Toughie 2868 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2868

Toughie No 2868 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A nice puzzle from sparks with some ready entries but also quite a few that had me puzzling a while. I’ve had laptop frustrations today, so no pictures, i’m afraid.

Sparks often has some kind of Nina, and I did spot 3 answers in the south that create a phrase. Lo and behold, we see similar in symmetric positions across the grid.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Nut on old haulage vehicle that diverts unwanted emissions (9,3)
EXTRACTOR FAN: A nut or enthusiast follows (on) a 2-letter word for old and a farm haulage vehicle

9a    Awful unbridled brutality of a 26 for one (7)
TITULAR: An anagram (awful) of (b)RUTALIT(y) without the outer letters (unbridled)

10a    Composer in Italy in court taken aback about copied email (7)
PUCCINI: A reversal (taken aback) of IN from the clue, the abbreviation for Italy, and a 2-letter word meaning ‘in court’, containing (about) the abbreviation used for copied email

11a    Subtle condition back in place at last (4)
FINE: A reversal (back) of a 2-letter condition plus the last letters of ‘in place’

12a    Sends off second half of suits (5)
SHIPS: The second half of a 10-letter word meaning suits or wooings

13a    Fashion magazine covers article 1,000 inside (4)
MAKE: The outer letters (covers) of magazine with an article and an abbreviation for 1000 inside

16a    In error after division that’s nowhere near? (7)
OUTPOST: A 3-letter word meaning ‘in error’ and a 4-letter word meaning ‘after’

17a    New fetish fuelled by publicity somewhere in Africa (7)
NAIROBI: The abbreviation for new and a 3-letter fetish or charm contain (fuelled by) a word that could mean publicity or exposure

18a    A lot of rubbish by experienced writer (4,3)
FELT TIP: An area with rubbish follows a verb meaning ‘experienced’

21a    Potential charge for throwing party one held? (7)
HOSTAGE: A whimsical (potential) word for a charge levied for throwing a party

23a    Company with Marx Brothers’ heads for crest (4)
COMB: The abbreviation for company plus the first letters (heads) of Marx Brothers

24a    Extremely poor climber’s secret (5)
PRIVY: The outer letters (extremely) of poor plus a climbing plant

25a    Worthless singer on the radio (4)
BASE: A homophone (on the radio) of a low-pitched singer

28a    Make right start to periods of play in football grounds (7)
REASONS: Turn (make) the first letter (start) to ‘periods of play in football’ into the abbreviation for right

29a    Lasting throughout, say, withdrawn inside (7)
AGELONG: An adverb meaning ‘thoughout’ contains a reversal of the Latin abbreviation meaning ‘say’ or ‘for instance’

30a    One participating in round-up about Suffolk or Lincoln? (6,6)
COLLIE BORDER: A cryptic definition. Suffolk and Lincoln are types of sheep


1d    Put out message in clubs — opening time delayed as late as possible (7)
EXTINCT: A message of the type most commonly used these days, IN from the clue and the card abbreviation for clubs. Then move the opening occurrence of the abbreviation for time to the end (delayed as late as possible)

2d    Great Scott, finally everybody is together (4)
TALL: The last letter (finally) of Scott together with another word for everybody

3d    One misses ball bearings recently stolen (3,4)
AIR SHOT: Some bearings or posturings, plus a 3-letter adjective meaning ‘recently stolen’

4d    Technique in court smart — moral flaw overturned (7)
TOPSPIN: Reversal (overturned) of words meaning smart and ‘moral flaw’ (I had to check both in Chambers!)

5d    Run one? (4)
RACE: The abbreviation for run and one in cards

6d    Wild money-changing securing bric-a-brac (7)
AGITATO: A music term. A 4-letter word for money-changing contains a 3-letter word for bric-a-brac

7d    They may serve general support duties. That’s about right (5,8)
STAFF OFFICERS: A support or prop plus duties or functions, about the abbreviation for right

8d    What could be generated by working rickety engine (7,6)
KINETIC ENERGY: An anagram (working) of RICKETY ENGINE

14d    Laugh about grabbing tense canine, for one (5)
TOOTH: A reversal (about) of a laugh contains (grabbing) the abbreviation for tense

15d    Chief investigator ultimately cracking handwriting (5)
FIRST: The last (ultimately) letter in investigator is inserted into (cracking) an informal word for handwriting

19d    Try getting album released up-front — a pain (7)
LUMBAGO: A 2-letter word for try but first (up-front) an anagram (released) of ALBUM

20d    Examiner for each employer (7)
PERUSER: A word meaning ‘for each’ plus a word for employer

21d    Make citizen’s arrest of old woman grabbing girl over ring (4,1,2)
HAVE A GO: A 3-letter old woman contains the reversal of a girl’s name, the the letter that looks like a ring

22d    Shellfish muscle unique (7)
ABALONE: A stomach muscle plus a word meaning unique

26d    Briefly jest about master (4)
LORD: The reversal (about) of a 5-letter word for jest without the last letter (briefly)

27d    Animal impression (4)
SEAL: Two meanings. The first has flippers, the second can involve wax

I think my favourite today was the charge for throwing party (21a) – which clues did you like?

