Toughie 366

Toughie No 366 by Firefly

Sweetness with a bit of bite

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

[Today we reach a rather special milestone – this is the 1,000th post published on the blog! BD]

Despite racing through this Firefly offering there were some quite tricky clues to negotiate and two I couldn’t immediately grasp (6a and 18d – thanks to BD for the pointers). For the most part the clues were straightforward and unspectacular but, despite a minor quibble with the presentation of its anagram fodder, I thought 6d was very nicely done, while 25a gets my COD vote. There was one area that held me up – the SE corner was by far the hardest to crack, even with 7d and 27a offering several letters.

My favourite clues are in blue and it’s usually the case they don’t quite match with yours, so please point out your own favourites.

And please leave a comment telling us what you thought of today’s puzzle. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


6a    Refrain from disguising poor fellow’s need to give evidence (6,2,5)
{BURDEN OF PROOF} The answer means a need to give evidence and consists of an obscure meaning of a refrain (Chambers gives an alternative spelling bourdon, which might help!), then a 2-letter word meaning from, an anagram of POOR (for me the placement of disguising isn’t right) and finally the abbreviation for fellow. Phew! What a way to get the ball rolling.

8a    Frank’s half of dance performed (6)
{CANDID} As soon as you realise Frank isn’t a name you should get this. Take half of a type of dance and add a word meaning performed.

9a    Railway routes are endlessly complex (8)
{EUROSTAR} This well-spotted subtraction anagram uses ROUTES ARE but without the final E. I’m not entirely sure the answer can be clued simply as railway; you’ll be more familiar with it as a loss-making railway operator.

10a    Workers’ leader trains to be mocking (3)
{WRY} Workers’ leader is an instruction to start with a single letter. Follow this with an abbreviation for railway (again, trains seems slightly loose here).

11a    “Plaster saint” joins capital firm (6)
{STUCCO} This is a tricky one to parse, although getting the answer is easy enough. The plaster we seek consists of an abbreviation for saint, then a slight obscurity defined as capital – this refers to the 2-letter abbreviation for upper case – and finally an abbreviation for company (shown here as firm).

12a    First person on location speaking sense (8)
{EYESIGHT} The first person is I and a location is a SITE. Put these together and say them out loud… Here’s one of those clues where we have on forming a straight link A on B. Some newspapers insist that on can only lead to B on A in an across clue.

14a    Vehicle’s right turn, partially unsighted, is f… foolish (7)
{OFFSIDE} While the surface reading is just a tad clunky, the concept here is great. To find the answer (cleverly defined as vehicle’s right) you have to reverse (turn) and look inside the letters of unsighted is f foolish.

16a    Drink for stimulation before grabbing handle (7)
{PHILTRE} This was sooo hard to work out! But it’s a Toughie puzzle – without clues like this it can’t live up to its billing. Drink for stimulation is the definition; to get the answer, take a prefix meaning before (as in —school or even —fix!) and place it around (so it’s grabbing) the sort of handle you see on e.g. a sword.

20a    Simpson admits deficiency in magic (5,3)
{BLACK ART} Another fairly easy one. The answer is a phrase meaning magic and it places the character below around a word meaning deficiency (or indeed to have a deficiency in something).

23a    Norma’s queenly part in court performance (6)
{MASQUE} Having mentioned that I found this corner tough to crack, I had to don my biggest pair of self-kicking boots when I eventually saw this straightforward hidden answer in Norma’s queenly. I mean really – what a muppet!

24a    Exercise with the females of the species, say (3)
{USE} This word meaning (to) exercise sounds like female sheep. With is an unneeded (but not, I think, misleading) filler, and perhaps there should be some indication that the homophone leads to an example of (rather than the) females of the species.

25a    It may cover top of dress and collar (8)
{DANDRUFF} Brilliantly written &Lit (or all-in-one) clue. Top of dress leads to a single letter, then we have AND and a word for a type of (typically Elizabethan) collar. The pic below should show you how good this clue is.

26a    Spot Ms Rantzen reportedly getting a rest (6)
{SIESTA} I’d put this one down as a quibble. We’re looking for homophones again, so we start with SEE (spot) and a sequence of letters which sound like the first name of the strangely-toothed one. Except that – in my case anyway – I’ve always pronounced ESTHER with at least a partial softening of the TH rather than a hard T. What about you?

27a    Critical cheer for performance: “It’s a killer!” (8,5)
{ELECTRIC CHAIR} Nicely defined as “It’s a killer!“, here we have a simple anagram of CRITICAL CHEER.


1d    Runs down conventional customs in speech (8)
{TRADUCES} The answer isn’t a word on everyday tongues, but it means runs down in the sense of to malign or defame. It’s made up of a word for conventional (think of a type of jazz) and a word that sounds like customs – 24a should help!

