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.
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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,
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.
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.