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Toughie 390

Toughie No 390 by Micawber

The Friday Fair

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment ****

There are times when, on seeing a setter’s name, you think to yourself “OK, I could be in for a few nasty surprises here”. When you see the Micawber tag you know you’re going to get fair, accurate clueing, and that was the case here. It was a pretty easy puzzle for me precisely because of that; solidly faithful clues and no head-scratching trying to work out wordplay after solving, although I was left with one minor quibble.

It’s by no means a spectacular puzzle, but it’s accurate and very well constructed – with the added bonus of several beautifully smooth (and indeed deceptive) surface readings, and at least one or two crafty little definitions thrown in for good measure. Not spectacular – but very high quality.

The clues in blue are the ones that successfully pumped air into my bouncy castle – which were your favourites?

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.


1a    RE prep’s tricky to follow as written from right to left (7)
{SAPPERS} The deception here is the definition RE which is designed to make you think of religious education, the wordplay cleverly painting a picture of Arabic text which is, of course, written from left to right. But RE actually stands for Royal Engineers. Use an anagram (tricky) of PREP’S and place this after a reversal of AS. A nice piece of trickery to start us off.

5a    Gadget combining revolutionary listening device with aid to vision (7)
{GUBBINS} This is good too, although I thought the definition was wrong. For me, the answer is the internal workings of something, but Chambers confirms gadget and doesn’t list my interpretation at all! Reverse a type of listening device (a secret one) then add a colloquial word for spectacles (or an aid to vision).

9a    UN secretary-general in a panto version? (3,6)
{TOP BANANA} The incumbent UN Sec-Gen is — Ki-Moon; put that first name into an anagram of A PANTO. The answer is an informal term similar to numero uno, big cheese, head honcho etc. The lack of a definition in the clue is slightly odd as I’m not sure the intended &Lit is close enough.

10a    Strong drink said to be like grass, uneven (5)
{TUFTY} The first of a pair of consecutive homophone clues, a strong drink could be a tough tea.

11a    Fish with no dressing reported to be Roosevelt’s creation (3,4)
{NEW DEAL} This is the better of the two – a nice image created by the concept of a fish with no dressing being a nude eel.

12a    Mix of blue iodine producing green liquid (7)
{BIOFUEL} Another lovely surface reading, our green liquid not being green in colour; it’s the anagram (mix) of OF BLUE I(odine) that makes us think that way.

13a    007 endlessly following one vehicle with another — one’s forgotten C-charge? (6,3)
{CARBON TAX} The definition C-charge? is lovely; you have to think about what C can stand for chemically. For the wordplay, remove the last letter of Ian Fleming’s secret agent and place that after the first vehicle you think of(!), then take a similar vehicle (but one you pay to be transported in) and remove the I (one) from the end.

16a    Produce note to burn (5)
{SINGE} When is a charade not a charade? You can split this answer into two parts, the second being E (a note), but then you’re left with a word which can mean to produce a note, at which point you think there must be a mistake. There isn’t – the ‘charade’ is actually an instruction to split the answer into a phrase which can be read as ‘to produce a note’.

17a    Constant pain in store (5)
{CACHE} The store of the answer is made up of the abbreviation for constant followed by a word for a dull pain.

18a    Formula One substitute might be seen going round grid (9)
{FIREPLACE} Every time I’ve written a clue for this answer I’ve started by reversing IF – Micawber has spotted that without the reversal it’s an abbreviation for Formula One, and it works far better when linked to the word meaning (to) substitute. What may be seen going round a grid? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what the grid is – I think it’s similar to a grating; in any case, the definition is referring to the traditional source of heat in a house.

21a    Refreshment tent out of teas, I hear, after rector and wife got stuck into brew of ale (7)
{RENEWAL} By far the toughest clue of the day; to be honest I think the fairness is borderline but, when you see the answer, you also see what Micawber’s getting at with the wordplay and I’ve always believed that if the message comes across then some Libertarian licence is deserved. Refreshment is the clever definition; it has nothing to do with food or drink. For tent out of teas, I hear, start with TENT and remove the two letters which each sound like tea. Place these after the single-letter abbreviation for rector. Finally, put the abbreviation for wife inside an anagram (brew
of) of ALE.

22a    Great having two parents of same gender — no hesitation (7)
{MAMMOTH} Nicely spotted, this answer (meaning great as in huge) consists of a typically northern contraction for a female parent followed by the ‘proper’ version of but without ER (hesitation) at the end.

