Toughie 2551 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2551

Toughie No 2551 by Django

Hints and tips by Gazza

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

As far as I am aware we still haven’t identified yesterday’s new setter but today’s newbie was well trailed last week. Django is the comedian Dave Gorman who left a few comments last week so I really hope that he’ll continue to participate and interact with us.

The best word I can think of for today’s puzzle is ‘goodish’. We have only two anagrams (good) and a lack of obscurities (also good). I thought it was very much on the gentle side for a Wednesday Toughie but I have high hopes that the setter will be able to dial up the trickiness in future Toughies.

Welcome to Django and thanks for the enjoyable puzzle.

Please leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of it.

Across Clues

1a Heart of whodunit with blurb about assault (4,2)
DUFF UP: two letters at the centre of ‘whodunit’ followed by the reversal of some overblown prose trying to promote a book, say.

4a A way into reconditioned aircraft business (8)
AVIATION: string together A, the Latin word for way or road and an anagram (reconditioned) of INTO.

10a Vice squad ultimately have restraint (9)
CLAMPDOWN: assemble a type of vice, the ultimate letter of squad and a verb to have.

11a Expressed the most annoyance (5)
PIQUE: this sounds like an adjective mean ‘the most’ or ‘the highest’.

12a Saw hype about book (7)
PROVERB: charade of an abbreviation for hype or spin, a preposition meaning about and the abbreviation for book.

13a Opposition and I pass on taking 50-50 (3-4)
ILL-WILL: a phrase meaning ‘I pass on’ or ‘I bequeath’ containing two occurrences of the Roman numeral for 50.

14a Oddly missing penalties — initially Neymar scoffed (5)
EATEN: drop the odd letters from penalties and append the initial letter of Neymar.

15a English agree to swap sides, yet mostly will display great acuity (5,3)
EAGLE EYE: knit together an abbreviation for English, ‘agree’ after you’ve swapped one side for the other and ‘yet’ without its last letter.

18a Stoppage of vital functions — heard about cure in the East? (8)
ASPHYXIA: what sounds like a verb to cure or repair goes inside the landmass that we think of as ‘the East’.

20a Any of these five school staff coach set sequence (5)
TRAIN: a quintuple definition (although I think there’s quite an overlap between number one and number three).

23a Respect African country — as Trump might say, it’s ‘great’ (3,2,2)
WAY TO GO: combine a synonym of respect or manner with a country in West Africa. The answer is an informal expression in the USA.

25a Sort of car‘s difficult as far as parking (7)
HARDTOP: glue together an adjective meaning difficult, a preposition meaning ‘as far as’ and the abbreviation for parking.

26a Old-fashioned cabaret routine’s attributes (5)
RETRO: hidden in the clue.

27a Overlooked German and put warning inside (9)
UNNOTICED: the German word for ‘and’ with a word for warning or prior notification inside it.

28a Took out key dictionary to grasp right tense (8)
ESCORTED: a key that’s usually found at top left of a standard keyboard and the abbreviation for a well-known dictionary containing abbreviations for right and tense.

29a Estate Tax not quite covering debt at the end (6)
ASSETS: a verb to fix the amount of tax due loses its last letter and contains the last letter of debt.

Down Clues

1d Understand, after 12th month, Apple product no longer on insurance, essentially (8)
DECIPHER: staple together the abbreviated 12th month, an Apple product which has lost its ‘on’ and the central letter of insurance.

2d In Florida, a solicitor’s using every effort (4,3)
FLAT OUT: concatenate the standard abbreviation for Florida, A and someone soliciting custom.

3d Adolescent a little tempted to get into speed after university — the latest of many (9)
UMPTEENTH: insert an informal term for an adolescent and the first letter of tempted into the abbreviation identifying your speed on the road, say. Now precede all that with an abbreviation for university.

