Toughie 618

Toughie No 618 by Firefly

Crossword TV by Tilsit and Big Dave

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley! I’m demob-happy and off on my jollies to the Lakes tomorrow, and as I have to run around getting things sorted out for me to thrive up there, today’s blog will be a two-hander with BD helping out with the Downs. Thanks to our host for helping out when I realised there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Today we have a puzzle from Firefly which is similar to one I set in the NTSPP puzzle slot a while back in that it is based on a type of puzzle called Theme and Variations, where there is a theme, often not to be found in the puzzle and then a number of answers that relate to the theme in different ways, which means there’s usually no definition in those clues. These require a little solving readjustment as the clue as a whole is actually either made up of indications. And so it is here today with Firefly’s enjoyable puzzle which has eight answers where as you solve it you will find there are four that are one interpretation of the theme and the remainder another. I did spend a bit of time trying to put the answers into pairs as I solved them, but realised I wasn’t barking up quite the right tree.

The clues are very much as we have come to expect of Firefly and although I have been a little critical recently of a couple of his offerings, I am pleased to say this was quite palatable. Unfortunately because of how things work with the on-line solving software, what could have been a clever preamble is relegated to an afterthought after the first of the themed clues. However, it doesn’t really detract from the puzzle and Firefly is to be commended, although I did think one or two clues to be a little weak or almost too clever with surface reading (8 down being the prime example). The theme is attached at the end, hidden until you highlight it.

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. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.

A plug for the dead-tree version of the Telegraph this weekend with free puzzle magazines on Saturday and Sunday, and there is an Elgar Toughie to look forward to.


1a    Holding end of pan, cook let rip with afters — these? (5,8)
{APPLE FRITTERS} This held me up more than it probably should have done. It’s an anagram (indicated by ‘cook’) of LET RIP and AFTERS, plus P, for end of pan, which is a bit naughty in my opinion, although it is strictly correct; I think I’d have prefer “one end of pan”. This gives you a dessert found in some Chinese restaurants.

9a    Try changing in here by nine (6-3)
(COMPILER’S NOTE: This and seven other clues lack a common definition of their answers)

{THIRTY-SIX} To get an example of the theme place an anagram (changing) of TRY inside a word meaning here, present. Add to this the Roman numerals for nine

10a    Kettle cut out around eleven (5)
{DIXIE} A colloquial word for a kettle or billycan consists of a word meaning cut which goes around the Roman numerals for eleven.

11a    He gives signal to the Queen! (5)
{PIPER} This is a clue where the whole of the clue sort of defines the word required. A word meaning a signal, there are some of these with the GMT signal, is added to ER (The Queen) and gives you someone who could serenade HM.

12a    Every single rift brother denied (4)
{EACH} If you remove BR (brother) from a word meaning a rift; think of when a dam bursts you will be left with something that means every single one.

13a    Growth of insolvency steadying somewhat (4)
{CYST} Hidden in the phrase “insolvency steadying” is a word that is a type of growth.

15a    Faults oddly held in substantial denial (7)
{REFUTAL} The odd letters of FAULTS are to be placed in a word that means substantial to reveal a word for a denial.

17a    Sleep with a mistress from Windsor? (7)
{BEDFORD} Not Barbara or Barmaid as I first thought. This is a theme word (no definition) so you need a word meaning sleep and add to it the name of one of the Merry Wives of Windsor.

18a    Tatty mat covered in smut (7)
{PORTMAN} Inside a word meaning smut or filth (as peddled by Richard Desmond, for example) goes an anagram of MAT.

20a    Restraint shown about Greek’s distress (7)
{CHAGRIN} An abstract noun meaning distress (I personally thought it was a sort of peevish annoyance, rather than distress) is found by putting a word meaning restraint around GR (Greek).

21a    Shafts of skates? (4)
{RAYS} A double definition. A word that means a member of the skate family of fishes and one that means shafts of light.

22a    Cast-off pieces of ‘Ulysses’ script edited (4)
{USED} Here we have U S (“pieces” of Ulysses’ script) added to an abbreviation for edited to give a word meaning cast-off.

23a    Turn out Charge Nurse for swopping positions (5)
{ENSUE} A word meaning turn out is found by taking an abbreviation for a level of nurse and a legal word meaning to charge or take action against and swapping them round, so the abbreviation comes first.

