Toughie 438

Toughie No 438 by Osmosis

Hints and tips by Tilsit

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

Greetings from Calderdale’s Finest NHS Facility, where I have been holidaying since last Friday’s blog. As usual with the Toughie, the Friday puzzle is the toughest of the week and with Osmosis, it’s usually one of the toughest of all. However, one or two clues today left me a bit cold, and seemed forced rather than O’s normal excellent surface reading. In addition there were a couple where the clue was forced to produce a good surface reading, which spoils the enjoyment for me. That turned the puzzle into a bit of a slog and I was relieved rather than satisfied after solving it.

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.

Across (by Tilsit)

7a    Fluttering, one chirps, soft to loud? (9)
{ROSEFINCH} An “all-in-one” clue to start with today. It’s an anagram (indicated by fluttering) of ‘one chirps’, but with the ‘p’ swapped for an ‘f’ (soft to loud). The whole clue then leads you to think that you are looking for a bird, and sure enough there’s one revealed by unscrambling the letters. This wasn’t a bird I had heard of. A couple of weeks back, contestants on the quiz show Pointless had to name native British finches and this wasn’t one of them. Good clue, though….

8a    Burns evident, with afternoon temperature somewhere around 34º (5)
{RABAT} … although this less so. I’m puzzled by the use of evident, an adjective meaning “clear, obvious etc.”. Shouldn’t it be evidently? I assume Burns refers to Robert, the poet, although a check with Scottish friends reveals he is not normally known as “RAB”, although the diminutive “Rabbie” is widely-known. Thus I think our setter is saying it must be obvious that Burns would be called this. Add to this A (afternoon) and T (temperature) and you’ll get a place that’s 34º north of the Equator.

It looks like a day of long explanations…..

10a    Channel surfer heads for the esplanade, after more waves (6)
{REMOTE} Does the TV gadget surf channels or is it the person who uses it? After an anagram (indicated by waves) of more, add TE (heads, i.e. first letters of The Esplanade)

11a    Escort stand turning where old cars exhibited (8)
{BEAULIEU} A word sum. Escort (BEAU ) + stand (LIE, as in golf) + U (turning. Is there such a thing as a U turning? U turn yes, not sure about turning, though.

12a    Chauvinistic individual when between the sheets (6)
{BIASED) Individual (I) + when (AS) when it is “between the sheets”, i.e. IN BED. Very subtle, not sure all will appreciate that even when explained. Chauvinistic is the definition.

14a    ‘Age varies in controlled accommodation’, boss of 50 states (6)
{REAGAN} Shurely former boss of 50 states. I’m not keen on “quote” clues, following their over (mis)use by another setter; to me it’s lazy setting no matter how nice the surface reading is, Sorry, don’t like this one at all. An anagram (indicated by varies) of AGE inside RAN (controlled).

16a    Chubby swimmer given 500-1? (4)
{DACE} Back to more amusing territory. There’s an old joke:-

Q What’s brown and sticky? A: A stick. So what swims and is chubby?……

The Roman Numeral for 500 is added to ACE (1) to give a fish that’s a member of the aforementioned family.

17a    Refuse centre in resort accepts any rubbish (3,2)
{SAY NO} SO (centre in resort) has an anagram (indicated by rubbish) of ANY to give a two word phrase meaning to refuse or deny.

18a    Formula often backfires, picking out horse (4)
{FOAL} A hidden reversal. Hidden, going backwards in “Formula often” is the name for a horse.

19a    Roofman perhaps sells back one that’s missing (6)
{SLATER} The name for someone who works on a roof can be found by taking a word meaning “sells” and reversing it and removing I.

21a    Potter, Whirlwind (taking frame), in lead for a change (6)
{DAWDLE} Nothing to do with J White of the green baize and embarrassing hair transplant adverts. WD (the “frame”, outer letters, of whirlwind) goes inside an anagram (indicated by for a change) of LEAD. Nice clue.

24a    Male cook worked here in Italy (4,4)
{LAKE COMO} An anagram of MALE COOK leads you to this beautiful location in Italy, the deepest lake in Europe and home to one of the memorable finals of Jeux Sans Frontieres.

Which allows me to play this, albeit from a French heat, but it’s so hysterically funny….

26a    Parrot caged amongst others — name: Kevin (6)
{KEEGAN} Listener Crossword Solvers have a head start on this one. One of the finest setters of the crossword in recent years is named after a New Zealand parrot and it makes an appearance here. Inside the aforementioned avian, add E.G. (amongst others) and after it place N (for Name) and you’ll get a well known soccer player and underachieving manager with the forename Kevin.

27a    One unwilling to chase back in games? (5)
{SLOTH} A sort of all-in-one clue. S = Back in gameS and then add LOTH (unwilling) to get the name for a lazy person.

