Toughie 2780 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2780

Toughie No 2780 by Osmosis

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Again, Osmosis intrigues us by omitting the highest scrabble scorers from his grid. Ten letters are missing. That includes an “L”, though, is that intentional? Is Osmosis setting himself new challenges? The SW was my last quadrant, an enjoyable solve – though I did think one reference, if I understood it correctly, was a bit broad.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Soldier at sea clothed in a German coat and fur (6)
ERMINE: The abbreviation for a ‘soldier at sea’ goes inside (clothed in … coat) a 4-letter German word for ‘a’. Or maybe ‘coat’ is intended as part of the definition – seems redundant either way.

4a    Literary sibling gets shocking treatment, harsher than all (8)
GRIMMEST: One of a pair of fairy tale writers plus the abbreviation for electric shock treatment

9a    Trevor’s outside during rolling news broadcast (6)
STREWN: The outer letters of Trevor during an anagram (rolling) of NEWS

10a    Ancient government advisers controlling temper (5-3)
STONE-AGE: The scientists advising the government during emergencies like the pandemic containing (controlling) a 4-letter word meaning temper

12a    US actor bypasses crowd around small home of Wordsworth (8)
GRASMERE: The actor in Pretty Woman goes around (bypasses) a verb meaning to crowd which in turn goes around the abbreviation for small

13a    Former card expert’s holding clubs and spades (6)
ACCESS: Another word for expert’s (including the ‘S) includes the abbreviations for clubs and spades

15a    Advertising that’s sometimes covered by film directors (8,5)
SANDWICH BOARD: A lunch snack perhaps that might be covered in film plus a set of directors

18a    Designer once linked with centre spread, bolted (7,6)
TERENCE CONRAD: An anagram (spread) of ONCE+CENTRE, plus a verb meaning bolted

22a    What dog might do hindmost in the garden to bones (6)
ENTOMB: A semi-all-in-one: the whole clue is the definition, but not the whole clue is wordplay. The last letters (hindmost) of the and garden, TO from the clue, and an abbreviation for a doctor or ‘bones’

24a    Period spent studying echo in sewer American’s forgotten (8)
SEMESTER: Another word for a person who sews contains the letter with radio code Echo but the abbreviation for American is omitted (forgotten)

26a    Who’s ruffled feathers taking centre stage in victory parade? (8)
SHOWBOAT: An anagram (ruffled) of WHO’S, some feathers you might wear around your neck, plus the middle letter (centre stage) of victory

27a    Carving tripe in sauce now and then (6)
STATUE: Another word for tripe or rubbish goes inside (in) the odd letters (now and again) of sauce

28a    Scruffy one that ruminates with daughter about attire (3-5)
DOGEARED: A female ruminant plus the abbreviation for daughter goes around (about) a 4-letter slang word for attire

29a    In retreat, action of twitcher coming across cardinal: tick (6)
CREDIT: A reversal of the action of someone who twitches goes around (coming
across) cardinal, as in of a certain colour


1d    Jack‘s audible indication of double bend ahead? (6)
ENSIGN: Split (2,4), we have a homophone (audible) of a possible road sign

2d    Note resident in number 12 exercising bird (9)
MERGANSER: The abbreviation for note resides in an anagram (exercising) of the answer to 12a.

3d    Born wordsmith primarily writing up article? (7)
NEWSMAN: An all-in one. The whole clue is the definition and the whole clue is wordplay. A 2-letter word meaning born, the first letter (primarily) of wordsmith, the reversal of a 2-letter abbreviation for some writing, plus an article

5d    Babe in night urgently lifted (4)
RUTH: Reverse hidden (in … lifted)

6d    Mostly appropriate tar underpinning motorway transport (7)
MINICAB: A 4-letter word meaning to appropriate or steal without the last letter (mostly), a tar or seaman, all underneath the first UK full-length motorway

7d    Excise tax centre in Jersey barely evident (5)
ERASE: Place the middle letter (centre) of ‘tax’ inside (j)ERSE(y) without the outer letters (barely evident)

8d    Amidst current, itinerant sees old shipbuilding area (8)
TEESSIDE: An anagram (itinerant) of SEES goes inside (amidst) a sea current

11d    Maybe nanny‘s with Barney, beset by disease, needing resistance (7)
BROWSER: A barney or spat is contained inside (beset by) a cow disease, plus the physics symbol for resistance

14d    Fall partly over councillor inviting start of familiar monologue (7)
OCTOBER: The abbreviation for over, then the abbreviation for councillor containing the opening two words (start) of a famous Hamlet monologue

16d    With a gloss coat in autumn, museum’s overwhelmed by approval (9)
ANNOTATED: The outer letters (coat) of autumn, then a museum contained in (overwhelmed
by) an approving head movement

17d    Given weight, pudding’s passed up (8)
STRESSED: Reversal (passed up) of another word for pudding

19d    Country pub leaving frog and toad, as illustration, below name (7)
NAMIBIA: Remove an abbreviation for pub from a class of animals including the frog and toad, all after the abbreviation for name

20d    Letter inspiring European to become member again (2-5)
RE-ENTER: Someone who lets containing (inspiring) the abbreviation for European

21d    Outrage displayed regularly, with peanuts oddly missing pressing (6)
URGENT: The even (regular) letters in ‘outrage’ plus the even (oddly
missing) letters in ‘peanuts’

23d    Band Queen emerging from crowd (5)
THONG: Remove the Latin abbreviation for queen from a 6-letter word meaning crowd

25d    Spicy alternative to cinnamon stick (4)
MACE: Two meanings, a spice and a club

I liked the topical 10a and 20d, and the dog and bone got the biggest smile. Which were your favourite clues?

