Toughie 2877 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2877

Toughie No 2877 by Serpent

Hints and tips by StephenL

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

Toughie Setters this week
Wednesday Django. Thursday Beam. Friday Elgar

Hello everyone from a cloudy South Devon. Tuesday rolls by again and we have the pleasure of a cracking Serpent puzzle to kick off the Toughie week. We certainly haven’t been “eased” in as I found the puzzle decidedly tricky. It was only when writing the hints that I fully appreciated its cleverness though.


Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a Where deal might be made with noted philosopher (7)
SAWMILL:   Deal here is a type of wood. Start with a synonym of noted or observed. Append an eminent English philosopher and Member of Parliament born in 1806.

5a This part of plant receives orders to supply special delivery (4,3)
LILY PAD.  This is a compound anagram. Remove the letters that spell out “receives” from “special delivery” and you are left with an anagram of the solution. Thank you Cryptic Sue!

9a Their vital bank contributions are well received by everyone (9,6)
UNIVERSAL DONORS: The bank here is a blood bank. The solution refers to people with a blood type that has the least risk of an adverse reaction in those receiving it.

10a Some teachers could be a pain in the neck (4)
ACHE: Hidden in the clue (some)

11a Fantastic American piece about cuts (5)
GREAT: An American weapon or piece is “cut” by a preposition meaning about.

12a Copies part of church running east west (4)
APES: A recess in a church has the abbreviation for East moved one place to the left.

15a Town square briefly quiet in the morning (7)
EVESHAM: Remove the last letter of a synonym of square in the sense of level. Add an informal exclamation to keep quiet and the usual two letters indicating the period before noon.

16a Range of colours sure to include trace of light blue (7)
YELLOWS: A 3-letter affirmative goes around the abbreviation for Light and a synonym of blue in the sense of miserable.

17a Like recycled tin cans? (7)
STANNIC: Anagram (recycled) of the following two words, giving an extended definition.

19a Yahoo admits leak damaged growth of branch (3,4)
OAK LEAF: A synonym of yahoo in the traditional sense goes around (admits) an anagram (damaged) of LEAK. Most apposite as I think Yahoo was down this morning.

21a Frank   not to   start   competition anyone can enter (4)
OPEN: A very crafty quadruple definition comprising words 1 plus 2&3 plus 4 plus 5 to 8.

22a Objects to attitude ignoring terms of fine print
MINDS: Take an attitude and remove the last letters (terms) of the words finE and prinT.

23a Award initially overlooked evidence of harm (4)
SCAR: Remove the first letter of an award given to a pretentious luvvie at an annual bore fest.

26a Mean, idiotic church banning one entertaining writer, almost (4,2,9)
NEAR AS NINEPENCE: This rather dated synonym is obtained thus. A synonym of idiotic or stupid after removing the letter that represents one plus the abbreviation for Church of England go around (entertaining) a writing implement. Append the result to a synonym of mean in the sense of tight.


27a Hide writing table belonging to old dons (7)
DOESKIN: A writing or office table plus a preposition that could mean “belonging to” “don” or go around the abbreviation for Old.

28a Treatment of allergy for the majority (7)
LARGELY: Anagram (treatment of) ALLERGY.


1d Wise to limit commute with no second-class adult fare (7)
SAUSAGE: A synonym of wise goes around (to limit) a form of transport used as a verb without the letter indicating “second class” and the abbreviation for Adult from the clue.

2d Descriptive statistic revised where data give incomplete information (8,7)
WEIGHTED AVERAGE: Anagram (revised) of the following three words plus some information without its last letter

3d Liberal abandons best conceivable plan (4)
IDEA: Remove the abbreviation for Liberal from synonym of best.

4d Period drama regularly featuring upper-class oppressed by desire (7)
LUSTRUM: Start with a synonym of (sexual) desire. Below it (oppressed) add regular letters of dRaMa which are placed around the abbreviation for Upper class.

