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Toughie 456

Toughie No 456 by Micawber

The Return of the Master

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

I think that I’m quite lucky to review the Wednesday Toughies. This is the second Wednesday appearance in a few weeks of my favourite Toughie setter, Micawber. He’s a master of elegant, witty clues and he can make his puzzles challenging without having to resort to very obscure words. I loved it.
Let us know your opinion in a comment, and please remember to click on one of the stars below (one if you hated it, five if you thought it was brilliant or a number between the two).

Across Clues

1a  Uncovered more dead wood with rot (10)
{BALDERDASH} – a description of someone with a greater expanse of scalp on show (uncovered more) is followed by D(ead) and a type of wood.

6a  Stable, committed to course and free of debts (4)
{STUD} – the sort of stable where breeding takes place is made by stripping Crosswordland’s usual debts from an adjective meaning dedicated to learning (committed to course).

9a  Low-rise temporary accommodation (5)
{SQUAT} – double definition, the temporary accommodation not requiring a rent book.

10a  Newsman’s back, bloody perhaps after nasty wound (9)
{MEANDERED} – the well-disguised definition is wound, i.e. took a twisting course. Reverse (back) the usual abbreviation for a senior newsman, add the colour of blood then prefix it all with a synonym for nasty.

12a  Search for ‘cross-dressing’ on web (7)
{DRAGNET} – a systematic police search for a wanted person (and also the name of an American TV cop show of the 1950s) is a charade of cross-dressing and an abbreviation for the worldwide web.

13a  Solid youngster in charge (5)
{CUBIC} – the description of a solid three-dimensional shape is a young animal followed by the abbreviation for in charge.

15a  Releases energy and time invested in those voted out of the house (7)
{EXEMPTS} – this verb means releases someone from an obligation or liability. To get it insert (invested), separately, the abbreviations for E(nergy) and T(ime) in former members who now no longer have the opportunity to fiddle their expenses.

17a  Joke over for Spooner’s new media offering (7)
{PODCAST} – Spooner might have (but obviously didn’t) refer to this modern way of making radio broadcasts available as “cod past” (joke over).

19a  Perhaps loosen clothing in sheltered spot, rolling back top (7)
{UNSTRAP} – in preparation for a bit of topless tanning, perhaps? A verb meaning to loosen clothing or release a fastener is a sheltered spot, ideal for the purpose, with the initial S moved back a few places (rolling back top).

21a  In distant past, king making a mess (7)
{FARRAGO} – insert one of the abbreviations for king into how a fairytale might start (in distant past, although the first word would normally be “long”) to make a confused mess.

22a  Army backing protestant… (5)
{FORCE} – a military organisation (army) is in favour of England’s established protestant church.

24a  …attack on Italy thwarted (3,4)
{LAY INTO} – an anagram (thwarted) of ON ITALY produces a phrasal verb meaning to attack.

27a  Psychological disorder resulting if left out for short time in Dali country? (9)
{CATATONIA} – Dali country (i.e. where the surrealist artist was born) is a region of Spain rather than a distinct country (although it has its own language and its citizens regard it as separate from Spain). Take out L(eft) and replace it with T(ime) (short time) to make a psychological disorder characterized by periods of rigidity.

28a  Unionist in German convict labour camp (5)
{GULAG} – put U(nionist) between G(erman) and a slang term for a convict.

29a  Could one get into gin? Only with a change of heart (4)
{SLOE} – start with an adjective meaning one and only and reverse the middle letters (change of heart) to make a fruit used in a type of gin.

30a  Deter flies with chaff? Absurd (3-7)
{FAR-FETCHED} – an adjective meaning absurd or implausible is an anagram (flies?) of DETER and CHAFF. I don’t really like the anagram indicator coming in the middle of the fodder.

Down Clues

1d  Coach senior member of pack to perform in public (4)
{BUSK} – this is a verb meaning to perform in public. Start with a public service vehicle (coach) and add the last letter of pacK. Presumably senior is being used in the sense of most advanced, i.e. furthest from the start [Thanks to myops for pointing out that the pack in question is a pack of cards and a senior member of each suit is the King].

2d  She handles costumes in soap in home of Sunset Boulevard/Strip (9)
{LAUNDRESS} – the city where Sunset Boulevard is located is followed by a synonym for strip to make someone who cleans clothes. Great clue with allusions to the film “Sunset Boulevard” and the TV series “77 Sunset Strip” which starred Efrem Zimbalist Junior (who wasn’t keen on signing autographs :D ).

3d  Not a standard item in sex trade (5)
{EXTRA} – something that doesn’t come as standard is hidden in the clue.

4d  Orders from French department store (7)
{DEMANDS} – the French word for from is followed by a store that has both clothing and food departments.

5d  New venture for prize ram (5-2)
{START-UP} – this is a newly-formed company, but if redefined as (4,3) it might be a prize ram.

