Toughie 1526

Toughie No 1526 by Micawber

That Was The Year That Was (Yet Again)

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

I think this is the first time I’ve had to blog one of Micawber’s annual reviews of the year and what a pleasure it is. It wasn’t particularly difficult but it contains lots to admire. I’ll have to make the most of it because it will be another 5 years before December 31 falls on a Thursday again

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    Destroyed, Miliband trails Right as … (5)
RASED: Miliband’s first name follows R (right) AS

4a    … leader’s character shown in monumental error? (9)
HEADSTONE: A leader + ‘S + character = a giant slab like the one inscribed with Labour’s six election pledges

9a    Labour leader not for closure in steel town (5)
CORBY: Remove the last letter from the surname of the leader of the Labour Party to give a Northamptonshire town associated with the steel industry

10a    Pollster’s report wrong? Get out of here! (6,3)
GALLOP OFF: A homophone (report) of a company specialising in public opinion polls + ‘wrong’

11a    Assertion from car manufacturer found to be empty? (3)
VOW: A German car manufacturer goes round O (nothing)

12a    America and Cuba entered into reform to restore beginnings of links unexpectedly in about-turn (5,6)
ALTER COURSE: A (America) + C (Cuba) inside an anagram (reform to) of RESTORE L U (first letters of Links Unexpectedly) = ‘to about-turn’

13a    Motorists’ hit Top Gear to finish after run (4-3)
REAR-END: ‘To run into the back of another car’ = R (run) + GEAR topped (i.e. with the first letter removed ) + ‘to finish’

14a    Deny official EU backing for intervention by leader of Tories (6)
REFUTE: An official in a football game + a reversal of EU round T (first letter of Tories)

16a    Observe soldiers leaving Yemen after midpoint of ceasefire (3)
EYE: E (middle letter of ceasefire) + YEMEN with MEN (soldiers) removed

17a    Takes soundings from doctors after further strikes end (6)
PLUMBS: An abbreviation denoting ‘doctors’ follows ‘further’ with the last letter removed (struck)

19a    Dentist initially is to take Cecil’s head on American ship, causing debate (7)
DISCUSS: The first letter of Dentist + IS + the first letter of Cecil + letters that precede the names of US ships

23a    Historic gathering on planet tackling international description of rapid rise (11)
EXPONENTIAL: A prefix meaning ‘former’ + an anagram (gathering) of ON PLANET round I (international)

26a    Whistle-blower will need this as part of appeal (3)
PEA: Part of a whistle is hidden in apPEAl

27a    Payment axed? With critics in majority, revised after short time (3,6)
TAX CREDIT: An anagram (revised) of AXED CRIT (most of CRITics) after T (short time)

28a    Band of Lib Dem MPs? (5)
OCTET: A band with the same number of members as there are Lib Dem MPs

29a    Poor old Special One sacked, having failed (9)
COLLAPSED: An anagram (poor) of OLD SPECAL, i.e. SPECIAL with I removed (or sacked)

30a    Transport almost half of refugees heading west on railway (5)
FERRY: A reversal of the first 3 letters of REFugees + an abbreviation for railway


1d    Write new story on dog fed drug before start of Crufts (7)
RECOVER: A traditional name for a dog goes round E (drug) and C (first letter of Crufts)

2d    Crazy twist — Ed (the other one)’s finally lost (9)
SCREWBALL: ‘To twist’ + the surname of a former Labour MP called Ed with the last letter removed

3d    Nursing and changing starts for Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, acclaimed young royal arrival (3,4)
DAY CARE: An anagram (changing) of CEDAYRA (first letters of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Acclaimed Young Royal Arrival

4d    Elevated temperature initially indicated alongside Desmond as things causing floods? (4,5)
HIGH TIDES: ‘Elevated’ + T (temperature) + I (first letter of Indicated) + a short form of Desmond

5d    Increasingly smart to have bag, mostly, when coming up to seller? Not half (5)
ABLER: A reversal of the first two letters of BAg + the second half of the word selLER

