Toughie 2684 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2684

Toughie No 2684 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Ah, only just spotted the Nina. The central row is the pen name of the gentleman in the outer columns. I found this slow progress with quite a few things that I needed to look up, but a lot of fun along the way.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Ambassador behind ceremonial transport (6)
HEARSE: The abbreviation for the title of an ambassador and another word for behind

5a    Hoi polloi split by army regulars, by the way (4-1-3)
RENT-A-MOB: Another word for split or torn, the odd letters (regulars) in army, and the abbreviation for Obiter (Latin for ‘by the way’)

9a    Apparently where trap is centrepiece in terrorist attack (2,3,4,2,2)
ON THE FACE OF IT: Where trap or mouth is (2,3,4), the central letter (centrepiece) in terrorist, plus another word for attack or seizure

10a    Make bad blood when reflecting on a quick communication (8)
AEROGRAM: A reversal of (when reflecting) of ‘make bad’ or damage plus another word for blood, all following (on, in an across clue) A from the clue


11a    Maybe Oxford manufacturer is stronger, having exported the first ton (6)
SOUTER: Whenever you see ‘maybe Oxford’, shoe should come to mind. A word for stronger or more thick set without (having exported) the first occurrence of the abbreviation for ton

12a    Knife found in pub just after midnight? (6)
BARONG: Another word for pub, a preposition that can mean ‘just after’ (definition 18 in Chambers), plus the central letter (mid) of night

14a    Becoming fond of rebuke that ousts Left (6,2)
TAKING TO: A (7-2) noun that means a rebuke, without (that ousts) the abbreviation for left

16a    Drunk embracing the setter has to go on a spree (4,2,2)
LIVE IT UP: A (3,2) adjectival phrase meaning drunk contains (embraces) ‘the setter has’ in contracted form, from the perspective of Sparks

19a    Closely follow pretence circulating these days (6)
SHADOW: Another word for pretence goes around (circulating) ‘these days’ as in the last 2000 years

21a    Month to get brown in 45 degrees (6)
OCTANT: A 3-letter abbreviation for a month contains (to get) a brownish colour

23a    Caught cutting ecstasy, say  ; – ) ?  (8)
EMOTICON: The abbreviation for caught goes inside (cutting) a word for a feeling such as ecstasy (say indications a definition by example, as does the question mark – i had to add some spaces to Spark’s clue to stop WordPress translating it into an emoji!)

25a    Cords for making jumpers fit (8-5)
SKIPPING-ROPES: A cryptic definition playing on fit

26a    Single nest spotted in run around island (8)
TRINIDAD: The letter that looks like one plus a pheasant’s nest go inside (in) the reversal (around) of a word meaning run or dash

27a    Waste energy on half-hearted wife (6)
MISUSE: The abbreviation for energy follows (on) an informal 6-letter word for wife without one of the central pair of letters (half-hearted)


2d    Ripped up vacuous exam over a rhetorical question (7)
EROTEMA: Reversal (up) of a 4-letter word meaning ripped, exam without the inner letters (vacuous), on top of (over) A from the clue

3d    Looking back in some secret rooms (5)
RETRO: Hidden (in some …)

4d    Order to ignore the port? (4,5)
EYES RIGHT: A cryptic definition – a military command to ignore the left

5d    Let back in US college for supporting study (7)
READMIT: The abbreviation of a prestigious US college goes underneath (for supporting) a verb meaning to study

6d    Having more of these, you must want more (5)
NEEDS: This seems to be a riddle. The answer describes things you want

7d    Material complaint following infection deaths reported among drivers (9)
AFFLUENZA: The abbreviation for following, an annual infection for which there is a jab, a 3-letter homophone (reported) of a 4-letter word that can mean deaths, all inside (among) a motoring club

8d    Unobtrusively ‘discovered’ another oddball heading Question Time (2,3,2)
ON THE QT: An anagram (oddball) of (a)NOTHE(r) without the outer letters (dis-covered) before (heading) the abbreviation for Question Time

13d    Method of choice covering specific period (9)
OPERATION: A 6-letter choice containing (covering) a specific (long) period

15d    Woman’s disgusted about losing Charlie’s delivery of smack (9)
KISSOGRAM: A reversal (about) of a 5-letter woman’s name, the ‘S, then a 4-letter word meaning disgusted (as in inclined to vomit) without (losing) the letter represented by radio code Charlie

17d    One will cut devious histrionics from five onwards? (7)
INCISOR: An anagram (devious) of (hist)RIONICS starting at letter 5

18d    Did groom feign missing tango when touring Spain? (7)
PREENED: A 6-letter word meaning feign, without (missing) the abbreviation for Tango, contains (touring) the IVR for Spain

20d    Musicians so-so — bit patchy (7)
OBOISTS: An anagram (patchy) of SO-SO BIT

22d    Half-hearted regime overthrown, broken by power (5)
TEPID: Nothing to do with government. A reversal (overthrown) of a 4-letter regime contains (broken by) the abbreviation for power

24d    Mostly mischievous war parties (5)
IMPIS: A 6-letter word for mischievous without the last letter

My favourite today was 1a. Which clues did you like?

30 comments on “Toughie 2684

  1. Thank you to Sparks for an enjoyable, just right for a Friday, Toughie – I spotted the Nina quite early on which helped – a quick investigoogle provided the fact that the gentleman concerned both was born and died in the month of July, which presumably is why he is celebrated in this puzzle today. No particular favourites, just a very satisfying solving experience

    Thanks also to Dutch

    1. You ‘spotted the nina quite early”! I still don’t see it having completed the grid at about 7am.

  2. Another excellent and doable Toughie that was certainly testing but not impenetrable, so thanks setter for that. 1a had me sniggering like a naughty schoolboy but my favourite clue was 8d.

