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Toughie 1153

Toughie No 1153 by Sparks

An Agony in 8 Fits

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

Tilsit has been unexpectedly called back to his second home, leaving me to review this superb puzzle from Monk’s Telegraph alter ego. Once again it was the four-letter answers that caused the most grief, especially 12 & 25 across where it took a while to understand the meaning of “fuzzy type” and “court Arthur”, the former raising the biggest smile in the whole puzzle.

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    Cook Islands toured by British attache on vacation (6)
{BRAISE} – I(sland)s inside (toured by) BR(itish) and AttachE without its inner letters (on vacation)

4a    He struck cracking bargain (8)
{HUCKSTER} – this semi-&Lit clue is an anagram (cracking) of HE STRUCK

9a    Love of Hero’s heartless source of inspiration (6)
{LEADER} – Drop (heartless) the middle letter from the name of Hero’s lover, who drowned while swimming across the Hellespont to be with her

10a    Harmful nuclear reaction that’s not fine — can you believe it? (8)
{ILLUSION} – an adjective meaning harmful or bad followed by a nuclear reaction without (that’s not) F(ine)

12a    Fuzzy type of soft sticky mass about to go off (4)
{PLOD} – one of those who are disparagingly referred to as The Fuzz is derived from the musical notation for soft and a sticky mass without (to go off) the C (circa / about)

13a    One sacked in disgrace somehow prepares for battle (5)
{GIRDS} – an anagram (somehow) of DISGR(ace) without the one / ace

14a    Disturb state broadcast (4)
{FAZE} – sounds like (broadcast) a state, as in the state of a substance as a solid, liquid, or gas

17a    They guide pilots by area code, mainly on airbase manoeuvres (5,7)
{RADIO BEACONS} – an anagram (manoeuvres) of most of COD(E) with ON AIRBASE

20a    Boasting rivals endlessly go on flapping about debt (12)
{VAINGLORIOUS} – an anagram (flapping) of RIVALS, most of (endlessly) G(O) and ON around the written evidence of a debt

23a    Legendary warrior’s not to cross river to escape (4)
{AJAX} – an old favourite re-emerges – if a door is not to (closed) then it might be this, plus the letter shaped like a cross and minus (to escape) R(iver)

24a    Board requiring scheme 11? (5)
{PLANK} – split as (4,1) this could be the eleventh scheme

25a    Court Arthur, possibly like a man or a woman? (4)
{ASHE} – The surname of a former Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion could mean “like a man” if split (2,2) or “a woman” if split (1,3)

28a    A national saint put forward by schoolboys (8)
{ESTONIAN} – a national from a Baltic state is derived from some posh schoolboys by moving the S(aint) forward towards the beginning of the word

29a    Ultimately, couples in white wedding dream about what’s attractive (6)
{MAGNET} – the final (ultimately) two letters (couples) from three words in the clue all reversed (about)

30a    US author once chasing loan initially needed a writ (8)
{SUBPOENA} – the three-letter surname of a former (once) US author follows (chasing) a three-letter loan or advance and is followed by the initial letter of Needed and finally the A from the clue

31a    Weigh female animal? (6)
{ASSESS} – start with an animal and then add the suffix that usually means the female of the species, but doesn’t in this instance, hence the question mark


1d    Every charge arising in book is rough (8)
{BALLPARK} – a three-letter word meaning every and the reversal (arising) of a slang word for a criminal charge inside B(oo)K

2d    Reptile, caught on entering country, shedding its cover (8)
{ANACONDA} – C(aught) and ON inside a country without (shedding) its initial letter (cover)

3d    Hunt for stylish line set aside (4)
{SEEK} – an adjective meaning stylish without (set aside) the L(ine)

5d    One billed in the future — that would be better (4,8)
{UGLY DUCKLING} – a cryptic definition of a fairytale bird that will grow up to be a swan

6d    Old ruler‘s part in secret unknown uprising (4)
{KNUT} – an alternative spelling of an 11th century English king is hidden (part) and reversed (uprising) inside the clue

7d    Want diverted main route to divide foreign island (6)
{TAIWAN} – an anagram (diverted) of WANT around (to divide) a main British arterial route

8d    Cash put up for cheesy setter? (6)
{RENNET} – the reversal (put up) of some cash gives a preparation used to curdle milk to make cheese

11d    Experience bad back, having also to pick something up (4,3,5)
{LIVE AND LEARN} – the reversal (back) of an adjective meaning bad followed by a conjunction meaning also and a verb meaning to pick something up or gain knowledge

