Toughie 266

Toughie No 266 by Busman

How Are Ye?

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

The other day Giovanni commented about the grading system on Clued Up, and once again we have a puzzle here that I am sure most of you will feel is worthy of more than the grading on that wretched site (currently two stars and three smiles). Part of the problem is that the description gradings are somewhat ambiguous. “Downright infuriating” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad puzzle, yet that presumably awards it one star.

Today’s puzzler by Busman is certainly worthy of a higher grade than it has on Clued Up and is a good challenge for those looking to make the leap from Daily Puzzle to Toughie.

7a        When a dog turns to a pig, say (7,3,4)
{CHINESE NEW YEAR}  A clever cryptic definition which will probably need you to get some crossing letter before the penny drops.  As a stand-alone clue,  it’s probably  quite tough.  You would need to know that the Year of the Dog is always followed by the Year of the Boar.

9a        How adult wrens wish to travel? (10)
{WANDERLUST}  This is one of those clues called an “&lit” (all-in-one) where the whole thing provides the definition and the indications.    An anagram (indicated by “wish to travel”) of ADULT WRENS gives a word loosely defined by the whole clue.

11a      It’s steady to be unsteady (4)
{ROCK} Whenever I hear the word that forms the answer to this clue, I think of the Princess of our Hearts and her beloved Butler, who subsequently demonstrated that he had a brain made of the stuff.  The clue’s a double definition.  Someone who is a tower of support and steadfast may be called this, while if you use this as a verb you are moving from side to side and therefore the opposite to steady.

12a      John, lecturer, and his pairs of spectacles (3)
{LOO}  Hmmm…   I know a John, who’s a lecturer (and crossword setter) and he wears spectacles occasionally.  However, this does not refer to him.  It’s a simple word sum.  L (lecturer) + OO (in crossword land and cricket a pair of spectacles) gives a word for a toilet, which is the States is referred to as a John.

13a      Goddess by herself on the blower (10)
{PERSEPHONE}  The Greek goddess of fertility and spring, to be exact.  By herself  =  PER SE and add to this PHONE (in slang, the blower).

16a      Middlemen’s outer bearing (4)
{MIEN} A simple clue which refers to the outside letters of MIDDLEMEN.  This gives a word for bearing or air.

17a      Africans warning about country (7)
{SOMALIS}   Quite a clever clue, but one which is not easy to unpick.  A warning is an S O S (would you say an SOS is warning or a message or signal for help, not quite the same thing, to me) Place inside this the name of the country where you’ll find Timbuktu.  This will lead you to fellow Africans who live in Mogadishu.

18a      Willing to try fresh tea (7)
{TESTATE}  A fairly hackneyed clue.  Usually in crosswords the appearance of the word “Will” refers to the document that is read after someone’s death.  The word can be used as a verb, so technically “willing” can mean “leaving a will” as it does here.   TEST = to try and add to this an anagram (fresh) of TEA.

20a      River goose (4)
{NENE}  One you will either get straightaway or be scratching your head for hours.  The NENE is a river near Peterborough, and is also another name for the Hawaiian goose.  I remembered that from Brooke Bond Tea Cards that I collected as a child, even though I can’t stand tea.  It’s actually the state bird of Hawaii.

21a      Notes train changes in such a voice? (10)
{STENTORIAN}  Another sort of “&lit” clue  – a description of someone with a big booming voice comes from an anagram (changes) of NOTES TRAIN.  On my local line (the Caldervale) we have the voice of Redvers Kyle  announcing the arrivals, departures and cancellations.  He  used to do lots of voices for Yorkshire TV, and possessed the sort of voice sought here

23a      Stick with pigtail? (3)
{CUE}  A double definition.  An old name for a Chinaman’s pigtail was a CUE, and of course, a snooker player’s stick is a CUE.

24a      Daily game. Not half (4)
{CHAR}  the game is , I assume, CHARADES.  If you lose half of that, you get a word meaning a cleaner, also known as a daily.

25a      Go outside and start broadcasting? (4,3,3)
{TAKE THE AIR}  Another double definition.  To go outside for a walk and to begin broadcasting are both definitions of TAKE THE AIR.