    My thanks to Sparks for the challenge and to Dutch.

    I missed the Nina of course……..

  3. Most enjoyable, needed to check a couple of my constructions. 1a made me laugh.

    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

  4. There were several words that were new to me here (the cobbler, the knife, the rhetorical question and the material complaint) but I managed to get them all from the checkers and wordplay and then just needed to verify them in the BRB.

    My ticks went to 1a, 9a, 27a, 4d and 15d (‘delivery of smack’ is a great definition).

    Thanks to Sparks for the entertainment and to Dutch (especially for explaining the Nina – I spotted the pen name in the grid but had forgotten, or never knew, his full name).

    1. Reminds me of the NZ band Split Enz, with Tim Finn who went on to Crowded House and now Fleetwood Mac

      1. I think you’ll find that’s Neil Finn Dutch, one of my very favourite songwriters and one of my very favourite bands.

          1. Correct. Neil founded the band and Tim was a member briefly in the early nineties. They’ve just released a new album which is excellent.

  5. Nearly but not quite – well for a correctly filled in grid at least. Irritatingly needed the hints for both 10&11a despite all checkers obviously in. I wasn’t really familiar with either word so I won’t beat myself up though ought to have done better with the wordplay. Never heard of the illustrator so the Nina passed me by. Looked him up & the A gave me 10a.
    Found the puzzle challenging but very enjoyable though will need to read the review to fully understand a few answers. Of the ones I fully understood 1&9a plus 4d would be my picks.
    Thanks Sparks & Dutch.
    Ps with Charlie, smack, ecstasy & brown there was plenty of choice for a drug user.

  6. Don’t seem to be having a good day where GK is concerned – failed miserably with a theme elsewhere and didn’t know the actual name of the gentleman celebrated here. Not to worry, at least this was one of those rare Friday Toughies that I stood a chance with and I only needed to check the same ones as Gazza did so I feel OK about it.
    1&25a headed the pack for me.

    Thanks to Sparks – hope Sparky has survived the recent hot spell without undue discomfort – and thanks to Dutch for the help I certainly needed on occasion. Your illustration for 19a made me laugh!

  7. Slow, steady [but speeded up in the bottom half] and very enjoyable. Sniggered at 1a and LOL at 15d. I also loved 25a which is so obvious [but so good] I wonder why I haven’t seen it before. Hadn’t come across 12a before [except as a Balinese dance] and spent a while trying to parse “parang”.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for the blog.

  8. Was worth perservering with. Surprisingly for a Friday, I found thus a steady and solvable grid, although had more “Hummmmmms” noted here than for a long time, and it was done with my BRB to hand as I had more bungs than a bottle stopper factory … and still needed Dutch’s review to parse 9a and the OB of 5a.

    Souter quite new to me: if custom says that, say, American or French usage is indicated in clues, then why not Scottish, too? I’d heard of parangs but not barongs, and kicked myself for not knowing nid – I still have several of the adult occupants of such a thing in our freezer. 2d could not have been anything else but it too is new to my vocab. Thought 8d ought to have been clued (2,3,1,1) but suspect I may be in a minority on that one; felt the surface of 18d was clumsy.

    OTOH enjoyed 1a, 7d and 17d, and found this overall a satisfying puzzle to have completed.

    4* / 3*

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Dutch (also for pointing out the Nina, which I don’t usually look for or notice).

      1. I could be wrong but I think foreign usages are usually signalled in back-page puzzles but not always in Toughies.

  9. A very enjoyable solve with some unusual clueing. I approach Fridays with trepidation in fear of m the dreaded Elgar. This, however, was perfectly doable while requiring some thought.
    I don’t get the Nina business.

    1. Look down the extreme left hand side, and then the right, which spells out the name of a Dickensian illustrator whose 4 letter professional nickname can be found by looking across in the middle of the grid.

      1. Ive not heard the name Hablot Browne, so I take my hat off to anyone who “recognised it early on”. Phiz I do know of.
        Hats off to the compiler, its hard enough to complete a grid without such artificial constraints.

        1. The O W N E was obvious in the last column on the right so I assumed the first two letters in that column would be B and R. I then had the H and BLOT on the LH side, and the Phiz in the middle and I realised I needed an A for one of the more unusual Christian names.

    2. A Nina is a hidden message included by the setter somewhere in the grid. In this instance, the name of a famous illustrator appears in the letters down the right and left hand sides of the puzzle whilst the pseudonym he used is in the letters across the middle row.
      It isn’t usually a prerequisite to solving a puzzle but if you guess the Nina early on those additional letters can be a great help! Today’s gentleman rejoices in the most unusual forename so I didn’t get any benefit from it.

      Sorry, John, we crossed in the ether!

        1. Sparks normally has a Nina. Have I mentioned that before? So knowing that, you can go hunting. They are always obvious in hindsight, but they can be tricky to spot

  10. A most enjoyable Friday tussle for which I need three hints from Dutch: 5, 11, 12a. I couldn’t remember the Greek for a rhetorical question but managed to suss it out from the checking letters; likewise for the complaint. I’d never heard of that ‘smack’ but the answer had to be what it was, and I knew the Zulu warriors from NYT puzzles. Favourites galore: 8d, 9a, 14a, 18d, 22d. 8d is my COTD. Just found the Nina, so thanks to Dutch, H+J, and Jane for that, and to Sparks for the pleasure.

  11. Completed ****/****, so thanks to Sparks and Dutch, though didn’t need the latter as Google sufficed for the GK I didn’t know. 1a raised a smile and gold medal to 18d.

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