Toughie 276

Toughie No 276 by Excalibur

Liquorice All-Sorts

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment **

Firstly, thanks to Big Dave for stepping in and doing my Cryptic review yesterday – it’s amazing how the loss of one’s broadband link for just 24 hours produces withdrawal symptoms!

Today’s puzzle is by the setter who polarises opinions more than any other Toughie setter. While I don’t think this is a great puzzle and it’s not really Toughie standard, it is nevertheless a distinct improvement on the ones we were getting from this setter 6-9 months ago – most of the surface readings are reasonable and we’re now getting less of the convoluted word order which were a feature of previous puzzles.

As usual we’d love to get your views – please leave a comment.

Across Clues

1a  That’s right. A box lined with copper (8 )
{ACCURATE} – put the chemical symbol for copper inside (lined with) A and a large box.

5a  Confirmed bachelors before the big-eyed sweetie appears (6)
{BASSET} – confirmed is SET – put bachelors (of arts) before it to get a cuddly-looking hound with big eyes. The use of “sweetie” is obviously a deliberate attempt to make us think of Bertie, the mascot of the sweet company which produces liquorice all-sorts, but their (and his) name has a double T.

9a  There’s a light swell when you set sail (5,3)
{START OFF} – a charade of a light in the sky (one of millions on a clear night) and an upper-class person (swell).

10a  Intervene and set out to fix (4,2)
{STEP IN} – an anagram (out) of SET is followed by a verb meaning to fix or fasten.

12a  Headache is gone, leaving just a trace (6)
{NUANCE} – start with a word meaning someone or something which is troublesome or annoying (headache) and remove the IS (is gone) to leave a barely discernible amount (trace).

13a  Whispered about the bad, scruffy exterior (8 )
{BREATHED} – around RE (about) put an anagram (scruffy) of THE BAD to get a verb meaning whispered.

15a  Find key in the urn, rooting about (7)
{UNEARTH} – put A (musical key) inside an anagram (rooting about) of THE URN to get a word meaning discover or find.

16a  Turning to fend, produce a gun (4)
{DRAW} – reverse a verb meaning to fend off to get the way gunslingers in the old West would unholster their weapon. Fend (and its synonym used here) really only mean repulse when followed by “off”.

20a  Incline to follow closely (4)
{HEEL} – double definition.

21a  At last turn was front runner but broke down (7)
{STALLED} – start with an anagram (turn) of LAST and follow this with a verb meaning was at the front.

25a  Very eager to put one in the picture (8 )
{PAINTING} – put I (one) inside an adjective meaning longing or very eager to get a work of art.

26a  A long time on mother’s ruin (6)
{DAMAGE} – the definition is ruin – put a word for a long time after a mother (in the animal kingdom).

28a  Followed by police, managed to get off (6)
{RANCID} – start with a synonym for managed and a add a department in the police force to get a word meaning off.

29a  ‘Girl Guide’ in it proves to be a red herring (8 )
{MISLEADS} – put a synonym for to guide inside the title given to a girl and you have a verb meaning takes you down the wrong path.

30a  Went through the motions of agreeing (6)
{NODDED} – cryptic definition of an agreement signalled without sound.

31a  Foreigner gets waters to drain off (8 )
{SPANIARD} – start with a resort offering water-based treatments and add an anagram (off) of DRAIN.

Down Clues

1d  Agree there is a pronounced aroma (6)
{ASSENT} – a verb meaning to agree sounds like (pronounced) a pleasant smell.

2d  New car tax most men just won’t wear (6)
{CRAVAT} – an anagram (new) of CAR is followed by the tax which is about to go up again, to get a sort of neckerchief. Luckily the wordplay is pretty simple, because the definition “most men just won’t wear” does not really help.

3d  Saying little when it turns up in the centrefold (8 )
{RETICENT} – an anagram (fold) of CENTRE has IT reversed (turns up) inside.

4d  W-well returned, which makes a difference (4)
{TIFF} – well is FIT – the stuttering indicates that you need to repeat the F, then reverse the lot (returned) to get a slight difference of opinion.

