Toughie 2907 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2907

Toughie No 2907 by Firefly

Hints and tips by Gazza

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Thanks to Firefly for a pleasant Thursday Toughie. There are two words that I didn’t know which made me add an extra half-star for difficulty.

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

Across Clues

1a/25d Split cable that’s attended to by one “on message”? (5,4)
PARTY LINE: in the old days (pre-BT) the Post Office used to install telephones where a single connection was shared between two neighbouring properties. The answer also describes the prescribed stories trotted out by politicians more keen to curry favour with their leaders than to tell the truth.

4a Game trap suspicious — mysteriously empty (3,5)
GIN RUMMY: join together a banned type of animal trap, an adjective meaning suspicious and the outer letters of mysteriously.

10a Cheesy stuff from cabaret opener welcomed by revelry and cheers (7)
RICOTTA: insert the opening letter of cabaret into a word meaning revelry or merrymaking and finish with a short informal word of gratitude.

11a Strand incorporates some forgotten drillholes (7)
TENDRIL: hidden in the clue.

12a Reportedly took off chimney (4)
FLUE: this sounds like a verb meaning took off or left the ground.

13a Short of energy, finish with spot of redecorating in annex (5)
USURP: start with a phrasal verb (3,2) meaning finish or deplete, remove the abbreviation for energy and insert the first letter of redecorating.

14a Regrettably, American girl’s lost one son (4)
ALAS: an abbreviation for American and a girl without one of the abbreviations for son.

17a Current NHS attendance transformed and rising (2,3,9)
IN THE ASCENDANT: start with the symbol for electric current and add an anagram (transformed) of NHS ATTENDANCE.

19a Unusually, I sport a felspar casing to protect fracture (7,2,5)
PLASTER OF PARIS: an anagram (unusually) of I SPORT A FELSPAR.

22a She’s angry about closure of theatre (4)
DAME: reverse an adjective meaning angry and append the closing letter of theatre.

23a Spotted about five hills of Rome? (5)
SEVEN: a past participle meaning spotted containing the Roman numeral for five.

24a Mosquito given smack on the counter (4)
GNAT: reverse a word meaning smack or strong flavour.

27a Keyboard‘s overspecialised in design — troublesome episodes eliminated (7)
CLAVIER: a subtractive anagram – remove the jumbled (troublesome) letters of ‘episodes’ from OVERSPECIALISED and make an anagram (in design) of what you have left.

28a Ugliness? Certainly among unlimited retiring superstars (7)
EYESORE: insert a positive response (certainly) into the reversal of a word for superstars or leading men without its outer letters.

29a Turkey reluctant — and cross (8)
TRAVERSE: stick together the IVR code for Turkey and an adjective meaning reluctant.

30a Right to open up transport for pastry (5)
TORTE: an abbreviation for right goes inside a verb to transport.

Down Clues

1d Stench rising beneath passage could be oil (8)
PARAFFIN: reverse an informal word for a stench after the abbreviation for a passage of text.

2d Rookie fawn’s trapped in river next to city centre (7)
RECRUIT: the abbreviation for river and the central letters of city with a light fawn colour being inserted.

3d Hairy creature heads for youthful expedition’s tents, intimidatingly (4)
YETI: the initial letters of four words in the clue.

5d Measuring instrument set for retirement around end of June (14)
INTERFEROMETER: an anagram (set) of FOR RETIREMENT containing the end letter of June. A new word for me and apart for the fact that it’s something to do with wavelengths I’m still in the dark about what it does.

6d Payment  divided (4)
RENT: double definition.

7d Sex bomb, sultrily (not half!) boarding ship (7)
MARILYN: insert one half of the word sultrily into a word for a warship.

8d Reportedly joins the Yellows (5)
YOLKS: this sounds like a verb meaning joins or ties together.

9d CBS uses reel ace edited in Notable Trials (6,8)
CAUSES CÉLÈBRES: an anagram (edited) of CBS USES REEL ACE. Most such these days seem to be about the misdeeds of footballers or their wives.

15d Occasionally Arsenal’s team’s first to go off a bit! (5)
REAST: the even letters of Arsenal’s and the first letter of team. Another word I didn’t know – it means to go off in the sense of become rancid.

