Toughie No 2985 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie No 2985

Toughie No 2985 by Robyn

Hints and tips by StephenL

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

Good afternoon from a wet and windy South Devon coast, and as it my first blog of the year, Best Wishes to all for 2023.

The much admired Robyn kicks of the Toughie week with a superb puzzle that lived up to it’s name.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought


1a Get rid of setter in flipping bad temper — it’s grating (10)
PORTCULLIS: A verb meaning to get rid of in the sense of kill plus a first person pronoun (setter) sit inside a reversal (flipping) of a fit of pique maybe.

6a You may get a lift from this bit of music after tango (1-3)
T-BAR: The abbreviation for Tango and a segment of time in a piece of music.

9a A suitable place for King John? (6,4)
THRONE ROOM: Cryptic definition where John is a reference to a loo.

10a Raised money, by the sound of it (4)
BRED: A homophone (by the sound of it) of a synonym of money, seen more in crosswordland than in real life these days

12a Salad ingredient? It must be cut in haste (6)
CELERY: Remove the word it (must be cut) from a synonym of haste or swiftness.

13a Sloth maybe of Etonian PM, say, losing face (8)
EDENTATE: Sloth here is not, as Robyn would like you to believe, a reluctance to work but an animal. Start with an Old Etonian Prime Minister and add a synonym of say or utter without its first letter

15a Play’s start done afresh, saving place in case it’s exciting (6-6)
ACTION-PACKED: The first of a series of sections of a play (3-1) plus an anagram (afresh) of DONE go around a verb meaning to put clothes in a case.

18a Maybe Bourbon king — in time, that fellow ate jam (3,4,5)
THE HARD STUFF: Start with the abbreviation for Time, add a third person pronoun and a synonym of ate into which is inserted the Latin abbreviation for King. Finally add a synonym of jam as a verb.

21a Wise to protect possible remedy for oil slick, say (8)
SPILLAGE: A synonyms of wise goes around something we “pop” in order to cure a medical ailment

22a Bay in a large coastal area (6)
ALCOVE: A from the clue, the abbreviation for Large and a bay or inlet, favoured in days of old by smugglers

24a Is she a bit of a looker? (4)
IRIS: The “looker” to which our setter is referring is the eye. We need a part of it that is also a female name (though not many are called it these days I suspect)

25a Heard stern bank worker is one who provides an account (4-6)
TALE TELLER: A homophone of a synonym of stern (heard)in the sense of location and a bank worker (when banks used to have physical branches!)

26a Bunch of crooks in north smuggled in crack (4)
GANG: Insert the abbreviation for North into a crack in the sense of a joke.

27a Crew put on outfits for what ships do (3,2,5)
GET UP STEAM: Take an informal term (3-3) for outfits in the sense of clothes and add (put on) a synonym of crew as noun.


1d Power thus shifts around roughly in such an event (6)
PUTSCH: Start with the abbreviation for Power then place an anagram (shifts around) of THUS around an abbreviation for roughly in the sense of about. I think this is a very good all in one.

2d Soldiers see about radio firstly with low frequency (6)
RARELY: The abbreviation for Royal Artillery and crosswordland’s favourite see in the sense of a city go around the initial letter of Radio

3d Possible to catch criminal showing docility (12)
CONTRACTABLE: Our usual 3-letter informal criminal plus an adjective meaning easy to control or influence.

4d Instrument pork pie producer picked up (4)
LYRE: The pork pie producer is one who tells fibs in the East end of London. We need a homophone (picked up) of him/her. Lol.

5d Natural dresses Dior fashioned lacking restraint (10)
INORDINATE: A synonym of natural or inborn goes around (dresses) an anagram (fashioned) of DIOR.

7d Where you may find those who serve meat in pubs (8)
BARRACKS: Place the meat illustrated below into a synonym of pubs.

8d Rulers like Stalin, Mao, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I? (8)
REDHEADS: Split the four leaders into two categories, one referring to the colour of their hair the other to the colour of their politics.

11d Admitting bad name, if not breaking rules (12)
UNLAWFULNESS: Place a conjunction meaning “if not” around a synonym of bad and the abbreviation for Name

14d Lines in great novel read, possibly rot (10)
BIODEGRADE: Insert some poetic lines into a synonym of great in the sense of size and add an anagram (novel) of read. Here’s some “poetry” set to music.

16d Putting aside smart clothes since holiday’s beginning (8)
STASHING: A synonym of smart in the sense of hurt “clothes” or goes around by a short 2-letter conjunction meaning since and the initial letter of holiday

17d After start of month boy keeps current resolution (8)
DECISION: Start with an abbreviated month, add the letter that looks like the number one and then a male offspring into which is inserted the abbreviation for electrical current.

19d One saving pound in Indian region, in other words (6)
GOALIE: An abbreviation for pound is inserted between an Indian region and the Latin abbreviation for that is (in other words)

20d Racing champ crows, moving towards the top (3,3)
RED RUM: Reverse (moving towards the top) the collective noun for a group of crows. Great clue.

23d Something The Archers have on the radio is dandy (4)
BEAU A homophone of something archers have in order to propel their projectiles. Ignore the capitalisation, it’s there to mislead and has nothing to do with the radio programme.

