Toughie 685 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 685

Toughie No 685 by Micawber

Let’s all play Charades!

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

Last Friday Tilsit gifted me a Notabilis and now Bufo has taken a day off and left me a superb Micawber puzzle to review!

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.


1a    Part of personality being brittle, unfinished, is psychological problem (8,6)
{IDENTITY CRISIS} – a charade of part of one’s personality (2), a being or existence, an adjective meaning brittle without its final letter (unfinished) and IS from the clue gives a psychological problem [Thanks to Pommers for pointing out the full wordplay and to Micawber for confirming it.]

10a    Old Greek having drink before times with queen (9)
{ALEXANDER} – this old Greek warrior comes from a charade of an alcoholic drink, X (times / multiply) another preposition meaning “with” and Elizabeth Regina

11a    Retreats from refusal of consent more than once (5)
{NOOKS} – split these retreats as (2,3) and the result is a refusal and more than one consent

12a    Expensive porcelain on toilet appearing over the top (7)
{LOOMING} – put this expensive Chinese porcelain after a slang word for a toilet to get a verb meaning appearing over the top

13a    EU body coming in to make deal, cutting capital for indebted country (6)
{GREECE} – put the European Community inside a verb meaning to make a deal without its initial letter (cutting capital) to get this heavily indebted country

15a    Facebook initially lacking control of threads (4)
{FLAX} – a charade of the initial letter of Facebook with a word meaning lacking control gives these threads that are made into linen

17a    Enclosure with vermin is crossing the line (10)
{ENCROACHES} – in this charade ENC(losure) is followed by some vermin to get a verb meaning is crossing the line or oversteps

19a    “‘as Polly gone?” Listening, cat flexed with langour (10)
{OCTANGULAR} – this adjective meaning like (as) an eight-sided figure that sounds like (listening) “Polly gone” is an anagram (flexed) of CAT with LANGOUR

20a    Shock upset of Brazil’s? (4)
{STUN} – this verb meaning to shock is a reversal (upset – in an across clue?) of some Brazils (or Hazels!)

22a    Three’s a crowd? Having lost thread, get third party involved (6)
{ESCROW} – take THREAD away from (THRE)E’S (A) CROW(D) to get a word meaning to put a deed into the hands of a third party

23a    “Rescue me,” I shout, but ends of some words get lost or twisted (7)
(Newspaper version) ”Rescue me,” I shout, ends of words getting lost – affected by winds? (7) [Thanks to those who pointed this out]
{HELICAL} – start with a phrase that could be taken as “Rescue me,” I shout (4,1,4) and drop the final letters of the four-letter words (ends of some words get lost) and the result is an adjective meaning twisted or screw-shaped

26a    Bring out good in a woman who’s known only one man (5)
{EVOKE} – this verb meaning to bring out is created by putting a short word meaning good or correct inside a woman who only had one man in the whole of the world

27a    If pushed, they may show extra effort in delivery solutions? (9)
{ENVELOPES} – these may be pushed in a phrase meaning to try to achieve more than seems possible (show extra effort) – and they are used to deliver postal items

28a    Perhaps Santa’s brother gets clue at last, which is a bit like this? (8,6)
{RELATIVE CLAUSE} – take what could be Santa’s brother (or any other member of his family) and add the final letter of cluE to get a grammatical construct in which qualifies a noun


2d    Prompted by couple singing, orchestra opens (3,2)
{DUE TO} – this prepositional phrase meaning prompted by or because of is a charade of a couple who are singing together and the initial letter of (opens) Orchestra

3d    Vitamin A and C dropped into eyes, they said in news (6)
{NIACIN} – this vitamin is actually vitamin B! – put A and C inside two letters that together sound like (they said) “eyes” and then put the whole lot inside N(ew) and N(ew) (news)

4d    Not foreign sounding, i.e. translated (10)
{INDIGENOUS} – an adjective meaning not foreign is an anagram (translated) of SOUNDING I.E.

5d    Tent honestly erected without using line (4)
{YURT} – this light conical tent of skins supported by posts, used by nomads in Siberia and Mongolia, is created by reversing an adverb meaning and dropping the L(ine)

6d    Moving around a grind? Or use this to avoid jams? (4,4)
{RING ROAD} – an anagram (moving around) of A GRIND OR gives a route that might avoid jams in the town centre

7d    Rabbit’s pelt on bird (9)
{STONECHAT} – a bit of Yodaspeak has crept in here! – a word meaning to rabbit is preceded by a verb meaning to pelt to get a small European songbird

8d    Supply empty, stocks shrink — get technical expert (7,7)
{SYSTEMS ANALYST} – a charade of S(uppl)Y without the internal letters (empty), stocks or trunks and a headshrinker gives this technical expert

