Toughie 422

Toughie No 422 by Petitjean

Too esoteric for its own good?

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley and a really ferocious Toughie to close the week.  I have to admit this was quite a struggle and I think that had I not been on blogging duties today, this may well have been put in my “revisit later” puzzle, which rarely gets accessed.

This is the seventh Toughie by Petitjean and so far we have had a mixed bag of challenges.  The first puzzle was excellent, but the next few to me did not match the high standard set by that first one.  In some ways, P’s puzzles are similar to Myops’ and require some thinking outside the box offered by most setters.  This is no bad thing but you can run the risk of alienating the solver.  The clues are well-written and challenging and quite a few thematic, but I feel the themed answers have no link other than the general umbrella of 17d, and to make this a truly memorable puzzle, it would have been nice to have the establishments linked, for example, in a 17d of Fleet Street, which was my initial thought.

That said it was a solid, enjoyable challenge and thanks to Petitjean for a clever puzzle.

You can also rate the puzzle with the star rating system.  Answers are hidden between the squiggly brackets.  Highlight the space to reveal them.


1a           Ancient pile in northern location on 17 (3,4,3)
{OLD COCK INN}  We start off today with a word sum.  A word meaning ancient + an alternative meaning of the word pile (think Little Boy Blue’s sleeping place!) + IN + N = Somewhere to indulge in your 17 down.

6a           See 5d

10a         2 swapping sleeveless gown for England top is an idiot (5)
{DUNCE}  You need to solve 2 down and then remove OW (a sleeveless, i.e. first and last letters of gown) and add E (England top, i.e. top of England) to get a word meaning an idiot.

11a         Legendary victim of vanity’s new scar tissue peeled in error (9)
{NARCISSUS} An anagram (indicated by “in error”) of N + SCAR + (T)ISSU(E) gives the name of a mythological character who was famed for his vanity.

12a         Rowdy Verve heading off to the States (7)
{RIOTOUS} A word for verve or élan (think music) without its first letter,  is added on to TO and US (United States)

13a         In shots a kirsch is an exotic brew unlikely to feature on 17s (3,4)
{HOT SAKI}  A thematic hidden answer which I had to Google.  I am used to an alternative spelling for the second word.

14a         Increased pressure to overstate numbers in crime genre comeback (12)
{HYPERTENSION} – this increased pressure comes from a word meaning to overstate followed by TENS (numbers) inside NOIRE (crime fiction genre) reversed (comeback)

18a         Better than average post-17 quartet? (4,5,3)
{FOUR UNDER PAR} – a better than average score for a round of golf could be how a quartet of people feel after a 17d

21a         French wines guarantee American is in a state left in charge (7)
{ACCUSAL}  The definition here is “charge”.  It is possible to analyse this clue with the word “left”, but surface reading would be damaged, and you would be using a “state abbreviation” which is not the official one used in maps.  AC (appellation contrôlée) is a category of French wine, is added to US (American, again) inside CA (California) + L for left.  CAL is sometimes used as an abbreviation for the state, but it is not the official one.

23a         Half-cut fringes of sandy hair styled with grease in (7)
{SQUIFFY}  Half-cut is the definition here.  Fringes of sandy gives SY and inside this goes a name for a piece of styled hair beloved by Teddy Boys.

24a         Magic roll I had shortly before heartless louse tucked into a brie (9)
{DIABLERIE}  Reverse (roll) I’D and then place LE (heartless louse) inside A BRIE.  This will give a word for trickery, sleight-of-hand.

25a         With throwaway remark devoid of depth I cover up for 17 perhaps (5)
{ALIBI}  An amusing definition which when added to the wordplay gives a nice surface reading to the clue.  An off the cuff remark is an AD LIB and remove D for depth.  Add I and you get your answer.

26a         Little woman, born pre-Fifties (4)
{NELL}  We are looking for a Dickensian woman, whose death brought about a famous quote by Oscar Wilde (“One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”) – NÉ (more commonly seen in the feminine style, née) + LL (Fifties, in Roman numerals).

27a         Torn older nylons not your first concern on 17 (4,6)
{LORD NELSON} An anagram of OLDER NYLONS minus Y (your first) gives the name of a business (concern) you would find on a 17d.


