Toughie 486 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 486

The 2010 Toughie by Micawber: No 486

Not so much a crossword puzzle, more a topical news quiz!

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

A candidate for, or possibly the, Crossword of the Year. Micawber has managed to cram a number of topical news references into this superb puzzle. The blue highlighter has been used extensively today!

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.


1a    Shake one’s booty in place where miners were confined? The lowest of the low (4,6)
{ROCK BOTTOM} – three definitions for the price of two! – synonyms for to shake and booty, as demonstrated by Beyoncé, a description of where the Chilean miners were confined and the main definition “the lowest of the low”

6a    Head of Wikileaks in examination of strike on Pakistani valley (4)
{SWAT} – put W (head of Wikileaks) inside one of those much-maligned Standard Assessment Tests to get a valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan, (or a team of American law enforcement officers who might be attacking said valley)

10a    Member in (primarily) Conservative Government… (5)
{CLEGG} – put a member, or limb, inside C(onservative) G(overnment) to get a member of the Coalition Government

11a    …which follows party holding power making heavy weather of things (9)
{LABOURING} – a charade of the previous party in power, IN and G(overnment) gives a word that describes their term in office

12a    Spill affecting oil sector — nothing’s going to be more damaging (8)
{COSTLIER} – an anagram (spill affecting) of (O)IL SECTOR without one O (nothing’s going) gives an adjective meaning more damaging

13a    Ignoring inner circle, Pope gets into second half of tour — it’s stimulating! (5)
{UPPER} – put PPE (P(O)PE, ignoring inner circle) inside UR (second half of toUR) to get a stimulating drug

15a    Alternative Vote caused trouble but proved useful (7)
{AVAILED} – a charade of AV (Alternative Vote) and a verb meaning caused trouble gives a different verb meaning proved useful

17a    Copy voter’s final switch to bring in right (7)
{ELECTRO} – the abbreviated form of a copy made by coating a mould with copper is constructed by taking another word for a voter and bringing the final R(ight) in one position

18a    G Brown endlessly left to get embarrassed (4,3)
{GROW RED} – start with G and (B)ROW(N) (Brown endlessly) and then add a term for the political left to derive a phrase meaning to get embarrassed

21a    Cheryl, as far as Ashley’s concerned, was being dramatic and made demands (7)
{EXACTED} – a former partner is followed by a verb meaning was being dramatic to give a different verb meaning made demands

23a    Obama’s right-hand man rejected, butt of electorate’s anger (5)
{PEEVE} – reverse (rejected) a typical Americanism for the Vice President and add E (butt of electoratE) to get a word meaning to anger

24a    It’s as designed — Brown trapped in ‘I agree with Nick’ (8)
{SATANIST} – put an anagram (designed) of IT’S AS around (trapped in) a type of brown to get someone who is a follower of Old Nick

27a    It’s inevitable Mumsnet loses head, going mad about Miliband and Balls? (5,4)
{NEEDS MUST} – a short phrase meaning “it’s inevitable) is constructed by putting an anagram (going mad) of (M)UMSNET without the initial M (loses head) around the plural of the forenames of Miliband and Balls – living proof that two ‘Eds are not better than one!

28a    United no good after Wayne Rooney’s initials extracted with difficulty (5)
{WRUNG} – put U(nited) N(o) and G(ood) after WR (Wayne Rooney’s initials) to get a word meaning extracted with difficulty

29a    Band of volcanic matter going past Sweden (4)
{SASH} – this band is created by putting volcanic matter after S(weden)

30a    In revolt about student debts, Liberal’s surrounded: ‘Rotten liar out!’ (10)
{REBELLIOUS} – an adjective meaning In revolt is built up from RE (about), L (student) and some debts around (surrounded) (LI)BE(RA)L after removing, separately, the letters of LIAR (rotten liar out) – note the anagram indicator rotten being used to show that the letters of liar are not contiguous in Liberal


1d    Form of torture reported in three quarters of Iraq, according to Americans (4)
{RACK} – a medieval form of torture sounds like (reported) RAQ (three quarters of IRAQ), when pronounced by Americans

