Toughie 1735 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1735

Toughie No 1735 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Dutch

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


Many thanks Micawber for a magnificent end-of-year toughie, in which all the surface readings are references to 2016 headlines – a remarkable achievement that makes for a highly enjoyable solve. Inevitably perhaps, a lot of single-letter manipulation is involved. Once recognised, I think that makes the solve a bit quicker and the puzzle was 2* difficulty for me. It does make for longer clues (and longer hints).

The definitions are underlined in the clues below. The hint may help you get the answer, if not you can reveal it by clicking on the HAPPY NEW YEAR button. Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought. Unusually most of the illustrations today refer to the surface rather than the answer – jus seemed appropriate. Apologies for late post – I thought it was all ready to go then went out for the afternoon, only to find it hadn’t posted when I returned.


1a    Brexit clearly just a slight majority, grappling with possibility of disentanglement (10)
EXTRICABLE: Anagram (grappling) of BREXIT+CLEA[rly] (just a slight majority of ‘clearly’)

6a    Society losing leader of longevity’s a Caribbean nation (4)
CUBA: A society or an association of people without the first letter (leader of) Longevity plus A from the clue

10a    Sobbed about ends of Wilder, Ali, Bowie and Wood (5)
CRIED: The single-letter abbreviation for about plus the last letters of (ends of) the 4 celebrities (who sadly died in 2016)

11a    Obscenely rich with gas and oil, heartless members of ruling elite (9)
OLIGARCHS: Anagram (obscenely) of RICH+GAS+O[i]L (the ‘oil’ being heartless)

12a    Leading character in Ukip, politician, getting into words after letter perhaps, gets beating (5)
PUMPS: The first letter (leading character) in Ukip + a 2-letter abbreviation for a politician goes inside an abbreviation for an additional message at the bottom of a letter

13a    Instantly combustible phone? True (9)
THEREUPON: Anagram (combustible) of PHONE TRUE

14a    Electronic and tech startups following leaders producing virtual reality device? (7)
HEADSET: The first letters (startups) of E[lectronic] and T[ech] come after (following) another word for leaders or chiefs


16a    Italian expression of disapproval overturned the whole ensemble (5)
TUTTI: A 2-letter abbreviation for Italian plus a 3-letter expression of approval (often said twice), all reversed (overturned) gives a musical instruction indicating a passage is to be played by the whole ensemble or orchestra

19a    Drain swamps? That’s as low as it gets (5)
NADIR: Anagram (swamps?) of DRAIN

20a    Endlessly Nigel’s welcomed in Republican circle, causing confusion (7)
FARRAGO: Take our ambassadorial wannabe’s surname without its final letter, insert an R (welcomed in Republican), and add the letter that looks like a circle

22a    Tunneller finds planet getting hot — Arctic cap’s close to zero (9)
EARTHWORM: The name of our planet and another word for (almost) hot, in which the first letter (cap) of Artic becomes the last letter (close to) zero

26a    EU safety mark used after control ‘taken back’? ‘Right away’ is relative (5)
NIECE: The mark showing electrical goods and toys conform to European standards comes after the reversal (taken back) of a 4-letter word for control, without the R (right-away)

27a    Damaged D Cameron cut short premiership of country before end of July, power being vested in voters (9)
DEMOCRACY: Anagram (damaged) of D CAMERO[n] without the last letter (cut short), plus the first letter (premiership) of C[ountry] and the last letter (end) of [jul]Y

28a    Politician dances with courage (5)
BALLS: Triple definition

29a    Failed leadership candidate — note not victor (4)
GONE: A (failed) candidate for leadership of the UK, with the abbreviation for N[ote] replacing the letter for which the international radio code is Victor

30a    Judge’s conclusion coming amid hesitation from both sides on Brexit vote? (10)
REFERENDUM: A 3-letter judge, e.g. in football, and a 3-letter word meaning conclusion that sits between two ways of expressing hesitation


1d    Initially eluding staff, captive gorilla perhaps making getaway (6)
ESCAPE: First letters (initially) of Eluding Staff Captive, followed by a type of animal of which a gorilla is an example

