Toughie 2428 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2428

Toughie No 2428 by Firefly

Hints and tips by crypticsue

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Firefly has set us what I found to be a proper Toughie crossword, with a double-unched grid and the need to solve 4d before you could get going on solving the Across clues.

He also gave your blogger an earworm, a desire to have a glass of 8a (resisted because it was very early in the day and we don’t have any orange juice) and some nice opportunities for illustrations of the themed solutions

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a & 16a First person in Paris with exactly what can furnish 4 (4,4)
JEWS HARP The French (in Paris) first person, the abbreviation for with and an adjective meaning clear-cut (exactly)

3a    American maker of 4 admits of no failing (4,6)
FATS DOMINO An anagram (failing) of ADMITS OF NO

8a    Maureen’s first among arrivals to imbibe one’s Buck’s fizz (6)
MIMOSA The (chiefly) American name for Buck’s fizz – This is IMHO one of those ‘tough for the wrong reasons’ clues where the solution is obvious from the checking letters and definition but trying to parse it is another matter.  Is the first letter Maureen’s first or do we need to take an informal name for Maureen and find the first of something else and then … ? :scratch:   Had I not been the person responsible for the review,  I’d have waited for the blogger to tell me!  I gave up and emailed for help. I was very grateful to learn that the solution is obtained from an informal way of saying Maureen’s and the first letter of Arrivals into which is inserted (to imbibe) a way of saying one is [going to, for example] –

9a    Wine kept in extension finally made mine (8)
EXCAVATE Mine here is a verb.  Some sparkling wine kept in an abbreviated extension, the result finished with the final letter of madE

10a    Agitation that’s hidden under a skirt? (6)
BUSTLE Some hurried activity (agitation) or a frame for making a skirt stand out from the hips

11a    Mishap where Oscar takes over lead in ‘Sunset Point’ (8)
OCCIDENT Change the lead letter of a mishap to an O (Oscar in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet) to obtain a word relating to the quarter of the sky where the sun sets (sunset point)

12a    Can returning injured ace in Spanish city … (8)
VALENCIA Reverse an informal term for a toilet (can returning) and then add an anagram (injured) of ACE IN

14a    … regularly flaunt electronic means of creating 4? (4)
LUTE The regular letters of fLaUnT followed by the abbreviation for electronic

16a    See 1a    

18a    Virtuous woman‘s street name mentioned (2,6)
ST MONICA An early Christian saint honoured for her outstanding Christian virtue – the abbreviation for street and a homophone of a slang nickname or real name

19a    Bulging in vessel with careless nurseryman not near (8)
ANEURYSM An anagram (careless) of nUrSERYMAN without (not) the abbreviation for near – surely this clue should have a way of telling you that the near is not only abbreviated but that the two letters aren’t next to each other in the anagram fodder?

20a    ‘Azardous bundle? (6)
ARMFUL A small bundle sounds like the way a Cockney or other person who didn’t sound their aitches might say hazardous

21a    Regular incomes peter out into small gratuities (8)
STIPENDS A verb meaning to peter out inserted into the abbreviation for Small and some gratuities

22a    Distinguished and crotchety, perhaps? (2,4)
OF NOTE This phrase meaning distinguished might describe something relating to a crotchet

23a    Set out what platelayers do (4,6)
MAKE TRACKS An informal way of saying set out on a journey or what a person who attends to the rails of a railway (platelayer) does

24a    Pall shrinking around lake (4)
CLOY To become wearisome (pall) a synonym for shrinking in the sense of shy ‘around’ the abbreviation for Lake


1d    Abandon security and barge head-down into custody (4,4)
JUMP BAIL To fail to reappear in court and thus abandon the monetary security given to assure one’s release – take a verb meaning to barge, move its first (head) letter down the word and insert into a place of custody

2d    Gay‘s left in Sierra (the setter’s) (8)
SPORTIVE Gay in the sense of playful or merry – insert the word used for the left side of a ship between the word used to indicate the letter S in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and then finish with the way our setter would say he has something

3d    Mark, ex officio, consented to being a source of 4 (9)
FLAGEOLET A verb meaning to mark, the abbreviation for ex officio and a simple way of saying consented to

4d    Too much din and fuss swirling around English movie (3,5,2,5)
THE SOUND OF MUSIC An anagram (swirling around) of TOO MUCH DIN and FUSS put around E (English) produces a movie and an earworm!

