Toughie 1406

Toughie No 1406 by Elkamere

Playing with Fire

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

Elkamere is brilliant at providing definitions in plain sight but disguising them so well that they are difficult to spot. I thought that this was really enjoyable – it took me some time to get going and I never really managed to get into top gear, having to tease out each answer. Then, when I’d finished, I couldn’t see where the problems had been.

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 ‘Numpty‘ is the same in America? (6)
DOOFUS – the abbreviation used to mean ‘the same as before’ followed by ‘in America’ (2,2).

5a Box containing one black key (5,3)
SPACE BAR – a verb meaning to box contains a word meaning one (in dice or cards, say) and B(lack).

9a I connect, – perhaps (8)
OPERATOR – this is a symbol used in a mathematical expression, e.g. – or +.

10a Supply lines in training on the front (6)
PROMPT – an abbreviation for training of a physical nature follows the short form of a word for the (sea)front.

11a Corruptible footballers playing as unit (8)
FAUSTIAN – this means like the man from a German legend who was corrupted by the Devil and sold his soul for knowledge and worldly pleasures. Start with the abbreviation for the body that controls football in England and add an anagram (playing) of AS UNIT. Very topical clue.

12a Fish — singer eats it (6)
BONITO – an Irish singer contains IT.

13a Invent knowledge about degree subject (8)
LIEGEMAN – start with a verb to invent or fabricate a story and add an informal word for knowledge or information containing an arts degree.

15a Mike Fielding holds back (4)
IDLE – hidden and reversed in the clue. This meaning of mike (to loiter or kick one’s heels) was new to me.

17a Jar something very small’s left in (4)
JOLT – a very small amount contains L(eft).

19a Number one crossword compiler, mostly nutty (8)
NOISETTE – a shorthand way of writing ‘number one’ followed by a crossword compiler without his or her last letter (mostly).

20a Concerning fuel (or ‘fire’ — as in 3/4?) (6)
REPEAT – the definition is exemplified by what ‘fire’ is in 4d after its appearance in the previous answer. A prefix meaning about or concerning and vegetable matter used as fuel. I am a bit surprised that the word ‘fire’ appears explicitly in the clue – I would have thought that an indirect reference would have been sufficient.

21a A copper with little stomach (8)
APPETITE – string together A, a small copper (coin) and an adjective meaning small or dainty.

22a Grabbed by ogre, I scream (6)
SHRIEK – the name of a swamp-living green ogre contains I.

23a Unreliable drip feeds causing harm (8)
ILLUSIVE – the abbreviation for an intravenous drip goes inside (feeds) a word for bad treatment (3-3).

24a I work late with long breaks (5,3)
NIGHT OWL – an anagram (breaks) of WITH LONG.

25a Plain fish full of bones (6)
TUNDRA – a large edible fish contains an abbreviation for a professional person for whom ‘bones’ is a traditional nickname.

Down Clues

2d For turning English into writing, left alone? (8)
ORPHANED – reverse (turning) a preposition meaning for or in favour of, then insert E(nglish) into a word for a person’s individual style of writing (with a pen or pencil, say).

3d Where prices of goods go down after they’ve gone up? (4,4)
FIRE SALE – cryptic definition of the disposal at cheap prices of goods which have previously gone up (in smoke).

4d One featured in shot of street light (3,4,2)
SET FIRE TO – the Roman numeral for one goes inside an anagram (shot) of OF STREET.

5d Talk about twin’s cross breed of dog (8,7)
SPRINGER SPANIEL – put an informal verb to talk (like a glib salesman) around a twin or someone identical to another person and a verb to cross or bridge.

6d Mainly stress, being given Newcastle strip? (7)
CARTOON – a word for stress or anxiety loses its last letter (mainly) and that’s followed by how the natives of Newcastle-upon-Tyne refer to their city (and their football club).

7d Meet tramp on horse (4,4)
BUMP INTO – a tramp or vagrant is followed by a piebald horse.

8d Apply to past operations, initially in reverse? (8)
RETROACT – insert the initial letter of operations into a verb to reverse or take back.

14d A perfect place, but not a lot for George (9)
AUTOPILOT – A is followed by Sir Thomas More’s perfect place (without the A) and LOT.

