Toughie 704

Toughie No 704 by Excalibur

An Outbreak of 4-Letter Words

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BD Rating – Difficulty *Enjoyment **

When I found out last night that my task today was to review an Excalibur puzzle I wasn’t too disappointed because I thought that her previous one was pretty good. Sadly, this one isn’t! It’s nowhere near Toughie standard and many of the clues are weak (this is not helped by the grid having no less than fourteen four-letter words).
Please let us know how you found the puzzle and take the time to register your enjoyment of it by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

1a  Will do well, having sons with Scotland Yard? (4,3,4)
{FITS THE BILL} – this is a phrase meaning will do or is adequate. String together a synonym for well or healthy, S(ons) and a slang term for the police. There are no recorded uses of this term for the police prior to the 1950s and there are many suggestions as to its derivation, none of which are very plausible, perhaps the least implausible being that the original Flying Squad vehicles all had BYL in their registration numbers.

9a  Time and time again retreating (4)
{NOON} – a palindromic time of day.

10a  Doesn’t matter what an ex-bookie does (5,2,4)
{MAKES NO ODDS} – a phrase meaning doesn’t matter could also indicate that a retired bookie no longer sets the prices at which he’s prepared to accept bets.

11a  Moor speaking an Asian language (4)
{THAI} – moor here is not a North African but a verb meaning to make fast a boat. We want an Asian language that sounds like (speaking) this.

14a  Yank taking booze back. He’s very tight (7)
{NIGGARD} – a verb meaning to yank or pull is followed by (taking) an alcoholic drink then the whole lot is reversed (back).

16a  Get cracking — rain’s seeping through rock (7)
{GRANITE} – an anagram (cracking) of GET with an anagram (seeping?) of RAIN inserted (through).

18a  Be sick on board cruises (5)
{SAILS} – a verb meaning to be sick is inserted in (i.e. goes on board) the usual abbreviation for a ship.

19a  Are informed at this point verbally (4)
{HEAR} – a homophone (verbally) of an adverb meaning at this point.

20a  Turning the spigots makes little difference (4)
{SPAT} – spigot is an American term for what they also call a faucet. Reverse (turning) these to make a minor argument or little difference (of opinion).

21a  Skeleton found in reef? (5)
{CORAL} – this is a rocklike substance formed from the skeletons of certain invertebrates. It forms reefs of which the most famous is the Great Barrier one off the coast of Australia. I presume that this is meant to be cryptic but it’s very weak.

23a  Unfireable, get the picture? (5,2)
{CATCH ON} – a phrasal verb meaning to get the picture or comprehend could also describe a firearm with the safety mechanism engaged.

24a  More hostile when it twists in illegal snare (7)
{NASTIER} – reverse IT inside an anagram (illegal?) of SNARE.

25a  May be taken out to have a drink somewhere in Ireland (4)
{CORK} – double definition.

30a  Unable to tell a plum from an apricot (6-5)
{COLOUR-BLIND} – think of plum and apricot not as fruits but as shades.

31a  Proceed to arrest (4)
{STEM} – this was my last answer as I didn’t know this as a verb meaning to proceed – Chambers defines it as “to make slight headway or hold position against (a contrary tide or current)” – refer to Commodore Pommers if you need more info! It also means to arrest or stop.

32a  Mentioning in tenancy chit (7,4)
{LETTING SLIP} – a phrase meaning mentioning or revealing (normally by accident) is a charade of a tenancy and a chit or small piece of paper.

Down Clues

2d  Man in vehicle following one (4)
{IVAN} – a man’s name (that’s terrible!) comes from a vehicle after I (one).

3d  Noticed V missing from VII (4)
{SEEN} – translate VII from the Roman to the Arabic numeral, then turn this into a word and finally remove the V. I think that we’ve hit rock bottom with this one.

4d  Until I left — leaving to go into Lady’s Watches (7)
{HUNTERS} – the definition here is the falsely-capitalised watches. Remove (leaving) the I and L(eft) from UNT(il) and insert what remains into a feminine pronoun, not forgetting the ‘S.
I suppose that Lady’s Watches is meant to be a department or specialisation but wouldn’t that be Ladies’ Watches? – I give up – has anyone any idea what the surface means?

5d  Deep sound in low key, reverberating (4)
{BOOM} – start with low, as a verb, then add a musical key. Finally reverse (reverberating) it all.

6d  They put up with one — at a price (7)
{LODGERS} – put up is a slightly old-fashioned phrasal verb meaning to reside somewhere as a paying guest.

7d  My turn, mum! (4)
{GOSH} – the definition is my! (as an exclamation). A turn (at a board game, say) is followed by an instruction to keep mum.

