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Toughie 305

Toughie No 305 by Giovanni

The Big Sleep

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BD Rating – Difficulty **** Enjoyment *

This is the worst Giovanni puzzle that I can remember.

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    Country of extreme characters awfully bare the first day of the year (10)
{AZERBAIJAN} – if you didn’t know how to spell this one-time Soviet state, you do now! Put together the first and last letters of the alphabet (extreme characters), an anagram (awfully) of BARE and the first day of the year (d mmm format)

6a    Having suffered setback, go mad (4)
{BATS} – a go is reversed (having suffered setback) to get a colloquial term for mad

9a    Female gaining power in new location, the centre of attention (5,5)
{FOCAL POINT} – F(emale) is followed by P(ower) inside an anagram (new) of LOCATION to get the centre of attention

10a    Necklace is light, end bit having fallen off (4)

12a    Nymph that is about to interrupt boring person (6)
{NEREID) – this sea nymph, daughter of the sea god Nereus, comes from IE (id est / that is) reversed inside a boring person

13a    A plant with a bug that’s eaten at university (8)
{AGERATUM} – a plant of the tropical American genus Ageratum, having clumps of long-lasting purple flowers, is generated by putting A GERM (a bug) around AT U(niversity)

15a    Brian’s puzzle? (5-7)
{BRAIN-TWISTER} – you get Brian by twisting Brain

18a    Head waiter? One’s tolerated him when getting into a muddle (6,6)
{MAÎTRE D’HÔTEL} – according to Chambers, this gentleman is either the manager or the head waiter – does that justify a question mark? A messy clue that boils down to an anagram (when getting into a muddle) of TOLERATED HIM

21a    Carpet seller, one getting along swimmingly (8)
{REPROACH} – a word meaning to carpet is a charade of a salesman and a fish

22a    Loris eats a plant (6)
{POTATO} – another name for the loris is placed around A to get a plant from which a staple vegetable is obtained

24a    To enthusiastically kiss in dance? Hard! (4)
{PASH} – an ugly word that according to the Big Red Book means to kiss enthusiastically is a combination of PAS (apparently a dance a well as a dance step) and H(ard)

25a    Design feature of building that could feature in art archive (10)
{ARCHITRAVE} – this design feature of a building is a poorly indicated anagram of ART inside ARCHIVE

26a    Payment coming from Greek not in regular instalments (4)
{RENT} – this payment is the even letters (in regular instalments) of Greek not

27a    Biscuit provided in bedroom before man’s sleep (6,4)
{BRANDY SNAP} – a charade of BR (bedroom) ANDY’S (man’s) and NAP (sleep) gives a biscuit


1d           Essentially unrealistic going after gold (2,4)
{AU FOND} – This French phrase means “at bottom” which somehow translates into English as fundamentally or essentially – you get it from a word that sort of means unrealistic (in its archaic form) after the chemical symbol for gold

2d           What comes from the heart after the finish when the finish isn’t wanted (6)
{ENCORE} – CORE (heart) after EN(D) – presumably intended as an all-in-one

3d           Part of a large house in which there are lots of balls (8,4)
{BILLIARD ROOM} – cryptic definition

4d           Aware of nothing in a place where one could get drunk? (2,2)
{IN ON} – a phrase meaning aware of is O (nothing) inside INN (a place where one could get drunk)

5d           Sailor, say, in the country giving up (10)
{ABNEGATION} – AB is the ubiquitous sailor, followed by EG (say) inside NATION

7d           Old saint laid into a noodle being disloyal to the faith (8)
{APOSTATE} – O(ld) ST (saint) inside A PATE (a head / a noodle) – did you know that being this is a still a capital crime in some parts of the world?