1d           Edges trimmed to instructions (6)
{ORDERS}  Usually the indication “trimmed” means that the last letter(s) of a word are cut, rather than the first.  However, here a word for “edges” with its first letter  trimmed off to reveal a word meaning instructions.

2d           17 leg wound treated with vitamin injection (3,3)
{DUN COW} The definition here is 17 leg, another port of call, this time a rather obscure one.  An anagram of WOUND has C (a vitamin) inserted.

3d           Singular offer sourly spelled out — the response to which might be a bitter outpouring (3,3,8)
{ONE FOR YOURSELF}  This was probably the clue that helped me identify the theme, rather than the actual answer to the key phrase.  Singular = ONE, and added to this is an anagram of OFFER SOURLY.  This of course leads to the phrase sometimes uttered at many crossword gatherings, whoops, I mean 17’s!

4d           After end of Woodstock Ringo — Wings having been dropped — and Dead tour stadium where Beatles played part of 17 (5,4)
{KINGS HEAD}  Quite a clever clue, which purists would say is inaccurate, but it made me smile!  At first I had ARMS as the second word, which caused me a solving hold-up.  It’s a complicated word sum as follows:-  K  (end of Woodstock) + ING (RINGO without the first or last letter – Wings having been dropped) + D (for [Grateful, for the allusion] DEAD) with SHEA (The stadium where The Beatles played one of their most famous concerts) inserted.  This gives the name for a venue of 17.

5d & 6a Tenor horn’s art shown off in 17 venue (5,4)
{NORTH STAR}  This answer brought a wry smile to my face, but at this point I can’t say why!  An anagram (shown off, a rather weak anagram indicator to me) of T HORNS ART gives another name for a venue for 17d.

7d           ‘I Am Satan’ remade as ‘Devil’s Island’ (8)
{TASMANIA}  An anagram (remade) of I AM SATAN gives the name of an island where you’ll find an animal called the Devil.

8d           Abbot is an enigma in black and white likely to make one 23 (8)
{RUSSIANS}   Think of a famous comedian whose surname is Abbot.

9d           Cancan on tuba played with unexpected élan to emulate sound of 26 (14)
{TINTINNABULATE}  Probably the weakest clue here, which is a shame as it is a clever idea.  TINTIN (Cancan) + an anagram of TUBA and ELAN.  Unfortunately, the way the clue is written it means that each four letter word should be treated separately, rather than integrated together.  Sound of 26 is the definition here.

15d         Aga alight here on 17 (5,4)
{TURK’S HEAD}  Aga is a cryptic definition to the answer required which is also defined by the remainder of the clue.  An Aga was a ruler of Turkey and therefore could be described as this!

16d         Not always fond of an upset (3-3-2)
{OFF AND ON}  An anagram (upset) of  FOND OF AN gives a phrase meaning occasionally, not always.

17d         Back in court over fight about church leader’s pilgrimage to 1 across, 2, 4 and elsewhere (3,5)
{PUB CRAWL}  If you are in court you are said to be  “__ before the beak”  and this is reversed.  Add a word meaning a punch-up often used in a phrase preceded by the word “drunken” and inside this insert C for Church (leader).  The remainder is your definition.

19d         Alternatives to 1 across etc. for reflective sip of rose if forgoing red (6)
{OFFIES}  This is one of those hidden reversal clues (shown by “reflective sip”) From the part of the clue “of rose if forgoing red”, you get the reverse of a place where you can purchase items similar to the themed locations.

20d         Middle-Eastern doctor of Romney Marsh getting to grips with air pollution (6)
{SYRIAN}  The Doctor of Romney Marsh is  Dr SYN and inside that goes an anagram of AIR

22d         Slow freight left for capital (5)
{LARGO}  A word for freight needs to swap it’s first letter for L and you get the musical term for slow.


It’s been a long day for a variety of reasons and apologies for the lateness.  See you next Friday!


  1. Posted September 10, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable. Good theme. Not very Tough.

    Can’t see what “pile” is in 1a.

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      the middle word is an old sort of haystack – pile of hay

    • Posted September 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Hi Roger

      If you think of one of the versions of the nursery rhyme Little Boy Blue, and where he slept. That may give you the answer. It’s listed in the Big Red Book (Chambers) as an alternative definition of the word.

      Apologies for the delays. Big Dave is currently without net access and I have been a bit delayed as well. The Acrosses will be up shortly and the Downs a little later.

