Toughie 2788 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2788

Toughie No 2788 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

A few answers I was not familiar with and the parsing of 13a took me just over 3* time. Sparks often has a Nina of some kind, but, despite being intrigued by the double-unches, I didn’t manage to see anything – perhaps you will (ah, see comment 2 by Fez!)

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Maybe a stuffy sort, eccentric sir mixed in shabby clothes (11)
TAXIDERMIST: An anagram (eccentric) of SIR MIXED goes in a word meaning ‘shabby clothes’

8a    Space agency introducing cover for outermost custom zip (3,1,7)
NOT A SAUSAGE: The American apace agency contains (introducing) the outermost letters (cover) of ‘outermost’ plus another word for custom

11a    Badger female about husband’s display (4)
SHOW: A female badger goes around (about) the abbreviation for husband

12a    Headland in November mist beginning to clear? (4)
NAZE: The letter with radio code November plus another word for mist without the first letter (beginning to clear)

13a    Up-to-date short trip through Arran, say (2,5)
IN TOUCH: A 4-letter word for trip without the last letter goes inside (through) a word for island

15a    One taking on ward perhaps wants publicity work period curtailed (7)
ADOPTER: A 2-letter word for publicity, a Latin abbreviation for work, and a period without the last letter (curtailed)

16a    Weapon in destroyer briefly shelled crew (5)
SABRE: An informal abbreviation for a person who is a destroyer plus crew without the outer letters (shelled)

17a    Male remains in old TV series (4)
MASH: The abbreviation for male plus some remains

18a    Out of memory on mainframe’s core (4)
FROM: The central letter (core) of mainframe plus a kind of memory

19a    Off and on, barn dance welcoming unknown old soldier (5)
ANZAC: The even letters (off and on) in ‘barn dance’ contain (welcoming) an algebraic unknown

21a    Pass across start in buggy (7)
TRANSIT: An anagram (buggy) of START IN

22a    Remained dormant too long in undercover activity? (5,2)
SLEPT IN: A cryptic definition where the cover is found on a bed

23a    A little wood hard to cut externally (4)
SHAW: The abbreviation for hard has a word meaning to cut around it (externally)

26a    Duck soup made every evening for starters (4)
SMEE: First letters ( … for starters)

27a    Range of lions missing in African republic (6,5)
SIERRA LEONE: A word for a mountain range plus a 7-letter word meaning ‘of lions’ without (missing) ‘in’ from the clue

28a    Recover cannabis before gangs finally start fighting (4,2,5)
COME TO BLOWS: A (4,2) expression meaning recover, a slang word for cannabis, and the last letter (finally) of gangs


2d    After getting upset, eggs on wife to maintain (4)
AVOW: A reversal (after getting upset) of a word for eggs plus the abbreviation for wife

3d    Type of scientific old language briefly resurrected (7)
ITALICS: A reversal (resurrected) of an abbreviation for scientific plus an old language without the last letter (briefly)

4d    Test late in the morning (4)
EXAM: A word for late and an abbreviation meaning ‘in the morning’

5d    Two young ladies reportedly disturbed Glaswegian? (7)
MISMADE: a homophone (reportedly) of two words for a young lady

6d    Token gesture (4)
SIGN: Two meanings, the first as in omen, the second as in a hand gesture

7d    Defect in disgrace, shrouded in a mist following corruption (11)
ASTIGMATISM: A 6-letter word for a disgrace or mark of infamy goes inside (shrouded in) A from the clue plus an anagram (following corruption) of MIST

8d    UK fuel shortages needing an alternative (5,3,3)
North Sea Gas: An anagram (alternative) of SHORTAGES + AN

9d    Rest — matinee playing ET in full (7,4)
EASTERN TIME: An anagram (playing) of REST MATINEE

10d    Manipulate facts in piece contributing to wartime German article from Berlin (11)
GERRYMANDER: A piece, perhaps in chess, goes inside (contributing to) a slang word for a wartime German plus a German (from Berlin) definite article

14d    Frequent glimpse of animal in pursuit (5)
HAUNT: The first letter (glimpse) of animal goes inside a word meaning pursuit

15d    Tapestry put up in disarray (5)
ARRAS: Reverse hidden (put up in … )

19d    Is not, colloquially, concerning English course (7)
AINTREE: The colloquial way of saying ‘is not’, a short word meaning about or concerning, and the abbreviation for English

20d    Author left to be bandaged by WW1 nurse (7)
CLAVELL: The abbreviation for left is contained in (to be bandaged by) a WW1 nurse known for saving soldiers regardless of which side they were on. One of those clues where both the wordplay and the answer are GK.

24d    Leaving hospital, popular doctor admits popular drunk (4)
WINO: A popular TV doctor without (leaving) his central letter which is the abbreviation for hospital contains a short word meaning popular

25d    Animal lifted over floor (4)
KAYO: The reversal (lifted) of a hairy Tibetan bovine plus the abbreviation for over

26d    Winter Olympics ultimately recognised following exposure? (4)
SNOW: The last letter (ultimately) in Olympics, then a word meaning recognised without the outer letters (following exposure). Yep, in Chambers.

