Toughie 848

Toughie No 848 by Firefly

Where are the Eagles?

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I was wondering what the themed answers I was getting had to do with formal military engagements when I suddenly saw the light. These are engagements on a pitch and the themed answers are all bird-related nicknames of teams taking part in such engagements. It’s all entertaining stuff and I did enjoy it.
Let us know how you got on.

Across Clues

1a  Headless chickens — 22 engaged in 18,4? (4)
{OWLS} – remove the first letter (headless) from chickens to get a themed answer.

3a  Posh girl given a grand to disrobe for fun (5)
{DEBAG} – a posh girl, of the type who used to ‘come out’, is followed by A and G(rand).

6a  Try level best to find flower (4)
{ELBE} – a European river which enters the North Sea at Hamburg is hidden (try … to find) in the clue.

8a  Rubbishy CD tunes inimical for programme accompaniment (10,5)
{INCIDENTAL MUSIC} – an anagram (rubbishy) of CD TUNES INIMICAL.

9a  So be it — daughter’s getting compensation (6)
{AMENDS} – a word meaning ‘so be it’, heard at the end of various prayers, is followed by D(aughter) and the ‘S.

10a  ‘Haloes’ vis-a-vis ‘halothanes’, as below? (4,4)
{LESS THAN} – how you might describe the process of getting from ‘halothanes’ to ‘haloes’ based on what needs to be subtracted.

11a  Sign on loo: 22 having ‘18,4’? (8)
{CANARIES} – our second themed answer comes from a star sign following (on) an informal word for a loo.

13a  Regularly try on Briony’s 22 having ‘18,4’? (6)
{ROBINS} – the even (regularly) letters of ‘try on Briony’s’ give us another themed answer (this one is used by several teams, not just the one illustrated).

15a  Wright has one short, plus extras at each end in overthrows (6)
{SMITES} – this is a verb that is heavily used in the Old Testament to describe the activity of a vengeful God exacting retribution on a hapless person or tribe. The setter is misdirecting you to think of cricket but wright, here, is a worker in metal (one who makes horseshoes, perhaps); drop his last letter (one short) and add the letters at each end of E(xtra)S.

17a  Lock fixture with copper bolt (5,3)
{BOBBY PIN} – an American term for a hairgrip is a charade of an informal word for a police officer and another word for a bolt or rivet.

19a  Type of pain bound up with spreading tinea (8)
{EGYPTIAN} – this is a typeface. Insert a slang word for pain inside (bound up with) an anagram (spreading) of TINEA.

21a  Fiat in ditch mostly junk (6)
{DIKTAT} – this reads like a slur on an Italian car but fiat here is an order or decree. A word for a ditch (not the usual spelling) loses its last letter (mostly) and this is followed by a word for worthless odds and ends (junk).

22a  Girl having tete-a-tete down a bit? And others like her? (5,2,1,7)
{BIRDS OF A FEATHER} – this phrase, meaning people of similar character, is part of the key to the themed answers. Girl having tête-à-tête  could be cryptically rendered as BIRD on SOFA; add a bit of down. The question mark for the first part of the clue is definitely needed. I hope I’ve got the wordplay correct; if not I’m sure someone will put me right. [Thanks to Qix for explaining that tête-à-tête is an s-shaped sofa].

23a  19 idol‘s in extremity — credit withdrawn! (4)
{ISIS} – start with an extremity or emergency and take out the abbreviation for credit.

24a  Fine to employ hint of sauciness in blue papers? (5)
{FUSES} – the fireworks that we used to let off on Guy Fawkes night always used to carry the warning ‘Light blue touchpaper and stand well clear’ (they may still do, for all I know). String together F(ine), a verb meaning to employ and the first letter (hint) of S(auciness).

25a  Central points from article validated (therefore sustained) hypothesis (4)
{IDEA} – pick out the central letters from four contiguous words in the clue.

Down Clues

1d  Magnates get rich with gas-oil processing free of international interference (9)
{OLIGARCHS} – an anagram (processing) of RICH and GAS-O(i)L without I(nternational).

2d  Enter Churchill first and last in roll for oratory (7)
{LECTERN} – something used by orators is an anagram (roll) of ENTER and the first and last letters of C(hurchil)L.

3d  Parliament’s May mostly dressed in Lynam’s leathers (9)
{DEERSKINS} – Parliament’s May is not Theresa (I know that she likes kitten heels and leopard skin shoes, but I’m not aware that she’s into leather) – this refers to the “Parliamentary Bible” which lays down the procedures and practices of the UK Parliament and which was first published by a Clerk of the House of Commons. We want his middle name without its last letter (mostly) and this goes inside (dressed in) the abbreviated forename of Mr Lynam.

4d  See 18d

5d  Punch-up round back of hall for 22 having ‘18,4’? (5)
{GULLS} – an informal verb (or noun) meaning punch is reversed (up, in a down clue) and has the back letter of (hal)L inserted to make a themed answer.

6d  Fairly efficiently tunnelling under eastern desert (9)
{EQUITABLY} – an adverb meaning efficiently follows (tunnelling under, in a down clue) E(astern) and a verb to desert.

