Toughie 1546

Toughie No 1546 by proXimal

The return of ‘Phew!’

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

It’s well over a year since I blogged a proXimal puzzle but I had remembered that they tend to be on the tricky side. This one certainly was but I managed to solve the corners in the following order: SW, NE, NW, SE. I was definitely into the 5-star difficulty zone once I had managed to justify all the answers that I’d bunged in without knowing how they worked. I think I enjoyed it!

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    Sheet of film with attention turned around one vegetable (8)
CELERIAC: A sheet of film (an abbreviated form of the material from which it’s made) + a reversal of ‘attention’ round I (one)

6a    Made brilliant new addition in cast (6)
SHINED: N (new) inside ‘cast’ or ‘thrown (e.g. at a coconut)’

9a    Maybe 3 fingers articulated (6)
STEELS: A homophone (articulated) of ‘fingers’ or ‘pilfers’. 3 refers to the answer to 3 down. This answer crosses with the answer to 3 down which seems to me to be a little unfair on the solver

10a    Computing chief not at fault (8)
INFOTECH: An anagram (at fault) of CHIEF NOT

11a    Transfer rule broken by idiot (8)
REASSIGN: ‘To rule (like the Queen)’ round an idiot

12a    Go over area used by rose to place further on (6)
REREAD: Take a word meaning ‘rose’ or ‘did rise’ and move the letter A (area) nearer to the end of the word

13a    Photoshop wedding pictures where guests congregate (7,5)
DRAWING ROOMS: When split (4,2,6) it could equate to ‘photoshop wedding pictures’ were you to add images of the leading male participants

16a    Book posh functions with flash commercial location (8,4)
BUSINESS PARK: B (book) + U (posh) + mathematical functions + ‘flash’

19a    Inwardly tense, advance through squat (6)
STUBBY: An advance of money round T (tense’ + ‘through’ = ‘squat’ or ‘dumpy’

21a    Sugar, perhaps, is cut by day recalled one of islanders (8)
ALEUTIAN: The first name of Lord Sugar goes round a reversal of one of the days of the week And I (one) to give an adjective relating to a chain of islands stretching down from Alaska

23a    Restraint in flight 22 performed by staff (5,3)
STAIR ROD: The flight is a flight of stairs. An anagram (performed) of the answer to 22 down + a staff

24a    European conveyed to the port deck (6)
ENROBE: A reversal (to the port or left) of E (European) and ‘conveyed’ = ‘to deck’

25a    Bridge player to gradually shift spades and clubs (6)
WEDGES: A letter denoting one of the four players in a game of bridge + ‘to gradually shift’ + S (spades) = golf clubs

26a    They secure / a great deal (8)
LASHINGS: 2 meanings: ropes for making things secure/a great deal or abundance of anything. The Famous Five are associated with ******** of ginger beer though apparently the term doesn’t appear in any of the original Enid Blyton books


2d    Race venue — base for excellent course (6)
ENTRÉE: Take the venue of the most famous steeplechase and change AI (excellent) to E (base of natural logarithms). This gives a dish served at a dinner

3d    Arms almost drained after climbing (5)
EPEES: Swords for duelling or fencing = a reversal (climbing) of ‘drained’ after the last letter has been removed

4d    Giant set free bears I provoke (9)
INSTIGATE: An anagram (free) of GIANT SET round I

5d    Three-quarters of counter not for alcohol (7)
CHIANTI: The first 3-letters of a 4-letter counter (as used in poker) + ‘not for’

6d    Note fliers must be brought up to date (2,3)
SO FAR: A musical note + a reversal (brought up) of fliers (a branch of the armed services)

7d    Mesh cover in earth above enclosure for vessels (9)
INTERLOCK: ‘To mesh’ = ‘cover in earth’ or ‘bury’ + an enclosure for vessels on a canal

8d    Calls resolved insurance matters, presumably (8)
EXCLAIMS: It could be taken to mean former (or old) demands for payment from an insurance company

13d    Daughter mocking boxing learner showing sports technique (9)
DRIBBLING: D (daughter) + ‘mocking’ round L (learner) = a technique at soccer associated with Stanley Matthews

