Toughie 1808 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1808

Toughie No 1808 by Dada

Marathon Man!

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

Greetings from Warrington! I have been asked to step in and start the Toughie week, and am doing it in the company of Dada. Many of you will know that Dada is John Halpern and recently he ran the London Marathon in a rather unusual way. A Guardian colleague designed a special grid with 26 answers, and at every mile marker a volunteer held up one of the words, and over the next mile he came up with a clue for that word. You can see the puzzle here, read all about it here  – and (spoiler alert – contains the answers) here‘s the blog of how it all went.

A fantastic achievement and you can still donate to his wonderful cause.

Now back to today’s challenge, which could be described more as a humorous sprint, rather than a marathon. The puzzle contains a few of Dada’s slightly nudge nudge, wink wink clues and plenty to make you smile. All in all, a nice way to start the week. Particularly liked the unusual answer at 3 down and my last one in which was a nice penny-drop moment when I saw how it was made up.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Daring type mischievously pinching rear of football supporter (5,6)
PANTY GIRDLE: We start with an anagram (mischievously) of DARING TYPE with L, the last letter of football inserted. This gives you a type of supporter that used to be associated with the company Playtex©.

9a    A tragedy’s opening in that place? (7)
THEATRE:     An all in one clue, for your definition, and the answer is found by taking A and T, the first letter of tragedy, and placing them inside a word meaning that place.

10a    Split atom, dry inside (6)
BISECT:     Another container clue. A word meaning dry in terms of wine goes inside another one that means something the size of an atom. This gives a word meaning split.

12a    Red edges, blue boxes (7)
CRIMSON:     A nice concise clue that leads to a shade of red. Something that means edges goes inside (boxed by) the abbreviated name for the party that wears blue.

13a    Exhaust having backfired, evident dropping back in African country (7)
ERITREA:     Reverse (backfired) a word meaning exhaust and add something that means evident, minus its last letter. (Excuse me while I go check whether its needs an apostrophe before, after or not at all!) This gives one of the newer African countries.

14a    Washout, a shade of yellow (5)
LEMON:     A double definition. Something that is a washout may be said to be this (fruit), which is also a shade of yellow.

15a    A virtue so, singled out (9)
GODLINESS:     Something that may be said to be next to cleanliness (but not in the dictionary!) is an anagram (out) of SO SINGLED.

17a    Organisation independent of government in Turkish city, one getting beaten? (5,4)
BONGO DRUM: A type of instrument that is beaten the found by putting the abbreviation for a non-governmental organisation and putting it inside the name of a Turkish city.

20a    Naval officer warmer on the outskirts of Borneo (5)
BOSUN:     After the first and last letters (outskirts) of Borneo goes something that warms the planet from a distance. This gives you a naval officer.

22a    Corporation trailing function with English ensemble (7)
COSTUME:     After an abbreviation for a function in trigonometry goes a word for which corporation has in the past referred (think bodily part) and add E for English to give you what an ensemble in couture is said to be.

24a    Country getting queen into line (7)
TERRAIN:     A word that refers to country as in land, rather than a name of one, is found by taking the abbreviation for Her Maj and putting it in one that means line.

25a    Prickly fibres in pants (6)
BRIEFS:         Sneaky Dada! I am so used to seeing ‘pants’ now used as an anagram indicator, I missed that the indicator in this clue is prickly and that the rest is the definition of the anagram of FIBRES!.

26a    Fallen, little evidence of injury? (7)
SCARLET:     As earlier mentioned, this was my last one in. The question mark is often used in clues to represent a slightly dodgy or cryptic definition, i.e. one that is accurate, but needs a little thinking outside the box. Here we have a word that means fallen, as in a fallen woman may be said to be this. If you had a small injury you may have one of these to show for it!

27a    Building in mess, three broken pieces (11)
SMITHEREENS:     Another one where you have two anagram indicators, so you need to find which is the indicator and the other is the definition. So, an anagram (building) of IN MESS THREE gives a word for what pieces are said to be in, when broken into lots of fragments. It’s also an anagram of INTERMESHES.


