Toughie 2658 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2658

Toughie No 2658 by Musaeus

Hints and tips by crypticsue

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *Enjoyment ***

It is nearly nine months since we last had a crossword from Musaeus and, for me anyway, this one didn’t quite make it over the border from a difficult backpager to become a straightforward toughie

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    I serve one pleading at the bar audibly and otherwise stressed (7)
BARISTA This sounds (audibly) like someone pleading at a bar in a court room, but is pronounced differently (otherwise stressed)

5a    Puzzled? Ponder in the course of plot (7)
BEMUSED A verb meaning to ponder inserted into (in the course of) a plot

9a    At risk in Limbo possibly collecting poor (2,4,3)
ON THIN ICE Kept in suspense (in limbo possibly) ‘collecting’ a synonym for poor

10a    Wrap tool quietly at first (5)
SHAWL An instruction to be quiet goes first before a pointed tool

11a    No-frills degree, yes just like this (5)
BASIC An abbreviated academic degree and the Latin word meaning ‘just like this’

12a    Eminent composer accepting large maiden causes big confusion (9)
MAELSTROM An eminent musical composer ‘accepting’ the abbreviation for Large, the abbreviation for Maiden being added at the end

13a    Shady district sparkled within (9)
DISHONEST Part of a verb meaning sparkled goes within an abbreviated district

16a    Country force abandoning upset Afghan (5)
GHANA The abbreviation for Force ‘abandoning’ an anagram (upset) of AfGHAN

17a    Boater say by church finds shade (5)
HATCH The item of clothing of which a boater, say, is an example followed by the abbreviation for church

18a    Remaining endlessly cheeky about chap even on vacation (9)
PERMANENT An adjective meaning cheeky goes ‘about’ a chap and the outside (on vacation) letters of EveN

20a    Astonishing time to get in gregarious mimic (9)
STARTLING The abbreviation for Time inserted into a bird which associates in large flocks (gregarious) and is known to mimic other birds, car alarms and the ring of a telephone

23a    Otherwise fair introducing note in Latin below (5)
INFRA An anagram (otherwise) of FAIR ‘introducing’ the abbreviation for Note

25a    Who would judge German city by a river? (5)
TRIER Someone who judges or a city on the banks of the River Moselle where it flows through Germany (it also goes through Luxembourg and France)

26a    Drop in a right price to settle dispute (9)
ARBITRATE A small drop of something inserted between A (from the clue) and the abbreviation for Right, followed by a price

27a    Italian e.g. seen wandering about holding zip (7)
GENOESE An anagram (wandering about) of EG SEEN ‘holding’ a number represented by the (formerly US) slang word ‘zip’

28a    Some fear a chesty cause of discomfort (7)
EARACHE Hidden in some fEAR A CHEsty


1d    Got a duck and wept outside old guesthouse? (7)
BLOBBED Cricket slang meaning did not score any runs (got a duck) – a verb meaning wept goes outside the abbreviation for old and a guesthouse

2d    In absentia wife dashes off for Bacchic orgies, perhaps (5)
RITES Omit (in absentia) the abbreviation for Wife from a way of saying dashes off (a letter)

3d    This local revitalised stuff used in yards? (9)
SAILCLOTH An anagram (revitalised) of THIS LOCAL

4d    Assumption arising from American chopper on Isle of Man (5)
AXIOM The way an American would spell a type of chopper and the abbreviation for the Isle of Man

5d    Who’s busy undertaking monarch’s guard? (9)
BEEFEATER An insect famed for being busy, an undertaking, and the regnal cipher of our current monarch

6d    Mike with demands for those essential to cover up? (5)
MASKS The letter represented by Mike in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet with a synonym for demands

7d    Flight where A-lister, say, carries one bit of luggage (9)
STAIRCASE An A-lister ‘carries’ a number one and is followed by a bit of luggage

8d    Cover up Ms Peel’s fix (7)
DILEMMA A reversal (up) of a cover and the Christian name of the Avengers’ character Ms Peel

14d    A critical point as tuition developed (9)
SITUATION An anagram (developed) of AS TUITION

15d    Illustrate moving epic tale about cross (9)
EXPLICATE An anagram (moving) of EPIC TALE goes about the letter that looks like a cross

