Toughie 1512

Toughie No 1512 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Dutch

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I struggled with this and by the time I had filled the grid there were many clues left unparsed. Mind you, I did try it after an evening in the pub. In the morning I was able to parse the remaining clues, though when I re-solved the puzzle on paper (useful for making notes), I struggled again and had to consult my online solve for reminders! Writing the review, it’s hard to see what caused all the fuss, but it’s always easier in hindsight. I filled the grid in about one and a half normal Toughie time so that would be 4* for difficulty. This felt like work without too many laughs, but some very interesting clueing going on so 3* for enjoyment.

After last week’s Friday Toughie, a friend bought me some Kendall mint cake for my enlightenment. I’m saving it for when I climb an alp.

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    Number 1 in F key? (5,3)
SHORT CUT: A double definition. Number 1 as may be requested at the barber’s, and what a function key on your computer gives you.

5a    Stand by and accompany? (6)
AFFIRM: a verb meaning to confirm or stand by can also be a stuttered translation of a-c-company

9a    More than one bill to prohibit ties with leader of extremists introduced (9)
BANKNOTES: a 3-letter verb meaning prohibit, plus a word that can refer to the ties in your shoelaces, for example, into which the first letter (leader) of extremists is inserted

11a    Tailors essentially copy line for part of jacket (5)
LAPEL: The central letter of taiLors (essentially), a 3-letter verb meaning copy or mimic, and the abbreviation for Line

12a    Fanciful alternative to tricky agreement (6)
TREATY: Think Halloween, and what the kids say when they come to your door. “fanciful” refers to the adding of the Y.

13a    Dying to have a dig into bank (8)
MORIBUND: Insert a 3-letter verb for have a dig at or tease into a word meaning bank or heap of earth

15a    Set test for doctors (5,8)
GROUP PRACTICE: A 5-letter word for a set, and an 8-letter word for test or drill

18a    Burp mainly held in check by lawman with swelling ribcage? (6-7)
Burp mainly held in check by little man with swelling ribcage? (6-7) – revised clue – see Micawbers comment below
BARREL-CHESTED: A 5-letter word for burp is contained (well, “mainly” contained) in a word meaning “held in check by lawman”. I was worried “held in” might be doing double-duty, what do you think?

22a    Political correctness drowning confused date in nit-picking (8)
PEDANTIC: The abbreviation for Political Correctness contains (drowning) an anagram (confused) of DATE IN

23a    Cool friend confusing head and heart joins group behaving similarly (6)
APLOMB: take a 3-letter word for friend and move the middle letter to the front (confusing head and heart). Then take a 3-letter word for group or gang and do the same.

26a    One’s got hump having turned up late and not had dinner (5)
CAMEL: Take a simple 4-letter verb meaning turned up or arrived, add Late from the clue, then subtract a simple 3-letter verb that means had dinner (or any other meal)

27a    After reversal, Labour’s third in the west with Conservative gaining swing overnight (9)
NOCTURNAL: Labours third in the west equates to the first two letters of Labour, add the 3-letter abbreviation for Conservative, reverse that lot then insert a 4-letter word for swing or rotate

28a    Dundee’s new strip (6)
DENUDE: Anagram (new) of DUNDEE

29a    Spread ash round in country (8)
HONDURAS: Anagram (round) of SPREAD ASH Anagram (spread) of ROUND ASH


1d    Clog mangle regularly to gum up the works? (8)
SABOTAGE: A 5-letter word for clog (as in footwear) plus the even letters of mangle

2d    It’s lightweight getting run out from aggressive delivery, not bowled (5)
OUNCE: Take a 7-letter cricket term for a short-pitched fast delivery bowled so as to bounce and rise sharply off the ground, and remove the abbreviations for Run and Bowled to get a light unit of weight.

3d    Go down to back of shop for knitwear (4,3)
TANK TOP: take a 4-letter slang word meaning to go down or lose (not one I was familiar with), and add to from the clue and the last letter (back) of shoP

4d    Doing  no more than (2,2)
UP TO: double definition, the first as in what are you doing?

6d    Director having left subject of swimming pool confession to the end? (7)
FELLINI: Think of a confession (1,4,2) you might make about a minor swimming pool accident, then move the first word (which is the subject) to the end

7d    Lacking caution, the compiler’s burned up rent, retaining a penny (9)
IMPRUDENT: Think of how you would say “the compiler is” from the setter’s perspective (1’1), add an anagram (burned) of UP RENT into which the old abbreviation for penny (not p) is inserted (retaining)

8d    Complaint of girlfriend dominated by mother (6)
MALADY: A word for girlfriend (as in she’s my ****) underneath (dominated by in a down clue) a 2-letter version of mother

10d    Release valve to allow farmer to enjoy lie-in? (8)
STOPCOCK: To allow a farmer to enjoy a lie in there is a certain farm animal that needs to be prevented from carrying out its early morning routine (4,4)

14d    Trembling in fear, I start to stalk bull (8)
FRIESIAN: Or cow. Anagram (trembling) of IN FEAR I S(talk)

