Toughie 674 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 674

Toughie No 674 by Firefly

History Lesson

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

Greetings from the Calder Valley. Firefly is back with what I consider to be a real improvement on his last couple of challenges. Not the hardest of puzzles but one which brought about a bit of head-scratching and a reach for the history books.

Like Gazza earlier, I have been having real problems with the Telegraph website. I haven’t been able to access the site much this week and have been lucky that chums have sent me copies of the puzzles scanned from the papers. There are issues known around midnight, but as far as they are aware it should be OK at other times. I know that Phil McNeill, the Puzzles Editor, will usually take note when people mention having difficulties here. Of course if you have a problem that needs to be resolved, or want to register that a problem has occurred so that they know about it, you should contact Telegraph Customer Services via the site.

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, as usual, highlighted in blue. The theme is given after the puzzle and you can highlight it to see it, if you are unsure..


1a    Writer’s new series reportedly suffering — worthless organ in a 22? (12)
{PENNSYLVANIA} This was one of a couple of clues that look as though they work but don’t quite. I think it’s a little more than a charade. The word for something that writes ink, has N S (new series) added and then attached are homophones for suffering/unwell, worthless and an organ of the body found on the head. This gives you the name of a 22.

9a    Medal — first in fighter unit — given to flier (9)
{GOLDFINCH} The name of a bird is found by taking the colour of medal given to a winner, adding F (first in fighter) and a word meaning a small unit (of measurement).

10a, 24d & 4d    No lax dimension used in defining 1ac, 28ac, 15ac and 18ac (5-5,4)
{MASON-DIXON LINE} Something from history associated with the four locations at 1ac, 28 ac, 15ac and 18 ac is an anagram (the anagram indicated by ‘used’)of NO LAX DIMENSION.

11a    R-rises and approaches (3-3)
{RUN-UPS} What the word R stands for in cricket is added to a word that means rises and gives you the phrases for approaches in sport, particularly ones like cricket or baseball.

12a    Excitable times gone; unhappy without sex? (8)
{CELIBATE} If you remove X (‘times gone’) from EXCITABLE and rearrange what’s left. You’ll get a word that means to be without sex.

13a    Why empty coffin’s lightweight? (6)
{NOBODY} The answer to this cryptic question is also a definition of lightweight.

15a    Derek’s alive to 22 (8)
{DELAWARE} One of the places associated with the theme is the shortened name for someone called Derek and to this is added a word meaning alive to or in tune with something.

18a    Crazy about nearly losing sweetheart in a 22, twice! (8)
{MARYLAND} Firefly has used the same device as in 12 ac here. Inside a word that means crazy goes an anagram of NEARLY minus E (Sweetheart)

19a    Helping of trifle stingy? Sending it back is emphatically the thing (6)
{ITSELF} A hidden reversal clue, which I thought a bit clunky, especially with the use of IT as part of the clue. Hidden backwards in TRIFLE STINGY is a word used to emphasise a particular thing.

21a    Churchman — one of 22 maybe? (8)
{MINISTER} A word for a church official could also apply to an official of a country or 22.

23a    Sharp reverse for intelligence agency involving endless risk (6)
{ACIDIC} Something that means sharp or tart, is the reversal of the US intelligence bods, with tucked inside a word that means chance or risk without its last letter.

26a    Worse luck about Charlie’s flipping ear-piece (5)
{SCALA} Part of the human ear is found by taking an expression for “worse luck!”, inserting C (for Charlie, NATO phonetic alphabet) and reversing the lot.

27a    Office covers ‘on demand’ gender reversal for card-holders (9)
{ROLODEXES} Surprised no clue based on ‘watches’ here. A word that means office or part has inside OD (‘on demand’) and reverse a word meaning gender. This gives a piece of stationery.

28a    22 where viewing art is possible (4,8)
{WEST VIRGINIA} Another theme word is revealed by making an anagram of VIEWING ART IS.


1d Press chasing glutton for heavy metal in rough bars (3,4)
{PIG IRON} The word for a press (for clothes) follows one for a glutton to give a type of metal found in rough castings.

2d Stocking items for Tiffany (London) (5)
{NYLON} Hidden in Tiffany London is a type of stocking worn by ladies.

