Toughie 250

Toughie No 250 by Shamus

Tough Stuff!

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Very much at the top end of the scale today from Shamus. A puzzle of beautiful construction but some hard-to-parse answers. I was convinced for a while that there might be a faulty anagram at 18 across, but Gazza came to the rescue, and analysed it correctly for me.

Elegant cluemanship as always from Shamus, very much in the Giovanni mould.

As usual, the answers are hidden in between the squiggly brackets. Highlighting them reveals all. You can rate the puzzle using our star system at the end of the blog, and of course have your say and give your opinion after the blog as well. A reminder that first-time posters sometimes take a wee while to appear as they have to be approved, in order to prevent the board being hijacked by spammers.


1a    Colt, say, with bash around hotel is very enthusiastic (4,2)
{GUNG HO} Sometimes when you see say in a puzzle, it is asking you for a homophone. In this instance is it using it to show an example of something. So “Colt, say” is a type of GUN. Add to this GO = bash with H for Hotel (NATO Phonetic Alphabet) inside and you get a phrase meaning jingoistic spirit, etc.

5a    Artist revealing a person beset by lines? (8)
{VERONESE} This threw me completely and was the last one I solved with the aid of an extra letter. Not an artist I am familiar with, but here he is:

It has just hit me how this works. After looking at RON to be “person”, I now realise it’s ONE inside VERSE.

9a    Exaggerated presentation in paintings around gallery held by foreign minister (10)
{CARICATURE} Paintings = ART with ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) inside, and then all of this put inside CURÉ (a ‘foreign’ minister.

10a    Front removed from inferior crate (4)
{HEAP} Take the front off (i.e. remove the first letter from) a word meaning inferior, in this case CHEAP and it gives you another slang word for an old car, like crate.

11a    Beef supplied as a complement? (8)
{STRENGTH} A double definition with one half slightly cryptic. A word meaning beef / muscle, and also in an interview what is presented to you as a complement, whereas weaknesses are presented as deficiencies. the number of people working, e.g. ship’s complement. [Thanks Gazza, that makes more sense!]

12a    Bay, perhaps, for comedian (6)
{LAUREL} Bay is an example of this plant. The comedian was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in the Lake District and became part of one of the finest double acts of all time.

13a    Exchange backward pieces, not new (4)
{SWAP} Pieces in Crosswordland usually means chess pieces, and that is the case here. Reverse PAWNS and remove a letter that means new.

15a    Woman following order with a note scribbled in Midlands town (8)
{NUNEATON} Another appearance of that town in the Midlands, this time with a far more (mother) superior clue. Woman following order NUN + an anagram of A NOTE gives a place famous for being the birthplace or hometown of such earth-shatteringly famous people as Larry Grayson, Geoffrey de Havilland, Mary Whitehouse, George Eliot, Ken Loach, Nigel Winterburn, Lisa Lashes, Claudia Lynx and as you can see, not many other famous people.

18a    Line I sung merrily without soprano in Italy — producing cheer there? (8)
{LINGUINI} For a while this had me convinced it was faulty. I was looking at an anagram of LINE I SUNG and thinking it had an E instead of an I. Luckily that nice chap called Gazza came to my rescue and pointed out it was an anagram of L (for line) I SUNG without S (soprano) + IN I (In Italy). Cheer is of course as in seasonal cheer meaning food.

19a    Transport wasps’ nest (4)
{BIKE} Double definition According to my trusty Bradford’s, a bike is a Scottish word (especially around Fife) for a wasp’s nest. Well I never, and you never too. Probably.

21a    Old director in South Carolina resting (6)
{STATIC) The wonderful Jacques TATI inside SC gives a word meaning “resting”.

I wonder where Mr Bean got his ideas from.

23a    Smart figures organised rite in clipped language of old (8)
{LITERATI} An anagram of RITE inside LATI(n), clipped language of old.

25a    Dig face shown by back of magazine (4)
{JIBE} “Face shown” is JIB as in “the cut of his jib”, and add to this E the back of magazine. This gives a word meaning a dig, as in a sarcastic comment.

26a    Fool around meeting is beginning to misjudge realist’s outlook? (10)
{PRAGMATISM} A word for a fool – PRAT around an abbreviation for a meeting A G M. Add to this IS and M the beginning to “misjudge”. Doesn’t really read too well this clue, though it is a nice idea.

27a    Neat character putting paper in study with letter (8)
{DEFTNESS} Not sure about the clue definition of NEAT CHARACTER, though that might just be me. FT (paper) inside DEN (study) + ESS (letter). Which reminds me…..

Q     What’s pink and hard each morning?

A     The Financial Times Crossword.

28a    Low river seen after departure lacking appeal in rural area (6)
{EXMOOR} Departure lacking appeal = EXIT – IT. This gives EX and add to this MOO (low) + R (river) to get a rural area in the South West of England.
2d    Bet placed in middle of duty is not suitable (5)
{UNAPT} A certain bet is described as a NAP and this goes inside UT (middle of duty) to get a word meaning unsuitable.