23 comments on “Toughie 2780

  1. It has been a while since I’ve had to put a puzzle down and leave it for an hour to allow for the part of the brain that works on the puzzle while you are doing something else entirely, but that’s what happened today. A nice walk in the sunshine (although it was a bit chilly) seemed to do the trick as I finished the crossword off on my return

    Thanks to Osmosis and Dutch

  2. Pretty tricky but really enjoyable – thanks to Osmosis and Dutch.

    I puzzled over the ‘card’ in 13a for some time until I remembered that I actually had a “flexible friend” in the last century (there wasn’t too much choice then if, like me, you refused to deal with the dreadful Barclays).

    I’ve narrowed down my ‘likes’ to 15a, 1d and 14d.

  3. I really enjoyed this challenging and clever puzzle, even more so now I realise that it was compiled using so few letters. I never cease to be amazed by the skill and ingenuity of our setters. With so many fine clues from which to choose, 10a emerged as my favourite.

    My thanks to Osmosis and to Dutch.

  4. Thank you Dutch for explaining the former card. What memories that brought back from the early eighties. Exceeding the shop limit and having to wait for them to phone for clearance. The item? A pair of Levi’s. Now we buy new cars with the flash of a debit card no questions asked. How times change. I found this puzzle very difficult. The last few went in because they fit with the checkers or loosely suited the definition. Rather you than me Dutch so thanks to you. Thanks also to ProliXic. A great challenge

      1. Ooh aar! That’s what comes from commenting in the pub. Great fun all the way though.

  5. Well, I never even noticed the missing letters. Too busy grappling with a perfectly-pitched Friday Toughie. I too gave it 4* for difficulty, and also found the SW corner the hardest to finish, though 7d was a bung-in and took me ages to parse.

    Terrific fun – so much so that I’m not going to quibble about the pronunciation of 1d :-)

  6. Thanks as always to Dutch for explanations.
    Really only just within my ability even with electronic aid and then I failed on 11 and 14.
    Slowed up by putting down in 26 (feathers) and making the country Numidia (neither of which parsed), but eventually the amphibians crawled onto the cerebral cortex and that whole corner made sense.
    Thanks Osmosis also.

  7. Pretty damn tough, just right for a dull Friday and with the usual Osmosis wordplay. I too failed to spot the plastic at 13a having become fixated on a card or expert plus clubs and spades. Also spent a while trying to justify “showdown” in 26a [feathers!].
    Didn’t spot the lack of less common letters and maybe that’s partly why it was so tough.
    Favourites from a longer list are 14d [fall partly] 16d [with a gloss] and 19d [frog and toad].
    Thanks to Osmosis and to Dutch for the blog.

  8. Completed the NW and SE corners all on my own, with some gaps elsewhere, but what a joy this Osmosis gem turned out to be, with many thanks to Dutch for helping me to finish. Didn’t know the designer of course, nor the old credit card (never had those over here, did we?), but everything else I could have solved had my wits been sharper. Loved 14d and 26a especially, as well as 15a (surprisingly, one of my first solves) and 12a (with lovely memories of taking my mother there back in 1972): “And then my heart with gladness fills”. Thanks to Dutch and Osmosis.

  9. Great puzzle. Had me scratching my head for quite a while. Needed a bit of assistance to check 2d. 14d raised a big smile when the penny dropped.

    Thanks to Dutch and Osmosis.

  10. The 13a card was a challenge for us but eventually sussed and one of our team had heard of 18a.
    A significant challenge that was enjoyable a satisfying to solve.
    Thanks Osmosis and Dutch.

  11. Very pleased to have completed a Friday toughie without assistance. Almost unheard of. Thanks to Dutch for confirming a few parses, and to Osmosis for the workout! 15a and 22a my favourites, 11d LOI

  12. Way beyond my solving abilities I’m afraid but a good learning time following the hints.

  13. Regarding 25d, can someone explain to me why mace should be an alternative to cinnamon? I had ‘cane’, having found in BRB that ‘canella’ is an old term for cinnamon and assumed that ‘cane’ might have been an abbreviation. Also, cane seems a more appropriate synonym for a stick than mace.

    1. Mace is a spice obtained from the nutmeg – which could be used as an alternative ingredient in a recipe if you’ve run out of cinnamon

    2. I had the same answer. I think the word cinnamon could be seen as superfluous to the clue and is actually a little misleading

  14. I thought that “coat” in 1a referred to that of the stoat, whilst “fur” referred to the pelt when used (typically) as a trim.

    Nevertheless, it reminded me of the old joke: “What’s the difference between a weasel and a stoat?”

    One is (w)easily identified, and the other is (s)totally different.

  15. Many thanks to Osmosis for another most enjoyable puzzle and to Dutch for the precise parsing. Particularly liked 19d.

  16. An interesting puzzle indeed. The setting principles involved here remind me of the monk Silas in The Da Vinci Code chastising himself with his cilice. However this puzzle caused enjoyment!

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