Toughie 2620 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2620

Toughie No 2620 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

This setter often has a Nina or a little grid feature of some kind. There seems to be something going on with the starts of words (rows 1,3,13,15). Plenty of fun and quirkiness in this puzzle – the usual Spark!

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.             


1a    Almost ruin modern housing around 13 (6)
WOODEN: A 4-letter word meaning ruin or disaster without the last letter (almost) is contained in (housing) a word meaning modern or novel, all reversed (around). My last to parse

4a    Official seat left after court fire (8)
WOOLSACK: The abbreviation for left comes after a verb meaning to court, then a word meaning fire or dismiss

9a    Jail in which you’d chill out (6)
COOLER: A literal interpretation of a slang word for jail

10a    Combine cold beers with retro environmental packaging (8)
COALESCE: The abbreviation for cold, then another word for beers is packaged in the reversal (retro) of a word/prefix meaning environmental

11a    Refinement, maybe, in English weapon (8)
ELEGANCE: The Latin abbreviation for ‘maybe’ or ‘for instance’ goes inside (in) the abbreviation for English and a long weapon

13a    Senior copper drives round, missing intelligence (6)
STUPID: The reversal (round) of the abbreviation for a senior policemen and a common verb that can mean drives (definition 13 in Chambers)

15a    Hell to write, breaking through dark as necessary (13)
INDISPENSABLE: A name for the underworld plus a verb meaning to write go inside (breaking) a preposition that can mean through and a word that means black or dark

18a    Sod’s Law — I’ve let out unsubstantiated info (3,5,5)
OLD WIVES’ TALE: An anagram (out) of SOD’S LAW I’VE LET

22a    One won’t turn up to eat without coming back (2-4)
NO-SHOW: A slang word meaning to eat plus a reversal (coming back) of the abbreviation for without

24a    Blokes curse boxers et al (8)
MENSWEAR: A word for blokes and a word for curse

26a    Mark date for operating on thighs? (4,4)
DARK MEAT: An anagram ( … for operating on) of MARK DATE

27a    Flashing when naked is a piece of cake (6)
PARKIN: An 8-letter word for flashing, like our compiler, with the outer letters removed (when naked)

28a    Was mum perhaps torn between dad and, ultimately, love child? (8)
PARENTED: A word meaning torn goes between another word for dad and the last letters (ultimately) of love child

29a    Acting like China, welcoming European in insipid fashion (6)
PALELY: A five-letter word meaning ‘acting like a friend’ (China plate = mate) contains (welcoming) the abbreviation for European


1d    Gate with card entry deactivated (6)
WICKET: The abbreviation for with, then a card or slip (for travel, or a parking fine) with the first letter removed (entry deactivated)

2d    Agreed over experience surrounding single male (2,3,4)
OF ONE MIND: The cricket abbreviation for over, then a verb meaning experience is surrounding a 3-letter word meaning single plus the abbreviation for male

3d    Blasphemer, alderman, just a bit green (7)
EMERALD: Hidden (… just a bit)

5d    Instrument — gong with hole in it (4)
OBOE: A 3-letter gong or medal contains the letter that looks like a hole.

6d    Signs of tuition recently breaking records (1-6)
L-PLATES: A word for recently goes inside (breaking) the abbreviation for some vinyl records (plural)

7d    Extremely agreeable concession for one who told tales (5)
AESOP: The outer letters (extremely) of agreeable plus a concession

8d    Want to enter tower just above Wellington? (4-4)
KNEE-DEEP: A word meaning want or require goes inside (to enter) a tower or castle

12d    Made into brass about to get cast (6)
CASHED: The Latin abbreviation for about, plus a verb meaning cast or discard

14d    One insect let loose after another (6)
BEETLE: An anagram (loose) of LET after an insect

16d    Bishop with sixth sense combed uncovered spot (9)
BESPECKLE: The abbreviations for Bishop and a sixth sense, then a 7-letter verb meaning combed (for flax or fibre) without the outer letters (uncovered)

17d    Mature draftee will have done so (6-2)
JOINED-UP: Another way of saying enlisted that sounds like being pretty much together as a person

