Toughie 1883

Toughie No 1883 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I always enjoy blogging a Notabilis puzzle because I know it will be high quality. Today I worked my way around clockwise starting in NE. NW was my last quadrant and it seemed a little harder to me. Still, I managed to finish well before the school run. The parsing for 16a and 16d clicked soon after completing the puzzle.

As always, the definitions are underlined in the clues below. The hints aim to help you with the wordplay, and you can reveal the answers if you want by clicking on the SPOILER buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Begins losing heart to boxer’s attacks with words … (7)
OPPUGNS: A 5-letter word for begins in which the middle letter (heart) is replaced by a word for boxer

5a    … or with teeth (see answer accepted by pundits) (7)
SAVAGES: With the ellipses connecting to the previous clue, the full definition becomes ‘attacks with teeth’ (or perhaps even ‘attacks with words … or with teeth’). The Latin abbreviation for see (Vide) and the abbreviation for Answer go inside another word for pundits.

9a    I may put plaster on torso with separate internal cuts apparently more healed? (9)
TROWELLER: The only way you can have separate internal cuts on T(o)R(s)O is to cut the first O and the S. To what’s left, add a whimsical (apparently) adjective that would mean ‘more healed’

10a    Involving university, regressively bars religious group (5)
SUNNI: The reversal (regressively) of another word for bars contains (involving) the abbreviation for University

11a    Spray that has daisy’s head in the centre (5)
MIDST: Another word for spray goes around the first letter (head) of Daisy

12a    Christian convert to depict his old identity with an exchange of origins? (5,4)
SAINT PAUL: A verb meaning to depict artistically plus the name of the answer character before his conversion – then swap the first letters to get the answer

13a    French port, according to locals seen in wellies rampaging about (9)
MARSEILLE: A reverse hidden (seen in …. about) gives you the French spelling (according to locals) of the port 

16a    Issue was disheartening after pulling article from Elle (5)
CHILD: A 7-letter word for ‘was disheartening’ from which a French article (article from Elle, the French fashion magazine) has been removed (pulled)

17a    Come to after ‘little one’ is a large! (5)
TOTAL: Place A from the clue and the abbreviation for Large after a word meaning ‘little one’

18a    Muses bearer, ‘What to make of men’s money?’ (9)
MNEMOSYNE: An anagram (what to make of …) of MEN’S MONEY

20a    Tight wardrobe covering back tattoos (5-4)
CLOSE-KNIT: A 6-letter wardrobe (as in furniture) goes around the reversal of a word that can mean tattoos

23a    Expressions of despair in sound volume (5)
SIGHS: A homophone (in sound) of a word meaning volume

25a    Language for computing run that breaks everything (5)
ALGOL: A 2-letter word meaning run or operate goes inside (breaks) a word meaning everything

26a    Repetition unknown, having tightened up old journal earlier (9)
TAUTOLOGY: a 4-letter word meaning tightened up, the abbreviation for Old, and a word for journal all come before a letter used as an algebraic unknown

27a    Like familiar pharaoh, ruler showing more perception (7)
ASTUTER: A word meaning like, a familiar or shortened name of a pharaoh, and our ruler

28a    Luther’s reformed cheat (7)
HUSTLER: An anagram (reformed) of LUTHER’S



1d    The best part is stopping crude address to old lady (7)
OPTIMUM: The 2-letter abbreviation for part goes inside (stopping) a ‘crude address’ (as in **, you!) followed a person that may be referred to as ‘old lady’

2d    Dig around Jungfrau’s base not level with surface (5)
PROUD: A dig or a poke goes around the last letter (base) of Jungfrau. The answer refers e.g. to a nail head which projects or stands out from a flat surface

3d    Change of regal concerns is admitted by top-level authoriser (5,4)
GREAT SEAL: An anagram (change) of REGAL contains (is admitted) a verb meaning concerns or worries

4d    In America this court visitor would be ineffectual (5)
SELES: If you put this court visitor inside the 2-letter abbreviation for America, you would get a word meaning ineffectual

5d    Drawing lots of mosaic-piece graphics primarily, and touchy about it (9)
SORTILEGE: A 4-letter mosaic-piece plus the first letter (primarily) of graphics are surrounded by (about it) a word meaning touchy or irritable. A new word for me

6d    Maybe frequent verb marks the end? (5)
VISIT: The abbreviation for verb plus a (2,2) expression that marks the end, as in ‘this ** **’

7d    Ignite and lay about for warmth (9)
GENIALITY: An anagram (about) of IGNITE+LAY

8d    Expert did a slalom, perhaps crossing lines (7)
SKILLED: Expert is an adjective here. A verb which ‘did a slalom’ exemplifies (perhaps) goes around (crossing) a pair of abbreviations for Line.

14d    Retired cops still considered handling differently (9)
RETHOUGHT: The 3-letter abbreviation for retired goes around (cops) another word for still or yet

15d    I’ll put on a plastic coat to beat wearing a short blue one (9)
LAMINATOR: A 3-letter verb meaning to beat, a preposition meaning wearing, A from the clue, then the first 3 letters (short) of a 4-letter word describing a ‘blue’ person

16d    Are these weapons to show path for warning shot? (9)
CROSSBOWS: Split (5,4), the answer describes where on an enemy ship a warning shot in a naval battle is fired

17d    Showpiece for key players rounding duck and double century with bye (7)
TOCCATA: The letter that looks like a score of zero (no runs) in cricket plus two abbreviations of Century is surrounded by (rounding … with) an informal or childish form of bye-bye.

