Toughie 2604 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2604

Toughie No 2604 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A lovely quirky puzzle from Sparks today with a few that required a bit of extra thinking to see the parsing. At the time of writing, I haven’t seen Spark’s usual Nina, unless there’s been some kind of household incident (rows 3 & 13) – comments welcome.

Please leave a comment telling us how you got on and what you thought of the puzzle


1a    Beat time with mediocre snares (6)
THWACK: The abbreviation for time, then the abbreviation for with that a word meaning mediocre contains (snares)

4a    About to get help, old boy and old lady going over country (8)
CAMBODIA: The 1-letter Latin abbreviation for about, then (to get) a reversal (going over) of a word for help, the abbreviation for old boy, and a 2-letter old lady

9a    Cruel temperament, variable (6)
BLOODY: A word that can mean temperament (eg in cold *****) and an algebraic variable

10a    Repeatedly vacated lead role in feature issue (8)
CHILDREN: Both (repeatedly) LeaD and RolE without their internal letters (vacated) going inside (in) a facial feature

12a    Republican really embracing environmental rally (8)
RECOVERY: The abbreviation for republican and a word meaning really or extremely contains (embracing) a prefix meaning environmental

13a    Old treasurer following current series briefly (6)
FISCAL: The abbreviation for following, the physics symbol for current, and a word that can mean a series (eg the Richter *****) without the last letter (briefly)

15a    Still in need of a new filling (13)
UNREPLENISHED: Cryptic definition, nothing to do with dentistry, rather with your tummy

18a    Fiesta embarks, off to complete stage one (4,5,4)

22a    Overwhelm at international war zone (6)
INGULF: Split (2,4), the answer would mean located at an international war zone (1990 – 1991)

24a    One may examine by cutting apart perennial (8)
EXTERNAL: The letter that is used as an arithmetic symbol to mean multiplied ‘by’ goes inside (cutting apart) a word meaning perennial or everlasting, to give a kind of examiner who was independent of the teaching

26a    Get rid of a member tackled by porter? (5,3)
STAMP OUT: A from the clue plus the abbreviation for a member of parliament go inside (tackled by) a kind of beer

27a    Powder in hospital cumulatively reduced (6)
TALCUM: Hidden (inreduced)

28a    Democrat having again to go over housing organisation (3,5)
RED CROSS: The abbreviation for Democrat is contained in (havinghousing) a word meaning ‘again to go over’

29a    European and North American finally put forward African (6)
KENYAN: The abbreviations for European and North plus a 4-letter slang word for American, with the last letter moved to the front (finally put forward)


1d    Rod wearing a little old coat (6)
TABARD: Another word for rod or pole goes inside (wearing) a word meaning ‘a little’

2d    Animal fur perhaps picked up on pitch (9)
WOODCHUCK: An animal (that I associate with a tongue-twister) is derived from a word exemplified by (perhaps) a homophone (picked up) of fur, which goes on top of (on, in a down clue) a word meaning pitch or throw. Interesting homophone construction, affecting the clue rather than the answer. I might have preferred a more logically sequenced ‘picked up perhaps’, given it doesn’t harm the surface

3d    Stiff notice stopping one in the underground? (7)
CADAVER: A 2-letter notice goes inside (stopping) someone who wriggles around underground for fun

5d    Suffering from pain every single year bar the first (4)
ACHY: A word meaning ‘every single’ plus the abbreviation for year, except for (bar) the first letter

6d    Ring cool international who scored for Italy (7)
BELLINI: A word meaning ring or chime, a word for cool or trendy, and the abbreviation for international. We’re looking for an Italian composer

7d    Physicist I introduced to rising wit (5)
DIRAC: The Roman numeral for one goes inside (introduced to) a reversal (rising)  of a 4-letter wit

8d    A note in Nature superficially covers worms (8)
ANNELIDS: A from the clue, then the abbreviation for note goes inside (in) the outer letters (superficially) of Nature, plus a word meaning covers (think pots and pans)