    • moggy
      Posted September 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Hi Roger, a “****” is a term for a pile of dung (or hay ir you prefer). Found it in Chambers.

    • moggy
      Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      Just noticed review not yet posted. Think I’ve “over tipped”. Sorry. Can someone scratch it out?

      • gazza
        Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        Moggy, I;ve done as you asked, but there’s no real problem as it’s not a prize puzzle.

        • moggy
          Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink


  2. Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Can’t see the second word in 4d – is it Arms or Head?

    • moggy
      Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Hi Digby, Beatles played at Shea Stadium – does that help?

      • Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        Sure does – thanks moggy & tilsit. Hard work, but very satisfying! And, it’s raising a bit of a thirst too!!

        • moggy
          Posted September 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          They’re starting to discuss alcohol on the Blog for today’s cryptic too.Must be one of those days.

    • Posted September 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      I’ll explain in a short while. But the Beatles’ stadium is a site of their famous US concert.

  3. Prolixic
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable – getting the theme was a battle but it fell into place nicely once that was cracked. Many thanks to Petitjean for the fun and frolics.

  4. Dynamic
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Seeing Petitjean at the top, I thought it would be a rewarding and humourous solve without being quite as taxing as I sometime find Elgar, say, and I wasn’t disappointed.

    I gave this 5 stars. It was highly enjoyable for me to do on and off this morning, and I loved 7 down in particular (“Devil’s Island”), in which everything just fitted superbly.
    The image of the Can-Can played on the tuba was also delightful, as was the homophone link to the girl in the SW corner as a definition. I’d have spelled that answer incorrectly left to my own devices. (I forget the name of the old BBC daytime gameshow where contestants would frequently trot out that word, flauccinaucinihilipilification, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniconiosis and the full-name of DDT as their answers)

    Also very nice when the penny dropped was “could lead to a bitter outpouring”. The fact that some of the theme answers are among numerous similar variations around the country meant one had to pay close attention to the cryptic wordplay (particularly the HEAD or ARMS question).

    It was tough for a moment to get into the theme, particularly as it referred to other clues like 1a which referred back to it recursively. Towards the end, filling the NE then SE corner, I was just eagerly devouring clue after clue, and it made my head buzz. I probably overdid it for a few minutes, but such was the enjoyment I had to reach the end no matter how hard my brain was working. A friend helped me out with the connection to Romney Marsh to understand the final clue.

    Many thanks, Petitjean, and also to Tilsit who will doubtless have to spend a good deal of time to succinctly express the correct wordplay in some instances.

  5. Nubian
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    A very very enjoyable puzzle, many thanks to Petitjean and Tilsit for the end to a perfect crossword day.

  6. nanaglugglug
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Very hard work but what a clever puzzle – not helped by a very small computer screen and lots of position changes! Had trouble with 9 & 19d but got there in the end!

  7. crypticsue
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Based on my solving time, I gave this 4* for both difficulty and enjoyment. Got the theme early on before I got as far as 17d. Really stretched my knowledge of pub names, probably because I haven’t been on that many 17ds.. Liked lots of clues but 9d is my favourite because of the cancan and the resulting splendid word. Thanks for the fun Petitjean and for the explanations Tilsit.

  8. ChrisH
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Far too out-of-the box for me. Managed about 2/3ds, then had to resort to the blog.
    Q. Will we be getting the Down hints anytime?

    Sorry, not my cup of tea.

  9. ChrisH
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    P.S. Still don’t understand 20d.

  10. Dickiedot
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with Chris H, definitely not my cup of tea………………..I’ve been waiting for the down clues to see the answer for 19d Offies!!! no such word!! I found this one of the most difficult puzzles that I have come across, must have been my frame of mind.

    • Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Permalink


      Your change of name pushed you into comment moderation.

  11. Dickiedot
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Pease accept my apologies, can you accept Dickiedot
    Regards Richard

  12. Jezza
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I liked it! Thanks to Petitjean for what I thought was a great puzzle.

  13. Posted September 11, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    We had our 7th Charity Golf Day yesterday and I picked up the wrong prints from the printer (don’t ask! – it took me 6 clues to realise that I was solving Tuesday 31st!)
    I’ll have a look at this with a pint along with Saturday’s and the NTSPP. Comments look encouraging!