19d    Seemingly one without a lisp, dropping a sibilant, but he tries (7)
ESSAYER: An (3-5) might be a person who does pronounce the letter that is mispronounced in a lisp. Remove one of the S’s (dropping a sibilant, which is the s-sound) to get the answer

21d    MDMA powder taken up for impressive effect (5)
ECLAT: MDMA is Ecstasy. Take the abbreviation for Ecstasy and add the reversal of a common toiletry powder

22d    Closed? That’s awful unlucky (5)
TOUGH: A 2-letter word meaning closed plus an expression meaning ‘that’s awful’

24d    Guts in age should reveal morbid person (5)
GHOUL: The inner letters (guts) of AGE and SHOULD

I always enjoy the fairness and precision of Notabilis’s instructions (‘seperate internal cuts’ in 9a, ‘according to locals’ in 13a, ‘familiar pharaoh’ in 27a, etc., etc.). Today I liked the reverse hidden in 13a, I was impressed with the cricket surface in 17d, I enjoyed the fun of 4d, I liked the part of speech change in 8d and 10a, and I thought ‘the best part’ effectively made it hard to untangle the definition in 1d. Which clues did you like?


  1. Gazza
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I enjoyed this a great deal – thanks to Notabilis and Dutch (and I found the Ninas, always a bonus for me). I didn’t know 5d or 18d for which I needed the assistance of Mr Google. The clues which I liked best were 12a, 1d, 4d and 19d.
    I think the definition in 11a has to be just ‘the centre’ because the ‘in’ is needed to indicate the insertion.

    • Dutch
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      11a yes, the answer can also be a noun. Now fixed

      I looked for a Nina and didn’t see anything, I still don’t. Will keep looking.

  2. Charlie3110
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Really enjoyed today’s puzzle. Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch. Enjoyed 12a. Learned some new words too. As I am someone who can never find a Nina it would be nice if some form of hints could be given to dummies like me without spoiling it for others.

    • Gazza
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There are two colourful Ninas in the grid, both 8,4 in length.

      • dutch
        Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

        so there are – don’t know how i missed them first time around.

  3. JB
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I did fill this in correctly but needed Dutch to tell me why some of my guesses were right. Oh dear, another Nina. Something else that is beyond me! I have found “blue”.

  4. JB
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thought I recognised “Sortilege”. It is a perfume available from Liberty at “only” £140 for 100 ml.

    • Dutch
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

      “Devination by drawing lots” is an interesting name for a perfume!

      • JB
        Posted September 15, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I think in French it means a magic spell?

  5. Charlie3110
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Too good for me. Even with JB’s help I still can’t find blue. I concede I am Nina dyslexic

    • Dutch
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s diagonal, bottom right. You might be able to extrapolate and find the rest.

  6. Tony
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    After a very slow start, this was for me (another) case of so near, and yet so far. In the end I was left with a handful in the NW corner. I didn’t get, but certainly should have, 2d and 4d (which was such a clever clue). However, I had never heard of, and would never have found, 5d and I don’t really associate 9a with one who plasters. For the moment my disappointment in not finishing is outweighing my sense of achievement in getting the great majority of it. (I thought one of the across clues contained the best reverse lurker I can remember meeting).

  7. Charlie3110
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Dutch. Found it. Will now persevere to find the rest.

  8. Charlie3110
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hooray! Found them both. Thanks all. Looking forward to spotting one on my own

    • Dutch
      Posted September 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      well done

      • David
        Posted September 17, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Sorry,what is a nina?

        • crypticsue
          Posted September 17, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Welcome to the blog.

          What is a Nina is a frequently asked question and you’ll find the answer under FAQ No 31

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We did have a quick look for a Nina as we expect one from Notabilis but failed to spot it until we read the comments here. Quite a bit trickier that three stars for us but as Dutch has mentioned, all the clues are beautifully crafted and scrupulously fair. 18a needed a Google confirmation and a big laugh at 4d when the penny dropped. A good challenge and good fun.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  10. Robin Hill
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed this after a busy month away in Africa with no crosswords ! It made me appreciate the subtleties of Notabilis’ clues, which aren’t the mixture of cliches that are sometimes found in cryptics. For instance ‘boxer’ is so often Ali these days, but in 1a it’s ‘pug.’ Among my favourites were 3d, 16a, the brilliant 15d and 20a.

  11. spindrift
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    i’ve found the nina! first time ever – i’m going ouside for a smirk!

  12. Posted September 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Finally got round to finishing this yesterday. Bit late to comment in detail now, but will say that I found it really hard to get started and not all that easy to make headway either. There were a few answers that I was surprised to get at all, but in the end managed a full grid with no cheats, though I did have to look a couple of things up straight afterwards. Worth the extra effort.

    I was colourblind, so thanks to Gazza for bringing the ninas to light.

    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch. Love the 5a pic!

Leave a Reply, but please read the Comment Etiquette (under Comment on the menu) first. If you are asking a question, please check if it is already answered in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *