Toughie 3209 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 3209

Toughie No 3209 by Dharma

Hints and tips by ALP

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

It is perhaps fitting, albeit daunting, for the not-so-young pretender to review his not-so-old predecessor, the mighty Stephen L Dharma. And I can’t tell you how much I wanted to like this. But, to quote Simon Cowell, and I promise you that’s a first and a last, I didn’t like it … I LOVED it. What a relief! Cracking surfaces, elegant wordplay and some nifty misdirection. Pretty spot on for a Tuesday, I’d say. I did try to find an appropriate Blue Oyster Cult clip by way of homage to SL but failed miserably. Still, Jane should be happy! I did, however, manage to squeeze in some Dury which I imagine she’ll be less pleased about. Over to you.


1a Coke is attractive to this setter perhaps (7,3)
SNIFFER DOG: Cryptic definition and an all-in-one but it’s the “setter” you’re after. Not the sort of Coke one drinks, not the sort of setter that sets.

6a Heading back, service area miles away (4)
AFAR: One of the three services + A(rea), reversed (heading back).

10a Student wrapped up big fan (5)
LOVER: The usual one-letter student/learner + wrapped up/finished.

11a Mike, queasy on part of flight, it’s routine (9)
TREADMILL: M(ike) + queasy/unwell, on (to the right of, in an across) part (stepped) on flight/stairs.

12a Hang on to tab – not hard, it being coppers (3,4)
OLD BILL: Hang on to, minus H(ard), plus tab, as in one you must pay.

13a Italian port, very French, inspiring one with time on vacation (7)
TRIESTE: French for very inspires (encloses) the Roman one + T(im)E. Having holidayed here once, by mistake, I can’t recommend it as a vacation destination.

14a Paddy regularly jams with a stringed instrument in good condition (3,2,1,6)
FIT AS A FIDDLE: Paddy/strop + jAmS + A from the clue + stringed instrument. This is the sort of clue I would normally bung in lazily without parsing but I’m glad I did/had to. Excellent.

18a Shortly, fine price to go by express will give help for the needy (7,5)
WELFARE STATE: Fine/healthy, shortly (missing its last letter) + (ticket?) price + express, as in to say.

21a Grid I construct originally drinking coffee? On the contrary (7)
LATTICE: A (milky, ugh!) coffee drinks I C (I construct originally), not the other way round (on the contrary).

23a Blew a fuse after golf, that’s allowed (7)
GRANTED: Blew a fuse or fumed after the usual golf.

24a Said to be tolerating the drink, a large volume of it! (6,3)
BERING SEA: Homonym (said to be) of a synonym for tolerating + the drink as in what a stricken pilot ditches into. The drink is needed for the wordplay and for the definition, and (with another meaning) the surface. Nice.

25a Party island adopted by rabbi, bizarrely (5)
IBIZA: A lurker (adopted by).

26a Credit on the radio for single (4)
LONE: A homonym (on the radio) of credit, that which one might give to a friend in need.

27a Industrial nation’s first aid scheme in turmoil (10)
MECHANISED: N(ation)AIDSCHEME, in turmoil.


1d Rarely sits up, energy required to rise (6)
SELDOM: The usual sits, reversed (up) with the E(nergy) rising (coming earlier in a down clue). Another lovely surface.

2d Request someone’s company with advertisement for sex, get overrun (6)
INVADE: A word for “request someone’s company” has its two-letter word for sex or sex appeal replaced by the usual two-letter advertisement. The “get” is just a link.

3d Factions riot – if worried, we need these? (14)
FORTIFICATIONS: FACTIONSRIOTIF, worried. It’s not an &lit (am I allowed to say that on BD?!) but it is an all-in-one as you need the whole to make the definition work.

4d Get back at a later time restless, minutes having flown (9)
RETALIATE: ALATERTI(m)E, restless (anagram) with the (M)inutes flying.

5d Open secret, Conservative to quit (5)
OVERT: A six-letter adjective for secret loses its C(onservative).

