Toughie 2781 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2781

Toughie 2781 by Donnybrook

Hints and tips by StephenL.

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

Hello everyone from South Devon, MP has done a lot of blogs recently so I volunteered to stand in for him for what is my first Toughie blog.

Slightly daunting but it’s good to be taken out of one’s comfort zone every now and then…so I’m told!

I always find Donnybrook puzzles quirky and requiring a bit of lateral thinking and today’s was no exception and a lot of fun. A couple of new words in there for me but attainable from the wordplay and checkers.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


8a        Each activity’s restricted in harbour town (7)
SEAPORT:  The abbreviation for EAch is placed inside (restricted in) an activity such as football

10a      One wandering eaten by family of big cats (7)
LEONINE:  Anagram of ONE (wondering) inside (eaten by) a synonym of ancestry.

11a      Onerous load southern type brought back to Scotland (9)

ALBATROSS: The abbreviation for Southern and a synonym of type are reversed (brought back) and tacked on to the Gaelic name for Scotland.

12a      Shade providing cover for troops (5)
KHAKI:  Double definition, one a shade ,the other a material used in military clothing.

13a      Actor learning lines in the centre (5)
LOREN:  Some knowledge or beliefs and the middle letter (in the centre) of the world liNes. She was quite something.

14a      Old weapon keeping animals together outside a pound (7)
HALBERD:  A large group of animals goes around (keeping) A from the clue and the abbreviation for a pound in weight.

17a      Legendary swimmer left Scots horsemen at sea around noon (4,4,7)
LOCH NESS MONSTER:  Anagram (at sea) of SCOTS HORSEMAN plus the abbreviations for Left and Noon.

19a      Attendant in A Company no heavyweight reportedly (7)
ACOLYTE:  A from the clue, an abbreviation for a company and a homophone (reportedly) of word meaning not heavy.

21a      Conservative in charge bringing total shambles … (5)
FARCE:  The abbreviation for Conservative in a charge, typically relating to transport.

24a      … corrupt condition in Britain today! (5)
TAINT:  Hidden in the clue. Clever use of the ellipses makes us think it’s related to the previous clue when it isn’t really.

26a      Shock when pair sent westward spotted mount (9)
APPALOOSA:  A verb meaning to shock or disgust is followed by a reversal (sent westward) of a short word meaning when and two letters that could represent a pair in cricket


27a      Search isle — nitrogen found in shed (7)
MANHUNT:  Crosswordland’s favourite isle plus a shed into which the chemical symbol of Nitrogen is inserted.

28a      Wealthy man angry accepting EU split? (7)
CROESUS: Start with a synonym of angry. One of its letters splits the insertion of EU, giving a king renowned for his wealth.


1d        Trouble dogs American behind attack (6)

ASSAIL:  A verb meaning to trouble follows (dogs) the American term for one’s behind or derriere.

2d        Repeatedly counter this writer, cold and brutal (8)
BARBARIC:  A first person pronoun (this writer) plus the abbreviation for Cold follow a synonym of counter which is repeated.

3d        Nurse follows nose, right away finding party (10)
HOOTENANNY:  A children’s nurse follows an informal word for your nose minus the abbreviation for Right…..made me snigger.

4d        Special ambassador to probe responsibility for curse (9)
BLASPHEME:  The abbreviations for (SP)ecial and the title given to an ambassador are placed inside (to probe) a synonym of responsibility.

5d        Call from flier about to land in Hong Kong (4)
HONK:  A preposition which could mean about sits inside (to land in) the abbreviation for Hong Kong.

6d        Outburst from upstanding character brought into commerce (6)

TIRADE:  The letter that is vertical or upstanding inside (brought into) some commerce or business.

7d        Puzzle created by savage tucking into lager for example (8)
BEWILDER:  Puzzle here is a verb and is obtained by placing an adjective meaning savage or feral inside a drink beloved of many of which lager is an example.

9d        City score without ball (4)
TROY:  A score in a game played with an oval ball goes around (without) the letter that looks like a round ball.

15d      He wrote line regularly using good companion (10)

LONGFELLOW:  An American poet, no doubt well known to at least one of our regular contributors, born in 1807 can be found by placing the abbreviations for Line and Good around a preposition meaning “regularly using” as in drugs, followed by a companion or associate.

16d      Doctor operates, implanting new tongue (9)
ESPERANTO:  Anagram (doctor) of OPERATES and the abbreviation for New.

17d      Heavy metal item damaged — wait for delivery (4,4)
LEAD TIME:  The usual heavy metal plus an anagram (damaged) of ITEM.

18d      Reptile in wrong French river (8)
TORTOISE:  A civil wrong that could lead to court action is followed by a French river.

20d      Grammarian gets one between legs, beginning to suffer (6)

ONIONS:  This distinguished grammarian, born in 1873 is obtained by placing the letter that looks like a single between two instances of  the leg side on a cricket pitch plus the first letter of suffer.

