Toughie 500

Toughie No 500 by Didi Guess

Distinctly Difficult Delight

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

We have a super puzzle today to celebrate the 500th Toughie, set by the mysterious DiDi Guess (with, as is explained in the paper and on-line, the considerable assistance of eight better known setters). We are promised a breakdown of who set which clues tomorrow, so that means we have the opportunity to show how well (or badly) we recognise the characteristics of the individual setters by making educated guesses today.
As is quite usual for me I missed the theme completely until I’d finished (at least I did spot it then – I quite often miss these things altogether until somebody points them out). It’s all to do with the Roman numeral for 500.
So, let us know how you liked it and who you think set which clues and then we’ll all have a good laugh tomorrow when we find out the correct answers. I’ve put a few of my thoughts at the bottom of the review.

Across Clues

7a  Stand in line? Sit up, edging backwards somewhat (8)
{DEPUTISE} – the well-disguised definition is the phrasal verb stand in, meaning to be an understudy. The answer is hidden (somewhat) and reversed (backwards) in the clue.

8a  Garbage left on road in front of house (6)
{DRIVEL} – put L(eft) after the sort of road found in front of a posh house.

9a  Who’s contracted exterminator for Slade? (4)
{DALE} – it took me ages to get this one, not helped by the false capitalisation of Slade. A slade is a small valley and Who is not the group but the Doctor. So remove the last letter (contracted) of the Doctor’s sworn enemy.

10a  Secret affair that may be quite influential (4,6)
{DARK MATTER} – synonyms for secret and affair are combined to make what scientists believe to be undetectable but influential stuff making up most of the mass of the universe.

11a  Bullet that’s hollow Daihatsu manufactured unseldom (6)
{DUMDUM} – the surface reading here seems really poor (I’m not aware that Daihatsu is in the arms trade and I don’t think that it makes a car called the Bullet). The definition is a particularly nasty type of soft-nosed bullet which expands on impact, causing horrendous damage. Take out (hollow) the middle letters of the last three words of the clue – what remains spells out its name.

13a  Starting diet is never easy. Escape to have meal at pub perhaps (4,3)
{DINE OUT} – the definition is to have a meal away from home (at pub, perhaps). It’s the initial letters (starting) of Diet Is Never Easy followed by a synonym for an escape.

14a  Banks charged to make comeback with limited aim (7)
{DEPENDS} – the definition is banks (verb rather than noun). Reverse (to make comeback) a verb meaning charged or went quickly and inside this (limited) put a synonym for aim.

16a  Extremely affectionate types showing a way in … (7)
{DOTARDS} – sometimes an ellipsis at the end of a clue is meaningful! Put A and an abbreviation for way inside how you’d describe the three marks and you get people showing excessive fondness.

19a  Speed is quickening scorn (7)
{DESPISE} – an anagram (quickening) of SPEED IS. I presume that quickening is being used in the sense of stimulating.

20a  Gamble with taking lines, a product of being solid? (3,3)
{DRY ICE} – a verb meaning to gamble goes around the abbreviation for railway (lines) to make solid carbon dioxide.

21a  Barnet’s ‘Variety’ is closed and dark, unhappily (10)
{DREADLOCKS} – an anagram (unhappily) of CLOSED and DARK produces a variety of barnet (hairstyle, from Cockney rhyming slang “Barnet Fair”).

22a  What angler holds over Wye for fish (4)
{DORY} – what an angler holds is reversed (over) and followed by the spelling of the letter Y (false capitalisation again!) to make a narrow fish with a wide mouth.

23a  Fraud? Half a month before it’s revealed here (6)
{DECEIT} – the definition is fraud, and it’s half of the last month of the year before IT.

24a  Capital containing nothing grand is making a sort of bid (8)
{DOUBLING} – the Irish capital contains O (nothing) and is followed by G(rand) to form a present participle meaning raising the stakes in a bid at bridge.

Down Clues

1d  Change character of versatile Durante by removal of all but tip of schnozzle (8)
{DENATURE} – a verb meaning to change the character or properties of something is an anagram (versatile) of DURANTE followed by what’s left when you remove all but the tip of (schnozzl)E.

2d  Title-holder? I’m useful in a fistfight (4)
{DUKE} – double definition, the second being a slang term for fist (in Cockney rhyming slang – Duke of Yorks = forks, which leads via fingers to fist).

3d  Medieval feudal tax set up to establish regal power (6)
{DIADEM} – an abbreviation for medieval is followed by an old tax for a specific purpose, e.g. paying for the lord’s daughter’s marriage. Then the whole lot is reversed (set up, in a down clue) to make a regal power.

4d  Break down commercial in less than 60 minutes? (7)
{DEGRADE} – start with what 60 minutes make (not in time, but in an angle), then shorten that by one letter (less than) and insert an abbreviated commercial.