3d    Value associated with two goods subject of trial? (6,3)
{GUINEA PIG} Value = GUINEA plus two abbreviations meaning good (PIous and G). When put together you get the name for someone who undergoes a trial or test.

4d    Order possibly old park official snubbed (6)
{ORANGE} The Orange Order is a protestant group. O = Old + RANGE(R) Park Official snubbed.

5d    Composer alas valuing whim in composition (7,8)
I realise it’s a beautiful piece of music, but I can’t get on with The Lark Ascending or a lot of VW’s other work, it’s so dreary. An anagram of ALAS VALUING WHIM leads you to this composer.

6d    Wanting bit of plonk, ready drink? (8)
{RIESLING}. This is quite a complicated clue. It’s basically saying “If it had a P (bit of plonk), it would be RIPE SLING, but it hasn’t so what is it?” You could argue it’s not fair as to really make it work, you would have to use drink twice. I personally couldn’t see how you get it, and you shouldn’t really have to rely on intersecting letters to get any answer.

7d    What’s in revolutionary ballot box for statesman? (5)
{NEHRU} EH? (What) inside URN (reversed, revolutionary ballot box) gives one of India’s forefathers.

8d    Bright person holding back outstanding bit of drudgery at first (9)
{SPADEWORK} A bright person = SPARK with a reversal of OWED (outstanding bit of) inside, gives a word meaning drudgery.

14d    Rubbish mentioned before family as indication of health? (9)
{WAISTLINE} A homophone for a word meaning rubbish (WASTE) + LINE (family) = something that is used to indicate health.

16d    Rare tomb vandalised around posh place for elders? (9)
{ARBORETUM} Anagram of RARETOMB around U for posh, gives a place for elders, the ones that grow in a forest.

17d    Record put on disordered pile for Peter, maybe (8)
{DISCIPLE} Record = DISC + an anagram of PILE = a biblical acolyte of which Peter was one example.

20d    Thwart complaint of observer about major route (6)
{STYMIE} The definition here is thwart, and it is comprised of a complaint of observer (eye) around MI (major route)

22d    Agreement not quite obtained for gift (5)
{TREAT} An agreement not quite obtained is a TREAT(Y), which is a gift.

24d    Poet among intelligent associates (5)
{TASSO} A hidden answer inside “intelligent associates”. Torquato Tasso is the poet sought here. No, you hadn’t heard of him either, but he does occasionally appear in crosswords having friendly letters in his name.

That’s your lot for today. Toughie Number 250, and congratulations to the Telegraph on this milestone. Thanks to Shamus for a stonker of a puzzle. See you again next week.


  1. Posted November 12, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    I always enjoy a Shamus puzzle, but this was one of his best!

    Like you, I pondered the linguini clue before the penny dropped and had to look up the wasp’s nest – I bet Big Boab new that one!!

    6d and 8d gave me the most grief, especially working out the wordplay.

  2. Prolixic
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for the hints on this. How anyone was supposed to get 6d is beyond me. I only managed to solve that clue by the intersecting letters. Overall, this was a great challenge and highly enjoyable. It was harder by several orders of magnitude that the previous two Toughies this week and all the better for it – my thanks to Shamus for bringing us a real challenge. My favourites were 18a and 16d.

  3. gazza
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I think that complement in 11a means the number of people working (strength), e.g. ship’s complement.

  4. nms
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I agree this was very hard, esp NE quarter. Favourite clues ARBORETUM and SPADEWORK with nicely misleading definition.

  5. Jetdoc
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Today, my working day was such that I had quite a lot of otherwise idle time to spend sitting in an overheated meeting room. So, for once, I was able to do all today’s puzzles in time I was being paid for (it doesn’t happen often!). And this was by some distance the most difficult. I completed the lower half in reasonable time, but got stuck on much of the upper half. For example, I guessed at STRENGTH, JIBE and NEHRU, but had to wait until I got home to check why they were right. And BIKE, which would have been fine in an Azed, was quite obscure for a daily, even a Toughie.

    My real favourite clue is for PRAGMATISM, though it needs more work on the surface reading. Otherwise, ARBORETUM.

  6. Toby
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    How do you guys (and gals) do this? Got a bit carried away with finishing most of this weeks crosswords and turned to this – No Way Jose!!

    I will leave you all to it and not trouble you further – see you back on the other one!

  7. Big Boab
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous crossword, though I did not get 6d till I checked your hints, thanks Tilsit, I also struggled with the 18a anagram and put the answer in without quite figuring it out until much later. I loved 19a as I’ve used the term all my life much to the consternation of my co-workers during my 40yrs in England. Great blog again Tilsit.

  8. Shamus
    Posted November 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Tilsit for his excellent blog and others for comments – it’s an honour to be mentioned alongside Giovanni and much appreciated!