Toughie 2015 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2015

Toughie No 2015 by Artix

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

A good Friday Toughie in which Artix delights us with a pangram. This is Artix’s second Toughie, the first was number 1994 in March this year. I was keeping my eyes open for a Q and J, but I wasn’t really able to use the pangram in my solve. I did this one quadrant at a time (might as well with this grid), starting NW and going clockwise. I found it very satisfying to complete the first quadrant, since it looked almost intractable to me at first – but I found a way in with 11a, followed by 1d then 1a. The bottom two quadrants seemed to go more smoothly, though it took me ages to parse 25a. I managed to finish the puzzle well before the school run (well, I did get up a little earlier today). There are some lovely definitions and quite a few smiles, as well as plenty of challenge.

As always, the definitions are underlined in the clues below. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, and you can always reveal the answers by clicking on the DERBY Tomorrow! Buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Revolutionary movement‘s bare strength in trouble (6)
VORTEX: Take a 5-letter word for strength, as in something in which you excel, remove the outer letters (bare) and place the remainder inside (in) a 3-letter word meaning to trouble or to annoy. Phew, a tough first clue

4a    Whence miners go back with send-off? (4,4)
EBBW VALE: Took me a while to figure out that we were looking for a Welsh town. A verb meaning to go back (like the sea), the abbreviation for With, and a word from Latin meaning a send-off or farewell

9a    Leas? Piece for a few swallows only (6)
CUTLET: Split (3,3), the answer is a cryptic definition for LEAS(e). We then have a cryptic definition based on the idea that the answer is read literarily as a small piece of meat

10a    Head off cop winged by lean pusher (8)
LOBBYIST: A 5-letter word for a policeman (traditionally on the beat) without the first letter (head off) is surrounded (winged) by a verb meaning to lean

11a    Environmental researcher died in war at sea (6)
DARWIN: The abbreviation for Died plus an anagram (at sea) of IN WAR. My first one in

12a    High tide swamps lots set back leading to A1 (8)
DYNAMITE: An anagram (high) of TIDE goes around (swamps) a reversal (set back) of a word meaning lots as in a large number

14a    Cry for attention outside Vauxhall, perhaps, by a cannabis dealer, old-style (10)
APOTHECARY: A 3-letter cry for attention (as in *** you!) goes around (outside) a vehicle exemplified (perhaps) by a Vauxhall, and all of that sits to the right of (by – which could indicate either side) A from the clue and an informal word for cannabis

18a    Lacking a place and money, what Neapolitan needs to make a crust? (5,5)
PIZZA DOUGH: A place or square lacking the letter A plus a slang word for money

22a    Player‘s injunction against supporter (8)
BANJOIST: A 3-letter injunction plus a 5-letter support


23a    Stars start to acknowledge drink from Acapulco bar note (6)
AQUILA: The first letter of (start to) Acknowledge plus a Mexican alcoholic drink without (bar) a note from the sol-fa scale

24a    Stuck in reverse, can’t set free wheels temporarily (4-1-3)
RENT-A-CAR: An anagram (set free) of CAN’T goes inside (stuck in) a word meaning reverse. The answer is in Collins but not in brb

25a    Drab person overseeing chapel was flattering (6)
FAWNED: Drab is a brownish colour. Another word for a colour like drab, plus a person overseeing a chapel (which I’ve now learned can be a newspaper office, thank you brb)

26a    Fun had after descending ‘suited and booted’ (5-3)
APRES-SKI: A cryptic definition for getting pissed after the piste

27a    School of thought revealing my clue as rubbish! (6)
LYCEUM: An anagram (revealing … as rubbish) of MY CLUE


1d    Academic or cleric‘s squalid deviance (4-4)
VICE-DEAN: An anagram (squalid) of DEVIANCE

2d    ____ upper part of house, fixing trap inside (8)
RATPROOF: A fill-in-the-blank clue – you don’t see many like this these days. An anagram (fixing) of TRAP goes inside the upper structure of a house. And yes, fixing a trap inside the upper part of house might just do this.

