Toughie 514

Toughie No 514

Hints and tips by Tilsit

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley. As many of you know I have had something of a trying week since last Friday with a torrid train journey, a bump in the car, not feeling well but all was rescued by a lovely trip to London on Tuesday to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Guardian crossword compiler Araucaria. There are pictures both here and here[email protected]/sets/72157625943269143/detail/ and you may see one or two famous faces both from the crossword and wider world! A lovely evening was had by all and I was so privileged to be invited.

Now back to today. I completed much of this puzzle while waiting for my replacement car to be delivered to the garage (it was a long wait!). I have to admit that I have been a little disappointed with the last couple of Firefly puzzles, and this continues the trend. I have enjoyed his puzzles both here and elsewhere but this leaves me a bit flat. I enjoy tougher crosswords but some of the clues here seemed to be complicated just for the sake of it and I don’t understand a couple of the answers. Other Toughie setters manage to combine humour with flair. Here even the humour seems to be forced. A great shame really.

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. Clues I enjoyed are in blue.


7a    Fowls providing eggs, see, without bits of grotty straw? (4,5)
{WILD GEESE} This uses a device that can be found with 9d, and I would have thought once in any puzzle is enough. Basically a phrase that means “fowls” can be found by considering the phrase “eggs, see” removing “g and s” (“bits of grotty straw”). This leaves you with EGSEE. This may be defined by a phrase which contains an anagram indicator, so in effect you are producing a clue as the answer.

These clues work, as with 9 down, when the phrase given by, or in the clue is a recognisable word or phrase. In this clue you are left with five random letters after removing some from a phrase. In my opinion, unfair to solvers and an example of a setter disrespecting his or her audience. Even the subtraction indication “bits of grotty straw” is weak. The whole thing is badly contrived. Most setters I have spoken to over the years maintain the first clue should be one of your best, if not the best in the puzzle, as it draws the solver in. Had I not been blogging this today. I would not have gone further.

8a    Pack and move fairly quickly, without last of paraphernalia (5)
{TAROT} Your definition here is “pack” which is a rather weak definition for the item required. If you move at some speed (especially on a horse) you move at this speed. This goes around A (last of paraphernalia).

10a    Benedict agreed on the whole he was a strapping vegetarian! (6)
{POPEYE} The job of someone in the public eye called Benedict is added to most of a word meaning “agreed” (indicated by “on the whole”) I am assuming that “strapping” is used as in the northern dialect way to say someone is muscular. I’m not sure our cartoon hero was strictly known for being a vegetarian.

11a    Charge for some substitute lager (8)
{TUTELAGE} Hidden in the phrase “substitute lager” is a word than means “charge” in the sense of guardianship.

12a    Admire Italian’s figures (6)
{DIGITS} A wordsum. A 1960’s word meaning to like something is added to IT’S (short for Italian’s) to give a word meaning figures.

14a    No limits to deliberate legal position (6)
{ONSIDE} Think of a word meaning to deliberate, as in the expression “_____ one’s position”. Remove the first and last letters (No limits) and you should get a phrase that refers to the batsman’s side of the field in cricket, or in a goal-scoring position in soccer.

16a    Warning, ladies — head off! (4)
{OMEN} A word meaning “ladies” loses its first letter (“heads off”) to give one meaning a warning.

17a    Believer and idealist after conversion, Muhammad retires (5)
{DEIST} Remove a famous Muhammad from the word IDEALIST and rejig the rest to get a word meaning someone who believes in god.

18a    Join on one condition (4)
{ABUT} A word sum. A (one) + BUT (condition) = a word meaning join.

19a    Goitre pangs reduced? That’s an old saw! (6)
{TREPAN} Remove some of each word in “goitre pangs” to get a tool used once upon a time in operations.

21a    Utterance of one in search of principle? (6)
{EUREKA} A cryptic definition referring to a famous word shouted by a certain Greek known for his scientific and mathematical principles. Think screws!

24a    His maths result’s a great success (5,3)
{SMASH HIT} An anagram (indicated by “result”) of HIS MATHS gives a phrase meaning a great success. My crossword software (The excellent SYMPATHY, since you didn’t ask!) gives me a list of around 300 anagram indicators. Result is not one of them.

26a    Proof of delay when returning with ‘Magic Line’ (6)
{GALLEY} How many of you have heard of “proof” as a definition for the answer? Look in Chambers. It’s there. It’s a type of printing proof. A word for delay (think Jet ___) is reversed and added to a type of line hunted for by dowsers. If there was a well-known product called “Magic Line” I would feel better disposed towards this clue than I do.

