Toughie 1581

Toughie No 1581 by Kcit

Hints and tips by Gazza

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I didn’t enjoy this a great deal. There aren’t many laughs and we seemed to need an awful lot of abbreviations and fiddling about with individual letters so that writing the hints became a bit of a chore. Unusually for me, I was relieved when I got to the end.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.

Across Clues

1a Bird call I missed crossing middle of path (6)
AVOCET – a verb to call or make an utterance loses its I and what’s left goes between the middle letters of path.

5a Speed in rhythmic monologue, one song losing central part (8)
RAPIDITY – string together a rhythmic monologue, the Roman numeral for one and a simple song without its central letter.

9a I’ll advise Lance (young crackpot) (5,5)
AGONY UNCLE – an anagram (crackpot) of LANCE YOUNG.

10a Test moved to the afternoon? (4)
EXAM – this could be interpreted as ‘formerly in the morning’.

11a Ancient water source currently ebbing after interruption by river (4-4)
WELL-WORN – a source of water is followed by the reversal (ebbing) of an adverb meaning currently with R(iver) inserted.

12a Rally not accepting silly mark or symbol (6)
EMBLEM – silly here is a noun meaning a silly person. Remove that from a verb to rally or come together and finish with the abbreviation for mark (the old German currency).

13a American police team positioned to apprehend women (4)
SWAT – a past participle meaning placed or positioned contains the abbreviation for women.

15a Firm with a desire to contain dead fuel waste (4,4)
COAL DUST – join together the abbreviation for a firm or business, A and a desire or passion containing the abbreviation for dead.

18a 50 per cent ruminant changed to 75 per cent of ruminant (8)
MINOTAUR – this is a mythical creature from Greek mythology which was half man and half a specific ruminant. It’s an anagram (changed) of TO and the first 75% of the word RUMINA(nt).

19a Very ordinary officer showing some potential (4)
VOLT – I’m going to have to copy the relevant meaning of potential from Chambers because it may as well be written in Serbo-Croat for all it means to me. It’s “the work done in bringing a unit of mass, electricity, etc from infinity to a point in a field of force, expressed as a function of that point“. The abbreviations for very and ordinary are followed by the abbreviated rank of a military officer.

21a Go for a second sea trip (6)
ASSAIL – string together A, the abbreviation for second and a sea trip.

23a Harsh mood, according to financial centre dumping leader (8)
ASPERITY – a phrase (2,3) meaning ‘according to’ is followed by a financial centre (in London, for example) without its leading letter.

25a Vocal effect occupying the chorus (4)
ECHO – hidden.

26a Keep close to airport building — certain to see first taking off (4,6)
HANG AROUND – an airport building is followed by a past participle meaning certain without its first letter.

27a A parrot biting limb invites symbolic interpretation (8)
ALLEGORY – A and a small parrot from the southern hemisphere containing a limb used in walking.

28a Sombre doctor, before appointment, dispensing repeated quantity of pills? (6)
DREARY – an abbreviation for doctor is followed by an adverb meaning ‘before the arranged time’ without the only letter that’s repeated in the word pills.

Down Clues

2d Unclear   what comes ashore in Nice? (5)
VAGUE – double definition, the second being simply the French word for a wave. Too much general knowledge?

3d Put an end to lease that’s given to painter (9)
CANALETTO – we start with a North American slang verb meaning to put an end to, then we have to add A (which doesn’t seem to be explicitly catered for in the wordplay), a verb to lease and TO.

4d French city fashion involves person going topless (6)
TOULON – a word, from French, meaning fashion or good style contains a word for an individual person without its leading S. This city is home to a very successful rugby team which will be competing in the quarter-finals of the European Cup this coming weekend.

5d Any tic-tac erring when failing … to indicate this? (6,9)
RACING CERTAINTY – an anagram (when failing) of ANY TIC-TAC ERRING. A tic-tac man failing to indicate that a runner was this would not be much good.

6d Labourer‘s request, note, about live current (8)
PLEBEIAN – a request followed by the abbreviation for note contain a verb to live and the symbol for electric current.

7d Democrat sites collectively hacked into by European geek (5)
DWEEB – start with the abbreviation for Democrat and add a word we use for all the internet sites (of which there are now more than one billion) collectively with E(uropean) inserted.

8d Wild figure observed in final uphill crossing (9)
TRAVERSAL – someone wild and uninhibited goes inside the reversal of a synonym for final.

14d Wife rubbished his claim, showing capricious mood (9)
WHIMSICAL – the abbreviation for wife followed by an anagram (rubbished) of HIS CLAIM.

16d Perform poem about old lake fish (5,4)
DOVER SOLE – a verb to perform or carry out is followed by a short poem containing the abbreviations for old and lake.

