Toughie 2397 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2397

Toughie No 2397 by Notabilis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Quite a devious puzzle from Notabilis today, I thought. It took me some to parse 6a and 9a, as well as a few others.

Definitions are underlined. The hints are intended to help you unravel the wordplay but you can always reveal the answer by clicking on the click here buttons. Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


6a    Sickly, uneasy state, getting off ship with bag in front (10)
SACCHARINE: A 9-letter word for an uneasy or wary state (CHARINESS) without (getting off) the final 2-letter abbreviation for ship with another word for bag coming before that (in front)

8a    Waterfowl heading away from dam site (4)
SWAN: Remove the first letter (heading away) from a dam site in Egypt

9a    Turn out flat, stretched over back of frame (9)
EVENTUATE: A 4-letter word meaning flat or level, a 4-letter word meaning stretched or tight, and the last letter (back) of frame

11a    Humming part of hornpipe pirates recalled (4)
RIPE: Reverse hidden (part of … recalled)

12a    Nod and wait in order to be heard (3)
CUE: A homophone (to be heard) of a verb meaning to wait in order or in line

13a    Inventor of global disc part housing wheel-locking mechanism (9)
PRATCHETT: The 2-letter abbreviation for part contains (housing) a small mechanical device that is a cog- or wheel-locking mechanism. The definition refers to the famous author of the discworld series

16a    Having left for a run, run smoothly, getting a stitch (4)
PURL: Change R (run) to L (left) in a word meaning to run smoothly, as in an engine that sounds like a contented cat

17a    Sarcastic dig? (7)
CUTTING: Two meanings, the second as in incision can also refer to an open excavation for a road or railway etc.

18a    Given guidance, that is way to spin top (7)
DREIDEL: A reversal (to spin) of a 3-letter verb that means given guidance, the abbreviation for that is, and the abbreviation for a way or thoroughfare

20a    Small bricks drop, dumping tons (4)
LEGO: A (3,2) phrase that means drop, without (dumping) the abbreviation for tons

21a    Perhaps overstuff overcoat, having eaten noodle soup (9)
UPHOLSTER: A type of overcoat (from Northern Ireland) contains (having eaten) a Vietnamese noodle soup. Somehow I wasn’t keen on the definition here, but others may like it

23a    Wrap up one of many sentences? (3)
LAG: Two meanings, the first normally used for covering piping and the second referring to terms of imprisonment

24a    Man behind losing jacket (4)
OTTO: A word for behind or rear-end without the outer letters (losing jacket)

25a    Possible confirmation of leader for Camelot, not united in joint complaint (9)
ARTHRITIS: A (6,2,2) possible confirmation of the legendary leader of Camelot, upon deleting (not) the abbreviation for united, provides the answer

29a    Caprice hasn’t the heart for change (4)
VARY: A 6-letter word for caprice or whim (VAGARY) loses the central two letters (hasn’t the heart)

30a    European combined with Northern Ireland in backing thread promoting unity (10)
ECUMENICAL: The abbreviation for European, a Latin preposition meaning combined with, then the abbreviation for Northern Ireland goes inside (in) a reversal (backing) of a kind of thread (for tying shoes, for example)


1d    Mostly light brown dust in the air? (4)
HAZE: The first 4 letters (mostly) of a 5-letter word for a light brown colour derived from a type of nut

2d    Superb exterior to masculine perfection (4)
ACME: A 3-letter word for superb goes around (exterior to) the abbreviation for masculine

3d    Whisky misuse is reduced by half (4)
MALT: The first half of an 8-letter verb meaning misuse (MALTREAT)

4d    Live in impressive tower (7)
MINARET: A 3-letter plural verb meaning live or exist goes in a word meaning impressive or in perfect condition

5d    Investigator‘s regret about supporting special relationship (10)
RAPPORTEUR: The reversal (about) of a 3-letter verb meaning regret goes underneath (supporting) a special relationship

7d    Boarding national airline, bully missing first of ballots (9)
ELECTORAL: A 6-letter bully without the first letter (missing first) goes inside (boarding) the Israeli national airline

8d    Put new mortar in after salvo evacuated offensive detail? (4,5)
SORE POINT: A 7-letter verb meaning to put new mortar between flagstones (for example) comes after S(alv)O from the clue without the inner letters (evacuated)

