Toughie 231 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 231

Toughie No 231 by Firefly

Is this one tough enough for you?

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

I sometimes wonder about the affect this blog is having on the setters. Firefly, known elsewhere as Glow-worm, was the first to leave a comment on the blog, way back in February (Toughie 92) and his puzzles do seem to be getting steadily tougher. This is the first one of his to get close to making me lose my bonus points on CluedUp! While I enjoyed the puzzle there were a number of instances where I had to guess an answer from the checking letters and then pick my way through the wordplay afterwards.

Feel free, as ever, to leave a comment and don’t forget to give us your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a Share activity under the table? (7)
{FOOTSIE) – a humorous double definition

5a In meeting at Number Ten I backtracked somewhat (7)
{CABINET} – the committee made up of a group of senior ministers who together formulate policy in the government of a country can be found hidden and reversed – I don’t think I have come across a reversal indicator that included part of the answer, but it works well in this clue with a distinct &lit flavour

9a Well-trained players on time for fixture (7)
{FITMENT} – take a group of well-trained players and add T(ime) – I do like the inclusion of a cryptic definition of in this charade!

10a Old Bob shuns esoteric dancing club (7)
{COTERIE} – an old bob is a s(hilling), so you need to find a club that is an anagram (dancing) of E(S)OTERIC

11a Exchequer’s earliest revenue returns, covering one year’s end, put England in clear! (9)
{EXONERATE} – a word meaning to clear of blame is constructed from E (Exchequer’s earliest) TAX (revenue) reversed (returns) around (covering) ONE and R (yeaR‘s end) and then E(ngland)

12a Criminals’ pronounced obsession (5)
{CRAZE} – sounds like the Krays

13a Lashings of Pernod regularly given to half-cut alcoholic (2,3)
{NO END} – a synonym for “lashings of” is constructed from Pernod preceded by (WI)NO

15a Sponsor of series sadly pulled out in upheaval of Great Depression (9)
{GODPARENT} – this sponsor is a person who, at baptism, guarantees a child’s religious education and you get there by removing an anagram (sadly) of SERIES from GREAT D(E)P(RESSI)ON and then finding an anagram (upheaval) from what you have left

17a This thrice from disfavouring this? (4,5)
{TAKE SIDES} – take the sides from disfavouring three times and you are left with the definition for the answer – a nice idea but hard to work out!

19a Shown again as untrustworthy, unmarried servant sacked (5)
{RERUN} – take maid away from un(ma)rr(i)e(d) and then find an anagram of what’s left to get a word meaning shown again

22a Prepared the pitch and square with a French top dressing (5)
{TUNED} – a cryptic definition of adjusted the tones of, say, a piano is derived from a charade of T-square, UNE and D(ressing)

23a Endeavour might give you an outlook on life (5,4)
{WORLD VIEW} – What an astronaut sees when he looks out from the window of the Space Shuttle Endeavour is also what Chambers gives (hyphenated) as an outlook on or attitude to the world or life

25a Train men to yodel — that’s entertaining! (7)
{NURSING} – the train men are, or rather were, the National Union of Railwaymen

26a Deserted old city on west-facing island is substantial… (7)
{DURABLE} – hidden inside Chambers are a plethora of abbreviations, and D(eserted) is among them – add UR, the crossword setters favourite old city, and a reversal of the island that was once a temporary home to an exiled Napoleon Bonaparte

27a …to south, notice promontory in the gloom (7)
{SADNESS} – one of the easier clues is a charade of S(outh) AD(vertisement) and a synonym for a promontory

28a Hot or wet, last of beer’s swilled in pitcher (7)
{THROWER} – this pitcher is an anagram (swilled) of H(ot) OR WET and the last letter of beeR

Having managed, after owning it for over ten years, to lose the key for the ride-on mower I have to go out for a while to pick up a new one.  Back in a while with the downs.

A few hours later, I am now the proud owner of two new keys for the mower.  The only problem is that it poured with rain today, so I don’t know when the year’s final cut will take place.

Thanks to Gazza for holding the fort, and here are the rest of the answers and all bar one of the associated wordplays.


