Toughie 472

Toughie No 472 by Micawber

Play it Again, Sam

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

Magnificent stuff from Micawber today and nowhere near as difficult as he can be. I did think at one stage that it was going to be a pangram, but it’s not. For me this is an ideal Toughie – witty, clever clueing with lots of “aha” moments and not an obscure answer in sight. You may gather from this that I liked it a lot.
Please let us know in a comment what you thought of it and please remember to show how much you enjoyed it by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

1a  Make grandiose claims for regular visits to that lake bridge (4,3)
{TALK BIG} – a phrase meaning to make grandiose claims is hidden in alternate (regular visits to) letters in the clue.

5a  Go through list drawn from mates I met initially on rebound to matchmake? (7)
{ITEMISE} – a verb meaning to go through a list is hidden (drawn from) and reversed (on rebound) in the clue. The last two words in the clue seem to be there just to improve the surface reading. Thanks to Dynamic for pointing out that to matchmake is a second, cryptic, definition, i.e. to make into an “item”.

9a  Insubstantial stuff in publication — magazine centrefold? (7)
{ORGANZA} – a thin transparent dress fabric is made from a publication through which information and/or opinion is communicated followed by the middle letters of magAZine reversed. Centrefold fulfils the dual purpose of identifying the central letters and telling us to reverse (fold) them.

10a  Lay from poets I’d translated (7)
{DEPOSIT} – an anagram (translated) of POETS I’D.

11a  Brief life story: ran into bar owner, lacking final letter with ID form needed for flight? (9)
{BIOMETRIC} – this is a fantastic clue, based on the plot of the classic film Casablanca. The definition is ID form needed for flight, i.e. the form of ID required in a passport. It’s a charade of an abbreviated (brief) life story, a verb meaning ran into and the name of the Humphrey Bogart character (bar owner) in the film without its final K (lacking final letter).

12a  Striking effect of oriental powder brought west (5)
{ECLAT} – the definition is striking effect. Start with an abbreviation for oriental and follow this with the abbreviated form of a cosmetic powder which has to be reversed (brought west, in an across clue).

13a  Searched e.g. Donald head to toe (5)
{RAKED} – a verb meaning searched is made from the correct name for the male cartoon character Donald with the first letter moved to the end (head to toe).

15a  Time, how it’s measured mostly, and what it’s made up of in great number (9)
{THOUSANDS} – the definition is great number. Start with T(ime) and add all but the final R (mostly) of a unit of time and a word meaning moments of time (from the use of grains of it in a timing device).

17a  Clean up Eastern European murder (6,3)
{POLISH OFF} – a phrasal verb meaning to clean up (one’s plate, say) is a description of an Eastern European national followed by a US slang verb meaning to murder.

19a  Having lost half original value, scooter’s given something to improve running (5)
{DOPED} – start with a sort of mechanised scooter and halve the value of its first (original) letter in Roman numerals to end up with a past participle meaning given something dodgy to improve running.

22a  Firework shows originating 50% of petty objections (5)
{SQUIB} – a small firework starts with the initial letter (originating) of Shows and this is followed by the first half (50%) of a word meaning petty objections.

23a  As Parliament, bail out grasping Prime Minister — that’s not on (9)
{BICAMERAL} – a word meaning having two chambers (like our Parliament) is an anagram (out) of BAIL around (grasping) the name of the current PM without ON.

25a  Disturb armed group breaking into a country house (7)
{AGITATE} – put the abbreviation for our volunteer army (armed group) inside (breaking into) a rural accommodation (often a furnished holiday house) in France.

26a  Topless punk dancing round pole non-stop (2-5)
{ON-GOING} – a present participle meaning jumping up and down on the spot to music (punk dancing) has its initial P removed (topless). What remains then goes round a pole to make an adjective meaning non-stop.

27a  What could make me a lord? (7)
{EARLDOM} – a semi-all-in-one is an anagram (could make) of ME A LORD.