16d    Kid is initially bitten by reptile, commonly a fierce fighter (9)
GLADIATOR A young boy (kid) and the first letter (initially) of Is ‘bitten’ by the informal (commonly) way we’d refer to a particular reptile

17d    Cinders beginning to trust in ugly sister’s highlighter? (7)
HASHTAG Some cinders and the ‘beginning’ to Trust inserted into an ugly sister

19d    Calm reported after gin in swinger’s bar? (7)
TRAPEZE A synonym (reported) of a verb meaning calm goes after a snare (gin)

21d    Short High Street with closure pulled off (5)
TERSE An anagram (high) of STREEt without its last letter (closure pulled off)

22d    Butler’s real name? In Spain the reserve gets overturned (5)
GABLE The name of the actor who played Rhett Butler in the film of Gone with the Wind – a reversal (gets overturned) of the Spanish definite article and an informal way of saying reserve

24d    Pope amongst others is hiding what Swiss lays out (5)
FRANC The name of the current Pope hiding IS 

29 comments on “Toughie 2658

  1. Quite gentle although for some reason it took me a while to see the parsing of 5d. I also needed to check my German city as I hadn’t heard of it.

    Thanks to CS and Musaeus.

  2. I made heavier weather of this than perhaps I should have but I did get there in the end. I didn’t know the cricket slang in 1d and had to wait until I had all the checkers before it came into focus from the word play. The ‘big confusion’ in 12a would have come to me a good deal more quickly had the clue began ‘Eminent conductor accepting . . . . .’ Anyway, I did enjoy this, and many thanks to Musaeus and crypticsue.

    1. The clue for 12a in the puzzles site version does begin like that. Was the newspaper version different??

      1. CS, the newspaper version of 12a begins “Eminent composer …” (as per your review).

        1. So it does – its been a very long hot day here today – Mr CS decided to start his day in the garden at 545 and apparently I needed to be up too :(

    2. Agreed, Tony. I haven’t come across ‘maestro’ as referring to composers but Chambers is happy with both, so who are we …?

  3. Most enjoyable. As usual, I needed Mr. G for a couple but otherwise a satisfying solve. Like Jonners, I had to check the German city and I couldn’t make sense of the zip in 22a. I particularly liked 12a.

    Many thanks, Musaeus for the entertainment. Also a huge thanks you to CS for the hints.

  4. I enjoyed this and was on pangram alert for quite a while although that didn’t materialise.

    1a was a bit disappointing as the first syllable of the answer appears in the clue, and also “by a river” is padding in 25a – there are very few cities in the world which are not by a river. There are certainly some more, but Johannesburg and Vatican City are the only two (one very large and one very small!) which come immediately to my mind.

    The memory of 8d brought a smile to my face, and 17d was my favourite.

    Many thanks to Musaeus and to CS.

  5. Most enjoyable and just about worthy of being a toughie, which is what you want when you are away.

  6. Put me down as another who had to look up the cricketing term and the German city but fairly plain sailing elsewhere.
    Favourite here was 20a – really made me smile.

    Thanks to Musaeus, good to see you back again, and to CS for the review.

  7. Yes, quite a while since we have had a Musaeus Toughie – the last one was 2507 – 151 puzzles ago.

    Definitely on the Toughie spectrum for me – 2.5*/3.5*

    1d was a bung in, so thanks to CS for explaining it, and I was ‘thrown’ by the ‘by a river’ in 25a before deciding it was not needed.

    Candidates for favourite – 23a, 7d, and 24d – and the winner is 23a.

    Thanks to Musaeus and CS.

  8. Agree it pretty gentle & was quite grateful that it was as the brain is even more unreliable than usual in warm weather. Very enjoyable nonetheless & more than enough head scratchers for me. I did briefly suspect we might be on for a pangram which was a slight distraction. No parsing issues although 2d was got from the wordplay as Mystis & her Bacchic orgies are pretty much all Greek to me. 12a was my favourite as it’s such a lovely word & 1d is unfortunately increasingly likely lately to be my despairing reply when asked what did I score on that hole.
    Thanks to Musaeus & to CS.

  9. West side distinctly harder than the east 15d a new word for me and never really known what 17d means as I don’t do Twitter, I just assumed it meant that. Still I got there. Favourite was 5d. Thanks to Musaeus and CS.

