Toughie 1185

Toughie No 1185 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Fred and Ginger

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Greetings from the Calder Valley! Sparks has stormed in today with a puzzle that is an enjoyable solve and not too taxing.

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  Hints by Fred (Tilsit)

6a    Hold gift given by sourpuss around middle of Easter (6,4)
{BOSTON CRAB} The name for a wrestling hold is revealed by taking something that means a gift or advantage and placing it round ST (middle of Easter). Add a word meaning a sourpuss to get the name of the hold.


8a    Randomly look at small core of labour force? (4)
{SURF} A word referring to aimlessly wandering round the internet is S (small) + the middle bit of the phrase LABOUR FORCE.

9a    Traveller rings round half the force after stuff is returned (5,4)
{MARCO POLO} Reverse a word meaning stuff or pack and then add two O’s (rings) with 50% of the name of the law enforcers inside.

11a    Boss who controls one’s will? Not half (4)
{EXEC} Half of a word for someone who organises a will is the short name given to the sort of person who runs a company.

12a    The whole line cut into ductile metal (3)
{ALL} Inside the chemical symbol for a metal with the qualities of ductility goes L (line) to give something that means the whole.

13a    Trace place in digs where bill can be left? (9)
{SIGNBOARD} The name of somewhere to put a bill or a notice is found by taking a word for a trace or indication of something and add the name for to place someone in accommodation (think “Bed and ___”)

16a    King of sorts, Elvis regularly needs no backing (4)
{LION} The name for the King (of the Jungle) is revealed by taking LI (regular bits of ELVIS) and add ON (no backing).


17a    Rave organised preceding new announcement about gallery (7)
{VERANDA} The name for a gallery or part of a house is found by rearranging RAVE (organised) and adding N (new) + the reverse (about) of AD (announcement).

18a    Leave one in grey cutting grass (7)
{HOLIDAY} Take a word that refers to a type of grass and insert an adjective that tends to describe someone who is grey and put I (one) inside to give a break or leave.

20a    Artist leaving flask where 23 10 22 (4)
{CAFÉ} The name for a flask, often associated with wine, needs to lose RA (artist) to give an eating establishment (confirmed by the answers to 23 10 and 22)

21a    Victor may get one girl to accept experienced master (4,5)
{GOLD MEDAL} What the victor of a competition often wins is found by taking a slang word for a girl and inserting a word for experienced and the abbreviation for a Master (of Education).

23a    Eulogy intermittently put about by solver? (3)
{YOU} The alternate letters of EULOGY reversed give how the setter addresses the solver.

24a    Singer eager to make a comeback (4)
{DIVA}    The name for a singer is the reverse of one that means keen or eager. Here’s one of the finest.

25a    Fire is prevented by this spray penetrating most of dry cable’s sheath (9)
{ARMISTICE} Nice clue. I originally had ASBESTINE in here but a prompt from a very nice man helped me. The word for a fine spray goes inside most of a word for dry (last letter missing) and CE the outer letters, sheath, of CABLE). This gives you the name for something that stops wartime firing. Nice misleading definition.

29a    Note in pad, a spelling aid (4)
{WAND} Put N (note) inside something referring to a pad to give something that helps young Mr Potter with his spelling.


30a    Alternatively, pundits or I get upset (10)
{DISRUPTION} An anagram (alternatively) of PUNDITS OR I gives a word for upset.

Apologies for the delay with the Downs, Tilsit had to go out and I was also late back today so couldn’t cover for him until now,  but have put on my dancing shoes once again to hastily prepare the Down hints.

Down Hints by Ginger

1d           Quickly shift unruly kids, possibly by end of term (4)
{ZOOM}   Unruly kids might possibly behave like a collection of animals (3) which should be followed by the end of terM.

2d           10 — time to interrupt teacher? (4)
{STIR} Another slang word for 10d –   Insert T(time) into the way you should address a male teacher.

3d           Dope belonging to half of class (4)
{INFO}   Dope is a slang term for intelligence, the abbreviated form of which is obtained by a preposition meaning belonging to and the first two letters of a four-letter school class.

4d           Bird entering door to landing (7)
{ORTOLAN} A kind of bunting is hidden in doOR TO LANding.


5d           Fighting men introduced to part of para’s training? (4-3-3)
{FREE-FOR-ALL}   A fighting contest open to anybody – the abbreviation for regular soldiers (men) inserted into the first part of a parachute drop.

7d           Carpet bombing’s beginning — load deployed in space (9)
{BROADLOOM}   The beginning of Bombing, and an anagram (deployed) of LOAD inserted into a space.


8d           Having put on tie, shift grip (9)
{SPELLBIND} A shift or period of work followed by a verb meaning to tie.

10d         First signs of cheap and nasty sack from abroad (3)
{CAN} Sack and the solution are other slang words for prisons  – the first letters (signs) of Cheap And Nasty.

13d         Extremely selfish and silly, getting up to worry over mischief (10)
{SHENANIGAN}   The ‘extreme’ letters of SelfisH followed by a reversal (getting up in a down clue) of a a synonym for silly or pointless and a verb meaning to worry.

14d         Weighty cart, having been jacked up, remains here (9)
{GRAVEYARD}   Weighty or serious followed by a reversal (jacked up) of a type of cart.


15d         Minding one’s business? (9)
{BODYGUARD}   A cryptic definition of someone who minds important people.


