Toughie 2802 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2802

Toughie No 2802 by Micawber

Hints and tips by crypticsue

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *Enjoyment ****

Sadly, we don’t get Micawber Toughies very often but when they do appear, they are always well worth the wait

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought.


1a    Not good enough to edit paper (11)
SUBSTANDARD To work as an editor and the name of a newspaper

7a    Theater doctor joining appropriate medical body (5)
DRAMA A piece of theatrical entertainment, this time in the USA (hence the spelling theater), where an abbreviated doctor joins the abbreviation for that country’s medical body

8a    Used concealer perhaps, covered by blusher, with a broadbrush sense (5,4)
ROUGH IDEA Part of a verb meaning used concealer ‘covered’ by a cosmetic powder used to colour the face (blusher) with A from the clue added at the end

10a    A lot of information from idle talk getting one detained by force (7)
MEGABIT Some idle talk inserted into the abbreviated London police force, the letter used to represent one being ‘detained’ by that force

11a    Has suit tailored, getting the Japanese treatment (7)
SHIATSU An anagram (tailored) of HAS SUIT

12a    Condition of medal being conferred on Micawber (5)
GOING The condition of the ground, especially at a racecourse – insert how our setter might refer to himself into a slang term for a medal

13a    Accessory chez fashion mag is a trinket (9)
BAGATELLE An accessory, the English translation of the French word chez and a fashion magazine

16a    A dive, perhaps, into degradation (9)
ABASEMENT A (from the clue) and an (often disreputable) underground room (dive, perhaps)

18a    Novice in charge of dice (5)
CUBIC A novice or apprentice and the abbreviation for In Charge

19a    Common smelt strange, repelling me (7)
HUMDRUM A slang way of saying smelt strange (6, 3)  without (repelling) the letters ME

22a    Summon Conservative before nine peers, perhaps, having taken ecstasy (7)
CONJURE The three-letter abbreviation for Conservative and three-quarters (only nine of the twelve members/letters) of a group of people sworn to reach a just verdict in a law court, followed by the abbreviation for ecstasy

23a    European region where US agency retains a means of keeping tight grip (9)
CATALONIA The US Information Agency ‘retains’ A (from the clue) and a hooked claw or finger (means of keeping a tight grip)

24a    Advanced section, highly skilled (5)
ADEPT The abbreviation for Advanced and an abbreviated section

25a    Meeting of data recorder and bosses at which there’s disagreement (11)
LOGGERHEADS Someone who records data and some bosses


1d    It’s paradise to loiter in seedy lairs (7-2)
SHANGRI-LA A verb meaning to loiter inserted into an anagram (seedy) of LAIRS

2d    Soft furnishing of headcase? (7)
BEANBAG An informal term for the head and a case

3d    Go to submit for discussion something on the record? On the contrary! (9)
TURNTABLE A go at something and a verb meaning to submit for discussion combine to give something that goes under (not on) a record

4d    Parts of speech sisters love to interrupt (5)
NOUNS The letter representing love ‘interrupts’ some religious sisters

5d    I don’t believe this tea’s brewed (7)
ATHEIST An anagram (brewed) of THIS TEA

6d    Democrat entering hollow ‘not guilty’ plea? (5)
DIDN’T The abbreviation for Democrat ‘entering’ a hollow made by a blow – a very informal ‘not guilty’ plea!

7d    Section of population‘s protest over artwork (11)
DEMOGRAPHIC An informal term for a protest goes over (in a Down solution) an illustration or painting (artwork)

9d    A delightful idiom from the Vend�e? (5,6)
ACUTE ACCENT A (from the clue), an adjective meaning delightful and an idiom combine to produce something that, if you had the newspaper version of this crossword, would be clearly seen in the word Vendée – the online version of the clue can’t cope with such things but fortunately I knew not only how to spell the French department but also what usually represents when it appears in an online crossword clue

14d    Entrance money allowing right to come in? Don’t bother with that! (9)!
GATECRASH Don’t bother to pay to enter somewhere – the total sum paid for entrance to an event and some money with the abbreviation for Right inserted (to come in)

15d    In Paris, the stock exchange almost catching royal staff engaged in graft (9)
LABOURERS Almost all of the name of the Paris stock exchange ‘catching’ the regnal cipher of our current Queen (royal)

