Toughie 961

Toughie No 961 by Firefly

An eXercise in eXtrapolation

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

In my opinion, most of Firefly’s recent puzzles have not been up to the high standard he set in his early Toughies. This one is back to his best, and well worthy of the Friday slot.

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    Odd — unlike today’s grid — but like today’s solution, you might say? (9)
{ECCENTRIC} – sounds like (you might say) this could describe the other answers around the perimeter, and in particular the letter in the middle of the grid

8a    Unintentional errors? If unread, perhaps! (8,5)
{FREUDIAN SLIPS} – the second word could indicate that the first is an anagram of IF UNREAD

11a    Gas lit after error by nurse (5)
{XENON} – a two-letter word meaning lit, as a light might be, comes after the letter that indicates an error and an abbreviation for an Enrolled Nurse

12a    Bear shortly to return to large animal clinic (5)
{DETOX} – a short name for a toy bear is reversed (return) and followed by a large animal

13a    Dearest Lendl’s last racket (5)
{BABEL} – a term of endearment followed by the final letter (last) of LendL

16a    A bounder with yen to muffle ending of ‘Stranger in Paradise’ (6)
{ARCADY) – the A from the clue followed by a bounder and Y(en) around (to muffle) the final letter (ending) of strangeR

17a    Weave, unweave, leaving Western Way (6)
{AVENUE} – an anagram (weave) of UN(W)EAVE without the W (leaving Western)

18a    State temperature trials losing money (5)
{TEXAS} – to get this US state,start with T(emperature) and follow it with some trials without (losing) M(oney)

19a    Mohorovicic level reveals frozen water (6)
{ICICLE} – hidden (reveals) inside the clue

20a    Turns of phrase Hitch used after tense opening to shoot (6)
{TROPES} – a verb meaning to hitch or fasten follows T(ense) and precedes the initial letter (opening) of Shoot)

21a    All of which may be sweet? (5)
{SORTS} – to get these sweets, add ALL to the answer

24a    Pure  sound (5)
{UTTER} – two definitions

26a    Burst in lav, so perturbed! (5)
{SALVO} – an anagram (perturbed) of LAV SO

27a    Company limo is all readied to convey ‘Her Maj’ — that sounds familiar! (13)
{COLLOQUIALISM} – an anagram (readied) of CO(mpany) LIMO IS ALL around QU(een) (‘Her Maj’) – ‘Her Maj’ being an example of the answer

28a    Sailing dame going after former partner in court knockout (9)
{EXCELLENT} – put the first name of Ms MacArthur, who was made a dame following her sailing exploits, after a former partner and inside C(our)T


2d           Check container vessel (5)
{CHURN} – CH(eck) followed by a container

3d           Cipher decrypted — meaning navy’s stood down (6)
{ENIGMA} – an anagram (decrypted) of MEA(N)ING without (stood down) the N(avy)

4d           Trap insect round margins of lake (6)
{TANGLE} – reverse (round) an insect and add the outer letters (margins) of LakE

5d           The setter’s daughter showed the way, and ran slowly (5)
{IDLED} – the first person singular objective pronoun (the setter) followed by D(aughter) and a verb meaning showed the way – the definition is usually applied to an engine that ran slowly

6d           Sloppy print in actor’s copy (13)
{TRANSCRIPTION} – an anagram (sloppy) of PRINT IN ACTOR’S

7d           Rod and Grace’s ceremony (4,3,6)
{SPIT AND POLISH} – a rod used for roasting meat over a fire followed by the AND from the clue and a word meaning grace gives a phrase meaning ceremony and formality

9d           Weapon of unknown diameter, we hear (9)
{EXCALIBUR} – this famous sword sounds like a mathematical unknown followed by the diameter of a bullet

10d         Noise breaking out around 10 past ten in annexe (9)
{EXTENSION} – an anagram (breaking out)of NOISE around the Roman numeral for 10 and TEN

13d         Through unfinished experiment gains pieces of information (5)
{BYTES} – a two-letter word meaning through followed by most of an experiment

14d         Fantastic robe, clothing by one seeking striking effect? (5)
{BOXER} – an anagram (fantastic) of ROBE around the mathematical symbol for by or multiply

15d         Patterns remain fresh, given touch of singularity (5)
{LASTS} – these patterns used by a cobbler come from a word meaning remain fresh followed by the initial letter (touch of) of Singularity

22d         Shady dealing in paroquets? Not right time, son — put it off! (6)
{OPAQUE} – an anagram (dealing) of PA(R)OQUE(TS) without (not) the R(ight) , T(ime) and S(on) – I’m not sure whether dealing or “put it off” indicates the anagram; if it’s the former then the latter indicates deletion of S(on) – what do you think?

