Toughie 297 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 297

Toughie No 297 by Firefly

A bit of 6a but no 27a

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BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***

This was one of those puzzles where about four-fifths of the answers dragged ink from the biro almost before the nib touched the paper, but there were a handful that really caused some head-scratching.

Post-solve, it became apparent just how much difference there can be between Ximenean and Libertarian clueing. If I wanted to wear my purist’s hat I could say there were all sorts of wordplay indicators here that were questionable, but the comment would be irrelevant. Telegraph solvers are used to having things a certain way, and what’s dodgy in some circles is perfectly acceptable here.

When Dave sends me the template for doing the write-up there are default Difficulty/Enjoyment levels of 3 stars each, and in this case I think that’s about right – it’s very much a straight-down-the-middle sort of puzzle.

My favourite clues are shown in blue – how do they compare with yours?

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    Forged credit notes leading to state of dismay (13)
{CONSTERNATION} The first of the “dodgy” devices is an indirect anagram. To start solving this one you need to make an anagram (forged) not of CREDIT NOTES but of CR (abbreviation) NOTES. How do you feel about this? Add NATION (state) for the answer. Again, some would argue that “of” is superfluous.

8a    Marching with a section of Foot? (2,4)
{IN STEP} If you join the two parts of this answer together you get a part of the foot – not sure why the clue uses the false capitalisation.

9a    A lesson I planned for swimmers (3,5)
{SEA LIONS} A straightforward anagram of A LESSON I.

10a    Sink in a hole (3)
{POT} I delayed slightly here, wondering if PIT would also fit the double definition. It doesn’t – and this double meaning clue creates a nice surface reading when you pick the right answer.

11a    Woman to iron headgear (6)
{FEDORA} An unexpected juxtaposition of DORA (a woman’s name) and the symbol for “iron” – the latter appears first although it’s not really indicated.

12a    Cartoonist from Romania — first for Telegraph (8)
{ANIMATOR} This compound anagram uses ROMANIA and the T of Telegraph. For “cartoonist”, think of someone like Disney.

14a    Drugs girl’s given to Victoria, maybe? (7)
{STASHES} Victoria is the name of a railway station in London (and Manchester), so put the map abbreviation for “station” before SHE’S (girl’s).

16a    It’s flipping nonsense to wear 11 left out in upper room (7)
{HAYLOFT} Now, here’s a strange arrangement. The two wordplay components are FOLLY (nonsense) which is reversed and placed inside HAT (which 11a is an example of). It’s only after doing this that we’re instructed to remove an L (left), which is unusual.

20a    Cruel and stupid, when about to impose on … (8)
{INHUMANE} “Stupid” is INANE, which is placed around (about) HUM, an unusual meaning – to impose on, or hoax; apparently it’s a contraction of “humbug”.

23a    … three-quarter with recent injury (6)
{CENTRE} How’s your Rugby? Yes, that’s what “three-quarter” is referring to, the answer being another name for this position (or something like that – my knowledge of Rugby isn’t great). The answer is an anagram of RECENT.

24a    Remains in wood (3)
{ASH} Old hands will know this simple double definition. “Remains” is a noun.

25a    You might roll in it, possibly! (8)
{TRILLION} Quite delightful semi-&Lit involving an anagram of ROLL IN IT – the answer could be a really huge sum of money.

26a    Refine some retro candlelit sideboards (6)
{DISTIL} Hidden, reversed, in “candlelit sideboards”.

27a    Drag baskets of rubbish into the Shambles? (4,9)
{DOG’S BREAKFAST} Another anagram (there are a few here!), this time of DRAG BASKETS OF. The capitalisation of Shambles may make you think of the narrow streets of York, but it’s false capitalisation.


1d    Medicaments keeping constant temperature in joints (8)
{UNCTIONS} Two abbreviations, C (constant) and T (temperature) are inside UNIONS (joints, especially of things such as pipes).

2d    Buttons joins stage strike (8)
{STOPPAGE} Lovely image! The wordplay definitions are clever, too. “Buttons” is straightforward enough, but for “stage” you have to think of a place where e.g. a coach picks up passengers.

3d    Some decry staleness of rock (7)
{CRYSTAL} This is another easy hidden answer in “decry staleness”, but it’s another clue with the redundant (to some) “of”.

4d    Setter’s regretfully giving up meat (6)
{SALAMI} “The setter is” (if you read it fully) leads to I’M, then a word meaning “regretfully”. Reverse these for the answer. In terms of syntax “giving up” isn’t really right – thank heavens the answer couldn’t be an alternative 6-letter reversed word or there might be rioting.

5d    Rock sounding mindless to money-man (6)
{SILICA} Start with a homophone (or is it really?) of SILLY and add C.A. (short for Chartered Accountant).

6d    Putting Mr Stewart through the Long Bar? (10,3)
{CONNECTING ROD} False capitalisation again but still a very nice clue. For “Putting Mr Stewart through”, think of the ageing rocker making a telephone call.

7d    Maverick NCO isn’t parading round in good shape (13)
{NONCONFORMIST} Quite tricky to spot how this works immediately, but it’s an anagram (parading) of NCO ISN’T placed around ON FORM (in good shape).

13d    Blossom’s an old maid (3)
{MAY} Caught out by another obscure definition. I had to check the dictionary to find that the answer is also an archaic/poetic word for a maid.

