Toughie 2186 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2186

Toughie No 2186 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A fun solve from Sparks with plenty of inventive cluing and clever definitions. Sparks often has a Nina and I did notice something interesting, something Sparky has – I’m wondering if there is more, and whether one of the answers is relevant.

As always, the definitions are underlined. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, and you can reveal the answers by clicking on the  Dog-ear rows 1 & 15 buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.

Many thanks to Deep Threat for blogging last week’s Friday Toughie.


1a    Noble archbishop gutted in high-level cover-up? (6)
EARLAP: A 4-letter noble plus archbishop with the central letters removed (gutted)

4a    Friend about to follow one who’s easily manipulated (6)
LAPDOG: A reversal (about) of a 3-letter friend plus a verb meaning to follow or tail

8a    Charles knocked around base labourer a long time ago (8)
HERACLES: An anagram (knocked) of CHARLES goes around the symbol for the base of natural logarithms. This alternative spelling threw me for a while.

10a    I’d agree no woman should be opposed (3-3)
YES-MAN: The opposites (should be opposed) of NO and WOMAN

11a    Flag from whiskey, getting behind (4)
WAFT: The character represented by the radio code Whiskey plus a word meaning behind, especially on a ship

12a    Calming down clumsy Russian cutting what’s on plate? (10)
REASSURING: An anagram (clumsy) of RUSSIAN goes inside (cutting) the number seen on a license plate

13a    Stooping wife facing OTT malevolent spells? (6,6)
DOUBLE WHAMMY: A 6-letter adjective meaning stooping or bent over, the abbreviation for wife, and an adjective that means OTT or overacting. The definition confused me, but it is straight from Chambers.

16a    Boy on back by you (6,6)
SECOND PERSON: A 3-letter word for boy or male child follows (on, in an across clue) a verb meaning to back or support and a preposition meaning by

20a    Drinks in filthy place with dreadful urinals outside (5,5)
RUSTY NAILS: A filthy place fit for pigs has an anagram (dreadful) of URINALS surrounding it (outside)

21a    Partly mark out round pods (4)
OKRA: Reverse hidden (partly … round)

22a    Old family doctor heading for Ipswich (6)
MEDICI: A 5-letter doctor plus the first letter of (heading for) Ipswich

23a    Payments from advice in dispatches (8)
STIPENDS: A 3-letter bit of advice goes inside (in) a verb meaning dispatches

24a    Butt boxer, say, that’s close (3-3)
DOG-END: What a boxer is a breed of, plus a word meaning close or finish

25a    Make attractive as wear and tear do? (6)
ENDEAR: Split (3,3), the answer indicates how wear and tear both finish with the same 3-letter combination


1d    Lift English tax, in part to be returned (8)
ELEVATOR: The abbreviation for English, then a sales tax goes inside the reversal (to be returned) of a part

2d    Cheerful jumbo heading off south of river (5)
RIANT: A 5-letter word for jumbo or super-large without the first letter (heading off) goes underneath (south of) the abbreviation for river

3d    Left in a butt, almost getting free (2,5)
AT LARGE: The abbreviation for left goes inside (in) A from the clue plus a 6-letter word for butt (of a a joke) without the last letter (almost)

5d    A flexible-sounding plant? (7)
ALYSSUM: A from the clue plus a homophone (sounding) of a word meaning flexible

6d    Killer from ancient city hiding in endless wasteland (9)
DESTROYER: An ancient Greek city goes inside (hiding in) an arid wasteland without the last letter (endless)

7d    After golf, wet snap may be so hard to define (6)
GRAINY: The letter corresponding to the radio code Golf, plus a possible characteristic of a wet snap

9d    Hearty entertainment as Senate is organised outside hotel (3,8)
SEA SHANTIES: An anagram (organised) of AS SENATE IS goes around (outside) the letter indicated by the international radio code hotel

14d    Tormenting, as crossword compilers are supposed to (9)
BESETTING: Split (2,7) this suggests what compilers should be doing

15d    Lawless controller of estate, say? (8)
JOYRIDER: A cryptic definition of one driving a car illegally

17d    Trick and get new fitting (7)
CONDIGN: A 3-letter informal verb meaning to trick, another informal verb meaning to get or understand, plus the abbreviation for new (a word I had to check)

18d    Die without one’s true love (7)
PASSION: A (4,2) phrasal verb meaning to die goes around (without) I from the clue

19d    Liquidised half of joint with sweet coating (6)
PUREED: The first half of a 6-letter joint (as in marijuana cigarette) goes inside (with … coating) an informal word for sweet or afters

21d    Daisy steers very well, avoiding poles (2-3)
OX-EYE: A 4-letter word for steers as in cattle, then a 3-letter word meaning ok or very well, removing the abbreviations for magnetic poles that are the last letters (avoiding poles)

I think my favourite was the hearty entertainment in 9d. I also liked the crosswordy 14d. Which clues did you like?