7d Turn right maybe, or the opposite? (8)
FLIPSIDE: Turn/toss + right (or left, say/maybe). I almost underlined the whole thing as it could be read as an all-in-one but I bottled it because it works either way. I do love this sort of clue.

8d Thankful about villain carrying ecstasy backtracking (8)
RELIEVED: The customary about + villain/demon, reversed/backtracking, with E(cstasy) inserted.

9d Senior politician wanting Queen to cut publicity quota for government (14)
ADMINISTRATION: A cabinet member, minus the usual Queen, inside/cutting the two-letter publicity and a six-letter word for quota. I thought the Lego was going to make my head hurt but it’s actually very clean. I’d love to know what Rabbit Dave thinks about this as (even though it’s not really) it could be seen as an Americanism!

15d Gold rating for bedding normal to go over hotel sign (9)
AUTOGRAPH: One of the two two-letter golds + bedding rating (duvet warmth, etc) + (a golfer’s?) normal, reversed (going over) + H(otel). I’m not totally convinced the surface is quite right but it is jolly clever.

16d Organised all on web for cheaper option (3-5)
OWN LABEL: ALLONWEB, organised. You know the drill.

17d Traditional press (FT) covering American city satire endlessly (8)
FLATIRON: FT (very kind to us here, Dharma!) covers a two-letter US city (you’ve only got a choice of two, I reckon) ­+ satire/sarcasm, without its last letter.

19d Spots yours truly wearing leather on board ship (6)
STAINS: The one-letter “yours truly” inside/wearing leather, as a verb (slangy or otherwise, works either way) all inside/on board the old steamship.

20d Man finally bound to support daughter in online spat? (6)
EDWARD: I’m pretty sure this will irk some (there are a lot of men’s names, after all) but I rather liked it. (boun)D supports/follows D(aughter) inside how one might describe an online conflict (1-3).

22d Take legal action to uphold private space, overlooking opening result (5)
ENSUE: Take legal action (3) upholds/follows a three-letter private space (man’s cave?) without its opening letter.

I thought this was excellent. Not tough, but not soft, either. 14a and 1d got my biggest ticks. What did you make of it?

30 comments on “Toughie 3209
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  1. Thank you, Dharma, that was fun. And thank you, ALP, for explaining the “part of flight” in 11a that stumped me.

    I was really impressed with the long 9d (“publicity quota”). 2d just beat it to be my favourite with its advertisement for sex.

  2. Following his debut offering Dharma goes one better and nails the difficult sophomore album with this superb collection. Well-crafted, witty compositions and exceptionally smooth production augur well for this performer. I particularly liked tracks 2 [slightly risque] and 9 [especially well put together] on the second side. One to watch.
    Thanks to Dharma and ALP [but it will soon take longer to do the blog than to do the crossword].

  3. An enjoyable lunchtime mental workout at a level that would not have been out of place on the back page towards the end of the week, or as what we used to enjoy on a Sunday back page. A perfect ratio of anagrams : other, many good surfaces and a few smiles to boot. Podium places to 11a, 14a and 3d – great surface. Clues such as 14a demonstrate so well the red herring merit of capitalising the first word of a clue. Wasn’t convinced by 17d and felt the gimme of (FT) could possibly have been described differently.

    1.5* / 3*

    Thank you Dharma/Stephen, a good puzzle; thanks also to ALP – particularly for Mr Dury.

  4. I loved it too. Ticks all over the shop & some terrific surfaces. 1,14&24a plus 7,15&17d particular standouts for me. Always enjoy Stephen’s puzzle but reckon this one his best yet.
    Thanks to Dharma & ALP for another cracking review – you can’t beat a bit of Duck Soup & loved the 14a clip. Loved Wilko with Dr Feelgood & had quite forgotten he joined The Blockheads.

  5. Simply excellent! This was perfectly pitched for a Tuesday Toughie and was a joy to solve from start (and 1a, my favourite of many ticked clues, made for a great beginning) to finish.

    Two comments for ALP: I can’t see anything remotely non-British about 9d; and there is absolutely no objection to having a person’s name as an answer (as in 20d) – it is not vague when derived from the wordplay.

