Toughie 2638 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2638

Toughie No 2638 by Stick Insect

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

Stick Insect has definitely set us a Toughie today, but not entirely for the right reasons. The left half of the crossword was more back-page level, including a very old friend at 3d, but the right-hand side took a lot more work, not least because there were several examples of ‘that must be the solution, but how/why?’.

In pre-internet days, this crossword would have been described as ‘not one for solving on a train’ as you couldn’t really travel with a large dictionary, which you definitely need today to make sure you’ve parsed the clues correctly – I’m still old school enough to use the dictionary for assistance, only using a web search as a last resort

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Clause pedant re-edited and summarised (12)
ENCAPSULATED An anagram (re-edited) of CLAUSE PEDANT

9a    Uniform adopted by boxer in that woman’s transport company (7)
HAULIER Insert the letter represented by Uniform in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet and the ‘usual’ boxer into a three-letter word meaning that woman’s

10a    Sporty exit? (7)
OUTDOOR Split a synonym for sporty 3,4 and you’ll see the ‘exit’!

11a    Tax of the French emptied treasury (4)
DUTY The French word meaning of the and the outside (emptied) letters of TreasurY

12a    Mean villager conceals bone (5)
ANVIL MeAN VILlager ‘conceals’ a bone of the ear

13a    Half of evergreen bark (4)
RIND This clue relies on you knowing the names of evergreen trees – the second half of one of one of them is another word for bark

16a    Conflict is in fashion in this vessel? (7)
WARSHIP A shorter way of saying conflict is and an informal adjective meaning in fashion

17a    Final dance in game (7)
NETBALL An adjective meaning final, free of all deductions, and a formal dance

18a    Say a craft is calmer regularly (7)
ARTICLE A craft and the regular letters of Is CaLmEr

21a    Panel with gold picture (7)
TABLEAU A panel and the chemical symbol for gold

23a    Religious figure‘s male friend from the east (4)
IMAM A reversal (from the east in an Across clue) of the abbreviation for Male and a friend

24a    Abandon insignificant drudge (5)
SCRUB Triple definition – an informal word meaning to cancel (abandon), an adjective meaning insignificant or a drudge

25a    Marry sweetheart before 1 November (4)
JOIN A Scottish word meaning beloved one (sweetheart) goes before I (one) and the letter represented by November in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

28a    One selecting e-reader? (7)
ELECTOR E and a reader

29a    Agitation about mistake, losing both ends of iron (7)
FERROUS Some agitation goes ‘about’ a mistake, both words losing their ‘end’ letter

30a    Suggestive treatment they occasionally start to prepare, fabricating honey trap (12)
HYPNOTHERAPY The occasional letters of tHeY, the ‘start’ to Prepare and an anagram (fabricating) of HONEY TRAP


1d    European queen turning round in great circle (7)
EQUATOR Abbreviations for European and Queen and a reversal (turning) of a round

2d    Stylish character in Greek clubs (4)
CHIC The 22nd character in the Greek alphabet and the abbreviation for clubs in a pack of cards

3d    Average cut for Root (7)
PARSNIP A clue with a crickety surface reading, hence the capital R for Root – what we have here is an extremely old friend of the crossword solver, joining a synonym for average with a verb meaning to cut

4d    Perfect note on instrument, old before its time (7)
UTOPIAN A syllable representing the first letter of the scale (thanks BRB!) and a musical instrument where the final letter O (old) is moved to the front (before) of the word

5d    Bet poet’s no Democrat (4)
ANTE Remove the abbreviation for Democrat from an Italian poet quite often found in crosswords

6d    Glamorous objects quickly put in fell over (7)
EXOTICA A reversal (over) of an adjective meaning quickly inserted into a verb meaning to cut down (fell)

7d    Follow taxi belonging to Egypt’s gutless opposition leaders (6,7)
SHADOW CABINET A verb meaning to follow, a taxi, a preposition meaning belonging to and the outside (gutless) letters of EgypT

8d    Unfortunately, scoundrels use naivety (13)
CREDULOUSNESS An anagram (unfortunately) of SCOUNDRELS USE

14d    Restraint could be prelude to mating (5)
CHECK This synonym for restraint could, if one was playing chess, be a prelude to mating

15d    Puts out one book from painter (5)
STUBS Remove one of the abbreviations for book from the surname of an English painter, best known for paintings of horses

19d    Trojan Women perhaps grew old in Troy, lacking nothing (7)
TRAGEDY A way of saying grew old inserted into TRoY without (lacking) the O (nothing)

20d    Rule out involving Romeo in piece (7)
EXCERPT Another visit to the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, the letter represented by Romeo inserted into a preposition meaning leave out

21d    After end of riot, Trump left, denying newspaper confection (7)
TRUFFLE After the letter at the end of rioT, put an old card game similar to the old card game called trumps, a verb meaning to trump, and the first two letters of LEft (denying newspaper telling you to remove the Financial Times)

22d    Thrift in company trapped by money supply (7)
ECONOMY An abbreviated company ‘trapped’ by an anagram (supply) of MONEY

26d    Fired-up expression of contempt causes shock (4)
STUN A reversal (fired-up) of an informal expression of contempt

27d    Outcast discovered song (4)
ARIA Dis-cover or remove the outside letters from a social outcast


48 comments on “Toughie 2638

  1. For once in a blue moon it seems that I needed to access the BRB for a Toughie less than CS – it was only the second and third definitions of 24a that I needed to look up.

