Toughie 278

Toughie No 278 by MynoT

Och aye tha noo year

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

The expected smattering of Caledonian verbal specialities made this a challenging solve in a few places but at least – now I’m becoming familiar with this setter’s style – I was on the lookout for them.

Unusually I’ve given this five stars for difficulty, and I can only base that on solving time; this one kept me from bed for a good few hours after saying hello to 2010. Or maybe it was the drink.

Favourite clues are in blue.

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.


6a    Anyway he appears not as drunk as you might wish him (1,5,3,4)
{A HAPPY NEW YEAR} A clever subtraction anagram to kick us off; ANYWAY HE APPEARS minus the letters AS for the first half of this puzzle’s 2010 greeting.

8a    Hope to be seen at church … (6)
{ASPIRE} This NW was a problem area for me and this didn’t help. For “hope” we have a phrase describing something that’s seen on top of a church, but the reading fails my “substitution test” – can the alternative answer be replaced in a sentence by “to be seen at church”? Not for me.

9a    … for sin in selves to be freed (8)
{EVILNESS} A nice easy anagram (to be freed) of IN SELVES.

10a    In Rome, ha! (3)
{MMX} A test of Latin here, the answer a set of Roman numerals and “ha” being an abbreviation for the Latin hoc anno (in this year).

11a    Head that is covering (6)
{BEANIE} Quite a nice semi-&Lit wordplay using BEAN (a word for the head) and the abbreviation of the Latin equivalent of “that is”.

12a    Hay diet’s good for upset lasting more than a week (5-3)
{EIGHT-DAY} I ended up kicking myself on this one, having spent unnecessary time trying to anagram HAY DIETS – what I should have done was make the anagram from HAY DIET and G (good).

14a    Like a star fish about to relate (7)
{STELLAR} Could this be the first appearance of a new crossword fish? Around a word meaning “to relate” (as in a story) we have SAR – a fish, a shortened version of the more usual (and I use that word advisedly) SARGUS or SARGOS. Sargus, I think, is the pukka version, while Sargos is the cheap one with a scales-effect coating for £3.99.

16a    Working in time to be announced today (7)
{HONOURS} A reference to a traditional New Year’s Day event, this is made up of ON (working) inside the divisions of a day we could think of as “time”.

20a    Yesterday lots of people got round a pig for starters (8)
{HOGMANAY} New Year’s Eve this time! The wordplay is a bit more complicated than for previous clues; MANY (lots of people) placed around A, which all follows a word for a pig. A very nice clue which paints a plausible picture of New Year’s Eve feasting.

23a    Tagine perhaps the object of seasonal activity (6)
{EATING} If you really want to know, “tagine” is a pot used for North African cooking, or the stew made in it, but it doesn’t really matter here as all we want is an anagram of it.

24a    Paper for Jan 3? (3)
{SUN} Another New Year reference, a double meaning clue which refers to what day Jan 3rd falls on.

25a    Return independent woman: any different one will be a dish (8)
{BIRIYANI} Get ready for this! OK, the abbreviation for “independent” is I and, colloquially, “rib” can mean “woman”. Reverse these, add an anagram of ANY and a letter for “one”.

26a    It’s the familiar routine: hush money advanced (6)
{SHTICK} Lovely – an utterance meaning “hush!” and a word for credit, or “money advanced”. The answer is a word often used to describe a stage performer’s routine/patter.

27a    In turbulent love story always for each of you (2,5,6)
{TO EVERY SOLVER} Although the surface reading makes no sense the wordplay components are nicely made, an anagram (turbulent) of LOVE STORY around EVER (always).


1d    It could be grand over the Styx, we hear (8)
{NATIONAL} I’m not overly keen on homophones used as clue components but that’s probably just me. The answer here refers to a horse race and for “Styx” think of “sticks”.

2d    Record two males a long time, one lasting only a day (8)
{EPHEMERA} I have no EPs in my record collection now, but this clue uses one. It’s followed by two small components which both refer to “male” and then ERA (a long time).

