Toughie No 108

Toughie No 108 by Excalibur

A difficult Toughie with some tenuous clues

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

I found this a difficult Toughie and, for me, it was spoilt by the tenuous nature of some of the clues.  It’s always difficult when 1 across, often the key to open the whole puzzle, is as awkward as it has been today.


1a Thinking credulously that someone likes you? (4,6)
{FOND BELIEF} – to say I didn’t like this is an understatement – I suggest you double click the answer and then get on with the rest of the puzzle

9a Able to cut to achieve prices that are competitive (4)
{KEEN} – a double definition – very sharp (able to cut); lowly priced (to achieve prices that are competitive)

10a Only a person working in a Chinese restaurant can provide it (4,6)
{BEAN SPROUT} – partial anagrams can be very difficult, like this one – BUT (only) around an anagram (working) of A PERSON giving an ingredient of many Chinese dishes

11a Stopped at an English resort for the purpose of (4,2)
{HOVE TO} – without the crossing letters, this would have been a lot harder – the English resort is very near to Brighton, and TO is tenuously indicated by “for the purpose of”

12a Many marked for identification purposes were frightened (7)
{CRINGED} – C (100 in Roman numerals / many) then how birds are marked for identification purposes gives a synonym for frightened

15a Agents and fellow members of the cast (7)
{FACTORS} – F(ellow) then members of the cast of a play give a synonym for agents

16a The wagtail, my love, was upset about – was cross (5)
{RAGED} – DEAR (my love) reversed (was upset – shouldn’t this only be for down clues?) around (about) G (waG tail) giving a synonym for was cross

17a That, son, is a fruit – and fruit was his undoing (4)
{ADAM} – it’s as well that this is easy from the second part of the wordplay – he who accepted the apple from Eve – because for most of us, the rest only comes after working out the answer: add SON to the answer and you have a small plum, ideal for making jam

18a Shut up with a loony (4)
{GAGA} – a device used to shut someone up followed by A gives a loony – or maybe an American songstress!

19a Come out on the date – first and last sections only (5)
{DEBUT} – I thought at first that this was something to do with the eligible young ladies at a coming out party, but no – DatE (first and last sections) followed by the synonym for only borrowed from 10 across

21a Runs going down the steps (7)
{LADDERS} – I’m sure every lady, old and young, doing this puzzle will have had many experiences of these runs, and every man, and a few of the ladies, will have used these steps

22a Current, or power, enters when switched on (7)
{PRESENT} – P (it’s usually P for power or E for energy) then a well concealed anagram (when switched on) of ENTERS gives us now (current)

24a Shows sudden interest in the thing the cat’s carrying back (4,2)
{SITS UP} – a simple but very effective clue – IT (the thing) is inside a word you might use when calling a cat, but reversed (carrying back)

27a Advertisement about cigarettes being bad for you? (5,5)
{SMOKE ALARM} – a good cryptic definition of a device which warns of an unwanted fire- or sometimes, in our house, of my attempts at cooking!

28a The green light just after, on turning the corner (4)
{NOOK} – a very common word for “oll korrekt” (the green light) follows (just after) ON reversed (turning) gives the corner of, perhaps, a chimney

29a Agree when I take the attitude it’s close (2,8)
{NO DISTANCE} – NOD (agree) followed by I and STANCE (the attitude) give an expression meaning it’s close


2d Regarding as past history (4)
{OVER} – without a straightforward double definition like this then 1 across would have been a lot harder

3d Keep for a fellow-man (6)
{DONJON} – a university fellow followed by a man named JON give this unusual word is described by Chambers as a doublet for dungeon

4d With the backing of number one, might authorise (7)
{EMPOWER} – ME (the setter / number one – a nice variation) reversed (with the backing of) then a word meaning strength (might) fives a synonym for authorise

5d It’s hard to smooth things over (4)
{IRON} – another straightforward double definition

6d He got caught entering – a daft stupid fool! (7)
{FATHEAD} – HE inside (got caught entering) an anagram (stupid) of A DAFT giving a fool, and the nickname of superb jazz musician David Newman, a protégé of the Great Ray Charles – guess what kind of music, other than R’n’R, that I love!

