Toughie 1065

Toughie No 1065 by Sparks

The New Kid on the Block

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley. Today is a rarity, we have a new Toughie setter, something we haven’t seen for a long while. Welcome to Sparks who has presented us with a fine puzzle, which fits in well with the Friday canon.

This is a nice elegantly-written challenge that suggests we may know Sparks from other publications, such is the quality of cluemanship. If it is a first puzzle, then we do have a talent in prospect here.

I found it a little tricky to get into and started on the right-hand side of the puzzle, gradually working my way left. My solving time was around par for the Friday slot. Couldn’t see a Nina or gimmick going on.

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. Favourite clues are highlighted in blue and definitions underlined.

Acrosses by Robin

6a    Whenever following service, principal creates high ground (6,7)
{MASSIF CENTRAL} The name of a famous European mountain range is found by taking the name of a church service, putting a short word used to mean something is conditional. After this add a word that means principal or essential .

8a    Beware to get sent back near swinging club? (6)
{CAVERN} A famous nightclub of the 60’s (think Beatles!) is revealed by taking the Latin word for beware and adding the reverse (sent back) of a shortened form of near.


9a    Drinker shouldn’t begin to dilute punch (8)
{UPPERCUT} Take the first letter from an agent noun that could mean someone who drinks and add something that means dilute to give a type of punch most boxers aim to use.

10a    Sort of wooden ‘ead-gear (3)
{ELM} You don’t see this device used as often now but we have a double definition where one of the definitions has been modified to look like it’s a Cockney way of saying it, i.e. without the initial ‘h’. It’s a type of wood that (with an h) is a type of head-gear. This did cause a bit of head-scratching but the Big Red Book does give the word as an alternative definition of a longer version of the word better known as a type of headgear. I must admit,

11a    Emerging topless promotion … (6)
{ASCENT} A word that means emerging needs to have its first letter removed to give a word that means promotion

12a    … presents false front? (8)
{PERTNESS} An anagram (false) of PRESENTS gives a word meaning front or persona.

14a    Middle Eastern diet that contributes to sickness, etc (7)
{KNESSET} Nicely misleading clue. Diet here does not refer to regime or losing weight – it’s the legislative meaning of the word. The name for such a body in the Middle East is hidden in the phrase “sickness, etc”

16a    Saying about foreign character’s top degree (7)
{MAXIMUM} A word referring to the summit of something is found by taking the name of a motto or saying and inserting the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet.

20a    One succeeded old lady after daily appeal (8)
{CHARISMA) After a word for a cleaner (daily) goes one (I), succeeded (S) and an abbreviation for “the old lady”.

23a    Ruth by lift that’s difficult to control (6)
{UPPITY} A meaning of the name Ruth, follows something meaning lift to give a word that meaning difficult to control or cheeky.

24a    Polish knight has gone blue (3)
{SAD} Thanks to Crypticsue as I couldn’t see the wood for the trees! Take N (knight in chess) from a word meaning polish or buff to get something that means blue or depressed.

25a    Lady digesting first of reports on low-down officer (8)
{GENDARME} The name of a foreign police officer is found by taking a slang word meaning low down or info and adding the name for a titled lady with R (first or reports) inside.

26a    Artist has to run around city (6)
{HARARE} There was a little confusion earlier in the day as the wrong clue was shown online, but I gather all has been restored by the Telegraph techies! The name of an African capital is revealed by taking the name of a creature known for speed or its running and putting it round the standard abbreviation for an artist.

27a    Time to celebrate live blues, half rejigged for broadcasting (6,7)
{SILVER JUBILEE} An anagram of LIVE BLUES plus half of the word REJIgged, gives an occasion for celebrating 25 years of something.

As I have just been summoned for a pre-op set of tests, I will leave you in the hands of The Boss for the Downs! Thanks to Sparks for a promising debut and I’ll see you soon!

Downs by Batman

1d    Exams even grasped by idiot (2,6)
{AS LEVELS} – a word meaning even inside (grasped by) an idiot

2d    Sketch given out by circulation of English Times (8)
{VIGNETTE} – an anagram (out) of GIVEN followed by the reversal of E(eglish), T T (Times)

3d    Melee over party following vacation drink (7)
{SCRUMPY} – a mêlée followed by PartY without its middle letters (following vacation)

4d    One whose aims are hidden (6)
{SNIPER} – a cryptic definition of someone who aims a rifle while hidden from view

5d    Formal stretch test (3,3)
{DRY RUN} – a charade of an adjective meaning formal or dull and a stretch or sequence

6d    Sort of service blow-outs where tyres are fitted (5,2,6)
{MEALS ON WHEELS} – a charade of some blow-outs or food and where tyres are fitted on a vehicle (2,6) – the whole clue suggests a welfare service taking cooked food to old people

