Toughie 2987 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 2987

Toughie No 2987 by Firefly
Hints and tips by Gazza

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

I spent longer sorting out the wordplay than I did solving this Firefly puzzle. I do enjoy disentangling complicated wordplay but I was still rather glad when I got to the end of the hints. We have a very high number of anagrams (mostly partial) – my counter reached 11!

There is a pleasing relationship between the peripheral answers (which proved to be a big help once I twigged what was going on).

Thanks to Firefly for the challenge.

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

Across Clues

1a Hackney Borough at first blasted wage strike, beginning with exasperating little flier (7,5)
CABBAGE WHITE: we have to assemble five different components to make this little flier: a hackney or vehicle for hire, the first letter of borough, an anagram (blasted) of WAGE, a verb to strike and the starting letter of exasperating.

9a Endeavour is finally in Harwich Marina, satnav device gone (4,1,2)
HAVE A GO: the final letters of four words in the clue followed by an adverb meaning gone or in the past.

10a Charges of pusillanimity involved in play denied (7)
STIMULI: an anagram (involved) of PUSILLANIMITY after we’ve removed the letters of ‘in play’. It would be better if we had a secondary indicator to show that the letters to be removed are not in the order shown.

11a Cows’ mess regularly found in the valleys (4)
CWMS: regular letters from the first two words. I debated whether to underline ‘the’ as well as valleys to match the Welsh meaning of the answer.

12a During service, the setter’s torn apart (5)
RIVEN: the contracted form of ‘the setter has’ from his perspective goes inside our senior service.

13a/26d Manoeuvring kart, dame shows a bit of leg (4,4)
DARK MEAT: an anagram (manoeuvring) of KART DAME.

16a Cutting/ school? (7)
LANCING: double definition, the second a posh independent school in Sussex. Presumably the question mark is there because they prefer to call themselves a college.

17a Lacquer’s very short; time to introduce stain? (7)
TARNISH: a verb to lacquer loses the abbreviation for very with what remains being introduced by the abbreviation for time.

18a Queen‘s up to something in retreat with Ian — naughty! (7)
TITANIA: reverse a phrase (2,2) meaning ‘up to something’ and add an anagram (naughty) of IAN.

21a Pressure connected with returning storm, initially increasing cost for living in the main (7)
PELAGIC: string together the physics abbreviation for pressure, the reversal of a force 8 storm and the initial letters of ‘increasing cost’.

23a Trimmed beef, say (4)
MOWN: this sounds like a verb to beef or whinge.

24a Both ends of suite knocked off when falling back into pool (5)
UNITE: reverse a word meaning suite or entourage without its outer letters.

25a Rub/ brass? (4)
GALL: double definition, the first a verb meaning to make sore by rubbing.

28a They do their job amongst lauded elites, as directors, executives, royalty, statesmen (7)
LEADERS: a very neat clue. The answer comes from the first letters of seven words with the answer itself proving the requisite indicator.

29a Request leap from Nureyev perhaps — champion no more (7)
ENTREAT: the sort of leap that Rudolf used to perform with the two-letter abbreviation for champion removed.

30a Sauerkraut staple with mixed swede and celeriac roots — Father gets half up front (5,7)
WHITE CABBAGE: paste together an anagram (mixed) of WITH, the bottom letters of swede and celeriac, a Biblical word for father and the front half of the word ‘gets’.

Down Clues

1d Barbarians creating menace around approach to Verulamium (7)
CAVEMEN: an anagram (creating) of MENACE containing the first letter of Verulamium.

2d Dress up for game (4)
BRAG: reverse a word meaning dress to get a card game.

3d Maintaining electoral system overdue (7)
AVOWING: start with the abbreviation for an electoral system where voters have to rank the candidates in order of preference then add a word meaning overdue or not yet paid.

4d Most convenient to find unlidded bakemeats in Norfolk? (7)
EASIEST: insert a more common word for bakemeats without its top letter into the area of the country where Norfolk is situated.

5d Valerie Hobson rises to present successor (4)
HEIR: hidden in reverse.

6d Wave at us madly around noon — the setter’s back! (7)
TSUNAMI: an anagram (madly) of AT US contains the abbreviation for noon. Finish with the reversal of the contracted form of ‘the setter is’.

7d Drink Scotch containing old, almost “metallic” liquid (9,4)
CHOCOLATE MILK: scotch is a verb (new to me) for a wedge used to prevent slipping. We need another word for the same thing (best known in the old phrase ‘****** away’ used at airports) containing the abbreviation for old and an anagram (liquid) of METALLI[c] without its final letter.

8d For confectionery, draw off Pepsi, say, carried by piping encased in carbon base (4,9)
MILK CHOCOLATE: start with a verb to draw off or siphon then insert what Pepsi is an example of into an adjective meaning piping or boiling. Now encase this last lot between the chemical symbol for carbon and the letter used for a base number in logarithms.

14d Wally‘s pub located in The Big Apple (5)
NINNY: insert a type of pub into the abbreviation for the Big Apple.

15d Question may be grating (5)
GRILL: double definition, the first a verb to question or interrogate.

19d Riverwalk in Chepstow Pat haunted (7)
TOWPATH: hidden.

20d One has difficulty recalling style of cinemas (7)
AMNESIC: an anagram (style) of CINEMAS.

21d To-do with bishop Basil, perhaps? (3,4)
POT HERB: a word meaning ‘to do’ or fuss and the chess abbreviation for bishop.

22d Upset lady geek detailed seductive glance (4,3)
GLAD EYE: an anagram (upset) of LADY GEE[k].

26d See 13 Across

27d Burner phone ultimately unavailable — ringing pointless; one slips deviously away (4)
ETNA: the ultimate letter of phone and an abbreviation meaning unavailable containing what’s left of POINTLESS after we’ve removed the jumbled (deviously) letters of ONE SLIPS.