22d      Pass close to Awatere Fault (6)
ELAPSE:  The final letter of Awatere plus a fault or fall from grace. Ignore the capitalisation.

23d      English prince appearing occasionally in long film (4)
EPIC:  The abbreviation for English and alternate letters of Prince.

25d      Something often dull, day after day (4)

THUD:  The abbreviation for Day follows a shortened form of another day of the week giving a lovely onomatopoeic word.

Very enjoyable with 3d taking the honours for me.


42 comments on “Toughie 2781

  1. Many thanks to Donnybrook for his usual dose of fun and congratulations to StephenL on an excellent first Toughie blog.

    I think the first 3 letters of 1d are the American spelling of ‘a behind’ with ‘dogs’ just meaning ‘follows’.

    I ticked 1d, 3d and 25d but my favourite was the very topical and amusing 21a.

  2. The usual fun from Donnybrook in a crossword that lies just on the cusp between a Friday backpager and a Tuesday Toughie – lots to enjoy so it is hard to pick just one favourite

    Thanks to Donnybrook and Stephen L

  3. Yes, congrats to Stephen L on his blog, an excellent one. I found the puzzle to be excellent too.

    I agree with you Gazza that the US word for ‘behind’, shall we call it, is what’s needed at 1d, producing a LOL moment for me. The device at 28a I found both unusual and lovely, 20d produced my second LOL moment, and I was amazed to find that the place name used at 22d actually exists!

    I suppose, out of all the goodies, the pairing at 21 & 24a takes today’s laurels for me, for its prescience alone, though one could almost predict that the saga of Boris would run and run.

    Many thanks again Donny for this **/**** special.

    1. Thanks, jeanne, for allowing me to re-examine the 21/24a combination and its…shall I say its political verve and daring? We went through four years of that over here recently.

      1. Hi Robert and thank you.

        I feel your pain regarding the most unusual (to put it mildly) 4 years ever witnessed in US politics. It is amazing in UK now, so many are the infidelities and indiscretions, to see that even the likes of the DT, a veritable Tory bastion, is comfortable with a mild prod in the direction of you-know-who. It is welcome of course in these strange times.

  4. You know what to expect from a Donnybrook Toughie, and he rarely if ever disappoints. This was terrific fun, from first to last clue, with 3d sharing the honours with the frustratingly topical 21a.

    Many thanks to Donny for the challenge, and congratulations to SL on your first Toughie review.

  5. Though I rather like SL’s reading of the ‘ss’ in 1d, I think that Gazza is right: an American derriere in the first three letters. Now shall I start reciting from 15d? “By the shores of Gitchee Gumee”; hmm, better not. What a lovely puzzle, full of humour, deep learning, and fascinating allusions (28a, 20d, 17a, even 11a). The generic reference to ‘actor’ held me up a moment (and then an Aha! moment, and I again thought of her Oscar-winning role in Two Women, which still causes me to shudder at times). Finished this superb puzzle most satisfyingly quite late last night while watching a spectacular U of Georgia comeback victory over the U of Alabama (college football national championship).

    I don’t normally award stars for Toughies, but this one is an exception: *** / ***** Thanks and congratulations to StephenL for your first Toughie blog and kudos to Donnybrook.

    1. I read Peter Bogdanovich’s obit in the Telegraph today – I’d missed that he’d died. One of those directors who never quite lived up to the promise of his early work – The Last Picture Show is a great film. Loved him in The Sopranos too.

      1. Yes, re The Last Picture Show: I actually saw it in London during my U of Nottingham year.

  6. I can’t let the day pass without thanking StephenL for joining the blogging team and relieving my workload which had been doubled by others being indisposed. If he is happy to continue and youse lot are happy with him then hopefully he will provide every other Thursday back pager and every other Tuesday Toughie for the time being.

  7. This took a bit of unpicking and required a few look ups to confirm things. Thanks to SL and Donnybrook.

  8. No unaided finish sadly. I’m cross with myself for not putting it aside & returning to it later but impatience got the better of me with 3 to go (8&13a plus 3d) none of which were difficult really. Stupidly thought only male for the actor & Peter Lorre was all I could come up with & couldn’t decide what the definition was at 8a. Once I revealed the 8a/3d checker all 3 were blindingly obvious. Anyway a super puzzle. I too loved the topicality of 21&24a (hopes not high for 9a in the back-pager taking the David Frost baton) but I’ll plump for a north of the border podium of 3d with 11&17a.
    Thanks to Donny & to Stephen for an excellent debut Toughie review.
    Ps 10a reminded me of a wonderful experience of walking for an hour with three 3 yr old lions (Jayzee, Hip-Hop & Jack Daniels) at Ukutula Game Reserve in South Africa.


    1. Brilliant to watch!
      A neighbour of spent a lot of time with the Adamsons. She’s sadly gone now, but a most interesting person to talk to

      1. I’m the thin one – or at least compared to my buddies. They were confident that if it turned awkward they’d go for me first. I walked with 2 of them again when they were 5yrs old & they had grown quite a lot.

