Toughie 2556 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2556

Toughie No 2556 by Firefly

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

A proper Toughie from Firefly requiring both ‘knowledge’ and  the dictionary

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1a    Miss fantastic dame, prior to month with her in Paris (12)
MADEMOISELLE An anagram (fantastic) DAME goes before (prior to) the French words for month and ‘her’

9a    About pain-free, though not pleasant (9)
CHARMLESS The single-letter abbreviation for about and an adjective meaning not likely to cause pain

10a    With bear on the turn, holler! (5)
WHOOP The abbreviation for with and a reversal (on the turn) of a favourite fictional bear

11a    1 Across’s starter borne by salver, reportedly? (6)
ENTRÉE The French word for a first course of a meal sounds like (reportedly) a way of saying borne by a salver

12a    Crowning achievement of townscape — rebuilt after taking week off (8)
CAPSTONE The top or finishing part of a structure is an anagram (rebuilt) of TOwNSCAPE without the W (taking week off)

13a    Worn-out disc I brought into operation (6)
EPUISE Clear wordplay for an adjective you then have to look up in the dictionary to make sure you haven’t made it up – an abbreviated record (disc) and I (from the clue) inserted into operation

15a    Spot the sharp end (8)
PINPOINT Split the solution 3,5 and you’d get the sharp end of something used for fastening

18a    Mostly seek out sweetbreads, mixing stuffing (8)
BEDSTRAW Remove the SEE (mostly ‘seek’) from sWeeTBREADS and an anagram (mixing) will give you plant material once used to stuff mattresses

19a    Hand signals one exchanged with ace making approach (6)
TACTIC Take some hand signals used by bookmakers and exchange the positions of the I (one) and the A (ace)

21a    Artless comeback of Milan ‘Aida’ crashes rather (8)
ARCADIAN Hidden in reverse (comeback) in MilaN AIDA CRAshes – relating to a simple rural lifestyle

23a    Completely enthusiastic about gripping old-time … (2,4)
IN TOTO Insert (gripping) the abbreviations for Old and Time into an informal way of saying enthusiastic

26a    … coarse stuff from Dick? (5)
EMERY The name of a coarse material used for polishing is also the surname of Dick the comedian who was popular in the 60s and 70s and famed for his ‘coarse’ material 

27a    Moderate muscles on point, getting certain discomfort ultimately (9)
ABSTINENT Some muscles, the point of a fork and the ‘ultimate’ letters of certaiN and discomforT

28a    The ‘Fledermaus’ in Battenberg, for one, is effortless (1,5,2,4)
A PIECE OF CAKE The English word for the flying mammal the Germans call a ‘fledermaus’ is part of the name of the foodstuff in the clue


1d    Echo for Kelvin in production of Mack the Knife? (7)
MACHETE Replace the K (Kelvin) in MACK THE with the letter represented by Echo in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and then an anagram of the result will produce a knife

2d    Plan with detachment (5)
DRAFT A double definition, the second one relating to a military term for a detachment of soldiers from the main body of soldiers

3d    Actors’ alien manner of speaking … (9)
MUMMERSET Some actors in a play usually seen at Christmas and Mr Spielberg’s alien combine to produce an imitation West Country accent used by actors Many years ago Mr CS used to play the Saracen  but I can’t find a photo of him in the role so I’ve used one of our current village ‘actors’

4d    … the same as found in the middle of ‘Plague’ (4)
IDEM The Latin word meaning ‘the same’ is found in the middle of a synonym for plague

5d    Rapturous 19 — ‘e’s in a whirl! (8)
ECSTATIC An anagram (in a whirl) of ES (from the clue) and the solution to 19d

6d    Main part of island is under lake and extremely wet in the west (5)
LEWIS An island at the North West of the Hebrides is obtained by placing IS (from the clue) under the abbreviation for Lake and the letters ‘in the west’ of Extremely and Wet

7d    Disturbance on tip producing catalogue of tasks (2-2,4)
TO-DO LIST An informal term for a disturbance and a verb meaning to tip to one side

