Toughie 2485 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 2485

Toughie No 2485 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

The long answers and anagrams gave a nice way into this puzzle, which is full of Sparks’s usual wit and clever devices. Sparks often has a Nina – although I can see a number of words in the central row, i’m not making much sense of them yet

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought. 


7a    Grit breaking up Spitfire flap (1,5,5,3)
A STIFF UPPER LIP: An anagram (breaking) of UP SPITFIRE FLAP

9a    Random act cost his supply (10)
STOCHASTIC: An anagram (supply, as in flexibly) of ACT COST HIS

11a    Express firm seeking excitement (4)
FAST: Three meanings, the first quickly

12a    Secondly, stipple with pencil and draw (3)
TIE: Second letters (secondly, …)

13a    Part of the ocean seen from piece of ground around a sunken basin (7,3)
ARABIAN SEA: A 4-letter piece of ground or zone goes around both A from the clue plus an anagram (sunken, as in collapsed maybe) of BASIN

16a    Search force missing danger (4)
RISK: A 5-letter word meaning to search a person, for concealed weapons perhaps, without (missing) the initial abbreviation for force

17a    Monk, for instance, to enliven bishop, say (7)
JAZZMAN: A 4-letter verb that can mean to enliven or brighten (usually with up), and what a bishop on a chessboard exemplifies (say)

18a    Quibble regularly, stopping to seize rule by violence? (4-3)
CLUB-LAW: The even letters (regularly) of quibble go inside (stopping) a 4-letter verb meaning to seize, as an eagle might

20a    Religious follower mostly backing despot (4)
TSAR: The reversal (backing) of the first 4 letters (mostly) of a 5-letter, typically Jamaican, religious follower

21a    Entry slips spoiled as per lifelong non-union member (10)
SPINSTERLY: An anagram (spoiled) of ENTRY SLIPS

23a    Valley formed in beginnings of recent ice age (3)
RIA: First letters (formed in beginnings of …)

24a    Delicate new diamonds — in round hollow case (4)
NICE: Two sets of wordplay, which always confuses me, and I needed 14d to confirm. (1) The abbreviation for new and a slang word for diamonds. (2) A reversal (round) of IN plus CasE without the inner letters (hollow)

25a    In which players may be highly strung? (6,4)
PUPPET SHOW: A cryptic definition for a type of theatre

28a    Spot nerve cut by inferior alloy (9,5)
STAINLESS STEEL: A spot or blemish and a verb that can mean to nerve or harden contains (cut by) a 4-letter word meaning inferior



1d    Mormon treats Lady Gaga with first-rate bible (6-3,5)
LATTER-DAY SAINT: An anagram (gaga!) of TREATS LADY plus 2 characters that mean first rate and the second half of the bible

2d    Information uncovered by The Listener? (4)
OTIC:     A 6-letter word for information (NOTICE) without the outer letters (uncovered)

3d    Old king not wanting answer (4)
OFFA: A 3-letter word meaning not wanting (as in I’m *** alcohol) plus the abbreviation for answer

4d    Indeed, even saving energy gains nothing (5,2)
QUITE SO: A 5-letter word meaning even or nothing owed contains (saving) the abbreviation for energy, then the letter that looks like nothing/zero

5d    Shows conjecture on a divided Newcastle? (10)
SPECTACLES: A shortened 4-letter version of a word meaning conjecture, or a money investment, then we need to split (divide) Newcastle to get the cryptic instruction to add an anagram (new) of CASTLE. At least it’s indicated!

6d    Quiet Jack left banged-up by judge briefly having priority (10)
PREFERABLE: I had banged-up bunged-in wrong ending at first which caused me some grief. The musical abbreviation for quiet, then a 2-letter abbreviation for a sailor or Jack plus the abbreviation for left are contained in (banged-up by) the first 6 letters (briefly) of a 7-letter judge or arbiter

8d    What a coincidence Pluto could be described thus (3,1,5,5)
IT’S A SMALL WORLD: Think planet size

10d    Some choirboys look this way (3)
HOI: An interjection seeking attention is hidden (some …) in choirboys

14d    Strange stuff, business — 24’s stern, getting one demoted (10)
BIZARRERIE: A 3-letter slang contraction for business, then how they say stern or rear in 24a (ARRIERE), with the Roman numeral for one moved 2 places towards the end of the word (demoted)

15d    Forbidden fruit pips oddly put in water (5,5)
ADAM’S APPLE: The odd letters (oddly) of pips go inside a (4’1,3) expression meaning water

19d    Weak and mischievous after whiskey (7)
WIMPISH: A word meaning mischievous follows the letter with the Radio code Whiskey

22d    Festival finishing, just like that (3)
TET: Last letters (finishing …)

26d    Article found in half of gooey piece of cake (4)
EASY: A one-letter indefinite article goes inside the second half of a 6-letter word meaning gooey, sentimental, or just plain terrible as are songs played at weddings

27d    Stitch trapping male diver (4)
SMEW: A verb meaning to stitch containing (trapping) the abbreviation for male

Favourite clue? Plenty to choose from, but I think I was most delighted by Lady Gaga. Which clues did you like?

