Toughie 1538

Toughie No 1538 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Bufo

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

It was a surprise to discover that I’d got another Micawber Thursday puzzle so soon after his New Year’s Eve effort but I’m not complaining. It was another enjoyable puzzle that was not too difficulty

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    I’m replacing intro and finale of Lennon’s imagine in remix — they’re bound to complain! (7,7)
MOANING MINNIES: An anagram (in remix) of IM ENNON’S IMAGIN (i.e. LENNON’S IMAGINE with I and M replacing the first and last letters)

9a    Comment describing crack case dismissed for lack of evidence (2,5)
NO TRACE: A comment round RAC (CRACK with the first and last letters removed)

10a    What’s blooming neat browsing aid? (7)
COWSLIP: The bloomer is a common yellow wild flower. When split (3’1,3) it could be a neat browsing aid if you remember that neat is another word for cattle

11a    Look out, it’s booby-trapped — earth’s been moved! (4)
MIND: Remove E (earth) from a word meaning ‘booby-trapped (with an explosive charge)’

12a    Swimmer who takes radical pictures? (3,7)
RED SNAPPER: The swimmer is a type of fish common off the east coast of America. It is made up of ‘radical’ + someone who takes photos

14a    Increasingly dull / subject (6)
MATTER: 2 meanings: the comparative form of an adjective of an adjective meaning ‘having a dull surface’/subject

15a    Public relations giants sponsor leader’s advance (8)
PROGRESS: The abbreviation for ‘public relations’ + giants + the first letter (or leader) of Sponsor

17a    Finally Noah with ship taking on board disheartened woolly animal producing guarantee of pedigree (8)
HALLMARK: The last letter of NoaH + his vessel round a South American woolly animal with the middle letter removed

18a    Fire allowed to take off (3,3)
LET FLY: ‘To fire’ = ‘allowed’ + ‘to take off’

21a    Villain‘s gender role (10)
MALEFACTOR: The masculine gender + ‘role’

22a    Piece of drainpipe / that’s over a foot (4)
SHOE: 2 meanings: the short bent part at the bottom of a downpipe that directs water away from the wall/something worn on the foot

24a    Boat almost lost, with unstable load (7)
GONDOLA: A Venetian boat= ‘lost’ with the last letter removed + an anagram (unstable) of LOAD

25a    Bound to have faith in audience (7)
TRUSSED: ‘Bound (in a bundle)’ is a homophone of @to have faith in’

26a    Sow border with input from water in the clouds? (14)
SCATTERBRAINED: ‘To sew’ + ‘border’ round water that falls from the sky = ‘incapable of sustained attention or thought’


1d    Car’s quiet at least (7)
MINIMUM: A small car + ‘quiet’

2d    Labour planning session — a tactical Lenin moves to embrace faction on the right (9,6)
ANTENATAL CLINIC: An anagram (moves) of A TACTICAL LENIN round N (last letter or the right of factioN). The labour is that which precedes childbirth

3d    Country held up by revolutionaries (4)
IRAN: Hidden in reverse in revolutioNARIes

4d    Mark, it’s said, was showing signs of aging (6)
GREYED: A homophone of a mark

5d    Pieces of ivory guarded by canines that bite! (8)
INCISORS: A cryptic definition of some of your teeth

6d    What emerged after teething troubles perhaps was in vanguard of the ultramodern (10)
NEWFANGLED: ‘What emerged after teething troubles perhaps’ (3,4) + ‘was in vanguard’

7d    See fun hotel pics displayed that may delight the world? (7,2,3,3)
ECLIPSE OF THE SUN: An anagram (displayed) of SEE FUN HOTEL PICS

8d    Football team taking on lowest in division’s rejects (6)
SPURNS: The shortened form of the name of the London football team that Big Dave supports goes round N (last letter of divisioN)

13d    ‘Curly Locks, Curly Locks’, street rime? (10)
PERMAFROST: An artificial curl in hair + a hairstyle with thick bushy curls + the abbreviation for ‘street’ = frozen subsoil

