Toughie 1649

Toughie No 1649 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Gazza

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

More often than not Micawber Toughies appear on Wednesdays which means that I’m a lucky blogger. This one is as entertaining as usual. I found the top half easier than the bottom, though my misreading of the 9d clue probably contributed to that.

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

Across Clues

1a Child catching more than half of city’s fish (6)
TURBOT – a young child contains three-fifths of an adjective meaning “city’s”.

4a Organised workers’ survey of Italian region (6)
TUSCAN – the abbreviation for a workers’ organisation followed by a verb to survey or scrutinise.

8a Agent taking one pound from sum received by actors (8)
CATALYST – a sum or total without one of its abbreviations for a pound sterling goes inside (received by) a group of actors.

10a Politician entering TV Centre for Songs of Praise? (6)
TEMPLE – our usual elected politician goes inside an informal word for TV.

11a Country without any trace of culture? (4)
GERM – remove ‘any’ from the name of a country. What an amusing surface!

12a Musicians making an impact by swearing interminably about nothing (10)
PERCUSSION – a preposition meaning ‘by’ followed by an informal synonym for swearing without its last letter and containing ‘nothing’.

13a Seedy haunt in which, after time, I turn marauder (6,3,3)
ATTILA THE HUN – an anagram (seedy) of HAUNT contains T(ime), I and a verb to turn by machine.

16a There’s no going back after this — it’s where you put your hand in your pocket! (7,5)
TIPPING POINT – cryptically this could be the moment when you show your generosity to someone who’s done you a service.

20a Bird, one moving round capital (10)
BUDGERIGAR – someone moving or changing position contains a Baltic capital.

21a Ring Christopher’s friend back (4)
HOOP – reverse a friend of young Christopher Milne.

22a Setter’s regrettably rejected sausage (6)
SALAMI – combine a contracted form of ‘the setter is’ in the first person and an adverb meaning regrettably then reverse it all. Today’s old chestnut.

23a To calibrate study’s fair (8)
READJUST – charade of a verb to study and an adjective meaning fair or equitable. Should the definition not be ‘recalibrate’?

24a Come out of European Union right away? (6)
EMERGE – the abbreviation for European followed by a union or convergence without its final R(ight). Brilliant surface!

25a To eat in bed, lie awkwardly (6)
EDIBLE – an anagram (awkwardly) of BED LIE.

Down Clues

1d Burlesque effort involving a piece of underwear (8)
TRAVESTY – an effort or attempt contains A and an item of underwear.

2d Speciality of half of Spanish footballers (5)
REALM – the first five letters of the name of a Spanish football team.

3d Old play I’m adapting in classical setting (7)
OLYMPIA – the abbreviation for old followed by an anagram (adapting) of PLAY I’M.

5d Remorse after abandoning initial attempt to catch whopper (7)
UNTRUTH – an old word for remorse or pity follows a verb meaning chase or attempt to catch without its initial letter.

6d Is left economist misrepresented? (5,4)
COMES INTO – an anagram (misrepresented) of ECONOMIST.

7d Columnist channels online content (6)
NELSON – our one and only lurker.

9d Burns right for one giving sentimental performance (5,6)
TORCH SINGER – I would probably have got this one faster if I hadn’t initially misread the first two words as ‘Burns night’ (must go to Specsavers). We need two verbs meaning to burn followed by R(ight).

14d Come together in Spain after goal upset (9)
INTEGRATE – string together IN, a goal or objective reversed and the IVR code for Spain.

15d Beneficiary of drone flying over Vatican? (8)
ENDORSEE – an anagram (flying) of DRONE followed by what the Vatican is an example of.

17d Short news item perhaps — Elvis occupying space? (7)
PARKING – a short written news item without its final A is followed by the name by which Elvis is known.

