Toughie 2024 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2024

Toughie No 2024 by MynoT

Hints and tips by Kitty

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BD Rating  –  Difficulty ** –  Enjoyment ***


Sup.  I found this puzzle light but fun for the most part before coming to a crashing halt at 19 and 20d, whereupon an asterisk hopped westwards over the line in my pencilled-in rating.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below and indicators are italicised when quoted in the hints.  You’ll find the answers inside the Error: answers cannot be found in this life. Try again? buttons.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative — click only if you wish to reveal all.

(If there is a theme to the pictures today it may or may not have anything to do with the latest update continually forcibly resetting default apps on my computer (and breaking the one of those which I do actually use).  “Grr” doesn’t cover it.  Normal service should return next week.)



1a    Again treats broken bone with supports around centre of humerus (6)
RESETS:  Supports or props around the central letter of humerus

4a    Wine frothing upset hosting staff (8)
SPUMANTE:  An anagram (frothing) of UPSET containing (hosting) a verb to staff.  The wine is sparkly, pleasingly for the surface reading.  It’s also sweet, less pleasing to my taste, so for the illustration I’m going to change colour and open some delicious Malbec instead

9a    The Spanish holding reputation for paint (6)
ENAMEL:  “The” in Spanish containing (holding) reputation or standing.  The answer is a vitrified or other glossy coating, but also the name of a type of paint giving a similar finish

10a   Light again on Bench (8)
RESETTLE:  On (the subject of) and a long high-backed bench

11a   Filly’s standing by weed? That’s lucky (9)
HORSESHOE:  An equine and the ‘S from the clue next to (standing by) a verb to weed

13a   Royal Society cutting also in trunk (5)
TORSO:  The abbreviation of Royal Society inside (cutting) a word meaning also

14a   Travelling in city cortège — one with it is 17 (13)
EGOCENTRICITY:  An anagram (travelling) of IN CITY CORTEGE.  17 = 17a

17a   Self-important  as an auto-cannibal may be? (4,2,7)
FULL OF ONESELF:  A straight definition and a loopy one

21a   Smoother grade of life? (5)
PLANE:  A tool for smoothing and a stage or level of existence, thought, or development

23a   Private chat in French kissing position? (4-1-4)
TÊTE-À-TÊTE:  In French, this could describe the aspect of a couple kissing

24a   Scattered state school initially quiet with five leaving Oxbridge, say (8)
SPARSITY:  The first letter (initially) of school and the musical abbreviation for quiet followed by a dated term for university missing V (five leaving …)

25a   One carrying out sting is clear of all charges by the French (6)
NETTLE:  Well this would sting you if you touched it, anyway … (and why shouldn’t it?)  A word meaning clear of charges or deductions next to (by) “the” in French

26a   Refinement, for example, found in Eastern weapon (8)
ELEGANCE:  The Latin-derived abbreviation of for example inside (found in) the concatenation of E(astern) and a long weapon with a wooden shaft and a pointed steel head

27a   Be regularly sandalled as mace-bearer (6)
BEADLE:  BE from the clue and alternate letters (regularly) of sandalled



1d    Cheer wildly over coming last — one wants repeat (2-4)
Paper version: Cheer wildly over repeat – again!
RE-ECHO:  An anagram (wildly) of CHEER, then finally (coming last) the cricket abbreviation for over.  I can’t see how “one wants” can really be included in the definition, so am not sure what it’s doing in the cryptic reading
Paper version: An anagram (wildly) of CHEER, then o(ver)

2d    Peer intently, we’re told, to see flight’s location (9)
STAIRWELL:  This sounds like (we’re told) peer intently (5,4).  The kind of flight I feel like throwing something down

3d    It’s dry round here with nothing else (7)
THERETO:  The answer?  It’s our usual abbreviation for a dry person around the fourth word of the clue, ending with the letter used to symbolise nothing

5d    Foreboding I ignored for theatrical performance? (11)
PRESENTMENT:  A word meaning foreboding missing I (I ignored).  (Definition)

6d    More than one conductor‘s no good in jazzy ragtimes (7)
MAESTRI:  An anagram (jazzy) of RAgTIMES missing G (no good).  This seems to be the Compilers’ Word of the Moment

7d    Lack of territory limited ‘Observer‘ (5)
NOTER:  Lack of (2), and an abbreviation (limited) of territory

8d    After a good 23, see this? (3,2,3)
EYE TO EYE:  Literally this might describe the attitude of people having a 23a, but is also what might be the result of having had a constructive discussion

12d   Checking bleeding with article in mobile home? Not mobile (11)
HAEMOSTATIC:  A grammatical article in an anagram (mobile) of HOME, then a word meaning unmoving or immobile

15d   In European court, engaged in split, with different ending? (9)
INFLECTED:  IN from the clue is followed by E(uropean) and the abbreviation for court, both inside (engaged in) split or ran away

16d   Top fifes played away from the beaten track (3-5)
OFF-PISTE:  An anagram (played) of TOP FIFES.  Anagram-blindness struck again, my initial thinking being that the first part of the answer came from a synonym of top, as in to kill

18d   Across the Channel, perhaps, manage to be heard (7)
OVERSEA:  A homophone (to be heard) of a word meaning manage or supervise

19d   Story for American engineers making piece of furniture (7)
ÉTAGÈRE:  A word meaning storey (story for American) and the abbreviation for the Royal Engineers.  I didn’t know the furniture, nor would the floor come to mind, even though I’d figured out we might be looking for a storey …

20d   Fish  cocktail (3-3)
RED-EYE:  Two definitions, neither of which I could summon up, and the second answer in a row I ended up just using a wildcard dictionary search to find.  The cocktail includes beer and tomato juice and sounds almost as appetising as the one in the surface reading

22d   Old saying of publicity era (5)
ADAGE:  An abbreviated word for some publicity followed by an era


Thanks to MynoT.  I liked the bubbly 4a for its sweet surface, and enjoyed the linked 14a/17a23a/8d also offered light relief.  Which cheered you?