15d Jail is likely after politician nabbed by taxman (8)
IMPRISON – a phrase meaning ‘is likely’ (2,2) follows our usual elected politician inside the old abbreviation for our tax gatherers (the department was renamed more than 10 years ago!).

16d Golfer foolishly accepts a quiet game (8)
LEAPFROG – an anagram (foolishly) of GOLFER contains A and the musical abbreviation for quiet.

17d Black is in fashion, chuck (8)
JETTISON – a glossy black colour is followed by IS inside a noun, from French, meaning fashion or style.

18d Odd bar hosting football in separate halves? (8)
LEFTOVER – a bar or crowbar contains firstly the abbreviation for foot then the letter that resembles a two-dimensional ball.

19d Home guards are most familiar (7)
NEAREST – a cosy home contains ARE.

Top clues for me were 10a, 25a and 3d. Which one(s) took your fancy?

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27 Comments

  1. jean-luc cheval
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    No wonder I was totally stuck in the NW corner. I had asinus in 1a. It did make perfect sense at the time.
    Talk about the Don with his obscure words. This setter is no better. 11a and 13a specially.
    Liked the connection with the two fish. Bonito is the poor man’s tuna.
    Shame I couldn’t find another word for the hyphen/ dash of 8a. Very clever clue.
    Thanks to Elkamere and to Gazza for sorting out my mistake.

  2. Pegasus
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Excellent offering from todays setter, favourites among many were 3d 6d and 14d thanks to Elkamere and to Gazza for the review.

  3. Hanni
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    What is the correct word for pain caused by crosswords?

    I’ve just checked the 3 answers that I was unsure of, 23a, 18d and 20a. They were pencilled in but with no real understanding as to why they were correct.

    15a has its own paragraph. Completely new that one. I googled Mike Fielding, that was a waste of time, then just guessed that the hidden reverse had to fit. Blimey.

    For 21a I spent awhile trying to make it start ‘acu’, that didn’t work but thankfully I remembered 14d from a previous crossword.

    I found this very difficult, but it’s after sitting back and reading it again, you realise how clever it is, even though I’m not.

    Many thanks to Elkamere for the challenge and to Gazza for your blog. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_rose.gif

    • Jane
      Posted June 3, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      Don’t think there is a ‘correct’ word, Hanni, but I CAN give you several suggestions – based on personal experience! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_mail.gif

      • Hanni
        Posted June 3, 2015 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        Are these suitable for the blog Jane? http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_wink.gif

        • Jane
          Posted June 3, 2015 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

          I very much doubt it. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_smile.gif

          • Hanni
            Posted June 3, 2015 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

            Excellent! That’s what I wanted to hear.

  4. the dodger
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    At first glance I found this very difficult, but with slow and steady progress they all fell into place. Most satisfying, thanks to Elkamere for a great mental workout and to Gazza for the reasoning of 15ac which had me totally stumped.

  5. Lesley
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    That was tough. No time to go back to it so had to seek your help. Thank you. Don’t get why mike is idle, although i did guess it. Never heard of doofus either. Even with hint, I cannot understand 6d. My faves include 5a, 25a, 1d (although I needed help), 14a and best of all was 7d. Thanks guys

    • gazza
      Posted June 3, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      For ‘mike’ Chambers has: (slang) (intransitive verb) to loiter idly; (noun) a period of doing this.
      6d is CAR(e) (stress or anxiety) + TOON (what Newcastle people call Newcastle).

      • jean-luc cheval
        Posted June 3, 2015 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        It’s definitely not my day. I thought it was Carp for stress. Oh dear.

        • Lesley
          Posted June 3, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

          Well thank you. I can now bathe without stressing, won’t be anxious about my aged parent arriving, although she does need a lot of care. I will not, however, split my infinitives or carp about the aged p!

  6. dutch
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely brilliant. 1a was my last one in, I hadn’t quite parsed the first 4 letters right. I didn’t know mike=idle but assumed it had to be.

    Every clue is exquisite. I made a list of favourites, but it amounted to almost all of them. Also very clever to turn a repeated word in the grid into a feature using another clue(20a)! I remember a pianist friend once telling me that when he made a mistake, he would repeat it so that people thought it was a feature.

