Toughie 614

Toughie No 614 by Micawber

Dear Telegraph Crossword Editor…..

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

Dear Phil

I know I haven’t been kind to you in the past with one or two less than positive reviews, but I speak from the heart as a passionate solver and try to let you know how I feel about my experiences. I don’t see the point in being untrue about a puzzle I can’t get on with. This week I was nearly sticking pins in a doll of you, when access to the site has been all over the place but ultimately it isn’t your fault, so the pins were returned to the sewing box (my modelling skills produced a doll that looked more like Mick Hucknall than you anyway!).

But I am being spoiled something rotten on a Friday. Elgar is a regular and the last two Friday slots have been Notabilis and today Micawber, three of the finest setters around and they have all produced wonderful amazing puzzles. Today’s Micawber gets a five star rating all-round. A puzzle full of stunning invention, wit and topical stuff. Bravo and it is great to see you encourage this younger talent that makes me feel the future of the black and white grid is in very safe hands. This week’s Dada was a fine puzzle too.

Now if you can just make the site behave……

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. Favourite clues are highlighted in blue……..


1a    Foreman resurrecting concealed back access route to site? (8)
{USERNAME} I spent ages trying to work this out, eventually getting it on intersecting letters. It’s a splendidly clever hidden answer! Hidden backwards (Concealed back – duh!) inside “Foreman resurrecting” is a way of getting access to a website.

5a    Figure in live TV event, perhaps marathon (6)
{OBLONG} The name for a quadrilateral can be found by taking the abbreviation for a TV event that is live, such as a football match or horse race and adding to it a description of a race such as a marathon.

9a    Virtuous sailor wouldn’t do this (8)
{PIRATING} A charade of a two-letter word meaning virtuous of religious and a non-commissioned sailor in the navy gives an act that a virtuous sailor wouldn’t be responsible for, i.e. what a bad sailor who flies under a skull and crossbones does.

10a    Prince, half-gone, wearing child’s T-shirt? (4-2)
{SLIP-ON} A word for a type of garment that is easy to wear (I usually associate it with shoes without laces). You can find this by taking the name of the Queen’s husband and removing half, putting it inside a word meaning a child.

12a    Try to land (9)
{TOUCHDOWN} A double definition. A score in an oval-ball game played across the pond (a poor-man’s rugby!) is the same as one which means to land.

13a    He refuses to comment on parking — press seen as anti-motorist (5)
{CLAMP} The name of a creature that’s a synonym for someone who keeps shtumm has P (for parking) added to produce a device (nicely defined) that is deeply unpopular with drivers.

14a    Like pride? (2,2)
{AS IN) Another double definition (one part cryptic, hence the question mark) an expression that means like when split (1,3) is the same as what pride (and gluttony, lust, envy etc.) is.

16a    Mix in lead with old inactive ingredient (7)
{PLACEBO} Inside the chemical symbol for lead, you should put a word meaning to mix, often used in a context of spiking drinks. Add O (for old) and you have a word meaning a medication that has no physical curative effect.

19a    Call outside own area may principally rely on this (7)
{ROAMING) A nice surface reading here. A method of forwarding telephone calls outside one’s own area is found by taking a word meaning to telephone and inserting the initial letters of (principally) O(wn) A(rea) M(ay).

21a    Thick crusts from Native-American bread (4)
{NAAN} A type of bread is found by taking the ends of the words Native-American. Here Micawber uses “thick crusts” to mean not just the first and last letter, but the first and last couple.

24a    Dismiss English judge in front of European court (5)
{EJECT} A wordsum made up of abbreviations for English, Judge, European and CourT when put together give a word meaning dismiss or throw-out.

25a    Possessing mines, perhaps, or pits? (5,4)
{UNDER ARMS} An expression for bodily ‘pits’ is found by taking a word meaning “possessing” as in belonging to a country, etc. Add to this a word that describes weapons such as mines, guns, etc.

