Toughie 235

Toughie No 235 by Citrus

“You had me cornered”

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***

Today I have a special treat for you as Anax joins the reviewing panel. He will be known by name to solvers of puzzles in the Independent and by reputation to those in the Times where, as with the regular Telegraph cryptics, the setters are anonymous. The Bloggers page has been updated, so you can read more about Anax there, as well as getting an insight into why he uses the name Anax! I’m sure you can work out for yourselves that anagrind and inserticator are crosswordese for anagram and insertion indicators respectively. BD

The NE and SW corners of this were hard to crack – the former because I was just being a bit dim, the latter because of one obscurity and two bits of wordplay I had difficulty unravelling. Much of the early progress was thanks to going with instinct for the long answer at 4Dn, which gives me an opportunity for a quick solving tip; far from being put off by long answers, they’re often a very good place to start. The simple truth is you either get them immediately or you don’t, and if you do they can provide plenty of starters for cross-checking answers. If you don’t – well, it was worth looking.

I’m unfamiliar with this setter’s style so, inevitably, my solution has a few questioning ticks here and there, but that’s not always an indication of doubt over clue soundness. The Telegraph house style trends away from Ximenean and what might puzzle “purists” may well be perfectly OK here.


1a A clockwork egg (4,4)
{TIME BOMB} A very short clue is always likely to be a cryptic definition. I used Chambers to confirm the slang meaning of “egg” as something which, coincidentally, can also go off – and which is fitted with a mechanism to determine when it does so. Boom boom!

5a Matched, beheaded yet joined in some way (6)
{ALLIED} “Joined in some way” is the def. For the wordplay, think of a word meaning “matched” (especially in the sense of figures agreeing after counting) – then remove the first letter, in this case T.

8a A hint of bias in examination of a family group (6)
{TRIBAL} “A hint of bias” gives the initial letter B. Put this inside a word meaning “examination” (think of an examination in court).

9a Grannies making profits (8)
{EARNINGS} An anagram of GRANNIES (anagrind = “making”) to make “profits” or “wages”.

10a Cocktail of rare mead, rum and sugar (8)
{DEMERARA} Another anagram, with “cocktail of” as the indicator. Mix the letters of RARE and MEAD to get an answer which is both dark rum and brown sugar.

11a Troublesome insect on the French instrument (6)
{PESTLE} Don’t know why this held me up for so long as it’s very straightforward. I was looking for a type of insect instead of a generally problematic one. Link that to our old friend “the” in French to make an instrument to be found in the domestic kitchen rather than the orchestral one.

12a Women try to avoid this port at the finish (5,3)
{SPLIT END} The answer is a hair problem – a singular hair problem. The port we’re after is a large well-known one in Croatia, and we finish with a very familiar word for “finish”.

13a Fathers embrace positive features of the church (6)
{SPIRES} We can read “fathers” as a verb or noun here – the word is often used when talking of horses or other animals – and this is placed around (“embrace”) the most logical abbreviation for “positive”.

15a Take letter in alcove (6)
{RECESS} This is one that bamboozled me. The “alcove” definition was no problem – it’s a word that also means a parliamentary holiday, but it took a long time to realise that the standard abbreviation R for “recipe” (the Latinised instruction for “take”, as seen on medical prescriptions) also exists as a longer, 3-letter version. Add to that a doubly bendy letter – by name – for the answer.

18a Politician leaves Takoma Park to reform island (8)
{KRAKATOA} This is a little convoluted as we need to make an anagram using TAKOMA PARK but without “politician”. The standard abbreviation for that is MP. So firstly you need to identify the abbreviation, then you have to make a logical leap to say those letters could be split up in the anagram fodder. The result is that famous island “east of Java”.

20a Boy runs into a goddess (6)
{ADRIAN} I think – couldn’t find another boy’s name that would fit. Whenever you see “run(s)” in a clue it’s probably R, a cricketing reference. This appears in “a goddess” and it’s where I’ve come unstuck – A DIANA or A DIANE yes, but without the last letter? Hmm. On later inspection Chambers lists Dian as an alternative but I must say you’d need to be pretty well versed in the classics to know that.

