Toughie No 136 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie No 136

Toughie No 136 by Giovanni

An enjoyable puzzle, in spite of the Geography lesson!

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

Here we have a Toughie from our regular Friday setter.  Tougher than the daily cryptics, with one or two words you may have to look up, but very enjoyable.  But the French department will cause a lot of head scratching.


1a Male to go on a diet avoiding certain foods (8)
{MEATLESS} – a charade of M(ale) and EAT LESS (to go on a diet) gives a word meaning avoiding certain foods

5a Endless trumpets etc with incoming of Queen’s composer (6)
{BRAHMS} – the trumpets etc form the BRASS section of an orchestra; drop the last letter (endless) and put HM (Her Majesty the Queen) and you get the composer of a famous lullabyexcellent surface reading and Queen not translating into ER for a change

9a Inappropriately mentioned being teased in a provincial party (7,2)
{DRAGGED UP} – this phrasal verb meaning inappropriately mentioned comes from RAGGED (being teased) inside DUP (the Democratic Unionist Party in the province of Northern Ireland)

11a Containing a certain amount of substance used for grinding (5)
{MOLAR} – a double definition – on the one hand a term meaning per unit amount of substance, or per mole, and on the other used for grinding, as in a molar tooth

12a Tire in America, being left-wing, not Conservative (6)
{RADIAL} — this type of tyre (tire in America) comes from RADI(C)AL (being left-wing) without the C(onservative) – how typical of the Americans to spell a perfectly good word like tyre differently

13a Keep an eye on punter’s money on the table? (5,3)
{STAKE OUT} – a nice part-cryptic double definition

15a Arrange tent on ground somewhere in France (4-2-7)
{TARN-ET-GARONNE} – this anagram (ground) of ARRANGE TENT ON to give “somewhere in France” – not content with English places, now we will have to learn all the departments in France!

18a The soldier, man in conflict for an astronomical time (8,5)
{SIDEREAL MONTH} – another anagram (in conflict) this time it’s THE SOLDIER, MAN that has to be rearranged to give the time in which the moon passes round the ecliptic to the same point among the stars = 27.3217 days

22a Without ribs in a country that’s totally green? (8)
{ECOSTATE} – this word meaning without ribs could also be read as a country that’s totally green

23a French native dances, switching sides (6)
{GASCON} – more French flavour with this resident of Gascony being derives by splitting congas (dances) in two and putting the second half in front of the first (switching sides) – I was initially convinced that I needed to change the S at the end of some dances into an N to switch sides, but then the penny dropped

26a Sherpa is abject — minimal money pocketed (5)
{PAISA} – this minimal amount of money (1/100 of a rupee) is hidden (pocketed) in SherPA IS Abject

27a Spoil dinner? Nothing right in it, like marble! (9)
{MARMORIAL} – MAR (spoil) then MEAL (dinner) with O (nothing) and R(ight) inside to give a word meaning like marble

28a True love is OK! (6)
{RIGHTO} – RIGHT (true) and O (love, as in a score of zero in tennis) to give a synonym for OK – looks like the setter was rushing to get this puzzle in the post!

29a A comment about the troopers? No big girl’s blouses! (8)
{MENSWEAR} – a pun on the expression to swear like a trooper leads us to the department in which one would expect someone who behaves in a feeble or effeminate manner (big girl’s blouse) to work


1d Ordinary couple crossing European river (8)
{MODERATE} – a synonym for ordinary comes from MATE (the verb meaning to couple) around (crossing) ODER (European river) – I have been planning an addition to The Mine for rivers that keep coming up in crosswords, but each time one turns up it was not on my list!

2d Struggle to get in commercial payment? (5)
{AWARD} – the struggle that goes inside AD (commercial) to give a payment is a fairly big one!

3d Kit offers joke going down in toboggan (7)
{LUGGAGE} – this kit is the kind that usually gets lost at Heathrow! – just put GAG (joke) inside LUGE (toboggan) to find it.

4d Faction posturing (4)
{SIDE} – a double definition that becomes obvious when you get the checking letters, if not before

6d Havin’ an inclination to hug this person, being a dish (7)
{RAMEKIN} – the missing “g” tells us to do the same to RAKIN’ (havin’ an inclination) before putting it around (to hug) ME (the setter / this person) to give a small dish

7d Greeting given to small knight when masquerade occurs (9)
{HALLOWEEN} – a delightful charade of HALLO (greeting) WEE (small, particularly in Scotland) and N (knight in chess notation) to give when masquerade occurs

8d Spring ceremony for a fairy (6)
{SPRITE} – you get this fairy by combining SP(ring) and RITE (ceremony)
[see Giovanni’s note below!]
you get this fairy by taking SPA (spring) and replacing the A ( for a) with RITE (ceremony) – well, it certainly foxed me!

10d Time Lord’s going around facing attack? Who transcends time (5,3)
{PETER PAN} – T(ime) inside PEER (Lord) and then (facing) PAN (attack, as in criticise) to give someone who, like Cliff Richard, transcends time

14d Rodent invading an avens or some other plant (8)
{AGERATUM} – put RAT (rodent) inside (invading) A GEUM (an avens) to get some other plant

16d Fixing break with rubber seal (9)
{RESTORING} – a synonym for fixing that comes from REST (break) and O RING (rubber seal

17d Writer whose output once shed some light (8)
{CHANDLER} – presumably the ancestors of writer (Raymond) CHANDLER made candles (whose output once shed some light)

19d Take away pamphlet after upsetting editor (7)
{DETRACT} – a word meaning to take away comes from TRACT (pamphlet) after reversing (upsetting) ED(itor)

20d Fuss about animal noises? Quite the opposite in country areas (7)
{MEADOWS} – “quite the opposite” tells us that it’s not ADO (fuss) around MEWS (animal noises) but the other way round to get these country areas

21d Go for each flavour (6)
{PEPPER} – PEP (go, as in energy) and PER (for each) give a condiment used to add flavour

24d Island decided to discharge prisoner (5)
{CRETE} – this Greek island comes from (CON)CRETE (decided) without (to discharge) CON (prisoner) –

25d Drive in which one’s well up, having lost the lead (4)
{URGE} – to “well up” is to (S)URGE – lose the lead letter and you have a synonym for drive

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10 comments on “Toughie No 136

  1. Dave, I hate to admit it, but the French Department was the first clue I answered…..

    1. “unscrupulously fair” – sounds interesting!

      Seriously, in 8d I couldn’t find any reference to SP standing for Spring. Can anyone else?

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated. Sorry you were foxed by the SPRITE clue. Spring= SPA, then use RITE for A and the replacement leads to SPRITE. I probably wouldn’t use this technique in a Friday non-Toughie though.

    1. Giovanni

      That will teach me to read the clues more carefully! Only this morning I had an email from another setter in which he said “I don’t use definite or indefinite articles unless the clue doesn’t work without them”.

      It reminds me of this clue from DT 25818 (before I started this blog) in which I missed the significance of the colon:

      “Settlement: unknown figure (6)”

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