Toughie 718

Toughie No 718 by Firefly

Hints and tips by Tilsit

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley. Our Friday Fiend is Firefly who has produced an interesting and challenging puzzle that will delight some, and perhaps infuriate others. I found it more enjoyable than some of his recent offerings but I found a couple of clues that could only be solved once I had the answer, which isn’t the point of a crossword, as far as I am aware, in other words a bit too clever for their own good. I’d be interested to see if anyone managed to solve 12 across without getting all the intersecting letters. Lots of clever surface readings but again the odd one that doesn’t quite work for me.

I looked around for a theme, or a Nina, especially given the grid used, but couldn’t see anything other than a linked clue.

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 shown in blue.


7a    Ken Littlehill, we hear, is ‘nervous’ (9)
{ KNOWLEDGE ] This was one of those clues I mentioned that I solved the clue after I got the answer. All over the country Kenneth Littlehills (if any exist) are thrilled they are the subject of a crossword clue. A word that means “ken” is found by taking a homophone (indicated by “we hear”) for a small hill (think of the expression ‘grassy ____’) . To complete the clue you need an expression that means nervous, i.e. “on ___” with the ‘on’ being used to tell you to add it to the homophone. Are you with me? Then please explain it to me!

8a    Rover! Not so daft! (5)
{ NOMAD } A word for someone who is a rover or wanderer is found by taking a word that means the same as the expression ‘not so’, and adding a word meaning daft.

10a    Seal’s resting, head hidden, in rocky situation (6)
{ SIGNET } Something that means a ring that is used for sealing documents is an anagram of RESTING, minus its first letter (head hidden)

11a    Arms manufacturer’s comfortable in retrospect with broadcast fiction (8)
{ GUNSMITH } The name for someone who make arms and weapons is found by reversing a word for comfy and warm, and adding a homophone (indicated by broadcast) for a fable or fiction.

12a    Yank in St Paul’s briefly, perhaps? (6)
{ WRENCH } I defy anyone to solve this without the intersecting letters. St Paul’s could be described briefly by splitting the answer as (4,2) which gives a yank or pull

14a    Binding contracts kaput; Teesside … (6)
{ PUTTEE } Something I know only too well, as those who know me will confirm! The name, derived from Hindi, of a type of knee to toe bandage is hidden in “ka put, Tee sside”

16a    … waste-yard odour regularly borders on mishap (4)
{ DUMP } The name for a waste – yard is revealed by taking alternative letters from O D O U R and adding the end letters (borders) of M ISHA P

17a    Trail for ‘The Sopranos’ upsetting — feverishly hasten to remove (5)
{ SPOOR } Another clue similar to 10ac. Take a word meaning ‘hasten (shouldn’t this be hastened?) Drop the assorted letters (feverishly … to remove) of HASTEN from THE S OPR AN OS and then rearrange what’s left (upsetting) to get a scientific word for a trail or track of an animal.

18a & 19a    His 7 is essential charge on International club (4.6)
{ TAXI DRIVER } In London, one of these people needs 7 ac to carry out his job, a colloquial expression that refers to the information base he needs. A word for a charge is added to I (international) and to this goes a type of golf club.

19a    See 18 across

21a    Scorer’s name announced (6)
{ HANDEL } A famous composer (writer of scores) with the name Georg Frederick is a homophone for the colloquial word for a name or title.

24a    Holder’s last in group to enter account after break-up (8)
{ OCCUPANT } Nothing to do with the band Slade. The word for a holder or possessor is an anagram of ACCOUNT with P (last in group) inside.

26a    Aim for snake, with exasperation (6)
{ ASPIRE } A type of snake, associated with Cleopatra, is added to something that means exasperation or anger to give a word that refers to aim or hope.

27a    Number one college — Trinity — unoccupied (5)
{ UNITY } A word for an individual, as in ‘looking after number one’, is found by taking an abbreviation for a further education establishment and then taking the ends (unoccupied) of T RINIT Y
and adding them.

28a    Boris cops perfidious snitch (9)
{ PROBOSCIS } An anagram (indicated by perfidious) of BORIS COPS gives you a word for a part of the body for which ‘snitch’ is a slang word.


1d           BBC head’s departing for free (5)
{ UNTIE }   A word meaning to free is found by taking the colloquial nickname for the BBC and removing the first letter

2d           Carry off Prince in finest aircraft (4-4)
{ TWIN-PROP }   Something that means to carry off something is added to PR (abbreviation for  Prince) and this goes in something that means best or finest.  Altogether this gives a type of aircraft.

