Toughie 636

Toughie No 636 by Osmosis

Wednesdays aren’t so simple any more

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

If this is the level of difficulty for Wednesday then I won’t be envying Tilsit by the time we get to Friday! I thought that this Toughie was great but pretty hard. Let us know how you got on, especially if you found it a doddle!
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Across Clues

1a  Surgery, covered by state contributions, repeated — an unpleasant situation (2,6)
{NO PICNIC} – the abbreviation for a surgical procedure goes inside (covered by) the abbreviation for contributions taken from one’s pay by the state (a tax by any other name) which is repeated.

6a  Nice woman out to lunch with credit card briefly (6)
{MADAME} – I’m sure you weren’t fooled by “Nice” at the start to disguise the capital letter. We want the title of a French married woman. Start with an adjective for which “out to lunch” is a colloquial synonym and add the credit card issued by American Express without its final letter (briefly).

9a  Being a six-footer limits one ruminating about footwear (6)
{ANKLET} – something worn near the foot is an insect surrounding (limits) a ruminating animal closely related to a moose which is reversed (about).

10a  Fantasy literature grips generation (not old). Potter responsible for this? (8)
{CERAMICS} – what is produced by a potter comes from fantasy magazines (mainly, but not exclusively, for children) with illustrated stories. Drop the O(ld) from this and insert a synonym of generation.

11a  Sticks flower, with spades, back up in street (5,3)
{STAYS PUT} – the definition is sticks, i.e. remains in place. Put a Scottish river (flower), S(pades) and the reversal (back) of UP all inside ST(reet).

12a  A measure of illumination captures ring master repeatedly knocking over clown (6)
{LUMMOX} – what we want here is an informal word for a stupid, clumsy person (clown). The SI unit of illuminance contains (captures) O (ring) and two M(aster)s reversed (knocking over).

13a  Pair of sea lions poorly trained (12)
{PROFESSIONAL} – start with the abbreviation for pair and follow this with an anagram (poorly) of OF SEA LIONS.

16a  Elevate tulips — raise one on the rocks (12)
{SPIRITUALISE} – a verb meaning to elevate to a more refined and less earthy level comes from an anagram (on the rocks) of TULIPS RAISE and I (one).

19a  Dutch pilots, grasping communication, finally say Foxtrot, Tango (6)
{DANCES} – foxtrot and tango are examples (say) of these. Start with D(utch) and add expert pilots with the final letter of (communicatio)N inside.

21a  Photograph punt? (4,4)
{LONG SHOT} – double definition – a photograph, possibly taken with a zoom lens, and a punt with only an outside chance of success.

23a  Determined to release arrested gang (8)
{UNTIRING} – the definition is determined. Start with a verb to release shorn of its final letter (arrested) and add a criminal gang.

24a  Curry welcome by soul artist (6)
{KARAHI} – this is a type of curry derived from the name of the bowl-shaped pan with two handles in which it’s cooked (my Chambers doesn’t list it, but I don’t yet have the very latest version). A word of welcome follows (by) the ancient Egyptian word for the soul or spirit and the usual abbreviation for an accomplished artist.

25a  Horsy type, in Ascot’s perimeter, that brings good luck? (6)
{AMULET} – this good luck charm comes from putting the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse inside the perimeter letters of A(sco)T. I love “horsy type”.

26a  Actors, during play of Orton, subject to discipline (2,6)
{ON REPORT} – I spent some time trying to fit Loot into the answer before twigging that the abbreviation for a company of actors needs to be inserted (during) an anagram (play) of ORTON.

Down Clues

2d  Decorative bronze reflected in Scandinavian capital (6)
{ORNATE} – reverse (reflected) a verb meaning to bronze inside a monetary unit in the Scandinavian countries.

3d  Lose track of months being away here in Hebrides (5)
{ISLAY} – drop the M (months being away) from a verb meaning to lose track of to leave an island in the Inner Hebrides.

4d  Unprepared bird hides nothing, under broken-down Punto (3,2,2,2)
{NOT UP TO IT} – this is a phrase meaning lacking fitness for the specified task. A small songbird contains (hides) O (nothing) and that is preceded by an anagram (broken-down) of PUNTO.

5d  Cooking pot — place for little kippers that inhabit French coast (7)
{COCOTTE} – a bed for young sleepers (little kippers) goes inside the French word for coast to make a small dish for cooking and serving individual portions of food. Inhabit (plural) doesn’t seem right since it’s the place (singular) rather than the kippers which has to be inserted – perhaps inhabiting would have been better.

6d  Painting Scottish island, artist shades loch (5)
{MURAL} – start with another Hebridean island and replace (shades) the first L(och) with the usual abbreviation for artists to make a painting.

7d  Up in spare room, I’m editing actress on film (4,5)
{DEMI MOORE} – a wonderfully disguised pair of hidden (in) reversed (up) words gives us a film actress.

8d  TV fashionista spends £1000 tracking coat for Irish singer (8)
{MACGOWAN} – this was the last answer I got (I need all the checking letters I can get when “fashion” is mentioned!). Luckily the Irish singer (the answer) came fairly quickly then I had to work Google overtime to get the unlikely name (Gok Wan) of some character who apparently appears on a TV fashion show. Drop the K (spends £1000) and put what’s left after an abbreviated raincoat. Still, it does give me an excuse to play this classic from Shane and Kirsty:

13d  Narrow medicine bottle attracts a boy, adversely (9)
{PAROCHIAL} – the definition is narrow in the sense of restricted or blinkered. Put a medicine bottle around (attracts) A and an exclamation meaning boy! or blimey! which has to be reversed (adversely).

