Toughie 271

Toughie No 271 by Myops

So this is what an obstacle course feels like

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

Yes, I’m giving this five stars for a difficulty that comes partly from very clever and oblique wordplay and partly from some devilish obscurities that should have even experienced solvers ransacking their dictionaries. I’ve given four stars for enjoyment mainly because I appreciate a tough challenge, but I suspect there will be a few who found the whole thing a bit much even for a Friday.

Some of the clue-writing here is just awesome; while there may be no laugh-out-loud clues by way of surface readings, there are some epically imaginative constructions spiced with a great deal of originality.

This is a puzzle which on occasion pushes the boundaries and, for me, there are a handful of clues whose fairness is debatable.

So in addition to the usual blue for favourite clues I’ve used red to indicate those where I thought the solver was being tested a bit unfairly.

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.


3a    With day to glance round this island, pass slowly (4,2)
{DRAG BY} There are very few give-aways in this puzzle – and this isn’t one of them. Start with the abbreviation for “day”, add RAY (one meaning of “glance”) and place this around an abbreviated form of this island (assuming you live in England, Wales or Scotland).

6a    Fussy if stalling cows (4)
{FIKY} Sheer murder! The anagram indicator (or is it supposed to be a reversal?) “stalling” applies to IF, then we have an obscure variant spelling for “cows” which is based on “kine”. The whole is a Scottish word meaning “fussy”.

8a    Emirate? Name one — one suffices (5)
{DUBAI} At last a moderate respite; a word meaning “to name”, followed by two single-letter interpretations of “one”, giving a city in the UAE.

9a    Buffoon with hook nose could be swimming up Loch Linnhe (11)
{PUNCHINELLO} An error in this clue, in which we need an anagram (swimming) of UP LOCH LINNHE – sadly that has an extra H which we don’t need.

10a    Here’s exotic Ayesha, the Queen that’s pure (5)
{SHEER} “Exotic Ayesha” refers to the Ryder Haggard novel, followed by that old cryptic stalwart ER for the Queen. “Pure” here is in the sense of “I solved this one by pure luck”.

11a    One who decorates with gold isn’t meant to be extravagant (11)
{ORNAMENTIST} A nice smooth surface here in a clue made up of OR (gold) and an anagram (extravagant) of ISN’T MEANT.

16a    Men at work should have right to ignore soft speaker (6)
{ORATOR} Our “speaker” consists of OR (other ranks, or soldiers – “men”), AT, and then a very devious arrangement of wordplay where OP (opus – “work”) and R (right) are strung together before we’re told to remove the P (piano – “soft”). This seems to shout “unfair” but there’s nothing in the clue to say we don’t have to add those two parts together before making the subtraction.

17a    Streakers are unceremoniously removed for a run like this (8)
{STARKERS} Take an anagram (unceremoniously) of ARE and remove it from STREAKERS, replacing it with A, then make an anagram (run) of what remains. Almost a brilliant semi-&Lit clue except that in our modern anything-goes world streakers aren’t necessarily removed.

19a    Person in irons perhaps or vice versa (8)
{PRISONER} Despite one little obscurity which demands that you know “per.” is an abbreviation for “person”, this clue is stunningly good. The definition is “person in irons perhaps” – but this also works as wordplay if you change it to “irons perhaps in person” where we have an anagram of IRONS in PER.

20a    Worthless talk from fellows cutting hair (6)
{PIFFLE} Another lovely surface and, thankfully, an easier clue. The abbreviation for “fellow” is F – repeat this and place it inside a colloquial word meaning “hair”.

22a    Discerning parental guidance about Internet surfing with adult content (11)
{PENETRATING} I solved this from checking letters and spent about ten minutes trying to work out how the clue worked. “Parental guidance” refers to the film classification PG, and this is placed around an anagram of INTERNET (the indicator “surfing” is somewhat oblique!). In turn, this goes around the abbreviation A (adult).

25a    After golf what’s next? Gleneagles? (5)
{HOTEL} For what comes after “golf”, think of the call-sign alphabet – thus Gleneagles is a famous example of the answer.

27a    In a castle party reel can, birling with increasing speed (11)
{ACCELERANDO} Difficult to work out, but mostly I was thrown by the almost nonsensical surface reading. Inside A C (castle) DO (party) we have an anagram of REEL CAN – aficionados of Scottish dialect will probably see “birling” as the anagram indicator. The answer is a musical instruction to increase the speed at which a piece of music is played.

28a    Songbird — Catullus’ bird — gets a thousand (5)
{MAVIS} The answer (more readily recognised as a female name) is a bird (the song thrush) which sees AVIS (Catallus’ bird) paired with a letter meaning 1,000. This letter appears before AVIS even though the clue suggests otherwise.

