Toughie 1491

Toughie No 1491 by Firefly

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I enjoyed this puzzle which was of a nice standard for a Toughie. It felt like a 3* difficulty puzzle when I was solving it but my final time suggested it might merit 4 stars

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.


1a    Great performance — one of the best at school? (12)
MASTERSTROKE: This could be one of the six of the best administered by a male teacher

9a    Lead panel’s part of the furniture (9)
HEADBOARD: ‘Lead’ + ‘panel’ = part of a bed

10a    A flower picked from border: honesty (5)
RHONE: Hidden in bordeR HONEsty

11a    Tenor’s town topper? (6)
TURBAN: T (tenor) + ‘town’ (as an adjective) = something worn on the head

12a    Come across from Switzerland covertly, can one? (6,2)
CHANCE ON: The IVR for Switzerland + an anagram (covertly) of CAN ONE

13a    Mount up and fall (6)
ACCRUE: 2 meanings: to mount up/to fall by way of advantage

15a    Brokenly, old king stands against northern fellow (3,3,2)
OFF AND ON: A king of Mercia + N (northern) + a university fellow

18a    Earl’s in Italian city, acquiring new cheese (8)
PARMESAN: E (Earl) and ‘S in a n Italian city + N (new) = an Italian cheese

19a    Laurel by church can provide viewpoint (6)
STANCE: The first name of Laurel (Hardy’s partner) + an abbreviation denoting ‘church’

21a    Free to choose an up-to-date motor within (1,2,5)
À LA CARTE: A + ‘up-to-date’ round a motor

23a    Bung odd bits of saplings on to … (6)
SPIGOT: The odd letters of SaPlInGs On To

26a    … pile, of course, after onset of spring (5)
STACK: a course (of a sailing ship) follows S (first letter of Spring)

27a    Ms Fitzgerald’s aboard second faulty tram — be wary! (5,1,3)
SMELL A RAT: The first name of The US jazz singer Ms Fitzgerald goes inside S (second) and an anagram (faulty) of TRAM

28a    Organise team, creating a crowded alliance? (6,1,5)
MÉNAGE À TROIS: An anagram (creating) of ORGANISE TEAM. Two’s company, three’s a crowd


1d    Mother wearing headgear? It’s wrong way round, wise one! (7)
MAHATMA: Headgear (3) inside mother (4)

2d    Tread softly — the Alsatian is roaming in the peaks (5)
STAIR: Initial letters (peaks) of Softly — The Alsatian Is Roaming

3d    Opening for the artillery in Maine coming up, with support guaranteed (9)
EMBRASURE: An opening in a wall for cannon to fire through = a reversal of the zip code for Maine + a support for part of the female anatomy + ‘guaranteed’. Cryptic Sue will be pleased to see this support. It’s the first one I’ve encountered for some time!

4d    Creature / that’s formed in wax, say (4)
SEAL: 2 meanings: a marine mammal/a piece of wax stamped with a device

5d    He drifts vaguely into a universal movement (3,5)
RED SHIFT: An anagram (vaguely) of HE DRIFTS = something caused by a receding source of light

6d    She shows understanding about most paintings (5)
KAREN: A girl’s name = ‘understanding’ (3) round ‘paintings’ (3) with the last letter removed

7d    God‘s 19 one put on (8)
POSEIDON: The Greek god of the sea = a synonym of the answer to 19 across + I (one) + ‘to put on’

8d    Stop pourin’, so to speak? (4,2)
REIN IN: ‘To check’ or ‘to stop’ is a homophone of pourin’ (though it might only be drizzlin’)

14d    Forcibly remove Tracy, sprawled over centre of seawall (4,4)
CART AWAY: An anagram (sprawled) of TRACY round the middle three letters of seAWAll

16d    High-level stand-in chauffeur? (9)
AUTOPILOT: A cryptic definition for George who guides or controls an aircraft

17d    Aficionado’s time on continent producing free composition (8)
FANTASIA: An aficionado + T (time) + the largest of the continents

18d    Winkle out article on the inner side, making flatter (6)
PRAISE: ‘To winkle out’ round A (article) = ‘to flatter’

20d    Ranks of statuettes dispersed, apart from famous Pharaoh (7)
ESTATES: An anagram (dispersed) of STAETES, i.e. STATUETTES minus the letters TUT (famous Pharaoh)

22d    Joint keeps irritating internally (5)
ANKLE: A joint of the lower body = the middle five letters of a seven-letter word meaning ‘keeps irritating’

24d    Aussie dustman / who wanted to be alone (5)
GARBO: 2 meanings: an informal term for a dustman in Australia/the surname of the actress who said the words “I want to be alone” in Grand Hotel (1932)

25d    Cheese-paring on English holiday? (4)
FETE: A Greek cheese with the last letter removed + E (English)

Good stuff!


  1. Hanni
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink


    On first pass I got the grand total of 4. Then I panicked, but panicking rarely helps a situation.

    Eventually settled into a slow and steady solve. I had to check 10a as I think it was a new definition. Was only vaguely aware of 5d but a couple of checkers helped. 3d was another I had to Google check.

    Plenty to smile about. Thought 28a was just lovely along with 11a.

    Many thanks to Firefly and to Bufo for blogging.

    Dark and grey on the moors but this just makes the red and gold trees look even better. Lush.

  2. jean-luc cheval
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Honestly don’t really know what to think of this one.
    Some rather poor clues imho.
    Thanks to Firefly and to Bufo for the review.

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    A steady solve for me, too, after a slow start. Needed the review to fully parse 1A and for the second definition of 13A. I did like 15A, 7D, 8D, and 16D in particular. 11A was the last one in and immediately became my favorite when the penny dropped. Thanks to Firefly and to Bufo.

