Toughie 520

Toughie No 520 by Micawber

Mid-week Mastery

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

If we get a Micawber (or an Elgar or a Notabilis) on a Wednesday it seems to mean a puzzle with all the cleverness and wit of these setters but not quite as fiendish in terms of wordplay as we’ve come to expect of them on a Friday – that’s fine by me. I enjoyed it a great deal when I solved it and I enjoyed it all over again when I wrote the review; I hope you enjoyed it too – let us know in a comment.

Across Clues

1a  Italian and Polish launches tracking infantry sporadically (2,4,3,6)
{IN FITS AND STARTS} – we want a phrase meaning sporadically. String together the abbreviation for Italian vermouth, a verb meaning polish or smooth with abrasive material and a synonym for launches. Finally put all this after (tracking) the abbreviation for infantry.

9a  Life drawing taken by boy I fancy (9)
{BIOGRAPHY} – a drawing expressing the relationship between two or more variables goes inside (taken by) an anagram (fancy) of BOY I to make a life story.

10a  Cloth — chintzy, perhaps, with a hint of damask (5)
{TWEED} – start with an adjective meaning chintzy or affectedly pretty and add the first letter (hint) of D(amask) to make a rough woollen cloth.

11a  Half-hearted cry down under? (5)
{BELOW} – this is nothing to do with Australia. Remove one of the repeated letters (half-hearted) from the middle of a deep loud cry to leave an adverb meaning down under.

12a  Bright pupil hiding in sanctuary with holy books (9)
{REFULGENT} – this is an adjective, new to me, meaning casting a flood of light, radiant or beaming. Put the letter used for a learner (student) inside (hiding in) a sanctuary and finish with the abbreviation for the books forming the second part of the Bible.

13a  Ringing tirade about organ’s about-turn (8)
{RESONANT} – put a tirade or angry outburst around a bodily organ which is reversed (about-turn) to make an adjective meaning ringing.

14a  Dedication for cuddly toy being carried? (5)
{TOTED} – a past participle meaning carried could be, as (2,3) what you’d write on a present for your cuddly bear (if you were in the habit of giving presents to inanimate objects, that is).

16a  Variable speed limit initially put on first part of circulatory system (5)
{LYMPH} – this is a colourless fluid containing white blood cells (part of circulatory system). An algebraic variable and a measure of speed are preceded (put on first) by the first letter (initially) of L(imit).

18a  Strips one of Coe and James in turn (8)
{DISROBES} – a verb meaning strips is a reversal (in turn) of a choice between the Olympics supremo Lord Coe and the late “Carry On” actor Mr James.

22a  Effect of excess radiation from nuke stores abandoned when energy’s spent (9)
{SUNSTROKE} – this may be the result of too much radiation. It’s an anagram (abandoned) of NUK(e) STORES with one of the E(nergies) dropped (spent).

23a  Contend river must be diverted from French marshland (5)
{ARGUE} – a marshland and bird sanctuary on the south coast of France (between Montpelier and Marseilles) has an English river removed (diverted) to leave a verb meaning to contend.

24a  Pulled aboard dhow’s stern (2,3)
{ON TOW} – this is a term meaning pulled (like the caravans which clog up the narrow roads in Summer round where I live). Start with a phrase (2,2) used to describe moving aboard a vehicle, then add the last letter (stern) of (dho)W.

25a  Where three little pigs might get houses? Third of bricks, after a fashion (9)
{STYLISTIC} – this is an adjective meaning relating to (after) a fashion. If you wanted to buy a house then you would probably check a catalogue of properties to find one that suited your requirements. You now have to imagine (the question mark indicating that this is a bit off-the-wall) where the three little pigs might look (3,4) for a suitable abode. Follow this with one-third of the word bricks.

26a  Film with muted line in body disposal (6,9)
{DOUBLE INDEMNITY} – an anagram (disposal) of MUTED LINE IN BODY gives us the title of a superb 1944 film in which a smouldering Barbara Stanwyck persuades an insurance agent to murder her husband for the insurance money. This has a lovely surface.

Down Clues

1d  I’m having the local tipple outside Berlin’s foremost boozer (7)
{IMBIBER} – this is a semi-all-in-one. To get this boozer start with I’M and add the German word for beer (local tipple) around the first letter (foremost) of B(erlin).