7d  Island where, for a start, bloomin’ wet weather engulfs it! (7)
{BRITAIN} – this is a sort of semi-all-in-one, especially after the Summer we’ve had. The starting letter of B(loomin’) is followed by wet weather containing IT.

12d  Panties do chafe down under (9)
{ANTIPODES} – an anagram (chafe) of PANTIES DO. Superb!

13d  Fanaticism of bishop spurned by Jewish colleagues after admitting send-up (9)
{RABIDNESS} – remove one of the Bs (bishop in chess notation) from Jewish religious leaders and insert (after admitting) a reversal (up) of SEND.

14d  Shift arrangement overturned in struggling Asian hospitals (9)
{SANATORIA} – a shift arrangement (i.e. a list of who’s working which shifts) is reversed inside an anagram (struggling) of ASIAN.

16d  Epigrams composed right away for 22 having ‘18,4’? (7)
{MAGPIES} – an anagram (composed) of EPIG(r)AMS without the R(ight) gives us another themed answer.

17d  Outlaw cloth caps for 22 having ‘18,4’? (7)
{BANTAMS} – our final themed answer comes from a verb to outlaw followed by the informal name for round Scottish cloth caps.

18d/4d  Hastings and Bosworth perhaps heaved taking ghastly tablets (7,7)
{PITCHED BATTLES} – two major engagements on English soil (in 1066 and 1485 respectively) provide examples here. A verb meaning heaved, like a ship in a rough sea, is followed by an anagram (ghastly) of TABLETS.

20d  White going down at the Crucible — somewhat naff on initiating spins (2-3)
{IN-OFF} – the Crucible theatre in Sheffield is where the World Snooker Championship is played. The setter wants you to think of Jimmy White but white is actually the white ball being potted by mistake after hitting another ball. It’s hidden (somewhat) and reversed (spins) in the clue.

I liked 3a, 21a and 20d but my clue of the day has to be 12d. What do you think?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I managed to solve this without ever realising about the connection to ‘pitched’ so it obviusly didn’t matter if you weren’t a football fan. Thanks to Firefly for a very entertaining Toughie and to Gazza for the usual illustrated explanations. My favourite was 12d too.

  2. Qix
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Re 22a, I’m sure that you’re right, Gazza.

    Tête-à-tête is a name for a kind of sofa.

    Very enjoyable puzzle indeed, great fun.

    Thanks to Firefly and Gazza.

    • gazza
      Posted September 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Qix.

      I should have looked up tête-à-tête.

  3. axe
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Very much enjoyed today’s puzzle.
    My definition of 22 was correct as far as Girl = Bird, down = Feather but did not have s of a.
    Many thanks to Gazza and the Setter.

  4. Pegasus
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Superb puzzle from start to finish, I had the answer to 3d but needed the parsing. Favourites for me were 2d 10a 13d and 19a thanks to Firefly for the challenge and to Gazza for the usual superb review.

  5. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    A really enjoyable puzzle. Lay awake much of the night trying to justify the complexities of the theme allusion without any success at all. Nearest we got was a pitched battle being something like a song contest, but that didn’t really work either. Thanks for putting us out of our misery Gazza, all new territory for us. 17a is a word that is more familiar to us than it is to most of you, it seems from our reference. Off course our top of the pops favourite has to be 12d!
    Agree with your ratings.
    Thanks Gazza and Firefly.

    • gazza
      Posted September 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      The UK-specific allusions must make the puzzle a lot trickier for you than for those of us in the UK. Had you heard of Erskine May?

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        Mr Google helped to confirm Mr May for us. We accept that the allusions sometimes being obscure to us is all part of the deal. Part of the cost of living in paradise.

      • Bakesi
        Posted September 27, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        I was trying to make theresa fit somehow!

  6. andy
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Superb offering imho, even though I had the pitched references as CrypticSue said it doesn’t matter, so very clever.12d brilliant. Can’t help thinking of Rumpole / Mortimer whenever Erskine May is uttered. I made a mess of 6d to start with by not reading the clue properly and ending it with an e, d’oh. Cheers Gazza and Firefly

  7. gnomethang
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I fun puzzle that brightened up an otherwise dull day. Thanks Firefly and gazza

  8. Kath
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    I had a go at this one. Got what seemed to be the crucial two (18 & 4) and didn’t quite know where to go from there. Then got lots of the birds but it was only when I did 11a that I realised what the theme was. I’m afraid that after that I pretty much gave up – really can’t do football – should have carried on so feeling slightly ashamed now. I did have a quick read through of all the rest of the clues – I loved 12d! I think that one has to go into my list of favourite ever clues!!
    Thanks to Firefly and Gazza.

  9. Heno
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Firefly & to Gazza for the review & hints. Thoroughly enjoyed this, agree with gazza’s star ratings. I got stuck in the NE corner, and needed 4 hints to finish. I actually managed to understand the theme, and being a football fan, knew most of the nicknames. favourite was 13d.