Toughie 1633

Toughie No 1633 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

It’s always a joy to solve and blog a Micawber puzzle and this one is well up there in the enjoyment stakes. I thought that it was slightly trickier than his usual offerings but that’s possibly because my little grey cells are disappearing at an ever faster rate – do let me know if you agree.

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

Across Clues

1a He cuts end off ponytail for party (8)
BARBECUE – someone who cuts (or styles) without his last letter is followed by a twist of hair at the back of the head.

6a After a short time, present something trifling (6)
MINNOW – the abbreviation for a short period of time and a noun meaning the present time.

9a Turn a rogue monkey out of Eastern temple (6)
PAGODA – string together A, a rogue or scoundrel and a monkey without its E(astern) then reverse the lot.

10a Poor cut-off country chap (8)
INDIGENT – an Asian country without its last letter is followed by a posh chap.

11a Picture of soup’s suitable (8)
PHOTOFIT – luckily for me we had this Vietnamese noodle soup (3) not too long ago. Add a phrase (2,3) meaning suitable.

12a Test one has as a driver (6)
MOTIVE – an annual test for elderly vehicles followed by ‘one has’ put into the first person and contracted.

13a They’ll stick up for ass hanging round yard for ages (7,5)
DONKEY’S YEARS – what stick up on an ass contain the abbreviation for yard.

16a Test for driver of high-speed train, about to turn back after money cut (12)
BREATHALYSER – I didn’t previously know the name of the high-speed train operator which operates in western Europe. Add the reversal of a preposition meaning about and precede it all with a slang word for money without its last letter.

19a Dollar and some change for perfumes (6)
SCENTS – the capital letter which forms the basis of the dollar sign is followed by some small coins.

21a Pour drink over insect (2,6)
BE MOTHER – an alcoholic drink goes round a nocturnal insect.

23a Cornish runner has argument, going up to high do? (8)
FALSETTO – charade of a Cornish river and an argument (3-2).

24a Business having abandoned diamonds (6)
OFFICE – split 3,3 this could mean having given up diamonds.

25a Bid to suppress beginnings of unresolved sexual tension, being faithful (6)
TRUSTY – a bid or attempt contains the beginnings of three words in the clue.

26a In capitalism, a niche is what may secure fortune (8)
TALISMAN – a lurker.

Down Clues

2d Start to yawn, following one way to show lack of interest (6)
APATHY – the starting letter of yawn follows one way (1,4).

3d Vessel hugging port in swell (5)
BLOAT – a vessel or craft contains the abbreviation for what port means on board.

4d Bird seen in seed containers by part of yard (9)
CHAFFINCH – a charade of seed containers or husks and 1/36th of a yard.

5d Note I spelt out? (7)
EPISTLE – a musical note followed by an anagram (out) of I SPELT.

6d Woman swinging both ways (5)
MADAM – … because she’s palindromic.

7d Garments wreathing around (9)
NIGHTWEAR – an anagram (around) of WREATHING.

8d Stuffed, I’ve room to eat end of chicken — I’m not a fussy eater (8)
OMNIVORE – an anagram (stuffed) of I’VE ROOM contains the end letter of chicken.

13d Set up system for measuring piece of music to help identification (9)
DIAGNOSIS – string together the abbreviation for the international system of units of measurement, a piece of vocal music and a verb to help – then turn it all upside down.

14d Greasy liquid that’ll help open troublesome door? (6,3)
SESAME OIL – cryptically what may have helped Ali Baba to open the entrance to the treasure cave.

15d Empower board member advising remotely from home (8)
ARMCHAIR – charade of a verb to empower or equip with a weapon and the short form of the title of the person who presides at board meetings.

17d Scientist may use this hair of the dog? (3,4)
LAB COAT – this could be the hair of a breed of dog. I have personal experience of the truth of the fact shown below.

18d No doubt graduate’s got to eat in (6)
BETCHA – an arts graduate contains a verb to eat or corrode.

20d Nutty chicken perhaps brooded forever (5)
SATAY – a verb meaning brooded (as a hen on her eggs) and an adverb meaning forever.

22d Head down in formal rows (5)
TIFFS – start with an adjective meaning formal or reserved and relegate the first letter to the bottom.

Perm any two from 13a, 21a, 23a, 25a, 8d, 15d for the runners-up places but my gold medal has to be awarded to 17d. Which one would you vote for in the leadership contest?


  1. dutch
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Can’t agree with your preamble Gazza – I don’t imagine they’re disappearing at all.

    NW was my last quadrant

    I liked the nutty chicken and the nice surface of the hidden clue.

    I had to confirm the ponytail (in brb, not in Collins or Oxford) and the high-speed train.

    Seemed to be 2 steps involved in translating port (3d) and one (12a)

    I imagine 5d was intended as an all-in-one, but unless I’m missing something, to me it seems only the first word works well as a definition. Since it’s also used in wordplay, looks like we’re getting away with double duty (hence the question mark?)

    Good fun

    many thanks Micawber and Gazza

    • Gazza
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, dutch.
      I hadn’t really thought about the L in 3d but now that I have I agree with you. I don’t see a problem with 12a – we often get “setter’s” for IVE so I think using one (the royal we?) instead is ok. I took 5d to be an all-in-one with the QM there because an epistle is usually a good bit longer than a note.

      • dutch
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Thanks Gazza

        I was thinking one to roman numeral and then to first person singular. I think setter’s to i’ve has the first person singular indicated, but I didn’t consider the royal we, maybe that works! For an all-in-one, def would have to be “note I spelt out”, which I struggle to see as an bona fide extended def for epistle

        But all is mitigated by solvability.

