Toughie 495 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 495

Toughie No 495 by MynoT

Backwards and forwards

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

I didn’t spot the mini-theme in today’s puzzle until after I’d finished. Solving 13a and 21a will point you in the right direction. Theme related clues are highlighted in green.

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    Surface where amateur has to ride in foam (9)
{ASTROTURF} – this artificial grass surface, used for sports fields, is built up from A(mateur) and then a word meaning to ride a horse at a pace faster than walking inside sea foam

8a    Three Englishmen and father getting right in to create banner (5,8)
{ROYAL STANDARD} – the names of three men (3,2,4) are combined and followed by a synonym for father around R(ight) to get a banner flown wherever the monarch is present

11a    South African talk of family histories (5)
{SAGAS} – a charade of SA (South African) and an informal word for empty talk gives these family histories

12a    Rubbish or Turner? (5)
{ROTOR} – a charade of a synonym for rubbish with OR gives something than turns

13a    Former governor’s an actor (5)
{PALIN} – a double definition – Sarah, the hockey mum, and Michael, the circumnavigator

16a    Ornamental hanging shows French cup on left (6)
{TASSEL} – an ornamental hanging tuft of threads is a charade of the French for cup and L(eft)

17a    One with curve is fashionable (6)
{ICONIC} – a charade of I (one) and a curve gives a word meaning fashionable – the curves are circles, parabolas and hyperbolas which are sections of the solid object after which they are named

18a    Before one’s time to seize advantage (5)
{AVANT} – a word of French origin meaning before is constructed by putting A (one) and T(ime) around an abbreviated word meaning advantage in tennis

19a    Potato dish needs masses of fish eggs, note (6)
{ROESTI} – this dish of grated potatoes shaped into a pancake and fried is a charade of fish eggs and the seventh note of the scale in sol-fa notation

20a    Retain fresh lining tissue (6)
{RETINA} – an anagram (fresh) of RETAIN gives the light-sensitive tissue that lines much of the back layer of the eyeball

21a    Kennedy, for example, deserted his church (5)
{DROME} – Kennedy, formerly Idlewild, is an example of this – it’s a charade of D(eserted) and the church to which the former President belonged

24a    Short lawyer’s extraordinarily large motorbikes (without sidecars) (5)
{SOLOS} – a charade of an abbreviation for a lawyer and an extraordinarily large clothing size gives a word for motorbikes without sidecars

26a    Note male chasing skirt (5)
{MINIM} – this musical note is generated by putting M(ale) after a type of skirt

27a    Description of arms filling trousers? (6-7)
{BREECH-LOADING} – the definition is an adjective describing a type of firearm – the wordplay requires a bit of imagination to think of filling trousers!

28a    Drunk star’s performing sacred syllable unknown in science (9)
{ASTRONOMY} – an anagram (drunk) of STAR is followed by a short word meaning performing, a sacred syllable intoned as part of Hindu devotion and an unknown in an equation to give the science of studying the celestial bodies and the heavens


2d    Quiet has upset rulers (5)
{SHAHS} – a request to be silent is followed by an anagram (upset) of HAS to give these old rulers of Persia

3d    Front page skills rising in stages (6)
{ROSTRA} – the abbreviation for the front page of a leaf, opposite to verso, is followed by another word for skills reversed (rising in a down clue) to give stages or platforms

4d    Everybody is in mostly slim growing bodies (6)
{THALLI} – put a word meaning everybody inside most of a word meaning slim to get plant bodies that are not differentiated into stem and leaves and lack true roots and a vascular system – typically algae, fungi, lichens, and some liverworts

5d    Device for locating woman embraced by bishop (5)
{RADAR} – a device for locating the presence, direction, distance, and speed of aircraft, ships, and other objects is created by putting a woman’s name inside the abbreviation of the mode of address for a bishop

6d    Fanatical propagandists deliriously go and stop in Hell with Eastern Royal Society (3,10)
{HOT GOSPELLERS} – to get these fanatical religious propagandists start with an anagram (deliriously) of GO and STOP, put it inside HELL and finish with E(astern) and the abbreviation for the Royal Society

