Toughie 2361 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2361

Toughie No 2361 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Happy New Year! I’ve only just returned from a lovely week in Phuket with my 15-year old daughter, and the jet lag is conducive to midnight blogging. A nice quirky puzzle from Sparks with some great oblique definitions. The little Nina device helped me to get 6d and 7d, though the former was my last to parse!

The definitions are underlined as always. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay, and you can reveal the answers by clicking on the Double Unches! buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Gesture when in male corner (4,1,5)
COCK A SNOOK: A small word meaning when goes between (in) a word for male and a word for corner

6a    Heartless guy about to take the lead? Not Frank! (4)
CAGY: Guy from the clue without the central letter (heartless) has the Latin abbreviation for about in front (to take the lead)

8a    East End intellectuals reported some of their Boat Race? (8)
EYEBROWS: The definition is in rhyming slang using ‘their’ to reference East End. The answer is a homophone (reported) of a word meaning intellectuals pronounced East-End fashion (without the initial letter)

9a    Borders on having succeeded after one month (6)
APRONS: On from the clue plus the abbreviation for succeeded comes after the 3-letter abbreviation for one month

10a    Dad stopping adult function after student drinks (8)
ALCOPOPS: A 3-letter dad goes inside (stops) the abbreviation for Adult, plus a trigonometric function after (again) the abbreviation for a student driver

11a    Approach female upstart right away after taking the lead (6)
AVENUE: An 8-letter word for a female upstart with the abbreviation for right missing (away) and without the first letter (taking the lead)

12a    Regularly expose busybody making money (4)
PESO: Every third letter (regularly) in expose busybody

14a    Heading off anguish, time running out for complaint (7)
EARACHE: Take a 9-letter word meaning anguish or sorrow and lose the first letter (heading off) and the abbreviation for time (running out)

18a    Middle-of-the-road guide to late-night events? (4-3)
CAT’S-EYE: A cryptic definition for a reflective night-time driving aid

20a    Compact, tense-free language (4)
ERSE: A 5-letter word meaning compact or short without (free) the abbreviation for tense

23a    Warning seen by abandoned Soviet group of planes? (6)
FOREST: Planes as in trees, with the question mark indicating a definition by example. A warning-shout in golf plus Soviet from the clue without the inside letters (abandoned)

24a    Repeatedly anger bishop about a problem overseas (4-4)
BERI-BERI: A 3-letter word for anger plus the abbreviation for Bishop, all twice (repeatedly) and reversed (about)

25a    Uncovered urn in the style of an Attic feature? (6)
RAFTER: Urn from the clue without the outer letters (uncovered) plus a 5-letter preposition that can mean ‘in the style of’

26a    Intriguing topic is absorbing Left (8)
POLITICS: An all-in-one, where the whole clue is wordplay and the whole clue doubles as the definition. An anagram (intriguing) of TOPIC IS contains (absorbing) the abbreviation for Left

27a    Fruit seed radius (4)
PEAR: A 3-letter vegetable (which is a seed) plus the abbreviation for radius

28a    The kings we blessed five times out of seven? (10)
WEEKNIGHTS: An anagram (blessed) of THE KINGS WE


1d    Split from extremely clever First Lady hiding fool (8)
CREVASSE: The outer letters of (extremely) clever, then the first Biblical lady goes around (hiding) a word for a fool

2d    American escaping from even church’s grasp (6)
CLENCH: The 1-letter abbreviation for American is removed (escaping) from a word that could mean even (definition 7 in Chambers) plus the abbreviation for church

3d    Unexpected first sign of break — game point following ace (6)
ABRUPT: The first letter (sign) of break, a game with funny-shaped balls, plus the-letter abbreviation for point all come after (following) the cards abbreviation for Ace

4d    Daily points from all sides apparently taken literally (9)
NEWSPAPER: A cryptic reference – the broad range of views represented in this daily publication may be taken literally as points from all sides (abbreviated in the first 4 letters)

5d    It’s okay, not odd, to follow broadcast of knockout Big Bang episode? (8)
KRAKATOA: The even letters (not odd) in It’s okay come after (to follow) a homophone (broadcast) of a word meaning knockout CRACKER

6d    Commander capturing men having routed threat on southern peaks (8)
CORBETTS: The abbreviation for Commander of the British Empire contains (capturing) the abbreviation for Ordinary Ranks, then threat from the clue without the inside letters (routed as in hollowed-out) and the abbreviation for Southern. The answer refers to Scottish peaks not quite as high as Munroes

7d    After two drinks, this setter’s game! (3,5)
GIN RUMMY: Two spirits, then a possessive pronoun indicating “this setter’s”