17d Uproar and disapproving comment with friend taking husband inside (8)
BALLYHOO – a disapproving noise has inside it a friend or supporter and the abbreviation for husband.

20d Odd bits of Urdu on edges of map identifying hills (6)
UPLAND – put the odd letters of Urdu round (on edges of) a map or chart.

22d What makes ale singular? (5)
ALONE – split the answer 2,2,1 and you should have what makes the word ale (in a down clue).

24d Drift anchor one tugged up, though only partly (5)
TENOR – as is so often the case the last answer is a hidden word but this one is reversed (up).

None of the clues stood out for me today. Which one(s) enthused you?



  1. Kitty
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed what I did, but for time reasons (and I think I may have saved myself a lot of time!) went cheat-happy and made use of Gazza’s excellent hints come 2pm.

    Many thanks to Kcit and Gazza.

  2. Kath
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Phew – that’s nearly finished me off for good and it’s taken so long that I could say exactly how long without any risk of discouraging anyone.
    I did enjoy it and not just because I managed to do it.
    Spent too long thinking the 1a ‘call’ was a visit which was stupid and generally not helpful.
    I didn’t know that there were 9a’s – having seen the piccy now I see why!
    I got into a terrible muddle with all the %’s in 18a – didn’t see that the first % was part of the definition – dim.
    12a took ages to understand and yes, I think that 2d is a bit too much general knowledge – had to hunt out French dictionary that belonged to younger Lamb who did French ‘A’ level.
    I liked lots of these – couldn’t pick out any in particular.
    With thanks to Kcit and to gazza especially for sorting out my 18a and for the piccy hint for 9a which made me laugh.

  3. Hanni
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I think I enjoyed this a bit more than Gazza. Thought 5d was rather clever and 5a had a nice surface to it. I agree about the GK bit of 2d but as I knew it thought it was quite a good double definition….I do see where you’re coming from though.

    Highlight of the puzzle was the illustration for 9a. Brilliant, although he forgot to add to check whether it had run out fuel. Also the woman who wrote in really should have been a bit more explicit about the car.

    Many thanks to Kcit and to Gazza for a great blog….the chambers explanation for 19a is priceless.

  4. pommers
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was OK. Not to tricky and about average enjoyment so **/*** from me. No stand-out for me either but I did quite like 4d as I said only yesterday that TON for fashion was a regular and here it is again already :-)

    19a I thought was alluding to the VOLT being the derived SI unit of electric potential.

    Thanks to Kcit and Gazza.

    • Hanni
      Posted April 6, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      You did as well. How weird is that. Is there anything else you can predict? :-)

    • Gazza
      Posted April 6, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure you’re right about 19a, pommers, but since I didn’t know what potential (in the electrical sense) means I thought I’d better look it up. Now I know exactly the same about it as I did before.

      • pommers
        Posted April 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

        I have to say that it is a rather splendid definition. As you say it would mean as much if it were in Serbo-Croat.

      • Physicist
        Posted April 6, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        What most people call the ‘voltage’ is technically the electric potential difference between two points, eg the terminals of a battery.

        • Gazza
          Posted April 6, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Physicist. Could you explain, in very simple terms, what ‘potential’ means? – bearing in mind that my old physics master told me that my grasp of the subject was so poor that I was in danger of ending up as what he called ‘a pick and shovel man’.

          • Shropshirelad
            Posted April 6, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            Hi Gazza, I started to write an explanation to help you understand ‘voltage’ – but it got a bit ‘wordy’. Therefore, I hope this link helps – although I dislike the term ‘Dummies’ :)


            • Gazza
              Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

              Thanks SL – that does help. I’m definitely a dummy when it comes to anything to do with electricity. In the days when devices came with no electric plug attached I always made a mess of wiring the plug, so I’m very happy that all devices now come ‘with plug’.

              • Shropshirelad
                Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

                My Father used to scare the c**p out of me with his ‘knowledge’ of electrics. Back in the old days when appliances came without a plug or an ‘earth’ and the sockets were 3 pin round, to save money, my Dad used to force a matchstick into the top aperture which then opened the ‘live and neutral’ connections. The bare wires of the appliance were then put into the socket and the matchstick was removed.

                I won’t tell you what he did with the main fuse box.

                • Gazza
                  Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

                  Crikey. That sounds like playing Russian roulette.

              • Kath
                Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

                There are only two things that you need to know about electricity – the first is that it’s very expensive and the second is that if you touch it it hurts!

          • Una
            Posted April 6, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

            The “potential ” is the difference,in charge, if one terminal is very much more positive or negative than the other, then then potential or chance of the charge jumping from one end to the other increases.

