spanish in dispute (7)
QUARREL: A hunted animal with the last letter removed + the Spanish word for ‘the’

21a    Some row in English port, maybe (4)
WINE: Hidden in row in English

24a    American to dismiss British dependency? It goes without saying (5)
AXIOM: The American spelling of a word meaning ‘to dismiss’ + a British dependency in the Irish Sea

25a    Period overseeing fruit mentioned in outdoor assessment? (4,5)
RAIN GAUGE: A homophone (mentioned) of a ‘period overseeing’ and the short form of the name of a variety of plum = an instrument used in meteorology

27a    Make good writer in rugby programmes initially (6)
RECOUP: The surname of an Italian novelist (3) inside ‘Rugby Union’ and P (the first letter of Programmes)

28a    Drops much unpleasant material, graffiti artist’s recourse? (5,3)
SPRAY GUN: A cloud of small flying drops + unpleasant, dirty, sticky material with the last letter removed = a device for applying paint

29a    It’s in short close to enthralling cat? (6)
NEPETA: ‘Close to’ with the last letter removed goes round a tame animal (perhaps a cat). The whole clue provides the definition for a plant that is attractive to cats

30a    Novelist before turn of year leaves, say (8)
GREENERY: The surname of a twentieth century English novelist + a reversal of an abbreviated form of ‘year’


1d    Dear rival affected performer (6)
LUVVIE: ‘Dear’ (as a term of endearment) + ‘to rival’ = an excessively pretentious or affected actor

2d    Strongman to be seen on time, or after long wait? (2,4)
AT LAST: The surname of a bodybuilder who asked if you were tired of sand being kicked in your face + T (time)

3d    Criminal / strike in sport (5)
FENCE: 2 meanings: a receiver of stolen goods/to strike with a sword in a sporting contest

4d    Deluded character nearly put in dictionary left out (7)
OMITTED: The surname of James Thurber’s daydreamer with the last letter removed goes inside a major English dictionary

6d    Charge by convention for instrument (9)
ACCORDION: A convention (agreement) + a charged particle

7d    Very prosperous with first of lots invested? (8)
BLOOMING: An intensifier meaning ‘very’ = ‘suddenly prosperous’ round L (first letter of Lots)

8d    Car teen trashed round street’s end in dramatic interlude (4’4)
ENTR’ACTE: An anagram (trashed) of CAR TEEN round T (last letter of streeT)

11d    Feature of plates near chocolate boxes (4)
ARCH: A feature of plates of meet (or feet) is hidden in neAR CHocolate

15d    Supreme ride for a tough soldier? (9)
PARAMOUNT: A tough soldier carried by air + a horse

17d    Senior side adopting one of four in team (8)
SQUADRON: An abbreviated form of ‘senior’ + one of the sides of a cricket pitch round one of four babies born at one birth

18d    Trumpeter getting point with seconds to go in competition (5,3)
DAVIS CUP: The surname of a jazz trumpeter called Miles + a point with the letter S (seconds) removed = a tennis competition

20d    Flier‘s prank (4)
LARK: 2 meanings: a songbird/a prank

21d    Fancy appearing with a feeble expression! (7)
WHIMPER: A fancy + ‘a’ (as in so much a head)

22d    Expert exploring drives left Spain for brutal place (6)
JUNGLE: The surname of a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist (who explored drives) + L (left) + E (Spain)

23d    Curtail principal longing to be elevated poet (6)
HEANEY: ‘Principal’ with the last letter removed + a reversal of a longing = the surname of an Irish poet

26d    Eat on move in Essex town, we hear (5)
GRAZE: A homophone of the largest town in the borough and unitary authority of Thurrock in Essex

I hope I haven’t lost any clues this week


  1. halcyon
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I started well then ground to a halt in the SE. Having “can” pencilled in for the second word of 28a didn’t help with 22d and neither did failure to check for a pangram which would have resolved the expert exploring drives a bit sooner. Heigh ho.
    Favourites were 16a [shock coverage] 24a [American to dismiss] 29a [a nice Kitty clue] and the drive expert in 22d.
    Never a week goes by without A=PER.

