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Toughie 404

Toughie No 404 by Petitjean

Read My Lips

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BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

I can’t say that I enjoyed this puzzle a great deal. You have to admire the ingenuity and some of the surface readings are really amusing, but 14 of the 30 clues involve anagrams (with some weird indicators), including two-thirds of the down clues. There’s one clue (7d/8d) where I can’t work out the wordplay, so I hope that someone will be able to explain that one.
Let us know what you thought of it in a comment and please don’t forget to click one of the stars below to show how much you enjoyed it.

Across Clues

1a  Short and deceptively healthy hair taking seconds to train? (3,3,5)
{BOB AND WEAVE} – a combination of a short haircut and artificial (deceptively healthy) hair produces a boxing move, with seconds being the assistants in the fighter’s corner.

9a  Bird found in central Argentina and west of Uruguay (5)
{NANDU} – the bird is a rhea or South American ostrich so this qualifies as a semi-all-in-one clue. It’s formed from the central letter of ArgeNtina, AND (in the clue) and leftmost (west, in an across clue) letter of Uruguay.

10a  Island society of new and old money (3,6)
{NEW GUINEA} – this island in the South Pacific is an aggregation (society) of NEW (given in the clue) and an old amount of money worth £1-05.

11a  Peruse volume mistakenly put on table (5,2)
{SERVE UP} – an anagram (mistakenly) of PERUSE and V(olume).

12a  The Alarm’s live album still in circulation (4-4)
{BELL-PULL} – The Alarm (apparently) was a North Wales band of the 1980s, but the alarm we want here is a way of summoning assistance. Start with BE (live) and add a record format which is surrounded by (in circulation) a verb meaning to quieten, calm down or send to sleep (still).

14a  An Orwellian conclusion to plot set in US college town (3,5)
{ANN ARBOR} – this is the name of a college town in Michigan. Start with AN (in the clue) and add the last letter (conclusion) of OrwelliaN and the American spelling (set in US) of a shady garden alcove.

15a  Journalists’ fees (4)
{SUBS} – double definition.

17a  Without Ray’s lead or the backing of Matta and Mesens, Surrealism would have fallen into disorder (7)
{MISRULE} – I have heard of Man Ray but not of the Chilean Roberto Matta or the Belgian Edouard Mesens. All were surrealist artists. Remove the first letter (lead) of Ray and the last letters of MattA and MesenS from (s)U(r)RE(a)LISM and make an anagram of what remains to make a synonym of disorder. The anagram indicator appears to be “fallen into disorder” so disorder is doing double duty.

19a  Setback for Brazil meeting Sweden in knock-out (4)
{STUN} – the definition is knock-out and we have to reverse (setback) the most famous product of Brazil and the IVR code for Sweden.

20a  A verse so unfathomable it could be Greek (8)
{OVERSEAS} – an anagram (unfathomable) of A VERSE SO.

21a  This beats, say, good Scotch, but – it has to be said – why? (3,5)
{EGG WHISK} – we want something that beats. Start with the abbreviation for say and add G(ood) and a synonym for scotch without (but, as in the phrase “it never rains but it pours”) the letter that sounds like (it has to be said) why.

23a  Tailoring features retro-cut uniform pattern (4-3)
{TURN-UPS} – these tailoring features may (or may not, depending on the prevailing fashion) be seen at the bottom of trousers. We want a past participle meaning cut (as used in sports to mean imparted rotation to) followed by a uniform, often tedious, pattern. Then we need to reverse (retro) it all.

25a  Nice part of France (4,5)
{CÔTE D’AZUR} – cryptic definition of part of France.

26a  Retirement account is something worth having (5)
{ASSET} – reverse (retirement) a tax-free savings account introduced by John Major (his other big idea to go with the motorway cones hotline) to get something worth owning.

27a  Prosciutto starter and minestrone soup are never off the menu (11)
{OMNIPRESENT} – the definition is never off the menu or always around. It’s an anagram (soup) of P(rosciutto) and MINESTRONE.

Down Clues

2d  Fat-free bolognese does not require lengthy preparation (5)
{OBESE} – the definition is fat and the distinctly un-Ximenean wordplay requires an anagram (free) of BO(logn)ESE from which the jumbled (preparation) letters of a synonym of lengthy have been removed (does not require). Unless there’s a different explanation out there, I’m not at all keen on this one.

3d  First strike a wild lunge before the bell (7)
{ANGELUS} – the first letter of S(trike) is preceded (before) by A and an anagram (wild) of LUNGE to get the sounding of church bells to announce a Roman Catholic devotion of the same name.

