Toughie 1601

Toughie No 1601 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

This is not one of Micawber’s more difficult puzzles but, as always, it’s really enjoyable. My last answer was 6d – I had to rack my brains to remember the phrase for a life of ease, which I think has fallen out of fashion.

Please leave a comment telling us how you fared and what you thought of it.

Across Clues

1a Release bar on Simpson perhaps ditching American husband (7)
PUBLISH – string together a bar, the first name of a member of the Simpson family without the A(merican) and H(usband). I presume that the surface relates to rumours that Marge and Homer are to divorce.

5a Present mongrel’s kennelling charge? (7)
CURRENT – split 3,4 this could be, cryptically, what a mongrel has to pay for his kennel.

9a Northern relatives sounded out — they’re against (5)
ANTIS – these are female relatives as they may be pronounced by people in the North of England.

10a What to say when leaving dog — advice from Spooner (6-3)
TOODLE-PIP – a type of dog and a bit of advice with the initial letters transposed in the manner of Spooner.

11a A French female made a joke without preparation (10)
UNEQUIPPED – charade of the female version of a French indefinite article and a verb meaning made a joke.

12a Back up car, making vibrating sound (4)
PURR – reverse ‘up’ and add the abbreviation for a posh car.

14a What you might get after hours is landlord’s call — another drink? (4,3,1,4)
TIME AND A HALF – what you might earn from working overtime can be split into a publican’s traditional call when he or she wants to close the bar and a request (3,1,4) tagged on to a drinks order.

18a Women-only therapy involving muscle handling? (12)
NOMENCLATURE – ‘handling’ here means relating to handles or aliases. Start with a phrase (2,3) meaning women-only and add a therapy or treatment containing the short name for a back muscle.

21a Half the kids turned geek (4)
NERD – reverse the ‘proper’ word for kids and extract just half of it.

22a Attack SAS, Goering ordered (10)
AGGRESSION – an anagram (ordered) of SAS GOERING.

25a A new recommendation on wine and snacks (9)
ANTIPASTI – string together A, N(ew), the same recommendation that gave Spooner problems in 10a and a type of wine.

26a German denial followed by confirmation after expulsion of eastern assassin (5)
NINJA – negative and positive responses in German without the abbreviation for eastern.

27a Follows, protecting king, and makes safe (7)
ENSURES – a verb meaning follows or succeeds containing a single-letter abbreviation for king.

28a Expressed symbolically, editor’s instruction not to write rubbish? (7)
NOTATED – when split 2,3,2 this could be a signed order from the editor to a journalist to go easy on the rubbish.

Down Clues

1d/2d Man holding up carton with fish paste (6,6)
PEANUT BUTTER – a man’s name contains the reversal of a carton or pot and a popular fish. This sticky paste is far more popular across the pond than it is here and it inspires so much terror in some people that there’s a special word (arachibutyrophobia) for fear of it sticking to the roof of one’s mouth.

2d See 1d

3d Heedless members of ruling party throw caution to the wind (10)
INSOUCIANT – a short word meaning members of the party currently in office is followed by an anagram (throw … to the wind) of CAUTION.

4d Cross found in middle of Whitehall? (3,2)
HET UP – a description (in a down clue) of the middle three letters of Whitehall.

5d Stock line slurred when tight (5-4)
CLOSE-KNIT – an anagram (slurred) of STOCK LINE.

6d Carefree chap not unknown to get wind up (4)
RILE – “A life of *****” means an easy, carefree existence. Drop the mathematical unknown from the name of the chap. The derivation of the phrase seems to have been lost in the mists of time.

7d Messing up, loses a contract (8)
ESPOUSAL – an anagram (messing) of UP LOSES A.

8d Diminish posh person with interruption by mimic (5,3)
TAPER OFF – a slang term for an upper-class person contains someone who mimics or imitates.

