Toughie 1515

Toughie No 1515 by Messinae

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ***

I was surprised when I’d finished to see how little time it had taken me. It felt like much longer. The long entries at 15,20,25 and 9 down were quickly written in and were a great help in making progress. There were a couple of unfamiliar words but nothing that held me up for any significant time

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    Cut took effect spanning very little time (6)
BISECT: ‘To cut into two equal parts = ‘took effect’ round an abbreviation for a short interval of time

4a    RSC plot works including high-class Pygmalion perhaps (8)
SCULPTOR: An anagram (works) of RSC PLOT round U (high-class) = Pygmalion’s “occupation”

10a    Aristocrat with sad show on daytime TV (9)
COUNTDOWN: An aristocrat + ‘sad’ = the name of a long-running Channel 4 game show broadcast in the afternoon

11a    Fairy left in danger (5)
PERIL: A fairy in Persian mythology + L (left)

12a    Drunk digger was in front (7)
PICKLED: A tool for breaking ground + ‘was in front’

13a    Express again left large number behind (7)
REDRAFT: ‘Left-wing’ + a large number

14a    Body of law put number in prison (5)
CANON: A 2-letter abbreviation for ‘number’ inside prison

15a/20a/25a    Something heard at Twickenham wows lethargic townies terribly (5,3,5,7)
SWING LOW SWEET CHARIOT: A song sung by rugby supporters at Twickehnam is an anagram (terribly) of WOWS LETHARGIC TOWNIES

18a    Tree from river in Germany (8)
TAMARIND: A river on the Devon-Cornwall border + IN + the IVR letter for Germany

20a    See 15 Across

23a    Stuffed pasta recipe see soaked in garlic dressing (7)
RAVIOLI: R (recipe) + V (vide = see) inside a Provençal garlic-flavoured mayonnaise

25a    See 15 Across

26a    Disease, gruesome mostly, Goons originally introduced (5)
LURGI: A 5-letter word meaning ‘gruesome’ with its last letter removed goes round G (first letter of Goons) to give a dreaded non-specific disease introduced in The Goon Show

27a    Releases hunter set loose (9)
UNTETHERS: An anagram (loose) of HUNTER SET

28a    Pest letting off energy, having pinched female and left (8)
GREENFLY: A garden pest is an anagram (letting off) of ENERGY round F (female) and L (left)

29a    When Parliament’s not working on tax (6)
RECESS: ‘On’ (2) + a tax


1d    What hiker needs to drive away wolves? (8)
BACKPACK: A bag carried by a hiker = ‘to drive away’ + a group of wolves

2d    In due course leading Conservative gets in touch (7)
SOUPÇON: ‘In due course’ goes round ‘leading’ and C (Conservative) to give a touch or very small quantity

3d    A stock of cards collected by agents in Spanish region (9)
CATALONIA: A + the stock of cards remaining after the deal inside the US intelligence service (agents)

5d    Detain narcotic criminal to give evidence against (14)

6d    Fat Greek character wearing hat (5)
LIPID: A fat obtained from bodily tissue = a Greek letter inside a hat

7d    Warplane damaged leading to fuss (7)
TORNADO: A variable-sweep wing combat aircraft = ‘damaged’ + ‘fuss’

8d    Rehearse, with regard to being delayed (6)
RELATE: Rehearse (or recount) = ‘with regard to’ + ‘being delayed’

9d    Bishops in sports ground such as 15, 20, 25 (5,9)
LORDS SPIRITUAL: A London cricket ground + the type of song that the answer to 15, 20, 25 is

16d    Old flame’s covering, stirring male angst (3,6)
GAS MANTLE: A gauze covering that becomes incandescent when heated is an anagram (stirring) of MALE ANGST

17d    Using numerical data I caught out some politicians (8)
STATISTS: Remove IC (I caught) from numerical data to give someone who believes in Government control of social and economic affairs

19d    Unfavourable commercial jingles? (7)
ADVERSE: A commercial + the type of composition that includes the words of most jingles

21d    Baleful look from the vile yes-man (4,3)
EVIL EYE: Hidden in thE VILE YEs-man