26a    Lawyer’s article backed about independent water plant (5)
{NAIAD} A type of aquatic plant is found by placing an abbreviation for a (US) lawyer and AN (article) around I (independent) and reversing it all.

27a    Tend to hygiene (6-3)
{EIGHTY-ONE} Make an anagram (tend) of TO HYGIENE to lead you to a theme word.

28a    Way of escaping issue around pressure communicated by former partner (9,4)
{EMERGENCY EXIT} Inside a word meaning issue or give out, goes a homophone (communicated) of a word meaning pressure or haste, along with a two letter word for a former lover or partner. This gives the means for getting out a vehicle in trouble.


1d           Stripper Nina at work — she might have a use for it! (14)
{ANTIPERSPIRANT} – there’s nothing like a nice long anagram to get you going – work indicates an anagram of STRIPPER NINA AT is needed to get something of use to this girl

2d           Groom marrying straitlaced Penny (5)
{PRIMP} – a word meaning to groom is a combination (marrying) of a synonym for straitlaced and P(enny)

3d           By which to gain access to one’s old inside? (10)
{ENTEROTOMY} – an all-in-one clue – combine a word meaning to gain access, TO and a possessive pronoun equivalent to “one’s” and then insert O(ld) to get an incision of the intestinal wall

4d           Abbot and Costello charged nothing in retirement (7)
{RUSSELL} – start with the first name of a comedian with surname Abbot (not Bud, I wasted a lot of time trying to work him into the answer!) and add (COST)ELL(O) without (in retirement) COST O (charged nothing) to get one of the themed answers

5d           Mexicans figure centrally in bill for conveyance (7)
{TAXICAB} – put the middle letters (centrally) of (ME)XICA(NS) inside another word for the bill in a restaurant to get a conveyance licensed to carry passengers

6d           Mary Baker’s in a whirl! (4)
{EDDY} – the surname of Mary Baker, the founder of the Christian Science religion, is also a whirlpool or a whirlwind

7d           Entering the unknown? Scary! You first! (5-4)
{SIXTY-FOUR} – put an algebraic unknown inside an anagram (scary) of YOU FIRST to get another themed answer

8d           What the Palace shows when sentries vetted rigorously? (6,8)
{VESTED INTEREST} – this personal stake or involvement in an undertaking or situation is an anagram (rigorously) of SENTRIES VETTED

14d         Notice bird — about a hundred on lake close by (10)
{ADJACENTLY} – a two-letter notice is followed by a three-letter bird, the latter placed around A, a hundred, as in per hundred, and L(ake) gives  an adverb meaning close by

16d         Beneficial to inch into river (5-4)
{FORTY-NINE} – another of our theme answers is constructed from a three-letter word meaning beneficial to followed by IN(ch) inside Newcastle’s river

19d         Savings to sit on? (4,3)
{NEST EGG} – a double definition – some savings and something for a bird to sit on

20d         A plague in Canada (7)
{CADOGAN} – put A and a verb meaning to plague or worry inside CAN(ada) to get our final thematic answer

24d         Boundary enclosing where French native language … (5)
{SIOUX} – put the number of runs scored by hitting the cricket ball over the boundary around the French for where to get the language spoken by a group of Native Americans

25d         … starts to evanesce, duplicating Geneva’s eastern border (4)
{EDGE} – the initial letters of four of the words in the clue give a border

I’m not a great fan of puzzles where the instructions state that there is no definition for some of the clues, but this one wasn’t too bad.

The theme is: {Squares – 6×6, 7×7, 8×8 and 9×9 and London Squares – Bedford, Cadogan, Portman, and Russell}


  1. crypticsue
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I am always more than a little thrown by those messages about clues lacking a common definition but I perservated and got there in the end. Definitely a Friday level toughie so thank you to Firefly.

    Thanks to TIlsit for the acrosses (have a really good holiday) and to BD for the downs.

  2. Mike in Amble
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I very much enjoyed this unusual (for me) type of puzzle. You know it was good when you’re sorry to finish it, as with a good jigsaw. thanks setter, BD and Tilsit.

  3. pegasus
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Perseverance finally prevailed in what I thought was one of the toughest Toughies for a while, no real favourites just glad to complete it. Thanks to Firefly and to Tilsit/ Big Dave for the joint review.