27a    Sink or basin? (5)
{STOOP} A double definition. A word meaning to sink or a basin is required. If you are still stuck. Think Rugby Union Ground.

28a    Perceptive story: ‘Constant Promises’ (9)
{SAGACIOUS} A word meaning wise or perceptive is found by taking the name of an old story (especially Norse ones) and adding C (for constant) and an abbreviation for promises to pay.


1d           One ruminating in store about caps on salad oil (5)
{BISON}   The first letters of salad oil go inside a word meaning a store to get a creature that ruminates.

2d           Attraction of island featuring in commercial he’s broadcasting (8)
{ADHESION}   I (island) goes inside AD (commercial) + HE’S + ON (broadcasting) to give a term meaning attached.

3d           Asian workers we separately engage? (6)
{YEMENI}  MEN  (workers) inside YE + I  (“we,  separately”) to give someone from Asia.

4d           That’s Spike showing up — attention-seeker! (4)
{PSST}   Another hidden answer.   Reversed inside “That’s Spike” is an expression used to attract attention.

5d           A thick-skinned generation: unfeeling, old, ignored (6)
{CALLUS}   A word meaning unfeeling, hard-hearted needs to lose an O (old) to reveal a growth that is made up of thick skin.

6d           Good glue effective, given time, for severed connection (6,3)
{LOGGED OUT}  An anagram (indicated by effective) off GOOD GLUE  with T (time) produces something that means you have turned off your internet connection.

9d           Had tea, possibly? (3,3)
{ATE OUT}  Like 1 across, this requires you to find a phrase that means HAD TEA, and also gives something that could equate to “TEA, POSSIBLY.”  This works much better for me than 1 across because of the surface reading.

13d         Utter fudge, perhaps, Chambers? (5)
{SUITE} A homophone of a word that means what fudge is a type of, is the same as a set of rooms.

15d         Setter’s concert put off? Snap! (9)
{IMPROMPTU}   I’M (setter’s) + PROM (concert) + an anagram of PUT equates to a word meaning snap, spur of the moment.

17d         Row bow for Goldie on outskirts of Henley — in this? (6)
{DINGHY}  With the imminent University Boat Race, it’s quite a nice allusion, but I can’t help feeling it’s still a bit contrived.  A word sum.  A word meaning row or racket, the first letter (bow) of Goldie and the outskirts of H(enle)Y

18d         Caffeine could be making Ada ill, OK? (8)
{ALKALOID}  An anagram of  ADA ILL OK gives a word for which caffeine is a type.

20d         Agincourt soldier’s weapon? (6)
{PISTOL}  The name of a Shakespearean soldier in Henry V is also the name of a weapon.

22d         Coat worn in flagrant disregard of extremities (6)
{RAGLAN}  Remove the  first and last letters of FLAGRANT and then mixing up the letters gives a type of coat or sleeve.

23d         Put one’s foot down for a civilian’s inclusion? (3,2)
{REV UP}  Thanks to Qix for explaining this, although I am still not too happy.  This turns out to be similar to 7 ac and 9 down in that you get an answer which is “an answer” to the solution.  This time hidden backwards in the phrase “for a civilian’s” is the solution if the answer were a clue.   Are you with me?  I lost myself a while back.

I really feel these are almost clues that throw back to the days of Afrit and Torquemada and are grossly unfair.  You almost have to get the answer to define part of the clue.  One in a puzzle is clever.  Three almost smacks of unnecessary showboating and completely ruined the challenge for me.

25d         Cuppa with slice of madeira on the side (4)
{TEAM}  A drink known as “a cuppa” has M (a slice, i.e. the first letter) added to get a word meaning a side.

Despite popular belief, I get no pleasure from writing a negative blog, but I believe it is my duty to let you know how I feel.  I have solved some smashing Firefly (and Glow-worm) puzzles, but this is not one of them.    It will be interesting to see how many people disagree with me.


  1. honestjohn
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Well I am enjoying it but still have 5 clues to do and at the moment doubt if I will finish without help. Will come back later.

  2. Digby
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Must agree with you Tilsit – no real sparkle or sense of achievement here. Happy with the type of proof at 26a, and feel that 19a is “inside” rather than “reduced”. I thought 2d and 15d were fair clues, and just waiting on your answer to 23d to see if I got it right. Thanks guys!

    • Posted February 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      23d threw both Tilsit and myself. Thanks to Qix for pointing out the glaringly obvious hidden, reversed, word in the clue!

    • Posted February 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Thought for the day.

      Can you use a down-clue construct within the clue itself, which is on the horizontal?

