Toughie 1418

Toughie No 1418 by Micawber

“You’re never more than 6 feet from a rat”

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

This puzzle from Micawber is as entertaining as always although I found it slightly trickier than usual. There are lots of d’oh moments to enjoy.

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 Reliable PC program with volume and depth (6-8)
COPPER-BOTTOMED – string together an informal word for a PC (or PS, say), an automated program that runs over the internet, a large volume and D(epth). The adjective derives from an old practice of covering the underside of a ship with the relevant metal to make it safer.

8a Spinner‘s soft soap cut short (5)
LATHE – drop the last letter from soft soap in the form of foam.

9a Sounded clear as a bell after beginning of word mangled (5,3)
WRUNG OUT – the past participle of a phrasal verb meaning sounded clearly follows W(ord).

11a Tale many start to believe, incredibly, in travesty of truth without foundation (5,4)
URBAN MYTH – a superb semi-all-in-one. An anagram (incredibly) of MANY and B(elieve) goes inside another anagram (travesty) of (t)RUTH. Well, there’s the dead granny on the roof rack and the dead dog in the suitcase … What other ones would you like to share?

12a Confounded Arsenal endlessly comes close (5)
NEARS – an anagram (confounded) of (a)RSENA(l) without the end letters.

13a Was Observer editor, covering January-June? (4)
EYED – our usual editor contains just six-twelfths of a year.

14a Designer, born in Ireland, follows England (8)
ENGINEER – a word meaning born (used to indicate a woman’s maiden name) goes inside an abbreviation for Ireland and that all follows an abbreviation for England.

17a Try and try again — I’ll back you! (4,4)
HEAR HEAR – both tries take place in a court of law.

19a Fundamentally silly joke that’s done the rounds (4)
SPUN – the first letter of silly followed by a verbal joke.

23a Conservative wets perhaps split (5)
CLEFT – C(onservative) and the political leaning of those in that party who were called wets by Mrs Thatcher (i.e. anybody who had the temerity to disagree with her must be a wishy-washy pinko).

24a One’s keen as a river rat heading west (5-4)
KNIFE-EDGE – string together the abbreviation for ‘as’ or for instance, a river which rises in North Wales and visits Chester on its way to the Irish Sea and a slang term for a rat or informer. All that gets reversed (heading west).

25a Corrupt cop invested in fund that controls liquidity flow? (8)
STOPCOCK – an anagram (corrupt) of COP goes inside a fund or repertoire.

26a Paint job — start with the middle (5)
OCHRE – start with a routine, possibly boring, job and move the middle letter to the start.

27a In this poor bit, I displayed banner (14)
PROHIBITIONIST – an anagram (displayed) of IN THIS POOR BIT I.

Down Clues

1d Is using micro-organisms to produce wine a problem for exports? (7,5)
CULTURE SHOCK – split the answer 8,4 and you have a) a verb meaning uses micro-organisms to produce and b) a dry white wine.

2d Can get carried away — it’s not right to be drunk (7)
POTABLE – remove the R(ight) from an adjective meaning can be carried.

3d Instruction to leave European Union included in next broadcast (6)
EXEUNT – the abbreviation for the European union goes inside an anagram (broadcast) of NEXT.

4d Fork west among the trees, they’re off the beaten track (6)
BYWAYS – the letter that represents (from its shape as a capital) a fork and W(est) are inserted in evergreen trees.

5d Moving  about (8)
TOUCHING – double definition, the first meaning moving or poignant.

6d Material from newspaper that impresses (8)
ORGANDIE – charade of a newspaper, especially one which promotes a particular point of view, and something used to impress a design on coins or medals.

7d Bird unable to fly’s dead parrot (7)
EMULATE – an Australian flightless bird and an adjective meaning deceased.

10d Eastern syndicate’s head smuggled precious item into camp for removal (12)
ESTRANGEMENT – start with E(astern) and the first letter of S(yndicate). Now insert a verb meaning smuggled and a precious stone into a verb meaning to camp.

15d Small building in Czech Republic — pub with area in front (8)
CHUTZPAH – insert a small crude building into the IVR for the Czech Republic, then add the abbreviation for a pub with A(rea) inside it. The definition (front) here means self-confidence or cockiness.

16d Black taxi pulled up with ape inside, to make one’s hair stand on end! (4-4)
BACK-COMB – the abbreviation for black and a taxi contain a verb meaning to ape or mimic scornfully and it all gets reversed (pulled up). I’m not very keen on the fact that the verb to ape also has to be reversed but comes after the ‘pulled up’ – I’d have preferred the clue to read ‘Black taxi with ape inside pulled up …’.

18d American’s superior assistant (7)
ABETTER – a single-letter abbreviation for American followed by a comparative meaning superior.

20d Stir-fried dish I had at pub’s starter, unusually (3,4)
PAD THAI – an anagram (unusually) of I HAD AT and P(ub). I’d never heard of this dish but it was easy enough to work out from the checking letters.

21d Kind of fence  that’s assembled to keep workers out (6)
PICKET – double definition, the second what’s mounted by striking workers to try to keep non-striking colleagues from entering the workplace.

22d Oven ruined during party again (2,4)
DE NOVO – an anagram (ruined) of OVEN goes inside a festive party.

Amongst the clues I liked best were 17a, 25a and the very topical 3d but my runaway favourite is the superb 11a. Which ones floated your boat?

