Toughie 975

Toughie No 975 by Firefly

Cor, Blimey!

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 BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

There’s a nice theme in this puzzle, based on the comic actor who was born 100 years ago today. Once I’d got his name it wasn’t too difficult to get most of the answers although I had to think about a few bits of the wordplay. There seemed to be a quite a few clues requiring us to delete one or more letters from what we’d put together.

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Across Clues

7a  Cast in audition, Mrs Sharples trains for big occasion … (9)
{CENTENARY} – a charade of a) a homophone (in audition) of a past participle meaning cast or propelled, b) the forename of Mrs Sharples, the old soap battleaxe and c) the abbreviation used for trains or the railway.

8a/16a/17a  … hit she’s made wearing top draped over singular vehicle for 11 (5,4,5)
{BLESS THIS HOUSE} – this was a TV sitcom starring 11a. It’s an anagram (made) of HIT SHE’S inside (wearing) a lady’s top with an additional S(ingular) inserted.

10a  A measure of concealment? (6)
{BUSHEL} – cryptic definition of the old measure that you may conceal your light under.

11a  Comic actor‘s side-splitting spot on square — it’s his 7 today! (3,5)
{SID JAMES} – today’s theme – a comic actor born on 8th May 1913. A spot or predicament goes inside (splitting) SIDE and that’s followed (on?) by S(quare).

12a  11’s role in 27,3 — opposite no maiden! (6)
{ANTONY} – also the role played by Richard Burton in an earlier, much more costly and less funny production. Drop the M(aiden) from a word meaning opposite in meaning.

14a  Comfortable with ‘Our Party’, Miliband’s almost premier (4,2)
{USED TO} – string together the pronoun that we’d use to identify our party, Miliband the Younger’s forename and an adjective meaning premier or leading without its final P (almost).

16a  See 8a
17a  See 8a

18a  Swallowing cold ‘economy’ banger (4)
{HEAP} – this banger is neither a firework nor a sausage. Drop (swallowing) the C(old) from an adjective meaning economy.

19a  Like lovers in a forest — beginning to tremble? (6)
{ARDENT} – the forest was the one in Warwickshire where Shakespeare set As You Like It. Add the starting letter of T(remble).

21a  It’s a feather in one’s cap to have broken-down sheep sold off (6)
{HACKLE} – this is a long feather from the neck of a cock, worn as a decoration in a cap. Remove (sold off) sheep (plural) from an adjective meaning broken-down or dilapidated.

24a/18d  It’s hot: a shock launch for new programme featuring 11 (8,4-4)
{HANCOCK’S HALF-HOUR} – H(ot) is followed by an anagram (new) of A SHOCK LAUNCH FOR.

26a  Group of slapdash ramraiders in retreat (6)
{ASHRAM} – hidden (group of) in the clue.

27a/3d  Sign on motor — ‘Dreadfully Corny Classical Comedy!’ (5,2,4)
{CARRY ON CLEO} – this comedy film is generally regarded as being the best of a long series (many of which starred today’s hero). A star sign follows (on) a motor and an anagram (dreadfully) of CORNY.

28a  Ending and one French piece of dialogue tweaked (4-5)
{FINE-TUNED} – three French words (meaning respectively a) ending, b) and c) one (feminine)) are followed by the initial letter (piece) of D(ialogue).

Down Clues

1d  Planet Earth’s latterly devastated in places (5)
{VENUS} – start with places where organised events take place and scrap (devastated) the second (latterly) E(arth).

2d  Prints of ‘Vertigo’ regularly include feature on Stewart up front (8)
{ETCHINGS} – the even letters of vertigo have a facial feature inserted, then that’s followed by the front letter of S(tewart).

3d  See 27a

4d  States ignored rising star — a goddess! (4)
{IRIS} – remove (ignored) the two-letter abbreviation for the States from the name of the star also known as the dog star then reverse (rising) what’s left.