    Thanks to SI for an enjoyable puzzle and to CS for the review.

    ‘trump’ in 21d is a verb used in card games rather than the name of an old card game.

    I liked 21d for the amusing surface but my ticks went to 18a, 29a and 4d (‘old before its time’ is excellent).

  2. Unusually I must slightly disagree with CS as I found this to be a fairly comfortable solve. I agree that some of the parsings took some teasing out but I managed them all apart from my final entry, 25a. It had to be what it was but the parsing of the first half of the word eluded me. Overall this was hugely enjoyable and very entertaining, with 7 and 21d my favourites.

    Many thanks to Stick Insect for the challenge and to CS.

  3. Plenty to enjoy again today with some challenging answers on the right hand side. Thanks to the setter; two really enjoyable puzzles to start the week. Favourite today 15D :)

  4. For me, this was about the same level of challenge and enjoyment as yesterday’s Gila and I might have been able to solve most of it on a train with just a need to consult the Small Red Book for two or three if I had carried it with me (more totable than the BRB), or when I got home. **/****

    Favourite – a toss-up between 28a and 7d – and the winner is 2a.

    Thanks to Stick Insect and CS.

  5. I agree with CS’s preamble. This was definitely a puzzle of two halves in terms of difficulty. I enjoyed the LHS, which went in quite smoothly, although I thought 16a was weak. However, I found myself getting a bit irritated with some of the RHS, which took me a lot longer.

    I would have expected some indication of the Scottish term in 25a. 13a was a question of bung it in and wait for CS’s review to understand it; when I did, it elicited an audible hmm. The surface of 6d seems bizarre.

    My top three were 18a (well disguised definition), 3d & 21d (both clever uses of false capitalisation).

    Thanks to Stick Insect and to CS.

  6. Completed in *** time, but with less enjoyment than the backpager, largely because some of the synonyms were more stretched, not to say obscure. Not really sure about the last two of the triple definition, the evergreen tree definition is a bit loose and hadn’t heard of the Scottish sweetheart. On the positive side, I liked several of the others and plump for 20d as favourite as it took a while for the penny to drop. Thanks everyone.

  7. Very much curate’s egg. I romped through most of it then ground to a halt especially in the NE corner.
    Don’t really understand 18a and suppose the tree in 13a is a tamarind? That was a reverse solve if there is such a thing.
    I did know the “Jo” in 25a. Isn’t there a song?

  8. The adjective for quickly was a new one on me. I looked it up, more in hope than expectation. The Scots ‘sweetheart’ was also new, sadly I did not think to look it up. I assumed it was some sort of reference to little women or some such, and lazily resorted to a ‘bung in’. I won’t forget it though. Other than those two I thought it was relatively benign.

  9. Completed this with ease but couldn’t get 4d, just knew it was an ideal answer, ut??? Still don’t understand how 6d works otic? cito?

    1. Cito is the Latin word for quickly, Buzza. I suppose it must be used by some people in English but it was a new one on me (I can sense my school Latin teacher turning in his grave).

      1. The comparative form is used in the Olympics motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius”; faster, higher, stronger.

      2. Thanks for that Lepus David..
        Only did French for 2 years at school, after that the teacher left in dispair!

      1. Definition is ‘glamorous objects’. You get them by inserting ‘cito’ (see comments above), into axe – a synonym for fell. Then turn it all over. Hope that makes sense – writing hints is not as easy as it looks …

  10. Agree with CS ***/****on this puzzle and thanks for the parsing of 4 and 6d which eluded me.
    Some excellent cluing and top notch charades-liked 21 and 1d.
    With regard to 25a,my Jo was one of the little women!
    Liked the surface of 19a.

  11. Getting the four perimeter clues relatively easily helped a lot with this. Some of the rest went in on a wing and a prayer, but enjoyed completing it and of course subsequently reading the review for further enlightenment.
    14&17a plus 14d particularly appealed to me.
    Thanks to Stick Insect and CS for the entertainment.

  12. I’m in the “easier to solve than parse” camp this afternoon. I didn’t know the quickly in 6d but looked it up just on the off chance and to my amazement it was there. Also didn’t know the sweetheart or the note in 25a and 4d but put them in anyway and 24a and 29a were just bung ins. Any road up a few ne words learnt. Favourite was 9a. Thanks to Stick Insect and CS.

  13. Failed on 13ac 25ac and wrong with 29ac ( bunged in furious ).
    Most seemed back page stuff yet with obscurities.
    UT is still seen on older orchestral music parts for the key of C.
    Somehow it wasn’t too much fun. Sorry SI
    Thanks to CS for help parsing several.

