Toughie 2439 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2439

Toughie No 2439 by Serpent

Hints and tips by Gazza

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

It was only when I was checking my full grid for a possible pangram (which seemed a probability with all the high-scoring Scrabble letters present) that I realised that what we actually have here is a lipogram where our most common letter is notable by its absence. How clever is that, especially without any obscurities – I added an extra star to the enjoyment factor for this feat of compiling. If you’re interested in a 50,000 word novel involving (or rather not involving) the same letter check out this.

Thanks to Serpent for giving us an ‘out of the ordinary’ puzzle.

Do leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of the puzzle.

Across Clues

1a Perhaps fragmentary portrait is of prophet (6)
MOSAIC: double definition, the second an adjective meaning relating to an Old Testament prophet.

5a Current queen is not commonly brief (8)
ACQUAINT: start with abbreviations for a type of electric current and queen and append a common way of saying ‘is not’.

9a Denied relief in the pursuit of profits (8)
GAINSAID: a synonym for relief or succour follows another word for profits.

10a British bear with Resistance money man (6)
BURSAR: string together an abbreviation for British, a word for a bear (as used in Constellations) and the abbreviation for electrical resistance.

11a Former college student dons understood in various languages (8)
POLYGLOT: knit together the old name for a type of college and a verb meaning understood or twigged containing the usual abbreviation for student.

12a State backing leads to new guns for unconventional way of fighting (4,2)
KUNG FU: reverse the abbreviation for a well-known state or country and add the leading letters of four words in the clue.

13a Examination always covers subject associated with specific country (8)
NATIONAL: hidden in the clue.

15a Women’s Institute not involved in broadcasting work (4)
SONG: remove the abbreviation for Women’s Institute from a synonym for broadcasting.

17a Feminine commercial’s causing rages (4)
FADS: the abbreviation for feminine followed by a short commercial with its ‘S.

19a I run away from criminal suspect with hostile attitude (8)
INIMICAL: start with I and add an anagram (suspect) of C[r]IMINAL without the cricket abbreviation for run.

20a Material beginning to confirm reporter’s suspicions (6)
CHINTZ: the first letter of confirm and a homophone of a word meaning suspicions or traces.

21a Miss first half of game for children’s activity (8)
SKIPPING: charade of a verb to miss or omit and the first half of a ball game.

22a Foreign capital swelling Conservative vote in dramatic finish (6)
CLIMAX: a foreign capital city fills out an abbreviation for Conservative and the letter used for a vote in a polling station.

23a Copyist, having removed margins, limits data form (8)
IMITATOR: take away the marginal letters from the final three words.

24a European Right working to curb unreasonable desire (8)
ROMANIAN: the abbreviation for right and an adverb meaning working contain an unreasonable desire or obsession.

25a Vehicle certainly requiring good skill to corner? (2-4)
GO-KART: I’ve taken this to be a semi-all-in-one. A short response meaning ‘certainly’ is trapped between the abbreviation for good and a synonym for skill.

Down Clues

2d Person that addresses tips to improve one’s work (8)
ORATORIO: a speaker followed by the initial letters of “improve one’s”.

3d Tiresome nanny I almost got sacked (8)
ANNOYING: an anagram (sacked) of NANNY I GO[t].

4d ‘Doctor’ in academic role wanting one connected with Labour promoted (9)
CHARLATAN: string together a metonym for professor without the Roman numeral for one and the reversal of an adjective meaning related to labour or childbirth. Presumably the quotation marks round doctor are indicating that the said individual has no qualifications.

5d People charged with financial matters answer idiotic summons in distress (5,10)
AUDIT COMMISSION: the single-letter abbreviation for answer followed by an anagram (in distress) of IDIOTIC SUMMONS. The body in question was scrapped in 2015.

6d Universities accepting students content to play around is not normal (7)
UNUSUAL: two occurrences of an abbreviation for university contain the identity of the students’ union. After that we have to reverse the content of the word ‘play’.

7d Trappings of office I gain unexpectedly after getting elected head of school (8)
INSIGNIA: I and an anagram (unexpectedly) of GAIN follow an adverb meaning elected and the first letter of school.

8d Convoluted exit raised by leader of Ukip in high places (8)
TORTUOUS: the reversal of an exit or way of escape and the first letter of Ukip go inside some high places (especially on Dartmoor).

14d Backing up data is main source of income after line’s cut (9)
ARCHIVING: a charade of an adjective meaning main or principal and a source of income without the abbreviation for line.

15d Male lead swapping parts of Charlie and good man in racy vehicle (5,3)
STOCK CAR: this is a Spoonerism in all but name. Start with a feathered male and a lead actor then swap the letter for which Charlie is used in the Nato Phonetic Alphabet and the abbreviation for a good man.

16d ‘Nothing exists’ encapsulates the core of this mindset primarily (8)
NIHILISM: this is an all-in-one. A sporting synonym for nothing and a verb meaning exists contain the central letters of ‘this’. Finally append the primary letter of mindset.

17d Get into a panic over sailor’s fare (8)
FLAPJACK: concatenate a verb to get into a panic and one of our many words for a sailor.

18d Depressed broadcaster’s wretched and precipitate descent (8)
DOWNPOUR: cement together an adjective meaning depressed and a homophone of an adjective meaning wretched.

19d Revolutionary new independent school is up and running (2,5)
IN TRAIN: reverse the abbreviations for new and independent and add a verb to school.

My podium is populated by 15a, 25a and 16d today. Which clue(s) made the grade for you?

24 comments on “Toughie 2439

  1. I was expecting a Toughie level challenge from Serpent as per usual but am not going to complain about ending up with a Friday back page level crossword when the lipogram is as magnificent as this one. There are many crosswords where a letter or two might be missing but to produce one without any Es either is a wonderful achievement. I’m also quite delighted that I actually remembered the correct term without too much head-scratching.

