Toughie 2389 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2389

Toughie No 2389 by proXimal

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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

Dutch is on holiday this week, giving me a chance to review a puzzle by one of my favourite setters.

Not many setters seem to have grasped what solvers expect from a Toughie, but proXimal certainly has. I was sailing through this, one clue at a time, before I came to a grinding halt in the southwest corner, which is why I added an extra helf a star to the difficulty. With a compound anagram it can be difficult to spot what is going on, and I needed to solve 27a before having any chance of knowing which four-letter name was required in 24d.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


9a    Dwelling over getting starter in dinner for five (5)
ABODE: start with a word meaning over and replace the V (Roman numeral for five) with the initial letter of (starter for) D[inner]

10a    Squash court in a capital leisure facility (9)
AQUADROME: squash another word for a court[yard] between the A from the clue and a European capital city

11a    Seriously small beast adopting rejected stray (3,4)
FOR REAL: put a young horse (small beast) around (adopting) the reversal (rejected) of a verb meaning to stray

12a    Quietly object to host (7)
PRESENT: the musical notation for quietly is followed by a verb meaning to object to

13a    Gather short male is flash (5)
GLEAM: most of a verb meaning to gather followed by M(ale)

14a    War re-enactment in which one gets decorated? (9)
PAINTBALL: a cryptic definition of a daft war re-enactment game in which participants are “decorated” with a coloured substance

16a    One shy man with instrument in temple, tense (9,6)
SHRINKING VIOLET: a chess piece (man) and an old-fashioned stringed instrument inside a temple and followed by T(ense)

19a    Scan garment label again (9)
READDRESS: a verb meaning to scan followed by a garment

21a    Rook on cheese plant (5)
BRIER: R(ook) preceded by a French soft cheese

23a    Sauce of amorous advance at American (7)
PASSATA: an amorous advance followed by AT from the clue and A(merican)

25a    Plans finale in story with a twist (7)
AGENDAS: put a three-letter finale inside the reversal (with a twist) of a long story

27a    Eccentric plus this blood relative could be insupportable (9)
BIOPARENT: IN[SUP]PORTAB[L]E is a compound anagram (eccentric) of PLUS with this blood relative

28a    Sore bullock oddly dropped on back (5)
ULCER: the even letters (oddly dropped) of [b]U[l]L[o]C[k] followed by the reversal (back) of a word meaning on or concerning


1d    Ramsey, perhaps, supporting hotel partially (4)
HALF: the first name of the manager of England’s victorious World Cup team is preceded by (supporting in a down clue) H(otel)

2d    Obtain rise (6)
SOURCE: two definitions

3d    Set period at home filling legal document (10)
DETERMINED: a period of time and a two-letter word meaning home go inside (filling) a legal document

4d    Hit barrier on river to the north (6)
WALLOP: a four-letter barrier followed by the reversal (to the north in a down clue) of Gnomey’s “Chinese” river (will he ever live that down!)

5d    Chucking around large and small ball (8)
DUMPLING: a verb meaning chucking around L(arge)

6d    Creep ogled German nurses (4)
EDGE: hidden (nurses) inside the clue

7d    Fit together small part to clamp old vacuum’s lead (8)
DOVETAIL: a small part around (to clamp) O(ld) and the initial letter (lead) of V[acuum]

8d    Into travel abroad, it helps with inspiration (10)
VENTILATOR: an anagram (abroad) of INTO TRAVEL

13d    Hostelries talk wine up, regularly rubbish (10)
GASTROPUBS: a colloquial verb meaning to talk followed by the reversal (up) of a fortified wine and the even letters (regularly) of [r]U[b]B[i]S[h]

15d    Contracted the blue film cast for small amount (10)
THIMBLEFUL: most of (contracted) TH[e] followed by an anagram (cast) of BLUE FILM

17d    Parade around adverts on house performers on tour (8)
ROADSHOW: a parade or terrace around AD(vert)S and HO(use)

18d    Intern, Nantes, with entirely no end to prescription repeats (8)
ITERATES: drop all instances of the final letter of (end to) [prescription]N from the first two words in the clue

20d    I refuse you to start song (6)
SHANTY: a word meaning I refuse followed by the initial letter of (start to) Y[ou]

22d    Popular drink’s pronounced effect (6)
INDUCE: a two-letter word meaning popular followed by what sounds like (pronounced) a soft drink

24d    Name a country, but not Germany (4)
ALAN: the A from the clue and a country or nation without D, the IVR code for Germany

26d    Having choice of one side, submit order (4)
SORT: a choice (1,2,1) of a side of S[ubmi]T

I you like this setter’s puzzles then he is also, as ARTEXLEN, in today’s FT.


19 comments on “Toughie 2389

  1. proXimal has become one of my favourite setters and I enjoyed this one – thanks to him and BD.
    I know that it’s common usage to add an S to the 25a word to make it plural but it still grates with me to pluralise what is already a plural word.
    It’s difficult to pick out clues for special mention from such a fine selection but I’ll go for 12a, 14a, 20d and 26d.

