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Toughie 2773

Toughie No 2773 by Robyn

Hints and tips by Miffypops

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Chris M Rating – Difficulty ** – Enjoyment *****

Today’s Toughie from Robyn is so cleverly clued with hardly any gimmies. Each answer requiring a bit of thought. When the checkers made an answer obvious I still had to question the wordplay. I like these new kids on the block.  Roll over Beethoven. Tell Tchaikovsky the news.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a        An Englishman collecting pounds, billion being collected (6)
APLOMB: Begin with an Englishman as an Australian might refer to him. Insert the abbreviation for a pound in weight and add the abbreviation for a billion

Here is an unfunny joke

His Lordship was in the study when the butler approached and coughed discreetly.
“May I ask you a question, My Lord?”
“Go ahead, Carson ,” said His Lordship.
“I am doing the crossword in The Times and found a word the exact meaning of which I am not too certain.”
“What word is that?” asked His Lordship.
“Aplomb,” My Lord.
“Now that’s a difficult one to explain. I would say it is self-assurance or complete composure.”
“Thank you, My Lord, but I’m still a little confused about it.”
“Let me give you an example to make it clearer. Do you remember a few months ago when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived to spend a weekend with us?”
“I remember the occasion very well, My Lord. It gave the staff and myself much pleasure to look after them.”
“Also,” continued the Earl of Grantham, “do you remember when Wills plucked a rose for Kate in the rose garden?”
“I was present on that occasion, My Lord, ministering to their needs.
“While Will was plucking the rose, a thorn embedded itself in his thumb very deeply.”
“I witnessed the incident, My Lord, and saw the Duchess herself remove the thorn and bandage his thumb with her own dainty handkerchief.”
“That evening the hole the rose made in his thumb was very sore. Kate had to cut his venison for him, even though it was extremely tender.”
“Yes, My Lord, I did see everything that transpired that evening.”
“And do you remember the next morning while you were pouring coffee for Her Ladyship, Kate inquired of Will in a loud voice, ‘Darling, does your prick still throb?’
And you, Carson, did not spill one drop of coffee ?
That, Carson, is complete composure, or aplomb.”

5a        Cross about second best means to prevent closure (8)
DOORSTOP: A three part charade. 1 A holy cross reversed 2 The abbreviation for second 3 A synonym of the word best

9a        New view that makes earth or water waver? (6,2,5)
CHANGE OF HEART: The clue plays on the last word of the answer being an anagram of the word EARTH. I do not know what the water is doing in the clue. I’d much prefer a beer. Actually the wavering water’s alteration of it’s central letter is also an example of the answer as CS has pointed out at comment 3

10a      A horse on the wagon has nothing for a drink (8)
AMARETTO: A simple four part charade in the correct order. 1 The letter A from the clue 2 A female horse. 3 The abbreviation for a teetotaller 4 The round letter that looks like nothing

11a      Herbaceous plant producing more bananas? (6)
MADDER: A plant grown for its dye and known as Rubia Tinctorum is a synonym of more bananas. Who knew?

12a      Celeb in middle of felt coat that’s decorative (6)
ENAMEL: Place a synonym of a celebrity inside the middle letters of the word felt

14a      One who tears into flashy, empty ostentation (8)
FRIPPERY: One who tears or rips sits inside the outer letters of the word flashy

16a      Tea picked up by people who stir bags (8)
TROUSERS:  Begin with a homophone. A single letter based on the word tea. Add a word (plural) meaning people who stir up trouble. This word is often preceded by the word rabble

19a      Gangster holding plug the wrong way for gadget (6)
DOODAH: Two synonyms are required here. One for a gangster (thankfully nothing to do with Al Capone) and one for a plug. Not a bung or stopper. Insert one into the other and reverse what you have. A very clever clue indeed

21a      Roman thus scoffing rubbish still (6)
STATIC: The Latin word or thus contains a word meaning rubbish

23a      It implies nothing here is reasonable (3,5)
ALL THERE: A phrase that suggests the whereabouts of everything if it isn’t here

25a      Premium cut of lamb son stewed with cousin (2-6,5)
NO CLAIMS BONUS: An anagram (stewed) of LAMB SON COUSIN

26a      Figure seen around hotel organised charity event (8)
TELETHON: A figure somewhere between nine and eleven contains an anagram (organised) of HOTEL

