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Toughie 294

Toughie No 294 by MynoT

Today I am being mostly grumpy (it was on the cards)

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BD Rating – Difficulty **** Enjoyment *

First things first – until now I’ve always enjoyed MynoT’s puzzles; they’ve been fair and entertaining. For some reason this one just didn’t rock my boat and I think it has less to do with the clues than the awful grid. This one has only a single link to each corner and each of those links has less than 50% checking letters, so the solver is always up against it. Furthermore, in this puzzle the four central answers are given pretty tough clues, and the cross-checking letters consist of 4 Es, A, I, O and N – not at all friendly!

As for the clues – let me start by saying that (perhaps for the wrong reasons) 22d was super, a real smile-raiser. A couple I thought were pretty dodgy – 10a is convoluted and one part of it too subtle (to the point of potentially misleading), while 17d turns an uncommon meaning into a weak cryptic definition. Elsewhere there were some good moments but there were also several chestnuts, which are great for the newer solver except that the newer solver is more likely to be tackling the other puzzle. I found that the interspersed selection of card games didn’t help with the solve – indeed I only noticed them at the end!

Despite a few moments of torture this was a pretty quick solve, but at the end of it I really didn’t feel that I’d enjoyed the experience. Let’s hope I’m wrong and that the rest of you gained far more pleasure. The four-star difficulty rating I’ve given it is based on the fact that I suspect many solvers will find it difficult to break into the four corners, and that the four linking answers will prove to be troublesome.

Favourite clues, for me at least, are shown 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.


1a    Esoteric sailor’s call for ceasefire (8)
{ABSTRUSE} “Sailor” usually flags up AB or TAR, and the apostrophe here wants us to insert AB’S. Add a bunch of letters that sound like TRUCE (ceasefire) for the answer. Solvers are divided into two camps who either like or loathe non-word homophones – what do you reckon?

5a    Old foyer destroyed years ago (2,4)
{OF YORE} The first of two appearances in the puzzle of O for “old”, followed by an anagram (destroyed) of FOYER.

9a    Bride’s outfit wasted time for philosopher (8)
{ROUSSEAU} To find our philosopher (first name Jean-Jacques) take the name of a bride’s outfit and remove the letter T (i.e. “waste” time) from the beginning.

10a    Kind of dance the President initially leads from Argentina to Canada, for example (6)
{BOSTON} At first I thought the def here was wrong, that you couldn’t just knock off REEL from the end, but Chambers tells me this single-word answer is a type of waltz – just to muddy the waters a little it doesn’t actually list the “— reel” version! This clue is murder to unravel and I needed BD’s help. For “the President initially” refer to the pic below. For the rest of it, think about compass points/directions, and which way you’d be going if you travelled from e.g. Argentina to Canada. I know “for example” is there to justify it, but Argentina/Canada still looks far too specific in the clue to be anything less than misleading.

12a    Dog’s born with an advantage (6)
{BASSET} Take the abbreviation B (born) and add a word meaning an advantage (or something owned).

13a    Whether man is fragile and frivolous creature or monster … (8)
(BEHEMOTH} I cottoned on to the answer pretty quick here but only because I attempted a similar wordplay construction for it years ago. For “Whether man is” we need to use the slightly archaic construction BE HE, then think of a fragile winged creature.

15a    Posh girl has a can of glue (7)
{GELATIN} The posh pronunciation (indeed accepted spelling) of “girl”, plus A TIN (a can) gives us a type of glue. Not keen on the “of” filler; in cryptic land “of” should indicate what the answer consists of, not the other way around.

16a    Duck’s egg in place in pond (4)
{POOL} “Duck’s egg” is a nice way of indicating the letters O and O. Place these inside the street atlas abbreviation of “Place”.

20a    Car in mint condition? (4)
{POLO} Quite a clever double definition based on a popular Volkswagen car and a proprietary mint. While “condition” helps to create an amusing surface I can’t really justify it.

21a    Strange omen about archdeacon is poison (7)
{ENVENOM} In this clue “poison” is a verb. Take an anagram of OMEN and place it around VEN, an abbreviation for “Venerable” as applied to an archdeacon’s title.

25a    Capital fellow (8)
{LONDONER} Someone who lives in London. Amazing.

