Toughie 3164 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 3164

Toughie No 3164 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

A pleasant respite between Elgars. I finished the grid within 2* time but parsed two while writing the blog. I haven’t spotted a Nina; maybe you will

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Carriage components reset anew after slewing wildly (12)
SWINGLETREES: An anagram (anew) of RESET follows an anagram (wildly) of SLEWING. I didn’t know what these were; now I do, I see it’s a lovely surface

8a    In doomed mission, journalist back-pedalling (1,2,4)
A LA MODE: A doomed mission in Texas and the reversal (back-pedalling) of a journalist

9a    Book too much time around Da Vinci’s studio? (7)
BOTTEGA: The abbreviations for book and ‘too much’ and a reversal (around) a time or period. Da Vinci is a language/artist indicator — it’s an Italian word for an artist’s studio

11a    Trials wherein case for defence probes tests (7)
ORDEALS: The outer letters (case) of defence go inside spoken tests

12d    Warning Brazilian city against diplomacy (4,3)
RIOT ACT: A Brazilian city and some diplomacy

13a    School in south-east China (5)
SPODE: A school of whales goes inside SE

14a    Alewife wants ciggy then half a cake (9)
GASPEREAU: Slang for a cheap cigarette plus half of the French word for cake

16a    Harass old bishop backing into brilliant conceit (9)
ARROGANCE: Reversal (backing) of a 3-letter word meaning to harass and the abbreviations for old and bishop go into a 3-letter word meaning brilliant

19a    No longer an item, one side of which is hurt (5)
ACHED: The second half (one side) of a 10-letter word meaning no-longer an item

21a    Front of some fairly good houses subsiding (7)
DESCENT: A 6-letter word meaning ‘fairly good’ contains (houses) the first letter (front) of some

23a    Perhaps Jack, eschewing a foursome, gives notice (7)
PLACARD: This Jack is an example (perhaps) of a (7,4), from which 4 adjacent letters have been eschewed

24a    One stabs Polish prisoner in point of no return (7)
RUBICON: The Roman numeral for one goes in between a verb meaning to polish and a prisoner

25a    Work it loose in little opening (7)
OSTIOLE: An anagram (work) of IT LOOSE

26a    Raffles’ agent changed advisory officers (7,5)
GENERAL STAFF: An anagram (changed) of RAFFLE’S AGENT


1d    Nuisance calls for help, two being cut short (2-3-2)
SO-AND-SO: Calls for help would be *** AND ***, but both are cut short

2d    Period in which Press Association guides electorate initially (4,3)
IRON AGE: A word meaning to press and the first letters (initially) of ‘association guides electorate’

3d    It’ll help with smooth movement in musical piece (6,3)
GREASE GUN: A popular musical and a piece or weapon

4d    Stop no-go prohibition (5)
EMBAR: A 7-letter prohibition without the final ‘GO’

5d    Squalid room altogether ransacked following removal of catch (7)
RATHOLE: An anagram (ransacked) of ALTO(get)HER following removal of a word meaning catc

6d    Raise tax in European shelter (7)
ELEVATE: A tax goes inside the abbreviation for European and a word for shelter

7d    Former computing entrepreneur to check account then run plant (6,6)
JACOBS LADDER: A former Apple boss contains (to check) an abbreviation for account, then a 6-letter run in a stocking

10d    Old guard fret about young miscreant (6,6)
ARTFUL DODGER: An anagram (about) of OLD GUARD FRET

15d    What could manoeuvre hogs with speed? (9)
SHEEPDOGS: An anagram (manoeuvre) of HOGS + SPEED

17d    Obvious having change of leader is ludicrous (7)
RISIBLE: A 7-letter word for obvious where the first letter is altered (change of leader)

18d    Officer consumed by joy in mountainous valley (7)
GLENCOE: A 3-letter abbreviation for an officer goes inside (consumed by) another word for joy