15 comments on “Toughie 2186

  1. Not the trickiest Sparks but the usual entertainment.

    I did notice the 13a in the top and bottom rows – not only the feature but also the double ‘words’ in the middle of the rows

    Hard to pick just one favourite so I’ll just say thank you to setter and blogger

  2. Great fun, as usual from Sparks – thanks to him and Dutch.
    Circling around rows 1 and 15 gives a succession of 13s.
    My ticks went to 10a, 25a, 18d and 21d.
    The hotel in 9d is from the Nato Phonetic Alphabet.

  3. Three new words to find room for in the old grey matter – 1a plus 2&17d. Also had to check on the required definition of 13a.

    Much to enjoy here with my top two being 25a & 14d.

    Thanks to Sparks (trust that both you and Sparky are ticking along nicely) and to Dutch for the blog – hope you enjoyed your hols and that the dogs survived in your absence!

    1. Thanks Jane, all my worries about the hols were unfounded, it was wonderful, just great skiing with the kids. I paced myself and enjoyed the whole week. Glorious sunshine helped.

      In in-laws managed to keep the dogs alive, though they now try to dig escape tunnels so they can go chase cows.

  4. Very pleased with myself – completed this entertaining puzzle unaided! Thanks Sparks and Dutch. 19d stood out for me and special mentions to 16a, 24a and 17d

  5. I thought this was a very challenging but hugely enjoyable puzzle. There were several points (the outset was one) where I thought I would have to give up and admit defeat, but in the end, 2d was my only failure. This was largely self inflicted because I had been too casual with 8a and entered the more usual version of the labourer, and not having heard of the cheerful definition in 2d, I was up the proverbial creek. Many thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  6. Once again: ditto to what Jane said. I did find this very tough but it was a very rewarding challenge.

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  7. Just not my day! Started with a flourish with 22a and 20a and then ground to a halt. Reading the hints I’m glad I did not waste any more time as so many of the answers were just not what I’d expect. 21a is a case in point. The answer could have been anything – peas for example. More palatable than the slimy vegetable offered just because it was a useful reverse lurker!

  8. A protracted solve / struggle with this one. Solved it in a pub with a variety of distractions and I won’t admit how many pints it took lest an intervention occurs.

    Without sounding too curmudgeonly, I wish some people would refrain from interpreting “Family Pub” as “let my kids create an adventure playground and career about as they see fit “. Wouldn’t have stood for it when mine were little. Oh well, probably getting old… rant over.

    Thanks to Dutch for the blog and to Sparks for the mental torture, enjoyable as it was.

  9. I printed this at work yesterday in a bit of a rush at lunchtime, intending to print the normal Friday cryptic. I was surprised how slowly I started, and after several goes at it I finally finished just before lights out, thinking “wow that was quite a tricky one”. Only when I checked the forum here to see how others found it did I suddenly realise I had printed the Toughie by mistake! Shows how unobservant I was since it was clearly stated at the top of the piece of paper i’d been looking at for quite a while.

    Anyway, it was an enjoyable challenge, and I learnt some new words at 1a, 2d and 17d, the latter two being my last two in, so all’s well that ends well. I do enjoy it when you can get the answer from a well crafted clue, even if you’re not familiar with the actual word, and then check the BRB to find you’re correct and have learned a new word.
    My favourite clue was 25a which caused me to grin on the train on the way home from work when the penny dropped.
    I didn’t spot the full nina but did notice the top and bottom line connections.
    Thanks to Sparks for the mental workout and to Dutch for the review. I agree with Dutch’s ratings.

  10. Didn’t get all the way there without some dictionary assistance, but did very much enjoy the challenge. I liked the extra feature too.

    Many thanks Sparks and Dutch.

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