23d         Charge when ‘Tenor Highlights’ initially goes on stream (6)
{THRILL} – T(enor) followed by the initial letter of Highlights and a small stream

25d         Even in Orwellian times, stay cool! (5)
{RELAX} – the even letters of oRwElLiAn followed by the mathematical notation for times or multiply

26d         Notes not allowed up in the gallery? (5)
{SALON} – reverse the answer and split it as (2,3) this could indicate that certain notes of the scale in sol-fa notation are not allowed

This was eXhausting, but worthwhile.


  1. BigBoab
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    A very enjoyable toughie from Firefly, the x theme amused me. Many thanks to Firefly and to BD for the (partial) review. Favourite clue was 27a.

  2. Pegasus
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Best puzzle of the week for me, favourites were 7d 13a 20a and 23d thanks to Firefly and to Big Dave for the comments.

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I loved it, even though I had two and a half not filled in, one of which was due to not spelling 9D correctly. I also fitted the wrong word into 6D, which made 16A impossible (didn’t know the word anyway, as it turns out). No excuses for not getting the first part of 8A. This was so much more fun than today’s cryptic, even though it took me quite a long time. Lots of smiles. Many thanks to the setter and to BD for the hints.

  4. Ian
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    First toughie I’ve tried for some time and only failed at 20a, so quite pleased with myself. Realising there were several Xs about helped, though had put ASYMETRIC for 1a to begin with. Amazingly, 4d and 5d still fitted! Firefly, I think you’ve missed out the UN at 8a. Such fun, thanks to all.

    • Ian
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      I mean Big Dave, not Firefly, of course. Sorry for confusion.

  5. spindrift
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Someone once said that you should only fight the battles you know you can win or something on those lines….I’ve run out of persevation.

  6. crypticsue
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed solving this one – I said to Mr CS that it was one of those crosswords where you knew you should be able to get the solution if only the clue wasn’t quite so clever and you weren’t getting over a lurgy.

    Re BD’s question on 22d. I think dealing is the anagram indicator, ‘not’ tells you to remove the R and T, and ‘put it off’ is the instruction to remove the S .

    Thanks to Firefly and BD for one of the few nice things on this very chilly day off. I toyed with the idea of putting my thermals back into the chest of drawers today – I think I will leave them handy for a bit longer.

  7. Balliejames
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Funny how minds work, apart from 16a, this all fell into place quite nicely. Lively and amusing puzzle which was a treat after the cryptic. First puzzle I have done by Firefly so will look out for him in the future. Many thanks to setter ans BD.

  8. stanXYZ
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Far too difficult for me! Only managed the easy ones. So many thanks to BD for the enlightenment!

    I never thought I would see the day when both Excalibur and Excellent appeared in the same BD Review! :grin:

  9. pommers
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what eXternal will have to say about this one :grin:

    • Joe 90
      Posted April 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      Pommers……..General Mc Arthur vibe………fantastic……oh……three to four for me too…….

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    We thoroughly enjoyed it. Checking through the review this morning we find that we had even parsed everything correctly for a change. Lots of clever clues with a smile-inducing undercurrent of quirkiness.
    Thanks Firefly and BD.

  11. halcyon
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this. Like Ian I wanted 1a to be asymetric, [like = as] then realised it has a double m. Then wanted it t have an X as 2nd letter like the other 3 round the perimeter. So it was last in!

    Re 22d – Agree with BD and Crypticsue “dealing in” is the anagrind so “put it off” is a bit superfluous [“not” covers r, t and s.] The clue would be better without it.

    Faves 1a, 16a and 9d.

    Thanks to Firefly and BD.

  12. gardenman1943
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I read through many of the clues late last night and very few made much sense to me – I even committed what in my book was a cardinal sin by ‘cribbing’ the answer to 1 across from the blog. Still not totally understanding the clue and its answer I gave up for the night. This morning, having used my one ‘cheat’ I proceeded to gradually add a few answers, until finally I actually completed it and without further peeps into the blog. Having never completed a ‘Firefly’ Toughie before, I am more than happy.

    • Posted April 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      It’s not easy, having cribbed 1 across, to work out that it is to be read as X-centric without solving most of the rest of the puzzle!