Toughie 939 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 939

Toughie No 939 by Petitjean

Having a Whale of a Time

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

Petitjean’s quirky style tends to divide opinions; I am firmly in the camp of those who enjoy his puzzles. This one ranges far and wide with references to literature, opera, films, radio, food, football and cricket. Some of the wordplay requires a fair bit of thought, but that’s why it’s a Toughie.
Do leave a comment telling us how you got on and please rate the puzzle for enjoyment by clicking on one of the stars below.

Across Clues

8a  White van man with expression of relief (4)
{WHEW} – I spent ages trying to work out the significance of van or ‘van man’ here. In the end I decided that van was being used in the sense of ‘in the van’ or in the lead. So it’s W(hite) in the lead, followed by a male pronoun (man) and W(ith). I don’t really like it and any better suggestions would be very welcome.

9a  Shouter regularly shouting (3)
{HUE} – regular letters from shouter give us the shouting often followed by ‘and cry’.

10a  Humphrys and Naughtie initially hosting radio programme — one whose brief is to attack (6)
{HITMAN} – the initials of the two Today presenters contain the abbreviation of the most well-known BBC comedy programme of the 1940s.

11a  Saver’s bank stumped up after mild cautions (6)
{ALERTS} – one side (bank) of (save)R and a reversal (up) of the cricket abbreviation for stumped follow what mild is a type of. I’m not keen on ‘up’ as a reversal indicator in an across clue.

12a  Army unit run by heartless ear-bashing before troops stop it (8)
{REGIMENT} – R(un) (another cricket abbreviation) and E(ar-bashin)G precede ordinary troops inside (stop) IT.

13a  Well-oiled drunk cries off who should be on duty today? (7,8)
{ORDERLY OFFICERS} – an adjective meaning well-oiled or working smoothly is followed by an anagram (drunk) of CRIES OFF.

15a  Browning, wanting nothing, going round like society player (7)
{BASSIST} – the sort of browning found in a kitchen cupboard loses its final O (wanting nothing) and what’s left goes round a synonym for like and S(ociety).

17a  Report the first person to check vagrant (7)
{DOSSIER} – the first person subjective pronoun goes inside (to check) a vagrant or one sleeping rough.

20a  For Cantona two-nil away with a lack of width could be forcing showdown (15)
{CONFRONTATIONAL} – an anagram (away) of FOR CANTONA T(w)O-NIL without the abbreviation of width.

23a  Foreign fare one’s accepted in taxi with a tense and brief thank you (8)
{CIABATTA} – I (one) gets inserted in a taxi, then add A T(ense) and a brief thank you.

25a  Cough up without harangue after getting demand (6)
{EXPECT} – start with a verb meaning cough up phlegm and take away (without) the verb meaning to hold forth or harangue at its end.

26a  Habitat bureau’s last one in fashionable lime left (6)
{MILIEU} – the last letter of (burea)U has to its left an anagram (fashionable) of LIME with I (one) inserted.

27a  Music making impression on record (3)
{SKA} – this sounds like (on record) a lasting impression on the skin.

28a  Lots left in stomach (4)
{GLUT} – L(eft) is inserted in another word for stomach.

Down Clues

1d  Ahab‘s wife confronted with vigorous resistance (6)
{WHALER} – there’s a superb bit of misdirection here. We’re not looking for the Biblical Jezebel but the profession of the sea captain in Hermann Melville’s novel. W(ife) is followed by an adjective meaning vigorous or hearty and R(esistance).

2d  Sensitive about lower classes — all over South they get benefits (8)
{AWARDEES} – an adjective meaning sensitive or attuned to goes around D and E (lower classes), then all that precedes S(outh). Isn’t this a horrible word?

3d  Progress constantly interrupted with warnings to exercise less than 60 minutes (7-4,4)
{WHISTLE-STOP TOUR} – we need to string together a) audible warnings (those of an approaching train, for example), b) TO (from the clue), c) an abbreviation for physical exercise and d) a period of sixty minutes less one of its letters.

4d  Swedish film star receiving explicit opening kiss — that’ll make a change (7)
{GEARBOX} – the surname of a Swedish film star (who audibly expressed a desire to be a 7d) goes round the opening letter of E(xplicit) and we finish with the letter used for a kiss.

5d  It’s blarney Walcott’s without talent on paper — he gets Arsenal’s best headers! (3,4,2,3,3)
{THE GIFT OF THE GAB} – the forename of young Mr Walcott, the footballer, goes round (without) a talent or aptitude. That’s followed (on, in a down clue) by the abbreviation for the pink paper, HE and the heading letters from three words in the clue.

6d  Half of dictionary I note is particularly small? (6)
{ATOMIC} – well, it’s not ‘N to Z’ so it must be the other volume. Add I and a musical note.

7d  21  that gets worn at Wimbledon (4)
{LAWN} – double definition – a fine linen and what’s in pristine condition at the start of the Wimbledon fortnight but quite worn by the end.

14d  Whiskey makes you dry in the mouth (3)
{RYE} – this sounds like (in the mouth) an adjective meaning dry or ironic.