14d    Good not to run so much when clumsy (9)
GRACELESS: G (good) + ‘not to run so much’ (4,4)

15d    Provide translation for Italian in toned-down clothing (8)
SUBTITLE: ‘To provide a translation for the dialogue in a foreign film’ = IT (Italian) in ‘toned-down’

17d    Disgrace, being roughly grabbed in wood (7)
SCANDAL: C (circa or roughly) inside a compact and fine-grained very fragrant Indian wood

18d    On net, give up gossip (6)
GASBAG: A reversal of ‘give’ or ‘yield’ or ‘give way’ + a net used for carrying things = a gossip

20d    We might get grave introducing such measures for church property (5)
YARDS: The answer follows GRAVE to give areas that surround churches

22d    Fragment of altar’s inside sections of framework (5)
TARSI: Hidden in alTAR’S Inside

Thursday’s are still going well.


  1. stanXYZ
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Phew! Indeed!

    I always find proXimal the toughest Toughie setter. (I never attempt Elgar)

    Thanks to Bufo for many, many explanations.

  2. dutch
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    And it’s a PHEW from me too!

    Sugar! port deck! sheet of film! Argh.. I managed the quadrants in order NE / SW / SE / NW (first one in was 6d) it took me ages to get into NW though I had the alcohol (funny that) – eventually resorted to the 1-letter hints.

    Thanks Bufo for clarifying 12a, I didn’t see “rose”.

    Not so many penny-drop-moments as “how-do-you-get-to-an-answer-from-that?”

    many thanks proXimal for the challenge

  3. jean-luc cheval
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree about the rating.
    Didn’t get 21a, 24a and 18d unfortunately. I thought the latter was dialog (go and laid upwards) which made it impossible.
    The same thing happened in the NE corner as I was certain 8d was Premiums as in the expensive calls you have to agree to when calling and it also is what you pay for insurance, I was well chaffed.
    Managed to see my mistake and the rest fell in quite nicely.
    10a was new to me. I knew of IT but not it’s longer version.
    Shame the setter prefers complicated parsing rather than smooth surface.
    Thanks to Proximal and to Bufo for the review.

  4. Lesley
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Well done guys. So should have got 1a as a vegetable, but still don’t understand the clue or the hint.. Hint for 3d helped me get 9a. I get the definition of 24a but do not understand. Oh well, have had a couple of ok days. Tomorrow is another day.

    • dutch
      Posted February 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      yes, those were the hardest ones for me too:
      1a = CEL (piece of film!) + CARE backwards around “I”
      24a “E(european) + BORNE(conveyed)” all backwards (to the port = to the left)

  5. Charlie3110
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Now I remember how I discovered Big Daves blog. It was on days like this. I kept checking the callender thinking I had missed a day and it was Friday. No point in me listing the clues that beat me. Would be quicker to mention those that didnt! After half an hour I confess I wimped out onto the back page. Thanks to Proximal and to Bufo for bringing me back to earth when I imagined I was a crossword buff!

    • Charlie3110
      Posted February 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Pity I didn’t read my comment through then I might have see the spellcheckers guess at calendar. No wonder I can’t get some of the answers!

  6. Shropshirelad
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Very, very near the top of my pay grade. I have never thought of proXimal as one of my ‘fun’ setters and this one does nothing to change my mind. Having said that, he cannot be faulted for the clever way he constructs clues. I must admit to having a crib sheet that I started a while ago purely for his use of synonyms – although that list has grown somewhat. I really can’t single out one clue, so I shall just thank proXimal for the challenge and Bufo for his review.

    I do hope it’s not Elgar tomorrow.


    • Gazza
      Posted February 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Not Elgar but Elkamere.

      • Shropshirelad
        Posted February 4, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        That’s cheered me up no end Gazza – one of my favourite setters. Thanks :good:

        • Gazza
          Posted February 4, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          … and one of mine.

