Toughie 1839 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1839

Toughie No 1839 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Another elegant puzzle by Notabilis with fun wordplay, lovely indications and clever definitions. I managed to finish it before the school run though I only saw the parsing of 4d several hours later.

As usual, definitions are underlined below and the hints are intended to help you with the wordplay. You can reveal the answer by clicking on the CLICK THERE CLICK ANYWHERE buttons, Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Glad rags say debt is settled, led by tabloid (6,4)
SUNDAY BEST: An anagram (is settled) of SAY DEBT comes after (led by) the name of a tabloid newspaper

6a    Award covering debut for Oliver Reed’s double in this (4)
OBOE: A particular award or medal contains (covering) the first letter of Oliver

10a    Still sexy in retrospective work (5)
PHOTO: Reversal (retrospective) of the 2-letter abbreviation for work contains another word for sexy

11a    Aimlessly go from university into African republic, cycling (4,5)
SWAN ABOUT: Insert the abbreviation for University into an African republic that has been ‘cycled’ (the first 3 letters have been moved to the end)

12a    One’s limited by alternative strategy over British set of changes (5,3)
PLAIN BOB: This set of changes refers to a pattern of changing bells in a bell-ringing sequence. The Roman numeral for one goes inside (‘s limited by) an alternative strategy (4,1), as in a back-up for the original strategy, plus the abbreviations for over and British

13a    It’s used for brewing, though containing arsenic (5)
YEAST: A word meaning though contains the chemical symbol for arsenic

15a    Work hard, withdrawing salary to supplement income (3,4)
PEG AWAY: Reversal of a 4-letter word meaning salary goes inside (to supplement) a 3-letter word for income or salary

17a    Superficial bit of pond life breaking cover with foul play (4,3)
LILY PAD: An anagram (foul) of PLAY goes inside (breaking) another word for cover

19a    Use up colour to separate each ring (3,4)
EAT INTO: A 4-letter word for colour or shade goes between (to separate) the abbreviation for each and the letter that looks like a ring

21a    Fellows among pious, neither starting to become equal (4,3)
EVEN OUT: a 3-letter word for fellows without the first letter goes inside a 6-letter word meaning pious, also without its first letter (neither starting)

22a    Witness‘s very pained expression (5)
VOUCH: The abbreviation for very and something you might say when having a sudden pain

24a    Person without capability or chance to cross a sea (4,4)
LAME DUCK: A word meaning chance goes around (to cross) A from the clue and an informal name of a sea

27a    Miss receiving uninspired blessing one’s dying to hear? (4,5)
LAST RITES: Another word for miss or girl contains (receiving) a word meaning uninspired or banal

28a    Good to demolish snack often (5)
GRAZE: The abbreviation for good and a word meaning demolish (a building, for example)

29a    Volte-face of holy man’s somewhat radical (4)
AMYL: Reverse hidden (Volte-face of …. somewhat)

30a    Wake up, lean sideways and roll over? (4,2,4)
COME TO HEEL: An expression meaning wake up (4,2) plus a word meaning to lean sideways or tilt


1d    Drains baths upside down (4)
SAPS: A reversal (upside-down, in a down clue) of a word meaning baths or hot springs

2d    In darkness, lone maverick is something brilliantly colourful (4,5)
NEON LIGHT: A period of darkness contains (in) an anagram (maverick) of LONE

3d    Fiddle with jacket removed after a dip? (5)
AIOLI: Another word for a fiddle with its outer letter removed (with jacket removed) comes after A from the clue

4d    Stake in use when son’s taken up unbeatable bargain (4,3)
BEST BUY: A word for stake or ante and a word meaning in use or engaged, then move the abbreviation for son up three positions (son’s taken up)

5d    Type of worm breaks up pasta dish (4,3)
SPAG BOL: Reversal (up) of both a type of worm and a word meaning little breaks or intervals

7d    Book with Greek character and all of local life (5)
BIOTA: The abbreviation for book plus a Greek character gives a word meaning the flora and fauna of a region

8d    Forerunner of inheritance tax said to be within Europe treaty’s limits (6,4)
ESTATE DUTY: A 6-letter word meaning said goes inside an abbreviation for Europe plus the outer letters (limits) of treaty

