Toughie 336

Toughie No 336 by Petitjean

Wading Through Treacle

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BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

I found this one tough going, in every sense, and not all that enjoyable. It just seemed a slog with only the occasional entertaining clue. A couple of the clues left me scratching my head as to how they were supposed to be cryptic, so if you can see more in them than I could, please let me know.
As always, we’re delighted to get your comments.

Across Clues

1a  Pig-tail included in feature on coiffure (7)
{CHIGNON} – put the last letter (tail) of piG inside (included in) a facial feature and add ON to get a coil of hair arranged on the back of a woman’s head (coiffure).

5a  Seaside location report of scandal involving BBC man (7)
{MARGATE} – I originally thought that BBC man would be DG, but I should have remembered the media decree that all scandals since Watergate must end in ..GATE. In front of this we want a sound-alike (report) of the BBC’s former political editor and the whole thing is a seaside location in Kent.

9a  Litter rarely picked up these days in saloon (5)
{SEDAN} – double definition, the first being a litter (method of personal transport) which is rarely picked up (i.e. seldom used) these days.

10a  Make unsuitable kind of music without Portishead’s leaders on board (9)
{INDISPOSE} – the definition is make unsuitable. Put INDIE (type of music) around the leading two letters of POrtishead, which are themselves enclosed by the usual abbreviation for ship (on board).

11a  One garment on top of another (10)
{NIGHTSHIRT} – a garment for wearing to bed can be broken down as NIGH (close to, on top of in the sense of “the vehicle was on top of me before I saw it”) and T-SHIRT.

14a  Someone with welcome employment working in esoteric physical therapy (12)
{RECEPTIONIST} – the definition is someone with welcome employment, or, to translate into English, someone who is employed to welcome. It’s an anagram (working) of IN ESOTERIC PT (physical therapy).

18a  Conspicuous ‘Bravo!’ precedes diatribe that’s too mealy-mouthed (12)
{OVERTOLERANT} – the definition is too mealy-mouthed. String together an adjective meaning conspicuous or in plain view, a Spanish interjection of approval (bravo!) and a diatribe or angry tirade.

21a/26a  Educated at university, then Telegraph office over seas (2,2,5)
{UP TO SPEED} – we want a phrase that means fully aware of the latest developments (educated?). Start with UP (at university) and add TO (telegraph office) and a poetic term for seas which is reversed (over). Use of the plural form of this last word just doesn’t sound right to me and splitting overseas into two words also looks odd. I’m not keen on the whole clue.

22a  Loiter and abet criminal in black out (10)
{OBLITERATE} – an anagram (criminal) of LOITER and ABET.

25a  Biggles’ band missing special song by Sting among others (3,6)
{AIR POLICE} – As a boy I used to devour the Biggles books by W.E.Johns. Biggles was a flying ace and at one stage he and his mates (Algy and Ginger featured amongst them) worked for a fictititious investigation unit called the Special ___ ______. We need to drop the Special (missing special), and we can also get to the answer by combining a synonym for song and Sting & Co.

27a  Listened in London to singular tympanum (7)
{EARDRUM} – combine how a Cockney might say listened and an adjective meaning singular or odd.

28a  Seasonal staff employ a drunk (7)
{MAYPOLE} – this seasonal staff which may soon be in evidence is an anagram (drunk) of EMPLOY A. Very good surface reading.

Down Clues

1d  Tragic ending — as in De Niro’s last film (6)
{CASINO} – the answer is the name of a 1995 film starring Robert de Niro and Sharon Stone. It’s put together from (tragi)C (ending, last character), AS, IN and (De Nir)O (last character).

2d  Dye of a kind I got from woad (6)
{INDIGO} – this is a sort of semi all-in-one, with the answer hidden (from) in the clue.

3d/12a  Bar, of course, two prominent extractions, canine teeth have new filling and cavity (10,4)
{NINETEENTH HOLE} – the definition is bar, of course, i.e. how the bar on a golf course is traditionally referred to. Start with CANINE TEETH – now remove the first two letters (two prominent extractions) and insert (filling) N(ew). Finally add a synonym for cavity.

4d  What was heard of Shergar in 1982 (5)
{NEIGH} – I must be missing something here. Shergar was an Irish racehorse who set the racing world alight in 1981 when he won the Epsom Derby by an enormous distance. In 1983 he was kidnapped (horsenapped?) and never seen again, which made headlines all round the world. So, what did he do in 1982? Well, he stood at stud and sired 35 foals. The answer is the noise that Shergar (or any other horse) makes, but what is the significance of 1982? Is it just that there was no real news about him that year so that the only thing heard from him was his normal whinnying? If so it seems a very weak clue – let me know what you think! [Thanks to Moose and JM for pointing out that the answer is inside nineteeN EIGHty two]

5d  Style associated with kind of bag or chair (9)
{MODERATOR} – the definition is chair (in the sense of chairman). Start with a synonym for style or manner and add the word which when prefixed to (associated with) bag means a despicable person, and finish up with OR.