28a  Offended after rejection of non-Jewish culture (7)
{YOGHURT} – the definition is culture. Put an adjective meaning offended or aggrieved after an informal, derogatory Jewish word for a non-Jew which is reversed (rejection).

Down Clues

1d  Menu — might one in such an establishment feature a screwdriver? (7)
{TOOLBAR} – this is a pictorial menu which you can often see in an application window on your screen. A screwdriver might appear in one of these in a hardware shop; alternatively, as a drink, it might feature on the menu in a drinking establishment.

2d  Set up pan with a bit of rice in and grind (7)
{LEGWORK} – a verb meaning to set is reversed (up, in a down clue). Follow this with the pan of choice of Ken Hom with a bit of R(ice) inside. The whole thing is a boring task involving a lot of travelling (grind).

3d  Lift end of pen and get last forgotten pig out (5)
{BINGE} – this is a verb meaning to pig out. Reverse (lift) the pointy bit at the end of a pen and follow this with GE(t) with its last letter forgotten.

4d  What’s fixing rate I go with a derailleur ultimately (4,5)
{GEAR RATIO} – a semi-all-in-one determines the relationship between the speed of a driving mechanism and the speed of what’s being driven (e.g. the wheels). It’s an anagram (fixing) of RATE I GO with A and (derailleu)R.

5d  Inconclusive charge for south Asian (5)
{INDIC} –a verb meaning to charge with a crime loses its final T (inconclusive) to leave an adjective describing something from the sub-continent.

6d  Former publishing house editor forced out (9)
{EXPRESSED} – this is a verb meaning forced out or emitted. It’s a charade of a prefix meaning former, a publishing house and the usual abbreviation for editor.

7d  Control of sugar abuse reduced inches (7)
{INSULIN} – the definition is control of sugar, i.e. the hormone which controls your blood-sugar level. It’s a verb meaning to abuse or disparage without its final T (reduced) followed by the abbreviation of inches.

8d  Properties of cyber-domains? (7)
{ESTATES} – double definition, the second (1-6) a cryptic description of what subsets of the internet might be called.

14d  Speed counter goes on here? (9)
{DASHBOARD} – another semi-all-in-one identifying where you might find a speed counter. We want a charade of synonyms for a verb to speed and a counter.

16d  I had to leave petrol plant — it’s to do with the smell (9)
{OLFACTORY} – an adjective meaning relating to the sense of smell is formed from synonyms for petrol and plant put together with the I dropped (had to leave).

17d  Wise old man’s leading the way (7)
{PASSAGE} – an adjective meaning wise is preceded (leading) by a diminutive for father (old man) and the ‘S to make a narrow way.

18d  More crawling from French king, turning tail before English queen (7)
{LOUSIER} – the definition is more crawling, i.e. infested to a greater degree. Start with the name of many kings of France and reverse the last two letters (turning tail), then add the initials of an English queen. Since the clue specifies English rather than British we’ll assume it refers to our current Queen’s earlier namesake.

20d  Haunts page on web address that is not age-restricted (7)
{PURLIEU} – a word for a person’s usual haunts is a charade of P(age), the abbreviation for a unique address on the web, the abbreviation meaning that is and a film category denoting no age restrictions.

21d  Snuff? Please (7)
{DELIGHT} – double definition, the first a cryptic way to snuff out (a candle, say).

23d  Ray seen around river must be a different fish (5)
{BREAM} – a synonym for ray of light goes around R(iver) to make a freshwater fish.

24d  Giant cat running round centre of Prague (5)
{MAGOG} – this is one of a pair of mythical giants appearing widely in religion, mythology and folklore. For example, they were supposedly the last two survivors of a race inhabiting Britain in pre-Roman times. Put an informal name for a cat around the middle two letters of Prague.

I had difficulty picking out a short list of the clues I liked (because I like them all) so I’ll just highlight the one I liked best of all which was 11a. Let us know what you liked in a comment!



