Toughie 2709 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2709

Toughie No 2709 by Serpent

Hints and tips by Miffypops

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

The sun has got his hat on. Hip hip hip hooray

The sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out today

About time too.

As for today’s puzzle from serpent – only twenty eight clues but there is certainly enough difficulty in there to be deserving of the Toughie slot. Serpent usually hides something in his grids (Thank you Cryptic Sue) A quick peep at the initial letters of the answers to the across clues will yield today’s hidden message. So well  hidden that Serpent himself had to tell us where to look

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


7a        Lied about one possessed by spirit and passion (8)
DELIRIUM: An anagram (about) of LIED is followed by a very drinkable dark spirit which contains the letter that looks like the number one

9a        Unconscionable choice of partners leading ambitious alliance? (6)
AMORAL:  The first two letters of the last two words in the clue are split by the word or (choice of) Thanks to Cryptic Sue for assistance with this one

10a      Club that’s suitable for evening out (4)
IRON: A double definition, the first being used on a golf course and the second a domestic appliance that remains a complete mystery to me

11a      Personal support by nameless friend is genuine (10)
LEGITIMATE: This personal support holds ones body up. There follows a very close friend from whom the abbreviation for name (nameless) has been removed

12a      Craven Cottage finally fills lowly ground (6)
YELLOW: An anagram (ground) of LOWLY which also includes the final letter of the word cottage

14a      Dreadful drone interrupts your lamentable song (8)
THRENODY: An anagram (dreadful) of DRONE sits comfortably inside an old way of saying the word your

15a      Free variable forms part of line that’s articulated (6)
EXCUSE:  Possibly two homophones . One a mathematical variable. One lines of people waiting in turn.

17a      Song in the middle of alto’s range is a catchy number? (6)
LARIAT: An operatic song sits nicely between the central letters of the word alto

20a      Transport cafe’s opening for business? (8)
ENTRANCE: A double definition. The first being to fill with wonder and delight. The second being an opening or doorway through which one needs to pass before commencing trade

22a      Felt sick and unable to talk (6)
GAGGED: A double definition, the first being to have choked or retched

23a      Establishment catering for people confusing art, nature and science primarily (10)
RESTAURANT: Anagram (confusing) of ART and NATURE which also includes the primary or initial letter of the word science. This is Tony from Fargo Village’s Gourmet Food Kitchen. Betcha can’t get a booking

24a      Advance payment had to include note (4)

ANTE: To have consumed one’s breakfast perhaps needs an insertion of the abbreviation for note

25a      Flag new introduction to novel containing nothing by writer (6)
PENNON: A four part charade which needs some arranging to suit the wording of the clue. 1. The abbreviation for new. 2. The letter that looks like the numerical symbol representing nothing. 3. The introductory letter of the word novel. 4. A writer. More precisely an implement used to put ink onto the page

26a      Hospital eradicating first sign of unwanted rash (8)
HEEDLESS: Begin with the abbreviation for hospital. An a word meaning unwanted minus its first letter (eradicating first sign of)


1d        Amnesty International stops representative ever returning (8)
REPRIEVE: Begin with a common abbreviation for a representative. Reverse the word ever which appears in the clue. Insert the letter that looks like the number one

2d        What may indicate way finale of chorus rises (4)
SIGN: Find a word meaning to chorus, warble, chant, yodel, trill, render or belt out.  Move its final letter up one place when written as in a down clue

3d        Headrest has base supporting raised edge (6)
PILLOW: A three-letter word meaning base or ignoble follows the reversal of a raised edge of a hollow container

4d        Potentially hostile agents work to break secret police chief (8)
BACTERIA: A three-letter word meaning to work or perform sits inside the name of a former head of the Russian secret police who died in the middle of the last century. A nasty piece of work by all accounts

5d        Leading man died during Advent (10)
COMMANDING:  The word man (which can be lifted straight from the clue) plus the abbreviation for died need to be placed inside a word meaning advent

6d        Drunk behaved like old youth (6)
WASTED: The past participle of the word was is followed by a type of young hipster from the 1950s

8d        This author’s support for audience is strong (6)
MIGHTY:  Two words split 2,3 which might describe one’s ownership of a golf ball support suggest great strength when said together

13d      Distressing assessment led by doctor (10)
LACERATING: To doctor a drink maybe by adding something is followed by an assessment, measurement or opinion

16d      Confident and with good reason, drinking half of Guinness (8)
SANGUINE: Half of the word Guinness sits inside a word meaning (of ones mind) with good reason

18d      I restate how this paper could have been edited (8)
TREATISE: An anagram (could have been edited) of I RESTATE

19d      Husband’s acted badly before divorce (6)
DETACH: The abbreviation for husband follows an anagram (badly) of ACTED

21d      Had to avoid bottom in deep end when swimming (6)
NEEDED: An anagram (when swimming) of DEEp END. The bottom or last letter of the word deep is to be avoided

22d      Channel close to going on air (6)
GUTTER: The last letter of the word going is followed by a verb  meaning to air or state words

24d      Mass meeting to ditch right and form union (4)
ALLY:  Remove the abbreviation of the word right from a mass meeting of like minded folk


35 comments on “Toughie 2709

  1. I filled the grid, in **** time, but with three clues unparsed. 9a, 15a and 4d were the culprits. This did not feel like a Tuesday Toughie.

