Toughie 221

Toughie No 221 by Shamus
Pulses and Smiles

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

When I wrote the review of yesterday’s Cryptic I said that it was pretty straightforward but with not a great deal to get the pulses racing or bring a smile to the lips. I did not know at the time of writing that it was by Shamus, who later left a tongue-in-cheek comment to the effect that he would try to get into a more pulse-racing mode in future puzzles. Imagine my surprise when the Toughie I have to review the very next day is by the same setter, and, as good as his word, he’s included a number of challenging and amusing clues.
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Across Clues

1a  Study artist engaged by sensational plot (10)
{CONSPIRACY} – the definition is plot and it’s constructed from CON (study) followed by SPICY (sensational) with RA (artist) inside (engaged).

6a  Powdery stuff, stash of fatal cocaine (4)
{TALC} – this powdery stuff is stashed inside fatal cocaine.

10a  Bright fish close to dinghy (5)
{RUDDY} – combine RUDD (the red-eye fish) and the last letter (close) of dinghY.

11a  Noticeable old boy with fantastic virtues (9)
{OBTRUSIVE} – an anagram (fantastic) of VIRTUES follows OB (old boy).

12a  Mention of one active near banker, expert on board (7)
{FISCHER} – In a week when it was announced that Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov are renewing their old rivalry with a 12-game duel in Spain, it is appropriate to remember another of the great chess world champions (expert on board). His name is a sound-alike (mention) of fisher (one active near banker, i.e. river).

13a  Confirmation needed for one to succeed? (7)
{PROBATE} – cryptic definition of the proof which needs to be obtained before a dead person’s assets can be distributed to his/her heirs.

14a  Chicken and fat hen I trade in exchange (5-7)
{FAINT-HEARTED} – an anagram (in exchange) of FAT HEN I TRADE leads to an expression meaning lacking courage.

18a  Simple rustic lad loving tie I sported, not new (7,5)
{VILLAGE IDIOT} – an anagram (sported) of LAD LOVInG TIE I (with the N(ew) dropped) gives us this simple rustic. This reminds me of a famous put-down line in a company appraisal “His presence in this organisation is depriving a village somewhere of a perfectly good idiot!”.

21a  Singer on TV might use such clips possibly around openings to youthful numbers (3-4)
{LIP-SYNC} – an anagram (possibly) of CLIPS around the opening letters of Youthful Numbers gives the technical term for miming to a pre-recorded song. Some performers can do this more convincingly than others.

23a  Fish provided in a lukewarm starter in eatery (7)
{ALEWIFE} – this species of herring is constructed from A LEW (lukewarm) and E(atery) with IF (provided) inside.

24a  Battle of Saigon, one not good and characterised by struggle (9)
{AGONISING} – an anagram (battle) of SAIGON is followed by I (one) N(ot) G(ood) to produce an adjective meaning having a severe mental struggle.

25a  Facilities around dry house (5)
{LOTTO} – an old name for bingo (house) is formed by putting LOO (facilities) around TT (teetotal, dry). Very amusing.

26a  Fool forgetting name for current movement (4)
{EDDY} – drop the N(ame) from NEDDY (fool).

27a  Overwhelming success shown by hard-working daily? (5,5)
{CLEAN SWEEP} – double definition, the second cryptic.

Down Clues

1d  A service in church – source of wine? (6)
{CARAFE} – put A RAF (service) inside CE (Church of England).

2d  A barely established philosophy? (6)
{NUDISM} – a cryptic definition of a philosophy designed to cut down on the dry-cleaning bills.

3d  Film varied Asians touring lake with yen for inner investigation (14)
{PSYCHOANALYSIS} – start with Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film and add an anagram (varied) of ASIANS around L(ake) and Y(en) to get a technique for tracing and treating hidden concepts in the patient’s mind.

4d  Splashing of rare dog in river (3,6)
{RIO GRANDE} – an anagram (splashing) of RARE DOG IN produces the river which forms part of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

5d  Subject to severe criticism – like organised workers? (3,2)
{CUT UP} – a phrasal verb meaning to subject to severe criticism also provides a reverse definition of the TUC (organised workers).

7d  Woman detaining a group of conservationists in foreign city (8 )
{ALICANTE} – the woman is ALICE – put A NT (National Trust, group of conservationists) inside (detaining) to get this city in Spain.

