Toughie 2538 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2538

Toughie No 2538 by Donnybrook

Hints and tips by Miffypops

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

A suitable Tuesday Toughie to start the solving week. The toughness comes from the subtlety of the clueing not the obscurity or rarity value of the words used. What more can be said.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


7a Discard black metal boxes thus (8)
JETTISON: A glossy black colour is followed by a silvery white metal which contains a short word meaning thus

9a    Clothing becomes a zombie? (6)
UNDIES: The clothing here might be known as ones smalls. It is also what Zombies have to do to become Zombies. Do Zombies exist? Just occasionally when reading through the comments I think they might

10a    Fabric, cut in back, put on view (6)
MOHAIR: Begin with a word that tells us where we would if we were in rather than out. (Nothing to do with cricket) Remove its last letter and reverse it. Now add a word meaning to show or broadcast

11a    Awkward time to make fewer stage appearances? (8)
TACTLESS: The abbreviation for time is followed by a phrase split 3,4 which means perform on stage fewer times

12a    Morse being one cop, is it French criminal bringing in ecstasy? (5,9)
CHIEF INSPECTOR: An anagram (criminal) of COP IS IT FRENCH which contains he abbreviation for ecstasy 

15a    Runs into club causing terror (4)
BRAT:  The cricketing abbreviation for runs sits inside a club which might be wielded by a cricketer. If you place the abbreviation for runs in the wrong place you will get an alternative answer

17a    Spirit shown by ancient character — mariner? (5)
ETHOS: This ancient three-letter character is there in the dictionary which blathers on about dental fricatives. It is followed by the abbreviation for an ordinary seaman

19a    Bird seen near water having rook trouble (4)
RAIL: The abbreviation for the castle or rook in chess notation is followed by a synonym of the word trouble

20a    Familiar words associated with market? (6-2-6)
COMMON OR GARDEN: This phrase consists of two words which can precede the word market. The first instance being a trade organisation and the second consisting of working very hard for long hours and little monetary reward

23a    Working inside, the French produced some drink (8)
LEMONADE: A three part charade with instructions. 1. Our two-letter favourite word meaning working. 2. The French masculine word for the 3. A word meaning produced. Arrange as suggested by the clue

25a    Slip catch turned game (6)
TENNIS: Begin with a word meaning to slip or fall from grace in the eves of God. Add a word meaning to catch as one might with sticklebacks in a river. Reverse what you have

27a    Get out with this key (6)
ESCAPE: The full name of one of the keys on your computer keyboard

28a    Song ardent student discovered round capital (8)
MADRIGAL: Begin with a word meaning ardent or fervent. Add a capital city, the one that has a museum called the house of the black heads. Add a student. The use of the word discovered here might be questionable. Does it mean remove the rest of the word learner or could we have a scholar discovered to leave the letter L. 


1d    Love Japanese fighter (4)
ZERO: The nickname for the fighter aircraft Mitsubishi A6M is also a word meaning the same as the love score in tennis

2d    Gunners among amphibious creatures mounting low attack (6)
STRAFE: The reverse of an alternative name for newts sits around our usual military gunners

3d    Rising aroma brings little irritation (4)
GNAT: A strong taste flavour or smell can be reversed to find a small irritating flying insect

4d    Might millions crack clues? (6)
MUSCLE: An anagram (crack) of CLUES follows the abbreviation for millions 

5d    Great admirer shows marriage promise subsequently (8)
IDOLATER: The two words said by the bride and groom at a wedding are followed by a synonym of the word subsequently 

6d    American in secretive novel set in China? (3,7)
TEA SERVICE: An anagram (novel) of SECRETIVE plus the abbreviation for American

8d    Can occupant eat at bottom of stairs occasionally? (7)
SARDINE: The alternate letters of the word stairs are followed by a word meaning to eat a meal. This provides something else to be eaten that often comes canned. A google search of the said cans leads to an interesting parallel universe if the words art or Etsy are added


13d    Cruel boss? Better luck next time (4,6)
HARD CHEESE: A stretched synonym of the word cruel is followed by what the boss of a company might be known as when preceded by the word big

14d    Dullard ignoring odds in form checks up (5)
SCHMO: The alternate  letters of two words in the clue are reversed

16d    Passing port to be drunk with meal (8)
TEMPORAL: Anagram (to be drunk) of PORT and MEAL

18d    Seen, but referred to as heard (7)
SIGHTED: A word meaning seen is a homophone of another word meaning to have exuded a long deep audible breath referred to a passage in a book perhaps. Thanks to Ashcooper for pointing out my blatant error. What was I thinking? 

