Toughie 1203

Toughie No 1203 by Sparks

What the Deuce?

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

I was slow getting a foothold in this one and after that my progress was steady rather than swift – in other words I thought it was a proper Toughie. Thanks to Sparks for the enjoyable challenge.

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

1a Group  customs in U-boats? (10)
{SUBCULTURE} – double definition, the second cryptic. The BRB defines this as ‘a social, ethnic or economic group with a particular character of its own within a larger … society’.

6a Does are initially caught with dug-out traps (4)
{ACTS} – string together the initial letter of are, the abbreviation for caught and the outer (dug-out) letters of traps.

9a Groundsmen may be paid to deliver this recording (10)
{SOUNDTRACK} – split the answer (5,5) and this is what groundsmen should provide at an athletics stadium or racecourse.

10a Free souvenir donors appearing regularly (4)
{UNDO} – every third letter of souvenir donors.

12a Direct from jog, about to bleed (6)
{EXTORT} – a preposition meaning ‘direct from’ followed by the reversal (about) of a verb to jog or lope.

13a Cook could use such a service, servants detailed to chop fuel (8)
{CORNMEAL} – insert (to chop) one of our armed services and servants without their final N (detailed) in a fossil fuel.

15a Bizarre pragmatist in endless cruise at sea (12)
{SURREALISTIC} – a pragmatist or no-nonsense person goes inside an anagram (at sea) of endless CRUIS(e).

18a Have whittled away emphatic introduction to question? (4,3,5)
{WHAT THE DEVIL} – an anagram (away) of HAVE WHITTLED.

21a Game piece capturing rival’s second knight gets control (8)
{DOMINION} – a piece or tile used in a game contains the second letter of rival. To finish we need the chess abbreviation for knight.

22a Failing to finish sussing out old game here? (6)
{CASINO} – remove the last letter from a present participle meaning sussing out or reconnoitring (often followed by ‘… the joint’) and add O(ld).

24a Side not fine for long (4)
{LANK} – remove the F(ine) from a side (of a horse, perhaps).

25a Police unit stops to reconsider shifting one hardened criminal (10)
{RECIDIVIST} – put a police department inside (stops) a verb to reconsider or have another look at with its second I moved a few places to the left (shifting one).

26a American uncle holding end of shrimp net on junk? On the contrary (4)
{SPAM} – this is not net on junk but junk on net. America’s favourite uncle contains the end letter of shrimp.

27a Small rent ads, free at the back of past Spectators (10)
{BYSTANDERS} – an anagram (free) of S(mall) RENT ADS follows a preposition meaning past or beyond.

Down Clues

1d One responsible for organising tenders (6)
{SISTER} – my initial thought here was matron – right idea, wrong selection.

2d Christian took responsibility for this  blood money (6)
{BOUNTY} – double definition, the first the ship that Mr Christian took control of after the mutiny.

3d Possibly not fond about new query, almost asking too little (12)
{UNDERQUOTING} – a made up (possibly) word meaning not being fond or infatuated contains (about) an anagram (new) of QUER(y) without its last letter (almost).

4d Patch up date, perhaps after single’s no-show (4)
{TURF} – reverse (up) what date is a sticky example of and drop the I (single’s no-show).

5d How one might compose sea-fog song (4,2,4)
{ROCK OF AGES} – a reverse anagram which when solved gives us SEA-FOG.

7d What offers coverage for new union members (8)
{CONFETTI} – … but the vicar won’t like the coverage taking place in his churchyard.

8d Pump fast with this? (8)
{SHOELACE} – pump is something you wear and fast means securely fastened.

11d Head of African country admitting nothing in defeat (12)
{ANNIHILATION} – the first letter (head) of African and a country or state contain (admitting) a word from Latin meaning nothing.

14d See morgues, working at first in a macabre fashion (10)
{GRUESOMELY} – the usual Cambridgeshire see is preceded by an anagram (working) of MORGUES.

16d Goes on time, as does emperor? (8)
{TWADDLES} – T(ime) followed by how an Antarctic emperor walks. The definition is a verb meaning talks at length about not very much.

17d State of euphoria, possibly after exam is over (8)
{TASMANIA} – an extreme enthusiasm (euphoria possibly) follows the reversal (over) of a standard school exam.

