Toughie 1510

Toughie No 1510 by Firefly

Let them eat Cake

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

I thought that the down clues here were easier than the acrosses so those who always start with the downs had a bit of an advantage.

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

8a/9a/10a Self-important — like the Sun, perhaps? (4,3,6)
HIGH AND MIGHTY – two attributes that could apply to the sun (the star that is, not the tabloid in spite of the false capitalisation).

9a See 8a

10a See 8a

11a Exercise clout about charities lacking resolution (3,3)
T’AI CHI – an anagram (clout about) of CHA[r]ITI[es] once you’ve subtracted the abbreviation for resolution.

12a Treasure — Henri nefariously stashes part to keep quiet (8)
ENSHRINE – a lurker with a twist. Once you’ve extracted the required letters you have to insert (keep) the usual exhortation to be quiet.

13a Drug in scales turning me cold; inform party person (7,8)
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT – insert the abbreviation for the drug ecstasy into the astrological sign meaning scales, add an anagram (turning) of ME COLD and finish with a verb to inform or sing.

15a Convert about to take up chair in Cambridge, perhaps? (7)
VARSITY – a verb to convert or adjust contains a verb to take up or occupy a chair.

17a Queen’s on second retreat — check? (7)
SNOOKER – our Queen’s regnal cipher follows the abbreviation for second and a retreat or hidey-hole.

20a Pole’s band put by standard retrospective fee for disputatious associate (8,7)
SPARRING PARTNER – this is a charade of a pole or bar, a band or disc, a standard or norm and the reversal of a fee or periodic payment. I like ‘disputatious associate’.

23a Choppers sometimes offered in exchange for benefit? (8) [3,5 in the paper]
EYETEETH – there’s a saying “I’d give my *** *****” for something – meaning that I’d put up with a lot of pain to get it. Chambers and other dictionaries have the answer as two words (3,5) so the enumeration in the paper is better.

25a Greyfriars Bob‘s new ball? (6)
CHERRY – this is a very neat clue. The surface is about Greyfriars Bobby, a very loyal little doggy with his own statue in Edinburgh. The two definitions relate to a) the surname of Bob, the classmate of Billy Bunter at the fictional Greyfriars school, and b) a slang term used in cricket for a brand new shiny red ball.

26a/27a/28a Inserting of false drops in last account (6,3,4)
PROFIT AND LOSS – insert OF into an anagram (false) of DROPS IN LAST. I don’t know what the surface means.

27a See 26a

28a See 26a

Down Clues

1d Festival‘s uplifting part of Hindi law, I daresay (6)
DIWALI – hidden and reversed in the clue.

2d They scrutinise  those on board (8)
CHECKERS – double definition, the second what North Americans call the pieces in the board game that we call draughts.

3d Termination at extremes of extravagance ordained for her? (5,10)
MARIE ANTOINETTE – an anagram (ordained, i.e. ordered) of TERMINATION AT and the outer letters of E(xtravaganc)E.

4d Snake’s short and twisted appendages (7)
ADDENDA – a small snake without its last letter (short) is followed by an anagram (twisted) of AND.

5d America’s inspirational lady servants surprisingly traced going round a gambling haunt (9,6)
AMUSEMENT ARCADE – string together a single-letter abbreviation for America, an inspirational goddess, a word for servants and an anagram (surprisingly) of TRACED containing A.

6d Stove’s on … cereal shortly, and mushroom (6)
AGARIC – the proprietary name of a large stove is followed by a type of cereal without its last letter.

7d Blow potty over (4)
STUN – an old chestnut but amusingly worded. Reverse an adjective meaning potty or bonkers.

14d Catcher regularly dropped hotshot (3)
ACE – drop regular letters from catcher.

16d Reptile decapitated insect (3)
ASP – cut the top letter off a stinging insect.

18d Honestly inclined, in private (2,3,3)
ON THE SLY – an anagram (inclined, in the sense of deviated) of HONESTLY.

19d Loaf topped with protein source for the brain (7)
EGGHEAD – what loaf is Cockney rhyming slang for is preceded by a food rich in protein.

21d Endorse note slipped into fliers yesterday (first thing) (6)
RATIFY – insert a note from tonic sol-fa into our flying servicemen and finish with the first letter of yesterday.

22d Birds short of time gaining seconds as leaving (6)
EGRESS – starts with types of heron, take away the T(ime) and replace it with S(econds).

24d The solver’s spoken long ago (4)
YORE – this sounds like a possessive adjective relating to the solver (from the setter’s viewpoint). I don’t like clues like this where a checking letter is needed to show which bit of the clue is the definition and which the wordplay.

Top of the charts for me today is 25a with 3d a close second. Which one(s) appealed to you?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The newspaper clue for 23a has 3,5 rather than 8

    • Gazza
      Posted December 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. It always mystifies me how the paper version can be more up-to-date then the online one.

  2. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Super fun – I’ve not had so many laughs and ‘Aha’ moments in one puzzle for such a long time. Loved decrypting the 4 long clues and virtually every clue after that. Difficult to name a winner but I think I will pick 3d as well.

    Thanks to Firefly for a really good puzzle and to Gazza for his review.