    Thanks to Shamus and Bufo.

  2. Jeroboam
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The pangram probably excuses one or two quibbles. For example there’s a lot of experts out there. So despite at first wondering if we faced a milder form of the Giovanni’s, I’ll give this the thumbs up and rate it as enjoyably tough. ****/****(just) for me too.

    • Jeroboam
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There’s me forgetting to thank setter and Bufo again.

  3. dutch
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Missed the pangram – again! It may well have helped

    The top flew in, the bottom did not. SE was last. One of those awful grids too

    13a – I thought the combination of a slang word for the city plus the first-to-last was devious, but only so many dances this could be.
    Also thought ‘Expert exploring drives’ was devious, but a nice clue (22d)

    Took me a while to parse 24a (american to dismiss) –

    wasn’t sure why 11d was a feature of plates or what tough is doing in 15d – and “charge” by itself is inaccurate for 6d, as I think we’ve discussed before

    25a I thought assessment was an act rather than an instrument – i suppose you can read the answer as an act – thanks Bufo for explaining the homophone – not seeing the plum, I had Range (period) around gay (fruit) – ugh!

    Anyway, got there in the end – before the school run even. Favourites probably 21d, 24a

    Many thanks Shamus and Bufo

    • crypticsue
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Plates of meat – Cockney feet :)

      • LetterboxRoy
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

        D’oh! Didn’t twig that either! Thought plates was just a distraction.

      • dutch
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Oeff – didn’t remember that one…

  4. LetterboxRoy
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Definitely tricky, I came unstuck in SE corner, not least because I didn’t know 23d and made complete hash of 25a by bunging in ‘check’, realising it must be wrong, then spelling the correct word wrong (ruining 22/23d). Deary me, what a mess.

    Also didn’t know 29a or 8d, which all made for a tough time. Liked 13a, 16a, 2d & 15d plus many others.

    Very good and strangely different from Shamus today, never really felt comfortable, if anyone knows what I mean!?

    Thanks to all as ever.

  5. Jarman Island
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Am I alone in never having heard of 29a? Even my “solver” that I use as a last resort and which has heard of all sorts of words that don’t exist had never heard of it either. (Crosswords UK). Even if I had heard of it I doubt I would have got it.

    • crypticsue
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog

      We’ve got lots of it in our garden – our late cat used to love it

      • Kath
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

        We would have lots in the garden if all the cats didn’t love it so much.

    • Kath
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s also known as catmint and catnip – quite pretty with little blue flowers, or would have if the cats didn’t either eat it all or flatten it by rolling around in it.

  6. Kath
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh good – I’m not the only one who thought this was really tricky even though it was good fun.
    Lots of ‘bung ins’ which I normally try not to do – most of them worked until I got into the bottom right corner which all went a bit wrong.
    I missed the pangram which, had I spotted it, would have helped with 22d even though ‘can’ for the second word of 28a wasn’t a good idea – the perils of ‘bung ins’.
    I still don’t get the 17d ‘side.’
    I liked 1 and 14a and 1 and 23d. My favourite was 26d because it made me laugh.
    With thanks to Shamus and to Bufo.

    • Rabbit Dave
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Kath, a cricket pitch has an “off” side and an “on” side (although the latter can also be referred to as the “leg” side!). I haven’t checked but I’d be surprised if they are not all included in BD’s usual suspects.

      • Kath
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Rats – even I know that – I’m being seriously dim and think all the little grey cells were used up on the Ray T. I had ‘S’ for the abbreviation for Senior which left me with an unexplained ‘ron’. Oh dear. :roll:

      • Kath
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

        RD – Thank you – I apologise – I was so cross with myself for missing a ‘crickety thingy’ that I do actually know that I forgot to thank you for your explanation. :rose:

        • Rabbit Dave
          Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

          No problem at all, and thank you for the beautiful rose.

  7. Una
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That was thoroughly enjoyable , so I will dismiss the up until now unheard of 29a.
    I made the same mistakes as Halcyon and found the south east corner quite difficult.
    My favourite was 21d.
    Thanks Bufo and Shamus.