2d    Candidate getting in front in Iowa, that man had won (9)
TRIUMPHED: A (successful) presidential candidate includes (getting in) the first letter (front) of I[owa], plus a 3-letter contraction equivalent to ‘that man had’

3d    Iceland getting two, dominating no-good wingers — English hopeless! (2,7)
IN DESPAIR: The International Vehicle Registration code for Iceland plus a set of two goes around (dominating) the end-letters of N[o-goo]D and the abbreviation for England

4d and 9d: Reverse decision on a ship’s chosen name (in part), changing answer to be acceptable to higher echelons (5-4)
ABOUT-FACE: A from the clue, plus the last 8-letters of a name chosen for a polar research ship via an on-line poll, in which the abbreviation for A[nswer] is changed to a letter meaning socially acceptable in upper classes

5d    Football’s surprise package, i.e. secret flash of Lineker’s pants (9)
LEICESTER: Anagram (pants) of IE+SECRET+L[ineker] (flash of as in a first glimpse of)

7d    Remove upper limit on University’s capacity to collect money, essentially (5)
UNCAP: The abbreviations for U[niversity] and CAP[acity] contain (to collect) the central letter (essentially) of moNey

8d    Highest of awards dispatched by institute after Bob finally accepted — in this (8)
ABSENTIA: A semi-all-in-one. The first letter (highest, in a down clue) of A[wards], then another word for dispatched plus the abbreviation for I[nstitute] follow the last letter (finally) of [bo]B, followed by the abbreviation for A[ccepted]

9d    See 4 Down

15d    Don’t give oxygen to incorrect use of fact (9)
SUFFOCATE: An anagram (incorrect) of USE OF FACT

16d    Rail network disrupted after withdrawal of labour — two sides involved susceptible to influence? (9)
TRAINABLE: An anagram (disrupted) of RAIL NET[work] (after withdrawal of labour), including the two sides of a 45rpm single record

17d    Posted nasty things online about partners when plastered? (9)
TROWELLED: A modern word for having deliberately offended by posting on the internet goes around two bridge partners

18d    Found Erdogan imprisoning one suffering repression? (8)
UNDERDOG: Hidden (imprisoning) in the first two words in the clue

21d    What’s rejected and washed up? Allardyce after result of leak perhaps (6)
JETSAM: First name of the sacked England football manager follows what you might see when a leak is sprung in a pressured pipe, for example

23d    Remain hiccups lead to immediate falls in what’s made from Tokyo stock? (5)
RAMEN: An anagram (hiccups) of REMA[i]N without the first letter of I[mmediate]

24d    Online attack in America during Hillary Clinton’s primaries by head of Kremlin? (4)
HACK: The abbreviation of A[merica] ‘during’ the initials (primaries) of Hillary Clinton plus the first letter (head) of K[remlin]

25d    PM to take place, perhaps (5)
MAYBE: The name of our current PM followed by a verb that can mean to take place or happen

Well, plenty to like in this incredible collection. I laughed most at the 28a triple definition, so I’ll pick that as favourite. I also thought 12a, 16a, 20a, 29a were all very clever, as were 1d, 2d, 7d. Which were your favourites?

21 comments on “Toughie 1735

  1. I’ve been waiting all year for this. Real laugh out loud moments (I could have 10a) and so much cleverness to marvel at.

    The deepest chuckles for me came at the explosive 13a, the 4dy Mc9dface and the (foot)ballsy 18a, 3d, 5d and 21d. I also want to mention 15d, and 19a – which this year very nearly is. :)

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Dutch. Happy New Year to you too.

    I hope that 2017 brings good things to good people.

  2. I swear that Micawber’s end of year Toughies get better year by year. I thought that this one was superb – thanks to Micawber and Dutch. Too many top clues to list them all, so I’ll restrict myself to 1a, 11a, 27a, 5d and 8d.

