Toughie 236

Toughie No 236 by Excalibur

In The Doldrums

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *** Enjoyment **

You are either going to like this or hate it. Me I hated it. I guessed what I was dealing with after two or three clues and plodded on feeling older and wearier as I realised what each answer was. When I had finished I felt as if I had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.

Do we have any volunteers who might want to review an Excalibur Toughie? There has to be someone who likes this style of crossword and would be able to put in a good word.

Lets hope the normal cryptic is more enjoyable.


1. Gets help, or is it denied? (8)
{GAINSAID} – GAINS (gets) AID (help).

5. Says thanks and sets about returning (6)
{STATES} – TA (thanks) inside (about) SETS reversed (returning).

9. For interior parts, a full treatment (3,5)
{THE WORKS} – Double definition of what you might find inside a clock for example, or everything possible.

10. Relate to earl constrained by peer (4,2)
{BEAR ON} – BARON (peer) around E (earl).

12. Fight, to a man, being unenlightened (6)
{FEUDAL} – FEUD (fight) and AL (a man).

13. Unusually sound and healthy all round, one learns (5,3)
{FINDS OUT} – FIT (healthy) around an anagram (unusually) of SOUND.

15. A brilliant finish (7)
{VARNISH} – “a resinous solution used to coat and give a hard, glossy, usually transparent surface to woodwork, paintings”.

16. A plane? It’s a duck! (4)
{ZERO} – A WWII Japanese fighter plane, or another word for nothing.

20. Sounds a fit way to greet someone really popular (4)
{HAIL} – Sounds like HALE (fit).

21. To listen, I’ve moved in closer (7)
{HEAVIER} – An anagram (moved) of IVE inside (in) HEAR (listen).

25. You won’t seek high and low for them on the map (8)
{MIDLANDS} – That’s because these lands are in the middle. Birmingham is located there.

26. Having taken run, stop batsman’s line (6)
{CREASE} – CEASE (stop) taking R (run).

28. Mean mum is getting the baby changed (6)
{SHABBY} – SH (mum – silence) with an anagram (changed) of BABY.

29. Rather an unknown quantity, don’t you agree? (8)
{SOMEWHAT} – A charade of SOME (an unknown quantity) and WHAT? (don’t you agree?) as in “Pretty poor show, what?”. A bit like this clue.

30. Guides good and lost when rounded up (6)
{PILOTS} – PI (good) and an anagram (when rounded up) of LOST.

31. In case one is liquidated, or murdered (8)
{POISONED} – An anagram (liquidated) of ONEIS inside POD (case).


1. Climb down to escape the consequences (3,3)
{GET OFF} – Double definition.

2. Covered in a sheet? (4,2)
{ICED UP} – What happens if something gets covered in ice.

3. Remove, after a second, an unwanted passenger (8)
{STOWAWAY} – S (second) TOW AWAY (remove).

4. You’ll find them in well-equipped schoolrooms (4)
{INKS} – What would you expect to find in inkwells?

6. Stab tip in hip (6)
{TRENDY} – END (tip) inside (in) TRY (stab).

7. For ‘Pastry’, go to the next page (8)
{TURNOVER} – A small pie made by folding over the crust, has the same name as the action you make when reading a book for example.

8. Allow a penalty (8)
{SANCTION} – Double definition, “the act of ratifying, or giving permission or authority” or “a penalty or reward expressly attached to non-observance or observance of a law or treaty”.

11. To girl, one half of love letter (7)
{MISSIVE} – MISS (girl), plus I (one), followed by (lo) VE (half of love).

14. Plans to stop in. Isn’t dressed (7)
{INTENDS} – END (to stop) inside an anagram (dressed) of ISNT. One of the better clues.

17. About the potential bus strike, a good sign (6,2)
{THUMBS UP} – THUMP (strike) outside (about) with an anagram (the potential) of BUS.

18. Bit of luck that restores a certain degree of calm (8)
{WINDFALL} – If the wind stopped blowing?

19. Volunteers to get rid of the rats (8)
{TERRIERS} – Another word for territorial soldiers is also a dog that could be used to kill rats.

22. Lever up and underneath find little animal (6)
{RABBIT} – BAR (lever) reversed (up) followed by (underneath) BIT (a little).

23. Realise, on his being falsely imprisoned in jail (4,2)
{CASH IN} – An anagram of HIS (being falsely) inside (imprisoned) CAN (jail)

24. Depressed when bumped into (6)
{DENTED} – What literally can happen if you bump into for example another car.

27. On the agenda? Bother! (2-2)
{TO-DO} – A commotion, that becomes something to do when you add the word list.


  1. gnomethang
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I do enjoy his puzzles but am not consistent enough in solving them to blog them – I was 3 away before I checked the blog (Thanks! Libellule).