7d    Zero oil initially used up, acquiring thrust in continental style (5-8)
{LOUIS-QUATORZE} – an anagram (up) of ZERO OIL with the initial letter of Used around (acquiring) a thrust gives a style characteristic of the reign of “Le Roi Soleil”

13d    Reportedly puts pleats in formal dress (3)
{TUX} – sounds like (reportedly) a verb meaning puts pleats in a garment

15d    Runner that could be on the tail of a Russian athlete? (3)
{SKI} – this could be the last three letters (tail) of the name of a (male) Russian athlete

17d    Somewhere in the East, friend dons a short garment (3,5)
{ABU DHABI} – an (American) friend inside (dons) the A from the clue and most of (short) a garment

18d    Lewdly, I see, pinching wobbly rump (8)
{IMPURELY} – the I from the clue and a see or diocese in Cambridgeshire around an anagram (wobbly) of RUMP

19d    Judge in Ulster undermines vile dog (7)
{BASENJI} – time to whinge about the incorrect use of Ulster to clue six of its nine counties! – put how these six counties are known around J(udge) and place them after an adjective meaning vile

21d    Enigma of king having useless duke taken in (6)
{RIDDLE} – the Latin abbreviation for king followed by an adjective meaning useless, the latter around D(uke)

22d    Snack, for example, drinker regularly scoffed (6)
{SARNEY} – a three-letter word meaning for example around dRiNkEr without (scoffed) its odd letters (regularly)

I would like to echo Robin’s welcome to Sparks. A thoroughly enjoyable debut.

Today’s Geography lesson

Ulster (coloured), showing Northern Ireland in orange and the Republic of Ireland part in green


  1. crypticsue
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    A very enjoyable ‘debut’ Toughie thank you setter. I will admit to one ‘I didn’t know you could spell it like that’ but apart from that it all went in in a very satisfactory fashion. Thanks to the deadly duo too.

    On the subject of toughies generally and the fact that they are suupposed to be the most fiendish on fleet street or something like that, I have conducted a small survey this week and taken noted of the time taken for each of the daily cryptics and then put them in order..

    An order of toughness with the first name being the toughest and the final name the fluffiest, this week’s results are

    Tues – Indy, Times, Graun, FT, DT backpager, Toughie
    Wed – FT, Times, Indy, Graun, Toughie, Backpager
    Thurs Times followed by equal placing for the Toughie/Indy/Graun and then the backpager and the FT tied at the fluffy end of the list
    Fri – Graun – then a tie between the Toughie, FT, Indy and Times and the backpager in the fluffy spot.

    Interesting but the toughie definitely isn’t the toughest puzzle around (in my solving experience anyway).

    • Bakesi
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure you will agree that ‘it’s only easy if you know the answer!’…familiarity with the setters will naturally enable quicker solving times….also the construct and allowed wording of clues (literary references etc) does vary between publications which again may deter certain solvers…I would agree that the claims of the Toughie are met rarely but we have had some pretty fierce friday toughies….;-)

      • Jezza
        Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        I remember a few years ago chatting to a quiz host in a pub in Wimbledon Village about cryptic crosswords. I told him I look at the telegraph crossword every day, at which point he rolled about in laughter and said, “oh, you do the easy one then!” Occasionally if I have time, I glance at the Times, and the Guardian puzzles, and very occasionally, the FT, but I would say that the telegraph is, most of the time, less tricky than the others; just my opinion, and I am sure others would disagree.

        • pommers
          Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

          My view is that the DT has less variation in difficulty than the others. The other papers (apart from the times) tell you who the setter is and then you know what you’re up against. Some easy and some hard but at least you get the “heads up”.

  2. Only fools
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Took some time to “tune in” ,the first pass being largely fruitless then a rush ,then gridlock for a while .Last in 22d .
    Favourite amongst others 18 d .
    Enjoyable but quite a stretch for me at least so thanks to Sparks and the twosome .

  3. Pegasus
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed this debut puzzle, I’ve looked for a Nina or something to give us a clue to who the setter is but all I can see is a pangram. Favourites for me were 14a 17d and 19d thanks to Sparks and to the duo.

  4. the dodger
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Welcome indeed to the new setter, a fine start,not perhaps the normal standard for a Friday, but an enjoyable end to the week.

  5. Phil McNeill
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Hello all.

    When editing the Telegraph crosswords, I tend to refer to the Telegraph Style Book where it seems relevant. On Ireland it says:

    Ireland includes Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Irish Government means the one in Dublin. Use Irish Republic or the Republic according to context, but not Eire. Ulster is acceptable for Northern Ireland. Never the Six Counties. Co Down, Co Cork etc, not County Down, County Cork.

    This is, of course, the paper’s judgment of what its readers will find appropriate or generally accepted. It’s online at if you’re interested.

    All the best

    • Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      The Oxford Dictionary of English gives:

      • A former province of Ireland, in the north of the island. The nine counties of Ulster are now divided between Northern Ireland (Antrim, Down, Armagh, Londonderry, Tyrone, and Fermanagh) and the Republic of Ireland (Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan).
      • (in general use) Northern Ireland.