These hints and tips are for anyone who might find them of use (and who doesn’t need help now and then?).  The asides and illustrations are to add a personal perspective and some colour.  The comments section is – or should be – for everyone.  Please do ask if you need anything clarified, have any suggestions as to how the blogs could be improved, or have anything else you’d like to say.


27 comments on “Toughie 2024

  1. I didn’t have much time left for this because today’s Guardian puzzle was very tricky – managed to fill the grid but couldn’t parse 19 (the solution was familiar from previous crosswords but the story wasn’t, at least in English). All quite enjoyable.

    Thanks to Kitty and MynoT

  2. If I am allowed to be 99% smug, then I am. All completed without outside help, except for 19d, which I wouldn’t have got in a million years. Shouldn’t there at least be a French or European hint for the “story” in the clue?

    It took me well into ***/**** time, but any Toughie that I can get to the end of, or near enough, is a celebration for me.

    Many thanks to Mynot and Kitty.

  3. I enjoyed this very much. I found it a good steady solve with no real hold up until it came to my last in which was 19d. I wasn’t familiar with either the American story or the furniture. The cocktail took a little chasing down as well. Many thanks to MynoT and Kitty.

  4. All started fairly well, but then i got hung up on presentient and couldn’t make the clue work. argh.

    The cocktail is not really a cocktail, is it? It’s what serious drinkers in Canada have when they go to the bars in the mornings.

    Oxbridge confused me – wouldn’t a single university work better?

    I would have thought both Etage and the answer were French. brb says they are. Maybe it’s what posh americans say.

    I loved the two central clues and the 23a/8d combo.

    18d looks odd in the singular, but maybe the plural is the one that is odd.

    Many thanks MynoT and thanks Kitty as always

    1. 19 is something of a running joke on the Guardian comments page (along with its companion ETUI. I was aware of the story as a French word but have never seen it used in English.

  5. All OK but it lacked a little sparkle for me. ** / **

    I’m another for the Malbec, ta. Thanks Mynot and Kitty for the entertainment.

    1. I was just about to say this to JB, and you have decided it: I think I’ll go ahead and get a case in … :)

  6. Came to a halt at the same point as Kitty although in fairness I’d already had a blip over the ending of 12d and the unfamiliar singular in 18d.

    Seemed to be a fair number of expressions more commonly used in America – is Tony Martin an American?

    My favourite was the 23a/8d combo.

    Thanks to MynoT and to our Girl Tuesday for the boozy blog – especially the Malbec!

  7. I was a bit underwhelmed by this one, possibly because a number of the surfaces didn’t make a great deal of sense. I didn’t know the fishy cocktail and had to guess it from the checking letters and look it up. Apparently it’s either a poor-quality whisky or a drink of beer and tomato juice (yuck) – neither could really be termed a cocktail.
    My favourite was the amusing 17a.
    Thanks to MynoT and Kitty.

    1. Gazza, our BRB has one definition of cocktail as “any mixture of substances or elements”. Beer and tomato juice would qualify here, but I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole.

  8. Agree with you Gazza about the surfaces. There are a good few Toughie setters who are masters in that dept however, and I did enjoy this one too. 19d a right pig if I’m honest, and there were one or two much harder than the rest, which didn’t add to the consistency. So, not sure what to make of this as a piece.

    Not sure about your ‘auto-cannibal’!

  9. A couple, for example 20d where we guessed the probable answer from definition and checkers and then had to confirm in BRB. Slight delay also with 25a as we noticed the ‘free of all charges’ and horNET came to mind for an answer.
    Pleasant solve.
    Thanks MynoT and Kitty.

  10. We enjoyed this and didn’t get overly hung up over the French/American ins and outs of 19d.

    We liked 11a, 14a and 23a.

    Thanks to Kitty and MynoT.

  11. For the most part pretty straightforward, but I struggled at the close on 21ac and 25ac. Oh well, it’s late, I’m tired!

  12. Dans quel état j’erre?
    Probably the existentialist question of the century…. as far as the French are concerned of course.
    But very surprised that our fellow Americans have already reached such levels of self analysis.
    Not even sure it has crossed the Channel yet.
    Thanks to MynoT and to Kitty. May you find the way.

  13. Paper version for 1d is ‘Cheer wildly over repeat – again!’ which works better. I got a lot of the way through this on my own but blog very helpful for final answers (5d where I also got hung up with presentient, 24a and 19d which I wouldn’t have got in a month of Sundays). I also wrestled with hornet for 25a for a while. Needed blog confirmation of 21a and Google confirmation of 20d. I liked 23a/8d linked clues. Not sure what I thought about auto-cannibal…! Thanks to all

    1. Thanks Ezfer – I’ll add that to the blog later.

      Anyone want the job of cross-checking the different versions? I can offer a percentage of my blogger’s fee …

  14. Quite easy. Done in * – Until 19 & 20d. Both poor and obscure.
    Sorry Mynot, not much to enjoy. A lot “forced”
    24a I liked though.

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