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Toughie 536

Toughie No 536 by Micawber

Anticipation is Half the Fun

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

The ability to find out on-line the identity of the Toughie setter the evening before publication is excellent, particularly when it allows one to look forward to a puzzle by the wonderful Micawber. I enjoyed this immensely when I solved it and just as much again when I wrote the review. Let us know what you thought of it in a comment and please remember to grade it for enjoyment by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

1a  Computer operator sets my puzzle (6)
{SYSTEM} – an anagram (puzzle) of SETS MY identifies a set of hardware and software used for a specific purpose (computer).

4a  A South American heard slurring, having lost memory (8)
{OBLIVION} – the definition is having lost memory, i.e. a state of forgetfulness. It sounds like (heard) how someone with a speech impediment or a bit drunk (slurring) might say “a Bolivian”. The use of “slurring” in the clue is a masterstroke which nullifies any objections that the homophone doesn’t work.

9a  Force of Romeo embraced by Juliet, say? (6)
{WRENCH} – put the letter that Romeo stands for in the Nato alphabet inside what Juliet was an example of (say) to make a verb meaning to force.

10a  North African insurrection starting around centre of Cairo, a result of lack of food (4-4)
{BERI-BERI} – this is a tropical disease resulting from malnutrition (lack of food). It’s a North African tribesman followed by the start of I(nsurrection) with the middle letter of CaIro inserted.

11a  Mostly travel by taxi, say, travelling west and seizing time for revenge (3,4,2)
{GET BACK AT} – this is a phrasal verb meaning to exact revenge. We want a phrase meaning travel by taxi with the final E of the first word dropped (mostly), followed by the abbreviation of for example (say). Now reverse the lot (travelling west, in an across clue) and insert (seizing) T(ime).

13a  No less than fifty pounds oaf’s splashed out (3,2)
{ALL OF} – the definition is no less. It’s an anagram (splashed out) of the Roman numeral for fifty, the abbreviation for pounds and OAF.

14a  Moody freelance meant real trouble (13)
{TEMPERAMENTAL} – a freelance office worker is followed by an anagram (trouble) of MEANT REAL to make an adjective meaning moody.

17a  God can confirm minister (4,5,4)
{LORD PRIVY SEAL} – this is the title of a government minister which carries no specific responsibilities but is often given to the Leader of the House of Commons (the current holder is the Leader of the House, Sir George Young). In times of old it was the title of the person responsible for looking after the monarch’s private stamp of authority. It’s a charade of a synonym for God, the type of can that North Americans may visit and a verb meaning to confirm or ratify.

21a  Lawn can benefit from this worm churning around earth (5)
{MOWER} – something that a lawn can benefit from is an anagram (churning) of WORM around E(arth).

23a  Is TV career not the ultimate in excitement for them? (9)
{CREATIVES} – this is a semi-all-in-one. It’s an anagram (in excitement) of IS TV CAREE(r) without the ultimate letter.

24a  Sleepy states of Arkansas and Colorado, between northern and south eastern sierra (8)
{NARCOSES} – these sleepy states are constructed from a whole load of abbreviations finishing up with the letter that Sierra stands for in the Nato alphabet.

25a  Shellfish with a reduction of cucumber hearts sent back (6)
{MUSSEL} – put together a comparative meaning not so much (a reduction) and the middle two letters (hearts) of cucumber and then reverse what you’ve got to make a shellfish.

26a  Out and out stinker’s after love (2,6)
{ON STRIKE} – the definition is out and it’s an anagram (the second out) of STINKER after O (love).

27a  Spree’s close in west Berlin? (6)
{BENDER} – there’s a nice bit of misdirection achieved by putting Spree at the front and capitalising it to make us think of the river that flows through Berlin. In fact spree is the definition and we have to put a synonym for close inside the western (first, in an across clue) half of BERlin.