1d Tiff upset leader deserting eager team (7)
{FIFTEEN} – the number of players in a Rugby Union team is an anagram (upset) of TIFF followed by (K)EEN

2d Couple among our number lived through… (7)
{OUTWORE} – put TWO (couple) inside OUR and E (is this an E-number?) – I too wasted time with outworn in here; it is generally accepted that where two answers appear to be equally valid the wordplay should resolve the ambiguity, not the checking letters

3d … blockade of south Belgian town – fifty lost (5)
{SIEGE} – combine S(outh) and (L)iège (dropping the accent as well as the L!) to get a blockade

4d Disaffected Red agents turned (9)
{ESTRANGED} – a word meaning disaffected is an anagram of RED AGENTS

5d Tailless seal’s hideaway (5)
{CACHE} – OK hands up all those that thought that you had to cut the tail off a delightful aquatic creature! – try doing it to CACHE(T), a piece of wax, lead or other material, stamped with a device and attached as a means of authentication or attestation instead

6d A convenience for the elderly – clothed or not? (4,5)
{BATH CHAIR} – a humorous cryptic definition

7d Navy (raised in island, note) set forth… (7)
{NARRATE} – As I see from the comments, I was not alone in kicking this one around – Navy = N, RN or RAN, island = ARRAN or ARAN, note = TE or E or N – all work individually but none of them seem to fit the bill, and I never even thought of Rat Island; I just hope that Firefly might let us out of our collective misery.

8d …for which reason Spain’s in danger (7)
{THEREAT} – to get this word meaning “for which reason” put E(spaña) inside a danger

14d Peripheral joint is starting to keep medic indoors (4,5)
{DISK DRIVE} – this computer peripheral  is derived from DIVE (joint) with IS K(eep) and DR inside

16d Invalidate ride managed in record time (9)
{DISCREDIT} – to get this word meaning to invalidate, put an anagram (managed) of RIDE inside DISC (record) and T(ime)

17d Holding thrash, students periodically escalate disorder (7)
{TETANUS} – put TAN (thrash) inside the alternate letters of StUdEnTs starting from the end (escalate) and you get a disorder, or disease, due to a bacillus, marked by painful tonic spasms of the muscles of the jaw and other parts

18d Congenial Mr Cutting from Kidderminster beaten up (7)
{KINDRED} – a word meaning congenial is derived as an anagram of what is left when you cut MISTER from KIDDER(MI)N(STER)

20d Multi-ethnic artists fashionable by inclination (7)
{RAINBOW) – a charade of RA (artists) IN (fashionable) and BOW (inclination)

21d Celebrations in NY? (3,4)
{NEW YEAR} – N(EW) and Y(EAR) expanded gives a time for celebrations, particularly North of the Border

23d Mrs Beckham maybe’s admitting quarter of earnings (5)
{WAGES} – WAG’S (Wives And Girlfriends for those who have been asleep for the last ten years!) with E(east) inside

24d Is his oeuvre rudimentary? Some raise it (5)
{DURER} – this artist / printer is hidden (some) reversed (raise it) inside oeuvRE RUDimentary – I think “ Is this artist’s oeuvre rudimentary? Some raise it” would have been fairer, but hidden words are usually easy to find

I see from the comments that I was not alone in finding this one a bit difficult.  Those novices who struggled can take some comfort from the problems encountered by most of us.

Toughie 231
Toughie 231

21 comments on “Toughie 231

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and assumed, before the review appeared, that it was an Elgar. My favourite clue is 23d.

  2. What a difficult crossword this was, I struggled all day with it but enjoyed every minute, loved 23d.

  3. Dave et al,
    Have an internet connection for the moment, it comes and goes sporadically. Hopefully it will be fixed on Monday when I expect a France Telecom engineer to turn up. I managed to get a copy of the Toughie about lunchtime, and have spent all afternoon picking at it while doing other computer related tasks. One of the hardest for a while…. I will enjoy working my way through the explanations, as a number of answers I put in were educated guesswork, based on checking letters and possible definitions.

  4. Started off OK but messed it up at the end by putting OUTWORN at 2D – N seems as good a number as E and an adjectival OUTWORN seemed to fit. Should have corrected it when N? N?D looked so unpromising, but failed to do so and didn’t think of the right toper.

