Toughie 2017 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2017

Toughie No 2017 by Shamus

Hints and tips by Gazza

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ***

The answers to this one all went in fairly painlessly (though I had to check that what I’d worked out for 15d was a real word) until I reached 28a which held me up for ages and which pushed the difficulty rating up from 1.5 to 2 stars. I’m still not really convinced that the first definition there matches the answer.
Thanks to Shamus for the entertainment.

Please leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of it.

Across Clues

1a Taster with seconds more than sufficient (6)
SAMPLE: the abbreviation for seconds and an adjective meaning more than sufficient.

4a Item by soldiers? It’s laid on trophy (6)
EGGCUP: something laid followed by a trophy.

8a In Sikkim, odd characters go downhill (3)
SKI: the odd letters of Sikkim. Possibly the easiest ‘Toughie’ clue ever?

10a Old bishop likes crumbling four-sided pillar (7)
OBELISK: start with abbreviations for old and bishop (on a chessboard) and add an anagram (crumbling) of LIKES.

11a Endlessly bringing up origin of sweet dried fruit (7)
RAISINS: a word meaning bringing up or rearing without its last letter is followed by the first letter of sweet.

12a Bike races in island surroundings, like the Manx? (5)
CATTY: put the abbreviation for the annual bike races on the IOM inside a low island.

13a Stride nervously round Lakeland feature first off — like some climbers? (9)
TRELLISED: an anagram (nervously) of STRIDE contains the word for a hill or high moorland in the Lake District without its first letter.

14a Bad risk men met after flying and landing (13)
DISEMBARKMENT: an anagram (after flying) of BAD RISK MEN MET.

17a Standard complaint about one on a railway regarding diet? (13)
PARLIAMENTARY: string together a synonym for standard or average, a complaint or whinge, A and the abbreviation for railway. Finally insert the Roman numeral for one. Diet here is not related to food – I, like many others I suspect, first learnt this meaning in a history lesson when coming across the Diet of Worms – oh how we laughed!

22a This person enters service with support over papers etc (4,5)
MASS MEDIA: insert a pronoun identifying ‘this person’ between a religious service and the reversal of a verb to support or assist.

23a Put in a nutshell, it’s acceptable to be in depression (3,2)
SUM UP: insert the abbreviation meaning acceptable or classy into a depression or hollow.

24a Secret affair is in operation after trouble in retreat (7)
LIAISON: IS and an adverb meaning ‘in operation’ or working follow the reversal of a verb to trouble.

25a Spotted animal that won’t keep quiet with time in circus outfit? (7)
LEOTARD: remove the musical abbreviation for quiet from a spotted wild animal and insert the abbreviation for time.

26a Golf sometimes leads to this surprised expression (3)
GEE: spell out the letter that golf is used for in the Nato Phonetic Alphabet.

27a Man or woman collecting chief exec to go round part of Oxford? (6)
TOECAP: put one of the forenames that can be used by both men and women round the 3-letter abbreviation for a chief exec and reverse the lot.

28a Torch singer offering something special? (6)
BELTER: this was my last answer and, faced with ?E?T?R it took me ages (until I lost patience and revealed the first letter) and is solely responsible for the extra half-star on my difficulty rating. I knew the term torch song but didn’t really know its meaning so I consulted the BRB which defines it as ‘a popular song of the 1930s giving lugubrious expression to the pangs of unrequited love’. The answer here is both a singer performing with gusto and an informal term for something outstanding. I have difficulty in equating vigorous singing with lugubriousness.
Here’s what’s been described as the most well known torch song of all time:

ARVE Error: need id and provider

Down Clues

1d Put an end to function in school (6)
SCOTCH: insert the abbreviation for a mathematical function into the abbreviation for school.

2d A term is concocted for expert players (7)
MAESTRI: an anagram (concocted) of A TERM IS.

3d Carelessness having cross obscured for those in a congregation? (5)
LAITY: a word for carelessness or sloppiness has the letter that looks like a cross taken away.

5d Bird round island in my view recalled as a diver (9)
GUILLEMOT: put a seabird round the single-letter abbreviation for island and append an expression (2,2) meaning ‘in my view’ reversed.

6d Carpenter at home makes a contribution (5,2)
CHIPS IN: join together the usual nickname for a carpenter and the adverb meaning ‘at home’.

7d Spanish inn? It’s found in school area (6)
POSADA: put an abbreviation meaning ‘it’ or sexual magnetism inside a fishy school and finish with the abbreviation for area.

