Toughie 2048 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2048

Toughie No 2408 by Firefly

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

This Firefly crossword was well and truly on my Toughie ‘spectrum’ – parts of the LH side were particularly tricky to solve and working out/and writing the hints for some of the clues took a while too.

I did wonder whether I took a bit longer  because I’ve spent the best part of fifty years solving the crosswords in the newspaper version, and so for some reason don’t get on quite as well when the grid and clues are printed on a piece of A4 paper (although I will say there is more room on the latter to scribble your blogging notes!)

There will definitely have been some muttering the Rabbit hutch today; there was quite a bit of muttering in our house too but that was just me wondering how a few clues worked and/or how to explain things in ‘plain English’. The clues I liked were 19a (because I solved the clue while the piece of paper was still emerging from the printer), 28a and 25d because he definitely was ‘one from my past’

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Tory secretary’s out of office — in study (11)
CONTEMPLATE Another abbreviated way of referring to a Tory, a transient office worker (secretary) and an adjective meaning out of office

9a    Precisely where to paint? (2,3,4)
ON THE NAIL An expression meaning precise could describe where to put a particular type of paint

10a    Took a chance, rampaged about, avoiding rap (5)
GAMED An anagram (about) of raMpAGED without (avoiding) the letters RAP

11a    Bit of a laugh separating socks — they clash (2-4)
HI-HATS Once you spot that socks is part of a verb and not a reference to hosiery, inserting a bit of a laugh into a synonym for that verb will produce some cymbals on a stand (they clash)

12a    Refuge offered by nut? (8)
BOLTHOLE If you split your solution 4,4 you should see what a hexagonal metal block would offer.

13a    On the radio, unreasonably reject winger (6)
TOUCAN A homophone (on the radio) of an adverb meaning unreasonably, to a greater extent than is required, followed by a [unindicated North American] slang word meaning to put an end to (reject)

15a    Brahms regularly entertaining ill-mannered coach (8)
BROUGHAM The regular letters of BrAhMs ‘entertaining’ a synonym for ill-mannered to produce a one-horse covered coach

18a    Back road beside quarry — deserted narrowboat just round the corner (8)
IMMINENT A reversal back of the informal way we refer to a particular motorway (road) followed by a quarry and the outside letters (deserted) of NarrowboaT

19a    A black queen can be superior (6)
ABBESS – A (from the clue), the abbreviation for black and one of the ways people referred to Queen Elizabeth I

21a    Possible crisis averted from container ships toppling monument (8)
PANTHEON A clue I stared at for quite a while until I realised it was a compound anagram, where if you ‘avert’ the letters CRISIS (possible telling you that they aren’t in that order) from cONTAiNEr sHiPs, an anagram of the remaining letters will produce a monument in the 5th arrondisement of Paris (there is a building with this name in Rome but that’s a “temple” not a monument)

23a    Scratches heard in writer’s passage? (6)
CLAUSE A homophone (heard) of part of a verb meaning scratches or scrapes

26a    Strip purple vehicle (5)
AGENT Strip or remove the outside letters from a colour the BRB describes as ‘reddish-purple’

27a    Good-for-nothing keeping his money under the bed? (2-7)
NO-ACCOUNT An [unindicated again] US term for something worthless or insignificant would, without the hyphen, indicate that someone didn’t believe in putting their money into a bank

28a    S-Sovereign? (4,2,5)
HEAD OF STATE This chief representative of a country, not necessarily a sovereign, hence the question mark. If you were writing a clue you might use the solution to indicate that you need the letter S in the wordplay


1d    Needlecraft, note, lacking the more elevated ‘ton’ (7)
CROCHET A musical note ‘lacking’ the first (more elevated in a Down solution) abbreviation for Ton

2d    Adults only allowed in nick? (5)
NOTCH Split your solution 3,2 and if you take the last two letters to be an abbreviation for children, you’ll ‘see’ the reference to adults only

3d    Weakness in view — watch strap almost through (9)
EYESTRAIN A verb meaning to watch, almost all of STRAp and a preposition meaning through

4d    Petition peer about marina’s closing (4)
PRAY A verb meaning to peer into something that is private goes ‘about’ the closing letter of marinA

5d    Arms and legs but no running needed on the pitch! (3,5)
ALL FOURS A description of a quadruped (with arms and legs) or scoring four runs in cricket by hitting to the boundary without any need to run back and forth down the wicket

