Toughie No 138 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie No 138

Toughie No 138 by Firefly

Hints and tips by Tilsit

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

Much irritation to start the day, on-line solving access to the Toughie is not available at midnight .  As I have no printer access, I have to draw up my own grid and solve from the clues on screen.

There was much to be admired in today’s puzzle, but there were one or two quite major queries for me.  I really didn’t like 1 across and I am really unsure of the definition of 12 across.  I have also given up on 21 across after it nearly reacted with my sleeping medication to give me hallucinations.

I’d like to nominate 26 across as this puzzle’s entry into Clue of the Week.  Certainly made me smile.

Thanks to Firefly for an enjoyable and thought-provoking challenge.

1a “Let your hair down”, gals, in training for Mayday! (8,6)
{DISTRESS SIGNAL}  – One of the expressions often used in Crossword-land, “distress” is often used to mean “remove hair”, i.e. to dis-tress.  That is here in reverse, so “Let your hair down” is supposed to be Dis-tress.  Not sure it fully fits that bill.  I don’t really get the reading of this clue with the speech marks and commas.  The first piece apart, the rest is an anagram of GALS + IN with Mayday being the definition.  Your comments welcomed.  [See comments for futher elucidation.  BD]

9a Leaves with Group of Founders for the border (7)
{SELVAGE}   – This held me up until I had cross-checking letters and I was able to see it was an anagram of LEAVES +  G (Group of, as in G20 – Group of 20).    “Founders” is an interesting use as an anagram indicator.   [Slightly amended following a flying visit from Firefly (see comments below).  BD]

10a Overture from “The Puritan” enthralling the Spanish (7)
{PRELUDE) – EL (The Spanish) inside PRUDE

11a Skirt Tuvalu’s margins repeatedly (4)
{TUTU}  – One I have seen a couple of times before.  TuvalU (the margins are the outside letters) which is then repeated.

12a Back Massachusetts workers to gain tons of new equipment (10)
{REARMAMENT} – Straightforward Word-Sum  REAR (Back) + MA (Massachusetts) + MEN (Workers) + T (Tons).  “New Equipment” is the definition, though it is not listed in Chamber’s at all.  In looking at rearmament in again the definitions don’t seem to match.  It is in Chamber’s 11th edition (at the bottom of page 1302) and in the online version, but with no definition. BD

14a Boatman’s customer (6)
{PUNTER}  – Double definition.  A punter is obviously someone who punts their boat, and it’s also a  slang name for a customer.

15a With tear-gas enveloping Joe, you sound an alarm with this (5,3)
{MAGIC EYE}  – GI (JOE) inside MACE (tear-gas) + YE (You).  Magic Eyes are invisible beams of light used as sensors for alarms.  They were also a type of optical illusion picture popular in the 90’s, though I never ever managed to get one of them.   A sort of sudoku of their day.

17a Bucket of “poison” thrown over abstainer (8)
{SPITTOON} – Not sure of the need for the quotation marks, the clue works without them.  Anagram of POISON around TT (abstainer/teetotaller)

18a Support routine job in Catholic church (6)
{CRUTCH}  – If you’re in a dead-end job you’re said to be in a RUT; put this in C(atholic) and CH(urch) to get a support

21a I’m Ned, I am, making cheap deliveries (6,4)
{MAIDEN OVER}  – My brain hurts from trying to think this through.  “Cheap deliveries” defines MAIDEN OVER in cricket (an over off which no runs have been scored), if the phrase is taken literally it’s NED I AM  reversed (OVER)

22a Grey lady? Not her! (4)
{DRAB}  – I think this is a double definition.  DRAB means “grey, dull, uninteresting” and also means “a sluttish woman, a whore”.

24a Model gets warning shortly after drug depression (7)
{EPITOME}  – E (drug) + PIT (depression)  + OME(N) (warning, shortly).  Model = definition.  Nice surface reading.

25a Boy camps in agreed pitch (7)
{SEALANT}   – ALAN (boy) inside SET (agreed).

