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Toughie 2900

Toughie No 2900 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Sparks gives us a fun pangram today

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Head of Playboy almost sacking cover model? (5)
PEARL: The first letter (head) of Playboy plus a 6-letter word meaning almost without the outer letters (sacking cover)

4a    Hitter hit fans of a Cardinal (9)
THIRTIETH: An anagram (fans) of HITTER HIT. Cardinal here is a number

9a    Musicians beam in bars (9)
BANJOISTS: A 5-letter beam goes inside a verb meaning bars

10a    Plant, not in a bed, swamped by endless heather (5)
LUPIN: If you’re not in bed you are **, surround that (swamped) by a 4-letter word for heather without the last letter (endless)

11a    Obstinate compiler has all others going first (7)
RESTIVE: A (1’2) way for Sparks to say ‘compiler has’ but going first we have a word meaning ‘all others’

12a    Frisky body about to welcome naked clique (7)
AMOROUS: The reversal (about) of a 4-letter word meaning the body contains (to welcome) a 5-letter clique or a set of people without the outer letters (naked)

13a    For Her Majesty, I start to seek the other lost kingdom (6)
WESSEX: How her Majesty would say I, the first letter (start) to seek, and the word for which ‘the other’ is a euphemism

15a    Following composition, Elgar hid a top pupil (4,4)
HEAD GIRL: An anagram (following composition) of ELGAR HID

18a    One very close to Samuel Slack? (4,4)
SOUL MATE: An anagram (slack) of TO SAMUEL

20a    Rating former monarch to whom sisters answer (6)
ABBESS: An abbreviation for a rating or sailor and the nickname of a former monarch

23a    US city worker into almost all maps (7)
ATLANTA: A 6-legged worker goes into a set of maps without the last letter (almost all)

24a    After appearing here you may turn up late (3,4)
HIT LIST: A cryptic definition, the kind of thing the mob might keep

26a    Impromptu party outside hotel hosted by Bill? (2,3)
AD HOC: A 2-letter party goes outside the abbreviation for hotel, and the result goes inside (hosted by) an abbreviation for a bill

27a    Go west with artist, an expert in fare-reduction? (9)
DIETITIAN: A verb with the euphemism ‘go west’ and an Italian painter

28a    Quiet, sort of spongy garden area? (9)
SHRUBBERY: An interjection meaning quiet or hush plus a word meaning ‘sort of spongy’

29a    Girl guide’s beginning novel (5)
GEMMA: The first letter (beginning) of guide plus a novel by Jane Austen


1d    Moving sessions? (3-6)
PUB-CRAWL: A cryptic definition. These sessions tend to involve beer in several locations

2d    Gibes averting tense relations (5)
AUNTS: A 6-letter word meaning gibes or teases losing (averting) the initial abbreviation for time

3d    Glorify position just after fizz regularly quaffed (7)
LIONIZE: A 3-letter verb meaning to position contains (quaffed) a preposition that can mean ‘just after’ (definition 18 in Chambers) plus the even (regular) letters in fizz

4d    Hanging inferior artefact’s frame upside down (6)
TASSEL: A reversal (upside down) of a word meaning inferior plus the outer letters (frame) of artefact

5d    Following inspiration after vacation, engineer passed to a high degree (2,6)
IN SPADES: The outer letters (after vacation) of inspiration plus an anagram (engineer) of PASSED

6d    Prefect perhaps chasing permit picked up somewhere in Shropshire (7)
TELFORD: A car that could be a Prefect follows (chasing) the reversal (picked up) of a verb meaning allow

7d    Liberal drip taken apart in revelation that’s dynamite (9)
EXPLOSIVE: The abbreviation for liberal plus a drip you get in hospital are separately entered into (taken apart in) a word meaning revelation (with an accent on the last E)

8d    Such influences may follow bloody minute change (5)
HANDS: The answer can be used in phrases following bloody, minute, or change

14d    It’s meant to crush Hercules, beaten without question (9)
SQUELCHER: An anagram (beaten) of HERCULES goes around (without) the single letter abbreviation for question

16d    Liner in a suit damaged — note written about it (9)
LUSITANIA: An anagram (damaged) of IN A SUIT goes inside a note in the do re mi scale

17d    Stand either side of hurdle, by the way (8)
STRADDLE: A bar between uprights used as a hurdle follows the abbreviation for a kind of road

19d    About to stop exchange of British car in service, as called for? (7)
MINICAB: The 2-letter Latin abbreviation for about goes in between (to stop) a make of (little) car and the abbreviation for British – except these two have been swapped around (exchange of). Not sure what happened here, but click for pic.