    1. Exactly the same Peter!, I got the upper left and lower right OK then failed to reach over to the other sections. Looked at this (wonderful) site for three references and managed to complete.
      I found it a fair puzzle that I should have done better on.

  5. Hope you got your key – you’re lucky to have the weather for grass cutting. It’s awful here! Anyway, found this very difficult, and quite disheartening- maybe just too brain weary!

  6. My first time going through a toughie, on Gazza’s recommendation, not too bad but i am stumped on the definitions for 25a, 7d, 14d, 17d, 23d and 24d. If anyone out there can help before BD comes back with the downs i’d be grateful

    1. Edi
      Having tempted you into the Toughie, I feel honour-bound to help!
      25a. Train men are NUR (as Big Dave says) – add SING (yodel) to get a word than can mean entertaining (a thought or idea, for example).
      14d. The definition is peripheral (in the computer sense) – put DIVE (joint, as in nightclub) around (keeping indoors) IS, K(eep) and DR (Medic).
      17d. The definition is an illness (disorder) – put S(t)U(d)E(n)T(s) (i.e. the odd letters – periodically) reversed (escalate) around TAN (thrash).
      … more to follow

    2. Edi
      — continued
      23d. Mrs Beckham is one of the WAGS (wives and girlfriends) – insert E (quarter).
      24d. The name of this old German printmaker is hidden (some) backwards (raise it) in oevRE RUDimentary.
      7d. (I’m not sure that everyone will agree with my version of the wordplay!) – the definition is set forth. Reverse RAN (Royal Australian Navy) and add RAT (island) and E (musical note).

      1. You may be right on 7d. I was kick around a reversal of ARRAN with TE for the note until I realised that the note is TI and then I would have no need for ‘Navy’. It got me there!
        I was not aware of Rat Island!.


        1. gnomethang
          Te is ok for note, but as you say, if you just reverse Arran and add TE, where does navy come in?
          Rat Island is in Alaska but I’m not happy with my explanation because of the “in” – now if it were “on” instead…

      2. late to reply i know, but must give my thanks to gazza. I endeavour to tackle the toughie from now on, if only to enjoy the banter the more experienced cryptographers. I may be the thorn in the side for you all. I am ready to step up a level and learn all i can. Sleep well. :grin:

  7. This is only the second toughie I have ever attempted and only the second ever crossword that I can recall not managing to get even one clue out . I think I picked the wrong one to try !

    1. Greenhorn, please do not give up, they are not all as difficult as this one, though most are pretty hard. Keep it up and you will succeed eventually, as we say up here in Scotland “Aw ra best pal”

    2. There are usually one or two “toughies” a week which seem to me not significantly harder than the standard daily puzzles – this was true of Tues and Weds this week. But that’s after a few decades of solving puzzles like Azed which use some pretty exotic words.

  8. Strewth. This was a mind-bender and a half – fully deserving its five stars for difficulty. It took me ages to get the grid even partially filled. Fortunately, the rest of the clues then began to fall in place. Thanks BD for the explanation to 17a which must be one of the more fiendish clues I have come across and had floored me completely. Memo to self, learn to spell 11a! which completely wrecked solving 3d.

    If Firefly is looking in – congratulations on a fiendishly difficult end to the working week. Entertaining and stretching!

  9. Many thanks for all your comments – every one fair and many greatly heart-warming.

    A large apology and a small comment …

    I should have spotted the unnecessary N in NARRATE at 7d. Don’t know what I was thinking of and am heartily sorry for the confusion – the clue could have been very simple!

    OUTWORN doesn’t mean “lived through”; it has [see Chambers] the specific meanings of “worn-out/obsolete”; so, pace Big Dave, the definition plus the checking should have put you right….

    As for difficulty, it’s hard sometimes to pitch a Toughie at the “correct” level. The criterion originally given to setters was “a puzzle harder than the daily cryptic, along the lines of a medium Guardian or Independent daily.” Don’t know what folks make of this, but, come what may, I’ve tried to be fair, even if sometimes fiendish!

    Kind regards to all


    1. Firefly

      Many thanks for explaining why we couldn’t resolve 7d.

      I take your point on 2d, although at 2am, which is when I did the puzzle online, such fine distinctions were somwhat beyond me.

      I think you had pitched this one at the right level, but there will always be those that disagree.

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