Toughie 243 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 243

Toughie No 243 by Kcit

Balance and elegance

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

A small handful of slightly clumsy surface readings do little to spoil this masterpiece of cryptic clueing technique and clever misdirection. The NE corner was the last section filled as I had to work out 10a from wordplay, and I needed that to get the – eventually very obvious – answers at 5d and 7d.

This is cryptic crossword writing at its best; challenging and imaginative, with plenty of very satisfying penny-drop moments, and a perfect balance of easy and harder clues. Thank you setter!


1a Complex investigation involving father, fish and choppy sea (5,5)
{PAPER CHASE} Charade clue using PA (father), a type of fish, and an anagram (choppy) of SEA.

Take a seat and fish

6a A filter’s incomplete? That won’t happen! (2,2)
{AS IF} The answer comprises A and a word for to filter/sieve with the last letter removed.

9a Obstruct work as a breeder (5)
{CROSS} Double meaning, where the clue should be split as “Obstruct / work as a breeder”. For the latter component, think about taking two different breeds and merging them.

10a Single one brought in to agitate monarch (3,6)
{ROI SOLEIL} Literally, Sun King (in French). A word for “single” and I (one) are placed inside ROIL (to agitate).

Louis Quatorze

12a Representation of vital force in a tropical plant (7,6)
{AFRICAN VIOLET} Anagram of VITAL FORCE IN A – plant originally discovered in Tanzania.

Inactive flora or Victorian leaf?

14a Spike goes round part of Scotland for sport (8)
{LACROSSE} Very clever! Spike is not a man’s name here – it’s a verb, as in to spike a drink. Put this around ROSS (part of Scotland) to discover the sport.

The name of the game

15a Catch associate returning? Not quite (6)
{ENTRAP} Lovely spot by the setter. Reverse a word meaning “(business) associate” and remove its last letter (which is now the first letter!), making a word meaning “to catch” – in the legal sense, to manufacture a situation in which a crime is committed.

17a Group of warriors in company animated about head of regiment (6)
{COHORT} Company = CO, then a word for “animated” (more commonly, a word meaning sweltering) around the first letter of Regiment.

One tenth of a legion

19a Film’s opening — one capturing each ugly person (4-4)
{FACE-ACHE} Unusual to see a full-word give-away, but EACH appears in the answer as just that. This is inside the “one” of a suit of playing cards, after the opening letter of Film.

21a Bounder chasing bereaved women seen around new woman in mall? (6-7)
{WINDOW-SHOPPER} Equality campaigners might be unhappy about the use of “woman in mall” as the definition, but the setter has added a question mark to suggest “could be”. Wordplay takes a bit of sorting; a “bounder” is something that bounds or hops, and this is after (is “chasing”) a word for bereaved women around N (new).

24a Shut up and manage after storm of sleet (9)
{TELESCOPE} Brilliant. You need to think a bit laterally for the definition “shut up” and think of shutting up a device which is usually extended for use. A word for “to manage” follows an anagram of (storm of) SLEET.

Eye in the sky

25a Eastern King dismissing Queen’s mathematician (5)
{EULER} I’d only vaguely heard of this mathematician but, luckily, saw him included in another crossword quite recently. Take E (Eastern) then add a word for a monarch, removing its first letter R (queen – “Regina”).

Inventor of the "Seven Bridges" conundrum

26a Embrace drug on a substantial scale (4)
{HUGE} A bit off-message perhaps, but a nice clue. A word meaning “to embrace”, plus the ubiquitous drug E, to create a word for “on a substantial scale”.

27a Silly and lost at sea without day’s marine news (6,4)
{LLOYDS LIST} Amusing, if a tad clunky, surface reading here, and a good example of a compound anagram where you have to use words which aren’t run together in the clue. Here we have SILLY “and” LOST – jumble these and place them around D (day).

And now for the main headlines


1d Purplish volcanic stone, with central portion removed (4)
{PUCE} Nice easy subtraction clue. For the purplish colour, take the middle out of PUMICE.

2d Favouring note of originality around one of dull texts (7)
{PROSAIC} “Favouring”, “for” and “supporting” are usually hooks for PRO, so getting started here isn’t too hard. It gets tougher as we try to think of “note of originality” – this is a 3-letter word added to quoted text in which the original author’s errors are deliberately included. Place this around A (one).

3d Violent film? Override gross flicks (9,4)
{RESERVOIR DOGS} I love “flicks” as the anagrind for OVERRIDE GROSS, giving us the 1992 Tarantino film.

