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Toughie 1976

Toughie No 1976 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Kitty

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


Ciao gente adorabile!  Giovanni seems to be full of Italian spirit this week.  I found this distinctly al dente: a proper Toughie, even if not quite one of the fearsomely fiendish f-monsters that we can have fun fighting with on a Friday.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below and indicators are italicised when quoted in the hints.  You’ll find the answers inside the buttons.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative — click only if you wish to reveal all.

As usual you may click on pictures to enlarge them or uncover hidden extras.



9a    Much beastly noise interrupted by officer (5)
MOLTO:  Much music: a bovine sound containing (interrupted by) the abbreviation for a commissioned officer

10a   Lover travelling to Romania (9)
INAMORATO:  He’s an anagram (travelling) of TO ROMANIA

11a   Beyond the low hill it’s always still (7)
HOWEVER:  A dialect word for a low hill and always or eternally.  I didn’t know the hill

12a   Part of England terribly forlorn with one king briefly ousting another (7)
NORFOLK:  FOrLORN anagrammed (terribly) with one abbreviation for king (one king briefly) replacing (ousting) an R (another)

13a   Material being worn by man (5)
RAYON:  A word meaning being worn after (by) a man’s name

14a   Not the only big name in charge of a country (5,4)
COSTA RICA:  One sharing top billing (2-4) followed by the abbreviation for in charge and the A from the clue

16a   Remarkable comic dancing around in brief TV film? (10,5)
COMMERCIAL BREAK:  An anagram (dancing around) of REMARKABLE COMIC

19a   The heartless leftie pursuing fool talked tremulously (9)
TWITTERED:  Outer letters (heartless) of the plus an informal derogatory term for a communist come after (pursuing) an idiot

21a   Hungry boy denied nothing gets meat (5)
LIVER:  A hungry Dickensian character without (denied) the letter that looks like zero is some offal

23a   Culprit, remorseful, showing signs of nervousness? (7)
TREMORS:  The first part of the clue is found to be containing (showing) the answer

25a   Against getting left in the country essentially (7)
VITALLY:  The single letter abbreviation, from the Latin, for against followed by L(eft) inside the country of the day

27a   Goddesses featured in prayer included by backward-looking east European (9)
VALKYRIES:  A prayer of Christian liturgy inside (included by) an east European reversed (backward-looking).  The prayer was new to me

28a   Engineers provided with wrong sticky stuff (5)
RESIN:  The abbreviation for the Royal Engineers and a wrong, especially from a religious perspective.  Is this stuff necessarily sticky?



1d    Nurse in hospital needing a degree first (4)
AMAH:  Take H(ospital) and precede it with (first) the A from the clue and a master’s degree

2d    Like a gale that has son coming in dishevelled (6)
BLOWSY:  An adjective that would describe a gale contains (that has … coming in) S(on).  I had to check this was a real word

3d    Easily accessible study that is supplied with holy books archdeacon enters (10)
CONVENIENT:  A verb to study and the Latin-derived abbreviation for that is plus (supplied with) some books of the Bible.  Into this lot goes (enters) the abbreviation for the honorific prefix to the name of an archdeacon

4d    Like some chemical container overturned, getting grass stunted (6)
NITRIC:  There are quite a few chemicals but fortunately not so many containers: one of these containers is reversed (overturned) and followed by a cereal grass missing its end (stunted)

5d    This powder? Somehow manages to get one settled inside (8)
MAGNESIA:  An anagram (somehow) of MANAGES with the Roman numeral one inside

6d    Where the Abraham Heritage fans want to go round? (4)
TOUR:  Split the answer (2,2) to answer the question posed in the clue.  The second of these two bits should be familiar in name to crossword solvers, but it’s possible you may like me have to take a closer look to understand the link to Abraham

7d    Girl given brief part, being hugged by Michael on screen? (8)
CAROLINE:  This feminine name is formed of a part (perhaps one played by an actor) minus its last letter (short) inside (being hugged by) a famous actor with the forename Michael

8d    Around end of October person at races may be one beset by leaves (10)
BOOKMARKER:  Around the last letter of (end of) October is someone who may be found at the races making money.  The leaves of the definition are pages (and you may be more familiar with the answer if you lop the last two letters off)