16d Amino acid from Poland not new, surprisingly (1-4)
L-DOPA: an anagram (surprisingly) of POLA[n]D without the abbreviation for new.

18d In a way, one meets rest in a place which is without hotel (2,2,4)
AS IT WERE: paste together a single letter that can mean one, a verb to rest and an adverb meaning ‘in a place’ without the letter that hotel represents in the Nato Phonetic Alphabet.

20d Monk embracing sinful dance (7)
LAMBADA: a Buddhist monk contains an adjective meaning sinful.

21d What judge did, having no time for resentment (7)
RANCOUR: what the judge did was *** *****. Remove the last letter, i.e. the abbreviation for time.

22d Old money initially accepted in Tube (5)
DUCAT: insert the initial letter of accepted into a tube or channel.

25d See 1a

26d Remaining  liberally inclined? (4)
LEFT: double definition, the second meaning the liberal side politically.

The top three clues for me were 13a, 7d and 21d. Which ones cut the mustard for you?

27 comments on “Toughie 2907
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  1. Very enjoyable, many thanks Firefly and Gazza. 1a I didn’t know the first meaning, was struggling to justify “split” as synonym for first word, d’oh! Didn’t know 15d but wordplay was very clear, and didn’t know 5d … which needed electronic assistance – as did, unfortunately, the brilliant 13a (my COTD, just wish I’d actually solved it!) 8d also had me stumped for quite some time but on reflection no idea why, as at least that had very helpful crossers!

    As I’ve been pedantic re RayT’s back-pager, it seems only fair to raise a question – in 2d is “city centre” really sufficient / accurate – doesn’t it need some sort of possession, “city’s centre”, just as “city first” for C should be “city’s first”? (Genuinely not sure on this, so any advice/opinions much appreciated!)

    Thanks again to Firefly for a super puzzle and Gazza for a super blog.

    1. That’s an interesting point, Fez. If the clue had said ‘Whitby centre’ I don’t think it would have worked but ‘city centre’ (like, e.g. health centre and garden centre) is a well-known phrase and I think it’s much less clear-cut.

        1. I made my comment above in haste (because I was getting ready to go out) and it doesn’t really stand up. What I meant to say is that I think ‘city centre’ is ok because it actually means ‘the centre of (the) city’ whereas to clue RD as ‘garden centre’ wouldn’t work because that phrase doesn’t mean ‘the centre of (the) garden’.
          It’s at times like this that I wish Anax was still around.

          1. But does that actually matter, Gazza? Do the words ‘XYZ centre’ actually have to be a meaningful phrase in their own right, or just grammatically correct for the surface reading of the clue and the instruction to use the central letter(s)?

            I ask not to be awkward but out of genuine interest as to what is and is not acceptable in clue construction (given the Ximenean and Libertarian approaches etc). For example someone commented on yesterday’s Times puzzle of one clue (A lot of effort to get a new advertising feature (6)) “I don’t like setters adding an a before clues and then not using it”. However surely in that instance ‘A’ made the clue read more smoothly and does not detract from the answer.

            1. I don’t think ‘xyz centre’ works very well grammatically (whereas ‘centre of xyz’ works fine). Similary I don’t think ‘term end’ (as opposed to ‘end of term’) is a brilliant way to clue M. My point about city centre is that the phrase does actually mean ‘centre of city’.
              On your second paragraph I’m with the commenter. Who was it who said ‘A cryptic clue should contain a definition, wordplay and nothing else. ‘?

              1. I’m (unsurprisingly) with you on the grammar, Gazza – I do like precision! But I’m more relaxed about wordiness – if it smoothes the clue “A lot of effort” = SLOG is perfectly accurate. In this case, I don’t think it really improves the surface, though, so I would ditch it. But e.g. I have a clue with an anagram where the (single) D has to be removed from the fodder – “save date” does the trick, but “save the date” is no less accurate and gives better surface -and “the” is only necessary for surface. Basically, I hope to prioritise 1st, precision; a close 2nd surface reading;: and, only a distant 3rd keeping concise. We’ll all have different preferences …. I guess we’re all striving for a perfect combo of the three, though!

