Toughie 646 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 646

Toughie No 646 by Micawber

Perseverance Pays…..

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley. When I found out last night that I was getting Micawber today, I was filled with joy as he is one of my favourite setters and rarely fails to disappoint. However, it took me exactly 9 hours and 13 minutes to get into the Telegraph website to get a copy, including a stint at 4 am trying to get it. Come on Telegraph techies, something has got to be done, it just isn’t good enough.

Rant over. This is a simply splendid puzzle that was more than worth the wait. Lots of laugh aloud moments and the odd forehead slap as well. As I have said before, with setters like Micawber, Dada and Elgar around, the future for crosswords is bright. So many brilliant clues today, it seems a shame to pick the best. Looking at the completed grid, there are odd words here and there and I did wonder if we had a Nina, but it seems not.

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. As usual, favourite clues are highlighted in blue.


1a    Trotter, when fog’s swirling around, needs stable lad? (5,2,8)
{TOWER OF STRENGTH} We start with an anagram (indicated by ‘swirling round‘) of TROTTER WHEN FOG’S to give the name given to someone who is dependable and constant. And a song for our host…..

ARVE Error: need id and provider

9a    Tool and what it might be used to fix — they say it can fix anything (7)
{ALLHEAL} A new word on me. A herbal curative from the teasel family, also used archaically to mean a panacea, is a double homophone (they say). The name of a tool used to bore holes, often by a cobbler goes with that of a part of a shoe and this sounds like the name of the plant.

10a    Starts off 8-9, working late shift? (7)
{NIGHTIE} Take the first letters off the numbers [E]IGHT and [N]INE and jumble them (indicated by ‘working‘) to get the name of something that is worn at night.

11a    Trail around forlornly at first after Barbie’s boyfriend — is he or isn’t he? (6,3)
{SPOKEN FOR} Still giggling at this clue as I type it. The name for an animal footprint goes around the name of the beau of the famous doll and F (‘forlornly’s’ first letter) to give a phrase that means ‘being in a relationship’. Barbie and her man split in the early part of the last decade but rekindled their relationship after she had a fling with Blaine (not the magician) and after an appearance on Oprah, they are going strong again.

12a    Back odds on north-east English having Scottish roots (5)
{NEEPS} After NE E (North East English) goes a reversal of an abbreviation for betting odds in a horse race. This gives you the Caledonian name for turnips.

13a    Put half-measure of spice with fat and stir (7)
{TURMOIL} Take the name of a spice used as part of most curry powders and remove half of the word (the bit that shares its name with a comedian named Morecambe). Add to it the name of a fat used in cooking and you get a word meaning unrest, upheaval or stir.

15a    Factory I have gutted for a large sum (7)
{MILLION} The name for a sort of factory, especially an old one, is added to I and a word meaning to have without (gutted) its middle letter to give a very large number.

17a    A question to deduce — without corroboration, ultimately, will it hold water? (7)
{AQUIFER} A sort of more complex word sum. A + QU (question) + a word meaning deduce – N (the last letter of corroboration). This gives you the name of a geological formation that carries water.

19a    Church boot sale ultimately right for one looking to raise funds from public (7)
{CHUGGER} Another new and trendy word. The name for one of those people who lie in wait as you walk down the street and ambush you to sign your life (and money) away to charity. After CH (church) goes the name of a manufacturer of trendy boots and add E (the last letter of sale) and R(ight)

21a    One immersed in drink, perhaps, having time out back here? (5)
{REHAB} If you reverse the name for someone who sits in a tub of water and remove T for time, you get the name of a place that could be cryptically defined by the whole clue. Cue a rather poignant song…..

ARVE Error: need id and provider

23a    Take off Mac, perhaps, in sun blazing on high (9)
{UNINSTALL} A lovely cryptic definition with amusing indications. If you remove something from a computer (that type of Mac!), it’s this word. An anagram (blazing) of IN SUN is added to something that means high.

25a    I assure you, holding variable but protected against inflation (7)
{INDEXED} A financial term that means a sum is protected against inflation is revealed by taking a word that means “I assure you” and putting X (a mathematical variable) inside.

26a    Reverend Green turns on organ, playing ‘Breakfast in America’? (7)
{GRANOLA) The biggest forehead slap of the day! Not Cluedo but the fine soul singer! After an anagram of ORGAN add a reversal of the singer’s first name to get a crunchy American breakfast cereal.

27a    Seek election for old Glasgow seat, taking note of strong show of support (8,7)
{STANDING OVATION} A phrase meaning to seek election for a former Glasgow constituency (5,2,5) is placed around the seventh note of the scale in sol-fa notation and O(F), as in “will-o’-the-wisp”, to get a strong show of support – like David Cameron this week at the party conference!

Thanks to Micawber for an absolutely brilliant puzzle!

I am afraid I have been summoned back to hospital for some urgent treatment so the Downs will come courtesy of mine host! Thanks to him for stepping in at extremely short notice!

Down (by BD)

1d           Passage unfortunately starting but not finishing (7)
{TRANSIT} – this passage is an anagram (unfortunately) of STARTIN(G) without the final letter (not finishing)

2d           I’ll do it — I’ll follow Roger (5)
{WILCO} – the word used in radio communications to mean “I will comply”, usually followed Roger / “received and understood”

3d           Went unsteadily away and was quickly listing? (6,3)
{REELED OFF} – a charade of a words meaning “went unsteadily” and “away” gives a phrasal verb meaning listed quickly

4d           Middle Eastern snack made of innards, not of leaf mixture (7)
{FALAFEL} – this Middle Eastern snack is built up from innards without the initial OF (not of) followed by an anagram (mixture) of LEAF

5d           Puzzle time: jumble letters and hide answer (7)
{TANGRAM} – this Chinese puzzle consistingof a square cut into seven pieces that will fit together in various ways is a charade of T(ime) and a jumble of letters that is familiar to cryptic crossword enthusiasts from which the middle A(nswer) has been hidden

6d           Offer encouragement — what soldier needs in the morning? (3,2)
{EGG ON} – a phrasal verb meaning to offer encouragement gives something to be eaten with “soldiers” for breakfast

7d           Watercourses being threatened with extinction (9)
{GUTTERING} – these watercourse around the eaves of a house also describe what happens to a candle before it is extinguished

8d           Despicable person, being bad, covers up roots (5,2)
{HEELS IN} – a charade of a despicable person 4) and a verb meaning being bad, when split (5,2), means covers the roots of plants temporarily with earth to keep them moist

14d         Tucked away in Bordeaux, say, a figure in ball park? (5,4)
{ROUGH IDEA} – put a three-letter word meaning tucked away inside the wine of which Bordeaux is an example (say) and follow with the A from the clue to get a figure in right ball park

16d         American fix brought up, in which French agreement’s required to get state (9)
{LOUISIANA} – Reverse A(merican) and a verb meaning to fix and then insert the French for yes and the ‘S from the clue to get a US state that was purchased from the French in 1803 for a mere 60 million francs

17d         Affectation involving almost entirely missing cheek, is this (3,4)
{AIR KISS} – a stupid affectation that seems to afflict American women in particular involves pretending to osculate and pulling out at the last moment

18d         Criticise position of small business with regard to bonus (5,2)
{ROUND ON} – a phrasal verb meaning to criticise is a charade of a small business, usually preceded by milk or paper for example, an a word meaning with regard to added on the end (as a “bonus”)  the position of BUS (small business) in B ON US – many thanks to Myops for pointing that out

19d         Don’t let go of colt bucking round arena leaderlessly (5,2)
{CLING TO} – a phrasal verb meaning to not let go of is created by putting an anagram (bucking) of COLT around an arena without the initial R (leaderlessly)

