Toughie 2917 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2917

Toughie No 2917 by Serpent

Hints and tips by StephenL

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

Hello everyone from a blustery South Devon coast.

Serpent kicks off the Toughie week with a super puzzle that was just the ticket for a Tuesday. I completed it quite swiftly but one or two of the parsings took a little longer. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a Old college about to introduce programmes involving several language units (12)
POLYSYLLABIC: Start with an informal name for an old polytechnic college. Add an abbreviation for about and insert into the result some educational courses or programmes.

8a Do awful things to note on instrument (7)
VIOLATE: Append one of the notes of the So-Fa scale to a stringed instrument

9a Having removed source of anxiety, doctor clears up doubt (7)
SCRUPLE: Anagram (doctor) of CLE(A)RS UP after the removal of the initial letter of Anxiety.

11a Dependent on article found in literature (7)
RELIANT: A preposition meaning on or regarding plus a shortened form of the word literature which incorporates an indefinite article.

12a Spin doctor ultimately abandons threatening piece? (7)
REVOLVE: Remove the ultimate letter of doctoR from a “threatening piece”, the piece being a weapon.

13a Become confused backing up some field data (5)
ADDLE: Hidden and reversed in the clue as indicated by “some” and “backing up”

14a Brilliant deputy head obtains the highest degree, except for one student (9)
REFULGENT: Someone appointed to administer a state in the absence of a monarch “obtains” or goes around a synonym of complete (to the highest degree) minus one abbreviation for a student.

16a Foolish lady swallows dubious ruses without question (9)
ASSUREDLY: An anagram (foolish) of LADY “swallows’ or contains an anagram of (dubious) RUSES.

19a Battery connected to trace of optical instrument (5)
CELLO: Append the initial letter (trace of) Optical to a type of battery.

21a Pick up leads for ecstasy criminals trafficked on county lines (7)
COLLECT: Append the initial letters of (leads for) Ecstasy, Criminals and Trafficked to the abbreviations for COunty and two Lines.

23a Closely examine report of newspaper delivery (7)
EYEBALL: A homophone (report of) a national newspaper and a cricket delivery. This made me smile.

24a Spooner’s storyteller embellished form of language (7)
DIALECT: The emergence of the dreaded Reverend. All I can do here is …start with a story teller, the stories being untruths. Add a synonym of embellished or decorated and then say them as Spooner would.

25a Elegant letter incorporates overlapping lines (7)
GANTLET: Hidden in the clue (incorporates)

26a Whisky drinks deal with staff bullying (12)
MALTREATMENT: A type of whisky “drinks” or goes around synonyms of deal with and staff.


1d Skulked around before inspiring member of parliament departs (7)
PROWLED: The member of parliament here has nothing to do with politics. Start with the usual prefix for before, which goes around said member. Add the abbreviation for Departs.

2d Discharge rates oddly ignored in contamination of Great Lakes (7)
LEAKAGE: Anagram of (contamination of) GREAT LAKES after the odd letters of RaTeS have been removed.

3d Her eldest could be mistaken for Lee (9)
SHELTERED: Anagram (could be mistaken for) the preceding two words. Ignore the false capitalisation.

4d Disheartened partner accepts second hopeless case (5)
LOSER: Remove the central letter from a partner or paramour and replace it with the abbreviation for Second

5d Emergence of main competitor outside of China (7)
ARRIVAL: Start with two words (4,5) that describe a main competitor, a number one foe perhaps. The solution is the letters that go around (outside) the abbreviation for CHina within that phrase. Thanks to Gazza for parsing help on this one but great clue.

6d Urge two universities to support Independent politician (7)
IMPULSE:  Abbreviations for University and the London School of Economics support (go below) the abbreviations for Independent and Member of Parliament.

7d Perhaps became prone to compensate too much for daughter (12)
OVERBALANCED: A prefix meaning too much, a synonym of compensate for and the abbreviation for Daughter.

10d Having chosen tight top and flares with no jacket, put on thin coat (12)
Start with a word meaning having chosen, maybe in a political sense and append an anagram (tight) of TOP and the inner letters (with no jacket) of fLAREs. Great clue.

15d Smart wife had picked up fighter (9)
FLYWEIGHT: A synonym of smart in the sense of cocky and the abbreviation for Wife are followed by a homophone (picked up) of a synonym of had in the sense of consumed.

17d Suspect Saul is occupied by what one might do to hide concubine (7)
SULTANA: An Anagram (suspect) of SAUL goes around (is occupied by) what one may do to hide where hide is a noun. Another that made me smile

18d Put back in part of degree lectures (2-5)
RE-ELECT: Hidden in the clue.

19d Purge has a tendency to divide religious establishment (7)
CLEANSE: Insert a word (to divide) meaning “has a tendency” into the abbreviation for the Church of England

20d Bill for developing part of plant (7)
LEAFLET: Double definition.

22d Part of wall-to-wall coverage includes start of tennis championship (5)
TITLE: Insert the initial letter of Tennis into something used in part to cover a wall, often in a bathroom or kitchen.