  3. When we realised what sort of puzzle this was we felt a bit apprehensive that some of the allusions would be beyond our ken. Once we got into it we found that not to be the case and we did have enough knowledge to get it all done in reasonable time without resort to Google at all. We agree with Gazza that it was superb fun.
    Thanks Micawber and Dutch.

  4. I’d echo what Gazza said – every year you think the previous year’s Micawber end of year Toughie can’t be beaten for content and entertainment and splendidness, but he’s done it again. Too many good clues for me to just pick one but Mr CS laughed at 28a when I read it to him and got the answer without my needing to explain it to him (as usually happens with cryptic clues) so I’ll go for that.

    Thanks to Micawber and Dutch

  5. Tremendous stuff from Micawber to end the Toughie year!

    I knew almost all the 2016 references – must have occasionally read the newspaper instead of just doing the crosswords.

    27a doesn’t quite work for me – not the clue – but Brexit, the President-elect and Boaty McBoatface.

    Thanks to Micawber and Dutch.

  6. Superb. We were so close, but had a wrong ‘un which left us three answers short. We thought ‘trolleyed’ for plastered was spot on! Dutch’s hint eventually put us straight then the remainder fell into place.

    3* for difficulty otherwise and the same 4/5* for enjoyment as Dutch proposes.

    Thanks to Dutch and Micawber and Happy New Year to everyone.

  7. Wonderful, and so very clever. I had no problems with the political references at all, thanks to reading the British dailies daily, though the EU safety mark was new to me. And of course, for me 2D was pretty much a “gimme.” I liked so many, particularly the super 28A, but my personal stand-out is 2D because that’s exactly what he did, which was so critical to the election result. Thanks Micawber and Dutch, and a happy and safe New Year celebration to you all.

  8. Took me a lot longer than our Toughie experts but I certainly enjoyed it.
    16d gave me problems – I tried to get ‘tractable’ to work for a long time, which made 26a impossible.
    Like Sheffieldsy, I thought ‘trolleyed’ was a brilliant description of ‘plastered’ – shame I had to give up on the idea.

    Podium places for 11a plus 8&21d.

    Many thanks to Micawber for the 2016 reminders and to Dutch for the review. A very happy new year to you both.

  9. Simply brilliantly topical. Lots of chuckles.
    My favourite was 5d Lineker’s pants.
    Happy New Year everybody.

    1. Your comment needed moderation because you’ve lengthened your alias. Both flavours should work from now on.

  10. Lovely stuff – especially when the clue aligns with the solution in the surface as well as in the wordplay: 5d being perhaps the best of that bunch. Of the others 16d and 21d were excellent too.

    Thanks to Micawber and Dutch – and a happy New Year to all of you.

  11. A real tour de force. Enjoyed all clues with 28a my favourite. Happy New Year to Micawber, Dutch and all my fellow bloggers

  12. Following Kitty’s comment had another expedition into Toughie-land. Needed some help & three were beyond me without hints – thanks Dutch. Never heard of ramen.
    Very clever not so amusing for me as the brain was trying to get on message.
    Thanks to Micawber & Dutch for much needed help.

  13. Brilliant toughie, excellent references to the defining events of 2016 and nice ending to the toughie year! Loved it all, agree with ratings, and thanks to Micawber for the enjoyment and to Dutch for the amusing hints. Happy 2017 to all🎉🎊

  14. When I first saw the clues I wondered what was going on.

    So lenghty, it almost needed two A4 pages to print.
    But when I noticed the topics, I really got into it.
    Didn’t know about the football team until today though.
    Liked the Dylan clue in 8d but Ed wins the contest in 28a.
    2d also made me laugh but Paul/Dada gave us a gem today in the Graun.
    Thanks to Micawber for the great review of 2016 and to Dutch for the great reviews of 2016.
    Happy new year to you both.

  15. Well, amen to all the superlatives, and then some.

    Living where I do, 5 down was especially significant.

    Thanks to Micawber, Dutch and all who contribute to the support and the contents of this wonderful site.

  16. Thanks for the blog and all your kind comments, and a very happy new year one and all.
    Just have to get the day’s work out of the way now before getting Sheffieldsy and Jane’s initial answer to 17d!

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