16d    Investigator, loading new ammunition up, shoots (9)
OMBUDSMAN: To get this official appointed to investigate complaints, reverse the abbreviation for N(ew) plus a 4-letter familiar contraction of ammunition, then insert (loading) a word for shoots (the plant kind)

17d    Characters taking chances around globe (8)
ODDBALLS: You can get these eccentric characters by placing a 4-letter word for chances around a 4-letter word for globe or sphere

19d    Embittered sergeant perhaps took charge (7)
RANKLED: The “perhaps” indicates a definition by example, so a sergeant is an example of a position in the military or a ****, then add a 3-letter word meaning took charge or showed the way

20d    Interpret in old money (7)
EXPOUND: A 2-letter prefix meaning old and a unit of money used in our currency

21d    Seasoned Sun journalist acquiring photo (6)
SPICED: The abbreviation for Sun and the abbreviation for a leading journalist surround (acquiring) an informal contraction of a word for photo or image

24d    One possessing depressant drug lost head (5)
OWNER: Remove the first letter (head) of a depressant drug

25d    Dave chose to show repeat (4)
ECHO: And we end with a lurker (to show) hiding in Dave chose

I think my favourite is the swimming pool story (6d), perhaps also because I used to watch every movie I could by this guy. What did you like?

Sorry for the delay but, because of performance problems, it has taken me over 3.5 hours to set up this post.  BD


  1. crypticsue
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I won’t say exactly how ‘difficult’ I found this one as people don’t like it when I do but I do know that I am not alone in finding this easier to solve than the inside back pager.

    I did enjoy myself though so thank you Micawber for the fun and for not including that dratted cat in your clue for 2d. Thanks to Dutch and the long-suffering BD too.

    • F1lbertfox
      Posted December 4, 2015 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      I’d go along with your comment about it being easier than today’s back pager, for I too find it hard to say how difficult or how easy a particular crossword has been to solve without getting my wrist slapped for stating actual times. That said, I completed this one whilst keeping an eye on the progress of cooking our evening meal earlier. For me and maybe because I have neglected the quick crosswords in favour of the cryptic ones recently, I found yesterday’s ‘Quickie’ the most difficult puzzle of all so far this week – that said, I’ve not looked at today’s one yet. Thank you to Micawber, I do enjoy your cluing.

    • dutch
      Posted December 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      gosh – unlike this puzzle, i had no problems at all with the back pager and solved it in record time (admittedly knowing i would need to look things up with it being giovanni).

  2. halcyon
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I found this easier than the last 2 Toughies but enormous fun, with some of Micawber’s usual inventive clues. I particularly liked 23a [the 2 halves behaving similarly] 26 [a bit of a gimme but a lovely surface and nice use of “not had dinner”] 6d [LOL] and despite agreeing that “held” is doing double duty 18a for the “mainly held” thing which works and {I think} is fair enough.

    So – many thanks to Micawber and to Dutch for a great blog.

  3. JonP
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The bottom half of this went in quickly but I was held up in the top and needed a bit of thesaurus assistance to sort it out. I thought it a very clever and witty puzzle and now I can see it’s a Micawber all is clear.. Cheers to Dutch and Micawber

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    My little moan yesterday about the lack of subtilities was rewarded by this little jewel from Micawber.
    Loved the halloween connection in 12a and the morning call in 10d.
    6d made me think of this new little series shown on France2.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Dutch for managing to post his great review.

  5. JB
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    The top left corner defeated me. 1a was clever. i do wish I remembered to use the “f” keys on my computer! I also wish this site was more user friendly – so slow at times and I hate being timed out.

    • RogBrown
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Me too. The site seems to take forever to load lately.

      • Posted December 5, 2015 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Welcome to the blog Rog

        • RogBrown
          Posted December 6, 2015 at 8:33 am | Permalink

          Thanks BD but I’ve posted here before. Was it under a different name or email address?

          • Posted December 6, 2015 at 9:28 am | Permalink

            Looks like you’ve switched from talktalk to gmail – probably a sensible move!

  6. Hanni
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 5:56 pm | Permalink


    Gosh. Took four goes to finally finish this. 4! Think that’s a record for me. Don’t think my head was in a solving place. But what a pleasure. Loved it.
    A lot was bunged in parsed later.

    Stars by 9 clues but thought 12a was delicious. Clue of the day.

    So many thanks to Micawber for a great puzzle and to Dutch for your usual great blog. Another outstanding picture for 3d. I did wonder what you’d come up with when that clue went in.

  7. Gazza
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Superb puzzle from Micawber, easily the most entertaining Toughie of the week for me. Thanks to him and to Dutch for the review (and to BD for persevating so long to get it posted).

  8. Expat Chris
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I agree with CS and others. For my money, this was easier than the back-pager ( which I have yet to finish). I did need the blog to fully understand the parsing for a couple, though. Several contenders for favorite, including 5A, 11A, 6D and 10D. Thanks to Micawber for a fun puzzle to end the week, and to Dutch for the review. And a bouquet, yet again, to BD for overcoming those pesky performance problems. You’re a star!

