Toughie 2310 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2310

Toughie No 2310 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A punchy puzzle by Sparks with some great wordplay and some new vocab for me. I remember my thermodynamics, but it would seem I need to brush up on methods of controlling locks, as well as molluscs, woods and Swedes. The Nina, though, can be nicely mitigated by 14d.

As always, the definitions are underlined. The hints and tips are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, but you can always reveal the answer by clicking on the row 8 buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Swede‘s routine chat about interrupting drinkers (8)
RUTABAGA: A 3-letter tedious routine, then the reversal (about) of an informal word for chat inside an abbreviation for (non-)drinkers

5a    Military state to argue against being taken over after evacuation (6)
SPARTA: To argue, then reverse the outer letters of against (being taken over after evacuation)

9a    Grill lawyers with question surrounding bishop (3-1-1)
BAR-B-Q: A group of lawyers and the abbreviations for bishop and question

10a    Molluscs quietly slithering around doorstep (9)
PTEROPODS: The musical abbreviation for quietly and an anagram (slithering around) of DOORSTEP

12a    Negative intelligence gathering following blunder showing pseudo-irony? Not so (3-7)
NON-FERROUS: A 2-letter answer meaning negative, then a 4-letter word for intelligence or common sense goes around (gathering) the abbreviation for following and a verb meaning to blunder

13a    UK city behind housing start for refugees (4)
BRUM: A behind or bottom contains (housing) the first letter of (start for) refugees to give an informal name of a UK city

15a    Interchange name in heartless dispute (11)
ALTERNATION: Put the abbreviation for name into (in) a word for dispute without its central letter (heartless)

16a    Good American given CBE stepped backwards? (3)
BAD: Step one letter backwards in the alphabet for each of the 3 letters CBE to give a paradoxical American slang word for good

17a    Time, seconds, invested in Edgar Wallace mysteries (3)
DAY: The second letters (seconds invested in … ) in the last three words in the clue

18a    Belgium into popular foreign beer unable to be scrapped? (11)
INALIENABLE: The abbreviation for Belgium goes into a charade of a word meaning popular, a word meaning foreign, and a word meaning beer

20a    Taunt grown-up over commonest trait of feeble-mindedness (4)
GIBE: A reversal of a 3-letter adjective that can mean grown up or tall, plus the most commonly occurring letter (trait) in ‘feeble-mindedness’

21a    English stopping impressionist papers about to be released (10)
DISENGAGED: The 3-letter abbreviation for English goes inside a reversal (about) of a French impressionist painter plus an abbreviation for identity papers

24a    Tense appeal with regards to rag causing retaliation (3,3,3)
TIT FOR TAT: The abbreviation for tense, a 2-letter word for appeal, a preposition that can mean with regards to, and an old rag

26a    Robust, endless source of decking wood (5)
IROKO: An adjective meaning robust (like a metal) without the last letter (endless), then a boxing term that can result in decking. A clever extended definition


27a    New hub about to be advanced (6)
RECENT: A word for hub where the last two letters meaning about are moved to the front (to be advanced)

28a    A genius being skinned by mug (8)
EINSTEIN: Being without the outer letters (skinned) plus a mug


1d    Artist once game to conquer mountains (6)
RUBENS: A 2-letter abbreviation for the game with funny balls is on top of (conquers) a Scottish word for mountains

2d    Mathematician missing grand Italian city (5)
TURIN: British mathematician instrumental in breaking the Enigma code, without the final G (missing grand)

3d    British heat waves stopping match — leave it (10)
BEQUEATHAL: The abbreviation for British, then an anagram (waves) of HEAT inside (stopping) a verb meaning match

4d    Go about in yacht, picking prime locations (3)
ACT: The prime-number-located letters in yacht

6d    Pressure to quarrel and perhaps barge to the front? (4)
PROW: The abbreviation for pressure and another word for quarrel

