Toughie 3217 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 3217

Toughie No 3217 by Donnybrook

Hints and tips by ALP

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I always get Donnybrook and Giovanni (for obvious reasons) confused so I thought I’d best mug up before tackling this. And they are, of course, very different chaps indeed. One is the crossword editor of the Church Times and this one … isn’t. Reading an old interview in the Guardian (oh, the things I endure for you all) I was tickled to learn how he picked his nom de guerre after being sacked from Saatchi & Saatchi for gross misconduct. “There was a drunken brawl (AKA donnybrook) so it must have been sometime after 11am.” Splendid! But their loss was our gain. He even likes jazz and plays the drums, but that’s just gravy as he had me at hello. And this was jolly enough, with only a smattering of 11-plus GK required. Basic Latin and French, a dollop of geography and history and some science. Yes, I’m looking at you, 19d. So that’ll be 3 As, a C and an E for me, then. How did you get on?


1a Adult crow first coming to Portuguese city (5)
BRAGA: Crow/boast (coming first) + A(dult).

4a You are in Rome, caught with a dead mushroom (8)
ESCALATE: “You are” in (ancient) Rome, ie Latin, plus C(aught) + A + four-letter adjective for dead. This actually made me sweat for a second and I read Latin at university! I know, absurd.

10a Germany is wrong to buckle (7)
DISTORT: The one-letter symbol for Germany + IS from the clue + a noun meaning (a legal) wrong.

11a Way to stuff duck – flavourful bird (7)
OSTRICH: One of the usual two-letter (road)ways inside/stuffing cricket’s familiar duck and an adjective for full of flavour.

12a Note parts tangled in duff fishing gear (7,3)
LANDING NET: N(ote) inside (parts as a verb) TANGLEDIN, duff.

13a Tolerate MDMA brought into boozer (4)
BEAR: The more commonly used one-letter name for MDMA inside one of the usual boozers/pubs.

15a Phrase communicating stiff resistance? (4,2,4,4)
OVER MY DEAD BODY: How one might say “This just isn’t going to happen – at least not while I’m alive” (ie, not stiff).

17a Angry with official about new clubs forming link-up (5-9)
CROSS-REFERENCE: Angry/irate + (football) official about/enclosing N(ew) C(lubs).

20a Second verse and bridge ultimately stir emotions (4)
MOVE: Second/instant + V(erse) + bridge (ultimately).

21a Eye surgery more costly when complicated (10)
SCLEROTOMY: MORECOSTLY, complicated. Not a word one sees every day, I’m glad to say.

23a Caribbean island exporting what French drink (7)
MARTINI:  Not Princess Margaret’s favourite island but the other one, minus the three-letter French word for “what”.

24a Top player foolish losing heart with racket? (7)
NOISILY: Top seed (ie, not the number two) + a synonym for foolish/daft, less its middle/heart letter.

25a Compliant bit done badly traps leader in enigma (8)
OBEDIENT: BITDONE, done badly and including E(nigma).

26a Wanderer bathing old woman in green light (5)
NOMAD: The usual old woman in (the) green light one gives by way of a thumbs-up.


1d Hostile feeling: smear upset Crown Jewels robber (3,5)
BAD BLOOD: Smear/wipe reversed (upset) + the Colonel who tried to pinch the Crown Jewels in, ahem, 1671. You either know this or you don’t. I didn’t! But the definition is clear.

2d Want ratings from this origin for EastEnders? (7)
ABSENCE: The usual ratings/sailors + how a cockney might say from this origin/from here.

3d Mob under a man in charge making scientific measurement (6,4)
ATOMIC MASS: A mob/crowd/throng follows A + a man’s name (or male animal, as it happens) + In Charge.

5d Small boy and girl taken outside resort hotel for game (5-9)
SHOVE-HALFPENNY: S(mall) + boy’s name (3) + girl’s name (5) outside/around a Sussex resort (4) + H(otel).

6d Sebastiano in Piedmont town? On the contrary (4)
ASTI: Hidden. As the surface suggests, you’re actually looking for the town in (the word) Sebastiano, not the other way around.

7d Strong flavouring eased in for cooking (7)

8d Volatile chemical bonds without shell (5)
ETHER: A word meaning bonds/ties, minus its first and last letters.

9d Go with artistic need to change order of play (5,9)

14d Unkempt beard sported by Scotsman from Granite City (10)
ABERDONIAN: BEARD, unkempt + how one might say (this is) being sported/worn by the usual three-letter Scotsman (2,3).

16d Innocent Welsh banker caps yen when stopping action (4-4)
DEWY-EYED: Three-letter Welsh banker/river + Y(en) inside/stopping a word for (an) action.

18d Cleric seen on lake in daydream (7)
REVERIE: The usual cleric + one of the Great Lakes.

19d Metal miners surrounding old boy among islands (7)
NIOBIUM: Miners (union), outside the familiar Old Boy that’s enclosed by two I(slands). New to me but very fairly clued.

20d Snake having love for a voodoo princess (5)
MAMBO: A deadly snake has its final A replaced by O (love).

22d Dotty characters supporting feminine state? (4)
FIJI: F(eminine) + three letters that (in the lower-case) have a dot over them. There are only two in our alphabet. You need two of one, and one of the other. A tad cute perhaps, but it works.

I did like 5d’s surface but the boy’s name/girl’s name (and we’ve just had a man’s name in 3d) niggled me. 9d reads well and 12a is clever (if slightly ugly) but I liked 15a and 23a the best. What did you think?

25 comments on “Toughie 3217
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  1. I wouldn’t argue with our blogger’s top two selections this afternoon. I also rather liked 22d. Overall this was a fairly gentle introduction from one of my favourite setters to the Toughie week and well worth the effort.

    My thanks to Donnybrook and ALP.