6d    Crew‘s perfection hard to ignore (5)
EIGHT Ignore the H (hard) that starts a degree of excellence or perfection

7d    After about nineteen weeks maiden tried perversely to get married (7)
MIDTERM The abbreviation for Maiden, an anagram (perversely) of TRIED and the abbreviation for Married

8d    Charmer from south unsettled and mischievous at heart (8)
SMOOTHIE The abbreviation for South, a disputed (unsettled) case or discussion and the ‘heart’ of miscHIEvous

14d    Enfeebled, like an empty 6? (8)
UNMANNED An adjective meaning enfeebled can also be used to describe an empty rowing boat such as a 6d

16d    Depression acquired at birth? (9)
UMBILICUS A cryptic description of another name for your navel (something acquired at birth)

17d    Restlessness shown by Ms Rykiel engaging medium (8)
INSOMNIA A preposition meaning by and the Christian name of Ms Rykiel, the late French fashion designer, into which is inserted (engaging) the abbreviation for Medium

18d    Find fault with the setter’s cracker (7)
IMPEACH A way the setter might say that he is followed by a choice example of something (cracker)

20d    Female concealing passion for guard (7)
SHEATHE The female pronoun ‘concealing’ some passion

22d    In truth, it checks progress? (5)
HITCH Lurking in trutH IT CHecks

24d    Mouth part starts to ululate vocals — ukulele lead’s awesome (5)
UVULA The starts to Ululate Vocals Ukulele Leads Awesome

25d    Venetian knave — one in the past (4)
IAGO This particular Venetian knave appears in Shakespeare’s Othello which I studied for A-Level English Literature many moons ago (but can still quote great parts of it at the drop of hat – Miss Davies would be so pleased!) Even if you don’t know the play, just follow the letter that looks like a one to an adverb meaning in the past

23 comments on “Toughie 2048

  1. Pretty tough I thought but I enjoyed the contest. Thanks to Firefly and CS.

    I’ve never heard of Ms Rykiel so I had to Google her to find out that she was a great knitter but otherwise the puzzle was free of obscurities with the toughness coming from clever wordplay (which is at it should be).

    The second part of 5d relates to a batsman scoring only in boundaries.

    My podium features 11a, 12a and 5d.

  2. The SW was the hardest part of this toughie.
    Although I had the compound anagram and the back road, it took a while to understand the construction of the bird in 13a and the vehicle in 26a.
    Always thought that magenta was bright red.
    Didn’t understand the sporty reference in 5d but the answer made sense.
    Quite a few new words for use such as the cymbals and the good for nothing.
    Liked 12a and 21a the most.
    Thanks to Firefly and to Sue.
    Just took all the little pips from a couple of kg of kumquats to make some marmalade.

    1. I meant to say that I didn’t keep the pips. I shall make the marmalade from the cleaned out fruits.

  3. This was not my type of crossword and I failed to finish (or ran out of mental energy to try to guess the remaining three). As the puzzle was popping out of the printer I was drawn to the Ms Rykiel and soon realized it was GK not an anagram or lurker. There were just so many words I either did not know or knew only in passing or in another form – total number 12. When it gets to that point the possibility of checking letters goes and it becomes a struggle or surrender or an exercise in use of electronic aids. I am familiar with 6d but not as the boat; with 9a but not to mean precisely and so on and so on

  4. Plenty of time in solitary to go for this toughie but what a cracking puzzle , right on my wavelength today, thanks Firefly.
    Apart from 21 which I failed to parse-thanks Crypticsue-and 16d which was a new synonym, plain sailing!
    Very hard to pick favourites ,going for 11a and 12a ,which brought a smile.
    Going for ***/*****.
    Ready for my daily exercise, I wonder if I can go for a ride on the Ducati ?-its only a cycle with an engine-no stopping allowed and certainly will get rid of the cobwebs !

    1. On our daily walk we are passed by motorbikes, ordinary bikes, horses and people (the latter at a 2m distance) so I’d say go for it but take care as the usual daft drivers think they can drive even more badly as there won’t be as many people on the road

  5. Interesting CS – you generally think the newer setters’ puzzles are easier than I think they are but today, with an older, established setter, I’ve found it easier – 2.5* max. Maybe I have Firefly’s measure – I’m certainly on the lookout for his trademark compound anagrams [eg 21a]. 5d didn’t really work for me until Gazza’s explanation above [thanks G] and I wasn’t familiar with Ms Rykiel but fair enough. 16d is cute and raised a smile once I had the initial U.

