Toughie 923

Toughie No 923 by Micawber

Not So Scary

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

When I was notified last evening by my personal Alert Service (Crypticsue) that today’s setter was Micawber I was delighted since, as I may have mentioned once or twice, he is my favourite Toughie setter. I was not disappointed – this is an excellent puzzle with not an obscure word in sight.
Do leave a comment telling us how you got on and please take the time to record your enjoyment factor by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

1a  Change direction with this winning performance? (5-5,4)
{THREE-POINT TURN} – this manoeuvre to get your car facing the other way could be a winning performance in a talent show (though that depends on the maximum marks that can be awarded).

10a  Cites dark manoeuvring to throw off the scent (9)
{SIDETRACK} – an anagram (manoeuvring) of CITES DARK.

11a  Broadcast melody off mountain-top? (5)
{YODEL} – take the top letter of mountain off (m)ELODY and make an anagram (broadcast) of what remains. A lovely all-in-one clue.

12a  Question 1: 1000 + 4 / 2 (7)
{IMPEACH} – I couldn’t understand this one at all until I’d got 4d. String together I (one), the Roman numeral for 1,000 and half the answer to 4d. The answer means to question in the sense of to cast doubt on.

13a  Force way into pasty-eating contest after American withdraws (6)
{PIERCE} – a type of pasty-eating contest (3,4) has A(merican) taken out.

15a  Aloof, cutting of course (4)
{FISH} – an adjective meaning aloof with the leading OF cut off.

17a  Get off horse, heartlessly kept in stall by whip (4,3,3)
{BEAT THE RAP} – H(ors)E heartlessly is kept inside the type of stall into which greyhounds are loaded at the start of a race, then that’s all preceded by a verb to whip or thrash.

18a  Sons of toil who might turn up apt spoonerism? (10)
{PLOUGHBOYS} – these young men might turn up tons of soil.

20a  Blood oranges exuding scent of Florida (4)
{ODOR} – hidden (exuding) in the clue is a scent in Florida (or any other US state).

22a  Revises conclusions about Middle English (6)
{EMENDS} – conclusions or extremities contain the abbreviation for Middle English.

23a  It’s negative to keep finding fault with figure (7)
{NONAGON} – a negative response is followed by a phrasal verb (3,2) meaning to keep finding fault with,

26a  He’s soon parted from money, backing one that’ll scratch (5)
{LOOFA} – someone (1,4) who is, proverbially, soon parted from his money gets reversed (backing).

27a  Spontaneous declaration of support for politician by trade union (9)
{IMPROMPTU} – an elected politician’s supporter might declare this (1’1,3,2). Follow it with the abbreviation for trade union.

28a  Enters into difficulty, trapped by bar on legal defence for whistleblowers? (6,8)
{PUBLIC INTEREST} – an anagram (into difficulty) of ENTERS is inserted (trapped) inside an informal word for a bar (3) and a synonym for legal (5). In an across clue ‘on’ should really mean follows rather than precedes.

Down Clues

2d  Put on trial in seclusion after rising? That’s not right (3,2)
{HAD UP} – we need to reverse (after rising, in a down clue) a word meaning seclusion (originally the use of a curtain in Muslim and Hindu societies to screen women from being seen by strangers, now used for example for the period immediately prior to a budget when the Chancellor keeps his mouth shut). We also have to take out the R (not right).

3d  Catch accomplice heading north after losing tail (6)
{ENTRAP} – another down-only reversal indicator (heading north) tells us to reverse an accomplice without the final R (after losing tail).

4d  Spice among five in vegetable tea is sweet (5,5)
{PEACH MELBA} – one of the five Spices (3,1) is inserted in a green vegetable and an informal word for tea.

5d  Finger losing tip becomes black (4)
{INKY} – not any old finger but specifically the smallest one loses its first letter.

6d  Tease husband having little sense up top (3,4)
{TOY WITH} – the abbreviation for husband is preceded (up top, in a down clue) by an adjective meaning little or miniature and a synonym for sense.

7d  Student grant provider ditches fellow, degree unfinished (9)
{UNDERGRAD} – a person or institution providing a grant ditches its leading F(ellow) and that’s followed by a degree or level without its final E (unfinished).

8d  Show signs of hesitation after breaking spindle, but don’t give up (3,11)
{NIL DESPERANDUM} – two verbal signs of hesitation (2,3,2) come after an anagram (breaking) of SPINDLE.

9d  What’s kept by phlegmatic chap with a frozen handlebar? (1,5,5,3)
{A STIFF UPPER LIP} – handlebar here is a type of facial growth.

14d  Cry a river inside place that’s moving? On the contrary (7,3)
{STAYING PUT} – a verb to cry or yell out has a Scottish river inserted, then that’s followed by a verb to place.

16d  Capital profit’s explosive (5,4)
{SMOKE BOMB} – an informal name for our capital city (usually preceded by ‘The’), which it earned because of its dense smogs prior to the Clean Air Act, is followed by an informal term for a large amount of profit (as made by the water companies, for example).

19d  Former dictator regularly overlooked grandad’s affair (7)
{GADDAFI} – miss out every other letter of grandad’s affair.

21d  Covered rise of Northern Ireland party leaders in official report (6)
{INDOOR} – reverse (rise) the abbreviation for Northern Ireland then add a festive party and the leading letters of O(fficial) R(eport).

24d  Looks astonished — beginning and middle transposed in book? (5)
{GAPES} – transpose the first and middle letters of the contents of a book.

