Toughie 1803 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1803

Toughie No 1803 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A genuine toughie – this took me longer than the other three toughies this week combined! Uber-elegant clueing with trademark precision plus a hidden present of a Dutch masterpiece (thank you Notabilis!). An excellent puzzle and a brilliant way to end the toughie week.

As always, the definitions are underlined in the clues below. I hope the hints are useful and you can always reveal the answer by clicking on the SPOILER button. Please leave a comment below telling us how you got on and what you thought.


1a    Blissfully serene, cuts back before possible drunken outburst (8)
SERAPHIC: Reversal (back) of a 5-letter verb meaning cuts or trims followed by an involuntary sound typical of drunken people

5a    Purplish colour keeps greying at the edges, over small container (6)
EGGCUP: A purplish colour contains the outer letters of greying, all reversed (over)

9a    If old lady’s about, burn a light meal (5,3)
CREAM TEA: A word for burn (as in bodies), inside which the 2-letter old lady is reversed – followed by A from the clue

10a    Holding line is vexation? Not for me (6)
ANGLER: A word for vexation or ire goes around the abbreviation for L(ine)

12a    Scope to commit matricide (6)
DOMAIN: Split (2,2,2), the answer would mean to commit matricide

13a    Moon almost crashed into planet with malignant effect (8)
VENOMOUS: An anagram (crashed) of MOO(n) goes inside a planet

15a    Sombre dresser has trouble turning in massive Philistine (7)
GOLIATH: A person who likes dressing in black contains a reversal (turning) of a word for trouble

16a    One never flowers right in wet ground (4)
FERN: The abbreviation for R(ight) goes inside another word for wet ground or bog

20a    Con artist periodically offers seeds (4)
OATS: Even letters (periodically) of the first two words in the clue

21a    Tip-off involves separate parts of old intrigue (7)
COLLUDE: A 4-letter tip or tip-off, like the numbered ones in this puzzle, has the letters of OLD interspersed

25a    Arid tableland area, endlessly tough, beset by destructive power? (8)
KALAHARI: The abbreviation for A(rea) plus a 4-letter word for tough or firm without the last letter go inside a Hindu goddess of destruction

26a    Spike in measure of frequency’s inverted peak (6)
ZENITH: A spike of the kind you find on a fork goes inside the abbreviation for the unit of frequency, all reversed (inverted)

28a    Baby starting to bite maybe cutting second or third tie (6)
TETHER: A whimsical (hence ‘maybe’) word for a baby who is just starting to bite without the second (or the third, given it’s the same) letter

29a    Tangled on vines, I imagine (8)
ENVISION: An anagram (tangled) of ON VINES I

30a    Oberon’s commanded fairy queen to gather (6)
PUCKER: The fairy who Oberon’s servant in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, followed by the usual abbreviation for our queen

31a    Conspire aboard overnight flight, both wanting ends to assign to a new task (8)
REDEPLOY: A 4-letter word for conspire without the last letter goes inside (aboard) a (3-3) expression for an overnight aeroplane journey (so-called because of a typical lack of sleep), also without the last letter (hence ‘both wanting ends’)


1d    Second prime minister, not the last, to leave an alliance (6)
SECEDE: A 3-letter abbreviation for second followed by the name of a prime minister without the last letter

2d    Having lots of space in the ears and water in the eyes? (6)
RHEUMY: A homophone (in the ears) of having lots of space. The definition includes having from the beginning of the clue, i.e., having water in the eyes

3d    After ceremony, I visit university president (8)
POMPIDOU: A 4-letter word for ceremony, I from the clue, a 2-letter word for visit or travel extensively through (a country or city), plus the abbreviation for U(niversity)

4d    Holly and relatives uniting current and classical law (4)
ILEX: The Physics symbol for electrical current plus the Latin word for law

6d    Hunting unfortunately involves attempt to kill (3,3)
GUN FOR: Hidden (involves)

7d    Ne’er-do-well’s lucky to return, leaving every other pair where Jacobites were crushed (8)
CULLODEN: Remove every other pair of letters from “Ne’er-do-well’s lucky” and reverse (to return)

8d    Playing harp, vocalise melodic accentuation (8)
PHRASING: An anagram (playing) of HARP plus a verb meaning vocalise

11d    Torah outwardly breaks covenant with unknown mortal (7)
DEATHLY: The outer letters of ToraH go inside another word for covenant or agreement, followed by a letter used for an algebraic unknown

14d    Loving men and women attempt to examine intolerance (7)
BIGOTRY: A 2-letter adjective meaning loving both men and women, a 2-letter attempt, and a word for examine or test

17d    Close walking in Barnet lifted mood (8)
LOCKSTEP: A 5-letter word meaning Barnet (Barnet Fair = Hair) plus the reversal of a mood or huff

