Toughie 2116 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2116

Toughie No 2116 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Kitty is busy today, but she’ll be back blogging the Notabilis on Friday – we’ve just swapped. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged a Giovanni. I knew only one of the islands today but I had come across everything else previously. Solved this clockwise ending in NW. I think the puzzle is elegantly and fairly clued.

Definitions are underlined. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay. You can reveal the answers by clicking on the York was great! See you in London? buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Moocher, A-levels being dealt with — me escaping? (6-6)
SCHOOL-LEAVER: An anagram (being dealt with) of (m)OOCH(e)R A-LEVELS with ME escaping. The wordplay uses the entire clue, so we expect the entire clue to suggest the answer in an all-in-one.

9a    So controlled by violent husband (4)
THUS: Hidden (controlled by …). A strong, vivid surface

10a    Listened to record with a beat that comes from power? (9)
LOGARITHM: A homophone (listened to) of another word for record or diary entry, A from the clue, and a beat. (The homophone is of the third component only.) The answer is a mathematical term

12a    Stumbles, getting the lowest possible mark in exam (6)
TRIPOS: An exam specific to one degree in one University. Another word for stumbles contains a letter that looks like the lowest possible numerical mark you might get in a test

13a    Horse of great height buried in holy hill (8)
STALLION: An adjective meaning of great height goes inside a holy hill that became a synonym for Jerusalem

15a    Guarding amenities is such an estate worker (10)
GAMEKEEPER: Split (4,6) the answer refers cryptically to the first half of the clue, which hides the 4-letter word.

16a    Fellow seen as dope given boot ultimately (4)
GENT: Another word for dope or information plus the last letter (ultimately) in boot

18a    Island‘s mess (4)
MUCK: Two meanings, the first being the smallest of four main islands in the Small Isles, part of the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland

20a    Gosh, with death invading capital, there’s a catalogue of errors! (10)
CORRIGENDA: A 3-letter exclamation meaning Gosh or my, then a 3-letter word for death or termination goes inside the capital of Latvia. The exclamation mark, I think, highlights that catalogue of errors is an accepted phrase in itself

23a    Drug problem managed the wrong way by firm — crisis, not half (8)
NARCOSIS: Reversal (the wrong way) of a 3-letter verb meaning managed, then an abbreviation for a firm and the last 3 letters of crisis from the clue (not half)

24a    Formal greeting — it comes with an instrument (6)
SALUTE: An abbreviation for IT from the clue, as in appeal, plus a medieval instrument

26a    Film-maker taking backward step in serious move (9)
GRAVITATE: Reversal (taking backward step) of a famous 20th-century French film-maker (Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot; Mon Oncle) goes inside (in) a word meaning serious

27a    Lake disappearing from Scottish island? Fancy that! (1,3)
I SAY: Remove the abbreviation for lake from a Scottish Island well-known for its whisky

28a    Hellish situation before a welcome with chaps in altercation (12)
DISAGREEMENT: A 3-letter word for the underworld, A from the clue, then a verb meaning welcome containing another word for chaps



2d    Garments — clown is wearing heaps (8)
CASSOCKS: these garments worn by clergy and choristers can be derived from a 3-letter clown or fool surrounded by (is wearing) another word for heaps (of hay or dung) that had me confused at first


3d    Birds making shrieks in the East End? (4)
OWLS: A 5-letter word for shrieks without the initial H (in the East End, i.e. with a Cockney pronunciation)


4d    Say, the girl is running much more than a few miles! (5-5)
LIGHT-YEARS: An anagram (is running) of SAY THE GIRL. The exclamation mark highlights the understatement!