17d    What’ll muffle noise of US lawman with pistol, no hesitation (7)
EARPLUG The surname of a US Wild West lawman and a type of pistol without the two-letter interjection of hesitation

18d    Choral work is capable of going on so long! (7)
CANTATA A simple way of saying ‘is capable of’ going on top of (in a Down solution) a childish/informal interjection meaning so long or goodbye

20d    Maureen, Terry! Here, get a room! (5)
MOTEL Diminutive forms of the names Maureen and Terry combine to produce somewhere to stay (get a room)

21d    Audio equipment picking up northern whale (5)
MINKE A short form of a piece of audio equipment ‘picking up’ the abbreviation for Northern


33 comments on “Toughie 2802

  1. Premature disgruntlement at 7ac spelling was soon replaced by admiration!
    What an excellent puzzle for those of us who struggle with the really tough ones.
    Thanks to Micawber and to CS .

  2. Hadn’t checked who the setter was so was totally baffled as to what the Dickens the i was doing in the medal (like Robert as per his post on the cryptic) but twigged the definition. Most of the puzzle went in pretty quickly but there were predictably some head scratchers & PDMs (2,9&15d plus 10a). I had to check on the whale & look up the Paris stock exchange but otherwise reasonably gentle & very enjoyable indeed. I did feel a number of the clues had the feel of an Everyman puzzle. Favourite was 17d just pipping 14d – probably a bit of an old chestnut but very good.
    Thanks to Micawber & CS – enjoyed Brendan in the Graun today – a theme even I could spot.

  3. Micawber never lets us down – thanks to him for a cracking puzzle and to CS for the review.
    As usual with this setter I’ve highlighted too many clues to list them all – I’ll just mention 7a, 22a, 25a, 14d and 20d.
    Here’s hoping to see another Micawber Toughie soon.

  4. Came up short on this one, not on Micawber’s wavelength, until I revealed a couple of letters, then sought CS’s excellent assistance to shed light on 10a. Everything swiftly fell into place thereafter. So many thanks to M for the brainstrain and CS for the help.

  5. Great Toughie! Enjoyed all of it except 12a: I still don’t understand what the definition has to do with the condition of the ground (as CS says, of a racecourse), nor is there any way the solver can know that Micawber is the compiler since the online setters are not identified. When I worked the puzzle last night, I had no idea who the setter was. Finished everything else, with 9d, 25a, & 23a taking top honours, with many honourable mentions. Thanks to CS and Micawber.

      1. I work the puzzles from the Telegraph online site, not with the blog available to me at that time.

        1. The compilers’ names are given on the Puzzles online site. Click on “The Knowledge” then “Toughie Crossword Compilers”.

          1. Thank you, Gazza. I did not know that, and I just did everything that you said and discovered that our setter today is Micawber!

      2. The list in the blog is taken from the puzzles site version and so at the start of the week you can see what to either greatly look forward to or dread!

    1. One reason I enjoy the Guardian cryptics is that the compiler is always identified, except for the Prize and Everyman puzzles. I have never before even hinted on this blog that a clue is unfair, but I have to say that I think that 12a today is unfair. It’s not just that Micawber as compiler is unknown; the clue reads ‘condition of medal’: how can one know what sort of condition is sought?

      1. Robert, “going” is a very common UK expression used to describe the condition of a racecourse. The usual range of descriptions for going are Heavy – Soft – Good to Soft – Good – Good to Firm – Firm. Some horses prefer firm going, others soft going.

        1. Thank you, Rabbit Dave! It would have helped, of course, for me to have known all of that, but as an American who is ignorant about UK racecourse conditions, I missed the boat completely. I still don’t know, though, how one can automatically assume that it’s the condition of a racecourse that is the definition. I’m obviously being very thick-headed today. Forgive me. I’ll go lie down in a very dark room now.

          1. I know it’s a bit too late to be of much help, but “going” does mean the condition of the ground surface in outdoor activities, especially (in the UK) horse racing. In Miriam Websters, the second definition for going is: the condition of the ground (as for walking). So, when musing the clue, horse racing doesn’t necessarily have to come into it at all.

