Toughie 2095 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2095

Toughie No 2095 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A wonderful puzzle by Sparks full of surprises and fun. A few new words for me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. There’s a little theme with a related Nina.

Definitions are underlined and the hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay. You can always reveal the answers by clicking on the to bear a hand buttons. Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought.


8a    Instrument found in box office after brief speculative view (7)
THEORBO: The abbreviation for Box Office comes after a 6-letter speculative view or conjecture without its last letter (brief)

10a    Old celebrity couple replacing son in finale about missing female (7)
HOUDINI: A couple or pair of performers replaces the abbreviation for Son in a reversal (about) of a 6-letter word meaning finale or ending, missing the initial F(emale)

11a    A tender kisser, Duncan regularly strays (9)
SICKNURSE: An anagram (strays) of KISSER + (d)U(n)C(a)N (regularly)

12a    Mature, wise men finally settled on epitaph (5)
RIPEN: Mature is a verb here. The last letters (finally) of wise men follow (settle on) an abbreviation commonly used as an epitaph on gravestones

13a    Clean seats returned around end of June (5)
SWEEP: A reversal (returned) of seats (especially the church kind) goes around the last letter (end) of June

14a    Innocent type almost a victim, a sucker to some (7)
LAMPREY: A young animal that describes an innocent person without the last letter (almost), and another word for victim

17a    Friends, perhaps outside city, moan anyhow (9,6)

19a    Cushion idiot owing debt? (7)
HASSOCK: Take a 3-letter idiot or fool, then find a (2,4) expression meaning ‘owing debt’. The first word thereof functions as an insertion indicator. So, the idiot goes inside the second word.

21a    Black pen for penning love letters? (5)
SOOTY: A pen where pigs hang out contains (for penning) more than one letter (letterS) that look like a score of love in tennis.

24a    One sought on line taps an ISP from the east (5)
LOACH: Take the abbreviations for the two temperatures found on taps, add the abbreviation for an American ISP (internet service provider), and reverse the lot (from the east)

26a    Drop proceedings relating to non-capital sentences (5-4)
LOWER CASE: A word meaning drop and another word for (e.g. court) proceedings

27a    Course adopted by English Lord portraying feeling of power? On the contrary (7)
EMPATHY: ‘On the contrary’ turns the definition into ‘power of feeling’. A course or route goes inside (adopted by) the abbreviation for English and an interjection meaning Lord! 

28a    Vehicle returned — still missing one item on forecourt? (7)
RACQUET: The reversal (returned, again) of a 3-letter vehicle and a word meaning still (as in noiseless) without an I (missing one)


1d    Inactivity extremely self-evident in existing state of affairs (6)
STASIS: The first and last letters (extremely) of self-evident, then a (2,2) expression that means ‘in existing state of affairs’

2d    Trunk examinations — not right on time (3,5)
SEA CHEST: An 8-letter word meaning examinations (e.g. at borders) without the abbreviation for Right, then the abbreviation for Time

3d    King, along with pawn on rook’s square, held up major feature of key play? (5,5)
GRAND PIANO: A 2-letter Latin abbreviation for a king, a conjunction meaning with, the abbreviation for Pawn, then a reversal (held up) of ‘ON rook’s square’, where rook’s square is the 2-character index of the chess board square occupied by a rook at beginning of play.

4d    Turning to smother daughter in act of flattery (9)
WHEEDLING: A word meaning turning contains (to smother) the abbreviation for daughter

5d    River rising, unusually heavy rain primarily the cause (4)
RUHR: First letters (… primarily the cause)

6d    Captains shelled seafood (6)
KIPPER: Take an 8-letter word meaning captains and remove the first and last letters (shelled)

7d    Maybe dumb down in Sydney if travelling (8)
DISNEYFY: An anagram (travelling) of SYDNEY IF

9d    Monster conger-eel seen off and on (4)
OGRE: Alternative letters (… seen off and on)

15d    Crazy displays behind lorry (10)
MOONSTRUCK: A word meaning ‘displays behind’ and a word meaning lorry

16d    Group kind of play about when adult’s not there (4,5)
PINK FLOYD: An anagram (about) of KIND OF PL(a)Y but without the abbreviation for Adult

17d    Romantic writer ultimately writes terrifying tale (8)
SCHILLER: The last letter (ultimately) of writes plus a scary book or film

18d    Old drivers crashing into base tramp in Roman town (8)
EBORACUM: The abbreviation for old and a 3-letter motoring club goes inside (crashing into) the base of natural logarithms and a 3-letter tramp

20d    Sewage initially affected gut of big fish (6)
SCAMPI: The first letter (initially) of Sewage, another word for affected, and the middle letter (gut of) big.

