Toughie 824

Toughie No 824 by Shamus

Less of a Tiger and More of a Pussycat

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment **

There are some good penny-drop moments in this puzzle but there’s also a great deal of wordplay involving adding or subtracting single letters. I don’t dislike this as much as some of our commenters do but even I got a bit fed up with it by the end. The puzzle (a pangram, by the way) is fairly tame by Toughie standards.
Let us have your views in a comment and please give your assessment of the enjoyment factor by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

1a  Trio roaming around front of cattery restricted by whimsical behaviour of tigers? (8)
{FEROCITY} – the behaviour associated with tigers comes from an anagram (roaming) of TRIO containing the first letter of C(attery) all inside an adjective meaning whimsical or slightly dotty in an unworldly sort of way.

5a  Run first of journals for society — producing a memorable number? (6)
{JINGLE} – start with a word for one run in cricket then replace the S(ociety) with the first letter of J(ournals) to produce a catchy number.

9a  Retired European invested in stake for animal (8)
{ANTELOPE} – a European national gets reversed (retired) inside the initial stake in a game of poker, say.

10a  Head’s turned and in luck when female’s out to harmonise (6)
{ATTUNE} – reverse (turned) an informal term for a head inside a word meaning luck or destiny without the F (when female’s out) to make a verb meaning to harmonise.

11a  Report of extra unknown character in old Greek city short of sun incidentally (2,3,3)
{BY THE BYE} – what sounds like (report of) a type of extra (cricket again) is followed by an old city in Greece without its final S (short of sun) but with an algebraic variable (unknown character) inside. The whole thing is a phrase meaning incidentally. A slightly odd clue because the word for which we need the homophone actually appears later on in the answer.

12a  Agitated short man cycling around city (6)
{HECTIC} – city means the London postal code for the district where all the bankers (and other financial whiz-kids who have done so much for our economy) are to be found. This goes inside an informal word for a small man (from the stage name of Harry Relph, famed for his small stature) but with the last letter cycled round to the front.

14a  Irish family engaged in search snubbed by son showing peculiarity (10)
{QUIRKINESS} – the abbreviation for Irish and a word for family or relatives go inside (engaged in) the sort of search that King Arthur’s knights undertook without its final T (snubbed). All that precedes S(on) to make a type of behaviour exhibiting peculiarity or eccentricity.

18a  Meeting and event with limitations exposed soured sadly? There’s zero in it (10)
{RENDEZVOUS} – I knew this was an anagram but my initial mistake was thinking that the zero to be inserted was O. In fact it’s Z(ero) that ends up inside an anagram (sadly) of (e)VEN(t) (without its outer letters, i.e. with limitations exposed) and SOURED.

22a  Bible I had associated with outsiders among laity in keen style (6)
{AVIDLY} – string together a) the abbreviation for the King James translation of the Bible, b) the contracted form of I had and c) the outer letters (outsiders) of L(ait)Y.

23a  Be vociferous and declaim about security breach initially ignored (5,3)
{SPEAK OUT} – this is a phrasal verb meaning to be vociferous or not be shy in coming forward. A verb meaning to declaim or lecture in a rhetorical way contains (about) an unauthorised disclosure of information (security breach) without its starting L (initially ignored).

24a  Kill bad smell? Sign of something wrong in part of fridge (6)
{ICEBOX} – the definition is part of fridge. A verb (North American slang) meaning to kill is followed by the abbreviation for bad smell (the one that your best friends wouldn’t tell you about, according to the old TV adverts for Lifebuoy soap). Finish with the sign of something wrong – an all too familiar sign in my returned homework.

25a  Scot, say, I found beside out-and-out place for pick-ups? (4,4)
{TAXI RANK} – Scot is not Ian or Mac or even Hamish. It’s cunningly placed at the start of the clue to disguise the fact that it’s not normally capitalised because it’s an old word for a payment or levy. Add I (from the clue) and an adjective meaning out-and-out (used, for example to describe a complete outsider in a horserace). The whole thing is a place where you get picked up.

26a  Commotion nothing less amid greedy chap getting fast food (3,3)
{HOT DOG} – a hyphenated word for a commotion loses its first O (nothing less) and what’s left goes inside (amid) a metaphor for a greedy person.

27a  Ruffian hires let in island capital (2,6)
{ST HELIER} – an anagram (ruffian?) of HIRES LET makes the capital of one of the islands in the English Channel.

Down Clues

1d  Move quickly to acquire a couple of books with a pot? (6)
{FLABBY} – a possible description of someone with a pot (not quite as trim as they’d like to be round the waist) comes from a verb to move quickly containing (to acquire) A and a couple of B(ooks).

2d  Take in turn a tutorial principally engaged in traditional learning method (6)
{ROTATE} – insert A and the principal letter of T(utorial) inside a traditional learning method (the way we were taught our times tables for example).

3d  Singer but not a soprano, leading lady, one normally greeted? (6)
{CALLER} – the surname by which we remember a famous opera singer christened Maria Cecilia Anna Kalogeropoulou loses its A and S(oprano), then the initials of our country’s leading lady are added. The result is someone who’s normally greeted if they ring your doorbell (unless it’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses of course, or that irritating woman trying to flog brushes).

