Toughie 2331 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2331

Toughie No 2331 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment **

I guess there are no rules as to what distinguishes a Toughie from a back-page puzzle, but Giovanni seems to think that it means plumbing the depths of the BRB for obscure words and meanings. As far as I am concerned this makes for a very dull puzzle, others may have a different opinion.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Reporting to greatly admired person set back the little guy (8)
UNDERDOG: a word meaning reporting to is followed by the reversal (set back) of an “admired person”

6a    Sort of hoax used by Napoleonic soldier (6)
KIDNEY: this word which can mean a sort or kind comes from a verb meaning to hoax followed by a leading Napoleonic general who met his Waterloo at Waterloo!

9a    Second church with distinctive doctrine comes from this? (6)
SCHISM: S(econd) and CH(urch) are followed by a distinctive doctrine gives a breach, especially in the unity of a church

10a    Instruments independent business expert used to probe planet (8)
MARIMBAS: put I(ndependent) and a business qualification inside a planet

11a    Smart new nuts presenting phoney arguments (5,3)
STRAW MEN: an anagram (nuts) of SMART NEW

12a    Change not right when fool comes in showing conceit (6)
VANITY: drop the R(ight) from a verb meaning to change or modify and put what remains around (when … comes in) a fool

13a    Quins I see frolicking with a joy, no end — something indescribable (2,2,4,4)
JE NE SAIS QUOI: an anagram (frolicking) of QUINS I SEE with A JO[Y] without its final letter (no end)

16a    Man with attitude — one introduced to bring equilibrium (12)
COUNTERPOISE: a man used in board games is followed by an attitude into which I (one) is inserted (introduced)

19a    Capital was harsh after revolution (6)
WARSAW: WAS followed by a word meaning harsh, all reversed (after revolution)

21a    Device in circuit, sort to melt with heat (8)
RHEOSTAT: an anagram (to melt) of SORT with HEAT

23a    Theatre skill with extremes of eloquence and clever talk (8)
REPARTEE: a type of theatre in which a group of actors perform a number of different plays followed by a skill and the outer letters (extremes) of E[loquenc]E

24a    Noble Italian poet losing first love (6)
ARISTO: drop the first O (love) from the surname of an Italian poet (1474–1533) that I had to look up

25a    African with no audacity about to go into retreat (6)
KENYAN: a three-letter word meaning no followed by a word meaning audacity without the Latin abbreviation for about (about to go) all reversed (retreat)

26a    Set of records offering ridiculous detail in which a folio is buried (4,4)
DATA FILE: an anagram (ridiculous) of DETAIL around (in which … is buried) the A from the clue and F(olio)


2d    Subtlety of seductive appeal engaging church in US city (6)
NICETY: A two-letter word (not an abbreviation) meaning seductive appeal around (engaging) the Church of England all inside a US city

3d    Female slave in South Africa overlooked by priest (5)
ELIZA: the name of the female slave from Uncle Tom’s Cabin (a book I read over sixty years ago so I had to check this name) comes from the IVR code for South Africa (which is the abbreviation of the Afrikaans) preceded (overlooked) by an Old Testament priest

4d    Mistresses minded home naughtily — no husband in sight (4-5)
DEMI-MONDE: an anagram (naughtily) of MINDED [H]OME without (no … in sight) the H(usband)

5d    Pert girls showing endless pluck (7)
GAMINES: a word meaning pluck without its final letter (endless)

6d    Novosibirsk? Snob is upset with this Russian place (5)
KIROV: NOVOSIBIRSK is an anagram (upset) of SNOB IS with this Russian place

7d    French girl having party with skimpy attire — what they have in Paris! (9)
DOMINIQUE: a two-letter party followed by a skimpy skirt and the French (in Paris) for what

8d    Demand made by ditched lover maybe leading to lawsuit (8)
EXACTION: a former (ditched) lover followed by a lawsuit

13d    Old soldiers show disapproval with leader deserting in cold month having lost heart? (9)
JANISSARY: this soldier of the old Turkish footguards (not plural as the clue suggests) is created by putting a way to show disapproval without its initial letter (leader) inside a winter moth without its middle letter (having lost heart)

