Toughie 1553

Toughie No 1553 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Gazza

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

It’s always a pleasure to blog one of Micawber’s puzzles and this one is no exception. It’s a bit easier than usual (though possibly not if you’re a stranger to cricket and rugby) with a fair number of gimmes but it’s superbly entertaining as always.

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.

Across Clues

1a Painting of model’s footwear (detail) (4,6)
LAST SUPPER – join together a shoemaker’s model, the ‘S and a part (detail) of a shoe or boot.

6a Favourite’s backed for pace (4)
STEP – reverse a favourite and the ‘S.

9a Fast food that’s cooked right (5)
DONER – a past participle meaning cooked followed by R(ight).

10a Drink over limit, getting regularly addled (9)
ORANGEADE – start with the abbreviation for over and add a limit or scope and regular letters from ‘addled’.

12a What ‘ard-working scientist puts in perhaps works (7)
LABOURS – split the answer 3,’4 to get what an ‘ard-working scientist may put in.

13a Old German   viewpoint (5)
ANGLE – double definition. The old German is a member of the Germanic people who invaded England in the fifth century AD. Illegal immigrants coming over here, taking our jobs – it’s just as well that practice has died out!

15a What arises in marsh where royal one encounters Macbeth? (7)
METHANE – the pronoun which we commoners would use where a royal might say ‘one’ (as in ‘It gives one great pleasure to name this ship’) followed by the title awarded to Macbeth for his military victories.

17a Movement to keep platform in check (7)
DADAISM – insert a platform into a verb to check or block.

19a Cowboy managed singer (7)
RANCHER – charade of a verb meaning managed and the name of a US singer, actress and plastic surgery aficionado.

21a Grounded without right to go out, producing resentment (7)
DUDGEON – an anagram (to go out) of G[r]OUNDED without the right.

22a Fashion house received English cricketer informally (5)
GUCCI – ‘received’ indicates a homophone and the answer sounds like the nickname of a prolific English batsman of the 1970s to 1990s. Bear in mind that sportsmen are not terribly imaginative when it comes to dreaming up nicknames and they very often just append –y or –ie to the relevant surname.

24a ‘What’s for tea?’ Politician cracks open bottle (7)
CRUMPET – our usual elected politician goes inside (cracks open) a small bottle used for condiments.

27a Amazed at rugby players winning three points (9)
AWESTRUCK – join together AT and a loose gathering of rugby union players where each side is trying to secure the ball on the ground. Now insert (winning) three cardinal points.

28a Macaroni cheese holding interest for minority (5)
NICHE – hidden in the clue.

29a Formerly Queen Street (4)
ERST – our Queen’s cipher followed by the abbreviation for street.

30a One ringing round sets out to create a hit (4-6)
BEST-SELLER – a person who’s ringing surrounds an anagram (out) of SETS.

Down Clues

1d Beach hero bringing 50 to the surface (4)
LIDO – start with a hero or star and move the Roman numeral for fifty up to the top.

2d Make confession to admit one’s acting alone (9)
SINGLETON – an informal verb to make a confession is followed by a phrasal verb to admit or divulge.

3d Abandon   abrasive cleaner (5)
SCRUB – double definition, the second a semi-abrasive cleansing lotion.

4d Get sportsman treatment (7)
PROCURE – charade of an informal word for a full-time sportsman and a treatment or remedy.

5d Passed type of Jag with pedals spinning (7)
ELAPSED – the prefix for a classic type of Jaguar car is followed by an anagram (spinning) of PEDALS.

7d Taste grappling with sound (5)
TWANG – a taste or strong flavour contains (grappling) the abbreviation for with.

8d Promotion describing grapes post-treading? (10)
PREFERMENT – cryptically, as 3-7, this could be the stage that the wine making process is at after the grapes have been trodden.

11d Supreme in the year of our lord, our Father’s creator? (7)
GRANDAD – an adjective meaning supreme or pre-eminent is followed by the abbreviation for in the year of our Lord.

14d Deviously prime agent to infiltrate (10)
IMPREGNATE – an anagram (deviously) of PRIME AGENT.

16d I don’t believe where armed robber was seen! (7)
ATHEIST – split the answer 2,5 and it could be where an armed robber was seen.

18d I find in the end dubious nite clubs mainly all the same (9)
IDENTICAL – string together I, the end letter of find, an anagram (dubious) of NITE, the abbreviation for clubs and most of the word ‘all’.

20d One cut off from the world tweaks crossword, perhaps reversing ending (7)
RECLUSE – a verb meaning tweaks crossword (as a setter may do if the editor makes criticisms) with the final two letters reversed.

21d Maybe snare young fox and beat keeper (4,3)
DRUM KIT – what snare can be a type of followed by one of the words for a young fox.

23d Works on ship sailing circuit, it’s said (5)
CREWS – this sounds like a voyage (often a round trip) for pleasure.

25d Set down unfinished pasta (5)
PENNE – a verb meaning set down (on paper) without its last letter.