    Thanks for the blog and thanks to Firefly.

    1. I was really surprised to find this one as tricky as I did. Mind you, taking longer to solve and prepare the blog did save me from even more gardening in this very chilly northerly wind, so every cloud ….

  6. Not my cup of tea, and today has proved to be a disappointing day in crosswordland following on from a lack-lustre back-pager.

    I always find it difficult to get on this setter’s wavelength. Today was no exception and I found it all a rather relentless slog. Lots of hmms here as CS correctly surmised, not just for the use of a couple of unindicated American terms but there were also some very overstretched definitions and several dodgy surfaces.

    I did like 11a, 12a & 5d.

    Thanks to Firefly and to CS.

    1. Similar thoughts (not my 9dn in the back pager) … even when we seem to have all the time in the world, we eventually turn to the blog.

      But thanks to CS for hints and to Firefly for those I did crack.

      As for your A4 dilemna, I print the crossword everyday and have them on a clipboard. Very convenient, but if you look at my profile you will see that the cat doesn’t like being left out … and I notice that 23ac matches 1ac in the picture😎

      1. What marvellous creatures cats are. I visit a friend regularly to play our guitars together (sadly on hold along with a lot of other things at the moment). As soon as I take my guitar from its case, his cat jumps in and curl ups.

        I see from your avatar that you live in Italy so presumably you are suffering even more than we are at the moment. Keep safe!

        1. Hi RD. Well where we are is a peninsular out in the Adriatic. Most things pass us by … although we have the fast approaching Xylella Fastidiosa which is slaughtering the olive trees to the South. Travelling at 1km a month it might overwhelm us within 5 years.

          Despite our isolation we still have draconian movement laws. We need to carry a self-declaration form at all times … only one householder allowed to move around … on the form we have to declare our start of movement and where we are going (within our commune only) and name every shop that we are going to visit and, for example, the rubbish dump.

          Fines @ €3000+ and imprisonment for false declaration …maybe you don’t realise what may be about to hit you. But I hope it doesn’t. Take care everyone.

          1. We also have these attestations in France.
            A single fine is 135€.
            If you get three, the fine is 2500€ and a little jail sentence.

            1. Hi JLC. Seems you have a more reasonable approach. For example, I realised I had to get fuel yesterday, but I hadn’t put it on the form! What would the fine have been? And we are now on the 3rd version of the form and another update is due. Dystopia!

              1. Sorry, Hi SW.
                We just had our second version with two new authorisations,
                1) If you have an administrative or judiciary convocation.
                2) if you are asked by these very same administrations to do some community work.
                Which in other terms means that you will spend your sentence doing a bit of work.
                The latest government figures states that they have already dished out 225000 fines for a total of over € 30 millions.

  7. Definitely in the ‘proper toughie’ category for us. Hesitated putting in the answer to 1d as thought that hooks rather than needles are the tools needed, Took ages to work out what was going on with 26a..
    A good challenge and good fun.
    Thanks Firefly and CS.

  8. A genuine Toughie for me, with lots of Googling and all the electronic help I could get online (5 letters)–and still could not solve three of the little (quite wonderful) stinkers: 5 & 7d and 12a. It would have taken the act of a Titaness (from today’s cryptic) to have solved either the cricket clue or the nut-shaped one–just not something we have or know about in these dark woods of benighted America. But I ought to have figured out ‘midterm’, really. Top bananas: 11a, 15a, 18a.

    A great challenge for me and something I very much needed. The evening news just reported that the USA now has the largest number of coronavirus cases in the world, passing China. Some sad distinction. Here in S Carolina the numbers have tripled since Monday and the news just keeps getting worse and worse. The TLS today headlined its issue with the “New Normal”, and I’m afraid it is. Thank you very much crypticsue for your most helpful hints and observations. Glad you were able to ‘talk’ to your grandchildren. Many thanks too to Firefly; this is the first Toughie by him (I assume) I’ve ever tried. ***** / ****

  9. I found this a real challenge- I didn’t look at it until last night in the bath. I smartly shot through half of it then came to a complete halt. Checking the blog now at breakfast and grateful for your explanations but even so, a very convoluted puzzle IMHO.

  10. Amazingly, found this to be straightforward, apart from 5d, which once I came upon All Court in my head, I couldn’t dislodge. Managed this in much less time than Friday’s backpager (I’m days behind – saving them for when I haven’t got any!) thanks to Firefly and to CS for 5d

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