22d    Girl in survey at last checked — but not quite (6)
YVETTE: The last letter of Survey plus a word meaning checked without the last letter (but not quite)

23d    Jacob’s mate possibly on river vessel (4)
EWER: I thought Jacob was biblical but turns out he’s ovine. Jacob’s female mate plus the abbreviation for River

25d    African doctor also getting reported (4)
HUTU: A homophone (getting reported) of a TV doctor and another word for also


I enjoyed 21a, 26a, the simple but funny 15d, and 16d which was my last one in. Which clues did you like?


15 comments on “Toughie 2095

  1. Great puzzle with an enjoyable theme – thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.
    I knew the main characters of the theme but some more had obviously joined the cast since I last saw it so some Googling was necessary – I found six in total but I may have missed some.
    I ticked 21a, 20d and 23d but my favourite (for the laugh) was 15d.

  2. A proper Friday 5*/5* Toughie – but then that’s what we’d expect from Sparks

    I didn’t see the theme earlier on, but looking at the puzzle before preparing to type a comment, all became very obvious

  3. Disappointing end to a great week with full completions on one *** and two **** puzzles with maximum enjoyment. All ground to a halt today (perhaps it’s me?!) with six answers in ages & ages, no idea of the theme even now and 8a, 7d, 17d & 25d all new words for me. So, at least *****/* for me but, there is always next week!! Have a good weekend.

  4. Some electronic help needed for this one and three new words encountered but I’m glad I persevered – very much enjoyed the solve.
    Picked up on the theme after completion but haven’t spotted the Nina as yet.

    Top marks went to 26a & 15d.

    Many thanks to Sparks (and Hi to Sparky) and thanks to Dutch for the excellent blog. A question, if I may – why is it considered OK for ‘cushion’ to apparently be doing double duty in 19a?

    1. 19a: I don’t think it is. It only functions as a definition. did i mess up my explanation? after you translate “owing debt” to “in hock”, the wordplay reads “idiot in hock”, so a word for idiot is inserted into (in) hock, all meaning cushion.

  5. Excellent fun from start to finish with the biggest laugh out loud moment coming with 15d. We did search for a Nina but failed to find one apart from several fishy answers. After reading here that there is one have just had another look and think we have now found some of it but have only got the title characters and one other main one (assuming we are on the right track) so will have to do a bit of investaGoogling.
    We have been discussing between us how that when we have two puzzles of about similar difficulty on consecutive days, one of them feels like a real slog and the next one is a real joy. It makes no sense. Funny things these Cryptics.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  6. 15d very very good. 2Kiwis I didn;t comment on yesterdays because I could find nothing positive to say. In todays look at column eight… that should give you a pointer and column six, Other characters are answers, Thanks to Dutch and Sparks

    1. Thanks Andy. We had found the ones in column 6 and 8 once we had sorted out what we were looking for.

  7. Challenging and enjoyable but perhaps a bit over the top with a lot of unnecessary flummey. The picture of scampi was a bit disappointing.
    Many thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

    1. ha ha – i did find lots of very appetising-looking pictures but i imagined the breaded variety was the most recognisable – perhaps not!

  8. We enjoyed this, finishing it in the curry house just before our food arrived! The effect of the beer, before during and after the Indian, meant no comment until today.

    Why is scampi a fish? As a kind of lobster, it’s surely not.

    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

  9. I know I am very late to comment, but I did want to add my vote of thanks and admiration of a wonderful and enjoyable puzzle. Many thanks to all.

  10. I think 23d is biblical. It refers to Rachel, Jacobs wife who is associated with a mistranslation of ewe.

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