Toughie 2401 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2401

Toughie No 2401 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Some new words for me and some cute perimeter phrases. A fun solve.

The definitions are underlined. The hints attempt to explain the wordplay, and you can reveal the answers by clicking on the click here buttons. Please leave a comment to let us know what you thought and how you got on


1a    Fixed small drink extremely daintily (6)
STEADY: The abbreviation for small, a hot brew, and the outer letters (extremely) of daintily

9a    Help idiot with example, missing the first point (10)
ASSISTANCE: A 3-letter idiot plus a word meaning example, from which the first occurrence of a compass point is omitted

10a    Mug clasped by the setter wearing blue jewellery in Bow? (10)
TOMFOOLERY: Some new rhyming slang for me. A 4-letter mug or idiot goes inside (clasped by) a pronoun which is a self-reference to the setter, all inside (wearing) a blue political party

11a    Help found in back of A-to-Z (4)
ABET: The last 4 letters (back) of a word for the set of letters A-to-Z

12a    Silly me left out of aerobatics (4)
OOPS: Remove the initial abbreviation for left from some aerobatical manoeuvres

14a    European in glider, his flying trip in Alaska? (6,4)
SLEIGH RIDE: The abbreviation for European goes inside (in) an anagram (flying) of GLIDER HIS

17a    Brother attending holy church by which you might march down Caledonian Road? (7)
PIBROCH: A 3-letter abbreviation for brother comes after (next to or attending) a 2-letter word meaning holy or sanctimonious, plus an abbreviation for church

18a    Decline theatre cancellation by doctor? (4-3)
DROP OFF: A (2,3) phrase that suggests a theatre surgery is cancelled follows (by) the abbreviation for doctor

20a    Tabulated facts first seen in branch of mechanics (10)
STATISTICS: A 3-letter representation of first goes inside (seen in) a branch of mechanics

21a    Company boss originally kept inside an island hut (4)
SKEO: The abbreviation for senior executive officer contains (… inside) the first letter (originally) of kept

22a    Husband getting a lift, perhaps daily (4)
CHAR: The abbreviation of husband goes inside a vehicle (getting a lift, perhaps)

23a    Bliss, maybe of troubled star Monroe (10)
ASTRONOMER: An anagram (troubled) of STAR MONROE

25a    Rely on me backing police to seal north London station (10)
EMBANKMENT: A verb meaning rely or depend follows (on) a reversal (backing) of ME from the clue, then an abbreviation for the metropolitan police containing (to seal) the abbreviation for North

26a    Splits fish netted by ship (6)
SHAKES: A fish goes inside the abbreviation for a ship. Definition 12 under transitive verb in Chambers


2d    Class expert possibly needs single to return in hired vehicle on street (10)
TAXONOMIST: A 4-letter prefix meaning single is reversed inside (to return in) a hired vehicle, plus the abbreviation for street

3d    Avoiding sexually indulgent female, initially — what a surprise (2,2)
AS IF: First letters (… initially)

4d    Sign of contempt as cook buys bubbly (2-3,5)
YA-BOO SUCKS: An anagram (bubbly) of AS COOK BUYS

5d    Article pinned on front of school uniform in exam (2,5)
AS LEVEL: An indefinite article plus the first letter (front) of school, and a 5-letter word meaning uniform or even

6d    Game insubstantial — whisky not required (1-3)
I-SPY: A 5-letter word meaning insubstantial without the initial letter radio-coded by Whisky

7d    Out of place, Mike unfortunately punched by rugby player with ball (10)
MALAPROPOS: The letter with radio-code Mike, then a word meaning unfortunately which contains (punched by) a rugby player plus a letter that resembles a ball

8d    Quiet adult leaving US city (6)
SETTLE: The definition is a verb. Remove the abbreviation for Adult from a city in the state of Washington

13d    Complaint made by others agitated over having impaled vermin (4,6)
SORE THROAT: An anagram (agitated) of OTHERS then the abbreviation for over goes inside (having impaled) an animal considered vermin

15d    Gear lifted by thugs, namely, infiltrating American organisation (4,6)
GIRL SCOUTS: Here the organisation is known by the second word only, as my daughter keeps reminding me. Reversal (lifted) of 3-letter gear, then some thugs containing (infiltrating) the Latin abbreviation for scilicet or namely

16d    Quarrel very loudly in terrible decree nisi — not half (10)
DIFFERENCE: The music abbreviation for very loudly goes inside an anagram (terrible) of DECREE NI(si), taking only half of the NISI

19d    Books found in river — English course (7)
AINTREE: The abbreviation for the books that comprise the second half of the bible goes inside (found in) a Yorkshire river, then the abbreviation for English

20d    Private party admitting soldiers (6)
SECRET: A party or extreme political movement contains an abbreviation for some soldiers

23d    Thank heavens it contains sign of life! (4)
ANKH: Hidden (… it contains)

24d    Regulars in Boer War imprisoning cold killer (4)
ORCA: The even letters (regulars) in BOER WAR contain the abbreviation for cold

A hard choice today, but I think my favourite was 22a. Which clues did you like?