19d    Spine shown by worker possibly occupying out-of-bounds Russian country homes (7)
ACANTHA: A 6-legged worker goes inside a 6-letter word for ‘Russian country homes’ without the outer letters (out-of-bounds)

20d    Intercept and trouble ambassador following repeated arrests (4,3)
HEAD OFF: A 3-letter word for trouble goes inside (gets arrested) the abbreviation for the title of an ambassador and twice (repeated) the abbreviation for following

22d    Knight wearing robe in island monarchy (5)
TONGA: The chess abbreviation for knight goes inside (wearing) a Roman robe

Plenty to like. I think 1a has become my favourite. I also liked 23a, 10d and 15d. Which clues were your favourites?

16 comments on “Toughie 3164
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  1. No disrespect to our setter but I found this a bit easier than the backpager today. This was beautifully clued, with 1a, once I found out what they were, my favourite. An honourable mention, too, to 14a and 10d.

    Thanks to Sparks for the challenge and to Dutch.

  2. Having really enjoyed all three Toughies so far this week, I decided to make a rare foray into Friday Toughieland. What a good decision! This one was also a real treat, even though I agree with YS’s assessment that it was considerably easier than the backpager today.

    1a & 14a were new words for me. When looking up 1a to confirm that it was a real word with the required meaning, I discovered that the American equivalent is “singletree”. I know we are familiar with our friends across the pond leaving out the U from certain words, but this one is a first for a missing W! I also found out that an alternative, and equally delightful, UK name for the same thing is “whippletree” for which the American equivalent is “whiffletree”!

    Many thanks to Sparks and also to Dutch.

  3. 1a is an excellent word – so pleased that it’s entered my vocabulary today! I did need assistance from Dutch on a couple of occasions but most of the grid-fill was my own work.
    Top three here were 1a plus 3&10d.

    Thanks to Sparks – how’s Tia? and also to Dutch for his help and guidance.

  4. Very enjoyable **/****. Had to check the studio, the fish and the pore but ok to work them out. The long outer answers went in quickly and helped speed through it.

    Thanks to Sparks and Dutch.

    Can’t see any nina.

  5. An enjoyable puzzle, quite easy, but one of great quality. I see that ‘Harpo’ has made it into The Guardian today, so as far as I am aware that makes it a double for this talented compiler.

  6. Many thanks to Dutch for the usual excellent and entertainingly illustrated blog, and to all for the overwhelmingly positive comments. And, to Jane: Tia is doing wonderfully well thanks, being consistently and irrepressibly silly, happy and active — to wit, exhausting!

    There was indeed a huge (pan-grid) nina, dictated by the shapes of eight black ‘multiblocks’ in the pre-set grid. Let’s just say it was an ‘elluva struggle to fill this grid with non-outrageous words ;) :D

    1. Thanks for the excellent puzzle. Could this be your 50th Toughie with eight L-shaped blocks and an L in the centre of all four of the edge rows? If so, many congratulations.

  7. We felt so crossworded out after doing the back-pager that we put this one aside for later. Have now done it and thoroughly enjoyed the process. Amazed now to see the clever Nina which of course we had not twigged.
    Thanks Sparks and Dutch.

  8. Like RD a rare foray into Friday Toughiedom also. I’m with Jonners in finding it pretty challenging in places but glad I made the effort. New words for me at 1a (half expected it might be a clock mechanism), 14a (loved the ciggy synonym) & 25a but all sympathetically clued. Interesting to see Wednesday’s parsing headache, embar, cropping up again so soon.
    Thanks to Sparks for a very pleasant puzzle & to Dutch whose review I’ll read tomorrow

  9. Super puzzle, thank you Sparks. Incredible Nina!

    A pub not far from here is called The Swingletree, so 1a happily came to mind very swiftly, and is on my podium, with 15d (we have a delicious hoggett lamb in one of the freezers) and 14a.

    Thanks also to Dutch.

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