Toughie 584 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 584

Toughie No 584 by Firefly

Stone the Crows

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Like others I’ve had a frustrating morning with the on-line site. Luckily I managed to print out the puzzle, but my attempts to submit the answers were met with the infuriating clock whizzing round and a multitude of “Error 0 Occurred” responses before the thing died completely. Since I wasn’t prepared to type all the answers in again I’m not able to give a 100% guarantee that all my solutions are correct (but I’m pretty confident).
In spite of all the hassle I did enjoy this puzzle which has some lovely penny-drop moments. Let us know what you thought in a comment.

Across Clues

1a  Oral communication problem for crow with dead duck? (4,5)
{LOST CAUSE} – this is wonderful. The harsh cry of a crow is a caw and the answer sounds like (oral) it suffered a communication problem and no longer had the ability to make these sounds. It’s also a description of a plan or idea with no chance of success (dead duck) – somewhat like the Telegraph Puzzles site.

9a  Shelter a bit exposed (6)
{DUGOUT} – a shelter, possibly in a trench on a battlefield or on the side of a sports field, can also mean, as (3,3), unearthed or exposed. Firefly has pointed out the slightly risque meaning (3,3) – dug can mean a woman’s breast so  this could be a “clothing malfunction”.

10a  Singular Scotsman, back infiltrating militant group, makes representations (9)
{SIMULACRA} – this word, from latin, means superficial likenesses or representations. Start with S(ingular) then reverse (back) a common 5-letter Scottish male forename inside (infiltrating) the initials of an Irish militant group.

11a  Squander breather during gym (6)
{PLUNGE} – put one of your (normally two) breathers inside the abbreviation for gym to make a verb meaning to gamble or squander recklessly.

12a  Come clean and spill the beans — his loss leaves a void (9)
{SINGLETON} – string together a verb to confess and a phrasal verb (3,2) meaning to spill the beans to get, for example, a child with no siblings.

13a  Offer criticism about bishops being feeble (6)
{FLABBY} – a verb meaning to criticise savagely goes round a pair of bishops.

17a/20a  Strip and go in nearly last (6) (or 3,3)
{BATTEN}  – this is a strip of wood, but as (3,3) it means to be next to last on the cricket team sheet.

19a  Someone not at home saw a fortieth UFO — possibly! (1,4,3,2,5)
{A FISH OUT OF WATER} – a description of someone not at home or away from their comfort zone is formed from an anagram (possibly) of SAW A FORTIETH UFO.

20a  See 17a

21a  Tax cut (6)
{EXCISE} – double definition.

25a  Firm’s crockery embracing Oriental line in colouring (9)
{COCHINEAL} – this is a scarlet dye used as a food colouring. Start with the abbreviation for a firm, then add a synonym of crockery around the abbreviation for E(astern) or oriental. Finish with L(ine).

26a  Keep quiet about convenient shaft (6)
{SNEATH} – an admonition to keep quiet goes around an adjective meaning convenient or tidy to make an alternative spelling of a (pretty obscure and certainly new to me) word for the curved shaft of a scythe.

27a  Eddy’s to play polo? (9)
{WHIRLPOOL} – the definition is eddy. If you split the answer as (5,4) it could be read as an instruction to form an anagram leading to polo.

28a  Reject uproar involving broadcast (6)
{DISOWN} – an uproar contains (involving) a verb to broadcast or scatter.

29a  Prepared right place for wrapping bread and fruit (4,5)
{CRAB APPLE} – an anagram (prepared) of R(ight) PLACE goes round (wrapping) a bread roll to make a sour type of fruit.

Down Clues

2d  Source of rioting moved away from centre (6)
{ORIGIN} – the definition is source and it’s an anagram (moved) of RIO(t)ING without its centre.

3d  That’s right about BBC boss being a tramp (6)
{TRUDGE} – an adjective meaning right or correct goes round the head honcho at the beeb.

4d  Around 17ac rising tide subsides (6)
{ABATES} – reverse (rising, in a down clue) another word for tide around the answer at 17a.