3d    Sense runs out of military command (8)
EYESIGHT: Remove the abbreviation of Runs from a (4,5) military command typically given as troops march past an important audience – the command is in Collins but not in brb

5d    Jeer Times reporter’s open presentation that’s made to last (5,5)
BOOBY PRIZE: A 3-letter jeer, a word meaning times in an arithmetic sense, plus a homophone (reporter’s) for a verb meaning to open

6d    Equipment surfers use to be visible (6)
WEBCAM: A cryptic definition – the surfers here are not the Beach Boys type

7d    Much parasitism’s true to life (2,2,2)
AS IT IS: Hidden (Much …)

8d    For a starter, top soldiers on plane? (6)
ENTREE: Remove the first letter (top, in a down clue) of a 3-letter word meaning soldiers, on (on top of, in a down clue) the type of growth exemplified by (as indicated by the question mark) a plane

13d    Clubs and bands in joint scheme to avoid duties (10)
SCRIMSHANK: The cards abbreviation for Clubs plus a word for (normally circular) bands go inside (in) a joint of meat

15d    It’s enough to get decay repaired around 75% of courtyard (8)
ADEQUACY: An anagram (repaired) of DECAY goes around the first 3 letters (75%) of a 4-letter courtyard

16d    Car space by church for important meeting (8)
AUDIENCE: A German car brand, a printing measure, and the abbreviation for the Church of England

17d    Snubbed, the footy superstar not on front of mag or binding (8)
THRALDOM: TH(e) from the clue without the last letter (snubbed), then a Portuguese football superstar without (not) ON from the clue, and the first letter (front of) Mag

19d    One used to cold must remove clothing here? (6)
IBERIA: A semi-all-in-one. Someone from a bitterly cold region in North Asia without the outer letters (must remove clothing)

20d    What’s relatively lemon-like in prime samples of Sancerre (6)
INANER: IN from the clue, then prime samples (i.e., the prime letters 2,3,5,7,…) of Sancerre

21d    Book country inns finally after end of December (6)
ROMANS: A Middle Eastern country plus the last letter (finally) of innS, all after the last letter (end) of DecembeR

I enjoyed ‘squalid’ as an anagram indicator (1d). I liked 27a because I like surfaces about clue writing. I was nice to see a fill-in-the-blank clue (2d), which threw me at first. I think my favourite is 5d for the definition. Which clues did you like?

23 comments on “Toughie 2015

  1. I just typed a whole comment but got the Error 405 message again :( I’ll have another try

    I have a rule for solving cryptic crosswords in that I give them three separate goes and then they go in the recycling bin. For test solves, I extend this rule to four goes and then return the puzzle to the setter. I also extend the rule for DT puzzles (mainly because I’ve solved them for more years than those in other places) but don’t put the puzzle in the bin for fear of making Mr CS grumpy as he does like to do the number puzzles when I get home

    This crossword had the full four goes – the first one taking exactly the same time it took me to complete the [much more enjoyable for me anyway] Elgar last Friday. I tried invoking Gnome’s Law to no avail, although I did learn that it wasn’t just me having problems with this particular setter today. I still ended up with the SW corner empty so am grateful to Dutch for his explanations.

    Sorry Artix but this one wasn’t for me. I’ll try again next time you appear

      1. Or me – I found this totally beyond me . I normally have two goes and normally finish the Friday toughies ( often with a bit of electronic help ) I found this one impenetrable
        Many thanks to Dutch for the explanations

    1. Wish I d known of your rule earlier CS, then I would have given up sooner and printed the Indy (finished the Guardian first, well almost finished).

      I got Pizza dough early on and was fooled into thinking I was in for a witty solve. How wrong can you be!

  2. Oh dear – was it just me? :cry: I found this considerably harder than the last Elgar. Crawled my way through to about half way (with much more of the right hand side of the grid in than the left) and then reached for the aids … but even with them, nothing was easy.

    Had to look up chapel in the brb to fully understand 25a, and 13d was new to me too.

    My favourite is 5d, and I also liked 27a and 2d.

    Some delightfully clever stuff here, but I’m really hoping for a few more toeholds too next time.

    Thanks to Artix and Dutch – much respect.

  3. I thought that this was really tough but really good – Artix is a very worthy addition to the stable of Friday setters. Like Dutch I completed one corner at a time (at a hobble rather than a canter to use Senf’s measure of speed). I knew the chapel because the shop steward of the printers at a newspaper was always called the FOC (father of chapel). My last answer was 13d where I needed electronic help because I didn’t know the word to shirk.
    Top clues for me were 10a (love the ‘pusher’), 18a and 5d.
    Thanks to Artix and to Dutch.