4d  Group of workers following excellent end to holiday getting possibly very short of energy and confused (5-5)
{TOPSY-TURVY} – the initials of a workers’ organisation follow an informal adjective meaning excellent and the end letter of (holida)Y. So far so good, now add an anagram (possibly) of V(e)RY (short of energy, i.e. without the E). The end product is an adjective meaning confused or upside down.

6d  Where one might find Cockney nits vaguely present? (2,3,3)
{IN THE AIR} – double definition. Cockneys, of course, traditionally drop their ‘aitches.

7d  Bit of mail from relative lodging in grand rental property (8)
{GAUNTLET} – if you’ve already solved the back-pager the answer here should be familiar. Mail, here, is not something that drops through your letter box but something your ancestors may have worn. Insert a relative between (lodging in) G(rand) and a rental property.

8d  Work for schoolboy, perhaps, in trouble (8)
{EXERCISE} – double definition, the second a verb to trouble or preoccupy.

13d  Old car worker celebrating a notable achievement? (10)
{TRIUMPHANT} – an old British make of car is followed by the usual worker.

15d  Fear Sikh militant is very unusual (8)
{FREAKISH} – an anagram (militant) of FEAR SIKH gives us an adjective meaning very unusual or unexpected.

16d  Popular drink right off with new opening to tavern in precursor to trouble? (8)
{INCIDENT} – start with an adjective meaning popular or trendy and add an alcoholic drink without its final R (right off), N(ew) and the opening letter of T(avern).

17d  Rolling news — essentially old lot gets recycled (4-2-2)
{WELL-TO-DO} – the well-disguised definition here is rolling, an informal adjective meaning rich. It’s an anagram (gets recycled) of the essential (core) letters of (n)EW(s) OLD and LOT.

19d  Ill-will beginning to mortify woman (6)
{MALICE} – the beginning letter of M(ortify) is followed by a female name.

20d  Language brought up in Manila mostly (6)
{SOMALI} – hidden (in) and reversed (brought up) in the clue is a language used in parts of East Africa.

21d  Writer certainly must replace middle part of guide (6)
{STOKER} – an abbreviation meaning certainly or ‘roger’ replaces the central letter in a verb meaning to guide or direct to make the author of Dracula.

My top clues were 24a, 1d and 17d. Let us know what you liked.


  1. crypticsue
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Definitely more of a kitten than a tiger, and like gazza, there did seem to be too many of those add/subtract a letter clues. I have a dot by 24a as my favourite clue. Thanks to Shamus and gazza too. We must live too far out in the country, can’t remember when we last saw either a Jehovah’s Witness or a brush salesperson :)

  2. pommers
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t too keen on the grid to be honest. Sort of made it 4 seperate crosswords! For some reason the NE one took me about as long as the other 3 put together! Even though I had 14a I just couldn’t find a way in until the penny suddenly dropped on what MAIL was referring to in 7d! D’oh, should have done the back page first!

    Well done with the photos Gazza – a classic car AND the harbour in Jersey :grin: but not my favourite song!
    Here’s an alternative video

    Thanks Shamus and Gazza

  3. Jezza
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    A pussycat indeed, and realising it was a pangram helped as well. I struggled to parse 12a; I always thought a small person was a titch.
    Thanks to Shamus, and to Gazza for the review.

    • andy
      Posted August 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      Umpteen hours later but Jezza you’ve uttered my sentiments exactly. Thanks to Shamus and Gazza

  4. Pegasus
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Lacking a little je ne sais quoi for me, Favourites 17d and 25a thanks to Shamus and to Gazza for the review.

  5. phercott
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Full, indeed, of add/subtracts – and full of appalling surface readings. For me, sadly, thoroughly unenjoyable

  6. Sweet William
    Posted August 16, 2012 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Crikey ! Having just started ( about 6 weeks ago ) doing the “back page Cryptic” on a regular basis, I thought that I would have a sneak look at the Toughie. I managed the SE corner but then ground to a halt. I noticed that it carries a 2* difficulty rating !

    Suitably humbled, I will return immediately to the back/penultimate page !

    I am full of admiration for you experts ! Your comments and reviews are very helpful to 24 handicap solvers like me.

    Thank you setter for the SE corner and a sharp lesson ! and Gazza for your review. I was sure that I had the answer to 18a, but could not get to it with the word play. Thanks for the explanation.

    • gazza
      Posted August 16, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Sweet William,
      Don’t give up on the Toughie – the more you practise the better you’ll get. If you try it every day and check out the answers you can’t get on the blog (making sure that you understand the wordplay and asking if you don’t) then you’ll be playing off scratch in no time.

    • spindrift
      Posted August 16, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      IMHO we have reverted into true Toughie country. For the last few weeks I have been able to finish most of the Toughie puzzles but t recently? No chance!

      However, echoing Gazza’s comments, it’s better to have tried and failed then never to have tried at all. I attempt the puzzles then wait for our peers to provide the reviews then sit back & think how the bloody hell did they get that?

      • Sweet William
        Posted August 16, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        Thank you Gazza & Spindthrift !

        I wont give up – but I might not tell you how I am doing ! Champagne all round if I ever solve one.