6d    Doctor Who’s gone to air (4,3)
SHOW OFF: An anagram (doctor) of WHOS + ‘gone’

7d    Leader of organisation with grim repute (5)
ODOUR: O (first letter of organisation) + ‘grim’

8d    Towering symbol upholding rudiments of liberty, equality, fraternity France’s inhabitants express (6)
EIFFEL: A reversal of the first letters of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity France’s Inhabitants Express

14d    Was leaning to the left, formerly in danger of extinction? (3-6)
RED-LISTED: ‘Left-wing’ + ‘was leaning’ = ‘on an inventory of threatened species’

15d    Brassy performer, would-be candidate next year with odds slashed (9)
TRUMPETER: A performer on a brass instrument = the surname of a US presidential hopeful + the even letters of nExT yEaR

18d    Cameron unwinding in Mediterranean island (7)
MENORCA: An anagram (unwinding) of CAMERON

20d    Disposed of first of funds after terrible floods (4,3)
SOLD OFF: F (first letter of Funds) follows an anagram (terrible) of FLOODS

21d    With intelligence, we snapped Mars wetly running (7)
SMARTLY: An anagram (running) of MARS TLY, i.e. MARS WETLY less WE

22d    ‘Rotten Blatter’ — almost habitual response (6)
SEPTIC: The first letter of the former FIFA president with the last letter removed + a habitual response

24d    Element of digital content — photos with lord inhaling drug (5)
PIXEL: Photos + E (drug) + L (lord)

25d    Newspaper boss intervening over revealing pictures (5)
NUDES: A reversal of a tabloid newspaper round ED (the boss of a newspaper)

A Happy New Year to one and all


  1. crypticsue
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Splendid treat, thank you Micawber

    thanks to lucky Bufo too. I ‘d love to have blogged this one

  2. andy
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Super stuff. Agree with the ratings. Thanks to Micawber and Bufo

  3. Sarah
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t often have time to any crosswords in the week but really enjoyed this one. It made me think without being ridiculously hard! Thanks to the setter and to Buffo for the hints which helped me parse one or two. Happy New Year to you all

  4. Conrad Cork
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Astonishing coverage of the year in clues and answers. (And some implied barbed judgements in places.) Bufo’s ratings are spot on, although if enjoyment could go higher than five I would happily upgrade.

    I have commended this puzzle in another place, and hope it leads people here.

    Thanks to BD (er big thanks I think that should be) and all who make this the great place it is.

    Here’s to another year of the best way to waste time. :-)

  5. Expat Chris
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I loved it! Very doable, even for a non resident. Keeping up with the UK news on-line does help. The only ‘name’ I needed to check was in 22D. I confess to 15D being my favorite. The surface reading is spot on. 19A was also particularly clever. Many thanks to Micawber and to Bufo for the blog.

    Happy New Year to all!

  6. Jane
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Clever Micawber – what an excellent and wry look at the events of 2015. An extra thank you for making it fall within the competency range of some of us lesser mortals!
    I think that only the full parsing of 17a had left me a little in the dark – thank you, Bufo, for pointing out that I wasn’t looking for a word for ‘struck’.
    Couldn’t possibly pick a favourite – immense enjoyment from the entire puzzle and a good 5* on that count.
    A very happy New Year to Micawber, Bufo and all today’s Toughie solvers.

  7. dutch
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Some clever stuff here – 28a made me laugh (band of Lib dem mp’s) and I was well impressed with 27a (payment axed). I very much liked 17d and 13a, 22d and 25d. I did think that a few of the clues seemed an engineering feat with much dependence on single letters (e.g. Cecil’s story in 19a), but all worth it to get the topical surface and contributing to the fun of an end of year puzzle.

    Many thanks Micawber, not only for this but for a great year of superb and entertaining puzzles.

    And many thanks Bufo for the review.

  8. stanXYZ
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to the Cluesmith.