7d  Pulse and beetroot soup served up (not self-catering) (5)
{THROB} – a verb meaning to pulse is made by reversing (served up, in a down clue) a Russian or Polish beetroot soup and removing the two-letter abbreviation for self-catering.

8d  ‘To Dad — nice one’, possibly (10)
{DEDICATION} – a lovely all-in-one. It’s an anagram (possibly) of TO DAD NICE I (one).

11d  After upset, took a gamble once more in tie-break (7)
{DECIDER} – reverse (after upset, in a down clue) a verb meaning gambled once more to make the final action which concludes an evenly-matched set, match or series.

14d  Bringing up queen, master on board takes square and is back on top (10)
{RESURFACES} – this is a verb meaning comes to the top once more. It took me some time to figure out the wordplay, since I was convinced at first that on board meant something appearing between the S..S (i.e. on a ship). In fact it’s the Queen’s initials reversed (bringing up, in a down clue) followed by a sporting expert at the seaside (master on board) and S(quare).

16d  Alcohol at front of hospital department is a sign of things to come (7)
{PORTENT} – this is an omen and it’s a charade of an alcoholic drink and the usual hospital department.

18d  Religious leader always greeting volunteers turning up (9)
{AYATOLLAH} – a Shiite religious leader is an archaic word for always followed by a greeting and our volunteer army, both of which have to be reversed (turning up).

20d  What’s dished out on plate? (7)
{POLENTA} – a semi-all-in-one – this Italian dish made from cornmeal is an anagram (dished out) of ON PLATE.

21d  Three-legged player? (3,4)
{FLY HALF} – a bit of rugby knowledge is required for this cryptic definition. This is nothing to do with the Isle of Man but a rugby position (also called stand-off). You need to apply the second word to the number of legs that the first word, and any other insect, has.

23d  In dire trouble, just like before (5)
{RETRO} – an adjective meaning like before is hidden in the clue.

25d  Boat crew’s leader changes direction when it gets dark (5)
{NIGHT} – take the number of rowers in a boat crew (in the University Boat Race, for example, ignoring the cox) and change the first letter from one direction to another.

26d  Such head’s evens to get silver on top (4)
{AGED} – another semi-all-in-one. Take the even letters of head and in front of them (on top, in a down clue) put the chemical symbol for silver.

I liked far too many clues to list them all, but my three favourites are 19a, 2d and 14d. What about you? Tell us in a comment!

15 comments on “Toughie 456

  1. I too thoroughly enjoyed this 5* offering from Micawber. My only problem was a slight hesitation with 29a so thank you Gazza for your help earlier with my Gnome’s law moment, given that the Gnome has abandoned me for, hopefully, warmer and drier climes. Lots of very good clues but I think my favourite is 14d. Thanks to setter and reviewer.

  2. Gazza, if Falcon got hauled over the coals for his picture clue in the cryptic I’d hate to hear what Mary and Sue etc say about 19a ( personally, I loved it!) Fabulous crossword from Micawber who is fast becoming the King of the toughies. I loved 19a (not just the picture clue) and 2d. Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

    1. They were BD’s pics not Falcons. My ISP won’t even show me the picture for 19a (!) but I am quite happy with 14d :D

    2. BigBoab,
      I thought that 19a was very tasteful, considering the pictures I could have chosen, and I deliberately evened up matters with the 14d picture :D

  3. Very enjoyable outing from Micawber today. Almost too many good clues to mention a favourite but 8d, 10a and 4d were high on the list. Many thanks to Micawber for the treat and to Gazza for the review.

  4. 26d – What is the definition in the clue, please?

    The picture for 19a is blanked out – but if you double click it goes off to what might be considered to be a porn-site!

    1. 26d – it’s a semi-all-in-one, meaning “There’s an evens chance that aged heads will get silver on top”

      I’ve reinserted the picture for 19a so that it shouldn’t cause any problems or link to any undesirable sites. It’s really quite tasteful!

      1. Gazza, thanks for the explanation – definitely a clue that I would never have solved without your help.

        Think I preferred the original blank image for 19a and where it took me.

        1. Franco, I also had a blanked out picture for 19a & clicked on it. I know where you’ve been & what you’ve seen – naughty boy!

  5. Two brilliant puzzles today. Cracked this apart from SW corner so had a break. When I resurfaced I realised how ‘sloe’ I was. Favourites 9,15 and 21.

  6. I persevated as long as possible, managed about 8 clues, on reading Gazzas excellent explanations I can’t see why I couldn’t get more, no strange or new words, hmmpphh. Obviously not in Micawbers zone. Yet!! Persevate Persevate. Thanks Micawber and Gazza

  7. What a contrast to yesterday! I think Micawber has certainly raised the bar with this one, and it could prove a tough challenge to see whether the thursday or friday toughie can improve on this.
    Thanks to setter for a very enjoyable puzzle, and to gazza for the notes.

  8. Really enjoyable effort today well up to the required standard for a toughie and needing much exercise of the little grey cells. Many good clues – in particular 3d, 17a and 27a. Well done Micawber!

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