19d Theologian is to choke swallowing Bordeaux wine (6)
{DIVINE} – an intransitive verb meaning to choke contains (swallowing) the French word for wine. Various dictionaries, including the BRB, list choke as a slang verb with the meaning used here so I assume it has a similar meaning to croak or snuff it, though it’s not a usage that I know.

20d Hotel servant welcomes English group of stars (6)
{BOÖTES} – a dated term for a hotel servant employed to clean the guests’ footwear contains E(nglish). I’d never heard of this constellation but apparently it’s beside the Great Bear.

23d Soldier put on paper 2? (4)
{GIFT} – an example of 2d. A US soldier is followed by the pink paper.

I liked 1d and 4d but my COD is 16d which made me laugh. Let us know which ones appealed to you.



  1. Jezza
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    The most time I have spent on completing a puzzle for a long time; I put three answers in fairly quickly then ground to a halt for some time…
    I got there eventually, with 20d my last one in.
    Many thanks to Sparks, and to Gazza for the write-up.

  2. spindrift
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Unusual to get 2 consecutive Toughies using different forms of the rarely used word at 25a today & 12d yesterday. Thanks to Mr Ron & to Gazza who must be on overtime rates by now.

  3. crypticsue
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    At last a Toughie that meets the ‘description on the tin’. Like Jezza, I haven’t spent this long completing a Toughie for some considerable time – if this is Wednesday, what will Friday bring? – the return of the hob-nailed boots?!

    Many thanks to Monk for a proper brain stretching and to Gazza for the explanations. D’oh of the day was 8d, 16d made me laugh too but my top favourite was 1d.

    PS – Monk is also in the FT where he is less Friday-ish than this one but just as entertaining.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks to Sparks and to Gazza, I thought this was a very enjoyable and reasonably difficult toughie, never heard of 20d and had to check it on Google. The usual superb review from Gazza.

  5. Pegasus
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Phew that was tough it took me three sittings to complete, favourites were 2d 5d and 20d, 1 think there’s a little message in the eighth row. Thanks to Sparks for the challenge and to Gazza for the dissection.

    • gazza
      Posted June 11, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      So there is. Thanks – I missed that completely.

  6. Only fools
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Had to resort to using the dictionary far earlier than usual .Seems repetitive but last one in 20d and favourite 16d but plenty elsewhere to smile about (eventually)
    Thanks very much to both Sparks and Gazza

  7. halcyon
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Certainly a toughie [as per the Nina]. The two clever anagram clues at 18a and 5d were my favourites.
    Not sure I like16d – it seems you need the answer before you can derive what the penguin does. If it had been an across clue then twiddles might have been fun [goes on time] – if only I could think of a definition!

  8. Neil Parker
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Dave I have always wondered what you thought of the late Mr Crozier who set the Irish Times crossword as Crosaire. I wasn’t always able to complete his crosswords. Neil Parker.

  9. gazza
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    It’s MynoT tomorrow.

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    We were totally defeated by 4d. Pesky little four letter words! Kicking ourselves a bit as in retrospect should have been able to work it out, but by that stage we had already spent so long on the puzzle that we had lost the will to keep looking. Gazza, we think that the synonym choke/die in 19d comes from the theatre where either word can be used for forgetting ones lines or similar during a performance. We also missed the NINA, A bit of a slog for us but did appreciate the challenge.
    Thanks Sparks and Gazza

    • gazza
      Posted June 11, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. I spent some time on ‘choke’ in the theatre. The act of flopping on stage (by a stand-up comedian, for example) seems to be called bomb or die. Forgetting one’s lines on the other hand seems to be called choke or dry. So I was unable to equate choke with die in a theatrical context. But, if you’re saying that die can also mean to dry or forget one’s lines then that explains it.

  11. Wolfson Bear
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    My experience was exactly the same as the 2Kiwis. It was a pretty tough Toughie for a Wednesday and I got 4d wrong

    Thanks to Gazza and Sparks

  12. Expat Chris
    Posted June 11, 2014 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    I suffered an 11D (one of the few I did solve) at the hands of the setter. Less than half the grid completed . My reaction to the rest was 18A. Consequently, my enjoyment level was low, my self esteem even lower. I bow to Sparks’ skill and I am in awe of anyone who completed this monster. Thank you, Gazza, for putting me out of my misery.

  13. Robin Hill
    Posted June 12, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Superb crossword; it took a long time to complete, with 4d the last one in. 5d was very clever, as was 13a. However a midweek challenge like this from time to time is very much appreciated.