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Toughie 990

Toughie No 990 by Micawber

Is it really Tuesday?

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

This is only the sixth time Micawber has turned up on a Tuesday, the last time being nearly a year ago. It was well worth the wait, albeit the pleasure was over rather too quickly.

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    Dissolute chap lay with girl — artistic characters, perhaps (11)
{CALLIGRAPHY} – an anagram (dissolute) of CHAP LAY with GIRL gives some artistic script

7a    My intention is to get back into teetotal society, not having so much claret … (7)
{ANAEMIA} – my intention (1,4) reversed (to get back) inside a society for those who wish to become teetotal gives a condition in which there is a deficiency of red cells or haemoglobin in the blood

8a    … member enrolling in drink society claims (7)
{ALLEGES} – a member or limb inside an alcoholic drink and followed by S(ociety)

10a    United tie featuring defensive error (8)
{TOGETHER} – a verb meaning to tie or fasten around (featuring) a defensive error resulting in a score in football

11a    Non-essential vote held by Ulster Unionist dividing two wings — section leaving party (6)
{LUXURY} – the mark made to indicate a vote inside (held by) the abbreviation for Ulster Unionist all inside (dividing) two wings followed by (part)Y without (leaving) a part or section

13a    Bring in part of corn before November (4)
{EARN} – part of the corn containing the seeds followed by (before) the letter represented by November in the NATO Phonetic alphabet

14a    Stitching endlessly interrupting boxing — abandoned just over halfway, looking ahead (10)
{FUTURISTIC} – some stitching without its outer letters (endlessly) inside (interrupting) just over half of (abandoned just over halfway) some boxing

16a    Unofficially, where the missing link went? (3,3,4)
{OFF THE CUFF} – could be where the link went missing from a shirt sleeve

18a    Talkative bird, not half lively on the way back (4)
{MINA} – drop (not) the second half from an adjective meaning lively then reverse (on the way back) what’s left

21a    Fathers, say, wearing specs? (6)
{BEGETS} – the Latin abbreviation of say or for example inside (wearing) some spec(ulation)s or gambles

22a    Strike to reverse disparity in employee’s initial sums (8)
{STOPPAGE} – this industrial strike is derived by putting a three-letter word for a disparity inside the initial letter of Employee and some sums of money, then reverse the lot

24a    Kind of diagram featured in Eastern astronomy essentially has weight still (4,3)
{EVEN NOW} – a diagram in which sets and their relationships are represented by overlapping circles inside (featured in) E(astern) and the middle letter (astronomy essentially) of astrOnomy and followed by W(eight)

25a    Serial chocolate head going mad for cakes (7)
{ÉCLAIRS} – an anagram (going mad) of SERIAL and the initial letter (head) of Chocolate

26a    Female traveller and Latin man, finally out of love, need ticket out, being this (3,4,4)
{FAR FROM HOME} – F(emale), a three-letter word for a gypsy man (traveller – this was a new one for me) and the Latin for man without its final O (love) all inside (need … out) a ticket


1d    Service provider that keeps device going (7)
{CHARGER} – two definitions – someone who provides a fee-earning service and an essential item used to keep a device, such as a mobile phone, going

2d    The setter’s trapped by blazing sun, creating restrictions (6)
{LIMITS} – the abbreviation of the setter is in the first person (1’1) inside (rapped) a word meaning blazing and followed by S(un)

3d    Lack in capacity of processed cyanide ingested (10)
{INADEQUACY} – the Latin for “in the capacity of” or “as” (second successive Toughie for this one!) inside (ingested) an anagram (processed) of CYANIDE – unusually yodaesque for Micawber!

4d    Erected hideaway for Middle Eastern money (4)
{RIAL} – reverse (erected in a down clue) a hideaway or retreat

5d    Iced-up liquid around edges of littoral is transparent (8)
{PELLUCID} – an anagram (liquid) of ICED-UP around the outer letters (edges) of LittoraL

6d    Dairy product from hog, unusually, in nomadic setting (7)
{YOGHURT} – an anagram (unusually) of HOG inside a light conical tent used by nomads

7d    English in a dry hotel getting large drink quickly (2,3,6)
{AT THE DOUBLE} – E(nglish) between on the one side the A from the clue, a two-letter abbreviation meaning dry and H(otel) and on the other a large drink of a spirit like whiskey

9d    TV network press car crashed — they’re high! (11)
{SKYSCRAPERS} – a TV network followed by an anagram (crashed) of PRESS CAR

12d    Source of warm water for UK from Qatar, perhaps — gas is about right (4,6)
{GULF STREAM} – the area where Qatar and other Arab states are situated followed by some gaseous water around R(ight)

Gulf stream

15d    Something put in tea as the queen takes it (8)
{WHITENER} – a word meaning as and the queen’s regnal cypher around (takes) IT – I always used cow’s milk rather than this artificial stuff!

17d    First lady’s underwear from France, I gather, mostly loud (3,4)
{FIG LEAF} – a brilliant definition of the underwear worn by Eve in the Garden of Eden – the IVR code for France, the I from the clue, most of a verb meaning to gather or learn by laboriously scraping together pieces of information and the musical notation for loud

Fig leaf

19d    Wise men entering in appropriate direction in picture (7)
{IMAGINE} – the three wise men inside IN and followed by a compass direction [thanks to Deep Threat for pointing out that the direction is the appropriate one for the wise men] – picture here is a verb

20d    American election over for Olympian (6)
{APOLLO} – A(merican) followed by an election and O(ver)

23d    Not so many going uncovered — it might pour (4)
{EWER} – a word meaning not so many without (going uncovered) its initial letter F

Previous Tuesday appearances from Micawber – T-053 (02 Dec 2008), T-204 (25 Aug 2009), T-224 (29 Sep 2009), T-599 (19 Jul 2011) and T-811 (24 Jul 2012).

