Sunday Toughie 20 (Hints) – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Sunday Toughie 20 (Hints)

Sunday Toughie No 20 by proXimal

Hints and Tips by Sloop John Bee

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After Friday’s relatively easy X less pangram, I was expecting a sterner test today, and boy did I get it. This took at least 3 times longer than Friday’s proXimal most of it spent staring at answers and reverse parsing them. I admit that the first word of 9a remains unparsed. I can explain the head part, but is he a twin or just a bad chef. Over to your good selves to help out. Anyway, this blog isn’t going to write itself so here goes…

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! I think that sentence is a bit redundant. You have all been so helpful in sorting out prior failures of parsing and I am sure I will need similar help again.

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.


7a Write account with one engulfed by many approvals (14)
These approvals are written, starting with the act or creator of writing, a savings account that allows savings to accrue tax-free, and the letter that looks like one, engulfed by a synonym of many.

13a Presenting teacher afraid of forgetting article (10)
I present to you an abbreviated university teacher, and a synonym of afraid that has lost its indefinite article.

The Yorkshire Dales, A Breakfast Debacle, Some Intriguing Clogs and a Cover Reveal! - Sharon Booth Author.


17a Vengeance by a revolutionary infiltrating group (7)
Revolve the two little words and infiltrate them into a group of hounds perhaps.

20a This writer had regularly discarded clues not working (4)
How the writer might contract I had, and what is left of clues after regular letters have been discarded.

21a Throb with marks being tender once (5,5)
A throb in the temples when one is struggling to parse something perhaps, and the marks you make on paper to help remind you of things ceased to be legal tender on the 11th March 1988.

25a Saving wine depleted after editor’s abandoned working (10)
A wine of a particular colour and a synonym of depleted abandons its terminal ed and attaches itself to a synonym of working.

28a Repaired a cut lip, covering wound with one of medicinal preparations (14)
Another wound or injury and the one from a deck of cards goes in (covering)an anagram (repaired) of the first injury in the clue.




1d Nettle with grains male put in party dish (7,3,4)
My first thought when I saw this was who would serve this at a party, but I recall that the disgraced author/politician Jeffrey Archer was known for his parties, where Shepherd’s Pie and Krug Champagne were the order of the day. In this clue, party is not part of the definition as we need it to go around the rest of the wordplay. A synonym of nettle, as in to irritate a lot. the grains you may find on a beach and the letter suggested by male, all go in the colloquial party.

3d Half of capital raised for one (4)
My first thought was ‘I am only raising a quarter of this Scandinavian capital’, but as it is a down clue. half raised can also mean reverse the first half, so I did.

Why Oslo is the best city in Europe for long summer nights


5d Straight-faced comic with vanishing act amazingly visionary (3-7)
An extraction anagram, the first two words are anagrammed (comic) after act has vanished. Amazingly could be part of the definition, but I think I need to use it to indicate that act is not extracted whole from the fodder.




8d Under no circumstances con everyone (3,3,3,5)
Con here indicates against as in against the proposal in a debate perhaps, that produces the first two words of the answer. Everyone indicates the entire planetary population. The whole is something that shows there are no circumstances by which you could be persuaded to undertake a task.

14d Fabrication engineers picked up drilled building material (10)
A fabrication or lie, the Royal Engineers and a homonym of a synonym of drilled create a building material.

15d English lark above duck in low flight path (6,4)
Quite a bit of lego is required here. Start with E for English and a synonym for feeling low, insert a lark or spree and the letter that duck represents in cricket. Flight makes me think of an airborne route but it is just a way to flee danger when brakes fail on a steep descent perhaps.

The tragedy of Blue Bank – The Countryman's Daughter

I am due to give another hint to reach the half-hint target I aim for but I will credit you with the ability to mark your own efforts at 27d, you need to recall the number you use to access your cash at an ATM for 22d and the first word of 19d is the definition, while the last is the definition in 26d. Check your spelling competitions for 23a and the “family” man in 24a probably drinks 6d whilst he puts a horse’s head in your bed.


