Toughie No 126 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie No 126

Toughie No 126 by Cephas

Hints and tips by Tilsit

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment **

Maybe it’s a hangover from the hospital, maybe I am just a grumpy old devil, but today’s Toughie struck me as being not terribly tough and was no harder than a weekend puzzle.

I found this to have a whiff of the curate’s egg about the puzzle. Very good in parts with one or two bits that left something to be desired.   1 and 8 across and 9 down were clever.  I didn’t like 13 across as it contained a device called “an indirect anagram” (see below), which is frowned upon by most setters.

I wasn’t keen on 21 across and 7 down I have seen several times clued as just “Cha?”, at least this had a definition to accompany it. I like clues to have a nice surface reading wherever possible and this didn’t seem right.

The other thing I wasn’t over-keen on was the grid itself. I felt there were far too many black squares.

Right! Grumble over and let’s look at the clues.If you like to do this to music, may I suggest some soothing Anton Karas zither tunes…….


1. Film Abel (3,5,3)
{THE THIRD MAN} As I said above, quite clever, though it should probably have had a question mark at the end to suggest something unusual, or some ‘thinking outside the box’ is required. According to the Old Testament, Abel was the Third Man, after Adam and Cain. The film of course starred Orson Welles as Harry Lime in the adaptation of Graham Greene’s superlative story.

8 Plant from garden gone awry right to be included (5,6)
{GREEN DRAGON} Which was a rather salubrious local pub near me when I was a lad. I certainly wasn’t aware that it was a plant (called dragonroot in the States). Here the clue is a nice working of “garden gone” plus R (for right) , all mixed up.

11 One suspicious bloomer (4)
{ARUM} Another plant. This time fairly straightforward word sum: A + RUM.

12 Unsophisticated individual leaving worship centre (4)
{NAVE} This is another word sum. Someone who is unsophisticated may be said to be NAIVE, less I.

13 Prophetic lot developing influenza shortly (7)
{FATEFUL} For those solvers who have not heard of the term “indirect anagram” before. This clue contains one (albeit not as horrendous as some I have seen!). The term refers to you having to unscramble a word not actually contained, but defined, in the clue. Most setters nowadays really frown on these as they are seen to be unfair to solvers. This clue is made up of FATE = lot (as in one’s lot in life) plus an anagram of a short word meaning FLU, which will give FUL.

15 Short biographical sketch favouring female going to isolated area in France (7)
{PROFILE} This is made up of PRO (favouring) + F (female) + ILE (an isolated area of France). When I was at school, I was taught French by, amongst others a mad Irishman who gave up teaching to become a fireman in N Ireland at the height of the troubles. He taught me that ILE was a word for Island, which I suppose fits the definition. Are Islands isolated areas?

16 Impertinent Neddy entering Seychelles (5)
{SASSY} This is ASS inside SY, which is the IVR (International Vehicle Registration) mark for The Seychelles.

17 Round detonator first used by head of a branch of the Mafia (4)
{CAPO} CAP (detonator. Remember the cap guns that some of us had as a child?} before O (round). A Capo is the head of a local Mafia branch.

18 Actors in this came back for a month (4)
{ADAR} This is RADA reversed. Is “Actors in it” a sufficient or lazy definition for RADA? I’ll leave you to decide that for yourself.

19 Skater loses time going round glacial ridge (5)
{ESKAR} Another trip back to school and in geography I vaguely remember that eskars are something to do with clints, grikes and moraines rather than being a firm of Walsall solicitors. This is an anagram of SKATER less T, so again it’s quite a nice appropriate clue.

21 Flying cab? (3,4)
{AIR TAXI} I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this clue. It doesn’t get any better with age. If I am charitable, I suppose an Air Taxi isn’t strictly an air vehicle that flies for fares as in a normal taxi. But I sounded out a couple of other newspaper setters this morning and both audibly sucked their teeth on hearing it.

22 Cavity with receiver firmly fixed (4-3)
{WELL-SET} A word sum. WELL (Cavity) plus SET (receiver, as in hand-set).

23 Charlie gives expression of triumphant surprise finding salmon (4)
{COHO} One of the joys of setting is that if you are painted into a corner when setting, there is probably a word for a salmon to help you out. C (Charlie in phonetic alphabet) + OHO!

26 Australian managed islands (4)
{ARAN} Another word sum. A (Australian) + RAN (managed). The Aran Islands are to be found in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland.

27 Hearing he’s a scientist (11)
{AUDIOLOGIST} A cryptic definition. You either love ’em or hate ’em.

28 Immediately using normal system (11)
{STRAIGHTWAY} I sort of assumed this was an alternative to Straightaway, but they have two different uses according to Chambers. Straightway is an adverb while Straightaway is given as an adjective.


