Toughie 749 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 749

Toughie No 749 by Firefly

“Do you think that’s wise, sir?”

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

The quiz team that I play for was in action yesterday. At one point we had to answer three questions on centenarians. One of these included the quote at 21,25,13,22 and the answer was 1 across. This newly-acquired knowledge enabled me to get off to a flying start on this puzzle and I made steady but somewhat slow progress until I was left with two to do. I eventually managed 19 across but I don’t think I would ever have come up with the answer to 9 down without using solver aids. These two clues meant that I had to assign 5* for difficulty.


1a    Our centenarian, when 28, might say: ‘He and I rule Mr Jones when panicking!’ (4,2,8)
{JOHN LE MESURIER} An actor who was born 100 years ago today is an anagram (panicking) of HE I RULE MR JONES

10a    Scandinavian ruminant trapped by Eric, feet first (9)
{ICELANDER} A native of a particular Scandinavian country is formed from a ruminant (a South African antelope) inside ERIC with the two halves transposed

11a    Climbers compete in central Lake District (5)
{IVIES} Climbing plants are derived from ‘to compete’ inside the middle two letters of Lake DIStrict

12a    Characteristic gold winning performance from 1ac as Judas? (7)
{TRAITOR} A characteristic + gold = the type of person that Judas was. I don’t know what the connection with 1 across is

13a    See 21 down

15a    Botham returns with first of lorries as aid for Frazer’s undertaking? (4)
{NAIL} A reversal of Botham’s first name + L (first letter of lorries) gives something that Private Frazer used in his work

17a    After he’d sold 100, violinmaker’s first to cry ‘Boring!’ (10)
{UNDRAMATIC} Remove the letters HED from 100. Then add an Italian violinmaker and C (first letter of cry). This gives ‘boring’

19a    What do niggards dare make? (6,6) They make ideal ingredient, said 1ac’s Fred! (5,5)
{FINER FLOUR} You first have to form an anagram (6,6) of NIGGARDS DARE which is the first part of an advertising slogan voiced by 1 across on TV in the character of Fred. The answer (an ideal ingredient) is the second part of the slogan “6,6 make 5,5”

20a    Precious cargo of yacht we expropriated (4)
{TWEE} ‘Precious’ is hidden in yachT WE Expropriated

22a    See 21 down

23a    Alight from railway during delay — Godfrey finally can be excused! (7)
{DETRAIN} ‘To alight’ is given by RY (railway) inside ‘to delay’ with the Y (last letter of Godfrey) removed

26a    Arthur English backs engaging unknown spotted at rear of the platoon? (5)
{EXTRA} A reversal of a shortened form of Arthur and E (English) goes round X (unknown) to give a person who might be seen in the TV programme at the rear of the platoon

27a    Peers about to reject a means of access to hearing (3,6)
{EAR CANALS} Peers (members of the nobility) round ‘to reject’ and A to give tubes found in hearing organs

28a    Fabric worker’s dreadfully slow in completing label for Uncle Arthur (8,6)
{SERGEANT WILSON} A fabric + a worker (insect) + an anagram (dreadfully) of SLOW IN gives the character (Uncle Arthur) played by 1 across


2d    Conclusion’s drawn from tiresome gastroscopy (5)
{OMEGA} The conclusion is hidden in tiresOME GAstronomy

3d    No tea to brew? Pop in Walker’s ‘outlet’ — it’s close by! (4,2)
{NEAR TO} An anagram (brew) of NO TEA goes round R (last letter of Walker) to give ‘close by’

4d    Permanently underlying problem (10)
{ENDURINGLY} ‘Permanently’ is an anagram (problem) of UNDERLYING

5d    Acquire a noisy tea-maker (4)
{EARN} ‘To acquire’ is a homophone (noisy) of something you make tea in

6d    Snug, maybe — like the Home Guard? (2,2,4)
{UP IN ARMS} The answer suggests a reversal of SNUG (i.e GUNS) and means ‘in readiness to resist’

7d    Hi sir! Casserole? (5,4)
{IRISH STEW} The first word of the answer is an anagram of HI SIR with the second part providing the anagram indicator.