    2. We’re predominantly turf over here though we do have all weather tracks. The going is the term for the condition of the ground ranging from firm to heavy with good to firm, good, good to soft & soft in between & is crucial to the prospects of some horses who favour particular ground conditions.
      Many years ago I managed betting shops. There were no live pictures allowed then & a commentary known as the blower (often inaccurate to heighten tension) was provided by ExTel (think the great scene in Get Carter when Caine tracks Albert down in the betting shop)I remember one of my regulars who was having a particularly bad day responding to an announcement that the going had changed to heavy at some course muttering that it was heavy going in here too punctuated with numerous expletives.

      1. Very enlightening, Huntsman. I’ve never seen Get Carter, however. Another gap in my education!

        1. The best British gangster film bar none with a great performance by John Osbourne (Look Back in Anger) – a must see.

  6. From my point of view, a Toughie doesn’t get much better than this. It was pitched at just the right level of challenge and was great fun from start to finish. I even approved of the use of the American spelling in 7a!

    Pick any 3 from 28 clues for a podium selection.

    Many thanks to Micawber and to CS.

  7. We don’t get many but they’re sure worth waiting for. Utterly flawless clue-writing exemplified by: 7a [the US usage indication] 22a [the nine peers] 5d [the perfect anagram clue] 14d [the context-dependent definition] 18d etc, etc.
    Bravo Maestro and thanks CS.

  8. Lovely crossword! Like Huntsman, I didn’t twig that the setter was Micawber until I had spent an amount of time scratching my head at 10a that took me into 2* time. I knew that there was a list on this site, and funnily enough I decided not to look in advance to see if I could guess who it was! That’ll teach me to try to be clever.
    Otherwise very straightforward, but very delightful. Many thanks to Mr Micawber and to CS for her usual superb blogpost.

  9. Lovely man, delightful puzzle and a great many laughs along the way.
    Every clue a winner but my personal picks were 25a plus 9&14d. 9d made me laugh the most so that takes the gold medal.
    Thank you so much, Micawber, and thanks to CS for the review.

  10. Straightforward with head scratchers, just right. Hard to pick a favourite but I’ll go with 17d. Thanks to Micawber and CS.

  11. Very late as always. Great puzzle from Micawber.

    I came here to try and fathom the parsing of 8ac. Sue, think you need to add “plus the ‘a’ from the clue” in your hint.

    So thanks Sue for the hint and to you Micawber for the Toughie.

    1. I did have it marked on my piece of paper, but obviously got sidetracked when I started thinking about my granny who always wore the ‘blusher’ so that people wouldn’t tell her she looked poorly!

  12. As Huntsman and Robert, I didn’t know whom the crossword was from until I saw his name in one of the clues.
    That helped in getting on the right wavelength.
    Such a unique style. Really enjoyable one at that.
    Liked the nine out of twelve peers. Much prefer to percentages which always throw me.
    Liked the way our setter appeared in 12a and disappeared in 19.
    Thanks to Micawber for the great fun and to CS for the review.

  13. Very enjoyable, but as someone who prints the puzzle from an online subscription and who usually only consults the blog after completion, it was somewhat spoiled by 12a and what is clearly a known to occur printing error in 9d.

    Neither clue should have been permitted by the editor.

    1.5 / 2.5

    Thank you to the setter and to CS.

  14. Liked the whole puzzle. 22a best clue for me today
    12a fair enough I thought. Sometimes those of us in the UK have to wrestle with Americanisms, but they’re ok, and I think they just add to the fun.
    Thanks all

  15. Thanks to Micawber and to crypticsue for the review and hints. A very enjoyable puzzle, a lot of humour. I ran out of steam near the end, and needed the hints for 22a and 2,3,6,15d. Need to look up the name of the French stock exchange. Favourite was 17d. Was 2*/4* for me.

  16. I started this last evening and completed it over breakfast today. I don’t use the online version, so didn’t have the trouble that some have had with 12a. However, I have noticed from this blog that sometimes, when the paper version gives the setter’s name in a clue, the online version simply has ‘the setter’. This would have worked perfectly well with this clue. I recall that, when Toughies started, one of the selling points was that the setters were named, so it is a mystery to me why this is not the case in the online version, without having to jump through hoops to find out.

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