Toughie 1613

Toughie No 1613 by Firefly

Hints and tips by Gazza

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

The grid meant that quite a lot of the answers had an unchecked first letter which made this puzzle more difficult that it might otherwise have been. Straight from the starting gun three of the long answers (21a, 3d and 5d) leapt out at me from the definition and enumeration but after that it was a steady but rather plodding progression to the finish line. At one stage I thought that there might be a mini-theme related to card games but that didn’t materialise.

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

Across Clues

8a/9a Charming and rich G-man among those getting the sack (8,6)
MARCHING ORDERS – this is a reverse anagram which could lead to both CHARMING and RICH G-MAN.

9a See 8a

10a 26 in Caledonia, indigenously (3)
AIN – a Scottish adjective meaning 26a is hidden in the clue.

11a Sounds like blackcurrant and sloe together perhaps can produce sickness (4-4)
BERI-BERI – this sounds like what a blackcurrant and a sloe are.

12a Son’s flying shots regularly showing neglect (6)
SLIGHT – start with the abbreviation for son and add regular letters from ‘flying shots’.

13a Cool liquid in tremendous vat (15)

15a May one begin right away in cards? (7)
CANASTA – string together a verb which means ‘may’, a single letter that can mean one and a verb to begin without the 2-letter abbreviation for right.

18a Drama with 50 checking out of the Parisian Grand — one finds somewhere to settle (3-4)
PAY-DESK – remove (checking out) the Roman numeral for 50 from a drama and add a French word meaning ‘of the’ and one of the abbreviations for 1,000 (grand).

21a Monument Station refit — tube’s affected with loads of yuckiness initially (6,2,7)
STATUE OF LIBERTY – start with the 3-letter abbreviation for station and add an anagram (affected) of REFIT TUBE L[oads] O[f] Y[uckiness].

24a Awkward moment briefly follows abortive trick (6)
RUSTIC – a moment or short time without its last letter follows a trick or ploy, also without its last letter.

25a Honour‘s the last word in heart of true-born Tudors (8)
ORNAMENT – insert the last word in a Christian prayer or hymn into the four letters at the heart of ‘true-born Tudors’.

26a Confess, darling! (3)
OWN – double definition. The second is a form of endearment when preceded by ‘my’.

27a Retreat from compound holding stragglers from fearless army (6)
ASYLUM – a chemical compound contains the last letters of [fearles]S [arm]Y.

28a Pleasing composition of Rossini avoids undisciplined flirtatiousness (8)
TASTEFUL – an anagram (undisciplined) of FLirTATioUSnEss after we’ve removed the jumbled-up letters of Rossini.

Down Clues

1d Stress weighs down first pair to encounter incline (6)
CAREEN – a word meaning stress or anxiety precedes the first two letters of encounter.

2d Score with service at both ends, holding game (6)
SCRIBE – score here is a verb meaning to mark with a pointed instrument. The outer letters of service contain the abbreviated name for a card game in which his nob is worth one point.

3d FBI come on the dot mobilising precise search-tool (4-7,4)
FINE-TOOTHED COMB – an anagram (mobilising) of FBI COME ON THE DOT.

4d One’s put on street — that’s touching (7)
AGAINST – string together the single letter for ‘one’ last seen in 15a, a verb to put on (weight, for example) and the abbreviation for street.

5d Friend of the Earth in endless jam — ain’t it so awful! (15)
CONSERVATIONIST – start with a word for jam (the stuff that must go on top of the cream and not under it) minus its last letter and add an anagram (awful) of AIN’T IT SO.

6d Hand in notice editor allowed (8)
ADMITTED – insert an informal word for a hand between the usual abbreviations for a notice and editor.

7d Waggish setter’s singular records (8)
ARCHIVES – join together an adjective meaning waggish or playful, the abbreviated form the ‘the setter has’ and the abbreviation for singular.

14d Slip into river (3)
DON – double definition, the first a verb meaning to slip into or put on.

16d ‘Self-sacrifice’ commonplace under Capone, say … (8)
ALTRUISM – commonplace here is a noun meaning a platitude. That follows Mr Capone’s forename.

17d … like Pharaoh, see, with finesse (8)
ASTUTELY – split the answer 2,3,3 for a preposition meaning like, the short form of the most famous Pharaoh’s name and a see or diocese in Cambridgeshire.

