Toughie 253

Toughie No 253 by Cephas

It’s All Greek to Me

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

I thought that this puzzle was a bit of a mixed bag – some really enjoyable clues but a few cryptic definitions which are just not very cryptic. We also have a few cricket references which are guaranteed to annoy some solvers. How did you find it? – let us know via a comment.

Across Clues

1a  State pair going round Hawaii (4)
{OHIO} – the standard abbreviation for Hawaii is HI – put OO (pair) round it. The pair could either be a direct visual clue to a pair of spectacles, i.e. 0^0, or it could be a cricket reference to a batsman getting a pair (of spectacles), i.e. scoring a duck (zero) in both innings of a match – take your pick!

9a  Three Greek characters from oldest of American college societies (3,4,5)
{PHI BETA KAPPA} – this is the best known American undergraduate society whose name is made up of three Greek letters. Not very cryptic?

10a  Lazy fish left inside (4)
{IDLE} – the fish is an IDE – put L(eft) inside.

11a  Pressure of doing too much bowling (10)
{OVERSTRESS} – a cryptic definition of excessive mental pressure. For those who are not cricket fans a bowler has six attempts (known as an “over”) at taking a wicket before having a rest.

15a  Do be taken off drug when gas is found (7)
{METHANE} – take the DO out of METHA(do)NE.

16a  Drink one took from South African encampment (5)
{LAGER} – the Afrikaans word for an encampment is LAAGER – remove an A (one took).

18a  Premier building for tail-ender (6,3)
{NUMBER TEN} – double definition – where the PM lives, and a cricketer who bats next to last in a team.

19a  Found Scotch (4)
{FAND} – this is the last answer I got and I’m still dubious about it. It is simply the past tense of the verb to find, as used in Scotland, so it seems to be just a weakish cryptic definition. I was always taught that Scotch meant the drink and was not to be confused with Scottish, though Chambers allows it whilst saying that it is regarded as incorrect by many Scots. Your views are welcome, especially from north of the border!

20a  No jolly type (4)
{NORM} – a jolly is an informal name for a Royal Marine.

21a  Front seaplane malfunctioning about start of descent (9)
{ESPLANADE} – an anagram (malfunctioning) of SEAPLANE containing the first letter of Descent.

23a  Vulgar when backing out of expedition (5)
{CRUDE} – an expedition of a certain type is a CRUSADE – remove (out) AS (when) which is reversed (backing).

24a  Gave it a whirl for instance during distribution of seed (7)
{ESSAYED} – put SAY (for instance) inside an anagram (distribution) of SEED.

26a  Wee lover! (10)
{SWEETHEART} – double definition, the first cryptic  – at the HEART of SWEET is the 3-letter word required. Change the order to get a lover.

29a  Unfair, a question about the country (4)
{IRAQ} – the name of this troubled Middle Eastern country is hidden in the clue. Presumably the hidden indicator is “about”.

30a  Artist calling home, ‘e became disorientated (12)
{MICHELANGELO} – an anagram (became disorientated) of CALLING HOME ‘E reveals the name of the famous artist and sculptor.

31a  Either way this bread looks the same (4)
{NAAN} – palindromic bread, best when cooked in a tandoor.

Down Clues

2d  Flier be evasive before two disputes (5-7)
{HEDGE-SPARROW} – to be evasive is to HEDGE – follow this up with SPAR and ROW.

3d  How beggar might be giving generously? (4-6)
{OPEN-HANDED} – double definition – a description of a beggar requesting alms and a term meaning generous.

4d  Barbara heard after Mason on the line (5)
{DIXON} – Barbara is the singer Barbara DICKSON – we want a sound-alike (heard) of this which when put after Mason gives the name of the line which formed the cultural boundary between the Northern and Southern States in the US.

5d  We have changed direction first on the snow (4)
{NÉVÉ} – start with WE’VE (we have) and change the direction of the first letter from West to North, then throw in a couple of acute accents to get a word meaning the not yet compacted granular snow at the upper end of a glacier. I trust that you all knew that!

6d  One of a number gamely knocked over (7)
{SKITTLE} – cryptic definition of one of the (normally nine) pins which you attempt to knock down in a game which can be played in an alley or on a table.

7d  Artist had morphine regularly (4)
{OPIE} – the surname of this self-taught Cornish artist is made up from the even letters (regularly) of mOrPhInE.

8d  Juliet replaced first beat from singer of old type of music (4)
{JASS} – start with BASS (singer) and replace the B (first letter of beat) with a J (Juliet in the phonetic alphabet) to get an old word for jazz.

12d  Said one’s first explanation be prolix (9)
{VERBALISE} – string together VERBAL (said), I’S (one’s) and E(xplanation) to get a verb meaning to be long-winded or prolix.

13d  Jack’s drink messenger took from unofficial receiver (3-6)
{RUM-RUNNER} – Jack (Tar) is a sailor and a sailor’s traditional drink is RUM – add RUNNER (messenger) to get someone who smuggled liquor by sea to avoid taxation or prohibition. A receiver is a vessel for receiving the products of distillation, so the source of the smuggled liquor here (an unofficial receiver) is presumably an illegal still.

