Toughie 2887 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2887

Toughie No 2887 by Artix

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

Artix has given us a proper Toughie today and no mistake. There’s a theme with masses of related references in the completed grid (a couple of which only occurred to me when I was writing the blog and there may be others which I missed completely).

Many thanks to Artix for the enjoyment.

Please leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of the puzzle.

Across Clues

7a Maybe King willing one such as Napoleon … (4,4)
CARD GAME: what a king is in a pack of 52 and an adjective meaning willing or intrepid.

9a … was banished to former French island and died (6)
EXILED: string together a prefix meaning former, the French word for island and the genealogical abbreviation for died.

10a 7  for 1 (4)
SOLO: double definition. The first is a 7a which (in spite of its name) is played by four people. The answer is also the surname of ‘The Man from Uncle’ who shared a forename with today’s theme.

11a “Retro” plate way off mark initially for Blair’s book (6,4)
ANIMAL FARM: reverse a plate or thin layer and add an adjective meaning way off and the initial letter of mark. The author is of course Eric not Tony and today’s protagonist is the name of a major character in the book.

12a Hosts premiere of movie surrounded by stars (6)
ARMIES: the first letter of movie goes inside a small constellation.

14a Supreme pimp exposed American in danger (8)
IMPERIAL: start with the inner letters of pimp and add a synonym of danger containing an abbreviation for American.

15a Flash barge for city on river (6)
MOSCOW: charade of a flash or brief moment and a flat-bottomed boat give us a city that was targeted by our theme. ‘on river’ seems redundant but it helps the surface.

17a Gold coins in circulation more than once (6)
ORBITS: our usual tincture of gold and some coins.

20a Island where the lanes are windy? (2,6)
ST HELENA: an anagram (are windy) of THE LANES gives us the place where our hero was 9a.

22a Do talk on radio? This could be fine (6).
COGNAC: a double homophone, the first a verb to do or swindle and the second to talk incessantly. Fine is a French type of the answer (as is the name of today’s theme).

23a Merchant Seaman, say, pursuing quiet work (10)
SHOPKEEPER: what David Seaman was an example of follows an injunction to be quiet and our usual abbreviated artistic work.

24a Banker‘s not entirely penniless (4)
NILE: hidden in the clue is the name of a famous battle where our man’s fleet was given a thrashing by Admiral Nelson.

25a Country intended to replace Independent with Republican (6)
FRANCE: replace the abbreviation for independent in a male ‘intended person’ with that of Republican.

26a At last, action stations! (8)
WATERLOO: the last military action of our hero today. Stations are plural presumably because there’s both a main-line and underground one.

Down Clues

1d Minimal weight of octogenarian strippeuse? (8)
NANOGRAM: if you ordered a sexy message to be delivered by someone disrobing and you also specified that you wanted the artiste to be an old lady then this is what, cryptically, you might get. LOL!

2d Root taking part in mixed doubles (4)
EDDO: hidden in the clue is an alternative name for taro, a plant with a large edible root. Not a word I knew.

3d Youth recruited by special forces leaves (6)
SALADS: a youth is contained in the abbreviation used for the best known of our special forces.

4d New designer loaded paint remover into shed (8)
REVAMPER: remove ‘into’ from PAint REMoVER and make an anagram (loaded) of what remains.

5d Policemen supporting China’s changing appearance (10)
DISFORMING: weld together the abbreviation for some senior detectives, a preposition meaning supporting and a type of china or porcelain.

6d Yellow-flowering shrub? Royal couple look skywards! (6)
KERRIA: the chess abbreviation for a major royal and our Queen’s regnal cipher precede the reversal of a look or appearance. Another word I didn’t know.

8d Dictator’s use of unlawful force out … (6)
ELICIT: the answer sounds like an adjective meaning unlawful.

13d … last trio of urchins tearfully getting thinner and thinner (10)
INSWEEPING: the last three letters of urchins and an adjective meaning tearful (tearfully?) produce a present participle meaning (of a car) narrowing towards the front.

16d Astonished second in command went to capture Marshal (4-4)
OPEN-EYED: the second letter of command and a verb meaning went (in the lavatorial sense) contain the name of a French marshal (who was one of our theme’s senior officers).

18d Good man, very tired, hugging old mater? (8)
STALLION: arrange our usual abbreviated ‘good man’ and a phrase (3,2) meaning very tired contain the abbreviation for old. Mater here is something that mates.

19d Tropical fruit puds (6)
PAWPAW: a pud is an informal word for a hand.

21d Top horse failing to finish in races (1-5)
T-SHIRT: the abbreviation for the ‘races’ held on the Isle of Man contains a type of powerful horse without its finishing letter.

