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Toughie 265

Toughie No 265 by Micawber

High Aspirations

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

Micawber always produces beautifully crafted clues and today is no exception. This is what a Toughie should be – challenging but very fair, with several good laughs and a minimal number of obscure words. There are no cricket references today, but there is a rugby one.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Across Clues

1a  Publicist I got my teeth into outside hotel bar (8 )
{PROHIBIT} – the definition is to bar or make illegal – start with PRO (public relations officer) and add I BIT, with H (hotel, in the phonetic alphabet) inside.

6a  Maybe Danish father’s precursor to conversion? (6)
{PASTRY} – father’s is PA’S – add TRY (what is scored in rugby prior to an attempt to convert it into a goal).

9a  Newspaper’s name for rabble (6)
{RAGTAG} – double definition, the first a cryptic way of describing a label that might be attached to a downmarket newspaper.

10a  Say hi to my favourite snake? (8 )
{ASPIRATE} – a verb meaning to pronounce an H at the beginning of a word (say Hi) is made up of a snake (the one that did for Cleopatra) plus I RATE.

11a  Little bird in Spooner’s little house, of course (8 )
{NUTHATCH} – the Revd. Spooner might have called this little bird a HUT (little house) NATCH (naturally, of course).

12a  Massage oil, not cream (6)
{LOTION} – an anagram (massage) of OIL NOT.

13a  Trouble and strife — a travel restriction for one with convictions? (4,3,5)
{BALL AND CHAIN} – we’re not very PC today – trouble and strife is cockney rhyming slang for wife, and we want another phrase for wife which is literally what a convict, possibly doing hard labour outside a prison, might have had to wear once to stop him running away.

16a  Soul singer overacting, turn by rock band — this ‘Nutcracker’ is quite a production! (12)
{SLEDGEHAMMER} – put together Percy SLEDGE (soul singer), HAM (overacting) and R.E.M. (rock band, which has to be reversed (turn)) and you have a tool which is used to crack a nut, in an example of the use of disproportionate force.

19a  Fight over football fan’s gear around central Newcastle (6)
{FRACAS} – a football fan may wear a SCARF – reverse this (over) and include the central letter of NewcAstle.

21a  Be free-form with three tenors and use experimental setting (4,4)
{TEST TUBE} – an anagram (free-form) of BE, TTT (three tenors) and USE.

23a  Leggy bird that’s big in ‘Sex and the City’! (8 )
{SHOEBILL} – I’ve never watched ‘Sex in the City’ but I presume that their footwear budget needs to be large. For the leggy bird we want an alternative name for the whale-headed stork. Excellent and witty surface reading!

24a  Wall in old city dividing Middle East after leaders of Israel manoeuvre (6)
{IMMURE} – the definition is wall in. Put UR (the standard old city) between M(iddle) and E(ast) and precede it with the initial letters of Israel Manoeuvre.

25a  Comes to Kew as a recreation (6)
{AWAKES} – the definition is comes to. We want an anagram (recreation, or, better, re-creation) of KEW AS A.

26a  Deciphered tiny page featuring hieroglyphics, perhaps (8 )
{EGYPTIAN} – an anagram (deciphered) of TINY PAGE.

Down Clues

2d  Do research on a pro-UK party (4,2)
{READ UP} – put together RE (on), A and DUP (Democratic Unionist Party).

3d  Roof with no opening for loft access (5)
{HATCH} – a type of roof is (t)HATCH. Remove the first letter (no opening). It’s slightly odd that the answer also forms the last five letters of 11a, which intersects with this answer.

4d  Ball game played with a table leg (9)
{BAGATELLE} – an anagram (played with) of A TABLE LEG.

5d  Tube train not in service ultimately, absent after crash when empty (7)
{TRACHEA} – the wordplay here is quite complicated. The definition is tube – start with TRA(in) (not in) and follow this with the last letter (ultimately) of servicE and A(bsent) but before these last two letters insert the outside letters (when empty) of C(ras)H.

6d  Schoolboy error, detaching back of harness when climbing (5)
{PUPIL} – error is (s)LIP UP – remove the S (last letter of harnesS) and reverse the remainder (climbing) to get a schoolboy.

