Toughie 1850 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 1850

Toughie No 1850 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I was delighted to discover that it was a Micawber day because it’s over a year since I last had the pleasure of blogging one of his puzzles. I wasn’t disappointed. My comment last time was that my only real difficulty was in parsing several bung-ins while writing the blog. The same applied this time although the puzzle did take me slightly longer to finish

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Strong wind around island washed up case, perhaps (8)
MISTRIAL: A violent cold dry north-east wind in the south of France goes round I (island)

5a    Unique selling point about reissue oddly missing what consumer does (4,2)
USES UP: The abbreviation for ‘unique selling point’ round the even-positioned letters of REISSUE

9a    Level of martial arts skill / that can’t be developed outside city (5,4)
GREEN BELT: 2 meanings: a rank of achievement in several martial arts/a strip of open land surrounding a town

11a    Worm finally hollowed out heart of fruit tree (5)
MAPLE: The last letter of WORM + a fruit with the middle letter removed

12a    Affected smile less affected without hint of leer (6)
SIMPER: Remove L (first letter of LEER) from ‘less affected’

13a    A bit of poetry’s deliberately weird (8)
PERVERSE: ‘A’ (3) + a bit of poetry (5)

15a    A sailor, common, reported for combat training (7,6)
ASSAULT COURSE: Homophones of ‘a sailor’ and ‘common’

18a    This scorechart dismisses one failing personality assessment (9,4)
RORSCHACH TEST: An anagram (failing) of THIS SCORECHART minus the letter I (one) = a personality assessment involving ink-blots

22a    Organic mould altering (8)
INTEGRAL: The anagram (mould) of ALTERING that isn’t alerting, relating, tanglier or triangle

23a    Rodent disease found in sloth (6)
AGOUTI: A disease causing swelling of the big toe goes inside the three-toed sloth

26a    Roll back the French gift of oratory? (5)
BAGEL: A hard leavened ring-shaped roll = a reversal of the French definite article and fluent talk as in the phrase ‘gift of the ***’

27a    East German xenophobia and exclusion (9)
OSTRACISM: The German word for ‘east’ + ‘xenophobia’

28a    Lower church official collars the setter (6)
DEMEAN: ‘To lower in status, reputation or dignity’ = a church official round a personal pronoun denoting the setter

29a    One growing inappropriately enraged before king (8)
GARDENER: An anagram (inappropriately) of ENRAGED + R (king)


1d    Flipping rotter is a shining example for major celeb (8)
MEGASTAR: A reversal (flipping) of ‘rotter’ (3), ‘S (is), A and a shining example (3). At first I thought the last 4 letters of the answer provided the shining example but then the rest of the clue didn’t make sense

2d    Cook stalk, retaining asparagus tip (5)
STEAM: ‘To cook’ = a stalk round A (first letter of ASPARAGUS)

3d    Work on a rude poem (7)
RONDEAU: An anagram (work) of ON A RUDE

4d    One vote in favour, or a number (4)
AYES: A (one) + a vote in favour = a number of votes in favour

6d    Russian brewer to relocate, abandoning base in German region (7)
SAMOVAR: A Russian urn used in making a brew of tea = ‘to relocate’ with the letter E (base of natural logarithms) removed inside an industrial region of Germany

7d    Replace Jack’s potential beanstalk, as related? (9)
SUPERSEDE: ‘Jack’ (5) + a homophone of what Jack planted that produced a beanstalk (4). The use of ‘jack’ puzzled me but I decided that it must refer to a detective. Anyone who filled in SUPERCEDE as the answer gets a black mark. Will anyone admit to it?