21d    Riding maturer wild ass? (6)
ONAGER: A two-letter word meaning riding is followed by a synonym for the word maturer. Note the word maturer is not the word matured

22d    Was 12 bad? (6)
RANCID: Split 3,3 What a dead chief inspector did when alive

24d    Some poem, Masefield’s classic work (4)
EMMA: The answer lies hidden within the words of the clue as indicated by the word some

26d    Country in which one did marathon? (4)
IRAN: Split 1,3. The letter that looks like the number one is followed by what a marathon runner did

48 comments on “Toughie 2538

  1. A quite reasonable Tuesday Toughie, I thought, all completed in *** time.

    I couldn’t fully parse 10a or 17a, and I didn’t know the word at 14d. I have two contestants for COTD, in 8d and 20a.

    Many thanks to Donnybrook and MP.

  2. I enjoyed this.
    I down was a blast from the past wasn’t it? I wonder how many people remember the American wartime song about Johnny who was useless at school but redeemed himself by shooting down 1d’s?
    I did like 22a. Simple and my COTD.

  3. I enjoyed this and managed three quarters unaided than I had to resort to Miffy’s hints. 12a came fairly swiftly as Mrs. C. and I are watching reruns at the moment. Like MalcolmR, I had not heard of 14d – I put “Saddo”, which threw me.

    My favourite clue is 22d.

    Many thanks to Donnybrook for the challenge and MP for the hints.

  4. I agree with MP regarding the subtlety of the clueing and the excellent surfaces ,hard to pick a favourite ,lots of my favourite charades like 7a,5d 23a etc., special mention for 8d.
    Last in were 14d and 17a, initially had Saddo for 14d until I reread the clue carefully which enabled me to to put in 17a which I already had in mind.
    22d was a recent Telegraph clue-maybe the Sunday Cryptic?
    Going for **/****, thanks all.

  5. A terrific first Toughie of the week. 8d was my penultimate entry and my runaway favourite, although the 12/22 combo is worthy of a shout. I thoroughly enjoyed the smooth surfaces and clever clueing.

    Many thanks to Donnybrook and MP.

  6. Thought just for the hell of it and as it now on the iPad I would have a go at this one and to my amazement I competed it. I’m not saying I fully understand each clue but my answers are right. Best clue for me was 22d, made me smile.
    Must have been a gentle puzzle.

    1. Well done Brian – perhaps we may be able to tempt you into doing more of these crosswords on a Tuesday

        1. I always look at the Tuesday Toughie, Brian because there’s a slight chance I might finish it.

    2. Brian I look forward to your comments when the real horrors show up. Please don’t hold back.
      Nice finish today – wish I could have claimed one.

    3. Congrats Brian I needed the hints for three to finish (thanks MP) but I enjoyed the test.
      The satisfaction of doing a Toughie makes the effort worthwhile, I hope you agree.

  7. I have a comment on 18d. Surely the contrast is between “Sighted” and “Cited” and nothing to do with “sighed”?

  8. Nearly got there on my own but stalled with 4 to go – 1d&10a plus 14d&17a. Managed to complete but only after revealing the 2 checkers & even then failed to spot 14d was reversed in the wordplay, didn’t know the plane, missed the reversal of hom(e) in 10a & never heard of the ancient character so I guess I use the term nearly in it’s loosest sense. Very enjoyable nonetheless & pretty accessible. Particularly liked 7&11a plus 18d & the connection of 22d to 12a.
    Many thanks to Donnybrook for the entertainment & to MP for explaining the four.

  9. Completed whist enjoying a Montecristo and a coffee down at the allotment. Did need to check my birds for 19a and newts for 2d but otherwise plain sailing. Favourite was 9a. Thanks to Donnybrook and MP.