5d Terminal velocity at the start — speed of sound during echo — it’s often observed on railway platform (7,7)
VENDING MACHINE: a synonym for terminal is preceded by the abbreviation for velocity. After that we need the word for the speed of sound, a preposition meaning ‘during’ and the letter for which echo is used in the Nato Phonetic Alphabet.
Vending machine

6d Dismay of apprentice meeting Alan half-cut (5)
APPAL: the abbreviation for apprentice and half of ‘Alan’.

7d Gather detailed quantity of paper before end of day for hearing (7)
INQUIRY: bring together a verb to gather (used of a harvest), a quantity of paper without its last letter and the last letter of day.

8d Require limousine on vacation to see obelisk (6)
NEEDLE: a verb to require and the outer letters of limousine.
Cleopatra's Needle

9d Spitting Image showing trick photography (6,8)
DOUBLE EXPOSURE: a spitting image or exact likeness followed by a synonym of showing.

16d Doctor tries net to describe current inflammation (9)
ENTERITIS: an anagram (doctor) of TRIES NET contains the symbol for electric current.

17d Extremely hot suit (2,6)
IN SPADES: an adjective meaning hot or popular and a card suit.

19d Pen point in command — producing drawing together (7)
STYPTIC: weld together an animal pen and abbreviations for point and ‘in command’.

21d For example, the nickel citrate sample is used up (7)
ARTICLE: hidden in reverse.

22d Move to avoid start of tennis match, drinking whiskey (6)
SWERVE: what happens to start a tennis match contains the letter that whiskey is used for in the Nato Phonetic Alphabet.

24d Smell‘s old and unfriendly (5)
ODOUR: the abbreviation for old and an adjective meaning unfriendly or grim.

My favourite clue today was 17d. Which clue(s) hit the spot for you?


62 comments on “Toughie 2551

  1. A very enjoyable debut. Nice sound clues and some really fine teasers. Liked 20ac especially plus 5d and 23 ac. Plenty to make you smile.

    Ready for the next one!

  2. I found this a little more difficult than Gazza, for completion at a Toughie canter – ***/***.
    The sequential ‘War and Peace’ clues in the Downs were a little disappointing.
    No stand-out favourites but I did like 4a and2d.
    Thanks Django and Gazza.

    1. I thought using that term for long clues was not encouraged.

      I enjoyed the nice pieces of ‘story telling’ and I certainly didn’t feel like I needed a lie down after reading them which has happened in the past with some really long bits of wordplay

    2. Me too, pleased to have completed and found it quite difficult enough for my Toughie abilities. I look forward to more of Django’s puzzles in order to acclimatise to his setting style. Nice to do battle with you sir. Thanks to both DG and Gazza. Ps, Nice to see Tilsit making comment – hope you are on the mend :-)

  3. Well I really enjoyed solving the first Django Toughie – it is clear that, like me, Mr G is definitely a ‘lover of words’. Lots of favourites but 20a tops the list.

    Thanks to Gazza for the blog and Django for the excellent crossword – if you could just dial up the difficulty by at least another 50% so that the crossword would fall into the Toughie difficulty spectrum, and appear on a Thursday, that would be great

  4. Welcome to the world of Telegraph Toughies, Django. This was a light and pleasant debut even though a few of the surface readings seemed a little strained.

    Full marks for clearly indicating the American expression in 23a – great surface too for this one!

    I’m not convinced that “tax” is quite synonymous with “assess” in 29a, and aren’t the first four words of 20a surplus to requirements?

    Podium places go to 18a, 23a & 17d.

    Many thanks to Django and to Gazza.

      1. Oops. We crossed, Sue. I was writing the comment below while this one arrived. (Also… I hadn’t worked out that I could reply to a particular comment, yet.)

  5. A couple of the constructions has me scratching my head for a short while but otherwise the grid came together in good time. 20a and 17d were my co-favourites. I thought this was a very enjoyable debut puzzle, much anticipated after the Telegraph articles, but also well worth the wait. I look forward to more in due course.

    Congratulations and many thanks to Django: thanks, too, to Gazza.