5d Dance during Christmas period mainly served up music unsuitable for the occasion (7)
LULLABY: Place a formal dance inside a Christmas period minus its last letter. Reverse (served up) the result. I guess the music is unsuitable for a Christmas dance

6d Butcher’s left with no pork every so often (4)
LOOK: The abbreviation for Left and the alternate letters of nO pOrK. The definition is Cockney rhyming slang.

7d Shoe shop starts to rile customers, foolishly charging money for shine (15)
PHOSPHORESCENCE: Anagram (foolishly) of SHOE SHOP plus the initial letters of Rile and Customers all inside (charging) a small quantity of money.

8d Leaves off sides and tops of small trees are variegated (7)
DESISTS: Anagram (are variegated) of SIDES and the initial letters of Small Trees.

13d Some growth in knowledge is deliberate (5)
THINK: Deliberate here is a verb and the answer is hidden in the clue using the same indicator as 10a!

14d IKEA rotated 50 lines with identical features (5)
ALIKE: insert the Roman numeral for 50 into an anagram (rotated) of IKEA.

17d Felt contempt for Sun’s top journalist ringing my number (7)
SCORNED: The first letter of Sun’s (top) plus the usual abbreviation for a journalist go around (ringing) and exclamation meaning “my” in a sense of surprise and the abbreviation for Number.

18d Feature controlling opening of gate on elevated section of locks (7)
CHIGNON: Start with a facial feature. Place it around (controlling) the opening letter of Gate and add On from the clue.

19d Exam containing new papers returned first, perhaps (7)
ORDINAL: One of crosswordland’s favourite exams goes around a reversal of the abbreviation for New and some personal papers

20d Illicit reproduction beneficial to heartless upper classes (7)
FORGERY: Start with a 3-letter preposition that could mean beneficial to. Add some upper class people (apparently those just below nobility) after removing the middle two letters.

24d Cistern smelt awful without lid (4)
TANK: Remove the first letter of the past tense of a verb meaning to smell bad.

25d Return blows (4)
SPARS: The blows here are punches between boxers.

I particularly liked the relatively concise 16, 22&27a plus 6,17and 20d but it was all top notch.


26 comments on “Toughie 2877
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  1. Serpent is one of my favourite setters and he didn’t disappoint with this splendid Toughie. As usual, he hid a Nina in the grid although this one was easier to find that some of his previous ones

    Thanks to Serpent for a fine crossword and to Stephen for the blog

  2. Blimey, this is a real Toughie and no mistake (and on a Tuesday too). Thanks to Serpent for the high level of enjoyment and to StephenL for the blog. Nice Nina too.

    I took 21a to be a quadruple definition with the very cunning ‘not to’ (not closed) being one of them.

    My ticks went to 9a, 16a, 21a and 18d (‘elevated section of locks’ – brilliant!).

  3. I found that a properly tough Toughie, a good lunchtime challenge. While there were several bung-ins I could not parse, there was only one unparsed where I was not entirely convinced my answer was correct (22a), so I was mightily relieved to see Stephen’s similar solution. Only the Roman period was new to me, but the clues were so very cleverly pieced together that while in some puzzles one comments afterwards “I don’t know why I found this so difficult”, that is certainly not the case with this grid.

    I think 21a is a quadruple definition: Frank; not to (as in ajar); start; competition (etc). It’s my COTD but the clues really were quite brilliant throughout. 25d comes close, and in 17d I initially had at least three possible answers beginning and ending with the right letters that all meant “felt contempt for” … that the clue included The Sun was just a bonus!

    4* / 4.5*

    Anyway, many thanks indeed to Serpent for the super puzzle, and to StephenL.

    1. Spent so long typing that Gazza beat me to noting the quadruple. Didn’t notice the Nina – I’d been looking for letter combinations and failed entirely to see the linked words. V clever indeed, and would have removed my doubts on 22a had I been more observant!