  4. halcyon
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    A very slow start but I enjoyed this a lot – not least for teaching me a lovely new word [24d]. Other fine clues include 2d [where I spent a long time trying to fit in le or la [the Alsatian] before the penny dropped] 8d, 20d and 22d.

    Many thanks to Firefly and to Bufo.

    • Kath
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      It’s a very good thing that I didn’t even think of ‘the Alsatian’ as I thought that Alsace was in Germany! and

      • Hanni
        Posted October 29, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        So did I Kath. It sounds German to me.

        • halcyon
          Posted October 29, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

          Think “Vin D’Alsace” yummy!

          • Hanni
            Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

            Ahh Gewürztraminer would come under that?

      • Expat Chris
        Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        Apparently it was annexed by Germany for while between 1871 and 1919 and has a pretty confusing to and fro history going back to Charlemagne. Even more confusing is that Alsatian dogs are known as German Shepherds over here!

        • jean-luc cheval
          Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

          You’re right.
          Quite a turbulent history.
          Specially during the last war. Every Alsatian was automatically enrolled by the Germans to fight against the French. We call them the ” malgré nous”.

  5. Shropshirelad
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Struggled to get started with this one but finally managed to get a toe-hold in the SE corner which got me going. Some really good clueing going on, but I think I agree with JL on this one – a bit of a curate’s egg perchance?

    28a was probably my favourite as it reminded me of an episode of ‘Frasier’.

    Thanks to Firefly for the puzzle and Bufo for his review.

    • Hanni
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I can’t eat fruit salad anymore with thinking about 28a…want to order it in a restaurant. I remember that episode well. Cheers SL. Loving the new avatar.

  6. Kath
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I found this very difficult and nearly gave up several times but “perservation” and bloody mindedness kept me going – I’m glad it did as I really enjoyed it.
    I found the bottom half much easier than the top.
    I needed the hint to understand 1a although it couldn’t really have been anything else.
    11a and 8d were my last answers and I missed the anagram bit of 12a for ages.
    Spent far too long barking up the wrong tree with 28a – thought that ‘organise’ was the anagram indicator and the letters were ‘TEAM CREATING’.
    I didn’t know the second meaning of 13a and I’ve never ‘met’ 3d before.
    Lots of good clues so thanks very much to Firefly for the crossword and to Bufo for the hints.

  7. Jane
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Not resorting to the hints as yet but, currently, Firefly is defeating me by five. Grrr!

    • Jane
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Finally got there! 11a & 2d were my last ones in and I confess to never arriving at the parsing for the latter.
      Second definition of 13a was a new one for me and I didn’t know much about Aussie bin men before today!

      A most enjoyable puzzle – ticks against 1,11,19,27&28a plus 8d with the ‘laurel wreath’ for 16d.
      Thank you, Firefly – and thanks also to Bufo for pointing out the flipping obvious at 2d!

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Parsing 2d is what gave us most problems. We had the right answer and the best we came up with was taking peaks to mean alternate letters and starting with the S in Alsatian we found the answer in the clue. This however left ‘soft the’ stranded. It is so bloomin’ obvious now, how did we miss it. A good challenge and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Firefly and Bufo.

  9. dutch
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    2d – interesting using peaks for first letters in a down clue.

    18a I really didn’t like clueing a cheese with the town/region it comes from!

    13a, i suspect these two definitions of accrue, though apparently opposite, are closely related and hence the double definition is potentially suspect – to make the clue work better for me, I convinced myself it might be a cryptic definition (albeit against high odds)

    Thank you bufo for moving 1a into corporal punishment for me, I was concerned that we had a school of fish thing going on and the poor fish was executing some kind of swimming stroke.

    I liked 12a, most of 21a (I liked the start but didn’t like “within” that much) and 27a (Ms Fitzgerald – I had the very good fortune of seeing her perform live in the scenic ruins of Baalbek, Lebanon, quite some time ago)

    Many thanks Firefly and Bufo

    • Jane
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Hi Dutch,
      With 13a – a couple of the definitions I came across were ‘spring’ and ‘flow’ – I thought it might therefore be referring to a waterfall?.
      Not entirely sure why you had an issue regarding ‘within’ at 21a – didn’t it improve the surface?

      • dutch
        Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        if it improves the surface for you, i might well be missing something – i just think it’s odd ending a sentence with within, I can’t imagine saying that so it sounds unnatural to me

        with accrue, i tend to associate this word with something building up over time (like money or accounts, maybe even water), and I imagined the accumulated sum/amount might then “fall to your advantage” (brb), hence more or less the same use of the word – but that is only a suspicion, no evidence, there could well be other meanings – though the thesaurus seems to focus on amassing-type meanings.

        • Jane
          Posted October 29, 2015 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

          What about either ‘beauty coming from within’ or even simply ‘enquire within’.
          Apparently it is derived from the old English word withinnan which means ‘on the inside’.

  10. Expat Chris
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Australians love to shorten words…or lengthen them if they’re short to start with. I hadn’t heard 24D before today but the second definition was easy enough to work out since I have family there and am used to some of the expressions the younger ones use. So if “Afternoon in Australia’ ever turns up in a cryptic clue, remember that in Aussie-speak that’s “Arvo”.

    • dutch
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      When I was 14 I moved from australia to an american school in the middle east. I had to forcibly change my accent so people could understand me

    • Hanni
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      Not that its connected but Arvo Pärt is a favourite minimalist composer of mine.

      Good grief Dutch. I can’t imagine that your accent was that strong?

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      Also found a good Aussie slang dictionary on