27a    Cut to mature better? (6)
{OUTAGE} A newish word that relates to when mobile cell sites (such as my own at the moment – please sort out Vodafone!) are not working. This is cryptically defined in the same way that if you perform a task better than someone you outdo them, and so if you mature better than something you…..

28a    Way for French to reverse possibly toxic atmosphere in troubled grouping (8)
{EUROZONE} A terrific topical clue, one of my favourites of today’s great bunch. Reverse the word for a way or street in French and add the name for a type of gas. This gives you a newish word for a group of financially connected nations.

29a    It sounds easy in Hollywood to take in foolish star with fake (6)
{ERSATZ} Inside the way a young American may spell “easy” goes an anagram of STAR. This produces a German word that means substitute or fake, such as beer.

30a    Get into difficulties with compound of nitrates (8)
{STRAITEN} And here’s the other one. An anagram of NITRATES gives a word meaning to get into difficulties.


1d Bolshie rising at top of colliery yard (6)
{UPPITY} The downs start with a word meaning bolshie or troublesome, which is found by taking a word meaning rising or standing and adding to it one meaning a colliery and Y for yard.

2d Blast coming up from Scots University lecturer (6)
{EARFUL} A word for a blast of something (usually a sound) can be found by reversing the word for “FROM” in Scottish and then adding U (for University) and L (for Lecturer)

3d Level unconsecrated building? (5)
{NOTCH} A lovely clue. A word for a level, for example a mark in a measuring device, is cryptically defined as a non-holy place or in short…..

4d Sun now? Not so much this season! (7)
{MONSOON} Another dose of lateral thinking needed. If it’s Sun (day) now, what’s in the immediate future? This cryptic was of saying the next day is imminent is also a rainy season.

6d Headgear needed when tipping a canine toilet into lake (9)
{BALACLAVA} A sadly rather topical clue! The headgear of choice of many looters and rioters is found by taking A, C (Canine in the dental world) and a short word for a toilet and putting it all inside a rather beautiful lake in N Wales

7d Red top involved in hacking phone data heartlessly — this issue taken on by Guardian? (8)
{ORPHANED} Another storming clue! R (the top of “red”) goes inside an anagram of PHONE DA (DATA heartlessly, i.e. minus TA) and gives a word meaning a type of child taken on by a Guardian, i.e. not a parent.

8d Collective inheritance goes regularly on pole dancing (4,4)
{GENE POOL} The alternative letters of goes (indicated by ‘regularly’) plus an anagram (indicated by ‘dancing’) of ON POLE will lead you to the source of collective inheritance….

11d Cut dressmaker’s essentials up (4)
{SNIP} Reverse what a dressmaker needs, along with needles, to get a word meaning cut.

15d Clingy relatives tending at first to stay within vision (4-5)
{SKIN-TIGHT} A phrase meaning clingy or close-fitting is found by taking a word for family or relatives, adding T (Tending at first) and put inside a word meaning vision.

17d Ghastly, cultivated-sounding tones (8)
{GRUESOME} A word for ghastly, horrible is found by taking a homophone for cultivated and adding an obscure way of saying SOME (see “tone” in Chambers)

18d Petites amies perhaps — they may provide assistance to artists (8)
{PALETTES} What’s used by an artist to hold paints is a cryptic way of saying “little French chums”.

20d Grassed mounts for herd animals (4)
{GNUS} African mammals are found by reversing what a stool pigeon once did.

21d Agreement on nothing but breaking with certainty (2,5)
{NO DOUBT} What is used to show an agreement is added to an anagram of O BUT to give an expression meaning certainly.

22d About to go for drop of rum during excursion? Stop drinking (3,3)
{DRY OUT} A phrase meaning to stop drinking (usually of an alcoholic) is found by swapping R for A in the name of a trip, for example a coach one.

23d A southern bird following trawler? (6)
{ASTERN} A word sum. A + S (SOUTHERN) + TERN (bird) gives a word meaning behind on a ship.

26d Less than half punch left, containing orange juice and wine (5)
{RIOJA} Inside the last three letters of a Spanish wine punch with fruit and soda water goes OJ (orange juice) to give the name of famous wine.

