Toughie 732

Toughie No 732 by Micawber

Short on Duration but Long on Enjoyment

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

Superb stuff, as always, from Micawber. In terms of difficulty this was perhaps the easiest one I can remember from him but the enjoyment was as good as ever. What did you think?

Across Clues

1a  Device for raising jobs in defence (5,3,6)
{BLOCK AND TACKLE} – double definition – a device for raising heavy weights and two of the jobs of the defence in various sports. A Health and Safety warning about the correct use of such equipment is contained in the attached sketch which I never tire of listening to.

9a  Third in table initially, Man United suffering setback after Tottenham Hotspur held by Liverpool, 1-1 (7)
{LITHIUM} – the definition here is third in table, the table in question being the periodic table so what we want is the element having atomic number 3. Initially applies to all the teams so reverse (suffering setback) Man United after Tottenham Hotspur are contained in (held by) Liverpool and I (one) twice. Spurs seem to be popular today!

10a  Secret police misappropriated postage (7)
{GESTAPO} – an anagram (misappropriated) of POSTAGE gives the common abbreviation for the GEheime STAatsPOlizei, the secret police in Nazi Germany.

11a  Kiss cheek (4)
{NECK} – double definition (cheek here meaning impudence).

12a  Woman who wanted say, stiff sugar confection (10)
{SUFFRAGIST} – this is a woman who wanted a say in her country’s democratic process. It’s an anagram (confection) of STIFF SUGAR.

14a  Brussels hangout that’s stuffed full of ‘la crème’ (6)
{ECLAIR} – join together the old abbreviation for the body of which Brussels is the de facto capital and the hangout of a wild animal to make this confection. We’d had Chambers’ amusing definition of this quite recently but if you missed it here it is again: a cake, long in shape but short in duration, with cream filling and usually chocolate icing.

15a  Vehicle, one behind mine, showing a bit of wear (8)
{CARDIGAN} – this is a bit of wear or item of clothing. Start with a vehicle then add an adjective meaning one after a verb to mine.

17a  I’m on guest list, say, getting in for nothing — it’s delicate stuff, not heavy metal! (8)
{FILIGREE} – this is a delicate ornamental lacework made of metal (but not heavy metals). Put a slang phrase (1,3) meaning I attend an entertainment without having to pay inside (getting in) an adjective meaning for nothing.

18a  Lord regressing, into sportswear — he’s in touch with his inner child (6)
{KIDULT} – reverse (regressing) a lord (the sort that sits on a bench) inside what you wear for playing sport to get an informal term for a grown person who has childish tastes (like playing with train sets).

20a  Slightly underestimates number of drinks consumed (6,4)
{ROUNDS DOWN} – a phrasal verb meaning lowers a number to make it more manageable but slightly less precise could also describe the sets of drinks already consumed.

21a  Fair Man? (4)
{ISLE} – double definition, both by example. The first is Scottish and is very small but has two claims to fame – it gets mentioned in the Shipping Forecast and has given its name to colourful knitwear.

23a  Lad ground down with toil to be multiskilled (2,2,3)
{DO IT ALL} – a phrase meaning to be multiskilled is an anagram (ground down) of LAD and TOIL.

24a  King smashing into centre of Viking raft (3-4)
{KON-TIKI} – this is the name of the raft used by the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl in a journey across the Pacific in 1947. Start with the chessboard abbreviation for king, then add an anagram (smashing) of INTO and the two central letters of Viking.

25a  Flat broke, loan is needed — ten cents to name left (3-11)
{ONE-DIMENSIONAL} – the definition here is flat. An anagram (broke) of LOAN IS has a single ten cents coin and N(ame) preceding it (to its left, in an across clue).

Down Clues

1d  France in trouble, with a bloated deficit in this? (7,2,5)
{BALANCE OF TRADE} – France is not (yet) one of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), the countries most in trouble in the Eurozone, but an anagram (in trouble) of FRANCE and A BLOATED could define an area of difficulty for it.

2d  Independent states of America engaged in choice that’s not what it seems (7,8)
{OPTICAL ILLUSION} – insert I(ndependent), a couple of American states and an abbreviation for America all inside a synonym of choice to make something that’s not what it looks like. As an example of this, if you stare at the following image long enough you may eventually see a forest in the background.

3d  Can 1000 revised upwards make 15? (4)
{KNIT} – reverse (revised upwards) another word for a can and the abbreviation used for a thousand to form a verb to make something like 15a.

4d  Students storing 1024 kilobytes in cloud (6)
{NIMBUS} – in general usage (see previous clue) kilo means a thousand but a kilobyte of computer storage is actually 1,024 bytes (210). We want the abbreviation for 1,024 kilobytes (i.e. 1,024 x 1,024 = 1,048,576 bytes). Put that inside (storing) the abbreviation for the national students’ union to get a type of cloud. This is a pretty neat clue because “cloud computing” is the “in” thing and students may well be storing their data away from their personal computers in the “cloud”.

5d  Government regulator, after cutback, has right to support union in power struggle (3-2-3)
{TUG-OF-WAR} – G(overnment) followed by the quango that’s supposed to regulate the water industry (a bit of a joke here in the South-West where we pay more for our water than anywhere else in the country) without its final T (after cutback) and R(ight) all follow (support, in a down clue) the abbreviation for a workers’ union.

6d  What’s thrown up as direct hit? (7,3)
{CUSTARD PIE} – a semi-all-in-one. The thing that’s thrown is an anagram (hit) of UP AS DIRECT.

7d  Being ahead, goal lifting top seed is to produce something unanswerable in court (7,8)
{LEADING QUESTION} – this is a query posed by a barrister in court which may be ruled out of order because it contains the response that the brief wants to hear. An adjective meaning being ahead is followed by the sort of goal sought by medieval knights and the reversal (lifting) of the top seed (2,1) in a tournament.

8d  Position on police financing (7,3,4)
{FOOTING THE BILL} – a word meaning position or status is followed by a slang term for the police.

13d  Put crown on one that’s in need of protection, it could get chipped (4,6)
{KING EDWARD} – a verb meaning crowned is followed by someone who needs protection (normally a minor) to make something that might get chipped.

16d  Swinger’s choice — cuddling naughty nude (8)
{PENDULUM} – to get this swinger put an adjective meaning choice or excellent around (cuddling) an anagram (naughty) of NUDE.

19d  Stirred a pan, oriental, adding a bit of noodle (6)
{AWOKEN} – A is followed by a cooking pan, E(astern) and the first letter (bit) of N(oodle).

22d  Contrary, outspoken northern relative (4)
{ANTI} – a word meaning contrary or opposed sounds like (outspoken) how a female relative might be pronounced in the North. This answer appears on today’s back page as well.

I’ll go with 1a, 15a, 1d and 13d as my favourites (but I could have chosen half-a-dozen others). Let us know what tickled you!


  1. crypticsue
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I always look forward to a Micawber Toughie and wasn’t disappointed this morning. I don’t mind a gentler toughie if they are 5* entertainment value. Impossible to pick a favourite clue so I will just give a big thank you to Micawber for once again making me start Wednesday with a big smile on my face. Thanks to Gazza too.

  2. Qix
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Great fun, as usual from Micawber.

    Not too tricky, but very enjoyable.

    The long clues should make this very accessible for those trying a Toughie for the first time.

    Thanks to Micawber, and to Gazza for the blog.

  3. Posted March 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    A superb puzzle and very entertaining, all the more so because I completed it unaided! 18a was new to me but couldn’t be anything else.

    • Jackie
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      My thoughts exactly. Thanks to Micawber for a most enjoyable puzzle.

  4. Jezza
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Micawber for a most enjoyable puzzle that was over too quickly! My only hold up was working out the anagram fodder and wordplay to the answer to 25a.
    Thanks also to gazza for the review.

  5. BigBoab
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Micawber for a very enjoyable toughie, great fun all round. Thanks also to Gazza for the very entertaining review.

  6. Prolixic
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Being a house husband for the week, I am having the luxury of popping down to a coffee shop to sit and enjoy the Toughie with nice cup of coffee. Although the cup was stil half full and piping hot at the end of Micawber’s masterpiece, every minute was enjoyable. Thanks to him for a cracking crossword and to Gazza for the review.