4d  Spent a quid on unlimited rice wine cocktail (8)
{DAIQUIRI} – we want a cocktail containing rum and lime juice. It’s an anagram (spent?) of A QUID preceding (m)IRI(n) (a type of rice wine without its end letters – unlimited).

5d  Woefully gaunt bottom lost by weakling turned body-builder (4)
{ALAS} – when I was growing up there were countless newspaper adverts in the form of a cartoon strip depicting a weedy bloke having sand kicked in his face by a macho type. By the end of the strip he’d taken a 7-day body-building course and looked like Sylvester Stallone on steroids. The bloke selling this course was called Charles Atlas (who was, himself, a bodybuilder) – remove the last letter (bottom) of gaunT from his surname to leave an interjection meaning sadly or woefully. The surface reading is amusing!

6d  Make weak brew of tea? Never! (8)
{ENERVATE}  – we want a verb meaning to make weak and it’s an anagram (brew) of TEA NEVER.

7d/8d  Knee-trembler with less than wholeheartedly demure Max Clifford-type excited promiscuous nightclub singer (9,11)
{ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK} – the answer is the stage name of a nightclub singer born as Arnold Dorsey. The wordplay, however, has defeated me (I do note that all the letters of knee-trembler are present in the answer, so I presume that an anagram is involved). I’ve no idea how the Max-Clifford type fits. So, I’m relying on someone to explain it, and I’m sure that you won’t disappoint! [Thanks to Anax for sorting out the anagram fodder which is KNEE (indicated by trembler), DEM(u)RE (less than wholeheartedly), PR (Max Clifford-type) and NIGHTCLUB (promiscuous)]

12d  Home visitor – more than eleven letters! (4,7)
{BUSY POSTMAN} – there’s an old chestnut of a joke that surfaces from time to time about someone asking for help with a crossword clue. It goes something like this:
– overworked deliverer?
– how many letters?
– loads!
(laugh – I thought I’d never start)
Anyway, that appears to be what this clue is all about. The “eleven” is a reference (I assume) to the number of letters in the answer.

13d  Rocking, real S.O.B. – like the Stones’ frontman (7)
{LABROSE} – we want an anagram (rocking) of REAL S.O.B. to produce an adjective meaning thick-lipped. The setter appears to be taking the mickey.

16d  Bass sound of Lou Reed’s music (9)
{BLUEGRASS} – start with B(ass) and add a sound-alike of LOU and what reed is a type of to get a simple style of country music.

17d  Old fighter doctor brought round unexpectedly quits ringside (8)
{MOSQUITO} – the answer is an old fighter aircraft that saw service during WWII. Put one of the abbreviations for doctor round an anagram (unexpectedly) of QUITS which has O (a ring) in front of it (ringside – geddit?).

18d  Nothing in helter-skelter luge run equates to tedium (8)
{LONGUEUR} – put O (nothing) inside an anagram (helter-skelter) of LUGE RUN to make a period of tedium.

19d  One side of disc has middling hornpipe jig, which is hard stuff to take (7)
{SCHNAPS} – this strong alcoholic drink (hard stuff to take) is an anagram (jig) of diSC (half, i.e. one side, of disc) HAS and horNPipe (the middling part).

22d  Disregard dregs of humour in appalling puns (5)
{SPURN} – a verb meaning to disregard or ignore is made by putting the last letter (dregs) of humouR inside an anagram (appalling) of PUNS.

24d  Investigate oddly uplifting nuances (4)
{SCAN} – reverse nuances (uplifting – it’s a down clue) and take just the odd letters (oddly).

I liked 9a, 13d and 18d, but my favourite clue is 5d. Let us know what you liked and disliked in a comment!

25 comments on “Toughie 404

  1. Just saved us thislunchtime, Gazza – couldn’t get 14a at all, so thanks! Just looking at the ‘knee trembler’ clue so will look a bit closer!

  2. Found this really challenging and not always in an enjoyable way. Couldn’t get 14a whatsoever without the blog.
    Four new words for me 9a , 6d , 13d and 18d but managed to get all through the wordplay.
    Absolutely no idea , like Gazza , where the rest of 7&8d comes from.
    Way too many anagrams although I wouldn’t have got as far as I did without them.
    Fav clues 17d & 27a.
    Thanks Gazza for a great review.

  3. Totally blind to 1a even though I had the first two words – thanks gazza. No joy on 7/8 for me – I will have a look at lunch.
    An enjoyable one from petitjean here – I’ve enjoyed all his puzzles so far.
    Thanks to him and to gazza for the review.

  4. I too found this a bit odd. I couldn’t work out the expression “BUSY POSTMAN” not a phrase in my vocabulary. Indeed, the one this morning who called to me, opened the door and threw a large parcel straight in on the floor and left me to struggle with it.

