Toughie 270

Toughie No 270 by Messinae

It’s Four In The Morning and….

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***

Yes, it’s four a.m. and have just realised I have a day of messy hospital appointments ahead of me (Curse that perpetual calendar I bought from a man with a nice line in pattter!), so I’d better get today’s Toughie sorted out. I quite liked this puzzle and it contained a fair challenge with a few good clues, though I felt the four-letter answers were rather weak double definitions. There is also a serious spelling mistake in the last across clue.

Let me know your thoughts, and don’t forget to rate the puzzle with the star system at the end of the blog.

Assuming the doctor remembers into which end of me to insert his probe, I shall be back later with the review of last Saturday’s puzzle.

1a    Sea creature of old caught with some work (7)
{OCTOPUS} Let’s start with a word sum today. O (old) + CT (Caught) + the Latin word for work will lead you to some of the amazing creatures of the deep who have been in the news lately.

[If you haven’t already seen this video, then you must!  BD]

5a    Stuff around East in charge of China (7)
{CERAMIC} Take a word meaning stuff that’s the surname of Steve, the BBC athletics commentator and former runner and insert E for East. Tack onto this IC (an abbreviation of in charge) and you get a word meaning “of China, pottery etc”. A good example of a nicely written clue where everything counts.

9a    Screw with group fixing price (5)
{WRING}Another word sum: W (for with) + RING (price fixing group, cartel) = a word meaning screw or twist.

10a    A British composer who’s never Brahms and Liszt (9)
{ABSTAINER} this was a clue that had me looking through Bradford’s Dictionary to see if there were any composers whose name meant Teetotaller. However, I then realised that it was probably just a cryptic word sum A B (A British) + STAINER (another outing for the little known British composer.  Probably clue of the day.

11a    Perhaps match island’s help for loading ships (10)
{LIGHTERMAN} A match may be said to be one of these, and add to this the island in the middle of the Irish sea. This will lead you to a name for a mariner. However only gives the word as meaning someone who navigates a lighter (boat that helps loading/unloading ships). Chambers is a bit vague.

12a    Bar banter (4)
{RAIL} A double definition. The bar is nothing to do with drinking, but a basic bar of metal. The use of banter is as a verb here.

14a    Ill in barnet? I could set that right! (12)
{BRILLIANTINE} This would probably have been a smart clue about 30 years ago. It’s an “& lit” all-in-one type clue, where part of the clue provides the indication and definition. “If you were “ill in (your) barnet” or having a bad hair day, you might anagrammatize the phrase to reveal a product that people used to use to tame their tresses.

18a    Theatric pros playing here? (9,3)
{ORCHESTRA PIT} Another clue similar to 14 across. Another anagram of THEATRIC PROS reveals whereabouts in a theatre you may find them playing their tunes.

21a    Hitch up (4)
{LIFT} As I said in my preamble , the four letter words here are all clued with trite phrases. Some work, some are weak, like this one. Both of these are verbs, with the second as in “up the ante”. I mentioned the other day about double definitions should be distinct from each other, and this one isn’t.

22a    Most serious item as a memorial (10)
{GRAVESTONE} A word sum. GRAVEST (Most serious) + ONE (item) = a word for a memorial.

25a    ‘Orrible situation being imprisoned by strict screw (9)
{PROPELLER} A horrible situation may be HELL, but here the first letter is missing, so it must be in the answer as well. If something is strict it’s PROPER, so place the former inside the latter and you’ll get a type of air screw.

26a    Spy a good chap (5)
{AGENT} A couple of the clues have linked words (screw and spy, for example). Shame they couldn’t have been used as answers, or perhaps been expanded into a theme. A good chap may be said to be A GENT(LEMAN), which gives you a word for a spy.

27a    Draw stumps to put opponent in impossible position (7)
{ENDPLAY} A double definition clue that has one part cryptic (sort of!) If you draw stumps for the day in cricket you END PLAY for the day. The word is also a term in bridge for forcing an opponent to make a lead where there is no prospect of winning a trick.

28a    One high in Roman Empire finally overcame Hannibal (7)
{ELECTOR} I would have liked the word “say or namely” or phrase “for example” at the end of the clue to show that you are looking for a surname. It’s a nice surface read, E (finally, i.e. the last letter of “overcame”) making you think of the Roman General, but instead you are looking for someone to add who likes nothing better than you for dinner with fava beans and a nice Chianti. The only problem is that Dr Lecter is spelt differently in the books and films. In truth, it probably wouldn’t have affected the answer.


1d    River offering alternative source of water (6)
{ORWELL} The downs start with a word sum. OR (alternative) + WELL (source of water) = The East Anglian river.

2d    Pain, note, round one side (6)
{TWINGE} WING (side) inside TE (musical note) gives a word for a sharp pain.

3d    Call for artist to provide exciting read (4,6)
{PAGE TURNER} If you call someone via a Tannoy, you do this. Add to it the artist responsible for The Fighting Temeraire and you get a phrase meaning an exciting book.

4d    One in flight? One must be put in prison (5)
{STAIR} A (one) inside STIR (prison) leads to a word for part of a set of steps.