13d Unimpeachable as other clues here are, last one starts with absurd cant (10)
SACROSANCT – start with a word describing fourteen of the thirty clues in this puzzle but with its last letter moved to the front (last one starts). Append an anagram (absurd) of CANT.

15d Praises Brussels record on getting European into space station (9)
EULOGISES – start with the institution for which Brussels is used as a metonym, add a record or journal and finish by inserting E(uropean) into the abbreviation for the International Space Station.

16d One will join sister on night out, getting overcome by drink? (8)
INUNDATE – string together the Roman numeral for one, a religiously-inclined sister and a romantic night out.

17d Times are changing for the States (8)
EMIRATES – an anagram (changing) of TIMES ARE.

19d Singer‘s big win overturned (6)
LINNET – reverse a big win (10-0).

20d Global body’s help is not reported (6)
UNSAID – join together the abbreviation for a global organisation, the ‘S and a word for help.

23d Period when head of government’s in control? (5)
REIGN – insert the first letter of government into a verb to control or keep in check.

24d Knocks up a bit of wood (4)
SPAR – reverse a verb meaning knocks.

As always with Micawber the decision is whether to produce a long list of ‘likes’ or to undertake a pruning job. I’ll just nominate 12a, 14a, 18a, 4d, 13d and 19d. Which ones would make your shortlist?



  1. dutch
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    NW last, took me a while to get 3d. Then in 1a kicked myself because I’d been through all the other Simpsons. Wasn’t too happy with the carton in 1d, but I guess it works.

    I had burr for 12a (b/u +rr), but Back-Up is not a standard abbreviation. I’m sure Kitty didn’t make the same mistake.

    I liked 18a (women only), though I had to check the muscle, and I liked 21a (half the kids)

    We’ve seen 23d quite a lot but never so elegantly clued

    Many thanks Micawber and thanks Gazza

  2. Expat Chris
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oops. I had ‘roll’ for 6D. A Homer moment when I parsed 4D. Led astray a bit by my printout having ‘see 1 Across’ for 2D. I could not parse 1/2 D though the answer could not have been anything else. Lots of ticks on the page today, though.The Spoonerism made me laugh, so it’s my pick of the litter. Many thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the review.

  3. Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A marvellous crossword today,
    What else can I possibly say?
    12a was the cream,
    The rest were a dream,
    Well I’m utterly blown away!

  4. Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Further to the above, my only grumble is that since this was about a millionty times easier than yesterday’s, the green-eyed monster in me wants to growl! But that’s just me being pigletty.

    Dutch is right that I had no trouble with 12a. More smiles at 26a, 28a, 4d, 13d, 19d and 23d.

    Many thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

    • stanXYZ
      Posted May 11, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Poor Kitty,

      You have every right to grumble … I think I only solved two or three in yesterday’s Giovanni before saying to myself “********” – I must find something else to do!

      • Posted May 11, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Maybe Stan, but I wouldn’t wish yesterday’s on Gazza, and even less would I want to deprive him of today’s. You can’t blog ’em all – and one of the perks of Toughie blogging is the variety of setters. I’m not complaining!

  5. halcyon
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Blimey Gazza, only 2 toughie stars? It took me at least 3.5* time, maybe 4. But super, inventive clueing as usual. Favourites, of many, were 18a [women-only therapy and a magnificent cryptic def] 4d [neat] 13d [cleverly done and the surface works fine] 19d [result!] and the excellent and-lit at 23d.

    I failed on 6d having decided it must be “roll” for wind up – despite having no idea if Rolly is a carefree chap.

    Thanks to Micawber and thanks Gazza for the blog – and for the new word for us PB haters [1/2d] I refuse even to put it in my satay sauce let alone eat it raw.

    • JohnY
      Posted May 12, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink | Reply

      Just to make you feel better, I googled “Rolly + careless” and found lots of references to “Rolly doesn’t care”, so it had to be the answer. It’s almost as good.

  6. stanXYZ
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Not too difficult but most amusing.