  1. BigBoab
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous crossword from Micawber, a true toughie. I loved 19a, 23a and 24d but they were all good in my opinion. Big thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for a great review.

  2. Prolixic
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Even Craig Revel Horwood would be hard put to find fault with this and Bruno Tonioli would be in overdrive with his effusive praise!

    Wonderful crossword – thank you Micawber and good blogging from Gazza. Too many good clues to pick a favourite.

  3. gnomethang
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    All of the above agreed. Looked really hard to start with but the solutions rolled out from each other in a very satisfying fashion. Favourites were 11a and 4d.
    Many thanks to Micawber for a top quality outing and thanks to gazza for the review.

  4. dave lawes
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    liked 11 &23 ac , 20 d found in dictionary and still don’t really understand answer – all in all very good and thanks .

    • Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Dave

    • gazza
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Purlieu is a place where someone goes regularly (i.e. his usual haunts). It’s P(age) + URL (web address) + IE (that is) + U (film classification imposing no age restriction).

      • davelawes
        Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        Thanks gazza – the definition I found was some medieval tosh about deforestation and subsequent resettling, I must get a newer dictionary .

  5. Andy
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Agreed with all above, had to resort to Gazzas clues for quite a few, which was no fault of Micawbers brilliant cluing, just my novice abilities at spotting some of the wordplay. 11a needed the clue to confirm I had the right answer!! Too many favourites to quote. Many thanks Micawber and Gazza for the review

  6. Upthecreek
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    What a great xword Skated through most of it but came to a grinding halt in NW corner. 3d was last – I was very micawberish on this one until the penny finally dropped. 11 was favourite but it took ages to figure out. Also liked 4 9 13 [ another aagh moment] 15 23a 23d and 27. Wonder what Mr Terrell thought of 23d!!

  7. crypticsue
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Came to work in a bit of a mid week Wednesday grump but this wonderful toughie soon put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. Didn’t take that long to solve, but it was definitely within the toughie spectrum. All the clues were wonderful so as Brucie would say ‘they’re all my favourites’ Big thanks to Micawber for the tremendous fun and to Gazza for the review.

  8. Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Thoroughly enjoyed it! More like this please!

  9. Digby
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Little to add to the above. Needed Gazza’a hints for a couple in the NE corner, but a very satisfying solve. I award a GM to reviewer and setter!

  10. honestjohn
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Not too difficult although I did get stuck for a while in the top left corner – but all came good in the end.

    Some lovely clues – I really liked 18d and 28a – in fact the whole crossword was most enjoyable. Well done Micawber!

  11. Dynamic
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    I read 5 across as:

    Go through list (= straight definition)
    + drawn from (= hidden word indicator)
    + mates I met initially (= hidden word fodder)
    + on rebound (= reversal indicator)
    + to matchmake? (= second cryptic definition (hence question mark), as in ‘item = couple’ + ‘-ise = make into’)

    I thought it was rather a clever novelty to include now and again (just as I enjoy triple or quadruple definitions when deftly done), which also enhanced the surface reading and avoided any padding words in the clue, which would be legitimate but still undesirable in the hidden word fodder only.

    • gazza
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that, Dynamic. It makes the clue even better.

  12. Dynamic
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    English = E,
    Queen = R (regina)
    both standard abbreviations is how I read it without worrying about the British/English distinction, but ER = Elizabeth Regina also works as mentioned.
    Superb crossword, thanks.

  13. Micawber
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the excellent blog, Gazza – complete with video! – and all appreciative comments. As it happens, ‘itemise’=’matchmake’ was my reason for putting the word in, but it didn’t se quite fair as the only definition, so I went for a normal def plus wordplay too. Bicameral started as a Blair clue, but there’d been a similar one recently, so it was quite satisfying to be able to update with Cameron instead.

    • gazza
      Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      Thanks a bundle for the excellent puzzle, Micawber.

  14. Qix
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m with the crowd on this one.

    11A was a wonderful clue, and it was in good company.

    This was a superb puzzle, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

    Many thanks to the setter.