Toughie 217

Toughie No 217 by MynoT
O-Level Examination

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

Having completely failed to notice (until it was pointed out) that only one vowel was used in all the answers in each of MynoT’s last three Toughies, I was on the lookout for this one! However, even when you’ve grasped what’s going on, it’s far from easy, with some pretty obscure words. You get a real sense of satisfaction from finishing a puzzle like this, and I really enjoyed it.

As usual we’d love to get your views via a comment.

Across Clues

7a  Note two players acknowledge applause for musical movement (7)
{DOWNBOW} – start with the first and eighth note in tonic sol-fa, add two Bridge players and take a BOW (acknowledge applause) and you get a movement of the bow over the strings of a musical instrument.

8a  Headless ghost holds terribly hot means of suspension for cooking vessel (7)
{POTHOOK} – the headless ghost is a sPOOK with its first letter dropped.

10a  Fastness of dogs left North exhausted (10)
{STRONGHOLD} – the definition is fastness (fortress) and it’s an anagram (exhausted) of DOGS L(eft) NORTH.

11a  Ferry is run out twice (2-2)
{RO-RO} – this is the type of ferry where vehicles can be driven on and off. RO stands for run out in cricket.

12a  Exceedingly ancient rumour about broken doll (5-3)
{WORLD-OLD} – a term meaning exceedingly ancient (literally as old as the planet) is constructed from WORD (rumour) around an anagram (broken) of DOLL.

14a  Postponed working beside ship’s store (2,4)
{ON HOLD} – ON (working) and HOLD (ship’s store).

15a  Small consolation for a farm (4,7)
{COLD COMFORT} – the farm reference is to a comic novel by Stella Gibbons published in 1932.

19a  Decisive blow has force of ordinary antelope (6)
{KOODOO} – to get the alternative spelling of the name of this African antelope with long spiral horns, put together KO (knock out, decisive blow), OD (Reichenbach’s arbitrary name for a force he supposed to manifest itself in light, magnetism, chemical action, hypnotism, etc. – thanks Chambers), O (shortened form of “of”) and O (ordinary).

20a  Experimental project for factory dance (8 )
{WORKSHOP} – a charade of WORKS (factory) and HOP (dance) gives us a group of people working on a creative or experimental project.

22a  Drug is present (4)
{SNOW} – a slang word for cocaine is constructed from S (is, as in ‘s) and NOW (the present).

23a  Secure place in street to smarten Ron (10)
{STRONGROOM} – the definition is secure place and it’s made from ST (street) and GROOM (to smarten) with RON in(side). I don’t like this clue because the word order has been butchered to improve the surface reading.

25a  This cocktail would warm you up (7)
{MOLOTOV} – this cocktail is really a home-made bomb.

26a  Bill in Rome embraces doctor briskly (3,4)
{CON MOTO} – put CONTO (Italian word for bill or account) around (embraces) MO (doctor) to get a musical instruction meaning with movement or briskly.

Down Clues

1d  Cunning person gets reverse wrong in dance (7)
{FOXTROT} – a cunning person is a FOX – add TORT (a wrong) which has to be reversed.

2d  Aware of leg temperature: zero! (2,2)
{ON TO} – this requires a charade of ON (leg side in cricket), T(emperature) and O (zero).

3d  Chinese sugarcane soldiers fed to wild hogs (6)
{SORGHO} – put OR (other ranks, soldiers) inside an anagram (wild) of HOGS to get a variety of Chinese sugarcane.

4d  Forest covering old plant (8 )
{WOODROOF} – a charade of WOOD (forest) and ROOF (covering) produces an obsolete (old) name for the Woodruff plant.

5d  Neat bugles? (10)
{SHORTHORNS} – an amusing double definition, both cryptic – a variety of cattle (neat) and compact brass instruments.

6d  Operation to register and collect timber (3-4)
{LOG-ROLL} – put together LOG (short for logarithm, a mathematical operation used to simplify multiplication and division prior to the availability of calculators – hands up all those who remember the delights of log tables!) and ROLL (register, as in electoral roll) to get a term meaning the collection of logs after the clearing of a piece of land.

9d  Literally substitute (4,3,4)
{WORD FOR WORD} – double definition – literally or verbatim, and the replacement (substitute) of one term by another.

13d  Regard with contempt diver having feathers (yes!) in front (4,4,2)
{LOOK DOWN ON} – a diving bird (diver) is a LOON – inside this put DOWN (feathers) which is preceded (in front) by OK (yes!), and you end up with a phrase meaning to regard with contempt.

16d  Short return of hot tears at first (4-4)
{DROP-SHOT} – a short return, in tennis, is made from HOT preceded by DROPS (tears).

17d  Quarrel after growth for hairstyle (7)
{CORNROW} – put ROW (quarrel) after CORN (growth on the foot) to get a hairstyle in which the hair is arranged in tightly-braided rows.

18d  Right among salmon, some were gleaming in purple and gold (7)
{COHORTS} – put RT (right) inside COHOS (Pacific salmon) and you get parts of a Roman legion, which consisted of ten of these. The literary reference is to Byron’s poem “The Destruction of Sennacherib” which starts:

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on the Galilee.

21d  Donors could make music (6)
{RONDOS} – an anagram (could make) of DONORS.

24d  Light-hearted frolic essentially unprompted (4)
{ROMP} – what we need is the middle bit (essentially) of unpROMPted.

The clues I enjoyed included 12a and 18d, but my clue of the day is 5d. Agree or disagree? – leave us a comment, and please take the time to rate the puzzle by voting below.


  1. bigboab
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found this very difficult and would not have finished it without your assistance for 18d and 17d. I liked 15a best.

  2. nanaglugglug
    Posted September 16, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m really stuck, its getting late, I’ve had alcohol and will not get this finished tonight! I’ll maybe cut it out of the paper and take it to Spain next week!

  3. Anna Gramme
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    Enjoyed this puzzle once I twigged that the only vowel was ‘o’.
    5d was my favourite clue today.

  4. Gnome
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    Agree with the comments about 5dn. 10/10 for elegance

  5. brencar
    Posted September 28, 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I never would have got 18d without your help, the double of the fish and quote completely escaped me! Really chuffed that I managed all but three clues on my own! – I used to love log tables, how sad!!!

    • Posted September 28, 2009 at 7:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome brencar

      You seem to be running a bit behind!

      • brencar
        Posted September 29, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Big Dave. Yes – I have just retired so starting work on the backlog of crosswords I have cut out and kept! Am enjoying getting to grips with the toughies but do wish they would stop using the cricketing terms!

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