Toughie 1315

Toughie No 1315 by Messinae

Play for Today

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

It’s Christmas Eve and we have a themed puzzle – so no prizes for guessing what the theme is all about. We’re told in the preamble: “14 thematic answers are clued by wordplay only; of these, one answer contains all the others and one group is included both individually and collectively.” I’ve identified the 14 thematic answers with ** – obviously, because they have no definitions, there’s nothing underlined in those clues.
I thought that this was most enjoyable and not that difficult (ideal for those who have limited time today due to other commitments) with some inventive and well-crafted clues.

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 Cowboy fled before more than half of Indians (8)
RANCHERO – a verb meaning fled or skedaddled precedes five-eighths of the name of a Native American tribe.

8a A bit of myrrh and incense (6)
MANGER – ** the first letter of M(yrrh) and a verb to incense or infuriate.

9a Annoyed expression when upset (4)
STAR – ** reverse (upset) a mild expression of annoyance.

10a Made hard work of a deck (5)
CAKED – an anagram (work of) A DECK.

11a Piece beginning Owl’s address to his love (4)
OPUS – … from Edward Lear’s well-loved poem.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!

12a Son endlessly stirring pity with song (8,4)
NATIVITY PLAY – ** this is the key to the theme and where you’ll find all the other thematic answers. Start with a son or indigenous inhabitant without the last letter, add an anagram (stirring) of PITY and end (as all the best acts do) with a song.

14a Talk incessantly as one that’s given punch (6)
JABBER – definition and cryptic definition. The ‘S here is short for ‘has’ not ‘is’.

16a Something very exciting’s normal (6)
GASPAR – ** this is the supposed name of one of 18a. It’s a charade of an informal term for something exciting or entertaining and a word meaning normal or standard (especially on the golf course).

18a We meet shrine excitedly (5,4,3)
THREE WISE MEN – ** an anagram (excitedly) of WE MEET SHRINE.

22a One right to go off match (4)
MARY – ** a verb to match or unify without one of the abbreviations for right.

23a Feature of Michelangelo (5)
ANGEL – ** hidden (feature of) in the clue.

24a Ancient university’s scrubbed over to welcome English (4)
OXEN – ** the abbreviation used in degree titles for our oldest university has the second instance of the O(ver) replaced by E(nglish).

25a Make jokes about vinyl record (6)
JOSEPH – ** a verb to make jokes or tease contains the abbreviation for a type of vinyl record.

26a Enjoying jazz, enthralled by piece from ‘Little Brown Jug’ perhaps (8)
SHEPHERD – ** an old-fashioned adjective meaning well into jazz is contained inside a fragment of pottery.

Down Clues

1d Halt exchanges in Oriental market (9)
BALTHAZAR – ** this is another of 18a. An anagram (exchanges) of HALT goes inside one spelling of an oriental marketplace.

2d Old king of France holding court imposed tax on goods (6)
OCTROI – this word, which I remembered from a previous Toughie, is a tax on some goods brought into a city. O(ld) and the French word for king contain the abbreviation for court.

3d One of the Spice Girls greeting men (8)
MELCHIOR – ** another of 18a. One of the Spice Girls, the sporty one, (3,1) is followed by a greeting and the abbreviation for non-commissioned soldiers.

4d Learned men around crib (7)
DONKEYS – ** to quote from A Lexicon of Cryptography (Bletchley Park, 1943) a crib is “a piece of evidence (usually a captured code book or a length of plaintext) which provides clues for the breaking of a cryptogram”. Around this put learned academics.

5d They are opposed in Shakespearean writing (8)
ANTONYMS – a Shakespearean character is followed by the abbreviation for a piece of handwriting.

6d Falconer’s equipment includes such as used by the gentry (5)
JESUS – ** a short leather strap fastened to the leg of a hawk contains the letter signifying upper-class.

8d Gong brings duke into dinner perhaps (5)
MEDAL – insert D(uke) into what dinner is an example of. There can’t have been many easier Toughie clues.

13d Celebrate master US senator going round Middle East (4,5)
MAKE MERRY – the abbreviation of a master (of arts) is followed by the surname of a US politician and one-time senator who is currently the Secretary of State. Inside that we have the abbreviation for Middle East. An excellent clue because he spends a lot of time slogging around the Middle East.

15d Miners’ mates save my ten in explosion (8)
BUTTYMEN – I always thought that this word was an invention of Ken Dodd but the BRB knows better – these are workfellows in a coalmine. Start with a preposition meaning save or except and follow this with an anagram (in explosion) of MY TEN.

16d More ghastly girls in trouble — that’s right (8)
GRISLIER – an anagram (in trouble) of GIRLS followed by the abbreviation for ‘that is’ and R(ight).

17d Who invaded English in history (7)
HENGIST – this is a semi-all-in-one and the answer is the name of the Germanic chap who, together with his brother Horsa, invaded and conquered parts of Britain in the fifth century AD. Insert the 3-letter abbreviation for English inside the 4-letter abbreviation for history.

19d Four characters from Dickens’s town catching a fish (5)
ROACH – put the first four letters of the name of a town on the river Medway, which was a favourite place of Charles Dickens who lived nearby, around (catching) A. Isn’t Google wonderful?