  6. A hearty Welcome to our new compiler. All completed in ** time, but I did need a couple of electrons in the SW, 18a is one of those words I can just never spell.

    Thanks to Django and Gazza.

  7. Thanks for the blog, Gazza. And thanks for the kind words, so far.

    Rabbit Dave, you might not be convinced that ‘tax’ is synonymous with ‘assess’ but Chambers is.
    Assess – transitive verb. Def 2 To tax or fine
    or go the other way
    Tax – transitive verb. Def 6 To assess (costs) law.

    You’re absolutely right that the first four words of 20a are surprlus to requirements – in that it would be a valid clue without them. But I don’t think it would be a better clue without them. I guess the fact that two out of the four people who commented before you mentioned it as a favourite is enough for me to feel that those four words must be adding some value to the clue in their perception. If the only desirable quality is brevity, why stop at four… you could also argue that the first seven words are surplus to requirement.

    1. I bow to Chambers on tax. I had only ever thought of assessing to be the act of deciding how much tax is owed. Fortunately I have never had to cross swords with the legal meaning.

      I generally prefer brevity but only as long as the clue makes sense. Long clues are fine provided everything is essential for the wordplay.

      You do however need a minimum of five words for a quintuple definition. :wink:

  8. Didn’t know the meaning of 1a but after looking it up, I find it very topical as French policemen have just been caught out on CCTV beating up a music producer on the doorstep of his recording studio.
    It’s the second crossword from this setter that I tackled as I solved his last offering in the Indy.
    Enjoyed it then and enjoyed it again now.
    Love the little stories told in the clues such as 1d, 3d and 18a.
    Favourite 23a.
    Thanks to Django and to Gazza.

    1. French TV coverage of the incident taught us the phrase ‘passer à tabac’: we admit to wondering initially what a tobacconist’s had to do with it … !

  9. I looked forward to today’s puzzle and it didn’t let me down. Just about tough enough to qualify as a Toughie. 19 down was one of my last ones in. When I was very young The barber at the end of our road sold styptic pencils. I didn’t know what they were until I joined the boxing club where I learnt quite quickly. I don’t raise my eyebrows or hmmm when I am solving but I felt that the wordiness of 1 down 3 down and 5 down were weak points in an otherwise well clued puzzle. As I said to Saint Sharon this morning ‘Now that I’m satisfied Jan, go and fetch me a beer.

  10. Loved it, thought it fresh, vibrant and imaginary though some of the solutions arrived a fair bit before the parsings.
    No quibbles about the difficulty level here, though you’re never going to please all of the people all of the time.
    Needed Gazza’s excellent hint for 19d.
    I particularly liked 23a (brilliant) the lurker at 26a and 1a&d.
    Thank you and look forward to more, Django.
    Thanks to Gazza for the review too.

    1. Solutions arriving before the parsing is a common occurrence for me in Toughieland Stephen. I used to say that for me the difference between a completed back pager and a completed Toughie was understanding why the answers were correct

      1. Thanks MP.
        I meant “imaginative” not the somewhat less complimentary “imaginary” in my original comment by the way!

  11. Really enjoyed todays Toughie ,just enough difficult parsing for me and going for a ***/***.
    Thanks Gazza for the pics,25a was most apposite as I was doing the crossword there was a bang outside my window and a car had just run into the back of a delivery truck and the bonnet lid was pushed up onto the windscreen ,luckily no injuries.
    Anyway thanks to our new setter , favourites were 9 and 5d .

  12. Took me a little while to get going and I initially thought it was going to be quite tough. Soon picked up pace however and finished in a reasonable time, fully parsed. My favourites include 10a,12a and 13a. Look forward to more from Django. Thanks to he and Gazza.

  13. I thought this comparable to the back pager today so for me it was **/**** and some long thinking required taking it very much in to Toughie territory. I actually liked the longer clues as something to make the puzzle stand out.