6d  A street name? Wrong (6)
{ASTRAY} – put together A, the usual abbreviation for street and a man’s name. I don’t see why we have an apparently arbitrary name here, when what is required is a perfectly good noun – why not “A street light”?

7d  ‘The stone is perhaps flawed,’ I interposed (8 )
{SAPPHIRE} – an anagram (flawed) of PERHAPS has I inserted (interposed).

8d  Moderate, taking time, the 17th clue (4,4)
{TONE DOWN} – a phrasal verb meaning to moderate or be a bit quieter is formed from T(ime) followed by an expanded way of writing down the number of the 17th clue in this puzzle.

11d  The quiet sound of talk (7)
{PRATTLE} – string together P (piano, quiet) and the sound made by teacups on Mrs Overall’s unsteady tray and you have a noun or verb meaning to talk foolishly.

14d  Having no food, isn’t worried. Takes cigarette out (7)
{FASTING} – taking no food (as Muslims may do during Ramadan, for example) is formed by putting a slang term for cigarette around an anagram (worried) of ISN’T.

17d  Third party insurance for two going to court (8 )
{CHAPERON} – an amusing cryptic definition of someone who accompanies a couple going on a date (i.e. courting) to ensure that no impropriety takes place.

18d  Meant as a cue to go into action (8 )
{DESIGNED} – put SIGN (cue) inside a synonym for action.

19d  Happened to drop, having been holding (8 )
{BEFALLEN} – an archaic word for happened to is constructed by putting FALL (drop) inside BEEN (given to you in the clue).

22d  Walk free and set about reforming (6)
{STRIDE} – an anagram (reforming) of SET is placed around (about) a word meaning free to get a verb meaning to walk with long purposeful steps.

23d  Master criminal having a drink (6)
{MALAGA} – a charade of a secondary degree (master), a slang word for a criminal and A produces a sweet dessert wine.

24d  Having diminished, after a century died out (6)
{CEASED} – a synonym for diminished or went down (used of share prices, for example) follows C(entury) to get a verb meaning stopped or died out.

27d  Lacking backbone, the Colonel lost his head (4)
{LIMP} – the Colonel is the pompous cartoon character invented by Sir David Low. Drop the first character of his name to get an adjective meaning vacillating or lacking firmness of character.

The clues I liked today included 30a and 27d, but my favourite was 17d. What do you think? – please let us know via a comment.


8 Comments

  1. Posted December 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Gazza

    I think you have been very generous in your assessment of 5a. For me it was a strong candidate for worst clue of the year.

    • Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oh, I don’t know. I think defining the dog as a “big-eyed sweetie” is rather an affectionate touch and I suspect it isn’t supposed to make us think of the confectionery. The clue falls down slightly in its wordplay syntax but I’ve seen far worse.

    • gazza
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I can’t believe that the use of sweetie was not a deliberate prod in Bertie’s direction! Anyway, whether it was or not, I quite liked the clue.

  2. BigBoab
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I liked 28a and 29a but enjoyed the crossword overall except for 5a and 8d. Thanks for another grand rewiew.

  3. gnomethang
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I can’t help comparing this to Yesterday’s puzzle.
    For me this was tonnes more difficult and not nearly as enjoyable.
    Really don’t think 5a is fair but quite enjoyed 7d and 15a

  4. Prolixic
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Overall this was OK. The crossword was worth it for 17d alone. I do find that Excalibur’s clues take some getting used to – they almost are written in reverse to most clues. I am not saying that this is a bad thing – she has a style all of her own. 5a did not bother me too much.

  5. Kram
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nice one, yep 17d a classic, however I think Nuala is skating on very thin ice as far as her cluing for 2d. My father used to wear them in his retirement for comfort, and he was a man, and proud of it!.

  6. ian
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 10:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I agree it was much tougher than yesterday and that 17d is a cracking clue! I also agree with Anax re 5a; I too have seen much more dubious cclues than that!!

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