26d It’s more suitable when not teetotal at heart (4)
BEER – a comparative meaning more suitable or superior loses the two letter abbreviation for teetotal at its centre.

Lots to enjoy but I’ll mention 12a, 15a, 21a, 22a and 8d as being shortlisted for the Oscars. Which one(s) would you vote for?



  1. crypticsue
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Great fun thank you Micawber and Gazza

    My favourite, amongst many (sorry Kath) is 11d

  2. Jane
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Took less time than the back-pager but – yes, Gazza – I didn’t quite get the parsing of 22 & 27a!
    Top spots go to 12&15a plus 8d, with a mention for 16d.

    Thanks to Micawber for the enjoyment and to Gazza for the explanation of the sporting references.

  3. jean-luc cheval
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Perfect crossword.
    So many good clues it’s hard to choose a favourite.
    But I’ll go for 21a for its perfect surface.
    Loved the royal one in 15a and the homophone in 22a.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the review.

  4. Shropshirelad
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Lovely, just what you would expect from the man. Not quite sure that non-followers of cricket would have got the homophone in 22a but apart from that slight grumble, all was well. Even got all the definitions printed. Far too many favourites ticked so I will refrain from breaking the ‘Kath rule of favourites’.

    Thanks to Micawber for the enjoyment and fun – and to Gazza for his splendid review.

  5. Una
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant , but far more than 2 star difficulty level for me. 15a had me completely beaten, even though I am very familiar with that gas , and the thane. I kept thinking the royal one was “we”.
    I also had 11d marked as terrific, as well as 1a and 8d.
    I mustn’t be buying enough handbags or something because 22a was my last one in.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

  6. Kitty
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink


    I took this to bed with me when it came online. Little did I think I would finish before sleeping. Couldn’t believe it! I’ll admit to cheating a teensy bit to get 8d because I was drawing a blank on that with a couple of its tributaries still to go and was getting to the point where I needed to reach some kind of conclusion.

    My favourites are too numerous to go into; they are particularly densely packed in the lower region and on the right.

    I think perhaps this should have given a Thursday back page slot so that more people could have enjoyed it.

    Thanks to the brilliant Micawber and to the – also brilliant! – Gazza for the review and for confirming my guessed parsings of 22a and 27a.

  7. Sheffieldsy
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic offering that cheered us up no end. We’ve been off the air for a while due to family illness and attendant hospital visits (sadly more to come), so this came as a nice way back to a little normality.

    Favourites were 7d & 27a, those two just ahead of 12a and the lovely 22a. In 7d, shouldn’t post-treading be post-tread, otherwise an answer ending -ing is surely indicated?

    Thanks Gazza for the blog and Micawber for a great puzzle.

    • Gazza
      Posted February 17, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      I think that you have to treat treading here as a gerund, in which case it’s an honorary noun.

      • Sheffieldsy
        Posted February 17, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        OK, I get that, but it doesn’t help, I think, because the consistency I believe ought to be there between clue and answer would imply that the answer should also be a gerund and end -ing???? Anyway, no need to perpetuate this minor debate, so thanks again, Gazza.

  8. happy days
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    At last, some fun and humour. I’m tired of stodge. Thanks, Micawber. I enjoyed that. Thanks, Gazza, too

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Loved it, loved it, loved it. 22A couldn’t have been anything else, but I didn’t know the cricketer. Had to verify ruck, too, but that’s OK by “one.” So many clues highlighted…1A, 17A, 8D, 11D, 16D, 21D 26D… Hard to pick one just out of that field so I’ll just go with all of them as favorites!

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted February 17, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Hi EC. Kath is due to return to the blog in a couple of weeks – so best get as many favourites in while you can. I did ask a bit ago how Mr EC’s recovery was progressing. All is well I presume?

      • Expat Chris
        Posted February 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        Yes, he’s doing well. Thanks so much for asking! As far as favorites go, I like to live on the edge!

  10. Hanni
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink


    Just a pleasure to solve and not overly tricky. I did sit for awhile and wonder what ‘beefy’ had to do with any fashion house (22a)? In fact I had to go onto Net-a-Porter to check it wasn’t fact that is where the answer finally clicked. :oops:

    Favourites are 12, 13, 21, 22, 27a and 8 and 11d.

    Many thank to Micawber for a fantastic puzzle and to Gazza for a great blog.

  11. crypticsue
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Giovanni tomorrow

  12. 2Kiwis
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Great fun and much enjoyed. We surprised ourselves by even getting the cricketer without having to do any research. 12a was the one that raised the loudest laugh.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

  13. Jon_S
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed this. Didn’t know the cricketer, but I did know the fashion house, so that wasn’t an issue. 9ac and 15ac took an age at the end, even if the definitions should have leapt out at me.

  14. snape
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    After staring blankly at the back pager, I had a go at this and did much better – the left hand side was fairly quickly obtained, but some hints were required on the right. Many enjoyable clues, I’ll go for 16d as my favourite.
    Thanks to Micawber and Gazza.