  10. Nicely clued and witty in parts. Spent ages trying to justify “undead” for 9a before the penny dropped to much chuckling. So that’s a COTD along with the perfect 10a – a definition followed by precise instructions for what needs to be done to get it.

    Thanks to Donnybrook and MP.

  11. Rattled through this at a pretty good pace. Must be a wavelength thing. I had to refer to BRB to check that the first part of 17a was what I thought it must be. I knew that it could not be anything to do with the clue but my first thought was of ‘Take it from Here’. Does anyone remember Ron and Eth or am I just showing my age?

      1. Oh, Ron!!

        Mind you, I’ve said it before Ron and Eth came nowhere as near the bone as Round the Horne.

  12. Wonderful puzzle! 8d and 22d made me laugh. Hope Kath enjoys seeing 12a in a special Pride of Place. 1d and 10a were my last two in, but I did manage to finish all but 1d on my own, and Mr Electronic Help have me a ‘Z’ for 1d (which I should have known, really). I’ll give myself a 95% today. Thanks to MP and to Donnybrook for the great pleasure.

  13. I always like when the clues are short and concise.
    This crossword hit the spot.
    No grumbles.
    Nice to see Brian on the toughie blog.
    Thanks to Donnybrook and to MP.

    1. Hi Jean-Luc. How’s it hanging? All is well here in retirement land. I’m laying back in my room drinking beer, listening to Bob Dylan and reading Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer and smiling at how interesting the three obituaries in today’s paper were.

      1. Doing well, thanks.
        I suppose confinement is a bit like retirement.
        Drinking a glass of Antidote. A wonderful natural wine from my friend Jean-Christophe Comor. Feeding the cat and looking after all the plants in Le Jardin with temperatures equal to a mid September.
        The only books I can read are audio books and as far as obituaries are concerned, I have great hopes as the ones I saw were 99 and 102 respectively.
        Love to St Sharon. Keep well.

  14. Can I respectfully ask about 8d. Is it alternate letters? Otherwise I’m confused. I’m fairly new to the toughie and often confused!😎

      1. Thanks to you and MP. I was just worried that you had to work out some alternative letters as per Bletchley Park!
        I thought it was a toughie thing.

    1. Hi Toni, you have your answer from CrypticSue. The word in the hint should be alternate but predictive text got in the way. Please ask about anything you are unsure about. You will receive an answer, usually very quickly

  15. It took us much longer than it should have to sort out the parsing for 10a in what was for us a ‘Smile all the way through’ puzzle.
    Thanks Donnybrook and MP.

    1. Me too with 10 across. Worrying when one has a blog to submit and no idea where the first three letters come from. If all else fails (even looking for lurkers) ask Saint Sharon. When that fails go through the clue word by word over and over again until the penny drops

  16. I thought this was absolutely spot on for a Tuesday Toughie from one of my favourite setters. My page is littered with ticks, and I completed it with only three semi biffs, those being 10&17a plus 1d although all answers were eminently gettable from the checkers. Loved 7, 9 and 11a plus 13d in particular.
    Many thanks to Donnybrook and MP for an excellent puzzle and blog.

  17. A Tuesday Toughie Club seems to be developing! I’m seeing more members of the blog who normally comment on the back pager now commenting on the Tuesday Toughie.

    It must be Big Dave’s magic because, six months ago, I wouldn’t have even looked at the Toughie let alone comment on it!

    1. Might the fact that The Toughie now presents itself in the Daily Telegraph App have something to do with that? I like the idea, we have the Saturday club, why not a Tuesday Toughie Club?

  18. I will save this for tomorrow – I have just spent a couple of hours watching quizzy dans twitch channel where he worked through today’s Independent cryptic

  19. What a super Toughie! **** for enjoyment with 8d being my fave but it is closely followed by several others including 12a, 15a, 20a and 22d.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this — an excellent puzzle accompanied by an excellent blog and lovely comments.
    Many many thanks to Donnybrook and Miffypops.

  20. Thanks to Donnybrook and to Miffypops for the review and hints. A very enjoyable puzzle, but I just ran out of steam near the end. I had “undied” for 9a, close but no cigar. Needed the hints for 10&17a and 8&14d. Favourites were the linked clues 12a & 22d. Great fun. Was 3* /4* for me.

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