Toughie 3000 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 3000

Toughie No 3000 by ?

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

As you’ll find wonderfully hidden, this is the three thousandth toughie crossword! A landmark celebrated by a nice easy puzzle (I was worried it might be an ultra-toughie) with lovely surfaces throughout. I’m guessing this is a present from our compiler team, so thank you very much indeed. If so, we can play guess-the-compiler for the clues – I got nowhere with that!

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    The Guardian in trouble, having dismissed a dig’s find (7)
UNEARTH: An anagram (in trouble) of THE (g)U(a)R(di)AN without (having dismissed) the letters in A DIG

5a    His Majesty rejected “hot-desking” out of hand, and took the chair (6)
HOSTED: An anagram (out of hand) of HOT-DES(king) without (rejected) a person who would be his majesty

10a    Rivals see me in fights (7)
ENEMIES: An anagram (fights) of SEE ME IN

11a    Eli’s back in before mother superior (7)
PREMIUM: The last letter (‘s back) in ‘eli’ goes inside words meaning before and mother

12a    Extradition possibly helping to secure nasty pirate (12)
REPATRIATION: Another word for helping contains (secures) an anagram (nasty) of PIRATE

15a    TV show about fugitives keeping adult obsessed (7)
HAUNTED: A 2012 BBC1 TV series about fugitives contains (keeping) the abbreviation for adult

16a    Head off troubles and rest (6)
OTHERS: Take a 7-letter word for troubles and remove the first letter (head off)

17a    One type of music, southern soul (3)
SKA: The abbreviation for southern and an old Egyptian word for soul

19a    Unusually stocky pugilist’s last to appear in spell of boxing (6)
ROTUND: The last letter in pugilist goes inside (to appear in) a period of boxing

21a    Shroud the woman filled with passion (7)
SHEATHE: A pronoun meaning ‘the woman’ contains (filled with) another word for passion

24a    Academy bosses possibly bother eminent scientists, penning note (4,8)
HEAD TEACHERS: An 8-letter word for some bother or a nuisance plus a 2-letter abbreviation for a group of eminent scientists contain (penning) a musical note

27a    Natural hollows in ditch bordering unfortunate area (7)
AXILLAE: A word meaning to ditch or dismiss goes around (bordering) a word meaning unfortunate plus the abbreviation for area

28a    Disliked newcomer stumped in superior role (7)
UPSTART: The cricket abbreviation for stumped goes in between (in) the abbreviation for superior or upper-class and another word for role

29a    They’re taboo when safeguarding heart in restaurants? (6)
DONUTS: A (3’2) word meaning things you shouldn’t try (they’re taboo) containing (safeguarding) the central letter (heart) in restaurants

30a    Hotel decorated in warmer shade of purple (7)
HEATHER: The abbreviation for hotel is contained in (decorated in) another word for warrmer


1d    Type who exploits trick, right to the end (4)
USER: Another word for trick, with the abbreviation for right moved to the end

2d    Occasionally perplexed seeing weapon (4)
EPEE: Regular letters (occasionally … )

3d    Uniform maybe used once marine’s served time (7)
RAIMENT: An anagram (served) of MARINE plus the abbreviation for time.

4d    Greg the Trade Minister accepting electronic bus is economically efficient (8)
HUSBANDS: ‘Greg the Trade Minister’ contains (accepting) an electronic connection (which coincidentally is an anagram of bus)

6d    Ham and eggs eaten up by the mouth (7)
OVERACT: A homophone (by the mouth) of a 3-letter word for eggs and a 6-lletter word meaning ‘eaten up’ or distraught

7d    Irksome work at home uncovered better material (10)
TOILINETTE: A word for irksome or hard work, a preposition meaning ‘at home’, and then remove the outer letters (uncovered) of ‘better’

8d    Exhausted following gender reassignment police officer initially belittled (10)
DIMINISHED: An 8-letter word meaning exhausted that undergoes gender reassignment (i.e., changing F to M), but first (initially) we have a 2-letter abbreviation for a police officer

9d    Cowboy’s item perhaps ultimately in decline (5)
SPURN: A boot accessory associated with cowboys plus the last letter (ultimately) of ‘in’

13d    Rest area and place for service wagon to back up (10)
CHURCHYARD: A ‘place for service’ plus the reversal (to back up) of a wagon or cart

14d    Opening of an American court case overlooking one Scotsman in Dundee, perhaps (10)
AUSTRALIAN: The first letter (opening) of ‘an’, an abbreviation

18d    Supposedly Arsenal’s No.1 fumbled shot — that’s awful (2,6)
AS THOUGH: The first letter (‘s No. 1) in Arsenal, and anagram (fumbled) of shot, and an exclamation meaning ‘that’s awful’

20d    Such is no rambling letter (for the most part) (7)
NOTELET: NO from the clue plus an anagram (rambling) of LETTE(r) without the last, well, letter (for the most part)

22d    Where A Boost For All is a rule every student forsakes (7)
EURASIA: A reversal (a boost for … ) of ALL IS A RULE from the clue, but without every occurrence of the abbreviation for student

23d    Origin of brother, first one slain in confounded Tower (5)
BABEL: The first letter (origin) of brother, then the first biblical murder victim

25d    Revised half of Chabrier’s letters for another composer (4)
BACH: An anagram (revised) of half of CHABrier’s letters

26d    Disturb gaol (4)
STIR: Two meanings

I’m not going to pick a favourite today. I liked them all. The penny-drop I enjoyed most was the hidden message. Which clues did you enjoy?

