Toughie 358

Toughie No 358 by Firefly

A little fun in the sun

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ***

This was quite a straightforward solve with mostly easy clues; in fact the only really tough bit was the sting in the tail wordplay conundrum posed by the very last clue.

There were just a couple of moments where I thought the legitimacy of the wordplay was questionable, but it was never anything that hindered solving and the clues rarely fall foul of Ximenean standards. The enjoyment rating for me was strictly moderate – good clues all round, but no “Wow” moments bar 7a which I think is very cleverly observed.

Favourite clues are highlighted in blue; how do they compare with yours?

Please 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.


7a    Prevailing hailstorm? (7)
{AVERAGE} A healthy dose of cleverness to begin, with the definition prevailing referring to typical, perhaps even humdrum? For the wordplay it’s a lovely merging of the word for hail that’s in “— Maria” followed by a word (noun or verb) for storm.

8a    She’s fleshier — less ice-cream for a start, then exercise (7)
{HERSELF} This is a subtraction anagram, where you have an anagram of the answer but the setter has used some extra letters. Here it’s FLESHIER; the instruction to remove a letter comes from less ice-cream for a start which points to I, and the anagram indicator is the slightly oblique exercise.

10a    Route whereby old ship takes in Trinidad and Tobago (4,5)
{CART TRACK} One thing that often makes the Toughie live up to its name is the use of obscurities and we have one here; the old ship is CARRACK, a type of Mediterranean galleon. Place this around the (IVR) abbreviation for Trinidad and Tobago.

What is he on?

11a    Crown is feature of periodontia rationale (5)
{TIARA} A nice easy hidden answer in periodontia rationale.

A hidden gem

12a    Lure of French soldiers’ company (5)
{DECOY} When you see French in a clue it’s likely you’ll need to translate the word before or after it, and in this case the word is of. To that add an abbreviation for company in its military sense.

13a    R.I.P.? (5,4)
{DEATH WISH} This is a clever take on what the answer could mean, its second word being typical on e.g. greetings cards, but for me it’s an incomplete clue without a proper definition of the answer. To help you along, think of what a person is said to have if they seem intent on taking extreme risks.

This will have to do as a def

15a    Tucked away by mid-morning, First Secretary tidies up … (7)
{NEATENS} This may elicit a few grumbles methinks. The wordplay leads to a juxtaposition which isn’t clearly indicated and it resulted in a bit of parsing torture for me. We start with a word for tucked away (as in consumed) which appears after (instead of before, which is what it looks like should happen) the letter in the middle of MORNING – indicated as mid-morNing – and finally the First letter of Secretary (again, a slightly questionable indication).

17a    … file in bed. Cosier? Not half! (7)
{DOSSIER} The file that forms the answer consists of a word meaning bed (especially a rough one that may be used by a homeless person) and one half of the word COSIER.

18a    Nursery’s whole crops failing — no hint of why (9)
{PRESCHOOL} This is almost identical in form to 8a. This time start with an anagram of (failing is the indicator) WHOLE CROPS and remove the first letter (so there’s no hint of) Why.

20a    Farewell cards I’ve put alternately … (5)
{ADIEU} Back to (French) school now, for an answer made up of the alternate letters in cards I‘ve put.

21a    … open and shut in scrapbook — their earliest resting place (5)
{OASIS} The resting place defined here is typically a watered spot in the desert, and the answer comes from the initial letters of the first five words in the clue. Their earliest is marginally iffy, but the message is clear enough.

For them it's over, as it stands

23a    Natter excitedly about periodical: ‘Virago’ (9)
{TERMAGANT} The answer is possibly not familiar to all but the wordplay makes things fairly easy. Take an anagram (excitedly) of NATTER and place it around a colloquially shortened word for a type of (often glossy) periodical.

24a    Flu to die out, given experiment with mice? (7)
{ENDEMIC} I always thought of this answer as adjectival only but Chambers confirms it’s a noun, namely a disease such as flu. The wordplay takes a word meaning to die out, then a craftily suggested anagram of MICE. It’s not a spectacularly worded clue but the imagery is very coherent.

25a    Fixer of documents for merchant? (7)
{STAPLER} Despite the question mark this is a straightforward double meaning clue, albeit with an uncommon second one. The fixer of documents is a machine which attaches sheets of paper together using a small piece of wire, and the answer also means a person who supplies leading commodities or raw materials. So the question mark isn’t needed – it could even be misleading.


1d    Disparage Delia’s first crepe I chewed and swallowed (10)
{DEPRECIATE} Another case of a slightly forced surface reading but an excellent contemporary image bound by solid Ximenean wordplay. Delia’s first leads us to D, then we have an anagram (chewed is the indicator) of CREPE I, and finally a word meaning swallowed.

2d    Edward abandons undue formality in storeroom (6)
{PANTRY} A subtraction clue this time. Start by thinking of a word for undue formality, typically applied to someone who behaves in a schoolmasterly and precise way, then remove ED, a shortened form of Edward. The answer is a type of room where provisions are usually kept.