Down Clues

1d  Waste years dominated by needle (6)
{SEWAGE} – the definition is waste and as (3,3) it’s a cryptic definition of years dominated by needle. [Thanks to Qix for pointing out that the wordplay is far more likely to involve a synonym for years coming after (dominated by, in a down clue) a verb meaning to needle].

2d  One into broadcasting of sport, etc? (9)
{SPECTATOR} – this is an all-in-one clue. It’s an anagram (broadcasting) of SPORT ETC with A (one) inserted.

3d  Alimony? Say! (7)
{EXCLAIM} – we want a verb meaning to say, which could be, as (2,5), a cryptic definition of alimony. Brilliant!

5d  Seal with earth by bombing, and check for tightness (11)
{BREATHALYSE} – the definition is check for tightness (as a traffic officer may do). It’s an anagram (bombing) of SEAL EARTH BY.

6d  It’s my turn to pursue upset parrot (7)
{IMITATE} – the definition is parrot as a verb. Let’s regress to the school playground where the speaker is announcing that it’s his turn to pursue in the boys’ favourite game (1’1,2). The game is also known as touch, tag or catch. Follow this with a verb meaning upset or gnawed away at.

7d  Perfect one put on pedestal, out of step — badly (5)
{IDEAL} – start with I (one) and put this on top of (pe)DE(st)AL shorn of the jumbled-up (badly) letters of step.

8d  Tool for digital enhancement to capture data (4,4)
{NAIL FILE} – this cosmetic tool is a charade of a verb to capture and data.

12d  Control tower north of airline desk? That’s the wrong way round (4,2,5)
{KEEP IN CHECK} – this is a phrase meaning to control. The central tower of a castle precedes (north of, in a down clue) an airline desk at an airport with its constituent bits the wrong way round.

15d  Aired jeans and got ready for a drive outside (9)
{TELEVISED} – the definition is aired. It’s a famous brand of jeans with a verb meaning prepared to use a driver outside.

16d  Abusive online message to officer causing a song and dance (8)
{FLAMENCO} – an abusive email or online posting is followed by a non-commissioned officer.

18d  Start and finish off early, coming in to serve drinks in reception (7)
{PARLOUR} – the definition is reception, i.e. it’s an area where a mayor, for example, may receive guests. Put the middle letters (start and finish off) of early inside a verb meaning to be mother (serve drinks).

19d  Initially clipped phone message on offensive project (7)
{EXTRUDE} – a message sent from one’s phone has its initial letter clipped off. This is then followed by a synonym for offensive to make a verb meaning to project or stick out.

20d  Horseman, one with sharp elbows evading justice (6)
{OSTLER} – remove (evading) the initial J(ustice) from someone who crowds or pushes you (one with sharp elbows) to leave an old name for a character employed to look after the horses of people staying at an inn.

22d  Merchandise from more than one military campaign around the Orient (5)
{WARES} – put the plural (more than one) of a military campaign around the letter used for the orient.

There are too many good clues to list them all. Amongst my favourites were 27a, 3d, 5d, 6d, 15d and of course 17a. Let us know what you liked in a comment!

24 comments on “Toughie 536

  1. Like Gazza, I am a great fan of the marvellous Micawber. You always know you are going to get a treat with lovely clues that are tough but solveable with a great deal of fun too. Today was no exception. I did like 17a and 5d in particular but as Gazza says there are really too many to list. Thanks to Micawber and Gazza too.

    Now if you want something else to do, the Enigmatist (Elgar) in the Guardian will have you scratching your head for a while and more!

  2. Truly excellent puzzle.

    Many good clues, as Gazza said; like crypticsue I also liked 17A, and, like her, I’d also recommend today’s Guardian cryptic.

    Many thanks to Micawber for another belter.

  3. Excellent crossword from Micawber, 3d is so economically perfect. The word ‘memory’ in 4a, my last entry, made me think computing and I came up with ‘abzilion’ – ‘a’ plus slurred ‘brazilian’. Abzilion may not be the newest kid on the block in computer chip memory but it very well could be by the end of the week. I was a little disappointed when I eventually got the correct, more prosaic answer.