3d Subdue foals galloping over uphill section (4-5)
{SOFT-PEDAL} I have to say I’m not particularly a fan of these clues where ‘over’ is used as a container indicator (Elgar is very fond of them!), as in laying one word over the other . Reverse a word meaning a section (of a company) and surround it with an anagram (galloping) of FOALS to give a phrase meaning to subdue.

4d See 10 across

5d A letter from Greece always conveys success story (8)
{ACHIEVER} A description of a success story is found by taking A and adding a letter of the Greek alphabet (the 22nd one), and adding a word that means always.

6d Setter’s semi-circular feet? (5)
{IAMBI} Add to I AM (the setter is) half (semi) of a circular or leaflet to get these metric feet with unstressed-stressed syllables

7d Fair about 26 receiving no fine? Hit the roof! (8)
{ESCALATE} The word for a gala or fair, minus F (no fine) goes around the answer to 26 to give a word meaning to hit the roof.

8d A northern robin’s last seen over river, making wing (6)
{ANNEXE} A + N + N (last of robin) plus the name of a river from the South West of England gives the name for a wing of a house.

14d Lordly advocates on trial — transactions deferred (8)
{BARONIAL} Something that means lordly or belonging to the aristocracy is found by taking the name gives to the group or profession of lawyers, adding ON and TRIAL but without TR (transactions)

16d Bully heading into problem with dead goat (6,3)
{ATTACK DOG} This bully comes from a nautical term for the course of a sailing ship inside an anagram (problem with) of D(ead) GOAT

17d Covertly, bug picks up focus of indiscreetness (2,6)
{IN SECRET} An expression that means covertly is found by taking the word for a bug or creepy-crawly and inserting RE, the focus, i.e. the centre of the word INDISCREETNESS.

18d Bloomer for Buck’s Fizz on Broadway?… (6)
{MIMOSA} What the Americans call Bucks’ Fizz (the drink, not the pop group) is also a type of flower.

20d …if such a combo could produce a bloomer (7)
{FUCHSIA} An anagram of IF SUCH A is also the name of a flower, one of my favourites.

22d Panic with French conditions on the rise (5)
{STATE} The word that in French translate as conditions can also mean a panic when it is reversed.

24d See 10 across

25d African lake boasts centres for drivers, anglers, canoeists and skydivers (4)
{VLEI} The middle letters of for drivers, anglers, canoeists and skydivers is the name for a African lake.

Thanks to Firefly for an enjoyable challenge today and for those who haven’t got it, the theme was {the MASON-DIXON LINE which ran through a number of American states, namely WEST VIRGINIA, MARYLAND, DELAWARE AND PENNSYLVANIA}.

11 comments on “Toughie 674

  1. I did enjoy this thank you Firefly, although I couldn’t find any part of the ear that was 26a. My favourites were 27a, 20d and top fav was 18d. Thanks to Tilsit too.

    1. I do see 26a now I have looked it up in Chambers. When I get the latest version, courtesy of Amazon’s Black Friday deal, I must take the old one into the office as the dictionary there is no good at all.

  2. I learned all about the *****-***** **** for O-level history in 1955. It;s finally come in handy.
    But what the heck has Broadway got to do with the answer to 18d?

  3. I enjoyed solving this one, especially so, because at one point this morning I thought I would never be able to access the puzzles site (fortunately BD came to the rescue with a pdf).
    Thanks to Firefly for a reasonably straightforward puzzle, thanks to Tilsit for the notes, and thanks to BD for the pdf.

    Unfortunately with the website down, I missed out on looking at the Cryptic this morning.

  4. A proper Toughie this one favourites were 12a 13a 16d and 20d thanks to Firefly for the challenge and to Tilsit for the comments.

  5. Many thanks to Firefly for a very enjoyable and doable toughie and to Tilsit for a masterly review.

  6. A very enjoyable puzzle from Firefly!
    At first, I made little headway and then realised that it was essential to solve 22d. Being a French speaker this posed no problem – thereafter progress was alarmingly fast.
    Had a spot of bother with 3d for a while as had put runsup in 11a instead of the twiddle version!

    No bother with 25d either as speak Dutch as well + a few more!

  7. Just to add to the comments regarding site accessibility, I noticed an improvement toward the end of October but sadly performance has deteriorated in the last two weeks. I cannot access the puzzles between 3am and 8am GMT, and yesterday’s cryptic took me 25 minutes to complete and 5 hours to post.

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