Toughie 1811 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1811

Toughie No 1811 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A lovely puzzle which I managed within 3* difficulty time, though I found it hard in parts (it took me a while to twig onto 7d, which meant I was left in the dark for a bit with 16d as well, and there were a few words I didn’t know). Sparks usually delights us with a Nina of some kind, but one potential 3-word message today would have been depressingly sad, and I was hoping it wasn’t true. Fortunately, we now have confirmation that no sad news was intended (thanks Gazza, CS, & Sparks), and that there are 4 words in the Nina. I can see some workers (3d, top of 16d, 8d with a corner as well as PARKING AGENT), alternatively I’m wondering if  KING is related to 1a.  I don’t think I’ve found the right 4-word Nina. Does any-one have any thoughts?

As always, the definitions are underlined, the hints try to explain the wordplay, and you can always reveal the answer by clicking on the REVEAL button. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Dry run put on tries to have genuine bearing (5,9)
DRESS REHEARSAL: A 5-letter word meaning to put on or clothe, then a word for tries (legally) goes inside (to have … bearing) a word for genuine

10a    In Lagos with rich, corrupt little group of governors (9)
OLIGARCHS: An anagram (In …. corrupt) of LAGOS + RICH

11a    Lampoon little sister, maybe, for suppressing question (5)
SQUIB: A shortened (little) word for brother or sister contains a 2-letter abbreviation for question

12a    Robbery shortly becoming known (5-2)
BREAK-IN: Remove the last letter from a word meaning ‘becoming known’ (as in ******** news)

13a    Drink infused in grand gold cake (6)
GATEAU: A hot drink (indeed infused) goes inside (infused in, or maybe just in) the abbreviation for G(rand) and the chemical symbol for gold

15a    Chases Maltese boxer, possibly (4)
DOGS: Maltese and boxer are two ****, who can be seen playing below


17a    Stroke head of extremely cold stallion I let out (4,6)
DEAD CENTRE: The answer means the top position of a piston stroke (which I didn’t know). Take a 4-letter word that can mean extremely (as in **** certain), add the abbreviation for C(old) and another word for an uncastrated stallion (which I also did not know) without the letter I ( I let out)

18a    Barnet lies about 580 miles from here (4,6)
EAST BERLIN: A clever all-in-one: an anagram (about) of BARNET LIES gives a place in Germany which is indeed about 580 miles from Barnet in London

20a    Reptile caught by mythical bird (4)
CROC: The cricket abbreviation for C(aught) plus a mythical bird

22a    Coach almost sacked when pocketing bill (6)
FIACRE: A word meaning sacked or dismissed without the last letter (almost) contains an abbreviation meaning bill or account (I didn’t know this word, which apparently comes from the name of a hotel in Paris where this type of coach was first used)

23a    The first and last American state (7)
ARIZONA: The first and last letters of the alphabet are short for this American state

26a    Extremist assault rapidly contained (5)
ULTRA: Hidden (contained)

27a    Programmer finally working in relaxing logic (9)
REASONING: The last letter (finally) of programmer, then a two-letter word meaning working or operational goes inside a word for relaxing

28a    Novel theme hit cinema, flopping (3,4,7)
THE TIME MACHINE: This science fiction novel by H.G.Wells is an anagram (flopping) of THEME HIT CINEMA



2d    Jack in commendation, shunning pressure (5)
RAISE: Jack is a verb here. Take a 6-letter word meaning commendation or laud, and remove the initial P(ressure)

3d    Lively watch protecting vessel (6)
SPARKY: A verb meaning watch or observe goes around a 3-letter boat Noah built





4d    With whom we should enjoy good relations (10)
RACONTEUR: A cryptic definition. The relations are stories

5d    Son trapped in dangerous crowd (4)
HOST: The abbreviation for S(on) goes inside a word that can mean dangerous

6d    Moderate university blocking unnamed WikiLeaks man (7)
ASSUAGE: Take the WikiLeaks founder, remove an N (un-Named) and insert a U (university blocking)