21d    In time, diminishing externally (7)
BATTING: The abbreviation for time has around it (externally) a word meaning diminishing

22d    Irreverent church that’s terrifying laity at last (6)
CHEEKY: The abbreviation for church, an interjection meaning “that’s terrifying” and the last letter in laity

23d    Store offering adult service (5)
AMASS: The abbreviation for adult and a church service

25d    Setter had set on island, in a manner of speaking (5)
IDIOM: The (1’1) way Sparks would say ‘setter had’ plus the abbreviation for an island in the Irish Sea

I liked the moving sessions and the impromptu party. The adult service was intriguing. Which clues were your favourites?

37 comments on “Toughie 2900

  1. Very enjoyable puzzle – thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

    Congratulations seem to be in order as the grid appears to be celebrating a 30th wedding anniversary. I’m sure that there are several related entries including (possibly?) the name of Mrs Sparks at 29a.

    The clues I liked best were 13a, 24a and 1d.

    1. Oh, good spot! If you are right, then very warmest congratulations to Mrs and Mrs S.

    2. ah, well spotted! maybe Sparks will drop in and let us know the significance of some of the grid entries

  2. Very good fun indeed. Grid filled in pretty quickly but with one or two parsings slightly unsure – thanks to Dutch for clarifications. I confess I did not remember the 18th definition of the relevant preposition in 3d, and the hurdle in 7d escaped me, though the answer was obvious. I am just left wondering about the identity of the model in 1a. I thought she was a singer, not a model…?

    And for once, I spotted a likely pangram in time for it to be actually useful – hoorah!

    Many thanks of course to Sparks for a relatively gentle but super-fun Friday puzzle.

  3. I found this on the gentler end of the spectrum for a Friday, but it was testing enough with some fine, innovative clueing. 7d and 22d were particular favourites, although my COTD was 1d. Special mention for 6d as we live on the outlying fringes of the council area.

    Many thanks to Sparks for the fun challenge, and to Dutch.

  4. A nice Friday Toughie and it soon became obvious that Mr and Mrs Kelmanson are celebrating a special anniversary. Congratulations to them :rose:

  5. A friend came over for lunch today so I haven’t had chance to look at this one as yet, it will be my evening treat.
    Just wanted to pop in to wish my fellow Leo a very happy birthday – hope you’ve got something nice planned for this evening?

    1. Oh wow Jane, thank you! It’s tomorrow. My son is in Edinburgh and my daughter is in Crete, but I hope to have a few beers with some friends tomorrow night. And likewise, lioness xx

      1. Yes – I’ve got it down as 6th but made a note to mention it on your Friday blog. Sadly, the aged brain ran away with itself instead of properly decoding what I’d written! Enjoy your ‘few beers’………….

  6. It seems to me that the construction of 23D is in the form {DEFINITION providing WORDPLAY}, which, I thought, is generally frowned upon, and that a clue incorporating a link word of the “creating/giving/leading to” type should properly take the form of {WORDPLAY link DEFINITION}. Am I interpreting the clue wrongly, or are both these sorts of construction permissible in Telegraph puzzles?

    1. Thanks, I love comments like this. You are absolutely right that a link should have the directionality of “wordplay producing definition”, not “definition producing wordplay”. But the link here is “offering”. I suppose you could read this as “the answer offers a + mass”. Shades of gray. You will see more blatant transgressions with some other compilers.

    2. I found this very tough – the usual 5* Friday and failed to parse 19d having decided that the car was in the definition. Favourites were 7d [the cunning “taken apart”] the garden area in 28a and 13a [the other is always good for a snigger].
      Thanks to Sparks and to Dutch for the blog.

    3. The DT gave up on the niceties of Ximinean clueing years ago. However there was never anything wrong with clues such as 23d where SOLUTION consists of WORDPLAY.

