Toughie 3289 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 3289

Toughie No 3289 by Donnybrook
Hints and tips by ALP

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I had/have absolutely no idea how to score this for difficulty. It all flew in – the right side in particular – thanks to very fair definitions. But there was quite a bit of reverse-parsing. If anyone gets 1a from the parsing alone and without checkers, you have my total respect. The intricate wordplay is all logical, if at times quirky, and some of the GK/vocab was new to me (6d, 18d) but it’s all generously clued.  A few too many linking words, I thought – making, generating, providing, etc. Perfectly right and proper but they did start to grate, a little. But there is, of course, much to enjoy. Going on solve time, I’ve gone with **+ as this felt closer to a 2 than a 3 but, with full parsing, it is possibly flirting with *** territory. Damn my eyes if you must! All yours.


1a Goddess consuming liver say at lunchtime in Wear? Shambles! (15)
DISORGANISATION: An Egyptian goddess consumes/contains liver (say/by example) + at lunchtime (2,1), all inside (to) wear. Lego, and then some. I rather enjoyed this but the surface is, frankly, bonkers.

9a Round mass blocking pipe riled one: smoker hereabouts blew top! (7)
POMPEII:  The usual “round” + M[ass] blocking/inside PIPE, riled. Plus the usual “one”.

10a Songbird swallowing managed seconds, making journey across (7)
TRANSIT: The bird that I (wrongly) never think of as a songbird swallows/contains the usual “managed” + S[econds].

11a Cook slowly leaves M&S having returned sandwiches (5)
STEAM: The usual-ish “leaves” is sandwiched by S and M (M&S returned).

12a Duck short answer needed to stop firms combining? (9)
MERGANSER: Abbreviated answer (3) inside/stopping a bringing together of companies, etc = a duck I’ve only ever seen in crosswords.

14a Place in Scottish pass generating commission (6)
DEPUTE: (to) place inside the Scottish word for (to) pass (over to the other side). Very arch, very jolly.

16a Like stars in team – team playing at Bernabéu? (8)
SIDEREAL: The usual “team” plus the usual Bernabéu team.

18a Five staff backed Gardner perhaps providing vital vessel (4,4)
VENA CAVA: The Roman “five” + staff/stick, reversed + Gardner (I can only think of one, ie this one).

19a Indifference alas besetting animated Clifton hotel? (6)
APATHY: Alas (2) besets/dominates (a new containment indicator for me) TV’s animated Mr Clifton and H[otel]. And no, I didn’t know his surname either!

21a Plan to have Fender guitar: a particularly fine example (9)
STRATAGEM: Fender’s most famous model (familiarly) + A from the clue + fine example/beauty.

25a Spoke where American ignored over wireless (5)
RADIO: Spoke/ie summat that connects a circle’s centre to the circumference, minus/ignoring one of the usual “Americans” + O[ver].

27a Smallholder takes short drive round banks of the river (7)
CROFTER: Drive/compel, minus its last letter and reversed + T[h]E + R[iver].

28a Horse, low-down, imprisons duck in close dark place (7)
DUNGEON: (grey-brown) horse + (the) low-down containing/imprisoning the usual “duck”.

29a Track compares poorly with external online curriculum (5,10)
EPSOM RACECOURSE: COMPARES, poorly, with “online (university, say) curriculum” when written as (1,6) outside (ie, external).


1d Action taken about PO victims ultimately removed from office (7)
DEPOSED: Act(ion) outside PO from the clue and the last letter of “victims”. I wanted to like this surface more.

2d One or other defending million where fighting once raged (5)
SOMME: One or other/a few defends/contains M[illion].

3d Space in house – one beneath roof – reportedly with failing joints? (9)
RHEUMATIC: A homophone of (the most obvious) house component + the specific one that’s beneath the roof. Fun, this.

4d Man seen with Yankee’s hack saw (5)
AXIOM: Man (as island) with/after the American spelling of hack/chop.

5d Dramatist has play’s debut cancelled in Bury (5)
INTER: Late British playwright, one of our finest, loses Play’s debut/initial.

6d Areas around leg of female lizard (5)
AGAMA: The usual “areas” go round the three-letter leg that’s not a pin; one that  is, apparently, generally female.

7d Determined, aim to contain MI6 (9)
INSISTENT: Aim/purpose contains the Secret Intelligence Service.

8d Seeing old city in old province is not far-fetched (7)
NATURAL: The usual “old city” inside an old South African province.

13d Christian martyr cut with ease when tortured (7)
EUSTACE: CUT+EASE, tortured.

15d Devout welcoming mystical character raised in poverty (9)
PENURIOUS: Devout or holy welcomes/contains a mystical character or letter, reversed/raised.

17d Telepathic ability at last awoken in one inspiring language (9)
ESPERANTO: Telepathic ability (amongst other things) or “sixth sense” + [awoke]N inside a poetic muse. Very nice.

18d Globule from son replacing hydrogen in transport (7)
VESICLE: S[on] replaces the H[ydrogen] in a word for a generic kind of transport.

20d Roughly eliminating resistance in the old capital (7)
YAOUNDE: Roughly/about minus its R[esistance] inside the old word for “the”.

22d Symbol those Egyptians for starters found in male cat (5)
TOTEM: T[hose] E[gyptians] inside a male cat.

