Toughie 310

Toughie No 310 by Myops

I am about to tackle today’s Toughie. I may be gone for some time.

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

Did I have this one coming? After several weeks of easy-to-moderate Fridays this came along with “absolute stinker” tattooed on its forehead. Some tricky wordplay is combined with several very obscure answers.

There is a theme, but there is also a departure from the thematic norm in that the completed grid appears not to contain any thematic material. Instead, we have clues presented as rhyming couplets (hence the forward slash bits) and, spread among them in sequence, all twelve of the calendar months. As a result some of the surface readings come close to being nonsensical but that’s hardly surprising given the constraints imposed by two thematic elements.

My favourite clues are in blue.

Please tell us what you thought of this one, and add your assessment of it by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


Across

1a    A January snow melts — slime! / — was salt spread out? He’s served his time (10)
{JOURNEYMAN} An anagram (“slime!” is the slightly odd indicator) of A JANUARY SNOW MELTS minus the letters of WAS SALT.

6a    Censure a Major … (4)
{SLAM} One of very few straightforward clues, a fairly easy double definition if you take “Major” as meaning a major title as in e.g. tennis.

9a    … Roll or cut grass / for Margaret; that’s where she showed class (5)
{COURT} Because this puzzle is presented as a set of rhyming couplets you have to look out for definitions which sort of ramble on a bit to create the rhyme. This anagram (roll) of OR CUT leads to the name of a famous sportswoman. Everything beyond “cut” in the clue serves as the definition. Sort of.

10a    Wet February 1st score out / lines. (5-4)
{CROWS-FEET} Another anagram (I might usually grumble about a surfeit of these but I think we need them in this puzzle!) – take WET, F (the 1st of February) and SCORE and arrange them.

12a    Pops swear tea trade’s up the spout (7,6)
{AERATED WATERS} Yes, another anagram, this time of SWEAR TEA TRADE.

14a    We beings laboured for a crust (8)
{BEESWING} Guess what? Correct! WE BEINGS is the anagram fodder here and “laboured” is our clue to the jumbling. The crust in question is one of tartar which forms in port (or wine) after long storage, but the clue cleverly makes you think of money.

15a    Spain and UK are bust I’ve sussed (6)
{EUREKA} After E (the vehicle reg mark for Spain) we have an anagram of UK ARE; “I’ve sussed” is a nice way of clueing the “Aha!” moment answer. You might experience a few of these in this puzzle.

17a    The Terriers March accepted spice (6)
{TAMARA} Hey, what’s this – a charade? Start with the abbreviation for the Territorial Army, a shortened form of March, and add A (an obscure abbreviation for “accepted”).

19a    Change a quid — Irish one? Grog with ice? (8)
{DAIQUIRI} For this tipple, arrange the letters of A QUID, add a two-letter abbreviation for “Irish” and a letter meaning “one”.

21a    April’s first English paeony’s much / abloom. All buttercups are such (13)
{NYMPHAEACEOUS} Even if you’ve heard of this one, you wouldn’t want it to turn up in a spelling contest. It’s an anagram again (“abloom” as the indicator) using A (first letter of April), E (English) and PAEONY’S MUCH.

24a    May nozzle spoil old epic seen? (9)
{NOSEPIECE} Another anagram, a mixture of O (old) and EPIC SEEN. The insertion of “May” feels a little bit like a cheat.

25a    Church body split by one that’s green (5)
{NAÏVE} We’re back on more familiar clue territory here with an easyish insertion of I (one) in NAVE.

26a    June finally as English is / as being free from any tizz (4)
{EASE} The last letter of June, plus AS, and a second appearance for E (English). Again, quite an odd-looking definition with the “is” (inserted to create the rhyme) seeming somewhat redundant.

27a    Face the bowling; fox the slip / — great craft! (10)
{BATTLESHIP} “Face the bowling” leads to a word for what a cricketer does at the crease, then we have an anagram of THE SLIP. This clue carries its cricketing theme particularly well.

Down

1d    It’ll raise flag flown by ship (4)
{JACK} I’d been struggling with 1a and 9a so this was a welcome relief, an easy double meaning – a device for lifting, and a ship’s flag. Although easy, there’s a nice smooth surface reading to this one.

2d    Mid-July do mischief. Hoot! (7)
{ULULATE} “Mid-July” points to UL but then we have the very tricksy “do”. This is an abbreviation of “ditto”, so we’re being told to repeat UL. After that, the Greek goddess of ruin and folly, which is also used as a noun for the action performed by a Greek hero which results in his downfall.

3d    Kind honour, life in birthday-suit (6-7)
{NATURE-WORSHIP} A reasonably easy charade although I still took time over it. The answer is broken down into its two component words, one meaning “kind” as in “sort” and the other meaning “honour” either as verb or noun.