7d    One’s no good after foolish vanity in stretching before cast (3-10)
{PRE-TENSIONING} – put I (one) and NG (No Good) after foolish vanity to get the stretching of reinforcing wires or rods in concrete before it is cast

9d    Holding mysterious opinions of some rites when broadcast (9)
{ESOTERISM} – the holding of mysterious opinions is an anagram (when broadcast) of SOME RITES

10d    Cries aloud for shellfish containing iodine (9)
{PROCLAIMS} – a verb meaning cries aloud is built up from a word meaning for followed by a shellfish around (containing) the chemical symbol for Iodine

13d    Highlander’s relief after record is overturned (5)
{PLAID} – another name for a Highlander is created by putting relief or help after a gramophone record reversed (overturned in a down clue)

14d    Plain returns on the whole (5)
{LLANO} – one of the vast steppes or plains in the northern part of South America is created by reversing (returns) ON and a word meaning the whole

15d    When it recovers use some fertiliser (5)
{NITRE} – hidden inside the first three words of the clue is a chemical used as a fertiliser

22d    This slice is more risky (6)
{RASHER} – a double definition – a slice of bacon and an adjective meaning more risky

23d    Strand of colour that’s loud (6)
{MAROON} – a word meaning to strand on a desolate island is also a colour and a firework used as a distress signal

25d    Instructions to keep New Year on board (5)
{STETS} – to get these instructions to keep what was written and subsequently marked for deletion put the Vietnamese lunar New Year inside Crosswordland’s usual abbreviation for a ship

26d    Woman taking nuts before lunch (5)
{MADAM} – it is ironic that this word that used to be used for a woman of social rank or station is also used for one that is in charge of a brothel! – start with a word meaning nuts or deranged and follow it with the abbreviation for morning (before lunch)

It’s always worth looking for a theme in MynoT’s puzzles!

21 comments on “Toughie 495

  1. I may be in a minority but I did not like this one much. I found the clues were mostly hard going and then often led to unsatisfactory answers. There were also too many short words. I did finish but will need to look at the review to see if all my answers were correct.

    Thanks in advance to BD for the review.

  2. I did enjoy it, mainly I think because I was in the right mood to be prepared to tussle with a proper Toughie – at this point, I should thank the Gnome for hints for a couple that I should have got – 18a and 14d – I think it was because there were so few helping letters. Thanks to MynoT for the entertaining brain stretching – my favourites include 14a, 24a and 27a but there were lots more in the downs too . Thanks to BD for the explanations. If this cogitator was the Tuesday Toughie, what will Friday’s be like??

  3. Thanks. Really enjoyed the theme, spotted when I looked over the completed puzzle – saw there were 8 of them before I noticed 13a, 21a. Certainly learned a few things in completing this one and found it of a pretty tough standard, worthy of the name.

  4. I thought half way through doing this that friday had come early this week, a real Toughie for a tuesday,the cluster of five letter words in the centre held me up for ages.Thanks to MynoT and BD for the review.

  5. Thought a plaid was worn by a Scotsman, not the name for one.
    Since when has the Vietnamese New Year been in crosswordland? That’s the clue that beat me.

  6. I put ARNIE in for 13A at first. Should have remembered that this was a cryptic crossword! Even then, that was my least favourite clue, but it works to nudge the solver towards the theme.

    I spent ages on 25D. I’ve heard that word somewhere before, but it just wasn’t happening.

    I liked this one; it had several self-kicking moments, which is always a good thing.

  7. Phew, think I’ll leave the Toughies alone for the rest of this week!
    Needed a few of BD’s hints but got there in the end.
    Thanks MynoT and thanks BD for the help with this one. Much appreciated.

    BTW, I agree with JB about plaid and could somebody explain why D is an acceptable abbreviation for deserted?

    1. d for deserted was new on me too, and I assume it’s a Military abbreviation (along the lines of MIA=missing in action). Anyhow, it’s one of the lower-case d abbreviations listed in my Chambers (1993 edition) – whereas the word roesti, imported from Swiss German, was not, in either of its spellings).

      I was also caught out by RO = recto = front page but was helped by my PinC who knew, and I have a feeling there was something else I hadn’t ‘got’ today.