20d         Behind when coming round edges of Lancashire North, pick up again (7)
{RELEARN} – put a behind or backside around the outside letters (edges) of LancashirE and then add N(orth) to get a word meaning to pick up or study again

22d         Fought bull, perhaps, in retirement (5)
{BOXED} – a word meaning fought, perhaps in the arena in 19d, is created by putting a bull inside a place of retirement

24d         Lay it on regularly — essentially garlicky sauce (5)
{AIOLI} – take the even letters (regularly) of the first three word in the clue and then add the middle letters (essentially) of garLIcky to get a garlic-flavoured mayonnaise

It looks like the online problems will be with us for another few weeks.  If I had worked like that when I was an IT contractor, I wouldn’t have lasted long.

BTW my curry was delicious – the recipe is in The Kitchen!

28 comments on “Toughie 646

  1. Topnotcher from Micawber, I enjoyed every minute of it. Favourite clue for me was 27a but then I’m biased. Many thanks Micawber and also Tilsit ( I hope you will be OK soon Tilsit. )

  2. Superb fare from the Maestro as Tilsit says very hard to single anything out but here goes 11a 23a and 17d thanks to Micawber for a really great puzzle and to Tilsit/Big Dave for the review.

  3. Even though i had a 14d of the answer to 14d it took some considerable time after writing it in for the resounding thud. Madness, staring me in the face all the time. Almost impossible to pick a favourite out of these quality offerings but I think it has to be 26a for me. Many thanks Micawber and Tilsit (I too hope you will be ok soon)

  4. Micawber is one of those setters for whom it’s hard to find a superlative you haven’t used before. It may not have taken me long to solve (2* difficulty) but definitely 5* fun. So good, in fact, that I re-read all the clues just to make sure I hadn’t missed any of the great wordplay the first time round. Many thanks to Micawber and to Tilsit (hope the hospital soon send you back again) and BD too.

  5. Not sure but shouldn’t the hint for 17a read A + QU (question) + a word meaning deduce – N (the last letter of corroboration).

  6. Solved it , but tough, tougher, ….toughest! A big struggle today! Thanks to Tilsit for explaining 26a & 27a.

    Still don’t understand 18d & 19d – but I will be patient.

    1. I have several theories about 18d but will leave that for our esteemed leader to explain rather than make a fool of myself :D

      19d is an anagram of COLT (bucking) put around a term for an arena (such as that for a boxing match) without its first letter (leaderlessly).

      1. 18d – I’ve read the comment from “our esteemed leader ” but I’m still clueless. :cry:

        1. 18d BD’s hint seems perfectly clear to me. The definition is “criticise position of” (i.e. criticise someone’s opinions) and it’s ROUND (small business, e.g. paper round) followed by (indicated by bonus, i.e. in addition to what’s gone before) ON (with regard to).

          1. Thanks, Gazza. I understood the ROUND but not the ON!

            Best of Luck tomorrow for England v France!

            Wales v Ireland – Strictly neutral!

            1. Oops – you’d better ignore my comment and check out the post from Myops (below) which gives the correct explanation of the clue.

  7. Without a shadow of doubt, the best Toughie I have seen for a long time.
    Thanks to Micawber, and to Tilsit for the write up.

  8. Lovely puzzle from Micawber. Thanks to him and to Tilsit (GWS) and BD. 10a was a cracker of a def.

    1a left me thinking of this little lot. Not a patch on the Sisters of Mercy!

    Its like Kashmir never happened!

    1. Please read Myops at comment #9 above – and I’ve updated the hint.

      Small business is BUS and if BUS is round ON you get BONUS.

  9. I’ve been a bit busy for the last few days, but have to post about this one. A really enjoyable puzzle, as Micawber’s always are.

    With so many good clues it’s silly to single one out, but I did like 18d a lot.

    I echo Tilsit’s comments in the intro, too.

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