16d    Count on cut in pay meaning ruin (8)
WRECKAGE: ‘To count’ with ON removed (or cut) inside ‘pay’

17d    Expression of surprise over wise man’s tribute (6)
HOMAGE: An interjection expressing surprise + a wise man (one of three)

19d    Captivated by batting eyelid, lad finally succumbed (7)
YIELDED: The last letter of laD inside an anagram (batting) of EYELID

20d    Excessive to plunge into centre in jacuzzi? (3,3)
HOT TUB: A three-letter abbreviation denoting ‘excessive’ inside ‘centre’

23d    Wild cat has father admitting some doubt (4)
PUMA: Father goes round an interjection used when a speaker is in doubt

How long can this level of Thursday puzzles be maintained?


  1. halcyon
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Almost faultless and great fun as always from Micawber with plenty of clever wordplay and cunning definitions.
    Favourites were 2d [superbly cryptic definition] 7d [ditto de-light the world] 13d [how fortunate that rime can have the 2 meanings] and 16d [count on cut]. My only doubt is 21a – does anyone have an example of role = factor?

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Bufo for the blog.

  2. Jane
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this one every bit as much as Micawber’s NYE contribution – and certainly found it relatively straightforward. Just two parsing problems – 17a where I was using the wrong ‘A’ for the boat and 3d where I missed the lurker.
    Really hard to pick a favourite from so many excellent contenders but I’ll give the nod to 6d.

    Many thanks indeed, Micawber, and thank you, Bufo, for sorting out those bits of parsing for me. :good:

  3. jean-luc cheval
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    As Bufo never adds illustrations, I had a mental picture of a bovine munching grass in 10a. Made me laugh. But again, I’m in such a good mood, everything makes me laugh.
    Pretty straightforward with some old chestnuts like 21a.
    Last one was the homophone in 4d.
    Favourite is the other homophone in 25a.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Bufo for the review.

    • Hanni
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      You had an image of a cow eating grass? I’ve no idea what to make of that!

  4. Shropshirelad
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Thoroughly enjoyable albeit at the easier end of Micawber’s spectrum – which makes me think I’ve probably missed something. Anybody out there noticed anything? Loved 6 & 13d for the humour and just about every other clue for the masterly construction and surfaces – 2 & 7d spring to mind.

    Thanks to Micawber for a great puzzle and to Bufo for his review.

    If you’re both at the bash next weekend I’ll stand you a beer.

  5. Gazza
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I thought that this was a bit easier than usual from Micawber (although I had to cross out my first attempt (HOSE) for 22a) but as superbly entertaining as ever. Thanks to him and Bufo. My co-favourites were 6d, 7d and 13d.

    • dutch
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      i also had HOSE.

  6. Hanni
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Found this a bit easier than other Micawber puzzles, that’s not to say that I found it easy.

    I did find it very funny and clever. Didn’t know about the piece of drainpipe in 22a but it was the only word that fit. It took me an age to figure out the anagram for 1a and couldn’t parse 6d at all. I did manage to get 8d without knowing who BD supports, sorry BD, did they play last night? Also took me awhile to spot the hidden reverse in 3d.

    Favourites are 25a, 6d (now I understand it better), 7d, 13d. Liked 12a too.

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Bufo for a great blog.

  7. crypticsue
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    The usual super Micawber treat – thank you to him. Mr CS has the paper at the moment to do the number puzzles but I seem to remember that there were more clues marked as ‘ones I really liked’ than not.

    Thanks to Micawber and Bufo too.

  8. dutch
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Argh, I had entered MINE for 11a, thinking it was some kind of weak double definition (well, earth gets moved in a mine, doesn’t it?) – the correct answer works a lot better. I had also entered HOSE for the piece of drainpipe that’s over a foot, but that one I could correct. Thanks bufo for 10a, I was struggling to equate browsing aid with SLIP. I would have preferred “last” to “lowest” in 8d.