  4. I have a feeling that the philosopher referred to in 1a is John Stuart Mill, a very English philosopher, and my favourite among the great Victorian thinkers. Well, I struggled mightily with this exceptionally fine Serpent last night, and was well and truly beaten by its mastery…though I came close on a third pass just before posting this. Have long forgotten the expression in 26a but managed to dig it up. Not so for others, though. Too many sterling clues to pick favourites. I did notice that 21a was a 4-way definition, though. Thanks to StephenL and Serpent.

    1. Later: I cannot find the expression in 26a on Google or Bing anywhere. Can anyone help me with it? All that emerges is either ‘neat’ or ‘nice’. And also: SL, which American philosopher do you refer to in 1a?

      1. Robert….JSM was indeed the philosopher to whom I was referring. I don’t know why I labeled him as being born on your side of the pond but I’ve altered that reference.

      2. Hi Robert, the 26a expression is listed in the BRB along with another couple of phrases which apparently all mean ‘very nearly’. Can’t say that I’ve ever come across it although one of the others ‘near as dammit’ is certainly familiar.

  5. That was certainly in the Toughie camp. Bung ins filled the grid. Sheer grit, determination and StephenL did the rest. Thanks to Serpent for the real tussle and to StephenL for putting his big boy pants on and squaring up to Serpent

  6. Certainly a couple of notches above the usual Tuesday toughie for difficulty,thanks SL for the parsing of 5a which eluded me.
    Not heard of 26a before,bit of a bung in!
    A ****/****for me ,favourite were 1a and 9a.
    Many thanks to our setter for a cracking puzzle.

  7. Don’t think I’ll ever be on this setter’s wavelength but I struggle on. Of the ones I solved unaided my top three were 1,15&19a.

    Thanks to Serpent and to Stephen for the review – nice pic of 18d, my attempts never looked that neat!

    1. I know you will be as excited as we are to learn that we have turtle doves living in a hedgerow just down the road

      1. Wow. We had one that visited for an afternoon in Downtown L I. It couldn’t take the hedonistic lifestyle and moved on. They’ve not been seen since, like our solitary couckoos that visit occasionally

  8. I love Serpent, and just popped in (a) to say that – thank you Serpent – and (b) to check that it wasn’t just me that thought this was a proper Toughie, and not a Tuesday Floughie. Glad there is broad agreement about this. Of course as usual I forgot to look for a Nina, so I shall do that now. Oh, four two-word phrases – is that it?

  9. Had this excellent Toughie been published on a Thursday or Friday I would not have been surprised at the time it took to solve it. That does not detract from the enjoyment and the exacting challenges it posed; first rate entertainment. Hard to pick a single clue for praise but I will nominate 18d.

    My thanks to Serpent and SL.

  10. Way too difficult for the likes of me really but having invested far too much time in the puzzle I felt duty bound to fight on to the end. At the 3rd stab I eventually succumbed to 3 letter checker reveals which got me to within 7d of a finish then sneaked a crafty peek at Stephen’s underlining to check I was looking for the right synonym & that penny dropped. More bung ins than are permissible at a local refuse disposal facility but at least it’s a completed grid.
    Thanks to Serpent & to Stephen who I’m sure will make sense of it for me.

  11. Needed the hints to parse 5a, 21a, 22a and 26a also 17a, 4d and 18d were new words for me and 26a was a guess as it was the only thing that remotely made sense. So all in all very difficult, doesn’t augur well for the rest of the week. We’ve had the philosopher in 1a recently and I remembered him so it becomes my favourite. Thanks to Serpent and SL for the explanations.

  12. A much tougher Toughie than we are used to seeing on a Tuesday but we did manage to eventually get it all sorted, even the new to us expression in 26a.
    Thanks Serpent and SL.

  13. A bit late to the party [it’s been one of those days] but must say what a stupendous piece of work this is. Took a while to crack and it’s getting on but I couldn’t put it down. Favourites were 12a, 21a [a tour-de-force in itself] and 25d.
    Many thanks Serpent and SL for the blog.

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