39 comments on “Toughie 990

  1. Smiled my way through this .Would hate to pick a favourite .
    Had to look up the diagram in 24a.Great fun .
    Thanks to micawber and BD (not BT!)

    1. Venn diagrams were part of my university course (on Set Theory) back in the mid-sixties. They are much more widely used today.

  2. I too had to look up the diagrams but other than that I thought it a most enjoyable if not very tough toughie, my thanks to Micawber and to BD for the super review.

  3. Great puzzle, as always, from Micawber – thanks to him and BD.
    I didn’t have any problem with 6d after Paul’s slightly more libertarian clue from last week (with an alternative spelling):
    Intent to try returning dairy product (6)

  4. I hope I don’t have to wait a year for another Micawber puzzle as I thoroughly enjoyed it. Congratulations to BD et al on your achievement. I don’t often do the Toughie, but a couple of years ago I would have got 13a and given up in disgust. This blog is a boon to an improver like myself. Thanks to all.

    1. My observation was only concerning Micawber’s appearances on a Tuesday (which is my day for blogging the Toughie)! He does appear on other days of the week.

      1. Obviously the effort of doing the puzzle has affected my comprehension. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

  5. Splendid puzzle by one of the strong new breed of younger setters who are keeping the older hands on their toes with their quality.

    Thanks to Micawber and BD – incidentally if you are Twitter minded, Micawber runs the excellent Twitmericks account – topical limericks in under 140 words.

  6. A pleasant surprise for a Tuesday, not one of his most difficult but high on enjoyment. Favourites for me were 12d 17d and 26a thanks to Micawber and to Big Dave for the review.

  7. An absolute pleasure. I am sure that there will be a few converts from the back pager with this splendid puzzle. I also had the pleasure of studying the aforementioned diagrams a long time ago. Meant thanks to Micawber for lots of smiles and BD for the review.

  8. Thanks to Micawber and to Big Dave. As usual, when the Toughie gets recommended as being solvable, I have a try and can never do it :-) Actually managed to get 14 answers, but still for the life of me cannot understand the hint for 14a, even though I got the answer. Needed to look up 6and got the other 8 from the hints. Still I’m determined to keep trying the Toughies.

      1. Thanks Physicist, I’m pleased you told me that, I don’t think I would ever have worked that out. Having said that , I’ll have to try and get my Toughie brain working better if I’m ever to make any progress :-) Thanks again.

        1. Sometimes it’s not easy to provide a hint without mentioning the actual words in the wordplay – feel free to always ask here for a more explicit explanation.

  9. Perhaps worth pointing out that in 19d the compass point is the ‘appropriate direction’ – the one the the biblical three wise men came from.

    Thanks to BD and setter, and congratulations to BD on the milestone reached today.

  10. Too difficult for me I’m afraid. Solved a slack handful before I had to resort to BD’s review for which I’m grateful. I still had to read some of his explanations twice before I understood.

    I think on future days when the name Micawber gets bandied about then that will be the day I revert to wordsearches and dot-to-dots.

  11. I have about six to go and no time to solve them. Very enjoyable puzzle though.

  12. A late start for me today, but will worth the wait. More like 3* difficulty for me, as a few of them, I got the answer and then worked out the wordplay after. Last in for me was 15d.
    Many thanks to Micawber, and to BD for the review.

  13. I found this very challenging for the greater part and was left with five unsolved, so definitely needed the review and hints for those! How anyone worked out 7A without help is beyond me. Hat’s off to you all. 6D was a new word for me, though I did get it correct. 19D was my favorite. Many thanks to Micawber for the strenuous work-out, and to BD for the most welcome review. Now I ned a nap.

    1. I know it’s sad, but I looked at 7a and immediately thought of lacking blood as not having so much claret – my only difficulty was remembering how to spell the word, and that’s where the wordplay came in useful.

      1. I’ve never heard of claret meaning blood. I was busy trying to fit Medoc, or part of it, in the answer somehow! Maybe if I’d had a glass or two it would have helped.

        1. Hi
          It is in Chambers .
          AndI now know”tap the claret “is as Axe implies cockney slang for give someone a bloody nose .
          I just thought short of red and sort of came to it .By coincidence I have just restocked my own supply!

    2. I do believe claret is a euphemism ( if that is the correct word ) for blood.
      It maybe a cockney expression ?.

  14. Thought this was a fantastic puzzle and even managed to finish without hints. Too many favourite clues to mention but lots made me smile. All over too quickly – although it did take me ages to work out the stitch and boxing in 14a. Thanks to setter and BD.

  15. Last week we printed out the Paul puzzle from the Guardian to do on a train trip to Wellington. We struggled mightily with the dairy product clue mentioned by Gazza. Today when we saw 6d we were able to just glance and write the answer. A really fun puzzle. Not too hard, but smiles and chuckles all the way.
    Thanks Micawber and BD.

  16. sad to say when I read 7a out loud my initial thought was over my dead body. As usual excellent offering from Micawber and dissection from BD

  17. Is there a word to describe a puzzle that’s one letter away from a pangram?

    Not sure that the moderation of the comparative difficulty of the back pager and toughie are right today.

    Thanks to setters and bloggers.

    1. Have just re-checked the grid and it seems that two are missing. J and Z.

        1. Silly boy – both of you should give it a go – you may surprise yourselves.

  18. A game of two halves for me. Top half fell into place quite quickly but bottom much more of a challenge. Loved 16a, 21a, 24a, 25a [a lovely image] and 15d. Many thanks to BD, especially for explaining 26a, and to Micawber for a 5* puzzle.

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