5d  In itself, it comes between 3 and 13 (10)
{DICTIONARY} – if you looked this word up in itself it would appear somewhere between 3d and 13a.

6d  Best supplied towering centres in every situation — sensational! (6)
{DEFEAT} – to make this verb meaning to best start with a verb meaning supplied and reverse it (towering, in a down clue), then add the central letters of each of the last three words in the clue.

8d  For man with great voice, dog will nurture some devotion (7)
{DOMINGO} – the surname of one of the Three Tenors (man with great voice) is a wild Australian dog containing (will nurture) a sacred syllable forming part of a Hindu devotion.

12d  Profound bathypelagic trends, others dismissed (4-6)
{DEEP-SEATED} – the definition is profound. Start with what bathypelagic means (4-3) and add the odd letters of TrEnDs (I’ve never seen others used in this way before, but I presume that it means the alternate ones).

15d  Gannet possibly rising to allow drop (7)
{DRIBLET} – what gannet is an example of (possibly) is reversed (rising, in a down clue) and followed by a synonym for to allow.

17d  What’s developed in credo over time? (8)
{DOCTRINE} – a semi-all-in-one. It’s an anagram (developed) of IN CREDO containing T(ime).

18d  I resolve to conceal theological outrage (7)
{DEICIDE} – I is contained in (conceal) a synonym for to resolve to make the killing of a god.

19d  Being involved in late rising sailors are doomed (6)
{DARNED} – what we want is a euphemism for damned (condemned to suffer eternal punishment) or doomed. Reverse (rising) an adjective meaning late or no longer with us and insert an abbreviation for Her Majesty’s sailors.

20d  Is copper interrupting CID officer to indicate event in field? (6)
{DISCUS} – this event in field or field event as it would normally be called is IS and the chemical symbol for copper put inside (interrupting) the abbreviation for Detective Sergeant (CID officer).

22d  Attendance time not given, but learner comes in punctually (4)
{DULY} – start with a synonym for attendance, then take out the T(ime) (not given) and in its place put L(earner).

Just a few of the clues I liked were 9a, 5d, 6d and 8d, but my favourite is 16a. Your task today, should you choose to accept it (and it is a Mission Impossible), is to guess (sorry, come up with a reasoned argument to explain) which clues were devised by which of the eight setters listed by Phil McNeill. My guesses for some of them are:

7a/8a – Jed?
17d/18d/19d – Giovanni ?
16a – Elgar (or Notabilis) ?

Let us know what you think!

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35 Comments

  1. crypticsue
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Great fun – helped no end by my early realisation of the significance of the D’s. Thank you for the explanation of 9a – I thought it was something like that but wasn’t sure. I agree with you about the Giovannis but my only other guesses are that 21a, 1d and 12d are Elgar’s wicked work. My favourite was 5d for its clever simplicity. Thanks to all the setters for the great entertainment contained in this celebration of the Toughie reaching 500. Thanks to Gazza too for the explanations.

  2. Qix
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Decidedly difficult, although definitely do-able when you’ve spotted the gimmick (which I failed to do until half-way through!). Didn’t help that I initially entered DEMAGOG for 8D either. D’oh!

    A fantastic puzzle, worthy of the #500 slot.

  3. Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Didnt deduce the thematic devilry until lately nudged by CS – after that things became a lot easier.
    I am awful at spotting setters but concur with CS on the Giovannis and Elgars, reckong that Notabilis is 7a and 8d.
    Apart from that I am none too sure.
    Favourites included 2d for the surfacec reading and teh quirkiness of 16a

    In any case many thanks to gazza for the review and the hydra that is DiDi for the excellent puzzle.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant 500th. toughie, definitely doable once the theme was guessed. great fun! Thanks to all concerned.

  5. Ray Crawford
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    What a d-d-day!

  6. Jezza
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    If I hadn’t spotted the theme, I’d still be going. Once I realised what was going on, it made it considerably easier to complete.
    Thanks to all the setters, and to Gazza for the explanations, especially for 9a, and 16a (excellent clue once explained!).

  7. honestjohn
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    They say a camel is a horse designed by committee but I must say I thought this was a super crossword even though not all the work of one setter. In fact I finished the bottom half before I realised there was a theme but, once I did, the top half became much easier.

    Not as difficult as it first seemed but still quite a challenge. Thanks to all the setters and to Gazza for the review.

  8. Andy
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    D’oh D’oh D’oh, stared at it for an age, until saw the posts referring to a theme, cogitated and then the lights went on. Needed a fair number of hints but really enjoyed this one. Thanks to Gazza and the setters.

  9. Prolixic
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I was lucky enough to twig the theme after 4 or five answers. This helped fill in the rest of the grid with only two or three to ponder at my leisure when I reached the office. Not sure that I would have given it 5* for difficulty but certainly that for enjoyment. Many thanks to the setters and to Gazza for the review.

