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Toughie 144

Toughie No 144 by Giovanni

Another great puzzle from Giovanni!

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

When I see that Giovanni is the setter, I know I am in for a difficult but thoroughly enjoyable puzzle.  Today is no exception, even allowing for the fact that this interestingly shaped grid is more-or-less four puzzles in one.  There were a handful of easier clues – just as well or you might never get started – but nothing so difficult that, even if you didn’t know the answer, you couldn’t work it out from the wordplay.


1a Idiot on stone platform at end of flight (9)
{STAIRHEAD} – this AIRHEAD (idiot) follows ST(one) to give a platform at the end of a flight of stairs – I’m just waiting for a puzzle where it’s a flight in an aircraft – I probably won’t get it at first as the first thing I think of is a flight of stairs

9a In basket male displaces power tool (6)
{HAMMER} – the basket in question is a hamper, just change one M (Male) for a P (Power) and you get a hand tool – clever misdirection leads you to think it’s going to be a power tool

10a Nose about, taking notice, about to get close to listen (4,2,3)
{BEND AN EAR} – if you didn’t get NEB, the nose that about tells you to reverse, at first you should have it after getting 17 across: then add AD(vertisement) reversed (the second about in the clue) and NEAR (to get close) and you have a phrase meaning to listen

11a Car a learner will get in before long (6)
{SALOON} – one of the easier clues constructs a car from A L (A Learner) inside SOON (before long)

12a Gathered in and accounted for at a higher level (7,2)
{ROUNDED UP} – a superb double definition – I particularly liked the bit about rounding to a higher level

13a Excusable, as an evil could be (6)
{VENIAL} – a word meaning excusable is an anagram (could be) of AN EVIL

17a Bill is in a state in America (3)
{NEB} – this bill is the nose from 10 across, and it’s also an abbreviation for the US state of NEB(raska) – as well as NE, the abbreviation used with zip codes, we have to learn the three-letter abbreviation as well!

19a Song about in idyllic location (7)
{ARCADIA} – the usual operatic song is placed around a CAD (bad man) to give an idyllic location

20a I’d eat no stew, following an eating plan (2,1,4)
{ON A DIET} – stew rather obviously indicates an anagram of I’D EAT NO to give a phrase meaning that one is following an eating plan

21a Reportedly tries to open 18 (3)
{PYX} – this word sounds like (reportedly)  picks (tries to open, as in picks a lock) and is defined by 18 down – it is actually a box-wood or metal receptacle used in many Churches to carry the consecrated Host to the sick or invalid or those otherwise unable to come to a church in order to receive Holy Communion – I came across this in another crossword a few months ago when the clue was “Sounds as though one chooses to put host in it

23a At back of church see plate (6)
{CHROME} – at the back of CH(urch) put ROME (The Holy See) to get a metallic element used for plating others

27a Away from home, couple run into that American city (4,5)
{FORT WORTH} – away from home is FORTH, as in to sally forth: put TWO (couple) and R(un) inside to get an American city

28a Wonder about entering grassland to find room to play (6)
{LEEWAY} – AWE (wonder) is reversed (about) and then placed inside (entering) LEY (grassland) to give room to play – ley came up as recently as DT 25911, by the same setter!

29a Inherited article right inside rambling castle (9)
{ANCESTRAL} – a synonym for inherited comes from taking AN (indefinite article) and then adding R(ight) inside an anagram (rambling) of CASTLE

30a Secret language that’s heard in place of refuge (6)
{SHELTA} – this secret language used by Irish traveller people sounds like (that’s heard) shelter (place of refuge)

31a Lion’s speed crossing the heart of Tibet (9)
{CELEBRITY} – this word that can mean a lion, as in a famous person much sought after, comes from CELERITY (speed) around (crossing) B (the heart of, or middle letter of, TiBet


2d After a short time serf gets everything (3,3)
{THE LOT} – after T (a short Time) put HELOT (one of a class of serfs among the ancient Spartans} and he gets everything

3d I will need one egg to eat (6)
{IODINE} – I is the chemical symbol for this element, which can be constructed from the charade I (one) O (egg) and DINE (to eat)

4d Composer’s name spoken out loud (6)
{HANDEL} – the same of this composer sounds like (spoken out loud) handle (name)

