Sunday Toughie 15 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Sunday Toughie 15 (Hints)

Sunday Toughie No 15 by proXimal (Hints)

Hints and Tips by Sloop John Bee

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +


I was expecting another Zandio today, but we have a proXimal instead. This one pushed me to the very edge of my solving ability, but a couple of nudges from the 5 freebies got me over the line. I have picked out an evenly spread half of the clues and hope that helps you get over the line. Please comment if you want any extra hints and I will try to help within the spirit of the rules. 13 is only a little word but you have to do quite a lot to get there (remove the first word from a “range”) 17d and 24a don’t get hinted at but do get a mention elsewhere. 11a and 21a are “dodgy” homophones that some will baulk at and a lurker 19d


As it is a Prize puzzle I can only hint at a few and hope that will give you the checkers and inspiration to go further.

I’ll be back just after the closing date with the full blog.

Don’t forget to follow BD’s instructions in RED at the bottom of the hints! I hope I don’t have to redact any comments but I am new at this and don’t want to rock the boat. If in doubt, I’ll rub it out!

Most of the terms used in these hints are explained in the Glossary and examples are available by clicking on the entry under “See also”. Where the hint describes a construct as “usual” this means that more help can be found in The Usual Suspects, which gives a number of the elements commonly used in the wordplay. Another useful page is Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, which features words with meanings that are not always immediately obvious.

A full review of this puzzle will be published after the closing date for submissions.

Some hints follow:

Remember the site rules and play nicely.



1a    Dirty spots in part of plane, craft beset by bacteria (11)
A biblical craft is surrounded by bacteria instead of the flood and preceded by part of an aeroplane.

8a    Open shed damaged here from leprechaun’s larking (7)
This is one of those tricky little subtraction anagrams, we have to shed some letters from LEPRECHAUNS. Shed damaged tells us that the letters we need to extract (HERE) are not in order, and larking tells us to reorder what remains for open one’s fist perhaps.

10a    Locks might contain these vessels (8)
Locks usually makes me think of hairstyles but not here (the hairdo today is in 17d) The answer we seek is a feature of some locks particularly safes, also a vessel I may drink from.

14a    Company partner occupied by deficit hugely (10)
Some Lego here, Two letters suggested by company and a partner surround a large financial deficit.

18a    Greek character going back in swimmer’s headwear (4)
Some cycling here, we start with a large freshwater fish and cycle the Greek character from the front to the back for some headwear.

22a    Examining an urban settlement in California to the west (8)
proXimal has given us two free letters, start with a general meaning of urban and add a specific Californian large urban settlement around the two letters given to us, then reverse the lot (to the west in an across clue) I am not sure if I have done that quite right, do the two given letters go in the settlement and then reversed or do they start the clue and have appended the reversal?

26a    Retired woman tucked into fish and green cheese (11)
More reversals here. A woman goes inside some slippery fish and a synonym of green, all reversed. What comes from that is a delightful cheese much admired by Wallace and Gromit, and coincidentally the only one of the Yorkshire Dales that doesn’t take its name from the river that runs through it. (That river is the one we need for 24a)


1d    One unenthralled following about upset celebrity (7)
The person we are looking for is one no longer held in bondage or slavery, a noun for a celebrity is reversed after an abbreviation for following and one of the usual crosswordy abouts. I notice that the answer is also the surname of a celebrity actor whose forename is in 7d. Is proXimal a fan of this hobbit actor?

3d    Festival dislikes including Queen covers (10)
These covers keep us warm at night, A Muslim festival, the Queens’ regnal cypher and some dislikes create this feathery comforter.

7d    Car a rock clipped with damage on metal (5,6)
A small rock loses its last letter, a synonym of damage and a silvery-white malleable metallic element.

9d    Mean sorts keeping silence regularly for entertaining acts (5,6)
An average score at golf, and a synonym of sorts surround the even letters of silence.

15d    Roll and roll around beginning to remedy skin inflammation (8)
Two synonyms of roll, to turn and a bakery item, surround the first letter of remedy.

20d    Aluminium lid over a source of fibre (6)
How Aluminium appears on the Periodic Table, a reversal of a lid and a from the clue. A fine silky fibre sourced from a member of the Llama family.

23d    Chamber orchestra players half-cut (4)
This chamber is half of some members of an orchestra.

Today we have some 23d before they are half-cut.

Could new readers please read the Welcome Post and the FAQ before posting comments or asking questions about the site.

