Toughie 1903

Toughie No 1903 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Another quality puzzle from Notabilis. There are two little ninas and some cute adjacent clues (19a, 201a, 1d, 2d). On doing the review I appreciated the clueing even more.

The definitions are underlined below, and the hints tell you how to interpret the wordplay. You can reveal the answers by clicking on the SPOILER buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


4a    Complete studies diminished twin within framework (8)
GRADUATE: A 4-letter word for twin without the last letter (diminished) goes inside (within) a framework

8a    Barry Island in appearance changed to a fair (6)
BAZAAR: The nickname for Barry plus a 3-letter word for appearance in which the I (island) is changed to A. Thanks Gazza

9a    Add voice track to record sleeve for Joyce, say (8)
DUBLINER: A 3-letter verb meaning to add a (e.g. voice) soundtrack plus another word for a record sleeve to give a name for people from the city where James Joyce was born

10a    Playing links, a cup — not the last for him? (8)
NICKLAUS: a semi-all-in-one: an anagram (playing) of LINKS A CU(p) without the last letter (not the last)

11a    Europe protecting one local church person without power (6)
EUNUCH: The abbreviation for the European Union goes around (protects) a dialect version (local) of one, followed by the abbreviation for church

12a    Congratulations on puzzle, a 10:1 ratio? (8)
MAZELTOV: a 4-letter puzzle or labyrinth followed by a ten TO one ratio expressed in Roman numerals

13a    Byzantine hen price code (8)
ENCIPHER: An anagram (Byzantine) of HEN PRICE

16a    Washington ace entering rough and ready (4,4)
HARD CASH: The abbreviations for District of Columbia (Washington) and Ace go inside (entering) another word for rough or severe

19a    Praise energy for lead of strong woman carrying barrel (8)
EMBLAZON: A strong woman warrior, in which the leading A is replaced by the abbreviation for energy, contains (carrying) the abbreviation for barrel

21a    Started to accept Liberal’s defence (6)
SHIELD: A verb that means started as in got a fright, or recoiled, contains (to accept) the abbreviation for Liberal

23a    Dodgy duke removed from Bedfordshire town (8)
UNSTABLE: Remove the abbreviation for Duke from the front of a Bedfordshire town

24a    Forbear having 50 per cent cut on prime minister’s low pay (8)
PITTANCE: Remove the last 4 letters (50% cut) from a forbear (ANCESTOR) and place behind (on) a previous 4-letter prime minister

25a    Start off bender with a leak? (6)
OOZING: A 7-letter gerund for a bender (or if you like, what a bender involves) without the first letter (start off)

26a    Idle, perhaps a bloke crosses from other side of herring pond? (8)
AMERICAN: A from the clue and a 3-letter word for bloke go around (crosses) the first name of Mr Idle



1d    Vehicle producing poison, converting oxygen to a tar (7)
TAXICAB: A 5-letter adjective that means producing poison in which the O (Oxygen) is converted to A, plus an abbreviation for tar or sailor

2d    Old bear craving attention, taking its termination to heart (9)
HACKNEYED: A 4-letter verb meaning bear or cope with (can you **** it?), plus an adjective meaning craving attention with the last letter moved to the middle (taking its termination to heart)

3d    Angry lecturer cycles off course (6)
ERRANT: Take an angry lecturer and ‘cycle’ the last two letters to the front

4d    E.g. Heaven’s quoted, renewing call for ruler’s divine protection (3,4,3,5)
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN: An anagram (renewing) of EG HEAVENS QUOTED

5d    Boron in air supplements cool atmosphere (8)
AMBIENCE: The chemical symbol for Boron goes inside an air or manner, all inside (supplements) a word meaning cool or excellent

6d    Campus against students’ club (5)
UNION: A 3-letter abbreviation for a campus or university, plus a preposition that can mean against

7d    Last of breakfast cereal turned into mush (7)
TREACLE: The last letter of breakfast plus an anagram (turned) of cereal

14d    Dad up to no good, scoffing (26) wild snappers? (9)
PAPARAZZI: A 4-letter word meaning dad, then add most of a 26 word meaning scoffing or jeering, up to the NG (no good)

15d    Put on dress coats, cold and bitter (8)
SARDONIC: A 3-letter verb meaning to put on is covered (coats) by an Indian dress, followed by the abbreviation for Cold

17d    Believing God isn’t great, He is misquoted selectively (7)
ATHEISM: Hidden (… selectively)

18d    Making deliveries short, finally tie rope to secure canvas (7)
BOWLINE: A verb that means making deliveries of a ball in cricket, say, without the last letter (short), plus the last letter (finally) in tiE

20d    Description of superstore dismissing good person in clerical job (6)
BISHOP: Describe a superstore as a (3,4) – then remove the abbreviation for Good

22d    Insufficient guts to join the action? (5)
ENTER: Take a 6-letter word meaning guts or entrails and remove the final A (insufficient)

Hard to pick a favourite among consistently good clues – I think I’ll go for the long anagram. Which clues did you like?



  1. stanXYZ
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I know it’s a Toughie … but could someone please explain the surface reading of 4a.

    • spindrift
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

      totally agree about 4a – the only thing i can say is that is written in english but that’s about all.

