Toughie 2019 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2019

Toughie No 2019 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Another top quality puzzle from Notabilis. I was able to complete before the school run. First one in was 3d, which helpfully gave me the long clues early on. My last ones in were the pesky 4-letter clues 10a and 23a. It also took me a while to see the parsings for 1d and 16a. A nice combination in Column 1, is there anything else?

As usual the definitions are underlined. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, and you can reveal the answers by clicking on the See you at S&B London on Tuesday! buttons Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Stopping hostile takeover, how awful to be made to pay (5,2)
COUGH UP: An expression that means ‘how awful’ goes inside (stopping) a hostile takeover of the political variety

5a    General advisor for emperor penguins initially on hold in Antarctica’s fringes (7)
AGRIPPA: The first letter (initially) of Penguins goes to the right of (the convention for on in an across clue – I think added on to) a verb meaning to hold tightly, all inside the outer letters (fringes) of Antarctica. Since the answer concerns a Roman general who was an advisor to an emperor, perhaps we can read this as either one or two definitions

9a    Unexciting wordplay to have? (6-2-3-4)
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: The answer can be read as wordplay to generate H+AVE

10a    Hood’s state when front half’s gone wonky (4)
AWRY: Take an 8-letter word meaning the state of being a hood or bandit (OUTLAWRY) and remove the first half (front half’s gone). Did anyone else waste time trying to swap the first two letters of 4-letter American states to give another word for hood?

11a    Tongue and snout getting right inside (5)
NORSE: Another word for snout contains (getting … inside) the abbreviation for Right

12a    Anna moved on consistently to make an error (4)
BOOB: Replace each letter in ANNA with the next alphabetical character (moved on constantly)

15a    Eg acquiring this lively piece shows overlap of Dutch artist and German director (7)
SCHERZO: The answer is a musical term. If you place EG around (acquiring) the answer, you will see a rather nice overlap of a Dutch graphic artist and a German film director (EscherzoG reveals ESCHERzog and escHERZOG)

16a    Podcast’s certainly complete in a site for threading (7)
EYEHOLE: A homophone (podcast’s! duh, I didn’t see that for ages) of a word meaning certainly and a word meaning complete

17a    Perhaps used hindsight and reinforced cutter (7)
BACKSAW: A whimsical (perhaps) way of saying used hindsight

19a    Cover with spread set out during tea (7)
BESTREW: An anagram (out) of SET goes inside (during) another word for a cuppa

21a    A short wharf which supports boats? (4)
AQUA: A from the clue then a 4-letter word for wharf without the final letter (short)

22a    Consequently employment shows a dip (5)
SOUSE: A 2-letter word for consequently and a 3-letter word for employment

23a    Keep talking about old floor (4)
KAYO: Reversal (about) of an informal word meaning to talk persistently plus the abbreviation for Old.

26a    What might Carl Jung initiate become without one butting in? (15)
INTERJACULATING: An anagram (What might … become?) of CARL JUNG INIT(i)ATE without one of the I’s (without one)

27a    Something put on as play with run in National Theatre (7)
GARMENT: Another word for play (especially on a computer) contains (with … in) the abbreviation for Run, followed by the abbreviation for National Theatre

28a    Cry for attention includes keys to get help? Good for you! (7)
HEALTHY: A cry for attention (as in *** YOU!) includes a key combination I have never used to get help on a computer


1d    Take place apart from those in Teton Range (7)
COMPASS: A (4,2,4) phrase meaning ‘take place’ without the inner letters of (t)ETO(n) (apart from those in …)

2d    Illicit articles, all from the EU in opposition (5-3-7)
UNDER THE COUNTER: Three European articles plus an adjective meaning in opposition

3d    Hard wood used for steering wheel (4)
HELM: The abbreviation for Hard plus a type of wood

4d    Parking hold up in operation over not being paid (3,4)
PRO BONO: The abbreviation for Parking, a verb meaning to hold up, a preposition meaning in operation, and the cricket abbreviation for Over

5d    Traits distorting economy’s top performer (7)
ARTISTE: An anagram (distorting) of TRAITS plus the first letter (top) of Economy

6d    Satellite of Saturn partly seen overhead (4)
RHEA: Hidden (partly seen …)

7d    Pressure Time to cover Japan’s wartime leader, not available to catalogue for snappy reporter? (15)
PHOTOJOURNALIST: The abbreviation for Pressure, then a unit of time goes around the prime minister of Japan during WW2, the abbreviation for Not Available and a verb meaning to catalogue

8d    Ailed, suffering with brief bug that one can catch (7)
AUDIBLE: An anagram (suffering) of AILED + BU(g)

13d    Force away with others (5)
WREST: The abbreviation for With and a word meaning others

14d    Fungus just the same with arsenic injected (5)
YEAST: A conjunction meaning ‘just the same’ contains (with … injected) the chemical symbol for Arsenic

17d    Carriage to have circular form? (7)
BEARING: Split (2,1,4), the answer would mean to have circular form

18d    Termite trouble mounting through habitual practice (4,3)
WOOD ANT: The reversal (mounting, in a down clue) of a 3-letter word for trouble goes inside (through) a word meaning habitual practice

19d    Black iodine stain on hot metal (7)
BISMUTH: The abbreviation for Black (used for the softness of pencils), the chemical symbol for Iodine, a word meaning stain or dirt, and the abbreviation for Hot

20d    Long twisted inside, twisted by mistake (7)
WRONGLY: An anagram (twisted) of LONG goes inside another word for twisted

24d    Desire meat sandwich with crusts cut off (4)
URGE: A minced meat patty sandwich without the outer letters (with crusts cut off)

25d    Against replacing double force of Mediterranean port’s coffee (4)
JAVA:   Replace the double F(orce) in an Israeli port with a letter used to denote against

I enjoyed the overlay (15a) and I thought it was clever getting Carl Jung into an anagram (26a). I liked moving on Anna (12a) and the Podcast which took me a while to see (16a). Which clues did you like?