      I daresay the Wednesday Toughie will be of medium toughness – i.e. a bit less than this. I guess it’s only typical not cast in stone that they get harder as the week wears on, and it can be hard to judge just how tough any crossword is in general if you’re the setter or quite possibly the editor, with your particular sphere of knowledge. (Though seeing the name Elgar is what usually tips me off it’ll be seriously tough!).

      It’s quite unusual for a Toughie to contain four fully-checked solutions (centre square) meaning you didn’t have to solve two clues on opposite sides if you had the rest, but it didn’t make the challenge any less tough!

      I wonder if next week’s Wednesday will be anything special, given it should be Toughie number 500. We’ve been spoiled with some great crosswords of late.

      Thanks again, MynoT, for the education!

      1. Hi Dynamic
        The military bit had occurred to me but then I thought that deserted was usually referred to as AWOL (absent without leave) but one lives and learns.

        The RO and the stets I got because I’ve done a lot of proof reading in my career in Marketing so I have the knowledge of these sort of terms – horses for courses as they say.

        Anyway, thanks for the reply and I’ll probaby see you here tomorrow on the Weds Toughie blog. Didn’t really mean it about giving it a miss.

        I do agree about Elgar – always a struggle for me and never completed one yet without the hints and all the other help I can find!

        1. Unfortunately Chambers, although it lists thousands of abbreviations, only occasionally gives their provenance.

          Both spellings of roesti / rösti are in the eleventh edition.

        2. I forgot to add that Chambers gives plaid as a plaidman and a plaidman as a Highlander. Only the last of these three is capitalised!

  8. Was relieved that Cryptic Sue said she thought this trickier than normal for a Tuesday. I couldn’t decide whether it was me having an off day or that the cluing was. Had to use gagdets to get the spelling for 19a which was new to me. Thanks to MynoT and BD

  9. This was a good challenge to kick the brain cells into action. Many thanks to Mynot for the workout and to BD for the review. The New Year was a new one for me but it was clear that the answer had to be a palindrome and the wordplay led me to the answer and reverse engineering revealed how the clue was constructed.

  10. I quickly spotted the palindromes but completely missed 13/21!
    A few unfamiliar words but the wordplay wad clear in those cases. Many thanks to Bd and to MynoT for the nice hard puzzle.

  11. A day off work, and I did not get the chance to look at this today. Having read the review, I would have struggled on this one today.
    Thanks to BD for the notes.

  12. In reply to Zak’s comment on the DT 26452 blog about making the leap to Toughie solving, I hope this isn’t too off-topic here…

    I’m in the slow and steady camp – rarely do I solve quickly, either the DT or the Toughie, but I enjoy the process of getting there and understanding the wordplay and humour as I go, so my mind might work differently to your, Zak.

    My advice in crossing the Toughie gap is to look for ways into the crossword in a few ways, bearing in mind that a lot of the approaches that work for getting a few early answers in the main DT Cryptic (cryptic definitions and double-definitions) have been deliberately avoided by the Toughie setters to make it harder:
    1. look for anagram indicators. (but in the Toughie it’s fairly common for anagrams to be combined with adding or deleting letters, making it harder to spot the group of letters of the right length)
    2. Double definitions can also be a good way in, but they’re rarer in Toughies and sometimes 2-word clues are something else in a deliberate attempt to mislead the solver.
    3. Themes can be a help too, especially if references to certain clues show up frequently. Certain setters are more prone to this than others.
    4. I also look for indicators for letter-picking, such as centre (e.g. centre-punch = n), extremely (e.g. extremely encouraging = eg) and oddly or even or regularly and sometimes see if they’ll match the checking letters near the start of end of the word so I can guess that the definition is the first or last part of the clue.
    5. I also look for things that are commonly abbreviated and for the “lift and separate” technique as I’ve seen it called – where two words that appear to be one concept might need to be split and treated separately, such as ‘father figure’ where the words might both be separate parts of the wordplay or one might be the definition and one part of the wordplay.
    6. Another approach I use almost all the time it is to look at the first and last part of each clue in the hope that one of them will be a definition, possibly a slightly oblique one. For me that’s often my way in then I understand the wordplay later and confirm my guess.
    7. Look for words that might be a noun in the surface reading yet act as a verb in the cryptic reading (or other parts of speech)
    8. When I’m stuck I will also use solving aids like pattern matching on ( a?v?n?a?e? ) or even pattern plus a guessed context (e.g. a?v?n?a?e?:tennis or even ??????????:tennis if I’m really stuck) – I’ve added to my Firefox web browser’s search box to make it easier (Manage Search Engines… on the pull-down).

