Toughie 260

Toughie No 260 by Messinae

Lost in Space

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment **

I’m standing in for Libellule today. For me one or two clues spoiled an otherwise good puzzle from Messinae. The easiest place to draw the line on acceptable place names is to have none.
Leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.

1a Banger’s essential part is a custom on 5th of November to take in (7,4)
{SAUSAGE MEAT} – the essential ingredient in the kind of banger you are considerably more likely to find in a hot dog than a firework is a charade of S (from is, as in he’s great) then A, a word meaning custom, the fifth letter of NoveMber, and EAT (to take in)

10a Rascal with Irish accent not British (5)
{ROGUE} – not much more you can say than (B)ROGUE

11a Beast makes person like you lose head in drink (9)
{WOLVERINE} – this beast is constructed by putting (S)OLVER (person like you, lose head) inside a drink

12a He ruled all the Mediterranean region save Spain, surprisingly (9)
{VESPASIAN} – I’m not sure that the whole sentence is strictly true, but this Roman Emperor is an anagram (surprisingly) of SAVE SPAIN

13a Hottest wingers going back to start (3,2)
{SET TO} – read this very carefully! – start with HOTTEST, remove the outside letters (wingers going) and then reverse what’s left to get a phrasal verb meaning to start

14a Nationalist, say, crazy guy (6)
{NUTTER} – a nice bit of misdirection that fooled me initially – you are not looking for a Nationalist that sounds like a crazy guy, simply a charade of N(ationalist) and a word meaning to say

16a This land’s uncultivated even at Wimbledon (3-5)
{SET-ASIDE} – a neat double definition, the main one being land that is uncultivated (another EU scam) and cryptically what the score might be in a tennis match where each player has won one set

18a 18th-century politics with hour for start of greed (8)
{WHIGGERY} – this word describing an 18th-century political movement is found by exchanging the first letter of PIGGERY (greed) for W H (With and Hour) – I had the -ISM version of this word to start with, but PIGGISM doesn’t work!

20a Cat in patch of ground by old church (6)
{OCELOT} – this American cat is constructed by putting LOT (patch of ground) after O(ld) and CE (Church of England)

23a Rock band over in present form (5)
{OASIS} – this so-called rock band is a charade (I felt like ending the sentence there!) of O(ver) and AS IS (in present form) – and don’t expect a YouTube link from me!!

24a A place down under is humbling (9)
{ABASEMENT} – simply a charade of A and the part of a house that is below the ground

26a Criticised having kept going without a doctor (9)
{LAMBASTED} – a word meaning criticised comes from LASTED (kept going) around (without) A MB (a doctor)

27a Trunk is one end of elephant, roughly speaking (5)
{TORSO} – this trunk is not that of an elephant at all – it’s a charade of (elephan)T and OR SO (roughly speaking)

28a Almost went mad, one in endless torment in Cornwall (11)
{LOSTWITHIEL} – my intense dislike of place names as answers in anything except a General Knowledge crossword is well known, but this one takes the biscuit – LOST WIT(S) (almost went mad) then I (one) inside HEL(L) (endless torment) gives this place in Cornwall (population 2,739) – to put this in a crossword in the first place is bad enough, but to couple it with wordplay as obscure as this is scandalous


2d Scotsman’s no good in Australia (5)
{ANGUS} – If a Scotsman isn’t called Iain (or Ian), Jimmy or Mac then this could be his name – just put N G (No Good) inside AUS(tralia) to get the answer – easy to work out, but I still hate names (people or places) unless they are appropriately clued – the Roman Emperor in 12a may not be easy to get, but at least the clue is good

3d Instruction to look elsewhere in document for leak (7)
{SEEPAGE} – a part-cryptic double definition that is one of the better clues in this puzzle

4d Knight to run faster to embrace a woman (6)
{GAWAIN} – this nephew of the legendary King Arthur is built up from to GAIN (run faster – as with a clock perhaps) around A W (a woman)