2d    Headless alien hijacking first of spaceships, one in command of craft? (7)
ARTISAN:     Another clever definition. Inside a word for an alien, minus its first letter goes S, th first letter of SPACESHIPS and this gives you someone said to be the master of (a) craft.

3d    Possibly a ten-year-old Shetland pony in the middle of Amsterdam (9)
TWEENAGER: A recent addition to the OED and other reference books is this word for someone between childhood and adolescence. How you may describe a Shetland pony (3,3) goes inside the middle three letters of AMSTERDAM.

4d    Good, accomplished old actor (5)
GABLE:     The surname of a famous actor from many films but probably best known for playing Rhett Butler, is found by taking the abbreviation for good and adding a word that means accomplished, capable.

5d    Great musician in Paganini’s sorry when shown up (7)
ROSSINI: The name of a famous musician is hidden backwards (shown up, which works as it is a down answer) inside PAGANINI’S SORRY

6d    Forage crop in Swiss canton (7)
LUCERNE:     The name for a type of grass used for animals is also the name of a Swiss canton (and city).

7d    Fish starters initially make spine tingle? (11)
STICKLEBACK:     A type of small fish kids used to catch is revealed by taking S (initial letter of STARTERS) and adding a rather cryptic way of saying to make your spine tingle.

8d    Stink engulfing priest, gas! (6)
HELIUM:     The name for a gas is found by taking a standard crossword word that is the name of a biblical priest and putting it inside something that means stink or smell.

11d    Glue binding serenade with no musical entry (7,4)
PASSING NOTE: A technical name for a type of insertion in a musical composition can be found by taking something that means to serenade, adding no and placing inside a type of glue, such as Gloy© that you were allowed to use at school, but nothing stronger.

16d    Engineer missed tea for a cup of coffee? (9)
DEMITASSE:     The name for a small coffee cup is also something that is an anagram (engineer) of MISSED TEA.

18d    Recognise limitless street alcohol is ineffective medicine (7)
NOSTRUM:     The name given to quack medicine comprises a word meaning recognise, minus its first and last letter (limitless), adding an abbreviation for street and a type of alcoholic drink.

19d    Work fast to keep university magnificent (7)
OPULENT: After a short word meaning work goes a period when you fast and these take an abbreviation for university. This gives something that means magnificent or luxurious.

20d    Writer’s tip about Asian city coming up a good deal (7)
BARGAIN:     The name for something that’s a good deal is revealed by taking something that is used to write, inserting the name of a famous Indian city (Think Taj Mahal!).

21d    Basic old houses poky for a start (6)
STAPLE:     This held me up for a fair bit of time. The first letter of POKY goes inside something that means old (think bread!) and reveals something that means basic.

23d    Follow leaders in European nations, some utterly execrable (5)
ENSUE:     Something that means follow is the first letters (leaders) of the last five words of the clue.

Thanks to Dada for a witty, entertaining and perfect start to the Toughie week. And here’s the man after the event. See you soon!

22 comments on “Toughie 1808

  1. I really enjoyed this and though it squarely among the best of this setter’s puzzles in the DT, at least since I’ve been doing them. I detected a colourful* musical** feel to it.

    My picks are 9a, 10a, 12a the simple but delightful 25a, 2d and 3d.

    *12a, 14a, 26a (a shame that 25a and 26a are not the other way round in the grid)

    **17a, the 27a (I like Wall of Sleep), 5d (x2), 7d (sounded like a band so I googled it and it exists), 11d

    Also, King 12a and Life is a 14a. What else?

    Many thanks to Paul for the puzzle, and congratulations on the marathon achievement. Many more thanks to Tilsit for standing in.