8d  Faithful signs shown by radical before death in California (8 )
{CREDENDA} – California is CA – inside put RED (radical) and END (death) to get a word meaning acts of faith.

9d  Atmospheric phenomenon in poor area railbus serviced without parking (6,8 )
{AURORA BOREALIS} – an anagram (serviced) of (p)OOR AREA RAILBUS produces this natural electrical phenomenon in the northern hemisphere.

15d  Plant, a hardy genus that’s cultivated (not American) (9)
{HYDRANGEA} – an anagram (cultivated) of A HARDY GEN(us) gives us this flower.

16d  Assess empty lecturer representing college (8 )
{EVALUATE} – start with EVACUATE (to empty) and replace the C (college) with L (lecturer) to get a verb meaning to assess.

17d  One in field with stick taking in a motorway feature? (4,4)
{SLIP ROAD} – one in field is a fielding position close to the wicket in cricket – add ROD (stick) with A inside (taking in) to get a motorway feature.

19d  A lot of rubbish around back of school? Not much (6)
{LITTLE} – most of the word LITTE(r) (rubbish) has the last letter (back) of schooL inside.

20d  Make good signs up front in runabout enjoying car no end (6)
{RECOUP} – the definition is make good – start with the first letters (front) of Runabout Enjoying and then add COUP(e). I could not decide whether signs contributes to the wordplay or is just padding – what do you think?

22d  Cool compliance associated with racing driver once (5)
{CHILL} – a noun meaning cool is constructed from C (compliance) and the name of a former racing driver. You’re spoilt for choice here – it could be Phil (the only American to win the Formula 1 world championship, in 1961) or Graham (who won it in 1962 and 1968) or the latter’s son Damon who won the title in 1996.

My favourite clues today included 12a and 25a, but my clue of the day is 13a. What about you? – please let us know, and don’t forget to grade the puzzle by clicking on one of the stars below.


  1. Libellule
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Gazza, like you I thought 25a was very amusing, and as such it gets my vote.

  2. Nubian
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Sorry Gazza I can’t get your explanation for 23 across, it seams all jumbled to me, plus I aint never heard of an alewife until now that is. best clue was 3d. Thanks for the explanations of the rest

    • gazza
      Posted September 23, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      23a. The definition is fish, and you put IF (provided) after A and LEW (word meaning lukewarm) and finish with the first letter (starter) of Eatery, i.e. IF is inside ALEW…E.

    • Posted September 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I have seen alewife in other puzzles, but it seems to be the first time it has been in a Telegraph puzzle since I started the blog.

  3. Paul
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    In 20d I think ‘signs up front’ is to be read as ‘initial letters of…’

    • gazza
      Posted September 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That was my thought as well, but is it meant to be “signs up”, i.e. enlists the front letters, or is signs a noun as in signals or indications?

      • Paul
        Posted September 23, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

        A noun I would think. signs (letters) up front (at the start of the words) …

  4. bigboab
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Most enjoyable and not too tough!

  5. Shamus
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Gazza for his appreciative blog and others for comments. Paul is spot on in his interpretation of 20d ie “signs up front in”=”initial letters of”. Alewife seems to be a fish beloved by crossword setters (rather than eaten!)

  6. Anna Gramme
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 6:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Enjoyed this puzzle apart from ‘alewife’!

  7. gnomethang
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I had alewife pegged quite early but had no idea about “lew”
    enjoyed this one.

  8. Birdie
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink | Reply


    My first comment, although I’ve been dipping in regularly for some time. Enjoyed the puzzle, but I’m not sure about 5D – the answer and the explanation. Where does the “up” come from?, and where is the indicator that TUC should be reversed?

    I love this blog, by the way!

    • Posted September 23, 2009 at 10:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog Birdie

      CUT UP is defined by “subject to severe criticism” and CUT when turned UP (remember that this is a down clue so up means reversed) is TUC = organised workers?

  9. Birdie
    Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Aaargh, thank you, BD! It’s obvious now.

    • Posted September 23, 2009 at 11:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s very similar in concept to this clue from Toughie 219:

      How to get erring member of church team? (6-6)

      CHANGE RINGER – to get erring you change ringer, and he rings one of the church bells

  10. Werner Lax
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks from Germany.

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