Toughie 1669

Toughie No 1669 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Gazza

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ****

In the last three Wednesdays we’ve had Toughies from Dada, Elkamere and Micawber. It would suit me fine if that sequence were to be repeated ad infinitum. This one is very much at the less exacting end of Micawber’s spectrum but witty and enjoyable as always.

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

Across Clues

1a Missile launch reported in coastal plant (8)
SAMPHIRE – charade of the acronym for a type of armed missile and what sounds like a verb to launch or shoot.

5a Hit in street fight (6)
STRUCK – the abbreviation for street and a slang word for a fight.

9a What’ll brighten up the room — pale daffodil, perhaps (5,4)
LIGHT BULB – string together an adjective meaning pale or whitish and what a daffodil is an example of.

11a Kids matter (5)
ISSUE – double definition (somewhat chestnutty).

12a Poor quality wood used in test (6)
TRASHY – insert a type of wood into a verb to test or check out.

13a Praise from a spymaster upon cypher being broken by secondary characters in Bletchley Park (8)
ACCOLADE – start with A and the letter traditionally used to identify the head of MI6 then insert the second letters of Bletchley and Park into a cypher.

15a Bird pursues mite that’s found in cherry? (8,5)
COCKTAIL STICK – join together a male bird, a verb meaning pursues or dogs and a small mite or parasite.

18a Corrupt old earl’s hanging round outside toilet for minister (4,5,4)
LORD PRIVY SEAL – we’ve had this minister from Micawber before (in Toughie 536) when he clued it as ‘God can confirm minister (4,5,4)’. Here it’s an anagram (corrupt) of OLD EARL’S containing a word for an outside toilet. LOL – same old goings-on at Westminster then.

22a Short-term employment around Thailand’s capital is attractive (8)
TEMPTING – the activity of a non-permanent office worker contains the capital letter of Thailand.

23a Call big meeting on replacing it (6)
SUMMON – start with an important conference of heads of government then obey the last three words of the clue.

26a Dog that’ll guide one in mountains? (5)
CAIRN – double definition, the second a mound of stones on a hilltop used as a landmark.

27a Abysmal article in French paper (9)
CHRONICLE – charade of an adjective meaning abysmal and a French definite article.

28a What you do when sailing past Gib became apparent (6)
SEEMED – split the answer 3,3 and this is what you may do when sailing past Gibraltar (but only when travelling eastwards).

29a Cast who boast are theatrically ostentatious (8)
SHOWBOAT – an anagram (cast) of WHO BOAST.

Down Clues

1d Lost cities heartlessly demolished, a turning point (8)
SOLSTICE – an anagram (demolished) of LOST CI[ti]ES.

2d Soft rock publication mostly reproduced (5)
MAGMA – start with an informal word for a publication and add most of the same word again.

3d Statement of obvious success (7)
HOTSHOT – if you split the answer 3’1,3 you get a statement of the obvious which adds little to our understanding (a bit like ‘Brexit means Brexit’).

4d Thoroughly beat flour and butter for variable time (4)
ROUT – a mixture of flour and butter used in the making of sauces has its algebraic variable replaced by the abbreviation for time.

6d One of three Mediterranean cities featured on radio three times? (7)
TRIPOLI – the name of three Mediterranean cities (in Libya, Lebanon and Greece) sounds (a bit) like an adverb meaning three times.

7d Regularly furnish singular ‘hair of the dog’ for free (9)
UNSHACKLE – the even letters of ‘furnish’ are followed by a single instance of the hairs on a dog’s back which rise as a sign of excitement or aggression.

8d Again look up custodian of the net (6)
KEEPER – reverse a verb to look again.

10d Hide money with family (8)
BUCKSKIN – an informal word for money in various countries (including the USA) followed by a term for family.

14d Man’s fear of Latin? (8)
HISPANIC – a possessive adjective (man’s) and a word for fear or great alarm.

16d Flower display in emo club (9)
COLUMBINE – an anagram (display, in the sense of ‘set out’) of IN EMO CLUB.

17d Noisy, mean chap (8)
PLANGENT – charade of a verb to mean or intend and a posh chap.

19d Entourage always holding one up (7)
RETINUE – a poetic form of ‘always’ contains a word for the number one. Now reverse the lot (up).

20d Saying ‘Why, oh… Britain these days!’ is a conversational filler (3,4)
YOU KNOW – string together the letters that sound like why and oh, the abbreviation for our country and an adverb meaning these days or at the present time.

21d Remains in talked-about underworld location (6)
STICKS – this sounds like the name of a mythological river in Hades.

24d Coded instruction from a crossword’s setting (5)
MACRO – our one and only hidden word.

25d Main part of foot (4)
ARCH – double definition, the first used as a prefix to mean principal.

I’ll pick out 15a, 3d and 20d but my favourite, for the funny surface, is 18a. Which one(s) had you in stitches?


  1. crypticsue
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Interestingly I found it at the taxing end (mind you that’s relative) of the Micawber spectrum (so 2* rather than 1*) but that might be because I was grumpy after having been on a fruitless search of East Kent shops looking for a copy of today’s paper.

    As enjoyable as ever, thank you Micawber – I marked several clues with * but would mention specially 28a and 6d. Thanks to Gazza too – not quite sure how you acquired the lovely picture of my friend’s dog!

  2. dutch
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    First of all congratulations Snape for his first crossword in the Independent today! (9329 by Eccles). How fantastic is that? And a lovely puzzle it is too. I’m sure more of our rookies will follow.