14d    I can talk passionately about home finally provided for tramp (9)
ITINERANT: I from the clue, a can and a verb meaning to talk passionately around the final letter of [hom]E

15d    Number getting beaten when naughty supplied with words of caution (4,4)
NOTA BENE: the two-letter abbreviation for number followed by an anagram (when naughty) of BEATEN

17d    Shade of blue one had briefly observed as traveller in space (7)
PERSEID: a dark greyish-blue colour followed by I (one) and the shortened version (briefly) of had

18d    This writer penning a number of books, foremost in literature (6)
MANTEL: this winner of the Booker Prize in 2009 and 2012 is derived by putting the two-letter first person pronoun (this writer) around (penning) the A from the clue and one of the collections of books of the bible and finishing with the initial letter (foremost) of L[iterature]

20d    Old council gets success with volunteers brought aboard (5)
WITAN: put a success around the former name of The Army Reserve (volunteer soldiers)

22d    Firm is foremost in Savile Row (5)
STIFF: the initial letter (foremost for the second time in three clues) of S[avile] followed by a row or argument

Not my favourite puzzle, as you have probably realised by now.


25 comments on “Toughie 2331

  1. I thought perhaps it was the cryptic grey matter being another year older that made today’s back pager of a difficulty I’d expect later in the week rather than on a Tuesday and then I turned to the Toughie

    As BD says, you do expect Giovanni to give us a crossword filled with words we may or may not know and have to read the clue very carefully to get to them. In several cases today, I had to work out the word from the definition and checking letters and then mutter over the clue until I worked out what was going on. Not my idea of a birthday treat

    Thanks to Giovanni for the extended trawl of my memory banks and to BD for the review and my birthday banner.

  2. Apart from some obscurities (like the writer, the space traveller and the kidney) for which I needed internet research, Giovanni seems to be on a French/Mediterranean kick today. Left half went in quite quickly and the right pushed the solving time out to 3*. No stand out favourite but 14d comes close. Overall I’d agree with you BD as to 2* for enjoyment. But thanks to DG in any event.

  3. Not my cup of tea at all – dry, dusty and top heavy with obscurities.
    23a won the only smile from me.

    To copy Wahoo – thanks to DG in any event. Also thanks to BD for confirming that 13d should be singular and for the parsing of 17d – haven’t heard of that shade of blue.

  4. Giovanni is well known for his extensive vocabulary but also for the precision and accuracy of his clueing. So what is going on in 13d. Can one assume that we have to have the plural “Old soldiers show” in order for the wordplay to make sense – even tho it makes nonsense of the definition??
    Perhaps we should be told.

    But I enjoyed solving it so thanks to Giovanni and to BD for the blog.

  5. I thought that this pangram was a bit of a slog with not a lot of laughs. I can’t explain the singular/plural problem in 13d – Janissary can be an adjective, as in Janissary recruitment or Janissary coup, but I don’t think that it works in that way here.
    My favourite clue was 1a.
    Thanks to Giovanni and BD.

    Happy Birthday to CS.

  6. I do like a challenge, but this was a challenge for the wrong reasons for me. Too much obscure GK required and I lost interest in the end. Not much fun to be had
    Can’t say I enjoyed it, but respectful thanks to Giovanni and thanks to BD for trawling through it

  7. Never occurred to me that it was a Giovanni. Thought it was Chalicea.
    Liked the French feel about it.
    Had to check a couple of my answers on the net.
    Thanks to the Don and to BD for the review.

    1. No, not me! We each only appear about once every month but even the other Numpty solver (the CHA of Chalicea) said “Is this one of yours?” We too found it quite tough for a Tuesday. Could that be because of Giovanni’s including the pangram? Our editor has prompted us that he would prefer us not to use them since they lead to some fairly obscure words and tend to be the crosswords that most solvers grouch about. Thanks, of course, to Giovanni and Big Dave.

  8. When we see the name Giovanni we always do a quick check that we have our reference sources close to hand. They were certainly needed for this puzzle. We did eventually get everything sorted.
    Thanks Giovanni and BD,
    Happy Birthday Sue.

