Toughie 2290 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2290

Toughie No 2290 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

A fine example of what a Toughie, especially a Friday Toughie, should be. I did wonder whether it was “just me”, being the stand-in blogger’s stand-in, doing my first ‘on the day’ blog for a very long time – but decided that it is definitely Notabilis being as cleverly tricky as only he knows how. After consulting with Gazza, there is, as we’d expect, a Notabilis Nina – there are quite a few creatures  ASS APE STAG BEE RAT GOOSE and COW appearing in plain sight at the start of various of the solutions

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Read aloud savage line 14a (6)
BISTRO Homophones (read aloud) of synonyms for savage and line produce another type of 14a

4a    Bull has arrow’s tip removed, next to bow for red giant (8)
ARCTURUS The Zodiac sign of the bull without the A (arrow’s ‘tip’ removed) goes after (next to) a bow shape

9a    Ultimately pressed for time in quixotic task (6)
ERRAND The ultimate letter of an adjective meaning wandering in search of adventure, quixotic, is changed to the ultimate letter of pressed

10a    Classified advertisement plugged by fancy stores (8)
ASSORTED An anagram (fancy) of STORES inserted into (plugged by) an abbreviated advertisement

12a    Salt Lake City, not even parts seen in blackout (4)
BAKU The odd (not even) parts of BlAcKoUt – the salt lake in question being the world’s largest lake

13a    Morally unacceptable idea one isn’t involved in (3,2)
NOT ON Remove the I (one isn’t involved) from an idea

14a    Problem of friction sparing hotel restaurant (4)
CAFE Remove the H (sparing hotel) from an irritation caused by rubbing (problem of friction)

17a    Remarkable honesty, yours and mine included, marks ____? (6,6)
HONOUR SYSTEM An anagram (remarkable) of HONESTY into which is inserted (included) a way of saying yours and mine, the result finished with an abbreviation for Marks

20a    Support the object with promise to pay underhand as a good sign? (12)
PROPITIOUSLY A support, an object of a verb, a promise to pay and another way of saying underhand

23a    Adult games with kiss as climax (4)
APEX The abbreviation for adult, the abbreviation for games at school and the letter that represents a kiss

24a    I’m thinking Nancy’s friend is not unsavoury? (5)
UMAMI An interjection expressing hesitation or doubt (I’m thinking) followed by the French (as used in Nancy) word for friend

25a    Crack motor-racing team not lapped by European twice (4)
QUIP Remove the Es (not lapped by European twice) from a motor racing (or other sports) team

28a    Deform egg or lay monstrous one (8)
GARGOYLE An anagram (deform) of EGG OR LAY

29a    Give nod to Charlie and Jack released from prisons here and in N America (6)
ANOINT To mark as a successor (give nod to) – the letters C and J are removed (Charlie and Jack released) from two informal terms for prisons, the first one here and the second one in North America

30a    Cavalier treatment of soil tray (8)
ROYALIST An anagram (treatment) of SOIL TRAY

31a    Camp for men only curtailed vision (6)
STAGEY An adjective meaning for men only followed by two of the letters (curtailed) of a three-letter synonym for vision


1d    Critic of broadcaster admitting resistance, a measure of it (8)
BEERBOHM An informal term for the BBC (broadcaster) ‘admitting’ the abbreviation for Resistance, the result followed by the name of the SI Unit of Electrical Resistance. I knew of this person as a caricaturist but apparently, he was also the drama critic for the Saturday Review

2d    Out to make an impression? (8)
STRIKING A double definition

3d    Indian bigwig almost arrested (4)
RANI Almost all of a term meaning arrested

5d    How long computer takes, especially beginning in frozen state? (8,4)
RESPONSE TIME Insert into another word for hoarfrost or frozen dew, an abbreviation for especially and a synonym for beginning

6d    After start of trial there’s endless time for K (4)
THOU A truncated (endless) period of time goes after the ‘start’ of Trial to give an abbreviation for a number represented by a K

7d    Mean person to be advised that low-quality paper is used for wrapping (6)
RATBAG A low quality-newspaper is used ‘for wrapping’ the abbreviated way of saying ‘to be advised’

8d    Saturated soil study (6)
SODDEN Some soil or ground plus a study

11d    Sentimentality tennis player harbours to embellish ‘plucky’ reaction when afraid? (5-7)
GOOSE-PIMPLES A slang term for sentimentality (3), the surname of a female professional tennis player from the 1990s, into which is inserted a slang term meaning to decorate in a flashy way (embellish)