26a Setter’s evident bungling creates particular concern (6,8)
{VESTED INTEREST}   – Not a comment on the puzzle, but an amusing anagram worked into a very witty clue.  An entry in Clue of the Week, methinks!


1d Work surface of French finish placed round edge of kitchen (7)
{DESKTOP}  – Another good surface reading.  DE (of French)  + STOP (finish) with K inside.

2d Lips to endlessly pucker and home to mostly discover it — I’ve just done this twice! (5,10)
{SPLIT INFINITIVE} – Anagram (pucker) of LIPS T(O) + IN + FIN(D) + IT + IVE.  Good attempt at a self-referential clue with two examples of SI’s in the indications.

3d Ramble sounds capital (4)
{ROAM}  – My usual grumble about how one is supposed to correctly solve this clue without using crossing letters to decide which is right.  Don’t like these clues at all

4d Drunk did away with education (6)
{SLEWED} – Drunk = definition.  Did away with = past participle of verb to SLAY + ED(ucation).

5d Shocking us with extra pennies – many of them! (8)
{SUPER TAX}  – Made me smile. Anagram of US EXTRA P and whole thing is a loose definition.  Do we still have it, apart from costing £100 on a Monopoly board?

6d Guards ringleaders left out to fester (10)
{GRENADIERS} – Good clue.  Anagram of  RINGLEADERS less L.

7d In the morning, employ workers on “Sailor Jack” sideshow (9,6)
{AMUSEMENT ARCADE} – It breaks down as:  A.M. + USE + MEN + TAR + CADE.

Jack Cade was the leader of a peasants’ revolt against Henry VI.

8d The Yorkshire bench (6)
{SETTLE}  – Nice clue to the place with the special railway line.

13d Fetch punt or lose your job! (3,3,4)
{GET THE BOOT}  – Not keen on using “punt” when it’s in an answer above, but it works here meaning a big kick or boot.

16d Become exhausted with visit by daughter (2,2,4)
{GO TO SEED} – Become exhausted with = definition.  Visit =  GO TO SEE and D = Daughter.

17d Prophet united in corresponding with Levites’ leader (6)
{SAMUEL}  – U in SAME (corresponding) + L

19d Home partially in Panama? (7)
{HABITAT}  – Good clue.   A BIT (partially) inside HAT (Panama)

20d Boy’s under water for a time (6)
{SEASON}  – SEA + SON – only works for down clues

23d Conduct uneven wrangle (4)
{WAGE}  – Clever.  The “uneven”, i.e. odd letters in W r A n G l E.

5 comments on “Toughie No 138

  1. 1A: We’re forgetting what tresses are – they’re plaits, not just hair. I say “we” because although I managed toi guess that tress might mean more than just hair, I’d forgotten what, which is a bit poor.

    And to tress is to form into tresses, so you can be distressed without losing any hair (it just goes white instead, ho ho).

    9A: blame your slowness on the “of” which is added to suit the surface – unfairly I think.

  2. Unfair to say “unfairly”, Peter!

    G is not an abbr. for “group” on its own but for “Group of” (see Chambers under G or G.)

    Glad you clocked the verbal definition of “tress” though….

    Kind regards


  3. Whoops! There’s something particularly daft about explaining what you found in C for one thing and then not looking up the other one before sounding off. Hope Firefly’s flying visit doesn’t get me fired!

    1. Peter

      I am not sure how to feel about this new-to-me (and to both of us by the sound of it) construct. To say that “Group of Twenty” becomes G20 is one thing, but to say “Group of” on it’s own becomes “G” is another.

      For me it is as hard to take as “miles per hour” meaning the same as “miles an hour” means that “per” means “an” or “a” (and vice versa).

      It seems that we have to draw a line in the sand which says that if it is in Chamber’s it is allowed and if it is not then it is not allowed. “G” for “Group of” is in, ergo it is allowed.

      How nice it is to have a rule that allows us to pass judgement! What price “P” for “President” that was used in DT 25876. That’s not in Chambers, well not yet anyway.

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