5d  Are regrets (and hot amour!) inappropriate for her? (9,6)
{SURROGATE MOTHER} – I’m not normally very fond of long anagrams but the surface in this semi-all-in-one is excellent. An anagram (inappropriate) of REGRETS HOT AMOUR gives someone carrying for another.

6d  All-out sort of effort from top brass, say (4-5)
{FULL-BLOWN} – an adjective meaning all-out or thorough could, cryptically, be how brass instruments are played to produce the loudest sound.

7d  Healthy snack that may be grabbed during speech? (9)
{SOUNDBITE} – a short excerpt from a speech that may be plucked out for a news bulletin, say, could cryptically as (5,4) be a healthy snack.

8d  Jacking up cart with earth in allows one to take the weight (9)
{STEELYARD} – this is an instrument used for weighing. Start with a strong cart for delivering beer and add a synonym of allows with E(arth) inside. Then reverse (jacking up, in a down clue) the lot.

14d  Bank dealt with diamonds, as it were (9)
{WATERSIDE} – this bank is an anagram (dealt with) of D(iamonds) AS IT WERE.

15d  VIP from Caerphilly? (3,6)
{BIG CHEESE} – a slang term for a VIP incorporates what Caerphilly is famous for.

16d  German landlord starts to take over vast city — being empty, like this one? (5,4)
{GHOST TOWN} – this is a deserted conurbation. It’s G(erman) followed by a synonym for a pub landlord and the initial letters of T(ake) O(ver), then finally the old nickname for the vast city of London (The Great ***) with the middle letter dropped (being empty).

17d/18d  Do up bar with style (6) (or 3,3)
{BUTTON} – a verb to do up (an item of clothing) is two separate words, the first meaning bar or except and the second style or fashion.

18d  See 17d

22d  Angel cake’s topping (mostly red) the chap swallowed (6)
{CHERUB} – the definition is angel. The first letter (topping) of C(ake) is followed by a shade of red without its final Y (mostly) with a male pronoun (the chap) being inserted (swallowed).

23d  Pounce on potential pots? (4,2)
{SNAP UP} – a phrasal verb meaning to pounce on or be quick to buy something is cryptically types of pots (if you take the answer as an instruction).

24d  Brief fad about past rainwear (6)
{CAGOUL} – a fad without its final T (brief) goes around a synonym for past to make a type of waterproof anorak.

I enjoyed 17a, 16d and 22d today, but my joint favourites were 1a and 5d. How about you?

26 comments on “Toughie 584

  1. I think this is the sort of crossword they had in mind when they invented the Toughie. The bottom half went in fairly quickly but the top took for ever and ever and I was still left with having to look in the brackets for 10a, despite all the Gnome’s hints. Not a word I have ever heard of, singular or otherwise. Thanks to Firefly for the extreme brain stretching, The moment when the penny dropped for 1a was really groan-worthy. Thanks to Gazza for the helpful hints too.

    If you have done this and your cryptic cells are still functioning, there is a very good themed Paul in the Guardian today.

  2. 10a, and 26a were new words to me, and were my last in, to complete what was a cracking puzzle. Thanks to Firefly, and to Gazza for the review.

    1. BTW Gazza – Your answers are the same as the ones I eventually managed to submit correctly online, so you can give a 100% guarantee that all your solutions are correct. :)

  3. The online crossword entry system’s been flaky ever since they changed the format a couple of months ago. Apart from what Gazza describes, you can wait an age for letter hints and after a submission. Does anyone know what the change was meant to add to the experience?

  4. The middle of 26a and the meaning of 8d were certainly new to me. 10a was OK when I got the right Scotsman – nice to see that it wasn’t MAC or IAN again!. I nearly fell off my chair when I finally got 1a – on balance I really like it but it was touch and go for a minute. I am not sure if I liked the (6) or (3,3) clues in the middle – the Guardian does this occasionally but at least the 3 letter words were complete in their own right. On balance the top half was pretty tough but overall quite an enjoyable solve. Thanks to gazza and to Firefly for the puzzle. I think I may have to try the Guardian next – Paul suggested on his blog that something fishy was going on and we would need to mullett over. I cant think what he means!