5d A commercial activity that restricts the game generally (2,1,4)
{AS A RULE} – this is A SALE (a commercial activity) around (that restricts) RU (Rugby Union / the game) to give a phrase meaning generally

6d A barn he’s converted — inside’s ace for dances (9)
{HABANERAS} – an anagram (converted) of A BARN HE’S with A(ce)  inside for Cuban dances

7d Unwise one going over limit with cop around (9)
{IMPOLITIC} – here a word meaning unwise comes from I (one) going over (down-clues only again!) an anagram (around) of LIMIT with COP

8d Tutor not one to criticise convert (9)
{TRANSLATE} – to tutor is to TRAIN; remove the I (not one) and add SLATE (to criticise) and you get a synonym for to conver

14d Lacking strikers beyond compare? (9)
{MATCHLESS} – a double definition that shouldn’t cause much trouble

15d Rushed from steep slope before break of day (9)
{SCARPERED} – this word meaning rushed comes from SCARP (steep slope) ERE (before) and D (break of Day)

16d The first man to get religion as a singer (4,5)
{ADAM FAITH} – as soon as older solvers get ADAM (the first man) they will be filling in FAITH (religion) as this singer was phenomenally popular around 1960

17d Game with cards face up (3)
{NAP} – this card game is PAN (a slang word for face) reversed (up – there are so many down-clue only constructs like this one)

18d Fight in the wood (3)
{BOX} – a double definition based on the sport of boxing and the box-tree

22d Dane you found wandering around in the capital (7)
{YAOUNDE} – found wandering here signals an anagram of DANE YOU to give the capital of Cameroonyes it is in The Mine, and I had to look it up there

24d Chemical leaking from receptacle then explodes (6)
{ETHENE} – a quite well disguised hidden word (leaking from) is in receptaclE THEN Explodes

25d Who possibly gets caught in entrance? (6)
{DOCTOR} – I was a bit lucky here as my first thought was Doctor Who, so all I had to do was to work out that it came from putting CT (caught) inside DOOR (entrance)

26d Items of food served up — one’s dropped in passage (6)
{STRAIT} – after a bit of experimenting you find out that it’s TARTS that are the Items of food that have to be reversed (served up) around (dropped in) I (one) to get this narrow sea passage

Sorry it was a bit late today.

Here are all of the answers:

9 comments on “Toughie 144

  1. Now I know that Giovanni is Friday’s regular cryptic setter (and I now know who he is), it explains why I wanted to do Friday’s blog in the first place. I always seemed to enjoy doing Friday’s cryptic more than the other days in the week. In terms of this Toughie, I agree with Big Dave, exceptionally enjoyable, and even if you didn’t know all the words, you could at least work out what the answer was going to be from the wordplay.

  2. Really enjoyed this,although it was tough – nothing we couldn’t work out. Thanks Giovanni

  3. There was a late alteration to avoid the ambiguity of a man being BEN or LEN. Alas the name went one way and the definition another.Sorry about that — ah well,back to earth again! Sometimes the clues you work hardest on end up with mistakes, by the way.The mind can easily weary and find an anagram that simply isn’t there. Fingers crossed for the next one

  4. PS An online dictionary suggests that my definition of BEND AN EAR is OK, as oppposed to BEND SOMEONE’S EAR.The phrase came off the computer as I recall and maybe I used the online definition. Curiously the phrase is not even in the OED. Over and out on this one, I think!

  5. On further reflection I think that I had the phrase BEND SOMEONE’S EAR in mind when I replied to Ivor’s comment, and concede that it can have the meaning as used in the puzzle.

    The problem, as I see it, is that there is an unwritten rule that all words used must be in Chamber’s. In earlier blogs setters have been quick to point out that a word or abbreviation being in there is sufficient justification to use it. Unwritten rules are there to be broken, as in this case, but when it happens it is very confusing for solvers.

  6. Slipped up on LEND/BEND but otherwise OK. Hard enough to count as a Toughie but not too difficult.

    For phrases I’m not too worried about them being in the dictionary as long as they seem convincing (Yellow Submarine but not Yellow Boat). The Times had a non-dictionary one today (Thurs 14th) but it didn’t seem to cause any major problems.

    Rome for “see” was nice – perfectly fair but hardly ever used.

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