19d         Falters in, say, withdrawn spot (7)
{GLIMPSE} Falters or walks unevenly inserted into a reversal (withdrawn) of the abbreviation meaning for example.

22d         Prime bits of hearty feed (3)
{EAT} The letters in ‘prime’ number positions 2, 3 and 5, in hEArTy.

26d         About to stop whole film? (4)
{SCUM}   A nasty film floating on liquid –   the Latin abbreviation for about inserted into the whole of something.

27d         Trace    letter from abroad (4)
{IOTA}   A tiny amount of something has the same name as a Greek letter of the alphabet.

28d         Black yet brown? Oddly not (4
{EBON}   The odd letters of yEt BrOwN.

Thanks to Sparks for an enjoyable, and definitely far more straightfoward than yesterday’s Toughie.    I particularly liked the deceptive ‘fire’ in 25a.


  1. Jezza
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Not too tricky, but great fun to solve! Plenty of stuff to like in this one.

    Thanks to Sparks, and to Tilsit for the review.

  2. crypticsue
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    What Jezza said

  3. Pegasus
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable fare on offer today, favourites were 5d 14d 18a and 25a thanks to Sparks and to Tilsit.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Sparks and Tilsit, a not very tough but fairly enjoyable crossword and an entertaining review.

  5. Framboise
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Tilsit’s hints for the Across clues I have managed to almost finish this puzzle which for me is a real achievement! Still missing 1d … For me 5*/4* . 25a really subtle. Thanks to setter and to Tilsit for a very enjoyable puzzle – albeit frustrating at times!

    • stanXYZ
      Posted May 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      I’m still missing 1d as well – Patience is a virtue!

      • gazza
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        A word for some noisy and unruly kids behaving like wild animals followed by the end letter of term.

  6. Expat Chris
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I was just not on the setter’s wavelength and except for two or three of the easier 4-letter answers, this one took me forever to even get started. Finally twigged 13D and progressed from there, albeit slowly. 1D was last but one in. Still, I did complete without any electronic help or hints so I’m counting it as a win. Thanks to Sparks, and to Tilsit for the review.

  7. andy
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    The curse of the four letter word struck, 1d and 3d failed me, having seen hints that was me being dim. Thanks to Sparks and Fred and Ginger.

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    A pity about all the four letter answers. They always seem to give us most strife. The NE corner was the last to yield. Nearly got into trouble with 19d as ‘BLEMISH’ fitted in nicely with the checkers and fitted the definition SPOT. However not even a suggestion of how to parse it so needed to look again until the penny dropped. Good fun.
    Thanks Sparks and the duo.

    • andy
      Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      With you on 19d.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted May 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Ha! That will teach me not to be so cocky! I had blemish and even though I couldn’t parse it I assumed I was just missing something in the clueing. Hangs head in shame….

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted May 9, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

  9. Only fools
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    A quirky puzzle for me which I enjoyed despite the numerous 4 letter answers had blemish originally too .Favourite 25 ahead of 6a .
    Thanks to Sparks and the twosome .

  10. Salty Dog
    Posted May 10, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    When l gave up last night l had filled in only four words, but l managed rather better today. Still, l’d have to give it 4* for difficulty; like Expat Chris, l found it very hard to get on the setter’s wavelength. 25a probably my favourite. Thanks to the setter, and to Fred and Ginger.

  11. Sparks
    Posted May 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Fred & Ginger for their usual entertaining blog, and to all for comments. Glad you enjoyed it.

    As for the proliferation of 4-(and 3-, which nobody mentioned!)-letter answers, Toughies are compiled on a set of preordained grids, from which this one has 32 answers and an average word length (AWL) of 6.25, whereas my last-and-next Toughie puzzles have AWLs of respectively 7.71-and-8.00. By contrast, grids are organic in, e.g., the Independent and the FT, the latter of which published a puzzle of mine with 20 answers and an AWL of 9.80.

    In fact, the low AWL was specifically why I linked the four smallest answers 12a-23a-10d-22d as a “ghost” Nina (3,3,3,3), which seems to have eluded all!

    Nerd alert: read no further if you are not a nerd. This grid is also Pythagorean: the square roots of the numbers of letters and blocks are both integers, 12 and 9 respectively.

    • Posted May 11, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      On the contrary, we did spot the Nina and we thought it was you that had missed a trick by not using “Artist leaving flask where 23 10 12 22” as the clue for 20 across!

      • Sparks
        Posted May 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Nice! I never even gave a thought to permuting the word order.

  12. sh-shoney
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Struggled with this – it was a 2 dayer and couldn’t finish all of. I’m a “newcomer” so forgive the next remark if considered inappropriate: (22d) isn’t 1 a prime number? This would give HEA as the answer, which doesn’t work. Probably just me.

    • gazza
      Posted May 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog sh-shoney.

      The BRB defines a prime number as ‘a number, other than one, divisible only by itself or unity’. Since Sparks is a Professor of Mathematics it would be a bit of an own goal if he got that wrong!

  13. sh-shoney
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Gazza for the explanation re Toughie 1185, 22(d). I’ll know better than to query a pro in the future!

  14. Mark Hemingway
    Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    As usual, 3 weeks behind everyone !!
    Challenging and a good one – just too thick to get 19, 25 and 26 – must have been slow-brain day. Not so hard I see now !
    I got 28 as what else could it be – but very obscure and if you google ebon , says nothing