    I would hope a puzzle like this will address some of the recent comments about the Toughie being too hard too often, in my opinion this was spot on for a Wednesday.

    LOI was 5d, didn’t associate this specifically with a railway platform – especially since I have not been near a train since March! The clueing was quite good with the reference to the speed of sound so I got the second word early on but could not get the start.

    COTD for me was 18a, very clever.

    Well done Django and thanks to Gazza for the very concise hints.

  14. I enjoyed this a lot and have no problems with the Setter’s slightly prolix style so long as it adds to the fun – which, on this showing, it does. I found it quite hard to get into and would give it at least 2.5 to 3 on the Xword Mohs scale. Maybe I made life difficult by trying to fit “cider” into 1d and wrongly assuming that “speed of sound” in 5d had to be Mach1, with just end for “terminal” – that left me pondering how ingne might be an echo for a while!
    Favourites were 13a and the tour-de-force 20a – yes it would work with just the 5 words, but would it be such a good clue?

    Thanks Django and thanks Gazza for the blog.

  15. Welcome, Django … an enjoyable Toughie.

    Your Avatar, “Deetothegee” is the last part of the puzzle that I cannot solve.

    1. It looks like a Subbuteo player in Liverpool colours and DG said in the Telegraph article that he was David James Gorman so maybe it is the goalie David James who has been known to be an outfield player (albeit not for Liverpool) I am probably over analysing this and am at risk of appearing in one of his “Found Poems” if I don’t stop rambling

  16. I could just ditto Stephen L here. I too solved many before parsing them, I am in the 20a is a good clue camp. and I needed the hint for 19d too. When it revealed itself I was reminded of my late father who hated wasting money on razor blades and employed all the tricks to extend their life – he polished them inside a glass tumbler and had a leather strop as well. He cut himself often and still refused to buy a 19d pencil so was often seen in the morning sporting little dots of toilet paper. South West harder than the rest but difficulty just about enough for early in the toughie week.
    Thanks to Gazza and Django

  17. Gray very smug as this crossword very much on his wavelength, for once in his life he got to mansplain. ***/*** for him. 19d a real blast from the past, but only after reading Miffypops’ comment. Django, great crossword, don’t make them any harder! Thanks also to Gazza, whose explanations were needed to parse at least three clues. Still a little puzzled about the placement of ‘about’ in 18 a …

    1. Hi Rose and hi Gray,

      Look at ‘about’ as part of the phrase ‘heard about’ instead of as a separate instruction. It’s simply the indication that what follows it is a homophone not a synonym.

  18. I enjoyed this very much. The ‘annoyance’ in 11a was my entry point with its very helpful checker. One or two things I didn’t know – the assault in 1a for instance. Thank you Django for a very entertaining debut, and Gazza for yet another equally entertaining blog (I liked the picture for 1a!)

  19. Thoroughly enjoyable solving experience. Kept us smiling and chuckling all the way through which is the reason that we do cryptics. Nice to have a puzzle from someone we feel we know already from having ‘met’ them via the TV screen.
    Thanks and well done Django and Gazza.

  20. I found this reasonably challenging so I am giving ***/****

    18A my COTD. honourable mentions to 20A & 19D (took me a while to tease it out).

    Once I had to the two long clues, the rest fell very quickly.

    Many thanks Django! I look forward you next one.

  21. After the comments in the cryptic I was surprised to find this fairly tough. A good solve but the difficulty as many have mentioned was in fathoming out the parsing for some of the answers … 12ac, 23ac and 1dn (which Gazza supplied – just a little bit more effort required by me). All quite fair though and enjoyable.

    Thanks to Django and Gazza.

  22. I don’t normally tackle the Toughie, as I do three puzzles a day as it is, but I knew that we had a DT debutant in the hot seat today so I gave it a go. I was very glad that I did. An excellent debut.
    Everything that I was going to say has been covered above, so all I will add is please keep them coming!

