Toughie 979 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 979

Toughie No 979 by Micawber

Da Doo Ron Ron

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

We have another super puzzle from Micawber – a pleasure to solve and blog. Do let us know how you got on and what you thought of it.

Across Clues

1a  Bombshell America’s dropped for Iranian revolutionary leaders in Middle Eastern capital … (6)
{BEIRUT} – start with a slang word for something remarkable or a bombshell and replace the central A(merica) with the leaders of Iranian Revolutionary.

4a  … a little bit like the US did in 1980? (8)
{ELECTRON} – what the US did in November 1980 was 5,3.

10a  Source of pain for non-Home Counties devotee in retreat (5)
{ULCER} – drop the area of the country corresponding to the Home Counties from a religious devotee then reverse (in retreat) what you’re left with.

11a  No good rules being broken by drug dispenser (9)
{NEBULISER} – an anagram (broken) of RULES BEIN(g) without G(ood).

12a  If so, perhaps ass was a humbug? (7)
{HOGWASH} – if Ass was A then, following the same convention, *** *** H.

13a  Chatter inanely during American hikes (7)
{UPRATES} – a verb meaning to chatter inanely is inserted in the two-character abbreviation for American.

14a  ‘Hot gear from DIY rags’ makeover artist (5,9)
{FAIRY GODMOTHER} – this makeover artist appears in a pantomime. She’s a very apt anagram (rags) of HOT GEAR FROM DIY.

17a  Contents of autopsy report? Boy fed with nothing ruined by squalid vice den (4,2,8)
{BODY OF EVIDENCE} – an anagram (ruined) of BOY FED and O (nothing) is followed by another anagram (squalid) of VICE DEN.

21a  In school, pupil’s leaving to suppress gurgling sound (7)
{SQUELCH} – drop one of the learners from a verb to suppress or crush and insert what remains in the three-letter abbreviation for school.

23a  Ghastly old woman to be concerned about bachelor (7)
{MACABRE} – old woman is an informal term for one’s mother; replace this with an affectionate abbreviation, then add a verb meaning to be concerned containing (about) B(achelor).

24a  Shave for the first time? Don’t use so much (3,4,2)
{CUT DOWN ON} – cryptically this could mean to rid something of its first little bits of fluffy hair.

25a  Expression that’s foolish — ‘Time is money’ (5)
{IDIOM} – start with an adjective meaning foolish and replace its T(ime) with M(oney).

26a  One supervising old poet’s output in front of Queen (8)
{OVERSEER} – a charade of O(ld), what a poet produces and the identifier of our Queen.

27a  Severe gremlins hold back business deal (6)
{MERGER} – hidden (hold) and reversed (back) in the clue.

Down Clues

1d  Bowled, quickly try to escape dismissal (5-3)
{BRUSH-OFF} – the cricket abbreviation for bowled is followed by a phrasal verb meaning to leg it.

2d  Popular Conservative Opposition leader got in crookedly, concealing true identity (9)
{INCOGNITO} – string together an adjective meaning popular or trendy, C(onservative), the leading letter of O(pposition) and an anagram (crookedly) of GOT IN.

3d  Not quite there, as tomorrow’s news is by end of today? (7)
{UNREADY} – a description of the contents of tomorrow’s newspapers (given that we can’t see them yet) followed by the end letter of (toda)Y.

5d  Workers organised in contraction? (6,8)
{LABOUR MOVEMENT} – double definition, the second cryptic and referring to the sort of contraction that men don’t experience.

6d  Eddy’s dropped right into shaft below — who’s to blame? (7)
{CULPRIT} – an eddy is a circulating current and we want another word for this. Follow that with a shaft or excavation. You haven’t finished – you then have to move the R(ight) from the first word down into the second word (dropped, in a down clue).

7d  Flipping puzzle has no answer — start again! (5)
{RESET} – reverse (flipping) a puzzle or tricky problem then remove the A(nswer).

8d  What’s gained by wicked soldiers in gun emplacement (2,4)
{NO REST} – insert the abbreviation for ordinary soldiers in a word used for one or more machine-guns in a position screened by sandbags or similar. The result is proverbially the reward of the wicked.