    1. P.S. forgot to add that I had trouble with 6d as I didn’t know the first definition. Had to look that one up.

  2. Dada is never less than entertaining and today’s puzzle is no exception. Thanks to him for the enjoyment and to Tilsit for the blog. My list of ‘likes’ included 26a, 7d and 18d with my favourite being 3d. Like Kitty I didn’t know the forage crop.
    It was interesting to read Paul’s blog of the marathon crossword and to realise than even he has a few problems and ‘second thoughts’ as a setter.

  3. No wonder I liked it so much…’s a Dada.
    Didn’t know as usual.
    Enjoyed his marathon special too.
    Big laugh at 25a.
    Thanks for all the fun.
    Thanks to Tilsit for the review.

  4. I found it quite tricky to parse – I had the entire NW in mind before I wrote anything in (9a first, great clue). Thought 11d was an anagram for far too long, had to look up the crop at 6d, couln’d see 21d so it was my last in and a narrow favourite. Also liked too many others to list.
    Very enjoyable and engaging, thanks to Dada and to Tilsit for the odd parsing hint.

  5. I probably would have completed in less time had I not plugged in placebo for 18D, which screwed up the SW corner until I realized the error of my ways. The checkers for 11D also seduced me into believing the answer was Parson’s Nose for quite some time. On top of that, I was slow to see that 1A was an anagram. But with a little more patience and a good eraser I finally got there. I liked 1A and 7D in particular but my favorite today is 26A . Thanks Dada and Tilsit. I’ve printed out the marathon puzzle for my train journey tomorrow.

  6. Unlike Kitty, I didn’t think this was one of Dada’s best puzzles – maybe it’s just me having a ‘grumpy old woman’ day!
    I had heard of the 6d crop before but hadn’t realised that it’s an alternative name for alfalfa. 11a was completely new and will doubtless never make it to the storage area of the grey cells.
    I liked 26a&19d but the biggest laugh came from 7d.

    Thanks to Dada (will check out the marathon crossword later) and to Tilsit for allowing Kitty time out to be a chocolate finger!

    1. Old woman? What old woman?
      Whoever you are, get out of my young friend Jane’s body!

  7. Hugely enjoyable and no need for recourse to the hints. 2.5*/4*.

    Our favourites were 1a, 17a, 27a and, top of the shop, 3d which made Mrs Sheffieldsy giggle, and me groan, about the Shetland pony part.

    Actually, a beautiful crossword all round.

    Thanks to Tilsit for the hints and comments and to Dada.

  8. Very enjoyable but not overly difficult. Thank you Marathon Man and Tilsit.

  9. Most of it went in smoothly but a few in the lower half defeated me.
    Trying placebo for 18d didn’t help at all.
    Thanks to Dada and Tilsit.

  10. We always enjoy a Dada puzzle. 1a set the tone and the smiles never left our faces for the rest of the solve.
    Thanks Dada and Tilsit.

  11. I was well impressed with the marathon story, I think I picked it up on twitter – how cool is that? (I mean the story not twitter) Not sure I could compile a crossword that fast (to say nothing of the running). I saw the resultant puzzle but haven’t done it yet, hope to get around to it. What a star!

    Great puzzle today, I didn’t see 1a for a while so it was mega fun when i did, and hence my favourite today. I also liked 17a. LOI was 21d, took a while for old to click.

    Many thanks Dada and Tilsit

  12. I failed on 21d but really enjoyed the whole thing anyway (even though it took ages). Thanks Dada and Tilsit.

  13. I rather enjoyed this one. Just into 2* time, but some nicely mischievous clues. I liked 2d, and almost blushed when I cracked 1a, but 17a was my favourite. I’d never heard of a 11d, although I had correctly divined the answer. Thanks to Dada (and much respect) and to Tilsit for the review.

  14. I didn’t know either definition of 6d and had to look it up, but the rest went in reasonably quickly for the time of night. :-) Always a pleasure to solve a puzzle by Dada.

  15. Thanks to Dada and to Tilsit for the review and hints. A very enjoyable puzzle, but I guessed 11d, but was beaten by 21d, just couldn’t get past “old houses”. My favourites were 3d&26a. Very entertaining. Was 2 */4* for me.

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