    As for Mr Humperdinck, I thought it might be an anagram of Knee Trembler with the outer letters of some of the other words. I’ve even tried using knee-trembling, to no avail.

  5. A real so and so of a crossword today, I normally dislike a lot of anagrams but was grateful for them today as I would have got nowhere. Never heard of 9a or 14a, so needed your help Gazza. I got 7 & 8 easily enough but no matter how long I look at it I still don’t understand it. Thanks Gazza and,( I think) Petijean.

  6. For anyone who is unaware of the Welsh Rockers – Their most famous song:


  7. 7d/8d – I think it’s sort of coming together:

    “Knee-trembler” is pointing to an anagram of KNEE (trembler = anagram indicator)
    “Less than wholeheartedly demure” leads to removing one of the two central letters of DEMURE (it’s U)
    “Max Clifford-type excited” sort of points to PR – because it’s still part of the anagram fodder “excited” is used to show that
    “Promiscuous nightclub” uses the unusual anagram indicator “promiscuous” for the letters of NIGHTCLUB

    So, mix up KNEE, DEMRE, PR and NIGHTCLUB and you get the answer.

    1. Blimus! Well done that man – I had got as far as removing one bit of ‘DEMURE’ and was trying to see where ‘publicist’ didnt fit in!.

    2. Phew, thanks Anax – no wonder I couldn’t get it!
      What do you think of 2d? Isn’t it straying into indirect anagram country?

      1. It is, and it’s non-Ximenean. But – and this applies especially to 7d/8d – working out “tortured” clues like this can be hugely satisfying when you finally understand what’s going on. I wouldn’t want to tackle a puzzle full of such clues, but one or two can be mini-adventures in themselves. Bring ’em on, I say!

    3. While I follow the logic, having the overall anagram indicator (trembler) in the middle of the fodder and for that fodder to contain indirect content (PR) is not just non-Ximenean but grossly unfair. The surface reading is unmitigated nonsense and this clue should never have got past test-solving.

      Perhaps there is an alternate wordplay, in which case I might review my opinion.

  8. Far too hard for me! Got about half without the hints!
    Also no idea about 7d/8d but the remaing letters are NGHUPDIC which has a lot of NIGHTCLUB in it if that makes sense to anyone!
    Pommette never heard of about 5 even after reading Gazza’s hints!
    Anyway, thanks Gazza and Petitjean . . . .I’m going back to cryptics!

  9. Strewth! Some brilliant clues here but some just left me scratching my head. Curiously, 2d did not bother me – it was clear from the wordplay that you wanted an anagram (free) of the letters in bolognese after removing a jumbled word that means lengthy. As the letters in the clue to be removed were available, it was clear what was required. I cannot say the same for 7d/8d where I think that the solver can reasonably cry foul, even by Toughie standards!

    Many thanks to Petitjean for the puzzle and to Gazza for the notes.

    1. Cheers, guys. I have the Concise Oxford. (Circa 1964).
      And thanks for the welcome; fantastic blog. Before I discovered it, I was leaving work thinking about the gaps and quite frankly shouldn’t have been driving in that state. Now, I “resign” from the Toughie at 16.30 and shoot over here if I have any gaps.
      As it’s not yet 16.30, I think you can work out that I …ahem…finished it early today.
      Just popped in to whinge about Schnaps…

  10. Did not like this one at all! Thought the word play too lengthy and obscure and without the anagrams would have got virtually nowhere, however thanks to Petitjean [ for making me think] and thanks to Gazza for the all important clues!!

  11. This was quite a toughie today. I didn’t realise how much I have taken to starting the puzzle and then emailing Gnomethang to compare notes on whether its the puzzle that’s hard/obscure/tricky or us as solvers being slightly thick. It took a lot of solo cogitation in between paddling and sandcastle duty but I got there in the end. 1a made me smile and when I finally realised why 12a was what it was, I did groan. I got the 7 and 8d combo by way of an Eureka moment with the checking letters and then looked at the wordplay to work out why. Thanks to Gazza for the explanations and Petitjean for the puzzle.

  12. ‘bob and weave’ defeated me, but I got the rest after a struggle.
    Favourite clues 21 across and 2 down.

  13. Not much enjoyment here. Did about 3/5ths then had to resort to the blog. To me, it was one of those puzzles where the setter delights in showing off his/her eruditeness, just for the heck of it, coupled with very complicated clues.
    At least five new words/phrases/spellings which I’ll probably never come across again. Only 1 star for enjoyment today.Sorry.

  14. Sorry, not my cup of tea.
    14a just made me want to give up crosswords for life. I took the Memsahib out for a day in the Cheviots, the lovely village of Ford was a beautiful diversion from this puzzle
    Many many thanks for the blog Gazza.
    Sorry again

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