    I thought that 9A was a great clue,as were 3d and 6d.
    I tend to get his/her way of thinking more than others.

    • Libellule
      Posted October 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      The setter is actually a she :-) – and was also the setter of the Sunday cryptic for a long time, until she stopped a little while ago, assuming of course I am correct. Every time one of Excalibur’s crosswords comes up we end up with the love it / hate it discussion, and unfortunately all of “us” bloggers ( I can’t comment on Anax) currently sit in the hate it camp.

      • gnomethang
        Posted October 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Is it Nuala Considine? – Note I haven’t seen the name written down since about 1990 so my spelling may be way off!
        If so then I always enjoyed her Sundays.

        • Libellule
          Posted October 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          That would indeed be the case.

          • gnomethang
            Posted October 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

            That would explain my affinity.
            She gave us the mighty “Follow the invisible man in the sportswear department (5,4)”. I remember sitting on a park bench in Nottingham laughing my head off when I got the answer.

  2. bigboab
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I found this quite difficult in parts, liked 7d and 9a.

  3. Patsyann
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Come on Gnomethang! Don’t throw a tantalising clue like that out without a hint as to the answer!

    • gnomethang
      Posted October 20, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      If the man himself were invisible, what you would look at in order to follow him. Also an article of sportswear.

      • gnomethang
        Posted October 20, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Actually – it probably ought to be (9) – (5,4) will help you solve it!

  4. Patsyann
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Got it! Great clue.

  5. Kram
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your usual great write up Libellule, found it easier than the usual Toughies,with the top part easier than the lower half, liked both 9a ,7d but best for me was 29a.

    • Libellule
      Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think this was particularly difficult – on average I would say, and agree with you re. the top half v’s bottom half, thats how it worked out for me. There are a couple of reasonable clues in this crossword, but the overall feeling it gives me is just one of depression.

  6. Edi
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    For the first time i am attempting a toughie before the cryptic. Managed a few by myself, needed Libellule’s excellent tips to finish.

    • Libellule
      Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      As you might imagine, this isn’t one I would recommend :-)

  7. Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I have to say I’m in the “like it” camp. To me it’s pretty solid clueing all round until perhaps the last 4 or 5 downs where it’s almost as if a bit of fatigue has set in, but (perhaps bar a couple of instances of non-Ximenean looseness) everything seems smooth and concise. Funnily enough I think 29a is a beautifully worded clue; completely accurate with just enough difficulty to keep you guessing for a while. There are at least a dozen clues in here which I’d be very happy with if I’d written them.

    Just looking through the clues again, in terms of brevity/originality/wit – let’s ignore any slight wordplay faults – I’d say Nuala’s clueing has much in common with Rufus; not overly difficult but full of pleasing penny-drop moments.

    • Libellule
      Posted October 20, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Hmm – perhaps you can review Excalibur’s Toughies in the future? For some reason this type of cluing drives me up the wall.

  8. Posted October 20, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I actually didn’t mind this too much. I felt that this was a much tighter Toughie than we have had from Excalibur in the past and it actually felt like I was solving a present-day puzzzle instead of one from about thirty years ago.

    I think part of the problem with the Telegraph Crossword as a whole is its almost dependence on the cryptic definition. In most other papers, these are limited to one or two a puzzle and it makes the clue memorable and adds to the overall enjoyment of the puzzle. There are times solving the DT that I think that the setter couldn’t be bothered with thinking of a decent clue and so bungs in a cryptic definition as a last resort. The whole feeling then is of an over-egged pudding.

    • Libellule
      Posted October 20, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      You may have hit the nail on the head. For some reason – its difficult to put my finger on it, as I worked through this, I just got more and more fed up. It was like piling one thing on top of another. By the time I finished it – I was wondering why I had spent the time doing it. If I hadn’t been reviewing it, I think I would have thrown it in the bin after half a dozen clues.

  9. Tilly
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Not for me. Although i finished it, as i progressed, it felt 29A 21A 24D.

  10. Prolixic
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Technically this was not overly difficult though it had its moments and there was nothing in the wording of the clues that particularly jarred or that I found misleading. What got to me was how repetitive some of the clues were. There were, at a rough count, nearly 1/3 of the clues of the form “Do something to A and insert in B”. By the end I felt jaded by the process. I think that the number of insertion clues got to me more than the double definitions and cryptic definitions.