Toughie 273

Toughie No 273 by Cephas

The Back of Beyond

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment **

Today’s compiler is the usual setter of the Saturday Prize Crossword and this puzzle is a pangram (i.e. it contains all the letters of the alphabet), which is becoming his trademark. Apart from a couple of dodgy anagram indicators (at 22a and 28a) there is a horrible clue at 5d which expects you to find a very obscure village with the only help being that it is in Cambridgeshire!

As always your comments are very welcome.

Across Clues

1a  Softie travelling about freezing point on new snow (3-5)
{OFF-PISTE} – the definition is on new snow and we want an anagram (travelling) of SOFTIE around F(reezing) P(oint). Those who ski here are generally anything but softies!

9a/10a   Book of Daniel (8,6)
{ROBINSON CRUSOE} – cryptic definition, trying to make you think of the Old Testament,  of a book by Daniel Defoe.

11a  Fault-finding fool making a selection (3-7)
{NIT-PICKING} – the definition is fault-finding in a fussy and pedantic way – put together a fool and choosing or making a selection.

12a  Cry out when I penetrate old shellfish (7)
{EXCLAIM} – start with EX (old), then add a shellfish (the sort often eaten in a rich soup or chowder) with an I inside, to get a verb meaning to cry out.

14a  Patient under obligation (7)
{SUBJECT} – double definition.

16a  Individual entering Asian country or Irish county (5)
{LAOIS} – put I (individual) inside the Asian country which has Vientiane as its capital, and you get an Irish county within the province of Leinster.

17a  Amend? An hour later (5)
{ATONE} – if morning, i.e. A.M., ends at noon then an hour later you get a verb meaning to make amends.

18a  Shabby state in Seychelles (5)
{SCALY} – put an abbreviation for Arnie’s state inside SY (the vehicle registration code for the Seychelles) to get an adjective meaning shabby.

20a  Second under-secretary has welcome dish (5)
{SUSHI} – string together S(econd) U(nder)-S(ecretary) and HI (welcome).

22a  The Spanish oiler went round this on the Rhine (7)
{LORELEI} – put an anagram (went?) of OILER round the Spanish definite article to get the large rock on the Rhine which looms large in German folklore.

24a  Cut deposit out (7)
{TOPSIDE} – an anagram (out) of DEPOSIT gives an expensive cut of beef,

26a  Select a flower aloud with relish (10)
{PICCALILLI} – homophones (signalled by aloud) of PICK (select) and A LILY (flower) come together to make a relish.

27a  Simon to laze all over the place (6)
{ZEALOT} – the epithet given to the apostle Simon is an anagram (all over the place) of TO LAZE. I like the anagram indicator!

28a  Abrasive mound cur removed (8 )
{CORUNDUM} – this abrasive mineral is an anagram (removed?, even spelling this re-moved is not much better) of MOUND CUR.

29a  One dying to be a naughty child (8 )
{PERISHER} – double definition.

Down Clues

2d  Through which one can leave in a hurry to cool off (4,4)
{FIRE EXIT} – cryptic definition of an emergency door.

3d  Steps into the money during plague (10)
{PESTILENCE} – put an arrangement of steps which allows humans, but not animals, to climb over a wall or fence inside (into) small coins to get a synonym for plague.

4d  Design gun by one in Sri Lanka (7)
{STENCIL} – start with a type of lightweight sub-machine gun and add CL (the vehicle registration code for Sri Lanka) with I (one) inside.

5d  Place in Greater London, not a place in Cambridgeshire (5)
{ERITH} – I’m normally pretty relaxed about place names, as long as they can be got from the wordplay, but this is the exception – “a place in” is just useless. What you’re meant to do is start with a village in Cambridgeshire which is so small that people living a few miles away (let alone on the other side of the world!) have probably never heard of it, then remove the A (not A) to leave a town in the London Borough of Bexley (which not many people outside the capital will have heard of either). Happily, you can get three of the five letters, including the first one, from crossing answers, so you probably don’t need to bother with the Cambridgeshire village.

6d  Clearly evident forgetting Long Island was omitted (7)
{OBVIOUS} – start with an adjective meaning unaware or forgetting and remove the L(ong) and I(sland) to leave a word meaning clearly evident.

