Toughie 2563 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2563

Toughie No 2563 by Serpent

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

Serpent always gives us something extra and today he’s excelled by providing a pangram without the single most common letter in English (although its shape does make a few appearances in the grid). To achieve this without resorting to obscurities is a real feat. Thanks to him for a very enjoyable puzzle.

Since this is my last blog before the festivities may I wish everybody a Happy Christmas and a safe New Year.

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

Across Clues

1a Partial information in support programme using American not English (10)
PROPAGANDA: string together a verb to support or bolster and a programme or schedule with its abbreviation for English replaced by that of American.

6a Spirits finally crushed by curse (4)
JINX: some supernatural beings in Muslim theology without their final N followed by the character used in multiplications to mean ‘by’.

8a Rule allowing several matches in school yard introduced by old institution (8)
POLYGAMY: a school of whales and the abbreviation for yard are preceded by an old educational institution.

9a Article in paper that’s reinforced fake news? (6)
CANARD: insert one of our indefinite articles into a type of reinforced paper.

10a Letter from two boys around New Year (8)
LANDLADY: two occurrences of the same word for a boy with the abbreviation for new inserted. Finish with the abbreviation for year.

11a Its broadcast leads to convulsions of mirth (6)
SITCOM: an anagram (broadcast) of ITS and the leading letters of the final three words.

12a Maintenance precluding any cover for vehicle (4)
LIMO: remove the letters of ‘any’ from the outside of a maintenance payment.

14a Dictator’s related to military officer in court (7)
MARSHAL: an officer in a royal household sounds like an adjective meaning ‘relating to the military’.

18a In the middle of brief period beset by anxiety (7)
AMONGST: a brief period is contained in a word for anxiety.

20a British member of parliament’s vessel (4)
BOWL: an abbreviation for British and a feathered member of a parliament.

23a Shape stone drinking vessel, holding end of chisel? (6)
SCULPT: the abbreviation for a stone in weight contains a vessel holding the end letter of chisel.

24a Quoting farewell chorus to the audience (8)
ADDUCING: homophones of a) a word for farewell and b) a verb to chorus or warble.

25a Condition motor with group of drivers providing new exterior (6)
ANGINA: start with a word for motor and replace the outer letters with the identity of a motoring support group.

26a Opening feature reviewed book about king getting cross (8)
DOORKNOB: assemble the abbreviation for book, a preposition meaning about, the chess abbreviation for king and a type of cross seen in church. Now reverse the lot.

27a I’m surprised adding two variables is ill-defined (4)
HAZY: concatenate an exclamation of surprise and two of the mathematical variables which are so useful to crossword setters.

28a Sack lousy tutor using over-complicated approach (10)
TORTUOUSLY: an anagram (sack) of LOUSY TUTOR.

Down Clues

1d Work around ‘Liberal Elite’ essentially blocking prime minister’s appealing strategy? (8)
POPULISM: a 4-letter artistic work contains the abbreviation for Liberal and the central letter of elite. All that is contained inside the abbreviation for prime minister. This was my last clue to parse because I was thinking initially that ‘work around’ had to be the first two letters of the answer reversed.

2d Tomb regularly made use of pine box (6)
OBLONG: use regular letters from ‘tomb’ and append a verb to pine. I’m not totally convinced by the definition.

3d Non-governmental organisation left in Africa after evacuation here? (6)
ANGOLA: insert the abbreviations for a non-governmental organisation and left into the outer letters of Africa to get a country there.

4d Member has trouble nursing sick creature (9)
ARMADILLO: knit together a bodily member and a word meaning trouble or fuss containing a synonym of sick.

5d Condition agitated mouse, scratching tail close to domestic cat (8)
ACCUSTOM: condition here is a verb. We need an anagram (agitated) of MOUS[e] without its tail, the closing letter of [domesti]C and CAT.

6d Order to avoid popular meeting place (8)
JUNCTION: a judicial order without the two-letter adjective meaning popular.

7d Nitrogen and oxygen being present in bends is causing drowsiness (8)
NARCOSIS: start with the chemical symbol for nitrogen and follow that with bends or curves containing the chemical symbol for oxygen. Finally append IS.

13d Radio broadcast island briefly receives is prone to gaffes (9)
MALADROIT: a Mediterranean island without its last letter contains an anagram (broadcast) of RADIO.

15d Serpent is working in Canada following reshuffle (8)
ANACONDA: insert an adverb meaning working into an anagram (following reshuffle) of CANADA.

16d Dull university officer provided dons beastly accommodation (8)
STULTIFY: abbreviations for university and a military officer together with a conjunction meaning provided are contained in beastly accommodation.

