Toughie 222

Toughie No 222 by Excalibur

You Pays Your Money……

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BD Rating – Difficulty **** Enjoyment **

I subscribe on a monthly basis to Telegraph Crosswords which means I pay £60 a year for my puzzles.

However, It’s days like today that I wonder why I bothered. When I was a lot younger my mum and dad used to get the Weekend Magazine, which was I suppose the Hello or OK!! of its day. A heady mix of salubrious celebrity tittle tattle and some rather curious adverts that baffled a prepubescent teenager and one of its features was The Stinker Crossword set by our setter today, described as being the toughest of its kind. As someone who had become spellbound by cryptic crosswords I could only look at it and wait for the solution to see what was going on. Even when I saw the solution, a lot of what I saw bemused me, and I waited until my dear old Latin Master spent lunchtimes explaining the magic of cryptics to me using the Guardian, Times and Telegraph. In all honesty, this puzzle might as well have been from that era given the language of the cluewriting and the words used. For the first 60 minutes today, I couldn’t work out a single clue. It’s rather strange as I tackle the Listener, Azed and Enigmatic Variations on a regular basis and can usually make a decent start, even if I don’t always finish it without resorting to dictionaries.

It is very noticeable that this setter seems to like using grids that contain answers with the minimum of checking letters and here we have another grid like that with ten of the answers having less than 50% of their letters intersecting. This means you can end up trying to guess and answer from a pattern such as * I *E * I * C*. Grossly unfair. The surface readings and accepted devices seem to be happily sacrificed at the altar of fairness. The Monday Maestro consistently manages to provide good surface readings and accurate cluemanship. Here it is not a case of hitting the bullseye, but just about scraping the outside of the target in quite a number of instances.

There are some decent clues in this puzzle, but they are outweighed by the puzzle’s inadequacies, of which there are many. There are a couple of answers where I have used my solving aid called TEA, and would not have finished without it, as I cannot make out the way the clue works. I am sure my esteemed colleagues will make more sense of those clues.

I don’t mind a tough challenge, but this is not tough, just inadequate.

Across

7a      Scrap metals are hoarded in anticipation (9)
{FORESIGHT}  ORES = metals inside FIGHT (scrap)

8a      Docking animal’s tail, anyhow, is madness (5)
{MANIA}  A decent clue, take the last letter off ANIMAL and anagrammatize it (indicated by anyhow) to get a word for madness.

10a     Finding much worse damage within, give up (8)
{FORSWEAR}  An anagram (damage) of WORSE inside FAR (finding much??) and give up is the definition.

11a     Is leaving this hole for the plant (6)
{THRIFT}  This minus the word IS leaves TH and add to it  RIFT =  hole.  Thrift is a plant often used in rockeries and verges, as well as being found on outcrops and sea cliffs.


12a     Get ready to go to bed (4)
{EDIT}  I am sure you all know that the term for going to press is “to put the paper to bed”.  Thus, to “get it ready to go bed” means to edit it.  Apparently.

13a     Mean to give support (8)
{STANDARD}  I have resorted at this point to using TEA, a wonderful little product that is invaluable to crossword solvers and setters.  I have the letters  * * A * D * R *, so I assume we are looking for STANDARD, which could be seen to equate to MEAN as in Average, it can be used as a noun in the context of an Upright, such as a goal-post etc.  So why “to give” which has no meaning at all, other than surface reading.

15a     Bird attacked smaller one… (7)
{BITTERN}  Attacked =  BIT + a smaller one –TERN, smaller in terms of letter count.

17a     …with bird left out gazing (7)
{STARING}  Take left out of STARLING and you get a word meaning gazing.  “Run-on” clues are supposed to make sense as a whole when read together.  This one doesn’t.

20a     Dead keen, then, goes off to ring the silly bell! (4-4)
{HELL-BENT}  Why not just say “ Dead keen, then bell goes off”?  It makes more sense than the clue we have.  An anagram of BELL inside an anagram of THEN.

22a     Who tempted you to steal? (4)
{NICK} A cryptic sort of definition for The Devil, I assume, but I only know him as Old Nick.

25a     She won an American beauty competition and got married (6)
{MISSUS}  No doubt some of you will cite this as the clue that really made you laugh loud. MISS US is the beauty competition.  I hope the setter got permission to use this from the estate of the late Eric Morley, who owns the rights to all these.

26a     Supposed to be super resort by the sea (8)
{PRESUMED}  Anagram (resort) of SUPER +  MED (the sea)

27a     Spat ‘Rubbish!’ (5)
{SCRAP}  A SCRAP could be described as a fight or spat.  It is also a another word for rubbish.  There are other words for rubbish.