Once again, thanks to Micawber for a breath-taking puzzle and I’ll see you next week!


  1. gazza
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    This is absolutely wonderful – possibly my favourite puzle of the whole year. It’s full of witty and topical clues without an obscure word in sight. Many thanks to Micawber, and to Tilsit for the review. Too many excellent clues to list but I must mention 7d.

    • bakesi
      Posted August 13, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      I agree-best toughie for ages…cryptic,witty, lots of ‘doh’ moments and made me smile so many times when I got the answer!

      best of all no obscure words that necessitates ‘cheating’ with books etc.

  2. Qix
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant, I really enjoyed this.

    7d is a work of art, but the whole puzzle is excellent.

    Many thanks to Micawber for a real cracker.

  3. crypticsue
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    It was a good job I started this one early too as the NW corner took ages for the pennies to drop. I always expect fun from Micawber and this was one of his best so many many thanks to him. I had so many favourite clues but 25a and 18d made me laugh out loud so much that Mr CS came in from the garden and I had to explain what I was laughing at. Thanks to Tilsit for the review too – lucky you getting to enjoy it twice over.

    If you have time left, there are is a great Paul in the Guardian too – I solved it at the beach surrounded by at least 16 of the 20 odd relatives present calling me sad and over-addicted. I countered that by saying that I was using the time to prevent my brain cells from atrophying while on holiday. :)

  4. pegasus
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I endorse Tilsit’s sentiments wholeheartedly, an absolute belter of a puzzle NW held me up for what seemed an eternity far too many brilliant clues to single one out. Many thanks to Micawber and to Tilsit for his review.

  5. Jezza
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    This took me most of the morning, whilst doing work duties at the same time. I had similar problems with the NW, and in fact I had 3/4 of the puzzle completed, and not one of the top left filled in. The remaining 8 clues gradually fell into place, with immense relief at the end!
    Many thanks to Micawber for an excellent challenge, and to Tilsit for the review.

  6. Hieroglyph
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful puzzle – 7d and 28ac two of the best topical clues I’ve seen in ages. Like most, NW corner took a while, but overall a highly satisfying solve. Thanks to Micawber for a cracking solve and to Tilsit for a justifiably glowing review.

  7. Prolixic
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Stonking stuff from start to finish from Micawber. Like many have said above, the are too many stunning clues to choose a favourite. Thanks to Tilsit for the review and to Micawber for the fun.

  8. Gilbert
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I formulated SOME in 17d from the musical notes or tones SO and ME. Tilsit’s interpretation was too obscure for me and it was tones(plural) in the clue.

    • Posted August 12, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Tilsit is out playing bridge at the moment, but I think he might agree with you when he gets home!

      • Qix
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        That’s how I read it too.

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        Indeed he does

  9. upthecreek
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I was going really well on this one but the ground to a halt in NW corner. 2d then came to rescue but 1a and 3d took ages. Still, got there in the end. Favourite was 1a for sheer difficulty but 6 12 and 25 gave me a smile. Thanks to setter for a great contest.

  10. BigBoab
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Great puzzle, I am really quite proud of myself to have totally completed it without recourse to your great review. My personal favourite was 7d but I loved the whole thing, many thanks to Micawber and to Tilsit.

  11. Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Seven down!, seven down!, seven down! Ooh Aah!. I havent got round to completing this due to work and driving home from work commitments but what a clue!

  12. Micawber
    Posted August 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the all the feedback and welcome blog comments. In my day job I’m an old fart, so it’s nice to be a newby in crosswordland! 7 down was fortuitous, because Phil rejected my original clue (Like Annie – little daughter, no pa her misfortune) as too obvious, so I had another crack at it at the height of hackgate. Once “issue taken up by Guardian” presented itself as a definition, I knew I could do something with it.

  13. Phil McNeill
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Dear Tilsit
    Thank you, on behalf of the setters, for those kind words.
    I really really really wish I could make the TP site behave…
    Best wishes

  14. Posted August 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I managed three quarters of a Friday Toughie – either standards are slipping or I’m improving!