Toughie 1871 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1871

Toughie No 1871 by Sparks

Hints and tips by 2Kiwis

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

This is our very first effort at writing a Toughie blog and we have been anxiously waiting all week to see who the setter would be. As it turned out we need not have worried as Sparks has given us a not too fiendishly difficult and very enjoyable puzzle.
 We seem to recall that Sparks usually puts a hidden message in his puzzles. We have searched but were not able to find anything. Perhaps there will be a surprise waiting for us when we wake up tomorrow morning.

Please leave a comment telling us how you got on.


1a       Adverse reactions as in-law darns gross pants (6,3,6)

8a     Office software is better (5)
EXCEL : A double definition. The office software is part of the Microsoft suite and better is a verb.

9a     Ruth once associated with Jane? (8)
CALAMITY : An old meaning of the word ruth. The association with Jane is via a 1950’s western musical.

11a     From the start, referee irritates team … (7)
RANGERS : The first letter of referee and a word for irritates.

12a     … another conceals drink in old cloak (7)
MANTEAU : A nickname for a well-known football team contains a favourite British drink.

13a     Comparatively pleasant part of western precinct (5)
NICER : A reversed (indicated by western) lurker found in the last word of the clue.

15a     Having interrupted drinks, drops off brief summaries (9)
SNAPSHOTS : A word for drops off or has a brief sleep is inside measures of spirits.

17a     Over which, e.g., Picasso would proceed cautiously (5,4)
SPEED BUMP : A cryptic definition of something that could be found on the road. Picasso here is not the painter but an example of a motor vehicle.

20a     Topless chest put forward (5)
OFFER : A synonym for a chest or hamper loses its first letter.

21a     Attracts client services, always 50 per cent off (7)
ENTICES : Remove the first 50 percent of the second and third words in the clue.

23a     Peel, say, in England, banged up by state (7)
AVENGER : The three letter abbreviation for England is inside (banged up by) a word meaning state or say.

25a     See 6 Down (8)

26a     Before close of play, keep score twice? (5)
FORTY : A keep or stronghold and then the last letter of play.

27a     Rebecca possibly riding delightful horse in town (6-5-4)
WESTON-SUPER-MARE : The surname of the writer Rebecca then a two letter word meaning riding and a wonderful female horse.


1d     Head of science faculty gave away building down under (8,4)
SHEARING SHED : The first letter of science, then the otic faculty and a word meaning gave away or sloughed off.

2d     Doing time like an old native (5)
INCAN : Split the answer 2,3 to find the location of someone doing time.

3d     Grand meeting with staff gathering in historical plant (9)
GOLDENROD : The abbreviation for grand and a staff or pole include (gathering in) a word meaning historical.

4d     Nobbles about rising expenses (7)
ACCOSTS : A two letter term for about or approximately is reversed (rising) and then expenses.

5d     Turn over cover on novel — Catch-22 (7)
DILEMMA : Reverse a type of cover and then a novel by Jane Austen.

6d and 25 Across:    Characters that could make mimic livid when ‘bigged up’? (5)
ROMAN NUMERALS : The letters in mimic and livid when written in upper case are all part of this series.

7d     Smith’s work is put here without due care (2,3,4)
ON THE HOOF : Where the work of a smith or farrier may be found.

10d     Jack and Jill‘s bursary taken for this? (7,5)
NURSERY RHYME : The second word of the answer describes the relationship of bursary to the first word of the answer.

14d     Clichés — teachers appearing in cases (9) 
CHESTNUTS : The schoolteachers’ trade union is inside cases or coffers.

16d     Engaged part of wheel, front almost spinning (6,3)
SPOKEN FOR : The part of a wheel that goes from the hub to the rim and an anagram (spinning) of FRONt without its last letter.

18d     Opens cover of unknown mains left to be insulated (7)
UNSEALS  : The cover of unknown is its first and last letters, and then mains or bodies of water include (insulate) the abbreviation for left.

19d     Fools put drink at bottom of trifle (5,2)
PLAYS UP : A three letter word meaning to drink follows trifle or dally.

22d     Caught half-hearted grass with old conviction (5)
CREDO : The cricket abbreviation for caught, then a type of grass loses one of its central letters and finally the abbreviation for old.

24d     Force something tedious to come up (5)
GARDA : The reversal of a 1,4 description of something tedious.

All the long clues round the border appealed to us and 1d especially, because of its reference to our part of the world.

23 comments on “Toughie 1871

  1. I enjoyed this a great deal – thanks to Sparks and to 2K (when I was solving I thought that the puzzle was a bit UK-orientated, e.g. 27a, which I thought might cause them problems but they’ve obviously coped with it brilliantly). Top clues for me were 27a, 1d and 6/25 but my favourite is 23a (not only for the memories of Diana Rigg but also for the penny-drop moment when I realised the meaning of Peel and stopped trying to make ‘premier’ work).
    The only ‘hidden’ bit I can see is the equivalence of the symmetrically-placed 26a and 8a (when the latter is converted to its sound-alike in 6/26).

    1. I presume you mean 6/25 Gazza but a very neat observation! I am not thrilled with 10d unless there is a different parsing from that given by the 2Ks but, thanks both to them and Sparks.