  10. pegasus
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Great puzzle today by Disguised er sorry Didi Guess I am just glad that i almost completed it, I put dave in for 9a thanks to Gazza for the explanation and for a super review.The mystery setter couldn’ t be our very own Big D, Just a thought.

    • gazza
      Posted January 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      pegasus,
      The Telegraph puzzles editor has indicated that this puzzle is a joint effort by eight regular setters (Elgar, Firefly, Giovanni, Jed, Kcit, Myops, Notabilis and Warbler).

      • Jezza
        Posted January 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        Jed? I do not recall any of his puzzles. Does he still set?

        • gazza
          Posted January 26, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          He doesn’t seem to set Toughies any more, unfortunately. But he does set the excellent Sunday Cryptics.

          • Posted January 26, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

            Ha! – I had no idea that they were one and the same!. I should have noticed on the ‘bestforpuzzles’ site!

          • Jezza
            Posted January 26, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

            Ah.. aka Virgilius. Thanks.

        • Prolixic
          Posted January 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Jed (aka Virgilius – Brian Greer) was unmasked as the new Sunday setter by Peter Biddlecombe when he noticed that the Sunday crossword he was blogging was virtually identical to a Toughie that Jed had previously set; to be fair Peter already had his suspicions about the identity of the Sunday setter but this confirmed it beyound doubt.

          • Posted January 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

            Nearly right!

            Peter B had already intimated privately that he thought that Brian Greer was the new Sunday setter.

            I was blogging the Sunday puzzles at the time and recognised one of the clues. On checking back I found that the puzzle in question, ST 2489, was almost identical to Toughie 110 by Jed. At this point Phil McNeill confirmed that Jed was indeed the new Sunday setter and I withdrew T 110 temporarily.

            Peter took over the Sunday reviews with effect from ST 2499, some ten weeks later.

            As a small point of interest I was able to ask Brian recently why he used the name Jed and it turns out that J, E and D are the initials of the first names of his children.

    • Posted January 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      I’m flattered, but have yet to set a puzzle of any description!

  11. Rednaxela
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I have actually completed this! After my initial read through the clues and entering only 4 answers, I thought this was a mission impossible, but then I realised what the theme must be and solved the remainder, with a little help from the hints for some, especially the devilish 4 letter words which I find the most difficult – like 2d which I would never have solved without Gazza’s explanation. So, many thanks to the setters and to Gazza for the review

    • Andy
      Posted January 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      “I solved this which, for a toughie, is unusual for me, so it gives me hope for the future.” To quote your yesterdays post perhaps the future was closer than you thought? Well done (and I agree with you about the four letter words)

  12. pegasus
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I think the editor says didi guess was assisted by the eight compilers.

    • gazza
      Posted January 26, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      In the same way that a number of sports stars are “assisted” to write their columns for the national press ?
      The editor has promised to reveal who set which clues tomorrow.

  13. Qix
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    1D and 12D sounded Myops-esque to me.

  14. Franco
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Too Damned Difficult for me today!

    Did I spot the theme? Only half way through.

    Did I guess a lot of the solutions? Yes – so thanks to Gazza for the explanations.

  15. Dynamic
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I and my PinC thoroughly enjoyed this, but having worked on it upside down, spotting a lot of Ds in the top row but none down the right, I thought there was perhaps no Nina. I saw it at the end before getting 9a, my last in, but didn’t twig the 500=D significance or even notice the number, despite it occurring to me last Tuesday that No.500 would come up today! Took quite a long time but such was the variety of clue types I didn’t feel my head hurting and simply enjoyed the solving.

    Really liked 4 7 10 16 and 18. It’s unusual for a simple charade to please me like 10a did, when sleights-of-hand like 16a stand out more vividly, but it hit the spot today. I’m not at all bothered by varied punctuation and capitals as a solver (though I’d try to disguise it and make it appropriate as a setter) and for 9a I even considered Slade prison (Porridge) and the WHO (something about their plans to eradicate malaria with DDT) before looking up slade.

    Did I Guess the clue-writers? No, and based on the most recent Biggles cryptic a month or two ago in the Guardian (set by Biggles = WE Johns – 4 setters called John) I’d say it’s much harder than we’d think (Jetdoc, Mrs Elgar mentioned in the fifteensquared blog that they’d each taken either the top or bottom half of the Across or Down column and we still failed to identify the fairly distinctive styles of Shed, Araucaria, Paul and Enigmatist (aka Elgar).

    Perhaps I will take a few guesses. I would hazard that Elgar (or possibly Jed) set the grid for this one, as Elgar/Enigmatist did for that Biggles.

    I have suspicions about the musical surface in 9a which I’ve often seen in Tue/Wed Toughies, but have a couple of possible setters in mind.