15d    Broth with top third skimmed, vegetarian’s base for suitable protein source (5)
QUORN Remove the first two letters (top third ‘skimmed’) from a type of broth and add the ‘base’ of vegetarian

16d    Is tent forgotten when setting up fanciful small part of atmosphere? (5)
XENON The letters IS TENT are ‘forgotten’ or removed from a reversal (setting up) of another way of saying fanciful or not real

18d    Impudent tot interrupts a choral session (8)
ASSUMING A synonym for tot in the sense of adding up ‘interrupts’ A (from the clue) and a choral session

19d    Fellow feeling wary, holding bug well up (8)
SYMPATHY A way of feeling wary ‘holding’ reversals (up) of a verb meaning to bug or listen in and an interjection meaning well

21d    To arrange exhibition on walls needs a bit more than this large shed (6)
HANGAR This large shed is obtained from a two-word expression meaning to arrange an exhibition on walls without its final letter (needs a bit more)

22d    Shop to serve as carrier for China? (6)
BETRAY Shop here is a verb meaning to inform on someone – split 2,4 your solution might well serve as a carrier for a china tea service

26d    Hood caught by hunter at night (4)
COWL The abbreviation for caught in cricket scoring followed by a night time hunter

27d    Computer services supporting organisation of global security measure (4)
UNIT The abbreviation for computer services goes under (supporting in a Down clue) the abbreviation for the organisation of global security

19 comments on “Toughie 2290

  1. Many thanks to crypticsue for stepping in as a last-minute replacement. Dutch is away and Tilsit, who was due to replace him, was called away for an urgent scan.

    Having said that, what a privilege it must be to review and explain such an excellent Toughie. Well done to all those who finish this puzzle without recourse to these excellent hints.

  2. Notabilis has given us another superb Toughie. Thanks to him and to CS for standing in for the stand-in.
    I spent some time trying to make ‘stalag’ work for 31a but my last answer was 6d where I didn’t initially write in my suspected answer because I couldn’t see what an old form of ‘you’ had to do with K – d’oh!
    Too many choice choices to list them all but I’ll mention 9a, 13a and 23a with my favourite being 21d.

  3. Managed most of this on my own but had to enlist Mr Google’s help with both the critic and the salt lake city. Made a complete dog’s breakfast of 29a and, like Gazza, spent quite a while wondering how to equate the answer to 6d with K!
    My favourite was 2d.

    Thanks to Notabilis for the workout and to CS for stepping in to man the fort.

    PS Any hints on the Nina – or is it just the profusion of wee beasties?

  4. Maybe good for “professional solvers” but not a pleasure for likes of me! Too obscure and difficult. Highly frustrating when reduced to only one cryptic crossword that is doable. This paper needs to add a couple of others to make it worth buying if it’s going to have this level of difficulty for its only other one.

    1. Welcome to the blog

      None of us are ‘professional solvers’ but several of us have been solving for a very long time, which makes us ‘experienced’ not ‘experts’

      Proper Toughies like this one are very rare these days and do give a lot of solving pleasure to those of us who from time to time relish something more difficult

  5. Excellent puzzle which was intriguingly difficult. Same hold-up here re 31a/6d. Familiar with 4a, but not 1d (cheated, such answers are my bugbear) nor 31a
    Particularly liked 22d, 13a & 6d but top spot goes to 16d
    Thanks to CS for stepping in and thanks to Notabilis for a great challenge

  6. Guessed both answers in 15 and 16d but as i couldn’t parse them, I left them blank.
    Never got 6d either.
    No other trouble to declare.
    Thanks to Notabilis and to CS.

  7. Firstly, thanks to the amazing Crypticsue who stepped in when I got the call from the hospital, and I’m jealous she got to tackle such a lovely beast of a puzzle.

    A true Toughie from one of the best setters around – newer setters should learn and admire all the constructions and the smooth clever deceptive reading of the clues.

    Sorry to disagree with Mr/Mrs/Ms Kyle – the Toughie puzzle is advertised as the toughest around and being able to face these puzzles is why I have a subscription.

    Bring on the next Notabilis!