4d    City month, August? Not out? Must / seek recreation. Sailing? Just! (8)
{YACHTING} Another subtraction anagram where we start with CITY MONTH AUGUST and remove the letters of OUT MUST. The answer is a type of sailing, so “Just!” appears only to serve as a tag-on for the rhyme.

5d    Trained doula how to shout out ‘Hup!’ (5)
{ALOUD} For those wondering what a doula is… a doula is a woman who provides emotional support to a woman in labour. More importantly for our purposes, a DOULA is a mixture of the letters we need to make a word meaning, well, “how to shout ‘Hup!'” is one way of putting it. “Audibly” – that’ll do just as well.

7d    I love Scots starters — slice eel up (5,2)
{LEEZE ME} Thanks to Big Dave for helping out on this – I wouldn’t have got it in a million years thanks to a lack of Burns knowledge. The definition is “I love Scots”, which is your clue to a Scottishism! The wordplay sees MEZE (starters) inside EEL, and all of this is reversed.

8d    Mid-September Saturday / is as put another way / transition. (10)
{METASTASIS} A very tricky anagram to work out, using TEM (the middle letters of September), SAT (the shortened form of Saturday) and IS AS.

11d    Rock band is given a ten / (of sorts) for that’s how things were then (6,3,4)
{STATUS QUO ANTE} A combination of some stalwart rockers and an anagram of A TEN. How’s yer Latin?

13d    To smash to smithereens stein can be / the aim of one who goes TT (10)
{ABSTINENCE} Yet another anagram, this time of STEIN CAN BE. Almost a favourite clue, this one, for its convincing image, but the surface reading is a bit clunky.

16d    October, Aussie. Pull that ring! / Brew guaranteed to give most zing (8)
{SAUCIEST} Our third subtraction anagram takes OCT(ober) and AUSSIE and jumbles them up after removing O (Pull that ring!).

18d    November 5th; in river, me, / figure of Guy, say, mimicry (7)
{MIMESIS} The fifth letter of November is followed by ME placed inside the name of a river (the Thames, before it reaches Iffley Lock).

20d    Chips will half cooked still go down / somehow in this county town (7)
{IPSWICH} This slightly odd clue jumbles the letters of CHIPS and WI (half of “will”) to give us the name of a county town. I’m baffled by the “still go down somehow” bit.

22d    Almost December. Aunt’s suspect / but Dec’s lost fluid to inject (5)
{ENEMA} This fourth and final subtraction anagram is a real tester. Start with DECEMBE (that’s “almost December”) and AUNT – the anagram indicator is “suspect”. Now lose BUT DEC and re-arrange what’s left over. Phew! I couldn’t find an inoffensive pic to illustrate this one, although that didn’t stop me using the Girls Aloud one.

23d    This artificial creature falls / in Coleridge epic (with apols.) (4)
{GEEP} “This artificial creature” is a cross between a goat and a sheep, and it’s hidden inside “Coleridge epic”. Not sure that the bit in brackets is saying! [with apologies to Coleridge – BD]

This was a murderous solve. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed many of the clues but I admire Myops for combining rhyming couplets AND all twelve months in order.

Anax is having technical problems with WordPress – pictures will be added later!  BD

As promised, here are the clues as poetry!

A January snow melts — slime! —
was salt spread out?  He’s served his time

Censure a Major …

••••••••••••••••••••… Roll or cut grass
for Margaret; that’s where she showed class

Wet February 1st score out  lines.

Pops swear tea trade’s up the spout

We beings laboured for a crust

Spain and UK are bust I’ve sussed

The Terriers March accepted spice

Change a quid — Irish one? Grog with ice?

April’s first English paeony’s much
abloom. All buttercups are such

May nozzle spoil old epic seen?

Church body split by one that’s green

June finally as English is
as being free from any tizz

Face the bowling; fox the slip
— great craft!

It’ll raise flag flown by ship

Mid-July do mischief. Hoot!

Kind honour, life in birthday-suit

City month, August? Not out? Must
seek recreation. Sailing? Just!

Trained doula how to shout out ‘Hup!’

I love Scots starters — slice eel up

Mid-September Saturday
is as put another way
transition.

Rock band is given a ten
(of sorts) for that’s how things were then

To smash to smithereens stein can be
the aim of one who goes TT

October, Aussie. Pull that ring!
Brew guaranteed to give most zing

November 5th; in river, me,
figure of Guy, say, mimicry

Chips will half cooked still go down
somehow in this county town

Almost December. Aunt’s suspect
but Dec’s lost fluid to inject

This artificial creature falls
in Coleridge epic (with apols.)


16 Comments

  1. LB
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Anax, needed all your help with several clues( and still not sure how I managed some of the others ).
    N.B. You`ve labelled all the `d` hints as `a` Must be the stress !!