    Thanks to Serpent and MP.

  2. I thought this was Serpent at his most difficult – certainly more like a Friday-level Toughie than a Tuesday one. Although a little lie down in a darkened room was required, I did enjoy the battle. I’d be interested to know if anyone actually knew the head of the secret police in 4d or whether, like me, they removed the ‘work’ and then looked up the remaining letters. I’ve looked and looked and whatever Serpent may have hidden in this grid (he usually provides something) I can’t find anything at all

    Thanks to Serpent for the extreme brain-mangling and to MP for the blog

    1. I didn’t ‘know’ the Russian and couldn’t solve 4d, but I do now remember him from my World History class in high school (ca. 1953) when every day was a Red Scare Day. Ike was president, Nixon veep–terrible time (rather like 2017-2021) in America.

  3. Anyone else insert excise for 15ac and then wait patiently for an explanation?
    Otherwise after a slow start it all fell into place.
    Had to check on Beria and the lament in 14d which was new to me.
    9ac took an age to parse and is exquisitely clued.
    Thanks to both.

    1. Not sure if it was excise or excuse-bunged in the correct definition-excuse is free.!
      Not heard of the police chief in 4d-somewhat obscure.
      Still can’t get the’ choice of’ in the middle of 9a even after CS and MP S help..

  4. Can’t stand Coldplay Miffy, no idea what Lavretiy Beria is and though I’ve seen it before, the sign @2d still makes me laugh
    Thanks Serpent and MP

  5. 4d was my favourite from a good collection of possibles. Overall this was certainly quite testing, and it would not have been out of place later in the week. That said, it was pleasingly difficult and a delight to solve.

    My thanks to Serpent for the challenge and to MP.

  6. This came together nicely although I hadn’t heard of the police chief so had to check, along with my construction for 14a which was new to me. Also spent a while scratching my head as to whether the was more to the parsing of 20a than there was until I concluded there probably wasn’t.

    Thanks to Serpent and MP.

  7. What a contrast to the previous Tuesday Toughie!
    One of those puzzles where virtually every clue needed teasing out but an enjoyable process. I needed help parsing a couple, still looking at 9a!
    Favourite for me was the beautifully crafted 20a.
    Many thanks to Serpent and MP for the fun.

  8. Many thanks to Miffypops for the fine blog and to everyone who has taken the time to comment.

    Apologies for BERIA – I assumed he was sufficiently notorious to be well known.

    crypticsue is correct in thinking there is something hidden … in the across answers primarily.

    1. Would never have clocked that. Even with your hint it still took me a while despite primarily being a stock tool in the Everyman puzzle I do weekly. Very clever indeed.

      1. I still can’t find Serpent’s message, but I also do the Everyman on Sundays. What am I missing there?

  9. The lament was my first one in (and one of my favourite words) in this very tough Toughie, but I did manage to solve all but one of the clues correctly (the Russian killed me), with some electronic help. I especially liked 16d and 26a. Thanks to MP for the review and to Serpent for the challenge.

  10. Got to within 3 of a finish after a lengthy tussle before going out to play golf. Had another look but 9&14a plus 4d were beyond me & they remained so even after revealing the 2 missing checkers so needed the hints for all 3. Never heard of the nasty fella nor the lament but ought to have got 9a. Enjoyable but very tough for a Tuesday – who was it that commented yesterday that we rarely get a Toughie on a Tuesday ? None other than our reviewer methinks.
    Thanks to Serpent & MP – going to see Van at the New Oxford Theatre in Nov ?

  11. Well I managed it in one long sitting, but rated it harder than ***. ****/***** for me. Never heard of Beria. Needed help with parsing 9a. 17a favourite, with 20 and 26a close second.
    Thanks MP and Serpent

  12. Totally missed the hidden message but managed to get everything else sorted although it take quite a lot of head-scratching.
    Enjoyable solve.
    Thanks Serpent and MP.

  13. 6* time for me after sleeping on it. But very enjoyable.
    No problem with Beria having read lots of spy books in my youth.
    Would never have spotted the DT hidden message without Serpent’s very strong clue
    Thanks to Serpent and MP

  14. I found this very difficult and in places far too obscure. Clues such as 20a were beyond me. The reference to cafe and business seems to me just to be gratuitous misdirection. Not fun!

  15. I enjoyed this “nearer to a Thursday or Friday Toughie but it’s only Tuesday” challenge, and certainly found it testing. Late last evening I had ground to a halt in the SW with 4 to go and thought I would resort to the blog, read MP’s comment about the opening letters, which gave me the necessary push to fill in those last few quite swiftly.

    Mostly tortuous, yes, and mostly fair, although I did have a big “Hummmm” written alongside 3 clues which I felt were not up to the precision or standard of the rest. I thought the homophone in 16a was very weak (cues / cuse? surely line should be lines?); 17a – catchy though it may be I’m not convinced a lariat is a number; 20a – I felt cafe’s and business were so vague as to be almost superfluous to the clue.

    However a very enjoyable challenge, and thank you to Serpent & to MP for the review.

    1. A number can be a ‘thing in question’ so a lariat is a thing (number) that is ‘catchy’

    2. OK, thanks both – I’ll go with your explanations, though I still feel that 17a is somewhat loose!

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