25a    Privately, the way one would expect at first (5)
{ASIDE} And yet another blue highlighter! This is COD for me, beautifully constructed and just slightly devilish. The definition is privately (think of a stage direction where lines are delivered to the audience rather than other members of the cast). The way gives a 2-letter word (an example: “The way I’d do it”), which is followed by a contraction of one would (or, rather, I would) and then the first letter of Expect.

26a    Drunken Geraldine got straight again (9)
{REALIGNED} An anagram (drunken) of GERALDINE.

27a    Shut up relative at the back of tower (4,3)
{KEEP MUM} The definition shut up means to not say anything. Another version of the parent (relative) used in 22a is placed after a word for a tower, as in part of a castle.

28a    Return item of value found round outskirts of Rome — a bit of mosaic (7)
{TESSERA} This reversal takes an item of value (a strength or a plus point) placed around the first and last letters (outskirts) of RomE.


1d    Wicked cast in a new production (7)
{SATANIC} A new production (or anagram) of CAST IN A gives a word meaning wicked, evil.

2d    Hand father first fruit (5)
{PAPAW} It’s very tricky to equate hand with W, but you have to think of the card game bridge. Before this, place another word for father (remember Nicole in the old French car advert) and you’ll be rewarded with a type of fruit.

3d    Keep clear of Adam, getting short when his missus is around (5)
{EVADE} Perhaps my only major quibble. For the answer, meaning to keep clear of something, we have to take just TWO letters of Adam (for me, getting short isn’t explicit enough – unless ‘Ad’ is a contraction of that name? That would be a new one for me) and put them inside she who was indeed Adam’s missus.

4d    Toto in picture’s a little tearjearker (7)
{SHALLOT} “Somewhere Over the Rainbow…”
– go on, it’s what you thought of, isn’t it? The little tear-jerker (my dictionary gives it a hyphen although it hardly matters) is actually a type of onion. Toto brilliantly deceives us. It’s not the dog – it’s an Italian word meaning ‘total’ and our answer starts with a 3-letter word for this, which is then placed inside a word for a picture or photograph.

5d    Clothes chest with a number of shifts in it? (7)
{GEARBOX} Were it not for the fact that few people now equate shifts with clothing this would be brilliant; but the definition describing something with a number of shifts in it is still good. It’s a simple charade using an informal word for clothes and a word for a (large) chest.

6d    Bed down? I’ll drink to that! (7,2)
{BOTTOMS UP} The answer is a toast (I’ll drink to that!). Start with a word for bed (the base of something) and add a word meaning to drink (or down).

7d    Wacky fanzine about Leeds United forwards that’s spread virally (9)
{INFLUENZA} A horrible word to clue but this is treated nicely. Start with an anagram (wacky) of FANZINE and put it around the first letters (forwards – that just about works for me) of Leeds United to get a viral infection.

8d    Be sulky, out of sorts, but tone suggesting sunny outlook? (3,4)
{SKY BLUE} An anagrammed (or out of sorts) version of BE SULKY gives a colour (tone) which is wryly alluded to in the extra part of the definition.

14d    Obscure, cryptic code written without silent letters or duplicates (9)
{RECONDITE} The answer means obscure. Working out the anagram (indicator is cryptic) involves starting with CODE and adding WRITTEN, but without the W (which is a silent letter) and the T (which is duplicated).

15d    With complete control all round, treat opponent thus? (9)
{OVERWHELM} Pretty tough to spot, but satisfyingly close enough to &Lit to get the blue text. Start with W (abbreviation for with) and, all around (surrounding) this, put two words; one meaning complete (finished) and one meaning control (the control of e.g. a ship).

17d    Fish box, where crates are stored (3,4)
{CAR PARK} A very similar flavour to 5d but this time it’s a 2-word phrase which can be split at a different point to give two alternative words. The first is a type of fish, the second a type of box (of the Covenant?). For where crates are stored you should think of crates as being a colloquial term for (typically rather old) vehicles.

Oh, and for another example of how to — a — take a look at this from about 1min 15sec (BTW I’m the bloke on the infield with the hi-vis jacket and camera):

ARVE Error: need id and provider

18d    Stuffed with soft bread (ends cut off) and raising agent? (7)
{FULCRUM} I like the definition here, raising agent, for which you have to think of physics. Take a word meaning stuffed (with e.g. food) and a small piece of (perhaps soft) bread and remove the last letter of each.

19d    Sheep’s horn may be something deployed in defence (7)
{RAMPART} A sheep’s horn may be part of a ram – which should help you to identify this piece of fortification.

20d    Australian creature cruelly chained (7)
{ECHIDNA} Not a very obvious word, but the anagram (cruelly) fodder of CHAINED should make the answer quite easy to spot.