    Very enjoyable puzzle today with plenty of 9a moments.

    I had to laugh at (a bit) in the hint for the homophone clue (6d)

    Plenty to like, no particular favourite

    many thanks Micawber and Gazza

    • Gazza
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Many congratulations to Snape on an excellent puzzle. I’ve just done a bit of Googling and his first Rookie puzzle appeared in April 2015. To progress from his first puzzle to being a nationally-published setter in less than 18 months must be some sort of record!

    • ShropshireLad
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Wow, is there a link for the Indy? If not, I will try to find a copy. WELL DONE Snape (yes I know I’m shouting) couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke, I am so pleased for you. If you’re at York, we’ll have a pint or two?

    • jean-luc cheval
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Congratulations to Snape.
      Still can’t print the grid properly. I think I need to download these new Java plug-ins.
      Shall try it later.

    • Beet
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 5:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Huge congratulations to Snape. What makes it even more impressive is that, before he got it into his head to have a go at setting a crossword less than two years ago, he didn’t even really solve crosswords before that.

    • snape
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Cheers, and sorry to have caused the thread to be hijacked. Still can’t solve the things – maybe should have spent more of the time learning to solve. Not sure I’ll make it to York, maybe for a couple of hours early evening. Still my round, I know. Looking at the early Rookies, I see Hoskins, (who got a move on!), Brigster and Soup, so not sure I’m the quickest. Maybe they weren’t their absolute first puzzles. I suspect it is much easier to learn how do it nowadays, mainly through Rookie Corner and DIYCOW. The Indy is great for new setters, I’m not going to be the last. Unless it goes bust tomorrow.

      • Jane
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Well done, Snape – don’t (as they say) devalue your own currency – that was quite an achievement!

      • Hanni
        Posted September 8, 2016 at 12:11 am | Permalink | Reply

        Not getting much chance to solve at the moment but well done Snape/Eccles. So pleased for you!

  3. happy days
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The usual good stuff from Micawber. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Favourite was 20d. Innovative and quirky

  4. Jeroboam
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 2:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I’d agree with your list of setters, Gazza. I’ve always liked Micawber’s style and this puzzle, even if it is a little gentler than normal, was very enjoyable. I liked 20d, which appears to be the limit of the average Premiership footballer’s vocabulary.

    Thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

    I’m in Derbyshire and I had trouble getting the paper too. Our local newsagent didn’t get its copies until far later than normal.

  5. halcyon
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Yep. Good stuff. Innovative and quirky apply to 2 and 3d too. 4d and 15a are pretty perfect as well.

    Thanks to Micawber for the puzzle and Gazza for the blog [that sure is one cute dog}

  6. ShropshireLad
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Lovely, lovely puzzle. My only moan? Over too quickly. Too many ticks to pick a favourite but I did really like 1a. 28a was my last one in – as I sat there and mulled over everything Gibraltarian until the penny dropped with a very loud clang that pommers probably heard in his part of Spain D’oh!

    Been to Gib many, many times in the RN as it was always the first port of call on a deployment – you then were eligible for Local Overseas Allowance (LOA) on a daily basis – that was money in your pocket, or at least until the landlord of the ‘Mad Monk’ got his tuppence worth. :yes:

    Thanks to Micawber for the puzzle and to Gazza for a fine blog – you lucky devil you. :)

  7. Jane
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    If you got your wish, Gazza, I think I’d be crying – but I do know that I’m well down the field when it comes to Toughie solving.
    Took me quite a while to finish this one and some of the parsing took even longer but I certainly enjoyed the work-out.

    I didn’t know that meaning of 24d and a couple of clues had definitions that bothered me until I looked them up, but there were also some delights.
    Top three for me were 15,18&26a.

    Thanks to Micawber and also to Gazza for the confirmations that I’d got it all sorted in the end.

  8. jean-luc cheval
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Waited all day to know who the setter was.
    5 stars for enjoyment.
    So many 9a moments.
    Really loved every minute of it.
    Only held up by putting “inch” in 25d thinking about island but the ” part” was doing double duty.
    Favourite is 3d.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Gazza.

  9. Gazza
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Beam tomorrow.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Brian will be happy on the back pager then? Maybe not.

      • Jane
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Brian = happy? Not seeing the synonym there, SL.

  10. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 7:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyable with lots of smiles and chuckles.
    Thanks Micawber and Gazza.

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Just to let you guys know – BD has now paid all wages outstanding for blogging duties. It has increased my bank balance no end :whistle:

      • 2Kiwis
        Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

        We’re very pleased to hear that. :good:

        • Shropshirelad
          Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:08 pm | Permalink | Reply


  11. LabradorsruleOK
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:21 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Nearly got there: only 2 standing before needing help – thanks Gazza. Best effort yet so it must have been on the easier side – I’ll take it whatever.
    Thanks to setter & Gazza. I don’t really see (hear?) 6d: perhaps it’s my Lancashire accent

    • Gazza
      Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

      The 6d homophone doesn’t really work for me either.

  12. Expat Chris
    Posted September 7, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I found it gentle, and for once I was able to knock this, the back-pager and the quickie all out before start of business. Mind you, I do rise with the rooster. Anyway, lovely puzzle and I just needed parsing help for 3D. Favorites were 1D and 14D. Thanks to Micawber and Gazza.

    P.s. I wasn’t able to access the blog for a bit earlier today. Maybe it was taking a nap, which is what I decided to do.

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