19d Come a cropper in Kielder Reservoir (3)
ERR – the answer is hidden in the clue. I’m not convinced that it means the same as to come a cropper which is to suffer a heavy fall or a disaster.

20d Pants like yaks, maybe? (1-6)
Y-FRONTS – I’m sure most solvers will identify these pants just from the enumeration. If you replace the hyphen with a space it could be how you might describe the word yaks.

22d Trophies forming memories — or not at all? (6)
EMMIES – an anagram (forming) of MEM[or]IES after we’ve removed the ‘or’.

23d Position climbing frames (one French) and prepare to play (4,2)
TUNE UP – a verb to position or place is reversed and contains (frames) one of the words for ‘one’ in French.

None of the clues stood out for me today. How about you? Do let us know what you liked and what you didn’t like.



  1. jean-luc cheval
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What a sod!
    Couldn’t get 8/9a as I wrote “Preservationist” in 5d.
    Found the whole experience a bit too mechanical and lacking sparkle.
    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza.

  2. halcyon
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I thought Firefly was on good form with this. Tough but faultless clueing helped by the 4 relatively easy long answers. I was particularly taken with 8/9a [2 sets of anagram fodder] 15a [nice surface, nice charade] 18a [nicely done – solution fits the surface] and 23d [climbing frames].

    Thanks to Firefly and Gazza.

  3. Jane
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Think I was surprised that you gave this 4* for difficulty, Gazza, although it did take me a while to deal with the rich G-man and I may have left the full parsing of 21&28a to you!
    11a does seem to be flavour of the month in the sickness stakes.

    Not overly impressed by the surface reads but 16d appealed and gets my vote for favourite.

    Thanks to Firefly (do we know whether the setter is a he or a she?) and also to Gazza for the painstaking decryptions.

  4. Firefly
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    He’s a he…

    • Jane
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That surprises me for some reason. Anyway, the next question is – do you have a bioluminescent tail end or are you just a fan of American space dramas?
      By the way – sorry to be somewhat disparaging about the surface reads today, it’s just my ‘thing’ in a puzzle.

      • Gazza
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Who was it who said “If you’re in a hole stop digging!”?

  5. Hanni
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I enjoyed this but found parts tricky. I like tricky.

    Liked but took awhile to cotton on to 8/9a. Took me even longer to parse 25a although I am not sure why now. I agree about the coming a cropper bit but I enjoyed the surface.

    Love the long anagrams.

    Favourite is either 26a or 7d..again for the great surfaces.

    Many thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for first rate blog.

    Is it a Devon thing about putting jam on top of the cream. It just doesn’t seem right. Surely it would fall off?

    • Gazza
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Cream first, jam second is the correct way – don’t believe what those west of the Tamar would have you believe.

      • Hanni
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Having just done some research on the subject the only thing that seems universal is clotted cream. So in Devon you don’t have butter. I have always thought it didn’t matter what jam you used (proper raspberry sounds right to me) but it should be strawberry and the people of Cornwall do the thing differently.

        Even David Cameron got it wrong. There are whole articles on it. Who knew.

        I can feel an experiment coming on.

        Damn it someone has beaten me to the experiment…Devon won.

        Bet they didn’t apply my methodology. :cool:

      • Jane
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Easy way to settle the argument. Cut a scone in half horizontally, put jam on one half, cream on the other and sandwich them back together again. Please yourself which way up you hold the resulting delight.
        I could extend the debate by asking whether you would choose to butter the scone first, but perhaps I shouldn’t………..

        • Hanni
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I actually completely and utterly admire that approach Jane. However I am worried about the ratios of scone:cream:jam. Plus there is the whole biting into it and the cream and jam shooting out…or maybe that enhances the experience?

          Oddly enough I am not a big fan of cream teas. I like tea though.

          • Jane
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Well – you can load it up with as much jam and cream as you wish to make up for the double dose of scone. Then you simply keep licking round the edges as you go. Practice makes perfect!

            • Shropshirelad
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

              You two really do need to get out more :cool:

          • BusyLizzie
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

            We always fit in some afternoon teas on visits home, including cream scones, not many places here in south Florida where you can even get a decent cup of tea.
            Had my first try at the Toughie today, definitely above my pay grade with only 9 answers going in without Gazza’s hints. Should have got 15a as my parents and grandparents were fanatical players of that and bridge.

            • Hanni
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

              If this was your first try at a Toughie and you got 9 without hints on Gazza 4* difficulty score I think you should be cracking open the Champagne. Fantastic first effort. Keep at them and you will be solving them in no time. :good:

      • Kath
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

        The thing you really need to think about is what it all looks like in your tummy – does it really matter what goes where and in which order. What it reminds me of is the first Christmas that we had our wonderful Collie, Annie. The cats brought in a mouse and then proceeded to kill it – she (Annie) scoffed it as puppies of four months old do – she then threw up. Elder Lamb took one look and said, “Blimey, it’s still almost in the right order”. Oh well, do hope you’ve all enjoyed that memory . . .

        • Gazza
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Does it really matter??? It’s of vital importance round these parts and a matter of great dispute similar to Gulliver’s conflict between the Big-enders and the Little-enders.

          • Kath
            Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Oh, sorry – don’t really know anything about Gulliver’s conflict between the Bigs and the Littles either. Sometimes I think I have no place here. :sad:

            • Gazza
              Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

              The long-running dispute (as I remember it) was all about which end of a boiled egg should be cut off prior to dipping your soldiers.

              • Hanni
                Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

                Clearly the little end is the one where you dip your soldiers.

                Kath I think I preferred the talking carrot!

              • Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

                I think it depends on the size of the soldiers.

                • Gazza
                  Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

                  What size soldiers do you favour?

                  • Kath
                    Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

                    I’m not sure that Kitty’s the person to ask that kind of question. :unsure:

                    • Hanni
                      Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

                      I quite agree!

                  • Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

                    Depends on the size of the end. :)

                    • Gazza
                      Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink


                    • Hanni
                      Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink


                    • Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

                      Hanni, I’m confused. Why the eye-roll?

                  • Kath
                    Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

                    See – I warned you . . .

  6. Expat Chris
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Not looking at the hints. Just popped in to see which setter was giving me so much trouble. I have precisely 4 answers so far! Perhaps things will improve when I am able to get back to this later today.

  7. Posted June 1, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’m not quite in the right crosswording headspace today, but am sure it’s me (not even Jay perked me up). So I enlisted a bit of help. I liked 7d and my favourite is 23d.

    Many thanks to Gazza for the review. I hate to disagree with you about anything, but I feel that the cream should come last. At least one mathematician also agrees. (Link.)

    Thanks also to Firefly for the entertainment. Thanks for popping in too: it’s great to see more and more setters showing up on this site (not to mention in person). :yes:

  8. Una
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found it a very slow start but as the grid filled it became easier. 3d, 5d, 13a and 21a and of course 20d helped.
    I shouldn’t have been caught out by 22d , but I was and 1d is a a word I am unfamiliar with.
    Thanks Firefly and Gazza.

  9. Shropshirelad
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Fair enough for a Wednesday Toughie, although I have to agree that it was a tad too workmanlike. I liked the anagrams at 13a and 3d – really good surfaces IMHO with 13a just inching past the winning post by a short nose.

    Thanks to Firefly, not only for the puzzle, but for popping in as well. Also thanks to Gazza for his usual expert review.

    Jane – you might be interested in the link below. Firefly is number 42

    • Jane
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks SL – curiosity satisfied. The glowing rear end it is!

  10. Woolgatherer
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I enjoyed this very much and finally did all except 1d, so was stupidly pleased it was rated difficult. (I don’t manage many 4* Toughies.) Having assumed I needed to make (refit) an anagram out of Monument Station, 21a became my favourite as the parsing suddenly made sense. Thanks to Firefly and Gazza.

  11. Sheffieldsy
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We mostly enjoyed this, giving it 3.5*/3*.

    Really enjoyed the penny drop moment when we understood 8,9a.

    Are we right in thinking that two stars, say, for difficulty for a back-pager and two stars for difficulty for a toughie are different animals (the latter for us can be up to twice the former)? However, our enjoyment ratings are constant. Just interested…..

    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza.

    • Gazza
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Different bloggers have different standards for allocating difficulty stars. For me there’s about 2-stars difference, e.g. if a back-pager would have 4* for difficulty that would be 2* for the same puzzle if it were a Toughie.