8d    Usually last in the bar to dine in support of refurbished pub (2-4)
UP-BEAT – Despite the surface reading, the last in the bar refers to a musical bar – a verb meaning to dine goes after (in support of) an anagram (refurbished) of PUB

14d    Left harbour with stern intact? (8)
UNDOCKED – Left harbour or a description of a dog with an intact tail

16d    Barney undercuts flat for claimant (9)
PLAINTIFF A barney or argument ‘undercuts’ or goes after a synonym for flat

17d    Maybe estate gets swiftly into case (8)
A vehicle such as an estate and an adverb meaning swiftly

18d    Jacket — flash! — on Romeo … (6)
BLAZER A burst of light or flame (flash) goes on the letter represented by Romeo in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

20d    … stupid clothier I sacked for snigger (7)
CHORTLE Such a wonderful word for a gleeful laugh (although the dictionary definition of snigger isn’t quite the same) – an anagram (stupid) of CLOTHiER without the I (I sacked)

22d    Trains in Alaska perhaps, heading north, cease to run (3,2)
DRY UP The abbreviation for railway (trains) inserted into a reversal (heading north) of an informal way of referring to a dessert such as a Baked Alaska

24d    Conclusion of ordinary and chaotic game (5)
OMEGA The abbreviation for Ordinary and an anagram (chaotic) of GAME

25d    Minor point involving Shakespeare’s origin and existence (4)
ESSE A minor compass point ‘involving’ the first letter (origin) of Shakespeare produces a philosophical term for existence


26 comments on “Toughie 2556

  1. Not too bad a puzzle which took me longer than I felt it should. Just beaten by the parsing on 1d which had to be what it was. This meant I couldn’t solve 13a as the accents defeated my word search.
    I really liked 10a which is my COTD.
    CS are the pillar box knitters out this year or have the Covid restrictions here in Kent defeated them? I’ve not seen any.

    1. The Herne Bay knitters have obviously been busy – outside the library are a lot of Christmassy mice and our local post office/shop has shepherds and sheep and a Christmas tree. Not sure I’ll get to see many of them this year as I’m staying in the village as much as possible.

  2. How very Firefly – going to town on the complex anagrams. About right for Thursday, involving a fair bit of head scratching. I was thrown by the “Main part of…” in 6d but my Times Atlas shows it joined to another, smaller “island” – so that’s OK. The solution to 28a was pretty obvious but there was a nice “aha” moment when I realised how the clue worked.

    Thanks to Firefly and to cs for the blog.

  3. An entertaining puzzle of Thursday-level toughness with quite a lot of anagrams – thanks to Firefly and CS.
    I liked 1a, 19a and 14d with my favourite being 28a.

  4. We struggled to do about 50% and then gave up and went for a walk. Lots of cruise ships in Torbay at present. Must try harder !

  5. Only my second foray into Toughieland after yesterday, both completed with minimal electronic help. I’ve previously been put off by thinking they would be above my pay grade but so far quite encouraging. 25d was a new word for me and 26a probably not obvious for anyone under 60.
    Thanks to CS and Firefly for enlivening a wet Devon day

  6. Swimming along nicely when I came to a grinding halt with five to go. Piddled about with the other puzzles and returned to this Toughie and guess what. Nothing. Not a sausage. That’s how it stayed until I looked through The hints. I don’t think I would ever have solved 13, 18 and 27 across. Nor 4 and 25 down. The illustration for 3 down of The St George’s play evokes many memories. However daft your Mummers are The Coventry Mummers are dafter. It’s nearly beer o clock with The Lavender Hill Mob. Ta to all

    1. I’m one day behind, failed on 7 clues including the 5 you listed. Too many obscure words for my liking.

  7. 28a my clear winner in this difficult but ultimately rewarding puzzle. A few new words, of which most, but not all, were gettable from the wordplay. A Toughie that was worthy of the name.

    My thanks to Firefly for the considerable challenge and to CS.

  8. Thought I was on a roll when 1a &1d fell easily and I could have written in 7d given nothing more than the last three words of the clue – my daily grim reminder! Should have known better, it was a steep climb from there on and SO frustrating at times when my woeful lack of knowledge regarding ‘foreign’ languages let me down.
    Triumphed eventually and my top places went to 10,15&28a plus 14d.