57 comments on “Toughie 3000
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  1. This was a very pleasant and (mostly) relatively light Friday Toughie.

    There were only two words that I didn’t know (27a and 7d) and which needed a BRB check. However, both were readily derivable from the wordplay and crossing letters.

    I have one question and one hmm. Doesn’t 1a need a secondary anagram indicator as the letters to be removed from the anagram fodder are in a different order? My grumble is the ghastly American spelling of 29a (which sadly seems to have taken hold over here now).

    I had a lot of ticks: 5a, 16a, 28a, 30a, 1d, 8d, 9d, 14d, 18d & 23d.

    Many thanks to all the Trim contributors to this landmark puzzle, and thanks too to Dutch, especially for the parsing of 6d which eluded me completely despite the obvious definition and answer.

    1. There remains debate on secondary anagram indicators. The guardian’s in trouble can give you UNEARTHADIG.

      TRIM is it? I haven’t seen a paper copy.

  2. Oh no! A crossword set by a committee. But not bad and relatively gentle after yesterday.
    I particularly liked 8d and 22d. Expected a NINA, couldn’t find one, still can’t!
    Thanks to the setters and to Dutch.

      1. Thanks Dutch. After a short detour prompted by the header [Not Rim] looking at the next-outermost letters I finally looked elsewhere and found it. Nice one!

  3. Excellent stuff and worthy of its landmark status.
    Far too many good clues to choose a favourite but 29a plus 14&18d all produced big smiles and not a dud in the grid. Two I’ve yet to fully parse but will resist looking at the explanations.
    Thanks to all the compilers and to Dutch.

  4. Excellent enjoyable and accessible, thanks to setter(s?).
    Would have missed the Nina, as usual, and don’t recall one like that, (I expect they frequently are and I just miss them) but all very clever.
    An easy day for you Dutch….but thanks .

  5. Enjoying it so far, still a few to get and not seen Nina yet.
    I assume TRIM is an acronym Toughie Regulars ? Masse.

    Thanks to Dutch and the Trim crew

  6. I agree with others that this was easier than yesterday’s Elgar, but that goes for most cryptic puzzles that I attempt. This was fairly user-friendly, with nothing impossible or beyond my ability to parse. Hard to pick a favourite but 23d will suffice.

    Thanks to our compilers and Dutch. Still can’t find a Nina so will have to look harder.

  7. Yippee – I managed to complete it and found the hidden anniversary. Now to set about discovering who set which clues for which I shall use the scientific method of allocating my favourite clues to the setters whose work I enjoy the most, words I’ve never heard of to Mr Manley and place the rest into a rotating drum to draw out at random!

    Many thanks to the Toughie team, Mr Ed et al for the organisation and Dutch for the review.

  8. Why are some crosswords so much better than others ? Compare this to todays Backpager . or yesterdays Toughie .
    They have to test you , without being totally impossible , make you laugh and give you a sense of satisfaction when completing . This offering met all my criteria ; thanks to whoever plus Dutch.

  9. Well that was fun. I struggled to parse 6d and didn’t know meaning of 27a but it was good to have an easier Friday. Thanks to Dutch and setters.

    Took me a while to spot the Nina(s)/ Ninae.

      1. Ok, scrub Ninae, I still had 27a in my head. To be honest I’m not sure I understand what defines a “Nina”. I see one hidden phrase four times. If it’s a collective “there’s a hidden puzzle within the puzzle” then I agree it should be singular.

        1. Well, I didn’t spot ANY ‘Nina’s, but I did perhaps spot a ‘Nain’, a ‘niaN’, an ‘aNni’ and an ‘inNa’… :wink:

        2. One hidden phrase 4 times? You may be seeing something I am not …

          Nina just translates to “hidden message”. It comes from a New York Times cartoonist who used to hide his daughter’s name in his cartoons. The application to crosswords was suggested by Notabilis, one of our esteemed toughie setters. See the FAQ on this site.

  10. Delighted to finish this rather mixed bag of a puzzle, which I guess is inevitable given the number of compilers.
    9d was my LOI. Like RD above, I didn’t know 27a or 7d.
    Now to hunt for the Nina!

  11. Noted this was a landmark offering so left my usual DT archive habitat to take a look. I was not disappointed! For me it wasn’t a ‘nice easy’ puzzle but it was a perfect goldilocks mixture, possibly because it was a mixture of setters. The SW corner held out until I eventually twigged 13d, then the remainder followed. Fortunately the ‘soul’ and the ‘hollows’ had both appeared in crosswords solved recently enough to still recall them. Parsing 6d was a challenge, but the penny finally dropped, as it did for the hidden messaging – 29a thereby being forgiven! My top spots went to 12a, 13d and 14d.
    Thank you, Dutch, and many thanks to all the setters of this puzzle and for the previous 2,999 – an archive of material I have barely made a dent in, but will keep chipping away at!