29a    Even reduction of feet in yard is fractional (4)
{TINY} The “even reduction” required here is the removal of the same number of letters from each side of “feet in yard” to give a word meaning “fractional” (or, very small).

30a    Stick had broken before (6)
{ADHERE} An easy finish to the acrosses – an anagram (broken) of HAD plus the poetic word for “before”.


1d    Ideas you don’t want advanced; this is probably the 13th (4)
{IDES} This day of the month (thought by scholars to be the 13th) relies on the abbreviation for “advanced” being removed from IDEAS. “You don’t want” is the instruction but there’s a clear breach of grammar/syntax in offering no punctuation to it.

2d    Recognising inflexion of verb too is a noun (11)
{OBSERVATION} Another unusual anagram indicator, “inflexion”, tells us to rearrange VERB TOO IS A then add N (noun).

3d    Pot did (or not) for stewing kangaroo (11)
{DIPROTODONT} Thank heavens for checking letters. It’s very obvious an anagram of POT DID OR NOT is at work but I inserted the missing letters because they seemed to work best in the order I chose!

4d    Cover’s beginning when it’s gone (6)
{AWNING} The “beginning” of something can be its DAWNING, and we need to remove the beginning of this – so “beginning” is doing double duty here, which I guess many solvers won’t be happy with.

5d    Herbivore in book that’s all about the home (8)
{BEHEMOTH} The answer is the name of something we often think of as a huge monster, but apparently it’s thought to be the hippopotamus, which is a herbivore. The wordplay uses B (book) and an anagram of THE HOME – the placement of the anagram indicator “all about” is a bit dodgy.

6d    The street for news of all events. Every second counts (5)
{FLEET} In “every second counts” we have an instruction to use every second letter of “oF aLl EvEnTs”. Quite a clever clue, although “Every second counts” reads like a random afterthought.

7d    Tops of knees indicate length tailors suggest for them (5)
{KILTS} Super duper piece of clueing in which we use the initial letters of “knees indicate length tailors suggest” to give exactly the right answer!

12d    Rough men worried about doing not well where they may do better (7,4)
{NURSING HOME} An anagram (worried) of ROUGH MEN around the cleverly defined SIN (doing not well – “doing” is used as a noun as in “this is of your doing”). The definition “where they may do better” seems a bit nebulous to me.

13d    Really I have to be useless (11)
{INEFFECTIVE} If you see “I have” in a clue look out for IVE in the answer. Before this we have a two-word phrase meaning “really”.

14d    Criminal steals gold plate (6)
{TASSEL} I’ve always liked the anagram indicator “criminal” – it ranks alongside doctor and jockey as being potentially very misleading. The anagram of STEALS (see how well it works!?) gives the answer which, as well as being a hanging tuft of gold threads, is also a gold or silver plate on a vestment.

15d    Pen store at college (4,2)
{COOP UP} “Pen” is a verb serving as the definition. The store is a famous High Street one that’s good with food, and “at college” is a slightly modified take on what most setters clue as “at university”.

18d    One who came out came without I see being excluded (8)
{DEBARRED} Given the checking letters you’d probably get the answer straightaway, but understanding the wordplay needs a bit of a stretch of imagination. “One who came out” is a DEB, followed by I V (vide is Latin for “see”) removed (without) from a word meaning “came”.

21d    Mickey’s beloved mother (6)
{MINNIE} Our setter does like his Scottishisms! This double meaning clue refers to the cartoon character Mickey Mouse and a Scottish word meaning “mother”.

23d    Chile offended Turkish ambassador (5)
{ELCHI} Not a very common word, so the anagram (of CHILE) is a good idea, although I’m not keen on the indicator “offended”.

24d    Hostile soldiers you once would hold up (5)
{ENEMY} This is a clever take on a word with few wordplay opportunities. For the answer meaning “hostile” place MEN (soldiers) inside an archaic word for “you”, then reverse all of it. Despite the originality, that filler word “would” is a bit of an obstruction to clear thought.

26d    Roll is kept by junior officer (4)
{LIST} …and relax. This wordplay sees IS placed inside (kept by) an abbreviation for “lieutenant”.

A really tough challenge, this one, with several answers placed while having absolutely no idea why they were right.

So, how was it for you?


  1. Prolixic
    Posted December 18, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    What a grilling Myops gave us today (doing this with a hangover was not good!). Glad that I was not going mad with 9a trying to see how the extra H fitted in. This was one of those puzzles that I solved without knowing how I arrived at many of the answers and then had to resort to Chambers to find the obscure or the internet for the really obscure – Catullus’s bird. Myops loves his Scottish references and obscure Latin ones!