21a Empresses beheaded partisans after revolution (8)
{TSARINAS} Lovely surface reading for this one and a nicely spotted anagram. To find our empresses, “behead” the word PARTISANS and re-arrange what’s left, keeping in mind an unusual pairing of letters to begin. You might be having thoughts about Rasputin but let them pass. Still… altogether now: “Ra, ra, Rasputin, lover of the Russian queen”. My parents had the album. Not me.

23a Timely introduction of a native to sea loch (8)
{SEASONAL} OK, not a 100% convincing surface, but a brilliant construction. “Timely” is the def (think of supermarket goods at particular times of the year). You have to “introduce” – an insertion indicator – “a native” (A + a male offspring, but in this sense a person born in a particular place) inside SEA plus the abbreviation for “loch”.

24a Amuse oneself in most of fertile ground (6)
{TRIFLE} I have a soft spot for “ground” as an anagram indicator; it can be so misleading! And this is top class use of it, needing us to rearrange the letters of FERTIL – which is “most of” FERTILE, to find a sweet word meaning “to amuse oneself”.

25a Longing to reside at sea (6)
{DESIRE} Another anagram, but this time I’m not too happy with the filler “to”. The def may be “Longing to” but that would mean the answer has to be — TO, which it isn’t. On the plus side, though, the anagrind “at sea” is a nice one, and the affected letters are in RESIDE.

26a Cleanse archdeacon in special prison (8)
{SCAVENGE} The def is “Cleanse” although a more recognisable one is to search for useful things among refuse. Quite tricky wordplay here, too. The “archdeacon” refers to an abbreviation for the archdeacon title, Venerable. No, not V. It’s VEN – it would be cruel to force you to agonise over it, especially because, having got that bit, you need to also know S as an abbreviation for “special”. At the least the “prison” bit is simpler – but think of “within these metal bars” rather than “within these walls”.


1d Carried baby Edward (5)
{TOTED} A very easy opener – much needed, I think – for the Downs. “Edward” is always going to be ED or TED*, mostly likely the former to leave us wanting a 3-letter word for “baby” (or a small measure of drink). *As Pete points out, NED is also a possibility although, these days, some setters are recognising that a Ned is the Scottish equivalent of a chav so it may well be thus indicated.

2d Symbolically represent most of defect in middle of Yemen (9)
{EMBLEMISE} This took some time but it’s easier than it looks. Since I was looking for some wordplay component “in the middle of Yemen” the outside letters had to be EME, with EM/E the most likely split. “Most of defect” means a word for “defect” with the last letter removed. Think of a skin imperfection and remove its final H.

3d Company has a bit of Inverness kale prepared for cattle food (3-4)
{OIL-CAKE} Ouch! This is tough to crack as it’s a combined anagram using one indirect part and another which has to be deduced. “Company” is CO, “a bit of Inverness” is I (yes, really!) and the last part of the fodder is KALE. Mix these bits up to make a type of cattle feed.

4d Idle pleasure at the Red Lion? (4,3,8)
{BEER AND SKITTLES} Dunce’s cap on, I’m afraid, as I honestly didn’t know the main dictionary definition for this phrase and initially labelled it a weak CD. It’s actually rather neat, and the true def is “Idle pleasure”. The Red Lion would obviously serve the first bit, while the second is a game you still find in some pubs. I put this answer in with very little thought, based on the likelihood that the middle word was probably AND.

5d Incidentally one gets support for Unix, say (7)
{APROPOS} A bit of French needed for the answer here. “One” is A in some areas of crosswordland; “support” gives us a word with a number of interpretations, including a position in rugby, and Unix is an operating system (which needs to be abbreviated). Put ’em all together and you have a word meaning “incidentally”.