15d    Destroy net profit, systematically withdrawn by gangster (5)
{TOTAL} – this verb meaning to destroy completely or kill comes from every third letter (systematically withdrawn) of two words in the clue followed by the first name of a famous US gangster

16d    One famously hunted spy that undermines society (5)
{SNARK} – the creature famously hunted in a poem by Lewis Carroll

18d    About to stop Poles seen tipping rubbish (8)
{NONSENSE} – a two-letter word meaning about or concerning inside (to stop) two poles and followed by an anagram (tipping) of SEEN

19d    It’s difficult to fire one protected by this (8)
{ASBESTOS} – a cryptic definition of a fire-resistant fibrous mineral

21d    Who fights these dukes, on and off, when drinking alcohol? (6)
{DALEKS} – the necessary capitalisation of Who, as in Doctor Who, is concealed by placing it as the first word in the clue – the odd letters (on and off) of a word in the clue around (drinking) some alcohol

22d    Is unable to answer bachelor of a university (6)
{CANTAB} – a word meaning is unable to (3’1) followed by A(nswer) and B(achelor)

26d    Loosen up, no doubt, once starting (4)
{UNDO} – the initial letters (starting) of four words in the clue

27d    Deep  fish (4)
{BASS} – two definitions – a deep voice and a sea fish

Someone said that Tuesday’s puzzle was a hard act for the next three to follow. I never look at puzzles by Tuesday’s setter, but for those of us who love our Toughies to be tough, the next three have succeeded handsomely.

13 comments on “Toughie 1153

  1. I thought this was the perfect Toughie – an enjoyable tussle from start to finish – lots of pennies to pick up from the floor from all those d’oh moments – I’d have given it 5* for difficulty but agree with the 5* enjoyment rating.

    Lots of stars by favourites – 12a, 25a, 5d and 21d are just four of them.

    Thanks very much to Sparks for a great end to the Toughie week and BD too (another day when I am suffering from blogger envy).

  2. Thank heavens for this site, otherwise I would have wasted all afternoon puzzling over 12 ac and 1dn. Once I got the answer to 12ac the penny dropped for 1dn and I can get on with my work. A fine tough end to the week with many excellent clues, many thanks to Sparks and BD.

  3. Terrific puzzle, and yes 12a was also the last one standing, favourites were 5d 15d 21d and 29a thanks to Sparks and to Big Dave for the review.

  4. I’ve been too busy all week to look at toughies, but glad I looked at this one!
    A very difficult, and excellent puzzle. 5*/5* for me.
    Thanks to Sparks, and to BD for the review, and the enlightenment on a couple.

  5. Totally terrific toughie, many thanks to Sparks and of course to BD for the usual excellent review. My personal favourite was 25a. Perfect end to the week, Beam followed by Sparks.

  6. A great puzzle, which I rate 5* for difficulty, because 12a defeated me, so thanks to Sparks for the challenge and to BD for the illumination.

  7. Oh my. I struggled long and hard with this. I managed almost all unaided, but I needed the hints for 1D and 14A. As for 12A, given the checking letters I decided the answer must be Pooh. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear…Pooh is a bear, and a pooh is what you get when something goes off. Hey, it worked for me!

    It’s been a good, though very challenging, toughie week for me. Many thanks to the devious Sparks and to BD for the hints and for unravelling a couple of answers I didn’t quite get. Sending good thoughts to Tilsit.

  8. We were beaten by two. 16d and 12a. Like Expat Chris we had tried the fuzzy bear answer for 12a but never did like it. Totally lost with 16d.
    Found it all a bit of a slog that took us a very long time.
    Thanks Sparks and BD.

  9. Thanks to Big Dave for stepping in. I had a scan today and all is well.

    Back home now and catching up on the day’s puzzles.

    This was a thoroughly splendid Toughie, worthy of the Friday slot and full of fun.

    Loved 12ac and many others!

    Thanks to Sparks and BD!

  10. Many thanks to all for such a great analytical blog and such lovely-super-smashing feedback, which must be about the best I’ve ever had. It’s precisely this sort of thing that makes our job such a pleasure. (Sniff. Weep.) Glad to be of service, peeps!

  11. Needed quite a few hints but much enjoyed the experience and managed most unaided after initially being almost totally at a loss.
    Just that bit too hard to be 5* enjoyable for me! Say 4*/4*.
    Many thanks to Sparks, and thanks to BD for saving the day (best wishes to Tilsit).

  12. Glad to hear you are on the mend Tilsit and particular thanks to BD too .
    As for Sparks After golf and Cheltenham today I needed an easy ride !
    Unfortunately fell at the last fence 12a .Cheers

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