17d Remove summary having little practical use (8)
ABSTRACT: triple definition.

19d Beat giant up — lady will lose heart in a discernible way (8)
TANGIBLY: rivet together a verb to beat or wallop, the reversal of an adjective meaning giant and the outer letters of lady.

21d Volume associated with circle equals size associated with volume (6)
QUARTO: an imperial volume of liquid and the circular letter.

22d Fare also included in travel pass avoiding terminal (6)
VIANDS: put a conjunction meaning also inside a travel pass without its terminating letter.

My ticks today went to 1a (for the subtle use of ‘partial’), 8a and 15d (for the misdirection) with the excellent all-in-one at 11a being my favourite. Which clue(s) sat atop your tree?


16 comments on “Toughie 2563

  1. Great. Too many good clues to mention. I didn’t even notice the unusual absent letter until I started checking the pangram, which shows how uncontrived the whole thing was.

  2. A very enjoyable and accessible Toughie for a damp Wednesday. Of many fine clues I liked 1a, 4d and 6d the best. An honourable mention to the birds in 20a which I think have been used fairly recently.

    Many thanks and Seasons Greetings to Serpent and Gazza.

  3. We found this to be a real pleasure and didn’t have to wait too long until we had finished and had our reward of tea and mince pies.
    ***/**** COTD 6D

  4. I did notice that the ‘letter’ only appeared in the grid and enjoyed solving this proper Toughie very much indeed

    Thanks and seasons greetings to Gazza and Serpent

  5. When I saw the grid, it immediately reminded me of a similar crossword with that letter missing but never thought about a pangram.
    It might have helped me in the NE which took a while to yield. Answers like downtown for 6d and hypnosis for 7d just didn’t work
    Congratulations to Serpent for the cleverness of today’s toughie and to Gazza for the review.

  6. Excellent, thanks Serpent – though I’ve no idea how you resisted the temptation to clue 1a as a ‘good look’ homophone
    Thanks and reciprocal good wishes to you too, Gazza

  7. It would seem that I’m destined never to get onto this setter’s wavelength – copious use of reverse parsing, appeals to Mr Google and finally hints from Gazza to get me across the finish line, which meant there wasn’t much enjoyment for me in this one. Obviously just my problem as others have praised it highly.

    Apologies yet again to Serpent and many thanks to Gazza for the much needed hints and review along with the pic of the most sane collection of MPS I’ve seen in a while plus another little gem from Nigel Hawthorne et al.

    1. Reading this over my breakfast coffee and realising that, however long I’d have studied it yesterday I would have got nowhere. It has to be a wavelength thing as Tuesday was fine.
      The missing letter was very clever.
      I’m now waiting for todays dead tree DT to see If I get on better with today’s offering. I can always hope!

    2. I’m with you two. I found this extremely tough and have great admiration for the setter’s ability to disguise definitions and to construct wordplay of “Osmotic” complexity. I gave up yesterday with 3 corners done, but had to finish the NW this morning. 16d takes the Christmas biscuit.

      Thanks Serpent [I’ll get you next time] and Gazza for the blog.

  8. We found this quite challenging and totally missed the fact that a significant letter was missing apart from the big ones in the grid. We’re sure it would have flowed more easily if we had spotted this. Lots of clever clues and greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Serpent and Gazza.

  9. I enjoyed this very much. (For once) I did notice, or suspect, what was going on regarding the pangram, but too late to be of any real help. I managed to get a full and correct grid, although I did need Gazza’s review to understand how some of the word play worked (12a for example). Many thanks to Serpent and Gazza.

  10. Crikey that was difficult & must have been if CS says it’s ‘proper’. Managed the left ok but the right hand side was a different kettle of fish. Took a break & a peek at the opening paragraph of the review so at least knew it was a E- less pangram. Even then I needed to look at the underlined definitions in 5d&9a to complete. Quite some feat to clue a crossword without an E. A very enjoyable challenge albeit one that was at the very limit of, if not a bit beyond, my capability.
    Thanks Serpent & a big thanks to Gazza for all of the reviews over the year. Happy Christmas all.

  11. Many thanks to Gazza for the excellent analysis, and to everyone who has been kind enough to comment. Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks to you for an excellent puzzle! Needed Gazza to explain 1d – fell into the same trap!
      Best wishes to you and Gazza, hoping your Xmas was Merry and that the new year will be too…

  12. Merry Christmas to Gazza and thanks for all your help to this Toughie-neophyte solver this year. And many thanks to Serpent for his very challenging puzzles, especially this one, about 75% of which I managed to complete. My best to you both.

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