6d Lighter soldier blown up by nitre exploding (7)
{IGNITER} Even though it’s in a corner that nearly defeated me this should have come far sooner than it did – it’s almost ridiculously easy. When you see “soldier” in a clue it’s far more helpful than the plural. Soldiers can be RA, TA, RE and a good few others, but the singular is typically GI. Not sure if “blown up” as the reversal indicator is completely fair, but it wouldn’t hinder your linking it with a very slight change to the letters of NITRE.

7d Brand of cola in off days produces indigestion (9)
{DYSPEPSIA} If it isn’t Coke it must be —. Put that inside an anagram of DAYS for this alternative word for “indigestion”.

12d Idiot introduced to silly prudes excelled (9)
{SURPASSED} Seeing the E and D in PRUDES, and the definition “excelled” was a big help. All that was needed was a word for “idiot” introduced (shame – very similar to the inserticator at 23a) inside an anagram of PRUDES. Once I had 12a in place it suggested this answer probably started with SUR-.

14d Use distinctive type to stress facilities left by France (9)
{ITALICISE} “Stress” as an anagrind is somewhat unexpected and I’m not completely sure it works, but let’s plough on anyway. We have to remove F (France) from FACILITIES and rearrange the rest of it to answer the “Use distinctive type” definition. We can actually make the def more accurate by adding “stress”, which I hope wasn’t the intention as we end up with the dreaded double duty component.

16d Framework from vehicle on Central American ship (7)
{CARCASS} A reasonably straightforward charade. “Vehicle (3)” – I suspect your answer to that may be automatic. With only four letters left and three words left in the clue it’s likely we want abbreviations now; one for Central America, and one for Ship (and if you’ve put your money on SS don’t expect a huge payout).

17d Sounding so Sinatra’s almost English (7)
{SONANCE} This really fooled me because I kept thinking of Mr Sinatra, not Miss.  With 15a in place I was confident there was no disguise for SO, so I just needed to apply “almost” to Miss Sinatra’s first name and, with her bottom thus removed, add the single-letter abbreviation for English.

19d Thrown as a dart, going like a rocket (2,5)
{AD ASTRA} OK, you either know it or you don’t, but the motto of the RAF is “Per ardua — —–” which means “by steep and toilsome ways to the stars”, so “going like a rocket” sort of works for our definition. The letters can be found by jumbling AS A DART (anagrind = “thrown”).

22d Utensil is upset by girl (5)
{SIEVE} Another one from the kitchen. “Is upset” tells us to reverse those two letters, and the girl tagged onto the end of that is the very first one.

As a debut Toughie solve this caught me out in a few places, and completion resulted in more relief than elation. It will be very interesting to see how regular solvers coped with it.


  1. Prolixic
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Curious how different parts of the grid present thier own problems. The righthand side fell into place quickly enough followed by the upper left leaving the bottom right to complete. I have to admit that the answers to 15 and 22 across were gained by instinct rather than judgement from the clues.

    Overall, above Busman but well below Elgar and MynoT in terms of difficulty. The editor has given us a respite at the end of the week after a good run of meaty Toughies.

  2. Posted October 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I think this one makes the grade as a Toughie compared to typical DT daily puzzles, but it seems towards the easy end (and given the setter, today’s daily might be harder (haven’t tried it)). A couple of minor corrections – at 1D, for Edward, don’t forget the sneaky Ned as an option. 5D’s answer is in French rather than Latin, for what it’s worth.

    • Posted October 16, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oops – pardon my Latin. Thanks for pointing that out (changed now). I typed this up at about 2am so the brain was running on three cylinders rather than the usual… oh, hang on – it’s usually three anyway.

  3. Posted October 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh, and good work on the rest – nice gag at 1A.

  4. Lea
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well it must have been an easier than normal Toughie as I was able to finish most of it without much help. Got stuck on the 19d as had it stuck in my head that it was an arrow and of course nothing worked with that so took it out and started again.

    My brain must work oddly as got 1d as my first clue then 3d then 4d and that was a good start for me. I have just started trying to do the toughies and today is my second accomplishment this week.