8d    Deputy in Washington getting a rise has media boss annoyed (6)
PEEVED: A reversal of an informal US term for a vice-president (4) + the boss of a newspaper (2)

10d    Refusing alcohol — it’s 18, usually (8)
TEETOTAL: The 18 refers to the number of holes on a typical golf course

14d    Thus interrupted by jazz fans going head to head, such a performance is not very smooth (8)
STACCATO: ‘Thus’ goes round a reversal of a jazz fan and the same jazz fan not reversed

16d    Ploy grinding one down takes time (9)
STRATAGEM: An anagram (grinding) of the answer to 1 down round T (time)

17d    Get a little cross about Turkey’s border control tool? (8)
STRIMMER: ‘To get a little cross’ (6) round the IVR for Turkey = a machine used to cut the edge of a lawn

19d    First class beer served up in the Crown and Sceptre? (7)
REGALIA: A reversal of ‘first-class’ and a light beer = the insignia of royalty

20d    Lean old woman taking up man’s dress? (7)
HAGGARD: An ugly old woman + a reversal of women’s clothing worn by a man

21d    Took a rise out of — or put one in? (6)
RIBBED: The answer means ‘teased’, ‘ridiculed’ or ‘made fun of’. It could also mean ‘put a ridge or raised band in’

24d    Combination college finds acceptable (5)
UNION: A college (3) + ‘acceptable’ (2)

25d    It rises from Italian terrain (4)
ETNA: Hidden in reverse in ITALIAN TERRAIN

Thanks to Kitty for blogging last Thursday’s puzzle while I was visiting the Western Isles (where the weather was surprisingly good apart from one wet afternoon)

27 comments on “Toughie 1850

  1. I really enjoyed this one, despite it taking hardly any time at all to solve. 0.5/4 from me I have two clues with *s by them 7d and 10d, the latter being quite a good d’oh moment when I realised what the wordplay was on about

    I took the reference to Jack in 7d to refer to the fact that his particular ‘potential beanstalk’ wasn’t ordinary but xxxxx

    Thanks to Bufo and Micawber too

    1. Yes, I would tend to agree with this, Micawber puzzles regularly score highly on my enjoyment-meter but I find it difficult to reconcile them with four-star difficulty, from any angle!

  2. Like CS I really enjoyed this, but unlike her I found it very difficult in parts, particularly the SE corner. I have never thought of 22a as a synonym for organic but on reflection I can see how it might be.

    My podium choices were 27a, 10d and 19d.

    Many thanks to Micawber and to Bufo

  3. I liked this puzzle a lot, especially 11a, 26a, 16d, and 20d. My favourite, which I interpreted the same way as CS, was 7d. I did not know before today that unique selling point had an abbreviation, but it was easily gettable from the word play. Thanks to Micawber and Bufo.

  4. Lots of lovely clues and I agree with Sue above about two of the best. Solved it quite quickly for Micawber but needed a bit of help from Bufo on a couple for the parsing. Also enjoyed 9, 15, 26, 27, 8 and 19.

    Thanks to Micawber and Bufo for the fun.

  5. Brilliant stuff – thanks to Micawber and Bufo. I’ll just mention 26a, 7d, 16d and 20d but my favourite (because it seems so relevant to Mick Twister’s work) is 3d.

  6. Like CS and RD I really enjoyed this – unlike CS but like RD I found it very difficult and almost gave up several times.
    I agree with CS that the ‘Jack’ in the fairy tale planted a ***** seed.
    Think I’ve managed to fall into every trap that was set – I now know more about worms, Russian brewers and diseases of rodents than I ever needed or wanted to know.
    I missed the relevance of 18 in 10a.
    The 18a anagram took for ever – I’ve never heard of it so thanks to Mr Google.
    I still don’t quite ‘see’ 6d.
    I liked 15 and 26a and 7d. I think my favourite was 14d.
    With thanks to Micawber and to Bufo.

    1. Re;6d SAAR is a German territory & if you relocate then you MOVE (without the E) house (which we’ve done 5 times so far).

    2. Thank you Gazza and spindrift – not sure I’d ever have got that far – probably should have done but I just didn’t.

  7. Thoroughly enjoyable and certainly tricky in places. I needed Google to check on the sloth in 23A. My ticks go to 18A, 8D, 10D, and 20D. Thanks Bufo and Micawber.