    I’d hazard that Elgar wrote 16a and perhaps Jed for 4d, but since the last Biggles I start to think that a lot of the character of the setters (especially at Toughie level with few cryptic definitions) comes from their grid-fill and its amenability to their style and penchants.

    • gazza
      Posted January 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      We’ll find out tomorrow who set which clues.

  16. Tilly
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Found the theme very early on which was certainly a help, even though I have only just got down to doing it due to work commitments. Thoroughly enjoyable and worthy of the occasion. Thanks to setters and Gazza.

  17. Digby
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    At the risk of being told I’m a clever-clogs, I did warn everyone in my comment on yesterday’s Toughie, viz – “I fear that Gnomey’s inference is correct – this was the lull before tomorrow’s “Big D” Storm”. Having said that, it still took me a while to work out the theme. Ah well. Thanks to all the setters – and Big D’s crew too!

  18. Qix
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Since no-one seems up for guessing who-did-which clues, I’ll have another couple of shots in the dark, and suggest that 8A and 18D might be Giovanni, 19A maybe Warbler, and 4D Osmosis.

    • Posted January 26, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

      I’m a notoriously bad spotter Qix. I don’t think that Osmosis was in the mix though, according to the blurb from Phil McNeill.

      • Qix
        Posted January 26, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        You’re right, and, therefore, clearly not as bad a spotter as yours truly!

        :oops:

  19. gazza
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    So here’s the breakdown as supplied by the Puzzles Editor:

    Didi you guess? Here’s where we reveal who set what in Toughie 500.

    As you may have surmised, the compiler, “Didi Guess”, was actually a cunningly “disguised” group of Toughie setters: Elgar, Firefly, Giovanni, Jed, Kcit, Myops, Notabilis and Warbler.

    What do these eight compilers have in common? They all set Toughies in September 2008 — the month it was launched by my predecessor as Telegraph Crossword Editor, Kate Fassett. (Toughie No.1 was by Giovanni, and of course you can still access it here in the Telegraph Puzzles archive.)

    The grid for T500 was the work of Elgar. The answers were handed out randomly to the compilers, who came up with a set of clues that seemed to fit together as if it had all been planned.

    I’m very pleased to say that all eight of these Toughie pioneers are still setting puzzles for us — although Jed long ago deserted the Toughie team to become our regular Sunday Prize Cryptic compiler. Myops, who has not been seen in these parts of late, is threatening to cough up one of his perplexing Toughies soon.

    I’ve had the privilege of editing the Toughie since No. 108 (set by the inimitable Excalibur). But I think I would have found it very hard to tell who clued what in Toughie 500. Here’s the list, without answers for the benefit of anyone who is still working on it:

    Across
    7 Notabilis: Stand in line? Sit up, edging backwards somewhat
    8 Jed: Garbage left on road in front of house
    9 Firefly: Who’s contracted exterminator for Slade?
    10 Elgar: Secret affair that may be quite influential
    11 Myops: Bullet that’s hollow Daihatsu manufactured unseldom
    13 Warbler: Starting diet is never easy. Escape to have meal at pub perhaps
    14 Giovanni: Banks charged to make comeback with limited aim
    16 Jed: Extremely affectionate types showing a way in …
    19 Notabilis: Speed is quickening scorn
    20 Elgar: Gamble with taking lines, a product of being solid?
    21 Firefly: Barnet’s ‘Variety’ is closed and dark, unhappily
    22 Myops: What angler holds over Wye for fish
    23 Kcit: Fraud? Half a month before it’s revealed here
    24 Giovanni: Capital containing nothing grand is making a sort of bid

    Down
    1 Warbler: Change character of versatile Durante by removal of all but tip of schnozzle
    2 Kcit: Title-holder? I’m useful in a fistfight
    3 Giovanni: Medieval feudal tax set up to establish regal power
    4 Notabilis: Break down commercial in less than 60 minutes?
    5 Jed: In itself, it comes between 3 and 13
    6 Firefly: Best supplied towering centres in every situation — sensational!
    8 Elgar: For man with great voice, dog will nurture some devotion
    12 Myops: Profound bathypelagic trends, others dismissed
    15 Notabilis: Gannet possibly rising to allow drop
    17 Jed: What’s developed in credo over time?
    18 Elgar: I resolve to conceal theological outrage
    19 Warbler: Being involved in late rising sailors are doomed
    20 Kcit: Is copper interrupting CID officer to indicate event in field?
    22 Giovanni: Attendance time not given, but learner comes in punctually

    • gazza
      Posted January 27, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      No-one covered themselves in glory with their “guesses” but well done to Dynamic for suggesting that the grid was set by Elgar.

  20. Werm
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I completed about 2/3rd unaided then needed help from the blog. Must say I really enjoyed the puzzle and surprised myself with how many I did get. Thanks to everybody for the fun.