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Toughie 1943

Toughie No 1943 by Micawber

Hints and tips by Dutch

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

Well, the last toughie of the year. As in previous years, Micawber gives us an “end-of-year” toughie packed with clever references to happenings during 2017 – and what a year it has been. This makes for a brilliantly amusing solve – whatever you do, do not give this puzzle a miss. As is perhaps inevitable, there is a lot of single-letter manipulation in order to accommodate the surfaces, but that hardly detracts. Micawber has also made the puzzle very accessible, roughly back-page difficulty, so no excuses. Enjoy. Many thanks Micawber for this and everything else, and Happy New Year to everyone.

As always the definitions are underlined, the hints explain the wordplay, and the answers may be revealed by clicking on the HE’S BEHIND YOU buttons. (Guess where I’m going this afternoon.) Please leave a comment telling us what you thought!


6a    Region‘s irregular act, unilaterally leaving Spain, leads to immediate arrests (9)
CATALONIA: An anagram (irregular) of ACT, a 5-letter word meaning unilaterally without (leaving) the IVR code for Spain, plus the first letters (leads to) the last two words in the clue

8a    Transport for aliens regularly removed from within United States (4)
UFOS: The odd letters (regularly removed) in FrOm are placed within the abbreviation for the United States

9a    POTUS, tussling with Left-winger, adopted exaggerated attitude (8)
POSTURED: An anagram (tussling) of POTUS followed by a word for a left-winger

10a    Head of studio getting lascivious finally removed — media boss did a U-turn (6)
SLEWED: The first letter (head of) Studio, a 4-letter word for lascivious minus the last letter (finally removed), plus the boss of a paper media

11a    A fight mainly between left and right of party (6)
LABOUR: A from the clue, a fight or match (esp. boxing) without the last letter (mainly), all sitting between the abbreviations for Left and Right

13a    ‘A million billion’ in US city by end of Pres Trump’s inauguration thrash (7)
LAMBAST: A from the clue, the abbreviations for Million and Billion all go inside (in) the abbreviation of a large west-coast US city, plus the last letter (end of) Pres and the first letter (inauguration) of Trump

15a    Demands price of former measures (6)
EXACTS: A prefix meaning former and some measures or laws

16a    Cameron dumping Europe initially shocked French leader (6)
MACRON: An anagram (shocked) of CAM(e)RON without (dumping) the first letter (initially) of Europe

19a    PM announced vote — there was a song and dance about it in spring (7)
MAYPOLE: The surname of our current PM plus a homophone (announced) of a word meaning vote

20a    Big Ben being renovated creating drawback (6)
EBBING: An anagram (being renovated) of BIG BEN

21a    European goods the prize for supporter of what can be hard or soft? (6)
EGGCUP: The abbreviations for European, Good and Good (goods) plus a word for a (usually sports) prize

23a    Close relationship ‘special’? These can get worn (8)
NIGHTIES: A 4-letter word for close, a 3-letter word for a relationship or bind, and the abbreviation for special

25a    Recent start-up seen turning into empire-builder (4)
UBER: Reverse hidden (seen turning in …)

26a    Concerns surrounding Irish backing realistic or trifles? (7,2)
CARRIES ON: A 5-letter word for concerns or worries goes around (surrounding) the reversal (backing) of the abbreviation for Irish, plus a 2-letter word for realistic (as in ‘that’s not **’)



1d    I express gratitude? Not I, disrupted by start of action aboard Southern railway, immobile (10)
STATIONARY: An informal word for thank you (I express gratitude) plus an anagram (disrupted) of NOT I and the first letter (start of) Action all go inside (aboard) the abbreviations for Southern and RailwaY

2d    Contentious allegation surfacing of poll ultimately controlled by Russia (4)
SLUR: A reversal (surfacing) of the last letter (ultimately) of poll inside the 3-letter IVR code for Russia

3d    Worms are an unpleasant hacker’s way of making money (10)
RANSOMWARE: An anagram (unpleasant) of WORMS ARE AN

4d    Take in unionist party, having lost majority in vote (4)
DUPE: The abbreviation of the protestant loyalist party in Northern Island, plus (vot)E having lost the majority of its letters

5d/19d     Up a gum tree, finally gone — criminal mainly describes this politician (6,6)
ROBERT MUGABE: The reversal of (up) A GUM TRE(e) without the last letter (finally gone) is surrounded (describes this) by the first 5-letters (mainly) of a 6-letter criminal

6d    Work of harmonisation is painful task after Article 50’s introduced (7)
CHORALE: A 5-letter painful task (often housework) has inserted (is introduced) the single letter indefinite article plus the Roman numeral for 50

7d    Head for informal agreement on revised deal without leader of America (6)
NODDLE: A 3-letter gesture of agreement plus an anagram (revised) of DE(a)L without the first letter (leader) of America

12d    Review top secret source of revenue after hacking (10)
RETROSPECT: An anagram (after hacking) of TOP SECRET R(evenue) (source of)

14d    High-wire act from Boris at acme almost coming unstuck (10)
ACROBATISM: An anagram (coming unstuck) of BORIS AT ACM(e) without the last letter (almost)

17d    Leaders in North America and North Korea ever at odds over nuclear material (7)
NANKEEN: The first letters (leaders) of North America and North Korea, the odd letters (at odds) in EvEr, plus the abbreviation for Nuclear

18d    Note what Austen nerd hoards (6)
TENNER: Hidden (… hoards)

19d    See 5 Down

22d    Crop Conservative runs through? (4)
CORN: The 3-letter abbreviation for Conservative contains (through) the cricket abbreviation for runs

24d    Superficially plausible at first, Green’s lying is busted (4)
GLIB: An acrostic, the first letters (at first …) of the last four words in the clue. The on-line version expects a different answer on submitting, presumably a previous version of the clue

Where do I begin? 22d made me laugh and is wonderfully simple. I thought 3d was a lovely anagram. I very much liked “Big Ben being renovated”. I really liked 4d for smooth surface. Gosh, was Trumps inauguration this year? Seems like so much has happened since. Which clues did you like?

23 comments on “Toughie 1943

  1. Wonderful – Micawber has excelled himself this year. Thanks to him and to Dutch. Top clues for me were 19a, 4d, 17d and 24d.

  2. Sheer brilliance, Micawber, very well done indeed.
    Seems churlish to select anything for favouritism but I did particularly enjoy 20&21a plus 4d.

    Many thanks, Micawber, and thanks to Dutch for the blog – enjoy the pantomime! A very Happy New Year to both of you.

  3. I rarely complete a Friday Toughie, but I did today. Most enjoyable it was too. I had difficulty with the last three letters of 14d, which was a new term to me, but overall a very entertaining puzzle. Thanks to Micawber and to Dutch. Thanks and a very happy new year to all setters, solvers and hint providers alike.

  4. The usual splendid end of year treat – I hope that one year Dutch will be on holiday on the last Friday of the year so that I can achieve one of my blogging ambitions ;) Thank you to him and Micawber too

    Not sure which clue to put at the top of the champagne fountain but I’m always fond of a clue with a hidden egg reference so I’ll go for 21a.

    1. If Dutch ever does take an end-of-year holiday I expect that a host of bloggers (including me) will be lining up to arm wrestle for the opportunity to stand in for him :)

  5. Firstly, thanks to Cryptic Sue and Jane for the ‘nudge’ in this direction in the back pager blog.

    Very enjoyable, not too tough, I enjoyed the topical content.

    Favourite – 21a.

    Thanks to Micawber and Dutch.

  6. Echo the comments about the (relative) simplicity and the enjoyment factor. I did like 5d/19d. In relation to Dutch’s photos accompanying 17d, I saw a version of this a few weeks ago which was labelled ”Finally the US and N Korea strike a trade deal”.

    As a relative newcomer to this blog, my best wishes to all. And Dutch, if you are at the panto, I hope they haul you on stage to help in the wall papering scene!

  7. Simply wonderful. I thought there were a few constructions in here that were above back-page level, but it was still quite accessible. And in contrast to today’s back-pager, the general knowledge required to parse this one did not come from the last century :)   It’s impossible to pick a favourite when pretty much every clue is a winner. Thanks to Micawber for the superb entertainment, and to Dutch for a splendid, brilliantly-illustrated blog.

  8. I might be in a minority of one … but I thought 4d was brilliant!

    Lovely puzzle from Micawber and a great blog from Dutch.

  9. Excellent puzzle which I managed in absolute record for a Toughie for me. Favourites were 21a, 3d, (not a word I knew before) and 14d.

    Thanks to Micawber and Dutch: HNY to all.

  10. We always seem to approach these end of year puzzles with the thought, “There’ll be lots of stuff we don’t know”, and then, once we get started, find that that is not the case at all. A delight from start to finish and much appreciated and enjoyed.
    Thanks Micawber and Dutch.

  11. Oh! That was fun…and over almost too quickly.
    Only real problems were 4d (not familiar with the Ulster party name rarely mentioned here in Canada) and 17d, a word that required significant retrieval time from my brain’s dim recesses!
    As others have said, a very accessible toughie.

    Thanks to Micawber for the challenge and to Dutch for the hinting.

    Happy New year to all.

  12. Thoroughly enjoyed going through the hints.
    It would have been great to have had a backpager in the same vein that was pitched at a level for all.
    Thanks all.

  13. A lovely effort, a lovely way to end the year.

    I can say I’ve enjoyed every single puzzle since signing up to the Toughie, very well worth it, and since finding this site I’ve loved and enjoyed the posts of all contributors.

    If Big Dave is there, please accept my thanks, if the compilers can see me, the same, and my sincere best wishes to all here. You are great!

    Thank you!

  14. First thought it was going to be a daunting task but managed to fill the grid before going to work yesterday except 4d and 10a.
    These two fell in quite easily when I went back to it.
    Noticed the topicality of some clues but didn’t make anything of it as usual.
    Favourite 25a.
    Thanks to Micawber and to Dutch.

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