People of colour

4d Ready confusion about playing card (4,4)
{HARD CASH} The highly deceptive “ready” actually refers to real money, as opposed to credit card etc. An anagram of CARD (good anagrind – playing) is inside a word for “confusion”; this word is more often used to describe a mess, or a dish of meat, veg and potatoes.


5d Descendant, even if not initially close one (5)
{SCION} Very cleverly observed “means the same even if you do this to it” clue. The answer (a descendant) would still be the same if you removed the C of “close” and I (one), which appear as the 2nd and 3rd letters of the answer.

7d Exceptional stone wine vault about to be eradicated (7)
{STELLAR} This colloquial word for “exceptional” is based on CELLAR (wine vault) but with ST (stone) replacing the initial letter.

8d Writer experienced university course without money? On the contrary (4,3,3)
{FELT TIP PEN} The writer here is an object rather than a person. You need to know PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) as the university course, and put this inside a slang word for “money” – instead of outside (without) as shown by “on the contrary”. This follows a word meaning “experienced” as in “had experience of”.

Pick one

11d Determine location of state train (6,7)
{ORIENT EXPRESS} Very good, very simple charade, the two components of the answer given alternative meanings. First is “determine location of” (to get one’s bearings) and then “state” (to put into words), giving us a particularly famous train.

First class travel

13d Number of fish circling part of canal wall initially? Wait for the end of the day! (5-5)
{CLOCK WATCH} I was fooled into entering BLACK WATCH as I thought “number of fish” might be BATCH – but it’s actually CATCH. Into that, place “part of canal” and the first letter of Wall.

Two timepieces

16d Exclamation about B Pitt’s partner ignoring one’s flattery (8)
{CAJOLERY} Big smile time. B Pitt’s partner must be A JOLIE, yes? Remove the I (one) and put this is a word meaning “an exclamation” to create the answer, “flattery”.

18d Deer by Lake, say, showing rear limb (7)
{HINDLEG} Pretty easy charade. A deer, plus L (lake) and the favourite crosswordland abbreviation for “say” – “for example”.

20d Composer’s centrepiece unfavourably thrown over (7)
{CORELLI} Not the most well-known composer, but a film-based mandolin might help! A word for “centrepiece”, or the centre/heart/nucleus of something, then a reversal of ILL (unfavourably).

Circa 1680? Back then even paintings were in black & white

22d Earth receiving trace of planetary damage (5)
{SPOIL} An eco-warning perhaps, or just a nice bit of misdirection – “earth” refers to the fertile part of the ground, and this is placed around the P of “planetary”.

23d Worry about getting foot trapped? On the contrary (4)
{FRET} Pity we finish with a verbatim repetition of the device at 8d, but I’ve enjoyed the puzzle far too much to complain about that. “About” refers to the 2-letter crossword favourite meaning “on the subject of” and we place this inside (instead of outside) the abbreviation for FOOT.

Such an enjoyable solve – why can’t more crosswords be like this? I’m not talking about level of difficulty; what’s so impressive here is the careful and accurate use of wordplay devices. Excellent stuff.

15 comments on “Toughie 243

  1. I thought this was a Corking puzzle. Same as you the NE held out the longest with 10a and 5d holding out until I opened the office door. Immensely satisfying to finish.

    10 was nearly my favourite clue but I give that to 16d. 13d and 8d were also fun.

  2. Is it my imagination or has every toughie this week been brilliant? This was no exception. I have to admit however I could not have finished it without your hints for 25a and 13d. My favourite clues were 10a,14a and 11d. Thank you Anax.

  3. i think 7d sums up this crossword for me! Thoroughly enjoyed it. 19a made me smile. Interesting to note that both this and the cryptic have less common French answers.

    1. Interestingly enough the two answers are linked…..
      The 10a in the Toughie issued 16d’s in the normal Cryptic.

    2. Have to admit I was kicking myself for not getting the French words of 10a sooner. Both are what you might call fairly elementary French – I just hadn’t seen them strung together before. Odd, because I did know that one of the French monarchs had been called the Sun King; just didn’t think to re-translate to the original language.

  4. Thanks for that, very interesting – hated history and geography at school. By the way, are the compilers linked, too?

  5. Terrific crossword today. Almost too many good clues to pick a favourite but if you were to twist my arm, I would say 3d and 11d would be jostling for the top spot.

    On the comments about Giovanni/Kcit, if I didn’t know that Giovanni set yesterday’s Toughie, I would have guessed that today’s was one of his (printing from Clued Up, you do not see the name of the setter).

  6. Needed help with a few here-thanks Anax, but appreciated some of the very amusing clues.

  7. Spooky or what?

    One of the contestants on Mastermind tonight answered questions on Euler, and the seven bridges was one of his questions.

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