6d  Tableware it can be beneficial to break (4)
{REST} – the sort of table that we’re interested in here has green baize on it. So, it’s a cryptic definition of something that is used on the table (tableware?) to assist a player in making a break (when without it he or she would have difficulty in reaching the cue ball).

7d  A game with intermittently daring revolutionary defence (8 )
{APOLOGIA} – the definition is defence and the answer means a formal written defence of one’s views or conduct. Start with A and a sport (game) played on horseback and finish with the even letters (intermittently) of dArInG which have to be reversed (revolutionary).

8d/24d Vide Matthew 20:6 or 23:59 (8,4)
{ELEVENTH HOUR} – So, what’s cryptic about this one? The answer means the very last moment, and 23:59, being one minute to midnight, is the definition. If, as instructed, you look up the biblical reference, there is the answer in clear. The setter’s intention, presumably, is that you should take 23:59 as another Matthew verse and look up that as well, but the deception wouldn’t last long as there is no such verse. To be honest I don’t see the point of giving you a reference which contains the answer (it’s like saying “see Chambers page 1206, word 3”).

13d  In-store surveillance expert? (10)
{COUNTERSPY} – weakish cryptic definition of someone who keeps tabs on enemy agents (so MI5 rather than MI6).

15d  Old, old party appearing before end of dinner is head maid collecting plates (2-7)
{EX-LIBRISM} – this is the exciting hobby of collecting bookplates (i.e. the labels inside books, often with a latin inscription identifying this as one of the books of Joe Bloggs). You have to string together a word meaning old, the abbreviation for an old political party which has now changed its name, the last letter of dinneR, IS and finally (are you still awake?) the first letter (head) of Maid. The surface reading reminded me of the “two soups” sketch with the wonderful Julie Walters, so here it is:

16d  Temper made lout troublesome (8 )
{MODULATE} – an anagram (troublesome) of MADE LOUT.

17d  Don’s heartless executioner behind abominable unending cruelty (8 )
{LECTURER} – the definition is don. Put the outside letters (heartless) of ExecutioneR after (behind) an anagram (abominable) of CRUELT(y) (unending).

19d  Look over outskirts of Bilbao to belvedere (6)
{GAZEBO} – the definition is belvedere (a summerhouse). Start with a verb meaning to look and add (over, in a down clue) the outer letters (outskirts) of BilbaO.

20d  Tamper with resonance of gong (6)
{MEDDLE} – a verb meaning to tamper sounds like (with resonance of) a gong (the sort that you wear).

23d  Leading scientist withdraws from backing breakfast cereal as ‘essential aid to digestion’ (5)
{ILEUM} – Take the first letter (leading) of Scientist out of a breakfast cereal, then reverse (backing) what remains to get the lowest part of the small intestine.

I liked 5a and 3d but my favourite clue was 28a. How about you? Let us have a comment with your views!


  1. JM
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hmmm, struggling so far… But as far as 4d goes, I think it’s in ninetee(n eigh)ty two

    • gazza
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi JM – welcome to the blog.
      Thanks for that. If your posting hadn’t been delayed by the need for it to be moderated, you’d have been the first to point that out!.

  2. Moose
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    4d I took as within the clue:- nineteeN EIGHty two

    • gazza
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks, Moose. That’s obviously right. I’ll update the review.

  3. gnomethang
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As I came to the blog I was missing the NE corner – 5,10 a and 5,6,7d. Having checked the across hints I managed the rest.
    I found this hard to get a grip on as well and after staring at 3 answers for a while I had a little purple patch before the NE stumped me.
    Overall not to bad – I guess I need to get used to ‘TiJean’s style..
    Thanks to Gazza and Petitjean

    • gnomethang
      Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

      23d was my favourite – loved the surface reading.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A strange mixture of easy clues and really difficult ones, I found that I didn’t really enjoy it overall. I loved 28a however, it really took me back! Thanks for a great blog Gazza, I needed your help with 15d.

  5. Digby
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A fair challenge, in which 3d, 23d and 28a stood out for me. And 15d, if only to justify watching Julie strutting her stuff. A comedy classic on a par with Del Boy leaning on the non-existent bar in Fools & Horses.

  6. Iolanthe
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What a brilliant puzzle! A man who speaks my language! Fantastic! Isn’t that the idea of a Toughie?

  7. Prolixic
    Posted April 14, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This required a lot of patience and perseverence. There were some great clues like 28a, 3d/12a, 5a (when the penny dropped I smiled) and a few that lacked a bit of playfulness that would have lifted the enjoyment slightly. Many thanks to Petitjean for the puzzle and to Gazza for the notes.

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