Toughie 1183

Toughie No 1183 by Micawber

A Pleasurable Pangram

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

Micawber is on top form today with a terrific puzzle full of his usual inventive clueing. Without wishing to tempt fate I have to say that Wednesday is a very good day to be a Toughie blogger.
There was a bit of a mix-up with the enumerations for a couple of the down clues earlier on (in the online version only) but that has now been corrected.

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.

Across Clues

7a Queen is not Queen? Curiouser and curiouser! (8)
{QUAINTER} – string together a 2-letter abbreviation for queen, an informal way of saying ‘is not’ and the cipher of our current Queen.

9a Wives’ associations run by woman who may or may not be one (6)
{HAREMS} – a verb to run quickly is followed by the woman’s title which conceals whether she is a wife or not.

10a Refer an obscene broadcast (6)
{ALLUDE} – this sounds like an obscene … (1,4).

11a English weapons surrounding ship’s reserves (8)
{EARMARKS} – E(nglish) and weapons contain an old Biblical ship.

12a Windows users going through ‘force quit’ operation experience this (14)
{DEFENESTRATION} – a lovely cryptic definition of being forcibly ejected from a window (or Windows). Memories come flooding back of sitting in a stuffy classroom learning about the most famous occurrence of this in 1618 in Prague, an event which precipitated the Thirty Years’ War.

15a Bishop’s squeeze, previously bit on the side? (4)
{JAMB} – a bishop in chess is preceded by a verb to squeeze or pack tightly.

17a Movie mafioso dropping best card in item of clothing (5)
{SCARF} – drop the top playing card from the title of a 1983 film starring Al Pacino as the eponymous mafioso.

19a Story recalling something exciting (4)
{SAGA} – if you reverse this long story you get something exciting (1,3).

20a Bitter producer’s complaint perhaps warning of future difficulties (7,7)
{TROUBLE BREWING} – bitter producer here is not a churlish impresario but a maker of beer.

23a Forsaking bed, Scotch whisky boozers at heart display sentimentality (8)
{SCHMALTZ} – remove the bed from the word Scotch then add a type of whisky and the letter at the heart of boozers.

25a Goats get cross, beset by insects on island (6)
{IBEXES} – the letter that looks like a cross is surrounded by insects and that all follows I(sland).

27a Sound system for improving search rankings covering limited period mostly (6)
{STEREO} – the abbreviation for search engine optimisation goes round a period (of a school year, say) without its final letter. I didn’t know the abbreviation and it’s not in my version of the BRB so Google was called off the bench.

28a Night shift carelessness leads to nocturnal controller being dismissed (8)
{NEGLIGEE} – a word meaning carelessness or laxness with the leading letters of Nocturnal and Controller being dropped.

Down Clues

1d Tug left to right inside to form loop (4)
{PURL} – as a youngster I heard my aged female relatives use this word a lot as they were clacking away, but I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand exactly what it means now. I have a feeling that the whole clue may be a description of this process, in which case it’s an excellent semi-all-in-one. On the other hand it may not be, so to be safe I’ve just made loop the definition – Chambers defines this (as a noun) as ‘a loop or twist, especially on an edge’. Start with a verb to tug and change the inner L(eft) to R(ight).

2d Officer on instrument having lost concentration (6)
{DILUTE} – the answer is an adjective, not a verb. A fairly senior police officer is followed by an old musical instrument.

3d/14d/24d Deer eat frozen shoots in unprotected frontier area? (4-5,4)
{FREE-TRADE ZONE} – an anagram (shoots) of DEER EAT FROZEN. Unprotected here means not protected by tariffs.

4d Mountaineer‘s novel turn of phrase (6)
{SHERPA} – our second and last anagram – it’s a novel turn of PHRASE.

5d Agreements to rewrite end of composition (8)
{TREATIES} – rewrite (by swapping them round) the last two letters of a formal written composition.

6d Convincing evidence of air pollution head of state introduced before international forum (7,3)
{SMOKING GUN} – a type of air pollution found in large cities contains the head of a constitutional monarchy. Finish with the abbreviation for the international forum based in New York.

8d Greek hero taking positions around entrance to underworld (7)
{THESEUS} – this is the mythical Greek hero who slew the Minotaur. Positions or propositions put forward as an argument contain the first letter of U(nderworld).

13d The thing is, beer’s going up — financial centre’s indication of how that may affect demand (10)
{ELASTICITY} – reverse ‘the thing is beer’ (2’1,3) and add the word for the square mile that is the financial centre in London.

14d See 3d

16d Arrest victim and note address (8)
{BOOKMARK} – a charade of a verb to arrest and an informal term for the victim or potential victim of a confidence trickster will give you a verb to note and store the address of a website such as this one.

18d Diverging, as monarchists are? (7)
{FORKING} – monarchists could be said to be this (3,4). No tittering at the back!

21d Penning line is beneath author (6)
{BELLOW} – This is Saul, the Canadian-born author and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. The wordplay is easier to understand if it’s turned round to ‘Beneath is penning line’.

22d (Said patronisingly) ‘You naughty pest!’ (6)
{WEEVIL} – an alternative pronoun that may be used instead of you when addressing a child (normally) in a patronising way (“Have ** eaten all our breakfast?”) followed by an adjective meaning naughty or sinful.

24d See 3d

26d Claims made by former union members (4)
{EXES} – double definition – abbreviated claims for recompense (or in the case of some MPs a duck island) and those once in a marital union.

