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Toughie 1923

Toughie No 1923 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I always enjoy Notabilis. It’s the precision and attention to detail that makes me smile (e.g. second circuit), as well as the specific instructions for down clues. I solved this methodically, each quadrant in turn.

As always, the definitions are underlined below. The hints explain the wordplay. You can reveal the answer by clicking on the CLICK HERE buttons. Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought.


1a    Pet swallows rum tots for excellent performance (3,5)
HOT STUFF: A pet or a fit of anger contains (swallows) an anagram (rum) of TOTS



5a    Almost sounding fearful in battle (6)
AFFRAY: This sounds like a word meaning fearful with the last letter removed (almost)

9a    Shade box to block returning Transport Secretary’s inauguration (8)
DARKNESS: A box (esp. a historical one containing the Jewish Tables of Law) goes inside (to block) a reversal of a verb meaning to transport, plus the first letter (inauguration) of Secretary

10a    Happen to keep hairpiece — capital for Swann, and for Flanders! (6)
BRUGES: A 2-letter verb than can mean happen contains a slang word for hairpiece, followed by the first letter (capital) of Swann. The answer is the capital of West Flanders – the exclamation mark reminding us the definition is somehow special, with the ‘and’ referring to ‘capital’ from the wordplay

12a    Parks possibly welcoming the man next to Hawaii’s eastern port (9)
HIROSHIMA: The first name of US civil rights activist Parks contains (welcoming) an objective form of ‘the man’, after the two-letter abbreviation for the state of Hawaii

13a    Insistence on correct form not requiring saint’s religious celebration (5)
PURIM: Take a 6-letter word meaning ‘insistence on correct form’ and remove the abbreviation for Saint

14a    Some drive into vessel (4)
VEIN: Hidden (some …)

16a    Case needed in Mauritius, walking around (7)
LAWSUIT: Reverse hidden (needed in … around)

19a    Place trawler’s board member in cabal (7)
PLOTTER: The abbreviation for PLace plus the name of a board (used in trawling) to which fishing lines are attached

21a    Area with lines twisted (4)
AWRY: The abbreviations for area, with, and railway

24a    Prevent fellow escaping with more proficiency (5)
DETER: Take a 6-letter word meaning ‘with more proficiency’ and remove the abbreviation for fellow

25a    Not a native name to use in promoting Swiss mountain (9)
FOREIGNER: Insert the abbreviation for Name into promoting (3) a famous swiss mountain (5)

27a    Unhealthy outlaw needing sex change to start with? (6)
MORBID: Take a word for outlaw or ban and change the initial F to M (needing sex change to start with)

28a    Precious decoration adorning king in trading centre (4,4)
HONG KONG: A shortened term of endearment plus a decoration or medal go around (adorning) the abbreviation for King. I so wanted ‘king’ to refer to the second word

29a    Do better than a certain villain done for tax evasion (6)
CAPONE: A 3-letter verb meaning ‘do better than’ or outperform plus a word that can mean ‘a certain’

30a    Beginner’s tart casing that was hot and heavy (8)
FLATIRON: A 4-letter word for beginner has a kind of tart surrounding it (casing)


1d    Pelt and strike endless camp show (2-2-2)
HI-DE-HI: A 4-letter word for pelt or fur followed by a 3-letter word for to strike without the las letter (endless)

2d    Spanish ring fighter has bolted, run out (6)
TORERO: A 4-letter verb meaning has bolted as in moved quickly, plus the cricket abbreviation for run out

3d    Implement for holding gallons in large amount (5)
TONGS: The abbreviation for gallons goes inside (holding … in) a word that means a large amount or heavy weights

4d    Dividing of sin is criminal (7)
FISSION: An anagram (criminal) of OF SIN IS

6d    Upright cable we must break to support tree’s shooting capability (9)
FIREPOWER: A reversal (upright, in a down clue) of a cable or guy contains WE from the clue, all following (to support, again in a down clue) a coniferous tree

7d    Spartan outfit not waterproof with cap removed (8)
RIGOROUS: A 3-letter outfit as in equipment or machinery is followed by a 6-letter word meaning ‘not waterproof’ or permeable, without the first letter (with cap removed)

8d    National park greeting Jew or Arab? (8)
YOSEMITE: A 2-letter informal greeting (not hi!) plus a word meaning Jew or Arab. I was really pleased Notabilis included ‘or Arab’ – this word is constantly misused in the press to refer principally to Jews.