  23. I’m not a fan of verbose clues or ‘iffy’ surface reads but I do like a bit of humour, so I was somewhat doomed when it came to solving this one. Not to worry, other commenters have obviously enjoyed it so I’m sure our setter is pleased with his DT debut.
    My favourite was 23a because it reminds me of one of the closing sequences in what for me was a great, albeit ‘girlie’ film – An Officer and a Gentleman.

    Welcome to the Toughie team, Django, and many thanks to Gazza for the review and the light-hearted pictorial accompaniments.

  24. I’m relatively new to the toughie but this wasn’t too hard once I got into it. Thanks for the hints though because I wasn’t entirely sure how I arrived at some of the answers. Early days to offer an opinion. I’ll keep trying. Hats off to all of you who complete them with ease. Thanks to all.

  25. Thanks again for the lovely comments. A couple of observations from this side of the grid.
    1: when people say “a couple of iffy surfaces” it doesn’t really help unless they elucidate as to which surfaces felt unconvincing to them.

    2: several commenters seem to have thoughts as to whether it was too tough, not tough enough or just right for a Wednesday etc etc. I guess the fact that it is all of the above to different individuals illustrates how difficult a job the editor has in grading a puzzle’s difficulty, because the audience evidently comprises baby bears, mummy bears and daddy bears. Which is why I’m more than happy to leave the decision of where things belong to the editor. They know the broader context of what sits on their pages the rest of the time and how people respond to it. For me, a clue either feels satisfying or it doesn’t… how tricky it is and on what day it belongs – well, I wouldn’t dream of getting involved in that!

    1. Fair enough, Django. Examples of unconvincing surfaces from my point of view would be 13&27a plus 19d.

    2. As Jane says, that’s a very reasonable request. Applying the test of “would it make sense if you overheard someone saying it?”, I would also add 25a & 3d to the three she has listed.

      1. Well, I’m very surprised by your answer here, RD – Jane, too. I won’t try and persuade you, but they all seem to be quite cogent parts of sentences to me.

        Utterly bamboozled by the idea that
        “Adolescent a little tempted to get into speed after university – the latest of many” might feel like an unnatural sentence to anyone, I mean, lots of young people are tempted to get into drugs after university, after all.

        Anyway… each to their own…

        1. Don’t be fazed, Django. There are one or two pedants on here (but good people) who seem to insist that the surface of every cryptic clue must make perfect grammatical and literal sense, every time. Big Dave once said (something like): “Cryptic clues are mere word puzzles and not pieces of perfect literature”.

    3. Well done, Django, for coming on to comment and also explain/justify your clues, when challenged. It’s good to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. Most setters don’t do this – I guess they’ve generally got better things to do with their time.

  26. My wife and I have always loathed Dave Gorman the comedian, and have turned him off whenever he has appeared on television. In fairness, though, we loved The Fast Show, Mrs Merton, Harry Hill and Steve Coogan, so have probably laughed at some of his jokes when performed by other people. However this was a really enjoyable first Toughie, with plenty of answers not usually seen in crosswords, including 1d, 23a, 17d, 9d and 19d, all cleverly clued and not full of cliches. I shall look forward to future Toughies set by Django, and will give his next TV appearances another chance, as he’s clearly an astute and highly intelligent human being, even though I haven’t connected with his on-screen persona so far.

  27. Easily hard enough for me for toughie qualification. Steadily solved, and pleased I have as it’s your debut puzzle Django. I’m looking forward to your next offering.
    Thanks to Gazza as well

  28. Probably tackled this a bit too late & sleepy to get the most out of it but thoroughly enjoyed it. Found it a good deal tougher than yesterday’s debut setter’s offering & though I agree it was probably on the gentle side it was by no means ‘floughie’, at least not for me. Still need to parse a few (can wait until morning) but will certainly look forward to the setter’s next one. 18a was my pick of many fine clues – 1,3&17d along with 20,23&27a were others that stood out for me.
    With thanks to Django for the challenge & for interacting – your debut has certainly attracted more comment than I can recall for any recent Toughie. Thanks to Gazza – shall read your review in the morning.