5d  Marry or divorce? (6)
{CLEAVE} – just to confuse non-native speakers there are two verbs in English (with the same spelling but different roots) – one meaning to come together and the other meaning to split apart.

6d  Innate lateness I displayed (9)
{ESSENTIAL} – an anagram (displayed?) of LATENESS I.

9d  Quote from a dead leader (6)
{ADDUCE} – A followed by D(ead) and the Italian word for leader (the title assumed by Benito Mussolini).

13d  Lad‘s unconscious in midst of mayhem (5)
{YOUTH} – insert another word for unconscious inside the central two letters of mayhem.

15d  Daily subverted congenital cheat (9)
{CHARLATAN} – start with a daily (a lady who does) and follow this with a reversal (subverted) of an adjective meaning congenital or present from birth.

17d  Snag involving electronic industrial design (2,4)
{HI TECH} – insert (involving) E(lectronic) into a snag or pitfall.

18d  See 24a

20d  Flamenco rendition collects repeat performance (6)
{ENCORE} – hidden (collects) in the clue.

22d  Covet neighbour’s superior chicken (6)
{CRAVEN} – a verb meaning to covet or yearn for is followed by the top (superior) letter of N(eighbour).

23d  11’s paramour touring Mile End — with similar ladies? (5)
{BABES} – there’s a bit of showbiz knowledge required here. Today’s theme had a long-lasting affair with the actress who was his co-star in many films (and who later went on to become landlady of The Queen Vic). What we need here is her nickname – put that around (touring) the end letter of (Mil)E.

25d  Sally’s first child’s a runner (4)
{SKID} – this runner is attached to the underside of an aircraft to facilitate landing on snow. The first letter of S(ally) is followed by an informal word for a child.

My top clues today were 10a and 23d. Which ones appealed to you?


  1. BigBoab
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Great fun but not really a toughie, many thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for a very amusing review.

  2. jezza
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this one. I solved 27a/3d before I got 11a, and then realised the theme.
    Thanks to Firefly, and to Gazza for the review.

  3. the dodger
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s rare that Ken Bruce is of any help to the solving of a toughie, but today as I turned to the toughie page he was regaling his Radio 2 audience with the very helpful information about someones’ 100th birthday. A nice piece of synchronicity.

  4. Pegasus
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I found this very tough but I really enjoyed it, favourites for me were 5d 10a 14a and 28a thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the excellent dissection.

  5. Kath
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear – total defeat! I wouldn’t have got going at all if I hadn’t caught sight of gazza’s introduction.
    Realised fairly quickly that it was too difficult for me and that I didn’t know enough about the theme so had a training afternoon – did the across ones with the help of gazza’s very clear hints and then carried on with the downs on my own.
    With thanks to Firefly and gazza.

  6. Heno
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Firefly and Gazza. Way beyond me, only needed 18 hints to finish. Managed to do some of the Sid James stuff, but the rest of it was impenetrable.

  7. 2Kiwis
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    We picked the theme quite early and made good progress after that. However, we had put in the wrong deity for 4d (put in a male one without checking or parsing fully.) The other one that totally beat us was 23d. Did not have the background knowledge. Spent time trying to fit in “dames” and then “jakes” as homophone of Hattie Jacques and synonym for “The Ladies”. Neither of these worked with the word play but fun trying.
    Thanks Firefly and Gazza.

  8. andy
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Also guilty of hearing Ken Bruce in a car , before reaching the middle pages. Am so cross with myself for missing the sheep part of 21a. Good fun though so thanks to Firefly and Gazza

  9. gnomethang
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    All good fun – thanks Firely and Gazza.


    Biddle: Nurse I dreamt about you last night.

    Nurse Clarke: Did you?

    Biddle: No, you wouldn’t let me.

    • Kath
      Posted May 8, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink


  10. Outnumbered
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Needed hints for 5 in all, all of which I doubt I’d have got otherwise, but enjoyed what I did.