  2. Prolixic
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well done to Myops for rounding of a week of tough toughies with such style. I did not find this one as tricky in terms of the wordplay as some of the other toughies this week (possibly because of the preponderance of anagrams in the clues) but this was certainly the most entertaining and inventive puzzle of the week. Favourite clues were 16d, 12a an27a.

    • Posted February 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      While I think a lot of people will have found this very tough, for my part I probably wasn’t helped by having only solved one puzzle this week (your excellent DIY COW one as it happens). I’m engaged in the usual frenzy of setting at the moment, coupled with band rehearsals. So my solving hat is a bit skew-whiff today.

  3. Ranger
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    absolute killer! missed 7d completly and wondered if 23d might be a misspelling of the authors name reversed given the form theme (is that the right term?) and the apology to Coleridge.

    • Ranger
      Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      meant to say reversing the form

  4. Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Just a minor quibble, Anax, but you have listed all the Down clues as a-cross.

    • Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oops. I blame Big Dave.

      No, not really. Dave sent me the template which does indeed have “a” instead of “d” in the down answers, but I should have noticed.

      • Posted February 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Mea culpa

        I have a Word macro that converts all the numbers to Na and then I change the downs to Nd. Not for the first time, I forgot the second part!

  5. Bellringer
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Mrs. B and I took all day and still couldn’t come close.

    Some weird and wonderful clues and answers but enjoyable nonetheless.

    Thanks for the explanations (and answers)

  6. Harry Shipley
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very entertaining. Thanks to Myops. I needed a little help from aids to speed things up, but it was a great puzzle.

  7. Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    23d – agree that (with apols) seems superfluous, other than as a dubious rhyme with “falls” ?? Well done Anax – have a well-earned lie down with a nice crisp G&T !!

  8. the_chairman
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I should have got 10a (had 5 left before looking at this) – worked out the anagram but came up with cross-weft (lines in a weave maybe – hadn’t looked it up and it probably doesn’t exist) . Similarly 24a I’d lined up the required letters for the anagram and failed, thrown off-course by May. That was a bad lapse, without which I’m sure I would somehow have slipped in 22d, as it were, and 18d.
    7d – not a hope, a prayer or a snowball’s chance anywhere else.
    Thanks, Anax for the analysis.

    • the_chairman
      Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      10a – looking again, Wrong letters. Bad day.

  9. Nubian
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Definately the best toughie for the last twelve months and for the last twelve months if you get my drift.

  10. John McKie
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    de gustibus. Part of the puzzle’s point is to remind readers of (or introduce them to) its worthier predecessors. I thought all schoolchildren had read (or had read to them) Sara Coleridge’s lines :

    The Months
    January brings the snow;
Makes our feet and fingers glow.
    February brings the rain;
Thaws the frozen pond again.
    March brings the wind so cold and chill;
Drives the cattle from the hill.
    April brings us sun and showers,
And the pretty wildwood flowers.
    May brings grass and leafy trees,
Waving in each gentle breeze.
    June brings roses, fresh and fair,
And the cherries ripe and rare.
    July brings the greatest heat,
Cloudless skies and dusty street.
    August brings the golden grain;
Harvest time is here again.
    Mild September brings us more
Fruit and grain, for winter store.
    Brown October brings the last
Of ripening gifts, from summer past.
    Dull November brings the blast:
Down from the trees the leaves fall fast.
    Cold December ends the rhyme
With blazing fires and Christmas time.
    Sara Coleridge

    Of the many variations I’ve always liked

    A Song of the Weather

    January brings the snow
    Makes your feet and fingers glow
    February’s Ice and sleet
    Freeze the toes right off your feet
    Welcome March with wintry wind
    Would thou wer’t not so unkind
    April brings the sweet spring showers
    On and on for hours and hours
    Farmers fear unkindly May
    Frost by night and hail by day
    June just rains and never stops
    Thirty days and spoils the crops
    In July the sun is hot
    Is it shining? No, it’s not
    August cold, and dank, and wet
    Brings more rain than any yet
    Bleak September’s mist and mud
    Is enough to chill the blood
    Then October adds a gale
    Wind and slush and rain and hail
    Dark November brings the fog
    Should not do it to a dog
    Freezing wet December then:
    Bloody January again!
    (January brings the snow
    Makes your feet and fingers glow).

      — Michael Flanders

    My apologies were chiefly to them – Coleridge & Flanders – but, of course, they were also (in advance) to those who don’t like rules broken. And spoof or parody (poor imitation, says Chambers) perhaps, but never poetry!

    I must thank Anax for his kind words and careful analysis (although the description of Margaret Court at 6a … 9a was intended to honour her success on grass, in championships and especially in Melbourne – in January). Nubian, Prolixic and Harry Shipley are far ower kind.

  11. BigBoab
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Totally confusing, totally mind blowing and totally brilliant.

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