Toughie 267

Toughie No 267 by Notabilis

A pleasant wander through a minefield

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***

Three stars each? No, it isn’t a cop-out – it feels like a pretty fair reflection of a puzzle that seemed to have a 50/50 balance of easy and tough, clever and occasionally cumbersome clues. At the time of writing, only the explanation for 14d eludes me (assuming I’ve got the answer right). Fingers crossed, everything will click by the time it’s reached by the write-up. [It did, thanks to some help from Prolixic, who emails the name of the setter to me each day. These blogs may look serenely smooth above the surface, but as with the proverbial duck there is often a lot of furious paddling going on below! BD]

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.

My favourite clues are shown in blue text.


1a Measures of time and temperature leaving blisters that eventually fade (6-6)
{SECOND-DEGREE} A rather obvious answer in the end, but I wasted time trying to remove the letter T from a word meaning “blisters”. Instead, it’s just two words – one a very short measure of time, the other a singular measure of temperature.

9a Forged age permits for underage hunters? (7)
{EAGLETS} An anagram of AGE plus a word for “permits” (allows). The answer refers to young hunting birds. Super surface reading and clever deception.

10a Lined enclosure is about ready (7)
{STRIPEY} Another good one. This is container wordplay; the enclosure is one pigs are kept in, and that is outside a word for “ready” as in “ready to pick”.

11a Imbiber drinking whiskey knocked back doubles (4)
{TWOS} I think this also merits the blue highlighter; yes, it is a very good clue but, more to the point, it’s hard to create new ideas for short answers and our setter has worked hard at this one. A SOT is a drinker – this “imbibes” (swallows) the letter indicated by the call sign Whiskey. All of this has to be reversed for the answer.

12a Transmit sound to counter aspect of rheumatoid arthritis (5)
{RADIO} Hidden, reversed, in “rheumatoid arthritis”. Not too keen on either the hidden or reversal indicator here.

13a Supporting loud (the reverse of supporting quiet) academic (4)
{PROF} This is a bit odd. “Supporting loud” is quite sufficient to indicate PRO and the musical letter denoting “loud”, so the bit in brackets seems an unnecessary addition, even though it provides an alternative wordplay.

16a Give the right sought-after quality in mild — less head (7)
{ENTITLE} I puzzled over this long after I’d got the answer! The sought-after quality is IT, and the “mild” we’re looking for is GENTLE – but without the “head” (first letter).

17a Mean intelligence? (3-4)
{LOW-DOWN} A nice double definition clue that’s been doing the rounds for some years, but it’s welcome here as I suspect many will have entered their first answer at this point.

18a Old writer’s accessory to make a good connection after striking first line? (7)
{INKWELL} “To make a good connection” would be to LINK WELL, but the first letter (an abbreviation for “line”) has to be removed or struck.

21a Opposing Afghanistan’s leader wins time (7)
{AGAINST} The leader (first letter) of Afghanistan, plus GAINS and the abbreviation for “time”. Another reasonably straightforward clue although not quite as much of a gimme as 17a.

23a Express disapproval with posh skirt (4)
{TUTU} Again, not difficult – not very convincing surface reading, though. [By now you should all be familiar with posh = U, you need to precede it with an expression of disapproval. BD]

24a Symbolist painter often seen around Norway’s capital (5)
{MUNCH} Superb &Lit! Yes, our artist was Norwegian, so it’s very appropriate that we place a word meaning “often” around N (the “capital” of Norway).

25a Repeat energy cut endlessly (4)
{ECHO} When you see “energy” in a clue there’s a very good chance you just want the letter E. In this case we follow it with a word meaning “to cut” (as in, cut down a tree) but with the last letter removed.

28a Pretty attractive isle among scattered inches (7)
{NICEISH} The answer is a rather strange word to look at! The clue is straightforward, though – put I (abbreviation for “isle”) into an anagram of INCHES to give an answer meaning “pretty (quite) attractive”. I like this one – remember that “inches” (in Scotland at least) are islands.