20d European disease orally transmitted in certain times (6)
EPOCHS – E(uropean) is followed by what sounds like (orally) a disease (one that can be transmitted by means other than orally!).

21d Song gets Monte’s partner shuffling feet (5)
CAROL – swap the order (shuffling) of the last two letters (feet, in a down clue) of the word that partners Monte in the name of the resort in Monaco.

There are some great clues here. I particularly liked 17d, 20d and 21d but my favourite is 13d. Let us know which one(s) you enjoyed.

Thanks to Messinae for the enjoyment and a Very Happy Christmas to him, all other setters, fellow bloggers, regular commenters, occasional commenters and lurkers.

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15 Comments

  1. crypticsue
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Very enjoyable and as Gazza says, not that difficult, apart from the time it took me to work out what went with Monte! D’oh http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_scratch.gif

    Thanks to Messinae and Gazza too.

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    What a mess I made of this.
    It’s very complicated to find answers when you don’t really know what you’re looking for. Although the theme was obvious once I got 18a, I tried to remember what was going on in the crèche de Noël. That didn’t really help as I thought 4d were monkeys for some strange reasons. And only guessed from the checking letters.
    For 11a I pieced together the first letters of owl’s address to his. And ended up with oath. Quite clever eh?
    14a was Caspar for me with the p nicely fitting the miner of 15d. Pit something rather. Wrong again. Especially with 16a being the real Gaspar. We can’t possibly have the two in one crossword can we?
    22a was Each: Reach without the R and it is one. And 15d became pitchmen of course.
    I’m almost done.
    17d was Genghis so it made it impossible to work out 26a which I wouldn’t have got anyway.
    Thanks to Messinae for the casse tête and to Gazza for sorting out my tired brain.

    • Chris
      Posted December 24, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      Cheer up – if it’s any comfort I did most of the above too (not as many as you, only because I had lots of white spaces where the answers are meant to go). I still think my ‘rabbit’ is better than ‘jabber’ in 15a. Such a pity all these creative ideas didn’t lead to a solution for the adjacent clues, but maybe I’ll have better luck another day!

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted December 25, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        Between the two of us we would have made a lovely nativity scene with rabbits and monkeys.
        Happy Xmas day to you.

        • Chris
          Posted December 25, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

          And the same to you, Jean-Luc! (I am still awestruck by all those of you who can even attempt cryptic crosswords from another language.)

  3. Physicist
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    I was nearly put off by the preamble (I can never do Enigmatic Variations), but getting 18a gave me confidence and I completed it without needing the hints. I was held up for a while because I thought that 16a started with a C. Thanks to Messinae and Gazza, Merry Christmas to all (and Joyeux Noel to Jean-Luc).

  4. Heno
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Messinae and to Gazza for the review and hints. I only managed to solve 6 clues. Didn’t get the theme, can’t understand clues without definitions. Couldn’t get any from the hints. Sadly a complete waste of time for me.

  5. halcyon
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t think it was that easy but still managed to find time to get the presents wrapped so 3* difficulty for me. As an old jazzer I liked 26a even tho’ I’m not sure anyone ever used that expression for enjoying jazz even back in the day. Held up in the NE corner but finally twigged the Owl and the Shakespeare.

    Thanks to Messinae and Gazza and Merry Christmas to all.

  6. KiwiColin
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it was because of all the interruptions, but I did find this one very hard. I never did work out 15d. The nearest I got was ‘bothymen’ which did not quite fit the definition or the first part of the wordplay. The correct answer was a totally new word for me There were a couple of others where I was a bit uncertain of the wordplay eg 19d, but did have the right answer.
    A good challenge.
    Thanks Messinae and Gazza.

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted December 24, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      I had the same problem with 19d. First looked for Dickens birthplace but as it didn’t start with an R, I did more research until I found that Rochester was one of his favourite cities. Could have been Rochdale for all we know.

      • crypticsue
        Posted December 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        One of the many benefits of living in Kent – 19d just wrote itself in.

  7. JB
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Had Capulets in 5d which compketely messed up that corner. I was so sure I was right that it took me some while to realise I wasn’t and rub it out. Even knowing the theme didn’t always help especially as I, like others, have always spelt 16a with a “c”. Still got there in the end without hints so a fun puzzle which almost made me late for the emergency dentist. Tooth problems on Christmas Eve? – must unfair!

  8. Una
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Getting 11a early inspired me to keep going . 4d is another perfect clue.Then the theme helped.I resorted to hints for the last quarter .I think 2d and 15d spoiled things a bit .Thanks Messinae and Gazza.

  9. Chris
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Much too hard for me, I’m afraid, but I had some creative alternative answers. (“Not too hard” eh? – Ho Ho Ho!)
    Many thanks to Messinae and Gazza, and a very Happy Christmas to all.

  10. Jane
    Posted December 25, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Got just three answers in the first read-through but fortunately one of them was 18a! Penny dropped as to the theme – checked on the names of said 18a’s and was off and running. Electronic help for 2d, bung-in at 26a which just left 15 & 17d to ask Gazza about.

    I would never pretend to be good enough to tackle Toughies so this was a real bonus at the end of a lovely Christmas Day! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_yahoo.gif

    Many thanks to Messinae for the theme that gave me half a chance and to Gazza – as always. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_rose.gif