How can I pick just a few out of all the clues I’ve marked as very enjoyable? I’ll just select 12a, 15a, 22d and 26d. You can list the rest for me!



  1. crypticsue
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t got time to list all my favourites – there’s only a couple of minutes of lunch hour left. I don’t mind at all that this wasn’t a Toughie (there are two other cryptics today that fill that brief very nicely) I just loved the whole thing – a joy from start to finish.

    Many thanks to Micawber and the very lucky Gazza too.

  2. Pegasus
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant puzzle packed with entertainment, favourites amongst many were 6d 9a 15a and 18d thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for an excellent review.

  3. happy days
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Thoroughly enjoyable. It’s really nice to see such good surface readings

  4. BigBoab
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    A very enjoyable crossword if not exactly a toughie from one of the best compilers and a superbly entertaining review from one of the best reviewers, many thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

  5. crypticsue
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Meant to say earlier 1d is a description of the process involved in the stitch so clue is a semi all in one

    • gazza
      Posted May 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Thanks – that’s way outside my area of knowledge. I was a bit hesitant because the ODE defines purl as “a knitting stitch made by putting the needle through the front of the stitch from right to left” which is the other direction from what the clue describes.

    • Kath
      Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one etc etc. Having never been a knitter in my case it was knit one, purl one, knit one, drop several, spend the rest of the evening trying to pick up the dropped stitches and failing before throwing everything on the floor and going to bed in a huff.

      • Catnap
        Posted May 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

  6. JB
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    The only one that tripped me up was 5d. I plumped for “composition” by rewriting the end of “agreements”. I hate these double edged clues! A pity as it meant I couldn’t do 19a – and I’m of an age to appreciate that company! Never mind, only flunking 2 Toughie clues is, for me, pretty good going especially as my first read through convinced me I’d get nowhere..

  7. gazza
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Beam tomorrow.

    • Kath
      Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink going to the Malvern Flower Show so will store him up for the dreaded no-go-area aka the Friday Toughie. How do you know, anyway?

      • gazza
        Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        ESP? Actually the name of next day’s Toughie setter appears on the Telegraph Puzzles site during the late afternoon or evening – if they don’t forget to update it!

        • Kath
          Posted May 7, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

          Oh, and thanks. I didn’t know that.

          • 2Kiwis
            Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

            Kath, on the Telegraph site (and you don’t need to log in to do this) click on — The Knowledge — Inside Puzzles — Telegraph Toughie Compilers — 1000 onwards and voila!

            • Kath
              Posted May 7, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink


    • Jezza
      Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      PJ on the back page would make a perfect complement.

  8. Expat Chris
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Slow going for me. I completed all but two, getting stuck on 15A and 5D (kicking myself for that). I can appreciate how others more gifted than I would find it on the easier side but for me it was a challenge and very satisfying indeed. So many clues with checkmarks next to them on my printout, but I would have to say that 12A top’s my list. Many thanks to Micawber for a lovely puzzle and to Gazza for the great review.

  9. Kath
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I loved this but found it pretty difficult even though others have said that it wasn’t. I needed the hints to explain a few of my answers.
    I’d go for 15 and 23a and the long 3/14/24 and 18d.
    With thanks to Micawber and to gazza for sorting out my muddles.

  10. neveracrossword
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    If that was not a toughie, my name is Colin Dexter.

  11. 2Kiwis
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Once we had sorted out the enumeration glitch with 1d and 3d it all sailed in smoothly, but not quickly. Even spotted the pangram in time to be of use in solving 15a. Did not know the SEO part of 27a but it is in our BRB. Excellent fun that gave us much enjoyment.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

  12. andy
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Toughie for me, albeit 5* enjoyment. My hold ups seem to be a common theme here. Cheers Micawber and Gazza

  13. Only fools
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Alarmingly slow start but what a pleasure if I had to pick a favourite it would be 12a .
    Thanks very much to Gazza and of course Micawber

  14. Salty Dog
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Well, l didn’t exactly sail through it, and needed Gazza’s hints to see how I should have arrived at six solutions which came to me in flashes of inspiration rather than as a result of logical consideration of the clues. Nevertheless, l enjoyed it tremendously and happily score it at 4*/5*. 20d was my favourite, but it could easily have been one of the others. Heartiest thanks to Micawber, and to Gazza for getting me over the line.

  15. Catnap
    Posted May 8, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    This was most entertaining! Fave is definitely 12a, but many others are marked as well, like 7a, 17a, 18a and 28a.

    I found this thoroughly enjoyable but not all that easy. Am indebted to Gazza for the lovely clear explanations. I did manage to arrive at the correct answers of all but two of the clues — I needed the answer for 15a; I went wrong with the last three letters of 13d as I didn’t twig on to the meaning of ‘financial centre’. There were three other flaws: I couldn’t work out the parsing of my answers to 9a and 27a, and I marked 20a as a double definition.

    Appreciative thanks to Micawber and to Gazza.

    • Catnap
      Posted May 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I meant 18d (there is no 18a!).

  16. Mark Hemingway
    Posted May 22, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    yes a good one . But as usual I got stuck when there is a gap in knowledge as I never resort to outside aid. So could nt get 12 as just had nt heard of it though my fresnch would have got me there (Prague?) and 21 too as never heard of Bellow, but after going to Google and Wiki I should have ! But maybe I did nt want know he was regarded as best 20th century novellist as my great.great uncle was supposed to be !!!! So all but 2

    • gazza
      Posted May 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      You’re Ernest’s great great nephew? Fame indeed. Do you write?