3d    Stoops to flirt with maidservants when fog’s lifted (8)
{VERANDAS} This is a difficult one to work out, not least because of the clever definition stoops which has nothing to do with back-bending; it actually refers to covered areas at the fronts of houses. To get the answer, start with MAIDSERVANTS as anagram “fodder” but, before jumbling the letters, remove four of them. Which ones? Well, they’re in sequence but not together, and they mean a less dense version of fog.

...also has a girl outside

4d    Church also known as incorporating Rector’s spiritual centre (6)
{CHAKRA} This gets the blue highlighter largely because Firefly has created something coherent from an awkward word, even if it isn’t perfectly smooth. Start with an abbreviation for church (that’s either CE or CH but the answer at 8a will confirm the right one), then the abbreviation for also known as which is placed around the single-letter abbreviation for Rector. The definition spiritual centre does not mean a building – in yoga it’s one of the seven centres of spiritual power in the body.

5d    Women strain — homesick at heart, poor things (8)
{WRETCHES} Almost another blue highlighter here; perhaps the reading is a little less convincing this time. The abbreviation for women is followed by a word meaning strain (as in, with a view to using the big white telephone) and the middle letters of homESick.


6d    This star, note, isn’t on a kind of diet (4)
{VEGA} It was the definition This star that let me place the answer without looking at the wordplay – I’m guessing this may have been the case for many since star could equally mean the lady below. The wordplay uses a kind of diet to define one which features no animal products at all, and from this you have to remove the single-letter abbreviation for Note.


7d    Tending to hurt on one’s stomach? (8-5)
{ACCIDENT-PRONE} A slightly loose attempt at an implied double meaning here. Tending to hurt is the definition and you could perhaps substitute that with clumsy. The second word of the answer also means lying down on one’s stomach, but the lack of anything to further indicate the first word of the answer makes me feel as if this is an unfinished clue.

9d    Theresa turfed out cleaner (7,6)
{FEATHER DUSTER} A pretty easy anagram (out is the indicator) of THERESA TURFED leads to an answer which refers to what’s being used here:

How tickled she is

14d    At home setter’s one piece of furniture is unique (10)
{INIMITABLE} An excellent reference to the fact that we setters are hideously underpaid, this concisely presented word sum (charade) uses a word for at home, I’M (setter’s), a letter to represent one, then an example of a piece of furniture.

16d    Dance? I’d rather not (6-2)
{EXCUSE ME} This double definition could also mean sorry, or “Would you mind getting out of the way?”

17d    Loo door’s broken, sadly (8)
{DOLOROSO} An easyish anagram of LOO DOOR’S leads to a musical instruction to play in a soft and sorrowful manner.

19d    Science of liquid measurement? (6)
{OPTICS} Another double definition, although this time the question mark is wisely used since the alternative meaning relates to those inverted bottles behind the bar of a pub, so of liquid measurement is an oblique interpretation.

The drunk cops it

20d    Fanfare worker ignored when climbing mountain (6)
{ARARAT} The cross-checking letter pattern A-A-A- should help most to get this immediately, but the wordplay involves a quite unfamiliar word; TARANTARA is a fanfare, from which a word for worker (from the insect world) is removed and the whole thing then reversed (so it’s climbing).

22d    Ribbon removed from preliminary efforts for ‘Bubbles’ (4)

{SUDS} The hardest one to work out despite getting the answer immediately, this word for ‘Bubbles‘ takes the word STUDIES and removes a sequence of non-consecutive letters which together can mean ribbon.

Over to you for your comments…


  1. Prolixic
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Gentle relief from Firefly after the last two days’ puzzles. Thoroughly enjoyable. Favourite was 3d.

  2. Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    6 down gives me the opportunity to post my favourite version of a favourite track!


  3. Jezza
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks Anax for the explanations, in particular 22d, where the answer was obvious, but not the reasoning behind. Not the hardest of Toughies, and on the whole, a pleasant solve. Thanks to Firefly.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found this to be a bit tricky in parts but on the whole an enjoyable crossword. Thanks Firefly and thanks Anax. ( I did not understand the reasoning behind 4d and 22d till I read your clues) Liked 7d and 13a.

  5. gnomethang
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Just finished a round – chipped in on the last in front of the gallery!
    I might save this fir tomorrow as I have a 7 hour flight to Doha.
    BD kindly forwarded me tomorrows NTSPP so I can print before the flight. I have subscribed to clued uP for the month too.

    • Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Well done on the chip in! I have to confess – and please don’t think of me as conceited – that I have on a number of occasions actually EAGLED the Par 5 18th on at least four separate courses. Granted, there was no gallery to watch and, granted, it was on my PS3, but very satisfying anyway.

      • gnomethang
        Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Ha! I have one eagle to my name. On the pub game, however, I have lost count. 13 under for 9 holes was tops!

  6. gnomethang
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve relented and had to resort to your help for about 6 – but I am in apres golf mode!
    Top review an top pics as usual Anax, loved 5d and 10a – I used to live in Carrack House in Erith!

  7. mark
    Posted May 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Many thanks for the review, Anax. There were several clues here that I enjoyed (although just as many that I couldn’t get!) I liked 6d as I am a fan of Suzanne **** and I follow the diet referred to in the clue!
    Put “Sleep Well” in for 13a, which seemed a pretty good answer, but then realised it was wrong when I got 9d.
    I also enjoyed 8a – quite a shocking surface reading!

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