7d    Hog book for reading out? Blast! (3-6)
SOU-WESTER: A homophone (for reading out) of a female pig and a book of the bible. The answer, which is the name of a strong wind, appears as (3’6) in Chambers and Collins. It’s not usual to show apostrophes in the enumeration, and this was sufficient to confuse me for a while

8d    Strain direct from little money in job centre (6,8)
LABOUR EXCHANGE: A 6-letter word meaning strain or hard work, a 2-letter preposition meaning direct from and a word for loose, small money

9d    Apple at first following intruder — FBI do bust (9,5)
FORBIDDEN FRUIT: The abbreviation for F(ollowing) plus an anagram (bust) of INTRUDER FBI DO

14d    Capital gains group holding one ace following split (5,5)
ADDIS ABABA: This African capital is formed from a word for gains or annexes plus a Eurovision-winning Swedish group – then we need to insert I (Roman numeral one) and A (card abbreviation for ace) following split, i.e., separately, so the I goes in the first word and the A goes in the second

16d    Gauze covering 7 perhaps worn by chap in street (3-6)
GAS-MANTLE: What 7d is an example of goes around (worn by) a 3-letter word for chap inside the abbreviation for ST(reet). Possibly not the most exciting illustration ever

19d    No bone found when going over single dish (7)
BIRYANI: Reverse (found when going over) a no-vote and a chest-bone, the add the letter that looks like a one (single)

21d    Stop child’s endless nonsense (6)
KIBOSH: Take a 3-letter child and remove the last letter (is endless) and add a word for nonsense (unfortunately, as a noun the answer also means nonsense)

24d    Some stars in Hanoi, rocking and rolling? (5)
ORION: Reverse hidden (in … and rolling)

25d    Mostly compressed cheese (4)
BRIE: Take the first 4 letters (mostly) of a 5-letter word for compressed or short

I liked the quirky 18a, 23a, and 14d and I thought the surface of 9d was clever, with plenty more to like – which clues were your favourites?

18 comments on “Toughie 1811

  1. Interesting how having a love of less common words helps when solving a crossword. I am not alone in finding this on the fluffy side of the toughie spectrum, on any day, let alone a Friday – this took me the same time as the back pager and Mr Manley was in friendlier than usual mode too.

    Thanks to Sparks for an entertaining solve and best wishes to young 3d.

  2. I do agree, definitely friendly for a Friday. 9d the pick for me and 18 at no 2.Thanks Sparks and Dutch

  3. Thanks to Sparks and Dutch. My top picks are 12a, 18a and 23a. I still have no idea what the Nina is (but I’m relieved that it’s not what I originally thought it was).

  4. Right up at the top end of my abilities with the 14d capital and the justification of 23a taking much head-scratching. 22a was ‘doable’ although required verifying and my proudest moment came with sorting out the parsing of 17a despite not knowing the piston reference.
    18a takes the laurels with 9&14d getting a mention for inventiveness – although not for the surface reads!
    Now to get back to looking for the Nina – I’m relieved to learn that it doesn’t impart dire news on the canine front.

    Thanks to Sparks (plus 3d of course!) and to Dutch for a very well illustrated blog – I kept expecting ‘Mummy’ Boxer to have strong words with the potential baby-snatcher!

    Oh dear – I see that this has been given ‘official’ fluffy status. It was still hard enough for me!

  5. A nice puzzle to finish the Toughie week and slightly more friendly than we expect from our setter. Finished over a poached egg on toast in our works bistro before I started work- it’s too posh to be called a canteen and is called The Dead Parrot with lots of Python quotes around the walls.

    Poached egg on toast for £1.20 and a very large Starbucks Latte for £2. Pretty good value.

    Lunch was rather agreeable – quesadillas with wedges and provided the backdrop for a fairly strict struggle with today’s Times puzzle. That was a beast and a half!