5d    Van IRA commandeered smuggles from the south component of 4 (7)
OCARINA Hidden in reverse (smuggles from the south) in vAN IRA COmmandeered

6d    Castilian consort is a ringer, leader in abbey (8)
ISABELLA Queen of Castile and consort of Ferdinand II of Spain – IS A (from the clue), something that rings and the ‘leader’ in Abbey

7d    Plain destitution unveiled (5)
OVERT Unveil or remove the outside letters from a synonym for destitution

13d    Parrots mostly move round in South Island — note to be written up (9)
IMITATORS A reversal (to be written up) of almost all of a verb meaning to move round inserted into the abbreviation for South Island and a musical note

15d    Consider underwear, perhaps, to advance at court? (4,4)
TAKE SILK To become a Queen’s Counsel, a term deriving from the type of cloth used for their gowns, sounds like someone giving options for types of underwear

16d    High note in mist sounded higher than unhallowed 18ac, in short? (8)
HARMONIC A homophone (sounded) of a type of mist plus the solution to 18a, once you have removed both the indication of holiness (unhallowed) and the final letter (in short?)

17d    Change in reformed spy, becoming contributor to 4 (8)
PSALTERY Insert a verb meaning to change into an anagram (reformed) of SPY

18d    Provider of 4 dispatched round hub of hoverport (7)
SERPENT Another way of saying dispatched put round the ‘hub’ of hovERPort

19d    Tea service article on the counter (5)
ASSAM A reversal (on the counter) of a church service and an indefinite article

I particularly liked the accurate descriptions of the two historical ladies – which clue was your favourite?

18 comments on “Toughie 2428

  1. What a cracking workout. Enjoyed every head-scratching letter of this one, 3* time but 4* for difficulty, and definitely 5* for enjoyment. It helps that I used to teach music & can drag a tune out of at least half the instruments mentioned. Only had to check the cocktail, thought I’d come across it in my travels. Many thanks to Firefly – & no hints needed, ta!

  2. Started with a flourish with 8a and then spent the rest of the morning scratching my head. By the time my son solved the anagram that is 4d for me I’d lost the will to live having only solved 5 more. A brilliant crossword but way beyond my capability.

    Thanks to a clever CS and a diabolical Firefly!

  3. I also have a bit of a quibble with 19a having spent a while removing 4 letters from 10 and wondering where the other 2 were supposed to come from. Agree with you CS that some abbreviation hint might have been a kindness!
    But fun otherwise with the baroque instruments. 4d was my first in [that seeming the logical way to solve the thing] and I feared at first that familiarity with the movie might be required [never been able to sit thro it].

    Thanks for the blog and to Firefly for the puzzle.

  4. Getting the 4d answer made all the clues containing references to 4 relatively straightforward in that it was now clear what was required.
    I was briefly held up in the SW corner by my inability to spell 19a.
    I didn’t even notice the double unches (that’s pretty much par for the course for me).
    I enjoyed the puzzle (which was free of obscurities, I’m pleased to say) with my ticks going to 11a, 20a, 6d and 15d.
    Many thanks to Firefly and CS.

  5. That was quite hard work but managed to finish.
    Getting the two anagrams in 3a and 4d did help in finding some of the related answers.
    Couldn’t parse 8a though. Makes perfect sense now.
    Toyed with St Coleen or Coline as the homophone for name for a while until 16d revealed itself.
    Probably not to everyone’s liking considering the recent comments on the blog, but I enjoyed it immensely.
    A proper toughie teaser.
    Favourite 1d.
    Thanks to Firefly and to CS.

  6. Ah, that’s what a serpent is! I didn’t look it up, was a bit surprised with the answer. Thanks for the bucks fizz – i had the ingredients and the answer but it was tricky to put it all in the right place! I only learned the american version recently from a wedding invitation (now delayed)

    14a was the FOI which gave the the long 4 down straight away, fortunately. Not sure i would have recognised 3d otherwise!