5d A gremlin contrived to throw a sickie (8)
{MALINGER} – an anagram (contrived) of A GREMLIN

6d Bad digestion encourages one to enter Alcoholics Anonymous (7)
{APEPSIA} – when you realise that dyspepsia doesn’t fit then you have to look for an alternative – this word meaning a failure or absence of digestive function is derived by putting PEPS (encourages) and I (one) inside A(lcoholics) A(nonymous)

7d Hostile Indian continent named by explorers as a dystopia (5,3,5)
{BRAVE NEW WORLD} – a pleasing charade of BRAVE (hostile Indian, of the native-American kind) and the name given to the Americas by explorers results in the far-from-utopian society portrayed in the 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley

8d One gets wind about case where justice is not done (8)
{MISTRIAL} – an excellent example of how you must read the clue carefully – the definition is “case where justice is not done” and you construct it from I (one) with a violent, cold, dry north-east wind, experienced in Southern France, around it

9d Asteroid often crashed clearing a lot of trees (13)
{DEFORESTATION} – an anagram (crashed) of ASTEROID OFTEN gives a word meaning the clearing of a lot of trees

15d Long book about artists’ materials is hard going (8)
{TOILSOME} – the long book is a TOME and the artist paints in OILS

17d Bird — pluck and consume it, finally tucking in (5,3)
{GREAT TIT} – another of those clues where you guess the answer and then try to work out why – this bird is derived from GRIT (pluck) around (tucking in) EAT (consume) and T (iT finally)

19d Secret police disrupted postage (7)
{GESTAPO} – sometimes it is surprising how such different words can share the same constituent letters! – all you need is an anagram (disrupted) of POSTAGE

21d Cat that’s sharp spoken (7)
{CHEETAH} – this large member of the cat family sounds like (spoken) cheater – and if you were wondering how to get there from sharp just think of it as a noun, as in a card sharp

22d Indian espousing simple life has ingredients for ghi (6)
{GANDHI} – the name of this Indian, famous for espousing a simple life, is spells out G AND H I – groan

25d Spooky Oriental lake (5)
{EERIE} – we finish with an old chestnut – a word meaning spooky is a charade of E (Oriental) and Lake ERIE

Just as many years ago an excellent meal in the Il Pirata restaurant at Burgh Heath was ruined by stringy beans (I can’t remember anything else from that day) the handful of poor clues / answers spoiled this puzzle today.


  1. Prolixic
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    With the exception of 28a, I found this a really enjoyable puzzle with some good clues that were not to taxing to start the week off. Favourites were 12a, 16a, 3d and 8d.

    On one across, I arrived at the first two letters slightly differently as “part” of “IS A” with the remainder as you did.

    Thanks for the blog and, 28a excepted, thanks to Messinae,

    • Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t regard “part is a” = “sa” as an acceptable construct, but I’m never terribly happy about is = ‘s when out of the context in which it is meaningful – i.e. he is = he’s = hes would be ok, but is on its own would never be abbreviated to ‘s.

      • Rishi
        Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        I was interested to read your forthright views on place names in general crosswords. If such is the opinion of a solver in the UK on a crossword in a UK newspaper, you can imagine what the thought of overseas solvers will be!

        This is not to say that general crosswords must not have place names. If I set a crossword with AGRA among the lights and you happen to solve it, I am sure you won’t complain, would you?

        Similarly, I won’t protest if a UK crossword has any popular place names.

        Besides, if the obscure place name had been a word of smaller length somewhere in the middle, I can understand that after the fills took on a character of their own, the composer was forced to tuck it in. But any peripheral or lengthy entry in a grid is among the first to go in, placed deliberately by the setter. So I believe it could have been avoided.

        • Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          As you have probably realised I have complained about this on numerous previous occasions. The puzzles editor thinks my objections are petty, but then what does he know?!!

          • Libellule
            Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

            In most cases, where the name is reasonably well known, then the placename issue is probably ok (even if you gripe about it). But this one is the worst example I have seen to date. Congratulations to anyone who managed to work it out without using an artificial aid. I guess you probably live there. How the editor let this through is beyond me.

