Toughie 1711 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1711

Toughie No 1711 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Another beautifully precise puzzle from Notabilis. I managed to finish this in what for me is 3* time, but in the top half I was helped by the Nina which I boldly entered before the answers – I can imagine it might take a little longer if you don’t do that. I found this a delightfully addictive puzzle, so 4* for entertainment. Perhaps even more so than usual, writing the review has increased my appreciation of the setter’s craftsmanship by allowing me to relish each clue again – the clues are sleek, with lovely definitions.

Finding these definitions is half the battle and half the fun – they are underlined for you in the clues below, which might already help your solve. The hint explains the wordplay, and if you would like to see the answer you can click on the IF ONLY! button. Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought.


1a    Rock-dweller may be one to outlaw chatter in nude (7,3)
BARBARY APE: A verb meaning to outlaw plus a word for chatter goes ‘in’ a word meaning nude

9a    Gigantic vessel whose load is small (4)
VAST: A 3-letter vessel includes (whose load is) the abbreviation for S(mall)

10a    New chief welcomed by tearful Queen fan (10)
MONARCHIST: The abbreviation for N(ew) plus an adjective meaning chief go inside (welcomed by) an adjective meaning tearful or with watery eyes

11a    I wish one running entered into race (2,4)
IF ONLY: The Roman numeral for one, then a 2-letter word that can mean running or operational goes inside a verb meaning to race or move swiftly

12a    Way to eat spinach in layered dish (7)
LASAGNE: A narrow street or way goes around (to eat) the word for spinach you would find at your local Indian restaurant

15a    Screw up Introduction to Calculus course in school (7)
SCRUNCH: The first letter (introduction) of Calculus plus a word meaning course go inside (in) the abbreviation for SCH(ool)

16a    Understood a bit of sophistication in retrospect (5)
TACIT: A reverse hidden (a bit of… in retrospect)

17a    Sarcastic comment dismissing head spy (4)
NARK: Remove the first letter (dismissing head) from a snide or sarcastic comment

18a    Endless sea with crossing in large yacht (4)
MAXI: Remove the last letter (endless) from a word for sea and insert the letter that looks like a crossing

19a    Part of frame Duke removed from fine object (5)
FEMUR: This frame is skeletal. Remove the abbreviation for D(uke) from the abbreviation for F(ine) plus a verb (obviously containing the letter D) meaning object or dissent

21a    In a roll, turned away from old joker (7)
BUFFOON: Inside a baker’s roll, reverse (turned) a preposition meaning away or removed from plus the abbreviation for O(ld)

22a    Europe dividedly blocking armorial black or azure? (3-4)
SEA-BLUE: The abbreviation for the E(uropean) U(nion) is inserted each letter separately (dividedly) into the name of a black colour used in heraldly. (With ‘dividedly’ and ‘armorial’, this clue oozes the kind of precision I admire in Notabilis)

24a    Sing simultaneous groups of notes, the fifth being universal (6)
CHORUS: The name for simultaneous groups of notes (e.g., first, third and fifth) in which the fifth letter is changed to the abbreviation for U(niversal). Shades of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’

27a    Protection for workers in traffic junction (5,5)
TRADE UNION: A word for traffic plus a word for junction

28a    Pitcher‘s last ones to base allow home runs (4)
EWER: The last letters to (last ones to) three words in the clue plus the abbreviation for R(uns)

29a    Aggressive people waving guns and choker (10)
ROUGHNECKS: The only anagram (waving) of GUNS + CHOKER



2d    Minute jot, one invisible in review? (4)
ATOM: A reversal of (in review): the abbreviation for M(inute) plus a word meaning a jot or a very small amount without the initial I (one invisible). The wordplay uses the whole clue, and in the whole clue we find a description of the answer making this a nice all-in-one

3d    Short-lived state of Roman monk after baseless prejudice (6)
BIAFRA: An Italian word for brother or friar (Roman monk) follows a 4-letter word for prejudice without the last letter (baseless, in a down clue). I enjoyed the definition

4d    Detail of weed covering green (7)
RECOUNT: Detail is a verb. A weed or undersized weakling goes around (covering) green or environmentally concerned

5d    Hearts of oaks and pine sharing genetic material (4)
AKIN: The middle letters (hearts) of aAKs and pINe

6d    Without money, court is lost (7)
EXTINCT: A 2-letter Latin preposition meaning without, a slang word for money, and the abbreviation for C(our)T

7d    Shot said to make cathedral dignitary weep (10)
CANNONBALL: A homophone (said to make) of a 5-letter cathedral dignitary and a 4-letter verb meaning weep or cry

8d    Second shot over church square that could be lethal (10)
STRYCHNINE: The abbreviation for S(econd)and a word for shot or attempt goes over (in a down clue) an abbreviation for CH(urch) and a square number. I love the way the surface follows the previous clue

12d    Getting round Nebraska’s uneven flanks, one who defeats American football player (10)
LINEBACKER: Nebraska’s uneven flanks would suggest taking a different number of letters from the front and from the back end of ‘NEBraskA’. Around that (getting round) is a word that means someone who defeats, as in wins or beats

13d    Put me and others off, going around excessively up and confident (10)
SUREFOOTED: A reversal of (up): A (5,2) phrase that would mean ‘put me and others off’ going around a word meaning excessive

