Toughie 1699 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1699

Toughie No 1699 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

An excellent pangram from Notabilis with a nice Nina as well. This puzzle oozes exact clueing as usual, with lovely definitions and brilliant penny-drop moments. All very, very tidy – a work of art. It took me 3* time, though I found it tricky in parts so let’s say 3/4* for difficulty.

As always, finding the definitions is half the battle, and they are underlined for you in the clues below. The hints indicate how the wordplay works, which together with the definition may lead you to the answer. If you want to reveal the answer, click the It is, my friend, still blowing in the wind button. Please do leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought.


1a    To offer no resistance is good behaviour (12)
SUPERCONDUCT: A 5-letter word meaning good (or exceptionally good) plus a word for behaviour makes a verb describing what some metals may do close to absolute zero

9a    Signal was positioned about right for property (7)
SALIENT: Signal here is an adjective. A 3-letter verb meaning was positioned goes ‘about’ a right to retain property

10a    Cattle sound effects that may be useful when driving uphill (3,4)
LOW GEAR: A 3-letter word for the sound cattle make plus a word for effects or equipment

11a    Chicago’s cut its rail service for spring (on ice) (4)
AXEL: An American word for cut plus the 2-letter version of Chicago’s elevated railway

12a    Usual food with soft filling knocked back without enthusiasm (5)
TEPID: A reversal (knocked back) of the range of food normally consumed by a person or animal (also used for prescribed foods associated with weight loss) around the musical abbreviation for soft

13a    Fine antique pen (4)
FOLD: The abbreviation for fine and another word for antique

16a    Labour’s leader indeed socialist on more than one level? (7)
LAYERED: The first letter of Labour (nice to see the ‘S), a word meaning indeed or affirmative, and the usual crosswordese word for socialist

17a    Aged men contrived last moves (7)
ENDGAME: An anagram (contrived) of AGED MEN

18a    Lake becoming river in long and thin turn for water extraction (4-3)
SPIN DRY: L(ake) becomes R(iver) in an adjective meaning long and thin

21a    Gold on trophy table (7)
PLATEAU: The chemical symbol for gold follows (which is the convention for “on” in an across clue, as in ‘added onto’) a word for trophy

23a    Millitary intelligence folios are infuriating (4)
MIFF: The abbreviations for M(ilitary) I(ntelligence) and FF(olios)

24a    Perhaps to enter managed bar? (5)
INGOT: A 2-letter word that might mean enter and a word for managed or obtained (please comment if you have a better interpretation) And many thanks Gazza for setting us right (comment No. 1): if “managed to enter” can be GOT IN, then “perhaps to enter managed” would be the answer split (2,3)

25a    No gentleman left to turn up (4)
CURL: A word for scoundrel (no gentleman) plus the abbreviation for L(eft)

28a    Sides of Nazca trail emerging (7)
NASCENT: The first and last letters (sides) of N(azc)A plus another word for trail

29a    Terror exploit covering Liberal motivation? (7)
IMPULSE: A 3-letter word for terror, especially a little one and a verb meaning exploit going around (covering) the abbreviation for L(iberal)

30a    Excruciating wry hectoring is out of order (12)
CRINGEWORTHY: This word sometimes used to describe inexact homophones is an anagram (is out of order) of WRY HECTORING



1d    Remove ring of dirt, really showing pale lustre (7)
SILVERY: Remove the O from a word for dirt and add a word meaning really or extremely

2d    Not a lot to be said that’s comforting (4)
PHEW: A homophone (to be said) of a word meaning ‘not a lot’

3d    Maigret readership includes one brought out of retirement (7)
RETREAD: Hidden (includes) in the first two words of the clue (I first thought this was a whimsical definition for some automotive equipment, but brb tells me the answer can be a person)

4d    Supposedly wise to have outstanding guards slay uprising (3-4)
OWL-LIKE: A verb meaning ‘to have outstanding’ goes around (guards) the reversal (uprising) of a verb meaning slay

5d    Republican eliminated in tense beginning (4)
DAWN: An adjective that can mean tense or strained loses the abbreviation for R(epublican)

6d    Lombardy town where romance stirs? (7)
CREMONA: An anagram (stirs) of ROMANCE 

7d    Setting up English, try hard workers in roster (13)
ESTABLISHMENT: The abbreviation for E(nglish), a 4-letter verb for try, then the abbreviation for hard plus some workers or crew go inside a 4-letter word for roster


8d    Foes may be reconciled by one bluebird flying around hilltop (6-7)
BRIDGE-BUILDER: An anagram (flying) of BLUEBIRD ‘around’ another word for hilltop

14d    Gradually destroy upright, half-forgotten Dumbledore (5)
ERODE: A reversal (upright, in a down clue) of the second half (half-forgotten) of Dumbledore 

15d    ‘Apple-brandy’ bargain that can’t be bettered? (5)
IDEAL: A branding Apple uses for its pods, pads, phones, etc., (brilliant!) added to a word for bargain

19d    Gather round my people: I’ll help to make tea (7)
INFUSER: A 5-letter verb meaning gather or understand goes ’round’ a preposition that would refer to my people

20d    Great flower in manly nature article, unknown for its heart (7)
YANGTZE: Take one of the two opposing life-forces in Chinese philosophy, the one that is associated with masculine principles in nature (manly nature) and add the definite article, replacing its central letter (heart) with a letter used as an algebraic unknown

21d    Condition extra-large Welsh engine with power raised (7)
PROVISO: A reversal (raised) of: an abbreviation meaning extra-large, the name of a little green locomotive from the top left-hand corner of Wales in the children’s TV cartoon (I didn’t know this), and the abbreviation for P(ower)

22d    The same European experiencing many a storm front leaves (7)
EQUALLY: The abbreviation for European and a word meaning abounding in gusts of wind without the first letter (front leaves)

26d    One year for Cocteau to make his name? (4)
JEAN: Cocteau is both the French indicator and the owner of the name. The Roman numeral for one plus year, both translated into French

27d    Notice jam stain (4)
SPOT: A triple definition to finish

Lots of nice clues. I think “Apple-brandy” was my biggest penny-drop moment and my favourite. I also thought 8d (bluebird) was superb. 2d is very smooth, as is 26d. Which were your favourite clues?