    1. Thank you, Gazza. I was just about to protest that 25a can’t exist as it would be a plural of a plural. Doubtless you and I will be written off as dinosaurs!

    2. Collins backs every horse!

      1.Also called agendum. (functioning as singular) A schedule or list of items to be attended to
      2.Also called agendas, agendums. (functioning as plural) Matters to be attended to, as at a meeting of a committee

      1. Anyone who did Latin for 10 formative years would be uneasy about pluralising a (Latin) plural!

  2. Crikey, that was a real Toughie for me. After several sittings I eventually completed most of it but there were three answers in the SW corner that eluded me: 27a, 20d & 24d. Thanks to BD for the elucidation. Those wretched subtractive anagrams are on the increase. They are very clever but often leave me stumped.

    “Rise” = “source” in 2d seems a bit of a stretch to me.

    Despite the struggle and failure to finish I did enjoy the puzzle, and 10a, 6d, 18d & 26d made it onto my podium. 20d would almost certainly have joined them there if only I had been able to solve it.

    Many thanks for the challenge, proXimal.

  3. A great Toughie which I almost finished this morning apart from 20d which I perhaps should have got as I was desperately looking for a J, Y and Z to complete one of Proximal’s “almost pangrams”. I did eventually work out 27a (have we had two or three compound anagrams this week?) but had to check the answer as I have only ever heard of the “long form” i.e. biological etc.

    All great but podium places for me go to 7d, 16a and 28a.

    Thanks to ProXimal and, for the second time this week, to BD.

  4. Like BD I was making steady, albeit in my case much slower, progress, but then came to a grinding halt in the same area. Never got 27a or 23a and needed help parsing some of my other answers.
    Very enjoyable nevertheless and my favourite was 16a.
    Many thanks to proXimal and Big Dave

  5. Thanks BD and ProXimal.

    Just to join in with the praise. One of my favourite setters too. Meticulously rigorous cluing. Always a pleasure to grapple with.

  6. Like others, it was the SW corner that did for me and I never did quite sort out 27a or 20d despite having 24d in place.
    Top three here were 11a plus 5&7d.

    Thanks to proXimal and to BD – not sure that anyone calling themselves Artex Len is likely to get much work these days – most folk are trying to rid themselves of the wretched stuff!

  7. I thought this was a terrific puzzle. I enjoyed it enormously – the more so in that I was able (eventually) to finish it. Like others the SW corner put up stiff resistance – it took me for ever to sort out the compound anagram in 27a. I was also held up by 5a and 10d – descriptive though it is, I had not heard of the leisure facility in 10a. Many thanks to proXimal and Big Dave.

  8. Just spent a wet Cheshire afternoon with Mrs B solving this toughie-where did the time go?
    Has to be a ****/**** as its now getting dark.
    No plan today,just a scatter gun approach around the grid.
    Last one in was 27a, correct solution but needed the explanation from BD.
    As a charade lover,16a was my favourite-also 13d, Mrs B’s was 15d.
    Thanks all for the enjoyment, ready for some Doombar1

  9. Beaten by 27ac, who would have thought that word was needed. I thought it might be a product of recent political correctness, but there it is in my 1998 chambers.

  10. It’s a first for me to complete a ProXimal toughie without hints and after completing all but 7, before resorting to the hints, of Elgar’s last week I’m on a roll. No doubt I’ll be down to earth with a bump next week. Favourite 16a mainly because I got it. Many thanks to ProXimal and BD.

  11. We join everyone else in finding 27a the biggest stumbling block.
    Very enjoyable solve for us.
    Thanks proXimal and BD.

  12. Not that I want to be different from everyone else, but the SW was the first quarter solved entirely.
    2d was my last in.
    The aquadrome and the dovetail took some time to fall and in the SE, the Song and the Plans remained unsolved for most of the day specially as I thought 26d was left or right or east or west in any order but no real words came from that way of thinking until I read the clue properly.
    Resilience and perseverance paid off.
    Great challenge.
    Thanks to proximal and to BD.

  13. Enjoyed this, despite ProXimal normally being above my pay grade! Beaten by 10a and 27a (the latter a completely new word for me, despite a scientific career) and also failed on 26d. No complaints, though. It was all excellently clued, with 18d my favourite. Thanks to proXimal and BD

  14. Just like nearly everyone else my last word in was 27a, which I hadn’t come across before either. Children who are adopted by unrelated adults these days are required to have a Life Story Book prepared for them, to explain what has happened in their past. In the early days the therapists/social workers who prepared these books used the phrase ‘born-to mummy’ to describe the child’s biological mother, and ‘forever mummy and daddy’ to depict their adopters. However many children found the first term quite complicated to understand, so they started to describe the person who had given birth to them as their ‘tummy mummy.’ On one occasion a very experienced colleague was doing some work with a young boy when she had to decide on the spot as to what term she should use to describe his birth father, and she inadvertently called him his ‘tummy daddy !’ Although this was biologically inaccurate at least she didn’t use any words which might be more embarrassing if the child had repeated them in polite company !! Great puzzle, ProXimal !

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