11d    Gloomy, stomach turning about introduction of public hangings (7)
DRAPERY: A 6-letter word for gloomy in which the central two letters are swapped (stomach turning) goes around (about) the first letter (introduction) of public

14d    Might it serve to give one the chop? (4-3)
MEAT-AXE: Cryptic definition with a play on ‘chop’ being both the action and the product

16d    Furore breaking under 5 (3,3,3)
HUE AND CRY: An anagram (breaking) of UNDER + (answer to 5d)

17d    Enthralled by Hindu god, rouse up Sikh centre? (8)
AMRITSAR: A reversal (up) of a 4-letter Hindu god containing (enthralled by …) a word meaning rouse

19d    Mineral left in box with iron lid (7)
FELSPAR: The abbreviation for left goes in a word meaning box, as in fight, which has the chemical symbol for iron above it (withlid)

20d    Mean time overseen by state (7)
AVERAGE: A 3-letter time has a word meaning to state above it (overseen by)

21d    Pops over with extremely lewd piece (3,3)
OLD MAN: The abbreviation for over, the outer letters (extremely) of lewd, plus another word for a (eg chess) piece

23d    Managed to break two keys in piano (5)
GRAND: A 3-letter verb meaning managed goes inside (to break) two musical keys

25d    Stubborn person at heart, guessing copper will take the lead (4)
CUSS: The middle (at heart) 2 letters of guessing, with the chemical symbol for copper coming first (will take the lead)

My favourite today was 11d, for surface, in particular ‘public hangings’ but also for the inventive and apt ‘stomach turning’. Which clues did you like?


36 comments on “Toughie 2604

  1. Loved this puzzle. Slowish start and then steady progress quarter by quarter. Was happy to get all the parsing, albeit with a bit of head scratching in places (2d, 28a).

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  2. :phew: That was tough, but well worth the effort despite a couple of hmms.

    I gave up after a struggle trying to parse 15a. Now I’ve seen Dutch’s explanation that it is supposed to be simply a cryptic definition, I can’t see anything cryptic about it. I’m not keen on the use of “external” as a noun in the sense needed for 24a nor the archaic spelling “ingulf” in 22a, but, in Sparks’ defence, they are both in the BRB.

    With lots to like, my podium consists of 28a, 8d, 11d & 21d.

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

  3. An enjoyable puzzle – thanks to Sparks and Dutch.
    My ticks went to 11d, 21d and 23d.
    I wondered whether row 3 was a cri de coeur following the aggravations of home schooling?

  4. Tough enough for me today, a lot of head scratching required.
    Last one in was 11d, took a while to parse ,tried to reverse every synonym for stomach around P until I saw the light,
    24a did not work for me, I note RD’s comments,
    Apart from that most enjoyable’
    Liked the surface of 6d.
    Thanks to Dutch for the pics, 14d looked like a cleaver, never heard of the implement as an axe.

  5. chambers has meat-axe: a cleaver

    when i did my viva, a common question was “who’s your external?” – (I passed)

    1. If someone had ever asked me that question, I would have replied “my external what?” :wink: (and I suppose that would have meant I had failed!)

  6. I found this tough. Funnily enough I got 2d quickly, although I still don’t understand how the first 4 letters work even after reading the hint above!! Can anyone please help me?

    1. a homophone of fur is fir, which is a kind of wood.

      weird for two reasons: (1) the result of the homophone is used in the clue rather than the answer (2) the clue reads ‘perhaps picked up’ – perhaps meaning ‘for example’ and ‘picked up’ meaning ‘sounds like’ – i think it would be slightly fairer if the order of those two indicators were reversed, first homophone, only then ‘example of’

  7. A bit of a mixed bag. I liked 24a and was very impressed with 11d but thought 15a was a bit feeble [it was nearly last in and was accompanied by an “oh, is that it” moment]. As for 2d, although I thought it was a decent clue [once I’d figured out what was going on] I’m sure Ximenes had something to say about clues like that, even if I can’t remember what.
    Thanks to Sparks for the puzzle and Dutch for the blog. [So it’s Dr D then!]