  6. I found this tough but I can’t really quantify how long it took as I started it on the train on the way to The Oval, and carried on during stoppages in play due to rain, wickets falling and breaks for drinks and lunch, finishing off on the train on the way home. Jane, it was definitely not “fluffy”!. I can however state categorically that I really enjoyed it from start to finish.

    I got all the answers but needed Dutch’s review to understand the parsing for 17a (I knew the stroke head but the wordplay proved to be beyond me), 23a, 7d (where I was struggling to find a homophone of the second word to mean book, not realising that the W was part of the first homophone) & 14d. I had lots of candidates for favourite here but my choice is a toss up between 18a & 9d.

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

  7. I must’ve been on wavelength (except for 17ac) as this puzzle only took me a bit longer than the back-pager.

    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

  8. We definitely did not find this one fluffy. 17a took us ages, mainly because the definition involving stroke was new to us and the alternative word for a stallion something we had not met before. However with a bit of help from Google and BRB we got it sorted. It also took a while to work out why 23a was correct. We did search for a Nina, having remembered that Sparks usually gives us one, but could not find anything. Now that we have confirmation that there is one we will have another look.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  9. We liked this a lot, 3*/4*, and a nice way to end the Toughie week.

    17a was LOI and, eventually, bunged in because we couldn’t parse it. Seeing Dutch’s explanation, it’s no wonder because the stallion was a new word to us. 22a was a new word too, but had to be from the clue.

    Liked 27a and 6d but 7d was our favourite.

    Thanks to Dutch and to Sparks.

  10. Has anybody found the Nina yet? If not, I do hope that Sparks pops in to enlighten us all.

    1. Thanks to Dutch for nice witty blog and to all solving “fluffy-Friday” friends. There was indeed a Nina, albeit invisible: 15ac/11ac/25dn/3dn are, in chronological order, my DOGS/SQUIB/BRIE/SPARKY. My old mucker Squib (JRT) now harasses postmen on the other side of the rainbow bridge and, apropos of Sue’s (lovely good wishes at) post #1, wonderful little Sparky is currently rather under the weather and will hopefully improve. Brie is getting old, much slower than she was, and deaf as a post, but still retains a grace and indifference that commands huge affection. Hope to see some of you at the S&B next week.

      1. Thank you Squibs, that was most certainly ‘invisible’ – at least to me!
        I do hope that Sparky recovers quickly.

      2. My boss and I actually went through the crossword this morning and tried to work out whether some solutions were, like Sparky, names of your dogs – he’ll be pleased on Monday when I tell him he was right about Brie

  11. 3*/3.5*, I suppose. I’d never heard of the coach in 22a (although I had correctly divined the ingredients), and would question the spelling of 21d, but there was plenty to enjoy here. 18a was my favourite. Thanks to Sparks and his furry friends, and to Dutch.

  12. Many thanks for dropping in Sparks. I did go looking for other dog names (and I found Rex in 8d) but i didn’t have a hope of finding squib and brie.

    best wishes and hope to see you soon

  13. I couldn’t get with this at all, had to give in with about 1/3 unsolved. As for the Nina – not a hope in hell.
    I enjoyed those I did get, but rarely felt confident as the parsing was intricate cum unfathomable in places; for me, anyway.
    Another wavelength blind spot discovered, well done Sparks. Thanks to Dutch and well done to the rest of you that got it. *****/***

  14. Not fluffy for me! (I didn’t do that day’s back pager, but spent more time on this than I’d be likely ever to devote a one of those before heading for the cheats.) This did yield, slowly and steadily, but I came to a dead halt at 17a so ultimately an enjoyable failure.

    I didn’t see any nina, but did spot Sparky. Best of luck to him for a speedy recovery.

    Many thanks to Dutch and to Sparks – I look forward to seeing you both on Tuesday.

  15. 16d helped me get 7d but failed on 17a too.
    Saw the lovely Sparky but thought the other dog was Gasman.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

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