      • Digby
        Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        I expect that someone has written a thesis on it, but what does the team think!?

      • gazza
        Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        I can’t see that it’s much different to 4d, except that in 23d the reversal indicator is in the answer rather than the clue.

        • Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          The point I was making was that the vicar/rev is not “up” in the clue itself as the letters run horizontally rather than vertically as they do in the answer.

          • Digby
            Posted February 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

            Fair point, well made. I suppose the setter is relying on intuition from his seasoned audience, but I think it’s a bit cheeky!

  3. honestjohn
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Finished now after making quite a meal of it. Needed help on three clues in the end but, having done them, they seemed pretty obvious – I don’t know why I had so much trouble. Perhaps my cold is actually man-flu….

    Thanks to Firefly for the fun and Tilsit for the notes.

  4. Qix
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I must say that I’m quite surprised by some of the remarks above.

    For me this felt about average in difficulty for a Toughie, and I enjoyed it a lot.

  5. teletough
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    This one has really hurt my brain. I didn’t like 7a, and considered giving up, but after deciding to give it a chance, it became more of a chore than a challenge.

    A bit disappointing because the main crossword today was so much more fun.

    • Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog teletough

    Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Don’t yet understand 23d. Or for that matter caps on salad oil for 1d.

    Help the ignorant!!! please..

    Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    The penny has finally dropped re. 1 and 23 dThanks as always.

  8. BigBoab
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    As usual Firefly has defeated me, I managed about half to three quarters and gave up. Thanks for the review Tilsit and I totally agree with your remarks.

  9. Spindrift
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I recognise the words as being in the English language but that’s about it I’m afraid. I know my place & shall only attempt future “toughies” when they’re endorsed by the experts among us.

    • Posted February 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      … especially Fridays as the editor usually saves the hardest puzzles for the end of the week (Elgar, Notabilis, Osmosis and Firefly).

      I think the theory is that you have four days in which to solve it before the answers are published.

      • crypticsue
        Posted February 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        and before I found this blog, many a Saturday afternoon would find me still trying to get the last clue in a Friday toughie. Thank goodness I don’t have to do that any more.

  10. crypticsue
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    I am with Qix on average toughiness. I am with Tilsit and BD on the complicated hidden anagram reverse thingies too. However, I was pleased to solve it without too much head scratching and didn’t need Gnome’s Law which is lucky because he’s been on the golf course all day. I did like 28a, 5d and 20d. Thanks to Firefly, Tilsit and BD.

  11. Jezza
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I managed half of this easily, and struggled on the other half. I did not have time to finish it, so thanks to Tilsit for the ones that defeated me.
    The answer to 22d needs changing.

  12. gnomethang
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t too happy with some if these clues (Tilsit mentioned them)
    I did like the majority, 9a worked but 7d and 23a – not for me I’m afraid!
    Thanks to Tilsit and Firefly

  13. Qix
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I think that 7A is getting too much flak. It’s all a matter of taste I suppose, but I think that it works well if read as a semi-&lit, with the whole clue as the definition. The domesticated equivalent might be expected to produce eggs interspersed with bits of straw, but the variety in the answer wouldn’t. The letters to be removed are well-enough indicated for a Toughie, IMO, and the remaining letters, with the word “fowls” (the “s” is added to make the solver’s life even easier – it could have been omitted) make the second word quite obvious. It’s not a clue for the inexperienced solver, but it’s not meant to be.

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

      I can see it, Qix, but feel it is a step too far for the reasons aforestated.

      • Qix
        Posted February 19, 2011 at 12:50 am | Permalink

        Stokers? One man’s meat…(9,7)


  14. Libellule
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think – generally that this was an overly dificult toughie, except for a couple of clues that were too clever for their own good.

  15. Uptodat
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Phew! Confident after enjoying the back page, spent hours poring over this and only got 3/4 through. Even then had guessed 17d, 7a, 23d and failed to reverse engineer. 3d was a learning experience. Had no idea with 8a, 9a 25a. Moderate enjoyment only and a reminder of my solving limits.

  16. pommers
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Really did not like this puzzle!
    Solved 3/4 on my own but cannot find a way into the NW corner. OK, now I’ve read the hints it’s done but that to my mind is cheating – didn’t do it on my own! Getting a bit big headed now I suppose having done 3 in a row. Thought it might be an Elgar today but this wasn’t any easier!
    Thanks Firefly for a serious tset and thanks for the answers Tilsit!

  17. uchifred
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    10a makes some sense when you sing his theme song: “…I’m in at the finish, ‘cuz I eats my spinach”