Toughie 2445 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2445

Toughie No 2445 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Some great quirky clueing today. Sparks often has a Nina, but I haven’t seen anything yet, perhaps someone will help me.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Italian 19ac composed country collection? (5,7)
LATIN AMERICA: An anagram (composed) of ITALIAN + [the answer to 19a]. Is this an indirect anagram?

9a    From idyllic valley, extremely smart example of comedy (7)
TEMPEST: A 5-letter idyllic valley, originally the valley of the Peneus in Thessaly (and fortunately in Chambers!), plus the outer (extremely) letters of smart. I think “From” belongs to the clue construct, “From wordplay, answer”

10a    Dashing fighter pilots leading search (7)
RAFFISH: The abbreviation for the military service that includes fighter pilots comes before (leading) a word meaning search (as in to search for compliments)

11a    One taking bait on individual cast? (7)
REACTOR: A short word meaning on or concerning, then a single member of a cast

12a    Runner, girl, not finishing run (7)
HARRIER: A girl’s name without the last letter (not finishing), and the abbreviation for run

13a    Planet‘s grand projection (5)
GLOBE: The abbreviation for grand, plus a rounded anatomical projection, most commonly as part of the brain or ear

14a    Journalist meeting public after criticism dropped off (6,3)
FLAKED OUT: Our usual journalist plus (meeting) a 3-letter word meaning public or in the open come after a word for criticism

16a    Breathe erratically when swallowing a large hot drink (6,3)
HERBAL TEA: An anagram (erratically) of BREATHE contains (when swallowing) A from the clue and the abbreviation for large

19a    Pick great joke, forgetting the opening (5)
CREAM: A 6-letter word for a great joke or a good laugh without the first letter (forgetting the opening)

21a    Formidable internet giant with binary exchange — Google’s first (7)
AMAZING: A giant online retail and distribution company in which we have a change of binary digit ( I vs O), plus the first letter of Google

23a    Retiring foreign character, loose old salt (7)
OXALATE: A reversal of: a Greek letter, a 3-letter word meaning loose or slack, e.g. in attitude, and the abbreviation for old

24a    Son breaking excellent record around the country (7)
ESTONIA: The abbreviation for son is inserted into (breaking) a reversal (around) of a 2-character expression for excellent and a quickly written record

25a    Mini career break, ultimately a little tedious (7)
IRKSOME: The last letters (ultimately) of the first 3 words in the clue, then a word meaning ‘a little’

26a    Using which one might no longer be distressed (4-8)
HAIR RESTORER: A cryptic definition with a play on dis-tressed. I’m hoping not to go there quite yet


1d    Chimney bulge beginning to open — a pain (7)
LUMBAGO: A 3-letter chimney, a verb meaning to bulge, and the first letter (beginning) to open

2d    National, say, location for operational staff (7)
THEATRE: A cryptic reference where operational refers to surgical

3d    What’s left for attack following trap (3,6)
NET PROFIT: A 3-letter word meaning for and an attack or seizure following a trap or snare. The definition feels incomplete, prompting the question “after what?”

4d    Right to stop crush in Slough (5)
MARSH: The abbreviation for right goes inside a verb meaning to crush, as in potatoes

5d    Judge about to release European on the inside (7)
REFEREE: A short word meaning about or concerning plus a verb meaning to release contains (on the inside) the abbreviation for European

6d    Artist, stylish, finally resident in Brazilian city (7)
CHIRICO: A 4-letter word for stylish and elegant, for which the last letter (finally) is contained within (resident in) a 3-letter Brazilian city

7d    Warmer — presumably not on the peaks? (7,6)
STORAGE HEATER: A cryptic reference to the hours during which the answer is heated to save on electricity rates

8d    Shattered stepmother rose thus? (5-8)
SHORT-TEMPERED: Yes, I suppose she might have. An anagram (shattered) of STEPMOTHER plus a colour of the rose flower

15d    Who will have dissected a film about allies (9)
ANATOMIST: A from the clue plus another word for film contain (about) an international organisation of allies

17d    Area hit badly in old province (7)
RHAETIA: An anagram (badly) of AREA HIT. Very clear wordplay, but with this being an anagram of a name I did not know, it took me a long time to unravel and check

18d    Outsider, alternatively one who transfers property (7)
ALIENOR: A 5-letter word for outsider and a 2-letter word for alternatively

19d    Mostly nutty biscuit (7)
CRACKER: Remove the last letter (mostly) from an 8-letter word meaning nutty


20d    Heartbroken, a mourner clutches charm (7)
ENAMOUR: Hidden (… clutches)

22d    Favour good stock (5)
GRACE: The abbreviation for good and another word for stock or breed


My biggest smile today was 6d because I was admiring the works of this somewhat surreal and slightly spooky artist just the other day, and because of the quirky interlocking word play. I also liked 21a for quirkiness (binary exchange) and 16a for the smooth surface. Which clues did you enjoy?


28 comments on “Toughie 2445

  1. Great workout, had to Google the artist (loi) but got there in the end. Enjoyed the links in the corners too. Thanks Sparks & Dutch.

  2. I must admit to being slightly disappointed with this crossword – it didn’t seem to have Spark’s usual ‘spark’ and, provided you know your ‘stuff’ then, apart from a ‘insert letters and check’ anagram in 17a, it was really only a 1* toughie. There is an almost Nina in that we have (E) INE across the middle horizontally and ALES down the vertical letters in the vertical, plus the proper Ninas Nogbad mentions above.

    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch

  3. A pleasant puzzle from Sparks – thanks to him and Dutch.

    There were several answers I didn’t know (23a, 6d, 18d and 17d). Whereas the first three were gettable from the wordplay and checkers I thought that 17d might have been borrowed from Mr Manley’s manual.

    I can’t see how 1a can be an indirect anagram – the second bit of the fodder is lifted unchanged from the 19a answer.
    I did wonder what ‘the’ was doing in 24a.
    I think that ‘off the peaks’ in 7d refers to the fact that these devices are heated during the night using an off-peak electricity tariff.

    My ticks went to 11a and 14a.

    1. thanks, it’s what I intended for 7d but I didn’t explain it well, now modified.

      An indirect anagram is unfair mainly because the solver does not know exactly what to do, which is certainly not the case in 1a. However, a substitution of “19ac” is required, which may involve solving a clue before the fodder letters become apparent, which could be described as indirect. On the other hand (the view I have chosen), the “19a” can simply be seen as a pointer to a different location, as for any other clue type. I just thought it an interesting question. I still think that such cross-references tend not to benefit the surface reading.

      1. I think I agree with you re cross-references Dutch
        Not so long ago I was sent a puzzle to test solve with eight references to one answer, and that answer cross-referenced a circle of another five clues
        Read through it sent it back with a resounding ‘Nope!’
        Barely solvable and extremely irritating; a case of more fun for the setter than solver I suspect

  4. What a change to have a friendly Friday. I was beaten by 6d as I had charitio, a bird native to Brazil. I should have looked at the parsing. 17d was a brute. Luckily my online anagram maker understood it or I’d still be struggling.
    Off to enjoy the sunshine in the garden. Having had no rain at all this moth I hope a water shortage will not be adding to our woes!

  5. I’m afraid I was a bit underwhelmed by this. 6d is a bit naughty as he is usually referred to as de Chirico [altho the clue construction is clever] 7d and 8d are a bit feeble, the article in 24a is only there for the surface and 26a is an old chestnut. I spent a while trying to justify the presence of an Indonesian fermented soybean product in 9a, but that’s my fault!
    Did like the clever 21a though.

    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch [esp for explaining the happy valley in 9a [who knew that?]

  6. I needed help to track down the artist in 6d, to find the salt in 23a and to confirm the valley in 9a. Decent enough but I found the back page more entertaining today. Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

  7. Finally, a Friday Toughie I could complete, what joy, although I don’t doubt we’ll be back to Elgar’s umpteenth next week!
    Took me a while and I encountered the same unknowns as Gazza found, but I enjoyed the challenge.
    No contest where a favourite is concerned – the dashing fighter pilots win hands down. Maybe my dad’s wartime service is colouring my judgement?!!

    Many thanks to Sparks for a challenge I could meet today (and Hi to Sparky) and thanks also to Dutch for the review and Nogbad for deciphering the Ninas.

  8. I managed to finish this which added to my enjoyment level. There was some ‘stuff’ I didn’t know – the artist in 6d for instance. This and the other three 7-letter words in the NE quadrant took me a good while to unravel. I hadn’t noticed the Ninas hiding in plain sight until they were pointed out (and thank you). Many thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  9. Plenty tough enough for me. Eventually got to within 23a of a finish – ought to have got there from the wordplay though. Must admit reading Nogbad’s comment helped the penny to drop with 21a/22d & then back to Mr G for the umpteenth time for 17d (well 6&18d previously).
    Thanks to Sparks & to Dutch – will need the review to explain a number of my answers to me.

  10. After yesterday’s virtually impenetrable Toughie, I was pleased to finish this one albeit after quite a battle. Then reading CS’s comment brought me down to earth.

    This was a lot of fun and I learnt three new things: the idyllic valley; the old province; and he who transfers property. There were excellent surfaces, clever disguises and great cluing throughout, with only 12a earning a hmm.

    10a was my favourite.

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

  11. Managed about three quarters unaided then the hints to help to completion. I think this is the first puzzle with Ninas I have come across. I didn’t spot them – the honours go to Nogbad. No favourite clues because all were good. I could not get the artist although I knew the usual city was involved somehow.

    A good finish to the end of the crossword week for me.

    Many thanks to Sparks and also to Dutch for the hints.

  12. Despite crypticsue’s slight demurral, I must say that I, minor leaguer that I am, thoroughly enjoyed this toughie, which seemed challenging enough for me to rate it as such–a proper one. The only answer (in the GK area) that I didn’t know, or hadn’t heard of, was 7d, but it had to be what I plunked in, and so I finished the puzzle in very good time and found it full of sparkiness. I’ll dub it Sparks Galore. I’ve never seen the artist in 6a without his ‘de’, but that’s a wonderful clue. I also liked 3d,23a, and 22d for its gracefulness. Thanks to Dutch and Sparks for the pleasure, and to Nogbad a tip of the hat for the ninas (about which I seem to be clueless). *** / ****

    Sat up late last night watching the horrible violence and destruction in Minnesota, where our distinguished DoDo in DC suggested that the looters should be shot. That’s tellin’ ’em, you dumb, heartless Loon.

    1. I forgot to thank Dutch especially for The Night Watch and to rejoice that 9a sent me once again, in my mind’s travelling eye, to Keats’s idyllic “Tempe or the dales of Arcady” (in the ‘Grecian Urn’ of course).

        1. I do apologise! I knew it was The Anatomy Lesson…, Gazza. Somehow, between there and later, my octogenarian mind made some kind of unpardonable change of names. Please forgive me. Grrr, Doh, Face-Palm!

    2. Please tell me Robert that this dangerous idiot hasn’t a hope of being re-elected. Heaven help us if he does – it just beggars belief

  13. So we weren’t the only ones who searched in vain for a hidden message. Thanks Nogbad for pointing it out.
    A really enjoyable solving experience for us with just a couple of confirmatory Googles needed.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  14. Had Passage Heater for 7d (works just as well, possibly better given the clue) so needed Dutch’s correction to finish 9 and 11. A few too many obscurities for my liking, but apart from 7, straightforwardly clued, so no real complaints in the internet age. Thanks Dutch and Sparks

  15. A;late responder as ever as I only tackle the crossword in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday. I finished it off this morning. My only problem was 9a.I had never heard of Tempe as an idyllic valley. Having all the letters other than the E and P, it was obvious that the answer was tempest but this play by Shakespeare is not a comedy and is hard to typify. so is not a good example of any play type. other than that I found it enjoyable and having read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall I new the answer to 17d immediately.
    My favourites were 6d, 16a and 23a. Thanks Dutch for your explanations and to Sparks for enjoyment as for Nina’s I did not look for them but now Nogbad has pointed them out they are very clever.

      1. Thank you for this reference. I have all Shakespeare’s plays in a series produced by the Folio Society where the foreword is by someone who has actually produced the play. I think I would prefer his analysis of this play rather than rely on Wikipedia. However it is interesting that that a different view is held elsewhere.

      2. Thank you for the refence above. Having looked at the list I noted that the Tempest has been recategorized.
        I think that I hold to my view which is based on a view expressed by someone who has actually produced the play.

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