  2. Excellent – particularly 6d , 10d and 26a – not over keen on 17a. I once hired one in Austria. A nightmare to drive if you’re not a complete nerd !!!
    Ta to sparks and kiwis

  3. Had a bit of trouble parsing 17a & 10d for which I am now duly kicking myself and have to confess that I am still not sure about 19d equating to ‘fools’. No real problems anywhere else in this enjoyable puzzle.

    4d raised the biggest smile.

    Thanks to Sparks (and Sparky – hope he’s well?) and to our 2Ks who will doubtless have heaved a sigh of relief on discovering that Elgar wasn’t on today’s agenda!

  4. Quite tricky for me, but very engaging and enjoyable. Agree with Jane re 19d, also not sure 17a is entirely sound, but here we go again with my gripe I keep banging on about. 23a – how can I possibly be expected to know who Emma Peel is (was?), then something about an ancient TV series? Not on in my book.
    Loved the ‘non-vanilla’ twist, very clever, excellent. I also spotted the first two letters of the second column fit in nicely (reversed).

    Gripe aside, a lovely puzzle, thanks to Sparks and to Gazza for a nudge or two. ***/**** Agreed.

      1. Of course – I don’t know where my brain goes at times!

        ::EDIT:: Gripe aside, a lovely puzzle, thanks to Sparks and to 2Ks for a nudge or two. ***/**** Agreed.

  5. No wonder I couldn’t parse 17A. Who would name a car Picasso…and why? I do like his work, though. 27A was a regular day out when I was a young ‘un. I have not-so-fond memories of vast expanses of mud— the tide always seemed to be waaay out. Still, I gave it a tick for old times’ sake. I also checked 11/12, 23A and 2D. Thanks, Sparks. This was fun. Thanks and congrats to the 2K’s.

    1. Picasso is so protected when it comes to copyright. Citroen must have paid a fortune to put his name (and his signature) on the car.

  6. I really enjoyed solving this first thing this morning – lots to enjoy – I did know the Picasso reference – and I’ve marked the reverse lurker in 13a as my gold medal winner.

    Thanks to 1S and 2Ks

  7. I found pretty difficult and needed lots of hints.
    Re 24d, the force is always referred to in the plural ” Gardai “, with an accent on the i.
    I liked 6d, 15a, 26a, 27a, but my favourite is 16d.
    Thanks to Sparks and the two Kiwis.

  8. Pretty straightforward solve for a Friday.
    A bit held up in 1d as I bunged “gunners” in 11a.
    Thanks to Sparks and to 2ks for the review.
    Last heat wave of the summer hopefully. This one should last another week or so.

  9. We found this week’s toughies tough!
    Still struggling with Tues & Weds, not quite on the right wavelength.
    Today’s, however, we mostly enjoyed and got all the answers but did need a few hints for the whys. (Rebecca Who? – still no wiser).
    Anyway it’s Well Done to the Kiwis and Sparks.
    G: I would claim a trapped nerve in me drinking arm is affecting me 🙂

  10. Morning all.
    17a was the one that gave us most problems. The vehicle was new to us and took an inspired guess and a Google, then we had the problem of the starting letter for the second word of the answer. Both options are in BRB and in our part of the world the H starting option is the more common. Nothing in the clue to help so we had to reveal a letter to confirm which one Sparks wanted.
    Wonder whether the setter will pop in to take a bow and reassure us that there is not a NINA in this one.
    We enjoyed our first foray into the world of Toughie blogging and it turned out to be not as frightening as we thought it might be.
    Thanks Sparks.

    1. I have been lurking on this site for some time but felt that I had to break cover over 17a. I had not trouble with the car but had the ‘H’ option for the second word. It seems a bit naughty to have two equally valid answers and nothing in the clue to indicate which is correct.

  11. I did enjoy this although it did take me a long time. Like some others, I had never heard of the Picasso in 17a, nor of the Ruth reference in 9a. I was fortunate in getting the long clues around the outside early on which helped, but even then, I found the top trickier, in general, than the bottom. Many thanks to all.

  12. Late start, later finish, hence very late post. Very enjoyable and thanks to Sparks for that. 23a was our top clue today.

    Well done to the 2Ks on their Toughie debut.

  13. I found this a real Toughie, mainly because it took a long time to get into it. (Even 1a didn’t fall for ages, though it was so clear an anagram. Can’t think why I didn’t reach for a pen and paper to save time.) Was very pleased to get a full grid with no aids but did then need to get the brb out to check a few things.

    I didn’t know the old Ruth meaning, nor Emma Peel, nor Rebecca. 1d was new, and 3d only dimly recalled.

    Appropriately, for they often hold me up far longer than they should, I was embarrassingly slow to get 14d.

    Thought 10d is a definition by example, but I suppose the ? covers that.

    17a with the second word beginning with H didn’t occur to me at all; they’re not generally called that where I am. Sounds more fun though.

    My favourites are 26a and 16d.

    Thanks to Sparks for Toughie number 40 and to 2Kiwis for an accomplished Friday Toughie review – who knows, perhaps there will be over 39 more of those to come!

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