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Toughie 2751

Toughie No 2751 by Beam

Hints and tips by Gazza

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Beam has given us a puzzle where every clue contains something chess-related. He also references Beth Harmon the fictional heroine of the film The Queen’s Gambit, which I’m looking forward to seeing. A couple of the references are shoehorned in (e.g. 23a) but that doesn’t detract from what is a very accomplished feat, one which I enjoyed a lot.

I found it quite tough, especially the SE corner. Thanks to Beam for the challenge.

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

Across Clues

1a Present check issue taking turn with Queen (12)
CHARACTERISE: the chess abbreviation for check and a verb to issue or ensue contain a turn (on stage) and the Queen’s regnal cipher.

9a Move round back rank (9)
REARRANGE: charade of a noun meaning back and a verb to rank or put in order.

10a City initially had an International Federation arena (5)
HAIFA: initial letters.

11a Bad advanced Bishop advanced (6)
ADDLED: assemble the abbreviation for advanced, the abbreviation for someone having a postgraduate degree in spiritual matters (bishop?) and a verb meaning advanced or moved ahead.

12a Engine, perhaps, forbidden support for pieces (8)
OUTBOARD: an adverb meaning forbidden and what provides support for chess pieces.

13a More subtle to trap King or pound? (6)
NICKER: a comparative meaning more subtle or more nuanced contains the chess abbreviation for king.

15a Winning pawn having right to occupy (8)
PLEASING: the abbreviation for pawn followed by a present participle meaning ‘having the right to occupy’.

18a Race chasing Rook one’s given (8)
DONATION: a synonym of race or people follows a verb to rook or swindle.

19a Almost behind keeping last Knight’s archaic cover? (6)
[RD informs us that the word ‘archaic’ is missing from the paper version. That doesn’t affect the parsing]
TABERD: an adjective meaning behind or late without its final Y contains a verb to last or remain. The question mark indicates that this is an alternative spelling of the old garment.

21a Contend with one brilliant in final check (8)
MILITATE: insert the Roman numeral for one and an adjective meaning brilliant or illuminated in the final check in a chess game.

23a Scrap over display for Queen? (6)
TATTOO: knit together a word for scrap or worthless odds and ends and an adverb meaning over or excessively.

26a Suffer vacuous Indian game clubs put around (5)
INCUR: start with the outer letters of Indian and add the reversal of the abbreviation for a team game and the cards abbreviation for clubs.

27a Open file clinching Harmon’s first defeat (9)
OVERTHROW: an adjective meaning open or plain to see and a synonym for file or column contain the first letter of Harmon.

28a Rook deftly captures Rook on flank, remarkably (12)
CONSIDERABLY: a verb to rook and an adverb meaning deftly contain a synonym for flank and the abbreviation for rook.

Down Clues

1d Hanging pawn’s last after sharp champion (7)
CURTAIN: the last letter of pawn follows an adjective meaning sharp or terse and an abbreviation that looks like champion or supreme.

2d Trophy battle constrained by a draw’s opening (5)
AWARD: a serious battle is held between A and the first letter of draw.

3d Deal a hail trapping pieces (9)
AGREEMENT: A and a verb to hail or welcome contain another word for chess pieces.

4d Strike King, finally showing sharpness (4)
TANG: a verb to strike or beat and the final letter of king.

5d King helpfully losing second with regret (8)
RUEFULLY: start with an abbreviation for king and add an adverb meaning helpfully or valuably without its second letter (or, alternatively, without the abbreviation for second).

6d Favouritism overturned holding hard title (5)
SAHIB: the reverse of a word meaning favouritism or partiality contains the pencil abbreviation for hard.

7d Resolve reportedly more brilliant positions son’s advanced (8)
FINALISE: a homophone (to some people) of a comparative meaning more brilliant or more splendid is followed by ball positions on the golf course with the abbreviation for son brought forward.

8d Power with mate upset devoted follower (6)
LAPDOG: combine a supposedly divine power and a synonym for a mate and reverse it all.

14d Battle about playing, caught in move (8)
CONFLICT: a single-letter abbreviation for about, an adverb meaning playing and an informal move (in moonlight perhaps) containing the cricket abbreviation for caught.

16d White sadly retired over capturing a Bishop (9)
ALABASTER: an exclamation meaning sadly and the reversal of the abbreviation for retired contain A and the chess abbreviation for bishop.

17d Tempers involving Knight turn oddly for checks (8)
CONTROLS: a verb meaning tempers or tones down contains the chess abbreviation for knight and the odd letters of turn.

18d Prepare central King’s territory maybe (6)
DOMAIN: paste together a verb to prepare (a meal perhaps) and an adjective meaning central or principal.

