Toughie 2026 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2026

Toughie No 2026 by Stick Insect

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty */**Enjoyment **

This isn’t the week that Stick Insect ups the difficulty level. It was an extremely gentle puzzle with some very unsatisfactory surfaces.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.

Across

1a    Official encourages right to leave sanctuaries (7)
REFUGES: An official in a football match + ‘encourages’ with R (right) removed

5a    One contributing to hive of activity? (4,3)
BUSY BEE: A cryptic definition for a person who is industrious or has many things to do

9a    Parking before trip to see lion’s group (5)
PRIDE: P (parking) + a trip

10a    Occasionally on base, team cuss about the French blockages (9)
OBSTACLES: Alternate letters of ON BASE TEAM CUSS round the French definite article

11a    Son and thief capturing Dickens character lacking charisma in jotter (7,3)
SCRATCH PAD: S (second) and a thief on the highroad round the surname of Scrooge’s clerk with IT (charisma) removed

12a    Grudging discontent found in Nevada, by the sound of it (4)
ENVY: The answer sounds like the two-letter abbreviation for Nevada

14a    Chap to employ ship, acquiring new desire for other’s property (12)
COVETOUSNESS: An informal word for a man + TO + ‘to employ’ and a steamship round N (new)

18a    Liar is free as lunatic to produce non-interference (7-5)
LAISSER-FAIRE: An anagram (lunatic) of LIAR IS FREE AS = a French term for a general principle of non-interference

21a    Rent floor without walls (4)
TORE: Remove the first and last letters from one floor of a building

22a    Bullies managed northern island after heartless Tory uncovered mess (10)
TYRANNISES: The first and last letters of TORY + ‘managed’ + an abbreviation for ‘island’ + the middle two letters of MESS

25a    Imposing old boy hoping daughter replaces saint (9)
OBTRUDING: The abbreviation for ‘old boy’ + ‘hoping’ (8) with D (daughter) replacing ST (saint)

26a    Join group with European (5)
UNITE: A group + E (European)

27a    Cheat resolved to enter empty dinghy, returned and raced, perhaps (7)
YACHTED: An anagram (resolved) of CHEAT inside a reversal of the first and last letters of DINGHY

28a    Gives up concerning omens (7)
RESIGNS: ‘Concerning’ + omens

Down

1d    Salesperson has no starter, getting kind of square meal (6)
REPAST: A salesperson + HAS with the first letter (starter) removed + a single letter that describes a kind of square

2d    Religious types following theology as ruse, oddly (6)
FRIARS: F (following) + theology + the odd-positioned letters of AS RUSE

3d    Suppose you will enter European resting place (5-5)
GUEST-HOUSE: ‘To suppose’ round the old-fashioned form of ‘you’ + E (European)

4d    Destiny lies in quiet tree-dweller (5)
SLOTH: Destiny inside ‘Quiet!’

5d    Chief and ace star in dance music (5,4)
BOSSA NOVA: A chief + A (ace) + a type of star = dance music originating in Brazil

6d    Cliff‘s disc, artful in part (4)
SCAR: Hidden in DISC ARTFUL

7d    Weighs tips of big aggressive weapons (8)
BALANCES: First letters of BIG and AGGRESSIVE + weapons

8d    Writer says it’s nuts to support English (8)
ESSAYIST: E (English) + an anagram (nuts) of SAYS IT’S

13d    Long distance flyers supply rats toucan’s not caught (10)
ASTRONAUTS: An anagram (supply) of RATS TOUCAN’S less the letter C (caught)

15d    One up with the lark? (5,4)
EARLY BIRD: A cryptic definition

16d    Nearly fix backing of lavish city’s overindulgence (8)
GLUTTONY: ‘Fix (with adhesive)’ with the last letter removed + a reversal of a three-letter abbreviation denoting ‘lavish’ + an American city

17d    Terrible twitch absorbing universal medicine (8)
DIURETIC: ‘Terrible’ and an involuntary twitch round U (universal) = a medicine that increases the flow of urine

19d    Requesting a second with Elvis, maybe (6)
ASKING: A + S (second) + a nickname for Elvis

20d    Snake regularly meanest in trees (6)
ASPENS: A venomous snake + alternate letters of MEANEST

23d    Temper risk — don’t open it! (5)
ANGER: Remove the first letter from ‘risk’

24d    Fat sultan held up suppressing desire (4)
LUST: Hidden in reverse in FAT SULTAN

That don’t impress me much


 

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19 comments on “Toughie 2026

  1. What Bufo said in his introduction – someone queried with me whether I thought it was a Wrong Envelope Day – I found it a ‘Same Envelope Day’ and I didn’t find the inside back pager as tricky as others seemed to

    Thanks to Bufo and Stick Insect

  2. Much as I appreciate an entry level Toughie I have to agree with Bufo that a lot of the surface reads in this one left much to be desired.
    Difficulty-wise, perhaps this has been slotted in to preserve our grey matter for the forthcoming battle with Friday’s setter!

    Thanks and apologies to Stick Insect and thanks to Bufo for the blog.

  3. Agree with the sentiments already expressed, so I shan’t elaborate.

    Thanks to Stick Insect and to Bufo.

  4. I agree with Bufo’s assessment. I think that part of the reason why this wasn’t much of a challenge is that some of the definitions (e.g. “lion’s group”, “desire for other’s property”, “non-interference”) are not very cryptic and make the answers leap out.
    Thanks to Stick Insect and Bufo. It hasn’t been a vintage Toughie week so far – will proXimal reverse the trend tomorrow?

  5. I agree with the sentiments already expressed. I can’t help feeling that this was a (very pleasant) calm before what may be quite the storm tomorrow. Thanks to Stick Insect and Bufo for a ride on the gentler side today.

  6. Stick Insect managed to get all 7 deadly sins , pride , anger ,covetousness , gluttony , envy , lust and sloth which I thought very clever but only in retrospect .
    Thanks to Stick Insect for a fun Toughie and to Buffo.

    1. I knew there was something I was going to mention. That’s the problem with solving six hours before you can comment

  7. We must live very virtuous lives as it wasn’t until we read Una’s comment that we realised there was a ghost theme.
    Thanks Stick Insect and Bufo.

    1. I’m sure you are both very virtuous , but the reason we didn’t all spot it immediately was because SI had distracted us with African Planes , arboreal animals and so on . Another clever little idea .

  8. I would agree with CS’s assessment of ‘same envelope day’ and the back pager was the better of the two.

    I missed the theme completely, but, then, I am hopeless at detecting ninas and pangrams as well.

    Thanks to Stick Insect and Bufo.

  9. Thanks all for the feedback. My seventh Toughie, hence the sins, so special thanks to Una for noticing.

  10. This took a spookily similar time to today’s back pager, which was quite tricky, making this pretty straightforward for a Toughie. Vaguely spotted the theme but didn’t really need to worry about it in order to finish so it didn’t really register. Last in the longest of our deadly sins.

  11. Brief but enjoyable. Agree that one or two surface, e.g. 9a, were a bit facile.

    LOI was 24d, at which stage the sins theme was noticed. D’oh.

    Thanks to Gazza and Stick Insect.

    Any sign of this “tick the privacy box” disappearing? It feels like a total overreaction to the GDPR, which is really quite light touch for this kind of organisation.

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