    Many thanks to Dharma and to ALP.

    1. Ha! I’m delighted. I was just suggesting that we Brits don’t generally describe our government as “the administration” and I know what a stickler you are. But it is, of course, correct. And I just know some people (I wasn’t looking at you for that one, I promise!) baulk at first-name answers. Neither bothered me in the slightest!

  6. What a great puzzle, double ticks all over the place for me. Too many to list but after much deliberation 17 d gets my vote because I liked the clue, enjoyed the humour and loved the picture ALP found to illustrate his hint!
    While on the theme of reviewing the reviewer I also enjoyed ALP’s gratuitous Ian Dury clip which you have to listen most of the way through to have any idea of the relevance to the clue.
    Marvellous all round, thanks to Dharma and to ALP

    1. It was gratuitous, you’re absolutely right. But I warn you now – if I can shoehorn in Withnail & I and/or Ian Dury, I will!

  7. Very gentle and enjoyable start to the week. Lots of ticks, but 14A, 15,19 and 20D get special mention. My favourite was 1A.
    Many thanks to ALP and Dharma for the enjoyment.

  8. Quite brilliant. A joy to solve from start to finish.
    Too many ticks to select a favourite.
    2d held me up slightly, as I was trying to omit VI for sex, which obviously didn’t work at all!
    Take a bow, Dharma. More like this please.

  9. Dear Alp , thanks for explaining 2d for me , I couldn’t make any sense of it.
    A very enjoyable puzzle . I’ll pick 14a as my favourite. Thanks to all concerned for this blog.

  10. Thoroughly enjoyed this. Not a duff clue among them and excellent surfaces throughout. Perfectly pitched for Tuesday.
    The geezer at 20d didn’t bother me as I already had two Ds as checkers 👍

    Thank you Dharma and ALP. Fine work both!

  11. Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. As mentioned elsewhere, this would have been a good late week backpager for the level of challenge and clever cluing. Cotd is 1a by a short nose (sorry!) with 12a a close second. Thanks to Dharma and Alp.

  12. I found this a tad harder than most, although looking back I can’t see why I just did. Maybe it’s a measure of how good a crossword it was with super clues all over the oche, and I managed to parse them all. LOI and COTD was 1d. Thanks to Dharma and ALP.

  13. Taking me a while to get to grips with this setter’s style but I did manage this one rather more easily than his debut puzzle. Still a bit of ‘guess then reverse parse’ running through my mind but a definite improvement in my performance.
    Thoughts of Huntsman went through my head with 23a and I guessed it would make his list of favourites but apparently not! Biggest ticks here went to 1,11&23a plus 1d.

    Thanks to Dharma and to ALP for the review. As for the video clips – I recall just one occasion when Stephen in his blogging guise posted one that I enjoyed, I live in hope that one day you may have a similar aberration………..

  14. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to solve the puzzle and leave a comment, very much appreciated here. Thanks also to ALP for a top blog and some interesting musical selections. I particularly liked the Ian Dury clip, any band that boasts him, Wilko Johnson and Norman Watt-Roy has to be worth a look.

    1. Huge thanks for popping in – we all love it when the setter makes an appearance. And thank you for a cracking puzzle. Chapeau!

  15. Late again – that was a fine crossword just right for the Tuesday Toughie Thanks Dharma and ALP
    I was interested to have confirmed the fact that John Hancock indeed did splash his signature over the Declaration of Independence three times the size of anyone elses

  16. Almost had a rare, unaided, Toughie finish. Fell at the final fence, thanks to 6a, 7d, and 8d.
    Great puzzle and thanks for the hints.

  17. Warmest congrats on this excellent Toughie, Dharma! Most enjoyable indeed.
    I have many ticks, including: 1a, 12a, 14a, 24a, 1d, 7d, 15d and 17d.
    Many appreciative thanks for this super puzzle, Dharma.
    And what a great review from ALP! Most fitting. Although I didn’t need it I much enjoyed reading it. The video for 14a had me laughing and admiring the energy in equal halves…

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