18d One supervising submerged navy swimmer (7)
GURNARD – I knew that I’d come across this fish before and, sure enough, a bit of googling revealed that it was an answer in Toughie 1573 by Petitjean which I blogged earlier this year when I wrote: I didn’t know this bottom-dwelling fish but it sounds quite interesting. It has six finger-like appendages which it uses to explore the bottom of the sea for food, which make it look as though it’s walking along the bottom. It’s a supervisor or custodian with the abbreviation for our senior service inside it.

19d Get old faster, perhaps, with loss of power (6)
OUTAGE – cryptically this could be a verb to get old faster than someone or something else.

21d Cloth with which to cover onion bhaji when cooked (5)
HIJAB – an anagram (when cooked) of BHAJI. Onion is a slang term for the head.

As always with Micawber it’s a question of deciding which clues to leave out of my ‘likes’ rather than which ones to include. I’ll give honourable mentions to 10a, 16a, 9d, 19d and 21d but my favourite (for the surface reading) has to be 24a. Which one(s) got you going?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A lucky blogger indeed. We solvers were also fortunate in that this enjoyable puzzle was definitely on the ‘Toughie’ difficulty spectrum. I can’t pick a favourite either so I’ll just say thank you to Micawber and Gazza too.

  2. dutch
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Phew. Some rather well-hidden definitions and partial words etc in the wordplay made this quite hard, but also made it a lot of fun. And as you say Gazza, some terrific surface readings.

    Took me a while to parse 5d and my last one in was 19d.

    Some good penny drop moments at 7d, 11a, 16a, 12a, 9d

    A great toughie, many thanks Micawber and thanks Gazza

  3. Jane
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very enjoyable solve but I needed Gazza’s help to parse 13a&5d – don’t help myself either by always doubling up on the wrong letter in the marauder!
    Hadn’t heard of the sentimental performer before today.
    Doesn’t 12a require ‘ists’ to get the correct sense?

    Podium places go to 4,11,16&24a.

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for being there to lend a hand. Liked the 13a cartoon!

    • Gazza
      Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I think that percussion can mean the relevant section of an orchestra (like wind or strings).

      • Jane
        Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I rather thought that would be percussion section?

        • Gazza
          Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

          My knowledge in this area is very limited because I never graduated beyond the triangle, but Collins Dictionary says: The percussion is the section of an orchestra which consists of percussion instruments such as drums and cymbals.

          • Jane
            Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

            Still not happy about it, Gazza. BRB has musician as a person skilled in music; a performer or composer of same – whereas percussion appears to relate to the instrument(s) played.
            Never mind, I’ll just grumble away merrily to myself! It didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the puzzle.

          • Jose
            Posted August 5, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

            I hope I’m not intruding, but just as a footnote to this mini-debate I decided to research a little (semantics is a passion of mine) and found this in the latest edition of the SOED:

            Percussion: 2. The playing of a musical instrument by striking it or striking two parts together; collect. the percussion instruments of an orchestra etc.; the players of these.

            I think the last sentence sums it up – in a specific context percussion can mean the collective section of the orchestra, including the instruments and the players thereof – or indeed, the musicians separately.

            • Gazza
              Posted August 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

              You’re not intruding at all, Jose. Thanks for that.

  4. Expat Chris
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I loved it. Top half went in more readily than the bottom half, but I completed it with only the parsing of 5D in doubt. 11A made me smile, as did 24A but my favorite is 7D. Many thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the review.

  5. Ash Cooper
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Managed to finish this one fairly quickly though I never did spot the “lathe” reference in 13a.

    For 16a I thought I was clever in coming up (initially) with “selling point”, so the bottom left hand corner held me up for a while.

    I usually never quite finish Toughies but that’s both completed this week so far. Maybe I’m getting better or perhaps the setters are having a bout of midsummer kindness.

  6. halcyon
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Top half no trouble but without 9d the grid left little of the bottom [and much harder] half to work on. Some clever clues as always, of which favourites were 12a [swearing interminably etc – lovely] 9d [the 2 burns] and last in 19d [just couldn’t get away from a search for a dieter to remove a P from!!]

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the blog.

  7. Verlaine
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found this very easy, as it goes… but fortunately even more enjoyable, with every clue delightful in some way. Hats off to Micawber, and thanks blogger!