18d    Vigorous habitual response after what’s carried by 11 cycles (8)
ATHLETIC: A habitual twitching response follows the inner (what’s carried by) letters of 11d, the first of which is cycled to the end

19d    Upsetting old partner, I nurture one obsession (4,4)
IDEE FIXE: An old partner, I from the clue, a 4-letter word meaning nurture or nourish, plus the Roman numeral for one – all reversed (upsetting)

22d    Sneak son away from today’s poetic twilight (6)
THIEVE: Remove S(on) from a (4,3) expression for today’s twilight

23d    Iowa is in charge of the next generation (6)
FILIAL: The abbreviation for IowA goes inside a verb meaning charge or load

24d    Labour in the main may be accompanied by such rough-housing? (6)
SHANTY: Two definitions, both cryptic. In the first, main refers to sea and we are looking for something that musically accompanies work at sea. The second definition is a noun and refers to a type of housing.

27d    Postponed after losing heart earlier (4)
ONCE: A (2,3) expression that means postponed without the central letter

My biggest smile was for 12a. I also really liked 10a, 26a, 7d (how do you think of that?) and the musician in me likes 8d, which was my first one in. There is plenty more to like – which clues were your favourites?

13 comments on “Toughie 1803

  1. Favourites? I liked them all! If I had to pick just a few I’d go with 9a, 12a, 28a, 2d, 7d and 24d. Finding the Nina early did help me a lot in completing my last couple of clues in the SW corner (I didn’t know the 17d word).
    Thanks to Notabilis for an excellent puzzle and to Dutch for the review (I’m glad to see that the 9a illustration has the light meal served in the correct way and not how the heathens west of the Tamar would serve it!).

    1. I can remember that we’ve had this debate before – I still maintain that the ‘heathen’ method is the only way to ensure that all the elements stick together satisfactorily!

  2. Yeah! Dutch rated this a 5* for difficulty and I’ve finished it all by my little own self – just needed to check with Mr. G on the goddess and the ‘close walking’. Time for a celebratory drink before CS pops in to say that it was fluffy!

    Really enjoyed the ‘drunken outburst’ and the ‘overnight flight’ – top slots went to 1,9,12 &30a.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for the fun and to Dutch for the review and the ratings! No saying that the setter had the Dutch masterpiece in mind but if you want to claim it, that’s fine by me.
    PS Johnny Depp has to be one of the few men who can still look masculine and sexy despite wearing tons of eye make-up and sporting a pendant drop earring!

  3. Excellent Friday toughie , I didn’t find it too taxing ,but very enjoyable .However , I am hopeless at spotting ninas – give me clue . Ta

    1. Oops – nearly gave you an extra clue but Dutch has obviously left it for folk to work out for themselves. His preamble should actually give you all the help you need.

  4. I did it all by my own self too and absolutely loved every bit of it. Well, I did parse 25A a bit differently, thinking that the first three words were the definition and Kalai were Star Wars characters but post-puzzle Google tells me they were actually quite benign. Of course I missed the nina. We had that painting on the living room wall when I was a child. My many favorites include 9, 12 and 26A and 2, 19 and 24D. Tops was 12A. Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  5. Not fluffy at all – perfect in every way – the right sort of toughness, enjoyment and a Nina that even I could spot – so a big thank you to Notabilis for a great Friday toughie.

    Time for a drink for me too – not in celebration like Jane – but to get over having been on an Office Away Day.

  6. Well I didn’t manage it all , needing a lot of help in the south west corner.But I enjoyed the challenge.
    I liked 5a ( my first one in ) 8d , 12a , obviously, and 14d and 3d.
    Thanks to Dutch and Notabilis.

  7. I had worked slowly but steadily through each of the corners until I came to a grinding halt in the SW. This took ages to get a toehold until a flash of inspiration let me see what 25a might be and the rest followed from there. Ashamed to admit that I totally missed the Nina. An excellent puzzle from start to finish with the only possible complaint could be about the grid which meant one had to start from scratch for each corner.
    Many thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  8. Very difficult indeed, couldn’t finish without hints. Excellent set of clues, 12a raised the biggest smile.
    Many thanks to Notabilis for the challenge and to Dutch for the much-neededs.

  9. I keep managing to miss Friday Toughies lately (and have learnt that saving puzzles for another day just leaves me with an impossible backlog staring reproachfully at me, bemoaning my lack of speed, so I don’t as a rule do that), but had to make a special effort for this one.

    It smiled sweetly at first but then showed its fangs. It took a few sessions, even if not quite the nearly six days since publication!

    The mention of the nina visible on the front page meant I didn’t get the chance to fail to spot it (you’re forgiven!), which did help, so I can’t quite claim an unassisted solve. Still, I’m a happy kitteh.

    I would have had a long list of favourites, but given the time lapse I might just leave it there.

    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch for more of the finest quality that Friday can offer (even if not on a Friday for me).

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