    • Hanni
      Posted December 4, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      Indeed Chris. Well done to BD too.

  9. Jane
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I suppose it’s horses for courses – as ever. I didn’t really have a problem with the back-pager today but found this one very hard going. Into 5* territory and the 3* for enjoyment is definitely retrospective.
    1a gave me endless trouble – I leave F keys well alone, other than the ones that control volume and don’t have much to do with male haircuts although I thought the very short one was called a ‘grade 1’? This left me with some hard work to get 2&4d.
    Needed Dutch’s help to fully parse 5,15&23a.

    Podium hosts 12a plus 6d with 10d taking the honours.

    Thanks to Micawber – apologies for taking so long to get onto your wavelength – and many thanks to Dutch for persevering to deliver the much needed explanations. Just the odd point about the pics:- 3d is doubtless more appealing to look at but definitely doesn’t scream ‘knitwear’! The lady in 6d looks to have ‘waded in’ rather than ‘fallen in’ (far too cool and collected) and shouldn’t 14d depict a male of the species? Only ‘having a go’ Dutch – I seriously appreciated your hard work.

    • Posted December 4, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      I think you’ll find that the picture in 6d is Anita Ekberg taking a dip in the Trevi Fountain in Federico Fellini’s iconic movie La Dolce Vita

      • Jane
        Posted December 4, 2015 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

        In that case she definitely didn’t fall in – more likely carried in, accompanied by make-up artist, hairdresser and costumier!

    • dutch
      Posted December 4, 2015 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      I agree in the sense that knitwear was not a perfect definition for the answer (and I did say “or cow”)

      • Jane
        Posted December 4, 2015 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        Not to worry, Dutch – it was still a great picture and I’m sure much appreciated!
        However, I can’t go along with the ‘cow’. Trembled=cowered is fair enough but trembling=cow doesn’t work.

        • dutch
          Posted December 5, 2015 at 1:52 am | Permalink

          the definition is bull, but cow would work as well

  10. happy days
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Good puzzle but I agree that, in 18a, ‘held in check’ is doing double duty Also, I can’t work the first letter B into the parsing Maybe I’m missing something?

    • Jane
      Posted December 4, 2015 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Hi HD,
      The word for ‘burp’ – ‘belch’ is MAINLY held in check by the ‘lawman’ – ‘arrester’. The ‘b’ has escaped and remains at the front of the answer.

      • Jane
        Posted December 4, 2015 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

        Just thought – that means that Dutch has underlined too many words for the definition. That’ll teach him not to blog after a night out on the tiles.

        • dutch
          Posted December 5, 2015 at 1:57 am | Permalink

          think again….

          • Jane
            Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:40 am | Permalink

            Sorry, Dutch – not the words you’ve underlined, just the ones that you put inside the inverted commas.

            • dutch
              Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

              yes, that had me worried – i would welcome alternative parsings (actually I solicited these by email but people agreed with the review)

              i think it has to be “arrested”

  11. neveracrossword
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Dutch, for 29a, I think you mean: Anagram (spread) of ASH ROUND.
    Thanks for all the hints.

    • Jane
      Posted December 4, 2015 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      Good heavens – well spotted. Just goes to show that you see what you expect to see!

    • dutch
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      yes, thanks, you are completely right, and it is what i meant – sorry for any confusion

  12. Micawber
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the blog and all your comments. The clue to 18ac, as many of you noted, was deficient, as a result of a cock-up between setter and editor. It has now been changed on the website to “Burp mainly held in check by man with swelling ribcage?” BELCH is mainly held in ARREST by a little man named ED.
    Bull could of course just as well have been cow.
    The pic from La Dolce Vita is perfect, makes me wish I’d worked that scene into the clue! But the tank top has me confused – to me it will always be a sleeveless pullover like this…
    … but Google image search also pulls up lots of tight vests (singlets). Is it a transatlantic difference?

    • dutch
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Macabre thanks for dropping in, that is always highly appreciated. I don’t know the reason people think of different tank tops, but after looking at your picture I consider myself fortunate. Thanks for a great puzzle. I was certainly not criticising bull in the clue, merely defending the image, and I’m pleased I wasn’t completely off the wall in worrying about 18a – it read so smoothly we’re not surprised it slipped through.
      best wishes

      • crypticsue
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Don’t you just love autocorrect ?

      • Jane
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        OK – either you’re taking a ‘pop’ at our illustrious setter or relying on predictive text.
        Either way – thanks for your comment ‘never’ although I suspect it has more to do with the fact that you’d never actually say it rather than that you’d never think it! Can’t say that I’d blame you for the latter but at least you know that some of us actually read those carefully crafted reviews.

  13. Micawber
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, 18ac as amended reads: “Burp mainly held in check by little man with swelling ribcage?”

    • Jane
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Finally, I’m ‘with the programme’. Thank you, Micawber. At least I tried – doubtless Dutch would say that I can be very, very trying at times!

      • dutch
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink