Toughie 1855 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 1855

Toughie No 1855 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I enjoyed this, though I didn’t know who the setter was at the time of solving (thanks CS for filling me in). In retrospect, I might have guessed. My first ones in were the cute 3-letter clue permutations, which helped with the remaining cross-references and gave me the long 1a straight away – a good start. With it being Sparks, I did look for a nina without success, though I did wonder whether 27a/1a was a specific sporting reference, or whether there were several references to racing. Anyway, the device with the 3-letter words is enough fun for today.

As usual, the definitions are underlined and the hints aim to help you with the word play. You can reveal the answers by clicking on the ANSWER button.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    A la minor player, first to miss in match when shoot-out occurs? (5,5,4)
AFTER EXTRA TIME: A word (5) meaning a la or in the manner of, a word (5) for minor player e.g. in crowd scenes, then the first letter of Miss is inserted in another word for match or equal. We have the amusing Americanisation for penalties, and I wasn’t sure whether or not the answer was a standard phrase (though clearly clued).

9a    Boy on run in 6 causing crime (7)
TREASON: Another word for boy comes after (on) the abbreviation for Run inserted into the answer for 6d

10a    Old man‘s instrument missing number one and the final number (7)
GRANDPA: Take a large keyboard instrument (5,5) and remove the Roman numeral for one, and the final abbreviation for number

11a    23 circulated letter from overseas (3)
ETA: This Greek letter is an anagram (circulated) of 23a. It also works as a reversal, though I think I’d rather interpret ‘circulated’ as an anagram indicator

12a    Game in which evil character reportedly sneaked around (4-3-4)
HIDE-AND-SEEK: A homophone (reportedly) of Dr Jekyll’s alter ego followed by an anagram (around) of SNEAKED

14a    Fine female donkey? (6)
ASSESS: A whimsical word for a female donkey. The answer often means estimate but also means to tax or fine

15a    Comrade put out by Trump’s front? (8)
DEMOCRAT: A lovely political all-in-one. An anagram (put out) of COMRADE plus the first letter (front) of Trump

17a    City still over the moon (8)
ECSTATIC: The 2-letter postal code for the financial part of London known as the city, plus a 6-letter word meaning still

19a    Audibly breathe deeply, vital for soul (6)
PSYCHE: A double homophone of a verb meaning to take a deep breath in exasperation, and a word meaning vital or most important

22a    Absence of commitment tends to creep into account towards the end (1,5,5)
A CLEAN SLATE: A 5-letter word meaning tends or inclines goes in between (creeps into) the abbreviation for Account and a word meaning towards the end

23a    Put away 6 back to front (3)
ATE: The answer to 6d with the last letter moved to the front

24a    Playfully resume chasing black cat? (7)
BURMESE: An anagram (playfully) of RESUME comes after (chasing) the abbreviation for Black (on pencils to indicate softness)

26a    Cannabis returned with illegal drugs, the last used in an estate? (3,4)
TOP GEAR: The estate here is the 4-wheeled kind. A reversal of an informal word for cannabis, plus a slang word for illegal drugs

27a    Finishing learning, then sick on Thursday (7,7)
GETTING THROUGH: A word (7) for learning or understanding, the 2-letter abbreviation for Thursday and another word for sick (or hung over)


1d    Perhaps test leading attaché according to circumstances (2,3,4,3,2)
AS THE CASE MAY BE: Test, leading and attaché each define an example (perhaps), as requested by the answer. Thanks Gazza!

2d    Those guys briefly ahead of heavy drinker dropping first to last in race (3,4)
THE OAKS: A 4-letter pronoun meaning those guys but without the last letter (briefly), followed by a word for a heavy or habitual drinker in which the first letter is moved to the end

3d    Aaron’s going crazy about hot meat dish for festival (4,7)
ROSH HASHANA: An anagram (going crazy) of AARON’S goes around (about) the abbreviation for Hot (as seen on a tap) and a fried dish of finely chopped meat and potatoes/onions

4d    Candour regularly shown after Times article reveals idyllic place (6)
XANADU: The even letters (regularly) of cAnDoUr come ‘after’ the arithmetic symbol for times and an indefinite article

5d    Calibrated again, having considered adjusting top mark (8)
REGRADED: Take a verb that means having considered or esteemed and then move one space up (adjusting) the letter that corresponds to the top mark