25d  Expressions of protest and disgust heard through remote connection (2-2)
{WI-FI} – this sounds like a) the expression of protest from a child on being told to do something, for example, and b) an archaic expression of disgust.

Top clues for me today were 11a, 18a, 4d and 8d. Which ones appealed to you?


25 Comments

  1. crypticsue
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Had I been at home still I would definitely have challenged gazza to an arm-wrestling contest to have the chance to blog this one as I do love a Micawber puzzle.

    Did all but four first thing and these fell into place when I returned to the puzzle just now. For a great many reasons I should have got 7d on the first go through.

    Thanks to Micawber once again for a lovely Toughie and to Gazza for the blog (my time will come!) and you won’t be surprised to learn that my favourites are the same as yours.

  2. Jezza
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I found bits of this very hard today. I finished it, but missed one or two of the correct subtleties (including 12a).
    I still do not understand the ‘spoonerism’ reference in 18a ( I am no doubt being particularly thick!)
    Many thanks to Micawber, and to Gazza for the explanations. 4*/4* for me.

    • gazza
      Posted February 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Sons of toil / tons of soil.

  3. Only fools
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Completed this before the cryptic.Still smiling and as you say not one obscure word which is very pleasing .Agree with favs .but have to add 9d .
    4*\ 5* for me .
    Thanks very much to both .

  4. Big Boab
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Cracking crossword from Micawber as usual, I loved 8d and 9d. Many thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the usual brilliant review.

  5. the dodger
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    A very entertaining and challenging toughie. 4 down provided me a real ” DOH!!” moment. Many thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

  6. Pegasus
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Super puzzle from a setter at the very top of his game, favourites for me among a plethora of good clues were 4d 8d 17a and 27a thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the explanations especially 17a.

  7. Alan
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gazza,

    Just started doing these toughies last week, and it brings back memories of when I started the back page puzzles, lots of looking at answers and wordplay only to think that I really should have been able to work it out in the first place!!

    Anyhow, a quick question if I may, is the difficulty rating for toughies distinct from the back page puzzle, or are they the same?

    • gazza
      Posted February 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      I think all the bloggers have a different standard for Toughies so the two are distinct. If this one had been on the back page I’d have given it 5* for difficulty.
      Good luck with the Toughies – the more you practise the better you’ll get.

      • crypticsue
        Posted February 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        I definitely have different standards for the backpager in the Toughie. As Gazza says, on the back page this would have been 4.5 or 5* difficulty – wherever it appeared it would still have had 5* fun.

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I found this one quite challenging (missing the input of my co-solver perhaps) and even enlisted electronic help with about six to go. With this help, managed to complete. I see that I have put “HARD !!” in the margin beside the printed-out grid. Really enjoyed the challenge.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

    • crypticsue
      Posted February 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      I feel you should have a different blog name when you are on your own ‘the Lonely Kiwi’ perhaps.

  9. Poppy
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Very glad I struggled on with this fourth-ever, to me, Toughie. Really enjoyed the constructs even of the ones with which I needed lots of help. And definitely felt I should have perservated for longer as the solutions were very pleasing. Absolutely loved 18a, especially the photo of the mighty beasts that served this country so well for so long. It still amazes me that such power was (usually) harnessed with such graceful compliance… So special thanks to Gazza for the hints & illustrations, & to Micawber for creating a puzzle that encourages me to keep trying.

  10. Balliejames
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Great crossword, but really battled with 8d and had to resort to a hint and then it still took me a while. Thanks to setter and Gazza. Found the cryptic great fun today!

  11. andy
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Excellent stuff, Spent ages before realising the spoonerism in 18a was in the clue not the answer d’oh. Faves broadly in line with Gazza but also thought 28a aptly timed today in relation to the francis report on the NHS . Thanks Gazza and Micawber

    • Poppy
      Posted February 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Hear, hear!

  12. gnomethang
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Cracking puzzle. i had to go back to understand some wordplay and laughed plenty of times whenthe penny dropped. Thanks to Micawber and Gazza .

  13. marcus brown
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Nice one, Micawber. He’s one of my favourites. I like some humour in crosswords and it’s sadly lacking in most

  14. micawber
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for another fine blog Gazza – love the stiff upper lip pic, and all your kind comments. It’s great to be able to indulge one’s taste for puns, spoonerisms etc on a receptive audience of like-minded wordplayers!

    • gnomethang
      Posted February 7, 2013 at 12:08 am | Permalink

      Insert “Looks like you’ve blown a seal’ joke.

      • steve_the_beard
        Posted February 11, 2013 at 1:06 am | Permalink

        No, No, it’s just ice-cream :-)

  15. Kath
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    I really think that I’m completely on my own here. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the few that I managed but it was SO far beyond me that I started to feel a bit discouraged – then I remembered to pretend that it was a Wednesday, and then, to compound it all, I realised that it was Wednesday! Oh dear!
    I didn’t understand that the spoonerism in 18a was in the clue rather than the answer so needed gazza’s extra comment above. I still don’t understand the second bit of 25d but I think at this stage that I’ll shut up and stop being a pest.
    1a and 9d made me laugh, specially 9d with the piccy. I also liked 8d.
    With thanks to Micawber, and specially to gazza for the hints and lots of the answers too! One day I will crack these beasts!!

    • gazza
      Posted February 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      25d Wi-Fi sounds like Why? and Fie.

      • Kath
        Posted February 7, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Thank you – just had to look it up but understand now.

  16. Qix
    Posted February 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    More tremendous fun from Micawber. “All killer, no filler”.

    ★★★★★