  8. Rabbit Dave
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That was very tough but very enjoyable so I’m going for 4*/3.5*. I’ve docked half a star for enjoyment due to the horrendous misspelling of practice in 10a. Talking of misspelling, Bufo, your decrypting of 11d should say plates of meat!.

    I noticed the pangram, which helped with 22d. 29a was a new word for me, but obvious from the wordplay and checkers. Lots of candidates for favourite here, but I’m going for the delightful 14a.

    Many thanks to Shamus and to Bufo.

  9. Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I liked this but found it very tricky with some intricate wordplay which needed teasing out, often after having guessed at an answer (not the way of solving I’m best at). I never did twig the right kind of plates in 11d – and can’t quite claim a completion anyway because somebody accidentally gave me the answer to 1a before I’d got it, which I must admit provided a very helpful inroad into that corner. I had to save 29a until last, whereupon I finally figured out something plausible from the wordplay, planted it, hit the button … and, finding it acceptable, rolled around in the stuff purring.

    Thanks to Shamus and Bufo.

  10. Markb
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks to setter and blogger. I too did not know 29across but got lucky when I looked up cat mint.
    Thanks again.

  11. 2Kiwis
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We spotted the pangram in time to be of real assistance with solving 24a. That one and 1d were our last two to get sorted as we wanted an anagram of rival to be involved. We found this a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle with an good level of difficulty and plenty to keep us smiling.
    Seeing the answer for 1a reminds us of when we used a cartoon to illustrate the same answer and, because of the smiles of the participating animals, people thought they were playing a totally different game.
    Thanks Shamus and Bufo.

  12. Salty Dog
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Completed in 3* time but needed 4 hints, so 4* is fair enough. I loved 1d and 24a. Thanks to Shamus, and Bufo.

  13. Expat Chris
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I had 3/4 (except for 29A) completed in fairly reasonable time this morning then ground to a halt in the SE corner, and stayed stymied until a little while ago when it began to unravel. I also had can for the second word of 28A, which is to my mind a much more likely tool for Banksy and his lot than a gun, so 22D remained unsolved. If I’d noticed the pangram it might have helped, but I didn’t. If I went back and checked, I’d probably find some clues I particularly liked but I need to mellow out. Anybody got some catnip? Or maybe I’ll have to make do with a nippy sweetie instead.

  14. Jane
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    OK – fell into just about every trap that others have mentioned and added a couple of my own by not knowing 8d and never getting 22d (possibly because I’d reversed the vowels in the second part of 25a!).
    I wondered how our overseas friends would cope with 13a but Chris hasn’t mentioned it being a problem.

    Favourite by a country mile was 1a – as I announced to Kitty before realising that she hadn’t filled that one in (sorry, Kitty).

    Thanks to Shamus – glad to see the Irish references back in – and thanks to Bufo for sorting out a couple of my parsing issues.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 10:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

      No problem with 13A, being born and bred not too very far away. Went there a few times back in the day. As a teenager, went with friends for a Ray Charles concert. Amazing. Actually, the answer was very clear from the checking letters too, so even non-Brits could get it but perhaps get stuck on the parsing.

  15. Sheffieldsy
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh, how we wish we had spotted the pangram. We could not do 22d, our LOI, but recognising a pangram would/could/might have informed us that it needed a ‘J’ which, in its turn, would have made us realise that we had entered ‘GUAGE’ for the second word of 25a, rendering 22d as _A_G_E unsolvable. D’oh and double d’oh.

    3*/4* for this.

    Favourite was 16a.

    Thanks to both Bufo and Shamus.

  16. jean-luc cheval
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    To each his or her spelling mistake.
    Mine was to write 6d the French way which made 16a impossible. Thought I was looking for a Musical character with a word inside ‘hit” for the shock covering.
    Got me nowhere.
    Shame as I did very well, even getting the poet in 23d on first reading in that corner.
    Apart from the blank 16a, my last ones were 24a and 18d.
    Quite a technical solve but enjoyable enough.
    Thanks to Shamus and to Bufo for the review.

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