    Many thanks for explaining the clues and thanks to Myops for the toughest Toughie for a while.

  2. Ranger
    Posted December 18, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This one had me beat! Just a thought on 9a, could he mean that if you added the extra h (hook nose) to the answer you could get the anagram fodder? Given some of the other clues it wouldnt surprise me!

    • Posted December 18, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ah yes – that would explain it; but, crikey, that’s really pushing the boundaries!

    • Prolixic
      Posted December 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hopefully Myops will drop in an let us know.

      • John McKie
        Posted December 18, 2009 at 11:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

        For Ximenes y was not a happy ending, for me it is; in fact, it’s the happy ending. Your comments – and those of Anax – are kind. A small point about starkers: ‘run’ is often rendered r.

  3. gnomethang
    Posted December 18, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Too Tricky for me today, also I did not get the train today and am at home which, perversely, means I have less time to focus on Crosswords.
    I had to satisfly myself with going through the (great) review saying ‘Phew!’ and ‘Crickey’ a lot!.

  4. Robr
    Posted December 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well I got my 1200 points but 6a nearly killed me.
    A clue best left to the Listener crowd or should I say few
    (there must be only about 200 people in the Uk that can solve a
    Listener “crossword”). Bletchley Park types.

  5. Iolanthe
    Posted December 20, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very much enjoyed. More please, Stinker!

  6. Touchwood
    Posted December 21, 2009 at 12:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Too tough for me, I’m afraid.

  7. fortis
    Posted March 7, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    there is no such word as fiky i have googled it and i have scoured scottish language and scottish slang dictionaries it is obviously a made up word or if it is used in scotland, none of my scottish friends have ever heard of it so it might be something used only very locally in a remote area of scotland in which case it cannot possibly be justified it is quite simple the word does not exist

    • Posted March 7, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

      ‘Tis in Chambers!

      fike (Scottish)
      intransitive verb
      * to fidget restlessly
      * restlessness
      * any annoying requirement or detail in work
      * a pernickety exacting person
      fikery – noun
      * fuss
      fīkˈish or fīkˈy – adjective

      Myops was a Classics master at a famous Glasgow Grammar school.

      • fortis
        Posted March 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

        sorry i used the wrong link here it is again
        i doubt chambers can be described as an authority, of course i found fike which is not necessarily only scottish, is attributed to ME as well it is in the OED you have “the fikes” and fikery but there is no FIKY in the OED, your myops is simply using poetic licence and relying upon colloquial usage

  8. fortis
    Posted March 7, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    i doubt chambers can be described as an authority, of course i found fike which is not necessarily only scottish, is attributed to ME as well it is in the OED you “the fikes” and fikery but there is no FIKY in the OED, your myops is simply using poetic licence and relying upon colloquial usage

    • Posted March 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink | Reply


      Chambers is THE dictionary used by the Telegraph.

      • fortis
        Posted March 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

        ah that explains a lot, i have since phoned both my scottish friends, they both went to loretto school in edinburgh and they insist they have never hear it used, they both said they were not aware of any famous schools in glasgow but they weren’t surprised that the glaswegians used such language

        • Posted March 7, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

          This is the school, but Myops is now retired.

          BTW Myops often visits the blog under his real name – John McKie – and he is also responsible for the Wee Stinker puzzle in the Glasgow Herald.

          • fortis
            Posted March 8, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink | Reply

            my dear dave, i had no doubt it must have been a good school but would you really expect loretto boys from edinburgh to admit that glagow was a genuine rival, over the weekend i googled up chambers dictionary on line, (i am in france for a month or two) i fed in fike, fiky to no avail, perhaps the chambers on line dictionary is just a pocket sort of thing. i don’t really know chambers very well, i have bookshops and we don’t sell many it is definitely the OED that sells most and you may be surprised to know that we sell a few websters, the american one (noah) he often comes up in crosswords

            • Posted March 8, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink | Reply

              Chambers’ Edinburgh offices have been closed (by new owners Hachette, I believe) and subscriptions to the full online version are currently closed

              • fortis
                Posted March 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

                been out all day, i did check out chambers, have to admit i have not had a lot to do with them for some years we do of course stock them and we see the reps of all the publishers and distributors quite regularly but we are so used to our own (english) publishers and of course other types of manufacturers disappearing or being taken over by the french the germans, japanese etc that it ceases to have an effect, a shame but there we are a service society. so chambers have passed on and i see that hodder as well. i go back to the days when rolls royce and bentley were english. do you ever go to london dave?

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