13d   Words sung in ground before Italian musical coming up (10)
RECITATIVE:  A style of song resembling speech is found in a short word for an open area for games or sport before an abbreviation for Italian and the reversal (coming up) of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which is very useful for setters

15d   Walk, showing affection, full of endless silly talk (10)
AMBULATORY:  An adjective meaning showing affection or passion containing (full of) a slang word for nonsense without its last character (endless)

17d   Like a gentle female that could make man yield (8)
MAIDENLY:  This is an anagram of (that could make) MAN YIELD

18d   Teller of many a story — companion gets uplift lapping it up (8)
CHRISTIE:  Detect this prolific writer by taking a Companion of Honour and adding to its abbreviation a word meaning uplift containing (lapping, as in going round) IT from the clue, reversed (up, in a down clue)

20d   Get rid of seedy bars? Town’s first requirement (6)
DIVEST:  Some seedy bars and the first letter of town

22d   Bag is stowed in the course of farewell (6)
VALISE:  The IS from the clue is contained in (is stowed in) an old-fashioned farewell

24d   Horned animal making men cross — ultimately they may get impaled (4)
ORYX:  Military people who are not officers and the cross-shaped letter, into which the last letter (ultimately) of they is inserted (may get impaled)

26d   Jerk who lives across the pond? (4)
YANK:  A sharp pull is also an informal word for someone from the US


Molte grazie a Giovanni per il divertimento.  I liked the anagram in 16a and thought 5d clever.  What stood out for you?


32 comments on “Toughie 1976

  1. I didn’t know this was Giovanni but having solved it his name did seem the most likely suspect! I failed on 6d due to inadequate indoctrination. Enjoyed quite a lot of this – ticked 14a and 16a. 15d confused me a little too but I presume he’s thinking of a walk as in a place for walking…

    Thanks to Kitty and Giovanni

  2. A lot of smiles today to compensate for the fact that I’d never heard of the 11a low hill or the 27a prayer – thanks to Giovanni and Kitty (I loved the Larkin story). I liked 14a, 21a and 6d but my favourite was the very clever 5d.
    A 16a normally seems to feature far more than one brief film.

    1. I nearly made that same comment about 16a, but increasingly these days we seem to be getting single-ad ones, especially when watching online, so I grudgingly conceded it was ok.

      1. ‘Pieces that sell’ could have been used I suppose.

        I have been opposed to advertising ever since my first exposure to Midsomer Murders, which at 2 hrs per episode seems to be composed of at least 1.5 hrs advertising. Plus of course the idea that anyone in the place is left alive.

        Thanks G for an enjoyable solve, and Kitty for a marvellous blog.

  3. Managed this but confess I just didn’t get the parsing of 14a. 16a my favourite – I spent too long stubbornly rejecting the idea that it could be an anagram! Thanks to all.

  4. The clever 5d was one of my first in, and at that point I thought this was going to be fun. But too many obscurities (for me) turned it into a grind that required a crossword dictionary and the odd bit of electronic help to finish. I didn’t know the nurse, or the low hill, or 2d, or 9a, or 13d. Yes, they’re gettable from the wordplay, but today required too much of that for this solver. I was surprised to find that 8d is actually a word that appears in the BRB (the ODE has only the shorter more familiar form). I was held up for a while by “the country” in 25a – why isn’t it “a country”? Thanks to Giovanni, and thanks to Kitty for the hints and the hyperlinks.

  5. Failed to remember the connection in 6d for an age to Abraham, but did check just to be sure correctly parsed. 5d indeed very clever, as was the anagram in 16a. Learned something new in the low hill. Thanks Giovanni and Kitty

  6. I’d never heard of the hill either but apparently it is derived from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill or mound. There’s a place called How near Carlisle in Cumbria not that it’s of any importance..

    I had heard of the prayer and the nurse and I even knew the Abraham connection with the dreaded Ur so I didn’t find it too daunting. Smug or what? Didn’t know the singing though but it was guessable from the wordplay and checkers – my last in. Fav was 5d with 6d and 26d on the podium.