13d    Carelessly concedes kick on wing where props go in (5,4)
SCENE DOCK: Stage props! An anagram (carelessly) of CONCEDES + K(ick, on wing)

15d    Girl eating peeled vegetable elicits comment in writing (8)
ANNOTATE: A 4-letter girl’s name contains (eating) a common root vegetable without the outer letters (peeled)

16d    Singer from off-and-on screen embraced by performer (8)
ACCENTOR: The even letters (off-and-on) of screen go inside (embraced by) another word for performer

17d    Endless pressure to go on pitch — captain may land you here (8)
HEATHROW: A 4-letter word for pressure (as in ‘the **** is on’) without the last letter (endless), then a verb meaning pitch

19d    Some mess I spill, ending up (8)
ELLIPSIS: Reverse hidden (Some … up)

21d    Test site cover-up on two levels (6)
BIKINI: Two meanings, both related to a set of islands, and according to Chambers both with potentially devastating effect on man

22d    Angle to capture heart of pretty thing (6)
FETISH: A verb meaning angle contains (to capture) the central letters (heart) of pretty from the clue

Plenty to enjoy here. I really liked 7d, I enjoy punctuation mark clues like 19d, I liked “heart of pretty thing” in 22d, I got caught out again by the planes in 23a, and I liked many of the definitions e.g. 28a. Which were your favourites?

20 comments on “Toughie 2361

  1. I enjoyed this very much, thank you to Sparks and the returned traveller

    Although I could chose from many great clues, I’ll go for 8a as my Across favourite and 21d as my Down favourite

  2. Great puzzle from Sparks – thanks to him and Dutch.
    I spent more time on 4d than on the rest put together because I was convinced that there was some wordplay for the second half of the answer. The best I could come up with is that apPARENTly has PA (father) running through (PER) it – I’m sure there’s a better explanation!
    My ticks went to 23a, 25a and 19d with 21d being my favourite.

  3. What a difference a day makes (both the Toughie and the weather!). Whilst I got there, I needed electronic help to check the singer (16d) and the test site (21d) both of which had to be what they were. Needed all aids for 6d which I have never heard of and “routed” didn’t help me I’m afraid to admit. 5d homophone was tough and i thought 22d (“thing”) was a bit of a stretch unless I’m missing something. But overall very enjoyable – ***/***. Favourite has to be 8a just ahead of 17d. Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  4. 8a I can see the rhyming slang but where does the boat race come in? New meaning for 9a for me and the bird in 16d
    COTD 7d closely followed by 18a

  5. Thank you Sparks for the fun, and Dutch for explaining it. I also liked 19d.

    I’d completely forgotten about that Telegraph masthead, which looks significantly less elegant than the ones before and since, and is particularly cramped there with the promo column down the right.

  6. Very much enjoyed this and pleased to almost finish a Friday toughie, defeated by 7d, not heard of that answer- but now added to my GK.
    I missed the NINA and even knowing it is there I still can’t see it.
    I liked both the clue and the comment to 21d.
    Many thanks to both Dutch and Sparks

  7. I thought this was a terrific puzzle and I enjoyed it very much. 5d and 6d were my last in (for the moment I can’t see a Nina). In 5d, I took ‘okay, not odd’ to imply that it was the even letters that were part of the solution, and so for a long time I threw out the ‘o’ and ‘a’ in favour of the ‘k’ and ‘y’. I wasn’t familiar with the cracker either which didn’t help. Also I had never heard of the peaks in 6d (and did not easily find reference to them either). I was saved (eventually) by the ‘routed threat’ along with the other checkers to piece it all together. Many thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

    1. I too will try to remember 6d. How about a future clue: “Funny Ronnie’s mountains?”

  8. Totally defeated by 6d as it was something we had not met before. Might have had a better chance at it if we had spotted the Nina.
    Lots of clever wordplay on display and much appreciated.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  9. Ground to a halt with the borders and the peaks – although I’ve no excuse for the latter, having toiled up enough of them! It also took me a while to parse the ‘t’ in 5d, which was very dim indeed.

    Liked a great many of these but opted in the end for mentioning 8&23a.

    Thanks to Sparks and a happy new year to both you and Sparky – hope that ticker’s behaving itself?
    Thanks also to Dutch – pleased to hear that you enjoyed your holiday. Make the most of your time, that young lady is likely to opt for different holiday companions in the not too distant future!

  10. Enjoyed solving, with the aid of the hints….
    liked 17D ” endless pressure to go on pitch — captain may land you here (8) “

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