28a    Vocal prompt to errant surgeon treating patient that’s put to sleep? (9)
{HYPNOTISE} I’m sure this must have seemed a good clue on the drawing board, but when written down it just doesn’t work for me. It asks us to believe that a vocal prompt for a wayward surgeon would be “HIP, NOT EYES”? It sounds as though the definition “put to sleep” was agreed and the rest of the clue hammered to provide surface reading.

Down (by Big Dave)

1d    Bike lay idle (5)
{MOPED} – Jasper Carrot’s funky bike can also mean lay idle

2d    Blondie’s agent for each song obtains unknown bit of income (8)
{PEROXIDE} – Tilsit and I agree that “Blondie’s agent?” would have been a really nice clue – put a word meaning each and a song or poem around (obtains) an unknown quantity and I (bit of Income)

3d    Repellent master circles compound for ages (6)
{RIPENS} – put a schoolmaster reversed (repellent) around (circles) a compound or enclosure to get a word meaning ages or matures

4d    Electronic payment system set up for blackleg (4)
{SCAB} – reverse (set up) what was formerly the Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services, now known only by its acronym, to get a blackleg

5d    Perennial trouble experienced in retirement (6)
{DAHLIA} – to get this perennial reverse (in retirement) synonyms of to trouble and experienced

6d    PM – not working. AM — acting with new film crew member (9)
{CAMERAMAN} – take the name of the current Prime Minister, drop the final ON (not on / working)

9d    Pair of hands, all fingers and thumbs, grab outside of red mullet? (6)
{HAIRDO} – take the first two letters (pair of) HA(nds), add the number of fingers and thumbs and put it around (grab) the outside letters of R(E)D to get something of which a mullet is an example – Chambers wonderful definition is “A hairstyle that is short at the front, long at the back, and ridiculous all round”

13d    Perhaps antiperspirant commercial features Arcadian spirit (5)
{DRYAD} – split as (3,2) this Arcadian spirit could be an antiperspirant commercial

15d    Plastic label woven into man’s clothing (9)
{MALLEABLE} – a word meaning plastic or supple is generated from an anagram (woven) of LABEL with a man outside (clothing)

17d    Pretty face to strike gold, marrying shy aristocrat (4,2)
{SORT OF) – a phrasal adverb meaning pretty or rather comes from the first letter (face) of S(trike) followed by the heraldic term for gold then (marrying) an aristocrat without (shy) the final letter

18d    Latest outbursts impede scaling of vocalist (8)
{FALSETTO} – an anagram (outbursts) of LATEST inside (impede) OF reversed (scaling) to get a vocalist with a range or register above its natural one

20d    One comparatively drunk throws up terribly, emptying an amount here (6)
{TWENTY} – the expression alluded to here is “pissed as a ****” – reverse the subject of Ken Livingstone’s hobby and add the outside letters of T(erribl)Y (emptying) to get an amount that is also the number of this clue (here)

22d    Operative runs declining place in south-east (6)
{WOKING} – take a word meaning in operation and remove the R (runs declining) to get a place in south-east England

23d    Slip, fall to ground, pass out (5)
{LAPSE} – a slip is constructed from a word meaning to fall to the ground by removing the COL (pass) from the beginning

25d    Steer around tracks, seeking African creature (4)
{ORYX} – put another name for a steer (male cattle) around the abbreviation for the tracks that a train runs on to get an African antelope

I struggled with this in the early hours of the morning and, after using three hints, was the first to complete – at the time of writing only 10 more have achieved that feat (at least two of these are regular readers of the blog and a third is the CluedUp subscriber who has turned cheating on the site into an art form – and he needed four hints to achieve his “time” of 11minutess 37 seconds), a figure that will, no doubt, soar after this blog is published.

I thought that the grid was atrocious and should have been buried without trace many years ago, and some of the clues, especially the truly dreadful 28 across, should have been rewritten before publication. Clues like 8 across where the checking letters are ?A?A? (Chambers has 179 matches, none of which is the answer) deserve a clue which has at the least a decent definition and at best good wordplay.

Please note that this review contains the personal views of Tilsit and myself.  BD

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27 Comments

  1. gnomethang
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Well this certainly stretched the old grey matter!
    8a was last in and I must agree – the 34 bit completely passing me by ( I was thinking of the temperature though)
    16a and 24a definite favourites. I had this open all morning on Cluedup and only got there with multiple Chambers forays, emails with crypticsue and my limit of ‘submits’ on clued up.

    Thanks for the hints chaps and thanks to Osmosis for the redoubtable challenge.

    • Jezza
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      I might have been 3 clues ahead of you this morning, but looking at cluedup, you finished over an hour before me :)

      • gnomethang
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        I had a couple of bad ones in at the time and resolved the NW corner just after posting. Final 3 took An age!