9d  Two cricket sides divided over the tea — good one’s put out just in case (2,3,3,6)
{ON THE OFF CHANCE} – split the two sides of a cricket field round (over) THE, then follow that with a word for tea and an adjective meaning good or pleasant without its I (one).

15d  Nurse lacking medallions perhaps gets elevation (9)
{ENNOBLING} – an abbreviation for a registered nurse followed by a description (2,5) indicating that she (or he) is not wearing anything cheap and shiny.

16d  Religious figure  one considers again, perhaps (8)
{REDEEMER} – double definition, the second a semi-cryptic word that could mean someone who is thinking again.

18d  Daffodil and primrose, say, almost entirely grown facing north at bottom of yard (7)
{YELLOWS} – an adjective meaning grown or enlarged loses its final N (almost) and what’s left is reversed (facing north, in a down clue) and follows (at bottom of) Y(ard).

19d  Easily led, steered clear of wedding in speech (7)
{DUCTILE} – this sounds like (in speech) a phrase meaning steered clear of or dodged the part of the church up which the wedding party was progressing. Do you think that wedding is a bit vague for this?

20d  Sound of wind in trees Sebastian recorded for thriller (6)
{PSYCHO} – … and another homophone clue. What sounds like the murmur of wind in the trees is followed by a sound-alike of ex-athlete Sebastian’s surname.

22d  Loose woman relative removing top (5)
{UNTIE} – a female relative without her first letter.

Lots of good clues but I’ll just mention 12a, 14a, 15d and my favourite, 4a. Which ones grabbed your attention?

25 comments on “Toughie 979

  1. A truly wonderful Toughie – 5* enjoyment from me too. Had so many interruptions during the solving process that I can’t really judge the difficulty level but probably 3* like Gazza.

    Lots of lovely favourites (I do believe favourites can be plural) but I would certainly add 5d to Gazza’s list.

    Thanks to Micawber for the treat and Gazza for the nearly perfect blog (not a fan of that nurse!).

    Anyone with time left for more fun should definitely have a look at Paul (Dada) into today’s Guardian.

    1. CS, I can agree with almost everything you’ve written (I don’t mind the nurse at all…), but I’ll bet you didn’t share one of my interruptions though – I fell asleep halfway through! It’s my own fault, starting after midnight :-)

      My thanks, too, to Micawber and Gazza.

  2. Totally enjoyable without any obscurity .Too many favourites to list but still smiling about 4a which was one of my last few !
    Particular thanks to the setter and of course Gazza .

  3. Defeated today! I filled in about half of the grid (slowly, I might add) before coming to a grinding halt. Still, tomorrow is another day! A nod of ackowlegement to the setter’s skill. You beat me fair and square. Many thanks to Gazza for all the explanations, so badly needed. I still don’t get 12A though.

    1. 12a A is to Ass (i.e. the first letter) as H is to Hog, so if ‘ass was a’ then ‘hog was h’.

  4. Great puzzle, more like a 4* for me difficulty wise. 4a brilliant. Many thanks to setter and Gazza.

  5. Excellent fun. A slow solve, but that just meant that the enjoyment lasted longer!
    Thanks to Micawber, and to Gazza for the notes.

  6. Great puzzle from a great setter with as is usual all the laugh out loud moments, favourites for me were 4a 6d 12a and 18d thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the comments.

  7. Superb crossword from Micawber, not one of his most difficult but definitely one of his most enjoyable, many thanks to him and to Gazza for a superb review.

  8. I had a go – I REALLY couldn’t do it. It’s either a case of being on a completely different wave length or, to be kind to myself, I didn’t have much spare time to fiddle about.
    I’m a bit annoyed to have failed so abysmally on a gazza 3* for difficulty when I pretty much did yesterday’s BD’s 4* difficulty because I have noticed that BD tends to grade puzzles at a lower number of stars than gazza does. I would be really interested to know what BD would have given for today’s and vice versa, although I really don’t want to be a pain.
    Thanks to all concerned anyway.