2 Highly explosive marine island (4)
{HERM} HE, short for Highly Explosive + RM (Royal Marine) = One of the smaller Channel Islands.

3 Article lady’s bringing up for Greek hero (7)
{THESEUS} Article (THE) and a reverse of Sue’s will give you the hero who slew the Minotaur.

4 Car racing in outskirts of Dewsbury (4)
{INDY} Indy Car racing seemed to be trying to compete with F1 a couple of years back and attracted a couple of ex F1 drivers. It seems to have lost some of its popularity recently. Here the clue is made with of IN + DY (the “outskirts of Dewsbury”)

5 Report group of ten from ecclesiastical district (7)
{DEANERY} Homophone clues are pretty much a matter of taste, but this is on fairly safe ground. Chamber describes DENARY as a group of ten. Here this becomes DEANERY for the puzzle. Even our American solvers will be OK with this one.

6 Bath water (4)
{AVON} Cryptic definition The Avon is a river which flows through the city of Bath. As I said, you either love ’em or hate ’em.

7 Cha at the slightest opportunity (4,1,6)
{HALF A CHANCE} CHA is of course half of the word chance and the definition fits with it. I think it should have had a question mark at the end to indicate something a bit unusual.

8 Whitish rubber substance, something that is balanced on furrow first, say (5-6)
{GUTTA PERCHA} I wonder if you have encountered this phrase outside the world of crossword in the past few years. Gutta Percha is (? Used to be) the stuff in the centre of golf balls, I think. Two homophones here PERCHER with GUTTER first as the clue says.

9 Tribesman with Edward shortly travelling round dry part of Africa (5,6)
{NAMIB DESERT}  – travelling round here signals an anagram of TRIBESMAN and ED (Edward shortly) to give a desert that few of us had heard of before today.

10 Commemorating having binge with claret flowing (11)
{CELEBRATING} Anagram of BINGE and CLARET – nice appropriate clue.

14 Young lady from Scotland did not finish drink (5)
{LASSI} LASSIE without its last letter (“did not finish”). Lassi is the rather delicious Yoghurt-based drink from India.

15 Play quietly before dramatist gives expression of contempt (5)
{PSHAW} P is ‘piano’ a musical instruction meaning to play softly, plus (George Bernard) SHAW, which is a word I often utter. Honest.

19 Was relating to the ear, one of the foreign articles (7)
{EXOTICA} A word sum. EX (was) + OTIC (relating to the ear) + A (ONE) = EXOTICA

20 Strike a second match? (7)
{RELIGHT} This is similar to the Air Taxi clue. If it had been a clue to REMARRY, I would have felt happier. Another tooth-sucker, I am afraid.

24 Call off moving energetically, drive out (4)
{OUST} This puzzles me. I think it is ROUST with R (for Ring?) off the front.

25 Second record on computer (4)
{BLOG} B + LOG (record) – however this technically leaves the definition as “on computer”, when it should be “record on computer”.

26 Some Australasian, but not from here (4)
{ASIA} Another clue I’ve seen a few times before, and similar to the “Capital of Czechoslovakia” clue that leads to OSLO. Nicely diverting.

8 comments on “Toughie No 126

  1. Well, this review is going to be controversial. I disagree with the BD rating, and I disagree with your general comments. On the whole, this was one of the more enjoyable Toughies I have done for a long time. My 2c.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, too. I think 24d is ROUSTING (moving energetically) minus RING (call off).

  3. Thanks guys. One man’s meat and all that! I generally enjoy the challenge of the Toughies (yesterday’s was a real gem), but this didn’t seem to be up my street.

    Special thanks to Gazza for sorting out OUST for me.

  4. Interesting, I considered yesterdays to be workmanlike, but nothing special. This Toughie wasn’t exceptionally hard, but it did make me think a lot more than normal. Maybe that’s what I liked about it.

  5. We really are split into two camps here! As far as difficulty is concerned, I found it easier than yesterday and definitely ** territory. I agree with Tilsit’s “curates egg” observation, I loved some clues and hated others.

    Ironically the last one that I got was the Jewish month that I only added to The Mine a few weeks ago!

  6. What happened to 9down?

    An anagram of tribesman + Ed Giving a desert that I had to look up.

  7. Chipping in late on the indirect anag…

    There is an exception accepted by at least some setters and solvers – if the anagram fodder can only possibly be one thing, an “indirect” anag. is OK. The setter might well argue that “influenza shortly” could not possibly be anything other than “flu”.

    The despicable kind are ones like “Mixed up animal’s turn (3)” = ACT from cat – why not dog, cow, pig, etc. etc.?

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