19 comments on “Toughie 1699

  1. Excellent – thanks to Notabilis and Dutch. I found the Nina but didn’t notice the pangram. Amongst the clues I liked a lot were 11a, 29a, 15d and 21d.
    After some headscratching I interpreted 24a thus: ‘Managed to enter’ would be ‘got in’ so ‘to enter managed’ must be ‘in got’.

    1. Well done Gazza(24a), that’s it got to be – much more like Notabilis. I’ve added a comment.

      Off to York now…

  2. I too thought this was a brilliant and fairly tricky crossword – I’d spotted the pangram but not the Nina, for which an additional round of applause – and I too was a bit confused by 24ac.

    I hope I’ve finally gotten over my Elkamere/Notabilis blindness. I *think* I tackled this one with a clear concept of whose puzzle I was doing!

  3. In what has been an above average week of Toughies this puzzle deserves its Friday slot. Clever cluing, a pangram, a Nina and yet always hard but fair. If the numbers mean anything, then this should have been No.1700 as it definitely stands out from the crowd. Thanks Notabilis for the excellent puzzle and Dutch for a very enjoyable blog.

  4. I join the ranks of those defeated by the parsing of 24a – so many thanks Gazza.

    Lots of excellent clues, a pangram and a 2-way NINA – how does he do it! I agree that 15d is the standout but I also took to 19d for its lovely surface and impeccable wordplay.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the blog.

  5. I am perpetually amused when an expulsion of air (2dn) or a tongue click (TSK, or TCH) is pronounced by its onomatopoeic spelling and then becomes a word. I’d blame Joe Palooka, but the dictionary tells me it goes back much beyond that (2dn dates to the 16th century).

  6. Phew! Pardon the quote, – I failed on that one as well as 9a. What a marathon and what a work of genius! Too many favourites to list but agree with all the above.

    Many thanks to Notabllis and to Dutch without whose help I would still be scratching my head.

  7. I seem to be in anti phase to everyone else as I found this puzzle the easiest of the week and much easier than usual for notabalis. Probably because there were no obscure words – the only problem was I did not know how to spell the skating jump and had not heard of Chicago railway. Luckily it was easy to guess and look up

    Enjoyable puzzle so thanks to notabalis and dutch

  8. Dutch in the hint for 13a you have put the answer word rather than a different synonym for antique.
    We spotted the pangram but totally missed the Nina and also the parsing of Apple-Brandy. Kicking ourselves about that as we should have got it and it is sooo clever. Lots of fun and a good challenge.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  9. Notable lack of comments so far and the UK is now tucked up in bed. Maybe that’s because we lesser folk had quite some trouble with this. I was left with 6 unsolved, including 1A. Others were 2D, 9A (had the word. couldn’t justify it), 5D ( Hawk and Newt didn’t parse. Blame the American influence for my train of thought), 15D and 24A. A lesson in humility perhaps would be the attitude of some but I prefer to think of the glass as 9/10 full. I did rather cotton to 18A and 20D.

    Next time, Notabilis, next time…Thanks to Dutch, too for the blog.

  10. For the Nina look at the 6th horizontal row and the 6th vertical column of the grid. We missed it too until we read about it here.

    1. Thanks Kiwis, but I still don’t get it. I’m looking at: Miff, Ingot, Curd, Dawn, Ideal, Spot. Am I looking at the correct words, and if so, am I thick or what?!

      1. There are 15 rows and 15 columns in the grid. You need to look at row 6 (starting BR…) and column 6 (starting EN..).

        1. Sorry Gazza – I still can’t see it. I would have thought rows meant all the clues going across in a row, in this case row one=1a; row 2=9ac and 10ac; row three=11ac, 12ac, 15ac, etc, which gives eight rows. The same for the columns which would give eight columns. If you’re counting each across clue as a row and each down clue as a column then you would have 16 in each. The only solution I can see beginning with BR is 8dn which is either column eight or column 16 according to my reckoning; and the only solution I can see beginning with EN is 17ac which is either part of row four or is row eight according to my reckoning. Can you explain how you get 15 rows and 15 columns and if the two solutions I’ve quoted are the ones you say are row 6 and column 6, and, if that’s the case, I still can’t see the effing nina!!!!!!! Thanks for your help. Billy

          1. You need to forget about the clues/answers and concentrate on the 15×15 grid. Reading down one square at a time from the top left-hand corner you have: row 1=blank, row 2=E, row 3=S, row 4=T, row 5=A, row 6=B. You’re now on row 6 – stop there. Reading the letters across that row gives you B,R,E,A,K,I,N,G (i.e. ‘breaking’ which is the first word of the Nina). Now do the same thing for column 6 to get the second word (‘entering’) so the Nina is ‘breaking and entering’.

            1. Gazza – Thanks for all the time and effort it took you to enlighten me. I think the answer to the question I posed in my first post about this (‘am I think or what?’) must be a resounding YES!!! Ha-ha.

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