  7. Roland
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I completed this but have a query on 25a. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t think the first word of the answer is clued. Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza.

    • gazza
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Ten cents is one dime.

      • Jezza
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        Gazza – in that hint, I think you meant to say N(ame), not N(orth).

        • gazza
          Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Jezza – fixed now.

      • Roland
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        D’oh! Of course. I just went with dime. Thanks Gazza.

  8. pegasus
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Excellent entertainment from todays setter, favourites were 1a 9a 13d and 24a thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the comments.

  9. Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Re:2d As far as the forest in the background is concerned I’m still having truoble getting past the cardigan at 15a!
    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza who never lets us, the Non-PC brigade, down.

  10. Posted March 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Ditto all of the above – loads of fun. 17a would be my favourite amongst a heap of others. Thanks to gazza and to Micawber.

  11. beaver
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    really enjoyed this puzzle ***/**** for others i could’nt see the wood for the trees ,at least i know what i want for christmas!

  12. upthecreek
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    As I said earlier, this was quite easy for a toughie but no less enjoyable. So many good clues its difficult to pick one out. 18 was a new one for me but it was the only word that fitted. There was a crease right through my paper which didn’t help, not for the first time either. Let’s hope for more of a challenge tomorrow.

  13. wbgeddes
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Have looked for a long while and still can’t see a forest. Worried.

  14. Roland
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Gazza – please excuse my ignorance, but who’s the orator/comedian in the clip at 1a?

    • Roland
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      It’s OK Gazza – I just found it online.

    • gazza
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      In case anyone else wants to know it’s Gerard Hoffnung and it’s an extract from his speech at the Oxford Union in the 1950s. The rest of the speech is pretty funny as well.

      • Posted March 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        Also delivered in song by, among others, The Dubliners

  15. Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Thoroughly entertaining. Got all the answers but unfortunately still don’t understand 17a – even from your hint Gazza. We must be being stupid or it’s a phrase neither me nor pommers have heard before.
    Thanks to Micawber and Gazza for the hints.

    • crypticsue
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

      Had Pommers taken his BRB with him on his hols, he would see that it is from a verb meaning to be a freeloader, especially in the entertainment industry at a party with refreshments!

    • Jezza
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Hi pommette

      I’d never heard of the verb ‘to lig’ either, until I looked it up to confirm my answer was correct!

    • gazza
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      I meant to say that I’d never heard of it either, but it was fairly obvious what it had to be.

    • Franco
      Posted March 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      I have never “ligged”.(?) In fact, it always seems that I’m the one who foots the bill!

      A close run thing today as to which was the better crossword – Micawber’s Toughie or Arachne in the Grauniad. Both excellent!

      • andy
        Posted March 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

        Agreed Franco, the spider woman spun a great crossword, and don’t understand the controversy on fifteen squared re 22d.

  16. Warren
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyability reduced for me due to too many wordy clues where solving came from an easily identifiable trigger word rather than by solving cryptically – if that makes sense.

  17. andy
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Ok nearly caught up with the backlog, I agree this was not the toughest that young Micawber can throw at us but i thought this was 5* fun. Thanks Gazza and Micawber

  18. Kath
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Yet again I’ve had a go at a toughie. It may be an easy one but it still well and truly defeated me. Managed about half of it. :sad:
    Lots of things I didn’t know – 18a and the middle bit of 17a being just two of them. I’ll keep trying!! I loved Gazza’s clip for 1a and his comment on his “picture hint” for 2d! With thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

    • Franco
      Posted March 8, 2012 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      18a – “Kidult” Is this a portmanteau word?

  19. RogBrown
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the Hoffnung clip. Not heard that for years.

  20. Busman
    Posted March 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    As a compiler, I marvelled at the grid with its heavy cross-checking of 14 and 15 letter words, along with intersecting 10-letter ones — a most attractive and challenging grid to compile. Must try it myself.


    • Posted March 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Busman

      It’s only taken you three years – please don’t wait that long before your next comment!

  21. Heno
    Posted March 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Micawber & the reviewer. I found this very enjoyable, a doable Toughie. Just needed 2 hints, 21a & 18a which I hadn’t heard of. Favourite was 9a.