28a     An after-dinner speech? (5,4)
{TABLE-TALK}  A cryptic definition and the question-mark is supposed to indicate you are being asked to think a bit laterally.  I think I am a teapot.  Chambers defines it as chat before during or after a meal

Down

1d      He gives gun up on entering (5)
{DONOR}  If you didn’t like STEN yesterday for gun, and there were a few of you, I guess you’ll hate ROD which is apparently an American slang term, presumably from the Raymond Chandler era.  After my clue for Marlene Dietrich last week, I’ll offer “Benefactor cock up on entering” as an alternative here, but I’d be drummed out of the Boy Scouts for it!  At this point I’ll pause for you to wipe the coffee stain from your screen.

2d      Relieved the head cold came to an end (6)
{CEASED}  I am almost prepared to be charitable and say that the setter is not saying C =  head (of) cold and that she is trying to say that the C for cold goes at the head of the answer.  So it is C + EASED =  “came to an end.

3d      He aims to be boss (8)
{DIRECTOR}  Two definitions, one cryptic, the other not.

4d      Love the French sweetheart – his squeeze! (7)
{CHERISH}  More surface drivel.  Who nowadays calls their sweetheart a squeeze, except Albert de Salvo?  It feels like this puzzle was set in the 1950’s.  I think I’ll listen to the Ovalteenies, except that I can’t stand the ruddy stuff!  CHER =  Sweetheart in French, and add to it an anagram (squeeze) of HIS.   I am very fortunate to know a great many of the setters for all the nationals, and they invariably eschew using the present tense of verbs as an anagram indicator.  Our setter here seems to use them exclusively.

5d      Left to travel abroad right after — the dog! (8)
{LABRADOR}  L (left) + an anagram (indicated by “travel”) of ABROAD + R (right). In order that I am not seen to be too much of a grouch, I shall let some of my erudite colleagues describe why “travel”.  I also don’t understand why the clue has to have the hyphen and the dog with an exclamation mark,.  It makes as much sense without them.

6d      Not the same if fellow is in rented out accommodation (9)
{DIFFERENT}  We had “difference” on Saturday last and today we have another version of it.  IF + F =  if fellow inside an anagram of RENTED.

9d      Stake goes up — it’s high and dangerous (4)
{ETNA}  A stake in a game of poker is an ANTE, if it reversed, it reveals ETNA, somewhere high and dangerous.

14d     Watch while no sound is heard (9)
{TIMEPIECE}  I used the TEA crossword solver to solve this from the crossing letters.  Am I supposed to be thinking of a homophone for TIME PEACE meaning “no sound heard”? I am baffled.

16d     Charm that well-cut tails give to a fellow (8)
{TALISMAN}  Anagram (well-cut?) of TAILS with MAN (fellow) afterwards to give a lucky charm.  “Fellow” is used twice in three clues.

18d     Be inclined to rely, foolishly and lovingly (8)
{TENDERLY}  Be inclined to = TEND + an anagram of RELY

19d     Locum suitable for some hole-in-the-wall place? (7)
{STOP-GAP}   Is this deputy doctor suitable to STOP a GAP in the wall?  You decide.

21d     On leaving one, say worriedly ‘Steady on there!’ (4)
{EASY}  As in 11 across,   ON leaves ONE to give E  plus an anagram of SAY leaves you with another way of saying the phrase inside the quotation marks.

23d     Reckons it matters (6)
{COUNTS}  Double definition.  A word meaning reckons (up) and  matters, depends.

24d     Put in our hands, coped with (5)
{DEALT}   Double definition, but the surface reading is poor.  There is an art to writing double definition clues, and 50% of the time our setter today does it reasonably well, but on other occasions, two random ideas are just put together with the result almost gibberish, as here.

We don’t normally publish our solving times, but I have  just spent over two hours and have just entered the last answer, which was BITTERN.  If you were faster, kudos to you.  Had I not been blogging this, it would have been in the waste bin after one hour.

Thanks for persevering with me today.  I now need a lie-down In a darkened room in this nice jacket Nurse Ratchet left me.

19 Comments

  1. Posted September 24, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Chambers definition of a timepiece is interesting:

    a piece of machinery for keeping time, especially one that does not strike but is bigger than a watch

  2. Nubian
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Tilsit I was struggling with the forswear stuff, its like filing a crossword in in old english.
    I thought a better answer for 28a would have been sweettalk as it was after dinner.
    Favourite clue…didn’t have one

    • Paul
      Posted September 24, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      I went for Sweet Talk as well – glad I am not alone.

      • Posted September 24, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        I had Small Talk for quite a while and had never heard of Table Talk.

