Toughie 960 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 960

Toughie No 960 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Bufo

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

I’m back refreshed after a week away so thanks to BD for covering for me last week. I didn’t find today’s puzzle too taxing. I did stall briefly in the NW and SE corners and probably shouldn’t have done. The thought that was needed to sort out some of the wordplay helped maintain interest

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a    Source of year abroad in French region (10)
{PROVENANCE} The French word for ‘year’ goes inside a region of SE France. Peter Mayle wrote about a year here

6a    Press head removed in clearout of opponents (4)
{URGE} ‘To press’ = a clearout of opponents with the first letter (head) removed

10a    Italian team’s centre backs being sluggish (5)
{INERT} Take the name of one of Milan’s football teams and move the middle letter to the end

11a    Spring grass outside recovered quickly (9)
{REBOUNDED} ‘Spring’ goes inside ‘grass’

12a    Exhausted cohabiting? Prepared to govern (5,2)
{SWORN IN} If you are cohabiting you are living in ***. Put ‘exhausted’ inside ***

13a    One expecting net profit to recount returns, getting head of investment in (1-6)
{E-TAILER} One who sells over the Internet = a reversal of ‘to recount’ round I (first letter of investment)

14a    Aggression of drunken reeling celeb (12)
{BELLIGERENCE} An anagram (drunken) of REELING CELEB

18a    One who’s had some successful knockouts concealing broken nail in two fingers? (12)
{SEMIFINALIST} Someone who has progressed a long way in a knockout competition = an anagram (broken) of NAIL inside what could conceivably be two fingers (being half of four fingers)

21a    Broth I’m cooking clots (7)
{THROMBI} An anagram (cooking) of BROTH I’M

23a    Brought up fish, absurdly huge to be caught (7)
{COUGHED} A common food-fish goes round an anagram (absurdly) of HUGE

24a    Get back 13, the army’s coming in — get back! (9)
{RETALIATE} Reverse the answer to 13 across and put it round the abbreviation for a voluntary military force

25a    It’s an oddity, masculinised papal court? (5)
{CURIO} Take the court of the papal see and change it’s ‘feminine’ ending to a ‘masculine’ one

26a    Trophy held in second division (4)
{CUSP} A trophy goes round S (second) to give a division between signs of the Zodiac

27a    One taking part in match between two opponents (not international) (10)
{CONTESTANT} An international match (e.g. in cricket) goes between one word for an opponent and another word for an opponent with the letter I (international) removed


1d    Father‘s art being curious? (6)
{PRIEST} An ecclesiastical father might also be an old past tense of a verb meaning ‘to be curious’ in the same way that ‘art’ is an old past tense of ‘to be’

2d    Wildcat strike ending great deal after company goes belly-up (6)
{OCELOT} The last letter of strike + a great deal following a reversal (goes belly-up) of the abbreviation for company

3d    Former partner looked after kids — and the rest! (8,6)
{EXTENDED FAMILY} A former partner + ‘looked after’ + kids = a social unit consisting not only of a couple and their children but also other relatives

4d    Love a geeky type, one turning up that’ll get heart pounding (9)
{ADRENALIN} A reversal (turning up) of love (zero) + A + a geeky type + A (one) = a hormone that increases blood pressure and stimulates the heart muscle

5d    Telegraph / lead (5)
{CABLE} 2 meanings: a telegraph message/lead for transmitting electricity

7d    Suggesting fast over? (8)
{REDOLENT} When split (4,4) it tells you to fast again (over)

8d    Recipient has choice between death and high office (8)
{ENDORSEE} The person to whom a bill is assigned = a word that links choices (2) between death and the office of a bishop

9d    Who’ll secure man-hours after reorganisation? (5,9)
{HUMAN RESOURCES} An anagram (after reorganisation) of SECURE MAN-HOURS. The whole clue provides the definition

15d    Grand ancient heraldic device, a bird (9)
{GOLDCREST} G (grand) + ‘ancient’ + a heraldic device

16d    Secret rite performed in Eastern society (8)
{ESOTERIC} An anagram (performed) of RITE inside E (Eastern) and the abbreviation for ‘society’

17d    Retired Australian runner’s holding flag aloft (8)
{EMERITUS} A large Australian bird that can run fast + ‘S round a reversal (aloft) of ‘to flag’

19d    Government representative‘s odd turn of phrase (6)
{SHERPA} An anagram (odd turn of) of PHRASE

20d    A West Midlands town more than semi skilled (6)
{ADROIT} A + the first five letters of the 9-letter name of a spa town in northern Worcestershire

22d    State expression of objection when interrupting wedding speech (5)
{IDAHO} An interjection denoting objection, etc., goes inside two words (1,2) spoken by the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony

A perfectly acceptable puzzle

19 comments on “Toughie 960

  1. Yes! I finished without hints and in a quite respectable time. I am thrilled. There were a couple where I couldn’t figure out the wordplay though I was pretty confident of my answer, but not as many of those as usual. 13A was a new word for me. I tried to make e-trader fit at first. thanks to the setter, and to you, Bufo, for the needed unravelling.

  2. I enjoyed this very much, not overly tough but enough to get one thinking. Like expat Chris, I had never heard of 13a and had emailer in, favourite clue was 1a. Many thanks to Micawber and to Bufo for the review/hints.

    1. Toughie 350 by Notabilis
      9a Modern company strike back, eliminating army in retreat (1-6)

      1. Thanks Andy, I wish I still had that kind of memory, alas and alack I’m afraid a dreadful eld has set in upon my once reasonable brain, ’tis the fortunes of time. You are of course perfectly correct.

        1. Simple – used the “search this site” facility at the top right of the page , typed the phrase in, et voila!

  3. A pleasure to solve as is usual with todays setter, favourites for me were 1d 7d 12a and 20d thanks to Micawber and to Bufo for the comments.

  4. Lovely stuff and not too tricky for Micawber. This setter always comes up with a clue or two that’s a bit “off the wall” and which provides a nice penny-drop moment- in this case 1d and 7d. Also loved 1ac, 12ac, 18ac and 20d.

    Many thanks to Micawber and Bufo.

  5. Struggling with this & had to come to Bufo for some hints. When I worked in Big Pharma we used to refer to 9d as HR or Holiday Register and, when PC was its peak, The Sales Prevention Department.

    Thanks to Setter & to Bufo.

  6. The usual great entertainment from Micawber and a bit trickier than his usual, creeping into 3* difficulty time for me. Thank you to him and Bufo too.

  7. Really struggled with 20d. We had the correct answer and had parsed it correctly, but even trolling through Wikipedia failed to find the town in question. Will go back and have another rummage. At least we now know that we are looking for a name with 9 letters. Apart from that, enjoyed the puzzle very much.
    Thanks Micawber and Bufo.

      1. Dave, Drotwich Spa? You might want to put in the ‘i’ before the Kiwis get up tomorrow. Can no longer do it myself.

      2. Actually Dro(I)twich Spa!

        Not a fair clue for foreigners or for those of us in the UK who have never ventured as far as the West Midlands!

        1. Thanks for all that info. Have now read all about the town, so will know for next time.

  8. Not wishing to be pedantic but ‘art’ is the old present tense of ‘to be’ as in ‘thou art’. The past would be ‘wert’.

  9. Didn’t enjoy it as much as I usually do a Micawber puzzle. Lacking his usual fun elemen

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