23d    Leader in Sun supporting principal source of power in the House (5)
{MAINS} Our power in the House (ignore the capital letter) consists of the first letter (leader) of Sun which is after (in a down clue it can be said to be supporting) a word meaning principal.

24d    Uranium shown in former imperial measure (5)

{OUNCE} This old imperial measure of weight uses the abbreviation for Uranium placed inside a word for former (or formerly).

Over to you, friends…

24 comments on “Toughie 390

  1. Good stuff from Micawber. Having got 18a I spent too long looking for a NINA in the crossword grid! Many thanks to Micawber and to Anax for the review.

  2. Enjoyed it. If I hadn’t entered “blue sky” in 8d (a senior moment) I would have finished it sooner.

    Thank you all for a pleasant week, even tough I cursed the francophiles on Wednesday.

    Now off to the pub.

  3. Enjoyable puzzle. Many thanks to Micawber, and to Anax.
    Re 26a, a minor transposition error in the answer..

  4. I loved it. thanks to Micawber and Anax. Favourite clue: 4d
    In 2d I thought that hand was “paw”.

    1. And you’d be right. The first 4 letters did seem to string themselves together automatically – it’s your interpretation that makes better sense. I really should stop trying to solve crosswords before the requisite five mugs of morning coffee.

  5. Super crossword from Micawber if not his most difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Favourite clues were 4d and 10a for their sheer simplicity. Great review Anax!

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this one too, thanks Micawber. I too fell into the religious education trap in 1a but a bit of Gnomethang’s law (albeit to another) soon sorted that out. Favouite clue 11a, closely folloewd by 18d. Thanks Anax for the review.

  7. I enjoyed this a lot. Some very simple clues and some delightfully complex ones.

    I loved 1a (half the clue to tell us to write AS backwards), 21a (what a way to get to EN) and 14d (highly original).

  8. Excellent. I don’t know whether there was an extra little deception in 11a, as I started along the lines of a bare/bear connection with Theodore Roosevelt and cuddly toy, cuddly toy.

    1. Same here, we had bear pencilled in as the second word for some time until the penny dropped with a resounding ‘thunk’ !

  9. A real brain-acher with which to round off the week. To the above list of 5* clues I would add 28a for its nice, pleasant wordplay. Thought that 2d, 22a and 27a might be leading to a parental theme, but it didn’t develop.

  10. Failed on 1a and 4d in après golf mode. They turned out to be cracking clues! Many thanks to Micawber and Anax for the review .

  11. Phew!! my head aches!! Got the top half after about an hour but failed almost entirely for the rest of the clues, finally finished with Anax hints, thanks Anax. Favourites 10a 11a and 22a

    1. The heat here seems to have woken my brain – solved Toughies on consecutive days which is another first !!!!!

  12. Wow – Toughies solved on consectutive days! Although I did need a bit of help trom the thesaurus today!
    Misspelling 28a didn’t help for a while but Pommette and I got there in the end. Wasn’t keen on 9a.
    Thanks to Micawber for a great puzzle and to Anax for another excellent review.

  13. Absolutely loved this crossword even if I didn’t understand all the wordplay initially (what would I do without this website!) My dad regularly uses the word at 5a and I shall ask him his expert opinion on its true meaning though I must say I agree with Anax.

  14. Thanks for the blog, Anax, and all your comments. I felt the same way about the definition at 5a, but had to go with the big red book. Sorry 9a didn’t hit the spot for some – it felt to me like a slightly panto-ish phrase, which is how I justified it as a + lit, but that may have been bending things too much.
    Re 26ac, Mrs Micawber was most gratified to discover the anagram of her first name, so I thought it merited inclusion in a crossword – though of course the surface reading of the clue is entirely fictional!
    Oh, and the teddy bear link was coincidental.

    1. I’m just looking forward to the next time someone talks to me about the internal gubbins of some device or other. I’ll be able to enter smug mode and tell them they’re using the wrong word. Oh, how popular I’ll be.

      1. By one of those weird coincidences Paul’s Prize Crossword in the Guardian today has “Upset listener discards rubbish (7)”.

        1. So then – in Chambers we have:
          Gubbins. A trivial object; a device, gadget; a silly person, fool.
          And in Collins:
          Gubbins. An object of little or no value; a small device or gadget; odds and ends; litter or rubbish; a silly person.

          No mention of internal workings at all. Who said crosswords don’t educate?

  15. Just solved in a run through the week’s toughies – nicely tricky. I was deceived at 9A by a misremembered “Kofi ANAN” and wondered what the TOPBA / PANTO link was …

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