My favourite was 21a, for the smooth incorporation of the anagram into the surface – took me a while to see it. Which clues did you like?

20 comments on “Toughie 2788

  1. Another excellent Toughie to finish the week, full of inventive clueing and several penny drop moments. I spent too long looking for a Nina or some other message, but found none. I wasn’t keen on 25d, having never seen that spelling before, but otherwise all good clean fun. 8d was a clear winner for me.

    Thanks to Sparks for the fun and to Dutch.

  2. Another great puzzle to round off the week. The compass points NW, NE, SE, SW are in correct positions in the grid – but oddly, not N, E, S, W … though I may well be missing something! 25d held me up, and needed Google for the Arran reference and the nurse. I also thought ‘German’ was doing double-duty in 10d … until realising I simply hadn’t scrolled down far enough to see “in Berlin”. Favourites 8a, 18a, 3d and COTD 8d. Many thanks to Sparks and Dutch!

      1. Thanks Dutch. (By the way, to add to the parsing of 13a … the word is specifically a Scots (or Irish) word for island, hence presumably the choice of Arran, aka “**** Arran”)

        1. One of Sparks’ best and most challenging Friday Toughies.

          Ancient jumps racing enthusiasts like myself might well remember a delightful grey horse called Inch Arran, owned by the Queen Mother, who won the Topham Trophy over the big Aintree fences in 1973 a couple of days before Red Rum won his first Grand National. The Queen Mother named at least one other horse, Colonsay Isle, after a Western Scots Island. Inch Arran was her last winner for Peter Cazalet, who had trained her Devon Loch, who stumbled a few yards from the winning post when leading the 1956 National. The 1989 National winner Little Polveir was also named after a salmon stream on a royal Scottish estate, although he wasn’t owned by the Queen Mother.

  3. An excellent Friday Toughie – many thanks to Sparks and Dutch

    Like Fez. the only Nina-like thing I could find was the compass points

    1. Just seen, there’s also (on the same diagonals, towards the centre, reading left-to-right) CA-RD-IN-AL, which I guess covers N,E,S,W? Can’t help feeling there may yet be more to be revealed!

  4. Inadequate general knowledge left 20d incomplete and 25d was unfilled too. I suspect I’m alone in finding phonetic representations of abbreviations irritating…probably just sour grapes…actually apart fro DJ and MC can’t immediately think of others..probably hundreds.
    I also hadn’t come across the synonym for cannabis before.
    Otherwise a most enjoyable and, for Fridays, accessible toughie.
    Thanks to Dutch for parsing 21ac, I don’t think I’ve come across “buggy” as an anagrind, but it seems ok.
    Thanks to Sparks

  5. Within 2 of an unaided finish which is better than I usually do on non Elgar Fridays. Couldn’t twig the 2nd phonetic lassie in 5d & don’t understand the definition anyway. Annoyed that I missed the upturned critter at 25d but can’t say I’ve ever come across that spelling – assume it’s the same principle as emcee & deejay. The parsing of 13a also eluded me (lovely island). A very enjoyable puzzle full of great clues. 8a&d my top two with big ticks for 7,9&10d plus 28a.
    Thanks to Sparks & Dutch.

  6. Just Thank You to the compiler. (And blogger) Great fun all the way through. 5 down and 25 down were last to fall and buggy is brilliant

  7. Delighted to have finished a Friday toughie unaided, the first for many months.1a my favourite, although there were several other very clever clues.
    Thanks to Sparks, and to Dutch for confirmation of a couple of parsings.

  8. Managed everything but two 4-letter words, 12a & 25d (though I have seen that spelling over here). (Wasn’t there a character or a nickname spelled 25d in the old ‘Joe Palooka’ comics?) Particularly proud to arrive at 28a on my own. I did know the author and, mirabile dictu, the nurse, drawn from the mists of memory. Except for that Essex promontory, a coulda/woulda Toughie, which I enjoyed very much. Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

  9. Very good puzzle – thanks to Sparks and Dutch.
    I remembered to look for Sparks’s usual little extra but failed to find anything so thanks to Fez for his detective work.
    On my podium sit 16a, 27a and 10d.

  10. Didn’t have chance to look at this until late in the day and I have to say you beat me fair and square, Sparks!
    ‘Unknowns’ were my downfall so I don’t feel quite as bruised as I otherwise would have done, but annoyed with myself nevertheless.
    Think the space agency and the lions range were my favourites.

    Thanks for the challenge and the various lessons, Sparks, love to dear old Sparky. Thanks also to Dutch for the review and for digging me out of various holes.

  11. We’re away from home but still managed to find the time for this one.
    Thoroughly enjoyable with heaps of Aha moments for us.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  12. Like Huntsman, I fell two short. Mrs JP got the 3 letter animal as I only managed Cat and Bat…When she suggested it, the pennies fell like an over-tilted Brighton coin pusher. The other failure was the nurse and author – neither of whom I knew.

    Thanks to Dutch and Sparks.

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