    10a – I did like the Spoonerism!

    14a – Do they still call “Time” in pubs? These days I’m always in bed by then.

    Thanks Micawber & Gazza

  7. crypticsue
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    In a week where I appear to be losing the ability to solve cryptic crosswords, it was nice to have this lovely Micawber treat to prove that there were a few cryptic brain cells still lurking in the back of my aged brain 2*/5* for me.

    Thanks to both setter and blogger.

  8. Kath
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Brilliant – I loved it.
    I admit to needing the hints to understand a few of my answers – 1a (can’t do Simpsons), 1 and 2d, and 13d.
    The 10a Spoonerism and 6d were my last answers, and 7d, having missed the anagram indicator.
    So many good clues but joint favourites for me were 10a and 4d because they both made me laugh.
    With thanks to Micawber and to Gazza.

  9. happy days
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Fun, thanks, Micawber. I do like humour in crosswords.So many are sadly boring Favourite10a. Spooner with a smile

  10. Jane
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    NW corner and 6d were the problem areas – know little about the Simpsons and settled for ‘roll’ in 6d (pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one!).
    So much to like but narrowed my list down to seven – 11,14,18,25&28a plus 1/2 combo & 13d.

    Such a pleasure, Micawber, for which many thanks – and gratitude to our shining knight for the couple of much-needed hints.

  11. LetterboxRoy
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good fun today, some amusing ideas.
    Last one was 3d, but I knew I was going to have to build that one, so I left it until last.
    1d & 2d were nice and crafty without being fiendish, and Spoonerisms always raise a smile – it’s like guessing the punchline to a joke.
    18a deserves a nod, too.

    Well done & thanks to all.

  12. Una
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    1a , 2d and 1d caused the most heartache , while most of the rest capitulated without a siege.
    I knew 18a had to be what it is but I couldn’t figure out why, so thank you Gazza for explaining it.The man holding up the carton is still a mystery.I took a long time to get rid of the Tarama Salata idea.
    25a is among my best liked, along with 6d, 8d and 15d.
    10a is one of the few spoonerisms I have ever liked.
    Much thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

    • Gazza
      Posted May 11, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The man is PETER. Inside him reverse TUB (carton) and TUNA (fish).

      • Una
        Posted May 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks , I finally get it.

        • LetterboxRoy
          Posted May 11, 2016 at 11:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

          It’s a great clue

  13. Hanni
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What’s not to like! Great fun.

    So many amazing clues inc 10a..a Spoonerism that made me smile, 11a, 25a, 1&2d, 8d, 15d and 23d.

    Favourite goes to 18a.

    Many thanks to Micawber for a great puzzle and to Gazza for a great blog.

    6d was my LOI too. Caused me no end of problems.

  14. Gazza
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Excalibur tomorrow.

  15. pommers
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 7:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    6d may have fallen out of fashion but not for me. It’s the phrase I usually use to answer the question, “What’s it like living on the Costa Blanca?”. Therefore my favourite by a long chalk (that’s probably gone out of fashion as well – showing my advancing years :lol: )..

    Brilliant puzzle as usual from Micawber so not much else to say, apart from thanks to him and to Gazza as well.

  16. KiwiColin
    Posted May 11, 2016 at 7:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Most are probably familiar with the series of cartoons put out under the heading “Where’s Wally?”. My experience with 6d, and by the look of it others were in the same boat, would be to suggest a companion series called “Who’s Rolly?”
    Excellent stuff once again from Micawber with lots of chuckles and smiles all the way. Apart from 6d it was the NW corner which gave the biggest challenge but also the biggest laughs.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

  17. Heno
    Posted May 12, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the review and hints. I enjoyed what I could do, which was all in the bottom half. Only managed to solve 12 clues. Very clever wordplay, but I had to look up all the rest. Only managed to get one or two more from the hints. Got 14&27a wrong. Way beyond me I’m afraid.

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