16d  ‘Trouble in Paradise’ wasting older cast (3)
{ADO} – start with the name of a fictitious place abounding in gold (2,6) then remove (wasting) the letters of OLDER (cast indicating that they are jumbled up).

18d  Work pressure in theatre causing breakdown (8)
{STOPPAGE} – the abbreviation for an artistic work and P(ressure) go inside another word for the theatre.

19d  Maker of ‘The Bat’ for a multiple centurion (7)
{STRAUSS} – double definition, neatly linked by the bat. The Austrian composer of the operetta Die Fledermaus (the bat) shares his name with a recent England cricket captain, now retired.

21d  Framework for first half of stories (6)
{FABRIC} – the first half of a word meaning made-up stories.

22d  Build up current Chelsea side — then repent! (6)
{ACCRUE} – a charade of a) the abbreviation for a type of electric current, b) the first letter (side) of C(helsea) and c) a verb meaning to repent or regret.

24d  I propose to deliver in the same place (4)
{IBID} – I followed by a verb meaning to propose or tender.

There were lots of enjoyable clues here. I particularly liked 1d, 4d and 19d. Let us know what floated your boat.



24 comments on “Toughie 939

  1. A very enjoyable toughie, the NW corner taking an absolute age to solve – I did spend quite a while trying to fit a ‘harlot’ into 1d.

    Thanks to Petitjean for an excellent toughie and to Gazza for the illustrated explanations – you’ll never guess – my favourites were the same as yours again.

  2. Many thanks to Petitjean for a thoroughly enjoyable toughie and to Gazza for a most entertaining review.

  3. Unable to complete today without hints, 3 & 4d were a complete mystery to me.
    Many thanks to Gazza for the hints and Petitjean for very enjoyable puzzle.

  4. At one stage had fully completed right side and precious little on the left .Disliked 8a and 2d ,never heard of 27a but enjoyed the rest although intuition played perhaps too big a part .
    Faves 4d ,5d and 23 a.
    Thanks very much .

  5. Finished up two short of completion. 8a and 2d and yes it is a horrible word. However I thoroughly enjoyed this one, my favourites were 6d 10a 15a and 19d thanks to Petitjean and to Gazza for the usual entertaining review.

  6. According to Google, Ahab-the-whaler’s wife was “Una” and it didn’t help a tiny bit!

    I sometimes wonder at the age of the setters. It’s OK for me but does anyone under the age of 70 remember ITMA?

    Like Cryptique coped until the NW corner where, despite getting 12a, I ground to a halt and was glad of Gazza’s review. Thank you.

    1. Apologies for ITMA, JB. It’s not an age thing. I was reading something about a Mob assassin, and the H and the N with ITMA between jumped off the page. Once I’d worked out an apt definition, there was no stopping me and ‘Hitman’ was in my clues-to-be-used list weeks before I compiled this puzzle. Having said that, ITMA is one of those titles that gets quoted in documentaries about the way Britain used to be, isn’t it?

    2. I’m comfortably under 70 and had no problem spotting ITMA. Never heard of Walcott though.
      Thanks for the hints – I needed a few – and to the setter.

  7. Blimey, that was tough!! A good puzzle – many thanks to Petitjean, and to Gazza.

  8. Thanks to Petitjean for a tough and fun puzzle and to Gazza for the review.

    From today Times:
    Listened to rock music. (3)

  9. Still don’t fully understand 8a but not distracting what was great enjoyment. ITMA registered, and I am considerably less than 70 a from BBC 4 extra and as Petitjean says from any documentaries from that era so no qualms from me. Thanks to Gazza as ever for the review . I loved the misdirection at 1d.

  10. Agree with Gazza that 8a seems a bit iffy and not keen on either bank [11a] or side [22d] to indicate one unspecified end of a word but otherwise great fun from PJ. Laughed so loud when the penny dropped for 15a that both cats did a runner. Other favorites 25a, 4d [last in – misdirected to S for Swedish], 5d and 6d.
    Many thanks to PJ and Gazza.
    ps Never mind ITMA – are there really youngsters out there who have never heard of [let alone heard] Ska?

    1. Feeling inadequate about my apparent lack of knowledge of the post classical music genre I posed the question at the bridge club tonight re Ska .Gratified to find I was not alone and not a youngster present .

  11. I knew that this would be well beyond me but always enjoy Petitjean’s backpage crosswords so decided to do what I could and use the rest as a training exercise – thanks to whoever used that expression first as it’s far less defeatist than just saying that I couldn’t do it and never expected to be able to!
    I was right, for once, and had to use a lot of this as a training exercise. Gazza’s hints are so clear that I did manage to get quite a few, but not all, of the answers from the hints.
    With thanks to Petitjean and gazza. One day I will be able to do these.

  12. Found this a bit inconsistent… Some pretty simple clues and a few really knotty ones that were a step too far for me. Managed about 80% before calling time and coming here.

  13. I’d managed to complete 44 Toughies successfully in a row (my best ever sequence), including a couple of Elgars, but I made an error here in 1 across, which I thought would be ‘PHEW’ rather than ‘WHEW’ No, I didn’t understand the significance of ‘van’ either, although I think it must mean the first letter of white. Excellent puzzle, though.

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