    In future I must read the news in the newspaper … rather than just doing the crosswords

  9. Warbler
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    New Year greetings to all who contribute to Big Dave’s blog.

    • crypticsue
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Happy New Year to you too Warbler.

    • Jane
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Nice to hear from you, Warbler. Many thanks for your delightful puzzles and a very happy New Year to you.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Happy New Year to you as well

    • Hanni
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Happy new year to you too Warbler!

  10. Kath
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    What a brilliant crossword.
    I needed the hint to explain why, or even if, my 28a was right.
    I liked 11 and 19a and 3 and 15d.
    With thanks and Happy New Year wishes to Micawber and to Bufo.

  11. the dodger
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful stuff,too many great clues to single any out,many thanks to Micawber and all the other setters solvers and bloggers, a very happy new year to all.

  12. Micawber
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for all your kind comments – Dutch @7 is quite right, it’s hard to make it all topical without ending up with a lot of single-letter references, so I allow myself (and my editor allows me!) a little more latitude in that department than usual.
    Happy New Year Big Dave and the Bloggers!

    • Posted December 31, 2015 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for popping in.

      Happy New Year.

      Looking forward to seeing you on Only Connect next Monday.

    • Hanni
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      Happy new year Micawber and thanks for the puzzles this year. Looking forward to this one a lot.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for popping in Micawber – have a great New Year and hope to see you and the team progressing in Only Connect.

    • dutch
      Posted December 31, 2015 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for dropping in Micawber – you’ve made my day

  13. Shropshirelad
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Clever, clever stuff and what a delight to solve. Can’t say much more than that (I could but I’d go on forever)

    Thanks to Micawber for this and all his other puzzles throughout the year – may they keep on coming. Thanks also to the rest of the toughie setters who have kept me mad, sane, delighted, frustrated etc…. all in equal order.

    Last but not least – well done to all the reviewers for their professionalism in explaining just what a tough crossword is all about. I think I’m correct in saying that there are now a few more commenters on this ‘ side’ of the site than at the beginning of the year – and that’s down to you.

    I wish you all a Happy & Prosperous New Year – see you in 2016

  14. Paso Doble
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    We will be celebrating in Camden Town tonight! Not because of the last day of the year and the beginning of a new one but the fact that we’ve finished three toughies in a row. The mistletoe and Champagne will be brought out for that purpose only.
    Thanks to Micawber for an excellent puzzle and to Bufo for an equally excellent review.

    Happy New Year to all on the blog.

  15. 2Kiwis
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Excellent stuff. We always approach these with some trepidation as we don’t follow UK news closely. As it turned out the only one that held us up, and would be a ‘r and w’ for most people, was 9a where we did not know the town. Good fun and much appreciated.
    Thanks Micawber and Bufo.

  16. Gazza
    Posted December 31, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely superb – Thanks and Happy New Year to Micawber and Bufo.
    My favourite is the splendid 15d.

  17. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 1, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    This is the only crossword I have been able to look at over the the last couple of days.
    Not helped by having access to a printer that refused to print the black squares in the grid.
    Looked like an Enigmatic variation.
    Took me forever but finally managed to finish.
    Didn’t get all the references but the clueing was limpid.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Bufo for the review.
    Welcome to 2016. I noticed that I was quite chatty last year. Never realised I posted so many comments. I’m usually so shy…..not!

  18. Kitty
    Posted January 1, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Awesome, splendiferous and superb.

    I savoured this over a few sittings but managed it all until when one remained (17a) I offered it to Mr K who swiftly filled in the remaining holes. A lovely way to finish.

    Thanks to Micawber and Bufo.

  19. judetheobscure
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks first, to whoever it was on the back pager who directed us across to the Toughie. Much fun was had along with great pleasure at completing it.
    How clever is Micawber? What a great puzzle. Thanks also to bufo for filling in some gaps in my parsing.
    A 3*/5* for me with 22d my favourite and 28a affording a chuckle.