    • Dave lawes
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I think it’s another word for grid ( 5 letters ) around the word for double without it’s last letter .
      I enjoyed this puzzle , favourites 12a and 15 d
      Thanks to sitter and for the review

      • Physicist
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I think StanXYZ understands how the clue works, he’s just pointing out that the sentence as it stands (the “surface reading”) is gobbledegook.

        • stanXYZ
          Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

          How very strange … I have just been looking up how to spell “gobbledegook”!

          • Dutch
            Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Yes, it has an alternative spelling which is more in tune with the way I say it…

    • Granny Beej
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink | Reply

      When I finish my studies (get my degree) I graduate. Got the answer quickly but took ages to justify the ‘dua’ as twin element.

      • Posted October 21, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink | Reply

        Welcome to the blog Granny Beej

        • Granny Beej
          Posted October 21, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Thanks. We have used the blog to confirm answers on many occasions. It is a great resource for that extra little hint / confirmation that we are working along the right lines. (Or not of course!)

    • Jose
      Posted October 21, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink | Reply

      4a. The surface doesn’t make exact literal sense – it’s just a contrived statement to make the wordplay/clue work. It’s desirable for the surface to make real sense, but clues like this are quite common in cryptic crosswords and often more recondite than this one.

  2. Goblinski
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    All good stuff I feel, with plenty of inventive scissoring, snipping and replacement.

    Nothing really stands out to me, but I think this is because the setter has produced something that is very consistent. And consistently very good!


  3. Gazza
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A delightful puzzle from Notabilis – thanks to him and to Dutch for the review (and the funny cartoon). For once I spotted the Nina before I finished and it actually helped me to get my final answers.
    Top clues for me were 11a, 16d and 20d.

    If you’re in need of more crossword excellence Arachne is in the Guardian.

    • jane
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 9:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

      And very good it is too – thanks for the heads up, Gazza.

  4. the_toff
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Found this v tough in parts. 12a I have only seen as 2 words. Add an s to 9a and you have a book of short stories by him that is well worth a read. Did not parse 3 thank you for that. 8 almost a cracker. TY Dutch and Notabilis

  5. LetterboxRoy
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That was rather difficult, could not solve 12a, and struggled to parse a few others. Plenty of PDM’s, but not many laughs – bit of a hard technical workout. I found one or two surfaces were distracting. 2d, 8a & 26a make it to the podium today.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for the challenge and Dutch (& Gazza) for the elucidation. 5/4

  6. Spinky
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I could not finish this. Apart from 1 d and 12 a (which I enjoyed) most of the NW corner was a closed book to me. A question re 24a: an ancestor is a “forEbear” (checked with BRB) not “forbear” so is the word we have half of something else? The only word I could come up with is “defiance” but that doesn’t really do the job. Any thoughts? Thanks to setter and reviewer.

    • Dutch
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      My brb says “forebear or forbear” – so the word to be halved is indeed ancestor (which is under the click-here button in the hint).

    • Dave lawes
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I thought it might be distance – as in distance oneself from

      • Dutch
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I confess to trying to match ****ance where obviously there are a lot of words and I was beginning to think it was unfair. Then I realised that I had seen this before, and that ance**** has a unique answer (ancestor/ancestry) making it much fairer.

        • Paul Dunn
          Posted October 22, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink | Reply

          Sorry. Forbear and forebear are different words. Just as forgo and forego are.

    • Gazza
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 3:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The BRB lists forbear as being ‘same as forebear’.

      • Spinky
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

        OK! I didn’t look far enough down the list of “forbear” which gives the alternative spellings although I suspect “forebear” is more usual. Either way, it means I no longer have to try to think of words for “forbear” in its other sense with “ance” as half!

      • JB
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I too, felt the spelling was wrong. I know it is Friday but I can’t really see the reason for using this unusual spelling – apart to confuse of course – and that, for me today, is overkill!

        • Dutch
          Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I think the reason for using this spelling is for the surface – so it can mean the verb forbear

          • JB
            Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Just as I thought – to confuse!

            • Dutch
              Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

              Yep, that’s the name of the game!

  7. JB
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Pleased to say that, despite the misdirection of 24a, I finished the puzzle. Was glad of a few hints and tips to confirm my educated guesses. Thank you.

  8. jane
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Had a bit of a fight with the SE corner where I was unfamiliar with that definition of 19a and didn’t know the Americanism in 14d. Other than those, it was just the Washington reference that held me up for a while.

    Pick of the bunch was definitely 20d – such a loud clang when I finally got that one!

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch – although perhaps not for the Sex Pistols………

    • Dutch
      Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Jane you have no taste…😎

      • jane
        Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

        So MP keeps telling me!

  9. Tony
    Posted October 20, 2017 at 7:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Toughie land is a strange place for me. I did miserably on Wednesday, I only got half of yesterday’s, and yet I was able to finish today’s. I think I would have had the NW corner sooner if 12a had been enumerated as (5, 3) rather than (8), and there were several that I did not have a complete understanding of the parsing. I enjoyed this one very much, and many thanks to all.

  10. K E B
    Posted October 21, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    Found it tortuous after the first half dozen or so and resorted to help at the end.

  11. Mac
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 12:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Didn’t start this until yesterday morning and was then out most of the day. Finished it this morning. Got fed up with 3d and stuck in ‘truant’, although I couldn’t parse it. Now I know why! My favourite is 12a, although it is not in my BRB and all references I can find to it have it as two words.

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