3d    Princess got married initially taking a step forward to be attached (7)
{ANNEXED} The toughest one for me even though I had the answer quickly and also the princess ANNE. For the last three letters, think of a word for “married” but take the first letter and move it along by one alphabetical place.

4d    Itching for honour after partners take the lead (6)
{EWKING} The answer is an alternative spelling based on the dialect word YUKE, meaning to itch. Wordplay consists of KING (honour) after two compass directions which are also used to identify partners in the card game bridge.

5d    This is necessary for a junket (6)
{RENNET} This hardly seems cryptic at all; yes, there are two meanings for “junket” but once you’ve identified the one needed it’s a straightforward definition clue. The answer possibly isn’t a very familiar word, but it’s a means of curdling milk (you may also have heard of it as a type of apple).

6d    One not voting for party driver (13)
{ABSTENTIONIST} Quite a cute double meaning clue where we can place the split between “voting” and “party driver”, so “voting for party” looks a bit like it refers to a political party. The alternative meaning suggests one who doesn’t drink (and therefore could be the nominated driver for a night out).

7d    Moving location for food and drink (10,3)
{RESTAURANT CAR} “Moving” is a deceptive touch but it’s actually a pretty direct way of describing the fact that this location for eating and drinking is always on the move (because it’s on tracks).

13d    She never has to lose resolution in Scotland (3)
{HEN} The answer is hidden in “she never” and it’s a Scottish word meaning to lose courage or resolve.

15d    Ley line near water (3)
{LEA} A rare little word is used here but thankfully it was one I already knew. “Ley” is an alternative spelling of the answer (a meadow) and it’s made up of the abbreviation for “line” followed by EA, which is a stream.

17d    Starts to dance, but most people don’t do this today (4,4)
{OPEN SHOP} The answer is what most retailers (especially smaller ones) won’t do today. Start with a word for “starts” followed by HOP (a dance).

18d    Expressing a desire to choose musical to return (8)
{OPTATIVE} To choose is to OPT, then reverse the name of a popular musical.

19d    Twice a year swig wine, initially getting drunk, but the end result is the same (7)
{WYSIWYG} Although this is just an anagram there’s a bit of work needed to find the bits. You need Y (year) twice, SWIG, and W (the first letter of “wine”). The answer, quite cleverly defined, refers to what is now a somewhat outdated computing acronym which means what you see on the monitor is how it would look in print – the old days of generic green letters on black background are pretty much gone now.

21d    It could be over with May in French nightclub (6)
{MAIDEN} A cricketing term! For this type of “over” (off which no runs are scored) uses the French word for the month of May followed by a (usually disreputable) nightclub.

22d    More effective to have meal in north-eastern region at first (6)
{NEATER} To have a meal is to EAT. Place this inside NE (north-eastern) and the first letter of “region”.

A tough workout to welcome 2010, but maybe just the thing to bring those alcoholically mutilated brain cells back to life.


  1. Posted January 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I think 13d could be intended as an &lit – hen is a Scottish term for a woman or girl ((facetiously, disrespectfully, or endearingly according to Chambers).

    Just this once I seem to have fared better on this one, it took me considerably less time than yesterday’s Elgar.

  2. Libellule
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Enjoyed this one immensely – just right for New Years day, and I liked the message to all of us!
    Have to agree that 26a was excellent, had that “click” moment when I solved it.

  3. Prolixic
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This was something of a workout. Lots of the clues were straightforward but there were a few horrors in there – particularly 4d. Favourite clue was 6d (which I was not last night and which may have contributed to taking an age to solve).

    Posted January 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    14 a I thought SAR mght be short for sardine

    • Posted January 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      My initial thought too but I was suspicious and checked Chambers.

  5. BigBoab
    Posted January 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I liked 20a and 13d but could not, did not and never would have got 19d. A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all

  6. Peter Biddlecombe
    Posted January 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Tough for me, taking twice as long as the Elgar puzzle.

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