Toughie 1727 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1727

Toughie No 1727 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

At the time of solving I did not know who the compiler was. The Nina hinted Sparks to me, but turns out I was wrong. CS e-mailed me to let me know it was Notabilis (many thanks Sue), and indeed, there is plenty of his trademark precision – though I didn’t find this one of his easier puzzles. I struggled mostly with SE, not sure why. There is plenty to enjoy.

As usual, the definitions are underlined for you in the clues below. The hints may help you arrive at the solutions, and you can always reveal them by clicking on the SPOILER button. Please leave a comment telling us what how you did and what you thought.


5a    Nick neck (6)
COLLAR: Double definition, the first meaning to arrest

8a    We’re connected, taking part in cruises? (8)
ONLINERS: If these internet-connected people are split (2,6), they maybe be on large cruise ships

9a    ‘Umble character in royal custody (7)
KEEPING: Take a humble Dickens character and remove the initial H (as indicated by ‘Umble), then place inside a 4-letter Royal

10a    Old lady stabbed by black, venomous crawler (5)
MAMBA: Put the abbreviation for Black (on pencils) inside an informal word for mother or old lady

11a    Flying creature Mariner’s ending in a death? (9)
ALBATROSS: A 3-letter flying mammal plus the last letter of mariner are inserted into A from the clue plus a 4-letter word that could mean death or bereavement. An all-in-one: the whole clue is a reference to a bird killed in Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner


13a    Notice bears speak with incoherent outbursts (8)
SPUTTERY: A 3-letter word meaning to notice or see contains (bears) a verb meaning to speak

14a    See airline headed back for course-finding apparatus (6)
SATNAV: I think(?) this is a reversal (back) of the Latin abbreviation for Vide (see) plus an Australian airline without its first letter (headed). Please comment if you have a different interpretation

17a    Fortune’s said to offer a little bright intensity (3)
LUX: A homophone of “fortune’s” gives this SI unit of illuminance equal to one lumen per square meter

19a    Contemplative school supporter’s left unashamed (3)
ZEN: This Eastern philosophy is obtained by removing the usual supporter from the start of a 6-letter word meaning unashamed

20a    Redevelopment of Epping’s tip (6)
PIGPEN: An anagram (redevelopment) of EPPING


23a    I had contacts possibly slightly delaying first son’s unemployment (8)
IDLENESS: A contraction of ‘I had’ followed by some optical devices that could be contacts, in which the first occurrence of the abbreviation for Son is shifted one letter to the right (slightly delaying first son)

26a    Party snack that could be pathological, not something eaten at Yule? (9)
CHIPOLATA: An anagram of (that could be) PATHOLOGICAL after a Christmas chocolate cake is removed

28a    Compulsion to benefit finance minister (5)
FORCE: Split (3,1,1), the answer would mean to benefit or in support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer

29a    Something to replace tie that’s cut, embracing a new travelling group (7)
CARAVAN: Alternative neckwear to a tie without its last letter (that’s cut) contains (embracing) A from the clue and is followed by the abbreviation for N(ew)

30a    Much wine that’s often served with apple in it? (8)
HOGSHEAD: Two meanings: a large cask of wine is also part of a pig that might be served with an apple in it

31a    Tempers of court assistants with briefs initially dismissed twice (6)
ALLOYS: Remove the first letter from both words in a (4,4) description of assistants on a tennis court



1d    Everything ordered had highest price with regular 25 per cent reductions (6)
COSMOS: Take a (4,4) phrase meaning ‘had highest price’ and remove the final letter from both words (with regular 25% reductions)

2d    Outcry’s good for top model’s allure? (7)
GLAMOUR: Take a word meaning outcry and replace the first letter (top, in a down clue) with the abbreviation for Good

3d    Marching as a column, stopped by soldier maybe at an early stage (9)
INFANTILE: A (2,4) description a formation of soldiers marching behind one another contains (stopped by) an insect that could be a soldier

4d    More crude power mounting before hostilities (3-3)
PRE-WAR: A reversal (mounting, in a down clue) of a word meaning more crude plus the abbreviation for Power

5d    Split some fees saver coughs up (8)
CREVASSE: A reverse hidden (some … up)

6d    Undesirable introduction of person with outward sneaky look (5)
LEPER: The first letter (introduction) of Person goes inside (has outward) a sidelong or lecherous look

7d    I have difficulty retaining man as ice melts (8)
AMNESIAC: Anagram (melts) of MAN AS ICE

12d    Second of clues still not finished for solution that comes out in the wash? (3)
LYE: The second letter of cLues followed by the first 2 letters (not finished) of a 3-letter word meaning still

15d    Swimmer suffering after losing heart to capricious individual (9)
ANGELFISH: A 7-letter word for mental or physical suffering in which the central letter is replaced by (losing heart to) a capricious individual who is helping Santa

16d    Uncontrolled, this’s to flop about (8)
FISHTAIL: An all-in-one: an anagram (uncontrolled) of THIS has a verb meaning to flop, or seriously not do well, about it.

