Toughie No 135

Toughie No 135 by Cephas

A puzzle that irritated more than it pleased

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BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment **

It’s been a while since we had a puzzle from Cephas.  I found this one to have a few very good clues, but that was outweighed by the not-so-good.  Particular niggles include places being clued on words like capital and wordplay which uses unimaginative constructs like inability is the opposite of ability and campaign is campaigner without the “er”.


1a Lacking the power to perform in high degree of personal skill (9)
{INABILITY} – this word meaning lacking the power to perform comes from IN and ABILITY (high degree of personal skill)

8a Reams rewritten by activist unhesitantly in attempt to defame (5,8)
{SMEAR CAMPAIGN} – an anagram (rewritten) of REAMS followed by CAMPAIGN(ER) (activist unhesitantly / without the ER) gives a topical attempt to defame

11a Language used in shows when leading Italian is moved to the end (5)
{FARSI} – to get this Persian language, start with FAIRS (shows) and then move the I (leading Italian) to the end

12a Sisyphus suffering without his playful cat (5)
{PUSSY} – suffering indicates an anagram is in the offing: take HIS away from SISYPHUS to get SYPUS and you should spot the playful cat

13a Say it’s not on coming from Spokane (5)
{SPEAK} – rather unusually the anagram is indicated by it’s not: take ON away from (coming from) SPOKANE to get SPKAE – the wordplay is a bit like the last one, and if “say” is an attempt at misdirection I didn’t fall for it

16a Lady embracing said dandy coming from the capital (6)
{LISBOA} – LISA (lady) around (embracing) BO (sounds like beau / said dandy) gives a word meaning coming from the Portuguese capital – two of my pet hates in one clue: the name of a lady and a place only identified as “capital”

17a Australian amorously cheeky again (6)
{AFRESH} – A(ustralian) and FRESH (amorously cheeky) give a word meaning again – a much better clue which had me wasting time looking for some Australian slang word like Sheila

18a Repeated cheer Romeo received from member of the Mongoloid people (5)
{TATAR} – TA (cheer) repeated and R(omeo) from the Phonetic alphabet gives us a member of the Mongoloid people – cheerio maybe, but do you thing of cheer when you see ta?

19a It’s to do with the sea on the whole (6)
{MAINLY} – a reasonably good double definition

20a Space station’s blue room (6)
{SKYLAB} – SKY (blue) LAB (room) – no comment, as they say in police dramas on TV

21a Respond to second performance? (5)
{REACT} – a synonym for respond from RE (second) and ACT (performance) – no comment

24a Hazel returned Iceland capital (5)
{TUNIS} – (hazel) NUT reversed (returned) and IS {the IVR code for Iceland – it’s in the Mine!) give another place identified only as capital

26a Swift brute (5)
{YAHOO} – possibly today’s best clue – this brute comes from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

27a Ailments Beth’s suffered at institution (13)
{ESTABLISHMENT} – an anagram (suffered) of AILMENTS BETH’S to give an institution

28a Heather’s assistant? (9)
{UNDERLING} – a cryptic definition that plays on ling as another name for the plant heather


2d In Montana a fine eating place (5)
{NAAFI} – hidden in MontaNA A FIne is an eating place that, from what I remember from my days in the cadets, was far from fine!

3d Reverse reserve (4,2)
{BACK UP} – a double definition

4d Plate dog perhaps started at the bottom (6)
{LAMINA} – a nice reversal of ANIMAL that deserved a better clue

5d Walk on water? (5)
{TRAMP} – a double definition that has a TRAMP as a walk and, presumably, as a TRAMP steamer (on water)

6d One takes off in turn (13)
{IMPRESSIONIST} – a cryptic definition of an entertainer who impersonates people in his act (takes off in turn / act)

7d She will encourage cockney mate to go round for some porcelain (8,5)
{EGGSHELL CHINA} – SHE’LL (she will) with EGG (encourage) and CHINA (china plate / cockney rhyming slang for mate) around (to go round) to give some porcelain

9d Prohibited away from borders (3-6)
{OFF-LIMITS} – a cryptic definition of prohibited

10d Strictly according to volume (2,3,4)
{BY THE BOOK} -a phrase meaning strictly comes from BY THE (according to) and BOOK (volume)

13d Positioned on fixed lines going over to woodland deity (5)
{SATYR} – SAT (positioned) over (on – down-clues only!) RY (railway / fixed lines) reversed (going over) to get a woodland deity

14d Minor actor’s run? (5)
{EXTRA} – double definition

15d Skater losing energy stumbling in rough limestone country (5)
{KARST} – take SKAT(E)R without the E (losing Energy) as an anagram (stumbling) and you get rough limestone country with underground drainage

22d Do not start to spin or unravel (6)
{EVOLVE} – (R)EVOLVE (do not start to spin)

23d Losing time, ask for specialist advice from official working abroad (6)
{CONSUL} – CONSUL(T) (ask for specialist advice) without the T (losing time) gives an official working abroad

25d Dirty mark to remain inside you started to remove (5)
{STAIN} – a dirty mark that is derived from STA(Y) IN (remain inside) without the Y (You started to remove)

26d Country farmers dropped round (5)
{YEMEN} – this country is simply YE(O)MEN (farmers) without the O (dropped round)

Well that’s all – a bit of a disappointment, especially as Toughie 97, the last offering from Cephas, was much more enjoyable.  The views expressed are entirely mine (see the Disclaimer) but if you agree or disagree then your comments are more than welcome.


  1. libellule
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I apologise to Giovanni. I personally think that Cryptic No 25911 is better than this Toughie.

  2. gazza
    Posted April 24, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    On 18a I agree that “ta” is dubious for cheer, but ta-ta = goodbye = cheers (repeated cheer) – well it’s a thought!

  3. Posted April 24, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink


    I might concede 18a. You stop looking for the virtues when a puzzle irritates you as much as this one did for me.