Toughie 2750 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2750

Toughie No 2750 by Serpent

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

Serpent provides a proper mid-week Toughie – this time part of his Nina is quite theatrical (21a/21a/13a and 4d/21a/24d)and there are two other commonly used expressions elsewhere in the grid (2d/17a/26a and 30a/17a/9a)

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Criticise second drink (5,4)
KNOCK BACK An informal way of saying criticise and a verb meaning to support (second) combine to give an expression meaning to swallow an alcoholic drink quickly

9a    Furrow brow after losing case embraced by politician (6)
GROOVE The inside (after losing case) letters of bROw ’embraced’ by a current Government Minister (politician)

10a    British leader welcomes every opportunity to engage with opposition? (9)
BEACHHEAD An area held on the enemy’s shore for the purpose of landing – the abbreviation for British and a leader ‘welcomes’ an adverb meaning every

11a    Formula One racetrack ultimately avoided car crash (6)
FIASCO The abbreviation for Formula One and a racetrack (not for cars but for horses!) without (avoided) its ultimate letter

12a    Every other change had new lines (9)
ALTERNATE Verbs meaning to change and had (food) into which is inserted (lines) the abbreviation for New

13a    Border area where fight takes place between France and Spain (6)
FRINGE An area where a fight takes place put between the IVR Codes for France and Spain

17a    What may connect strings of recessive genetic material? (3)
AND Possibly the most used conjunction (what may connect) is a reversal (recessive) of genetic material

19a    Material made from Lycra starts to improve cycling (7)
ACRYLIC An anagram (made from) LYCRA followed by the starts to Improve and Cycling

20a    Be an unwelcome presence at home, getting tense and bad-tempered (7)
INTRUDE The usual ‘at home’, the abbreviation for Tense and a possibly result of being bad-tempered

21a    Article that divides mothers and fathers equally (3)
THE Found exactly in the middle (that divides…equally) of moTHErs and faTHErs

23a    Farther away from that drilling platform (6)
BEYOND An (poetic, Scottish or dialect) adjective meaning that inserted into (drilling) a platform or surface

27a    I say! Cryptographer’s decrypted registry with these books (9)
APOCRYPHA A compound anagram clue – I SAY CRYPOTGRAPHER rearranged will give you the word REGISTRY and the solution (the name of two collections of ancient Jewish and Christian writings that have certain affinities with the various books of the Old Testament and New Testament but were not canonized by Christians as a whole)

28a    Man that is inexperienced (6)
ROOKIE A chess piece (man) and the abbreviation meaning that is

29a    Person in precarious position having some pride in their work? (4-5)
LION-TAMER A lovely cryptic definition of someone having a dangerous occupation

30a    Language spoken in part of Oxford? (6)
TONGUE A spoken language or part of a laced shoe such as an Oxford

31a    Climax of uncomfortable incident briefly disrupting faith (9)
CRESCENDO A truncated (briefly) uncomfortable incident ‘disrupting’ a set of beliefs (faith)


2d    Born leader to denounce the French in pointed article (6)
NEEDLE An adjective referring to a woman’s maiden name (born), the ‘leader’ to Denounce and the French definite article

3d    Distinctive characteristic of painful experience in court (6)
CACHET A painful experience inserted into the abbreviation for court

4d    What stops problem remaining after someone’s departure? (6)
BEHIND An interjection expressing enquiry or surprise (what) ‘stops’ or fills a difficult or annoying situation (problem)

5d    Like cardinal to support church discipline (7)
CHASTEN A conjunction meaning in the manner     of (like) and a cardinal number go after (to support in a Down solution) the abbreviation for church

6d    Decide speed of information transfer is capped by terminals of data server (9)
ARBITRATE The speed of information transfer goes after (is capped by) the ‘terminals’ of datA serveR

7d    Unity figure’s succeeded in North and South America (9)
CONSENSUS Insert the abbreviation for succeeded into a solid figure and then follow with the abbreviations for North, South and America

8d    Felt better about chap blushing (9)
RECOVERED The usual two-letter ‘about’, an old slang word for a man (chap) and the colour you turn when blushing

14d    Cruelty of African region probed by Congress (9)
BARBARITY Insert one of the informal terms for sexual intercourse (congress) into the coast of Northern Africa between Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean

15d    Race competitor uses uranium-enriched liquid hydrogen (9)
GREYHOUND An anagram (liquid) of HYDROGEN ‘enriched’ by the chemical symbol for Uranium

16d    Input fell with new order producing more than enough (9)
PLENTIFUL An anagram (with new order) of INPUT FELL

17d    Routine function (3)
ACT A routine or a verb meaning to function

18d    Pass first of exam papers that’s written up (3)
DIE A reversal (that’s written up) of the first letter of Exam and some abbreviated papers

22d    Athlete using repeated pressure for first two runs is more satisfied (7)
HAPPIER Two (repeated) abbreviations for Pressure replace the two abbreviated runs in an athlete

24d    Parts of 17 spectacles (6)
SCENES Hands up who else spent time looking at 17a to try and solve this clue? – in my defence it was quite early this morning) Parts of 17d can also be spectacles (not to mention uncomfortable incidents in 31a)

25d    Spin doctor greatly in need of opening for Labour (6)
GYRATE An anagram (doctor) of GREATlY without the L (in need of opening for Labour)

26d    Storyline that connects with readers (6)
THREAD – Hiding in (connects) wiTH READers


27 comments on “Toughie 2750

  1. I always approach a puzzle with trepidation when there is almost no white (grey, in this case) space in the clue columns. However, although I found it very challenging, I am pleased to say that I really enjoyed it once I had dropped onto the right wavelength.