    Thanks to The Don and Kitty

  7. There are plenty of hows in and around the Lake District – Swirl How is probably the best known…

  8. A good struggle for me, held up in NE because I never checked the spelling of 10a so 4d and 7d made no sense. 9a helped with 1d… my grandfather had an ayah looking after my father and his siblings which seems to be the northern indian British term for the similar southern indian portuguese variety. Hadn’t heard of that.
    Thanks to Kitty and to Giovanni

  9. All very good and clever, but a bit of a slog. Having to go through so many ‘guess ‘n check’s was a little tiresome by the end. Still thought it was a good puzzle, just not my favourite type of puzzle. 13a a bit odd…

    Had to solve from the bottom up so definitely tricky for me; therefore I’d go along with reviewer’s rating.

    Many thanks to Giovanni for the challenge and Kitty for making sense of it. 10a cartoon made me smile )).

  10. Enjoyed this, even the ‘like some chemical’ as your typically broad giovanni definition when it comes to chemistry/biochemistry/biology.

    the usual mild obscurities which did not detract today

    Many thanks Kitty & don

  11. For the most part I enjoyed this. However, there were many references that I was unfamiliar with. I think I would have associated 27a more with maidens than goddesses, (but the word play was very clever, and from it the solution was clear) and I hesitated with 21a, in that I was not sure that I would categorize it as a meat. In the end, and disappointingly, the only one I was defeated by was the 6d – in my ignorance I would never have associated Abraham and the place whose reference made the word play work. This was plenty difficult for me, and my disappointment in not finishing beside, I did very much like 14a. Many thanks to all.

  12. 5d and 14a are complete genius. Was laughing out loud (whilst lolling) for a long time. Was less happy with 15d. Didn’t know it could be a noun. Apart from that a puzzle so polished you could shave in it. Yet another splendid blog from Kitty too. I love Tuesdays!

    1. Aw, thanks Jarman. I love Tuesdays too. It may be the buzz of the blogging chair (did someone plug it into the mains?) but I think that Tuesday commenters are the best!

  13. I’m surprised this got a 4* rating. I almost completed this one with no help which I normally only manage with a 2* .So I enjoyed this one though I didn’t know that the answer ton27a were actually goddesses.

  14. I read the comments with the usual interest — and thank you for them. There are three main ways of making a crossword tough :A, you produce exceptionally contorted (and possibly grmmatically unsound or unhelpful) wordplay (so that some solvers fill in the grid without understanding a quarter of the clues, maybe just spotting an obvious definition); B, you are fiendishly clever with the definition (but there is a danger that you might overstep the mark); C, you introduce slightly unusual vocabulary but clue it with well-directed wordplay (some of your solvers will whinge –‘it’s not fair, I didn’t know that tree!’ even if it is in all the reference books, but others will say ‘how pleased I am to discover this exotic member of the forest!’). I am greatly atttracted to C for the Telegraph Toughie and like to use B when I think of a fair but clever definition (even better if its position in the clue is not obvious). There are fans of the A approach, but look out for the bloggers who when faced with ‘ultra-A’ say ‘well, I filled the grid in from the known phrases or quotations, but I still haven’t been able to parse the several of the answers, though I know the setter is brilliant’. That goes against the grain for me. Having learned so many new words and had an education throughout my life from practitioners of C, I shall favour that approach. I duly expect to hear continuing grumbles from those who don’t like it, but I hope to keep some solvers happy some of the time, at least.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Giovanni. It’s always interesting to hear the setter’s perspective, and much appreciated when the setter comes by to offer it.

      Personally, I have to hold up my hand to being among the fans of the A approach for harder crosswords. That’s without the bit in the first set of brackets, of course – and only part-solving the clue as per the second set of brackets would, for me, be missing the entire point of the exercise altogether!

      B is good too when it can be done.

      I like a variety of clue types and have no problem with C per se as part of the mix, but won’t lie and claim crosswords with a lot of C to be to my personal taste. (It’s hard to say why exactly, when I do enjoy discovering new words from wordplay.) But that’s just me, and I know that it is others’ bag. There are as many opinions as solvers. I’m very grateful to have the space here to air mine.

      Thanks again for the puzzle and the comment.

    2. Thanks for that, Giovanni. As Kitty says, it’s always nice to hear what the setter has in mind. In general I don’t have a problem with the C approach, and I have happily learned many new words that way from your Friday back-pagers. I just struggled today because the unusual words turned out to have maximal overlap with the gaps in my knowledge. It also didn’t help that several were clustered together up in the NW corner. And then your brilliant 5d set the bar high very early in the solve.