8d    Limitation head placed on free credit following pause (14)
{RESTRICTEDNESS} Limitation = pause + an anagram (free) of CREDIT + a head

9d    Pike, perhaps, after slitting head off methodically, is stiffening in the loft (7,7)
{TILTING FILLETS} The answer (and I quote from Chambers) are triangular roofing timbers used as eaves to tilt the undereaves course of slates, etc., to close off the front edge. But I’m sure you all knew that anyway. It is an anagram (methodically) of SLITTING minus its first letter followed by boneless pieces of fish (possibly pike)

14d    Mechanics, having sufficient reason, cried out in triumph (6,4)
{GROUND CREW} Mechanics working at an aerodrome = sufficient reason + ‘cried out in triumph’

16d    On Firework Night, perhaps, roll up to see original guy? (9)
{INNOVATOR} IN + the month containing Firework Night + a reversal (up) of a roll = a guy showing originality

18d    Large lid obscuring traditional Cajun stew (8)
{GRILLADE} An anagram (obscuring) of LARGE LID gives a kind of meat stew, typical of Cajun cookery. This definition is not given in Chambers

21d, 25d, 13a & 22a    Very ill, one last breath left, artiste finally composed his last words (3,3,4,6,6)
{IT’S ALL BEEN RATHER LOVELY} These are reportedly 1 across’s last words before slipping into a final coma. They are an anagram (composed) of VERY ILL ONE LAST BREATH L (left) E (last letter of artiste)

24d    Siege mentality’s beginning to infiltrate Alabama and Ohio (5)
{ALAMO} The site of a famous siege = M (first letter of mentality) inside abbreviations for Alabama and Ohio

25d    See 21 down

A nice puzzle to which I might have given 5* for enjoyment had it not been for the obscurity of 9 down

37 comments on “Toughie 749

  1. I too would have awarded this very nice Toughie 5* for fun had it not been for 9d which was one of those gues the letters look it up ones. Great fun throughout, even allowing for the muttering and application of Tippex. My favourite has to be the brilliant 19a. Thanks to Firefly and Bufo – a proper Thursday tough toughie for you at last!

  2. Pure dead brilliant as we say up here, 19a was inspirational. One of the most enjoyable toughies for ages and yet not overly difficult. Many thanks to Firefly and to Bufo for the review.

  3. What a nice puzzle – JLM was inTraitor , a 1971 play by Dennis Potter (yes, I did look it up ) Thanks all.

    1. i looked up traitor as well,failed to spot your answer! had a go at the toughie after the back page cryptic,did it with a few Buffo hints,would only give it 4*/5*as i can’t solve ***** toughies! i think the theme helped and i’d never heard of 9d either-thanks Buffo.

  4. The referance to traitor in12a is that JLM starred in DennisPotter’s play’traitor in the seventies.

  5. Re 12ac, Wikipedia says of 1ac: “He gave a memorable performance in Dennis Potter’s play [12ac] (1971) which won him a Society of Film and Television Arts “Best Television Actor” award.”

    I’m glad to find I wasn’t alon in being unable to crack 9d without help. Many thanks to Bufo for the blog.

  6. Well I did yesterday’s Toughie (my first ever) and thus emboldened, approached today’s with confidence. Several paracetamol later, I’ve had to resort to the blog having only finished half of it. I’m ashamed to say I can’t get really understand 19a even with the clues on the blog! My (lame) excuse is that 1a was rather before my time and a lot of the crossword revolves around it. Nevertheless, I can admire the skill that went into putting this crossword together – thanks to setter and reviewer and I will tackle the next Toughie with caution.

    1. John Le Mesurier was the voice of Fred, the flour grader, in the Homepride Flour advert – “Graded grains make finer flour”.

    2. I agree with everything. I haven’t done many toughies – they’re usually WAY beyond me. This Tuesday’s was the first I ever managed on my own so, if you can still get hold of it, I would say have a go. Good luck if you do. :smile:

  7. Phew ! this one was tough, despite having 7 checking letters I couldn’t crack 9d favourites were 6d 14d and 19a thanks to Firefly and to Bufo for the dissection.

  8. 23ac Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army was played by Arnold Ridley, he also wrote the play The Ghost Train. Just a coincidence maybe

  9. Today’s backpage was another sub one unit on the blacksheepometer for second day running.

    I’m all done 3 units later on the toughie apart from the SW corner and 9D and what a joy. What a great crossword made so much sweeter by my eternal admiration for Mr 1A.

    Firefly – thankyou, 21A!

  10. Well well well. 2 great puzzles on the same day, both set at the right level of difficulty. The theme was pretty obvious but Wikipedia certainly came to the rescue today. I had forgotten all about graded grains and I didn’t realise that JLM [one of my heroes] was the voice. 9 was a bit of a guess but the second word was easy enough. 19 has to be favourite but the rest were most enjoyable. Thanks to Firefly for warming a cold day.

  11. I thought this was REALLY difficult – took ages to spot the theme and only managed THAT because I’d done almost all of the down clues coming from it – sorry, very clumsy sentence!! Please could we just add 1a to the ever increasing list of things about which I know NOTHING! Anyway, with much “perservation” I eventually did most of the top half, most of bottom right corner and precious little in bottom left corner. Seeing that it was given 5* for difficulty has cheered me up a lot! Not sure that I’m really qualified to pick any favourites so thanks to Firefly and Bufo.

