Toughie 1279

Toughie No 1279 by Firefly

Chips or chips?

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BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

I found this one a bit of a slog with not a lot to lighten the mood and some of the clues are not very smooth. Also, I’m not at all sure that I’ve fully understood 24a so any better interpretation for that would be welcome.

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/6a Source of leverage secure, acquiring Shard? (10,4)
BARGAINING CHIP – string together a verb to secure or fasten (a door, say), another word for acquiring or obtaining and a shard (ignoring the false capitalisation) or fragment.

6a See 1a

10a Peer‘s plaque quietly removed and replaced (5)
EQUAL – an anagram (re-placed) of [p]LAQUE without the abbreviation for quietly.

11a Tablet — yuck! — medic popped in box (5,4)
COUGH DROP – pop an expression of disgust and an abbreviation for a medic into a box or small cage.

12a Expert: ‘Flatfish season’s not quite finished’ (7)
DABSTER – fish, as a noun, can be singular or plural and here we need the plural of a small flatfish. Add a season or period of time without its last letter.

13a Hide‘s converted, we hear (5)
SUEDE – sounds like a verb meaning converted or talked round.

15a Meat Loaf‘s entire recordings initially misplaced (7)
TERRINE – an anagram (misplaced) of ENTIRE and the initial letter of R(ecording).

17a Disturbed one among the French having spasm (7)
LUNATIC – a dialect word meaning one splits a French definite article. After that we have a spasm or twitch.

19a Late news Stone missed in crush (7)
OPPRESS – a phrase meaning late news (inserted in a newspaper after printing has begun) with the abbreviation for a stone (14lb) removed.

21a Token ‘bird’ goes to heart of popularism (7)
TITULAR – a small songbird followed by the middle letters of popularism.

22a Oil and salt on a beetroot? (5)
ATTAR – put another informal word for a salt or sailor after A and the end letter (root, i.e. base) of beet.

24a Trees woodman turns to wood — thus? (7)
MANGOES – what a lumberjack does is chop wood so we need to chop out the ‘wood’ from woodman. After that we have a word for turns (in a board game, perhaps). I’m not at all sure that this is what the setter meant, so if you have a better explanation do please holler! [As Prolixic points out if you apply the answer (as 3,4) to woodman you’re left with wood.]

27a Lotto, say, and chips? (3,6)
OLD MASTER – Lorenzo Lotto was an Italian painter of the early sixteenth century (I’d never heard of him but Mrs Bradford had) and Mr Chips is an aged schoolteacher in the novella by James Hilton (later a film starring Robert Donat). There are various instances of false capitalisation in this puzzle and conventionally that’s acceptable, but here we have chips starting with a lower-case character when it should be Chips – that’s not usually allowed and even with a question mark I don’t like it.

28a Monotonous speech given by rambling De Niro I missed (5)
DRONE – an anagram (rambling) of DE N[i]RO without the I.

29a/30a Satisfied workers, in Ptolemy’s interpretation, creating an ideal economic state of affairs (4,10)
FULL EMPLOYMENT – start with an adjective meaning satisfied or sated then insert some workers in an anagram (interpretation) of PTOLEMY.

30a See 29a

Down Clues

1d/14d Faff about stuffing crumbs into Brent goose prepared for main course (4,10)
BEEF STROGANOFF – individual bits (crumbs) of the word FAFF are moved about and inserted (stuffing) into an anagram (prepared) of BRENT GOOSE.

2d To and fro in circle dance? (5,4)
ROUND TRIP – charade of a circle and a verb to dance.

3d Plug Steel, perhaps, extempore? (2-3)
AD-LIB – a plug or puff and the abbreviated political party that David (now Lord) Steel belonged to and led before it merged with the SDP.

4d Band drink on stage, incessantly (7)
NECKTIE – a slang verb to drink precedes a stage or level without its last letter.

5d With engagement cancelled, learnt painfully about ‘elite’ (7)
NEUTRAL – the engagement referred to occurs in a motor vehicle. An anagram (painfully) of LEARNT containing the letter used to mean elite or upper-class.

7d Crowd fund announced? (5)
HORDE – this sounds like a fund or stockpile.

8d/26d Berry’s split accommodation charge (10,4)
PEPPERCORN RENT – the dried berry of a climbing vine is followed by a past participle meaning split or torn.

9d Brown — Treasury fanatic? (8)
CHESTNUT – not Gordon, our one-time Chancellor, but a reddish-brown colour. A strongbox or place where treasure may be kept is followed by a fanatic or enthusiast.