7d As the donor said, on finding one after a search? (4,3,3)
{HERE YOU ARE} – a cryptic double definition – easy when you know the answer, but cryptic definitions of phrases are almost always hard to solve

8d Within a short time cheat, being fickle (10)
{INCONSTANT} – inside the short time that it takes to make a cup of coffee put the ubiquitous criminal to give a word meaning fickle

12d Lay in bed (6,4)
{CRADLE SONG} – a rose among the thorns, this gem of a clue plays on the musical type of lay

13d Where a child finds fingers useful as well (2,8)
{IN ADDITION} – following on the childish theme of the previous clue, this is a clever double definition

14d Takes out and one eats them (5)
{DATES} – another double definition, but not up to the standard of the previous one

15d Tired and hungry? No (3,2)
{FED UP} – and a tired double definition

19d Medicine administered, comes round (5,2)
{DROPS IN} – the fourth consecutive double definition

20d Witless twit the composer’s going on tours with (7)
{TRAVELS} – T (twit without the wit – a change from the usual T = time) then belonging to the composer of the famous Bolero (composer’s) giving a synonym for “going on tours” – [Peter B points out below that the “with” seems superfluous, I prefer to see it as a rather late attachment indicator  and the “going on” to be coupled with “tours” rather than signalling “follows”]

23d She doesn’t allow the dances to start up (6)
{STELLA} – take what Chambers describes as theatrical performances of formalized dancing with set steps, mime and fluid graceful movements, remove the first letter (doesn’t allow … to start) and then reverse it (up) for a girl’s name

25d It’s not only caught by the elderly! (4)
{COLD} – C(aught) by OLD (the elderly) for an &lit clue

26d Ann, if dumped by the financier, can resort to him (4)
{ERIC} – we finish on a high – take “Ann if” away from (dumped by) the (finan)cier, and the answer is an anagram (can resort) of what is left

What did you think of this one? – Gazza, Libellule and I are agreed that, in our opinion, several of the clues are somewhat weak.  It is a shame because there were some really good clues as well. Did you have any favourites? Did you hate the same ones we did?


  1. Anigma
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Glad to have the (1a) starter given – couldn’t think of what to add to ‘belief’- some of this is too tricky for me. I await the down hints.

  2. libellule
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Anigma, I wouldn’t worry too much. I only got 1a because I had the two checking letters from 2d and 3d, and then did a run through of all the words that might work before checking the answer via CluedUp.

  3. Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink


    I had two wrong answers – GOOD BELIEF for 1A, which isn’t really a phrase, and SMOKE FLARE at 27A (ditto). Both my fault, and possibly making me more picky than usual below. Corrections welcome if you can see flaws in my arguments.

    There were clues I didn’t like:
    9: “Able to cut”=keen=sharp is clearly one of the def’s, but what’s the other? It’s really “competitive, of prices”, but this meaning of ‘keen’ is an adjective, and however you split the clue, you seem to end up with a noun for the other one – e.g. take “to achieve” as a link between the defs, leaving “prices that are competitive” as the second def. (Or if you treat the adjective “competitive” as the second def, you’ve got “prices that are”, trying to help us towards what is competitive, but not quite in the right way.)

    11A is much the same, as you’ve indicated – “He stopped to buy a newspaper” converts to “He stopped for the purpose of buying a newspaper” – so you can’t replace “to” with “for the purpose of”. And the clue is a chopped-off sentence – for the purpose of … what?

    At 16 I don’t mind ‘upset’ as there’s an ‘overturned’ meaning which does enough to indicate reversal for me. But again the surface was disappointing.

    Minor one at 24: “the cat’s carrying back” seems to imply a reversal of the thing being carried a bit more strongly than the reversal of the cat which is actually needed.

    Not really a criticism, but at 28 I was slightly surprised on reflection that the “No” part wasn’t clued as a red light, to go with the green one for OK.

    At 20, “with” is ‘padding’ in the cryptic reading. Assuming that “going on” is an ‘attachment indicator’ for the charade, “tours” is the real def. “tours with” doesn’t mean “travels”.

    Ones I did like – looking at surface meanings especially: 15, 17, 18, 21, 3, 5, 8, 12, 15, 25.

    At 7, I thought the cryptic logic was OK – indicating two reasons for saying “Here you are”.

  4. Posted March 10, 2009 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    20D: You’re right – your reading gets us to just unusual word-ordering

  5. Posted March 10, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    This is a rare event that I will cherish!!

  6. Harry Shipley
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Not a good puzzle, I thought. For example, STELLA and SMOKE ALARM were the last two I got (with some aid) and they left me – uggh!

    Harry Shipley

  7. Posted March 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    One might, perhaps, describe it as a Curate’s Egg of a puzzle (I wish I’d thought of that this morning!).

    The Curate’s Egg

    btw – I took up Libellule’s suggestion and changed the slogan at the top of the page from “putting the words to rights” to “putting the words to lights” – did anyone notice?

  8. libellule
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Dave, I suspect not :-)