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19 Comments

  1. dutch
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Great puzzle from Micawber.

    It took me a while to untangle 11a (tale many start to believe…), very impressive construction!

    Really liked “Was Observer editor” (13a, which also included the quirky half a year), and I thought “to leave European Union” (3d) was a brilliant bit of clueing. I liked “I displayed banner” in 27a – very nice.

    Thanks Gazza for the parsing of 26a (paint job).

    I’m not convinced by two definitions. In 2d, the answer means “fit/able to be drunk” rather than “to be drunk”. In 22d, I think the answer means “from scratch” or “from the start/beginning”, implying for the first time, which is not the same as “again”.

    Many thanks Micawber and Gazza

    • gazza
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your point on potable, but I think that de novo does mean again in the sense of starting afresh or going back to square one. The BRB defines it as ‘anew, again from the beginning’.

  2. Expat Chris
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I failed to complete, but what fun it was trying! I needed hints for 1A, 11A, 2D, 4D and 5D. 11A would have been my favorite if I’d managed to solve it. Hard to choose a best-of-the-bunch from the ones I did solve, but I will plump for 1D (maybe I should change my name to Export Chris!).

    Lovely stuff, Micawber. Many thanks. And thanks and appreciation for the hints to you, Gazza.

    • Una
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I needed 6 hints , though not the same ones,so I am glad I am not alone .

  3. halcyon
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Yep, excellent stuff as always. Agree potable is just a tad rocky but it’s more than made up for by some lovely clues. 27a [banner] 15d [area in front] and the superb 11a. I wonder if 1d might have originally read…problem for expats? But I see where he’s going with exports. Also did anyone else spend a while on 8a trying to remember a bowler called Latte i.e. flattery cut short, or is it just me?

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the blog.

  4. happy days
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I, too, was bothered by 16d but no complaints otherwise. I liked 17a Try and try again

  5. Una
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Terrific puzzle , though I needed 6 hints, well five and a half as I got the first half of 1d .
    I liked 11a, 15d 17a,16d, 4d, 21d, 18d, very possibly in that order.
    Thanks Gazza and Micawber.

  6. gazza
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Petitjean tomorrow.

    • crypticsue
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Do you think there’s been goat sacrificing in the Midlands?

      • gazza
        Posted June 24, 2015 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        One in the Nottingham area, I think.

  7. crypticsue
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Gazza’s prologue and BD ratings say exactly what I was going to say too.

    Thanks to him and Micawber.

  8. jean-luc cheval
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    A totally spotless grid. Everything seemed so limpid, it was a real pleasure to solve.
    Guessed wets=left in 23a but thanks to Gazza for the explanation.
    Learned about copper bottomed and copper fastened while I was at it.
    Didn’t have a problem with 22d. After all, again in French is de nouveau or à nouveau.
    5d was just great but favourite is 7d. Shame there was no video of Monty Python .
    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza.

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Loved it. We had guessed the answer to 1a quite early but did not write it in immediately as the parsing eluded us. With a few checkers it all started to make sense, particularly when we twigged ‘tome’ and ‘volume’. We will go for this as our favourite but agree there are many possible contenders for top spot. We also wondered whether the setter had intended expats instead of exports in 1d. Good level of difficulty and loads of fun.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

    • Expat Chris
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      I think that ‘exports’ was the intent, otherwise the clue would not read nearly as well. It just made me laugh when I solved it! I would like to stress to all that my relocation to foreign parts was entirely voluntary!http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_whistle3.gif

    • gazza
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      I hadn’t considered expats for 1d until the comments from Expat Chris and halcyon earlier, but I do think that it would fit the clue slightly better than exports.

  10. Kath
    Posted June 24, 2015 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Well, I found this one tricky but did, eventually, have an answer for every clue. http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/smiley-phew.gif
    I confess to needing lots of gazza’s brilliant hints to explain several of my answers – so many that I won’t bore you all with which ones.
    I’ve certainly never heard of the ‘rat’ in 24a but the wonderful, in my opinion anyway, Wogan says that you’re never more than six feet away from a rat unless you work in the BBC in which case it’s more likely that you’re never more than six inches away from one.
    Too many wonderful clues to write them all down but I did love 1d.
    Gazza – if you’ve never had 20d you should try it – one of my favourite Thai dishes. Yum . .
    With thanks to Micawber and to gazza for the very much needed hints.

    • gazza
      Posted June 24, 2015 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      The ‘You’re never more than 6 feet from a rat’ is an 11a, Kath.
      I’ll have to try the Pad Thai now that Thai restaurants have started to appear in this area. We’re somewhat behind the times as always – Christianity hasn’t been here long. :D

      • Kath
        Posted June 24, 2015 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        I’m very glad to hear that it’s an 11a – I’m really not too keen on them – in fact they make me go a bit funny! http://bigdave44.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_sad.gif

  11. ezfer
    Posted June 25, 2015 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Found this pretty tricky – very slow solve but got there in the end and chuffed to have done so. A couple of clues I found early answer for but didn’t trust until eventually parsing came clear (e.g. 1a, 15d, 26a). Needed most of checkers before some of the more ‘constructed’ clues became apparent (e.g. 11a, 10d & 24a). Last in 18d then 17a but obvious once I got them. Quite a challenge but satisfying once answers came, which made it a great crossword in my book, so thanks to Micawber. No real favourites but liked new way to read 7d word. Thanks also to Gazza for confirming my parsing.