  3. dutch
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Phew, I found this hard, took me ages and needed pen and paper. Didn’t do myself any favours by suspecting a cricket clue in 7d and entering bowl, though I guess that doesn’t make good cricket sense. Took a while to get the long clues from checkers then work out the parsing – in retrospect I should have seen 3d much earlier – and what a lovely clue that is.

    Then I tried to use a single-letter abbreviation for resolution (which I don’t think exists), and I even tried chequers spelled wrongly which made a real mess of 11a.

    I was proud of getting 25a, noting the answer is in BD’s comprehensive list of cricket terms under the FEATURES tab – a rather fiendish clue I thought, I had to google bob ******, billy bunter rings a bell but I don’t remember any characters, and I missed the surface…

    I know about giving right arms, but 23a is a new one for me.

    Missed the anagram in 18d and was hoping it wasn’t “on the job”

    I really liked 17a, 15a, 11a, 12a and the long ones (once I got them). Many thanks Firefly for the workout and thanks Gazza for an excellent review

  4. Gilbert
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    The answer to 17a is also the answer in the most recent Clue Writing Contest in the Sunday Times. Has Firefly entered?

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 2, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      I noticed that as well – knowing Mr Biddlecombe, he’d probably find fault with it.

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I did everything without help except 23A, though it wasn’t that fast a solve. I dragged my mind back decades to work out that 23D was something to do with Billy Bunter’s school (was that the Beano or the Dandy?) rather than the faithful dog and googled Greyfriars. That gave me the answer, but I couldn’t relate it to new balls. I think 2D might raise an eyebrow or two in certain solver quarters. Loved 3D. So clever, and my runaway favorite. Many thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the review, that I will read in detail later.

  6. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed the constructions where you need to pick letters here and there to build the answer.
    Was defeated by 25a. I smelt a rat when I saw Bob instead of Bobby but couldn’t get any further.
    Although 5d is quite a long clue, it is my favourite.
    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the review.

  7. Hanni
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink


    Blimey I found that hard. And what a treat for a midweek Toughie. Absolutely loved picking apart the wordplay/anagrams of the 4 long central clues. I got the answer to 12a and then worked out the hidden bit, very clever. 25a was my last in by a long shot. Gosh I struggled with that.

    Still don’t get the surface of 26a?

    Many thanks to Firefly for a great puzzle and to Gazza for a great blog.

  8. Una
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Not too bad , though 25a completely defeated me.I liked all the 15 letter clues , 8/9/10, and 23a and quite a few others.
    Thanks Firefly and Gazza.

  9. Kath
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I found that really difficult and didn’t quite finish it – didn’t even manage to untangle the reasoning for some of the answers that I did manage “all my own self”.
    I liked 23a and 16 and 19d.
    With thanks to Firefly for the crossword and to gazza for the very much needed help.

  10. JonP
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Pretty tricky stuff but thoroughly enjoyable to sort out. I thought it apt that Cherry is also rhyming slang for dog re: 25ac. Thanks to Gazza and Firefly.

  11. KiwiColin
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    25a defeated me. A bit of background knowledge needed that I did not have but agree that it is a great clue now that I see the explanation. A lot of fun and much enjoyed.
    Thanks Firefly and Gazza.

  12. JB
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Just beaten by two sports questions – 17a and 25a. Had completely forgotten Billy Bunter – did I ever know him not being a reader of boy’s fiction? Had “snooper” for 17a. I should have switched on the television!

  13. Gazza
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Beam tomorrow.

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted December 2, 2015 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Not so loud!
      I can already hear the groupies.

      • Jane
        Posted December 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

        Can’t think what you mean.

    • Kath
      Posted December 2, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    • Hanni
      Posted December 2, 2015 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      I always struggle when he’s Beam. Hopefully not tomorrow.

      • crypticsue
        Posted December 2, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        As it is a Thursday toughie, why not try pretending it is just a Ray T?

        • Kath
          Posted December 2, 2015 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          I wish . . .

        • Hanni
          Posted December 2, 2015 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

          Ohh good idea. Thanks CS.

      • Expat Chris
        Posted December 2, 2015 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

        Depends on whether its a Sunbeam or a Death Star Annihilator Beam. Still, I think I’ll print it out this evening EST and maybe see if I can get a bit of a head’s start over a relaxing glass or two.

        Is it Beam who never has anagrams?

        • Gazza
          Posted December 2, 2015 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

          He occasionally includes one.

  14. Salty Dog
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Great fun: 2/3* difficulty and 4* enjoyment. I had lots of little ticks against likely top clues, but in the end will plump for 11a. VVMTs to Firefly, and to Gazza.

  15. Jane
    Posted December 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t have chance to look at this one until late evening and with about 8 answers in began to doubt that I’d ever get through it. It certainly took some time but what an enjoyable tussle along the way.
    Without the ‘C’ as a checker, I doubt that I’d ever have got 25a – my knowledge of cricket is minimal and I know even less about Billy Bunter!
    Favourite? Impossible to choose between the four long ones so I’ll give the bouquet to 23a for providing the biggest smile.
    Many thanks to Firefly for the challenge and to the knight in shining armour for telling me how I should have worked some of them out!

    Did someone mention Beam for tomorrow?!!!