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Toughie 1860

Toughie No 1860 by Giovanni

Hints and tips by Kitty

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


Happy International Cat Day!  The Telegraph have decreed that here in Toughie Corner we shall celebrate with Giovanni.  I found this more of a scratching post than a delicious catnip-filled plaything and needed to put my thinking cat on.  I’ve written some hints and explanations below, just for you, and now I’m off to play with the box it came in.  See you in the comments!

The definitions are underlined in the clues below, and you’ll find the answers inside the buttons.  The exclamation mark is not an imperative – click only if you wish to reveal all.



1a    Perhaps primarily it is celebs changing events of political nature? (11)
PLEBISCITES:  These direct votes of all the members of an electorate are formed of the initial letter (primarily) of perhaps with an anagram (changing) of IT IS CELEBS

7a    First name of famous cinema star performing as ex-President (7)
CLINTON:  The first name of an American filmmaker, musician, and political figure precedes a two-letter word meaning performing.  In fact the full given name of the actor is the same as the answer, a one-time incumbent of the Oval Office

8a    Stranded rower may need to get this — or row! (5-2)
FLARE-UP:  Somebody in difficulties at sea might send a … [the answer minus hyphen], making a visible distress signal.  Hyphenated, it’s a sudden escalation of an argument

10a   Sanction to fail to come into being (8)
NOTARISE:  Split (3,5) this would mean to fail to occur.  To attest to or authenticate (a document etc.) in an official capacity

11a   Prompt that’s visible in the auditorium (6)
INCITE:  A word meaning to provoke sounds like (in the auditorium) is visible (2,5).  A nice surface for a standard homophone, I thought

13a   Decorated church with papers spread around? (4)
ICED:  Decorated in a sweet way.  One of our usual types of church contained within (with … spread around) some identification papers

14a   A worker who knows his craft? (10)
SHIPWRIGHT:  A cryptic definition of a maker of seagoing craft

16a   Description of bird wept over, having met a second monster (10)
COCKATRICE:  We start with the bird Saint Peter is said to have wept upon hearing (having just denied knowing Jesus), then add the A from the clue and mo or tick.  The answer is a fabulous monster.  I had to search to understand the first part of the clue: while I wasn’t unfamiliar with the story, I didn’t make the jump to a Bible interpretation (even knowing the setter).  You know it’s a strange day when you are googling “wept over xxxx”

18a   Supremo starts to think seriously about reform (4)
TSAR:  An acrostic: the initial letters of (starts to) the last words of the clue

21a   The heart being lost with side in pain (6)
TWINGE:  The the from the clue without its central letter (heart being lost) contains (with … in) side

22a   Language in the manner of a noisy boom outside small room (8)
SLAVONIC:  “In the manner of noisy boom” around (outside) what may be euphemistically referred to as a small room

24a   Ill-mannered son, one getting shut up, admits anything but defeat (7)
SWINISH:  Start with the abbreviation for son, the Roman numeral one and a two-letter interjection to shut up.  This lot contains (admits) the opposite of a defeat

25a   Religious ceremony has to work but not loudly (7)
UNCTION:  A verb to work without the musical notation for loudly

26a   Essential finance needed by academy’s foremost intellectual (11)
FUNDAMENTAL:  String together finance (4), A(cademy) and intellectual (6).  I like the placement of this word at the bottom of the grid



1d    Gradually get into queue, as you might say, for an exciting drink (7)
PHILTRE:  This might sound like (as you might say) to gradually enter a queue.  I haven’t come across this love potion for a while but remember it from the days when I used to read (before crosswords took over and ruined everything!)

2d    Forcibly get hold of dumped lover, a wrong act (6)
EXTORT:  Join together a former lover and a legal wrong

3d    See her moving with no poise in a high place very few get to (10)
IONOSPHERE:  We see that an anagram (moving) of HER with NO POISE takes us 75-1000 km (45-620 miles) above the surface of the Earth

4d    Restraining device used by police in strike (4)
CUFF:  Two definitions, the first more usually seen in the plural

5d    Hesitation to board puff-puffs? Coaches must be the answer (8)
TRAINERS:  An insertion of a short word of hesitation into what puff-puffs is a childish name for

6d    Cooking and needlework? Engage servant ultimately (7)
STEWING:  Insert (engage) the last letter (ultimately) of servant into some needlework

7d    Removes fascist, once in a state of disorder (11)
CONFISCATES:  FASCIST ONCE is anagrammed (in a state of disorder)

9d    Islander giving prince a tour around (6,5)
PUERTO RICAN:  This Caribbean islander makes an anagram (giving … around) of PRINCE A TOUR

12d   A piece of art outside university lodge’s entrance shows insect management (10)
APICULTURE:  A from the clue and an artistic image around (outside) U(niversity) and lodge’s first letter (entrance)

15d   Going after criminals, hero is a bundle of nerves (8)
GANGLION:  Coming after a band of criminals is a hero (or a large feline)

17d   Mean person about to start really good squabble (7)
CAITIFF:  The single-letter abbreviation from the Latin for about, an alphanumeric pair denoting first-rate (rendered in crosswordland as two letters) and a quarrel.  I’d never met this mean, despicable person before

19d   Put a group of students up in an erection in the garden? (7)
SUNDIAL:  Put or placed and a student body, all reversed (up, in a down clue).  The magnificent example below is by the beach not in the garden, but never mind

20d   Bird company spinning an animal expert employed externally (6)
AVOCET:  A reversal (spinning) of the abbreviation for company with an animal doctor (including the indefinite article) surrounding it (employed externally)

23d   Doctor with a word of caution (4)
WHOA:  Which Doctor?  That is the question posed by a popular TV show whose main character has just had a sex change.  Append this with the A from the clue … and we come to a halt


Thanks to Giovanni for the Tuesday tester.  I liked the hero in 15d, 19d, and the topical 23d.  Which made you purr?


46 comments on “Toughie 1860

  1. I solved this without knowing it was Giovanni, but I am not at all surprised. About half of it went in very quickly but the SW corner (apart from 7d and 15d) held me up for ages, and I had to cheat a bit to find 17d which was new to me and has never been used in the Guardian – it was dredging 16a up from the deeper recesses that unlocked it.

    Thanks to Kitty and Giovanni

  2. Thanks to Giovanni and Kitty. I wasn’t keen on 7a (partly because I failed to find an actor called MAD IS). It never occurred to me that the 16a bird had religious origins – I just thought it was the male robin that had been shot with an arrow.

          1. Result!!!! Thanks to Giovanni for the explanation. Sometimes it pays to think secularly as we do, Jane.

    1. > Tim Hart and Friends > Songs > Who Killed Cock Robin?
      Who Killed Cock Robin?

      [ Roud 494 ; Ballad Index SKE74 ; trad.]

      Tim Hart, Maddy Prior and Melanie Harrold sang Who Killed Cock Robin? on Tim Hart and Friends’ album Drunken Sailor and Other Kids Songs. This track was later reissued on the compilation CD Favourite Nursery Rhymes and Other Children’s Songs.

      Tim Hart and Friends sing Who Killed Cock Robin?
      Who killed Cock Robin?
      I, said the sparrow, with my bow and arrow
      I killed Cock Robin.

      Chorus (after each verse):
      All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing
      When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin
      When they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin.

      Who saw him die?
      I, said the fly, with my little eye,
      I saw him die.

      Who’ll dig his grave?
      I, said the owl, with my little trowel,
      I’ll dig his grave.

      Who’ll be the parson?
      I, said the rook, with my little book,
      I’ll be the parson.

      Who’ll be chief mourner?
      I, said the dove, I’ll mourn for my love,
      I’ll be chief mourner.

      Who’ll toll the bell?
      I, said the bull, because I can pull,
      I’ll toll the bell.

      1. I see it was released on an album of favourite nursery rhymes and,other children’s songs. I hope that wasn’t the version we sang at the rugby club. Oh no sir.

        1. It is indeed, Gazza. I just thought the reference vague enough without using synonyms rather than direct quotes.

          1. 42 comments so far on a Toughie blog! It just shows how discussion about one clue increases the participation.

            1. Yes. 42 is such a nice number I would almost be reluctant to reply … but your last comment had already made it 43!

  3. Grrrrr very hard.
    I liked 8a and 6d among others.
    I disliked 1d and 17d.
    Thanks to Kitty and Giovanni.

  4. Never tackle a Giovanni without the trusty BRB by your side. Today I learned three more new words, met a monster I hadn’t come across before and discovered that I can’t easily spell 1a.

    Top two for me were 15&23d.

    Thanks to the swallower of dictionaries (aka Giovanni) and to our Girl Tuesday – hope you’re enjoying playing with the cardboard box!
    Loved the picture at 20d (one of my all time favourite birds) and I note from the 8a pic that those birds are still ‘at it’!

    1. Funnily enough, Jane, I rejected some pictures of 20d’s “at it” when choosing the illustrations. Decided to keep things decent!

  5. I pride myself on being on Giovanni’s approximate wavelength, as you may know, and I didn’t find this too hard, though I did make heavy weather of 19d (really wanted it to be SHUSHED or SHUNNED for some reason) and 23d, where I at first tried WHIT. I found this a good mix of quirky (but not ridiculous) vocab and wordplay I have to say, very serviceable stuff for which thanks to the Don and to Kitty (who keeps turning up in other crosswords I’ve been doing recently. Oh to be such a popular figure in Crosswordland!)

      1. I think there was a Kitty in a clue in this week’s Schadenfreude Inquisitor (1502)? Not 100% sure as I’ve sent it off in the post this morning. I remember what the answer was but I can’t talk about it or else Elgar will kill me, and not just the slow way, with very hard puzzles.

    1. Hi Verlaine,
      Trying to decide whether being on Giovanni’s wavelength is something to be proud of – or not. I’ll get back to you on that one.

      1. I don’t know whether I’m more worried about being on Giovanni’s wavelength, or he’s more worried about being on mine!

        Should belatedly nominate a couple of clues I liked – 16a as I’ve just worked out what the “wept over” bit was about (classic Giovanni), and my last one in 8a, which I think is rather clever…

  6. Took rather a long time on some of this.. Had forgotten St Peter’s lacrimal response, thank you Kitty. 17d unknown but the cryptic was fair. PG Wodehouse got me to 15. Liked 23 especially .. brief, quirky and a nice surface.Thanks G & K

  7. 1d and 17d were new to me.

    I respect giovanni, but did not enjoy this puzzle. Stylistically I wasn’t keen on “first name of famous cinema star”, “anything but defeat” (which surely includes a draw), “an erection in the garden” (not in mine), “description of bird wept over” (come on…), “see her moving”, “gradually get into queue, as you might say” (I’ve never said that), etc….

    Sorry don, next time.

    Many thanks kitty.

    1. De gustibus non est disputandum, but I must argue that “anything but x” does in fact mean idiomatically “the polar opposite of x”, not “anything as long as it’s not x”.

          1. Hey! You’re not alone, most of the planet missed it. I did however get Facebook greetings from Trump, Farage, Bojo, and Corbyn.

    2. Agree to some extent but surely 1d is the go to verb for that tedious process in road traffic.

      1. Hmm – do you really say that?

        The Dutch have a great word for two lanes merging into one: “ritzen” or zipping – this automatically implies a one-for-one fair process!

        1. Think I can say with reasonable certainty that any motorist said to be ‘zipping’ in this country is unlikely to be undertaking a one-for-one fair process!

    3. I was just going to keep quiet, Dutch, but I do agree with you regarding the puzzle overall. Sorry G.

  8. Almost beyond me but I have, just about, finished it – goodness knows how as Giovanni’s Friday back page crosswords cause me enough trouble.
    I’ve certainly never heard of 1d, 17d or the high bit above the earth but by the time I had alternate letters in it had to be what it was.
    I always forget the 23d doctor which is silly.
    This has taken me ages but it’s been raining all day so so what.
    I liked 8a and 6d and my favourite was 14a.
    Thanks to Giovanni and to Kitty.

  9. Like Cath I too don’t know how I managed to finish this and can never remember the 23d doctor. I have never come across 17a. Thanks to the setter and Kitty.

    1. Oh good – glad to have some company. I’m a Kath not a Cath but it doesn’t really matter.
      As for the blasted ‘Doctor’ in 23d – well, he gets me every single time.
      My Dad used to say, among other things, “The man (or woman, so as to be PC) who never made a mistake never made anything but the one who makes the same mistake twice is a fool”. I don’t know where that came from but it’s probably not original. It also turns me into a complete fool . . .

  10. We had to work quite hard on this one. The expression in 1d relating to traffic flow is new to us. We have signs here that say “Merge like a zip” which is a bit long-winded but describes the process well. We enjoyed it.
    Thanks Giovanni and Kitty.

  11. A tough-ish 3*, and the same for enjoyment. No real favourites, though. Thanks to the Don, and to Kitty.

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