A clever and fun puzzle, as we’ve come to expect from a top setter, my ticks have gone to 12a (great surface) and 23a plus 1,10&17d. Thanks Serpent.




23 comments on “Toughie 2917

  1. Not quite as tricky as I was expecting from Serpent but a great early in the week Toughie – all the lesser-known words being very fairly clued

    I have an idea as to what the Nina might be except that one solution doesn’t fit with my theory

    Thanks very much to Serpent and StephenL

  2. Completed but failed to parse 12a,14a,25a & 10d. Still not sure about 25a is it referring to walking the gauntlet/gantlet as in being bashed by soldiers/sailors?

    1. Apparently 25a is a section of railway track where two lines overlap. You learn something new every day when you are a crossword solver!

      1. I was quite thankful this was hidden in the clue as it was relatively easy to get then Google for confirmation.

      2. As CS says, overlapping but not connected railway tracks to, for example, get through a narrow area. There is an example at Mitcham station on Tramlink (or whatever it is called this week) see the illustration. ‘Behind the camera’ the tracks will open out again. The BRB says gantlet is an obsolete form of gauntlet so ‘running the gauntlet’ does apply.

  3. A bit of a head scratcher for me but, as CS says, fairly clued – ***/***.

    Candidates for favourite – 19a, 23a, 26a, and 6d – and the winner is 23a.

    Thanks to Serpent and to StephenL.

  4. I found this quite tough for a Tuesday, especially the NE part. The homophone at 15d is terrible but there are some cracking clues, including the best anagram clue for quite a while [3d] which was my last one in, partly because I had a similar synonym [that I couldn’t parse of course] at 14a.
    Thanks to Serpent and to StephenL for the blog.

  5. Another very fine Tuesday Toughie – thanks to Serpent and StephenL.
    As with the back-pager 1d seemed to be a comment on the events at Westminster today.
    For my podium I’ve selected 14a, 23a and 15d.

  6. Took a bit of time to unravel this morning. I couldn’t see the parsing of 5d so thanks to SL/Gazza and of course Serpent for a great puzzle. Favourite was 10d.

  7. I was in the camp that did not find this quite as easy as others, but I got there in the end. 23a gave me the biggest smile and was my favourite. 5d gave me the hardest battle of the bung-ins to parse.

    My thanks to Serpent and SL.

  8. 4d and 5d eluded me due to inserting polysystemic at 1a which fitted the definition but definitely not the word play. The remainder was an absolute joy. Every clue’s surface making complete sense and 10d making me laugh. Thank you Stephen for your hints and to Serpent for a super puzzle. As for the Nina, I’m short of ideas :)

  9. Amazingly, I found this quite friendly for a Toughie, Tuesday or otherwise, and I rather sailed right through it, although I did need a bit of parsing help with 10d (there, I would have preferred it if the clue had read ‘having been chosen’, as in ‘the elect’, but that would have garbled the rest of the clue, I know). I did know the railway term (Yay, me!) and was delighted to see it there, even as a lurker, and thanks to Senf for the illustration. I thoroughly enjoyed this one last night, and even felt more comfortable solving it than I did with the backpager. Too many favourites to list them all, but 15d really tickled my fancy. Thanks to Stephen and to Serpent.

    I have no idea why 1d might have spoiled whatever Nina there might have been.

  10. I think the ‘having’ in 10d is a link word really, in the sense that ‘having’ clue parts A B and C leads to answer D.

  11. I think I was on the wrong wavelength this afternoon as I struggled all the way through and needed the hints to parse 1a, 12a, 5d, 10d, and 15d, 25a and 17d were bung ins. Favourite was 1d. Thanks to Serpent and SL.

  12. We thought this was quite tricky when we were solving but when we got to the end and looked at the clock found that it hadn’t taken us as long as we thought. New stuff for us to learn with 25a too but did work out what it had to be.
    A well put together puzzle and fun to solve.
    Thanks Serpent and SL.

  13. Not a great one for me today, only half complete. Great hints as always thanks SL – at least I can now understand the ones I didn’t get!

  14. A challenging but very enjoyable solving experience for me. I especially liked 21a, 1d, 7d, and 10d. Thank you Serpent and StephenL

  15. Found this jolly tough. In addition to a number not fully parsed needed 2 letter reveals to fill the grid with 14&25a unfamiliar to me.
    Thanks Serpent & to SL for the explanations

  16. Found this edition of the TELEGRAPH in the cafe the other day. Interesting seeing reports after the appointment (or announcement, at least) of Liz Truss as PM but before the Queen’s death.

    Didn’t know GANTLET, but got it on search using the crossers.

    Couldn’t parse ARRIVAL, so thanks, Stephen (and Gazza!).

    In 10dn, I don’t think “elect” means “having chosen”, but the postpositive adjective meaning “chosen (but not yet in office)”, as in ‘president elect’, so the clue is: ‘Having ELECT [etc.]”

  17. Don’t know why the comment editor decided to highlight the words after “president elect”. I didn’t ask it to.

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