  9. If there’s one crossword setter, other than Beam/RayT, who’s puzzles I always look forward to tackling it’s Giovanni’s. They rarely disappoint and there’s always something new or a bit obscure to tax the old grey matter.Today was no exception. I really liked 6 down, which in turn helped greatly with the solving of 6 across – a word I often forget that has more meanings than just the one. 11a was a new expression to me, but easily worked out. 20 down was dug up from the far and deep depths of my memory and easily solved from the wording. 13 has to be my favourite clue; never heard of the soldier before and I needed to consult Google in order to find him – now there’s a word to casually drop into a conversation one day ;-) In all a very satisfying solve, completed at no real great pace as so much else had been going on here in between ‘sittings’. My thanks to Mr Manley and also to Big Dave.

  10. I’m afraid I didn’t like this at all. 5* difficulty, a grudging 1 for enjoyment
    Thanks anyway

  11. I agree with the comment about Giovanni plumbing the depths of the BRB to find obscure words and meanings, I prefer not to have to delve into dictionary corner every few minutes; a dull crossword with little need for it to be so.

  12. In order for me to enjoy the challenge of a crossword, and particularly a ‘toughie’, I need to have confidence that I could, and probably should, through perseverance be able to complete it (without recourse to the hints). Clues like 6a rattles this confidence. I did not know the General, and nor did I have any idea of the association between the definition and ‘sort’. (I, too liked 6d, but it was no help whatsoever for me in solving 6a). I have deep respect for those who enjoy the challenge of these off the beaten track obscurities, but alas, I am not among them. Thanks to all.

    1. I had exactly the same reaction to 6a, Tony. I can work out most obscure words, sometimes with a little help from aids such as Crossword Solver, Anagram Solver, One Across and Chambers big red book, but this one simply wasn’t soluble to me, as I’d never heard of General Ney, and eventually plumped for ‘kidder’ which more or less means ‘hoax.’
      As several other contributors have noted, such obscure references diminish one’s enjoyment. Elgar, Osmosis, Notabilis and Elkamere set tough crosswords, but they are always fair and normally a delightful challenge to complete. A puzzle like this would put new solvers off Toughies. Sorry, Giovanni !

  13. A joke’s a joke but bu##er this for a pantomime. I spent more time looking things up than I did actually solving the answers using my own limited vocabulary. Thanks Big D & a belated happy birthday to CS (It’s a very special birthday for Mrs Spindrift today).

  14. I don’t know what everyone is complaining about. This was a pretty average Toughie for me; I expect to have to look things up. I have only two beefs: the singular/plural confusion in 13d and that I think that 3d should have indicated that we were looking for Zuid Afrika, not the English.

  15. Can’t 13d can be used as a plural noun, as in the 13d stormed the castle? The only unknown for me was the Italian poet, but still was slow and didn’t see 6a without the hint. I quite enjoy having to dig into the memory bank – variety being the spice etc.

  16. I haven’t had time to solve this one, but have quickly read the review and comments – which I always find interesting and sometimes educational. One thing occurred to me.

    In the latest DT Puzzles Newsletter it reports that some entries in the October clue-writing competition used a definition for TRAIPSE which fell foul of the “offensive term rule” (which is fair enough). I was just wondering, was it the same definition (the noun) as the one used in 14d above. Does anybody know?

  17. Excellent stuff from the Don, as ever, covering a broad array of subject matter, all masterfully clued. No recourse to any dictionary for me, which can’t always be said. Anyway, I’m always happy to attempt to learn new words, even sciency ones!

    Thanks to Don for the puzzle and BD for the blog, especially the parsing of KENYAN, where I missed the ‘about to go’.

  18. I know I’m a fortnight behind, but I hope this is seen by some folk at least….
    I enjoy Giovanni crosswords, I find if I stare long enough the cluing is always fair. I take the point about obscurities, but in this particular effort there were no new words or references for me – I’m surprised that Ney isn’t better known, and the colour perse comes up often enough, I’d have thought. Each to their own, though, I do enjoy reading the comments, and thanks to BD for the blog – it must be hard going if you haven’t enjoyed the crossword. Most thanks to Giovanni, of course, you do have some fans!

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