  12. Very good puzzle. Slow but steady solve. Are there two possible solutions to 16a? The other being for Northern troublers and Scottish remainders!? Thanks to all.

  13. The same unknown words as others and the same hints needed to parse the ones I couldn’t. Plus the same level of enjoyment expressed previously so agreement all round. I’ve picked a favourite from each ‘corner’ on the assumption they’re by different setters, I’m probably wrong, but they are 15a, 9d, 22d and 14d. Thanks to the setters and Dutch.

  14. Oh dear! Sorry to be a party pooper but this was way above my pay grade!
    I’ll now see if the back pager is more accessible

  15. Definitely a mixed ability puzzle but fun nonetheless. I needed a few hints to finish the more devious ones – 27a in particular looks like a crosswordland-word that I should remember! There were lots of good clues for different reasons so no favourite today.

    Thanks to the Toughie Regulars and Dutch for help, I’ll have a beer tonight to celebrate!

  16. Spent ages searching for the Nina until the penny dropped.
    Thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle. We often find collaborative puzzles difficult as the magic ingredient of ‘Setter’s Wavelength’ is not there, but with this one it was not a problem.
    Thanks all and Dutch.

  17. An ACROSTIC surely, this one? Most enjoyable, and I’m absolutely sure all the compilers chipped in with a clue or two here.

    Congrats to the team on reaching 3000 — that’s 3000 wonderful crosswords.

  18. Spent all day on this, on and off. I’m not normally a toughie solver (unless it’s Chalicea), so very happy to have solved it. I couldn’t fully parse some of the answers, so thanks to Dutch for enlightening me.
    I can’t for the life of me see the Nina… could someone offer some advice on where to start looking?
    Thanks and well done to the Toughie Team for the 3000th puzzle.

      1. Thanks, SJB! I missed the message hidden in the clues. Excellent addition! I only spotted the messages hidden in the grid. Well done to the setters!

      2. This week’s message from the editor in the puzzles newsletter suggested there was something hidden in both the grid and the clues, and they might be helpful in solving the puzzle. The acrostic is impressive, but helpful? And I still see nothing in the grid :-(

        1. Four of the across rows symmetrically placed (two words each time) are anagrams of each other and they each form the same relevant anagram.

          1. Thanks Aldhelm, spotted the anagrams…..all very clever stuff! As Rabbit Dave says below, the puzzle that just keeps on giving!
            I have kept a few notable crosswords, numbers 25,000 and 30,000, the one my wife and I completed on our wedding day and another which has both our names in the same crossword! This one will be added to the collection.

  19. Well I tried this one, but way beyond my pay grade.
    Got through the top half with hints, but considering there were two words in there I have never heard of and parsing difficult on much of it … I threw in the towel.

    Not for me, today.

  20. Yep. A hidden message nonetheless, not sure if you are suggesting otherwise. And a rather brilliant acrostic. Think of the effort! Thanks compilers!!!

  21. Let me congratulate all of those setters who collaborated on this superb puzzle (I could have done better than I did, but I did all right), as well as Dutch for his decryption of its mysteries. Found the acrostic and the four horizontal ‘messages’ too. Excellent way to celebrate the 3000th Toughie!

  22. This is the puzzle that keeps on giving!

    Having re-read the comments this morning, I looked again at the grid and found the four rows which are all anagrams of the puzzle number. Very well done to all the solvers who spotted that without prompting. It also explains why DONUTS needed to be the answer to 29a, so I withdraw my objection to the American spelling (on this occasion!)

    Then suddenly the penny dropped with a resounding clang on TRIM. Very clever but oh so simple.

    Full marks to everyone involved with this compilation. I do hope someone will unravel the mystery soon of who set which clue.

  23. The blog is indeed worth re-reading if only to retrospectively enjoy the various comments written at cross-purposes about the hidden messaging! I was one of those who did not see the acrostic until prompted, but I did spot the four rows in the grid, for which I have now coined a new term – ‘aNinagrams’.
    Well done to anyone who discovered both!

  24. I got the 4 anagrams after reading the comments but not the TRIM/acrostic reference. Am I being thick ?
    Enjoyed the puzzle though didn’t find it anywhere near as easy as others. 7d definitely new to me but figured it out from the wordplay. 27a my only failure & I’m sure it’s cropped up before though maybe not pluralised so disappointing not to get it but didn’t twig the right context of ditch in the wordplay. Among many fine clues 14d my clear favourite – I’ll have a speculative 5 bob it was penned by Django with a 2 bob saver on Silvanus.
    Thanks to all of our great Toughie setters for the entertaining that they provide & roll on the next 3,000. Thanks to Dutch for the review.

  25. Thanks to the setters and Dutch. Missed all the Ninas apart from Tri-m (nothing unusual in that!) but a very clever piece of work. Rather wasted on me, sadly! Too many good clues to pick, and the only blemish was 20d which could just as easily solve as Noisome, and held me up. Now back to the usual weekend of waiting for inspiration on the Elgar….

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