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Toughie 1318

Toughie No 1318 by Micawber

That Was the Year that Was

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

Micawber’s traditional end of year roundup of what happened in the last 12 months is as brilliant as ever. I’ve tried to identify all the events – do let me know of any that I’ve missed or misunderstood.

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 Mellor in trouble about words addressed to someone? He should be setting an example! (4,5)
ROLE MODEL – an anagram (in trouble) of MELLOR contains a lyric often addressed to someone or something (a nightingale, perhaps).
[Ex-Tory Minister David Mellor was recorded having a foul-mouthed rant at a taxi driver.]

6a Islamist group Egypt’s leader rejected (4)
ISIS – the name of the army general who became president of Egypt this year is reversed (rejected).
[This combines two stories : a) the Sunni jihadist movement which has captured large areas of Iraq and Syria and was seldom off our screens in 2014 and b) the Egyptian general who led the 9d against the Egyptian government in 2013 was ‘elected’ as president this year.]

10a It’s a wrench when king or queen abdicates in monarchy (5)
SPAIN – start with a wrench and remove the single-letter abbreviation for a king or queen.
[King Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son.]

11a Photo opens with this popular figure’s access code (3,6)
PIN NUMBER – string together the opening letter of photo, an adverb meaning popular or trendy and a figure or digit.
[All I can find about this in 2014 is that a survey revealed that Brits are more likely to change their spouse than their access code. I’m almost certainly missing something. Thanks to Gnomethang for pointing out that this refers to celebrities getting their smartphones hacked and their candid photographs accessed and published.]

12a Ure and Geldof lately in money spinning successor to Live Aid (7)
BENEFIT – insert the final (lately) letters of Ure and Geldof in the reversal (spinning) of an informal word for money and put it all after (successor to) a verb to live.
[30 years after Live Aid the usual stars got together to record a new charity record.]

13a Ancient stone picked up on tail of comet reflecting indication of position in space (7)
ROSETTA – a verb meaning picked up or lifted is followed by the tail letter of comet and the reversal (reflecting) of a preposition denoting spatial position.
[The name of the ancient stone was given to the spacecraft which performed the first soft landing on a comet.]

14a Maybe to exercise damage limitation with defecting MP is rash (8)
RECKLESS – what sounds like (maybe?) a phrase meaning to limit damage (5,4) is both the name of a defecting MP and an adjective meaning rash.
[This MP defected from the Tories to UKIP, resigned his seat and won the resulting by-election in Rochester and Strood.]

16a Give hint of criticism for basic hotel facilities? (1,3,1)
H AND C – a verb to give or pass across is followed by the first letter (hint) of criticism.
[The owners of a hotel in Blackpool attempted to fine a couple £100 for writing a damning review of the establishment.]

19a UK less united after no vote returned by Scots finally (5)
YANKS – I think this must be a cryptic definition but I can’t really see how the answer matches the clue. Remove the U(nited) from UK and precede it with the reversal of a no vote. Add the final letter of Scots. Update: See comment #13 from Micawber. The clue was later updated on the online site to:
19a UK less united after no vote returned by Scots finally exerts pull (5)
[The Scots rejected independence in their referendum.]

21a US and allies introducing smart arms funded by this? (3,5)
WAR CHEST – a general term for the USA and its allies contains an adjective meaning smart or cunning.
[This may be a reference to the introduction of drones in warfare.]

24a Social network to have a laugh about white van (7)
TWITTER – a verb meaning to have a laugh contains the first letter (van) of white.
[A Labour shadow minister resigned after tweeting a picture deemed to be disrespectful to ‘white van man’.]

25a Conservative leader in thrall to anti-European magnetism? A fanciful notion! (7)
CONCEIT – the leading letter of Conservative is inserted (in thrall to) between an adverb meaning anti or against and E(uropean). Finish with a short word for magnetism or sex appeal.
[Mr Cameron is increasingly driven by his Europhobe faction.]

27a Hailed by excited media, more than half of Clacton’s turned out … (9)
ACCLAIMED – an anagram (excited) of MEDIA follows (by) an anagram (turned out) of the first four letters of CLAC(ton).
[There was a 51% turnout for the Clacton by-election at which the first UKIP Member of Parliament was elected.]

28a … a seat changing hands once more (5)
AGAIN – split the answer 1,4 to get a change of party in a constituency election.
[… although there was a change of party at Clacton the new member was in fact the old one.]

29a Signals assent to ban on games console? (4)
NODS – split 2,2 and it looks like a ban on Nintendo games consoles.
[I’m not sure if this is what Micawber is referring to but China reversed its longstanding ban on games consoles in 2014.]