8d           Tree in bottom of valley in the way of some car out of control (8)
{SYCAMORE} – this tree is Y (bottom of valleY) in an anagram (out of control) SOME CAR

11d         One worshipped may be seen as such – how it’s formulated with prayer (12)
{PRAISEWORTHY} – definition “one worshipped may be seen as such”, wordplay – an anagram (formulated) of HOW IT’S with PRAYER

14d         Offers to protect rook, one showing concern? I’d drive it away! (4-6)
{BIRD-SCARER} – BIDS (offers) around R(ook) and then CARER (one showing concern) – one clue that doesn’t hit rock bottom

16d         Naughty? (8)
{IMPROPER} – a word meaning naughty is a charade of IMP (little devil) ROPE (lash) and R(ight)

17d         Stop and help returning male members of family (8)
{DIAPASON} – an organ stop comes from AID (help) reversed with PA and SON (male members of family)

19d         New Testament place linked to an Old Testament place (6)
{CANAAN} – CANA (New Testament place) linked to AN gives an Old Testament place

20d         Children’s game involves dance around water (2-4)
{BO-PEEP} – BOP (dance) around PEE (water)

23d         Recoil from shout on the parade ground? (4)
{SHUN} – sounds like attention on the parade ground – are you still awake? – Good, as here endeth the lesson

Normally I like to illustrate my posts, but I just want to forget this one as soon as possible.

I have been somewhat irritated by comments elsewhere that my criticism of this puzzle was because of my reaction to this setter’s actions on another matter.  I suspect that this rumour is a cover-up to excuse what I still consider to be a poor crossword!

42 comments on “Toughie 305

  1. Favourite for me today was 1a. I quite liked 24a, 3d and 14d
    I must say that I didn’t clock it as by Giovanni at first.

  2. Quite strange – for me the star rating was the other way around; a pretty easy puzzle but enjoyable thanks to some really good clues (especially 6a, 2d (brilliant) and 16d).

    I’ve never been all that keen on “extreme characters” for … as per your hint, since it doesn’t specifically refer to the alphabet, but we’ve seen it before so solvers should be used to it. There were a handful of clues whose surface readings weren’t great (I thought the anagram at 25a wasn’t particularly strong), but plenty of them were. While not spectacular, clues like 8d created good, convincing images for me.

    My only sticking point was the SW corner where 24a and 17d took ages to fall, but otherwise it was a good level of challenge as we approach the weekend.

    1. It probably took me that long because I kept falling asleep!

      I thought it was exceptionally boring, with no “wow” moments. As I said above, I really wanted it to be different, but clues like 6a are already collecting their pension.

  3. Probably the worst Giovanni crossword ever, there was not a single clue which caused any difficulty whatsoever. I am a Giovanni fan as can be seen from my previous comments on this blog over the last year or so but this was so easy it was awful. Please Maestro, return to your old ways ASAP.

  4. Half way through I thought the setter was making the words up as he went along. Not a patch on the last couple of toughies.
    I am surprised you want to finish the blog Dave, I would have given up after the second French phrase went in. I know it’s one of my grumbles but at least they should give us half a chance.
    I don’t envy you your task with this one.
    Thanks so far

  5. I agree that this puzzle did not have the sparkle of the usual Giovanni crosswords but I found in enjoyable enough and tough without being hair-tearingly devious! At one point I thought that Giovanni had mistakenly sent a puzzle intended for the Church Times to the Telegraph with heretics, the tree that Zacchaeus climbed, parts of an organ, objects of praise, biblical villages, etc.

    Favourite clues were 11d and 8d.

    One query – should 18a be clued (6,1’5)?

    Many thanks to Giovanni for the puzzle and thanks to BD for the notes.

      1. Yes, I’d heard that given as a reason. I think there’s an additional complication though – an enumeration (1’5) for the second part of this answer would demand consistency in other types of contractions. For instance would we want the enumeration for the answer COULDN’T CARE LESS to be (6’1,4,4)?

  6. Having the day off and having got as far as I could with the main crossword (all bar five clues solved) I ventured forth. After 30 minutes I had failed to solved even one clue. While iIknow that i am a blue run skier compared to the double diamond stars here, I am frankly staggered by Big Boabs comments “there was not a single clue which caused any difficulty whatsoever”.
    I have never heard of a torc, ageratum, pash or neried -and that is just the acrosses. I’ll post again when the downs are posted

    1. Your ‘Pash’ in the forces was your sweetheart, girlfriend or whatever you call them these days

  7. I wasn’t in the best of moods when I did this (due to frustrations with Clued Up) and I would never have guessed that it was by Giovanni. But, having said that, I didn’t think that it was that bad (and certainly better than Tuesday’s Toughie). The only two clues that I really didn’t like were 18a (which seemed very awkward) and 3d (barely cryptic).

