Toughie 2031 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2031

Toughie No 2031 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Mr K

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BD Rating  -  Difficulty **** Enjoyment ****


Hello, everyone.  They say that a change is as good as a rest.  Well I could certainly do with a rest, and so I volunteered to blog this Friday Toughie in Dutch’s absence and, in case that wasn’t change enough, to do it from Florida.  I’m not sure that rested describes exactly how I feel after solving and hinting this fine puzzle from Sparks, but it was definitely a refreshing experience.  There’s an obvious theme running through the grid with the 9a/19d pair featuring in several clues – I wonder if that has any significance?  In addition, there’s another group of answers having something in common that I won’t spoil here.  I couldn’t work out by blog submission time if there was something deeper going on there, so suggestions and speculation on that point are welcome and I will just say here that in hindsight it was an A-I puzzle.  It’s also a pangram, and it uses a few words and definitions that I needed to verify post-solve.  I’ve inserted hyperlinks accordingly, along with links in a few other places where I thought background information might be useful or interesting.

In the hints below most indicators are italicized, and underlining identifies precise definitions and definitions overlapping wordplay.  Clicking on the Answer buttons will reveal the answers.  In some hints hyperlinks provide additional explanation or background.  Clicking on a picture will enlarge it or display a bonus illustration.  Please leave a comment telling us how you got on.



1a    9 19dn cashier fronting good promo for cracking cheese (4,7)
FIRE BRIGADE:  Cashier or sack followed by the abbreviation for good and a (2) “promo for” inserted together in (cracking) a soft French cheese

9a    Crisis caused by terms of exam and pressure during oral? (9)
EMERGENCY:  The outer letters of (terms of) EXAM and a homophone (during oral) of pressure or importance

10a   Small business covering middle of 12's island (5)
IBIZA:  Overlay an informal contraction (small) of business on the middle three letters of (covering middle of) the answer to 12d

11a   Many were sent there, leaving southern European peninsula (6)
IBERIA:  A place in Eastern Europe to which many people were banished, minus an abbreviation for southern (… leaving southern)

13a   Telegraph protecting main Conservative upstart (8)
WISEACRE:  Telegraph or cable containing (protecting) both a usual synonym of main and an abbreviation for Conservative

14a   Watches a drugs bust (6)
GUARDS:  An anagram (bust) of A DRUGS

16a   Venetian lover is a snob and a rogue (8)
BASSANIO:  A lover in The Merchant of Venice is an anagram (rogue) of IS A SNOB A 

19a   Put off involving that woman's furniture designer (8)
SHERATON:  Put off (3,2) containing (involving) a pronoun for that woman

20a   9 19dn work around plague (6)
POLICE:  The reversal (around) of the usual musical work is followed by a biblical plague 

22a   Rather coarse husband is filling in hooligan (8)
ROUGHISH:  The abbreviation for husband and IS from the clue are inserted together in (filling in) a hooligan

24a   Who provides achievement involving final touches to clever theorem (6)
FERMAT:  The answer is formed from a significant achievement containing (involving) the final letters of (final touches to) CLEVER THEOREMThe answer and the surface refer to the distinguished French mathematician who claimed in a marginal note to have found a proof of the theorem that now bears his name, famously adding there was insufficient space there to explain it.  Trying to prove his conjecture then occupied mathematicians for the next 358 years

27a   Start digging to dam river (5)
INTRO:  Digging or enthusiastic about containing (to dam) the map abbreviation for river

28a   Medic breaking into haul uncovered weapon in what's used by 9 19dn (9)
AMBULANCE:  A usual doctor is inserted between (breaking into) the inner letters of (… uncovered) HAUL.  That lots is  followed by a long pointy weapon

30a   Test, alas, thereby interfered with (11)
BREATHALYSE:  An anagram (interfered with) of ALAS THEREBY



1d    Author and setter bowled over in affair (7)
FLEMING:  The reversal (bowled over, in a down clue) of a pronoun that the setter would use for himself is inserted in a brief romantic affair

2d    Former official always up for entertaining English (5)
REEVE:  The reversal (up, in a down clue) of another word for always containing (… for entertaining) an abbreviation for English.  Explanation of the answer here

3d    Tap  defect (3)
BUG:  A double definition.  Tap communications, and a defect in computer code, for example

4d    Quartet appearing in fictional monastic retreat (4)
IONA:  The answer is a quartet of letters appearing in the remainder of the clue

5d    Novel play, Act 1 being somewhat unexpected? (8)
ATYPICAL:  Convert 1 into Roman and then find the answer as an anagram (novel) of PLAY ACT I

6d    One banished from the cloth, missing time and time again (5)
EXILE:  A woven fabric with two instances of the physics symbol for time deleted (missing time and time again)

7d    Lay brother having run away in evening 19dn (7)
PLACEBO:  Put together a synonym of lay or set down and an abbreviation for brother minus the cricket abbreviation for run (… having run away).  Explanation of the answer here

