Toughie 1658

Toughie No 1658 by Shamus

How’s Your French?

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I thought this was another worthwhile solve. There weren’t too many giveaways but I managed to maintain steady progress until the end (although I took some time to work out 1 across).

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Read only two directions to overlap this country (4)
LURK: People who do this on websites (such as Big Dave’s Crossword Blog) only read items and never post anything themselves. The two directions are left (L) and right (R) and this country is the United Kingdom (UK). So take LR and UK and overlap them to get the answer

3a    Leave as small group entertain on the radio (10)
SABBATICAL: A period of leave from one’s work = S (small) + a Swedish pop group from the 1980s + a homophone (on the radio) of ‘to entertain’ or ‘to amuse’

8a    Lots overlooking new border in chaos (6)
MAYHEM: ‘Lots’ with the letter N (new) removed + a border

9a    A sign of faith among the French in sport (8)
LACROSSE: A + a sign of faith inside the French word for ‘the’

10a    Flier to be over the Channel in place without airman (6)
PETREL: A seabird = te French word for ‘to be’ inside PLACE with an airman removed

11a    A tail’s wagged by a Northern pooch (8)
ALSATIAN: An anagram (wagged) of A TAIL’S + A N (Northern)

12a    Individual in command was first virtually opposing action? (4-4)
BONE-IDLE: An individual (3) inside ‘to command’ (3) + ‘was first’ (3) with the last letter removed = very lazy

14a    Asian pariah trips over bottles (4)
THAI: Hidden in reverse in parIAH Trips

16a    Lose temper in cold spell (4)
SNAP: 2 meanings: lose temper/a cold spell

18a    Probe into father of French and English descent (8)
PEDIGREE: ‘To probe’ inside the French word for ‘father’ + E (English)

19a    Excitement follows clubs in festive drinking (8)
CAROUSAL: C (clubs) + ‘excitement’ = a drinking bout

20a    Miss stylish cake (6)
MUFFIN: ‘To miss (a catch)’ + ‘stylish’

21a    Noted German caught going in Audi not half with high speed — here? (8)
AUTOBAHN: The surname of a German composer (4) with the letter C (caught) removed goes inside the first two letters of AUdi and a speed of 100 mph

22a    Variable employee getting lost with delivery (6)
YORKER: A letter denoting a variable quantity + an employee with the letter W (with) removed = a type of delivery by a bowler at cricket

23a    Friend’s aura ruined after cancellation of a charity event (4-6)
FUND-RAISER: An anagram (ruined) of FRIEND’S AUR, i.e. FRIEND’S AURA less a letter A

24a    Instrument actress detected on radio (4)
HORN: A homophone (on radio) of the surname of the actress Goldie


1d    Maybe, standard web message by which setter’s relieved? (8)
LAMPPOST: Maybe a standard (i.e. a light on a tall support) + a message on a website = something that dogs (e.g. setters) relieve themselves by

2d    Chancellor and Prime Minister once limited vegetable (8)
KOHLRABI: The surname of a former Chancellor of Germany + the surname of a former Prime Minister of Israel with the last letter removed

3d    Copy doctor followed by student in extraordinary session (9)
SEMBLANCE: A 2-letter abbreviation denoting a doctor and L (learner = student) inside a session where the dead are contacted

4d    Outbreak of a risible scandal in holiday location (8,7)
BALEARIC ISLANDS: An anagram (outbreak) of A RISIBLE SCANDAL = Majorca, Minorca, etc.

5d    Show frailty in front of this excellent residential row (7)
TERRACE: A verb meaning to show frailty or make a mistake between the initial letter (front) of T[his] and an adjective meaning excellent

6d    Find players supported by club? It’s guaranteed (4-4)
CAST-IRON: Players (actors) + a golf club

7d    Extra element to retirement with truth out? (3-2)
LIE-IN: An extended time in bed = the opposite of ‘truth’ and the opposite of ‘out’

13d    Worthy men, two Roman figures, kept by retired prince, say (4,5)
LORD MAYOR: A civic worthy = men (not officers) and two Roman numerals inside a reversal of a person such as a prince

15d    A superior class finally advanced cooking method (2,6)
AU GRATIN: A + U (superior) + a class with the last letter put at the front = ‘cooked covered with breadcrumbs or grated cheese, or with both’

16d    Proclaim hardened Scottish banker (3,5)
SET FORTH: ‘Hardened’ + a Scottish river (banker)

17d    Copies of promotional material occupying much of box (5,3)
PRINT RUN: The number of copies of a book produced at a time = promotional material (either as press release or public relations) + ‘occupying’ + a box with the last letter removed

18d    Minimal change burden for tank specialist? (7)
PLUMBER: P (the least change you can be given is one penny) + ‘to burden’. The tank is a water tank

19d    Bird ditching small measure in rubbish (5)
CHAFF: Remove INCH (small measure) from the name of a songbird

Very good


  1. crypticsue
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I did enjoy this very much – so thank you to Shamus and to Bufo – I agree with your ratings today. The winner of the gold medal (and it was almost a photo finish) was 1d.

  2. Gazza
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I thought that Shamus surpassed himself with this one – very enjoyable. Thanks to him and Bufo. I am expecting Silvanus to comment on the repetition of ‘on radio’ for homophone.
    My favourite is one of 1a, 1d and 7d.
    The hint for 5d appears to have gone walkabout.

