Toughie 2953 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2953

Toughie No 2953 by Serpent

Hints and tips by StephenL

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

Hello everyone from a one minute sun, one minute rain South Devon.

Serpent, one of my favourite setters, kicks of the Toughie week with a quite brilliant puzzle. As usual with this setter there is something extra going on in the grid. It shouldn’t be too Hard to spot.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a Run towards this place almost more willingly (6)
RATHER: The abbreviation for Run, a synonym of towards and an adverb meaning “this place” minus (almost) its last letter.

5a Relative acquires fashionable cycling strip (8)
UNCLOTHE: Start with a male relative and place it around a synonym of fashionable which has its initial letter cycled to the end.

9a Who possibly saved regularly and kept cash? (10)
CHEAPSKATE: Anagram of the regular letters of sAvEd and KEPT CASH for a quite brilliant all in one.

10a Imply gangland killing involves money essentially (4)
HINT: A 3-letter gangland killing goes around the essential letter of moNey.

11a Fuss over that woman’s most disrespectful (8)
FRESHEST: A synonym of fuss over or worry about goes around an abbreviated way of saying “that woman is”.

12a 22 holding attention briefly and bringing happiness (6)
CHEERY: Another insertion, this time a synonym of 22d goes around (holding) an imperative form meaning “pay attention” without its last letter.

13a Part of apocryphal observation? (4)
HALO: Hidden (part of) in the clue.

15a Jumbo jet plane crashed leaving Jack outside hospital (8)
ELEPHANT: Place an anagram (crashed) of JET PLANE after the abbreviation for Jack has been removed around the abbreviation for Hospital. A real smiler.

18a Production of large plant left behind film fan (8)
HAZELNUT: The abbreviation for Left follows a synonym of film in the sense of mist. Append a fan or geek.

19a What stops old lady going the other way? (4)
AHEM: An exclamation meaning “what” goes inside an abbreviated old lady and the result is reversed (going the other way). I see this as a semi &lit.

21a Lashes out in struggle (6)
HASSLE: Anagram (out) of LASHES.

23a Island surrounded by continent? Correct (8)
CHASTISE: A synonym of continent (no not Africa or Europe!) in the sense of self-restrained goes around the abbreviation for ISland. The solution is a verb

25a Repeat section of repetitive chorus (4)
ECHO: Hidden (section of)

26a Travels freely in India having been beset by delays around Hong Kong (10)
HITCHHIKES: Place the abbreviation for Hong Kong around the abbreviation for India and insert the result into some delays or problems. Three of the theme in one word.

27a Harassed Conservative rushed to stop introduction of higher education (8)
HECTORED: Start with the abbreviation for Conservative, add a synonym of rushed and insert the result (to stop) into the initial letter of Higher and the abbreviation for Education.

28a Dictator’s projected king’s power (6)
THRONE: Homophone (dictator’s) of a synonym of projected in the sense of lobbed.


2d Really dislike expression of sympathy put on by British men (5)

ABHOR: Insert the abbreviation for British into a 2-letter exclamation which could be used to express sympathy and append the abbreviation for some military men.

3d What marks out grave aspect of leader? (9)
HEADSTONE: If you look at this as leader’s aspect (5,4) you’ll see the wordplay. Very clever.

4d Spots case for employer being less prudent (6)
RASHER: Some spots are followed by the outer letters (case for) of EmployeR.

5d University attendance hit badly over university not having legal status (15)
UNAUTHENTICATED: The abbreviation for University plus an anagram (badly) of ATTENDANCE HIT including another abbreviation for University.

6d Closed firm’s chance deal, without terms of extra quota changing (8)
CLENCHED: Anagram (changing) of CHANCE DEAL once the closing letters (terms of) extra quota have been removed.

7d Golden rule primarily circumscribed by line competitors must not cross (5)
OCHRE: A knowledge of “arrows” is useful here. Insert the primary letter of Rule into the line behind which a darts player must stand. LOL.

8d Previously let deer breed round November (9)
HINDRANCE: A female deer plus a synonym of breed placed around the abbreviation for November. Passengers have the right to travel without let or ………

14d Volcano with molten rock rising, ejecting tons round constant hot flood (9)
AVALANCHE: Start with a well-known volcano. Add some molten rock and reverse the result (rising). Then remove (ejecting) the abbreviation for Tons and replace with those for Constant and Hot.

16d Husband richer after leaving wife in a better position financially (9)
HEALTHIER: Start with the abbreviation for Husband. Add a synonym of richer from which the abbreviation for Wife is removed.

17d Set free naked hunter gatherer taking sides once more (8)
UNTETHER: Remove the outer letters (naked) of hUNTEr and repeat the process twice with gaTHERer.

20d Distinguishing mark of each criminal imprisoned by court (6)
CACHET: An anagram (criminal)of EACH inside the abbreviation for CourT

22d Mum, I want you to go and buy drinks for everyone (5)
SHOUT: An exclamation meaning be quiet (mum) plus an imperative which could mean “I want you to go”. The solution often follows the pronoun “my”.