    I enjoyed the long clues and smiled at 14a (Increasingly dull subject). I also enjoyed 6d (vanguard of the ultramodern). 13d made me laugh too when I spotted the second Curly Locks.

    Many thanks Micawber and Bufo

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Hugely enjoyed, smiles and chuckles all the way through. 2d gave us quite a fight. We had sorted out the wordplay and had all the fodder identified and even had a couple of checkers in place but it was not until the intended meaning of labour occurred to us that the light dawned. Really good fun.
    Thanks Micawber and Bufo.

  10. crypticsue
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Notabilis tomorrow

    • andy
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:37 pm | Permalink


  11. Salty Dog
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m rather pleased with having polished this off well inside my 3* time, which is not something I often – if ever – achieve with this setter. I enjoyed the experience, though, so score this 2*/4*. Plenty of contenders for favourite clue, but I’ll plump for 13d. Many thanks to Micawber, and to Bufo.

  12. Una
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Really good fun , but , as far as I am concerned , not easy at all.I tried various combinations in 1a, none of which produced the right anagram fodder but I got it at last from the checkers.
    It is quite impossible to pick a favourite , since all the clues were good.
    Thanks Micawber and Bufo.

  13. Expat Chris
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Well, that was an interesting day. 10 hours in the Emergency Room with Mr. Expat and a surgical procedure, but all is now well and I had plenty of waiting time to do the Toughie. It was a bit of sunshine in an otherwise rotten day, so special thanks to Micawber for that. I just needed parsing clarification on a couple. 12A and 6D are Top of my Pops, but there were many others that floated my boat. Thanks also to Bufo for the review.

    • Jane
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      What a miserable day, Chris. I’m glad to hear that Mr. Expat is OK now, but it must have been awful for you both at the time. No doubt you’ll be taking good care of him.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      I do hope Mr Expat’s procedure has been successful and please pass on my best wishes. Just one question and I know it’s probably stupid – is he an Expat as well?

      • Expat Chris
        Posted January 21, 2016 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

        Not stupid at all, SL. Yes, he is a Worcestershire lad born and bred who had the good sense to move to my home town in Gloucestershire and meet me 49 years ago. He’s doing OK, now, and is going to be spoiled rotten for the next few days.

    • Hanni
      Posted January 21, 2016 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Oh gosh Chris, what a horrid day. Glad all is OK now. Thoughts with you both.

    • Kitty
      Posted January 22, 2016 at 12:09 am | Permalink

      Best wishes from me too, Chris. You both must have had a horrible time, but I’m glad to hear he’s on the mend.

  14. andy
    Posted January 21, 2016 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Excellent stuff as ever from Micawber, still chuckling over some wordplay. Guardian Cryptic 26,786 by Screw is worth a look too. Thanks Bufo and Micawber

  15. Kitty
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    Loved it. Another super crossword from Micawber. All very enjoyable indeed, and impossible to choose a favourite. Pretty gentle for this setter, which is about right for my little cat brain.

    Many thanks to Micawber and Bufo.

  16. Killer Watts
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Forgive my pride, I completed this for the first time. Two hours, which is probably not impressive, but I’m so pleased. I confess I got 9a without fully parsing it, and thought 13 down delightful. I regularly complete the back pager but don’t always try the Toughie, sometimes next morning, as now. I’ve now given myself the confidence to try more often.

  17. Tstrummer
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Being stuck on the graveyard shift tonight, I had time to do this this afternoon before trudging off into the rainy darkness. What fun it was. There wasn’t a clue I didn’t like, so no favourite(s) but many thanks to Micawber for the jollity and to Bufo for filling in a few gaps in my parsing. 2*/4*

  18. Paso Doble
    Posted January 22, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Very pleased with ourselves for finishing a Micawber (albeit an easy one according to the comments). A most enjoyable solve, with 13d being our favourite. Thanks to the setter and to Bufo.

  19. Bob Johnson
    Posted February 3, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Nothing to frighten the horses here but very enjoyable. Laughed out loud when I got 13 down.