26a    Create unusual position (6)
{ÉCARTÉ} Thankfully there’s only one possible anagram of CREATE. After that you have to rummage a bit to work out that “position” refers to ballet; I suspect most would recognise the answer as a card game.

28a    Heard to choose alien for unusual punishment (6)
{PIQUET} Another non-word homophone; the wordplay starts with a group of letters which sound like PICK, followed by E.T. “Unusual punishment”? Yes, apparently this word (as well as being a card game) is an alternative spelling of an alternative meaning for “picket” – some sort of military punishment.

29a    Being lazy, 23 down has no right to have one instead (4-4)
{BONE IDLE} Aha – a bit of adventure! Once you have the answer to 23d, you can remove the R from it and replace it with ONE. Nice bit of observation from MynoT.

30a    Free former representative imprisoned by Egypt (6)
{EXEMPT} Nicely worded and convincing surface here. Take EX (former) then place MP (representative – not sure I’ve seen that one before, and I like it) inside the International Vehicle Registration abbreviation for Egypt.

31a    This is no home unless oven is included (4,4)
{LOVE NEST} It’s odd how, occasionally, the setter can actually give you an undisguised part of the answer and still have you scrabbling around for the rest. Here OVEN is placed inside an old word for “unless”.


1d    Organism found in aged garment (6)
{AEROBE} For this you’ll need a bit of Latin; the term “aetatis” means “of his/her age” or “aged”. The garment is something you might wear after taking a bath.

2d    Fruit crush (6)
{SQUASH} Simple double meaning clue – just bear in mind that “crush” is a verb.

3d    Drink mixed in le soirée (5,3)
{ROSIE LEE} The answer is an anagram of (mixed in) LE SOIREE and is an alternative way of saying this:

4d    Break spell (4)
{SNAP} Perhaps not as chestnutty a double meaning as 2d and I guess newer solvers will love this one as it’s less likely they will have seen it before. As well as the two meanings in the clue, this answer is another card game.

6d    Printed note in English also turning up in France (6)
{FOOTER} I was caught off guard a bit by the definition here. For those of you who use e.g. MS Word you may be familiar with this answer as a bit of default text which you can get the software to place at the bottom of each page. Wordplay is E TOO (English also) reversed (turning up) inside an abbreviation for France.

7d    Thor’s strange god with neat sound in doctrine (8)
{ORTHODOX} Start with an anagram (strange) of THOR, add the archaic interjection OD (for “god”) and then a 2-letter word for “neat” – as in a type of cattle. “Sound in doctrine” is a nice presentation of the def.

8d    Twisted in helix, nothing is produced from thin air (2,6)
{EX NIHILO} A bit more Latin for the scholars! For the answer, meaning “out of nothing”, rearrange the letters of IN HELIX then add O (nothing).

11d    In rush returning officer’s casting vote (7)
{DECIDER} Inside a reversal of REED (rush) place CID – does that really mean “officer”?

14d    Robed waiter’s basket (7)
{PANNIER} This tough double meaning clue is a type of basket (especially one you might find on a bike) and also a robed waiter in the Inns of Court. Needless to say I had to look up that second one.

17d    Surprise in bed (5-3)
{APPLE-PIE} Everybody has a far more familiar interpretation of the answer here, but in this clue it means a bed prepared as a practical joke, where the sheets are doubled up so you can’t get into it. So, really, it’s hardly a cryptic clue at all.

18d    It could be clique in medical institution (8)
{CLINIQUE} A very straightforward anagram of CLIQUE IN – those same words could have been used to turn it into a container clue.

19d    Specific cape on island (8)
{CONCRETE} The abbreviation for “cape” is C, then add ON and the name of a popular Mediterranean island.

22d    Nursery rhyme character to visit the loo during dance (2-4)
{BO-PEEP} Admit it – you guffawed just a bit when you got this one. To visit the loo, you may have the urge to take a —; put this (not literally) inside BOP (dance).

23d    Married woman embracing lecturer for more than a bit (6)
{BRIDLE} Take the word for a woman who has just got married and place it around L (abbreviation for “lecturer”) for a piece of tack that’s “more than a bit”!

24d    Disembowel some followers after scripture class (6)
{RESECT} Given the letters -E-E-T it’s surprising to see such an obscure word. For the answer put SECT (some followers) after the abbreviation for Religious Education (or scripture class).

