Toughie 2424 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2424

Toughie No 2424 by Micawber

Hints and tips by crypticsue

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

We’ve waited a very long time for the first Micawber Toughie of 2020 (on this very day last year we were solving our third) but I think it was worth the wait. I’m doubly happy to see him here today as it means that I can tick off ‘blog a Micawber’ from my cruciverbal wish list.

The enjoyment rating is my own assessment. The difficulty rating is an average of the assessments of some fellow solvers

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    African took part in race, carrying baton (7)
RWANDAN Another way of saying raced ‘carrying’ a baton used by a fairy, magician, conjuror, conductor or diviner

5a    Obtain favourable treatment (7)
PROCURE An adverb meaning in favour of and some treatment

9a    Savings at first returning low rate (5)
SPEED The first letter of Savings followed by a reversal (returning in an Across clue) of an adverb meaning low in pitch

10a    Prisoner kept in by the authority of succeeding head of government — this could blow up (9)
GUNPOWDER An abbreviated prisoner inserted into (kept in) by a preposition meaning under the authority, the result succeeding or going after the letter that is the ‘head’ of Government

11a    Attempt to master alphabet’s beginning with first three letters in a row — like ABC? (10)
ELEMENTARY As simple as ABC – but it did take a while for me to ‘get’ that the first part of the solution relates to how you might say three letters of the alphabet that appear one after the other (in a row). The simplest bit of the clue was the need to insert (master) A (the beginning of Alphabet) into a verb meaning to attempt

12a    I’ll leave bar, being put on ‘nil by mouth’ (4)
ORAL Remove the I from a type of horizontal bar and put what remains on or after O (nil)

14a    Take care of gram plant found around wetland — very unexpected (4-8)
MIND-BOGGLING A verb meaning take care of followed by the abbreviation for Gram and a plant, between which (around) is inserted some wetland

18a    Prelude ‘variation on a theme’ being withdrawn (12)
INTROVERSION An informal term for a musical prelude and a variation on a theme or story

21a    Observe with sly glance on turning (4)
KEEP A reversal (on turning) of a sly glance

22a    American priest to make speech better (10)
AMELIORATE An abbreviation for American, the Old Testament priest so useful for crossword setters and a verb meaning to make a speech

25a    Tag geese wandering around river — you won’t find one laying this! (6,3)
EASTER EGG An anagram (wandering) of TAG GEESE ‘around’ the abbreviation for River

26a    Small detached piece of land won’t be available for rent (5)
ISLET If something isn’t available for rent, one might say that it xx xxx

27a    A document creating act (7)
PERFORM A way of saying for each (A) and a document to be filled in with details

28a    Carry equipment of DJ, say, having godlike status (7)
TOTEMIC A verb meaning to carry and an abbreviated piece of equipment used by a disc jockey


1d    Snake in the grass half-heartedly made sound between a hiss and a rattle (6)
RASPED A snake inserted into a type of grass from which one of the middle letters (half-heartedly) has been removed

2d    Old primates OK fitness class being introduced (6)
APEMEN An abbreviated fitness class introduced into an expression of assent (OK)

3d    Was Spice Girl performing half-cut on noisy tube? (10)
DIDGERIDOO A way of asking whether a particular Spice Girl was performing followed by the first letter of On (half-cut telling you to lose the N)

4d    Nearly time when The Sun sinks into obscurity (5)
NIGHT A nice example of misleading capitals – all you need here is a way of saying nearly followed by the abbreviation for Time

5d    Unable to pay debts, first write your half off (9)
PENURIOUS A verb meaning to write and the second half of yoUR go first and are then followed by some debts

6d    Love London-based bank that produces notes (4)
OBOE The letter used to represent love and the abbreviation for the London bank which is indeed responsible for producing monetary notes, not musical ones like the item in the solution

7d    Knock dinner up to try to prevent collapse (8)
UNDERPIN An anagram (knock) of DINNER UP

8d    Complicated gears pull all but the end organ stops? (8)
EARPLUGS An anagram (complicated) of GEARS PUL (you don’t need the L at the end of pull)

13d    Country expert perhaps involved in upcoming event Simon organised (10)
AGRONOMIST Lurking in reverse (involved in upcoming) evenT SIMON ORGAnised

15d    Perfect pairing Emma rated going awry (5,4)
DREAM TEAM An anagram (going awry) of EMMA RATED

16d    I can be yours for a herbal tea? (4-2-2)
PICK-ME-UP A herbal tea is an example of a stimulating drink; without the hyphens, the solution means something else entirely!