  3. Gill
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I was chuffed to finish this today in less than an hour. 12a was my favourite as it took me ages to get it. I think the bed is the part of a printing press where the type is placed in the final stage before going to print.

  4. bigboab
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    It goes to show how differently we all think, I enjoyed todays effort but found it a bit easy yet I am not half the solver you “bloggers” are, on other days I have struggled, only to find 2* difficulty ratings. Funny old world!

    • nanaglugglug
      Posted September 24, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Totally agree with you on this – we enjoyed it and managed all but 2, 20a and 19d, mainly because we got 28a wrong. As you say, funny old world!

  5. Posted September 24, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I do understand that some of you will view this puzzle differently, and it may be that because I do so many other puzzles, I almost pick and choose what I want to solve, so its probably not one I would naturally attempt, through personal experience.

    There were some good clues here today, but there were also some turkeys and ones that were grossly unfair.

    I can reveal that I will be shortly putting my money where my mouth and Big Dave will be letting you try one of my puzzles via the site and I’ll be offering a small prize by way of a sweetener.

    • nanaglugglug
      Posted September 24, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      We await your puzzle with bated breath (?)! It will be an occasion to savour and raise a glass (or 2) to.

  6. Prolixic
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I enjoyed this – I too looked at the clues for ages until the answers slowly began to emerge.

    Yes, it was tougher than some recent offerings and a lot of the answers had to be wrestled from the clues but, with the exception of 12a I didn’t find any of the clues unfair or obtuse. I’m only being grumpy about 12a because at first I thought it was PACK (getting ready to go / to bed (in)) and then PLOT (getting ready to go / garden bed), which completely messed up 2d and would not have arrived at EDIT without the hints – for which many thanks.

    As for your clue to 1d – Brian Aldiss would have been proud of you.

  7. Kram
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I found that this Toughie forced me to ‘Crossword Tools’ more than I usually have to digress to, I have to agree with the disguised reference to the answer of rubbish in 27a. 11a is really weird, as the Thrift in my garden have formed a hole in their middle!, any gardening cruciverbolists amongst you that have a solution to this problem?. Did like 8a amongst a few others.

  8. Anna Gramme
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this Toughie and found it less tough than usual.
    Never heard of TEA – I thought tilsit meant a cuppa until I spotted the advert.
    Favourite clue – 15a bittern

  9. Gnome
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed today’s Toughie, as I ambled in the sunshine by the Grand Union canal. Finished it in an hour and didn’t fall in the canal. So that’s two positive results.

  10. Phil McN
    Posted September 24, 2009 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Hello. I have the privilege of being the editor of the Telegraph crosswords. I have previously only stuck my oar in on this admirable website when we have made an error, but I really felt that Big Dave’s thoughts on Excalibur should not go without reply. However, I am pleased to see that your other correspondents have already spoken for me. Vive la différence! Yes, Excalibur is different, and long may that setter’s Toughies continue.

    Anyway, just a note about 14d, which, like many of Excalibur’s clues, is simple when decoded (and seems perfectly fair to me):

    Watch while no sound is heard (9)
    While = TIME (Chambers gives “while” as “a space of time”, and “time” as “a spell, interval, period”);
    No sound = PEACE; is heard = PIECE.

    Best wishes
    Phil

    • Posted September 24, 2009 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      Phil

      Your intervention is admirable, but it may have escaped you attention that the views expressed in this review are not mine. I have not reviewed an Excalibur puzzle since you stopped publishing them on a Friday, so the last five such puzzles have been reviewed by three other bloggers.

      The problem, to me, is that all bar one of the setters on the Telegraph adhere to what are known as Ximenean principles of quality and fairness and in that respect we are fortunate. To vary successfully from those principles is not a crime but does require a special talent.

  11. Posted September 25, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I do realise that not one of the four different people, including myself, that have reviewed puzzles from this setter have done so favourably. This is not bias on my part but is because I have been unable to find anyone that enjoys these puzzles and is prepared to review them. If such a person exists, then I would be delighted to hear from them (via the contact page) and I will endeavour to fit the review in next time. I am sure that whoever is scheduled to do that day’s review will be more than willing to pass on the opportunity.

  12. Phil McN
    Posted September 25, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Apologies to Messrs BD and Tilsit for the confusion of identities — I’ve just realised that when I log on to your blog via two different computers, all the reviews come up with pepper grinders next to them. You’ve obviously been a busy man!

    • Posted September 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      No problem.

      You probably need to use a decent browser like Firefox as the backgrounds are set using protocol that is incorrectly processed by dreadful browsers like Internet Explorer 6.1.

      BTW it’s a rather valuable Curta mechanical calculator, not a pepper grinder: