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Toughie 2143

Toughie No 2143 by proXimal

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

I found this slow going, yet in retrospect everything seems fair enough. I tend to find some proXimal puzzles quite hard, though his last few have been more accessible. Extra enjoyment star for the specific Christmassy mini-theme (9a, 2d, 6d, 16d – any more?). I couldn’t for the life of me see 23d – thank you Gazza.

Definitions are underlined. The hints are intended to nudge you in the right direction, and you can reveal the answers if you wish by clicking on the Click Here buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


8a    Determined upon acquiring case from elegant fashion house (8)
BENETTON: A (4,2) expression meaning determined goes around (upon acquiring) the outer letters (case) of elegant

9a    Assembly of characters from East departs, heading for yon stable (6)
STEADY: An anagram (assembly of characters from) of EAST D[eparts] + Y[on]. (abbreviation for departs, heading for yon)

10a    Available on loan (3)
OUT: Two meanings, the first as in released, the second as in not in the library

11a    Smart thing to do before 3’s application? (5-3)
CLEAN-CUT: Split (5,3), this would be a (smart) thing to do before applying the answer to 3d

12a    Disturbance from American on vehicle not starting (6)
RUCKUS: A 2-letter abbreviation for American follows (on, in an across clue) a 5-letter vehicle without the first letter (not starting)

13a    Commonality of petite dominatrix and blonde actress? (8,7)
FEMININE ENDINGS: What do the 4 words petite dominatrix and blonde actress all have grammatically?

15a    Removed scrap by old dog’s dinner (7)
FARRAGO: A word meaning removed or distant, a scrap of material, and the abbreviation for old

18a    On record, estimated height (7)
EVEREST: A 4-letter word meaning ‘on record’ or ‘in history’, as in the hardest puzzle ****, plus the abbreviation for estimated

21a    Delegate attendants to grab idiot going round examination areas (10,5)
CONSULTING ROOMS: A delegate of a foreign government plus some stable attendants contain (to grab) the reversal (going round) of a 3-letter idiot

24a    People long gone from property (6)
BEINGS: Remove LONG from the clue from a 10-letter word meaning property or possessions

25a    Give new order to put inside evil thief (8)
CUTPURSE: An anagram (give new order to …) of PUT goes inside an evil typically invoked on another person

26a    Maybe builder’s rear comes out of outfit (3)
TEA: Remove the last letter (rear comes out) from an outfit as in group of people working together

27a    Small Austrian player makes you scoff (6)
SARNIE: The abbreviation for small and the first name of a well-known Austrian film star who tells us “I’ll be back”

28a    Disciplined doctors retired nurses desire (8)
SCOURGED: A reversal (retired) of a shortened form of doctors contains (nurses) another word for desire


1d    Ash for one vessel oddly cut during fabrication (6)
LESLIE: Remove the odd letters (oddly cut) of vessel and place the rest inside (during) a word meaning fabrication or untruth

2d    Regularly seen Noel play; Balthasar’s third one from foreign land (6)
NEPALI: The odd letters (regularly seen in …) of ‘Noel play’, the third letter of Balthazar, and the Roman numeral for one

3d    Dressing remaining on plate’s sloppy and runs (8,7)
STICKING PLASTER: Another word for remaining, an anagram (sloppy) of PLATE’S, and the abbreviation for runs

4d    Bound from south, one hundred to support King Edward (7)
KNOTTED: A reversal (from south, in a down clue) of an informal word for a hundred goes underneath (to support, in a down clue) the abbreviation for king in cards and chess, then a nickname for Edward

5d    Stellar method to set route of tar? (15)
ASTRONAVIGATION: The method a tar uses to sail by the stars

6d    Biblical king with a dodgy past ousted in atmospherical broadcast (8)
MELCHIOR: An anagram (dodgy) of PAST is removed from (ousted in) an anagram (broadcast) of ATMOSPHERICAL

7d    Plug book awards (8)
ADJUDGES: A plug or promotion plus a biblical book

14d    Spoil mother with second of presents (3)
MAR: A short word for mother plus the second letter in presents

16d    Where most of cash goes to make biblical king greater than expected (5,3)
ABOVE PAR: In a down clue, where would you have to place the first three letters (most) of CAS[h] to get the last of the three magi in the mini-theme?

17d    Ringing old relative within break (8)
RESONANT: The abbreviation for old and an informal word for grandmother go within a break or breather

19d Type of rock seen in Table Mountain (3)
EMO: Hidden (seen in …) 

20d    Given unsuitable role, young lady nearly acts badly (7)
MISCAST: The first 3 letters (nearly) of a 4-letter young lady, plus an anagram (badly) of ACTS

22d    Work belonging to us interlaced through the night (6)
OEUVRE: A word meaning ‘belonging to us’ is spliced with, letter for letter (interlaced through) a word meaning night (or sometimes the night before)

23d    One ruminant keeps behind in that group (6)
MUSTER: A person ruminating or thinking contains (keeps) the last letter (behind) of that


I laughed most at the builder. I thought the type of rock was a superb misdirection. I enjoyed 9a with its themed surface. Which clues did you like?

25 comments on “Toughie 2143

  1. I confess to only getting about a third of these. Found it much much harder than Wednesday’s or Thursday’s. Favourite 27a.

  2. Thanks to proXimal for a most enjoyable tussle with most of the answers needing to be teased out and with quite a few penny drop moments along the way. Thanks also to Dutch for the review.
    I agree with Dutch’s selection of 9a as a superb clue identifying the subjects of the mini-theme. I also ticked 13a, 18a and 16d.

  3. An excellent puzzle which I only finished with help from Dutch.Thanks to him and setter.

  4. I found this very tough. After a real battle and several stop-starts, I managed to get about 80% of the answers but I needed Dutch’s excellent review to finish it off as well as to explain some of the parsings which had eluded me.

    The thief in 25a and the rock in 19a were new to me, and I have never previously come across “scoff” as a noun.

    5d was very clever but the surface was a bit strange. 13a & 16d deserve special mentions but the brilliant 26a was my favourite.

    I must go and rest my brain cells now.

    Many thanks to proXimal and to Dutch.

  5. I thought this was a wonderfully constructed puzzle. I ended up with a complete and correct grid, although I had some luck along the way. There were several things that I was not aware of; the Ash in 1d for immediate example. (On research it appears that this particular Ash does not have a profile outside the U.K.) 26a appears to involve a brand and a colloquialism neither of which I had heard of, but was easy enough to track down. I hadn’t heard of the rock-type in 19d, the thief in 25a, or the dog’s dinner in 15a. For me, having 15 unchecked first letters added to challenge (my hope for a Nina did not seem to pan out!). However, I eventually tracked it all down and feel a great sense of achievement in having done so. Thank you Dutch and Gazza for pointing out the mini-theme (which had gone right over my head). Thank you to proXimal for the challenge, and to Dutch, as always, for the review.

  6. Needed help to finish this, thanks Dutch. Very tough and a bit of a grind, but I enjoyed most of those I managed, though some of it was lost on me.

    Thanks to proXimal also.

  7. Very tough and only finished half (in, for me, 5* time) before resorting to the hints. Far too obscure for me so definitely agree with 5* for difficulty but only 1* for enjoyment, I’m afraid. There’s always next week!!

  8. There were about three clues I could solve directly, and after that this was a real crossword puzzle where only the letters already in the grid made any progress possible. Many thanks to proXimal, and my sympathies to anyone who has other things to do on a Friday.

    Even with the help of word lists I stalled without solving 27a, 16d or 23d; thanks to Dutch for shedding light in my darkness.

    Favourite:13a. Can’t argue with 5* difficulty since I couldn’t solve it. But given the clues that defeated me, I have to give 5 for enjoyment too. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t like a challenge.

  9. As a general whinge. Scratch golfers ‘expect ‘ to make par. The rest of us dream about it. I do get a bit annoyed when knowledge of the correct meaning of a word makes solving a puzzle harder not easier. Am I alone?

  10. Managed most of this with a struggle. Defeated by 1d who is obscure and 8a which is not really a fashion house . I hoped Givenchy, a proper fashion house, would fit in at first but of course it didn’t. I also do not understand 27a. I got the word play but the answer doesn’t make you scoff – only, perhaps, to feel hungry enough to scoff it.
    A convoluted Friday!

    1. ‘Scoff’ here is a noun (meaning food or a meal) and the wordplay makes (for) you (i.e. the solver) scoff.

  11. The SW corner eventually defeated us, 27a being the No.1 villain but the name for the drink in 26a (although we got it) was new to us too.
    We did think there were some really good clever clues such as 16d and appreciated identifying the mini theme.
    Thanks ProXimal and Dutch.

  12. Certainly didn’t get to the end of this one unaided. Missed out totally on 8a which may well be a fashion brand but doesn’t fit with my concept of a ‘fashion house’, 27a where I didn’t know the nationality of the required actor and 23d which had me looking for an entirely different type of ruminant. Couldn’t parse the first part of 18a and didn’t spot the significance of 16d.

    You win, proXimal! Many thanks to Dutch (and Gazza) for making sense of it all for us less capable solvers.

  13. Just finished it eventually, in between putting up the Christmas decorations. A very tough but fair Toughie. Many thanks proXimal. I liked the three kings clues and 27a, among many others.

  14. I spent a good while trying to locate the third wise man, I ruled out Balthazar due to the lack of a z, but I thought ‘Patisar’ (an alternative name apparently)might be there in Nina disguise. Did anyone else look for /find the missing Magus?

    1. See preamble. The 3 magi occur in the answer, in the clue, and as part of the wordplay in 3 of the clues mentioned.

  15. I come a bit late to the party, not having started until this morning and working on it off and on during the day. Filled the grid correctly but 26a was my last in and a guess because nothing else would fit. However, even with Dutch’s help I still don’t get it. I understand the parsing but why ‘tea’?

        1. Two parts: Maybe builder’s. Builder’s being offered as an example of a kind of tea. And rear coming out of outfit: the M (rear or last letter) removed from team – synonym for outfit.

            1. Yep, in a mug, usually with the teabag still in – Sainsbury’s Red Label more often than not.

              It’s just strong and not fancy.

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