2d    Cameron reformed expensive fiddle (7)
{CREMONA} – an anagram (reformed) of CAMERON gives an expensive violin

3d    Leads from broadcaster inadvertently picked up someone expressing prejudiced views (5)
{BIGOT} – the initial letters of (leads from) Broadcaster and Inadvertently followed by a word meaning picked up or understood gives someone expressing prejudiced views

4d    Counted cost of big bomb (7)
{TALLIED} – a word meaning counted the cost is a charade of big, as in high, and the kind of bomb found in Afghanistan

5d    Chief taxman robs one outrageously (7)
{OSBORNE} – the head of the Treasury is an anagram (outrageously) of ROBS ONE

7d    Mistreat cat, say, and we’ll get kind of cross (7)
{WHIPPET} – split as (4,3) this could mean to mistreat a cat, the whole is a breed of dog developed from a cross between a greyhound and a spaniel or a terrier

8d    Man putting golf, during row, before wife’s love leads to overblown divorce settlement (5,5)
{TIGER WOODS} – this man putting a golf ball is created by putting G(olf) inside (during) a row and then following it with W(ife), O (love) and the initial letters of (leads) to Overblown Divorce Settlement

9d    Instrument with very easy sound (for some) rising in the back of the throat? (8)
{VUVUZELA} – this very unmusical instrument, popularised during the 2010 World Cup, is created from V(ery) followed by a homophone (sound) of easy reversed (rising in a down clue) inside the fleshy conical body suspended from the palate over the back part of the tongue

14d    Bags with lots of pockets mean more than one place for al-Qaeda to conceal bomb (5,5)
{CARGO PANTS} – the definition is trousers (bags) with lots of pockets – thanks to Qix for pointing out that terrorists have used each word in the answer in order to smuggle explosives!

16d    ‘Big Society’, for starters, should entail generosity (8)
{LARGESSE} – a charade of a word meaning big, S(ociety) and the initial letters (for starters) of Should Entail gives a word meaning generosity

19d    Second of overs thrown — penalty introduced for pair of cricketers (7)
{OPENERS} – drop the second letter of O(V)ERS and replace it with PEN(alty) to get a pair of cricketers

20d    Opposition from French surrounding important Sarkozy plan starts trade union rising (7)
{DISPUTE} – to get a word meaning opposition put the French for from around (surrounding) the initial letters (starts) of Important Sarkozy Plan and TU (Trade Union) reversed (rising)

21d    Give peerage to John Prescott finally — it’ll mostly, primarially exemplificate upholding of English? (7)
{ENTITLE} – a word meaning to give a peerage to is built up from NT (JohN PrescotT finally). Most of IT’L(L) and E (primarially Exemplificate) all preceded by (up holding) E(nglish) – is primarially a mispelling of primarily, or is it deliberate?

22d    Rome’s defence in trial over party in which minors are admitted (7)
{TESTUDO} – a wheeled shelter used by Roman soldiers under attack from above (or a similar shelter made by joining shields) is created by putting a trial and a party around a certificate given to a film that people of any age are allowed to see

25d    Post union strike row — compromise deal terms (5)
{NEWEL} – the definition is an upright post at the end or corner of a stair handrail – thanks to honestjohn for pointing out that the answer is derived from the final letters (terms) of the middle five words in the clue

26d    Odds on Afghans in firing ranges? (4)
{AGAS} – the odd letters of AfGhAnS give these cooking ranges

Thanks to all for their help in completing the wordplays that I missed. What a puzzle to wind-up the Toughie year!

26 comments on “Toughie 486

  1. To quote CS on the DT 26437 blog this was stunningly brilliant. Particularly amused by 24a and 8d, but impossible to fault any of the clues IMHO. A very Happy New Year to Micawber ,BD and all readers setters and bloggers.

  2. This one was certainly in ‘ toughie’ territory and quite challenging in parts. The two rather different themes ( politics and sport) gave the whole thing rather a quirky feel which I found entertaining and great fun. Many nice clues and a smashing finish to 2010.

    Well done Micawber and a Happy New Year to all bloggers.

