Toughie 2798 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2798

Toughie No 2798 by Serpent

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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BD Rating – Difficulty *Enjoyment ***

A particularly friendly Toughie by anyone’s standards and Serpent usually provides more of a challenge than he did this morning. His Nina was easy to spot too (not least because there was one in the same positions in his last Toughie!) : the solutions to 1a, 7d, 9d and 25a contain hidden descriptions of their positions in the grid

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Great piece of theatre reveals murderer (4-7)
SHOW-STOPPER Another way of saying reveals and a slang term for a murderer

7a    Light-hearted banter is corny rubbish? (5)
CHAFF Light-hearted banter or the rubbish left over after corn has been threshed

8a    Wicked female almost promises to pay hosts (9)
NEFARIOUS The abbreviation for Female hosted by an adverb meaning almost and some promises to pay

10a    Patent electronic books incorporating a lot of recording technology (7)
EVIDENT The abbreviations for electronic and the books in the ‘second half’ of the Bible ‘incorporating’ most of some recording technology

11a    Craft-based competition abandoned target before middle of May (7)
REGATTA An anagram (abandoned) of TARGET goes before the letter in the middle of mAy

12a    Britain, traditionally, is the home of corruption (5)
TAINT Found in the middle of briTAIN Traditionally

13a    Repeat strange rite heartlessly, time after time (9)
REITERATE An anagram (strange) of RITE, TimE ‘heartlessly’ or without its middle letters, the latter going after a period of time

16a    Forthright social worker backing protection in the field? (9)
TRENCHANT One of Crosswordland’s social workers goes after (backing) a protective ditch dug in warfare (in the field)

18a    Pledge made by cycling stands the test of time (5)
SWEAR Take a synonym for ‘stands the test of time’ and cycle the final letter to the front of the word

19a    What wounded young woman? (7)
CUTLASS A synonym for wounded and a young woman

22a    University place is what’s required to appreciate literature (7)
READING A university town (place) or a skill needed before you can appreciate literature

23a    Organisation abandoning uniform to international disapproval (9)
STRICTURE Remove the first appearance of the letter represented by Uniform in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet from a synonym for organisation, and replace with the abbreviation for International

24a    Miss start of race and run off (5)
PRINT Remove the first letter (miss start) of a verb meaning to race at full speed

25a    Beautiful girl caught feet in trousers (4-7)
BELL-BOTTOMS A homophone (caught) of a beautiful girl and the lowest parts of something (feet)


1d    Steady shot is hampered by awkward lie (9)
STABILISE A go or attempt at something (shot) and IS (from the clue) ‘hampered’ or held up by an anagram (awkward) of LIE

2d    Unusual piece of syncopated music (7)
OFFBEAT Unusual or eccentric; or a piece of syncopated music

3d    Doctor rations all antibiotics initially in hospitals (9)
SANATORIA An anagram (doctor) of RATIONS and the initial letters of All and Antibiotics

4d    Volunteer to kill American head of state (5)
OFFER An American slang verb meaning to kill and the regnal cipher of our current head of state

5d    Detective meets villain in dugout (7)
PIROGUE An abbreviated detective and a villain

6d    Family putting up son in hen house (5)
ROOST Move the S in a synonym for family ancestry ‘up’ one place

7d    Conservative withdrew criticism and succeeded in awkward situations (5,6)
CLEFT STICKS The abbreviation for Conservative, a synonym for withdrew, some criticism and the abbreviation for Succeeded

9d    Leg side traps start to fuel player’s anxiety (5,6)
STAGE FRIGHT A distinct part of a journey (leg) followed by one side of something ‘traps’ the start of Fuel

14a    Meet fanatical group of football supporters? (9)
INTERSECT A fanatical group that might support a football team from Milan

15d    Anti-semite wanting some time to develop desirable characteristics (9)
AMENITIES An anagram (to develop) of ANTI SEMItE without one of the T’s (wanting some time)

17d    Scrub round entrance to holiest part of church (7)
CHANCEL A verb meaning to call off (scrub) goes round the ‘entrance’ to Holiest

18d    Film featuring terrible actor in interminable parody (7)
SHAMPOO A terrible actor (if you did the backpager first, you’ll remember him!) inserted into a truncated take-off (parody)

20d    Cook this pulse to make broth (5)
THROB An anagram (cook) of this verb meaning to pulse will produce the word BROTH

21d    Immature bird bickering after losing jewellery (5)
SQUAB I’ve always taken the solution to mean a young pigeon, but apparently it can be a general term for a newly hatched or fledgling bird – simply remove some large flashy jewellery from a synonym for bickering

20 comments on “Toughie 2798

  1. Thanks for parsing aid in 8ac. 5d was new to me but the rest fell fairly easily.
    As usual the Nina passed me by….indeed I still couldn’t see it until I revealed the hint.
    Thanks to Serpent and CS.