    Big smile for the ogre clue. I also really liked 9a, I was thinking dash, hyphen,.. took a while to see it as a piece of arithmetic. Many other things to like, little stomach (21a), degree subject (13a), home guards (19a), shot of street (4a), fish full of bones (25a), black is in fashion (17d), unreliable drip feeds! (23a) – well, the list just goes on and on.

    Many thanks Elkamere and Gazza for great review

  7. Liverpool Mike
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    15a is a new one to me. Is it a hint that I spend too much time sitting doing crosswords?

    Thanks to Elkamere and Gazza.

  8. Shropshirelad
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Excellent offering from one of my favourite setters although I find him a lot more difficult in his guise as a ST Prize Crossword. Thought 9a was very clever and needed Gazza’s assistance in parsing 15a, but my favourite today is 1a.

    Thanks to Elkamere and Gazza for their efforts.

  9. gazza
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Excalibur tomorrow.

  10. KiwiColin
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Big challenge, big fun. A couple that I did not totally parse. I did not know this paticular meaning of operator and after considering all the possibilities of hyphen and dash, decided that it must be an allusion to the unreliability of switchboard functionaries in the days that such people existed. No, I did not even convince myself that that could be correct. The other one was the alternative meaning for ‘mike’ but it was very hard to get that one wrong when every letter was checked in the grid.
    Not a quick solve by any means but very satisfying and enjoyable.
    Thanks Elkamere and Gazza.

  11. Expat Chris
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    I am by no means finished with this yet, so I’m avoiding the hints. I have about half completed (almost all in the left hand side) and I’m struggling mightily with the rest. Since I can only glance at it occasionally until end of business for the day, it could well be tomorrow before I’ve either completed the grid or given up the ghost and turned to drink. But I already have multiple stars beside 1A, 13A, 24A and 5D so I must be enjoying the battle!

    • Jane
      Posted June 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Hi Chris,
      Just checked in to see whether today’s Toughie had indeed ‘killed you’. Seems as though you’re still up and running – go for it!

  12. Paso Doble
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Great crossword but too tough for us. We had to resort to Gazza’s wonderful hints and tips to get the blinkin’ thing finished.

  13. andy
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Eight double unches didn’t help, but like Gazza when I finished in 4* time I was unsure why it took me so long. The definition of mike was new. Lots of “likes”. Thanks to Gazza and Elkamere

  14. Sprocker
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    After just about managing to solve this one unaided (albeit with 3 bung ins), I was extremely surprised and pleased to see it get a 4* difficulty rating – normally for me if I get anywhere near completing a Toughie without assistance then the general consensus seems to be that it was far too easy. That aside, I absolutely loved it – I thought the obscurities in there were all fair game (e.g. 15a – a very obscure definition, but all letters checked so you can’t really grumble!), and there were too many great clues to mention individually.

    Favourite clue for me has to be 5d, and seeing as I own 2 and a half of them it took me an embarrassingly long time of going through all the dog breeds I could think of before realising the answer was literally right under my nose! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_wacko.gif

    Thanks Elkamere, and thanks to Gazza for the review. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_good.gif

  15. Franco
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I somehow managed to solve 15a & 17a without reading the clues.

    All the down solutions seem to provide the answers!

  16. Heno
    Posted June 3, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Elkamere and to Gazza for the review and hints. I was pleased to say that I managed to solve 2 clues unaided, both anagrams. Then I copied all the definitions from the blog, and managed another 12. Got 9 more from the hints, and had to look up 6. Way beyond my comprehension. The fish in 12a was new to me. Great skill from the setter.

  17. Only fools
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Really enjoyable puzzle and review ,took me ages but worth it ,personal favourite 25a but only just .Many thanks to both.

  18. Expat Chris
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    Well, I got a couple more, including 2D and 7D. The left hand side was complete apart from 9A and I had 5D, but as for the right hand side, the least said the better. Still, overall I did enjoy what I managed. Hats off to Elkamere, who is rapidly becoming my chief nemesis, and to gazza.

  19. Expat Chris
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    I have to confess that for 6D I thought the answer was undress (strip). Duress (stress) without the U (incomplete), and NU for Newcastle United. So it was a little wonky on the flow! Well that went to hell in a hand basket when I worked out the lovely 13A.