7d    Ring road diverted north of European river (3,6)
RIO GRANDE: An anagram (diverted) of RING ROAD goes above (north) of the abbreviation for European


8d    Competently keeping up trifle collection (8)
ASSEMBLY: A 4-letter word meaning competently contains a reversal (keeping up) of a verb meaning to play or trifle

10d    Painter left by one stopping another that’s run ahead (11)
PORTRAITIST: A nautical term for left, then the Roman numeral for one goes into another (word for the definition) in which the abbreviation for run has moved towards the beginning (that has … ahead)

11d    Presentation of two thirds of Auntie’s goals? (11)
EDUTAINMENT: The BBC’s mission is to “inform, educate and entertain”. The answer is an ugly portmanteau of the last two

14d    Sprung control mechanisms for locks (5,5)
KIRBY GRIPS: Cryptic definition for springy things that keep hair in place (I had no idea they were called this)

15d    Maintaining the heat, key help to intercept agents from the south (9)
ADIABATIC: A reversal (from the south) of a keyboard key that shifts the cursor horizontally plus another word for help inside (to intercept) an American intelligence agency

16d    Beggar happier right away when accepting pound (8)
BLIGHTER: Happier or more cheerful without the abbreviation for right, instead accepting the abbreviation for pound

19d    Lie by associate undermining promotion (6)
ADJOIN: A verb meaning associate or connect goes underneath (undermining) a promotion or commercial

22d    Manual covering opening of game and the score thereat? (5)
GLOVE: The first letter (opening) of game, and the (tennis) score at that point in time

23d    Where to go for a trick (4)
JOHN: Two meanings, the first a convenience

25d    Alter egos seem progressively mature (3)
AGE: Take progressive letters (first, second, third) of the first 3 words in the clue

I liked the devices used in 25d, 16a, 20a and 27a. I think I enjoyed 23d most, and 28a next. Which clues did you like?

26 comments on “Toughie 2310

  1. I thought this was the most difficult crossword anywhere for quite some time. I did check it wasn’t ‘just me’ – it was apparently “him – with knobs on” but I did enjoy the long battle, especially when I spotted the Nina. I think you have to be a certain age to remember when 14ds were called that

    Thanks to Sparks for the really good stretching of the cryptic grey matter and to Dutch for the blog

    1. 14d is still the term being used for our 4yo’s ballet show earlier this year.

      Thanks Dutch and others for the explanations and commentary. Given comments on the difficulty level, this clearly isn’t one for me — but I still find reading about it enlightening and enjoyable.

      Have a good weekend, all. I’m currently in a cycle of frequent refreshes of the Puzzled Pint site, to have a go at this month’s location puzzle once it’s published, ahead of Tuesday’s gatherings.

  2. I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand there were no less than six answers that I hadn’t heard of (including the 1a swede which is apparently specifically North American) which made it seem more like a Giovanni Toughie and which made my solving process quite disjointed with many consultations of the BRB needed.
    On the other hand there are lots of enjoyable and inventive clues, including the construct at 25d (progressively) which was new to me. There are also two good Ninas.
    I gave ticks to 13a, 16a, 28a, 6d and 11d but my favourite was the aforementioned 25d.
    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

    1. I hadn’t spotted the Down Nina although I did spend quite a while looking at the columns to see whether I could find anything – didn’t think to go down the middle in the same was as the Across Nina

    2. 1a appears in the ingredients list for Branston pickle, which is where I first came across it.

  3. A proper tussle which didn’t really float my boat ***** / ** for me
    Isn’t 9a just made up? It can be (8) or (3) or even (1,1,1), but (3-1-1)? I can’t find that in any dictionary, not even online. Also not at all convinced by the 25d ‘progressive’ [*edit* – I see I am alone on that one!]
    Many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for some much-needed nudges

      1. Strangely, it’s not in Chambers online, Collins Big Blue Book, Cambridge nor Mirriam-Webster – I sometimes wish there was only one *definitive* dictionary, but I accept that Chambers lays down the law here

  4. This was a stinker! The moment my electronic device spat out 10a I knew I was in for a struggle. However, with bung ins, inspired guesses and the aforementioned help I was only beaten by 2. The first was16a, so I didn’t get the Nina and the second 23d. I am overcome with admiration for Dutch. For instance, I knew 1a but, for the life of me, couldn’t parse it. Well done!