      1. Thanks, Dutch and Halcyon. I agree that it’s entirely a question of what “offering” means. I don’t think, however, that any of the definitions given in Chambers give much support to the interpretation of “consists of” (which would, of course, be fine if it did). One of the meanings of “offer” given in the ODE is “provide”, which takes me back to where I started. I think Dutch is perhaps being a little generous, although I am sure he is right to say that there is much worse out there. There is some useful stuff on the website of the late (and much lamented) Alberich about link words which was written in response to some exchanges he had with Mark Kelmanson, and if the professor drops in to look at this blog today it would be interesting to have his take on this clue.

  7. Delighted to have ‘finished’ this sparkling Sparks Toughie with a good number of bung-ins and some electronic (letter) assists (for me, where Friday toughies are concerned, anything that gets me across the line is fair game), so many thanks to Dutch for all the help parsing my bung-ins. While I long for an immaculate inning (a baseball, not a cricket, reference) on a Friday Toughie, I’m very happy to have a full grid. So many clues to pick from for the best, but 27a is my favourite of the moment. Cheers, Dutch–and Happy Birthday tomorrow!–and thanks too to Sparks.

  8. First, thanks very much Dutch for the super blog and to commenters for their warm wishes on the correctly spotted theme!

    Re the discussion @ 23dn, I’d view the definition “offering, v.t. = laying before someone” as a bidirectional equality indicator signifying either {AMASS laying before you A MASS} or {A MASS laying before you AMASS}. But “providing, v.t. = supplying, yielding” is _by_convention_ (not mine!) unidirectional, hence the accepted avoidance of {D for WP} in clues. Since my very experienced (mega-picky and fastidious) testers and the forensic crossword editor didn’t criticise the clue, I can only guess that they all parsed it in the same, intended way.

    Thanks again for the pearly wishes.

    PS When did it stop being possible to italicise or to embolden comments on this blog?

    1. Thank you sparks for dropping in and the warmest of congratulations. I am wondering if there is significance to Telford, , pub crawl, dietician, Pearl, etc.
      I won’t ask about straddle.

      1. No significance to any of those :) Happy birthday Dutch, and it’ll be happy anniversary to my old Dutch ;)

      1. Gotcha, Gazza . I got soft in my old age, looking for buttons :D But the old html m/o for underlining no longer seems to work?

      2. Ah. Old way has been deprecated, but even if I try the “span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>new way” for underlining it doesn’t seem to work :(

          1. That’s exactly what I tried Gazza … using “leftangle_u_rightangle” to open and “leftangle_forwardslash_u_rightangle” to close. I just did it on your name and it didn’t work!

      1. Thanks Mr Fish. One of my testers tonight saw this thread and just messaged me the following comment, which I think perfectly sums up what is safely outside Dutch’s “shades of grey”: “FWIW, I think {D offering/producing etc WP} is OK if the WP is a simple charade. For anything more complex, nah.” Basically, he’s expressed in a nutshell the bidirectional equating of juxtaposed strings that I, testers and the editor obviously had in mind.

        And thanks Gazza, though the attached screenshot shows that the source code of your comment at Big Dave’s site has a forward slash! That’s me well and truly confused!

        1. Sorry – I think I had a senior moment. It is, of course, a forward slash that’s required.

  9. Finally got this one completed but not without several hiccoughs along the way. Fortunately, the wisdom of Dutch made light out of my areas of darkness!
    Podium places for 9&28A along with 5,21&22d.

    Many thanks to Sparks (I hardly dare ask but is Sparky still grumbling on?) and to Dutch for his oft needed assistance.

    1. Thanks Jane. Sparky still trundling on — weaker, older, more than a bit deaf, partially sighted, fewer teeth, assorted meds — but still reverts to puppydom when food surfaces. Bless his tiny legs. :)

  10. the last three or four answers stretched the time considerably for us but eventually we got everything sorted and parsed.
    Found the pangram but missed the significance of the theme.
    A delight to solve.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  11. Unfortunately, 4A does not work because that is an ordinal number, not a cardinal. Sorry, Sparks.

    1. You’ve changed your alias so this needed moderation. Both versions will work in future’.

      The definition, as Dutch has underlined, is ‘of a Cardinal’.

      1. Alias: it has been a while, I had forgotten. Thanks.

        “of thirty” = thirtieth? I don’t see that working. You can say ‘last of thirty’ but not make the substitution; ‘last thirtieth’ has a quite different meaning. ‘One of thirty parts’, but not substitute Even ‘one of thirty’ does not work. The rephrase required spoils it. An ordinal is a sequence indicator, not a property of the cardinal.

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