Toughie 284

Toughie No 284 by Micawber

Tempus Fugit

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

If a decree were to be issued from the Telegraph command bunker, saying that in future all Toughies would be compiled by a single one of the current setters, then I would opt for Micawber. He produces challenging puzzles with excellent cluing, he doesn’t need to resort to lots of obscure words, but most of all, he consistently makes me laugh. I enjoyed solving this one so much that I was sorry when I, eventually, finished – but I was cheered by the prospect of having to go through all the clues again to write the review.
Please leave a comment to let us know what you thought of it!

Across Clues

1a  Place for VIPs to show off — and how! (4,3)
{WHO’S WHO} – an anagram (off) of SHOW and HOW gives the title of the reference book which lists biographical details of the great and the good. For years the longest entry belonged to Barbara Cartland, who insisted on including the titles all the books she’d written. Hilarious clue, even if the anagram fodder is in two separate bits with the indicator in the middle!

5a  Put a dampener on little Maureen’s birthday announcement? (7)
{MOISTEN} – a verb meaning to dampen could be an announcement (2,2,3) that young Maureen has reached the age that requires two digits on her birthday cards.

9a  One heartless sod — and brainless (5)
{IDIOT} – start with I (one) and add DIvOT (sod) without its heart. A cracking clue!

10a  Patience displayed to Israeli (9)
{SOLITAIRE} – an anagram (displayed) of TO ISRAELI produces the card game for one which is the most commonly used application on many PCs.

11a  Southern Indian dish has one burning inside — it’s unpleasantly spicy (10)
{SCURRILITY} – start with S(outhern) and add a generic Indian dish with I LIT (one burning) inside.

12a  Name almost having ring of familiarity? (4)
{ABEL} – the name of the first murder victim almost rings a bell.

14a  Easy targets for dodges by MPs when in the House (7,5)
{SITTING DUCKS} – a phrase meaning targets that you can’t miss is made from a description of an MP who has taken his seat in the House and the birds for which Tory MP Sir Peter Viggers claimed expenses of £1,645 in order to provide them with a floating home.

18a  Many champion dissolute sex addict (12)
{NYMPHOMANIAC} – an anagram (dissolute) of MANY CHAMPION produces a description of an insatiable woman.

21a  Decrease in strength? (4)
{IRON} – double definition, the first cryptic.

22a  I get a frame prepared for picture that’ll last (5-5)
{AFTER-IMAGE} – an anagram (prepared) of I GET A FRAME is an impression that is retained by the eye for a split-second after the object has disappeared.

25a  Mistress may be a bit like this — going downhill, looks starting to go (2,3,4)
{ON THE SIDE} – Laugh out loud time! Chambers describes such a bit as “one’s partner in extramarital sexual relations” – take the L (Looks starting to go) out of another phrase meaning going downhill out of control.

26a  Education cut short after teaching started with two thirds sick — head covered, perhaps? (5)
{TILED} – stitch together the start of T(eaching), two-thirds of IL(L) and ED(ucation) cut short to get a cryptic description of having a hat on (tile being a dated slang term for a hat).

27a  Non-whites trapped by shells from batteries? (7)
{YELLOWS} – I’m a bit dubious about this cryptic definition. Eggs (with shells) are produced from battery hens, but I’m not sure that non-whites is a good description of the colour of egg yolks.

28a  Spooner could make film star Greg such a beast (7)
{PECCARY} – how the Revd. Spooner might transpose the parts of film star Greg’s name and pronounce his forename is the name of a pig-like South American animal.

Down Clues

1d  As long as left in the game (6)
{WHILST} – the definition is “as long as” – put L(eft) inside a card-game for four.

2d  Horrible to have too many debts (6)
{ODIOUS} – someone who is both overdrawn (OD) and has issued IOUS has indeed too many debts.

3d  Without doubt, this won’t get you that! (10)
{WATERTIGHT} – you won’t get drunk on Adam’s Ale.

4d  Bird in car pulled away from roundabout (5)
{OUSEL} – a roundabout is a CAROUSEL – just pull away the car.

5d  Hormone in male not developed (9)
{MELATONIN} – this hormone is an anagram (developed) of IN MALE NOT.

6d  A little over a third of letters turned up (4)
{IOTA} – there are 26 letters in the alphabet so to get over a third we need nine – take a description of the first nine letters and reverse it (turned up) to get a word meaning a small amount (a little).

7d  Queue from one end to another (8 )
{TAILBACK} – put together two words meaning end to get a queue of traffic.

8d  Point to point’s without point (8 )
{NEEDLESS} – the definition is without point – start with a pointer (on a compass, say) then add S(outh) (point) and a second S (signalled by the ‘s).

13d  Hopeful pontoon banker might say these words, though lacking king (10)
{IDEALISTIC} – the banker in the game of pontoon might say “I DEAL” and “I STICK” (stick meaning that he’s satisfied with the cards he already has and does not want any more). Remove the K (lacking king) to be left with an adjective meaning hopeful.

15d  Record speed of insects — but life’s so short (4,5)
{TIME FLIES} – double definition.

16d  Element of how ‘Friends, Romans…’ speech might have begun — speaker’s dropped (8 )
{ANTIMONY} – the speech by Mark Antony might have begun “I’M ANTONY” – drop the first word a few letters (in a down clue) to get a brittle bluish-white element.

17d  Wrong to seize countries, essentially lacking exit strategy? (8 )
{IMMORTAL} – the very amusing definition is lacking exit strategy. Put the central letter (essentially) of counTries inside a synonym for wrong or sinful.

19d  Perennial trouble had returned (6)
{DAHLIA} – trouble is AIL – reverse (returned) this and HAD to get a perennial garden plant.

20d  Doris’s superior way of getting attention, when at height of powers (6)
{HEYDAY} – what the director of film star Doris might have shouted to gain her attention is the period of one’s life when one enjoys the most success.

23d  Have a good look, it won’t make any difference! (3,2)
{EYE UP} – the definition is have a good look. Applying the second word to the first (in a down clue) won’t make any difference because the first is a palindrome.

24d  Live together, retaining right to say ‘no’ (4)
{VETO} – hidden (retaining) in the clue is a right to say no.

There’s a long list of clues I liked: 5a, 14a, 18a, 6d, 13d, 15d, 17d, 20d and 23d, but my joint favourites as clues of the day are 1a, 9a and 25a. How about you? – leave us a comment to tell us what you thought of it!



  1. gnomethang
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Had a bit of trouble in the bottom corners but then about 6 pennies dropped all at once.
    Very nice puzzle indeed!.
    Favourites for me were 11a, 18a and in particular the masterful (IMO) 13d.

    Thanks for the review gazza.

  2. BigBoab
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I thoroughly enjoyed this one , especially liked 5a and 25a. Super stuff!

  3. Jezza
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Total contrast to yesterday! Some very clever clues, and a couple I missed that I should have got. The reasoning for 6d totally escaped me…
    Gazza, re 27a, I have found one dictionary reference that gives ‘yellow’ as “the yolk of an egg”.

    • Jezza
      Posted January 13, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Re 27a, I take that back…. I didn’t read your comment correctly.

  4. gnomethang
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Looking at 28a, I am a bit dubious of the Spoonerism here! Pregory anyone?

    • gazza
      Posted January 13, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Peckory Gregg ?

      • gnomethang
        Posted January 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Er, Yeah! OK!. Was blind to that one!

  5. Tilly
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    16d did it for me in an excellent puzzle.

  6. Prolixic
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic crossword from Micawber with lots of laugh out loud moments, particularly with 18a and 25a, and superb clues like 13d which I too think is the clue of the day. Many thanks to Gazza for the blog and to Micawber for the treat.

  7. Furius
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this, my favourites being 14a for its topicality and 5a. I was held up a bit by having ‘Nell’ for 12a though!

  8. Patsyann
    Posted January 13, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Re 17down. I’ve never come across ‘essentially’ meaning the central letter. Is this another crosswordland usage?

    Really enjoyed this one – like everyone else.

  9. Werm
    Posted January 14, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I really struggled with this yesterday and only completed just over half.

    A moment of Hubris after some real progres and success !

    Onwards and upwards.

    • Werm
      Posted January 14, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      That’s progresS of course :-) .

      On checking the notes above I actually got a few more but could just not get them to fit word play. Stuck in a circle, thinking same things over. 5a , 4d and 16d all examples of answers that I had but just couldnt prove !

      • gazza
        Posted January 14, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        The more you practise, the better you’ll get. I bet that you’ll complete today’s Toughie!