Toughie 2338 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2338

Toughie No 2338 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Ah, Sparks having fun again. A very enjoyable puzzle. There is a theme indicated by a Nina. How many did you count? I’m not super-keen on the reverse Polish notation (1d, 3d, 6d, 14d), but plenty to make up for that, and the theme always raises a smile.

Definitions are underlined as usual. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, and you can reveal the answer by clicking on the see Column 1 buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


2a    Heightened perception of Veronica with lacy pants (12)
CLAIRVOYANCE: An anagram (pants) of VERONICA + LACY

8a    Muse about painting from the east (4)
CLIO: The Latin 1-letter abbreviation for about plus a reversal (from the east) of a type of painting

9a    Auction includes incentive to return ready to be fulfilled (8)
SATIABLE: An event where items are sold includes the reversal (to return) of a lure or incentive

10a    From which one could take off extremely significant rent following publicity (8)
AIRSTRIP: The outer letters (extremely) of significant plus a verb meaning rent or tear, all following a word meaning publicity or a commercial

11a    Cool look — male wearing a lead (6)
APLOMB: A short word meaning look plus the abbreviation for male is contained in (wearing) A from the clue plus the chemical symbol for lead

12a    Despite everything, don’t watch so much? (10)
REGARDLESS: Split the answer (6,4) to get the second meaning

13a    This will resolve drinker about drink (4-2)
TOSS-UP: Reversal (about) of a serious drinker plus a verb meaning to drink

16a    Misses good camera, one that’s been recalled (5)
GIRLS: The abbreviation for good, then the reversal (that’s been recalled) of an abbreviation for a type of camera plus the Roman numeral for one

17a    Ambassador stopping behind to try again (6)
REHEAR: The abbreviated title for an ambassador goes inside (stopping) a word meaning behind

18a    Bribe a vet with a new contract (10)
ABBREVIATE: An anagram (new) of BRIBE A VET + A

21a    Gaped at last, grey bearded (6)
YAWNED: The last letter (at last) of grey plus a word meaning bearded

23a    Officer material, leading soldier perhaps (8)
SERGEANT: A type of fabric plus our favourite 6-legged soldier

24a    Unconventional composer’s topless community work (8)
OUTREACH: A 5-letter word meaning unconventional or outrageous plus a German composer without the first letter (topless)

25a    Busy don instigating contract killing, all upfront (4)
DICK: A slang meaning of Busy. First letters of four words in the clue (… all upfront)

26a    Family minor going before head, getting anonymity (12)
NAMELESSNESS: A word that could mean family (definition 6 in Chambers), an adjective meaning minor, and a head or promintory


1d    Briefly wash uniform, bit on the outside (6)
SLUICE: The letter corresponding to the radio code Uniform has a word meaning a bit or a piece surrounding it (on the outside)

2d    Artist pores over board (9)
CONSTABLE: A word meaning pores over or studies plus a word meaning board

3d    Tick vehicle assistance boxes (6)
ACARID: A vehicle that a word meaning assistance contains (boxes)

4d    Plants derisive sign in front of American presidents (9,6)
RASPBERRY BUSHES: A sign (usually a noise) of disapproval plus a plural of an American president (well, there were two of them)

5d    Public projects for exiles (8)
OUTCASTS: A word meaning public or published plus a word meaning projects or throws

6d    Independent of, say, granny’s housing benefit (5)
AVAIL: The abbreviation for independent has around it (housing) a word meaning related to a grandparent (of, say, granny)

7d    Pass on unlimited rubbish with, ultimately, Windows Explorer (8)
COLUMBUS: A mountain pass, then a 6-letter word for rubbish famously used by our prime minister without it’s outer letters (unlimited), and the last letter (ultimately) of Windows

14d    Drunk coughs up, covering offensive players overseas (5,4)
SPLIT ENDS: A 3-letter word for drunk that a word meaning pays money or coughs up is covering

15d    Clear up blood extractor doctor dropped in surgical instruments (8)
TENACULA: A reversal (up) of a 3-letter word meaning to clear or earn, then a vampire without the abbreviation for doctor at the start

16d    Arrange in order to host university alumnus (8)
GRADUATE: A word meaning to arrange in order contains (to host) the abbreviation for university

19d    At first Elizabeth suffered over dress (6)
ENROBE: Reversal of (over) the first letter of Elizabeth and a verb meaning suffered or endured

20d    Pair of cards (6)
TENACE: Two 3-letter cards neatly provide a bridge term meaning a pair of cards above and below a high card held by an opponent

22d    Athletes running back, their guts tender (5)
NURSE: Reverse hidden (… back, their guts)


I liked the blood extractor (15d) when I twigged, and I think my favourite clue for all round smoothness is 18a – which clues did you like?