17d    Emphasise old resistance is source of tension (8)
STRESSOR An agent or factor that causes tension is obtained by following said tension with the abbreviations for Old and Resistance

19d    Section of Manhattan Mahler composed (6)
HARLEM An anagram (composed) of MAHLER

20d    Agitated, as alternative is leaving bully in charge (6)
HECTIC Remove the conjunction denoting an alternative from a verb meaning to bully and replace with the abbreviation meaning in charge

23d    Authorised escape (5)
LEGIT An informal term meaning authorised, if pronounced differently might be an instruction to escape

24d    Go over European river that’s rising (4)
REDO A reversal (that’s rising in a Down clue) of a German river

Last year, we didn’t get another Micawber Toughie until October – I do sincerely hope we don’t have to wait as long for another cruciverbal treat from him

31 comments on “Toughie 2424

  1. I had the grid completed in *** time, admittedly with just a little electronic help. Parsing some of the clues took a while, 11a in particular, but I did get there in the end. That was the last to fall, along with 5d, because I was stuck with ‘pecunious’ for some reason.

    COTD for me was 3d, as it had me racking my brains trying to remember their names.

    Many thanks to Micawber and CS.

  2. Not finished it yet but really happy to have completed over half of it unaided. I will refrain from looking at the hints until I am completely stumped.

    Many thanks to Micawber and to CS, whose hints I will definitely need later.

  3. Maybe Micawber took his time in crafting and polishing this little jewel.

    Thanks M and thanks CS for a fine blog.

  4. Welcome back to Micawber. I hope we don’t have to wait so long for his next Toughie. Thanks to him for this very enjoyable puzzle and to CS for the review.
    Amongst the recipients of ticks from me were 11a, 5d, 8d and 20d.

  5. A most enjoyable puzzle. A very low level of GK (the Ozzie instrument was fairly widely known in my youth, perhaps due to Rolf Harris before his fall) so loud cheers from me. Seems Gazza did not get much of a respite from the spice girls though! I agree with the two star difficulty but would go to 5 stars for enjoyment. It is so nice to solve and parse everything without aids a bonus star is justified
    Thanks to Mikawber and CS

  6. On my first read through of this puzzle I didn’t solve one clue and nearly gave up but……it’s taken me all morning and I’ve completed it. The NW corner resisted the longest but it finally fell.
    Not sure about 28a. as a totem is not a god but it will do.
    COTD has to be 3d A noisy tube indeed.
    Thanks to setter and CS.

  7. I thought this was a wonderful puzzle, and hugely enjoyable. More please! Many thanks to Micawber and crypticsue.

  8. My thanks to Micawber for a really good puzzle. I found it moderately difficult but manageable, and it was laced with very clever clues. It was certainly the most enjoyable cryptic, (toughie or otherwise), crossword I have come across for some time. I thought he had made a mistake with 1a , but looked it up and found that there are two possible spellings for the country in question. I should have known better.

  9. After yet another lack-lustre back-pager continuing the trend of the past few weeks on every second Thursday, this genuine Toughie was a sheer delight.

    I did have a couple of hmms: I don’t think treatment in 5a is synonymous with cure; and isn’t 24d “go over again“? But those apart my page was littered with ticks. Fighting it out for places on the podium were 1a, 11a, 3d, 8d & 13d.

    Many thanks to Micawber and to CS.

  10. I actually finished it with the help of only four hints. It is a first for me managing to complete a Toughie.

    Most enjoyable.