2d  Does potter like leggings with the bottom cut off? (7)
{FOOTLES} – how you might describe leggings with the last letter (bottom, in a down clue) cut off gives a verb meaning potters or engages in harmless but not very productive activity.

3d  Surrender one piece of cloth wrapped around another? (5,2,3,5)
{THROW IN THE TOWEL} – a phrase, derived from boxing, meaning to surrender is literally one piece of cloth containing another (I had to look up this in Chambers which defines it as a piece of fabric spread over a piece of furniture … to improve its appearance or protect it).

4d  Hoping to catch a secret cell (8)
{ASPIRING} – to catch here means to hear, so we want a homophone of a cell of secret agents (1,3,4).

5d  Leave diminutive flower in yard, love — no, the other way round (3,3)
{DAY OFF} – the definition is a short period of leave. Put the common abbreviation for a flower that you see everywhere at this time of year inside Y(ard) and the letter used for zero (love in tennis). No – forget that, you need to do it the other way round.

6d  Iron fist of Stalin, taking aim at riot violently (15)
{TOTALITARIANISM} – a system of centralised and dictatorial government, as practised by Uncle Joe, is an anagram (violently) of STALIN and AIM AT RIOT.

7d  Stagger shock therapy when put back in institution? (2-5)
{RE-ELECT} – this is a verb meaning to put back (into that institution by the Thames in SW1, for example). A verb meaning to stagger is followed by the abbreviation for a therapy involving electric shocks.

8d  Having had enough, editor intervened and quietened down (7)
{SEDATED} – a transitive verb meaning quietened is made by putting the usual abbreviation for editor inside a word meaning replete (having had enough).

15d  Amazed, saying: ‘What was wrong with natural colour?’ (4-4)
{WIDE-EYED} – a term meaning amazed or astonished sounds like (saying) a question asking for the reason a different colour has been applied (3, 4).

16d  Roped in girl that’s got a big vocabulary (7)
{LASSOED} – a past participle meaning roped is a charade of a girl and a reference work where the full version runs to twenty volumes.

17d  Island I travel round endlessly to find Native American sacred object (7)
{MANITOU} – this spiritual being or sacred object is a charade of an island in the Irish Sea, I and a verb to travel round without its final letter (endlessly).

19d  Instal surveillance on unfinished upper room and car (7)
{BUGATTI} – a make of high-performance car from the first half of the last century is formed from a verb meaning to install concealed listening equipment followed by all but the last letter (unfinished) of an upper room.

20d  Incomplete version of ‘The Cloudy Sky’ (7)
{SKETCHY} – an adjective meaning incomplete or lacking in detail is an anagram (version) of THE C(loudy) SKY.

21d  One’s a pretentious type about specialist arboriculture (6)
{BONSAI} – a charade of I (one), A and a pretentious type are all reversed (about) to make a Japanese word for the cultivation of miniature trees.

This had too many good clues to list them all, but I particularly liked 11a, 18a, 26a and 15d. My favourite was 18a. Let us know what you liked in a comment.

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23 Comments

  1. crypticsue
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I agree with everything Gazza says. A treat from Micawber today, not too difficult but very entertaining. I liked lots of clues but the biggest ‘dot’ by far on my paper is by 18a. Thanks to Micawber for a splendid start to a Wednesday morning and to Gazza for the review.

  2. Qix
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Not too difficult, but tremendous fun.

    Many thanks to Micawber for a top-class puzzle.

    ★★/★★★★★

  3. Posted March 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    23a was my favourite here. Great puzzle although I couldnt for the life of me see 5d (thanks crypticsue!)>
    Thanks to gazza and Micawber.

  4. pegasus
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Excellent offering yet again from Micawber favourites 11a and 15d. Thanks to Micawber and Gazza for the review.

  5. honestjohn
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Really good crossword, not as difficult as I first thought – in fact Chambers remained unopened throughout. Lots of great clues with 4d and 15d being just two of my favourites –
    If only all puzzles could be as good.

    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the notes.

  6. BigBoab
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Micawber for a cracking good crossword today, thoroughly enjoyable and thanks Gazza for the great review.