30a Head of Top Gear in an awkward state (9)
ARGENTINA – an anagram (awkward) of the first letter of T(op) GEAR IN AN.
[Clarkson annoyed this country in 2014. It would be quicker to list those countries that he hasn’t annoyed.]

Down Clues

1d Alien spy barred with no hint of diplomacy after Russia’s initial expression of disapproval (9)
RASPBERRY – an anagram (alien) of SPY BARRE(d) (without the first letter of diplomacy) follows the first letter of Russia.
[Russia expelled a German diplomat accused of spying in a tit-for-tat move.]

2d Gather pound’s to gain (5)
LEARN – the letter used to mean pound sterling is followed by a verb to gain or be paid.
[In 2014 the pound rose against most major currencies but fell against the US dollar.]

3d Conscious uncoupling method from Martin leads to divorce for up-to-date lovers (7)
MINDFUL – remove a word meaning method or craft from Martin and add the leading letters of the final four words.
[Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their separation in a statement in which they introduced the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ to the world.]

4d Stupid, heartless Russian leader pointlessly intervening to take over? (8)
DEPUTISE – an adjective meaning stupid or thick loses its middle letter and what’s left goes round the name of the Russian leader without its cardinal point.
[The place he’s taken over is 23d.]

5d Rump of voters supporting a party caught between Left and Right — they’ve few friends (6)
LONERS – the last letter of voters follows a party or individual sitting between L(eft) and R(ight).
[The Libdems have lost a lot of their supporters and now trail behind not only UKIP but also the Greens according to some polls.]

7d Property slowdown’s beginning — can bust develop before second quarter of year? (9)
SUBSTANCE – string together the first letter of S(lowdown), an anagram (develop) of CAN BUST and the second (of four) letter of year.
[The rise in UK property prices has apparently slowed in the last few months of the year.]

8d I say war terminally ruining country (5)
SYRIA – an anagram (ruining) of I SAY and (wa)R.
[There’s not much more to say about this ruined country.]

9d England exiting the cup’s terrible shock to the system? (6)
PUTSCH – remove E(ngland) from TH(e) CUP’S and make an anagram (terrible) of what remains.
[England had an ignominious exit from the Football World Cup in Brazil. Still, never mind, the important World Cup takes place in England in 2015 and Wales and New Zealand are confidently expected to meet in the final.]

15d Persuaded Cable to enter Conservative deal initially (9)
CONVINCED – insert Mr Cable’s first name between an abbreviation for Conservative and the initial letter of D(eal).
[He may have been persuaded to serve in the coalition but he’s now increasingly showing his distaste for his partners in government.]

17d Change of heart in region seeking independence results in apparent paralysis (9)
CATATONIA – change the middle letter of a region of 10a which would like to be independent.
[The independence seekers in this region were hoping that a yes vote in the Scottish referendum would set a precedent.]

18d Nice, perhaps, women at church exalting the Lord (8)
WATCHDOG – perhaps is there to indicate that NICE  (normally capitalised) is just an example – it’s a health body which decides, amongst other thing, on which drugs we can trust and/or afford. String together W(omen), AT, the abbreviation for church and the reversal (exalting) of the Lord.
[Women gained the right to become bishops in the Church of England.]

20d Upcoming vehicles have built-in autonomous technology at the outset and computer guidance (6)
SATNAV – reverse light vehicles for carrying goods and insert the leading letters of Autonomous Technology.
[A project by Google has brought us one step closer to driverless cars (thanks to Shropshirelad)]

22d Prisoner — any of three from Al Jazeera in can, shut up (7)
CONTAIN – an informal abbreviation for a prisoner is followed by another word for a can containing the letter of which there are three in ‘Al Jazeera’.
[Three Al Jazeera journalists have been imprisoned in Cairo for doing their job.]

23d Illegal act on a peninsula (6)
CRIMEA – an illegal act followed by A.
[What was part of Ukraine is now part of Russia].

24d Burning in art school (5)
TRAIN – an anagram (burning) of IN ART.
[There was a fire in May at Glasgow School of Art’s historic Mackintosh building.]

26d Taken a mistress disguised to the Elysee as a friend (2,3)
EN AMI – hidden (disguised) in the clue is a French (to the Elysée) phrase meaning in the capacity of a friend.
[The hapless Monsieur Hollande, with one lover already installed at the presidential palace, was caught visiting another. It must be his looks!]

Thanks to Micawber for another brilliant example of his art and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year to him, all the other setters and all contributors to and readers of the blog.

Finally here are a few events in 2014 you may have missed:

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32 comments on “Toughie 1318

  1. Sheer brilliance from the maestro, thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for his usual comprehensive dissection.