Today’s music is a different interpretation of a Bob Marley Classic.

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14 comments on “Sunday Toughie 20 (Hints)

  1. A really enjoyable proper Toughie from proXimal – thanks to him and SJB for the hints.
    I had lots of ticks from which I’ll just mention 9a, 21a, 24a and 4d.
    The first word of the 9a answer is a slang word for a bomb or mine.

    1. Thanks Gazza, I stared at the answer for ages without that penny dropping. The best I could come up with was a chef who couldn’t make mayonnaise.

    2. Thanks from me as well, Gazza. I have meanwhile discovered the ingredients of bird’s nest soup and I don’t think I’ll be bothering with it………..

  2. Last week’s NTSPP was characterised by “It must be that because that’s what the clue says, even though I’ve never heard of it”. Today’s Toughie was quite the opposite, where I was coming up with answers from checkers and definitions then spending most of the solving time trying to parse them! There are still a couple where 2 or 3 letter components have a query against them, and a third I was going to investigate further until your picture hint for 16a popped up and I realised I had pencilled in the wrong ‘obstruction’… doh!
    I had come across the 9a ‘mine’ previously in an archive puzzle so that one didn’t raise any queries this time around. My favourites today were the ‘simple but elegant’ 12a, the misleading 17a, the smooth-surfaced 4d, the nicely constructed 5d and the smile-inducing 22d. Thanks to proXimal for an enjoyable puzzle and to SJB for his insightful hints (and subsequent review).

  3. Similar experience to that of Spartacus except for the fact that a few of my answers were slotted in just on the basis of enumeration and guesswork!
    Nice of proXimal to give our blogger a name check.

    Thanks to our setter and to JB for the sweated labour.

    1. I thought so too. He even acknowledged that we share the initials SJB. I wonder if we are both John?

  4. I did manage a very satisfying finish last night but only because I was forced to bung in the ‘minehead’ answer, having no idea where that egg came from, so thanks to Gazza for that clarification. Really enjoyed this nice Toughie, with 8d my COTD followed by just about all of the three- and four-letter clues. Those ‘cows’ who were adrift in the meadows of my mind in 19d finally found some place to rest as my LOI. Thanks to SJB and proXimal.

  5. I can rarely complete a Toughie and am well aware they are usually above my pay grade. But occasionally, when the setter is particularly benevolent, I do pretty well. Having solved a total of four answers on my own today, and not able to even understand the hints, clearly I should have been satisfied with the backpager. You can’t win them all. Thanks to proXimal for making me think, and Sloop John Bee.

    1. Keep trying, my solving has come on leaps and bounds since starting these.

  6. A proper Toughie indeed I’d say…

    It’s been commented on before but when I start a proXimal puzzle, I’m almost certain that there’ll be no obscurities which pushes me on to the finish. However, there will be, for me, a few leaps of faith and reverse engineering to ensure my ‘guess’ / answer is correct which may not be a completely pure method of solving cryptics but regardless, a completed grid is what we seek….

    An enjoyable tussle with thanks to SJB and proXimal – great puzzle.

  7. You changed your identity so we wouldn’t get confused. Well, all I can say is that there is no chance of that today. I managed one clue and one, ‘perhaps “. My admiration knows no bounds!

    1. As I said to Busy Lizzie, keep trying, even I don’t get them all like 9a but someone will always be able to fill in the gaps. (Thanks Gazza). I am quite enjoying the name change as I get to share initials with proXimal. He too deserves admiration for the ability to set such diverse puzzles as Friday’s 30,010 and this one.

  8. Sloop John Bee – is the image at 15d a photograph of the road down to Whitby from the Moors?

    1. It is, sorry I didn’t reply sooner but I missed your comment in a blizzard of spam. It is indeed Blue Bank above Whitby.

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