22d One taking orders / put on a show (6)
CURATE: double definition, the orders being holy.

24d Reject metal wrapper used in Japanese eatery (4)
NORI: reverse a hard silvery-grey metal to get a form of seaweed used as a wrapping for sushi.

I ticked 23a, 26a and 18d but my favourite clue has to be the off-the-wall 1d. Which one(s) made you chuckle?

21 comments on “Toughie 2887

  1. C’est magnifique! What a joy of a properly tough, cleverly themed, Toughie. I loved it all, but must give special mention to the octogenarian strippeuse :D

    Thank you very much indeed to both Artix and Gazza

  2. Many thanks Artix and Gazza. A really super Toughie with a brilliantly realised theme – do all the across entries have thematic connections (mostly already pointed out by Gazza, 12a & 14a obvious connections, 23a a thematic description of the English … just not sure of 17a?) 1d LOL but great clues throughout so no single favourite. 6d needed some electronic assistance as nho. Apologies to MP for the frowned-upon nit-picking on today’s back-pager – this Toughie has put me in much better humour! Thanks again!

    1. No problem with nit-picking, Fez. That’s what produces a lot of the more interesting comments.

      Artix could have used ‘droits’ for 17a – the Code Napoleon incorporated many of the rights previously expressed in ‘The Declaration of the Rights of Man’ (or is that too obscure?).

      1. Droits would have been nice, good spot – can’t help thinking we may be missing something with the actual entry though? (Would also have liked to have seen some reference to ‘Dynamite’ in the puzzle!)

      2. I did consider DROITS but went for actual answer so that the clue was effectively another thematic definition … thanks for kind comments and glad you enjoyed it!

        Today’s date is, of course, relevant too ….


        1. Thanks for dropping in, Artix, and thanks for the super puzzle. I wondered whether orbits was referring to a Nina round the periphery but couldn’t see anything – I never thought to think of the gold coins.

  3. Agreed on the toughness. I’ve started but had to leave it while I attended to bloke stuff. I’ll have another go later but thanks for your work Gazza and Artix

  4. A proper Tuffy an’ no mistake, guv. Took almost as long as Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s cryptics and toughies combined, plus I needed Gazza’s excellent (as always) assistance for a slack handful. Many thanks to the both of you.

  5. I found this very irritating……having worked out the theme before I even started, I expected to romp through and I haven’t! A real DNF if ever there was one.
    Just nitpicking, surely to us, Napoleon is not a hero? I was very glad he met his 26a!

    1. I was using hero in the sense of the chief character or protagonist in the puzzle.

  6. Re 26a, as well as the mainline and the underground, there’s also the adjoining East version, so I guess the plural stations is more than justified. Never heard 13d, but got it from the wordplay and checkers. Very enjoyable puzzle, made only a little easier when I spotted the significance of the date. Thanks to all

    1. I’d only solved the first couple of clues and then said to Mr CS that this was obviously themed for today, it being Bastille Day

  7. A very tough did not finish. The theme as usual was not twigged. Blair and Orwell always seem to be a stretch too far. Either you know it or you don’t. The Batchelor’s Buttons clue was excellent. Either you know that reference or you don’t. I’m glad it wasn’t my day to sort this out. There are only so many times you can write ‘I have no idea how this works’ Thanks to Artix and Gazza. Tomorrow is another day

  8. We found this really tricky and had to resort to revealing a couple of letters to get a completion. A most appropriate theme for the day. Think it is fair to say we ‘appreciated’ it rather than ‘enjoyed’ it.
    Thanks Artix and Gazza.

  9. Excellent crossword although I only managed to finish it this morning, with a little help in SE. I didn’t help myself by having the wrong China doing the supporting. Was expecting Marengo to make an appearance in the hints!
    Many thanks Artix, and Gazza for the signposts

  10. Finished with grim determination (because, like a certain mountain, “it was there”) courtesy of a couple of hints from here (thank you, Gazza). I can admire the skill and ability that goes into compiling such a grid (for which thank you, Artix) but my enjoyment of a puzzle is generally in inverse proportion to the extent to which it is themed, and so this was really not one to give me much pleasure.

    Definitely a Toughie though, no doubt about that whatsoever! COTD to 1d.

    5* / 1*

  11. I wondered if ‘on river’ is there because that city is on a river of the same name. Thanks to Artix for the excellent workout and Gazza for helping me finish at last.

    1. Possibly, but I think it’s more likely that ‘on river’ is there to help the surface reading. Without it ‘Flash barge for city’ is not great.

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