  8. btw, the tongue-twister i remember from childhood is “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

    1. Answer: “As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”

  9. Plenty tough enough for me. I finished, although a couple of the parsings mentioned by earlier commenters proved a step too far. The hardest Toughie of the week in my book. A rewarding solve and I am glad I persevered.

    Thanks to Sparks for the challenge and to Dutch.

  10. Thanks to Dutch for parsing a couple for me, but I rather sailed through this delightful Sparks Toughie last night and finished it in about the same time that the back-pager took, amazingly. Thoroughly enjoyed it, especially 1a and 4a, which got me going quickly. I even knew the Indian city because of something I’d recently read about its role in an uprising there. As a baseball aficionado, I think the usual expression is ‘get to first base’ or ‘make it to…”, but I was just happy to see my favourite sport so honoured. As Blanche DuBois famously says in Streetcar, “Sometimes…there’s God…so quickly”. Thanks to Dutch and to Sparks.

  11. A couple of clues took us ages to parse, 29a in particular, but the penny did eventually drop. Good level of difficulty and good fun.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  12. Am I right in thinking that 1a is missing something? It doesn’t seem to be fully explained.

    1. Thank you, it’s missing a ‘that’. should be:

      The abbreviation for time, then the abbreviation for with *that* a word that can mean mediocre contains (snares)

      It’s hard to write hints with a similar syntax to Yoda-like clues
      soon to be fixed :)

  13. Didn’t think I’d get anywhere with this, only having solved three after half a hour. But everything went in steadily after that, except 2d which I had to read the hint for. Never heard of it. All in all a very good crossword week for me
    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks

  14. Solved in fits and starts as I had one of those rare forays into the outside world today – only to see the chiropodist but that counts as excitement at the moment! I did need Dutch to explain the workings of 13a, hadn’t thought of old Richter, but managed all the rest of the parsing by myself.
    Podium places went to 28a plus 11,14&21d.

    Thanks to Sparks (love to Sparky) and to Dutch for the review.

  15. Thanks to Dutch for usual cracking blog, and to all for overwhelmingly positive comments.

    There was indeed a Nina. This was my 64th Toughie so entries [23, 10, 20, 2, 16 and 3] are GRAND CHILDREN [A]VERA[GE], [WOOD]CHUCK [HUE]AND[CRY] [CA]DAVE[R]. Google it for the reference ;) :D

    1. Brilliant! Did 9a figure in your thinking, as suggested earlier ?!
      A great crossword Sparks, thanks

    2. Aha! “Vera, Chuck, and Dave”! One of my Fab Four Faves. How clever of you, Sparks.

    3. ah, was hoping you’d drop by and explain – completely missed this, i’m afraid (except for children, which i don’t think gives me a lot of points)

      Many thanks Sparks, looking forward to meeting up again at some point

  16. Got there eventually but needed 3 letter reveals (in the NW) to enable me to do so plus a couple of presses of the reveal mistakes function (which highlighted my E for I error at 22a so no wonder 17d was difficult). Enjoyed the tussle but thought it particularly tough & progress was very slow for the final third. Remember the tongue twister now but wouldn’t have got the wee blighter without the W assist. 14d & 24a also caused problems & didn’t care for either clue. No real favourites.
    Thanks Sparks & Dutch – will need to read your review to parse a couple too.

  17. Thank you — I needed a quite a few hints (it’s a Friday Toughie, so I expect nothing less), but it was worth it to enjoy this fun puzzle.

    11d and the Nina are impressively clever. My favourite was 19d.

  18. Thanks Sparks for a very enjoyable solve, I my view the reference to fur in 2d was superfluous. The clue works very well without it. Thanks Dutch for your excellent review. COTD’s were 14d and 19d

  19. Thanks Sparks for a very enjoyable solve, I my view the reference to fur in 2d was superfluous. Thanks Dutch for your excellent review. COTD’s were 14d and 19d

        1. alas, perhaps and would are not the same part of speech. Actually, I struggle to find a synonym for would. What would (ha ha) you substitute in “The car would not start”

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