  8. This was difficult. At first I thought I’d get nowhere but with electronic help I almost finished it. 6d and 29a defeated me; I really couldn’t understand the clue for the latter. Despite the “cheating” I still got a lot of satisfaction from watching the grid gradually fill up. My admiration for CS who, I’m sure, solved it all on her own, knows no bounds! Thank you.

  9. I only dabble in Toughies, and usually leave Fridays well alone.

    Today I had a change of tack and allowed myself a little electronic help from the get-go. A couple of anagrams got me on the road and when I had ????b?h? for 1d, knew it wasn’t English, so I allowed myself to search for that. As soon as I saw the answer, I could parse it, but didn’t know the name. I got the back half of 20a, and could picture a word meaning ‘good sign’ but couldn’t bring it to mind, so I searched that as well. Of course I knew it as soon as I saw it!

    As soon as I had solved ‘Nancy’s friend’, again, I knew there was a word with that ending for one of the tastes, but couldn’t see past ‘swami’. Those helped me to finish the rest without aid, leaving just one, 29a. I had to come here for this one, as I just couldn’t see it. My excuses are: a) I thought ‘can’ was American and b) I don’t see the answer as being ‘give nod to’.

    So, my advice to those who shy away from these ***** puzzles, is to give them a go. You never know how far you might get. Just allow yourself a little leg up. If you don’t have a handheld solver, take a look at

    Thanks to Notabilis and CS.

  10. Right then – against my better judgement I had a go at this one.
    I know that I can’t do Toughies let alone Friday ones but I also know that the only ones that I stand a hope in hell of getting any answers are those by Notalbilis and Micawber so I had a go.
    I did get some answers but not very many.
    I haven’t looked at the hints, or comments, let alone any answers yet, but I’m getting pretty close to doing all three.
    I decided very early on that 30a was an anagram – I also discovered a little bit later that it wasn’t ‘solitary’ – I thought it might just about do as someone who was rather out on his own, therefore cavalier.
    Oh well – I’m really just not Toughie material. :sad:

  11. Yay, 5* oooh yeah

    Love looking on here post toughler and seeing it as a 5*, rain or shine, I’m a system addict

    Cheers all

  12. Thoroughly enjoyed and eventually got all the parsing sorted out but it did take a long time. We looked for a NINA but failed to find it. 11d and 15d were the two where it took ages to sort out the parsing although we had latched onto the right answers relatively quickly. We are in awe of the cleverness of our fellow Kiwi.
    Thanks Notabilis and CS.
    Ps. Should not ‘plucky’ be part of the definition for 11d in that the answer has the appearance of a plucked bird?

    1. Indeed it should – and is now underlined – I think I was so relieved to have worked out the complications of the clue, I didn’t concentrate when originally doing the definition underlining.

  13. This was Notabilis at his toughest, and I enjoyed grappling with his clues, many of which were ingenious. After completing it eventually I checked with the Blog, expecting to be informed that other people had found it easier than I did, but this clearly wasn’t the case. 24a was a new word to me, but I worked it out eventually, as I couldn’t parse ‘imams,’ which would have been the more obvious answer. Notabilis’ clues aren’t perhaps as humorous as some Toughie setters, but they’re carefully worked out, and not simply bursting with anagrams and cliches. I liked 6d, 11d and 17a in particular, and my last one in was 16d. I do sympathise with C. Kyle, though, as this one was certainly Tougher than the Rest, as Bruce Springsteen might say. Thanks to Notabilis and indeed all the Toughie setters for providing us with such delightful entertainment in a time of national uncertainty.

  14. Well, without electronic help I ended up with 25A, 29A, and 6D unsolved and a correct bung-in for 16D, plus a couple I couldn’t parse, so I’m not at all displeased even though it took several tries over the course of the day. Thanks to CS and Notabilis.

  15. The Toughie is a bit above my level really but sometimes I like the challenge.20 out of 28 say is good for me.I am trying to learn from Big Dave’s blog.12 Across say. I took Salt Lake City as the Salt Lake City and so got stuck.The capital letters fooled me.The answer is BAKU in BLACKOUT. You feel such a fool when you learn the answer.I resolve not to get fooled next time but I expect I will. Norwich Chris

    1. Welcome to the blog

      I have edited your name and parts of your comment as using capital letters on the internet is considered to be shouting

  16. My degree in chemistry should have helped with 16d, but didn’t, so many thanks to crypticsue and to Notabilis for the real 5star Friday workout!

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