    9. Once I’ve got some checking letters, sometimes I’ll be able to guess a word that fits. Sometime I’ll guess that a clue will end in -S or -ED or -TION and try that out to help me with a crossing clue.

    I’d concur with crypticsue – walking away and coming back is what I do all the time. Sometimes re-approaching the part-filled grid I’ll see A_V_N_A_E_ and immediately guess the word that fits and look for a sneakily obscure definition for my guess in the clue or part of the wordplay that matches AD or VAN or TAG or AGES, perhaps AGED, or ADAGES which I suspect could be in there and be used by the setter. Sometimes I’ll look up a word I’ve guessed to see if it has an alternative meaning that matches part of the clue. Uncommon letters like K, J, V, and anything with a high scrabble score tend to be helpful in narrowing down the possible answers that fit. Vowels aren’t so helpful.

    I’m far from an expert solver, and certainly not fast, but being methodical and trying a few approaches usually gets me there or almost there in the end. Sue’s right that the setter is usually trying to tease and mislead but not to completely defeat the solver (and usually an obscure word will be clued pretty clearly while a common word is often clued with more difficult wordplay), and as you say you understand the clues when you read the blog, so you need become more familiar through practice to recognise some of the tricks used. In over a year of the Toughie, I’m sure I’ve got better at spotting the tricks and now need to use solving aids far less often. The key for me is that it’s fun, so I have no qualms about using assistance to get me over a pinch point where my head is hurting or I can’t afford to spend much more time on the puzzle and need some help. Reading the blog, even when I’ve solved it can often help me understand it better and improve my skills. I’m also helped by having a friend to solve with most of the time.

    Good luck at making the leap or some gradual inroads. I’d give tomorrow’s a try. I can’t imagine it’s as tough as today’s or a typical Thursday or Friday toughie.

    Also try some of the harder crosswords available for free from other papers online to improve your skills, such as:
    the Guardian (varies in difficulty quite a lot from a rough match for a Monday DT up to Friday Toughie standard),
    the Independent (fairly taxing much of the time) and
    the FT.
    All of these are blogged on (see link on right) and the preamble will often hint at how difficult it is.
    Perhaps trying a medium difficulty will be a gradual way to develop your solving skills. Most of the setters of the Toughie also set elsewhere, so you can learn some of their tricks. The Best for Puzzles site (link on right) has a Who’s Who in Crosswords section that tells you which pseudonyms are the same person and who they set for.
    The Guardian and FT crosswords are available for some time after the day of publication (the Guardian’s right back to the tail end of last century) fairly easily (the old Indy crosswords are online, but it’s a serious and undocumented kludge to obtain them!).
    The Guardian and FT can be printed off (not the Indy, except via the Crossword Solver kludge) while the Guardian and the Independent (but not the FT) can be solved online (and can let you check letters or words or reveal the odd letter as an aid to solving, which helps you improve your skill and get more solved clues under your belt when you’re learning the ropes).

    Good luck. I’m sure continued perseverance and use of help will mean you get better and better at it surprisingly quickly. Many of us have to resort to dictionaries to check abbreviations we’ve never seen or definitions or words that are new to us, especially in Toughie territory.

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed this crossword today, the only clue I really struggled with was 25d having never heard of the Vietnamese New Year. Thanks Mynot for a great crossword and BD for an equally great review. I loved 27a and 13d. ( Late posting because I took my Good Lady to see The King’s Speech, great.)

  14. One of the few clues I got without looking at the hints was 25d. I suspect that most of those complaining that they did not know the Vietnamese for ‘new year’ are of an age such that they should remember the regular, annual, reports of the “Tet offensive” during the war in Vietnam, waged then against the USA.

    As for the transition to the Toughie, I do not have Dynamic’s patience, and do object to answers that do not ‘double-lock’, such that you know you have the right answer. But I will continue to have a look when time allows.

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