  5. I needed a fair bit of help on this one. Many new words which weren’t easily (for me) derivable from the clues. 1a, 26a, 11d (horrid word), 14d. Not complaining because it was very satisfying solving all but the half dozen, or so, which eluded me. I needed your hints today, Dutch–thanks. 13a was chuckleworthy. 21a and 25d were my joint winners. I never spot ninas–grrrr!

  6. Very disappointing end to the week after three very successful solves. This was way beyond my capability and was 5*/1* for me, unfortunately, with several words that were total unknowns even when I saw the answers!! Not for me at all but, as I often say on Fridays, there’s always next week!!

  7. I got 16a wrong. I opted for bud as I have never heard the Americanism of the correct answer. I tend to agree with Gazza that this was a mixed bag mainly caused by a fair number of unknown words or words I have not come across for decades (hair clips). I was very uncertain of 13a (city) and 23d (trick) but guessed correctly. I had come across 1a a few years ago when trying to find out if Burns Night neeps were swedes or turnips. I think the answer is whichever is cheapest on 24th January!

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch for clarifying 16a

    1. Whoops! I should have written “cheaper” not “cheapest” – people in NZ might be looking!

      1. What! Surely you don’t mean us.
        We hadn’t noticed anyway as we were too busy tut-tutting over Gazza’s comment where he uses ‘less’ instead of ‘fewer’. :smile:

  8. Dear goodness – snowballs in hell spring to mind!
    The combined efforts of myself and Mr Google got me about halfway, whereupon I resorted to the hints and copious reveals.
    On the upside, I did immediately know the retaliation, the sprung control mechanisms and the genius!

    Sorry, Sparks, didn’t enjoy this one at all but profuse thanks to Dutch for filling in the many gaps.
    PS Could someone enlighten me about the down Nina – is it an IT term that I know nothing about?

  9. needed Dutch’s hints for this one not for the GK but for what seemed to me to be convoluted and vague clueing.

  10. This was a real struggle and much more than *** for me, but more or less got there in the end except for 23d which I just couldn’t see (took a punt on “goon”).

    Didn’t spot either Nina but can at least find the across one now.

    Favourites were 12a, 18a, 14d, 15d and 21d.

    Now for a restful weekend……

    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

  11. I got about three quarters of this before grinding to a halt. As is usually the case, when I realized I wasn’t going to able to finish, I largely lost the will to persevere and I gave up probably sooner than I should have. I thought there were lots of very clever clues, but there were too many things that I did not know (the lock mechanisms, the informal UK city, and others) that always detract from my enjoyment of a puzzle, and this was no exception. I don’t see any Ninas, but I may not have enough to make them apparent. Thanks anyway to Sparks, and Dutch.

  12. At the end we were struggling with 16a and then spotted the horizontal Nina which was a big help. The wordplay followed soon after with a real penny-drop moment. Quite a bit of investigoogling involved in sorting out some of the obscure words but we did eventually get everything sorted.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  13. Completed this one on a long flight yesterday. Fortunately I had the BRB at hand to teach me the molluscs and the wood and to provide assistance in a few other places. Eventually got the grid filled and everything parsed except 11d. I did know the 1a swede as he’s an Americanism found here in grocery store produce departments. I was impressed that 15d was defined correctly and happy to see more physics at 28a. Biggest smile for me was the penny drop at 13a, followed by the novel “… seen progressively” in 25a and the “manual covering” definition in 22d. Thanks to Sparks for the fun and to Dutch for the blog, especially the parsing of 11d and the illustration at 7d because it reminded me of a few great days spent backpacking around there.

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