    Thanks for the excellent hints – some of them I had to read to see why the answer was what it was. I choose 14d as my clue of the day.

  5. Posted October 16, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Greetings everyone from Calderdale Hospital. I am now back on line and in touch with the world. Feeling a bit rough with the old pins, but we are trying some new treatment which hopefully will have a benefit.

    Enjoyed a Michelin meal – grilled tyre!

    I too thought the ADRIAN clue was a mistake, and didn’t care for a few of the others. Rather poor fare I thought, like my hospital food.

  6. Libellule
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Like others I found the grid to be “cornery” and struggled most on the bottom left especially 20a and 17d, for a while I had forgotten there was another Sinatra and had a few other goddesses in mind. Thinking 16d was Chassis didn’t help either. More of a Toughie than yesterday’s, but a mixed bag of clues, some good, some ok and a few down right annoying. Good first blog btw :-)

  7. Posted October 16, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    When I saw the clockwork egg clue I thought this one was going to be a nightmare.

    It does look a little better on second reading, but I missed the REC ESS wordplay – I thought of take= recipe = r, but gave up when left with ecess.

    The Adrian clue merely emphasises my profound dislike of the names of girls and boys being used as answers, unless clued on real people – I quite liked the deliberate Frank / Nancy misdirection.

    To be fair I must own up to the selection of music for today, so don’t blame Anax.

    • Posted October 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Could have been worse Dave – I could have put in a Boney M link. “Ra, ra, Rasputin, lover…” oh shut up.

      • Posted October 16, 2009 at 5:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Now who would do something like that?


  8. Libellule
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That’s one of the worst links this site has ever linked to. If Big Dave had any taste he would remove it…..

    • Posted October 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Correct, but I think it should be retained as a warning to others.

    • Posted October 16, 2009 at 7:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The key word there are “If Big Dave had any taste”. That makes it a bit of a no-brainer and it stays!

  9. nanaglugglug
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Got stuck on 3d, 19d and 26a but otherwise very enjoyable. Liked 13a. Glad you’re OK Tilsit

  10. Posted October 16, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Erm… I know this is very OT, but would some kind soul do me a favour and try to visit the website? I’m getting a “Cannot display…” message but my webhost is usually highly reliable.

    • Posted October 16, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      You have a problem! It was OK last night.

    • Prolixic
      Posted October 16, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The link is working for me at the moment 8:00 pm

    • Posted October 16, 2009 at 8:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ok for me now.

  11. Posted October 16, 2009 at 8:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks guys – it’s working for me too, now. Must have been brief server glitchery.

  12. Edi
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    One of those very odd days where i find the toughie easier than the cryptic. couldn’t finish either without tips though, wrong head on today. Two questions to whoever is out there…. concerning the toughie i dont understand def for 15a. And as tomorrows prize xwrd will be NO 26,062 should we be prepared for palindromic answers? :???:

    • gazza
      Posted October 16, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      1. The definition is alcove, and the answer, RECESS, is made from REC (standard abbreviation for the Latin word recipe meaning take) and ESS (the letter S) – not the most brilliant clue you may think, and I would agree.
      2. Well spotted – keep your eyes peeled.

  13. Greenhorn
    Posted October 17, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink | Reply

    Having failed miserably with my last two attempts at a Toughie , i got about a dozen out -my first one in was beer and skittles -I just saw it.
    Really appreciated the explanations -what I can’t understand is how you “top men” get all the clues out -how come you never get fail to get a couple out?

    • Posted October 17, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink | Reply

      Nobody “never fails” – and with the toughies in particular, I sometimes miss a couple, especially if trying to solve without books. But to reach the level where you hardly ever fail on a daily cryptic (regardless of speed) you really just need years of experience, so that you’ve seen all the tricks used in a huge variety of ways, and seen the words that keep on coming up. Remembering the difference between now and my early days, there’s a huge morale factor too – once you break through a barrier like your first whole puzzle, doing it again is much easier.

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