26 comments on “Toughie 2401

  1. Enjoyed but failed on 21a where shed was too enticing despite no sensible parse whatsoever. 17a and 23d were also new words to me but well clued. Favourite clues were 20a (I’m a maths geek) and 12a. Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  2. A welcome return – seems ages since we last had a Sparks Toughie. I was on for a 4* Toughie solving time but got stuck on two pesky four letter words – one of which came to me as I was hanging out the washing, and the other I got by trusting the wordplay and then checking that the hut in question actually existed. I’m also delighted to report that I spotted the Nina too – I do like it when a setter uses a crenelated grid for Nina purposes

    I liked lots of clues – I’ll give special mention to 11a, 17a, 4d, and 6d

    Thanks to Sparks for the fun and Dutch for the blog

  3. Not the very toughest of Friday Toughies but extremely enjoyable – thanks to Sparks and Dutch.
    I knew the Cockney jewellery but I didn’t know the Orkney hut and 21a was my last answer after I’d spent some time, in vain, trying to work out how to parse the clue to make ‘shed’. I also had to check the BRB for 26a and 7d and also check that Bliss was a 23a.
    I’m not sure why 4d is defined as a sign of contempt rather than, say, a statement of contempt.
    Top clues for me were 12a, 17a, 18a and 22a.

  4. ***/**** for us and a very enjoyable solve with no hints required. 4D and 6D were our favourites. Thanks to Sparks and Dutch

  5. Fell for the shed. Funnily enough it goes outside Shetland, but no other excuse. I did try CEO and MD, but I didn’t know SEO was a thing, and the answer was a new word to me. I knew my answer wasn’t correct, but I resisted the urge to spend the rest of the day staring at it, Probably the right decision.

    1. I fell for shed as well!
      I had shares for 26ac A hare is a fish and shares to me is a better alternative answer – share splits!

  6. Thanks, Dutch and Sparks. This is way above my current level to complete, but it’s fun reading the clues and explanations.

    My favourite was 4d’s sign of contempt.

  7. The island hut in 21a denied me the pleasure and satisfaction of finishing what was otherwise a very enjoyable and challenging puzzle. I hadn’t heard of, nor could I stumble across, the hut, and since CEO clearly wasn’t going to work, the company boss didn’t make any sense to me either. Pity. Thanks anyway to Sparks and Dutch.

  8. Excuse my naïveté but, BD ratings – what is the scale? * easy and ***** is difficult? * not much fun ***** great fun? And how about time, are there parameters? Is it all entirely subjective (completion time shouldn’t be)?

    Enjoyed today’s but fell over SKEO, settling for an unsatisfactory SHED before coming here to close down.

    Thank you.

    1. Yes, 5star max. Though big Dave, insisting it was an absolute one-off, once allowed me to award 6* for enjoyment for a rather special puzzle.

      I use my own little time formula to arrive at the difficulty rating. So a 4* difficulty puzzle takes me twice as long as a 2*. Personally, I think the enjoyment rating counts more than the difficulty, but people really seem to want an indication of difficulty. I worry a 5* difficulty puts people off; it shouldn’t, just means I enjoyed it 5 times longer than a 1*

      1. Thanks for responding Dutch, very kind. Can I ask how long this particular puzzle took you to complete, if you don’t mind? I have no feel yet as to what is good, bad or indifferent.

        1. we don’t share solving times out of principle, it really doesn’t help people – but i can let you know it took me more than one beer

        2. we don’t share solving times out of principle, it really doesn’t help people – but i can let you know it took me more than one beer

  9. DNF because of the pesky 21a, so for fun, I devised a different clue and answer to fit the grid:

    Went ahead after slow start. (One of fourteen)!

    Thanks all.

    1. Good game! – I’ll have a go with:
      Went half-heartedly after hopes finally dashed (4)

      The problem is, of course, that Sparks needed the word to end in O for his Nina.

      1. Of course! Much easier without that constraint…but then, he brought it on himself :D

  10. I was much less keen on this than most of those who have commented so far. Mainly due to luck I found the lower two thirds of the puzzle pretty straightforward (21a excepted). I only learnt 15d a few days ago through skyping with some American friends and I had bumped into Bliss and 17a within the last fortnight. The top third proved much trickier with a number of things needing dragging out of the deep. I don’t speak Cockney and I never spot ninas. 21a and 23d illustrate the reason I don’t care for ninas. 20a made me laugh with the “tabulated facts” – seems there are lies, damned lies and tabulated facts.
    With thanks to Sparks and Dutch

  11. Usually Friday Toughies are really tough, but today was a bit easier. I knew all the words except for the island shed which the BRB tells us is of Caledonian origin, as indeed is the dictionary. As ever, I missed the NINAs around the perimeter.

  12. Looks like we went through the same process as many others with 21a, even trying to justify removing the surplus letters from Shetland. Took a short break to look for the Nina knowing that there probably was one. When we spotted that, it meant we had three of the letters checked and the wordplay gave us the fourth so a BRB confirming check was all that was needed. Not a word that comes up in NZ conversations very often.
    Significantly challenging and a lot of fun.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  13. All done but for the two four-letter words that fooled most of us. Lovely puzzle just right for the bits between the racing today. Thanks to sparks for the puzzle and to Dutch for the review.

  14. Like others, I failed on the island hut – there are so many alternative titles for a company boss. 10a went in as an inspired guess, it was such a relief when the wordplay backed my theory!
    The ninas were of no help given that I didn’t spot them until the solve was finished but they were certainly cleverly slotted in.
    Top three here were 12a – my last one in – plus 18a & 19d.

    Thanks to Sparks – all the best to Sparky – and thanks also to Dutch for the review. In ‘my day’ the girls were Girl Guides and the boys were Boy Scouts – and 5d’s didn’t exist!

  15. Away from home so am relying on the DT Toughie Crossword book for entertainment. Some of the clues are very obscure. How I wish BD was here to help me!

  16. Easier than the back pager today – for me anyway. Except 21a, had to bung it in from the word ply, but a new word for me; same for 17a.. 10a my COTD.

  17. very enjoyable. thank you Sparks. Thank you Dutch for your explanations which were as cogent as ever. I liked 10a best of all and 7d was pretty good too.

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