put a spanner in the works

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put/throw a spanner in the works

  (British & Australian) also put/throw a (monkey) wrench in the works (American)
to do something that prevents a plan or activity from succeeding We were hoping to get the project started in June but the funding was withdrawn so that rather threw a spanner in the works. The sudden withdrawal of the guest speaker really threw a monkey wrench in the works.
See also: put, spanner, work