8d Sabotage drink for refreshment in park activity? (13)
SKATEBOARDING: an anagram (for refreshment, lovely indicator) of SABOTAGE DRINK.

9d Ever irritable after programming what purged data may become? (13)
IRRETRIEVABLE: an anagram (after programming) of EVER IRRITABLE.

14d Decline in food at reception? (3)
DIP: double definition, the second being what you might plunge your breadstick into whilst waiting for the waiter to come round with the Ferrero Rocher.

15d Lights in city and capital erected as a condition (9)
ECLAMPSIA: this is a condition affecting pregnant women (not a word I knew). Insert some devices for giving light between the postal zone for the City of London and the reversal of an abbreviation meaning capital or excellent.

16d Award on stage not new in sport (3)
TOY: remove the abbreviation for new from the name of a theatre award.

18d Temper shown by idiot for all to see over period (7)
ASSUAGE: weld together another word for an idiot, the film classification meaning ‘for all to see’ and a period of time.

19d A figure occupying seat in outburst that’s unrestrained (7)
RAMPANT: insert A and the abbreviation for someone having a seat in the Chamber (although, bizarrely, if they all turn up there’s not enough room for them all to sit) into an outburst or tirade.

20d Greek character in tale embroidered for charm (6)
AMULET: put a Greek letter inside an anagram (embroidered) of TALE.

21d Support for cue kept by thesp I’d erased (6)
SPIDER: our only lurker of the day.

23d Son to manage range (5)
SCOPE: the abbreviation for son and a verb to manage or get by.

The clues which were highlighted for me were 4a, 27a and 8d. Which one(s) did it for you?

36 comments on “Toughie 2017

  1. I knew the term for the singer and my only teensy pause was to ensure that I had the right solution in 25a.

    I’m saying nothing else about this crossword except thank you to Shamus and Gazza

  2. Very enjoyable and not overly tough, there seemed to be a few oldies but goodies. I also had to check 15a.

    14a also required a dictionary check to ensure that it is a ‘real’ word.

    Favourite – 1d, once I had ‘twigged’ the function in question.

    Thanks to Shamus and Gazza.

  3. This was my sort of Toughie – enjoyable and nicely challenging without being impenetrable.

    I bunged in 28a based on “something special”. Not having my BRB to hand, I checked Collins Online for my guess at the answer which gave me “a person who sings popular songs in a loud and spirited manner” which sort of fits.

    4a was my favourite with 27a in second place.

    Many thanks to Shamus and to Gazza, particularly for the parsing of 7d which I couldn’t unravel at all.

  4. Agree with Gazza’s **/*** today as the puzzle was at the low end of the Toughie spectrum but an enjoyable solve.
    Last in was 28a when eventually i thought of belting out a song and a word used in my youth many years ago for something special including a good looking female.
    Failed to parse 7d and 27A-thanks Gazza , but found the solution in a reference book.I forget there are lots of ‘reversals ‘in Toughies.
    Liked 4A .

  5. Nice straightforward crossword with one or two puzzlers. Such as 7d, 14a, 15d and 28a

  6. I was tripped up by 7d, 15d & 28a, all new to me. Lots to like, but 17a, 20d and 27a are on the podium.

    How on earth did 8a make it into a Toughie? Thought 12a a bit odd, too.

    Enjoyable solve overall, so thanks to Shamus and to Gazza for a nudge or two. *** / *** for me.

      1. …I suppose one can’t sledge Shamus – perhaps he was off piste and did a runner.

  7. All fairly painless (although I had to check 7d) EXCEPT 25a. How is one to tell whether the definition is “spotted animal” or “circus outfit”? The disputed letter isn’t checked and it seems to me you could just as easily jump the other way, so I thought this was unfair…. But great fun otherwise. Thanks to all as ever

    1. Paul, I think 25a is OK as the indicator is “won’t keep quiet” so a “p” needs to be removed from the source word and replaced “with t(ime)”.

  8. I enjoyed this very much. I found it a slow and steady solve. I have been stung by the ‘soldier’ reference (4a) sufficiently often in the past that I am now wise to the extent that I got 4a – just as well because I had not heard of the Spanish inn in 7d. Likewise, the Oxford reference did not trip me up in 27a. Like Paul Dunn, I spent a long time with 25a trying to decide whether the definition was the spotted animal or the circus outfit, and I agree with him that the clue seems to work either way. Unfortunately, I was completely defeated by 28a – never heard of either definition, and the checkers were not really any help. Many thanks to Shamus and Gazza.