    1. You should take much heart from this Kath giving Bufos rating, it took me much longer than normal. Normally at work I can furtively glance and cogitate, but today not helped by it being year end accounting wise and being surrounded by auditors. Funny, they don’t like my occasional references to Enron!!

      1. Thanks for encouragement – people here are all so kind. :smile:
        Assume from your comment that you’re an accountant – so was my fantastic father – all the best people are, obviously! Not surprised that they don’t like your references to Enron – have to confess that I had to get husband to explain that bit to me!!

  12. I too struggled to finish this (gave up on 9d), although I twigged the theme early (there aren’t many names that fit the anagram in 1a). However I would like to say that this was an absolutely superb Toughie, with an excellent theme. So many thanks to Firefly and Bufo for telling me what the answer was to the one clue I couldn’t work out.
    “Don’t tell him Pike!”

  13. 5* on both counts for me! Very tough, but great fun. Thanks to Firefly, and to Bufo for the review.
    I doubt I will get the chance to look at the toughie tomorrow as I am not at work until Tuesday, and will no doubt be occupied with the family, but I will have a peek later to see who the compiler is.

      1. Does that mean that it’s worth having a go – or should I give either or both of them a miss – ie how difficult?

        1. Do have a go Kath. Micawber is usually topical, with superb clues and not necessarily the most difficult toughie, but they always leave you with a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment when finished.

      2. Micawber tomorrow! That buggers everything up… i’ll have to devise a cunning plan to get some time to myself.

  14. Sorry but I’m in very grumpy mood over this one. Yes, it’s a very clever crossword but I spotted the theme early on and nearly packed it in at that point. I didn’t like the programme and don’t really like the actor much – both well over-rated IMO. And how are we supposed to know he was born 100 years ago today?

    How is anyone supposed to solve 9d? An expert builder with an IQ of 180+ and an extensive knowledge of roof timbers perhaps? 19a is too clever for its own good, although I did get there in the end by looking up ‘Homepride’ in Wiki – knew it was to do with the flour but couldn’t remember the slogan.

    Sorry, not my sort of puzzle. Horses for courses I guess.

    The non-themed clues were very good but the theme ruined it for me. Thanks anyway Firefly, for the non-theme bits, and to Bufo for getting to the bottom of 9d.

      1. Point taken.

        OK, so I’d heard of albacores, nearly caught one once but the bugger jumped the hook at the last second, but that one was easily constructable from the wordplay – and without prior knowledge. Not like the ‘last words’ bit – I could see the anagram fodder but what the hell is that all about?

        That’s why I don’t like themed puzzles – they’re either too easy, if you know the theme well, but almost impossible if you don’t. See Bufo’s intro about prior knowledge from the quiz.

        Leave them to the Grauniad as far as I’m concerned where they seem to be popular.

      2. Hi Mike, hope you took it in jest. “What the hell is that all about” is it was his alleged last words before dying. I do agree with you about themed puzzles though in the main, but can also see why non sports fans didn’t like square leg umpire yesterday. Anyway, off out for a couple of hours, say hi to Pomette please

        1. Taken in jest Andy :grin: But Wiki came up with ‘conked out’ as part of his self-written obit in the Times which didn’t fit anywhere so a bit confused there. Got it in the end though. Just not keen cos the theme wasn’t at all entertaining to me personally – no pasa nada!

          Someone once said that to do cryptics you need an encyclopaedic knoiwledge of abbreviations, basic knowledge of cricket and rugby and O level French! Counts me out then :sad:

          Pommette says hi to you too and is pleased to hear your recovery is continuing well, as am I.

  15. I’m with BigBoab, not literally, on this. How can you get 1a and 28a so brilliantly clued in one grid?. And as for 19a , i’m speechless in admiration. OK i agree with the comments on 9d, did spend far too long on 27a, d’oh of the day. Massive thanks to Firefly and Bufo

  16. The more I think about it the more I think that 19a is the most devious clue I have ever seen! Please don’t anyone tell me that there is worse to come if I carry on trying to do toughies!

    1. 19a would have been the clue of the century about 20 years ago. My view is it’s impossible for anyone under the age of about 40 years. What does that say about the future of cryptics? The setters seem to think their audience is all over 50 and set their clues accordingly and they’re probably right! It’s OK by me because I am well over 50 but not good to get younger solvers on board. A sudoku can be as hard as you like, with triple nested Ariadne’s threads, but it don’t matter how old you are, you can eventually solve it with a bit of Mary’s perservation! Those and computer games will be the death of the cryptic – but not in my lifetime (I hope).

      Anyway, rant over and apologies for taking up ‘airspace’ – just in a bad mood today cos I haven’t had a chance to look at the RayT back page puzzle yet!

      BTW Kath, there are more devious things around!

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