23 comments on “Toughie 2485

  1. I thought this was a proper Sparks/proper Friday Toughie – I’d certainly give it more than 2.5* difficulty but I agree with the enjoyment rating

    Lots of clues I could choose for top favourite, but I’m going to go for the impressively simple 10d

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch

  2. A bit of a Curate’s egg. Despite the giveaways like 1d, 17a and 23a I found this quite heavy going. Plenty to amuse and some inventive clueing, especially 24a and 5d but “sunken” as an anagram indicator [13d] and, especially, the French for “stern” are a step too far for me.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

  3. An enjoyable Friday puzzle – thanks to Sparks and Dutch.
    I’d not heard of the 18a ‘rule by violence’ but the wordplay was clear and I just had to verify it in the BRB.
    My podium contenders are 25a, 3d and 19d.
    I can’t see a Nina though there are some words lurking in the the middle rows which might form part of it.

  4. I was very grateful for the four long answers which gave me toe-hold. Being somewhat 19d, I loved 8d at Disney! New things learned at 9,17&18a plus 14d and I confess to something of a dilemma over 24a&6d.
    Favourite has to be 25a.

    Thanks to Sparks (hope Sparky is well?) and also thanks to Dutch for the review and confirmation of my ‘dilemma’ issues.

  5. I thought this was brilliant, and even though I ‘finished’ unaided and alone, I needed Dutch’s hints to parse the ‘choirboys’ clue (10a, a term new to me), as well as the ‘information uncovered’ in 2d. Having quickly solved the long clues, I found the 4-letter clues helpful (for a change for me) in unlodging some of the others. I thought I knew the ‘random’ term in 9a but googled it anyway, just to be sure. The interplay between 14d (which I solved first) and 24a represent the highlight of this richly appealing puzzle. But 8d deserves a special award for its tiki-tiki cleverness, and I chuckled at the Disneyishness of it. Thanks to Dutch for the hints and to Sparks for a splendid puzzle. 3.5* / 5*

  6. I found this was the sort of puzzle that needed what I call reverse engineering – e.g. I sussed out the answer and then had to justify it.

    4 words I’d never heard of: 9a. 18a. 14d. (a truly horrible word) and 22d. I thought 10d was pretty poor too.

    At least I knew about Thelonious to give me 17a.

    All in all a bit of a slog but, despite it being Friday, it was at least doable!

  7. Largely straightforward although a couple in the NW held me up & I couldn’t parse 2d or 14d so assistance from Dutch much appreciated. Thanks also to Sparks for a very enjoyable puzzle.

  8. I’ve had an awful crossword week, taking ages over most of them, then this 2* / 4* pops up! Enjoyed the logic, 2 new words for me at 9 & 14, fairly swept through the rest. So chuffed, I thought I’d lost my touch! More please Sparks, & thanks Dutch, although I didn’t need your ineffable input.

  9. The four long answers went in easily for us which gave plenty of checkers to help with the rest though we did need references to check on a couple.
    We also had a fruitless search for a hidden message. Bet there is one so maybe we will hear from Sparks soon.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

    1. We’ve just spent the last few minutes staring at the picture for 16a (where we don’t even exist) and still can’t understand what’s going on there. Must be something clever but it eludes us.
      Help please.

      1. There’s a board ( and now online) game called Risk and the picture is on the box

      2. apologies. We are not encouraged to offer indirect illustrations as they aren’t generally helpful. My bad.

  10. Which word did everyone use as the synonym for gooey in 26d? I couldn’t decide between cheesy and cutesy, but since either works for the wordplay I don’t suppose it matters much.

    1. I struggled with this, and I am not at all confident I captured the setter’s intention. But cheesy seemed sufficiently, well, cheesy

      1. I certainly logged it as ‘cheesy’ – never occurred to me that there could be an alternative. We also do have cheesecake which fits with the ‘piece of cake’, can’t say that I’ve heard of cutesy cake!

  11. Thank you Dutch for a splendid blog and to all bloggers for positive comments.

    Re 13a, I have a list of anagram indicators that includes ‘sunken’ as in ruined/destroyed, and, by way of a loose Nina, the 4-letter combos FAST SHOW JAZZ CLUB NICE appeared in the grid: see, e.g.,

    Stay safe everyone!

    [PS Jane: thank you … Sparky is OK and still doing long walks, albeit slowly!]

    1. How nice to ‘see’ you Sparks and very pleased to hear that Sparky is keeping you active.
      That was a rather bizarre theme if I may say so!

      1. Well I guess that good humour stays embossed in my mind forever and, as an amateur muso who has seen a lot of this pseudo-pretentious-intro genre for real, I absolutely loved those sketches!

        Lest we forget that “all is fair in Ninas”, whose point in this house is to seed grids rather than to introduce themes per se ;-)

  12. Thanks Sparks for a very enjoyable puzzle. i was held up a bit by 18a as i had used the wrong ending for 6d. when i found the answer i realised that i had not heard of this term before. I liked 8d. and 14d. even though i needed guidance from Dutch to get the correct parsing. Thank you Dutch

Comments are closed.