3d           Greek currency soared, we hear, subject to … (6)
{ LEPTON }   Think this should have had ‘old or former’ at the start of it as the currency is no longer in use.  A homophone for jumped or soared (upwards) is added to a short word meaning ‘subject to’ or  ‘about’.  This gives you the name of the former Greek currency.

4d           … a constant outlay upfront — government on tenterhooks (4)
{ AGOG }  A short word that means on tenterhooks is found by taking A, adding to it G (a constant – gravity), plus O the first letter of OUTLAY and G (Government)

5d           Witticism from upstart male toff (3,3)
{ BON MOT }  A French expression for a witticism is found by taking the name of a man (think of Thumb, O’Connor or Cruise) [or a male cat!  BD] and the name of someone well-heeled or posh.  Reverse them both for the solution.

6d           Dragon races in Elba sadly getting chop (6-3)
{ BATTLE-AXE }  The name for a dragon or aggressive woman, as portrayed in film and TV by actresses like Dame Peggy Mount, is found by taking the initials of the famous Isle of Man motor cycle races and placing them inside an anagram of ELBA.  Add to this a word meaning to chop.

9d           Marksman holds up fire — pin stuck a bit (6)
{ SNIPER }  Hidden back inside   FI RE PIN S TUCK is a word for a marksman.

13d         Hospital rings chaplain for potent solution (5)
{ HOOCH }  The word for a potent brew is found by taking H (hospital) adding OO (RINGS) and CH (CHAPLAIN).

15d         Setter’s unable to bear hints of lactose used by restaurants as sweetener (9)
{ LUBRICANT }  Take the first letters (hints) of “ L actose U sed B y R estaurants” and add to this what the setter would say if they were unable to do something.  This gives you something euphemistically called a sweetener to make something happen.

17d         100% or 75% starkers, performing this? (6)
{ STREAK }  Probably my favourite clue today.  A word, rather cryptically defined by the whole clue is found by taking the first six letters (75%) of STARKERS and rearranging them to describe something done when you are so,

18d         Very French way to sin (8)
{ TRESPASS }  A word meaning to sin is found by taking the French word for ‘very’ and adding it to something that means a mountain road.

20d         Vet checking relative’s crows (6)
{ VAUNTS }   Something that means to boast or crow about is found by taking V (veteran) and adding the name for your mother’s sister along with the S from ‘S.

22d         Barney’s turned out to be handy (6)
{ NEARBY }   An anagram of BARNEY reveals a word meaning handy, or appropriate.

23d         Empty ex cathedra injunctions (5)
{ DRAIN } A word meaning to empty is hidden inside, presumably indicated by “ex”, the clue

25d         No point in plot for ‘C’? (4)
{ TORY } Drop the initial S (South) from a plot or tale to get someone whose politaical party is indicated by “C”, i.e. Conservative

Thanks to Firefly for today’s  teaser.  See you next Friday.


  1. Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone spotted any changes to the site following Monday’s down-time?

    All I can see is that the “Online now” section is no longer two months out of date – I bet that’s excited everyone! – and the Toughie can no longer be accessed from the main menu.

    I am reminded of Hutber’s Law (the late Patrick Hutber was the City Editor for The Sunday Telegraph from 1966 to 1979) which states: “improvement means deterioration”.

    • gazza
      Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      I always print out the puzzles and solve on paper, then (if I’m blogging) play the puzzle and submit it. Previously the clock started when I did the print, so that when I started to “play” I could see how long I’d taken to solve. Since the changes the clock always starts at zero when I start to play.

      • Posted February 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        That’s interesting to know – it certainly used to set the clock running when the print was requested.

    • Libellule
      Posted February 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink


      So I have also noticed. I emailed this info to Phil & Daniella, what some people may have (or not) noticed, is that it also subtracted a substantial number of accumulated points as well. 1,200,000 in my case. Not that I particularly care. So to sum the upgrade up, I would have to award the developers the “one step forward, three steps back” trophy.

      • Posted February 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        I hadn’t noticed the points deduction. Fo me the biggest improvement that they could make to the site would be to get rid of the points, the leaderboard, Robr’s score and everything else associated with the anorak fringe.

      • Posted February 10, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        … and if I could have only one wish it would be to get rid of “Yesterday’s Top Solver” – I detest that serial cheats be given such prominence.

      • Posted February 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        As far as the “missing” points go, I wonder if the scores have been recalculated. A couple of years ago all of the puzzles solved before a certain date were reset to unsolved following one of many disasters on the website at the time, but the points earned were retained. Yet another reason to get rid of the accumulated points altogether.

