Toughie 1209 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1209

Toughie No 1209 by Firefly

A Grump writes…..

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

Greetings from the AAU at Calderdale Hospital. Trying to write today’s blog while having a top-up of antibiotics. However the good folk at Microsoft deemed that if you have the latest version of their product, Office 365, you have to be online to use it! It won’t even let you cut and paste from your template into WordPad. So I have written the explanations into WordPad in the hope a Very Nice Man can transfer them when I manage to find a wifi connection. [I couldn’t find a Very Nice Man so I had to do it myself. BD]

Enough of my rantings about Mr Gates, time to rant about the puzzle. It’s what I would describe as a typical Firefly with some clues to make you smile and one or two that make you wince slightly as they are almost too clever for their own good. One or two of the cryptic definitions here don’t quite hit the mark for me.

We have two instances of the clue type known as a subtractive anagram where the answer is contained as an anagram in a bigger word, and you have to remove an anagram of another word which leaves you with an anagram of the answer.

For example, MASTERMIND minus MINT leaves the letters that could be anagrammed to make the word DREAMS. Some Editors frown on them in daily puzzles as it can make the clue a bit unwieldy, as both parts need an anagram indicator unless the letters removed are in order. The two today seem particularly complicated. It’s not so bad if it’s used for an answer of 12-15 letters, but when the answer is 6 letters, as in 20 down, it doesn’t work for me.

Other than that, it was a reasonable way to end a fairly enjoyable week of Toughies.

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    Do this with this? Yes, and take your audience with you! (3,2,6)
{PUT IT ACROSS}    We start with a double definition clue, where one of them is cryptic. I’m still not sure I fully understand this.

7a    Lawmaker‘s treason revealed (7)
{SENATOR}    An anagram, indicated by revealed, of TREASON gives the name for an American politician.

8a    Revolutionary recipe with ginger? (7)
{REDDISH}    Had to look at this twice as on the first reading, I didn’t quite get the drift of the clue. I assumed that one definition was ‘revolutionary’ and the other was ‘recipe with ginger’. But it doesn’t quite work like that. If you actually split it into ‘revolutionary recipe’ and treat it as a word sum and have ‘with ginger (hair) as a cryptic definition, then it does. A word that described a (Russian) revolutionary is added to a word for a recipe.

10a    Unite vigorously around Kit’s scheme (8)
{INTRIGUE}    An anagram (vigorously) of UNITE goes around a word meaning kit or gear to give you a word for a scheme or plan.

11a    Fishmonger’s sluice? (6)
{GUTTER}    Like 1 across, this is two definitions with one cryptic, however the question mark here refers to the first part of the clue. A job associated with a fishmonger is also the name for a sluice or channel.

13a & 18a    Bowlers had trash flogged (4,4)
{HARD HATS}    An anagram (flogged) of HAD TRASH refers to a description of bowlers for the head.

14a    Prevention of land in France acquiring new church (10)
{DETERRENCE}    Something that means prevention is a word sum of how you say OF LAND in French + N (new) + an abbreviation for the Church (of England).

16a    Her career’s ruined as analyst (10)
{RESEARCHER}    An anagram (ruined) of HER CAREER’S gives that name for a scientific analyst.

18a    See 13 Across

21a    Spy on grain-carrier, meeting with rebuke (6)
{EARWIG}    A word meaning to spy or eavesdrop is made up of part of a grain of corn + to tell someone off (or what Terry Wogan allegedly wears).

22a    Gel wasted in extraordinarily regrettable fix for hair (8)
{BARRETTE}    This is one of the two subtractive anagrams I mentioned in the preamble. From the word REGRETTABLE remove (wasted) the letters of GEL and then jumble the leftovers (extraordinarily) to get something that is used to create a hairstyle.

24a    Bottom of street — a main turning (7)
{STAMINA}    I found this meaning of ‘bottom’ from my thesaurus. After an abbreviation for street, goes an anagram (turning) of A MAIN.

25a    Most risky to inject mastiff, I estimate? (7)
{IFFIEST}    Something meaning most risky or dodgy is hidden (inject) inside MASTIFF I ESTIMATE.

26a    Dish dictated letters for Warlocks (11)
{SORCERESSES}    Have the black arts caught up with equality? The name for (female) warlocks is a homophone (dictated) of a piece of crockery and a number of letters (the one after ‘R’).


1d    Setter occasionally having ‘regular’ about stumped at first? (7)
{PUNSTER}    I found this to be another clue that’s too clever for its own good. Inside someone you may describe as a regular, goes S (Stumped at first) to give how you may view a setter. Didn’t like it at all.

2d    Morsel among the birdseed? (6)
{TITBIT}    Again, the question mark here suggests you need to think outside the box a little. A word for a morsel of something is the name of a small bird added to a grain of seed.

3d    Irregularity caused by blunter cue in snooker? (10)
{TURBULENCE}    An anagram (in snooker) of BLUNTER CUE gives a name for an irregularity. Not 100% sure this works for me.

4d & 23d    Bridge possibly graced a Mayan capital (4,4)
{CARD GAME}    A description of what bridge is can be found by making an anagram (possibly) of GRACED A M (capital [letter] of Mayan]).

5d    Reactionaries one used to get on the train (3,5)
{OLD GUARD}    Are reactionaries this? A description of a long-standing member of staff on a train describes reactionaries.

6d    Very taken with small hand-warmer (7)
{SMITTEN}    If someone is very taken with something, then they are said to be this. S (small) plus the name for an item worn on the hand.

7d    Wright’s serene about outcome of breakages (11)
{SMITHEREENS}    A description of a Wright as in a craftsman is added to an anagram (about) of SERENE to give the result of dropping and breaking something.