    1. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the difficulty levels. Mine are not scientifically calculated but just an overall impression, trying to gauge the difficulty in relation to other puzzles of the same type (i.e. back pager or Toughie) where I treat 3* as ‘average’. I don’t time my solving but I obviously have some idea of how long it’s taken me. I don’t race to finish in the shortest possible time and even if I’m pretty sure of an answer I try not to move on to another clue until I fully understand the wordplay (or think I do!). Times can also be skewed if you solve most clues fairly quickly but are then held up by the last one or two.
      If it helps I have 3/3 written on my printout of yesterday’s Toughie, but I wouldn’t take too much notice of that.
      You say you couldn’t do today’s – where did you have problems?

      1. Thanks for replying gazza and andy,
        I never time myself or sit down and ‘do a crossword’ so don’t have the first idea how long a particular crossword has taken me – I don’t treat it as a race – more something to be enjoyed. I would give my number of * for difficulty on how I felt while I was doing it.
        As for today’s it would probably be easier to say the few that I didn’t have problems with! I barely managed a quarter of it. My only ‘defence’ is that I had too much else going on today.
        I haven’t looked at the hints yet but, time permitting, will do so tomorrow. Watch this space!! :smile: to both of you.

    2. Oh Kath Kath Kath my sympathies are with you as you are aware of the struggles I have with the brilliant Brian Greer on Sundays. Whilst I mostly agree with the enjoyment ratings for the reasons Gazza says the difficulty ratings are something that petrifies me. I think Cryptic Sue summed it up today mentioning interruptions and like Gazza I don’t time myself or rarely have the luxury of solving an entire puzzle in one sitting. As Gazza says, be interested to know which clues held you up.

    3. Keep trying Kath, see my comment 13. I think with the Toughie’s some clues can be impenetrable, but on the plus side, if you can get on the setter’s wavelength a bit, then there’s entertainment to be had. Try the Toughie’s when you’ve got spare time, with nothing else going on. I have to be in the right mood to try them, otherwise they just give me the hump :-)

  9. A really fun puzzle to solve with lots of smiles and chuckles along the way. Looking at the print-out this morning, I note that there are not many scribbles around the margins. A sure sign that there were not many log-jams. Last in was 14a as I had convinced myself that I was looking for the name of an artist, and then “committee” fitted in perfectly with the checkers for the second word too. Great stuff. Just a pity that the other Kiwi was not here to share it too.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

  10. I really enjoyed this puzzle. I especially enjoyed 4a (which was actually my first in!), 1d, 5d and 8d. I loved 14a. My last one in was 19d which I put in but couldn’t justify until I read gazza’s hints – I must pronounce the word oddly and also I had never come across this definition before – always thought of it as relating to malleable material rather than a person. Plus I think wedding is a bit vague, particularly as the definition is perhaps not as obvious as it could be. I’m just being picky though as this was immensely enjoyable. Thanks to the setter and to Gazza.

  11. Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the review and hints. I actually felt it was do-able. Enjoyed the struggle, but needed seven hints to finish, of which I had to look up five. The ones I looked up were 1,4,23a and 8&15d. Favourite was 17a. Was really difficult but enjoyable.

  12. Great fun. Gazed at it for ages with just one clue [2d] solved – then it began to fall into place, albeit slowly. 14a is superb, a clue of the year so far. 5d, 8d and 15d also excellent. Not so happy with 19d on similar grounds to Vigo and 12a didn’t float my boat either. But overall a lovely puzzle.

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Gazza.

  13. Difficulty level is subjective. If you solved it , it wasn’t all that difficult. If you couldn’t, it was. I would prefer to see a “challenging” level rather than a difficulty level. Because the challenge is what it’s all about. That’s why the setter sets the crossword and why we try to solve them.

    1. Disagree slightly Chris .I solved the puzzle but found it difficult (despite for once understanding all bar 12a initially) .Enjoyment is the main (sole) motive for me and the opinion and comments of like-minded people adds to that .Keep happy and keep commenting .Still smiling about 4a .

      1. Maybe it’s just me, but I look at puzzles as a challenge to be overcome…or not, as was the case today . Losing the battle does not often diminish my enjoyment. I relish a good fight. I will keep commenting, that’s for sure. This is a great blog. And I, too, loved 4A. It received three ticks on my personal ‘great clue’ calcualtor.

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