Toughie 634 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 634

Toughie No 634 by Firefly

The Curse of the 1 Across

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment **

Greetings from the Calder Valley.

Our Friday Fiend today is Firefly and I found this a curate’s egg of a puzzle. Some nice clues, but a number that made me suck my teeth. For most setters, the clue at 1 across is usually one of the most important clues in the puzzle as it draws you into the puzzle and I can see how today’s looks to be a really clever one that possesses the necessary pulling power. However, for me, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. I actually wondered whether this was Firefly as some of the clues seemed to be in the style of one of the other setters.

I am still unsure as to how the last across clue went together. I suppose I ended up feeling that some of these clues were a bit too clever for their own good. It’s something that causes me considerable personal pain when I feel this way about puzzles, but I also feel my role here is to explain honestly how I feel. As I write the blog for this I am becoming more unhappy with the puzzle. It’s a shame as I really like Firefly’s puzzles in other publications such as the Listener Crossword.

Speaking of upset feelings and Listener Crosswords, I have a warning for masochists, adults of a nervous disposition and children. On Monday evening on BBC4 at 8:30, yours truly plus a couple of chums are taking part in an episode of the popular quiz show Only Connect, hosted by Victoria Coren. You may wish to watch from behind your hands.

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    Aunt Sally? Aunt Sally! (4,4)
{FAIR GAME} We start with a couple of cryptic definitions stitched together. A description of what an Aunt Sally is, as well as what Chambers describes under “Aunt Sally” as “A target for abuse, criticism or blame. Obviously the punctuation becomes key in this clue as well.

5a    Failure of firm following timeless injunctions (6)
{FIASCO} A word that refers to abject failure is made up of the abbreviation for firm or company which goes after the legal word for a document issued by a judge (which is also the name for Italian cars) minus T (timeless).

9a    Writing on the wall for fat GI — exercise! (8)
{GRAFFITO} How many of you without thinking entered this word in the plural? An anagram (indicated by exercise) of FOR FAT GI gives you the singular of a word more commonly used in the plural to describe writing (by vandals or artists) on a wall.

10a    Judge in drink becomes intimate (6)
{ALLUDE} A form of address for a judge (Think m’___) goes inside a type of strong drink to give a word meaning to intimate as in to relate to, rather than more nudge, nudge, wink, wink!

12a    Candy, periodically in vogue, takes centre stage in comeback (6)
{NOUGAT} Take alternate letters from “in vogue” and add the centre letters of stage reversed to give a type of sweetmeat.

13a    Detective, you’ve a ‘Morse’ expression! Correct (4-4)
{COPY-EDIT} Not one of my favourite clues today. It felt too contrived. Take a short word for a detective, plus an old way of saying ‘you’. Add to this a word that means one of the two symbols in Morse code.

15a    Offer matador contract extension (7)
{FERMATA} If you contracted ‘offer matador’, i.e. a hidden answer, you get a word that means extension. My gleaming new Chambers defines the answer as a pause. I’ll let you decide.

16a    Vessel ‘casing’ bay? (4)
{BARK} A triple definition. A word that is a type of sailing ship, the casing (of a tree), and what a dog does.

20a & 30a    Spell ‘blooming flower’ (4,6)
{OPEN SESAME} Another one that doesn’t hit the mark for me. A name for a famous spell used in stories such as the Arabian Nights is supposed to be a cryptic definition of a blooming (i.e. not a bud) and flower (this is a plant famed for its seeds, and I’ve never heard of it described as a flower (or a river).

21a    Damaged patrol car left centre deficient, relatively (3,4)
{PRO RATA} An anagram (indicated by damaged)of PATROL CAR minus L (left) and C (centre) gives a Latin expression meaning relatively.

25a    Strings are attached to this chap’s endless shelling-out (8)
{MANDOLIN} A word for a chap is added to one which means giving out, minus its last letter. This leads you to a stringed instrument.

26a    Mediate Unionist politician’s fury (6)
{UMPIRE} A word sum. U (Unionist) MP (politician) is added to a word meaning anger or rage to give something that means to referee or mediate

28a    Go by stages into heart of Greece (6)
{ELAPSE} A word that relates to stages in athletics (usually 400m long!) goes inside EE (the heart of Greece).

29a    Very happy until jab festers (8)
{JUBILANT} An anagram (indicated by festers) of UNTIL JAB gives a word meaning very happy.

30a    See 20 across

31a    Entries in Telegraph Toughie’s Friday number can be so long! (2,6)
{AU REVOIR} I have the definition “so long”, but at the moment cannot see how this works. Feel free to help out!

As you can see from the posts below, Jezza and Qix have very kindly worked out how this works.   Thanks to them both.  The first letters (ENTRIES) of Telegraph Toughie’s Friday number gave an expression associated with the former Radio 2 broadcaster Sir Jimmy Young, which means “so long” or “goodbye”.  It does redeem the puzzle a little for me, but I still generally feel the way I do.