28 comments on “Toughie 2868

  1. Very enjoyable – thanks to Sparks and Dutch.
    I did spot the 4-part Nina without any prompting – I must be improving.
    Ticks went to 16a, 21a, 28a and 7d.

  2. Tough but not that tough [say4*]. I think 21a is a bit iffy – I see what he means but…
    On the other hand there are some lovely clues like 10a, 16a and 1d, the latter 2 with cleverly disguised definitions.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for the blog and the parsing of 4d [I suspected as much but couldn’t be bothered to wade thro Chambers for 2 in a single clue]
    NINA? – ah yes!

  3. 21 d was my favourite in a crossword I didn’t quite manage to finish unaided.
    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  4. Likewise, not an unaided finish but at least I didn’t have to unveil any Click here!s. Many thanks to Dutch for the assistance and to Sparks for the 5* brain exercise.

  5. All went in correctly but needed google to parse 6d and 17a, with 4d remaining unparsed. I see a couple of words but I think the Nina has also passed me by.

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

  6. I thought this a very enjoyable and surprisingly gentle Toughie for a Friday. Did not see the very clever Nina until it was too late – had I done so it woud have saved me a lot of grief with my LOI, 12a. Still don’t understand the connection between the wordplay of 21a and the answer – and the BRB appears to be no help in this regard. However generally super clueing thoughout, and among many nominees for the podium were 10a, 17a, 30a, 1d and 14d (I’d never try to grab our rescue canine when he’s tense though, I value my unbroken skin!).

    4* / 3.5*

    Many thanks indeed to Sparks, and of course to Dutch for explaining the couple of my answers that I could not parse!

    1. 21a If the charge for mailing something is postage and the charge for transporting something is haulage then potentially the charge for throwing a party might be …

  7. Tough.
    Much parsing help needed and even then some were stretched.
    As usual missed the Nina.
    After my comment yesterday the singular abbreviation for the rectus abdominis is here again!
    I’ll have to accept it with good grace.
    Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch. Without the pictures and cartoons the blog seemed uncharacteristically plain. Shows how much they are appreciated.

  8. Enjoyed this a lot, despite making rather heavy weather of it. Not “surprisingly gentle” for me, but a proper Friday workout, struggling with several clues – most of which then turned out to be favourites, including 21a and 28a.
    One slight gripe remains, though – in 12a the answer is the second half of quite a few words, and so to me the wordplay seemed a little bit … imprecise? Probably a bit unfair of me though, and the contribution to the Nina (which I missed originally, of course) should allow a little leeway I guess!
    In 1d, I had the definition as “as late as possible”, with the communication type as a verb (“put out message”) and the instruction simply “opening time delayed”.
    Many thanks Sparks and Dutch.

    1. 1d The first two meanings for ‘extinct’ in the BRB are ‘put out’ and ‘extinguished’ so I think Dutch has got the definition correct.

      1. Oh yes, no quibble with Dutch’s parsing – especially as it’s the verbatim BRB definition, I’m quite sure that was the intended way! Just that I’d come to the answer a different way.

    2. Please don’t think I was being flippant, Fez – still undeniably a Toughie in my books, and the most challenging of the week, but for me not quite as brain-mangling as Friday Toughies can be, sometimes.

      1. No didn’t think it at all flippant, just was a different experience for me … though agree not quite Elgar-level!

  9. Not as tough as Elgar, but a very enjoyable challenge. I needed Dutch’s help (for which many thanks) for a few parsings (court = nip, does it?), and coming here has reminded me to look for a Nina, which I shall now do… Ha! Found it. Nice. (I toyed with ‘first seal lord’ for a bit, but then I slapped some sense into myself and there it was.)

    Super fun, thanks to Sparks. Dutch, I hope your computer problems rectify themselves. Few things are more tiresome than failing IT.

  10. For some reason (possibly that I can’t count correctly!) I was expecting an Elgar today so had put the paper aside but realised later in the day that it was actually Sparky’s dad on parade. After much toiling and a couple of hints from Dutch, I finally made sense of it all but then had to backtrack to find the Nina. Thank goodness the bit in the south was relatively easy to find!
    Top three here were 18a plus 3&21d.

    Thanks to Sparks for the challenge and to Dutch for his invaluable help.

  11. Quite a challenge but an enjoyable one. Missed the Nina of course.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

      1. Hi Big Dave, the underlined links to the solutions are dead. No response when clicked on. Happens with iPhone and iPad, Chrome and Safari. Previously no problems.

        1. to get the answer, click on the spoiler button that says “click here” at the start of the hint. You confused me when you said ‘underlined’. The definitions are highlighted by underlining, but these are not links.

  12. As usual, I didn’t start this until late yesterday and finished it today. I filled the grid but needed some help wit the parsing. I didn’t see the Nina until alerted to it but that in the southern part reminded me of an item in ‘That Was the Week, That Was’ (I think) in which it was complained that news items were too often accompanied by an over-abundance of illustrations. They then referred to Lord Privy Seal and showed a picture of a lord, a picture of a privy and a picture of a seal.

  13. Picked this up way after publication day, shouldn’t have bothered, way above my pay grade, even with full electronics and the hints, I only managed about half.
    I salute all those clever enough to unravel this minefield and remain in awe of Sparks and Dutch, whom I thank for exercising my brain cells.

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