2d    Puzzled who’d read this? You might! (8)
{HEADWORD} Well, OK, I suppose this answer is something you would find if you were looking it up in a dictionary. To find it another way, rearrange the letters of WHO’D READ.

3d    Flattering topless (and bottomless!) beachwear stared at (7)
{HONEYED} Flattering words could also be described as — words. Start with a type of beachwear and remove its first and last letters, then add a word meaning stared at. Nice image – and the clue reads well too.

4d    Poles’ employment initially thin on the ground (6)
{SPARSE} The answer means thin on the ground and takes a word for poles (as in beams of wood) and the first letter of employment.

5d    Little growth in good French spoken – not to mention Deutsch (6)
{BONSAI} For this little growth, take the French word for good and add a word meaning spoken, but without the final letter D.

6d    Gunners’ occupation of Belgium a classy feat, in a way? (9,4)
{BEAUTIFUL GAME} The description of soccer (I tried to find photos of senseless terrace violence to support it) is very cleverly referred to here as Gunners’ occupation, which seems to take on a different meaning when you link it to the part beginning with Belgium. There’s no military thing going on here though. Instead we take BELGIUM, A, U (classy/posh) and FEAT and jumble them up. I’ve a minor gripe with the indirect U component, but it didn’t hold me up.

7d    Cleaner shows apprehension about the rudest management (7,6)
{FEATHER DUSTER} How odd that this answer appeared in the last Toughie I reviewed – should have kept the pic I used! It’s a different clue, though, placing FEAR (apprehension) around an anagram of THE RUDEST. The anagram indicator management isn’t ideal but just about gets the message across.

13d    Runner has kittens part-way through (3)
{SKI} This particular runner is used on snow and is hidden inside has kittens.

15d    Type of material having no point (3)
{ILK} Type is the definition here, the answer consisting of a sort of material (thanks to spiders) with the first letter (or point) removed.

17d    Longing for one’s place among Eskimo children to be fixed (8)
{HOMESICK} Another one which took ages to work out, partly because the way the anagram works is marginally unsatisfactory. The definition is a good one – longing for one’s place – and the answer jumbles the letters of ESKIMO and CH (abbreviation for children). Among really threw me and doesn’t appear to have a valid role.

18d    Where girl with nerve reportedly may win (or not!) (3,5)
{LAS VEGAS} This is a tough double homophone using LASS (girl) and VAGUS (a type of nerve, which I didn’t know about).

19d    Row up to St Ursula’s Head? Can’t be bothered! (5,2)
{STUFF IT} This nicely worded clue uses a reversal of a word for a row (of the type lovers tend to have) placed underneath ST and the first letter of Ursula.

21d    Copper joining dead facetious girl’s club (6)
{CUDGEL} The club we want is not an establishment; it’s something for hitting people with. To find it, use the chemical symbol for copper, the abbreviation for dead and the facetiously posh pronunciation of girl.

22d    In Manchuria, try taking turns to gain wisdom (6)
{ACUITY} This SW corner was largely easy but this one held me up unnecessarily as it’s much plainer than it looks. All we need, to find the answer meaning wisdom, is alternate letters in Manchuria try.

Just a couple of mildly dodgy moments which didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this Friday Firefly outing. What did you think of it?

PS: Moonstruckminx insists that I provide a link to my FT puzzle today, so here it is:



  1. Posted June 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Anax has promised to cover “complex” clues in a later chapter of his Crossword Rules. I think we are all confused about “indirect” components of anagram fodder (see 6d). I have noticed that most setters insert these components into the reordered fodder rather than actually including them in the fodder.

  2. crypticsue
    Posted June 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Following yesterday’s marmite analogy, I have tried to think of a foodstuff I really like which would describe both this splendid Friday toughe and its review by Anax (strawberries and cream?). Thought it was going to be a real “Friday toughie” but eventually everything fell into place. Some fabulous clues – the groan when I got 25 across was quite something. My last toughie for a week or so (off to Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast to give the cryptic brain cells a rest). My husband (who never needs an excuse) and I will have an extra glass or two of suitable refreshment for Gnomethang while we are there.

    • Posted June 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Thanks crypticsue. Have a great time and give the grey matter a rest!.

  3. BigBoab
    Posted June 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable crossword from Firefly, I loved 25a and 3d. great review Anax and thanks for the hint for 22d especially, I just couldn’t see it at all.

  4. Prolixic
    Posted June 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Highly entertaining crossword from Firefly today. Many thanks to him for the fun and games and to Anax for the notes. Lots of clues from which to chose favourites. From the smiles as the wordplay dawned, I would chose 25a and 22d.

  5. Posted June 4, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    A thoroughly excellent puzzle completed between bouts of washing. My favourites are precisely as Anax’s and also 1d.
    Many thanks to Anax for the review and Firefly for a great end to the Toughie week.

    And Yay! to BD & everyone on reaching the 1000th.