  2. Jezza
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Nearly 5 hours from printing this off to final submission on CluedUp (although not in one sitting).
    Used 3 hints on 11a, as I just could not see it at all.
    Solved, but failed to see the wordplay for 7a, 8a, and 26a.
    A slog from start to end, which turned into a bit of a mission just to complete it. I can’t complain too much though, as I could have simply thrown the towel in long ago.
    Thanks to Osmosis, Tilsit, and BD.

  3. moggy
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this but expect I’ll be in the minority. I had a lot of “ah” moments & it made me work for the answers.. My favourite clue was 8a. Apart from 26a there were no sporting references! Thanks Osmosis, Tilsit & BD. I wish Tilsit a speedy recovery.

    • Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      My enjoyment was sullied by the handful of poor clues and, more importantly, the grid which the Times would not have touched with a bargepole.

      • Franco
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        I have not yet attempted today’s Toughie, but what’s wrong with the grid?

        • Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          So-called even/even grids (where the clues are on the even rows and columns) are hard at the best of times, but this one additionally has less than half of the letters checked in 8 clues, half in 20 and over half in just 2.

          Others are probably better at describing this than I am.

      • moggy
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Reckon I must have low standards for what gives me pleasure!

  4. Digby
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Doing the paper version, which doesn’t provide any hints, rendered this one impossible for me. Not often do I admit defeat, and in this case I did so without any sense of loss. A demain!

  5. crypticsue
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Never before have I been so glad that six months ago I discovered BD’s blog. I seriously thought first thing today that every cryptic brain cell I possessed had abandoned me. For some time the ohly things I had written in were 24a and 25d. Thankfully Prolixic confirmed it wasn’t me and Gnomethang helped me with hints (and one answer) so that I was able to finish. I had to give him one hint so we are almost even. I also needed the Tilsit/BD hints to explain some solutions. Thanks to all concerned for saving my sanity. I am now going to have a large glass of rose wine and recover.

    • gnomethang
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, Sue, you have me 2 hints at least!
      Enjoy the wine!

      • gnomethang
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Gave, even!

    • Jezza
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      A large glass of wine… now that sounds like a good idea! I think I might even have a couple of beers first. Cheers :)

  6. Posted October 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Wow! On Cluedup ‘Olgee’ managed to solve this in 2m 34s. Bet that RobR is feeling a bit stupid, languishing in 6th place with a dismal 11m37s

    • Jezza
      Posted October 8, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      … and I am still in last place :(

      • Posted October 9, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink

        Thats as maybe, Jezza, but at least you solved the puzzle in a normal fashion, i.e. Open up and print or do online, go away, have another look, think etc. That’s the important bit!. Most of my CluedUps are still ticking away somewhere – it is only when I am at home that I actually do them online.

      • Libellule
        Posted October 9, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        Jezza,
        You might “officially” be in last place according to the leader board, but I can assure you that you are not. my solving time was longer than yours, and I needed the blog for the last two or three….

        • Jezza
          Posted October 9, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

          Thank you both :)

  7. John Harmer
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    My father and I are regular visitors to your excellent website.

    This puzzle came at the end of a canal boat holiday which has been a bit of a curates egg owing to the weather.

    We can usually complete the Toughie but are sometimes stuck for a couple of clues. Today we were left with about 3/4 uncompleted and having read the explanations we are not surprised.

    Thanks to all of you for providing us a good nights sleep both with explanations and opinions which reflect ours rather than mind turning around some truly tortuous and dubious clues.

    • Posted October 8, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog John

      Always glad we can help. This was a bit difficult, wasn’t it?

  8. nanaglugglug
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Well!!! Thank Goodness for the blog, is all I can say. Have been stewing over this for about 4 hours and have finally given up and peeked at the answers here. Just glad to see it wasn’t just me! Thanks Tilsit! Hope you’re on the mend soon!

    • Posted October 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      We’ve missed you for the last four weeks. Welcome back Nana

      • nanaglugglug
        Posted October 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        Nice to be missed!! Visit most days to read all the comments and see what you all have to say! Loving the photos!

  9. Posted October 9, 2010 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Thanks Tilsit, for the Jeux Sans Frontieres clip. As a small child I was always desperate for GB to win. Watching it again, the Dutch girl was lovely wasn’t she!

  10. Anna Gramme
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Reassured to discover most of you struggled with this one. Thank goodness for the blog!

  11. ChrisH
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Only got round to this Saturday evening, after a tiring drive to Devon. Out of my depth. Again.
    A few of the clues seemed simple, the rest virtually incomprehensible. Thanks for the blog.

    Regarding hte layout of the grid, I use Puzzlex which allows me to store the format of individual layouts (I have over 100), so that I can pick out the appropriate one from my library. The last time I used this one appears to be November last year so maybe it’s not popular.