    Thanks very much to Serpent and Gazza

  2. Well, my goodness–a lipogram! Not only did I miss that but the 13a lurker as well. I did realise there was a pangram a-building when I solved 22a, and it was quickly consummated with my LOI, 20d. What a splendid puzzle! I finished in very good time without any aids and thoroughly enjoyed the whole treat. Many stars on the congested podium, but I’ll settle on 11a, 12a, and 14d. Thanks to Gazza and to the very sinuously clever Serpent. ** / *****

    1. Just finished & me too on both counts. Mind you I’m hopeless with lurkers & wouldn’t have known what a lipogram was – the machine that does the suction maybe…

  3. I was also on pangram alert but couldn’t find an E. Very clever ! This took me a while today but certainly very enjoyable, with 4d being my favourite. Took me ages to spot the lurker on 13a, too much time thinking about types of exam. Many thanks to Serpent and Gazza.

  4. Not for me again, I’m sorry to say. This was another curate’s egg, which I seem to think has been the case for me with every Serpent puzzle I have attempted.

    I found the right hand side tough but fair and felt quite pleased to have completed it. However the left hand side was verging on incomprehensible and I needed copious amounts of help from Gazza to get over the line.

    Thanks Serpent, and particularly respect for being able to compose a lipogram. Thanks too to Gazza for putting me out of my misery.

    1. Me too! Managed, just, the right hand side but failed on the left. Am now going to read the hints to see what I missed – as well as the absence of “e”‘s!

  5. I thought this was a terrific and highly enjoyable puzzle – but for me a good deal harder than ** in difficulty. The pangram / lipogram went completely over my head when solving. The right half went in more easily than the left. I was held up in the NW corner in unravelling the word play in 4d, and in the SW corner with 15d. Many thanks to Serpent and Gazza.

  6. I’d never come across a lipogram crossword before, but I did find this enjoyable, clever and fair, although not particularly difficult. Plenty of good clues, including 24a, 4d and 11a.

  7. Many thanks to Gazza for the excellent blog and to everyone for their kind comments.

    The puzzle is intended to be both lipogram and “pangram”. The grid entries include every letter except E, while the grid itself contains two groups of black squares in the shape of Es. It was this feature of the grid that gave me the idea for the puzzle.

    1. Thanks a lot for looking in, Serpent. We do appreciate it when setters leave a comment, especially when they reveal a bit of extra information about the puzzle.

    2. Thank you, Serpent for a wonderful puzzle. A question, if I may. You say you saw the grid and it gave you the idea for the puzzle. Does this mean that the settlers are given a grid and don’t devise it themselves?
      If so, my estimation of setters has risen considerably and my esteem for them was always high.

      1. I’m delighted you enjoyed the puzzle.
        The Telegraph has a ‘library’ of grids that setters must use. So we don’t devise the grids ourselves, but nor are we given a grid; we have a choice which grid we use from the library. (This makes the sequence of Toughies produced by Elgar all the more impressive, given the self-imposed thematic constraints.)

  8. Very relieved to see the comment from RD as I was beginning to think it was just me who couldn’t get along with this setter’s style.
    I did manage to complete it but can’t say that I derived much enjoyment from the solve.

    Apologies to Serpent although I appreciate the effort that no doubt went into constructing a pangram/lipogram and thanks also to Gazza for confirming that I’d assembled everything correctly.

  9. Wonderfully enjoyable puzzle, were were expecting a pangram after 14D but never spotted the lipogram until reading the comments and missed the two black square “Es”. Very, very clever indeed **/*****. A & M

  10. Thanks serpent, congratulations on the lipogram which I missed. though funnily enough I was thinking there were a lot of I’s. A very nice idea with the grid E’s.
    Thanks Gazza, i was amazed at the ikea commercial.

  11. Thanks serpent, congratulations on the lipogram which I missed. though funnily enough I was thinking there were a lot of I’s. A very nice idea with the grid E’s.
    Thanks Gazza, i was amazed at the ikea commercial.

  12. So, I find out what a lipogram is! Another word learned from this wonderful blog. The grid even shows what the letter is, -brilliant!

    I got on well with this puzzle by Serpent and thought some clues very clever. I especially liked 16d because it reminded me of “Fathers and Sons” by Turgenev. One character had this trait.

    An enjoyable challenge. Many thanks to Serpent for the head scratching and to Gazza for the amusing hints. I did like the picture accompanying 12a.

    1. I must admit that, although I knew there was a special word for this ‘feature’ I couldn’t remember what it was and had to look it up. If you’d asked me yesterday what a lipogram was I’d probably have guessed that it was a very passionate kissogram.

  13. Didn’t notice the lipogram but saw the big E’s before starting the crossword.
    Great achievement. We also have a book in France called La Disparition where the letter doesn’t appear.
    Really enjoyed the solve and favourite is the all in one in 16d.
    Thanks to Serpent and to Gazza.

  14. Totally missed the lipogram and the big Es in the grid but thoroughly enjoyed the solve. 14d was our last one to fall.
    Thanks Srpnt and Gazza.

  15. Well, you learn something new every day. I completed the puzzle AOK but didn’t notice the lack of e’s and had never heard of a lipogram before. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  16. After yesterday’s slog I was pleased to complete unaided in a reasonably quick time this evening although required Gazza’s help with the wordplay for a couple. My only confession is that before starting I glanced at Gazza’s difficulty rating to determine whether to bother or not & my eye caught pangram so I was on alert from the word go which actually helped for 20&22a plus 17d.
    Needless to say I was blissfully ignorant of the absence of an E & the clever grid just thankful it was considerably less demanding than yesterday.
    With thanks to Serpent & Gazza

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