      “In general use” is a euphemism for “it’s incorrect but lots of people make the same mistake”.

      • bannsider
        Posted October 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        I think “in general use” means it’s fine for setters :-)
        The people “making the mistake” tend to be the people who live there, what’s more.
        N Ireland is frequently referred to as “the province” as a matter of fact, which adds to the controversy.

        And congrats to “Sparks” – not a newcomer

        • Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

          It’s still wrong – as is the interchangeability of GB and UK used by too many setters.

          Crossword solvers like me are, on the whole, pedantic and I will continue to point out inaccuracies.

          I find it amazing that a newspaper’s style guide be quoted as to what is correct and what is incorrect. I might set up my own style guide and quote that on the blog, it would be just as daft.

  6. WhirredPLAY
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Funny enough I was able to resolve the majority of the west side of the grid and struggled with the rest. It didn’t help that I thought ‘SUPPER’ was the answer to 22d – it’s an example of a snack and also describes someone who drinks often but it small quantities (regularly scoffed!) doh!

  7. Expat Chris
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t even get out of the starting gate on this one! I did go through every explanation and answer in the review (thanks, guys!) to see if I could get on the setter’s wavelength and was still no wiser on some solutions. I’ve heard of 0 levels and A levels, but what are AS levels? It seems to be a very “British” crossword altogether, which may be why I had such difficulty. I’ve been away far too long.

    Ah well. I’m down but not despondant. Maybe I’ll do better next time.

    • Kath
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t even get as far as the starting gate, let alone out of it.

  8. jezza
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Sparks for a cracking first puzzle. 3*/4* for me. More of the same please.
    Thanks also to both of you for the review.

  9. Qix
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to Sparks. An enjoyable and accomplished puzzle. Relatively straightforward for a Friday Toughie, but good fun. Some very nice clues. Looking forward to more from this setter.

    • andy
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      My thoughts in a nutshell. Thanks Sparks whoever you are and the Dynamic duo

  10. Outnumbered
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I was off work today so had spare time to devote to this…. It took me a long tme, but I was pleased to get there in the end, and I even managed to work out the dog from the wordplay before it had the obvious letter in it

    14a was probably my favourite, I eventually got it before I’d seen the concealed answer :(

  11. BigBoab
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    I seemed to get on the correct wavelength fairly quickly today and therefore experienced no great difficulty, I did however, thoroughly enjoy the crossword and add my welcome to Sparks without hesitation, it is to be hoped that we see much more of him/her in the future.

  12. KiwiColin
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    This puzzle was spoiled for me by the mistake in the clue for 26a. By the time that I went to bed last night the website was still giving the clue for Thursday’s 1a as the applicable one. Humph! Apart from that, no major problems, but not an easy solve.
    Thanks Sparks and the team.

    • spindrift
      Posted October 12, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      The clue online for 26a is an inexcusable editing error. Pathetic!

  13. Sparks
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to bloggers and commenters all for a debut that seemed, on balance, to be more appreciated than not. Because it was a debut, caution had (obviously) to be exercised, so I hope it didn’t transipre to be too easy.

    I am genuinely honoured to have been welcomed to the TTT (Telegraph Toughie Team). Apologies for the old NI race-memory “error” (OK’d by the Telegraph guide!). To KiwiColin@12, the online clue error was completely outside my control. Mea culpa … not!

    • Posted October 11, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog Sparks.

      An excellent debut.

    • pommers
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      Well, for what my opinion’s worth, I thought it was a pretty excellent puzzle! Thank you and welcome. Hope we get some more – but not too trickier, I liked this one :smile:

    • KiwiColin
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      Forgiven already, I had guessed that it was the DT’s fault and not yours. I looked for a potted biography on Bestforpuzzles but could not find one there yet
      Looking forward to your next challenge for us. :)

  14. Kath
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    I sometimes try the Toughies but usually avoid Friday ones like the plague. Because it was a new setter (and it was raining) I had a go. I think that I might carry on avoiding Friday Toughies – I managed 6a and 1d.
    Thanks, anyway, to Sparks and to the hinting duo.

  15. Sparks
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    To KiwiColin: mon ami Batman has my permission to point you to an existing entry in BestForPuzzles … ;-)

  16. Brendan
    Posted October 12, 2013 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    A big thanks to Sparks for an excellent puzzle and to B&R for their enjoyable comments.

  17. spindrift
    Posted October 12, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Overall I really enjoyed this. IMHO Sparks is this season’s most promising new player but was not helped by the touchline staff when it came to 26a.

  18. Heno
    Posted October 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Sparks, and to Batman & Robin for the review and hints. Way too difficult for me. Only managed 7 answers, and they were when I’d looked up most of the others. Still, I enjoyed reading the hints.