  8. Did five easy ones and then looked at the blog, which confirmed two or three guesses and helped with a few more. Completed quite a few downs from checking letters before they were available here. Thought 1a was pretty good but favourite has to be DIAPASON, since I play the organ. Just up my street!

  9. The downs. Good grief . Au fond , abnegation, diapason , canaan. Well done anyone who knows these words, never mind gets them as answers. That makes 8 words in one crossword that I’d never heard of. Even the Times has fewer.
    I appear doomed to hard toughies whenever I try them-just don’t have time to try them every day.

        1. No. This weekend there’s a new puzzle lined up from another BDB contributor, and I can tell you it’s a smasher of a puzzle; and far more accessible, I think, than last weekend’s monster.

  10. Hi everyone

    Back home from a trip to t’hospital. I didn’t think it was that bad; the puzzle, not the hospital – all the hallmarks of a Giovanni puzzle, a couple of religious refeences. explicit precise clueing. However I did feel it was a bit dry, compared to his others.

  11. Dave,
    I think you are being a bit harsh with the 1 * but on the whole this was pretty turgid stuff, without any smile factor. The french seemed perfectly ok to me!

    1. After Anax gave Elgar only 2* last week, I thought I was being generous!

      The problem is that you have a high expectation with this setter and it failed to deliver. Let’s hope we have better luck tomorrow with the daily cryptic.

  12. I am sorry to hear that Don has been blocked from this site. I don’t read everything that’s on the site, in general, except for reading the reviews and comments on my own puzzles — yes, the vanity factor certainly, but also for feedback (in particular, I take seriously anything that Peter Biddlecombe says). To use a blog to make attacks that cannot be answered by the target is not acceptable.

    I had noted some of the correspondence about the inclusion of a non-Telegraph crossword, which I thought an odd thing to do. Don expressed a reasonable point of view in a moderate manner that deserves a correspondingly civil response.

    Some of the preceding comments on Don’s puzzle are, as my old history teacher used to say, balderdash, poppycock, and piffle. It seems that annoyance with Don’s position has been projected (I use the psychoanalytical term advisedly) onto criticism of his clues. For example, (maybe I’m biased) there is nothing wrong with “Brian’s puzzle (5-7)” as a clue and certainly it does not deserve such a snide comment.

    The world is full enough of conflict. I generally regard crosswords as a small island of sanity and innocent intellectual pleasure (though my recent Guardian puzzle on war and peace generated some heat). It’s time to calm down and cultivate a sense of proportion.

    1. i write as someone who has been doing the Telegraph Crossword for many years (when I won the Prize Crossword, I stopped competing to give others a chance to win). I wanted to say how delighted I was to come across this site and be part of the ‘community’ that it is. The inclusion of other crosswords has enabled me to attempt some that I would not normally have come across and, if I had, I wouldn’t necessarily have attempted them. Your War and Peace crossword and a pangrammatic jigsaw crossword are two prime examples.

      It is also great to see those who have had, or are having difficulties with solving, begin to improve and hone their skills.

      I always thought that a blog was a place where people with a common interest can exchange views on that interest – and we all know that not everyone has the same views.

      Let’s not lose sight of the purpose of this blog – to provide easily accessible help for those who do the Cryptic and Toughie puzzles and if that means including pointers to other crosswords to broaden knowledge, then that is fine by me.

      In some respects this blog is not about the setters, although without them there would be no blog! The setters provide the vehicle for others to read, work on, hopefully enjoy and comment. To me, it is parallel to any author – they write because that is their choice – this may leave them open to criticism, but that. from where I stand, is part of the package.