9d    Head covering I’m afraid hides inferior fighting condition (11,3)
{CAULIFLOWER EAR} – start with a covering for the head, then add a phrase meaning I’m afraid (1,4) around (hides) an adjective meaning inferior to get a medical condition caused by boxing

14d    Crazed hacker with a vow to spread chaos (5,5)
{WREAK HAVOC} – an anagram (crazed) of HACKER with A VOW gives a phrase meaning to spread chaos

16d    Perhaps Chelsea star changing clubs over violent fan halfway through (3,6)
{ART SCHOOL} – the Chelsea College is an example of this – its built up from an anagram (changing) of star, C(lubs) and the first half of a violent fan

18d    Slagging off Portsmouth? (8)
{INSOLENT} – an adjective meaning slagging, when split as (2,6), describes where you are if you are off Portsmouth

21d    Airline stripped of its nationality causing speechlessness (6)
{ALALIA} – start with an Italian airline then drop IT (Italian / its nationality) and the result is a loss of speech

24d    Manages field in a top-down way (5)
{COPES} – a verb meaning manages or gets by is created by moving the initial (top) letter of a word meaning field or range to the end

25d    Mounting overheads regularly include fuel (4)
{DERV} – the even letters of a word in the clue when reversed (mounting in a down clue) give this fuel

Excellent stuff!

20 comments on “Toughie 685

  1. Micawber yet again manages to provide a magnificent puzzle. Thanks to him, and to BD for the notes.

      1. Phew I thought I was losing it. Thanks to Micawber for a great puzzle, and to Big Dave for his elucidation of the solutions :)

  2. Splendiferously tricky entertainment as always from Micawber. I did wonder whether my cryptic brain cells had got lost at yesterday’s office Christmas lunch, particularly on the LH side but I got there in the end. Too many good clues to select any one or two or three as favourites. Thanks to him for the fun and to BD for the explanations and commiserations to Bufo for missing out on a proper Toughie to blog.

  3. Great stuff, am still laughing at 18d. A couple of new words (or forgotten meanings) but gettable from the clue. Many thanks Micawber and BD

  4. Fabulous crossword from Micawber and a great review from the Big Man ( typo at 19a excepted ) Many thanks to both.

  5. As you say Dave, excellent stuff!

    I thought 1a was ID (part of personality) + ENTITY (a being) + brittle and IS but your explanation is simpler!

    At one point if you had drawn a diagonal line across the grid from top left to bottom right you would have found I’d completed everything above it and nothing below! Weird!
    Too many good clues to pick a favourite but I thought 3d was very clever for its concealment of the 2 news.

    Many thanks to Micawber and BD.

    1. Au contraire – I think your explanation is better! It was difficult as Chambers gives personality and identity as synonyms, but that didn’t explain the “part of” bit.

  6. Just checked the list and I see that Elkamere is scheduled to finish off what has been an excellent Toughie week :)

  7. Not much to add, great fun puzzle as is usual with this setter fav’s 9d and 18d thanks to Micawber and to Big Dave for the comments.

  8. The clue for 23A in my hard copy edition ended ‘- affected by winds?’ and not ‘or twisted’ which probably made it a tad more difficult to solve.

  9. Just my luck to be unavailable for blogging on the first Thursday for weeks that we get an above-average Toughie. Here’s hoping next week’s is just as good.

  10. 23a – The full clue in the paper is …….

    ”Rescue me,” I shout, ends of words getting lost – affected by winds? (7)

    and the on-line version.

    ”Rescue me,” I shout, but ends of some words get lost or twisted (7)

    Mr Crossword Editor, why are they different? It would be very interesting to know the reason.

    1. I suspect that the online version had a late alteration; pity, because I prefer the print version’s “winds” misdirection. Both are good clues, though.

      The reason might have been to insert “some” – in HELP I CALL, the “ends” of “help” and “call” are “lost”, but nothing happens to “I” – so perhaps the online version is more accurate in that respect. I really hope that the primary reason for the change wasn’t to insert the much more literal “twisted”.

      Thanks to Gilbert and Franco for pointing out the discrepancy.

  11. I look at this for ages this morning with a bemused look on my face as every clue looked at me and went “Nah, nah, ne nah nah.”. Even glances during the day yielded nothing. I thought I might have to post my letter of resignation as a blogger. Then on the train home it all fell into place as my cryptic cells stopped their 24 hour walkout.

    When I could finally get into the swing of this it was tremendous fun so thanks to Micawber and to BD for the review.

    I see that Anax (as Elkemere) has promised us a slightly unusual puzzle on a very odd grid. So long as he has found the pink fluffy slippers we should be ok.

  12. Thanks for all your comments, and for the blog, BD. Pommers is correct about 1ac, ID+ENTITY. As for 23ac, the online clue contained revisions that seem not to have made it into the paper. The definition was amended because the editor asked for a more straightforward definition for a not-so common word, and I added “some” at that point for the reason Qix identifies – not sure how you could make “I” endless really!

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