19d    Tough guy inviting female interpretation? (4,3)
IRON MAN: Oh – rather than 1a, I guess this is my last to parse! I only just saw that have to split female (2,4) (inviting … interpretation) to get a clue for the answer

20d    In which a Callas cast? (2,5)
LA SCALA: An anagram (cast) of A CALLAS

21d    Aim to block attempt to get in (6)
TRENDY: A word for aim goes inside (to block) a word for attempt

23d    Unintroduced loan shark is more confident (5)
SURER: A 6-letter loan shark has the first letter removed (un-introduced)

25d    Confuse at least the weekend broadcast (4)
DAZE: A homophone (broadcast) of at least two (e.g. the weekend) of seven in the week

To-daze favourite for me is the Wellington (8d). Which clues did you like?

40 comments on “Toughie 2620

  1. Enjoyable and not too tough as Friday Toughies go. Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.
    I didn’t know the verb to comb flax in 16d – it’s interesting how that evolved into its modern meaning (which originally happened in Scotland apparently).
    My podium selections were 4a, 8d and 19d.

  2. On a par with the back pager for difficulty. 1 across and 1 down were nearly the last to fall but that honour went to 29 across. Great fun on a Good Friday morning. Thanks to Dutch for the heckle and to Sparks for the puzzle

    1. Good Heavens MP! I managed about 10 during my 1.5 hours leg up time (no, not leg over time) but the first one in was 29a. Mind you I don’t even understand the answer to 1a – what has wooden got to do with 13? The Toughie is usually well beyond my solving capabilities but I have a stab at it.

  3. As usual, I needed e-help but not as much as usual. I think I finished about 50% unaided and considering the Toughies get tougher as the week goes on, I am well pleased. This is where I find out that others thought it easy! :smile: My favourite clue was 13a closely followed by 24a.

    Many thanks to Sparks for the workout. Thanks also to Dutch for the much needed hints.

    1. One of the great delights of this site is seeing newcomers become more skilled at solving back pagers and then nervously tackling toughies and becoming proficient at those. When I said that today’s Toughie was on a par with the back pager it was a nod to the difficulty of the back pager, not the easiness of the Toughie. So accept a pat on the back and sit back with a smug smile. You deserve it

  4. I found this strangely tough, but then I am having a bit of a weird day due to mind-bending insomnia
    Brain not sufficiently in gear to work out 19d – wot??
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch
    Zzz… See you all @RC on Monday

  5. Got there but struggled to parse 1a and 15a. Still struggling with hell reference in the latter. 8d and 19d were my favourite clues today.

    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

  6. Too many things this unenlightened American couldn’t (or, rather: didn’t) know–the tuition, the seat, the piece of cake, etc.–and some rather stretched synonyms (though fairly done) kept me from finishing more than about half of this tough Friday Toughie. So much to admire though. And thanks to Dutch for all of the assists (especially for that clever ‘tough guy’ parsing), and to Sparks for the workout.

  7. Right up my street today and agree with Miffypops that it was on a par with the back-pager for difficulty for a change.
    A steady solve for me and the last in were 1a and 1d, enjoyed a solve in the sunshine with the birds in full song- spring at last!
    Thanks to Dutch and Gazza for the correct parsing of 19d, I went for ‘ I no man’ for the female interpretation- it nearly fitted!
    W/O was new to me in 22a, one for the memory.
    Excellent close to the crossword week ,many thanks to our setters

  8. A cracking Toughie that was very doable and great fun to complete. Trying to pick a favourite from such a terrific selection is nigh on impossible, but 19d was quite brilliant.

    Thanks to Sparks for the challenge and to Dutch.

  9. 1a and 1d doubled the time spent on the rest of this very enjoyable crossword.
    Didn’t know the combed in 16d and the cake in 27a which are both Scottish apparently.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch.