  4. Really struggled with this and thankfully had access to electronic assistance which was much needed to solve the four mini puzzles. A 5* difficulty for me, and Like CS had the error 405 on first attempt
    Thanks to Artix and to Dutch.

  5. Proper tough – a lot of guess, check then parse for me. Couldn’t tune in at all and It remains unfinished.

    Many thanks to Artix and well done Dutch.

  6. I did very poorly with this. I got 1a, 1d, half of the SE corner, and a sprinkling across the remainder of the grid(s). From the ones I did get, I thought the clues very clever, and I felt I should have been able to get much further than I did. This was borne out by Dutch’s (wonderful) review – I was tantalizingly close on several others (I had 3d but couldn’t figure out the wordplay, I was on the right ‘prime’ track in 20d but didn’t see to incorporate the ‘in’). However, much of this I would never have sorted out. I wish I could say that I enjoyed this, but I was really out of my depth and finishing it was never even a remote possibility.

  7. Too tough for me. I managed about three quarters over several sittings with copious electronic assistance then finished off with Dutch’s excellent review. Even so I still don’t understand how A1 is the definition for 12a.

    Thanks to Artix for the headache and to Dutch for the analgesic.

      1. D’oh, of course. Thanks Dutch. I think I am suffering from acute brain fade after trying to complete this puzzle.

  8. I manage to solve a good proportion of toughies but this one is way beyond me. Even the luxury of an afternoon off was not enough for me. 60% complete and I’m leaving it at that.

  9. Way over my head I’m afraid. Managed to get 11a plus 7&16d and that was as far as it went. Even tried Gazza’s idea of filling in all the across answers from the blog and then tackling the downs – still couldn’t see what the setter was aiming at.

    Greatest of respect to Dutch but I’m sorry to say that I probably won’t bother with future puzzles from Artix.

    Spotted your hidden message, Dutch – have a great time tomorrow and I’ll see you again very soon.

  10. After a lot of time and effort with considerable electronic assistance we eventually got it all sorted apart from total parsing of 2d. We were looking for something more complicated than a simple ‘fill in the gap’. Our last one to fill in was 9a and it was a real penny drop moment when we twigged it. Clues like 4a are always a bit of an extra challenge for people like us and 13d was new to us too. We had noted a pangram possibility and this helped as we knew we had to find an X in our last corner to solve, the NW. Did we enjoy it? Certainly a sense of satisfaction that it did not beat us, but ………
    Thanks Artix and Dutch.

    1. 4a was plenty challenge for me too! Despite having a Welsh wife. I left it blank until the end and finally made sense of the wordplay, vaguely remembering the town.

  11. Finally done with it late tonight hours behind you lot! Clock -wise + brain – wise! Comments as per everyone here. But it was fair. Like with Elgar we’ll have to get on wave length and persist!
    Got 13, 6 nudges, 3 ‘ dohs’,… 6 no chance!
    3 new words or in case of 13d old word!
    Will try harder with Artix next time – after long rest! Ta to him + Dutch

  12. I thought this was the best Toughie of the year by a country mile. Other so-called Toughie setters should look at this and see how it should be done. In response to those who gave up, I would point out that there are four days to solve this before the answers become officially available.

    I agonised over the use of ed(itor) as Father of the Chapel – as this is effectively a trade union leader I’m not sure that the boss would be the right person for the job – but it appears that the term chapel can be applied to the workplace as well, which was news to me.

    Special kudos are due to Dutch, who solved this well in time to produce the blog.

    1. I’m really pleased that you enjoyed it so much, BD – it’s important for the DT to cater for all tastes and levels of ability.
      I can promise you that I didn’t give up easily but, having eventually filled the grid from Dutch’s excellent blog, I can assure you that even four months would have been unlikely to be long enough for me to get much further than I did!

    2. This was certainly the most difficult Toughie of the year by a country mile, and it’s taken me a couple of days to complete it, in between other commitments. I was lucky to guess 9a, which I didn’t really appreciate. I particularly liked 5d, 22a, 21d and 3d. I found Artix’s first contribution much easier, but it’s very welcome to have a new Friday Toughie setter who offers such a challenge. Well done to Dutch for solving it so quickly.

    1. Welcome to the blog Caroline

      I don’t know at what time you have breakfast, but this was published at 2:00 pm!

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