29a After pain, run away from region, one where the world was united? (7)
{PANGAEA} There’s a little bit of cricket in this one, but only in the form of crossword stalwart R (run). That is removed from AREA after we find a word meaning “pain”. The answer is the name given to the supercontinent which existed before everything split up into continent-sized chunks.

30a There may be some justification in their line of work (12)
{TYPOGRAPHERS} This cryptic definition clue needs a bit of knowledge – you need to be aware that “justification” is a term used in a particular field of activity; thankfully “line” (as in line of text) is an added clue.


1d Register one’s leaving recipe for gins? (4,3)
{SIGN OUT} This one caused me some delay because I wasn’t sure if the last bit was going to be OFF or OUT. Our “wordplay within the answer” is telling how “GINS” can lead to a phrase meaning to “register one’s leaving”.

2d Work on ‘boats’ made ‘boast’ (4)
{CREW} Excellent bit of observation by Notabilis and I’m giving it the blue rinse despite the fact that the quote marks around “boats” aren’t absolutely fair. Anyway, it’s a double meaning clue – to work on a boat (or boats), and a past participle of CROW (to boast).

3d Romanian racketeer juggled an asset (7)
{NASTASE} The Romanian racketeer in question is a former tennis player, his surname an anagram of AN ASSET.

4d Perhaps computerise workplace badly (7)
{DESKILL} I kicked myself for struggling a little with this, since the wordplay breakdown is exactly the same as I used in a Times puzzle only a few months ago, albeit worded differently. The workplace is a specific piece of office furniture, followed by ILL (badly).

5d I teach more than half of Latin country from the south (4)
{GURU} This is somewhat tougher and really you need the checking letters in place to have much of a chance. The definition is “I teach” (specifically, the geezer we want is a Hindu religious teacher) and the answer is made up of more than half of the letters of URUGUAY, reversed.

6d European trade blows in the direction of African grass (7)
{ESPARTO} Lovely wordplay here, although the surface reading is slightly odd. European = E, then “to trade blows” means to trade punches as in boxing, followed by TO (in the direction of).

7d Feature in theatres is tantalising, like safety curtain (4-9)
{HEAT-RESISTANT} Although “feature” to indicate a hidden answer isn’t great, managing to hide a 13-letter answer certainly is! It’s in “theatres is tantalising”.

8d Broken, soundly, in fact? (13)
{DYSFUNCTIONAL} This one is quite a clever pun, the answer (one sense of “broken”) sounds like a word that suggests “broken” as in “not working”.

14d One of two overlooking island where 12 waves are propagated? (5)
{ETHER} Finally worked this one out after persuading myself to concentrate more on the wordplay. “One of two” just seemed to disappear for me, but it’s vital as it refers to EITHER, from which we have to remove the abbreviation for “island”.

15d Three out of four players going to Arkansas state with conviction (5)
{SWEAR} For “three out of four players” think of the players in the card game of bridge (all except N – North). Then add the abbreviation for Arkansas, and the whole means “to state with conviction”.

19d Self-consciously vulgar outfit’s cold and extremely heavy (7)
{KITSCHY} KIT is a type of outfit, so take the plural followed by C (cold) and the outer (extreme) letters of “heavy”.

20d It’s unpleasant breaking material up for one who appreciates comedian (7)
{LAUGHER} “It’s unpleasant” defines a sound we make when we find something disgusting, and this is inside a reversed word meaning “material” as in solid or factual.

21d Quite unfinished Constable work, hard stuff for youth to take in? (7)
{ALCOPOP} We start with ALL (quite) minus its last letter, then a word for a policeman, then OP(us) – the whole is a not-so-soft drink for the younger end of the market.

22d Lovely drinks can recycled with rest (7)
{NECTARS} This is a combined anagram using the letters of CAN and REST.