  14. Finished a Toughie rated such by those who know unaided. Yes there were 3 bung-ins 18a, 25a and 4d but who cares?. Thanks to CS for the enlightenment.
    Today took me nearly **** time but for me to finish consecutive Toughies unaided even with 3 I couldn’t parse has made my day (yes I know small things etc).
    Thanks to setter and CS for the lucid review.

  15. Had to employ the good offices of the BRB to fully parse several in this one – 24a plus 4&6d but guesswork had suggested which terms I needed to investigate.
    Top two here were 1&9a.

    Thanks to Stick Insect and to CS for the comprehensive review.

  16. Hummmmm….

    I’m another in the “puzzle of two halves” camp. Enjoyed much of the left but found elements of the NE and SE so deliberately obscure as to erase the earlier pleasurable memories. Jo? Cito? Ut? Come on. At least those answers were bung-ins, but that’s hardly the point. Unusually for me I found no ticks alongside the clues once the grid was completed, so no contenders for the podium, but a “special mention” to 19d for the smile and smoothest surface-read of the lot.


    Thanks to Setter, and to CS for the review/parsing of my answers!

  17. Oddly enough I found this a good deal straightforward than yesterday’s apparent fluffy. The left was certainly easier than the right but unlike yesterday there were fewer things with which I was unfamiliar so a much quicker completion. The last 2 in were 13&24a, both of which were sort of bung ins. For 13a guessed it was half a tree but no idea which one until I read JB’s comment & for 24a I figured it was a triple definition but was too lazy to look up the 2nd&3rd. Can’t say I was familiar with the two letter sweetheart, failed to correctly parse 21d’s tasty confection & didn’t understand the first 2 letters of 4d but otherwise all ok.
    A thoroughly enjoyable companion to the super back pager so we’ve been well catered for today. 29a my pick of the bunch.
    Thanks to both Stick Insect & CS

  18. It seemed quite tough at the time and there were a few turns to the BRB but I finished it in 2 to 3* time. However, I seem to be the only punter who doesn’t understand 19d. I get the parsing but is there a play called “Trojan Women”, are you all classicists or am I just being dim?
    I thought 18a, 29a and 4d were clever and a bit different and good old “supply” worked well in 22d.
    Thanks to SI and CS.

    1. I’m not a classicist but I vaguely remembered it is a play by Euripides

      1. Well, I never knew that. Thanks CS. At least it wasn’t me being dim, just ignorant!

  19. One of those Toughies where the first read through gives answers here and there around the grid. The second read through adds to that. Then it’s a case of what fits where with an occasional PDM. Last one in 13 across with a lucky guess. As for checking before mating, isn’t that what consent is all about? Thanks to Stick Insect for the wake up call. Thanks to Crypticsue for explaining the bung ins. Thanks to Saint Sharon for being you

  20. Had to check a few things too like quickly in 6d, the synonyms in 24a which I thought was scrap for a while, the Jo in 25a and if a tamarind was evergreen.
    Knew the ut in 4d as it is often used in France.
    Thanks to Stick Insect and to CS for the review.

  21. I actually gave in and gave up too soon, I think, having made the mistake last night of working the NYT and Guardian puzzles before attempting Stick Insect’s excellent Toughie. With three unsolved clues at that point, I (fighting fatigue) yielded to my electronic ‘Gift of 5’, as I call it. Wish now that I had kept at it because the three I hadn’t solved were among the most obvious, now that I think back on all of that. One really does need to know his limits in the middle of the night at almost 83 years of age! I thought that this was a really wonderful puzzle, so thanks to Stick Insect and to CrypticSue.

    1. I failed to remember the Latin for ‘quickly’ even though I often used it in school when taking notes in class….cito, cito, cito! Malema Puckett Ross, my Latin teacher in high school, would be very disappointed in me. As she often said, “It gars me greet.” (When someone in class failed to translate a passage suitably.)

      1. After reading about cito in the comments I hunted it down in the puzzle. I solved that from the definition bunged it in and never gave it another thought until now. I’d have struggled explaining that one in a blo*

  22. We put in 13a correctly just from the definition and checkers and then it took us ages to work out the wordplay. Think the setter was asking a bit much of the solvers there. Otherwise an enjoyable solve for us with lots of ticks on our pages.
    Thanks CS and SI.

  23. Sped through the LHS ok, then had to go out. RHS more tricky, and now too knackered to complete.
    Looking forward to the hints…
    Thanks CS and setter.

  24. To my surprise, having solved all bar 3 clues I find a ***/**** rating. I suppose that sometimes it just clicks.

  25. Took me a while to realise erotica was wrong for 6d! But, in mitigation, erica could relate to moorland/fell. Didn’t know cito so no help there. Otherwise, got all the answers but took a while to work out why for those on the right hand side. Is ami an english word?

    1. That was one of several things I checked in the dictionary. It is there as a word meaning friend

  26. Thanks to Stick Insect and to crypticSue for the review and hints. A very enjoyable puzzle, that I’m very pleased to say I managed to complete. Needed a few explanations from Cryptic Sue’s hints. 13,25,29a and 6d. Favourite was 16a. Was 3* / 3* for me.

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