9d    Hazardous situation for setter — no NHS treatment! (7,4)
{HORNET’S NEST}    The name for a place of danger is an anagram (treatment) of SETTER NO NHS.

12d    Well-matched in Saracens’ first away game (5-1-4)
{SEVEN-A-SIDE}    I found this slightly complicated to work out. All the bits are there, but they need to be read in a certain way to explain the clue. A word meaning well-matched goes inside S (Saracens’ first) + a word meaning away, as in put away. The definition, game, refers to a type of sport played by the aforementioned club.

15d    Conciliator is smarter about condition (8)
{PACIFIER}    Often in a cryptic puzzle, the word condition refers to ‘if’ as in conditional. Here it’s used to represent that short word and goes inside a word meaning quicker or smarter. This gives you the name for someone who mediates and sorts out troublesome situations.

17d    Certain French gorge better (7)
{SURPASS}    The word for certain in French is added to a word for a gorge or chasm to give something that means to better someone or something.

19d    ‘Arsh, we hear, but genuine (7)
{ARTLESS}    Something that sounds like it could mean harsh, minus its first letter (H) means genuine

20d    Meanings may be lost in first reading — I range freely, to no avail (6).
{DRIFTS}    The other appearance of the clue type I mentioned in the preamble. This seems an awfully and unnecessarily complicated way of cluing the word. Remove (indicated by to no avail) an anagram (freely) of I RANGE from FIRST READING and jumble what’s left to give something that means MEANINGS. What do you think? Too complex?

23d    See 4 Down

Thanks to Firefly and to BD for helping assemble this blog.

16 comments on “Toughie 1209

  1. Compared to yesterday’s offering, solving this was a walk in the park. I completed without hints, but have to say I gave up on trying to parse 20D. The answer was obvious, but the clueing was far too convoluted for my taste. No stand-outs for me today. Thanks to Firefly and to Tilsit and BD.

  2. Over complicated and not very enjoyable (for me anyway), I struggled with many of the clues and needed the hints for several, oh well, you can’t please all of the people all of the time etc., thanks to Firefly and to Tilsit for the much needed assistance.

  3. Agree with expat Chris. After yesterday this was most agreeable. Perhaps over complicated at times but at least the answers made sense!

  4. Arguably the gentlest of this weeks Toughies, favourites 11a and 12d thanks to Firely and Tilsit.

  5. I do hope that clues the likes of 20d are not going to become more widely used. Even my bum had a headache after that & 22a.

    Thanks to Firefly & to Tilsit. Hope you’ll be feeling better once the antibiotics kick in.

  6. Well managed all except 5 down!!! Even your clue hasn’t helped ? Is it just me being thick?

  7. Thought half of these were no tougher than standard puzzle level, with plenty of straightforward anagrams, but a couple of stinkers among the rest. I agree that 20d is a very poor clue and 25a is certainly an iffy word (if not the most so). Re. 26a can you have a feminine answer to a masculine clue? My dictionary defines a warlock as a male witch so not sure where the gender reassigment creeps in.

  8. Pleased to solve this without hints but I needed an explanation to confirm a couple (1D and 20D).

    I’m in total agreement about over-convoluted clues. My attention span sometimes doesn’t see me to the end of clue!

    I took a punt on ‘warlocks’ being an equal opportunity job these day.

    For the most part, i enjoyed this one.

  9. Agree with the consensus that 20d is excessively cumbersome but I’m happy about “Reactionaries” as the def in 5d.

    Agree with Rick about Warlocks being male. Perhaps “witches” is now no-longer PC – should we be told?

    Thanks to Firefly for a pleasant solve [and a bit of a let-off after yesterday] and to Tilsit for his analysis.

  10. Always finding the Toughie very tough, I am ever grateful for the explanations given here. Sad as it is, 1a – though I got it wrong! Leapt at me – my thought being, ‘get it across’.
    This – being it – is moved across in the first sentence. With an audience it is important to get – it, being your message – it across.
    Many thanks for the explanations and maybe in the next few years I’ll stand a chance of making more of a fist of the Toughies.

  11. I’m usually nervous to attempt the Toughie but today I risked it and got off to a good start and completed about 50% quite quickly but then ground to a halt. It was however fun while it lasted and I then turned to Tilsit’s review which enabled me to finish but not without much head-scratching. Thanks Firefly and Tilsit. I too have reservations about some of the clues particularly 20d which I thought was ghastly.

  12. Last in for us was 1d, mainly because we (like Himself above) had GET for the first word of 1a. Did get it all sorted eventually. We were also surprised by female warlocks too. We enjoyed the solve. This setter always seems to have a ‘lightness’ in his puzzles, as if he is constantly smiling during the setting process. Good fun.
    Thanks Firefly and Tilsit.

  13. Yes, some of the clues were a bit contrived, but l often think that of Toughies. A shade over 3* in terms of difficulty, but no particular favourite clue for me. Ta to Firefly, and to Tilsit for the review and hints.

  14. After the last two days of miserable failure I actually managed most of this one. Thanks Tilsit for the explanations. In some cases, though (having seen several oddly contrived clues, eg 20d, explained) I feel that the normal back page puzzle is a lot easier to enjoy as well as do!

  15. Well I got there in the end. Cannot but help echoing previous comments and Tilsits preamble. Thank you Firefly I think ;)

  16. Obviously a lot easier than some toughies thanks to a few very easy clues,
    I also thought Warlocks were male but not to much to argue about. I did need some help-Im really stumped by what Grump terms subtractive anagrams.
    I actually quite enjoyed it as it was one of the few I have had a really good shot at.

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