  4. chris
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t get the theme right..thought it was all numbers but then there weren’t enough!
    Foxed by 18ac and 20d but the rest was much more fun than I expected.
    Thanks to Firefly and reviewers.

  5. BigBoab
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable crossword from Firefly once again. Many thanks to Tilsit also for the acrosses ( I haven’t seen any downs from BD ). Stiff but fair.

  6. andy
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Got there eventually thanks to the hint for 15a, seemingly I cannot count today and thus entered refusal which made 3d a tad tricky. Enjoyed the theme. 24d and 4d were favourites. Many thanks to Firefly and BD. Like Tilsit am off on Hols, see you all in ten days or so.
    BD 7d you need to add the rest of the clue

    • Posted August 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Thanks – it’s that damn drag and drop again!

  7. Qix
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    A tricky Toughie, but well worth doing.

    Many thanks to Firefly, and to Tilsit and BD for blogging duties.

  8. Libellule
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Is it me or is 6d missing…

    • Posted August 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      I’m not quite sure how that happened!

      It’s fixed now.

  9. pommers
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Don’t often disagree with you guys but I really didn’t think much of this puzzle at all – far to clever for its own good and not enjoyable in the slightest IMHO! I faffed around with it on-and-off for ages, finally got there and thought ‘well, glad that’s out of the way then, I can go to bed now!’ At least it kept me out of pommette’s way after dinner while she watched CSI Miami (think she fancies Horatio!).
    Thanks from pommette to Firefly for keeping me busy and to Tilsit/BD for explaining a couple that I wasn’t convinced about.

    • cathy
      Posted August 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Yes, not for me either.

  10. jaehancock
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Found this really tricky and, although I worked out most answers, I still don’t understand 14d, although I guessed the answer (AD for notice, I get, AC for a hundred, I get, L and Y for lake and close to bY, I think I get, but I still can’t see how it’s put together) where are the J and ENT from? Neither can I quantify 28a. I understand EMIT around ERG and EX, but why ENCY, what have I missed? Clearly I’m not thinking in the right way, but would be so grateful for help to understand.

    This puzzle’s structure was interesting, but I do prefer a puzzle when one has a common definition for each answer. But that’s just my opinion…

    Thank you to the setter and the solvers, but I’d love an explanation to my first para. Otherwise, I’ll be puzzling forever over the answers.

    • Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      It’s a homophone of URGENCY inside EMIT and EX inside.

      Sent from my iPhone

    • Posted August 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      14d is AD (notice) + A CENT (I did say “as in per hundred” which is “per cent”) + L(ake) inside JAY (bird) – close by is the definition.

      Did you read the hints? All was explained there.

  11. Prolixic
    Posted August 21, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Tricky but fair. I got the numbers fairly quickly but it took an age for the locations to fall into place. Thanks to Firefly for the review and to Tilsit/BD for the review.

  12. BillyBusker
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Can’t understand Tilsit’s explanation for 8dn. In other words, why does ‘What the Palace shows’ mean vested interest? Help, someone please! We (my 90-year-old ma and I) thought it a brilliant puzzle and worthy of five stars for each category instead of the miserly four it was awarded.

    • Franco
      Posted August 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      8d – Sorry, but I cannot help. Maybe one of the Galacticos can put us out of our misery? Hope it’s not too obvious!

    • gazza
      Posted August 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      I just read it that the Palace have a vested interest in having sentries on duty who have been rigorously vetted (presumably so that the people in the palace are better protected).

      • Qix
        Posted August 22, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

        This is clearly right.

        Clues like this can be quite difficult to explain.

        Standard cryptic clues often look like {solution} is given by {wordplay}, or {wordplay} leads to {solution}, or {wordplay} {solution}. All-in-one (or “&lit”) clues are those where the whole of the wordplay is also the definition of the solution.

        In this type of clue, a semi-all-in-one (or “semi-&lit”), the whole of the clue is supposed to be the definition of the solution, but the wordplay is only a part of the clue.

        • BillyBusker
          Posted August 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for going to all that trouble, Qix, but that wasn’t what I was after. I understand the concept of the all-in-one wordplay and definition, I just didn’t know what ‘vested interest’ had to do with the Palace. Thanks also to Gazza for providing what seems to be the best interpretation. PS: Does anyone know whether the new Saturday toughie (Elgar this week) is going to be included in this excellent site.