18d    Wry suck on a lemon at first is revealing (8)
UNCLOAKS: An anagram of (wry) SUCK ON A L(emon)

21d    Colours are visible on such odd pieces from Klimt (3)
KIT: Odd letters in ‘Klimt’

22d    Casually loved to try to spread out (7)
HEARTED: An informal word for loved is given by a 4-letter word meaning to try in court plus a verb meaning to spread out (as in for drying new-mown grass)

24d    Numbers bananas over other fruit (6)
DAMSON: Reversal of both the 3-letter abbreviation for Numbers and an adjective meaning bananas or crazy

25d    One should show pace on a dash (6)
SPEEDO: A cryptic definition of one of the instruments on a car’s dashboard

27d    Quiet denial following irrational answer (5)
PIANO: A 2-letter denial follows an irrational number plus the abbreviation for Answer

I liked the all-in-ones (11a and 16d), the crossword-themed 12d, and I enjoyed the penny-dropping moments in 30a and 31a – and more. Which clues were your favourites?

16 comments on “Toughie 1727

  1. Our 17/19a today – I really 12/21d. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch for the superbly illustrated review. I’ll list 11a, 19a, 1d and 25d as goodies but my favourite is 31a.

  2. What Gazza said, except that I’d add 20a to the list of goodies but I definitely agree that 31a wins the gold medal. I also have to report a (possibly Christmas) miracle in that I too spotted the Nina.

    Thank you to Notabilis for the cruciverbal entertainment and to Dutch for the review

  3. Noticing row 3 nudged me to seek out the others, which helped in the solving (although that always makes me feel like I’m cheating, somehow!).

  4. Was beaten by 16d, 14a, 31a and 22d.
    Didn’t see the 4 expressions until I visited the blog.
    Thanks to Notabilis for the real toughie and to Dutch for the much needed hints.

  5. When we were solving our first thoughts were that it could be by Notabilis but when we got to the end and stumbled across the Nina, like Dutch, we then changed our minds and opted for Sparks. It seems our first thoughts were right after all.
    It took us a long time to get it all sorted, a huge amount of that was working out how 14a worked. Virgin Airlines and Virgin Atlantic were subjected to intensive scrutiny as were alternative sees to Ely and Rome until eventually the penny dropped. So a real sense of achievement for us to get everything worked out. Lots of really clever clues in the mix and very hard to single one out as favourite.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  6. Great puzzle, great review. I made a good start on this but about halfway through began to experience difficulties. By the end I was cheating liberally, but still enjoying myself.

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch, particularly for the pictures and for explaining 14a. Oh, and also for alerting me to the Nina which I had missed.

    When ferretting about searching for something which would fit the checkers for 22d I happened upon deerlet, which Chambers defines helpfully as a chevrotain. I went to Wikipedia, and he turns out to be rather cute:

  7. I too thought this was harder than usual for a Notabilis but not much to complain about, typically strong cluing and a lovely Nina that would have helped greatly if I’d seen it earlier! Thanks setter and blogger.

  8. I managed rather better than half of this before small print, poor reading glasses and the resulting incipient headache forced retirement. I wouldn’t have completed anyway – this is somewhat above my service ceiling. Certainly 5* difficulty, and of those I solved my favourites were 11 and 31 across. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

  9. Re 22 down, I would comment that I’ve never heard of the word ‘heart’ being used as a verb, to mean ‘love’, although I suppose that a picture of a heart is used these days as a verb to mean ‘love’ informally – but I’m not convinced that this picture symbol can be used in the past tense!

    1. yes, I had also not seen it previously, but it is listed in Chambers dictionary: definition 3 of heart as an transitive verb (informal). Note that Notabilis with his usual precision has incorporated the informal usage in his definition (Casually loved..)

  10. Goodness, that was a battle royal. Spurred on by the overwhelming desire to understand Gazza’s cryptic message, I almost made it – just failed on 22d and the full parsing of 14&28a.
    Wasn’t very happy with the endings on 8&13a and was surprised to see that 20a is one word.
    Thought 11a was very clever but my top spot is saved for the delightful 31a.

    Thanks to Notabilis and many thanks to Dutch for a superbly illustrated review – loved the Wifi, the street art and the poor snowman. Fleetwood Mac was a big bonus!

  11. For what it’s worth, I found this more starightforward than some offerings from one or two others of my fellow-setters, so am surprised to see such a difficulty rating!

    1. Yes, it’s obviously subjective – personally I am not a big fan of difficulty ratings. I worry high ratings stop people trying, which would be a pity. Having said that, the readers seem very keen to have some kind of indication of difficulty. The way I rate the difficulty is by the time it takes me to finish the puzzle – not suggesting that is perfect by any means. I have my personal scale, each star = x minutes, so if it take me longer than 5x minutes, I call it a 5* puzzle. There are often people who then tell me they found it easy – the reverse seems to happen less frequently :-)

  12. Please could some brainy solver, setter or blogger explain to this thickie where and what the nina is. I’ve managed to detect ‘safe keeping’ but nothing else. Can’t understand why I managed to complete the puzzle with no help from this site but still can’t see the nina. But then, I never can seem to spot them.

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