  29. Like Huntsman I completed this in the early hours of this morning and, like others, parsed quite a few answers once they were in. A very enjoyable, witty puzzle – many thanks Django. However I failed to see how ‘in’ could equate to the verb ‘gather’ in 7d? Any enlightenment please?!

      1. Intrigued by CS’s reply, I looked up “in” n the BRB and it revealed that it can be a preposition with 17 meanings, an adverb (18), a noun (3), an adjective (4) or, as here, one of 3 meanings as a transitive verb, giving setters a choice of 45 – rich pickings indeed,

        1. BD and I (and others) started solving back in the days when the only help available to crossword solvers was a dictionary. I don’t know about him, but I still use the dictionary as my first source of assistance before I even consider visiting the internet

  30. Sorry to comment late (again), but my local library has just re-opened today after the latest lockdown and it’s the only place I can access a computer. I have not seen this blog much since March, so am out of touch with the latest goings-on in Crosswordland. I don’t wish to be/sound impertinent, but as the saying goes: Ask an impertinent question and you’re well on your way to getting a pertinent answer. I like to know (please):

    1. Is this setter a genuine “newbie”?
    2. Has he appeared in Rookie Corner?
    3. Has he appeared on the back-page?
    4. Has he appeared in other publications?
    5. If not, how come he has made his debut with a Toughie?

    I genuinely don’t know, so it would be interesting to find out. Thank you.

    1. Check out the comments on last Friday’s back-page blog (DT 29532) when Django was introduced to us.

    2. Hi Jose,

      1. This setter is a genuine newbie in the sense that I’m new to the Telegraph.
      2. This setter has not appeared in Rookie Corner. This site does a wonderful job of encouraging new setters, but it’s not the only game in town.
      3. This setter has not appeared on the back-page. I’m sure lots of toughie setters do set on the back-page first, but I can’t see any reason how or why it would be a requirement.
      4. This setter has appeared in other publications. I’ve had (I think) 10 published in the Independent since April this year.
      5. This setter has made his debut with a Toughie because the Telegraph’s puzzles editor had enjoyed the crosswords I’ve had published in the Independent and asked me if I would like to set for the Telegraph too. I sent him some. It was for him to decide if they were right for the Telegraph and whether they were back-page or Toughie material… this is where he thought it belonged.

      I wrote an article about becoming a setter for the paper that was published at the weekend. I suspect it’s behind a paywall and I don’t know if you’ll be able to access it or not –

      But if you can, you’ll see that I’ve been trying my hand as a setter – anonymously, in the shadows – since 2006, as the Telegraph’s own Campbell can attest. In that sense, I’m not a newbie. Just relatively new in being published.


      1. Thank you Django (and Gazza too). That’s answered my questions fully. I rather suspected that you couldn’t be a rookie, but I never read the Independent. Your article is indeed behind a paywall and I don’t fancy giving out my bank details just to get a free one-month trial. Anyway, welcome to the blog, thanks for the puzzle and good luck with your new “career”.

      2. Django,

        I only looked at this puzzle today for the first time. I have to be very selective about ‘toughies’ ……. I go for those rated ** on this blog for difficulty.

        There are indeed some pedants on the blog who feel it necessary to dissect every clue. For me, this one was different to others but no less enjoyable for that. I think, perhaps wrongly, that completing puzzles of different types from different setters is good experience for me as an ‘improving’ solver.

        A good decision of yours to leave placement to the editor.

        It was very enjoyable. Thank you. I completed it btw but it took a while .


  31. Thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Django – looking forward to your next one! PS still the best giraffe joke I’ve ever heard… 😉

  32. Thanks to Django and to Gazza for the review and hints. I’ve just managed to complete this puzzle, have just found it today (18/03/21) in my newspaper archive. Very enjoyable, may there be many more. Favourite was 5d. Was 2* / 4* for me.

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