  7. halcyon
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Double phew from me. I only got the last 4 [9a/3d and 24a/18d] by dint of reading them out, in desperation, to Mrs H. At which point 4 pennies dropped. Whilst I have struggled with but enjoyed proXimal’s previous puzzles this one offered the struggle without much enjoyment. One can’t fault the construction of the clues [as Shropshirelad says above] but the surfaces in this one, whilst grammatically OK, are lacking the bit of occasional sparkle that lightens the job of solving it.

    That said, I did like 12a [area used by rose] 2d [base for excellent] and 5d [not for alcohol].

    Sorry to be grumpy – thanks to proXimal for the challenge and to Bufo for blogging it.

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    We were so close to giving up with this one. Put it aside to do other things and then when we picked it up again with our evening meal it slowly, slowly gave up its secrets. So very pleased to have got a completion and everything satisfactorily parsed. Certainly a significant challenge for us.
    Thanks ProXimal and Bufo.

  9. Chris
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Nowadays I occasionally have a try at the Toughie, and am improving, but today was when I found just how far I still have to go.
    I couldn’t do any of the clues! Well done to those who could. I was so pleased to see it got 5* for difficulty – my morale was restored. Thanks to ProXimal and Bufo.

    • dutch
      Posted February 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      well i think this one was pretty difficult – don’t be too hard on yourself

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted February 4, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Hi Chris – I think you can see by other comments that this was definitely not a ‘Read & Write’ puzzle. So, as Dutch said, don’t be too hard on yourself.

    • Chris
      Posted February 4, 2016 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      It’ll get better with practice and this site’s help. Before that I wouldn’t even have known what one was supposed to do with these clues.

  10. Jane
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    That was a battle I didn’t win! Had to come cap in hand to Bufo for hints on 9,10&23a plus 2d (should have got that one) and revealed the answer for 22d.
    Particularly liked 13a plus 7,8&14d.
    Thanks to ProXimal for the challenge and to Bufo for being there in my hour(s) of need.

  11. wolfsonbear
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I found this pretty tricky (as I did the previous Proximal) but certainly easier than the last two Elgar Christmas specials. So when I got home and took a look at the blog – hoping it had got a 4 * rating rather than a 3* – I find it got the 5* treatment. I found the 4* rating of the Christmas Double rather disconcerting as I narrowly failed to finish the 2014 one but managed to finish last year (elation – after dogged determination, much sweat and the passage of time) only to look at the blog and find a 4* rating and a few comments along the line “Elgar’s going soft”. I had hoped my progress over 12 months was the reason – but perhaps not! Proximal certainly enters the set of setters to look forward to – and its Elkamere tomorrow apparently who is now a firm favourite

    • Posted February 4, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      You’ve dropped the space, which then dumped you into moderation!

  12. Robin Hill
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    The toughest Toughie for some time; 24a, 3d and 9a took me ages. However there were some very clever and satisfying clues, especially the ingenious 13a. Thanks ProXimal, and also to Bufo for the blog which explained answers such as 2d which I knew must be right but I couldn’t parse.

  13. Salty Dog
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Cor blimey! 5*/4* for me. I couldn’t get 9a or 24a at all, and still don’t see how the former works. There are some wonderful clues here, of which the pick to my mind are 13 and 16 across. Thanks to ProXimal, and to Bufo for the review.

  14. Una
    Posted February 4, 2016 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I got 7 and then I gave up due to mental exhaustion. :cool:
    Thanks to Bufo and to ProXimal for showing me my limits.

  15. Expat Chris
    Posted February 5, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I now have just 6 to go, and without any help so far. Avoiding the hints and the comments, and I’m keeping the puzzle on my clipboard to see if I can pick a few more off today.

  16. Expat Chris
    Posted February 5, 2016 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Woohoo! I finished…and all by my own self! I had 3D and 9A to go when I decided to take a nap, and I was just drifting off when 3D popped into my head, immediately followed by 9A. I am extraordinarily pleased with myself. I had several double ticks beside clues…13A, 21A, 24A, 8D and 15D. Hard to pick a favorite so I’ll go with all of them. Thanks ProXimal. You made me work for this. And thanks to Bufo for the review.

    • Jane
      Posted February 5, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      Well done indeed, Chris! :good: