Toughie 289

Toughie No 289 by Excalibur

Contractual Obligation

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ** Enjoyment *

It’s that time of the month, another Excalibur Toughie. Some like them, some don’t. I don’t. Virtually every down clue with an anagram in it. Enough said. See you next week.

The answers can be found by highlighting the space between the curly brackets. If you want to share your thoughts on this crossword, please leave a comment.


1a    Forced to act, got along as best one could (4,2)
{MADE DO} Word sum to start today. Add a word meaning “forced” onto a word meaning “act”. The definition is the remainder of the clue.

4a    Just means ‘parts of the course’ (8)
{FAIRWAYS} Another one, this time a word meaning “just” added to a word for “means” gives the bits of a (golf) course where you can hit long shots.

9a    Insist it makes sales rise (6)
{DEMAND) Simply a double definition, part-cryptic. A word meaning “insist”, and what, according to some economists, makes sales rise along with supply.

10a    The star has turned, love, into a heavy drinker (8)
{TOP-LINER} This comprises a definition “star” – think of celebrity stars. You need a word for “love” or zero and reverse it inside TOPER, a drinker.

11a    Can’t find mice pals set loose inside (8)
{MISPLACE} Eagle-eyed solvers may have little trouble spotting the anagram of MICE PALS that needs to be placed inside MICE to get a word that means to lose.

13a    Given tick, spent (6)
{PASSED} Obvious double definition. If you give someone a tick when marking an exam, then you don’t fail them, apparently. Likewise if you spent time.

15a    Why one was kept in the dark? (7,6)
{OBSCURE REASON} Forgettable cryptic definition. If you are in the dark about something, then the cause is somewhat mysterious.

18a    Bowled first ball very quickly (2,2,4,2,3)
{IN NO TIME AT ALL} Mysterious cryptic definition- I can see the second half of it, but not the first. [The suggestion is that if you are out first ball in cricket then this could describe your stay at the crease. BD]

22a    The way bait’s concealed shows brilliance (6)
{LUSTRE} You may find this a bit hard to swallow! ST (the way) inside LURE (bait)

24a    As tit for tat, Pearl turned the master in (8)
{REPRISAL} Try solving this in the same way as 10 ac. An anagram of PEARL with a word for the master (SIR) reversed inside.

26a    After all the work put in we’d get beaten! (8)
{WALLOPED} “It does what it says on the tin” clue. ALL OP (All the work) inside WED gives a word for beaten as in England cricket and soccer teams on occasion.

27a    Challenge a price quoted (6)
{ACCOST} My normal dislike of homophone clues is set aside here, as it’s fairly obvious and cannot be misinterpreted through regional pronunciation. A + COST

28a    Does split up and ex is most unhappy (8)
{DESOLATE} Easy-ish clue. An anagram of DOES + a meaning of the prefix “EX-“

29a    With second Test a shambles, declares (6)
{STATES} This is an anagram (indicated by shambles) of S TEST A to give a word meaning “declares”.


1d    As a mother myself, accommodating the foreign lady (6)
{MADAME} Here it’s a bit convoluted, and the result is terribly messy. A DAM = a mother inside (accomodating) ME = myself results in a French (foreign) lady.

2d    Splashes in the bird bath, which cools the ardour (5,4)
{DAMPS DOWN} I assume it’s a double definition clue with one half cryptic. If you soaked a bird’s feathers you’d ….. and this also means to cool passion, or what a fireman does after a blaze.

3d    Hangs out and legs get tangled up (7)
{DANGLES} Normal anagram (indicated by get tangled up) of AND LEGS

5d    For a male, it’s very small indeed (4)
{ATOM} Knowledge of science helpful here. A MALE (as in a cat) = A TOM.

6d    Spring again and the easel is brought out (7)
{RELEASE} Iffy anagram indicator here. RE (again) + an anagram (indicated poorly by is brought out) of EASEL.

7d    She sang off key inside (5)
{AGNES} Name time. An anagram (indicated by off) of SANG with a key (E) inside

8d    Piercing with small spear (8)
{STRIDENT} Get an abbreviation for small and add it to Britannia’s “Spear” and you’ll get a word meaning piercing, as in noise.