  10. A very good end to the week with some great clues. Favourite 19D (when the penny dropped!!) So much more on my wavelength than yesterday’s (1*!!) which I could only half complete. I guess it’s good job we are not all the same!! Thanks to the setter 4*/4* for me

  11. Very enjoyable and surprisingly tender for a Toughie! I thought the ‘back pager’ was harder today.

  12. The intersecting 1a and 1d were my last in, and took a considerable amount of time. For me this was a strange, but very enjoyable, mixture of clues that fell almost immediately and others that put up considerable resistance. There were one or two things I didn’t know (cakes and official seats etc.) but it all came together eventually. Many thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  13. I agree this was about the same difficulty as the backpager, but I was defeated by two clues, 16d and 27a. Even with Dutch’s prologue hint about the rows, I managed to start 27 with a D. Wrong, so resorted to hints, but needed to expose the answer to 26d
    Thanks Dutch and Sparks
    Happy Easter all

  14. Certainly a Toughie for me! Like Manders, I had a problem equating 1&13a (thank you, BRB), I wasn’t too keen on the clue for 25d and didn’t know ‘combed’ as used in 16d. Thought 19d was clever once I’d managed the wordplay but my top three were 4a plus 8&21d.

    Thanks for the challenge, Sparks (hope Sparky is still soldiering on?) and thanks to Dutch for shedding light where necessary.

  15. A real penny-drop moment with the parsing of 19d but the last two to get sorted were 1d and 1a. Our favourite has to be 8d as the clue pretty much describes where we live.

    Great fun.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  16. First time Ive tackled a toughie puzzle. Felt different to the regular cryptic and some of the parsing was convoluted … thus why it is a toughie. Clues I liked and jumped out me were 18a, 29a, 6d & 19d with 6d winner.
    Still don’t get the parsing for 1a and the 13??

    Thanks to setter and Dutch

    1. Gotcha … thx!
      I’ll go remove my wooden one and put the other one back on!

  17. Needed Dutch’s help to finish and parse a couple. Two toughies today. Good job it’s a holiday! Thanks to all concerned.

  18. Completed this morning & in about the same time as the back pager very late last night (neither quickly). I found this one the more difficult of the two inasmuch as I needed Dutch’s help to parse a few (17&19d plus 29a) Last 3 in were 1a&d plus 29a. Like RC I thought a few of the synonyms somewhat stretched but not unfair. Enjoyable but not my favourite of the week.
    Thanks Sparks & Dutch

  19. To my surprise, having almost completed it without help I find you have awarded **** usually when this happens you have awarded *. A nice surprise and I agree with the comments about the back later being tougher.

  20. Unlike some above i had no problem with 1a and 1d but i did require Dutch’s directions to solve 25d and 29a and like many i had not heard of heckle for combing flax. My favourite was 19d. Thanks to Dutch for his hints and to Sparks for an easier solve than usual. Very Enjoyable

  21. Unlike some above i had no problem with 1a and 1d but i did require Dutch’s directions to solve 25d and 29a and like many i had not heard of heckle for combing flax. My favourite was 19d. Thanks to Sparks for an easier solve than usual. Very Enjoyable

  22. Unlike some above i had no problem with 1a and 1d but i did require Dutch’s directions to solve 25d and 29a. I had not heard of heckle for combing flax. My favourite was 19d. Thanks to Sparks for an easier solve than usual. Very Enjoyable

  23. Thank you to Dutch and to all for a great blog and the overwhelmingly positive comments. I hadn’t anticipated it was easier than usual, but there you go.

    Can confirm that the Nina was, as noted by Dutch, related to the starts of the words in the first and last two row pairs, which respectively are “word chains” WOOD>WOOL>COOL>COAL and DARK>PARK>PARE>PALE of the sort we did as kids.

    Finally, Sparky says “thanks Jane” for the good wishes. He’s getting on and quite frail now but is still a happy little chappie who whizzes about when the mood (rarely) takes him, though nestling on my lap and pestering me for cheese and/or crisps are by far his preferred options.

    1. Thank you for the update on Sparky, I think of him every time you bring us a puzzle. You’re obviously doing a good job on the TLC front!

      1. Oh yes: Sparky does not want on the cuddles front, and fits nicely into my armpit when we’re both asleep :D . I’ve often mused that he’s part-cat …

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