27a      Flame no longer in good condition to emit gas (6)
EXHALE: Our usual prefix meaning flame (boyfriend girlfriend lover) no longer is followed by a word meaning in good condition or healthy


2d        Computer game absorbing English cricketer (7)
PACEMAN: A computer game popular in the last century contains the abbreviation for English

3d        Some Jefferson Airplane songs are played here (2,3)
ON AIR: The answer lies hidden within the words of the clue as indicated by the word some

4d        A gun hidden in peach trifle (9)
BAGATELLE: A three part charade 1 The letter A from the clue 2 A gun, more of a toy that fired pellets, ball bearings, darts and corks 3 A word for a pretty woman or peach. Arrange as suggested by the wording of the clue

5d        Remove clothing right before work? Do this after retiring (4,3)
DROP OFF:  A word meaning to remove clothing as a man might do with his hat when greeting a lady contains the abbreviation for right and our usual abbreviation for a work or opus although I cannot see a containment indicator in the clue

6d        Old-fashioned characters try rolls with meat (5)
OGHAM:  A try or attempt is reversed and a cured meat is added

7d        Oppose comic books from the south (5,2,2)
STAND UP TO: A two word description of a ‘modern’ comic such as Ben Elton is followed by the earliest set of books from the Bible reversed

8d        Last longer than overclothes that queen slips out of (7)
OUTWEAR: Remover our beautiful and dutiful Queen’s regnal cipher from clothes worn over other clothes predominantly outdoors

13d      Facial adornment of ring piercing has to hurt! (9)
MOUSTACHE: A word meaning has to or to be obliged to has the roundest of letters inserted and a hurt or mild pain added

15d      Where food shoppers may be bolder, occasionally stubborn (9)
INDELIBLE: Where a shopper of artisan foods, rare cheeses and olives might be said to be followed by the alternate letters of the word bolder

17d      Staff regret embezzling European money (7)
RETINUE: A word meaning regret contains the abbreviation for European and a synonym of money that is also a type of metal

18d      Fed after cooking was for Aussie vagrant (7)
SWAGMAN: A term for a federal agent comes after an anagram (cooking) of WAS. The surface reading of this clue makes no sense

20d      Spray from sea or ground round lake (7)
AEROSOL: An anagram (ground) of SEA OR is followed by the round letter and the abbreviation for lake

22d      Might this be onset of recession, which cuts funds? (5)
CRASH: Possibly an all in one clue which suggests placing the abbreviation for recession into a word for funds or money

24d      Hot meal not starting feeling in the gut (5)

HUNCH: Begin with the abbreviation for hot. Add a midday meal minus its first letter


28 comments on “Toughie 2773

  1. The excellent 1a set the tone.
    Had to check the pistol in 4d and 6d was a new word but easily attainable from the wordplay otherwise relatively straightforward and hugely enjoyable, as we’ve come to expect from this setter.
    My ticks have gone to 14&25a plus 5d (but could have mentioned several more) with top spot going to the clever 23a.
    Many thanks to Robyn and MP for a top puzzle and review.

  2. Very enjoyable whilst sat on the M25. Slight hold up when I wrote 22d into 24d. Some great clues, my favourites were 9a and 25a. Thanks to MP and Robyn.

  3. 9a look at the words WATER and WAVER and then see how the solution might relate to those two words

    The last word in your hint for 23a should end with an E not an S

  4. Just worked round in an anti clockwise direction. Nothing particularly exciting but I did like 10a because it is delicious.

  5. Just me then – I’m always delighted to see a crossword from this setter, whichever of his aliases he uses. However, having expected an actual Toughie on a Tuesday, what I solved was a nice mid-week backpage cryptic where almost half of the clues required the solver to bung a word/letter/something inside another one.

    Thanks to Robyn for the short-lived entertainment and to MP for the blog

  6. Top drawer entertainment with some lovely inventive clueing. Nothing particularly difficult, just concise and clever throughout. 3d my favourite.

    Thanks to Robyn and MP.

  7. I managed to finish this all by myself – some new words for me but quite gettable. Thanks to Robyn for the puzzle and MP for the joke.

  8. Got there eventually with a little help from MP. I managed to remember 6d from a cycling trip around Ireland, where most of these stones come from. I think they have one or two in the British Museum too.
    I also had Doofah Doofus and Doodad for the gadget before the correct spelling came from the parsing of MP’s hint.
    Thanks to MP and Robyn.