20d Move irregularly, cross getting comeuppance in opening (7)
DOORWAY: yoke together a verb to move irregularly at sea and a cross in church and reverse it all.

22d Middle of match with roughly unfinished form (5)
TORSO: the middle letter of match and a phrase meaning roughly (2,2).

24d Beth robbed, partly getting beat (5)
THROB: our sole hidden word.

25d Take off some important pieces? (4)
GELD: this was my last answer and I had what pommers would call a tea tray moment when I realised what it was. It’s a verb to remove a couple of important male bits.

I ticked 15a and 20d but my favourite was the LOL 25d. Which one(s) did the business for you?


38 comments on “Toughie 2751

  1. A perfect Toughie for me from one of my favourite setters. It was challenging, great fun, and with a theme dear to my heart.

    It’s quite an achievement to have made the surface of every single clue relevant to the theme without exceeding the compiler’s self-imposed maximum of seven words per clue. In addition, it was good to find a couple of references to the wonderful Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit.

    I also noted that, despite multiple occurrences in the clues of the six individual chess pieces, none of these triggered my repetition radar as each was used in a different context.

    19a was a new spelling for me and needed a quick BRB check. I see that the clue in the paper is slightly different to that quoted by Gazza: “almost behind keeping last cover for Knight?”, with no mention of it being archaic.

    25d was my last one in and became my favourite for the LOL moment when the penny dropped.

    Many thanks to the dream team of Beam and Gazza.

    1. I thought the reference to ‘archaic’ in the online clue for 19a was just right for an archaic spelling of the word

    2. As soon as I read through this I immediately thought it would be right up your alley. Bloody tough for the likes of me – 11 answers in & already struggling…

  2. I am pleased to see that Gazza too found this a tough crossword – I did wonder whether solving the Toughie later than usual had made a difference to my solving ability

    I noticed the chess references in every single clue which was a brilliant piece of setting. Thanks to Beam and Gazza

  3. Is it Friday?
    I found this very heavy going and in the end toppled over my king without three in the NW corner.

  4. I am impressed that anyone can set a cryptic crossword at all. To set one with such a comprehensive theme – which for once I actually managed to spot – and to do it with such wit, and at just the right level of difficulty… well, I shall have to go out and buy a hat in order to doff it to the great Ray.
    When I first looked at this, I thought it was going to take me all day. But after a break for work duties and a coffee, I found it all came together surprisingly quickly – no longer than yesterday’s all told, I’d say. SE corner certainly the most difficult: 20d took longer than it should have; the more common spelling of 19a being bunged in carelessly caused obvious difficulties with 7d – and I always find ‘sounds like’ clues tricky – and 25d was my last in. Those pesky four-letter words.
    Many thanks, along with hat-doffs, to Ray, and also to Gazza for his usual splendid explanations.

  5. 25d was totally outrageous and, once solved and parsed, became an instant favourite. As for the rest, quite superb, genuinely tough and fairly and concisely clued.

    Thanks and congratulations to Mr T for a great puzzle, and thanks, too, to Gazza.

  6. A cracker. Even though I am no fan of chess (I still fail to see references in a couple of clues) a very enjoyable, if for me long drawn out, solve. Top half slid easily and speedily into place, bottom half took me well into 5* solving time, and a definite 5* for pleasure when the small change finally fell. Thanks Beam and Gazza for a couple of much-needed explanations.

  7. Really didn’t enjoy this that much, finding the repetition of the theme annoying beyond belief. Themes are bad enough. Themes about chess, a game which I find makes the activity of watching paint dry look postively fascinating and absorbing, take the frustration to an entirely different level even if the puzzle has been set by one of my favourite composers, and is clearly full of their usual skill and artistry. But, chess in every clue – what am I missing in 10a, 26a, 2d, 6d, 7d, 22d and 24d, please? I’d tackled most of those early having marked them as being outside the theme!

    Barring 3 clues, I found most of the puzzle reasonably straightforward Thursday Toughie material – maybe a 3* or 3.5* on MG’s personal Toughie scale. However I needed Gazza’s hints for 7d, 19a and 25d, so a technical DNF.

    Many thanks to Mr T for a good and challenging puzzle of evident class, I’m just sorry that for me the enjoyment factor was not there. Thanks also to Gazza for the review and those hints to get me over the (DN)finish line.

