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Toughie 2422

Toughie No 2422 by Donnybrook

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

This puzzle required a fair degree of General Knowledge, but the composer was the only one I had not encountered before. Although this was my last one, in retrospect the wordplay was very straightforward.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


8a    Good results with point to secure at home (4)
WINS: W(ith) and a compass point around (to secure) a word meaning at home

9a    Men returning caught enormous bird (3)
ROC: the reversal (returning) of some army men is followed by C(aught)

10a    Choice to turn it on after surgery (6)
OPTION: The reversal (turn) of IT followed by ON from the clue and preceded by some short surgery

11a    Old Spaniard in firm runs trial that’s incomplete (6)
CORTÉS: the two-letter abbreviation for a firm or business followed by R(uns) and most of (that’s incomplete) a trial

12a    Military force works to contain Frenchman having last word (8)
ARMAMENT: some works or paintings around (to contain) the abbreviated form of address for a Frenchman and the last word of, say, a prayer

13a    One knocking forest spirits? (5,10)
GREEN WOODPECKER: a forest (9) followed by spirits, as in the exhortation to keep this up – many years ago I was working in Washington DC when one of the girls asked me what was meant by this phrase, which had been included in a letter from the UK office and had an entirely different meaning to her!

15a    Wine produced by Middle Eastern country endlessly (7)
MADEIRA: a four-letter word meaning produced followed by most of (endlessly) a Middle Eastern country

17a    Staines Massif character Scots hooligan put straight (7)
ALIGNED: the leader (3,1) of a fictional gang called “Da West Staines Massif” is followed by a Scots hooligan – fortunately I recognised this straightaway, but overseas solvers might have a problem here!

20a    What might give heart a big shock? (5-10)
EARTH-SHATTERING: This could indicate an anagram that leads to HEART

23a    Membrane found defective in a primate (3,5)
PIA MATER: although this looks like the title of a classical song, it is actually the vascular membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and it is derived from an anagram (found defective) of A PRIMATE

25a    Bum around new French location (6)
NANTES: put a technical word for the buttocks around N(ew)

26a    Composer changes not one note, ultimately (6)
VARESE: this, to me obscure (and, after listening briefly to one of his compositions, will stay that way!), French composer is constructed from a word meaning changes from which the I has been dropped (not one) followed by the final letter (ultimately) of [not]E

Do you agree with my assessment?

27a    Blockhead in Obama’s shoes (3)
ASS: hidden (in) inside the clue

28a    Secret agent necessarily underground? (4)
MOLE: this type of secret agent is named after an underground mammal


1d    Robust force from Spanish and Babylonian cities (6)
VIGOUR: combine a four-letter Spanish city with a Babylonian one

2d    You could say we admitted to sick satire (2,2,4)
AS IT WERE: WE inside (admitted to) an anagram (sick) of of SATIRE

3d    Group cutting worst records ruined me (9,6)
CROSSWORD SETTER: a group goes inside (cutting) an anagram (ruined) of WORST RECORDS

4d    Hunter in exploit over enormously long period (7)
ACTAEON: a three-letter exploit followed by an enormously long period of time


5d    Plato with commission to destabilise global view (15)
COSMOPOLITANISM: an anagram (to destabilise) of PLATO with COMMISSION

6d    Incredibly small alpha male in charge (6)
ATOMIC: A(lpha) followed by a male cat and the abbreviation for In Charge

7d    Depressed daughter to have drink at speed (4)
DOWN: two definitions separated by some wordplay – D(aughter) followed by a verb meaning to have

14d    Beast taking zig-zag course? (3)
EWE: the course mapped out by the letters of this beast would form a sort of zig-zag

A blast from the past!  How may of you remember this one?

Can anyone help with the original lyrics?

From what I can remember they went a bit like this:

I’m Tom Hark,
How do you do?
Mary Mark,
Pleased to meet you.