      Thanks again for the puzzle and for your comment.

      p.s. Did you see that Spooner won by a large margin? :)

    3. Thanks for dropping by, interesting perspective.

      I am happy to look in the dictionary to discover that moo = low, service = a tree, or Ur = ancient city for example; not so enamoured with having to do an internet search for what ‘Abraham Heritage fans’ has to do with Ur. Guilty of not bothering to look it up to be honest. Not useful in any other way so why would I?

      You are doubtless a master setter, but it can be done just as well with simple, everyday words and references, so I do get somewhat disgruntled at obscure, particularly religious or outdated references.

      Regardless, I am grateful for your challenges, so thank you.

    4. Thanks for coming on here to give us your perspective. I feel bad now about my little gripe about 15d because you are absolutely right of course. But, for me, the thing that makes a really great puzzle is clues that operate on two levels like 5d and 14a. They truly made my day. Apologies too for being a day late writing this. I find the email notification sooo irritating!

  15. The hill in 11a needed checking and we were totally defeated by 6d as we failed to connect the prophet with the right place. Plenty in here to keep us challenged and amused so we are happy.
    Thanks Giovanni and Kitty.

    1. I couldn’t do 6d either. At least I kew the prayer. This puzzle kept me amused for a while when at a loose end. Thank you Kitty and the Don.

      1. It’s funny how often the little four-letter clues defeat you, when you’ve got everything else. I was totally flummoxed by 6d but when I saw the answer-which I had to click on, couldn’t even get it with the hint – I have to say I thought it was a work of genius. Definitely COD. Thanks to the blogger and all hail the setter

  16. Thanks to Giovanni (for both the puzzle and his interesting comment) and to Kitty.

    I agree with Reggie’s comment on degree of difficulty: I found this one relatively straightforward although I didn’t know “how”! SW corner was the last to go in.

    Favourite clues were 14a, 13d and 20d.

  17. Pretty tough, perhaps *** for difficulty, and as enjoyable as always with Giovanni. New word learnt – and there’s always at least one with the Don – was 9ac, though the (as always) fair wordplay left no doubt as to the outcome. 10ac comes up quite a lot and I still can’t spell it. Oh well…

  18. Running very late today but have to say that I found both of today’s cryptics quite a challenge.

    I did know the ‘how’ thanks to many visits to the Lake District and also knew the term at 2d but not today’s required definition.
    The prayer in 27a was certainly new to me and I have to confess that 6d was a bung in and it took a very long time for me to see it split as 2,2. That was a real penny drop moment.

    14a definitely took the honours here but I would also give a mention to the horned animal in 24d. As for 26d – well, we’re discouraged from mentioning politics on the blog but it did make me laugh……….

    Not sure how I feel about choosing between the A,B,C options mentioned by Giovanni – I’ll settle for whatever leads me to the answer!

    Thanks to DG and to our brilliant Girl Tuesday – thank you for the extra info on 6d and for the feline 8ds.

  19. We did this in two sittings, one over tea (that’s an evening meal here, up north) and another after Mr Sheffieldsy had been out to a meeting.

    Strangely, we didn’t struggle with 1d (we had an amah when we lived in Hong Kong, although she would be best described as a live-in housekeeper) or with 11a (as a boy, Mr Sheffieldsy’s uncle took him up Gummer’s How which overlooks Windermere). Rereading that last parenthetical statement leads me to emphasise that it is exactly as stated and not a euphemism!

    However we did struggle by spelling 10a ending in an ‘a’ (yes, should have checked off the anagram letters) thus finally bunging in an unparseable ‘backpacker’ at 8d.

    Thanks to Kitty and Giovanni. Personally, I like a few category C clues that be going on with. Surely half the joy of crosswords is being continually in awe of the English language?

  20. Completed in 3* time, but l didn’t get 27a. I’m not convinced by 15d, though. I got it right from the crosses, but still can’t see how it works. The solution certainly relates to walking, but l don’t see how it can be said to mean “walk”. Perhaps I’m just too picky. Lots of excellent clues – 14a, 6d, 18d – so 4* for enjoyment anyway. Thanks to the Don and Kitty.

  21. Happy to have done most of this toughie, and am definitely improving. Knew the hill as I walked up Gummers How in the Lake District just a couple of weeks ago! Should have got 6d as know bible quite well, but was thinking Abe Lincoln rather than the right one so failed to solve. Great fun

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