6d    1ac initially knocked back drink (3)
TEA: A reversal (knocked back) of the first letters (initially) in the answer to 1a

7d    Between terms, as might be equivalent to half of each? (3-4)
MID-YEAR: This would refer to the time of the longest break between school terms. Taken cryptically, the answer would produce half of EA(ch)

8d    Criminal racketeers harm subject of intensive questioning? (6,8)

13d    Favourites cross over for each salesman (11)
DOORSTEPPER: A reversal (over) of another word for favourites and another word for a cross, followed by a word meaning ‘for each’

16d    German units arresting extremely smart genius (8)
EINSTEIN: The German word for one (unit) appears twice (unitS), covering the extreme letters of SmarT

18d    Sons left to enter empty, ostentatious display (7)
SPLURGE: The abbreviation for Sons, then the abbreviation for Left goes inside (to enter) a verb meaning to empty or clear

20d    Cove water in Calais — boater there? (7)
CHAPEAU: A definition by example – Another word for cove or bloke plus how you would say water in Calais

21d    Little bird needing energy to rise over the hill (4,2)
PAST IT: A reversal (to rise) of a 3-letter little bird and a word meaning energy or vitality

25d    Put away 23 back to front (3)
EAT: Nicely, ‘put’ here has a different tense than in 23a. Move the last letter in 23a to the front.

I enjoyed the 3-letter permutations and I liked 21d and 20d, but my favourite is the all-in-one at 15a – which clues did you like?

14 comments on “Toughie 1855

  1. Two stars ? It took me several attempts but I really enjoyed the challenge. I needed hints for 14a and 7d.
    I also liked the 3 letter words 1d and but 4d is my favourite.
    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks .

    1. I also found it tricky in parts. I don’t know how to rank the difficulty except by my solving time, so i have a simple formula to translate my solving time into difficulty stars. Today’s puzzle took me not much longer than a back pager.

  2. I’ve enjoyed and finished a Friday “Toughie”! Please don’t everyone tell me how easy it was.

  3. Thanks to Sparks for the fun puzzle (I didn’t know who the setter was when I solved it and I was a bit surprised to find out that it was Sparks) and to Dutch for the review. I liked the three-letter answers but my favourite was the 27a/1a combination.

  4. No wonder I couldn’t parse ‘reguaged’ for 5d!
    Had to look up the festival and – following on from Gazza’s info – also looked into what constitutes a leading case.

    The 3-letter entries were cleverly dealt with but my favourite was 12a.

    Thanks to Sparks and his four-legged friend and thanks to Dutch, not least for setting me straight over 5d.

  5. I found this another very enjoyable toughie to end an excellent week of toughies. I was a little slow to get going, but the long anagram in 8d and the helpful checkers it provided was my gateway into the puzzle. Many thanks to all.

  6. Meant to say that I correctly put in 3d by solving the anagram but all internet searches put an “h” at the end.

  7. Our brains must have been in something other than 26a as this one certainly took us longer than ** time. We enjoyed the little game with the 3 letter answers and had to think hard about which PUT AWAY was present tense and which was past. We had a discussion as to who the setter might be and Sparks was not a name on our ‘probables’ list. Good fun to solve and then there were a few where we had to have a second look to sort out the finer points of the wordplay.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  8. We’re on a birthday bus day out tomorrow so have checked out on this week’s toughies.
    Had some problems with definitions and parsing but did get there.
    Really loved the 3 letter word thing.
    Thanks to both from us both.

  9. More than 2* for me, but still a lot less testing than the usual Friday Toughie. No real favourite clue, but thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  10. Well I’m still what I think 27A is and making heavy weather of it altogether. Still, nothing much on the telly tonight so I might eventually finish…or not.

  11. Incredible!
    I actually guessed the setter from the three letter word thing as J & G call it.
    Last Friday I thought it was Beam with no anagrams and stretched synonyms only to find out it was Proximal.
    3d is just brilliant.
    Thanks to Spark and Dutch.

  12. Finally finished, and I’m glad I persevered because one of the last ones in was the wonderful 15A (my favorite) and I just laughed out loud when I got it! I also enjoyed thee three-letter switcharoos. I had re-geared for 5D though, and thought 13D a bit odd. Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

Comments are closed.