  8. Following a recommendation in the review for the back page puzzle, I thought I’d give this a go. Needed to look up the psychological test as well as ‘Ai’, and the puzzle as a whole took me a good while, but I thought it was great. Thanks to all.

  9. Throughly enjoyed.

    And annoyingly, even though I do know how to spell it, I had first entered …CEDE.

    A patient having 18a’s replies, to every single ink-blot, “sex”. Sex, sex, sex. Sex, sex, sex.
    Psychiatrist: No doubt about it – you’re a sex-maniac.
    Patient: You’re one to talk! You’re the one with all the dirty pictures!

    My favourite today was 16d, with lots of other great clues

    But my all-time favourite today was Tramp in the guardian with a spectacular 4d:
    “Are orgasms a plus, wearing rubbers here? (7,8)”

    Many thanks Micawber and Bufo

    1. That Guardian clue is absolutely brilliant :)

      I suppose we’ll never see anything like that in the staid Telegraph?

      1. I must say, I do enjoy ‘staid’. I suppose I’m just being an old fuddy duddy. If I want smutty clues I can always try Viz.

        1. Hi, SL. I don’t regard that clue as particularly smutty, so perhaps your supposition is correct :)

          I’m afraid that I’m not familiar with Viz, and it sounds like something that I shouldn’t be Googling from work.

          1. Thanks for your confirmation that I am indeed an old fuddy duddy. Much appreciated.

            1. I find it hard to imagine what clues Mr Kitty does consider “particularly smutty”, if that one barely registers! I guess I’ve probably seen ruder in Private Eye.

  10. Having fought traffic and floods this morning I was very glad I was not 10d when I finally reached home!

  11. I enjoyed this very much, although it was slow going for me, and I met one or two unfamiliar things along the way. Many thanks to all.

  12. Micawber is fast becoming one of my favourite Toughie setters – not too tough but enough to exercise the old grey cells.
    I did know the answer to 18a but couldn’t remember the wretched bloke’s name and also had to verify the unfamiliar definitions of 22a & 3d.
    Fell into the same trap as Bufo with the parsing of 1d and missed the golf reference in 10d (very dim, even for me!).
    Thank goodness we’ve had both the sloth and the rodent recently, that would otherwise have caused a lot of bother.
    Hand up for putting a ‘c’ in 7d – never even occurred to me that I could be wrong on that one!

    Plenty of potential favourites – the short list comprises 15&26a plus 7,19&20d.

    Many thanks for the fun, Micawber and thanks to Bufo for sorting out my errors.

  13. Excellent, cleverly set, and enjoyable to do. Thank you to Micawber and Bufo.
    I especially liked 22a, 27a, and 16-20d. And too difficult to choose just one.
    My only annoyance was with myself for spelling 7d wrongly (but hopefully this will be the last time!).

  14. This one took less time to complete than the back-pager, but it was laced with plenty of head-scratchers for me. A thoroughly enjoyable solve.

    Thanks to Bufo and Micawber.

  15. Delightful brilliance as usual from this setter. Like Gazza, my favourite was 3d for its appropriateness. (Makes a change from my favourite being the most inappropriate!) There’s no point making a list of the highlights (too long) but I do feel like mentioning that I liked the jazz fans going head to head.

    Many thanks to Micawber and Bufo.

  16. Some brilliant, really enjoyable cluing here, but my only moan is 20d. Surely “lean”, as opposed to “drawn” or “lined” or some such is a bit of a stretch to define “haggard”?

    1. The BRB would disagree with you, Paul – ‘lean’ is the first definition given for ‘haggard’.

  17. 11a made me think of my poor palm trees. That’s exactly what happened to them.
    Still have to get rid of these two giant matchsticks in my garden.
    The blog helped me realise that I misspelled 7d too.
    And wasn’t too sure about 21d. Got the right bung in after all but wasn’t aware of either meaning.
    Liked the little story in 14d.
    Funny how 1d and 16d are so closely related. Love to read the latter backwards.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Bufo.

Comments are closed.