            • Gazza
              Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

              Thanks, Una.

          • Kitty
            Posted April 6, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

            I was hoping Physicist would get back to you here, Gazza, but since you want more, (and you may regret asking) I have a little time before eating. So here goes:

            Potential as a concept is a bit easier to explain using gravity, because we’re more familiar with masses in the earth’s gravitational field. A thing (object), made up of stuff (mass), moved further from / nearer to the earth requires an energy input / releases energy respectively. It thus gains / loses this potential energy, which is energy it has due to its position.

            So that’s potential energy. The potential is the energy per unit mass, so you can talk about the potential of a point in the field without even needing to have a thing at the point in question.

            The electric stuff is exactly the same idea, we’re just dealing with charges and electric fields (and things get a bit more complicated because there are positive and negative charges). Moving an electron (or other thing with an electric charge) around in an electric field either takes or releases energy, so it has a difference in potential energy. Electric potential – our Volt – is this energy per unit charge.

            I hope that hasn’t just added to your confusion! I’m a bit worried I’ve said something completely idiotic. I’ve now forgotten most of the physics I knew, but I do remember from my first year course on electromagnetism that an electron is negatively charged because “if you rub a cat, it attracts electrons.” Taken verbatim from one of the course handouts. Oh yes.

            • Shropshirelad
              Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

              Didn’t get a degree for nothing then. :)

              • Kitty
                Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

                Oh, no, SL. I learned lots of things during my degree which I haven’t forgotten. There was an amazing education to be had in between lectures.

            • Gazza
              Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

              Thanks, Kitty. Taken together with SL’s article and Una’s comment it does make sense to me now.

            • Kath
              Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

              You what . . . ? This reminds me of my Dad who had the most brilliant secretary – she understood him completely and knew how to recognise when he was grumpy. One particular day he was very grumpy and started off dictating a very long and complicated letter very fast. She waited until he’d finished it – quite a while – and then asked “What was it that came after Dear Sir.

              • Kitty
                Posted April 6, 2016 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

                … but I’m not grumpy, Kath! Not at the moment, anyway. :)

                • Mr Kitty
                  Posted April 6, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

                  Would rubbing Kitty make her more positive?

                  • Kitty
                    Posted April 6, 2016 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

                    According to Ben Franklin, it would.

          • Physicist
            Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

            If you want an analogy, electrical potential is like gas pressure. If you rupture a high-pressure gas line, the gas will blast out at high speed, and if you were to touch a high-voltage line (don’t try this at home) a large electric current will flow through you (and kill you).

            • Gazza
              Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

              Thanks a lot, Physicist.

        • Una
          Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          Another way of looking at it is this :if you stick two different metals into a lemon , for example, or any other liquid which has charged particles in it, and also connect them by a wire , you will generate an electric current . The electrons will flow from the metal that gives them up to the other metal.Different metals have different tendencies to loose electrons.If one of the metals looses electrons very easily and the other one doesn’t, you will generate a greater potential difference than if the metals are similar.Voltage is just the measure of the potential (the tendency) of the electrons to flow.

          • jean-luc cheval
            Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

            Clever Gazza!
            After yesterday’s comment, he is quietly sitting at the back of the class claiming ” I know nothing!”
            He won’t pull the wool over my eyes 👀.

            • HoofItYouDonkey
              Posted April 6, 2016 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

              I can confidently say that I have not understood a word of this particular thread!!

  5. halcyon
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Maybe a tad harsh Gazza. I thought it was pretty routine but relieved by the clever 18a. I do agree about 2d and 3d though – I only twigged the former via a vague memory of “nouvelle vague”.

    Thanks for the blog and thanks to Kcit for the challenge.

    ps Impressed by Pommers’ psychic powers
    pps the illustration at 9a is falling-about stuff!

  6. Una
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed it, but I did accept 4 hints.
    I liked 27a the most but I also really liked 19a, I read it as pommers did.
    I agree with Gazza about some of the clues being a bit fiddely, such as 11a, although the same device was used in 15a and I liked that. 16d was another good clue.
    I was thinking about giving a simple explanation of Potential Difference, but it would probably be too boring for anyone to read .
    Thanks Gazza and Kcit.

  7. Shropshirelad
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Gazza on this one – not one of my all time favourite Kcit puzzles. Still, I did enjoy some of it and, as an engineer, I thought 19a was a great clue – I wonder how many people thought of ‘vibe’? I also noticed that the ‘French fashion’ turned up again today. As I said yesterday I couldn’t really recall if I had seen / heard of it before – and ‘Voilà’ here it is again.

    Anyway, thanks to Kcit for the puzzle and thanks to Gazza for his review – which I will now read.