        The other leaderboards, which were based on solving times, were always useless as a number of people solved the puzzle in the newspaper and then keyed the results in at breakneck speed.

        • Silveroak
          Posted February 14, 2012 at 1:50 am | Permalink

          I too would love to see them get rid of the points, especially being subjected to seeing the outrageous scores some solvers seem to attain for all the reasons mentioned above. Apart from anything else it is totally un-British. Just give us the crosswords to print and/or do on line so that we can check our answers and scrap all the other stuff as far as I am concerned.

  2. Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I would agree with all your sentiments Tilsit!. Thanks to Firefly and yourself.

  3. gazza
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I think the requirement in 17a is to take the letters of “hasten” out of “The Sopranos” and make an anagram of what’s left.
    Thanks to Firefly and Tilsit for an entertaining puzzle and review.

    • Posted February 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      By jingo! You are right Gazza!

      Apologies and thanks! As I have said, I found this a puzzle where I solved things using crossing letters and went back afterwards to see how the clue was put together.

  4. Posted February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Concur with Tilsit with regard to siome of the clues being too clever for their own good (thank you so much for the review). They remind me of the school swot who knew he was cleverer than the masters and demonstrated the fact at every opportunity.

    Apropos of nothing but a suggested neologism – tescoloration: the removal of all of the old shops from a town centre only to be replaced by a homogenised shed on the outskirts.

  5. Posted February 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Strangely solvable if you know what I mean. A reasonable time for a Friday Toughie, several d’oh moments, including 12a for which, yes, I did need the checking letters. Thanks to Firefly and Tilsit too.

  6. Monte
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Help! 23 down

    • Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Hi Monte – welcome to the blog.
      23d … hidden word

  7. tracker
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    help! you omitted 25d which has been driving me to distraction all day…….

    • Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      Hi tracker – welcome to the blog.
      25d Remove the S from a plot to leave what C stands for (in a political sense).

      • tracker
        Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        many thanks-a good tactic methinks for flushing bloggers-like myself-out of the woodwork

        • Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

          Now that you’ve delurked we want more comments from you!

    • Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      I think Tilsit forgot the last page of the template that I sent to him! I’ve added them now.

  8. Jezza
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I think the back-pager must have been a warm up for me, because after struggling with that one, I flew through this one. The only one I needed to think about today was 3d, which was a new word for me.
    Thanks to Firefly, and to Tilsit.

  9. Warren
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Got 12a without any checking letters

    But needed several other hints.

    • Jezza
      Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      I needed the R and the H – 3d was my last in, so I did not have the N.

  10. BigBoab
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Firefly for a very enjoyable and not too tough crossword, more of a strong back pager than a true toughie. Thanks to Tilsit for the review.

  11. Skeeter Lewis
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this. Some clever clues. I enjoyed 15d.

  12. pegasus
    Posted February 11, 2012 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    I’ve finally succumbed to the blog, despite having 3 checking letters for 3d it totally defeated me, as for the puzzle a bit of a curates egg for me. Favourites 2d 7a and 18&19a thanks to Firefly and to Tilsit for the review.

  13. jdr
    Posted February 11, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    What a dreadful crossword. Couldn’t do the top left corner without your hints. Stranglely I thought the best clue was 12a. Worst clues were too many to mention especially 15d for clumsiness followed closely by 3d for wretch factor (we hear).

  14. Jonathan
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I found this quite a difficult puzzle and only solved about half of the clues before resorting to the hints in order to finish it.
    I have a (possibly naive) question though…
    Clues 14a and 16a are linked as if the two answers make a phrase. I suspected that 16a was ‘puttee’ but didn’t put it in as I could see no possible connection with ‘dump’.
    Had I done so I might have made more progress.
    Is there a link between the two answers? Or should I have read this as the setter simply using one clue to give two answers?

    • Posted February 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jonathan – welcome to the blog.
      The only purpose of the ellipsis here seems to be to improve the surface reading.

  15. Alex
    Posted February 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    LOL seems the general consensus about online cheating agrees with mine :)

    I find the Toughies too time-consuming, sigh, and contributary to self-induced hair-loss…havent got the patience :) need a pint

  16. Alex
    Posted February 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    12A was best for me – gave me a Newton-under-the-apple-tree moment (and yes needed the H and the R to even sniff it) . It made me giggle on the bus much to the scorn of some of the passengers who would have happily escorted me to the nearly mental hospital.

%d bloggers like this: