Toughie 2003 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2003

Toughie No 2003 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

My windows laptop is playing up, dying repeatedly at inconvenient times. Today it refuses to connect to wifi, so I had to hunt high and low for an ethernet cable. Found one in the garage. Today’s Sparks puzzle was a lot of fun with plenty of inventive clueing. Sparks normally has a Nina and I haven’t found one yet – I’m worried I’ve may have missed some obvious hints in the clues.

As always the definitions are underlined and the hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay. You can reveal the answers by clicking on the CLICK HERE buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Good hour invested in content of test paper, one about undemanding notes? (5,5)
LIGHT MUSIC: The abbreviations for Good and Hour go inside (invested) the indicator used in paper that tests for acidity, then add the Roman numeral for 1 and the Latin abbreviation for about

6a    Green hack (4)
JADE: Two meanings, the second being an old horse

9a    Cherry or mushroom? Look! (7)
MORELLO: A type of edible mushroom plus a 2-letter word meaning Look!

10a    Maybe drugs fall out of fashion amongst masses? Not half (7)
SEDATES: A word meaningbecomes old-fashioned goes inside (amongst) the second half of masSES

12a    Subordinate rogues Tom and I changed the basic tenet of a philosophy (6,4,3)
COGITO ERGO SUM: Take a 3-letter subordinate (who’s just part of the machine) and add an anagram (changed) of ROGUES TOM + I (my last one in)

14a    Finally, isotopes come apart in heavy water (6)
SEAWAY: The last letters (finally) of isotopeS and come plus another word for apart

15a    Rugby League club docked first in Ascension Island (2,6)
ST HELENA: Remove the last letter (docked) from a Rugby League club (ST HELENS) and add the first letter of Ascension. I’m not keen on clues that use GK in both the wordplay and the answer, though Sparks gives us quite a good hint with Ascension

17a    Musical Mr Simpson heard by fair maiden shunning heartless sisters (6)
OKLAHOMA: A homophone of Mr Simpson’s first name follows (by) a 2-letter casual abbreviation meaning fair plus a 4-letter word for maiden without (shunning) S(ister)S, i.e., sisters with the middle letters removed (heartless)

19a    Father Time goes after peers (6)
PRIEST: The abbreviation for Time goes after a word meaning peers or snoops

22a    Medal winner introducing light music here (8,5)
VICTORIA CROSS: A 6-letter winner, then the rest of the answer split (1,6) gives the location of LIGHT MUSIC

24a    Favours massive, murderous force (7)
LARGESS: A word meaning massive or big, followed by a 2-letter abbreviation for an elite Nazi murderous force

25a    English poet once hosting the old respected woman (7)
DOYENNE: A 16th/17th century English poet contains (hosting) and Old English word for ‘the’

26a    Top copy by Times (4)
APEX: A verb meaning to copy plus plus the arithmetic symbol for times

27a    Perhaps hurdles follow result (5,5)
TRACK EVENT: A 5-letter verb meaning follow plus a word that can mean result or anything that happens


1d    Non-British reactionary type lacking stiffness (4)
LIMP: Remove the initial B (non-british) from an ultra-conservative character

2d    Get away from the crag that’s unstable (7)
GERTCHA: An anagram (that’s unstable) of THE CRAG. Not an expression I knew

3d    This website’s journal oversees European post in communications? (9,4)
TELEGRAPH POLE: The newspaper corresponding to this website (I solved this online – did the newspaper version just say “this journal”?) plus a European person

4d    They join retired sprinter that has succeeded (1-5)
U-BOLTS: The initial and surname of a retired Jamaican sprinter plus the abbreviation for Succeeded (argh, spent ages trying to understand how the first letter could possibly mean retired..)

5d    Checks out top of pants through flies? (8)
INSPECTS: The first letter (top) of Pants goes inside (through) a group of beasties that flies exemplify (the question mark here indicates that flies is a definition by example)

7d    Upstart is terminating providing accommodation for performer (7)
ARTISTE: Hidden (… providing accommodation for)

8d    These should evacuate sailors following a course (5,5)
EPSOM SALTS: A 5-letter words for sailors following a race course

11d    Regrouped, yet holding a different old photo (13)
DAGUERREOTYPE: An anagram (different) of REGROUPED YET + A

13d    Last one exposed by revolutionary Mexican team (5,5)
ASTON VILLA: LAST-ONE with the outer letters removed (exposed) plus the surname of Pancho, a revolutionary Mexican