16d    Turkish commander edges away from infidel (3)
AGA: drop the outer letters (P and N) from an infidel

18d    Big Chief Iron Cuckoo enters stone circle (8)
GERONIMO: an anagram (cuckoo) of IRON inside a precious stone and the circular letter

19d    Waller took top tip from Roach — piano’s inside (7)
HADRIAN: nothing to do with, as I initially thought, Fats Waller but a Roman emperor associated with the building of a wall – a verb meaning took followed by the top letter in R[oach] and the inner letters of [p]IAN[o]

21d    Mike cuts Roman flower in wood (6)
TIMBER: M(ike) inside (cuts) a Roman river (flower)

22d    Sewer, lake and river up in north-east (6)
NEEDLE: not a drain but something used in sewing – L(ake) and a river are reversed (up) inside North East

24d    Small measure taken to rein in a cleric (4)
IMAM: a small measure of length (1,2) around (to rein in) the A from the clue

Each time I solve one of Donnybrook’s puzzles I enjoy it more than I did the previous time.

26 comments on “Toughie 2422

  1. I didn’t know the composer, but i really enjoyed the puzzle. I thought 3d was brilliant, and I liked the Waller.
    Many thanks Donnybrook and BD

  2. Edgard is not my cup of tea either. I thought the puzzle very fair – loved 19d, needed a bit of googling for 17&23a.
    Thanks to Donnybrook and BD.

  3. A nice, if not very challenging puzzle
    Yes, 26a sounds like a soundtrack from a B grade horror movie and no, 14d before my time
    I do remember the discussion following the last outing of 14d though – a zig-zag would be SE-SW-SE, *** would be going backwards and forwards over the same path
    Thanks Donnybrook and Happy Birthday to Her Majesty and BD

  4. I really don’t see how I was supposed to recognise the composer in 26a but otherwise, although a bit GK heavy, the rest of the puzzle was fine.
    I am aware of the North American problem with 13a.
    I thought 20 a was clever and probably my COTD.
    A lovely day here but too cold a wind. It would be good to sit outside with a book. Better luck tomorrow?

  5. Very entertaining puzzle though it seemed to get trickier the further south I got. I ended up in the SW corner and had to rely on Mrs Bradford to identify the membrane and the composer (neither of which I’d ever heard of). I didn’t know who the Staines Massif character was either but assumed it was that very unfunny bloke whom I can’t stand.

    It took me some time to work out whether the first word of 25a was ‘buM’ or ‘buRN’ (I’ve been caught out by that before).

    I liked 13a, 18d and 21d but my favourite, for the penny-drop moment, was 19d.

    Thanks to Donnybrook for the puzzle and thanks (and Happy Birthday) to BD for the review.

  6. I was surprised to find Donnybrook in unusually tough mode (***/****), and I don’t think it was just the GK, I did know it all, just had to rummage a bit in the back of the brain, especially for the composer. I know 14d isn’t quite a zig zag but it did make me smile when I realised what the beast had to be

    Thanks to Donnybrook and thanks also to BD – Happy Birthday to you, Her Majesty and Libellule

  7. I’ll start by saying almost what Dutch said:
    I didn’t know the composer, but I really enjoyed the puzzle. I thought 3d was brilliant, and, although I liked the Waller, unusually for Donnybrook I couldn’t make any sense at all out of the surface.
    I also got held up by misreading the first word in 25a as burn, even with my glasses on! 🤓
    Many thanks to Donnybrook and BD

    1. I think the surface of 19d is alluding to Fats Waller and Max Roach, both of whom were, among other things, accomplished pianists

      1. Thanks, BD. Although I knew Fats Waller, the Roach reference is rather obscure but does make sense of the surface.

  8. Nice puzzle. Once again Frank Zappa fans will be at an advantage, being familiar with the 26a composer.
    Re the clever 19d – I assume it is Max Roach being name checked but doubt he ever played with Fats Waller.

    Thanks to Db and BD

  9. Relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one who misread the first word of 25a! Unlike BD & CS, I encountered five occasions where I had to turn to Mr G for advice – made the solve a bit hard-going.
    Joint favourites here were 13&20a.