22d    Worker has good bit of grub (6)
PROLEG: A member of the poorest labouring class + G (good) = part of an insect larva’s body. I didn’t know the word but it sounded right

24d    Some stars working round carnival site (5)
ORION: ‘Working’ round a South American city where a carnival is held just before Lent every year

It’s very peaceful now. All this week we’ve had builders,plumbers, electricians and plasterers in knocking hell out of the kitchen but they all seem to be on strike today. Wait – the plasterer’s just returned


  1. Gaol
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    A very pleasant not too toughie week so far. Still laughing at the surface of today’s 16 down. An excellent clue

  2. Hanni
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink


    Apparently I’ve lost the ability to find ‘hidden’ answers today. Failed on the back page, failed to see 21d here.

    Quite a lot of this went in smoothly. Like Bufo the long answers helped. I wasn’t familiar with the spelling of 26a but it was fairly clued. 22d was a completely new word but it seemed to work. For whatever reason the NW corner was my last in, although I’m not sure why now.

    Favourite is the 15, 20 & 25a combination. Enjoyable solve.

    Many thanks to Messinae and to Bufo for blogging. You have my sympathies re getting work done. When I did my main bathroom two years ago it never seemed to end. And the extractor fan still sounds like a jet taking off.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 10, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      What with a spider in the en-suite and jets arriving / taking off in your main bathroom (due to a lack of a 3rd strip at Heathrow), where do go to ablute?

      • Hanni
        Posted December 10, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        Ahh yes the great Heathrow debate…is there a fate worse than Heathrow? Yup, Gatwick.

        The spider was dispatched last week after my mother arrived at an unexpected moment when I was on the phone. With much courage, and as I thought of Queen and country, I bravely shoved her into the arachnid infested room with the words, “You deal the bl***y thing, I’m going to sit on the island in the kitchen”!

        And I did.

        • Shropshirelad
          Posted December 10, 2015 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

          I am wine tasting at our local Majestic on Monday evening. I will let you know if anything interesting pops up. Any preferences?

          I think your Mother is very brave and you must be very well-to-do if you have an island in your kitchen. Is it Lindisfarne?

          • Hanni
            Posted December 10, 2015 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

            Oh yes! Need ideas for Christmas/boxing day and stuff for me at any time. Wanting something unusual for Christmas day (red and white). Thanks.

            Would love to have an actual island in my kitchen, with a moat.

            • Shropshirelad
              Posted December 10, 2015 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

              And a drawbridge, of course.

              • Hanni
                Posted December 10, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

                Yeah! I’m going to Google castles for sale.

                • Jane
                  Posted December 10, 2015 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

                  I used to have a yearning for Waterford Castle but discover that it’s now a golfing resort – don’t think I’ll bother putting in an offer after all……

                  • Hanni
                    Posted December 10, 2015 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

                    Nice play on words…putting.

                    • Jane
                      Posted December 10, 2015 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

                      I could admit to it being unintentional – but I won’t.

  3. halcyon
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I loved 26a – which is really an all-in-one clue Also liked the rather cunning 2d.

    Thanks to Messinae and to Bufo for the blog.

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Needed the review to understand the parsing of the parliamentary recess. Didn’t know that tax.
    The song didn’t come to mind at all. Had to wait for the maximum checkers before finally getting it and everything fell into place nicely.
    Thanks to Messinae and to Bufo for the review.

    • Gazza
      Posted December 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      It’s a very forgettable song. England supporters use it as a soporific to send their team to sleep. This worked well during the World Cup.

  5. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    An enjoyable, albeit not over taxing, toughie for a Thursday. Got the 15, 20, 25 straight away but that did not put me off – if ever there was a dirge to drain the spirit from player and spectator – this one takes top place on the podium. It is also one of the reasons I don’t go to many matches at Twickenham. One of the reasons I do go is ‘Miki’s Fish Bar’ on Whitten High Street. Best fish and chips ever.

    Anyway, too many good clues to single out one, so I will just thank Messinae for the puzzle and Bufo for his blog which I will now read.

