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Toughie 2000

Toughie No 2000 by HALLESSI

Hints and tips by Kitty

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


Happy Millennium!  I had been looking forward to Toughie 2000, hoping that it would contain something special to mark the milestone.  Things looked promising when it was revealed that the setter would be the mysteriously named HALLESSI which, with its capitals, seemed to me to have the feel of a collaboration.  ALL in something, perhaps?  But ALL in HESSI didn’t seem to make much sense.  Dutch had a different idea: HAL (2001) LESS I.  Nice thought – we’ll have to wait to see if he’s right!

(I had a little look to see if past landmark puzzles were special and found that indeed they were.  Toughie 500 was a collaborative effort by DiDi Guess, and 1000 was by Symphony (who also put their heads together to produce a special puzzle marking the centenary of the crossword itself).

Late last night this article by Chris Lancaster appeared on the Telegraph website, confirming the suspicions that it was the work of multiple setters and naming the contributors, though we have yet to be enlightened fully.

By the paper version we have the following message:

So, to this puzzle, the two thousandth.  I found it pretty spicy, but enjoyed it and thought it remarkably well-balanced for a broth of many cooks.  Spot-the-setter is (with a few exceptions) a hard enough game to play with a full puzzle and while I have one or two ideas I remain largely clueless.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below and indicators are italicised when quoted in the hints.  You’ll find the answers inside the party like it’s 1999! 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.



7a    Name fish with unusually hot stuffing (7)
DOROTHY:  A name given to several families of narrow deep-bodied marine fish containing (with … stuffing) an anagram (unusually) of HOT

8a    Old female performer bored by comedian (7)
DOWAGER:  Someone performing containing (bored by) a joker

10a   Step in plant root to be picked up (9)
INTERCEDE:  A verb to plant in the ground and a sound-alike (picked up) of the root cause or origin of something

11a   Geek‘s way to reach Tyneside from the south? (4)
NERD:  If you are going (by car) to the Tyneside area from the south you might take the (2,2)

12a   Uncertain yes/no taken to show lack of an essential principle to build on (8)
KEYSTONE:  An anagram (uncertain) of YES NO TaKEn, the anagram fodder showing a lack of AN

14a   What balloonist might say about black line on weather map (6)
ISOBAR:  Something a balloonist (or anyone flying high) might conceivably say (1,4) surrounding (about) B(lack)

15a   Marking a long stretch away, having included lawyer’s terms in email bust-up (11)
BIMILLENARY:  An adverb which can mean away containing (having included) an anagram (bust-up) of L R (lawyer’s terms, terms here being ends) IN EMAIL

19a   Keeps individual out of old trouble (6)
HASSLE:  Keeps or holds plus individual or only without (out of) O(ld)

20a   Perhaps Mary’s new green card not initially enclosed (8)
GARDENER:  Mary, Mary, what are you in that nursery rhyme?  The answer is an anagram (new) of GREEN and cARD without the inclusion of the initial letter (not initially enclosed)

22a   Brilliant performer or, occasionally, soothsayer (4)
STAR:  Regular letters of (occasionally) soothsayer

23a   Partners entering rituals regularly roll back barrier to passage? (9)
INSULATOR:  Some bridge partners inside (entering) alternate letters (regularly) of rituals followed by a roll or register, reversed (back).  This barrier impedes the passage of heat, sound, electricity, etc

25a   German artist on the rise, it’s said, having lasting quality (7)
DURABLE:  A word that sounds similar to (it’s said) a German artist of the Renaissance and (of a market) on the riseThis was my last to parse

26a   Cover most of something that is pushed more than seemed possible (7)
ENVELOP:  All but the last letter of (most of) something that if pushed means (idiomatically) to approach or extend the limits of what is possible



1d    Reasons to sell singular titanium parts (7)
MOTIVES:  The chemical symbol for titanium goes inside (parts) an informal word meaning to sell and S(ingular)

2d    Cruise perhaps tipped to win Oscar? Doubtful (4)
MOOT:  The forename of actor Cruise reversed (tipped, in a down clue) containing (to win) the letter represented in the NATO alphabet by Oscar