8d  Tale of a traitor that won’t make front-page news? (6,5)
{INSIDE STORY} – cryptic definition of the tale of a traitor working within an organisation.

12d  Should that be so, where is it packed? (2,5,4)
{IN WHICH CASE} – a phrase meaning “should that be so” could also be a query as to what piece of luggage something has been packed in.

13d  Appalled to see a ‘phantom’ spelled with ‘a’ instead of ‘o’ (6)
{AGHAST} – an adjective meaning appalled or filled with horror is a phantom (1,5) with a letter changed, as so very, very explicitly spelled out in the clue.

15d  In blasted love for a man! (5)
{DAMON} – another man’s name – insert O (love) in an intensifying adjective (blasted).

16d  Gather a valley surrounds it (5)
{GLEAN} – put a valley round A.

17d  Strain after naughty child gets hurt (6)
{IMPAIR} – add a strain or tune to a naughty child.

21d  Knock up a score? (7)
{COMPOSE} – cryptic definition of a verb to write some music.

22d  Down the road with former President Reagan (5,2)
{LATER ON} – an adverbial phrase meaning down the road or at a future time comes from a laconic way (4,3) of referring to President Reagan who is no longer with us.

26d  Grass required to bring up herbivores (4)
{REED} – reverse some Bambis.

27d  Type a letter between R and U (4)
{SORT} – a synonym of type could be a letter in the specified range (1,2,1).

28d  As well as being no end luxurious (4)
{PLUS} – remove the final H (no end) from an adjective meaning luxurious.

29d  On the opposing side, meantime, getting me dismissed twice (4)
{ANTI} – take ME out of meantime twice.

I liked 30a but the best clue for me today was 22d. Let us know what you liked.


23 Comments

  1. crypticsue
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    A perfectly pleasant puzzle but once again, if you can solve it in the time it takes to me to solve a relatively straightforward back page puzzle, it definitely isn’t a Toughie.

    Thanks to Gazza for the blog – my time would have been even quicker if I hadn’t been held up, as you were, by 31a. I too liked 30a.

    If you are after a tough challenge, I do recommend the hob-nailed boot wearing Enigmatist (Elgar) in the Guardian.

  2. Jezza
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Without wishing to sound too derogatory, I did not rate this much as a Toughie puzzle.
    Some of the clues I thought were quite poor, in particular 3d, and 29d. Having said that, there were a couple of clues I liked – 20a, and 22d.
    My last one in was also 31a; an obvious synonym for ‘to arrest’, but I was unaware of the other definition.
    Thanks to Excalibur for the puzzle, and to Gazza for the review.

  3. SpikeyMikey
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    After yesterdays Toughie, this did not feel much like a Toughie! Kind of enjoyed it but felt it was a bit “Basil Brush” in places :-) Thanks to Gazza for the hints and tips.

  4. Posted January 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I have to confess I’m a bit baffled – there is a lot of really good stuff in here and the very small number of quibbles I have are too minor to be worth mentioning; what’s more I think the 3d clue is an effective and novel way of clueing a word that offers few new approaches. No, the puzzle isn’t overly difficult, but I often see comments here from solvers who have given up on the Toughie in frustration. I like to think a puzzle like this will encourage them to persevere.
    Oh well. My turn tomorrow. I hear knives being sharpened already.

    • Jezza
      Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Hi Anax

      I was just about to make the same comment as Crypticsue.
      To quote from the puzzles website,
      ‘The Toughie is not like a normal cryptic crossword. It is the most fiendishly difficult daily puzzle emanating from Fleet Street’.
      I, for one, have given up on some of the super tough puzzles, but I will never complain about it. On the contrary, I prefer a puzzle that stretches me beyond my capability. I doubt there are many proficient solvers who would have classified this one as a ‘Tough’ puzzle.
      BTW, looking forward to your puzzle tomorrow :)

    • eXternal
      Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I see what you are saying about 3d. It is a novel way of clueing it, but the surface makes absolutely no sense. What does ‘noticed V missing from VII mean’? Doesn’t do it for me, I’m afraid. Like Gazza also says 4d surface is weak too. It was definitely not fiendish and some of the clues hardly cryptic.

    • Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Apols – got my dates mixed up. Independent tomorrow, not Toughie. About a week until that one appears.
      Note to self: Buy diary – works better than scraps of paper.

  5. crypticsue
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I hear what you are saying but the Toughie is advertised as “the most devious cryptic puzzle ever”. Something that takes the same time to solve as an easy back page puzzle is hardly that. In my usual ‘toughie tip’ I did recommend this one to all new toughie solvers.