1d           Remnant found by lawman in ward (3,3)
{FAG END} – this remnant is created by putting the Attorney General inside a verb meaning to ward (off)

2d           Spotted in Arctic — a russet waxwing? (6)
{ICARUS}  The name for someone who in mythology used wings of wax is found hidden in  “Arctic — a russet”.

3d           Hooted ‘Humbug!’ to one being married (8)
{GUFFAWED}  You need a word that means “Humbug!” or “Rubbish!” and add to it A (one) and a word meaning married to get something that means hooted with laughter.

4d           He’s lacking polish! (4)
{MATT} A cryptic definition that means plain or unpolished which is also a shortened boy’s name.

6d           Damascenes, for example, slaying ceaselessly and indiscriminately (6)
{INLAYS}  Not people from Damascus here, but what they also refer to in an arts and crafts way.  It’s an anagram of SLAYIN (g).  Ceaselessly refers to non-stop, i.e. without the last letter.

7d           Reliable member of film crew? (8)
{SOUNDMAN}  The name for someone who works on a film, could be broken down into an expression that means reliable (particularly used as an adjective in Liverpool!)

8d           Come upon Miss Lynn hugging tenor in topless prank (8)
{OVERTAKE}  Take the first name of the British singer famed for meeting once more, insert T (for tenor) and then pop the whole lot inside a word for a prank without its first letter.  This will give you a word meaning come upon.

11d         Using wrong remedy with splitting head — that’s purgatory (7)
{TORTURE}  The legal word for a wrong has attached to it one that refers to a medical remedy without its first letter (splitting head).  This gives a word meaning purgatory or difficulty.

14d         Involve brother in tree climbing (7)
{EMBROIL}  The abbreviated word for brother goes inside the reversal of the name of a fruit tree and leads you to a word meaning involve.

17d         Dopey ogles Mrs Batty (8)
{GORMLESS}  A word that means clueless or dopey is an anagram of OGLES MRS.  “Batty” is a nice anagram indicator.

18d         Head confiscates cushions (8)
{BEANBAGS}  Another word-sum.  A word meaning head (it’s described in Chambers as “infrequent” use) is added to a word meaning confiscates to produce something to sit upon.

19d         Keep to main entree – toxin within not likely to cause harm (8)
{PTOMAINE}  It’s a hidden answer, but the hidden indicator is not directly adjacent to the contents and is part of the definition, but I think you could just about say that it’s ok.

22d         Elderly portrayer of skilled felines and marsupial? (6)
{POSSUM}  A cryptic definition for a marsupial that in literature is associated with a book of practical cats.

Tilsit has had to dash out again, so I’ll be back soon with the final three.  BD

23d         PA’s device reduced hassle for Emperor (6)
{MIKADO} – drop the final E (reduced) from the abbreviated form of a Public Address system and then add some hassle or fuss to get a Japanese Emporer

24d         Fool around among Japanese trees (6)
{JESTER} – this fool is an anagram (around) of J(apanese) and TREES – but it doesn’t quite work for me: has anyone got a better idea?  BD

27d         Skirt edges of Utrecht during heart of season (4)
{TUTU} – this ballet skirt is created by putting the outside letters (edges) of UtrechT inside the middle letters (heart) of one of the four seasons

17 comments on “Toughie 634

  1. Re 31a, I interpreted it as being the last clue of the puzzle, and being Friday, the last Toughie of the week… hence the answer!

    1. Thank you Tilsit for the acknowledgement above, but full credit goes to Qix for the correct parsing. Mine was just a wild (and incorrect) stab in the dark! :)

    1. Oh, well done! Shall now proceed to kick myself. (And just listened to a mention of Jimmy Young on radio 2 as well.) Thanks to Firefly & Tilsit.

      Tilsit, I’m a fan of “Only Connect” so you’ve got one viewer!

  2. I’m quite pleased with myself for completing a Friday Toughie without recourse to external help, though I admit to checking the meaning of 15a. Quite a lot of nice clues, such as 2d, 6d, the aforesaid 15a and 17d (though I spent some time trying to work Nora in). Thanks to Firefly for a thoroughly entertaining puzzle and Tilsit for the review (and sharing his angst).

  3. Judging by the neatness of my handwriting and my solving time, I found this on the straightforward side for a Toughie. Thanks to Qix for working out what 31a was all about, Firefly for the crossword and Tilsit for the review. I am greatly looking forward to 8.30 on Monday evening as I am a fan of the programme anyway and to have two people I know on it will add to the fun.

  4. 31a So long = goodbye = au revoir (at least that’s how I got it but I’m a beginner still at the Toughie)

  5. Fridays are still a bit too tough for me usually. North East corner defeated me. But that grid! You finish one corner and get just one letter for the rest of the crossword. Hate that.

  6. Enjoyed solving this toughie.
    Faves : 25a & 27d.

    15a is a musical term!

    Tilsit – you still haven’t posted the Downs!

  7. I enjoyed this one but I was tormented by 31a, having got the answer but not able to see why. Thanks to Qix for putting me out of my misery. I finished with 18d left and cannot seem to get that one. No doubt it’s not one of the tricky ones – I often can’t solve a straightforward clue.

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