  6. dutch
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Stuff I really liked and stuff I didn’t

    I was very happy to get the song, I was avoiding it, as I was worried more specialist knowledge would be needed. The 9d was new term to me but couldn’t be anything else. I also liked 28a (pest pinching females), 29a (not working on tax), 16d (old flame with the male angst) and 17d (using numerical data I caught out)

    I also agree 26a is special.

    I really did not like “behind” in 13d, which could be AFT, I think the clue is better without it. Almost liked 23a (miffypops would not) but the “see” isn’t smooth in the surface, I struggle to make it work. I thought 22d was quite hard, with a fairly unusual word for most of the wordplay and an obscure answer. Though technically fine, I wasn’t keen on “releases” and “sets loose” possibly having identical meanings either side of “hunter” in 27d. wasn’t convinced about “drives away” for “back” in 1d.

    A good solve though, and perhaps for the wrong reason the long anagram did (eventually) make me smile a lot, many thanks Messinae, and many thanks bufo for the review

  7. Jane
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Just about to start this one so thought I’d take a quick look at Bufo’s rating first. 2* for difficulty? I’ll let you know later!

    • Jane
      Posted December 10, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Looks as though I am destined to be forever at odds with our ‘call it as you see it’ Brian. I loved today’s back-pager and really didn’t care for this one at all. Waded it through it with much prompting from Mr. Google but only 28a&24d raised a slight smile.

      Thanks and apologies to Messinae and gratitude to Bufo for making me understand, if not appreciate, all the wordplay.

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    When we were in UK last May we were introduced to 10a so this potential stumbling block was not there. 22a was a new word that we had to check in BRB.
    Getting the song starting in 15a quite early on gave heaps of checkers that proved useful. Good level of difficulty and good fun.
    Thanks Messinae and Bufo.

    • 2Kiwis
      Posted December 10, 2015 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Whoops, we meant 22d

  9. Brian
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was an excellent crossword with some real smile clues such as 15,20&25, 10a and 7d. So much better than the dreadful thing produced for today’s back page. So perhaps (!) don’t mind suffering a Ray T when there is a great Toughie like this.
    Thx to all

  10. crypticsue
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Elgar tomorrow

  11. Una
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    I had to look up the meaning of Pygmalion in the BRB, even though it has come up before , though a while ago.I never heard of the disease at 26a, but I wasn’t the most ardent of Goon fans.
    I thought we got a satisfying number of anagrams to get things going.
    Impossible to pick one favourite.I really the surfaces of 1d, 10a, 12a and 21d.
    Thanks Bufo and Messinae.

  12. Drapdor
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    I tried this today and didn’t think it obviously tougher than the back page. I enjoyed it and three clues for the price of one in 15, 20 & 25 helped me to get off to a fairish start. Good clue for an awful song.
    Spotted a couple of things I’ve got used to since starting crosswords – peri , which I remembered, and ‘can’ for prison, which I didn’t.
    ‘Cess’ is new to me, even more retro than ‘lurgi’!
    Thank you to Messinae and Bufo for the hints and review.

  13. Salty Dog
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Not that hard, because I did it in 2* time while watching Worcester play Gloucester in the Challenge Cup, but quite enjoyable. 2*/3* is about right. As a Cornish resident, I’ll go for 18a as favourite. With a ladder and some glasses, as the song goes, I could see the Tamar from here (if it wasn’t for the inconvenient shape of Kit Hill in between). Thanks to Messinae, and to Bufo for the review.

  14. Expat Chris
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    I am in a minority of one here, because i didn’t find it all that easy and in fact I gave up with half a dozen to go and much more pressing things to do, like make mince pies and cook dinner. Maybe my brain is fried from Christmas prep overload on top of work deadlines. Maybe I’m just extra thick today. The review was therefore very much appreciated.

    • Jane
      Posted December 11, 2015 at 12:43 am | Permalink

      Worry not, Chris – you’re in a minority of two. Mr. Google had a lot of work to do in order to get me through this one and I still needed the review to parse quite a few of them.