  2. Expat Chris
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found this very challenging. with several I couldn’t parse at all (6A , 11A and 16A ) and two I couldn’t solve (1A and 3D). Cue as a twist of hair is new to me, and I’m not convinced that the answer means party. Several I marked with a tick, including 10A, 23A and 18D. Many thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

  3. crypticsue
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My cryptic brain cells must be in fine form as I didn’t find this Micawber ‘Comfy’ any trickier than his ‘usual’. . I’d definitely give it 5* for entertainment and I’d better not admit to the Favourites Police how many clues have a * by them because I liked them a lot.

    Thanks to Micawber and Gazza too – do you think he put in 17d specially for you and your canine friend?

    • Gazza
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      … I’d like to think so, but I doubt it.

  4. jean-luc cheval
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I do like these charades as Gazza calls them in 15d and 23a.
    Dragged the Vietnamese soup from my memory as we have already seen it before.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza.

  5. Gazza
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Petitjean tomorrow.

  6. Jane
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hard work but well worth the time it took.
    Failed on a couple of bits of parsing – forgot the soup despite having seen it before and didn’t know the train operator.
    Like Chris, I’m not convinced that 1a is necessarily a party.

    Hard to pick a favourite so I’ll go for a top three of 13&21a plus 14d.
    Tanks to Micawber for the challenge and to our Lab lover for an excellent blog. Kitty might have a rather wry smile about the timing of the pic for 7d!

    • dutch
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I have friends (extreme bbq enthusiasts, start the bbq year in Jan) who would definitely say that 1a is a party, of the best kind (they say).

  7. LetterboxRoy
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Well worth persevering to get through this one – very enjoyable. Comfortably difficult. Agree with Gazza ***/*****

    Got the top half completed but that only left me 12a for starters for the bottom half. That caused a long pause.
    I can’t believe I actually looked up ‘borat’ before realising it’s the other hand – D’oh!

    So many great clues it seems cruel to pick favourites but in terms of groans and smiles I’m going with 4d, 14d & 17d.

    My favourite puzzle for a while; thanks to Micawber, Gazza and everyone else who contributes.

  8. Sheffieldsy
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We did this quite early today, then were frustrated that the review wasn’t available to post a comment by the time we had to go out. However, having just got back, that gives us the opportunity to read the other entries. We agree with most of them.

    We’re with Gazza on the ratings, 3*/4* here. Nothing impossible, difficulty-wise, but two were bung-ins (confident bung-ins at that) but needed Gazza’s expertise to fully understand the parsing. They were 11a (the soup was new to us) and 11a (have heard of Thalys, strangely, but even more strangely, not as train operators).

    To follow Gazza’s lead, our runner-up contenders were 13a (made us smile), 5d (we’re quite happy with this as an all-in-one even if Dutch isn’t), 14d (another that made us smile) and 18d (just a lovely clue). On the winner’s rostrum however, is 21a. It’s wonderfully misleading.

    Thanks Gazza and thanks, of course, to Micawber.

    • Sheffieldsy
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oops, my mistake. Now I come to ponder it properly, it’s Thales that I’ve heard of, not Thalys. Oddly, I think the pronunciations are similar.

      • Gazza
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’d not heard of Thalys so I had to look it up. I assumed at first that Thalys was an acronym but apparently it’s just a made-up name with no specific meaning.

        • Sheffieldsy
          Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

          Seems like Micawber has heard of Thalys, though! Seems he is one up on most of us. No surprise there, then.

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The reference to the high-speed train in 16a was unknown to us but we had the answer from the definition and the rest of the wordplay. We laughed out loud when the penny finally dropped for 21a. A brilliant clue. Lots of fun and very much appreciated and enjoyed.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

    • andy
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Re 21a, note to self, do NOT chortle so loudly in a quiet office :)

  10. Wolfson Bear
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A really enjoyable puzzle – glad it was given 3* as i was expecting it to get 2. I found it 3*.

    I have been on the high speed train many times best train services I know. One just turned up at the station, walked down the platform, spoke to one of the staff and jumped onboard without pre-booked tickets, security procedures etc. Then they come round and refreshed the passengers with fairly decent red wine. Probably security has got tighter now!

    Thanks to setter and blogger

  11. Kath
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    First of all, Gazza, there’s nothing wrong with your little grey cells – you’ve probably got more than the rest of us put together.
    I absolutely loved this crossword – I was weeding our veggies but had to keep coming in to check the tennis and do the Toughie.
    I didn’t have too much trouble getting answers to everything but needed the hints to explain quite a few.
    Loads of brilliant clues – well, most of them really, but the two that made me laugh the most were 21a and 17d so I’m going to call them my joint favourites – hopefully I’ll get away with that as I’m probably one of the last to comment.
    With thanks to Micawber for another great crossword and thanks to Gazza too for all the explanations and the pics.

    • Jane
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 11:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Not late enough, Kath!

    • Expat Chris
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Some of us are still up and about and taking note of the fact that you have come over to the dark side with joint favorites. This may come back to haunt you!

    • crypticsue
      Posted July 7, 2016 at 4:18 am | Permalink | Reply

      So glad I looked at the blog while printing off crosswords before setting off to the airport.

      Joint favourites!! Chris is correct , this may indeed come back to haunt you

    • Kath
      Posted July 7, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink | Reply


  12. Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We’re catching up on Toughies. Question our priorities if you will, but crosswords have been sidelined somewhat by eating, drinking and generally having fun. Not to mention the sport.

    We enjoyed this but found it pretty tricky, with a couple of new things (that meaning of cue, and thalys).

    Many thanks to Micawber and Gazza. The 16a cartoon is great, but I’m ever so slightly annoyed as it’s one I’d been saving up to use!

    • Gazza
      Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’d have thought it was the pic at 7d that you’d have saved up to use. :D

      • Posted July 8, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Well I always love a lolcat, but judged it best not to say anything about 7d on this occasion! :)

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