    2. Brian

      That information is not public, although I can guess where you got it from, and not entirely true. Because of what I, rightly or wrongly, saw as an abuse of the “privilege” of unfettered access to the site by addressing in public a matter (the legality of the puzzle’s reproduction) that should have been handled in private he has been set, for the time being, to have all comments moderated before they become public. I have no intention of “blocking” any relevant comments irrespective of whether I do or do not agree with them.

      As far as this puzzle is concerned, I still think it was pants, in great contrast to today’s (Friday) daily cryptic – a far better puzzle.

      I will be making a fuller announcement later today, but I have dropped the word “Telegraph” from the title of the site because it seems to lead certain people to think that they have the right to tell me what I should and should not publish. Why should I not publish a non-Telegraph crossword? There’s another one tomorrow and seven more in the pipeline. Later in the year I may start reviewing crosswords from one or two other newspapers.

      I do, however, agree wholeheartedly with your final paragraph (but I have yet to solve the puzzle to which you referred).

  13. Dave

    In a spirit of full disclosure, Don has been a close friend for several decades and one of my crossword mentors. I suggest that the technical question of copyright could have been clarified without fuss. For myself, I took it for granted that it had been squared with the Independent.

    I reiterate my appreciation of your blog and its contribution, which will be enhanced as you diversify your portfolio. Anyone who has a puzzle published implicitly agrees to open themselves to critique (like any author, as Tilly points out). That being said, there are ways of making critical points constructively with respect and politeness, and ways of making them uninformatively and with unnecessary rudeness. Critics (especially those who are not also setters) should have reasonable regard for the feelings of us “harmless drudges” who provide your entertainment — not all setters, particularly those beginning in the craft, have as thick a skin (some would say arrogance of attitude) as myself.

    I propose an outbreak of peace, and resumed enjoyment of our common interest.

  14. I concur totally with all Brian Greer’s comments above. Like several colleagues, I was shocked and disappointed at the outbursts recently, and have also grown disturbed at much of the illiberal criticism aimed at certain setters — maybe the critics should try it some time….

    I also think that to block any blogger purely on grounds of difference of opinion is equally illiberal; fortunately I’m in a position to relay some of Don Manley’s words from his email to fellow setters. He says: “… there is a far wider solvership out there than is ever covered by the websites.”

    Which says it all.

    Regrettably — as the blog has been fun on the whole — you’ve probably lost Firefly for good.

    Best wishes

    Geoff Oxley

    1. Geoff

      No-one has been blocked (see my reply above) but I was reacting to what I considered an abuse of privilege. I repeat that the action was not taken because of criticism of the blog, but because of questioning legal matters which should have been addressed, in the first place, in private by the individual concerned. I am somewhat disturbed that this action is being aired in public as only a handful of people were informed of it – I did this so that I could remove the filter without fuss, something that I can no longer do.

      I have had cause to reflect on the comments made over the last week and still think that I am not the one who has this out of proportion. I have always reviewed puzzles as I see them and if I have become irritated it is by attempts to influence those opinions.

      I would be very sorry to miss you, especially as you were the first setter to put his head above the parapet, and would ask you to reconsider that decision.

    2. “there is a far wider solvership out there than is ever covered by the websites.” This, whilst being true, in one fell swoop misses the point. That there may be a far wider solvership is no doubt true. What you don’t necessarily get from the far wider solvership is feedback on their opinions of the crosswords. You do get this from the blog and, while feedback may sometimes be difficult to receive, and not all feedback may be couched in ‘acceptable’ terms, it is nevertheless important for setters to receive feedback and for solvers have the freedom to give that feedback. Otherwise, one can easily become complacent about one’s product.

      What needs to be remembered, in my opinion, is how the readers of this blog appreciate each others, and the setters, feedback. It would be a pity if you, and possibly other setters, chose drop off the blog as a result of the recent correspondence.

      We bloggers are the ones who buy the papers, buy the subscriptions to the paper and to Clued-up. Actors, authors etc receive criticism, but never lose sight of the fact that it is only due to public support and continued public support, that they continue to be successful in their careers.

    3. “….maybe the critics should try it some time….”.

      Pop back tomorrow and see what happens when we do :)

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