  8. jean-luc cheval
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Gazza for speaking so highly of Toulon.
    Didn’t know the masculine version of 9a. More like ill advice really.
    22d made me smile 😊 but favourite is 26a.
    Thanks to Kcit and to Gazza.

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this a lot and a few smiles certainly were raised. I loved 9A, 3D, 5D and 7D. I did not solve 18A and probably would not have if I’d stared at it for hours. Doesn’t Graham Norton write a 9A column for the DT? Many thanks to Kcit and Gazza.

  10. Dutch
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Funny, I always thought potential in physics was the same usage as in everyday English – potential energy, electric potential, etc.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Have you returned from the ‘Lowlands’ young man?

      • Dutch
        Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        Young man gets you friend for life, thank you. Currently in a Dutch tapas restaurant after a family archery session. Theme park yesterday; I aged ten years hence the young man is very timely.

  11. KiwiColin
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    I found this one quite hard work and in the end failed to fully parse 28a. Now I see the wordplay I realise I was looking for something more complicated than it actually was.
    Thanks Kcit and Gazza.

  12. Chris
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, Gazza, I enjoyed it quite a lot. Mainly because there was enough difficulty to make me think I couldn’t finish it – and then after a very long pause, I would see the answer to another one. And so on. (Rather like the donkey following a suspended carrot.) Took me ages but I finished it in the end. I did need a dictionary for 7d though. Never heard of it.
    Many thanks to Gazza and Kcit.

    • Gazza
      Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      No need to apologise, Chris. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  13. TheTeesdale2
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    First real go at a Toughie for us, as the cryptic flew in today.Nice to see familiar names on this side of the blog. Many thanks to Gazza for invaluable help, took his recent advice and used hints for across clues in order to get into toughie mindset, excellent advice, but this league is very different, so thanks indeed! Will keep on having a go when time allows.

    • HoofItYouDonkey
      Posted April 6, 2016 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      I followed Gazza’s excellent advice and it made the Toughie a whole lot more enjoyable.

      • Kitty
        Posted April 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

        It’s great to see you over on this side too. :)

        • HoofItYouDonkey
          Posted April 7, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

          Thanks Kitty
          Much depends if/how quick I can get the back-pager done.
          I thought this was a bit of a “curate’s egg” of a crossword with some “hmmmmm” clues. I know my French pretty well, but I certainly don’t know the French for ‘wave’ even after you have teased it from “what comes ashore”!!!
          Many thanks to Gazza for the excellent hints…and to the setter.

  14. TheTeesdale2
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, thanks to Kcit too.

  15. Jane
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Very late tonight having spent the evening helping No. 1 daughter to fill in Power of Attorney forms for her Granny. The solicitors wanted £830 to do it! 48 pages of forms/guides all written in ‘official’ gobbledegook – think my brain hurts now.

    Anyway – the puzzle. Found it rather more enjoyable than Gazza did, but failed on the parsing of 12a – and 18a, where I was torn between the correct answer and ‘dinosaur’. The anagram had passed me by.
    A big thank you to Pommers – I did remember that word for fashion!
    Needed Mr. Google to explain 19a once I’d realised that it had to be what it was and don’t think I’ve come across the ending in 8d before today.
    Liked quite a few, including 3&17d but top spot goes to 22d.

    Thanks to Kcit and to Gazza – particularly for the 9a illustration. I thought those columns always referred to ‘aunt’ no matter which sex the actual writer was.

    • Wolfson Bear
      Posted April 6, 2016 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      To cheer you up after PoA form filling I can assure you this is a fair bit easier than not doing it and having to apply to the Court of Protection for Deputyship after the relative has lost mental capacity. My mother refused PoA and then developed dementia. Hopefully this horrible condition will not happen in your family

  16. Wolfson Bear
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I found this a 4* difficulty and not too enjoyable.

    19a “potential” was my first answer – a write in for a physicist. But I spend plenty of crossword time irritated by GK type clues based on mythology or the classics where I am clueless. Warning to Gazza – “Tension” is a sort of synonym for (electrical) Potential usually only seen as High Tension meaning high voltage. All shocking to students of humanities

    Talking of mythology it took a while to decide on the mythological ruminant rather than dinosaur which fitted for a while

    I can manage “wave” in two non-English languages but not French. A step too far for me. I also have not heard of the french word in 4d but could find no other answer than the correct one.

    7d The geek word is new to me although I finally managed to guess it eventually

    Much that I like ale I failed to parse 22d (lucky guess though)

    I did not like the “up” that was used in 24d to indicate the reversal of a hidden word.Not seen this before – the answer is hidden in the clue which is horizontal at least in my house

  17. Caroline Eccles
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink


  18. Caroline Eccles
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Awful crossword – I just didn’t get most of it.