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That’s weird – something similar happened last week but it was picked up before publication. Now sorted.

  3. Expat Chris
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Very pleased to have a full grid, though the parsing of several took a bit of time and the parsing of 1A eluded me. I’m not a fan of the 24A homophone. I have several clues ticked, but 1D and 20A (when I finally parsed it) are my podium picks. Thanks to Shamus for a fun workout and to Bufo for the review.

  4. JB
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Did get 1a but needed the wordplay explained. I’m obviously not a 1a!
    Didn’t you just love 11a? Any breed less like a “pooch” would be hard to find. A Rottweiler perhaps?

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Some debris at the start of your email address (now removed) sent your comment into moderation.

  5. halcyon
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Enjoyed this. Rather a lot of “take a bit out”s – whilst 6a’s “lots overlooking new” is fine and 21a’s “noted German caught going” is lovely I think 22a’s “employee getting lost with” is a bit contrary. What’s wrong with just “employee’s lost with”? Mutter, mutter.

    Favourites – the top LH corner pair, which really did require some head-scratching until the light[s] went on, 10a [to be over the channel is very cleverly done within the surface] and the aforementioned 21a is quite a tour de force.

    Thanks to Shamus and to Bufo for the blog.

  6. jean-luc cheval
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thought it was excellent also.
    Just had to check the review to fully understand 13d for which I had the right parsing and 10a as I thought it was just “etre” in “pl” for place but wasn’t aware of the airman.
    The homophone in 3a made me laugh.
    The word in 18a is one of my favourite as it started it’s life in French as “Pied de Grue” or “crane’s foot” due to the shape of it’s representation, crossed the channel and came back in this form.
    Thanks to Shamus for the super fun and to Bufo for the explanations.

  7. Jane
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Goodness, that was a steep climb and – as Bufo said – there were very few giveaways to use as toeholds.
    Having finally got the correct country in 1a, I still spent ages trying to pair up points of the compass for the remaining two letters. Much gnashing of teeth when the light finally dawned!

    Filled the grid eventually but needed Bufo’s excellent hints to fully parse 22a plus 7,15&17d.
    Top two for me were 3a and 6d. 1d just missed the cut because the surface didn’t quite hit the spot.

    Many thanks, Shamus – it was certainly a marvellous puzzle – and thanks also to Bufo for the explanations.

  8. Posted August 18, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Started well but didn’t finish without electronic help. Needed Bufo for a few parsings too – not least, 1a!

    I’m not a lover of the crosswordese banker, but it’s one I can live with.

    All very enjoyable. My picks are 1a, 1d, and 7d (EDIT: just noticed that I have copied Gazza there exactly), and I also marked out 19a, 20a and 18d.

    Being me, I noticed a connection between a few of the answers: 12a, 19a, 20a, 24a, and a few more at a stretch.

    Thanks to Shamus for the encryption and to Bufo for the decryption.

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Am I alone in initially trying to make Peru(se) work for 1A?

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

      No! I spent ages trying to make that fit.

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The NW corner was we were held up the most. We had several options sorted out as possibilities for 2d. One politician and several vegetables all ending in ‘I’ but needed more checkers to narrow it down. 1a was the very last to work out the wordplay. Nobody seems to have mentioned all the double unches yet so we will. Think they probably increased the difficulty level but did not blame them particularly at the time. Good fun that kept us amused for quite a long time.
    Thanks Shamus and Bufo.

  11. Marie
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    1a was my last one in.

  12. Una
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Certainly tough enough and I needed a certain number of hints , especially in the lower half.
    I really liked 1d, and also 3a, 9a and 20a.
    Two of the homophones didn’t work for me at all.
    In 1a, I knew it had uk and an l, but I still put in look.Horn and Hawn are not homophones to my ear.
    2d was also brilliant.
    Thanks Bufo and Shamus.

  13. Kath
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I love Shamus crosswords but usually find them tricky – need more practice.
    The top half was fine but the bottom half went a bit wrong, to put it politely.
    1d made me laugh so it’s my favourite – oh, and I liked 20a.
    With thanks to Shamus and to Bufo.

  14. Salty Dog
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 9:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    An enjoyable tussle: call it 3*/4*. Nice to see 1a, in honour of our many silent visitors (come on, you lurkers – dip your toe in the nice warm water!). Thanks to Shamus and Bufo.

  15. Shropshirelad
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 12:00 am | Permalink | Reply

    I do like a good Shamus puzzle and this one was no exception. The only part I struggled with was the NW corner and, in answer to Bufo’s question, pretty poor :) . I will pick 21a as my favourite for 2 reasons:

    1. Having the German composer in the clue will be a god reminder where the ‘H’ goes.
    2. The song by Kraftwerk.

    Thanks to Shamus for a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle and to Bufo for his review.

  16. Ross
    Posted August 20, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    24a Wondered whether the wonderful actress Lena Horne would also be a possibility, dropping the ‘e’ due to radio?
    Thanks Bufo for your review, from one of the many lurkers!!

    • crypticsue
      Posted August 20, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Welcome to the blog. Now you’ve ‘delurked’ I hope you’ll comment more in the future

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