Toughie 1749

Toughie No 1749 by MynoT

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

I was pleasantly surprised by this one and enjoyed it. The **/*** rating for difficulty is because I stared at my last clue (20a) for some time before the penny dropped with a great clang, otherwise it would have been just **.

There’s a theme, signalled by a sort of Nina – I say ‘sort of’ because its first letter should surely be a different vowel. It looks to me as though the answer to 1d may have been altered subsequent to the grid being completed, with the need to keep the first letter unchanged for the sake of the Nina having been forgotten. Other explanations may be available.

Please leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of it.

Across Clues

7a An age that dawned for Waterman? (8)
AQUARIUS – this is a large constellation whose name, from Latin, means water carrier and which featured in the opening song from the musical Hair.

9a One enters place to worship star (6)
ALTAIR – insert the Roman numeral for one into a place which is the focus of religious ritual.

10a Girlfriend curtailed confused scene (4)
BABE – drop the last letter from a confused scene named after a Tower in Genesis.

11a With fine and regular features, son grew to assume power (10)
SCULPTURED – the abbreviation for son is followed by a transitive verb meaning grew or brought on (something in a Petri dish possibly) containing the abbreviation for power.

12a Soup served in club is questionable (6)
BISQUE – hidden in the clue.

14a Heavy blows in shelter can produce this kind of language (8)
LEGALESE – insert some heavy blows or winds into a word meaning shelter.

15a Refugee from terrible regime (6)
EMIGRÉ – an anagram (terrible) of REGIME and an old chestnut.

17a Qualifier braved playing (6)
ADVERB – an anagram (playing) of BRAVED.

20a You too, we hear, can be a drone (8)
SPYPLANE – this was my last answer producing a great d’oh. ‘You too’ sounds like a American reconnaissance flying machine shot down over Soviet airspace in 1960. It was a major news story at the time but I wonder how many younger solvers have heard of it.

22a Such regions can be hellish or Dutch (6)
NETHER – a prefix relating to both the regions of the underworld and the lands of the Dutch people.

23a Final large policeman in charge of instrument for viewing organs (10)
ENDOSCOPIC – this relates to a medical instrument which may be used in a top-down or bottom-up way. String together an adjective meaning final, the abbreviation for a large clothing size, an informal word for a policeman and the abbreviation meaning ‘in charge’. The surface doesn’t mean a great deal.

24a Sign for Northern stream (4)
BECK – double definition, the first being a gesture such as a nod.

25a Heavenly body posed on vessel (6)
SATURN – a verb meaning posed followed by a type of vessel or container. In an across clue it’s a convention that ‘on’ means ‘follows’ rather than ‘followed by’.

26a Seven Taureans I pleased excitedly (8)
PLEIADES – an anagram (excitedly) of I PLEASED produces a cluster of stars in the constellation Taurus also known as the Seven Sisters.

Down Clues

1d English question boxer’s energy level (8)
EQUALISE – concatenate abbreviations for English and question, the surname of the greatest boxer, the ‘S and the abbreviation for energy.

2d Peter‘s OK (4)
SAFE – double definition, peter being a slang term for a cash-box or similar.

3d It is a girl who might use it (6)
TISSUE – an informal way of saying ‘it is’ (‘3) followed by the name of our very own blogger and delicious cake maker. It occurred to me that if the last three words of the clue were changed to ‘possibly uses it’ we could have had a second set of wordplay leading to the answer.

4d Animal called and rushed about wildly (8)
RAMPAGED – charade of a farm animal and a verb meaning called or summoned.

5d Almost consumed whole prey as fast as possible (2,4,4)
AT FULL PELT – start with a truncated verb meaning consumed and add an adjective meaning whole or complete and a word for the killed prey of a hawk (thanks, BRB).

6d They are and can be eaten (6)
LIVERS – double definition, the first describing people who are currently in existence.

8d Complacently secretive about attack (6)
SMUGLY – an adjective meaning secretive or furtive contains a verb to attack and rob someone in a public place.

13d Pound for half of shares or equivalent in return (4,3,3)
QUID PRO QUO – assemble an informal word for a pound sterling, a preposition meaning ‘in favour of’ and the first half of a word meaning shares or rations.

16d Engineers, when 100 finish, climb up again (8)
REASCEND – a charade of the abbreviation for our army engineers, a conjunction meaning when, the Roman numeral for 100 and a synonym for finish.

18d Bishop arrives at gaps in fortifications (8)
BREACHES – the chess abbreviation for bishop is followed by a verb meaning ‘arrives at’.

19d Maintain competitive tailless dog (4,2)
KEEP UP – an adjective meaning competitive or intense loses its last letter and that’s followed by a young dog.

21d State injection must support most of weak (6)
PUNJAB – a state in the subcontinent appears if an injection follows (must support) an adjective meaning weak or weedy without its last letter.

22d Sound of new lice rambling in kernels (6)
NUCLEI – letters that sound like ‘new’ are followed by an anagram (rambling) of LICE.

24d Aviemore slope — maybe slow down, only kilometre to go (4)
BRAE – this is a bank or hillside in Aviemore (or anywhere in Scotland). Remove the abbreviation for kilometre from a verb to slow down. Since tonight is Burns night I feel I’m allowed to include a bit of his poetry:

Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

I’ll pick out 7a and 1d for the minor places but give the gold medal to 20a. Which clue(s) earned a clap from you?