  5. I thought this was really tough today more like a Friday than a wednesday , Quite a few new words in it for me, favourites were 1a and 7d thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the excellent review..

  6. Very nice puzzle, many thanks to Firefly.

    The wording of the 2nd part of 12a suggests a reference to contract bridge.

    1. That was my first thought on 12a, Qix, but I decided that if Firefly was referring to cards he would have written “its” rather than “his” – perhaps I’m wrong.

      1. Yes, it would be unusual to use a gender-specific term to refer to an inanimate object.

        However, used unqualified, I’ve very rarely seen the term used to refer to anything else (except in set theory). You can have a ********* pregnancy, for example, or a ******** almost anything I suppose, if the thing is specified.

        Chambers has the definition as:

        A single card of its suit in a hand
        Anything single

        Since void is also a term in common usage in bridge, it seems more than coincidental. No definition referring to persons is specifically mentioned in Chambers, although the SOED mentions “an only child”. I guess only Firefly can say for sure what was intended.

  7. Enjoyable puzzle which I was fortunate to receive from a very kind gentleman as I too got fed up with the site.

    Can’t help thinking I’m missing a NINA?

  8. Defeated by 1a and 10a, D’oh!
    After seeing the answers I don’t think I’d have got either in a month of Sundays!
    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza.

    BTW Gazza I had a different take on 12a. The answer is also a card term for a holding of only one card in a suit. If you were to lose it you would be left with a void in that suit.

    1. Pommers,
      Qix made the same point above, but my thinking was that a singleton in bridge would be referred to as “it” rather than “he” – is that wrong?

      1. Hi Gazza
        Sorry, missed that bit of Qix’s comment.
        No, not wrong at all and I’m sure your explanation is the correct one (we’d have to ask Firefly to be sure). It was merely that it was the bridge route that got me to the answer (but then I play the game!), I never thought of the term appying to a single child.
        Is this a case of ‘more than one way to skin a cat’?

  9. Very enjoyable workout from Firefly today. Many thanks to him and to Gazza for the review.

  10. Late to the party today. 10a was a word I recognised but couldn’t for the life of me remember what it meant. I’d also forgotten exactly just how many variant spellings there are for the rainwear item in 24d. For 26a resorted to a scrabble dictionary using the checking letters as would never have got that one otherwise. Favs are 1a and 27a. Thanks to Gazza and Firefly for a harder (IMHO) than usual Wednesday challenge

  11. Thanks to Gazza and all commentators — glad you enjoyed it.

    No NINA, Tilsit, but I’m mildly cast down that no-one (not even the ladies…) spotted the moderately risque wordplay in 9A. I guess our editor would have rejected the clue if it’d been as simple as Gazza suggests!

    I thought I’d changed “his” to its” in 12A, but obviously not; yes, I was thinking bridge, of course.

    Best wishes


    1. Thanks for the clarification, Firefly. I should have twigged the alternative meaning of dug :D

      1. D’OH! – Well done, Firefly!
        I seem to recall Loroso using it recently in the FT – Hardly anyone got it then, either:

        Engineers have dug earth around plant (3-4) //TEAT (RE) E

        1. Thanks, Firefly. A very enjoyable puzzle.

          I didn’t know that sense of “dug”, so thanks again for the enlightenment!

  12. 4 Down, tide is the same as sea? Stretching things a bit, but nice crossword.

    1. Hi Alan.

      The use of “tide” to represent “sea” is reasonably common in poetry, and is an example of metonymy. Chambers dictionary has “sea water” as one of the many definitions of tide, and Chambers thesaurus lists “sea” as a synonym of “tide”.

      I think that you’re right to say that it’s a bit of a stretch, but, IMO it’s OK, particularly in a Toughie.

      1. Hi and Welcome Alan.
        I may agree with that – I pulled up one of our regular NTSPP setters on the synonyms of DRINK/TIDE the other day but perhaps SEA/TIDE is slightly closer.

        *EDIT – The pesky new interfacce meant that this didnt get sent until Qix’s response. Qix, do I need to apologise to Prolixic for this one?

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