5d    In an unnatural way, truly, the leader is replaced (6)
EERILY: We are looking for a 6-letter word meaning truly in which the first letter is changed (the leader is replaced)

6d    Plant, the thing right inside that display case (7)
VITRINE: Take a 4-letter plant loved by oenophiles, then put a 2-letter pronoun meaning ‘the thing’ plus the abbreviation for right inside that

7d    Protests as tormenters going free (12)
REMONSTRATIONS: An anagram (going free) of AS TORMENTERS

8d    Holy oil in church is kept in small room (6)
CHRISM: An abbreviation for church, then IS from the clue goes inside (is kept in) a 2-letter abbreviation (small) for room

11d    The writer getting guns up on revised agenda spuriously fixed? (5-7)
STAGE-MANAGED: A reversal of the writer (of this crossword) plus a word for guns or revolvers, followed by an anagram (revised) of AGENDA

14d    Call boss, having secured opponents at table (10)
DENOMINATE: An 8-letter verb meaning to boss goes around (secures) the abbreviations for two bridge (at table) opponents

17d    A member of family crosses valley on farmland maybe (8)
AGRARIAN: A from the clue plus an elderly family member going around (crosses) a 3-letter drowned river valley that remains open to the sea (Milford Haven, Severn, etc.)

19d    Features like The Archers on the radio? They are corny (7)
CEREALS: A homophone (on the radio) of programmes broadcast as episodes

21d    Sweet nothing — hard to become leading character (6)
NOUGAT: A 6-letter word for nothing, in which the abbreviation for Hard becomes the leading character (in the alphabet)

22d    Nothing wrong in gambling game, almost a sport (6)
BOXING: The letter that looks like nothing or zero plus the letter that looks like a mark for something wrong in a test go inside (in) a 5-letter gambling game for old people without its last letter (almost)

25d    Island gets heat unit with temperature dropping (4)
HERM: Remove the initial abbreviation for temperature from a 5-letter unit of heat to get this small Channel Island near Guernsey.

I think the clue that I’ll remember today is 9a for its powerful and sleek surface. I enjoyed the penny-drop parsing of 16a and the understatement in 4d. Which clues did you like?

10 comments on “Toughie 2116

  1. I found this quite tricky for a Tuesday and had to invoke a variation of Gnome’s Law (I told the lady who works in the office next to me that I was struggling) before I got going – looking back at the crossword now, I’m not really sure what the problem was

    Thanks to Giovanni and Dutch

  2. I shall console myself with the thought that I did know all of today’s islands as I was still left with seven words that I either didn’t know at all or had to verify. Proof, yet again, that Dutch’s vocabulary far outshines my own!

    No particular favourite and I thought this one was perhaps suitable for a slot later in the week.

    Thanks to DG and to Dutch for helping Kitty out with a swap. Loved the pic of the birds – they always look so cross!

  3. I had some tie on my hands so attempted the toughie which I thought was a ***/***,
    Ok with the various islands but agree that overall it was a tricky solve.
    Like Jane loved the 3d pick-one of my all time favourite clues is’ slow moving birds’ which brilliantly works on two levels.
    Anyway really enjoyed the solve-thanks all.

  4. I thought that this was quite tricky for a Tuesday and had never heard of the holy oil.
    My favourite clue was 15a.
    Thanks to Giovanni and Dutch.

  5. Took a bit of time on the last two in 18a and 19d.
    Thought that a mull could be a mess until I did a bit of internet research.
    The holy oil was also new to me and had to check the Cambridge exam in 12a.
    No cryptic def to report.
    Thanks Giovanni.
    Thanks also to Dutch. Hope you had a good time in York.

  6. A fair bit of abstruse knowledge required here (holy oil, the catalogue of errors, the heap in 2d and the display case), so we’ll admit to a modicum of electronic help.

    We liked 1a, 4d and 23a. Overall we rate it 3*/4*.

    Thanks to Dutch and Giovanni.

  7. I needed some help with this, although I knew all the islands. My mother-in-law, from the West Highlands, used to say: ” Born in Eigg, lived on Rum and died in Muck”. Thank you Giovanni and Dutch.

  8. As luck would have it I happened to know the Islands and the holy oil. Quite Gentle for a G toughie, I thought.

    Many thanks to the Don and Dutch

  9. I normally solve on the iPhone app (which doesn’t have the Toughie) but Mrs BJS had picked up a print copy of Tuesday’s paper so I had a go at this last night – and I really enjoyed it.

    Back to school time with a double lesson of English (6d, 8d, 12a and 20a) and Geography (18a, 25a) but all eminently gettable from the word-play. Thought 15a and 21d were superb. Got down to the last clue but 14d got the better of me, despite Dutch’s handy hints.

    Many thanks to the setter and to Dutch for the blog.

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