3d    His tour unfortunately misses one Scottish town (6)
THURSO:  An anagram (unfortunately) of HiS TOUR which leaves out (misses) the I (one)

4d    Of diverse tastes, one keeping unconventional home? (8)
BOHEMIAN:  One of diverse sexual tastes and one containing (keeping) an anagram (unconventional) of HOME

5d    After it comes sweet decision (4,6)
MAIN COURSE:  A cryptic definition: the part of a meal after which comes the sweet, and if you haven’t already chosen what you will have (perhaps you are celebrating the millennium in a restaurant) now would be the time to decide

6d    Escort having space to climb without resistance to find carnivore (7)
MEERKAT:  To escort and a printer’s space are to be reversed (to climb, in a down clue) outside (without) the electrical symbol for resistance

9d    Polite chap lagging each trunk is tree expert (11)
GENEALOGIST:  A polite man surrounding (lagging – think in terms of 23as) the abbreviation for each, a tree bough, and the IS from the clue

13d   Wake from nightmare perhaps, losing head for time when trapped under lingerie (10)
SLIPSTREAM:  Something which may be a nightmare (no, not life) with the first letter replaced by (losing head for) T(ime) placed after (trapped under, in a down clue) an item of underwear

16d   Difficult to believe when credit’s cut — or hard to swallow (8)
INEDIBLE:  Take a word meaning difficult to believe and remove (cut) the abbreviation for credit

17d   One once associated with McEnroe leads to new racket being brought in? (7)
TANTRUM:  The first name of John McEnroe’s ex-wife with (separately) the first letters of (leads to) new and racket inserted (being brought in)

18d   Brush with journalist in dropping-off place (7)
BEDROOM:  A brush for sweeping containing (with … in) our usual journalist

21d   Ease off runs with fast time around end of June (6)
RELENT:  The cricketing abbreviation for runs and a time for religious fasting around the last letter (end) of June

24d   On the up, foxhunters appear to abound (4)
TEEM:  We finish with the reversal (on the up, in a down clue) of a gathering of foxhunters


Mmany thanks to Beamm, Busmman, Cephas, Dada, Donnybrook, Elgar, Elkammere, Excalibur, Firefly, Giovanni, Kcit, Phil MmcNeill, Mmessinae, Mmicawber, Jeremmy Mmutch, MmynoT, Notabilis, Osmmosis, Anthony Plummb, proXimmal, Sammuel, Allan Scott, Shammus, Sparks, Stick Insect and Warbler and congratulations to the whole Toughie teamm on reaching this 15a.  Here’s to the next 2000!  I liked 18d (nice definition, nice surface) and both of the all-in-ones; since 17d required somme research for mme to understand, I will present the gilt cup to 4d.  Can I be serious?  What did you think?  Did I mmiss any of the ?  And do you have any bright ideas about who mmight have set what or the significance of the namme HALLESSI?  Answers on a postcard (or below) please!


11/04/2018: The message by today’s Toughie reveals all:


40 comments on “Toughie 2000

  1. I like 4d now our estimable blogger has parsed it for me but I still think 17d is the clue of the double-millennium, just a nicely allusive and put-together clue.

    This was an excellent anniversary puzzle I thought: I found it harder than usual, then started looking for Ninas just as my will to complete was flagging, found numerous relevant ones, and was encouraged to continue to the end.

    Congratulations to all participants in the cluing of a fine 8999th (HAL-9000 less 1) Toughie.

  2. Puzzles from multiple setters don’t always work very well but this one was excellent. Thanks to HALLESSI and Kitty for the review.
    I liked 2d, 4d and 18d but I agree with Verlaine that 17d is a class apart and clue of the month if not the year.
    I haven’t got any better idea than Dutch’s suggestion for what HALLESSI stands for and I suspect he’s right (but it doesn’t work terribly well because Hal isn’t called 2001).
    Here’s to Toughie 3000 sometime in 2023!