15d    Attention-seeker has the edge (3)
{HEM} Another double meaning (all the 3-letter answers have double meaning clues in this one). The attention-seeker isn’t a person but a sound you might make to get attention – it’s often a 4-letter word starting with A.

17d    Rude hack upset Ferdinand (8)
{ARCHDUKE} Pretty easy anagram of RUDE HACK.

18d    One who inspects the net? (8)
{LINESMAN} Not really convinced by this apparent cross between a cryptic definition and double meaning. See the pic below for an easy way to the answer; or think of what a fisherman may use and where said fish might end up and… oh, it’s all getting confusing now.

19d    Edge away from married men disposed to wander (7)
{MEANDER} For this you have to start with MARRIED MEN and remove RIM (edge) before making it into an anagram. This is another one for the purists to argue over – for many, in subtraction anagrams the bit to be removed should be an unbroken piece; perhaps more worryingly here, not only is RIM split up in the fodder, it’s also given a definition rather than explicitly stated.

21d    Not quite brimful lager? (6)
{ULLAGE} Excellent &Lit clue. The third hidden answer but I think it’s worth it – look inside “brimful lager” (OK, you may need a dictionary to confirm the meaning as the answer isn’t a particularly common word).

22d    I’m OK with sailor performing ‘The Teapot Handle’ thus (6)
{AKIMBO} Here’s another indirect anagram where we have to rearrange I’M OK and AB (sailor). Really, what do you think of clues like this? Does this lady’s expression sum up your feelings?

Ultimately quite a satisfying solve although some of the wordplay devices are ones I wouldn’t use; but these matters are of personal taste and perhaps they’re perfectly OK in your book? Please do have your say.

13 comments on “Toughie 297

  1. Really liked 6d, 25a and 27a but thought that 5d was a bit of a horror on the homophone side.
    I didn’t really have a problem spotting the requirement in 22d but 6a was a bit harder to spot.
    Quite a pleasant solve though.
    Thanks for the review

  2. Thanks for the review Anex – needed some help on the wordplay for 20a and 19d. Favourite clue was 6d. Thanks too to Firefly for an entertaining puzzle.

  3. Anax
    Re 18d, isn’t one of the duties of the Linesman to inspect the net before kick-off… or am I getting confused now??

    1. Yes, I think you’re right – I read it much the same way but it meant I couldn’t find anything cryptic in the clue.

  4. I liked the 4 big ones round the edges which helped me a lot but I strugged with 1d and 5d, my favourites however were 11a and 13d.

  5. Thanks for the review Anax. I agree with many of the issues you raised here, though I don’t believe clues need necessarily be judged as Ximenean versus Libertarian, as both can be fair to the solver. (Perhaps a libertarian clue requires more thought from the setter to ensure it’s fair.)
    In this puzzle, I thought the requirement for a standard abbreviation in the 6a anagram fodder was perfectly OK. (The superfluous “of” didn’t jar either, perhaps because it could link to the final word of the wordplay i.e. consternation is a “state of dismay”.)
    On the other hand, 19d in my view, was unfair for the reasons you’ve given.

    1. Yes, and I think discussions about Ximenean vs Libertarian sometimes miss the point; does the clue give you the information you need to find the answer? More often than not it’s “Yes”. The occasions when solvers are right to bear arms are when questionable devices/indicators actually prevent you from solving, and I can’t find anything in this puzzle which falls into that dreaded category.

  6. having not much else to do today, having to take it easy for a few days, i decided to try the toughie again! apart from getting stuck on 14a & 20a, i did mange to do it, at 1 d i got the right word but wasn’t sure why, now sounding really stupid is an unction a mediacament or is there something i’m missing here? never heard of 21d, but it couldn’t be anything else, got 16a but couldn’t understand it, thanks Annax for explaination, I think it must have been a nice toughie today :)

  7. Maybe not as tough as it should be as I could solve it!
    Having said which, the working 16ac was a complete mystery until Anax came to the rescue.
    Actually also had no idea where “sta” in 14ac came from until reading the above.
    This seemed to be a puzzle where nothing was too hard once one got going and several clues would have been fine in on ordinary cryptic.
    Finally I took 19d to be to do with maintaining the electrical network rather than the populist FA version.

    1. Chris

      Firefly is a frequent visitor, indeed he was the very first setter to leave a comment way back on Toughie 92. Perhaps he can tell us his intention for 19d.

  8. Seldom get time to look at both puzzles in one day, but found time late this afternoon for the “Toughie”
    By my reckoning on a par with the regular DT Cryptics … and equally enjoyable.
    Thanks for the review Anax .. especially for clarifying the wordplay on 2d, where I had a senior moment!!

  9. Thanks, Dave, for the “invite” and to Anax and everyone for their kind comments — there’s always something valuable to learn from the folks at the “sharp end”!


    6a An abbreviation as part of an anagram is not unusual in my experience – see passim in daily puzzles

    18d A cryptic clue, really – I felt the double reference would be enough – and of course I was on about telegraph poles and football/hockey fields ….

    19d My training under Mr Lemon whilst I was a green EV setter permitted a split subtractive element, so long as it was in the order it appeared in the word to be changed. That’s what happened here — pace Anax, I know of no rule that says the subtracted word can’t be defined separately.

    Best wishes to all


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