28a      Drug dealing, apparently. Speed involved? (7,7)
{TRAFFIC OFFENCE}  This seems a bit of weak cryptic double definition, one of those that hits the target, but not the bullseye.  Drug dealing is said to be TRAFFIC and is obviously a crime and  the allusion to SPEED (amphetamine, I think, I have enough trouble with prescription medication to worry about illicit ones!)


1d           Just manage to get poor violinists to play tutti (6,8)
{SCRAPE TOGETHER}  When I was nobbut a lad, I was taught the cello by a lovely lady whose nickname was “Old Ma Scrape”, which she thought hilarious.  Sadly she passed away and I was then taught by an obnoxious bloke called Stanley who tried (rather violently) to force me to hold the bow in a different way, and so a promising musical career bit the dust.  Playing a violin badly is said to be SCRAPING (or SCRATCHING) and “tutti” the musical instruction for “play together”.

2d           Pierre’s foot of many colours (4)
{PIED}  This threw me for a while as I assumed “Pierre’s foot” was an indicator for the letter E and then it hit me  Pierre indicates a Frenchman and  his word for a foot is the same as one for “multicoloured” as in the type of wagtail.

3d           What may be pulled by BR? (4)
{BEER} One of those clues that makes you suck your teeth.  The question mark indicates it’s asking you to think outside the box a little, and I assume it comprises Bee (B) plus R, with “what can be pulled” as a definition.  One of those clues you’ll love or hate.

4d           Determined to attack (3,4)
{SET UPON}  Double definition time.  A phrase that means “determined or obsessed” and “attack violently”

5d           Sinking fund? (10)
{SETTLEMENT}  Again the question mark indicates something a bit odd.  Two definitions the first relates to sediment, as in wine falling to the base of a bottle, and the other I can’t find as a noun or verb.  Settlement can be a payment, but again, it’s one of those probably given in a thesaurus as an associated word.

6d           Health spa putting limit on rule for lab equipment (10)

{HYDROMETER}  This puzzles me.  A health spa is a HYDRO and “limit on rule” presumably means the longest length of rule is a “meter”, although I don’t feel that comfortable with it.  A HYDROMETER is  designed to measure the specific gravity of a liquid.

8d           Literary character putting old flag on space probe (7,7)
{ANCIENT MARINER}  How many of you knew that another word for a flag / or a flag bearer is an ANCIENT?  No, me neither.  MARINER was the name of space probes that visited Mars.  The A M featured in the famous poem by Coleridge.  The poem is a fertile source of quotations including probably the most famous “Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”

10d         Detective I reported (3)
{EYE}  Another word for a detective, as in a Private Eye, although Chambers doesn’t give a meaning of detective under the entry “eye”.  The other part of the clue is a homophone of I.

14d         Skill of old coach on ship (10)
{STAGECRAFT}   A word sum.  An old coach is a STAGE and a ship is a CRAFT.  Theatrical skill is described as this.

15d         Plant petition as ordered (10)
{POINSETTIA}  The festive plant (which should be kept away from pets!) comprises an anagram of PETITION AS.

19d         Heads of technical drawing spoke about such publishing (7)
{DESKTOP}  An anagram (about) of TD (Heads of Technical Drawing), plus SPOKE gives the type of publishing associated with computers.

22d         Mr Burns’ expression of hope at first receiving company backing (3)
{OCH)  Nothing to do with C Montgomery of the Simpsons, but Robert the Scottish poet.  H (Hope, at first) +  CO (company) all reversed.  Normally receiving would indicate something outside, but here it simply means “taking”.

26d         A good sort having time away (4)
{TOFF}  T, for time, plus OFF gives someone described as a Good Sort. Given in Chambers as a definition, so it’s ok.  Hmm….If David Cameron is described as a Toff, does that make him a good sort?  Discuss

27d         Second bird in winter nest (4)
{ERNE}  Probably my favourite clue, saving the best till last.  If you look at the clue carefully you’ll see two birds hidden, TERN and ERNE, so the “second” is crucial here.  Although it threw me at first, and I was left wondering if the second bird mentioned in the Bible was an ERNE.

Apologies for the late finish today.  A combination of waiting for District Nurses that didn’t materialise and my general fatigue caused me  to take far longer than I hoped.  Now to read all these messages!!

