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Toughie 326

Toughie No 326 by Myops

Identity Crikey

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

A quick glance over the clues, and this puzzle seemed to have Elgar written all over it, albeit without the linked answers and smattering of numerical grid references. On solving, many clues had that close-to-the-edge risk factor to convince me even more. And it turns out I was completely wrong. What an aficionado I am.

So, you might think I enjoyed this, and (unlike a Jeremy Clarkson sentence starting with those same words) you’d be right. There’s lovely, imaginative stuff all over the place, coupled with some real challenges that took a lot of unravelling.

The clues that made my flag flutter are shown in blue – do yours match?

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    As old prophet might put it e.g., “O Thou! — whatever title suit thee …” (10)
{APOSTROPHE} There’s an unexpected anagram here, using AN O(ld) PROPHET as fodder. “Old” is an example of what I think of as the acceptable face of indirect anagrams, where it represents a direct single-letter abbreviation. For the definition – it’s a somewhat twisted one – think of O as being part of a person’s surname, as in O’Leary. To make the O part of the name title, you’d add this little bit of punctuation.

6a    … name I see? King (4)
{NICK} A four-piece charade using mostly abbreviations – one for “name”, then I, then a texted version of “see”, and finally the abbreviation for “King”. It can be argued that “name” is doing double duty, but I prefer to see the whole clue as a sort of &Lit.

9a    Power to halt jumps in women’s two-day event (10)
{HEPTATHLON} A very smooth surface using mildly intricate wordplay. Take P (power) and an anagram (“jumps” is the indicator) of TO HALT and place these inside a word for “women’s” that refers specifically to a type of party.

10a    The essence of hunting trip, one in Africa (4)
{AFAR} Think of the type of holiday you might typically take in Kenya, but use just the middle four of its six letters. The answer means “at a great distance” so “one in Africa” is somewhat loose, but it kind of works as an example.

12a    Contrary daughter dropping out is turned away (6)
{AVERSE} The definition here is an obsolete one for a word we usually take to mean (with “to”) disinclined or reluctant. To get the answer, start with a word meaning “contrary” (— weather conditions are unfavourable ones) and remove D (daughter).

13a    One sheep carrying letter is followed by another message (8)
{TELEGRAM} This answer contains two words for sheep, TEG and RAM. Place the first of these around the spelled-out version of the letter L.

15a    Programme in radio’s very distracting (12)
{DIVERSIONARY} Whether or not “programme” works as an anagram indicator I’m not sure, but I think it’s worthwhile for the enjoyable fodder IN RADIO’S VERY.

18a    Lib Dem spokesman keeping girl provided with information initially to be marked SECRET (12)
{CLASSIFIABLE} In ten years’ time I wonder if anyone will be able to solve this one? For our Lib Dem spokesman we need to use the current one, Vince, and place him around LASS (girl), IF (provided) and the first letter of “information”.

21a    Pie shop’s total take? (8)
{TURNOVER} A simple double definition.

22a    Getting about in successor to Jaguar’s XK150, i.e. replica (6)
{ECTYPE} Put C (circa=about) inside the name of Jaguar’s most iconic cars for an uncommon word which means a “replica”. By no means a spectacular clue, but a nice hark back to the days of classic motoring.

24a    Off-sales purchase is in African republic (2,2)
{TO GO} A more direct double meaning clue in which a phrase meaning “for taking away immediately” (think of fast food and the opposite of “eat in”) can also be joined as one word which is an African republic.

25a    What has the Queen on head? Tick “Wearing a scarf” (10)
{KERCHIEFED} One of very, very few questionable moments here. Start with the standard abbreviation used for “Queen” and add CHIEF (head). This is placed inside KED, a type of insect or “tick”. “What has” is used to show that KED serves as the container, but I think “has” as a container is a borderline case.

26a    Mobile in Alabama’s data storage unit (4)
{CELL} I’ve given this the blue treatment simply because of Myops’ beautiful use of “Mobile in Alabama”. Yes, there is a place called Mobile in Alabama, but therein lies the deception. A mobile phone in Alabama (or anywhere in the US) would be called a — phone. Another meaning of the answer is the smallest unit of computer storage capable of storing a single bit of information.

27a    Mini Coopers’ first rally: racing as in The Italian Job (10)
{CRIMINALLY} I don’t think the wordplay is perfect here but, by crikey, what a great image in the clue. It’s an anagram made up of MINI, C (first letter of “Cooper” – again, I think this is fair) and RALLY. “Racing” is used as the anagram indicator; a bit dodgy and perhaps something to do with “crashing” might have been more accurate. Still, I love this reading.