7d  One gagging order to silence first person exaggerating (9)
{STRETCHER} – when I first looked at this clue I already had S?R at the start and I thought that the answer was going to be strangler (with “person exaggerating” being an angler, i.e. someone who traditionally overstates the size of his catch!). In fact the definition is one exaggerating, i.e. someone who stretches the truth, and it’s made up of RETCHER (one gagging) with ST (hush!, keep quiet!) first.

8d  To make money, about time to replace plumbing for a start and install mod cons (8 )
{RETROFIT} – to make money is to PROFIT. Now replace the P (start of Plumbing) with RE (about) and T(ime).

13d  Could be physical obstruction (4,5)
{BODY CHECK} – double definition – a cryptic way of describing a physical (i.e. a medical examination), and a manoeuvre on the sports field to obstruct an opposition player.

14d  Clear up — e.g. windscreen, say? If you’ll start (9)
{DEMYSTIFY} – a homophone (say) of DEMIST is followed by IF and the first letter of Y(ou’ll).

15d  Half of children were thrown by humorous poem (8 )
{CLERIHEW} – an anagram (thrown) of CHIL(dren) and WERE produces a short comic or nonsensical verse, invented by E.C. Bentley. Here’s an example:

What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead.

17d  Buzz of a motionless insect on flower (7)
{ASTILBE} – buzz (presumably in the sense of a telephone call, or possibly a whispered report) signals a sound-alike of A STILL BEE to get the name of a flower that’s new to me.

18d  One more boozy-sounding part of Europe (6)
{IBERIA} – start with I (one) and add a sound-alike (sounding) of BEERIER (more boozy) and you get a European peninsula. My least favourite clue of the day!

20d  Loses control with child on board? (5)
{SKIDS} – put KID inside (on board) SS.

22d  Was freelance heard to make proposition? (5)
{TEMPT} – a homophone (heard) of TEMPED (was freelance).

I liked very many of the clues today, including 13a, 16a, 13d and 15d, but my clue of the day is 23a. What do you think? – let us know via a comment.

16 comments on “Toughie 265

  1. I had 23a but didnt realise why! – Great Clue.
    Favourites were 8d and 18d – Made me smile!

    Thanks for the review – I did miss a couple (17d and 5d) should have gotten them.

  2. Good puzzle – pretty much identical to yesterday’s in difficulty for me. 23A kept me guessing longest. I suspect it’s just a fluke, but if the grid was a diagram of a human body, 5D is in the right place!

  3. Can someone please explain ST at the beginning of the answer to 7d, or is it just an abbreviation for silent?

    1. Jezza
      I think it’s pretty similar to sh!. Chambers has:
      st or ‘st (interjection) hush; a sound made to attract someone’s attention.

  4. As I read the Across clues, I had to go up to 24a, 25a and 26a (which fell quickly one after the other) before I gained a foothold onto the grid.

  5. The words are not obscure, as you say. The treatment of many of the words that we have seen so often in crosswords is refreshingly new, e.g., PASTRY and PUPIL.

    This is the first time I come across st for ‘silence!’

  6. Another great Toughie – two top notch puzzles in a row. Many thanks to Micawber for today’s treat. Lots of good clues from which to chose favourites. 17d is top of the list for me but 8d, 10a and 18a were crackers (literally in the case of 18a).

    1. Yep – 17d was the best clue for me – I know all about these plants – mainly because you can see a lot of examples at Marwood Hill Gardens, possibly one of the loveliest gardens in the UK. Unfortunately I have never been able to grow them, as they like acid soil.

  7. No logical place to post this but I smiled at this clue from Brummie in today’s Guardian:

    “Not quite captains’ stools (6,4)”

    1. Prolixic
      Brummie is, of course, also Cyclops in Private Eye and I think that there was a bit of an overlap in this clue and also 26a/31a. Although, as Cyclops, I’m sure that he could have come up with a more suggestive clue for 10a!

  8. Toiled unaided all evening but was thwarted by shoebill. Guessed a still bee but hadn’t heard of it before. St for silence is new to me too so I spent ages trying shr start in 7d
    Very entertaining and taxing. Need a stiff drink now.

  9. This is just about the toughest x-word I’ve completed with only ‘Chambers’ to help. Yes, ‘shoebill’ was the last one I managed to pin down.

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