14d  Pub, during spring break, finally drawn on canvas (9)
{SPINNAKER} – this is a large canvas or sail (refer to Pommers if you want a better explanation). Put a pub inside (during) a synonym of spring, then add the final letter of (brea)K and a reversal (drawn?, presumably in the sense of pulled back) of a short word meaning on or concerning.

15d  Occupant of bogs starts to sway perilously, holding topless wine bottle (8)
{SPHAGNUM} – the surface is quite amusing but this word for peat moss found in boggy areas was new to me, so luckily the wordplay is fairly straightforward. Begin with the starting letters of Sway Perilously Holding and add a large wine bottle without its initial M (topless).

17d  Endlessly cite highest bits of Roy Orbison’s musical piece (7)
{ALLEGRO} – the answer is normally seen as an adjective but it can also be a noun, meaning a musical piece played in a brisk manner. Start with a verb to cite or bring forward in argument, drop the final E (endlessly) and add the initial (highest, in a down clue) letters of Roy Orbison.

18d  Genuine punch mum finishes in one hour (6)
{KOSHER} – this is a word which has a specific religious meaning but which is used informally to mean genuine or legitimate. String together the sort of punch which finishes a fight, an injunction to keep mum and the final letters of onE houR.

20d  Work strain restricts husband (5)
{SHIFT} – put a verb meaning to strain or filter around H(usband) to make a period of work.

22d  Fit third of wires into plug (5)
{STROP} – insert the third letter of wiRes in a verb meaning to plug or close up to make another informal term for a hissy fit.

The clues I liked a lot included 6a, 9a, 25a and 15d, but my clue of the day (for hiding a name in a way that Virgilius would be proud of) is 7d.


  1. crypticsue
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I found this one properly tough – as you say Gazza, if they get harder as the week goes on , Tilsit is going to have a job and a half on Friday. I had to google the curry in 24a but apart from that it was all doable even if it did take longer than usual and I needed a small lie down in a darkened room afterwards (didn’t get one as I was at work but….) My favourite was 8d, although there are close runners up. Thanks to Osmosis and Gazza too.

  2. Jezza
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    What a struggle this was! I got there in the end, after buying a couple of online letters for 24a (not in Chambers 12th edition).
    Thanks to Osmosis for the challenge, and to gazza for the review.

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      Possibly the only good thing about the useless Telegraph Puzzles site is that when I am tempted to go for an online letter, I can’t get onto the site so have to stick to my old-fashioned ways of muttering over the wordplay in the paper, getting what I thought was the answer and then googling to see if the curry word I came up with really existed. The only K one I knew before was good old korma.

      • Jezza
        Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        That’s good discipline! I went for the easy option, as I had no idea at the time what I was looking for – at one point I had the K and the H, and was trying to explain KNIGHT (Gladys) as the ‘soul artist’ !

      • Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Karahi Gosht is one of my favourite Indian dishes,so it was no problem for me.

  3. birdie
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    An excellent challenge – tough but not impossible. It took me almost twice as long to complete the bottom half as it did the top. I got 13d from the definition + checking letters but I just couldn’t see where the “boy” came into it, so thanks for the explanation. Lots of good clues but I agree that 7d was brilliant. Thanks to Osmosis and Gazza.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was going to be a simple one after starting with the two Hebridean Islands then got totally bogged down for ages with the SE corner, in the end I needed your assistance with 24a. Thanks to Osmosis for a cracker of a crosssword and to Gazza for the picture of Demi Moore ( oh, and the review)

  5. andy
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Ouch my head hurts like if bludgeoned by a proper friday toughie, but yet another calendar check tells me it’s only Wednesday. Eek and thrice eek. Did, as others, need to check 24a, and am still even with the hint trying to convince myself that I fully got the wordplay for 14d. Thanks to Osmosis and Gazza.

  6. pegasus
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Agree with Gazza on this one very tough indeed, despite having four letters in couldn’t get 8d. Favourites for me were 1a 6a 7d and 18d, Thanks to Osmosis for an excellent puzzle and to Gazza for a splendid review.

  7. Franco
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Gazza for explaining the ones I didn’t understand – quite a few! Agree with 7d being a superb example of a hidden clue!

    Still do not understand 14d.

    PS! Chambers 12th edition does not list the curry at 24a.

    • gazza
      Posted September 21, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      14d The definition is canvas and it’s INN inside SPA (spring) + (brea)K (finally) + RE (on) reversed, so
      SP INN A K ER.

      • andy
        Posted September 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Gazza, I was only struggling with the RE (on) part so thanks for clarification.

    • Franco
      Posted September 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      7d – The photo – a wonderful pair hidden?

  8. Prolixic
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Magnificent! Many thanks to Osmosis for the challenge and to Gazzza for the review.

  9. Posted September 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Certainly was a Toughie. I managed to solve about half unaided but having decorators in (so no PC) deprived me of Googling some that I feel I would have got. Thanks to setter and retriever.

  10. Chris
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for 8d hint. Lost without it. A proper toughie after yesterday.

    • gazza
      Posted September 21, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      When I found the name of this fashionista character – GOK WAN – I wondered at first whether it was a spoof (it is after all an anagram of an instruction to clear off and do something rude :D ).

  11. Posted September 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Time restraints meant that I got about 70 (actually nearer 90%) of this today – some fiendish cluing in there but some really fun clues. Gok Wan flummoxed me but my favourite was 12a for the amusing image. THanks to gazza and to Osmosis.