  3. Was it all male setters perhaps, is all hes. 17d is brilliant. I liked the Nina too. Thanks to Kitty and HALLESSI

    1. Excalibur and Warbler are female setters. I agree that 17d is brilliant (Elgar, I suspect) and am persuaded that Hal less 1 explains the name, although I failed to see it myself. Congratulations and many thanks to all the setters and bloggers who have kept us entertained during the first 2000 Toughies.

  4. I was alerted by Twitter to the significance of this one, and I saw the MMs in the corners, which definitely helped with 15a, but I didn’t see the rest of the nina. Definitely tougher than Tuesdays usually are, but an entertaining challenge.

    Thanks to Kitty and the collective

  5. What fun, though not easy. Quite a few i parsed only after completion. Thanks kitty for explaining the lawyer’s terms. And I wasn’t quite sure about the sweet decision.

    I thought McEnroe was possibly elgarish and the unconventional home possibly elkamerish, but i’m probably wrong. I hope we get to see a list of clue authors.

    many thanks HALLESSI and Kitty

    1. Yes, the clue authors will be revealed tomorrow.

      Now that you’ve been brave enough to speculate publicly, I’ll tell you that I made the same guess about the Elgar clue.

  6. That was hugely enjoyable, and, my goodness, it was a real Toughie. Talk about chalk and cheese in terms of difficulty compared with today’s back-pager!

    A big thumb’s down from me for 7a for which the definition is appallingly indefinite, but, that apart, this compilation oozed class.

    I missed the Nina, so many thanks to Kitty, not only for pointing that out but also for the parsing of 15a, 25a (which I wouldn’t have got in a month on Sundays) & 4d.

    My podium places go to 4d, 18d and, my favourite, 17d.

    Thanks very much to all the members of Hallessi.

  7. It was very nice of the Toughie setters to include the initials of their favourite solver in no fewer than four corners of the puzzle, as well as all the anniversary gubbins, I must say.

      1. Fastest isn’t necessary nicest! Though actually all fast solvers are probably quite lovely, now I think about it.

  8. 50% of this went in straight away-ish (NW & SE) with a foothold in the other 2 corners to help me along. The NINA helped in the SW corner as I couldn’t get Nastase out of my head for 17d. Like RD, I didn’t quite like 7a but it does have the hint of a certain back page setter who has a predilection to include female name clues. I can also say, without fear of contradiction, that 5d is not a clue by Beam :smile: As for the rest, I’ll wait to see what tomorrow brings.

    My favourite of the day is 26a – Mrs SL & I hate ‘management speak’ – but this one was fun.

    Thanks to everyone involved in the production and blogging of this landmark puzzle.

  9. As one would expect, this one swung from write-ins to ‘what the hecks’ and – whilst I’m not prepared to gambol on who wrote what – I’m reasonably confident that the ones I had the most trouble with came from the minds of the setters whose puzzles I struggle to solve.
    Actually, I am perhaps of a mind to lay 7a at the feet of Giovanni!
    I expected the grid to have a full perimeter Nina so began to get a little unnerved as the answers mounted up – didn’t spot the full monty until after I’d finished the entire puzzle.

    Podium list here is 2,5,17&24d – fingers crossed that my favourite Mr T contributed one of those.
    Many thanks to all the setters who bring us so much ‘pleasure’ and to our Girl Tuesday who unfailingly brings us delightful reviews.

    PS Don’t recognise Anthony Plumb or Allan Scott as familiar DT setters – are they part of the unnamed team of back page setters?

    1. Hi Jane,

      Allan Scott has set Toughies as “Campbell” (but not for some time), I suspect both he and Anthony Plumb may well fill the Tuesday or alternate Thursday backpager slots regularly. Both are FT setters too.

      You’re a little ahead of me, I’ve still got six or seven clues left to solve, but determined to finish!

        1. Oh dear – always someone out there to pick up on the blunders – thank you gentlemen!

          By the way, I meant to add to my comment that I haven’t come across the expression used in 26a. I’m only familiar with ‘pushing the boundaries’. Pushing an envelope sounds far too easy!