            • Posted December 1, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

              As I said at the beginning, if you have no place names then you don’t have to draw a line in the sand.

              • Posted December 2, 2009 at 1:25 am | Permalink

                I’ve never been to L********* – but, oddly, I’d heard of it – no idea why! To give the setter the benefit of the doubt, I think some placenames stick in the memory simply because they’re a bit odd, as in this case – the place certainly doesn’t seem to be famous for anything yet, for whatever reason, I remembered it.

  2. gnomethang
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I quite agree with your sentiments for 28a (and also 23a!!).
    Otherwise this was quite a good little romp.
    Favourites were 1a, 16a, 27a and 23d

  3. Claire
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Being stuck in today I decided to have a go at this. After thinking I had no chance I actually managed to get over half the clues without resorting to the blog! Greatly indebted to you for explanations above. Although I got 1a almost first (guess – based on banger=sausage) I had no idea how it played out – likewise 13a & 26a. Now awaiting the downs for explanations for 7,& 17 and answers to a couple more.
    I do agree with your comments on 28a though it’s a lovely place!

  4. Claire
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    And there they are! Thanks Dave!

  5. Claire
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Should have got 3d – lovely clue!

  6. LB
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    It would be interesting to know how many if any of the the poulation of 2739 in 28a read the DT although it does have 4 pubs and a golf course !
    In answer to Rishi I should imagine there are a lot more people in this country who have heard of AGRA than 28a, so no I wouldn`t object

    • gnomethang
      Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      I would certainly count myself in that group – AGRA has been seen a few times in the DT I seem to recall.

      Also, if that Cornish place has 4 pubs and a Golf course then I am surprised that my mate hasn’t dragged me down there!, Must be a lovely place as they are all keeping it a secret!

  7. gnomethang
    Posted December 1, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    It is a little known fact that in 1992 Meatloaf lost a rather intemperate bet to Alice Cooper on the 18th hole of some golf course (I think the Apache Stronghold course in Arizona).
    As a consequence he had to devise a song with the title of Alice Cooper’s choice. After much deliberation (and on the drive home just after pulling out into the fast lane) Cooper called him up and said:
    “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” and the rest, as they say, is history.

    I am currently of the opinion that Messinae lost a bet with the DT Crossword Editor on a Golf Course in Cornwall and, in much the same fashion as the Meatloaf/Cooper story above, called up Messinae on his way out of town…..

  8. Posted December 2, 2009 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    I’m well gutted! A sample FT I’ve just put together has used a similar idea with a different wording. Grrrr, as they say.

  9. Touchwood
    Posted December 2, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Very enjoyable. Managed to finish last night without help apart from 6d – new word to me.

    With regard to 28a, I’d inadvertently come across the answer while reading posts on the other crossword – I doubt if I would have got it otherwise but now I’ll never know. Would it be too much to ask that people don’t disclose answers to one crossword in discussion on the other? Somewhat spoilt it for me.

    • Posted December 2, 2009 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      It’s a good point and I’ll see what I can do. It’s a bit annoying keeping track of such comments while you are still writing the review as well.

    • gnomethang
      Posted December 2, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Fair point and my apologies. I’ll keep mum in the future so as not to invite any solutions.

    • Touchwood
      Posted December 2, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Many thanks. ‘Twas only a minor disappointment; as I said I doubt I would have solved it without recourse to assistance.

    • Prolixic
      Posted December 2, 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      A maxim Paul came over – I’m sorry!

  10. Peter Biddlecombe
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    A pretty straightforward puzzle. LOSTWITHIEL took a while to recall near the end but all the checkers were in place and the wacky imagery of the clue was quite fun. Like Anax, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been there, but remembered it for some reason. I agree with the Puzzles editor as long as the place names don’t dominate the puzzle – if they’re mized up with pop music, Roman Emperors, book titles, fictional characters, medical conditions, wildlife and political history, you’ll gain on the swings (etc. etc.)