    Thanks to Donnybrook for the challenge and to BD for the review – don’t think I’ll bother listening to any more of 26a’s work if that was a typical example!

  10. I never look forward to Donnybrook puzzles because they seem to be GK puzzles with a touch of cryptic. This one I found worse than even I suspected and I had so little enthusiasm left towards the end that I did not bother to look up the ones it was not possible to guess nor check my guesses. I also had no enthusiasm to read BDs explanation of 17a (or any other clue for that matter) which made zero sense to me although the definition was guessable. 4d was not guessable making 12a hard to guess as the definition is rather elastic. 13a seems impossible to guess the first word unless one happens to know a lot about birds. The non GK clues were, by contrast, really easy with something similar to 20a having appeared in another puzzle recently. 26a is my idea of a clue from hell – with the checkers in I could see what seems to be the correct answer (unknown to me) but felt the need to run through dozens of composers I know believing there must be a simpler answer. A very frustrating puzzle. I will not bother printing off future Donnybrook puzzles

  11. Don’t quite get why the word “depressed” was needed in 7 down. Had me questioning my answer, which brought me here.

  12. My first thought on 19d was Fats. I spent quite a bit of time trying to fit those four letters into the answer before the penny finally dropped.

  13. It was the general knowledge that ultimately did me in. I really didn’t stand a chance with 17a which made absolutely no sense to me in the first place, and compounded by my having entered EEL (quite reasonably I thought) for 14d. The clue I am sorry to have failed on was the waller which I thought was an excellently constructed clue, but by that time I knew I was not able to complete the puzzle and consequently my will to persevere had exponentially diminished. Pity – for me the GK was a good puzzle spoiled, but thanks in any event to Donnybrook and Big Dave.

  14. For info BD there’s a short Wikipedia item on Tom Hark which suggests it was originally written as an instrumental and first recorded by Elias et al. That’s the only version I’m familiar with but apparently plenty of people put words to it, Millie Small and Georgie Fame amongst em.

    Good to hear it again.

  15. Failed on 23a, 26a, 4d and 19d. Kicking myself on the last but not so bothered about the others as general knowledge always seems obscure when you don’t know it. Thanks to BD and Donnybrook.

  16. BD – Do you know that the calendar at the top right of the page is incorrect by a day?

    1. Yes he does (see note at the foot of that column), but short of rebuilding the site there is no fix to date

      1. Ooops. Sorry. I didn’t look that far down the column.

        I was trying to find the blog for the Elgar puzzle that was the one before last week’s (to find what number he was up to) and got a bit muddled up with the calendar at the top.

        I thought it was maybe to do with the leap year.

        Thanks, LbR

  17. Had to seek electronic help for several clues today (I knew of the composer but couldn’t come up with it) and of course the Staines Massif utterly defeated me, even though I plugged in the right answer. I very much enjoyed the challenge, though, and thought this a crackerjack Toughie. Especially liked 1d, 3d, 4d, and 19d. **** / **** Thanks to BD and Donnybrook. ( As for the composer, I think he thought more of himself (and other anti-musicians like him) than most of us musicians do.)

  18. We needed Google help to parse 17a and had a lot of head scratching about how 13a worked. The Waller in 19d also held us up somewhat.
    All good fun.
    Thanks Donnybrook and thanks and happy birthday BD.

  19. I did what I could. I was most pleased to get 4d, I think that he appears in an episode of Lewis involving some dodgy translations of ancient greek. I learned a bit of Spanish Geog and history too. I just hope my Meninges haven’t suffered from the excess of cogitation. completely misread bum (_!_) for burn 🔥 too. 3d my favourite today. 26a sounds like a composer I will avoid but Donnybrook is a 3d I will definitely pursue.
    Thanks to him and BD (happy birthday)

  20. Not sure Donnybrook’s urban slang knowledge is quite there. It’s the “Massive”, not “Massif”. We’re talking inner city, not the Alps, bruv.

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