8d    Noble one shunning university director (8)
VISCONTI:  Take a noble one rank below earl, append the Roman numeral for one, and delete an abbreviation for university (shunning university).  Information about the director here

12d   Where diva hosts Victor in the country (5)
INDIA:  Splitting the country of the answer (2, 3) specifies “Where diva hosts Victor” when Victor is read as the letter it represents in the NATO phonetic alphabet

15d   Satisfactory answer following question in a heartless discussion (8)
ADEQUATE:  An abbreviation for question with an abbreviation for answer following, and the whole lot then inserted in A from the clue and a discussion missing its middle letter (heartless)

17d   Fumes as Blenheim Palace finally accepts fine (5)
SMOKE:  Take the final characters (… finally) of AS BLENHEIM PALACE.  That collection of letters then contains (accepts) a synonym of fine

18d   Split post prods loser in legendary race (3,5)
JOB SHARE:  Follow an archaic (according to the ODE) synonym of prods by the loser in a legendary race related by Aesop

19d   Employment in, say, army  duty (7)
SERVICE:  A triple definition

21d   Short, perhaps wide, old uncle is very strict (7)
EXTREME:  Shorten the type of cricket run of which a wide is an example (perhaps), and append what Chambers defines as an obsolete word for uncle

23d   Rabble with extremely British exterior held up powerful arm (1-4)
H-BOMB:  A (3) rabble with the outer letters (extremely…) of BRITISH wrapped around it (with … exterior), and the whole lot then reversed (held up, in a down clue)

25d   Rotten king? Lots in circulation (5)
MANKY:  The chess abbreviation for king with a synonym of lots wrapped around it (in circulation)

26d   19dn to remember old non-European champ (4)
OBIT:  The abbreviation for old is followed by champ or chew minus the abbreviation for European (non-European …)

29d   Jumper left by female in field (3)
LEA:  A small jumping insect with the abbreviation for female deleted (… left by female)


Thanks to Sparks for a fun solve.  My favourite today was the simple 27a.  Which clues did you like best?


9 comments on “Toughie 2031

  1. Another solo day for Mr Sheffieldsy. What a great crossword, I thought, with a nicely exploited theme; very tough but also very fair. Struggled to complete the NE corner and, when I had, realised there were some very tough clues there. Not helped by bunging in Casanova as the Italian lover early on, either!

    Liked 6d, 10a and 17a but the clear winner for me was 24a – superb clue.

    7d was a new meaning of an old word and 13a was totally new.

    I noticed a surfeit of clues ending in a vowel, 21 of them out of just 32 clues.

    Apart from its contribution to the surface, what’s the point of “for” in 1a? It appears superfluous.

    Thanks to Sparks and Mr K.

  2. Lovely stuff – thanks to Sparks and to Mr K. I picked out 12d and 18d as top clues.
    It may be totally irrelevant but I noticed that the three answers following 9 (i.e. 10. 11,12) all start with I (the ninth letter of the alphabet) so “Emergency 999”???

  3. I got on hugely better today than I did yesterday. Generally I am not too fond of linked clues, but I like them a lot better when I get the building blocks of the linkage, and I did (fairly early on) today! 18d was my last in – I spent far too long trying to begin it with and anagram of ‘post’- and then not understand why the rest of the clue didn’t work. Great fun for me, and many thanks to Sparks and Mr K.

  4. Not had much free time today so haven’t progressed beyond the NW corner as yet.
    Will keep trying and hopefully post later.

    1. Got there eventually but then couldn’t post as the site appeared to be down for a while.

      Needed to use some electronic help to get the director and the bloke in 24a who is doubtless very important but well outside of my radar. Also had to check on what were new definitions for me in 7d and the ‘prod’ section of 18d
      Failed on the parsing of 21d due to a conviction that Uncle Remus must have a part to play in it and – like Mr Sheffieldsy – I had Casanova residing in 16a until 17d became impossible.

      No particular favourite but thanks to Sparks for a real challenge (nice to meet you at the recent S&B) and many thanks to Mr K for another of his excellent and informative blogs.

  5. A rather similar pattern to yesterday’s solve for me, in that after a slow start (lots of linkages to get to grips with) 3/4 went in steadily before I found myself in difficulties. Today I fell down in the opposite corner, the NE. I didn’t have to do the crossword equivalent of calling 999 – i.e. come to the blog – but I did seek help from Dr Chambers to patch things up.

    My picks today are 13a, 1d and 6d.

    Many thanks Sparks and Dr K.

  6. A real penny drop moment for us when we twigged the definition for 7d. This was our last one in. We did note the pangram and had a quick look in vain for any other message. Think that Gazza has got it (as he usually does) with the starting letters for clues 10 , 11 and 12. (111 is actually the emergency number in NZ). Great fun all the way through.
    Thanks Sparks and well done and thanks Mr K.

  7. Failed on 18d and needed the hints to understand 21d.
    Some really clever construction made this crossword a real joy.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Mr K.

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