11d    Keen wife dogged by trouble (4)
WAIL: The abbreviation for wife followed by (dogged by) a word for trouble

15d    Bleeding hearts from Brexit cast-offs are citing wrongs (9)
EXTORTION: The central letters (hearts) of the last five words in the clue

17d    Complaint affecting many dancing mid-piece (8)
EPIDEMIC: An anagram (dancing) of MID-PIECE

18d    Northbound Catholic against feeding needy Swedes, say (4,4)
ROOT CROP: A reversal (northbound, in a down clue) of a 2-letter abbreviation for catholic plus a 2-letter preposition that can mean against, inside (feeding) a word for needy

20d    In gin, this jam would be something monstrous (4)
RIFF: This is jam in the musical sense – if you place the answer inside the word G****IN, you get something monstrous

21d    Circulating car oil contains nothing to prevent overheating (3-4)
AIR-COOL: An anagram (circulating) of CAR OIL contains O (nothing)

22d    Elected party men with protection of House? (6)
INDOOR: A word meaning elected, a word meaning party, and an abbreviation for some army men

23d    Base hunter taking soldier for second circuit (6)
ORIGIN: The hunter that is a constellation has the second O (circuit) replaced by the abbreviation for an American soldier

26d    Cast block just the thing private body gets into (5)
INGOT: A 2-letter word meaning ‘just the thing’ (as in, that’s **!) contains (gets into) the abbreviation for a type of organisation that has nothing to do with the government

I really like Bleeding hearts (15d), Transport Secretary (9a), the (double) correct use of singular for apparently plural words (3d), the correct definition already mentioned in 8d, and loads more. Which clues did you like?

20 comments on “Toughie 1923

  1. What a Friday treat – I enjoyed every moment of the solve even though I had to break off part way through to help sort out the inside back pager 21a ‘memory’ problem.

    I marked 1a, 10a and 1d for extra special mention but I’m sure if I went back and had another look I’d pick out even more

    Thanks to Notabilis and Dutch

  2. Managed this one with a bit of help from Mr Google for the 12a Parks and the 19a board but needed help from Dutch to fully parse 9a.
    Took a while to sort out all the ‘hearts’ in 15d – the hyphen caused some confusion – and to accept the first three letters of 28a as ‘precious’ (not too keen on that one!).

    Biggest laughs came from 10a and 1d.

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch – nice to hear 25a again and thank you for showing some 1a for the gals as well as the guys!

  3. I’m sure it’s no accident that rows 2, 6, 10, and 14 are filled with only I’s and O’s, but if there’s significance to 78, 73, 78, 65, I don’t know what it is.

      1. Excellent, Mr K – I was all over the place trying to make sense of that lot! Spent longer on the maths than I did on the puzzle. I should have spotted the trick, I’m familiar with ASCII codes!

        Lots of fun and some education, perfect for a Friday. Thanks Dutch, thanks Notabilis, thanks Mr K

        1. Agree with you Dutch, astonishing to come up with that. I’ve had a go at setting with a Nina, and I know you are an accomplished setter, so we both know just how remarkable that feat is. It literally made me dizzy when Mr K pointed out the relevance.

          In fact, this puzzle has nudged my previous favourites ever off the top spots; two set by Elkamere relatively recently and one set by Shamus a long time ago.

  4. I might just steal LbRoy’s words: “Lots of fun and some education, perfect for a Friday” (though for the second to be true for me, I really need to restructure my week to allow more crossword time on Fridays).

    Didn’t quite get to the end before reaching for the references, but then Notabilis is no pushover!

    My favourites today concern bleeding hearts (15d) and camp pets (1d/a).

    Wonderful nina. I heard about it before I saw it, so can at least maintain that there’s a possibility I would have seen it … :)

    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch for maintaining the high Friday standard.

  5. We had noted the I’s and O’s in the four across rows and did wonder if they meant anything in binary language but did not pursue it any further. What absolute cleverness. Not a quick solve for us but it all came together bit by bit. Lots of smiles along the way with a laugh out loud at 8d.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  6. I did enjoy this, although it took me a VERY long time, and disappointingly, I fell four short in the SE corner. Many thanks to all.

  7. Had to take a break early evening for a pub quiz event raising funds for a local hospice. We had a very good night, winning the quiz and three raffle prizes but the alcohol befogged our brains which led to a slow restart this morning. What a stonkingly good crossword this was. 3.5*/ 4.5*.

    We needed Dutch’s help to parse our (correct) bung-in for 9a and the Spanish guy in 2d was a new word for us. Not surprisingly, these two were our last ones in.

    Lots of favourite clues among which we’d highlight 10a (how the compiler gets an old music hall act into this clue is astonishing), 8d (we visited it earlier this year…so beautiful) and 15d. To then discover from this site that there is a binary/ASCII Nina is almost beyond belief. Personally, Mr Sheffieldsy is more familiar with EBCDIC than ASCII!!!

    Thanks to Dutch and Notabilis.

  8. 4 and 4.5 for me, and what a brilliant Nina. I developed a lifelong terror of computing as a result of being exposed to enormous printouts of binary coded stuff at school. Not sure it it was ASCII or not, but it left scars…

  9. Thanks for the comments (I’ve just noticed the blog, having missed it earlier because the site’s Cloudfare anti-DDoS stuff breaks the RSS feed – and as I type this it’s using 100% CPU, so I’ll be brief).
    A minor correction: the definition for TONGS is “implement for holding”.
    The Nina was inspired by the fact that this was my 128th Toughie, a number that suggested 7-bit ASCII to this ex-programmer.

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