10d    Head teachers’ brotherhood (3)
NUT: The union for teachers

13d    Sensible Victorian remained upright, repressing temptation’s commonest aspect (10)
PRUDENTIAL: A 5-letter person with Victorian attitudes, then a reversal of the past tense of a word that can mean remain (definition 7 in Chambers) goes around (repressing) the most common letter (aspect) in temptation

14d    Whatever involves verse’s still put in book like this? (9)
ANTHOLOGY: A clever semi-all-in-one: A 3-letter word meaning whatever, or no matter which, contains (involves) a poetic version (verse’s) of still or yet, plus a verb meaning “put in book”

15d    Coupled prisoner and prison were worrying (9)
CONJUGATE: A 3-letter prisoner, a 3-letter prison, and a verb that can mean ‘were worrying’

19d    Avoid holding hostage, regularly involving duress (7)
SHOTGUN: A 4-letter verb meaning avoid contains the even letters (regularly) of hostage

22d    Move over, easily demolishing lead of marathon runner (3)
SKI: A verb meaning to move over easily without the first letter (demolishing the lead) of marathon

26d    Cover head, somewhat ostrich-like American cousin (4)
RHEA: Hidden (… somewhat)

27d    See Yorkshireman’s rug? (4)
TWIG: Yorkshireman’s way of saying ‘the’ hairpiece

28d    With energy fully extracted, piped waste spoils (4)
SWAG: Take a 6-letter word for piped waste and remove every occurrence of the abbreviation for energy (with energy fully extracted)

The best moment for me was realising what the global disc was in 13a – that took a while for the penny to drop! Which were your favourite clues?

20 comments on “Toughie 2397

  1. No anagrams and, as far as I can see, no Nina (I wait to be corrected on the latter).
    Thanks to Notabilis for the top-class puzzle and to Dutch for the blog. My progress through it was fairly measured rather than speedy with a lot of clues having to be prised out – what an enjoyable process it was.
    I didn’t know the 18a top but the wordplay led to it.
    I ticked 6a (which brought back painful memories of mal de mer), 25a and 14d but my favourite was 23a (‘one of many sentences’ – brilliant).

  2. Welcome back Notabilis – I thought this a truly wonderful perfect Toughie – 5*/5* from me. I’d like to know whether the fairly clued ‘top I hadn’t heard of’ was included in order to produce the word NELL at the RH side of the grid?? I did look for a Nina but that was all I could find? I have marked so many clues I really liked but if I was going to just pick one, I’d probably go for 25a as I did smile at the ‘confirmation of the leader for Camelot’

    I do hope we don’t have to wait another ten weeks for the next Notabilis and, while he’s at, please could he encourage the return of the other ‘missing’ Toughie setters we haven’t seen for quite a while.

  3. We had to get Dutch’s hint for our LOI, 18a – a new word to us – otherwise we got through it at a reasonable pace.

    Enjoyable except for that arcane piece of knowledge, and a true Friday Toughie.

    Thanks to Dutch and Notabilis.

  4. Well that was tough and good fun. The time taken must have exceeded the previous three toughies put together. I had not heard of the top, nor the author in 13a but was able to guess successfully from the cryptic clue. I did not know the word for “wary state” needed to parse 6a nor the poetic term in 14d. I made life harder than needed by putting “sand” in 1d – I had always thought the word used for brown in 1d was a sort of green (I’m colour blind!) so it took a while to sort out the NW corner.
    I read somewhere that the back-page puzzle on Friday has had a change of setter so I think I will give it a go

    Thanks to Notabalis and Dutch

  5. I confess to being beaten by 18a, having given up after half an hour trying to parse “drainer” -well it’s a “top” as in kitchen top!
    I also failed to parse 6a.

    Favourite clues were 23a [one of many sentences] 21a for how obvious it was once it was obvious and COTD 25a – despite the failure to disguise joint complaint [how would one?] “Arthur it is” is quite wonderful.

    I’m fine with the def in 21a – ‘overstuffing’ is a common enough fault/technique in upholstery.

    Many thanks to Notabilis and to Dutch.

  6. Managed just over half before resorting to the hints. I liked, and got, 25a but I give 16a pride of place . How nice that our setter has shown his feminine side! I know some men do knit but it does make a change from cricket or golf.