14d  Invaders are prepared going over a range (6,6)
{SIERRA NEVADA} – a mountain range in the western US (or possibly one with the same name in Spain) is made from an anagram (prepared) of INVADERS ARE followed by (going over) A.

17d  Unknown character taken in by an Etonian wrong to be taking without permission (10)
{ANNEXATION} – put X (unknown character) inside an anagram (wrong) of AN ETONIAN.

22d  In London area officer hesitantly went round bend for fizzy water (7)
{SELTZER} – a bend is normally U, but in this case it’s Z – around it put SE (area of the country where London is), LT (lieutenant, officer) and ER (hesitantly).

25d  Very much inclined to be pricy (5)
{STEEP} – double definition.

26d  Third half of hemidemisemiquaver (4)
{SEMI} – this monstrous musical term starts with three prefixes (from Greek, French and Latin respectively) all meaning half. We want the third one. Neat clue!

27d  Don’t start to bring design (4)
{ETCH} – to bring is (F)ETCH – drop the first letter.

28d  Spots aircraftsman, one dropping ring (4)
{ACNE} – an aircraftman (note no S in the official spelling) first class is an AC1 which can be expanded to AC is an AC. Now add the ONE. Take out the O (dropping ring) to leave spots.

The clues I enjoyed included 4d, 26d and 28d, but my clue of the day is 26a. Tell us what you thought of it and which clues you enjoyed in a comment, and please take the time to register your vote below!


  1. Jonathan Richards
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I liked this one, including the cricket clues. Favourite 31a coz it made me think of Big D’s CTM! Thank you for the review.

  2. Big Boab
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A bit like the cryptic today, I finished it but didn’t really enjoy it very much, not too sure why. 19a is a no no for me, I’ve never heard it used in Scotland although we do sometimes say fund or funn for found, still, Chambers is always right, maybe, (or mibbee as we sometimes say).

  3. gnomethang
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I quite enjoyed this one. I left myself with 3 or the 4 letter clues. To be honest I wouldnt have got spots, Found or snow since I have not come across the words ore AC1.
    Favourite probably 18a and 24a

  4. Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    At the risk of sounding fick (well, I am from Essex!) I still don’t know what 19a is. As for Scotch, it appears to be acceptable when used for beef, broth and mist – as well as the conventional whisky use. I recall reading that the term Scottish was a 20th century nicety and that previously Scotch had been the term of choice. After all we don’t refer to things being Duttish or Wellish, do we?

    • gazza
      Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Father Brian
      I’m not clear whether you’re saying you don’t know the answer (if so – all answers are in the review but hidden inside the curly brackets. Just select the white space inside the brackets to reveal them), or that you don’t understand the answer?

      • Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Many thanks Gazza, like Dr Watson I see it all clearly now! As for the word’s use, it’s common parlance in my native East London, as in

        ‘e fand i’ in a dus’bin, honest guv!

  5. Prolixic
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This was enjoyable – some of the four letter answers were very well clued (meaning I was able to get the answers without necessarily knowing full details of the words) and cross check them on Clued Up later. The exception was 19a – where I would have guessed at FUND. Some on line research was needed to find the correct obscure Scottish reference (at least I recognised I was looking for a Scottish word for “found”). There were one or two weak clues – notably 9a. My favourites were 18a and 26a and, for some obscure reason, 12d!

    I think that this is another Cephas puzzle that uses all of the letters of the alphabet.

    Many thanks to Cephas for the puzzle and well done Gazza on another excellent blog.

    • gazza
      Posted November 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I can’t think why you liked 12d. :D

  6. Kram
    Posted November 18, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Couldn’t agree with you more regarding 19a Gazza, especially as it only seems to appear twice in recognised works of literature, once in ‘Jane Eyre’ and once in’ Rob Roy’, only got answer through pure luck and my crossword aid. I have to thank Rishi for giving me the introduction to ‘Word Tracker’ enabling me to obtain information on ‘fand’. Favourite clue has to be another Scottish word clue ‘Wee’ in 26a.

  7. Posted November 18, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Like the daily puzzle a mixed bag for me today.

    15ac just doesn’t work for me on two levels, surface reading and is methadone a drug or drug substitute?

    The FAND clue is simply dreadful. To ask solvers to find an archaic word by simply offering a basic definition (which is what the clue is doing – it’s not even cryptic) is very poor form.

    How hard would it have been to have clued it:

    And after following, found Scotch (4) (F + AND)

    Not ideal but certainly much fairer.than leaving you to find a definition meaning “Found” from * A * D

    • Prolixic
      Posted November 19, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink | Reply

      How’s about: Found – Scottish dance. Missing – A non-governmental organisation!

      • gazza
        Posted November 19, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink | Reply

        Well, that’s very ingenious (probably too ingenious!).

      • gnomethang
        Posted November 19, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink | Reply

        Liking that a lot!

  8. Posted November 18, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink | Reply


    I think 28d is simply AC (aircraft(s)man) + the ONE in the clue (then minus the O / ring).

    BTW some of you may not have realised that Cephas (Aramaic for Peter / rock) is our regular Saturday setter. No prizes for guessing his first name!!

    • gazza
      Posted November 18, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Dave. I was obviously making the clue more complicated than it actually is.

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