  2. A lovely puzzle. I’M going through the review to spot the references but think that the surface reading in 11a refers to nudie celebrity pictures being hacked from Instagram etc.
    Thanks Gazza and Micawber!

  3. I suspect that 20d refers to the increasing use of drones in warfare and the perceived associated collateral damage.

  4. The usual superb end of year treat. 3* difficulty/5*++++ entertainment.

    A big thank you to Micawber and to Gazza too (how I regret not taking up your offer before we realised which day your Toughie blog duty fell on!). Happy New Year to you both (and everyone else too)

  5. Excellent end to the year from Micawber, a sheer delight. Thanks also to Gazza for his usual excellent review. I hope all participants of the blog have a Happy New Year.

    Btw Gazza – could 20d relate to ‘driverless’ cars being mooted this year?

      1. So do I (especially now that I think 21a relates to the introduction of drones). Thanks Shropshirelad.
        I don’t suppose anyone understands what the definition is in 19a?

  6. My goodness. I did complete the grid correctly (some were definitely bung-in answers) , but I had no idea it was a round-up of events. How very clever. Congratulations to Micawber, and many thanks to Gazza for unraveling the several I did not understand. Happy New year, all!

  7. A lovely end to the crossword year from a Master. Virtually all the clues were super but 10a and 30a are particularly good. It takes a special kind of genius to spot and deploy the fortuitous anagram at 30a!

    I’m still baffled by the definition of 19a – can the setter [or anyone else] explain?

    Many thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

  8. What a difference a day makes. I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle – and got it all, although one or two at the end were by fortunate process of elimination (10a for example). I, too, was completely oblivious to the historical round up, and thank you, Gazza, for pointing it out. Very clever – but I was not aware of a good many of the references, and so knowing the sub-plot may not have helped me much! Thanks to all, and Happy New Year to everyone.

  9. Very impressive puzzle indeed. Thanks to Gazza for the explanations for the ones that went in from definition only and thanks to Micawber. Happy new year to all.

  10. We are like Expat Chris and did not realise the topicality of all of the clues. Not that that would have helped us much as a lot of the items were not big news here.
    Took a lot of effort and we did finish with a full grid although a couple were not fully parsed. Enjoyed the challenge and stand in awe at the cleverness.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

  11. Thanks for all your kind comments, but I must apologise for 19 across. In the course of making amendments to a number of clues I managed in rewriting the wordplay to lose the definition ‘exerts pull’ from the end .

    1. Thanks for that, Micawber. After all the enjoyment you’ve given us over the year you’re entitled to one small blip. Happy New Year.

      1. Micawber – I agree with Gazza, everyone’s entitled to a slip every now and again Thanks for clearing up the parsing. Happy New Year to you and yours

  12. Beaten in parsing 19a, now all explained. Cheers Gazza as always and Micawber, Happy New Year to all

  13. Too hard for me to complete, although I managed about 2/3 of it. What an enjoyable experience that was, too – 5*/4-5* for me. Really instructive challenge. Thank you Micawber, and Gazza.

  14. Absolutely brilliant – great end to the year from Micawber. Many thanks to him, the other setters and the blogging team here for an enjoyable 2014, and best wishes all for 2015.

  15. Out last night so didn’t pick this up until this evening. I don’t usually relish themed puzzles, but this one was splendid! I’d score it at 3*/4*, with 8d as favourite. Many thanks to Micawber, and to Gazza, and a thunderingly happy New Year to all.

  16. What a great puzzle I too had no idea about the topical content like several others, it seems. I even managed to finish it without ANY electronic help – which is very rare. However I put in YONKS for 19a, as did Chris at 16 above. (this might be because I too am a “Chris” in normal life). The BRB does list the word as slang and I conflated “finally” with the definition of “a very long time”. Gazza, where do get the “A” from in “yanks”? Also another blunder with 25a – I got CONCEPT -(a fanciful notion) instead of CONCEIT. Still, good result and much enjoyment, so thanks to Micawber and to Gazza and everyone else who contributed. Best wishes for a fine New Year for everybody. Sh-Shoney.

    1. Yanks is built from: the reversal of NAY (a vote of no) + (u)K + (Scot)S. A Happy New Year to you.

  17. With 21 and 25a to go, I gave in and looked at the blog. Happy to see that 19a was not me missing something. Was mystified as to how the van part of 24a worked until I looked up the word. Other than that, I battled through and managed it in the end with loads of satisfaction and smiles, giggles and aha’s galore.

    Delightful stuff – I am in awe. Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the review.

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