7a  Strive for high things, a High Church feature (6)
{ASPIRE} – double definition, the second (1,5) being the high bit of a church which tapers to a point.

8a  Gallant seven times a week on the radio (8 )
{KNIGHTLY} – an adjective meaning gallant or chivalrous sounds like (on the radio) every evening.

13a  Question in Hawaiian Island about Chilean shrub (5)
{MAQUI} – put Q(uestion) inside the second-largest of the Hawaiian islands to get a Chilean evergreen shrub.

14d  Ugly view? (5)
{SIGHT} – double definition, with an answer that can be both a vision of loveliness and something that looks frightful.

15d  Minister’s game (4,6)
{JACK STRAWS} – the name of the current Justice Secretary plus the S gives us the name of a game also known as spillikins or pick-up sticks which involves picking a small rod of wood, bone or plastic from a heap without disturbing the rest.

17d  Everybody seasoning berries (8 )
{ALLSPICE} – a charade of a word for everybody and an aromatic seasoning form the berries of a tree also known as pimento or Jamaica pepper.

19d  Unknown boy first had nothing steady (4-4)
{LADY-LOVE} – the definition is steady, as in regular girlfriend – put Y (an unknown in an algebraic expression) after a synonym for boy and finish with the way a score of zero (nothing) is described in tennis.

20d  Shut off Henry not appearing in revised schedule (7)
{SECLUDE} – an anagram revised) of SC(h)EDULE (without H(enry)) produces a verb meaning to shut off or keep away from other people.

21d  During the commotion I zeroed in on electrical apparatus (7)
{IONIZER} – a hidden (during) word in the clue is a piece of electrical apparatus which improves the air quality in a room.

23d  On which it is publicly known as the best yet (6)
{RECORD} – double definition.

25d  Fruit’s soft and round (5)
{PLUMP} – put together an oval, fleshy fruit and P (piano, soft) to get an adjective meaning having a full rounded shape.

I liked 29a and 21d today, but my favourite was 17a. What do you think? – leave us a comment.


  1. Prolixic
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this puzzle from Cephas. Erith was the last to go in. On 1a I originally resolved this as an anagram of softie Oc to yield Ice Foots, the accretion of ice at the edge of a glacier – which slowed the completion of the top left corner!

    Favourite clue was 15d.

  2. Libellule
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that just about everybody will complain about 5d. Like Prolixic it was the last I put in, and I only solved it by keying in a number of “possible” answers into CluedUp, until it accepted the right one. Why Cephas didn’t use a Muse’s name for the answer is beyond me. Otherwise not a bad old puzzle, solved without too many major problems.

  3. gnomethang
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Nice litlle puzzle from Cephas – I was looking for the Pangram which helped me solve a couple.
    I used to live in Erith so got it from the checking letters! – Lovely place – try to avoid it!.

    Merry Christmas and thanks for the review gazza.

    p.s. – the link in 5d has stopped you!

    • gazza
      Posted December 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that – I’d just spotted the problem and removed the image when your comment arrived.
      A Merry Christmas to you and all our readers.

  4. Harry Shipley
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    My lucky day – I know of Earith, and Erith (worked for BICC who had a cable factory there) so it went in quite early. Earith does have one claim to fame that I know of, it was the site of the ill-fated tracked hovercraft development. My main quibble is that I cannot find MAQUI in any of my dictionaries.

    Harry Shipley

  5. Patsyann
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I got into a total mess by thinking 20a was pasta (PA for secretary, s for second and ‘ta’ for welcome – as in ‘you’re welcome'” Then of course nothing would fit!

    • gazza
      Posted December 23, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      That works brilliantly in every way – it deserves to be the answer!

    • Posted December 23, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Just one small resevation – under secretary would only work for a down clue! US = Under-Secretary was a new one for me – it made a change from US = America.

  6. Posted December 23, 2009 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Quite an entertaining puzzle, but the Earith clue was a tad unfair, a sort of Double General Knowledge Cryptic clue.

    The late much-missed comedienne Linda Smith used to say that Earith didn’t have a twin town arrangement, just a suicide pact with Dagenham.

    There also used to be BICC factories near me at Prescot and Huyton on Merseyside as well. Both now decimated and laid waste.