24d Polish hotel’s dated exterior (5)
SHEEN: The abbreviation for Hotel goes inside a synonym of dated in the sense of “went out with”.

Many thanks Serpent. In a mega-strong field my favourite was 9a.

25 comments on “Toughie 2953

  1. I’m always delighted to see Serpent’s name on the Toughie setters’ list – for one thing, he is one of my favourite setters and secondly, you know that you will actually get a proper Toughie crossword on a Tuesday. I noticed the H factor too!

    Thanks very much to Serpent and StephenL

  2. I’d nearly finished the puzzle before I spotted what was going on in the answers (and in the grid itself). How very clever – many thanks to Serpent and to StephenL.
    The clues I liked best were 5a, 9a, 23a and 17d.

  3. I could not have finished this without Stephen’s superduper hints and unveiling one or two “click heres”, but what an absolute masterpiece. Who would have thought it were possible to find a full complement of h words. I am in awe.

  4. Needed help with 19a. I was beginning to think “meha ”was another name for an old lady in someone’s language.
    I was pleased to remember the darts term in 7d . Makes a nice change from cricket.
    Idiot! I missed the plethora of h’s. So clever.

  5. Awesome compiling! Although I saw the hs in all the solutions, I missed the two in the grid. Just right for Tuesday, and finished in good time. 6d my favourite, 12a LOI
    Thanks Serpent and SL

  6. Super puzzle. I wish I had spotted the theme as it would have helped mightily with 19a which was my last in and caused me the most bother. A lot of great clues, 6d, 8d, 17d and 24d got the biggest ticks.

    Thanks to SL and Serpent.

  7. ‘Absolute masterpiece’ is absolutely right for this work of sheer brilliance. Luckily, I spotted the H-factor early on and I must confess that it helped me in solving several, more resistant clues (19a, 18a, e.g.). But never mind, I got there on my own in the end, and I loved the trip hosted by one of my favourite setters. This was great fun and a total delight. Thanks to Stephen and Serpent. I’ll read SL’s review now to check my parsing throughout.

  8. 19a my last in. Like Jonners it would have yielded a darn sight sooner if I’d noticed the H factor. Just chuffed to finish sort of unaided – used the check progress function a couple of times which highlighted the need for a correction. Very tough for me (it took 3 visits having stalled halfway through) but thoroughly enjoyable. Still to parse 6d which I see is a pick by others so will think on. 9a my favourite with ticks aplenty elsewhere.
    Thanks to Serpent & Stephen – enjoyed the Weller clip. Seen him live a number of times & always gives it 100% – The Strange Museum & The Butterfly Collector (neither of which he plays when I see him) 2 absolute gems.

    1. Re 6d – saw the fodder but not sure I’ve come across terms of = closing letters so must try to remember that. Nowadays I should think it not sensible to pick up hitchhikers (the only way I travelled in uni days) but exceptions can always be made I suppose…..

      1. It’s quite a common ruse so worth remembering, though the setter will try to disguise it in a particularly smooth surface read.

      2. I made all of my university trips between Reading to Preston by hitching. I reckon that would equate to £2000 in today’s money, which would equate to 4% of a £50k student loan, but you never see a student hitching these days. I don’t think it is any more dangerous to hitch these days, but the snowflake generation can’t demean themselves to stick out a thumb.

  9. Brilliant crossword, only slight reservation was witH 19a – but admit I Hadn’t spotted the link which would have made it a bit easier . Thanks to all.

  10. Many thanks to StephenL for the excellent explanations and to everyone who has been kind enough to comment. I’m delighted to see how much the puzzle has been enjoyed.

    1. It’s always appreciated when the setter “drops by” particularly after such a great puzzle so thanks again.

  11. A solid Toughie for a Tuesday, though the “H factor” entirely escaped my attention – such gimmicks clearly don’t do as much for me as for other solvers! Many excellent clues but I thought 18a woolly and that it let the side down, while I wasn’t entirely convinced by the construction of 19a – the answer came swiftly, justifying writing it in took a lot longer. Liked the use of less-familiar synonyms and clever, smooth, clue constructions.

    Many thanks to Serpent and to Stephen.

  12. We’re feeling really stupid that we did not notice the ‘H’ thing until we read about it here. It certainly would have made our solve a little easier if we’d spotted it earlier.
    Good fun throughout and much appreciated.
    Thanks Serpent and SL.

  13. My third toughie and I managed half (unaided) this time, so will now look at the clues and no doubt will learn plenty ready for the next one.

  14. Having been through all the hints and answers now, I have definitely learnt a few things, all very clever, but I still don’t understand the parsing of 12A, I had cheery in mind due to the synonym of shout, but could someone explain the bit about, the imperative form meaning “pay attention” without its last letter, please.

      1. Aha, thanks, I thought the synonym of shout was cheer rather than cry, sowas trying to find a “y” !

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