    Looking forward to tomorrow – no knives being sharpened here…. yet!

    • Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      You’re absolutely right Sue – that is how it’s advertised. But in reality its role is to provide a tougher challenge than the back pager. It can’t go much beyond that or we end up with a puzzle only solvable by a select few highly experienced solvers, and the result of that would be too niche a market to be viable. The difficulty level generally increases through the week, but it’s impossible for the editor to stick rigidly to that, for two reasons. One, certain setters have regular slots and fluctuations in difficulty level of the puzzles they supply will upset the ‘ideal’ weekly balance. Two, it’s not as if the editor has hundreds of puzzles in stock to create the perfect run of difficulty levels.

      • crypticsue
        Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        We could go on all day and my lunch hour is over so I will just say if ‘its [the toughie] role is to provide a tougher challenge than the back pager’ I think those of us who have commented so far would all agree that today’s puzzle did not match that role at all.

  6. pommers
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Never come across that definition of 31a in all my years of sailing! To do this to a tide has always meant to me that you cause your boat to remain stationary relative to the land by matching the boat’s forward speed to that of the oncoming tide, not to make progress against it! It’s a useful technique as once you’ve got the balance right if you apply a little bit of rudder the boat will move sideways through the water! Feels spooky but it’s great for getting into small spaces on a pontoon or quayside. Maybe some of the other nautical types on here may know better.

    Anyway, thanks to Excalibur and Gazza – I agree with your favourites.

  7. BigBoab
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Excalibur for a very enjoyable if untaxing crossword, not quite as difficult as Jays back pager but equally enjoyable. Thanks to Gazza for the review.

  8. pegasus
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this one I agree it wasn’t too difficult but there were a few nice clues to be found, favourites 10a 20a 22d and 30a thanks to Excalibur and to Gazza for the review.

  9. AtH1900
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    31a was the last I put in as well. I’ve sailed/raced yachts for the better part of 30 years and never heard the word used to mean progress. I didn’t like the puzzle; the Toughie deserves better.

  10. Posted January 18, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyable, feel I’m improving on the Toughies. 8d made me chuckle.

  11. Posted January 18, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I was expecting a challenge to go with my afternoon tea and pannetone but I didn’t get it, pleasant enough but not a Toughie. The only clue that gave me trouble was 31a. The answer had to be but – like Gazza – that meaning was previously unknown to me.

  12. Kath
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I knew that this was a toughie – a) because it was in the right place and b) because I couldn’t finish it without resorting to the hints. I knew that it was an EASY toughie because I managed about 3/4 before I looked at the hints. It’s how I’m going to learn and, although I accept that it’s not difficult for some of you fiendishly clever/experienced solvers, just occasionally it’s lovely to have something that is worth attempting by some of us lesser mortals. How else are we ever going to progress? I really enjoyed some of these clues – probably too many to enumerate – mainly the ones that I understood! With thanks to Excalibur (for setting a crossword that I could at least have a go at) and to Gazza (for sorting out the ones that I didn’t understand/couldn’t do.

  13. Halcyon
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    See Chambers: stem (1)…(vi) to spring, take rise.

    As in “criticism of this setter sometimes stems from faulty analysis of her clues”

    • Posted January 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Halcyon

      I prefer Gazza’s analysis.

      stem 2

      transitive verb
      * To make slight headway or hold position against (a contrary tide or current)
      * Hence, to make way against, breast
      * To ram

  14. Posted January 18, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    I must say that I enjoyed this one. The Pesky 4 letter words held me up but I solved it in a time that suggested a Toughie rather than a back page.
    Thanks to gazza and Excalibur.

  15. Posted January 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised no-one has commented on the use of “The Bill” for Scotland Yard.

    As every Londoner knows, The Bill was a TV program and The Old Bill are the police.

    It wouln’t have been allowed in an NTSPP puzzle!

  16. Heno
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks toExcalibur for the puzzle & big Dave for the review.I found this do-able, with 7 hints.Favourite 25a.

  17. Posted February 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Frdiay 13th January (who’s not supersticious now) the Costa Concordia sinks off the italian Coast. Wednesday 16th January Excalibur sets a cross including in the clues 16A Rock 18A Be sick on board cruises 20A Turning ……makes little difference 2 1A Reef 9A Retreating (the Captain?) 31A Arrest (the Captain again)
    Perhaps also:
    4D Lady’s watches (some suggest a lady was on the bridge)
    5D Deep sound in low key reverberating – well the sound wasn’t deep enough in some ways was it!

    |Answer to 1A Fits the Bill – Certainly does!! Spooky or what?