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22 Comments

  1. crypticsue
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I found this more enjoyable than the ‘usual’ MynoT but was disappointed, having spotted the theme and the Nina (yes me, I spotted it) that the heavenly bodies appeared to be more on heat than starry. I’d be interested to know what was the original intended solution for 1d and how it was clued too

    I liked 7a too but for obvious reasons, I’ll have to choose 3d for top spot

    Thank you to MynoT and Gazza too

  2. dutch
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Thought this was going very quickly until I got to NE, but that also fell in place once I got 11a. Last ones in were the pesky 10a and 6d.

    Thanks (I think) for the namecheck (22a)

    I liked 12a as I was trying to force in RISQUE=questionable. 13d probably my favourite

    Liked the theme and the nina with a surprise start.

    Many thanks for the delightful hint at 23a, Gazza. I’m lucky enough to have had both.

    Many thanks MynoT and Gazza

  3. neveracrossword
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I could not parse 20a, so many thanks to Gazza for the enlightenment. (I am old enough to remember Gary Powers).Thanks to setter also.

  4. Davelawes
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Liked the crossword – 20a favourite- where is the Nina ?
    Thanks to Mynot and Gazza

    • Physicist
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      The top and bottom rows; but, as Gazza says, the first letter should be different.

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I had absolutely no idea about 20A (great clue, now that I know the answer), and totally missed the nina/theme until it’s existence was pointed out. I also had haze for 10A . I did enjoy it though, and 3D and 14A were my favorites. Thanks MynoT and Gazza.

  6. LetterboxRoy
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Got the theme quite early on – didn’t help much though! If anything I wasted time trying to find an alternative word for 1d, hence it was last in. Needed the history lesson for 20a (it was a bung-in), and check the spelling of 26a.

    Lots to like but top spot goes to 6d. Thanks to MynoT and to Gazza for the required hints.

  7. Kath
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this one a lot.
    I was totally defeated by 26a – even knowing that it had to be an anagram and having four of the eight letters in I still couldn’t do it.
    Needless to say asking Mr Google about U2 got me precisely nowhere . . .
    6d was my last answer.
    I missed the theme and the Nina – I always do – even having been told that there was one it still took me for ever to find it. Oh dear.
    I liked 7a and 6 and 24d. My favourite was 8d.
    Thanks to MynoT and to Gazza.

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Yes, 8d raised a quizzical smile on first read – I thought of ‘hit’ for ‘attack’ :whistle:

  8. Una
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Unlike the rest of you , I didn’t manage to complete it and I found the lower half easier than the top.
    I knew perfectly well that 26a was an anagram , but which one ?
    Thanks to MynoT and Gazza.

    • LetterboxRoy
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      They are also known as The Seven Sisters, and are located in the constellation of Taurus.
      You will never need to know that information again, unless you do pub quizzes.
      They’re very beautiful

  9. Miffypops
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I cannot see why the Nina began wth the letter E. The word Aquiline will fit if 10 across is changed. It gives – I – E Which is an easy fill with lots of choices. Possibly Aquiline is too difficult to clue. I found most of the puzzle solvable with only a few on the very difficult/impossible side. Ta to all.

    • Kath
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Gazza says he thinks it’s probably an editorial boob – well, he didn’t put it quite like that but I think that’s probably what he means.

    • halcyon
      Posted January 25, 2017 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      A short feather in Ernie’s cap – it looks like an eagle’s

  10. JonP
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t born until the Seventies and had never heard of 20ac but I should’ve got the answer from the checking letters but didn’t. I suppose that’s not a particularly valid excuse but it’ll do for me.

    Thanks to Gazza for the blog and MynoT for an enjoyable puzzle.

  11. Jane
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Lovely stuff, despite having missed the nearly Nina – perhaps just as well, I’d still be fighting myself over 1d!
    Never did get 10a (bunged in ‘date’ and couldn’t make it work) and also failed on 20a. Even if I had recalled the homophone I’d have thought the answer was two words.
    Thought the last word in 5d should be ’tilt’ and couldn’t get beyond that for an interminable length of time.
    Arrived at the wrong fourth letter in 18d so wondered why the homophone wasn’t flagged up – silly mistake.

    Top places went to 22a&2d – just to be different!

    Thanks to MynoT for the fun and to Gazza for setting me straight.

  12. crypticsue
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Dada tomorrow

  13. 2Kiwis
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your take on the almost Nina Gazza. We puzzled about it and like your explanation. A laugh out loud at 20a and the last two to go in were the same as for Dutch, 10a and 6d. Lots of fun and much appreciated.
    Thanks MynoT and Gazza.

  14. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Beaten by the two 4 letter words in the NW. 2d and 10a remained with a single A in each.
    New expression for me in 5d. Thought the third word was beat at first.
    Noticed the stars but thought nothing of it.
    Thanks to MynoT and to Gazza.

  15. RayS
    Posted January 25, 2017 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Managed this one reasonably well apart from 10a – I couldn’t get babe, obvious once I looked at the hints. 2*(apart from babe!)/4*

    20a was my favourite followed by 11a and 6d

  16. Catnap
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this a lot, too. I couldn’t get 10a, nor could I work out 20a, although I got as far as U2. I should have remembered the spyplane but didn’t. I particularly liked 14a, 3d, 6d, 8d, and 24d. And I much enjoyed your quote, Gazza. A bit of poetry is always good.
    Many thanks to MynoT and to Gazza.

  17. Posted January 26, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t get round to this yesterday but just wanted to thank Gazza for another excellently written and illustrated blog. I appreciated the hint for 1d as well as the kitty pic. :)