  8. elcid
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A thoroughly enjoyable Toughie. Kudos have to go to 11a. Many thanks to Gazza for explanations I could not fathom and to Micawber for the fun!

  9. Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A solve full of d’oh!s, where I was slow to see things that I really thought I should have been quicker with. There were still a few spaces in the bottom by the time Mr K came online so I enlisted his help to finish. That means it’s not cheating – it’s a joint solve!

    In some places I was slow because of excellent misdirection. Case in point: 19d, where I was another who spent ages trying to take the P out of something.

    I liked Gazza’s favourite but just to be different I shall pick 11a and 12a as my favourites (don’t tell Kath), with mentions too for 20a, 25a, 19d and 21d.

    16a had me thinking of buying rounds for a while (because ROUND fit for the second word). I am thirsty! Got it right in the end, but only after TURNING POINT stubbornly refused to work. Quite apart from not fitting the wordplay, going back is precisely what one does do after that. Catterbrained!

    With only the last couple of checkers in place I wanted 14d to be something else.

    I needed Gazza to explain the first bit of 17d. Also didn’t know the sentimental one in 9d or the 18d bottom-dwelling fish.

    All in all, this was not a confidence-booster for me, but still lots of fun. Many thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

  10. Una
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 5:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am very glad to read that this is a proper Toughie , otherwise I am having a very thick day .
    The south-east corner went in first, then the north-west and then stabs here and there and finally the hints cleared up the remaining mysteries.
    It wasn’t helped by having an idee fix that 9d was some version of tear jerker.
    Thanks to Gazza and Micawber.

  11. LabradorsruleOK
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    After yesterday’s comments about today being Micawber from the experts my Toughie Nemesis was anticipated & duly arrived. The NW corner I managed: then needed Gazza’s excellent hints to build the other 3.
    7d my favourite as got it without help.
    Thanks to Micawber & Gazza. For me it was a very enjoyable, if somewhat chastening experience

  12. jean-luc cheval
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Must be a wavelength thing as like Verlaine, I found it quite straightforward.
    Only held up by 11a and 19d.
    Needless to say that I really enjoyed the solve.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for the review.

  13. 2Kiwis
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Really good fun that we much appreciated and enjoyed. The fish in 18a is well known to us as it is one of the most common species on the coast where we live. Its other oddity is that when caught it barks like a dog. Excellent eating too. Too many great clues to be able to single one out for favouritism.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

  14. Kath
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 10:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I give in – defeated by several so thanks to Gazza for sorting me out.
    I got completely fixated, for no reason at all, on 9d being ‘Oscar winner’ – this was not only wrong but wrecked everything else even though I didn’t put it in.
    13a looked so unlikely that I thought I must have got something else wrong.
    I did manage most of the rest and really enjoyed it, as usual for a Micawber crossword.
    I liked lots of these but I think my favourite has to be 11a.
    With thanks to Micawber and to Gazza for all the help – even the ones I couldn’t do ‘all my own self’ I did get just from reading the very clear hints.

    • Gazza
      Posted August 3, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I like Oscar Winner for ‘one giving sentimental performance’.

  15. Wolfson Bear
    Posted August 3, 2016 at 11:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A very nice enjoyable toughie. I am grateful for Gazza’s clarification that the columnist is to be found in trafalgar square. After spotting the hidden word fairly quickly I assumed it was the telegraph’s friday columnist Fraser, editor of the spectator – and gave it no further thought! Well, valid too – but I am now sure the setter had the admiral in mind

    With thanks to the setter as well

  16. LetterboxRoy
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A fine puzzle which I made much more difficult by making four dyslexic errors, I wish I could do it again.

    Plenty to think about and some really ingenious surfaces.

    I did need a glimpse of the hints at the halfway point, but once 13a was in it came to me – all apart from 9d, of which I have never heard so that would be a bung-in.

    Thanks to Micawber and the ever-enlightening Gazza for making sense of it.

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