12d    Friendly child with Mum ridiculously young (6)
{CHUMMY} Abbreviation of Child = CH + an anagram of mum + Y = Young all together gives a word meaning amicable.

14d    Bear out the hotel cancellation to get refund (6)
{REBATE} Now, another anagram. This time of BEAR and add to it THE, less H (hotel cancellation) which will give you a refund which will go into your bank account in five working days. Amazing when they can take it instantly from you, that you have to wait so long for an on-line refund.

16d    She’ll tear into character to belittle (4,5)
{SELL SHORT} Dreary anagram of SHE’LL inside SORT (character) gives a phrase meaning to belittle.

17d    Rose up, stooped and sick, to enter (8)
{BILLOWED} Pretty, almost onomatopoeic answer. A word for sick inside one for someone stooped over.

19d    Mixing rum with work brought about chaos (7)
{TURMOIL} Evidently an anagram (mixing) of RUM inside a word meaning work and this will lead to a word meaning chaos.

20d    Pair stumbled to bed with a little treat to eat (7)
{APRICOT} Not my idea of a “little treat to eat”, perhaps it was during rationing in WW2, a revolting sickly fruit. Yet another anagram of PAIR and add to it a word for a baby’s bed.

21d    In addition, last-minute illustrations (6)
{PLATES} Came to this one late. PS = In addition with LATE (last-minute) inside.

23d    Stashes for use in the bathroom (5)
{SALTS} It’s another trip back to the 50’s and 60’s. How many of you use “salts” in the bathroom. Can you still buy Andrews, Eno and such like? Or is it bath salts? Who cares?

25d    Threw over the side (4)
{LEFT} Let’s end with a double definition. Yes, let’s end here with something weak.

Your opinions as always are welcomed. Mine? Perhaps a glance at the start of each analysis may assist…… Toodle-oo!


  1. gnomethang
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    At least you had some fun with the review, Tilsit!
    Years ago (probably 18 or so) when Excalibur was setting the Sunday Telegraph I found these quite hard and very enjoyable. I am rather more on the other side of the seesaw now but do not despair as much as you (and others).
    I would stick up for 18a though – found it reasonably clever.

    Thanks for your time!

    • Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Virgilius took over the Sunday crossword just under a year ago – I had similar feelings about the older puzzles.

  2. Mike (Touchwood)
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    A minor correction if I may – 11a is an anagram of PALS inside MICE – it is an anagram of PALS MICE but that’s not the way the clue reads.

    • Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      I missed that when I checked – sorted now, thanks.

  3. Prolixic
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the review Tilsit. I don’t get too heated about Excalibur’s puzzles. Once I have got into a different mind set and learned to speak Yoda fashion (he would have been proud of 17d and 29a), they are OK. It’s a bit like learning a foreign language sometimes. I agree with Mike about 11a, it’s an anagram in a container. I too liked 18a.

  4. BigBoab
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    OK, just! or just OK! Typical Excalibur.

  5. TimB
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    First time I’ve completed a Toughie without help. Nevertheless, I agree some of the clues are a bit weak, especially 2d, 7d, 23d and 25d. Wasn’t too keen on 13a either. Took longer than today’s cryptic, but not as much fun.

  6. Tilsit
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for pointing out the slip over MISPLACE, which makes it even less of a Toughie clue.

    Sorry to be such a negative nelly, but I really find this is poor fare, especially when other setters appear to be doing their best to raise their game and the quality of puzzles in the Telegraph. Virtually every down clue a part-anagram is simply laziness and lacking any pride in the job.

    • Chris
      Posted January 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Hey don’t despair!
      I thought 4ac and 13ac were good and that 18ac was very good. Another cricket reference to being “in” at the wicket but it beats watching England’s cricket performance.

  7. Gill
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I have always enjoy the crosswords from the age of 10 – now a pensioner! In spite of all the comments as to whether it is ‘good’ or ‘poor’, I shall continue trying to complete both the cryptic and the toughie. After all, what else is there to look forward to in the morning?

  8. gnomethang
    Posted January 21, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Apart from a Full English, I couldn’t agree more!