  7. brendam
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Personally, found this very difficult !! I solved about five then went by Gazza’s blog clue by clue, and even had to reveal the answer in some cases. It’s so depressing when everyone else enjoyed so much and ” not too difficult” cropped up more than once. However I did like 11 and 18a, 15 and 19d Many thanks to Micawber and Gazza

    • gazza
      Posted March 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      brendam,
      It’s only “not too difficult” for people with loads of experience of solving crosswords of this standard. If you do what you’ve done today (i.e. check each clue that you can’t solve against the blog and make sure you understand the wordplay – and if you still don’t understand any then ask) then you will get more proficient at this level of puzzle. That’s a promise!

    • Andy
      Posted March 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Brendam, I can only repeat what Gazza says, less than a year ago I stared at a blank grid in despair day after day, but kept looking at the hints and as you did today the answers as well if necessary. Whilst I cannot finish every toughie, especially (but not exclusively) some of the Fridays, this invaluable resource of a blog has been a terrific help. Keep at it, it’s worth it, honest.

    • Qix
      Posted March 2, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      The difficulty of a puzzle is subjective. I said “not too difficult” because, for me, it was less troublesome than an average Toughie. However, it’s all about experience. The more you do them, the better you’ll get. Studying the blog and, as Gazza says, asking about anything that’s unclear, will help you to get better more quickly. There’s no secret to it, just experience.

      This one is well worth studying, because the clues are beautifully written and there is a nice mix of clueing styles.

  8. Prolixic
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Nice crossword. Many thanks to Micawber for the fun and to Gazza for the review. Spot on with the ratings I would say and another vote for 18a as top clue.

  9. pommers
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Well, against all my expectations I managed to complete this. Thought I had worn the brain out this morning blogging the cryptic!
    Great uzzle so thanks to Micawber.
    Certainly I found it hard and for me a true Toughie but, as Gazza says above, one does get better at these if one perservates! This is about the 7th or 8th Toughie I’ve completed. Still can’t get to grips with the Friday ones though.
    Thanks for the blog Gazza. I never thought it was easy but now I know just how hard it is!

  10. Nestorius
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Good fun! Thanks Micawber & Gazza!

    The FT today has a wonderful set of anagrams of Shakespearean characters! All the acrosses…

  11. Addicted
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Brendam said everything I think!! And have done to-day just what he/she did and have finally finished. Guess it’s the only way to learn these Toughies? Thanks for all the hints and encouragement from bloggers.

    • gazza
      Posted March 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Addicted,
      Just think how much easier it is now than it was years ago! When I first started doing cryptic crosswords (early Seventies), I’d complete as many clues as I could then look at next day’s paper to find the answers for the ones I couldn’t do. However for a lot of the answers I still couldn’t see how the clue worked or why the answer was what it was – very frustrating!

  12. Uptodat
    Posted March 2, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I kept coming back to it all day and was chuffed to finish it, unaided ,eventually, so maybe it wasn’t so hard. However I had to guess several – learning new words at 12a, 17d, and wasn’t always able to reverse engineer everything – eg 4d, 5d until I checked the hints. Favourite 18a. Thanks for the puzzle and the hints.

  13. Spindrift
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I appreciate that this may be not the correct forum for such an enquiry but what is the “Quiptic” crossword in the Guardian. I agree it’s cryptic however I have failed to identify any quips.
    Or is it just me?

    • Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      It’s meant to be a cross between a QUIck crossword and a cryPTIC one! There are supposed to be some “quick” or definition-only clues, but they are very few and far between.

      I review the Quiptic on Fifteensquared every fourth Monday – the next one being next week.

      • Spindrift
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        Thanks BD. I understand now – I was looking for the type of wordplay we see in the quickie in the DT. I shall certainly visit the Fifteensquared site.

    • gazza
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      The intention seems for it to be a gentle introduction for new solvers, but if that’s the case it’s a bit odd publishing it on Mondays when their normal Cryptic is generally by Rufus and the easiest of the week.

      • Spindrift
        Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        I would agree. I looked at it for the first time today & did half of it in my head before reaching for my pen.

  14. RogBrown
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Very witty & entertaining puzzle. I did manage to finish it unaided but still can’t understand 20d. What tells you to exclude “loudy” from the anagram?

    • gazza
      Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Hi RogBrown – welcome to the blog.
      C is an accepted abbreviation for cloudy (used in meteorology).