  2. A very good and approachable complement to today’s back pager from DYBK – 2.5*/4.5

    Candidates for favourite – 12a, 15a, 5d, and 22d – and the winner is 15a.

    Thanks to DYBK and ALP.

  3. Tuesdays usually see me attending to the flower beds at the local railway station and pottering around attempting to be generally useful, not today though. Far too wet, cold and miserable, so a quiet morning indoors with two Telegraph crossword puzzles to play with and two Telegraph puzzles now completed. A good steady solve, which took a bit longer to finish than sometimes a ‘Donny’ puzzle does, but none the less enjoyable for that. I needed electronic help for the eye surgery clue, as it was previously unknown to me, as was 1a. I liked the four longer answers, especially 5d & 15a. All good fun and so now for this afternoon’s Countdown. Thanks to Donnybrook and ALP

  4. Wot larks! A rather tremendous puzzle from Don Nybrook, and while it did not last very long at all there were smiles aplenty. The Portuguese city and the metal were both new to me but so fairly clued that I had no hesitation in writing in those answers. I think the overall humour and my enjoyment post hoc were enhanced in no small measure by ALP’s choice of the wonderful clip from Madagascar, which once again will now be an ear-worm for hours, if not days.

    Podium initially so full it was falling over, so have limited to 13a for the surface, 23a because I didn’t think I’d seen it before, 5d and 6d.

    1* / 4*

    Many thanks to the Junior Don, Nybrook, and to ALP

  5. As someone who has been in the company of both Donnybrook and Giovanni many times over the years, I was most amused by the idea of confusing one with the other :D

    A gentle and enjoyable start to the Toughie week

    Many thanks to Donnybrook and ALP

  6. An enjoyable start to the Toughie week – thanks to Donnybrook and ALP.
    The Portuguese city, the eye surgery and the metal were all new to me but all fairly clued.
    My ticks went to 4a, 15a and 2d.

  7. ALP, those old Guardian blogs are a brilliant read, and Donnybrook’s is absolutely hilarious. In ‘knob-mode he’s one of my favourite setters at the moment, might have to give this a go given the low star rating, may just be doable 😅

  8. I enjoyed this gentle start to our Toughie week. Lots to enjoy with 2, 5 and 16D getting a special mention. My podium has to be 15A, a super clue.
    Many thanks to ALP and of course Donnybrook for the enjoyment.

  9. A fun start to the toughie week. Lots to like, especially 23a and 14d, both of em witty as well as perfectly clued.
    Thanks to Donnybrook and to ALP – nice to hear some Ivor Cutler.

  10. A few gaps in my GK became glaringly obvious and probably rendered this a far more tricky solve than it should have been, but I still enjoyed it. I’ve watched every episode of ‘Inside the Tower’ and don’t recall the 1d colonel ever getting a mention!
    Top clues for me were 15&17a.

    Thanks to Donnybrook and to ALP for the review.

  11. I had to look a few things up as foreign languages aren’t my strongpoint and 1a and 21a were new to me, I know them now. I thoroughly enjoyed this though. Favourite was 3d, didn’t have a problem with this. Thanks to Donnybrook and ALP.

  12. We found this one trickier than many others are reporting. Perhaps the GK was a bit less familiar to us.
    Did eventually get everything sorted and appreciated the solve.
    Thanks Donnybrook and ALP.

  13. I am another survivor of NYDK’s Guardian interview, which had me falling around, so to speak. Advertising I believe was always known for its excesses, and Saatchis would not have been immune in any way, as I understand it. I liked all of this, with special mention to the duck, and 5 and 6D.

    Thanks Don E Brooke and ALP (are you a Finnegans Wake chapter by any chance?).

    1. It was hilarious, wasn’t it? He sounds like an entertaining fellow. The “sometime after 11am” was especially chucklesome. Great Joycean spot by the way – I share her initials.

  14. Took 3 stabs to complete with 4 pennies (1&5d + 12&15a) most reluctant to drop. I’d forgotten, if I ever knew, the self styled colonel(did wonder at one point if the crown jewels were anatomical) & the other 3 unfamiliarities were the same as those for Gazza. Got there eventually but despite making hard work of it really enjoyed the solve. Winced when reading about the eye procedure & thought 15a, which was my runaway favourite clue. Plenty of ✅s elsewhere too – 23&24a plus 2,5&14d other particular likes.
    Thanks to Donny & to ALP – not sure about Ivor but love Sophia & could listen to Stanley all night – wonderful in The Lovely Bones & Big Night.

  15. Hello ALP et al, thanks for blog and comments. Glad you enjoyed it, and also the recent-ish profiles that were done on me. There was one by Chris Lancaster for the DT, and one by Alan Connor for the Grauniad, but they shared many a ‘fact’. Some of the content could be true.

    As to Joycean ALPs, I’ve been trying to get as many versions of anagrams of CHAPEL in as possible, as we have HCE and ALP in the same anagram. That book makes Ulysses look like Janet and John.


    1. Huge thanks for dropping in – I know we all appreciate it – and for your puzzle, which went down a storm. I look forward to your forthcoming “chapel” clue – sounds bruisingly highbrow. FW is, as you say, beyond chewy!

  16. Thank you, Donnybrook. I didn’t find it as straightforward as many, but I can hardly complain about finding a Toughie tough, and it was good fun.

    My shortlist for favourites is 22d’s dotty characters, 23a’s what French drink, and 17a’s official (which initially caught me out by being in full; I was only trying the 3-letter shortening which seems far more amenable to have all its letters feature in an unrelated word).

    And thank you, ALP: I did need a couple of hints in the middle, but far fewer than I did with today’s backpager, so I’m counting that as a success. I finished the puzzle on the train back from Puzzled Pint last night, but was too tired to fit in commenting before bed.

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