1d    Hermitage has a room that’s empty redecorated (6)
{ASHRAM} This our third venture into “sort of” indirect anagramming but, again, no complaints from me here as the instruction is given very clearly. For the “hermitage” of our answer, jumble HAS, A and ROOM without its middle letters (thus it’s “empty”). A good, smooth surface reading here.

2d    Jeweller stocking ring for a bird (6)
{OSPREY} For this we take the name of a famous jeweller and switch the first letter from A to O. Thanks BD – I’d never have worked this one out!

3d    Programme for passing on: Top Gear and all connected with it (12)
{TRANSMISSION} Another double meaning clue. The first, “programme for passing on” seems slightly odd in that most of us, I think, would be happy enough with just “programme”. For the second, ignore the false capitalisation of “Top Gear” and just think of everything in your car’s gearbox.

4d    A line of players in old English clubhouse (4)
{OCHE} The sneaky definition “line of players” refers to the line from which darts players throw. For the answer it’s multiple abbreviation time again – O (old) and E (English) are placed around the abbreviation for “clubhouse” as you’d see on e.g. an A-to-Z street atlas. The slightly twisted arrangement of the insertion indicator may irk some, but Myops has exploited the fact that setters can leave out elements of punctuation; so for that last part of the clue you can read it as “…in old English, clubhouse”.

5d    Loose-head forward finally trained as N. Atlantic swimmer (6,4)
{HOODED SEAL} Yet another bit of indirect-but-fair anagram fodder here, where we use LOOSE-HEAD and D (the last letter of “forward”). A very amusing story created by this clue.

7d    Often Vergilian representation omits to give elements of the underworld (8)
{INFERNAL} I like these clues where it appears the setter has done a bit of research to include apposite general knowledge bits. “VERGILIAN” (a valid alternative spelling of “Virgilian”, relating to the ancient Roman poet) and OFTEN are jumbled up together to give far too many letters; so we have to remove the “elements” (letters) of TO GIVE for the answer meaning “of the underworld”. The clue reads very convincingly.

8d    Cambodia and Uruguay may with a Japanese rickshaw man (8)
{KURUMAYA} Hands up anyone who knew this word. My dictionaries don’t, and online sources seem to point mostly to a London restaurant, but I’m happy to accept that Myops has found validation for it and, to his great credit, has presented the wordplay in very simple form, even sacrificing surface reading in the interests of fairness. Start with K (the IVR abbreviation for Cambodia), URU (abbreviation for Uruguay), MAY and A. OK, I’ve given the answer away, but this is one of those occasions when it was probably needed.

11d    Memory of religious education: prayer uplifted me briefly (12)
{RECOLLECTION} Start with RE (religious education) and add a religious word which Chambers defines as “a short prayer … consisting of one sentence, conveying one main petition”. Then we have “me briefly” – “me” could be “number one”, so think of a very short way of saying that but reverse it (so it’s “uplifted”) to give the answer meaning “memory”.

14d    Fell a tree for pulping; when energy’s involved he’ll deliver (10)
{LEAFLETEER} If we “pulp” (make an anagram of) FELL A TREE then insert E (energy) we get a word for someone who delivers a particular kind of post, usually junk.

16d    Established Church in permanent position in seventh heaven (8)
{ECSTATIC} This straightforward charade uses EC (Established Church) and a word meaning “in permanent position”.

17d    Bleat about unsound grid: it’s not right to make a song (8)
{MADRIGAL} A new word for me – MAA means to bleat and it’s the goat equivalent of a sheep’s “baa”. Put this around an anagram of GRID then add the single-letter abbreviation that’s the opposite side of “right” to give a type of song.

19d    She makes you feel frisky not old (6)
{EYEFUL} Probably my favourite clue for its cleverness and brevity. Take an anagram of YOU FEEL but remove the O (old). “She” is a far from immediate definition but the added wordplay turns it into a spot-on definition.

20d    Stephen Potter (6)
{HENDRY} A gentle cryptic definition referring to a Scottish legend of the snooker table.

23d    Cheat 21 computers (4)
{SCAM} In this clue 21 refers to the answer at that position, which can be read as a reversal indicator for a down answer. What we have to reverse is the pluralized name for certain computers. The position of the indicator suggests the reversal could apply to either “cheat” or “computers”, but if 21 is taken as an imperative verb it can only apply to “computers”.

A very satisfying solve that held me up in a few places but not for too long.

25 comments on “Toughie 326

  1. Agree with Anax – a very enjoyable puzzle with some clever clues. I have to admit that when I solved it, I wasn’t aware who the setter was and Myops wasn’t in the frame. However, some lovely well-written clues. The Stephen Potter clue made me smile a lot.