26d Celebrity mostly traverses motorway in this? (4)
{LIMO} A semi-&Lit clue is one where the definition is indicated in a completely unspecific way, in this case simply “this”. To get the answer, remove the last letter of LION (a celebrity) and place it around the abbreviation for Motorway.

27d Reversing final direction, was aware one could bend (4)
{KNEE} “Was aware” leads to KNEW, but for the answer we have to change the last letter for the opposite direction.

Even though one or two clues are slightly awkward, the wordplay technique from Notabilis is – as ever – pretty much faultless.

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Anax prepared this in a hurry before rushing out, so I have appended a few notes. If it’s any consolation this was at least **** difficulty for me!

I met Notabilis at the Parson’s Green get-together last Saturday and tried to persuade him to visit the blog. Let’s hope he does. BD



  1. gnomethang
    Posted December 11, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I need to borrow Anax’s Boot for 4d!. Also missed the 13 letter hidden word (Somehow!).
    Favourites were pretty much as Anax’s Blues as well as 19d.

    Thanks for the review and thanks to Notabilis for his continued good works.

  2. gazza
    Posted December 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    8d. I thought that this was a very clever all-in-one with an anagram (broken) of SOUNDLY IN FACT.

    • gnomethang
      Posted December 11, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Yep – Definitely that one as well.

      • Anax
        Posted December 11, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        I’m rather shocked that I didn’t spot this. The puzzle was solved (very rapidly) just after midnight and I started typing up the review at about 10am. While solving I sort of jumped to a hasty conclusion about how this one worked but, because this morning was a bit of a rush, didn’t pause to think about it more carefully. Naughty, naughty Anax. Time to go and stand in the corner.

  3. Prolixic
    Posted December 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    When I e-mailed the setter’s name to Big Dave, I joked that cold towels might be needed given the previous offerings from Notabilis (who along with Elgar can set some ferociously delightful Toughies). Today’s was a good puzzle with some lovely clues but, I thought, something of a pussy cat compared with his previous ones (which, nevertheless, still leaves a lot of room for a challenging puzzle).

    No disagreement about the top clues. Like Gazza, I appreciated 8d. The only othe ones I would add are 3d and 4d.

    Many thanks to Notabilis for the crossword and to Anax for the hints.

  4. Peter Biddlecombe
    Posted December 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I found this quite tough but suffered from a couple of my own foibles – first an over-hasty SIGN OFF at 1D, and then my aversion to ?X?X? 5-letter answers which had me 15Ding a bit rather than thinking clearly. Also took a while to see the right kind of -graphers (or -writers early on) in 30A.

    “Arkansas state” was a good example of clue-writing craft – putting words together which are hard for the solver to see as two separate things. So, for different reasons, was 5D – I’ve seen several “initial letters” approaches (as in the repeated BBC4 show), but using Uruguay felt like a fresh approach.

    • Notabilis
      Posted December 11, 2009 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      I agree, the ring of 5-letter answers with 2 unches is awful (I’m working my way through the old grids, which should probably be retired). That’s why I tried to make the clues a bit easier, and it’s why I included a Nina that no-one seems to have noticed.

      • Posted December 11, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        A huge welcome to the blog Notabilis

        Peter is usually good at spotting Ninas, but it passed us all by.

        And after another look it still eludes me!

        • Prolixic
          Posted December 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

          The only thing I can spot is that each group of four unches rad across form anagrams.

        • Peter Biddlecombe
          Posted December 11, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          Peter is actually pretty patchy on Nina-spotting and doesn’t always remember to try looking for anything. He has a deep-seated fear that a Times setter once hid something about him in a grid and he didn’t notice.

      • Anax
        Posted December 11, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        Oh Notabilis! Good job – I’ve spotted the pairs of linked characters in a number of diagonals. Well done! For those still looking, start at 7d, also 30a.

        • gnomethang
          Posted December 11, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          Mornington Crescent!

      • Peter Biddlecombe
        Posted December 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        I did better at spotting Notabilis’s deliberate mistake – the ring of 5-letter answers have 2 checked letters each, and 3 unches.