    Thank you, Micawber and CS.

  11. Finished this wonderful Micawber gem in very fast time (for me) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been working the Toughies before the Cryptics lately and maybe that’s why the Cryptic seemed rather bland. Favourites today: 1a, 3d, 8d, 14a, 13d. Thanks to crypticsue for the review, and welcome to 2020, Micawber. ** / *****

    1. I think that the back-pager today was bland, as it was on Thursday two weeks ago, and four weeks ago, and …

    2. OMG, the LMN trio just hit me! No wonder my parsing was so erratic in 11a. Thanks to the Kiwis–and again, hats off to Micawber.

  12. I love to do a bit of time travel.
    The clue in 3d really rang a bell and after a quick look, I found it in the archives. Nearly ten years have passed since but it was from Micawber.
    The funniest thing is that on this day, BD was saying that we hadn’t seen the setter for 2 years and was dearly missed. I wasn’t commenting on the blog then but it was nice to see our old friends Bigbaob from Scotland and Franco.
    Anyway, not saying that Mick is recycling as it is always a pleasure to solve one of his offerings.
    I love when the definitions are semi cryptic like Noisy Tube or Organ Stops.
    Too many clues to mention as favourite.
    Thanks to Micawber and to CS for the review.

    1. Monsieur, which puzzle was that? You have a very good memory!

      I still read the blog and I am always amazed that a non English speaker can tackle even the toughest of Toughies.

  13. Late in as today was my weekly ‘daughter comes with provisions’ occasion – have to make the most of it!
    Any Toughie would have been welcome after the lack-lustre back-pager, the fact that it was from the lovely Micawber was an added bonus.
    So many worthy of podium places but I can’t see beyond 8d for my favourite – what a wonderful description!

    Many thanks to Micawber and please don’t leave it so long ’til your next one. Thanks also to CS for the review – you might need the ‘organ stops’ when Mr CS finally gets his new strimmer!

  14. One or two clues (4, 15, 19) not really in Toughie territory for me, but a pleasantly gentle solve nonetheless. I now have to go and dust off my 3d (not the Spice Girl) and see if I’ve still got the puff to parp it! 2*/3.5*. Thanks Micawber & CS, not that I needed your help! But the hints are as ever entertaining.

        1. Actually, Jane, both spellings are acceptable over here. One word is really preferable.

  15. Very much enjoyed this. We completed the puzzle but could not explain the Simon clue (our son’s name), believing it to be an embedded anagram leaving the rest of the word unparseable, until coming here after the event.

    Loved 11a.

    Thanks to Micawber and CS.

  16. What a pleasure to have a Micawber puzzle to solve again. He does manage to keep us smiling and chuckling right through the solve.
    We were a bit slow getting started in the NW but once underway and getting back onto the setter’s wavelength it all flowed smoothly. The final act was understanding the three consecutive letters in 11a.
    Thanks Micawber and CS.

  17. Just started this and whilst nowhere near finishing I’m chuffed to bits to almost immediately clock the rekrul in 13d. Might just quit now & finish on a high note.

      1. Was nearly there Steve – lost patience & went to the hints shy of 2d. Knew PE was involved but still couldn’t get it.
        If they were all as accessible & enjoyable as that I’d do them more often…..

  18. Thanks Crypticsue for the blog, and all of you for your comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the puzzle. And to jean-luc-cheval I can only say ‘Oops!’ – I have to plead guilty to accidental recycling. Confronted by the same word a decade later, my mind approached it the same way (it’s surprising how often this isn’t the case, actually). I always check against my archive in crossword compiler, but it seems that 2011 puzzle slipped through the net.

    1. I don’t think you are the only setter to have used the Spice Girl to get the aboriginal instrument. It obviously wasn’t in the DT but probably in (several) other publications over the years.

  19. Pleased to have just finished it. I’m aways happy to complete one of Micawber’s creations even if it does span 48 hours or so. Most entertaining and very good fun. Yesterday’s Osmosis is next in line. Thanks to all :-)

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