  7. An Open Letter to the Telegraph Crossword Editor.

    Please will you consider giving two Toughies on a Friday. We only have four Toughies a week but these 5* ones basically make it only three for those new to Toughie-dom. I fully understand that one needs to grow and develop ones’ solving skills but for those like me (and I suspect that there are many others) that skill development is well provided by 3* and 4* Toughies. There is absolutely zero enjoyment in a 5* for us newcomers to the Toughie world, in my opinion. YVMV.

    1. this is classic you can’t please all the people all the time stuff. I expect there are more people in your camp than there are in the “the toughies aren’t tough enough” camp – but, (1) there are loads of crosswords out there, and most are free on-line, though (actually) some of them are tough too, and (2) most telegraph toughies aren’t what I would call 5*, though I really hate difficulty ratings – and anyway friday is meant to offer a slightly greater challenge, but you have tue-thu that might suit you perfectly, which is pretty cool i think.

      is the telegraph back pager too easy for you? Try the independent, the guardian, etc (don’t shoot me Chris!) to get a bit more of a feel for what is out there, and enjoy the toughies you can do. A lot of people enjoy puzzles even if they don’t finish.

      In the end, it’s just practice. Up to you whether you practice! I encourage you to keep trying, and always check the blog :)

      1. This puzzle is way above my pay grade, but good for those wanting a 5* Toughie. However, as you trying to be British, Dutch, you need to know when to practise your practice. :wink:

  8. We were totally defeated by 18a. We had never heard of the correct answer and ‘given guidance’ fitted so well with TRAINED that fitted all the checkers that we could not see past it. Very clever setting.
    Certainly a significant challenge and a pleasure to work on.
    Thanks Notabilis and Dutch.

  9. Many thanks to Notabilis and Dutch for a fine Friday Toughie and helpful hints.

    I hadn’t heard of 18a either but neither had my BRB or Concise Oxford.

      1. 18a is a track on Don McLean’s 1972 eponymous album. It was misguidedly released as his next single after American Pie and Vincent, which are universally acknowledged as groundbreaking masterpieces which have stood the test of time. I loved them in my youth and they are still very inspirational. However 18a must be one of the most TERRIBLE follow-ups of all time, particularly as it followed not one but two superb classics. It completely bombed in the UK, and barely charted anywhere, although it did somehow reach number 21 in America. We’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform live three times, the first at Derngate, Northampton, where he introduced us to a fantastic track called Sea Man, which was the b-side to Jerusalem in 1981 (not a hit.) If you want an unexpectedly atmospheric moment please check out this song. But give 18a a very wide berth indeed !
        Unfortunately this was the only word I got wrong in this outstanding challenge from Notabilis, although it was clued fairly as usual by this setter. One of Notabilis’s best, but definitely not one of Don McLean’s, though. (It rhymes in the song with ‘cradle,’ by the way !)

  10. Can’t resist the temptation to question Dutch’s use of ‘quite’ in his preamble. I thought this downright difficult & devilishly devious with few gimmies.
    After a number of revisits I managed 17 correct answers before using the excellent review. Even then 6a eluded me.
    Still (response to Roger’s comment noted) it was fun trying & think I am getting a little better.
    21,25 & 30a were my picks of the ones I managed unaided.
    Thanks to all.

    1. valid question! perhaps it’s dutch trying to be british …

      and if it is any consolation, i thought 6a was a very difficult first clue. As setters we are told to pay special attention to the first across clue: it is the first seen, and sets the tone …

  11. I’m blaming it on the lunch out but have to admit that I gave up on this one with very few answers in place. Doesn’t matter, I still enjoyed the challenge and certainly appreciated Dutch’s explanations. Thought his reply to Roger said it all – keep trying if you want to improve but don’t get down-hearted when you fail. Some of us fail with Friday Toughies on a fairly regular basis but it doesn’t stop us attempting them and relishing what we manage to achieve.

  12. Didn’t we have 16a recently? It was the same photo as well.
    9a – ‘tuat’ is ‘taut’ reversed. Thanks to all the geniuses that solve these fiendish puzzles every day. 😀

  13. Way too hard for me. I thought globes were round, not disks, and however clever Notabilis may be, 21a is poor.

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