                1. Aren’t we getting just a wee bit into “angels on the hesd of a pin territory” here? The setter determines the rules for his own crosswords (within parameters, obviously)

                2. The debate about city centre has made me think about sweetheart, which is pretty much the same construct. Mr Lancaster is obviously happy with sweetheart for E, which Ray T constantly uses, and I assume he’d also be happy with ‘legend’ for G and Redstart for R.

                    1. Coincidentally there was an interesting and brief exchange on this very subject on the TfTT blog yesterday (not of my instigation: I don’t post there) where ‘Sweetheart’ had featured in the main puzzle.

                      A question was posed: “Should I now be watching out for upstart to clue U and Middlesex to clue E?”.

                      Are these what have been referred to as “lift and separate” clues?

  2. I really enjoyed this, a mixture of relatively straightforward and quite testing clues.
    15&16 new to me but both obtainable from wordplay and checkers
    Lots to like, but I’ve chosen to highlight 23&29a plus 18&21d.
    Many thanks to Firefly and Gazza for a top notch puzzle and review

  3. I didn’t know 15 or 16 down but both fairly clued. I needed the hint to parse 13a. Just right for a Thursday. Favourite was 7d. Thanks to Firefly and Gazza.

  4. An enjoyable ‘finish’ for me, given that 5d was new to me, that I’d never heard of 15d but decided it had to be what it was (and Google confirmed it), and that I simply plunked in 13a because, again, what else could it be? So, if that’s a finish, so be it. 21d was my clear favourite, and made me laugh. I also liked 9d (have always loved that phrase) and 27a. I remember, back in the Dark Ages, my family’s having to share a 1a with two other ‘phone users (in the 1940’s, just after the war) and listening in on other conversations (naughty, naughty child)! Thanks to Gazza and Firefly.

  5. I never heard of “reast” nor am I familiar with “party line”, even though Gazza explained it very well. it really is a bit recherche.
    For these reasons , not as much fun as I would like.
    Thanks to all concerned.

  6. Completed bar the 2 words nobody seems to have heard of – 5d and 15d – and 13a where I don’t think annex and usurp are synonyms . I just found this a bit frustrating therefore as the rest of the puzzle was fairly straightforward .

  7. Really enjoyed this puzzle, thank you Firefly. Thank you also Gazza for the blog. 5d also new to me – always mildly frustrating when an anagram is of a very obscure term … but it’s only obscure if you don’t know it – like the long plant name in the backpager today, of which I was equally ignorant.

    15d too was new to me, and I found this in Collins online – “Northern England dialect (esp of horses) to be noisily uncooperative”, and given the clue definition was “to go off a bit” felt that the answer could also fit that definition, too, given horses go off the bit or can be uncooperative when trying to get the bit in their mouths.

  8. I found this slow going and difficult but, apart from the 2 unknowns, I got there
    My COTD is 27a as I was so pleased I’d remembered about subtractive anagrams.

  9. Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the review and hints. I was very pleased to get into this puzzle. I can’t normally get very far with Firefly’s puzzles. Only needed 6 hints to finish. I’m a bit confused about the explanation of 26d, I thought that politically, left =Labour, right =Tory and Liberal in the middle? Favourite was 1d. Very enjoyable.

    1. Hi Heno,
      The clue has liberally with a small L, i.e not relating to the political party but meaning progressive or radical.

  10. Thank you, Firefly: I don’t often attempt the Toughie (especially later in the week), but I saw your name, remembered enjoying yours before, and thought I’d give it a go. I’m so glad I did.

    Lots to make me smile. I can’t decide whether my favourite is 23a (Rome has 5 hills? I thought a relative who used to live in Sheffield claimed both Sheffield and Rome have … oh, I see) or 21d (“What judge did”).

    I didn’t know 7d’s word for warship. Thank you to Gaza for explaining, and being there as a safety net. (I mean, I also didn’t know all the words that everybody else didn’t know — I’m not some kind of mad scientist who’s always measuring the wavelengths of amino acids until they go rancid — but I managed to find those with a combination of wordplay, crossing letters, and dictionary searches.)

  11. Very late to comment on this but I have only just finished it, catching up on Toughies after a busy few days away. I didn’t know Reast either and it’s not in my electronic dictionary, although I did work it out.
    I just wonder how a crossword with 2 words unknown by the reviewer only attracts 2*/3*. At least a 4* from me, and I would have felt much better with seeing a mark in that or even 5* range in view of the time it took me!

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