    1. M. Chess is the best game ever invented, but that’s another story. Hope your ? wasn’t rhetorical:

      10a. Haifa has been the venue for many international chess tournaments. Also, FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs or International Chess Federation) acts as the governing body of international chess competition. Hence International Federation in the clue.
      26a. “Indian game” – chess was invented in India around 7th century. Also the “Indian Game” or Indian Defence is a term for a group of chess openings (i.e. opening moves).
      2d. Trophy, battle (chess is a war a game), draw and opening are all terms related to chess.
      6d. “Title”. Chess titles – Master and Grandmaster.
      7d. Positions and advanced (pawn) are both terms used in chess.
      22d. “Middle of match” is a reference to the middlegame in chess – opening, middlegame and endgame.
      24d. “Beat”. You can certainly get beat in a game of chess. And when you get beat when in your 40s by a 14-year-old schoolgirl in a tournament, the word “beat” seems more intense somehow.

      *I’m very surprised RD hasn’t answered this comment!

    2. 10a The governing body of chess is the International Federation (FIDE – Fédération Internationale des Échecs)
      26a There are a couple of standard openings containing the word Indian
      2d The result of a chess game can be a draw
      6d The chess world champion holds the title
      22d A match is a series of chess games
      24d Beth Harmon is the star of The Queen’s Gambit.

        1. *24d. I’ve never watched The Queen’s Gambit, so would never have sussed that in a month of Sundays.

    3. Thank you, Jose & Gazza – much appreciated. I think most of those are sufficiently tenuous, vague or general not to be recognisably relatable to chess for those who are not afficionados, but close enough for those who are.

      I shall now offer up a prayer to The Flying Green Spaghetti Monster (or any other deity of one’s choice) that we have no more themed puzzles for a very, very long time, but with an Elgar approaching tomorrow, I fear that I may be wasting my time!

  8. geld is also a tax paid to the king, so it still remains within the chess environment, at least, that is how i interpreted it.

      1. C and SL, 25d. I took the whole clue to be a chess reference: Take off (or capture) some important pieces (such as the rook and queen). PS. From “geld” you get the word gelding – a castrated horse, donkey, etc.

  9. Thank goodness I only review his back pagers!
    I found this very tough and all the chess references had the effect of confusing me (it doesn’t take much) and I never really managed to get on a roll. I needed quite a few of Gazza’s excellent hints.
    Much admiration and thanks for both setter and reviewer for their fine work though.
    Ps add to the achievement of the setter, as usual no anagrams and only one lurker.

  10. RayT had his nasty hat on today. Not being conversant with chess I really struggled. The SE corner was a nightmare due to the alternative in 19a and 25d for which I had to thank Gazza. This was a typical RayT clue but the penny never dropped. Also struggled with 20 and 27. I was looking for lurkers to help but unusually there was only one and that did not help very much.
    Please be a little kinder next time Ray and thanks to Gazza for the enlightenment.

  11. Crikey (or words to that effect!) that took most of the day and I still had to resort to the hints from the knight in shining armour to nail the last two – 19a & 7d. There were definitely times when I was considering subjecting my favourite setter to the procedure referred to in 25d……….
    Only joking, Mr T, you still have my devotions but please be a bit more gentle on us next time.
    Many thanks to Gazza for riding to the rescue when required.

  12. A comprehensive victory for Grandmaster Terrell. Unlike Chris M I eventually kicked the board in frustration & scattered the pieces to all parts of the room. Managed 20 answers over 3 visits on my own & then got to within 2 of a finish after utilising, as Robert calls them, my full complement of 5 electronic gifts. That left 19a (alternative spelling would never have occurred) & 25d (ought to have got) where I needed the hints to see me home. Although I wouldn’t go as far as Mustafa G & much as I admired the setting skill involved I can’t say this was one of my favourite Beam puzzles – maybe that’s because, like my chess, the ability was woefully inadequate.
    Thanks to Beam & Gazza.

  13. Quite beyond me. Just didn’t have the time today to struggle with it.
    The DT has the obituary of Anne Bradford “ the crossword wizard”. Does anyone have memories of her ?

    1. No memories but I will be eternally grateful to her every time I have to blog a chalicea crossword

        1. Definitely no need to apologise – your wonderful crossword was a fine part of what has been a good week for actual Toughie crosswords

      1. I’m not sure what he’s got to apologise for, Jane. Nobody has complained about any individual clue. Yes the puzzle is quite tough, but it is a Toughie.

  14. I appreciated the sheer genius of the crossword but I’m afraid I wasn’t up to the task, my worst attempt this year needing hints for about half the clues, i usually need hints for the parsing. Well that’s brought me down to earth with a bump. Favourite was 28a. Many thanks to Beam for showing me how far I have to go and to Gazza for the much needed hints.

  15. We struggled a bit with this and finished it the next day. Quite a challenge, but a clever puzzle. Thanks Beam and Gazza.

  16. A true Toughie which I failed to finish by quite a stretch. I’ll look again in the morning but I’m not holding out much hope. Thanks to RayT for a true battle of wits and to Gazza. A rather you than me day

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