27d    Regularly spoil old piece of music (4)
{SOLO} A good clue if not spectacular. “Regularly” is always a good bet for taking alternate letters, which is what we do with “spoil” before adding O (old again).

How was it for you darling?

PS: Anax is tomorrow’s Indie setter. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough ;-)

15 comments on “Toughie 294

  1. I enjoyed this puzzle from MynoT. Unlike yesterday’s, it did not tie my brain in knots and require several cold towels to solve. The only one where I had a problem was with 26 across where I could not justify the answer as a position rather than the card game. After some of the puzzles this week, I’m not convinced this deserves a 4* rating (when solving it, I did not find the grid a hinderance). 22d was the best clue of the puzzle. A really smile raiser. Thanks for the hints Anax and thanks to MynoT for the challenge.

  2. Hmm I wasn’t over thrilled by this either, a bit of a struggle and few laughs along the way.
    Now with pedants hat on – someone ought to remind MynoT that there is no such thing as LE soiree, since soiree is actually a french feminine word and would always be LA soiree. e.g. La soiree a ete calme.

  3. I agree with Anax about the grid, and the Telegraph seems to make a feature of them, but by now I am prepared to live with it. Thanks for the wordplay in 10a; it had me fooled. And finally, my anagram solver gives a second possible anagram in 26a – CERATE.

    Harry Shipley

    1. Ah, that would explain it. A fairly obscure abbreviation but what threw me more was the position of the reversal indicator – it seems to exclude DIC from the process.

      Harry: Yes, you’re right re CERATE. I used my crossword software to throw up the anagrams but CERATE is in one its dictionaries which I don’t use, so it didn’t show.

      1. The only other two things I can think of are:

        1. tenuous in the extreme – it might refer to “El Cid”, the “El” as the definite article being omitted from the answer.

        2. the clue should be “returning officers’ ” and the apostrophe has been accidently moved or deliberately moved to improve the surface reading.

        1. There is one other possibility, perhaps even more tenuous. You sometimes find that a person is referred to colloquially by the organisation they belong to; “He’s FBI”, “He’s CID” – something along those lines. Might that justify the way it’s worded here? I think it would still be questionable as I’m guessing the phrase would translate as “He’s in the CID” which isn’t quite the same as “He’s a CID officer”.

          Don’t know. I’m getting even more confused now. Someone make it stop.

    2. Welcome to the blog Tony

      Two points

      1. It is generaly accepted that all abbreviations must be in Chambers, and DIC is not there with this meaning. The only exception that I can recall is that P was once used for President despite not being acknowledged in Chambers.

      2. The position of the reversal indicator suggests that Anax’s analysis is correct.

  4. For those (like me) who were less than impressed with this one, there’s a very entertaining Enigmatist (Elgar) puzzle in the Guardian, including a very un-PC reference to our continental cousins.

    1. //including a very un-PC reference to our continental cousins.//
      I was on a golf course today so I don’t know.
      Is it “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys”?

      I’ll have a crack at this one tomorrow.

      1. One of these days I’m going to put CHEESE, EATING, SURRENDER and MONKEYS as separate answers in a puzzle, see if anyone spots them. Honest, I will.

  5. About those non-word homophones. I don’t take a fixed stance on whether they should be allowed or not, because what really matters is whether they are FAIR or not. Taking today’s clues

    1a seems absolutely fair to me, TRUSE sounds like TRUCE, because (within the range of regional variations) there is no other way of pronouncing it

    28a seems unfair, because PIQU could be pronounced PICK or PEEK or PEEQUEUE or PICKYOU or PICKUH, and outside the context of the solution (which in this case itself has variant pronunciations) there is no ‘right’ answer, so it is straight untrue to clue it as ‘sounding like PICK’ because it doesn’t necessarily

    I guess this latter effect is (almost) exclusive to non-word homophones, hence why some people dislike them – but I see no reason to disallow 1a.

  6. I’m afraid I really didn’t like this and gave up after halfway. All the other daily puzzles were much better today (including Giovanni’s) and there is also the excellent Araucaria Jigsaw at 3D Crosswords if you are still looking for a challenge. Add to that my new Magpie magazine arrived today and that means I don’t think i shall be returning to itoday’s Toughie this side of the next decade.

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