5d    Share top billing with gallery in country (5,4)
{COSTA RICA} If you share top billing with another person you CO-STAR and add to this the abbreviation for the Institute of Contemporary Arts. This will reveal the name of a Central American country.

6d    Learn about publicity (4)
{READ} A short simple word sum RE (about) + AD (publicity) = A word meaning learn.

7d    Person endlessly challenging top bureaucrat (8)
{MANDARIN} MAN = person + DARIN(G) (endlessly challenging) = a word for a top civil servant.

8d    California’s big wave making one wait? (8)
{CAROLLER} Don’t like the definition here, it’s one of those that hits the target, but not the bull’s-eye. A word sum CA (California) + ROLLER (a big wave)

13d    Some new account initially with special remarkably low rate (6,4)
{SNAIL’S PACE} The first letters of “Some new account” and add to this an anagram of SPECIAL to lead you to a phrase meaning going very slow.

15d    Last-minute recovery from side (9)
{LATERALLY} A good clue. A “last-minute recovery” as in the stock market might be LATE RALLY. Add them together and you get a phrase meaning “from the side”.

16d    Cooked escallop is a debacle (8)
{COLLAPSE} An anagram (cooked) of ESCALLOP leads you to a word meaning a debacle or disaster.

17d    Second rough eating place near ancient place of execution (8)
{SCAFFOLD} A word sum S (second) + CAFF ( ‘rough’ eating place – clever!) + OLD (ancient) = place of execution.

19d    Interfere with spy’s transmitter initially (6)
{MOLEST} MOLE’S (spy’s) + T (initial letter of transmitter) = a word meaning interfere or meddle.

20d    Metal weight carried by lord (6)
{PEWTER} WT (weight) inside PEER (lord) = the alloy (not METAL!) of tin and other metals.

23d    See Irish poetry (5)
{VERSE} V (vide, Latin for see) + ERSE (Irish) = a word for Poetry

24d    Animal to make an impression (4)
{SEAL} A double definition. A word that means an aquatic mammal, as well as to place a mark on a legal document.

Back later. Hopefully!


  1. gnomethang
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the review, Tilsit, and don’t have too much fun with the nurses!.
    I spotted the spelling in 28a and also had a bit of an issue with some of the 4-letters.

    Favourites included 5d, and 10a but my outright was 13d.
    I still don’t understand 8d although the wordplay screamed the answer.

  2. LB
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    No wonder I couldn`t do the SW corner as I`d put endgame in for 27a (Chess as opposed to Bridge )
    I was also convinced for a while that it was a composer I was looking for in 10a and was an anagram of `whos & never` (Brahms and Liszt ) Doh !!!
    Thanks for the hints

  3. Prolixic
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this puzzle from Messinae. I only got 14a from Fawlty Towers from the episode where Sibyl describes Basil as a Brilliantine Sitck Insect. It gets my vote as one of the better clues if only for reminding me of that. 10a and 13d were nice clues but I think that 25a just gets my vote as the clue of the day.

    Hope that the nurses treat you kindly.

    Many thanks to Messinae for our treat today.

  4. Anax
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Very easy fare – perhaps unusually for this stage in the week? I know we don’t mention times here, but for me all answers (bar one) were written in almost before I’d finished reading their clues. The only hold-up was 12a which had me rummaging through the thesaurus for a while.

    Shame about Mr Lecter. Let’s hope he doesn’t bear a grudge about this sort of thing. Apart from that the clues appeared pretty much faultless if unexciting; no thrills, but a satisfying jaunt for newer solvers.

    • Prolixic
      Posted December 17, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      The last couple of weeks have started off with a humdinger – Giovanni and then Elgar and then eased off, so I don’t think that there is anything too unusual about this week. Us mere mortals take longer to solve these puzzles – we don’t use Elgar’s puzzles as a means of timing the boiling of an egg, etc…!

      I think that Charles and Mary are keeping stumm about the spelling in 28a.

    • Posted December 17, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      I originally entered “spar” for 12a, which was a perfectly good answer in my opinion – just a pity that it was incorrect.

  5. rayw
    Posted December 19, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Toughie 270

    A bit late commenting I’m afraid but there were two points that I felt worth mentioning:-

    The composer Sir John Stainer might not be so well known among many people but to churchgoers, and choir members in particular, he is well known, since he wrote a number of well-known hymn tunes (he was organist at St Paul’s Cathedral). He also wrote the cantata “Crucifixion” which is still sung in many churches during Holy Week.

    I’m not sure what you didn’t like about the clue to 8d. Carol singers used to be called “waits”, so “one wait” is a caroller, which I thought was quite neat!

    • Posted December 19, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Ray

    • gnomethang
      Posted December 20, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Thanks for clearing up 8d Ray, I meant 8d in my first comment. now knowing the definition it is quite neat!. Problem was, I didn’t know the definition – probably the same as a lot of us!.
      Seasons Greetings and all that!.

      • Posted December 20, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        Your first comment now amended!

    • Posted December 20, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      With regard to 8d I’m sure that what Tilsit meant was that waits as carollers only exists in the plural, so one wait is not a good definition – hence his comment about “hits the target, but not the bull’s-eye”.