    Thanks for a lovely fun solve.

    1. Funnily enough I looked at this last night and thought Myops straightaway – at which point I decided to leave it until the morning as I would need to be fully awake.

  2. It is crosswords like this which make me realise I am in a different category to people like Big Dave, Anax, Gazza and Libellule etc. I could not get anywhere with at least half of it and without your clues I was lost. (even with them I still had to cheat with two) Thanks Anax for the assistance and thanks also to Myops for a shockingly difficult crossword, I hope one day to be able to finish something as hard as this without help but I fear age and lack of brains may prevent same.

    1. You’re not in a different category BigBoab – you’re an enthusiast like the rest of us. The difference between being able/unable to solve a puzzle is ONLY practice. It’s like learning to ride a bike; once you get used to not falling off you eventually become good at it, but it doesn’t mean you’ve somehow become intellectually superior. The more crosswords you tackle, the more frequently you’ll see certain cryptic devices being used and the more readily you’ll spot them when they crop up again. That’s all that happens as you become experienced – you become familiar with the tricks.

      1. Practice does play a large part but one should also study the construction of the answers as helpfully shown on this website. I still fall off my bike at regular intervals though.

    2. Similar story to you BigBoab – I made a very strong start picking off some of the complex wordplay, only to find that most of the rest of the wordplay was more complex!. Having said that I did miss a couple of the sitters such as 21a, 26a and 6a.
      Thanks for the review, Anax and thanks to Myops for making me think.

  3. 1a. Is the meaning of apostrophe here not definition 2 in Chambers “a sudden turning away from the ordinary course of a speech to address some person or object present or absent”?

    1. Hmm. Yes, that’s got some mileage – it would be interesting to know which interpretation is the one Myops intended. I think they both work (and perhaps that was deliberate?).

      1. Many thanks John.
        Strange, isn’t it? I didn’t imagine for a moment that the answer could have a secondary meaning, so I tried to work the one I knew into the way it’s presented in the clue, and somehow managed to find a plausible(ish) explanation; one I felt happy with, anyway.

    1. You’re most welcome 19d. Sorry… Moonstruckminx. Ooh-er. Ahem.

      Dear Furious Husband,
      I would like to take this opportunity to apologise…

  4. Sheer brilliance from Myops – I fell on the last clue 25a and thanks for the explanation. Too many good clues to chose favourites without having to list all of them – but 27a and 19d would probably be just ahead.

    Many thanks to Myops and to Anax for the notes.

  5. 8d. According to “The mine” the IVR for Uruguay is ROU which is what I worked on. No wonder I couldn’t get it.

    1. I went down the same route. I checked in Chambers and it gives ROU as the IVR (for Republic of Uruguay) and URU as an abbreviation. I will try and add these abbreviations to The Mine but they are a lot harder to track down.

  6. Immodestly perhaps, but I would rate myself slightly above average in experience and ability crack a cryptic crossword. This one brought me crashing back to earth. I doubt that I could have solved about 6 of Myops’s clues without Anax’s help – 27a, 7d, 8d and 19d in particular. The 4-word clues were generally nicely done – 26a & 4d stood out. Anyway, a hugely challenging puzzle, which reminded me that one is never too old or wise to learn!

  7. What an excellent crossword. Took me most of the day off an on, but was pleased to finish it before the blog was published. I always feel smug when I manage that :-) Last one to go in was 6ac, had a bit of a doh! moment when I realised what he answer was. Favourite clue has to be 27a. One of my favourite films.
    Enjoyed reading through the write up too. To echo my comments on the crossword, an excellent blog too Anax!

    1. maagran,
      It might fit, but its a one big stretch. My reading of the word play was exactly the same as Anax.

    2. maagran has a point.

      I must thank Anax for his (in both senses) comprehensive and complimentary notes. Indeed I’m grateful to everyone for kind comments. BigBoab is too modest; he will well know that Burns’s Address to the Deil (1 and 6 across) begins:
      O Thou! whatever title suit thee,
      Auld Hornie, Satan, NICK, or Clootie.

      The literally-minded may find three definitions in 3 down and be interested in the entry for “off-sales” (24 across) in Chambers.

      1. John, I did get 1a and 6a and I am fairly familiar with Burns, where I really struggled was with 22a and 8d to name but two. I really liked 24a though and loved the crossword. Thanks again.

      2. John,
        I understand the “has a point” but surely “one in Africa” is the definition.

        1. Can’t I claim that the essence of a safari – one in Africa – is that it’s exotic, not around the corner? That’s why I’ve never been on one.

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