    Many thanks Firefly and CS

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, although it took me quite a while to complete.
    After entering 4d as my first answer, I was intrigued to follow this through to the end.
    A couple of the instruments took some working out, but the very clear wordplay led me to the correct answers.
    Thanks to Firefly and to CS for the review.

  8. Managed to parse all but 8a,now I know why after reading Crypticsue’s hints! I think the clue was somewhat convoluted.
    Anyway a cleverly clued puzzle and an enjoyable experience- two excellent cryptics today to pass the time.
    Going to go for a***/****.
    15d was a new instrument for me, from the blog pic it looked like it had been designed by a committee! I thought it might be from eve meeting the serpent and then’ facing the music’ in the garden of Eden-desperate times indeed.
    Lots of good clues, liked 6d.
    Thanks all’

  9. I thought this was a hugely enjoyable puzzle, although I did find the double unches challenging in places (SW corner in particular). I did not help myself by trying to make COCKATOOS fit for the parrots in 13d (it almost works – with southern island and all). However, it all made sense when the penny dropped in 18a (great clue). I did need the review to see how some of the word play worked – 8a being high on the list. I loved all the instruments – I’ve always wanted to play an 18d, but never had the chance. Many thanks to Firefly and crypticsue.

  10. I haven’t enjoyed the last few Firefly puzzles I have attempted so I decided to give this one a miss until it started to rain. That turned out to be a good decision as I did like this one apart from 8a & 19a.

    I think I have come across the mist in 16d before but I had forgotten it and 18d was a new instrument to me, but one which is clearly aptly named!

    Many thanks to Firefly and to CS.

  11. Just took time out from assembling my new IT kit from work and found this dreary work.

    Once upon a time I enjoyed Firefly’s puzzles and I still enjoy his barred puzzles but this just felt forced and had little to redeem it.

    Now back to trying to activate a Citrix Receiver and avoid throwing this PC Through my window.

  12. Hadn’t met 8a as a cocktail before. The clue was too convoluted and spoilt the puzzle for me.

  13. Phew and Whew! This brilliant display of wordsmithing wore me to a frazzle–and I didn’t finish because I simply couldn’t solve 9a, of all things–but I enjoyed every minute of the long struggle. Proper Toughie indeed! Used all the electronic help with letters I could and still couldn’t find the definition term in 9a. Got some of the more problematic ones, like 8a, which I parsed correctly according to crypticsue’s source, but missed the rekrul. Wonderful stuff though, and I ended up singing “Blueberry Hill” once I solved 3a. Outstanding clues: just too many to list but 20a tickled me and 15d reminded me how simply glorious the British-English language is. Solved the musical immediately, then the 1/16a clue and thought I was on my way to glory. Ha! Many thanks to crypticsue for the hard work and the excellent review and to Firefly, the magus whose puzzles I have yet to finish. ***** / *****

    1. Hi Robert,
      When I see the word Wine in a crossword, I always try Red, Rosé, Asti, Cava, Hock and very often it’s one or the other.

  14. This was fun. Difficult for me – well it is The Toughie – but it was most satisfying. I managed three quarters without resorting to the hints. I soon got the musical theme and that helped. Wonderful that so many obscure instruments are included. I liked 11a and 17d.

    Many thanks to Firefly for the challenge and huge thanks to Crypticsue for the much needed hints.

  15. Still say that I preferred Firefly’s puzzles before he became ‘too clever’ but thought I’d give this one a try given the lockdown blues.
    Enjoyed searching out the instruments but definitely needed the hints from CS to parse 8a and thought a couple of others were a little far-fetched.
    Top two here were 10&20a.

    Thanks to Firefly and to CS for the well-illustrated review.

  16. We did a groan when we saw that more than half the answers contained double unches but when we got to the end realised that they had not affected us too badly. Our first one in was 4d so that gave us a good start. Struggled with the same ones that get mentioned above but got there eventually with a little bit of Googling and electronic help.
    Thanks Firefly and CS.

  17. A terrible grid that really shouldn’t be allowed, and it’s a pity about 19ac, but the rest was a good, enjoyable puzzle that was the first proper Toughie this week.

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