Brilliant puzzle in which there isn’t one pure anagram. My top spot goes to 1d with 15a and the clever 20d making up the podium. Which ones did you like?




20 comments on “Toughie No 2985

  1. A superb crossword from start to finish. A level of difficulty that I’d expect (and Gazza dreams) would appear as the Thursday Toughie

    Far too many great clues to list all the ones I liked, but I’ll specially mention 18a, 8d and 20d

    Many thanks indeed to Robyn and to Stephen L

  2. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish – many thanks to Robyn and the fortunate StephenL. As CS suggests it’s a bit of a mystery why Robyn is scheduled on Tuesdays.
    I could have listed at least half the clues as my ‘likes’ but I’ll restrict myself to 9a, 12a, 15a, 18a, 8d and 20d.

    1. I wasn’t feeling so fortunate when I was scratching my head first thing this morning Gazza! However I’m very happy that Robyn is scheduled on Tuesdays, an absolute pleasure to solve and blog his puzzles.

  3. Largely beyond me, but of the ones managed, I thought “place in case” was just brilliant. Thank yous to Stephen and Robyn.

  4. My goodness that was really tough with some very complex parsings to unravel. Shame about the unindicated American usage in 9a, which happened to be my first one in and nearly caused me to stop at that point. However, I’m glad I persisted because, in spite of the overall difficutly, the rest of the puzzle was excellent with too many good clues to list them all.

    Many thanks to Robyn and to SL.

    1. I don’t think I would ever give up once I see my favourite setter’s name on a puzzle but also, do you think Throne Room is specifically American? I ve heard it used so many times here in London, I m not sure I would need to be told it’s American

  5. I can only add my voice to those who have already commented on this fine puzzle. It felt like I had overslept through till Friday. Really tough, but scrupulously fair in the clueing. No favourites, because the whole grid was outstanding.

    Many thanks and congratulations to Robyn for the excellent crossword; thanks, too, to SL.

  6. I usually skip the the toughies but given the praise and some extra time today I gave it a punt – and boy was that a good call. Definitely a step up with parsing difficulty and misdirection but some outstanding clues along the way. Special mention to 9a, 10a, 15a, 24a, 1d, 8d, 19d but winner by a furlong is 20d.

    TY to Robyn for the brain-ache and StephenL for the help with parsing + finishing

  7. An excellent puzzle and thoroughly enjoyed.
    Incidentally, we are now much more informed about the dentition of sloths than we previously were. Didn’t realise the description is quite so complex. Just knew that Robyn was not going to get it wrong.
    Thanks Robyn and SL.

  8. Blimey that was hard but I stuck at it and got there in the end. Needed the hint to parse 12a. Hard to pick a favourite but I’ll go with 5d. Thanks to Robyn and SL.

  9. Many thanks for the great blog, StephenL, and ditto to everyone dropping in to comment.
    Happy New Year to one and all!

    1. Thanks for both popping in and for a top-notch puzzle Robyn.
      Happy New Year to you too.

  10. Don’t think I’ve finished one of this setter’s puzzles (incl Picaroon in the Graun) since I put him in my dream team of Toughie setters. I’ve got about as far with this one as I did on Sunday which is not much beyond halfway. On Sunday completed the top half but couldn’t make headway down south & today’s solve distinctly scattergun. Am resolved to persevere with both puzzles so will resist a letter reveal plus hints & comments in the optimistic hope of light bulbs flashing & pennies dropping. 9,13&15a along with 5,8&20d the ticks for me of the 20 answers in thus far. Very tough & one for the premier league solvers methinks but enjoyable as ever needless to say.
    Thanks Robyn & Stephen – look forward to your review once I’ve thrown in the towel.

  11. Very pleased to finish. I had my doubts at times. These things are obviously subjective, but for me that was harder than Friday’s Elgar. It certainly took me longer.

  12. Brilliant and beat me all to hell again, just like Sunday’s. I’ll join Huntsman in that boat, but unlike him (see above), I went ahead with some letter-reveals and still needed considerable help from SL and Google. Several weeks ago (or did I fantasise this?), I solved Robyn Toughies with very little difficulty; I seem, however, to have backslid in my recidivism. Still, as I said to start, this is an amazingly wonderful work of worksmithing art, and I’ll just go with 14d as my favourite since it was one of the few I managed to solve unaided. Thanks to SL and Robyn.

  13. After a bit of light torture from the dentist and a first day back at work since the 21st Dec, I thought I would be struggling today. I was! but glad to be able to compare today’s Robyn with Sundays. I only have to hint about half of the prize toughie.I don’t think I could blog and hint a whole Robyn and the quickie pun too so congrats to Stephen L for that. Thanks also to Robyn for the workout.

  14. Towel eventually thrown in 1 shy (needed the hint for 19d of all the clues- doh) having used 2 letter checker reveals. Must have looked at it at least 5 times during the day. Brilliant puzzle & pleased to have parsed them all fully other than 18a where I couldn’t see hard.
    Thanks to Robyn for popping in & to Stephen for a great review – thought you might have posted a clip from The Shining of Danny with the knife scrawling Redrum on the bedroom door.

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