As this is a Prize crossword, please don’t put any ANSWERS, whether WHOLE, PARTIAL or INCORRECT or any ALTERNATIVE CLUES in your comment.

Please read these instructions carefully – they are not subject to debate or discussion. Offending comments may be redacted or, in extreme cases, deleted. In all cases the administrator’s decision is final.

If you don’t understand, or don’t wish to comply with, the conventions for commenting on weekend prize puzzles then save yourself a lot of trouble and don’t leave a comment.


17 comments on “Sunday Toughie 15 (Hints)

  1. I always enjoy a proXimal production and this was no exception. Thanks to him and to SJP for the hints.
    I thought the homophones in 11a were particularly dodgy.
    For my podium I’ve selected 10a, 13a and 12d.

    In 22a ‘urban’ and ‘settlement in California’ need to be dealt with separately.

    1. Thanks Gazza, settlement was doing double duty. I will amend the hint.

  2. My scalp may take some time to recover…. Chuffed to eventually complete & without a letter reveal though will admit to hitting the submit button once with 5 to go to check if all in were correct. Puzzle of the week for me but maybe that’s just because of the satisfaction of finishing it though I’ve yet to parse Wallace’s favourite. My top 2 were pesky 4 letter clues (13&18a) for their penny drop quality once the answers eventually dawned on me. Big ticks galore – 1,8&22a plus 1,3,6,7,9 &12d all great clues.
    Thanks to proXimal for providing the distraction from my poorly back & John for reviewing

  3. Once again can I ask that this puzzle is made available digitally to those of who pay a FULL subscription as I feel very short changed. Thanks

    1. I will pass on your comment to the DT editor.
      Like you I hope that Mr Lancaster will get the Sunday Toughie on all platforms soon, but BD and others here have no say in how the DT work.

  4. I decided to disappear after my backpager post this morning: vanished into the world of clarity, a baseball game. There wasn’t much clarity for me in this Toughie, however, and I struggled shamefully. Using all of my five freebies, I still fell short of finishing, so thank you, John, for the hints that finally got me to the finish line. I have no idea who Wallace and Gromit are, but I did manage to sign off with the proper cheese at the end. I also have no idea what those homophones are in 11a. Maybe I should stay on this side of The Pond for a while, do my NYT et al puzzles, and take a refresher course in humility. Thanks to proXimal and SJB.

  5. I wouldn’t go into purdah on account of those dodgy homophones. My ears found them hard to take, particularly 11a. I thought that Wallace and Gromit would be known beyond Britain (their creator, Nick Park, got an Oscar or four)

    1. W & G are probably well known over here; it’s just me, not my kind of thing. Thanks for the clip.

  6. Really enjoyable Sunday Toughie with which to start a very early Monday morning. Slowish to start but it all started to flow quite swiftly, general direction S to N and W to E, with 11a my LOI (and while I know it to be correct, I still have no idea whatever as to the homophone!) and needing SJB’s helpful explanation as to why 18a was what it had to be.

    Many thanks indeed to Proximal and to SJB

    1. The homophones used in 11a would possibly be acceptable in the Quickie pun but, in my view, they’re very poor as part of a cryptic puzzle. They are due (appointed) and near (by).

      1. I had a similar problem with the homophone in 21a (corrected the typo in the intro) The Asian nation is only one way to pronounce that, it could be tie raid or tea raid, I would probably go with the latter as it is from a French word and J-L probably pronounces it that way.

        1. 21a was my first one in but only because I’d come across a similar homophone in the Graun – a reportedly inebriated Asian office worker (6).
          As Gazza says 11a Quickie pun material for sure.
          Never did parse the cheese.

          1. The hint covers the cheese, a refined woman, in some slippery fish, and a synonym of green, all reversed.
            Do you know the Bishop of Norwich? – He never parsed the port!

  7. A not too slow tussle, on the edgier side of a Sunday Toughie imho. Finished in 2* time but still can’t parse one or two; thanks Proximal for the fight, SJB for the assistance parsing a couple, and Gazza for “explaining” the (terrible homophone Mr pX!) little one at 11a (does that point me towards the Naughty Step)?

  8. Finally done the last two left over from Sunday!
    5d then 11a. I agree the homophones in 11a are dodgy, but gettable, albeit after three days.
    Thanks proXimal and SJB, whose hints I shall now read.

Comments are closed.