23d Kerry’s busy with clothes – not black – and hairdo (5)
GARDA: Clothes/attire minus B[lack] + an abbreviated style of haircut, once popular with schoolboys. Probably!

24d Fly Russian fighter that circles Democrat base (5)
MIDGE: The only Russian fighter (plane) I know circles D[emocrat] plus the mathematical base.

26d Dull day with parent (5)
DREAR: The usual “day” + (to) parent/raise.

This was a puzzle that grew on me. A couple of the surfaces creaked, I felt, and there are a few clues where you’d (possibly) expect an indicator (man, spoke, etc) but, hey, it is a Toughie. And indicators can often be more of a hindrance than a help, can’t they? Ia has my grudging respect and I especially liked 3d and 17d, but I didn’t really need to look beyond 23d for a favourite. What did you make of it?

19 comments on “Toughie 3289
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  1. I’d say most of the crossword was 2* difficulty with an extra half a star for the lizard. I did remember who Mr Clifton was – he was favourite viewing when the boys were little. My favourite was the Kerry’s busy

    Many thanks to Donnybrook and ALP

    PS if the grid was the size it used to be, we wouldn’t have to remember to look and make sure we weren’t going to waste paper

  2. I’m not sure what I thought about this overall, but it was probably too tough for a Tuesday IMHO. There were certainly a lot of very good clues to be enjoyed, but I found a handful very challenging indeed with a couple which were almost impenetrable to parse.

    My podium comprises 1d, 3d & 23d.

    Many thanks to Donnybrook and to ALP.

  3. I tackled this during a sleepless night and enjoyed the challenge.
    I didn’t know the vein or PP’s surname, but both were accessible from the wordplay.
    The topical 1d gets my vote for COD.
    Good puzzle.
    Thanks to Donnybrook and ALP.

  4. I though that this was trickier than our usual Tuesday fare with a good sprinkling of GK but very entertaining. Thanks to Donnybrook and ALP.
    Top clues for me were 11a, 1d and 23d.

  5. This would not have been out of place later in the week such was the complexity of a few of the clues. On reflection, though, they were all gettable if you took time and analysed each word of each clue. In fairness, the only one I was never going to get was the lizard. My favourite was the Kerry busy.

    Many thanks to Donny and ALP.

  6. Came up 2 letters short beaten by a bloody lizard but I was foxed by a couple of whys (4d&19a) & many others arrived on a later bus (1a in particular). MrG’s confirmation also required for a good few (18a&d, how the poor fella at 13d met his end, where 20d was & the haircut). Very tough but satisfying to nearly complete. Lots to like but 23d was my favourite too for the PDM.
    Thanks to Donny & to ALP – rather you than me picking the bones out of that lot. Loved Wynton, had no idea Steamhammer had reformed (like their new version of Junior’s Wailing)& thought you might opt for Van high kicking his way through Caravan at The Band’s farewell gig for 25a

    1. Ha! I did – of course! – flirt with Van for 25a, especially as it harks back to the first (and still favourite) album of his that I ever bought. But he does get a fair bit of airplay on here (huzzah for that) so I thought it was high time Joni got a look in. I was more pained that Goldie Lookin’ Chain didn’t make the cut for 19a. Jane would have LOVED it. Not!

  7. I also found this more testing than usual for a Tuesday. 19A had to be what it was but because I didn’t know postie’s surname I couldn’t parse it so thank you ALP. 6D was last in because I’d never heard of gam so had to look the creature up. Several clues I enjoyed with 18A and 23D taking the honours.
    Many thanks to ALP and Donnybrook.

  8. I found that really difficult and needed a lot of help on the parsing front mainly to do with things I just did not know. The Scottish die, Clifton, the leg, MI6 and busy. I also didn’t know the vessel, the lizard, the globule or the capital. All in all too many unknowns for me to find it enjoyable but on the plus side I did know the duck and the star which was my favourite. Thanks to Donnybrook for the mental beating and ALP for the help parsing.

  9. I was fortunate to get 1a straightaway [honest – “liver say” was the giveaway] so the top half went in rapido. It was 15d and 29a that held me up but no complaints. Lots to like here but I’ll select 16a, 21a and 4d as runners-up with 23d the clear winner.
    Thanks to Donnybrook for the puzzle and ALP for the blog and the tunes. I didn’t know Steamhammer had reformed either – I remember them from University days and can still hum the rif from “Riding on the L&N”.

  10. One of those ‘thank goodness for the BRB’ puzzles for me – really struggled to make headway. Star turns found in 12,28&29a plus 1&7d but they were a long time coming!

    Thanks to Donnybrook for the mind bender and to ALP for the words if not the music.

  11. Needed to check the lizard, the capital and the postman but managed all the rest with quite a lot of back parsing involved.
    An enjoyable solve for us.
    Thanks Donnybrook and ALP.

  12. The Telegraph has reached a new level of incompetence. 29a appears, unreadable, on page 3 of 4 when printing.

  13. Hello ALP and all. Thank you for the blog and comments. Sorry I didn’t get in on Tuesday.

    Hope the weather’s good for you too today. Even the fox kits are out in the garden here. Don’t know how long my shed will survive with the earth directly beneath, but still. Little blighters are SO cute.


    1. Huge thanks for popping in. We missed you on Tuesday. Ta lots for a cracking puzzle. Good luck with your foxes. Hopefully, they’ll at least scare off the moles, which are far more annoying. And less cute!

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