24 comments on “Toughie 2019

  1. The sort of Toughie one dreams of and very rarely gets – the right level of difficulty, lots of fun throughout including some great d’oh moments and a big smile on one’s face one the grid is complete. I did wonder if we were heading for a pangram but I think we are missing at least an X

    Thanks to Notabilis for a splendid toughie – my favourite is 12a

  2. Another brilliant puzzle from Notabilis – thanks to him and to Dutch for the review. I had to check that the 26a answer actually exists (sounds a bit rude).
    Too many top clues to list them all – I’ll just go with 9a, 12a, 2d and 17d.
    There is a Nina, hinted at by column 1.

    1. So there is, well spotted, especially as it seems slightly disguised (as you would expect a nina to be, i guess) – but obviously there given col 1.

  3. I thought this was a wonderful puzzle. I hugely enjoyed it, and it gave me great satisfaction in being able to finish it unaided (apart from a dictionary) – which is not something I can often claim for a Notabilis puzzle. There were a couple of clues that I needed Dutch’s explanation in order to understand the word play fully (and hence the cleverness). Like Dutch 3d was my first in, although it was ages before it helped me with either 1a or 9a. In general the right half went in a little easier than the left half. My last in were 1d and 10a. (In 10a, the term needed for Hood’s state is not a word I use every day!). At some point, I am hoping some kind person could please help me ‘see’ the Nina – so far I’ve had no luck in spotting it (I am so poor at seeing them in general). Many thanks to Notabilis and Dutch.

  4. Thanks, Dutch, for the explanation of 23a. I was wondering how ‘sago’ was some sort of floor covering! Sago palms spread out on the ground perhaps… (‘gas’ backwards ‘o’)
    And thanks, Notabilis, for an excellent puzzle.

    1. Yes, I couldn’t get beyond SAGO either, and was stumped by 10a. Oh those pesky little four-letter clues. But otherwise really satisfying to solve. Thanks to all

  5. Toughie by name, toughie by nature!
    Certainly needed help from Dutch with the parsing of 10&15a plus 1d. As for the ‘keys’ in 28a – never touched them as I haven’t got a clue what they are for………
    The ‘sandwich’ seemed a bit of a stretch.

    Favourite was probably 16aa.

    Thanks to Notabilis and extra thanks to Dutch for the much needed assistance.

  6. Maybe it’s a bit early to butt in, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to (remember to) revisit the page, and it’s now impossible to follow developments using the RSS feed (because of the deliberate delay in logging in).

    Anyway, not all of the Nina has been identified so far: column 1 is only half of the description.

    1. Notabilis you are always a welcome guest here so there is no question of butting in. People really appreciate a comment from the setter

      1. Yeast, Wrest. Nice one. But the puzzle was far too tough for me.
        Thank you Notabilis.

  7. Snailed my way through most of this before waiting until MrK was awake so I could pick his brains.

    All very clever and a most enjoyable challenge. Lovely nina too! Very nice to see the five-letter lights, and very neat indeed to get the description into the first and last columns. If only I’d spotted any of this on my own …

    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  8. Busy in office AND 4 hours behind. Did over half at lunchtime – looks to be a continuing goodie, though I couldn’t parse 9d then duh!
    Will need rest of the day… + Saturday? Especially if I am daft enough to repeat stupidity of putting 5d in 5a!!

  9. Good start that needed some deep thought and a few beers to finish. Overall enjoyable and not many quibbles. Thank to Notabilis and Dutch and Gazza too.
    G: I’ll admit to sago and states but managed to move on. It was several hours between J suggesting the answer to 9a and coming up with the reason why it was right.

  10. That puzzle was something special and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The pesky four letter answers were our last ones in too. We did note the 1d/17d combination but despite a search, did not see the rest of the Nina until we came here this morning and, guided by Gazza’s comment, and realising that 8d/20d is part of it too, had another LOL moment.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  11. Friday corker, it seems I do the toughie later than everybody else. Ah well. I didn’t get kayo, I never see past ko for flooring

    1. Probably not TonyO, been doing the crossword on and off all day when work annoyingly got in the way and just found time to comment. Kayo was an absolute hope it is, sussed the Nina, but am still not happy that in my mind I’ve parsed 9a correctly. Can Ave (avenue) = road or am i barking in the wrong forest??? Cheers to Dutch and Notabilis as always

      1. I freely admit, I just wrote in the answer without much thought. Middle of the, and ave. Heh, nice. Yes avenue is the road

  12. Loved every minute of it.
    Even if I failed on 23a.
    Super toughie.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch.

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