9d    Foolish talk about Yankee uniform taken separately for eye-shade? (4,4)
BABY BLUE: a word for foolish talk contains (about) the international radio code letters associated with Yankee and Uniform (but taken separately, i.e. not next to each other)

14d    Vet popular after working in Burkina Faso once (5,5)
UPPER VOLTA: An anagram (after working) of VET POPULAR

16d    Back twist with heads the other way round: playing this should be a breeze (4,4)
WIND HARP: A word meaning back or rear and a word meaning twist or distort, with the first letters exchanged (with heads the other way round)

18d    Live under communal arrangement that houses Catholic nun (4,5)
POOR CLARE: A 3-letter verb meaning live or exist follows (under in a down clue) a communal arrangement (eg for typing or commuting by car), and contains (houses) a 2-letter abbreviation for Catholic

20d    Very unconventional ontology ignoring core aspect of thinghood (4,3)
ONLY TOO: An anagram (unconventional) of ONTOLO(g)Y without the central letter (ignoring core aspect of) of thinGhood

21d    Newton and graduate probing existence together (2,5)
EN MASSE: The abbreviations for the unit of force Newton and a Master of Arts (graduate) go inside a 4-letter word meaning actual existence or essence

23d    Retract poles in wharf, stripping lead (5)
UNSAY: Abbreviations of the two poles go inside a wharf or landing-place without its first letter (stripping lead)

25d    In hiding, American’s perishing short of Nebraska (5)
DOGGO: Start with a 7-letter American expression of vexation, which the dictionaries say is a bastardization of goddamn but maybe it also mean perishing, then remove the abbreviation for Nebraska

26d    Ruthless iron will (4)
FELL: The chemical symbol for iron with the contraction for will


Lots of excellent clues today but I particularly liked the definitions in 6a and 16d, especially the latter since it took a moment before I saw it properly, nice penny-drop. Which clues did you like?

18 comments on “Toughie 1839

  1. I fully concur with the description of this one as elegant and fun. Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch. I liked lots of clues but I’ve boiled down my selections to 11a, 30a and 3d.

  2. What a strange puzzle. So many 2 word expressions. I found it was one of those where I got the correct answer without fully understanding why. I’m delighted to have Dutch’s explanations. My last one in was 5d. A real d’oh moment. I was expecting something more elegant.

    At least two religious clues. 18d was one of those that sprang to mind without knowing why and I’m grateful I don’t need 27a!

    My favourites? 12a. and 3d,

  3. So a full house for enjoyment and completion this week, although we needed 4d explanation. Was wondering what the word ‘up’ was there for, so should probably have tried harder. Like multi words, tend to look at them first, so didn’t know where to start today.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  4. Did a great better than I expected – only came to grief over a couple which, having read the hints, I don’t feel too badly about.
    Learned something new about 6a’s and something old about 3d – that I still can’t remember how to spell it!

    30a & 26d got the heads up from me.

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for the able assistance.

  5. Full grid, but couldn’t parse a couple of them. I did like 30A and 16D. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

  6. After a long time I got the great majority of this. However, in the end I was disappointed to have been defeated by three of the two word expressions I had never heard of. Thanks to all.

  7. 30a seems to be a favourite, but to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure why the answer equals roll over – can some help me?

    1. My thinking was that to come to heel means to acquiesce, which, in a sense, is to roll over. Am I right?

        1. I think to ‘roll over and play dead’ means generally being unable to cope with a given situation and consequently go along with the crowd.

    2. “Roll over” can mean to be subservient or to submit or obey (like a pack animal submitting to the alpha male).

  8. I thought this brilliant but was beaten by four in the SE (30a, 18d, 25d and 26d) before reaching for help. Also had to check a few of the bits I did work out, but I don’t mind that.

    Far too much excellence to pick a favourite really, but I might mention 11a, 17a or 24a. I might mention 28a. I might go on … but I won’t.

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch.

  9. This one kept us head-scratching for quite some time but we did eventually get it all sorted. We also noted the large number of two word answers which we often find easier than the single word answers, but not today. We’ll borrow Dutch’s and Gazza’s words to sum up this one, elegant and fun.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  10. Needed some help, then Dutch’s review showed our ‘navy blue’ and ‘wind horn’ to be wrong (both bung-ins). 4*/4*.

    Is it a coincidence, given 3d, that 16d is sometimes called an aeolian harp? 😀

    Thanks Dutch and Notabilis.

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