    Thanks to Firefly and to CS for the review.

  9. Needed the review for 3d and 25d. The only two I couldn’t fathom although mumbleset did cross my mind at some point.
    A proper toughie thanks to Firefly.
    Thanks also to CS for the explanations.

  10. Certainly on the difficult end of the spectrum, last one in was 13a and I constructed the definition from the wordplay , thanks to CS for the confirmation, also on the parsing of 4d.
    With a few checking letters in place I solved 3d, my favourite for originality., 14d elicited a smile.
    Going for a ****/****
    Will Friday be a *****!

  11. I almost make it unaided, but in the end there were just too many things that I was unfamiliar with in order to succeed. The manner of speaking was new to me in 3d, and in 14d although I had the correct answer penciled in, I would associate the definition more with space ships detaching themselves than with ships leaving harbour. I had 1d correctly penciled in but I needed crypticsue’s review to understand how the word play worked. As for 13a, I wasn’t able to invent the necessary definition from the word play, and from all of the penciled-in checkers that I wasn’t totally confident in. I’m cross with myself for failing in 4d – I had the right idea but only limited myself to a 6-letter plague and did not extend to an 8-letter one – clever clue. I also struck out on the existence in 25d – didn’t know it and ESNE was the closest I was able to come. Certainly a challenge for me which I enjoyed for the most part. Many thanks to Firefly and crypticsue.

  12. I could write a book about my experience with this brilliant Firefly — which I ‘finished’ with the aid of 5 electronic letters (the online Christmas present du jour). Like MP, I worked steadily along last night only to find myself five shy of having finished (13a/14d, 2d, 3d, 11a). One letter per clue later (the electronic gift) and I was done. But what a pleasure anyway. Loved 1d, 18a, 10a. Took me a while to remember that the island Lewis, which I have been to, is part of another one, and that foxed me for a bit. My Latin One class (“to be” = “esse”) when I was 14 years old gave me an existential lift; several bung-ins (like ‘tactic’ and ‘a piece of cake’) needed CS’s help in the parsing, though I did suspect that a “bat” must have been part of the “batter” that goes into a cake (am I right on that?). One of my favourite Toughies in my six-month experience of attempting them! Thanks to CS for your help and to Firefly for the … “rapture” will do here.

  13. We got off to a slow start until we eventually managed to get a toehold in the SW. Once we were on the move it flowed more smoothly with lots of smiles and chuckles along the way. The two pesky four letter answers 4d and 25d were the last to get sorted.
    Thanks Firefly and CS.

  14. A good challenge with a few new words thrown in for good measure
    I was rather disappointed to see 17d make yet another appearance, especially in a Toughie
    Thanks to Firefly and to CS for the review

  15. Well this certainly kept me occupied for the latter end of the evening. Got to within 4d of a hint free finish albeit with the aid of a letter reveal (13a/14d checker) & a couple of visits to Mr G (to check 1a spelling & 13a). Even though I didn’t know the Latin word I got the answer to 4d immediately on reading the hint. I thoroughly enjoyed this though found it very difficult in places & the sort of challenge I’d never have got anywhere near not so long ago. 10,19&28a were my picks of many fine clues.
    Thanks Firefly. I’ll now read the review & check my, no doubt, iffy parsing so thanks CS

  16. After most of the evening I had the eastern half complete, + a few. Came back to it this morning and completed it, learning a couple of new words as well. Delighted to have done a **** unaided. Down to earth with a bump later if Elgar’s on duty! Thanks all

  17. Really pleased with myself to be moving so well with a CS 4/5 difficulty (seeing the rating I nearly didn’t even bother to start!) but 6 clues remained unsolved last night. And the same today.

    A great puzzle with, for me, 28a the best of the bunch.

    Thanks to Cryptic Sue for the blog and Firefly.

  18. No. Not for me. 2d isn’t a double definition if you have to ignore a third of the words, never heard if 3D or 25d (was it really worth the waffle? Terrible clue) 13a anything but clear. Not happy with the effort I put in to failing with this.

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