For my podium I’ve selected 28a, 29a and 21d. Which clue(s) took the plaudits for you?

18 comments on “Toughie 2987
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  1. Really enjoyed this. Anagrams are my thing. Enjoyed the links with the peripherals even if it did give me some bung ins. Many smiles and some head scratching. Just right
    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza

  2. I rather enjoyed this quirky puzzle, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything like the four perimeter clues before, how clever/novel. Of course, having got the top and bottom and one side, the other side wrote itself in!
    As far as surface reads go, the diametric opposite of the back-pager but different strokes for different folks I guess.
    I needed electronic help for my last couple in and happy to let Gazza “earn his money” re a couple of parsings too.
    4,6&21d all made me laugh but I’ll give top spot to the “War and Peace” 1a
    Many thanks to Firefly and Gazza

  3. A most entertaining if unusual puzzle that was not difficult to solve, but occasionally tough to parse. I liked the simple yet elegant 1d the best, although I did appreciate skill in setting and parsing the long, peripheral clues.

    Thanks Firefly for the challenge, and Gazza for unravelling the more convoluted clues.

  4. Can’t say I particularly warmed to this one. I only bothered to parse 1a then just bunged in the other 3 long ‘uns. 11&21a both new words to me but easily gettable from the wordplay. Last in & the biggest head scratch for me was 25a as the rubbing context of the answer unfamiliar. Quite liked the peripheral clues gimmick & one or two others but not my favourite which is odd as I’m sure I usually like this setter’s puzzles
    Thanks to Firefly & to Gazza for doing the heavy lifting with the wordplay.

  5. Unfortunately j’ai fais chou blanc as we say in french on a couple of answers.
    Well three actually. 16a, 25a and 3d.
    Liked the reversed answers in the periphery.
    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza.

  6. Needed the hints for 24a and 25a to help me decide which of the possibilities to enter as I couldn’t parse any of them. Also needed the hints to parse 29a and 27d which wouldn’t have done on my own in a month of Sundays. No major problems apart from those, just a hard slog. Favourite was 21a, a word which I knew. Thanks to Firefly and Gazza.

  7. So much better than the backpager today . Apart from the bizarre ”outside” clues [ which made the puzzle a lot easier when you got there , as the parsing of them was complex to say the least ] , there were also lots of clever and amusing clues where the solving was either satisfying , or amusing , or both . Thanks to all.

  8. I must say I enjoyed this. The peripheral clues were so clever.
    I’m not sure 1d were barbarians. Perhaps they had a bad press?
    I’m surprised anyone remembers Valerie Hobson these days. Married to a bad egg. Reminds me of the brilliant Stonehouse which I’m enjoying watching.
    I disliked 23a because I do not want to be reminded of Whinge and Ginge
    Friday tomorrow so I suspect the fun ends here!

  9. So nearly made it on my own but defeated eventually by the brass rubbing and the burner phone – thanks to Gazza for the help with those. The quirky peripherals were a godsend but even so, the parsing of a couple of them took some time. Must admit, I didn’t know it was acceptable to use ‘beginning with exasperating’ to indicate a first letter.
    Top of my pile was 21d with a nod to the Welsh valleys.

    Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the review, the comedy touches and the assistance.

  10. Really enjoyed the little perimeter gimmick. It was the icing on the cake of what was a good fun puzzle.
    Thanks Firefly and Gazza.

  11. Got there but two of the perimeter clues were bung ins that I couldn’t parse which rather spoilt the enjoyment for me. Thanks to Gazza and Firefly.

  12. Gave up trying to parse the bottom long one; otherwise, except for a bung-in at 25a, I think I’ve solved and parsed all of the rest without any outside help. I must now read Gazza’s review to be sure of all that. This was certainly a horse of a different colour but I rather enjoyed the peripheral counter-symmetries (if such a thing exists outside my imagination). Impossible to name a favourite but the Nureyev clue gave me the greatest satisfaction, and I felt quite relieved when the penny dropped for 12a, my LOI.
    Thanks to Firefly for the enjoyment and to Gazza, as always, for the enlightenment.

  13. It just now occurred to me that the definition of ‘gall’, meaning ‘to rub’ (which I had shamefully forgotten) is integral to the sacred wordplay that we find in GM Hopkins’s final line of ‘The Windhover’: ‘Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermillion’!

  14. I found this one of the most straightforward Toughies for a long time… until the last three clues, all short ones. 1a flew in, I had the first word of 7d and the c in 30a, figured the game and wrote in the rest of the perimeter without reading 8d or bothering to parse 7d and 30a.

    I really enjoyed most of this generally excellent puzzle, but was rather put off by the excessive word count of too many clues – I prefer RayT’s brevity.

    2* / 4*

    Many thanks to Firefly and to Gazza

  15. Thanks to Firefly and to Gazza for the review and hints. Very entertaining, I was surprised that I managed to get into such a difficult puzzle. Probably helped by noticing the juxtaposition of the words in 1&30a and 7&8 down. Thought the wordplay was quite tricky. Needed 5 hints to finish. Favourite was 21a, which I remembered from my schooldays! Was 4* /4* for me.

  16. Came late to this one but glad I made the effort. The combination of the large number of anagrams, hidden answers and the quirky perimeters made this a pretty speedy solve but definitely fun and memorable. I didn’t know the dancer for 29a, I didn’t see the rub definition for 25a and 22d seems like a dated term which I had never heard used but all were accessible through other means. Perimeters aside, I thought some of the short clues some of the best, including 11a, 23a and 13a/26d – often also-rans but not today I thought. **/****

    Great fun, ty to Firefly and Gazza

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