  2. ***/**. Held up in the NW although not entirely sure why apart from 7d not an expression I would use. A couple of new words 5d and 21d. Not a fan of the 22a and 14d clues although I solved both early on. Thanks all.

  3. Needless to say I didn’t find it as easy as the rating but I’ll settle for a complete grid without any reveals. All correct on the parsing front too other than failing, unforgivably, to twig the lurker at 12a. The dugout at 5d was new to/forgotten by me but the wordplay clear. I love it when our expert reviewer announces the Nina easy to spot. Blissfully unaware there is one I then spend 5 mins staring blankly at the grid then give up. Top 2 for me 18d&25a for no reason other than I like the film & I was prompted to play 25a Blues by Derek & The Dominos.
    Thanks to Serpent & to CS

    1. If I can see a Nina then it definitely counts as ‘easy to spot’ – don’t forget Radler once set an NTSPP with “Will Sue Spot the Nina” or something similar round the edge of the grid

  4. I think the answer in 24a needs to be amended to print.
    25a was my favourite .
    Thanks to all concerned.

  5. Agree this was gentler than expected, though 5d, and first bit of 7a, needed looking up. Didn’t spot the Nina and needed the reveal too – thanks CS, I thought these passed you by! Ticks aplenty, far too many to choose a favourite. Many thanks to Serpent and CS.

  6. Slowish start but once I got a few checkers in it fell pretty quickly without me ever thinking I was totally on the setter’s wavelength. Good fun though with 1,23&24a plus 20d getting my ticks.
    Many thanks to Serpent and Cryptic Sue.

  7. Nina Schmina. Point them out every time for me. A nice start to the day from Serpent. Thanks to Sue for the blog. Beam tomorrow. Woooooooo Hooooooo! As Sara Wilby would say

  8. Managed everything quite nicely but 7d, which I’d never heard of, so I had to reveal several letters to finish. Still, very enjoyable, with 23a, 18d, and 21d my top three. Thanks to CS and Serpent.

    1. Much later…if I had remembered my GBS, and if I had simply followed the clear steps of its straightforward clueing, I really should have solved 7d quite easily. In Man and Superman, GBS writes (in Act 1), “You have got me in a xxxxx xxxxx [no plural]”. But of course I did none of that, and I’ve been kicking myself to Savannah all day long.

  9. As others 5d was a new word as was the first part of 4d. The rest I found difficult but doable but that’s the point of a toughie. Favourite was 21d. Thanks to Serpent and CS.

  10. Very enjoyable. A case of saving the best until last, my favourites were 20d and 21d. Thanks to Serpent and CS.

  11. An enjoyable solve but we totally failed to spot the Nina. Must remember to look for them in Serpent puzzles.
    Thanks Serpent and CS.

  12. “A particularly friendly Toughie by anyone’s standards”? Not by mine, CSue! A struggle for over an **** (oops, shouldn’t mention solving times) before much fell into place. A strain of my poor brain if ever there was one. Thanks to Serpent, and of course CS, altho’ our assessments differ!

  13. **/** for me on this one. A good Nina of course, but do we spot them? I think in the harder cryptics one should probably cast an eye around as a matter of habit, looking out for such things, but too often I forget. Thanks to Serpent and CSue.

  14. Needed my trusted thesaurus to get 16a and 23a.
    The expression in 7d was new to me.
    Favourite 1d to celebrate our French Gold medalist in the biathlon. Didn’t stop him from getting it.
    Thanks to Serpent and to CS.

  15. When I looked at this at lunch I had one definite and one possible answer after about 20 minutes. Picked it up again this evening and did the rest in another 20 minutes. Ho hum.

    A curate’s egg of a puzzle for me – enjoyed it by and large but the too oft-repeated add / remove / move a letter clue type led me to think that the setter had found their one-trick pony and was determined to flog it to death. I couldn’t spot the Nina, but when I saw the repetitive clue type the puzzle succumbed without much further ado.

    1a COTD.

    Thank you to the setter and to Sue.

  16. Thanks to Serpent and to crypticsue for the review and hints. I thought this was going to be a gentle Toughie, as I managed to complete it without much trouble. Very entertaining. Favourite was 5d. Was 1*/3* for me.

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