  9. Very enjoyable puzzle and hints. I have to confess that, although the answer became obvious, the relationship between gman and fed eluded me until I read the hints… doh! (The joke was appalling!)

  10. Splendid puzzle, top Toughie in a while for me even though I did need a bit of electronic help to finish. Had ‘doodad’ (our word for a gadget) for 19a; couldn’t remember the ancient script, though I swear I did once know it (‘Ou sont les neiges….?”). Especially want to wish Miffypops a most Happy New Year for him and St Sharon. Many thanks to you for your amusing and exhilarating blogs this year. You have helped me along in more ways than I can count, so all the best to you for 2022. And thanks to Robyn for a super-great puzzle and Happy New Year to you!

  11. One of the positives of being in self-isolation over Christmas is having more time to spend on the Toughie! This was a perfect puzzle for me as I solved a couple more each time I returned to it. Thank you Robyn – I enjoyed every clue!

    1. I solve by reading each clue in turn. I don’t spend time on those that don’t jump out. Read the across clues and enter the obvious. Read the down clues and enter the obvious which will be helped by the checkers from the across clues that have been entered. Repeat a couple of times. More checkers mean more answers will reveal themselves and the clues will become familiar with repetitive reading. Only the toughest clues will remain

  12. Really good. A great puzzle.
    Thanks to Robyn.
    Didn’t need the blog ( for once )…thanks to MP

  13. Fair cluing made this a comfortable ride.
    The synonym for stubborn in 15d was new to me.
    So was the one in 1a.
    Always nice to learn something new so thanks to Robyn for that.
    Thanks to MP for all those witty reviews over the past year. Hope that you will continue to give us more laughs in the coming year. Carry On Miffypops 2022.

  14. I thought this was really terrific. A rapid solve but nevertheless thought-provoking with some of the parsing, and I think what sets it apart from the back-pagers, even if it was just as quick as those to solve, was the cleverness of the clueing. Thanks so much to Robyn and to Miffypops – I very much endorse Jean-Luc’s remarks just above. Cheers.

  15. Great fun. Smiles and chuckles all the way through. Particular favourite being 9a with its two ways of getting the answer.
    Thanks Robyn and MP.

  16. I don’t usually have much luck with the Toughies, but on occasion do find them very enjoyable and today’s was perfect. I did have to verify a few of my answers with the hints to make sure I was on the right track, and everything else was very workable. My only holdout was 19a, and I still don’t get it. Thanks to Robyn for a lot of fun, and to Miffypops.

    1. Hi BL. The answer is a widget or thingy formed from the four letter gangster that Al Capone was holding a two letter abbreviation for those annoying plugs which interrupt TV programmes so you end up recording what you want to watch and then fast forwarding through such plugs, all then reversed.

  17. A most enjoyable puzzle. Many thanks to Robyn in particular for the brilliant 13d clue; and to Miffypops for the excellent joke at 1a.

  18. Possibly the most enjoyable puzzle for many weeks, a proper “Tuesday Toughie” and so polished and smooth, quite beyond compare.

    COTD 9a is so clever, 25a so amusing, 10a a perfect surface and answer, and that’s before considering the likes of 1a, 13d and 20d.

    2* / 5*

    Thank you Robyn for such an enjoyable and satisfying
    crossword, and thank you MP for the review.

  19. Or first time solving a toughie together and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Hard to pick a favourite but we’ll go with 25a as we only realised it was an anagram until after we got the answer. Thanks to Robyn and MP.

  20. Found this was quite tricky and requiring lots of head scratching and some hint taking too. Rating for me 4*/3*
    Clues I liked were 19a, 2d, 3d, 5d & 7d with winner the last two co-winners.
    Agreed that 19a was a clever clue too.
    SW last area done with top half the easiest.

    Thanks to setter and MP

  21. Had a quick glance earlier today & nothing much yielded after a read through so left it to a pre lights out solve. Glad that I did. Thought it an excellent Toughie puzzle & a fun solve once on the right wavelength. 6d&11a both required confirmation as new to me but easily gettable. Ticks aplenty for me – 9a probably top of the pops with 1,10&19a plus 8,13&15d all great clues.
    Thanks Robyn & MP

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