          1. I’d have wanted proof that those lions had been well fed before embarking on that walk!

  9. I thought this was quite tough for a Tuesday Toughie but great fun with all of Donnybrook’s quirkiness on show. 3d was my favourite.

    I didn’t know the grammarian in 20d but he was easy enough to work out by following the instructions in the clue.

    Many thanks to Donnybrook, and a warm welcome to SL to the Toughie blogging team – well done on an excellent debut.

  10. I found this tough. Took me ages to get going then I romped around the puzzle only to come to a grinding halt in the NW corner.
    I’m returning to South Devon from Kent at the weekend. Perhaps a change of scene will help recharge these little grey cells!

  11. Many congratulations to Stephen – I bet you’re glad it was Donnybrook and not Elgar for your maiden blog. As you say, quirky and fun, with enough gimmes (e.g. the nice long anagram in the middle) to get a good start. Plenty of smiles – certainly including 21 and 24a. And in the DT of all places!

  12. Excellent stuff thanks DB.
    Thanks to SL for the blog, I always seem to need some parsing assistance.
    Two forgettable new words pushed it into ** territory.

  13. Many thanks to StephenL for his first toughie blog – I needed quite a few nudges in the right direction. I had VISOR for 12a ( vis = provided plus Other Ranks gives an eyeshade? that put the kibosh on the NE corner. Lots of lovely Scottish clues today and 3d was indeed a gem but I am favouring 11a. When I put the sort back on the s I thought we would end up in the Trossochs, When the penny dropped and I was in Alba I had to listen to this; Bha Mis An – I was there
    A translation for those without the gaelic;
    This flight is sailing through the clouds
    And the blue heavens
    The homeland appears like a developing photograph
    Through the mists as I return to land
    I see Scotland of the high mountains
    And the empty acres
    Flying low across the moorland lochs
    The forests and the glens
    But it’s
    A wounding and a hollow sight
    Here as we reach the end of the century
    The beautiful soil of the people
    Still in the hands of the few

    Thanks to Donnybrook and SL

  14. Thank you to DonnyB for an excellent brainstrainer (2* / nearly 3* time for me, 4* happiness quotient) and another thank you to Stephen for explaining why 13 was who it had to be – bung-in now understood.

  15. As usual I found this harder than most and also as usual I needed the hints to parse a couple of clues, 1d and 15d, and the grammarian was new to me. 13a was a bit of a bung in but couldn’t have been anything else and lore/learning story of worked. Favourite was 2d as I it opened up the NW. Thanks to Donnybrook and SL.

  16. Unlike most people, I found this really tough!! Perhaps just a wavelength thing but did finish it in the end in, for me, **** time. 19A & 3D were my favourites. Thanks to setter

    1. I’m with you DB, I got precisely one on my first read through. I’m not well today, that must be the reason.

      Thanks to all.

  17. Solved in fits and starts from the bottom up for a change, last in was 1d-thanks to SL for the american behind which parsing eluded me, as did 13a.
    Going for a 2.5/4*
    Nicely clued,favourite was 17a.With regard to 20d, is this where the phrase ‘he knows his onions’ come from?
    Thanks to setter and SL, time for a pint or two.

  18. Wonder whether we are the only ones to recognize the geography/geology in 22d. It made us ponder whether Donnybrook has NZ connections.
    A really enjoyable solve for us with lots of chuckles along the way.
    Thanks Donnybrook and SL.

    1. The Molesworth segment of the Awatere Fault runs from close to the junction between the Alpine and Wairau Faults…
      As any fuel kno © N Molesworth with help from Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

      1. Must have another browse through that volume, still safely stored in my school trunk!

    2. Hello 2K. Well, I know Jackie, who is happy enough to be known as Jickie, who is from Wellington. There are two compilers I know (one rather vaguely) who have associations with that region, but that’s it. Except that I have seen LOTR.

  19. I haven’t solved this one, but have had a quick read of the review and comments. 9d: I’m pleased to see that without (meaning the opposite of within) is still being used as a containment indicator. And without complaints! Pun intended …

  20. Just dropping in to thank all who have offered their kind comments, each and every one much appreciated.

  21. Late reporting in but its been ‘one of those days’ – no great dramas but a wealth of little blips that needed sorting out.
    Well done indeed to StephenL on his first Toughie blog. I’m not sure whether your arm was painfully twisted but you made an excellent job of it and I did need your help with a couple of bits of parsing in 1&15d.
    Very relieved to discover that I wasn’t alone in not knowing the 20d grammarian and must admit that I hadn’t thought of there being an ‘E’ involved in 3d – live and learn!
    Favourite was 21a – particularly those featuring Brian Rix.

    Thanks to Donnybrook for a most enjoyable puzzle and also to our excellent blogger.

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