14d    Prime bits of Seattle found demolished (5)
EATEN: The prime-numbered letters in ‘Seattle found’

15d    Head space of saint among humans (5)
SINUS: This cavity in the head is generated by the abbreviation for S(aint), a preposition meaning among, and a pronoun that can be used to describe our own race

19d    One responsible for Maurice Ravel, initially held by nurse (7)
FORSTER: Maurice is not only the first name of the composer, it is also a book title, so we are looking for the author. The first letter of Ravel goes inside a verb meaning to nurse or bring up

20d    Make new frequency in double note quiet (7)
REFRESH: The symbol for F(requency) goes inside a repeated (double) note on the sol-fa scale, followed by a 2-letterinterjection meaning quiet.

23d    Head’s origin of Usk in spring (6)
BOUNCE: A slang word for head contains the first letter to (origin of) U(sk)

25d    Island occupants of Soay and Rhum (4)
OAHU: This Hawaiian island is generated by taking the occupants (in a similar device to 5d) of the Scottish Islands Soay and Rhum. Rhum was originally called Rum, but was renamed around 1900 presumably to avoid confusion with the alcoholic drink. It reverted to its original name Rum in 1991

26d    US athlete caught in brief prank (4)
JOCK: This informal American term for an athlete comes from inserting the cricket abbreviation for C(aught) into a word for prank or gag without the last letter

Lots to like here. Clues that stood out for me include 22a, 24a, 3d, the 7d/8d pair, and 19d & 25d for genuine references. I’ll go with the musical 24d as my favourite. Which clues did you like?

23 comments on “Toughie 1711

  1. I didn’t spot the Nina until after I’d finished – but as someone who never usually spots Ninas, I am pleased to say that I noticed the ‘square’ I enjoyed the whole solve, 3*/4* from me with my favourites being 19d and 25d (because I remembered the island)

    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch

  2. I managed to complete this in reasonable time and enjoyed it very much. As per usual the Nina passed me by, but in this case I don’t think that held me back. Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

    1. Look at your solved grid very carefully (not necessarily just the solutions) and you should spot something going on in several places.

      1. I couldn’t finish it, too clever for me. Resorted to the hints for education.

        I still can’t see a Nina… seems my brain has taken the day off today.

  3. Didn’t manage 3d and 26d.
    And can’t spot the Nina either.
    Heavy use of the thesaurus during the solving process.
    If it’s not one setter, it’s the other. There’s no escape.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the review.

  4. When I first saw the grid ( yes, I look at those! Setters choose them with care) I noticed the four pairs of double unches. That might be enough of a hint for you to see something cute.

  5. As is often the way at the end of the Toughie week, I filled the grid but had to come to the review for the parsing of a handful.
    I didn’t know that term for a sarcastic comment and have never seen the spinach spelled with only one ‘A’.
    Clues such as 22a & 2d may well be extremely clever in their wordplay but the answers are so obvious that it seems a huge waste of effort on the setter’s part!
    My favourite was 7d with 15a coming up on the rails.

    Still searching for the Nina – could someone please enlighten me at close of play?

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the invaluable assistance.

    1. See previous comment@5 – does that help?

      Brb, of course, has both the a and aa versions of spinach

  6. A good challenge where we eventually got everything sorted. Everything that is except for the Nina. Knowing that Notabilis often gives us one, we had looked but failed to find anything until we came here this morning. Very clever. A top quality puzzle that was much appreciated and enjoyed.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  7. If I recollect correctly, it was Notabilis who transferred the use of the term Nina to crossword puzzles. It was previously used to describe Hirschfeld’s use of his daughter’s name (Nina) as a hidden element of his drawings. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    1. You recollect correctly. Notabilis and I used to e-chat about the gimmicks lurking in the Times Concise grids, and he called them Ninas. I shared that description on the old chat board, and it blossomed from there.

  8. I’ve finished a Friday Toughie, as long as having an answer to all the clues counts as having finished it.
    I did need the hints to explain quite a few of my answers and, even having been told that there’s a Nina I still can’t find it/her.
    I do confess that it’s taken me ages but it’s cold and it’s November so why not?
    I really enjoyed this one.
    My picks of the day include 1 and 10a and I think my favourite, even though it took ages, was 19d.
    With thanks to Notables and to Dutch.

    1. look for the double unches – there are four pairs in the grid. Then look at the letters in the double unches to get 4×4. Hope that helps.

  9. Sorry, but life’s too short to look for ninas! Even without that doubtful pleasure, though, I enjoyed the puzzle and the fact that I completed it correctly – no common occurrence with a Friday Toughie, l assure you. 3* is about right for difficulty, and 4* for satisfaction. My favourite clue was 13d, but there were plenty of contenders. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

  10. Of course, the one I got wrong was one of Jane’s easy ones! I had ‘anon’ for ATOM. Just goes to show how a good setter can trap the unwary with all types of clues; and also, how difficult 4-letter clues as a class are, especially when the initial letter is unchecked.

    A thoroughly enjoyable challenge, which I finished with the unknown 4-letter word MAXI, not seeing the main, but espying the crossing.

    Perhaps someone could explain the prime-number connection at 14d?

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