    24d earned a hmm for not specifying 17d, and I couldn’t parse 4d, although it seems so obvious now I’ve read CS’s explanation. The very clever 27a took some unravelling and gets my vote as favourite.

    Many thanks to Serpent and to CS.

  2. Amazing…it never occurred to me that the 23a-21a-13a combination was part of the Nina; I noticed the three words, separately, and thought it was just a coincidence, and I of course didn’t look for the remaining parts of the Nina. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed this Toughie last night, and I did what MP suggested I do once I became too tired to finish: I took a break, read a book, and went back to the puzzle. And finished it. Took me a while to parse 3d and 27a but I finally remembered the interjection and was able to perform the dismantling of the other one. Those two are my favourites, but 10a joins them on the podium. Thanks to CS for the review and to Serpent for another great Toughie.

  3. Enjoyable stuff from Serpent – thanks to him and CS.
    My ticks were awarded to 13a, 28a and 4d.

    The last 2 words of 12a are part of the wordplay, not a definition.

  4. Really enjoyed finishing my 6th Toughie unaided (except for interjections from my other half).

    My favourites were 29A, 15D and 17D.

    Thanks for the help parsing 4D, 5D & 11D. I am afraid I don’t understand the hint for 12A.

    Many thanks to Serpent and CS.

      1. CS, I didn’t read your original hint for 12a but you haven’t mentioned “new lines” in your tweaked version.

        1. I realised that as soon as I sat down at the kitchen table and took a bit of my afternoon dark chocolate Hob Nob. Perhaps I should have eaten one this morning when writing the hints!

          1. Mmm. Yummy. I haven’t had a Hob Nob for some considerable time so I think I’ll add packet (or two) to our Tesco delivery for tomorrow,

            1. If you have a Lidl near you, their milk chocolate ‘oaties’ are even better than the real thing.

              1. Thanks for the tip. Yes, we do have a Lidl fairly close by. I can resist everything except temptation and I’ll be heading off there tomorrow.

  5. I needed 2 letter reveals to complete this full value for money grid. The 24d/27a checker reveal got me those 2. I also thought it poor that 24d failed to make clear if it was 17a or 17d being referenced. 27a was simply a case of fitting in a word – I failed to parse it & needed Mr G to tell me all about it. The first word of 6d also eluded me until I revealed the first letter. I also failed to properly parse a few.
    I can’t say that I really enjoyed this puzzle but that’s in no way a reflection on its quality rather that I struggle to get on this setter’s wavelength & find him very difficult – same with his Indy puzzles. On the plus side I did notice BTF but needless to say missed BTS.
    Thanks to Serpent & to CS

  6. Keeps up the good toughie standard for the week. Very ingenious in places and very enjoyable. 15d was my favourite, not least because of a much missed rescued retired racer called Rita or Runabout Rita as she was known professionally. Thanks to CS and Serpent for their efforts.

  7. First of all, is it really a Nina when words are selected at random across the grid? Of course I can see some symmetry but it’s not perfect.
    COTD is 29a.

  8. Many thanks to crypticsue for the lovely review and to everyone who has been kind enough to leave a comment.

  9. I thought there were some terrific clues in this very enjoyable (if not completely parsed) Toughie.
    I really liked several but I’ve narrowed my podium contenders down down to 11&29a plus 6&16d.
    Many thanks to Serpent and CS for the top notch entertainment.

  10. Strange thing happening with my DT on-line download – when I return to it after a period away it has erased my solutions to the Quickie, code word, sudoku and now the Toughie, even when I have completed them. This has happened for the past two days. Anyone got any suggestions? I suppose I could go back and complete them all again but my memory isn’t quite that bad ( yet)!
    I enjoyed this Toughie – right at the edge of my capabilities but very fair, I thought. ****/****

  11. I enjoyed this. Loved the definition at 29a, sniggered at 14d and admired the perfection of 16d. Blissfully unaware of the NINA[s] until now! Horrible grid.
    Thanks to Serpent and to CS for the blog.

  12. Enjoyed the puzzle yet totally missed any hidden message so a chance now to go back and appreciate it all over again.
    Thanks Serpent and CS.

  13. Really enjoyable puzzle, although I didn’t spot any of the 4-word phrases. Stumbled on 11a a little.

    I took “nee” to be more French than a maiden name, but ho-hum. Of course, it’s the same really.

    Thanks to CS for the blog and Serpent.

  14. Managed it in the end but needed the hints to parse 12a and 14d. Favourite was 29a. Thanks to Serpent and CS.

  15. A day late completing this as we were down in London and drove back this morning, Thursday. I really enjoyed this fine puzzle, with the convoluted and tricky compound anagram at 27a my favourite. 15d also to get a mention in dispatches.

    My thanks to Serpent and CS.

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