25 comments on “Toughie 2338

  1. Even with spotting the Nina and theme (yes me – I spotted a Nina and its associated theme :yahoo: ) I thought this was a proper 5* difficulty Toughie, even allowing for a couple of words from the Book of Obscure Words for Crossword Setters. Really nice to have a crossword which meets the description

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch

  2. An enjoyable puzzle, though there were several obscurities in the down clues where I had to check all or bits of the answers I’d come up with in the BRB. As usual I didn’t find the Nina early enough to be of any help in solving.
    I found 7.75 answers corresponding to the theme.
    My podium picks were 17a, 18a and 23a.
    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  3. Raced thro the top half then slowed down a bit until the obscurities of 14d and 15d became clearer. Loved 24a which works so well on every level but the puzzle as a whole is another that only qualifies as a toughie [and a Friday to boot] because of outre words.
    I counted 8 films if one includes the Muse as synonymous with the Egyptian Queen.

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  4. Didn’t spot the Nina until I read the blog. Then I only spotted three films. Halcyon must get out more than I do! Enjoyed the solve though but even though I had the correct answer for 14d I didn’t get the connection. My favs are 18a, 21a and 23a. Loved Sergeant Shultz.

    1. …or stay in more. I saw most of em on the telly years ago. Doubt they’d pass the BBC PC tests now.

  5. I got this all, and enjoyed it on the way, except I had ‘facelessness’ for 26a which made spotting the Nina more challenging. Not only did I not spot the Nina, I had to look up the theme in Google in order to figure out how the references worked, and so, sadly, the whole cleverness went completely over my head. Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  6. I am sorry to appear thick in such a forum of brains, but I just cannot get the connection between granny and aval in 6down

  7. Absolutely adored 4d. Finished in back-pager time, although I had to look up the surgical instrument. Even with Dutch’s help I still can’t see how I got 25a meaning busy, nor 14d for offensive players, unless they’re from an Adriatic resort? And I’ve played (& lost) Hunt the Nina. Thanks Dutch & Sparks.

  8. I presume the films all “Carry on”? Cannot find the Nina unless “sin” or “ curt” qualifies, which I doubt.

    An entertaining puzzle where the top half was easier than the bottom. 2 new words “awned” and “aval”. Whenever will I come across them again?

  9. Had to leave this with a handful unsolved and really thought brain might have worked on them whilst I was out lunching with a friend – wrong!
    In fairness, the unsolved ones were all words I didn’t know and hadn’t managed to guess at. As for the Nina – not films I ever watched.

    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for pointing out the things I didn’t know.

    1. Didn’t hit the ‘edit’ button in time – still don’t understand the players overseas in 14d.

      1. Please memorise the following for the next time it appears:
        “A split end receiver is an offensive player that is positioned out furthest from the center, along the sideline and on the line of scrimmage. … The split end must line up along the line of scrimmage in order to meet the rule requirement of seven offensive players lining up on the line before the snap.”
        Now, isn’t that clear? :D

          1. American football, about which I know nothing – I was a bit surpised to find out that they pause the game for a game of snap.

        1. Clear as mud, Gazza, but thank you for trying! I can only hope that the next time it comes up, I’ll remember that there’s more than one meaning for ‘split ends’.

  10. We had all but finished the solve before we spotted the Nina so it was not much help with spotting the theme. With 14d we thought the overseas players were a NZ rock band of the 70’s ( although not usually described as offensive and the second word is spelt Enz). We found the real meaning in BRB when we checked later but the band had pointed us in the right direction.
    Must remember to find an excuse to use the word ‘aval’ now that we have learnt it.
    Plenty to enjoy and all the obscurities eventually sorted.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

    1. You’ve lengthened your alias so your comment required moderation. Both versions will work from now on.
      That’s a frequently asked question – see FAQ #31.

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