    1. As Rabbit Dave says above the 25a only works one way. It’s the animal that loses (that won’t keep) the P and when you insert T (with time in) it becomes the circus outfit. Removing a P and inserting a T only works one way round.

  9. I was defeated by 28A. I’ve always thought of a torch song as something slow and sultry. I did know 15D… Call the Midwife came in handy there. My favorite was 4A, though I also liked 1D and 5D. thanks Shamus and Gazza.

    1. Mrs RD came to my rescue with 15d. Guess what? She’s a big “Call The Midwife” fan!

    2. I agree about the torch song (now that I know what it is) not being belted out. I wonder why Shamus didn’t use a different definition such as ‘Punk rocker’ instead of torch singer?

  10. Re the torch song my OED has def 2 a loud forceful singer or song. Favourite as per Senf 1d, once I had remembered the function .

    Thanks to Shamus and Gazza.

  11. I did have to check on the Spanish inn but had no other problems until I came to 28a. Doubtless didn’t help that I’d put ‘rampage’ for 19d but I think I’d have struggled for the answer in any event.
    No difficulty with 15d – at least not where the crossword is concerned!

    Same choice as RD for top marks – 4&27a.

    Thanks to Samuel and to Gazza for the blog – yes, those worms come in useful at times!

    1. I’ve tried SO very hard to resist but I know you’d do it to me so I have to enquire how you missed the fact that your so-called twinkly-eyed favourite set today’s ‘toughie’?

      1. I can’t even come up with a half believable excuse – and there was me hoping that I might finally get to see those eyes for myself next week!

  12. Couple of nudges needed but all eventually solved – except ultra obscure 28a!
    Slow due to family distractions!!
    I’d give **** for enjoyment nevertheless
    Thanks to both guys

  13. For 28a, our BRB has a second definition for torch song – a sentimental or melancholy love song. This seems to avoid the worries about lugubriousness, but still seems to leave the connection to belt/belter unclear. Perhaps, then, “Torch singer” is simply a reference to Marlene Dietrich, who, being extremely good looking, could be described as a belter? Dunno, it still doesn’t fit comfortably. Needless to say, this was our LOI.

    Thanks to Gazza and Shamus.

  14. We too struggled with 28a. Apart from that it all went together smoothly with a slight delay before we remembered the connection between SA and IT in 7d. We enjoyed the solve.
    Thanks Shamus and Gazza.

  15. I agree that a torch song isn’t a belter. Smoochy and heart-felt, I’d have thought.

  16. Managed most of this before taking a hint for the last few. The 4 long answers in the middle got me off to a good start. But the bit of the shoe held me up as I wanted to Tongue. But Mama Bee who was a midwife sorted 15d for me and that put me right.
    Thanks to Shamus and Gazza.
    Gazza may have got a laugh out of the Diet of Worms but the geography lesson about the highest lake in South America was my scholastic high point of amusement on a par with spelling rude words upside down in a calculator.

  17. Indeed this was enjoyable, but it seemed to have a certain familiarity about some of the clues. And there was the BELTER controversy. But I still enjoyed it, and the thread and blog too, so many thanks Gazza and Shamus.

  18. I consider 28a to be frankly unfair. ‘Belter’ was my first thought but did not conform to my understanding of a torch song, so I consulted BRB. Naturally, I found the same definition as Gazza, which persuaded me that ‘belter’ could not possibly be right. Chambers is supposed to be the dictionary against which all Telegraph crosswords are set, so the clues should at least correspond to it.

  19. Didn’t get 28a either but for a totally different reason. Managed to put Rampage in 19d as the parsing made perfect sense at the time.
    Before that 27a and 15d gave me the hardest time in an otherwise quite friendly crossword.
    Thanks to Shamus and to Gazza.

  20. There were three, not one, which held me up. 7d (new to me) and 28a, for which I had a wrong checking letter because I’d done something silly with the ending of 19d. I don’t really know how long the rest took because it had to fit into a busy day, but it takes me longer to unravel an anagram than the average bear, so that might be just as well. Anyway, I never complain about a gentler puzzle because if ever there is a wish for more, there are rather a lot free on the internet to choose from. Entertainment is all that matters, and this delivered that.

    Thanks Shamus and Gazza.

  21. Was feeling very pleased with myself to complete this without too many problems only to stumble over 28 across which left me totally flummoxed. Had to resort to Big Dave’s solutions !

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