  10. Got there with a bit of head-scratching (admittedly 25a was a bung in), got the Nina(s) and twigged the 2001 minus 1 connection. Phew!
    Guessing the setters is very difficult to nail. I have ideas here and there, but only for 6-8 clues.

    Certainly unusual to solve and trickier for it.
    Many thanks to all concerned, including Kitty for the workings out.

  11. Excellent fun and a stiff challenge to boot – 4*/4* matching Kitty’s marks. We needed Kitty to explain our 4d bung-in, but otherwise just needed some electronic checking assistance. Despite the mixture of setters, we thought it all hung together rather nicely.

    Our highlights were13d and the outstanding 17d.

    Kitty, this household’s harmony has been in tatters since Mrs Sheffieldsy saw your picture for 23a. Please be more careful in future!

    Thanks to Kitty and the bevy of compilers.

  12. This was a slow but very rewarding solve, far too difficult to pair setters with individual clues, as others have said it’s probably easier to identify the ones for which certain compilers definitely weren’t responsible. My podium trio comprised 2d, 9d and 17d.

    I’m confident Dutch’s theory about the name HALLESSI is correct, especially with “A Toughie Odyssey” being printed in the paper below the clues.

    Many thanks to all concerned for this landmark puzzle and to Kitty for her excellent hints and tips.

  13. As SL, the North West and South East corners were first to yield but the other two took ages.
    Didn’t realise that the crossword was set by all our favourite compilers.
    But come to think of it, at one point I thought the whole puzzle was from Elgar and there’s at least 3 clues that reminded me of his style.
    The answer to 17d came to mind instantly and took a while to understand.
    Couldn’t parse 26a though.
    Thanks to the setters and to Kitty for the explanations.
    My bet would be Beam in 1d.

  14. We got it all sorted apart from fully parsing a couple. We did not have the GK required for 17d and had not understood where the L and R came from in 15a.
    The problem that we find with multi-compilers is that we cannot ‘get inside the head of’ the setter in the way we often do and that was true here. Also we were tackling the puzzle about 6 hours later than our usual solving time.
    We spotted the Nina, thanks to the hint from Chris that there was one, but did not twig where the HALLESSI had come from.
    Thanks to all the setters and Kitty.

  15. Well I had a go and managed about 2/3rds by myself. Loved the blog and pics and was able to solve a few more. 15a and 17d resisted the most. Fave clues I did like 14a and as an expat Geordie in Yorkshire (and arguably a 11a as well)I will give the honour to 11a.
    Didn’t spot the Nina and am with Dutch on the significance of HALLESSI. I am still not able to guess the individual setters in a whole puzzle never mind clue by clue but note that “Who’s who will be revealed tomorrow”
    Thanks to setters and Kitty.

  16. Too clever for me. I needed hints for 7 of them, and even then cannot understand the derivation of 4d or 9d. 4d works as an all-in-one, but if it includes an anagram of “home” l can’t see how “bian” equates to one. And who is the “polite man” in 9d? I’m sure l’m just being excessively dense, butl can’t see it.

    1. SD. In Kitty’s decryption of 4d, “of diverse (sexual) tastes” = “bi” and “one” = “an”. In 9d the polite man is “gent”.

  17. Pretty tricky as expected, not helped by the multiple setters, but well worth the effort. All the M’s and that grid had me looking for something in the perimeter, but it appears there wasn’t anything to find beyond the double M’s. Here’s to another 2000. :-)

  18. Super stuff! Thank you to all the wonderful setters who made this great puzzle, and to their editor.

  19. Well, that was interesting. Doesn’t look as though any of us are particularly good at setter spotting!
    Congrats to Dutch for being the first to spot the significance of HALLESSI.

  20. Here is a genius at work. For Magoo to take 20 minutes indicates just how “tough” this was

    1. Thanks for that. Interesting to note that he had the same problem with the cursor zooming off in a random direction that I always have when filling in the answers on the screen.

  21. Not sure if anyone will read this, as I only got to this puzzle late.

    As a collaborative clueing effort I think it’s top notch, but I think there is one question which remains unasked and unanswered: who filled the grid? I can’t believe that was a collaborative effort too.

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