  4. Pure dead brilliant as they say in Glesca, a superb crossword from Micawber and a great review from Gazza. Loved 17a and 15d.

  5. Stunning crossword from Micawber. Many thanks to him for the workout and to Gazza for the review. Among the many top clues, I would pick 17a, 5d and 15d.

  6. This was thoroughly excellent – 2d and 3d being favourites among many for me. Many thanks to Micawber and to gazza for the review.

  7. Absolutely brilliant. A wonderfully inventive and witty puzzle that contained lots of marvellous and clever ideas.

  8. Micawber at his brilliant best I endorse everything thats been said. I had the right answer to 4a but couldn’t work out why’ thanks to Gazza for the lucid explanation. My favourite clue definately 3d thanks to Micawber for a superb puzzle and to Gazza for the excellent comments.

  9. The absolute topper must be 3d. What a trouvaille!
    Other favs:
    17a with super smooth surface.
    8d with the fine misdirection of digital.

    This one is full of felicitous clues as a pomegranate is of seeds.
    It shows that a crossword of genius does not have to be impossible. Diff ***, enjoyment *****.

    Thanks, Micawber, for a great puzzle and Gazza for a most apt review!

  10. What a treat indeed. Superlatives I would use already been said. Can’t see why I struggled for so long with 27a, todays d’oh moment. Micawber thank you very much and Gazza for a couple of much needed hints.

  11. I must be suffering from ‘Brain Fade’ after this morning’s problems with the cryptic blog! Only managed about 2/3 of this before resorting to Gazza’s hints.
    A brilliant crossword with many fine clues.17a for instance – how elegant is that?
    Thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

    1. A very funny sketch! Thanks for the memory of The ***** Report which I only vaguely remember – apart from the “I get a pain in the back of my neck” sketch with Cleese and the 2 Ronnies.

      1. Sorry about the ***** – it’s my mum’s maiden name and automatically gets stopped by the Firewall!

  12. Thanks for reminding me of the sketch, Micawber. It was nearly as good as the puzzle!

  13. Been trying to do this all day having to fit it round various family errands, visits etc. but have now finally finished – yippee! Sometimes I think taking a break and then coming back really helps. My last solve was 4a and, of many good clues, my favourite by far was 17a.

    Thanks Micawber for a terrific puzzle and Gazza for the review.

  14. Am I alone, sad and pedantic in not being able to accept Gazza’s explanation for the second part of 6dn. How can ‘ate’ – even in its ‘gnawed away at’ sense – possibly mean upset? Other than that, a brilliant and witty puzzle with my favourite being 17ac, which made me roar with laughter. Micawber does seem to be a fan of toilet humour!

    1. Billy,
      Under the transitive verb to eat Chambers has “to upset, irritate or worry”. An example of usage would be “What’s eating you?”.

  15. Re 16d, am I the only one who’s never heard the word “flame” used in this sense? Anyway, great xword. Finished it unaided (with a couple of guesses).

    1. RogBrown, re “flame” you are not alone!

      I agree with you and everyone else about the quality of this xword – so many clever, witty clues! I just wish it hadn’t taken me over 24 hours to solve it.

      Thanks to Gazza for the review: especially for expaining 6d & 16d. (Also, never heard of the Berlin river before).

    2. I guess you’ve only ever been on polite forums or comment areas such as this where no flame wars erupt, so lucky you. Internet community words with wide currency such as flaming and trolling, newbies, “IM” (Instant Messaging) and perhaps even portmanteau words like netiquette might well appear in cryptics, especially at Toughie level. I notice that Euronet also appeared a day or three ago, which is little known, though it’s in my 1991-or-so copy of Chambers.

      Thanks to both Micawber and Gazza for a superb crossword and blog (which I needed for some explanations – Berber – and for illumination, e.g. River Spree). Faves: 4a, 17a, 3d, 5d, 8d, 15d. 24a was also very neatly done and would’ve ranked higher in a less exceptional crossword.

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