14d See 1d

16d ‘Sweet!’ one cries aloud (3,5)
ICE CREAM – one here is being used in a formal way of referring to the speaker (‘One has one’s tea at 4 pm’). So this sweet sounds like one cries or yells in the first person.

18d Bobby occupies run-down let — see contract (9)
TELESCOPE – insert another informal word for a bobby into an anagram (run-down) of LET SEE.

20d Indication my MP’s to get sacked (7)
SYMPTOM – an anagram (get sacked, in the sense of plundered) of MY MP’S TO.

21d Curl‘s split end riled somewhat (7)
TENDRIL – hidden (somewhat) in the clue.

23d Third rail 25 moving in and out (5)
TIDAL – apply the answer to 25d to ‘third rail’.

25d Unaccountably swallowed too much alcohol — jury’s conclusions (5)
ODDLY – an abbreviation (2’1) meaning swallowed too much (drugs) is followed by the concluding letters of alcohol and jury.

26d See 8d

The clue I liked best was 18d. Let us know which one(s) you liked.



  1. Prolixic
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    24a if MAN GOES from woodman you get wood and hence the definition trees.

    • gazza
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Prolixic. That’s much better.

    • dutch
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      still struggling…

      wouldn’t “Trees woodman turns to – thus?” be a better clue?

      I’m wondering now if its a misprint

      • gazza
        Posted October 22, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        I think you need to parcel off trees as the definition, then take the answer as an instruction on how to turn woodman into wood.

        • dutch
          Posted October 22, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          yes ok thanks gazza

  2. dutch
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Ouch! Took me a while to get the oil (which wasn’t familiar with) using the t from beetroot(!) in 22a, which gave me 23d (third rail 25) as alternative letters in the clue, which gave me 25d (swallowed too much) – but took me ages to parse the extra D. I think that was pretty hard. I also wondered about the S in 12a and decided flatfish was plural, and I found the woodsman story a bit circuitous and decided not to think about it too much. I had to look up Lotto to check this was a 27a. The long clues around the outside weren’t too bad.

    Favourite was 9d, I think this was the only one i got with a chuckle instead of a “phew”.

    Many thanks Firefly for a good challenge and thanks Gazza for a great review, and it’s a relief in a way knowing 24a isn’t obvious to you either.

  3. Pegasus
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    A little tricky but not much enjoyment, favourites were 4d and 22a thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the comments.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Firefly for what I thought was a very enjoyable if not very tough toughie and to Gazza for a terrific review, I worked out 24a the same way as Prolixic.

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Slow going but I finished without hints, though I needed to check the definition of 12A…it sounds like just the opposite of expert! I did finally work out why 24A was what it was, but it was a slog. I never did manage to parse 25D. I liked 1A and 19A, but 27A was my favorite just because I loved the Peter O’Toole movie. Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the review.

  6. jean-luc cheval
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Well this was quite a challenge for me. Thanks to gazza for the review. I was making mistakes after mistakes. I had notices for 19a, an anagram of stone and ic from in crush. Round step for 2d and many other similar offenses. For 17a, I think the setter meant both words to be French un and la. Thanks again to gazza and firefly.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      That’s what I thought for 17A also.

    • gazza
      Posted October 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      I did consider whether both un and la were meant to be French but I decided that the word order in the clue meant that didn’t really work. Un (or ‘un) is a dialect word for one – the old sporting newspaper The Sporting Times used to be advertised as The Pink’un (because it was printed on pink paper).

  7. KiwiColin
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I was on my own for this one as the other half said “Enough is enough” after we had dealt with our blogging duties. I found it a real challenge. Had the same parsing challenges as mentioned above but did get a sort of completion albeit using some electronic help. Some very clever and devious cluing.
    Thanks Firefly and Gazza.

  8. F1lbertfox
    Posted October 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I finally managed to complete this Toughie this evening after picking it up and putting it down this afternoon. I enjoyed the challenge and was pleased enough to have completed another Toughie without many peeps at the hints and if I’d not entered ‘dabhand’ for 12 across I would possibly have finished it a bit sooner. I have to say though that I hated the clue for 27 across and I’d never have answered that one correctly without a ‘look in’. Thanks to Firefly and also to Gazza for his explanations.

  9. reggie
    Posted October 23, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    This was too difficult for me by a mile. I only solved 4 clues before a gave in. Thanks to Gazza I managed to slowly fill in the grid

  10. Ian
    Posted October 25, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Would never have completed this without Big Dave’s help. Compiler needs to lighten up and try using an abridged Thesaurus ;-)

    • gazza
      Posted October 25, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Welcome to the blog, Ian.