  10. Didn’t know the cricketing term but got everything else quite nicely, thank you! Very heartening for a Wednesday Toughie, even though CS has relegated it to the back page. I agree that ‘conductor’ would be more apposite in 12a but that didn’t really bother me since many composers also conduct. (I know, that’s not the point.) Very enjoyable. I think 27a is my COTD since it tickled me. Thanks to CS and Musaeus.

      1. Usage matters, though. No one is likely to say ‘What a maestro of a composer Bernstein was’; no one, however, is likely to deny that as a conductor he was quite the maestro.

  11. I keep trying to find another descriptive word for some of these puzzles other than the overused straightforward, but I cannot think of one that does the trick without sounding conceited. Simple, undemanding or effortless don’t quite sum up the same feelings. Anyway, at risk of showing my complete lack of variety when it comes to synonyms, this was pretty straightforward yet entertaining enough while it lasted. 19d was worthy of a Ray T innuendo, and my favourite.

    My thanks to Musaeus and CS.

  12. SW corner slowed me down due to ignorance of what a hashtag is. Pesky German cities aren’t my thing either. Otherwise seemed straightforward.
    Thanks both.

  13. A real curate’s egg for me, and for some reason didn’t really enjoy it. Maybe the reference to a film eighty plus years old (with a stretched synonym to boot) turned me off a little. In all my years of casually following cricket I’ve never heard of 1d either, I suspect it’s fallen out of use
    5,12&20a were more to my taste.
    Found it more difficult than yesterday’s, which had a 3* rating? I know these things are subjective but.!!

    1. Certainly in use in golf – you blob the hole if you fail to score a point

    2. I’d certainly would have had a sarky pop at the ancient film Stephen and probably used the word obscure in there somewhere

  14. For me this remained within Tuesday/Wednesday Toughie territory. Slow to get the first few and onto the setter’s wavelength, rapidly got all bar a half-dozen of the remainder, stumped for some time until 21d dawned, at which point the last few in the SW swiftly fell into place.

    Was satisfied to finish the puzzle, but felt there was some unnecessary padding, and “harrumphed” at 1a (see comments above), 20a, 25a (ditto), 1d,17d (Highlighter? Really? Evidently I must replace my 1983 BRB!) and 20d (which along with 8d I felt was a rather dated/dating clue). “Delighted ticks” however for 2d and 19d, which both resulted in chuckles.

    2.5/2.5 for me, firmly sitting on the fence in both respects. Many thanks to Musaeus, and to CS for her review and for parsing a couple of my answers.

  15. I have to say I didn’t enjoy several of the clues in this (1a, 15d, 19d, 22d…..), but still managed to complete it.

    For me, definitely not in 1-star territory so was a bit demoralised but maybe it’s the (glorious) hot weather.

    Thanks nevertheless to Musaeus and CS.

  16. An OK sort of puzzle. Sorry CS, despite the BRB, I still feel 12a starts with a conductor not a composer.
    Altogether not a very inspiring puzzle. Felt it was more Rookie Corner than Toughie. Did not like the repetition of “bar” in 1a. It could have been better clued, while as for the cricket term in 1d……..,!
    So, before I sound decidedly grumpy, I hasten to add that my COTD was 11a. Simple and elegant.

  17. From a 1939 film right through to hashtags! A fair breadth of knowledge needed.
    Thanks to Musaeus for a pleasant puzzle.
    PS It’ll always be Peel, Mrs. Emma Peel.

  18. Found it a lot harder than I should have, but only really stuck on the definition for 1d. Once checkers were in it could only be the answer – but I didn’t know the cricket term.
    Not sure why there is a ‘yes’ in 11a. The clue would work without it

  19. Nice to have Musaeus back. Had not realised it was so long since his last one.
    An enjoyable solve for us with a couple in the SW that held us up a little for reasons that don’t make sense in retrospect.
    Thanks Musaeus and CS.

  20. Thought I was going to blob this puzzle after first readthrough, but one by one the clues fell. Like others I found some superfluous words in some clues, eg ‘by a river’, and didn’t have the same sense of satisfaction of a job well done as I did with the backpager. Still, thanks to Musaeus for the workout and CS for the hints.

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