Here are all the answers:


  1. Prolixic
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    The last couple of Busman puzzles have been a little on the light side so it was nice to see a puzzle from him with more substance and worthy of a place in the Toughie section. I enjoyed this puzzle and there were some great clues. Favourites were 1a, 26a and 2d. it was nice to see, in 27d, an acknoweldgement that there are two birds contained within the clue and for the correct one to be identified. 3d was a weak clue and did not work for me – unless Tilsit has come up with a brilliant explanation for the clue.

    Many thanks to Busman for today’s puzzle and thanks (in anticipation) for the hints from Tilsit.

    • Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure that Tilsit feels the same as us about 3d!

  2. Uptodat
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Trying to make the leap from the daily. Failed to get 1d,8d, 20a (despite it being the local river) and kick myself for not getting 7a. Why “second” in 27d? Because of Nene?

    • Prolixic
      Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      In 27 d, there are two birds win(ter n)est or wint(er ne)st!

    • Prolixic
      Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Shoud also have said that to get within 4 answers of completing a Toughie is a highly impressive leap from the daily.

  3. Peter Biddlecombe
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    “Solved” much faster than the last two but with one careless mistake – a silly guess at an ?O?A?I? word at 17. There were good clues but there were three and a half which I’d count as wrong: 9A – How “how” can indicate an anagram is beyond me, 12A – OO is one “pair of spectacles” – not “pairs …”, 23A – no indication that the pigtail (queue) just sounds like “cue”, and 5D (the half) where settlement and fund are both sums of money but not the same kind – I can’t imagine any case where you could replace one word with the other. 6D’s (mete=limit) and 8D’s (old flag = ancient) were both surprises but are in Chambers – likewise the sneaky bee = B.

    I think I agree with Prolixic about two of the best clues, but I’m calling them 7A and 28A.

    • Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Permalink


      I presume that you mean the last two Toughies and not the last two Busman puzzles !!

      • Peter Biddlecombe
        Posted December 10, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink


    • Prolixic
      Posted December 10, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      No quibbles except for 5d, where in probate a settlement in favour of the beneficiaries is a fund provided from the deceased’s estate. I think that there is enough linkage between the two words for the clue to work.

    • Peter Biddlecombe
      Posted December 10, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      On further looks, I can see CUE as an alternative spelling for queue = pigtail. But I’m sticking to my guns on 12A, and can’t see that an all-in-one reading of 9A works any better – “wish to travel” just doesn’t work as an AI, and “How” is floating about doing nothing.

  4. Super Dave
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Peter, I think it is “Wander” that indicates the anagram. Just a thought.

    Really enjoyed this one since I don’t often even attempt the Toughie. Didn’t get 20a.or 3d.

  5. Super Dave
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Well I really messed that up. I meant to say “travel” was the indicator.

    • Peter Biddlecombe
      Posted December 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      I hope not, for two reasons: first, “travel” is so distant from “adult wrens” that there’s no sense in it applying to those words. Second, “wish to travel” is the only decent definition, and the norm except in all-in-ones is that def and wordplay are distinct. “XXXX to travel” would make pretty good sense for an angram of XXXX, but if “to travel” is taken as the indicator here, there’s still “with” separating it from the anagram fodder, and there’d be even more def/wordplay overlap.

      • Peter Biddlecombe
        Posted December 10, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        So a possible rewrite is something like “Adult wrens travel – or wsh to travel”.

  6. Libellule
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Solved in whatever time it took me – who knows? I try and fit the Toughie in around everything else, so this probably took me all day after doing the blog for the normal cryptic. The last few of Busman’s offerings have been relatively easy, (at times I think the normal cryptic was harder). Todays was a very good and enjoyable offering – when I did it – I didn’t think it was one of Busman’s. Although I do wonder what Tilsit will say about 3d :-).

  7. gnomethang
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Failed on the miserable 3d and also 20a.
    I liked 7a, 13a and 27d.
    On the whole quite enjoyable to do (apart from the obvious!)

  8. nanaglugglug
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Only one that foxed us today was 17a – where we had the country rather than its occupants. Really enjoyed it -not too difficult to discourage us.

  9. Peter Biddlecombe
    Posted December 10, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    6D: mete(2) in Chambers is a limit or boundary, and it also has r. = rule