  12. Kath
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well, I’m just pleased to have almost finished a Toughie worthy of 4* for difficulty from gazza.
    I’m also pleased to know that Firefly is a ‘he’, although I’d learned that this morning from the Kiwis, and to know that he’s the kind of ‘he’ who pops in – always really appreciated.
    This one has taken me a seriously long time but I’ve really enjoyed it.
    The ones that caused the grief, without going into any details as to why, were 21, 24 and 28a and 1d (new word for me) and 14d (only three letter river I could think of was Dee).
    I think that I enjoyed this one much more than the 2* that gazza gave it.
    I liked 8/9a and 11a and 20 and 23d.
    With thanks to Firefly and to gazza.

  13. KiwiColin
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    All four of the long answers went in to an almost empty grid for me – mainly from definition and enumeration, parsing came later. This gave heaps of checkers to work with but it still was not a speedy solve. 27a caused some delay as when I had the second and last letters I tried ASHRAM as the retreat until it would not parse or fit with 17d. An enjoyable solve for me.
    Thanks Firefly and Gazza.

    • Gazza
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Colin,
      Your experience sounds similar to mine. I’m sure that a lot of the slowness was due to more than half the answers having an unchecked first letter. My last answer was 16d because I’d convinced myself that self-sacrifice was a word I didn’t know which meant harakiri or similar.

  14. HoofItYouDonkey
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What’s a reverse anagram??

    • Gazza
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      It’s an anagram where the indicator and the fodder are in the answer and the result of the anagram is in the clue. In 8/9a the answer (marching orders) tells us to make an anagram (orders) of MARCHING with the answer (two in this case) being in the clue, i.e. CHARMING and RICH G-MAN. Reverse anagrams are becoming more common so well worth getting your head round.

      • HoofItYouDonkey
        Posted June 2, 2016 at 6:24 am | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for the explanation and thanks very much for the hints.

  15. Expat Chris
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Things are looking up. Second time round and I now have just six to go, all at the top. Back in a bit.

  16. Salty Dog
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I think I agree with the 4* for difficulty, even though I completed only just into 3* time; five of my (correct) answers had large question marks beside them, and I needed Gazza’s hints to understand how I should have reached them. My favourite clue was 17d, which made me smile. A minor quibble (for which I will no doubt be told off in short order): l cannot see the connection between “slight” and “neglect” in 12a.

    Thanks to Firefly and Gazza.

    • Gazza
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The first meaning in Chambers for the verb to slight is ‘to ignore or overlook disrespectfully’.

      • Salty Dog
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 10:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Hmm. I suppose so, but there’s still a bit of a stretch from that to “neglect”. Still, I happily accept your word for it.

  17. Expat Chris
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    All done without recourse to Google but some parsing help definitely needed for 1A, 18A and 26A (yuk), so thanks to Gazza for the review and thanks to Firefly for the fun. A bit later in the year and we will be sitting outside of an evening watching the fireflies dance.

    As far as the scone wars goes, I am firmly on the “jam first” side (right above the butter), then the cream. I don’t accept that there is only one “correct” way. Do whatever makes you happy. It all ends up as the same mess in your stomach anyway.

    • Hanni
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oh so long since I have seen fireflies. Enjoy.

      I didn’t dare ask whether fruit scones should be used. Although apparently I am making cheese one with the child type thing soon. She is aware of the cream tea debate. At least she is not going on about N.Korea and Donald Trump. I kid you not. Ask Jane. She’s 9 and that was feature in the newspaper she writes recently.

      • Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

        That sounds lovely. Wow, your daughter writes a newspaper? I’m very impressed.

      • Jane
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:40 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Before anyone comments on the above, I’d just like to make it clear that it’s **** who is 9 yrs. old and writes her own newspaper…………

        • Hanni
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Tea (not cream) has just gone up my nose laughing Jane. Sorry…yes my post was a tad ambiguous!

      • Expat Chris
        Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

        It would be interesting to see how much of a British child’s perspective on Donald Trump is fashioned by the media. Actually, it would be interesting to see how a British adult’s perspective on Donald Trump is fashioned largely by the media. But I suspect that is not an appropriate subject for discussion in this forum!

        • Hanni
          Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Chris I do me best to keep her away from all media! The child is resourceful.

          • Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

            So we can gather! What’s the newspaper called?

  18. Heno
    Posted June 2, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the review and hints. I was pleased that I managed to solve quite a lot of clues, given that it was 4* difficulty. I got 17d&the last 2 letters of 18a wrong. Had never heard of 1d, couldn’t get the anagram in 13a, or the reverse one in 8&9a. Couldn’t get 15&28a,6d. Didn’t really enjoy it, not sure why.

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