  3. This reminds me of the crossword in the DT when I first started doing them in the 60s, a lovely mixture of GK, news and cryptic, simply fantastic. Happy New Year Micawber and many of them. Thanks and Happy New Year to you also Dave, a masterly review as always.

  4. Nice one Micawber. This was simply stunning. To get this much into a puzzle is one thing, to clue them all so well is something else. Without running out of superlatives I enjoyed the golfer, the nauseating instrument and the Nick clue. Plus all of the other ones, and the ones in blue.
    Many thanks and a happy New Year to Micawber, BD and the rest of you!

  5. A stunning and brilliant puzzle from young Micawber, certainly one of the best puzzles this year.

    I was so looking forward to blogging this but admission to Huddersfield Infirmary put paid to that. Hopefully my stay won’t be too long.

    Happy New Year to Big Dave (and Mrs BD!), plus my fellow bloggers and of course all you terrific solvers. Here’s to a cracking 2011.!

  6. I called this stunningly brilliant earlier today and have been trying without success to think of some other superlatives to describe this excellent crossword – at first glance, you think Oh No its themed on 2010, that’ll take ages, but if fact the clues are so well crafted that it didn’t take that long to solve, although I did need Gnome’s law for a couple of D’Oh moments. Thanks to Micawber for the fantastic 8* entertainment and BD for the equally entertaining review. I see you had a hard job picking a favourite clue too! Happy New Year to all setters, bloggers, posters and lurkers.

  7. Absolutely superb. My favourite clue (out of so many to choose from) is 21d for the Prescottisms.

  8. Quite agree, the best of the year for me. Still not clear what Al-Qaeda has to do with the bags in 14d. and unclear how the post was derived in 25d. Anyone able to enlighten me. Thanks to all setters and bloggers for their contributions this year.

    1. the post in 25d is derived from the final letters of the next 5 words – I assume ‘terms’ is an abbreviation for terminations. I am still wondering what Al-Qaeda’s connection with 14d is.

      1. 14d – East Midlands Airport & the recent attempt to assassinate a Saudi Arabian prince (I think)

    1. Each of the two words in the solution is a location that has been used to smuggle explosives onto aircraft.

  9. Wonderful / stupendous crossword from Micawber. Too many good clues to choose a favourite. Thanks to setter and BD for the review.

  10. Thanks for the blog and comments – and thanks too to Phil for commissioning a puzzle that allowed me to mine the past year of my other life in news for crossword content.
    Re 10ac, ‘(primarily)’ wasn’t necessary for the cryptic reading, but would ‘Member in Conservative Government’ have been fair as a definition? Discuss! Anyway, my attempt at impartiality (aka a plague on both your houses) must have worked reasonably well if it kept BD and Tilsit happy!
    Happy New Year one and all.

  11. Always save the best till last goes the saying, well Micawber certainlly did that today. We had Chilean miners half a dozen prominent MPs a hapless golfer uprising students and that wretched instrument from South Africa,notwithstanding all the other brilliant stuff going on.A truly magnificent masterpiece, Well done Micawber and BD for a superb review.

  12. Totally inspired! How Micawber has managed to get so many topical clues in one puzzle is amazing. Let’s have more of the same in 2011 please. Thanks to Big Dave for a review which is almost as entertaining as the puzzle itself.

  13. Well. it’s taken me 24 hours to finish this but what an enjoyable intellectual exercise! 8d has to be the clue of the year for me – sheer poetry in a crossword clue! Happy New Year to all.

  14. Late to the party, but this is Fantastic! Must have got most of the major news stories (from a UK perspective) from January to about November in there. You could actually provide a link to a 2010 News Story in the Telegraph or elsewhere for each of these clues, and in some places separately for each word (such as bombs in cargo, in pants, and in bags with pockets).

    This is almost a better summary of the year just gone than any of those year-in-pictures supplements.

    This one should be framed and put on the wall!

    Congratulations to Micawber and the crossword editor (and possibly the Telegraph’s lawyer, given the references to living people like our “Man putting” and Cheryl and Ashley Cole). Thanks also to those of your who explained the “terms=terminal letters” wordplay in 25d, which had stumped me.

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