16d    City in India supporting a man’s title over tyrant (8)
AMRITSAR: The letter corresponding to the phoenetic codeword India is supporting (i.e., goes underneath in a down clue) A from the clue and a two-letter abbreviation of a man’s title, then add a Russian tyranny (again, Sparks uses the clue to give us a strong hint as to where we should look for the city)

18d    Author of clearer novel (2,5)
LE CARRE: An anagram (novel) of CLEARER

20d    Character from Ruhr city community coming over (7)
ESSENCE: A city in the German industrial Ruhr area plus the reversal (coming over) of a 2-letter community

21d    Sharp UK force infiltrating American agents from the south (6)
ACIDIC: The reversal (from the south, in a down clue) of American Intelligence agents into which we have to place (infiltrating) a department of the UK police force

23d    Sinister opening about to disappear (4)
LEFT: An opening or cleavage without the initial Latin abbreviation for about

Plenty to like today, but I think my favourite penny drop moment was 22a. Which clues did you like?

25 comments on “Toughie 2003

  1. Very enjoyable puzzle – thanks to Sparks and Dutch. I liked the amusing 5d and 8d as well as 19a but my favourite was 22a.
    I’m sure there’s a Nina somewhere but I can’t find it.

  2. When I neared the end I expected this to be a pangram, especially when I finally solved 6a, but Q and Z are missing.

  3. Phew ! Took me ages to spot it.

    I thought 22across was very good but would it not have been even better if instead of the actual answer to 1 across , Sparks had used a cryptic reference, eg pop songs ?

    Now waiting for the inevitable homophone groans :)

  4. I found this fairly chewy, but not as much as the Tuesday or Wednesday puzzles. It really has been quite the week in Toughieland.

    Tasty too.

    A new Mexican for me in 13d but he gave away his identity readily.

    No need to be different just for the sake of it – my favourite was 22a.

    Thanks Sparks and Dutch. And LbR for the nina help.

  5. This was another in the ‘so near but not quite’ category for me. I hadn’t heard of the term in 2d and without it I did not get 14a. The two four letter words in 6a and 23d never quite worked for me ( I am not sure I quite understand the sinister part in 23d and the hack part in 6a). I did enjoy this, but I was left with the disappointment of not being able to finish. Many thanks to all.

  6. Really enjoyed this, the back page one today was as hard as it’s ever been too. Nice

    Still don’t get the nina beginning with H… Aren’t ninas words made from some of the non overlap letters!?

    “Help at St Itle” is as good as I can find, nonsense!

  7. I’d certainly have struggled without input from Mr Google as I didn’t know the horse, the Latin phrase, the different spelling of 24a, the 4d joiner or the photograph. Quite a list! Unfortunately, I also waded through a considerable amount of information regarding ‘heavy water’ which turned out to be of absolutely no use in getting the answer to 14a.

    I particularly liked 19&22a and awarded an extra gold star to 22a for giving me the answer to 1a.

    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for the excellent blog.

  8. We’re feeling quite smug as we had spotted the NINA. The clue that did hold us up the longest was 14a and this went in a long time after we had sorted out the rest of the puzzle. We will go with the crowd and award top honours to 22a. All good fun.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  9. This afternoon saw the start of a week away in Chester. This evening saw some drinks and a meal with more drinks. We didn’t, therefore, expect to finish it, but we did – but only just.

    We got the Latin answer early on but struggled for a long time to get 8d, which was our favourite – smutty, we know and reminds Mr Sheffieldsy of an absolutely unrepeatable joke by a blue comedian from the northern club circuit many years ago.

    We had to use the BRB for 6a – the horse meaning was new to us. Great fun and a great way to end a great Toughie week.

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  10. Late to this one. I am waiting for Saturdays dead tree version. Not finished this yet even with extensive hint usage. Thanks to Dutch for those. 2d only used by Chas and Dave in some awful cockney 1a IMO and I didn’t even realise it meant get away.
    Liked 12a after I stopped looking for a way to put an N in!
    Will plug away at this til the paperboy gets into gear. Thanks Dutch and Sparks

  11. Started by writing St Andrea in 15a, which was a fault and a half.
    Held me up no end in the NE.
    Liked the link in 1/22a.
    Lots of humour in the clues. Very enjoyable.
    Only saw the Nina after reading all the comments.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

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