Toughie 477

Toughie No 477 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

I found this to be an agreeable puzzle of average difficulty. I did struggle with the last answer (14 down) but I got there eventually.

Please leave a comment telling us what you thought. You can also add your assessment by selecting from one to five stars at the bottom of the post.


1a    Document as opposed to leaflet (8)
{CONTRACT} “Opposed to” + a leaflet (especially political or religious) gives a document (representing an agreement)

5a    After odd drink is knocked back, row (6)
{RUMPUS} odd (queer) + a reversal of “to drink” gives a row (uproar)

9a    Our informants fool around — and so does he (8)
{COMEDIAN} Put a word which embraces the press, television, etc. (our informants) inside “to fool” to give a funny man

10a    Are accepted by the female auditor (6)
{HEARER} Put ARE inside a female pronoun to give an auditor (but not someone who audits accounts)

12a    They’re by German composers, the conductor mentioned (6)
{LIEDER} A homophone of one who conducts (guides) gives German songs

13a    Bus having dropped us, lounged about club (8)
{BLUDGEON} B (bus without us) + an anagram (about) of LOUNGED gives a short stick with a heavy striking end

15a    Deduction reveals purpose of van (7)
{REMOVAL} A deduction (in the sense of taking away) is also something you would use a van for (e.g. a pantechnicon)

16a    Unoccupied within, said lease is available (4)
{IDLE} A synonym for unoccupied is hidden in SAID LEASE

20a    Comes back with ‘I don’t think much of that band’ (4)
{HOOP} A reversal of “I don’t think much of that” gives a ring or circular band

21a    Feign difficulty about gaining entry for delivery (7)
{FREEING} An anagram (difficulty) of FEIGN goes round RE (about) to give “delivery”

25a    Why, in summer, one needs to water various things (8)
{SUNDRIES} The answer means “various things”. Taken as (3,5) it gives the reason why one needs to water

26a    Old bird the plumber has an appointment to see? (6)
{BOILER} An old fowl for cooking is also something that a plumber might have to come and repair or service. I speak from experience here after waking up yesterday morning and finding that the central heating wasn’t working

28a    ‘By an hour after midnight — back home, girl!’ (6)
{MAIDEN} An hour after midnight is 1 am. Reverse this in front of a home to give a girl

29a    I myself escorted round and interceded (8)
{MEDIATED} I goes inside “myself” and “escorted” to give “interceded”

30a    When everything goes dark at one point: sight aberration (6)
{NIGHTS} A point of the compass + an anagram (aberration) of SIGHT

31a    Hungry bird taking mouse innards (8)
{RAVENOUS} A large black bird + OUS (mouse innards) gives a synonym for hungry


1d    Clock off at one, on leaving to have something to eat (6)
{COCKLE} An anagram (off) of CLOCK + E (one, on leaving) gives an edible mollusc

2d    Less sensitive to air (6)
{NUMBER} 2 meanings: less sensitive/air (melody or tune)

3d    Flushed from l-lair concealed by grass (8)
{REDDENED} Take a word meaning lair and double up the first letter. Put the result inside tall stiff grass to give flushed (ruddy)

4d    Talk to pet in French? (4)
{CHAT} A French word for a domestic animal means “to talk” in English

6d    Overthrows lofty ambitions (6)
{UPENDS} Lofty + ambitions gives overthrows (turns upside down)

7d    Means to take wine to send-off (8)
{PORTENDS} A fortified wine + an anagram (off) of SEND gives “means”

8d    Unknown party called during rest break (8)
{STRANGER} A word for called (on the phone) goes inside an anagram (break) of REST to give a person you don’t know

11d    Found not guilty of having made a profit (7)
{CLEARED} 2 meanings: found nor guilty/made a profit

14d    Neurotic dog did this? (7)
{WORRIED} 2 meanings: neurotic (unduly anxious)/what a dog may have done (chased and bit)

17d    They may try to prevent mate coming on board (8)
{CHESSMEN} A cryptic definition having to do with a board game

18d    Plumbing making noises? (8)
{SOUNDING} 2 meanings plumbing (measuring depth)/making noises

19d    I have nice old mongrel — not good at learning new tricks (8)
{INDOCILE} I + an anagram (mongrel) of NICE OLD gives “not willing to be instructed”

22d    Run in. Tears flowing, run in (6)
{ARREST} R (run) goes inside an anagram (flowing) of TEARS

23d    Soak up, to get really drunk (6)
{BLOTTO} Soak up (e.g. ink) + TO gives “really drunk”

24d    Wears gun with spy standing on guard (6)
{ERODES} A slang term for a revolver or pistol goes inside a reversal of “to spy” to give “wears”

27d    Yankee getting a letter? (4)
{BETA} A yankee is a type of ***. Put this before A to get a letter of the Greek alphabet


There seemed to be more clues than usual made up of 2 definitions. These can be quite tricky if the intersecting letters are not of much help and you don’t get on the right wavelength. This was my problem with 14 down where I had _O_R_E_ and took a long time to think of the answer



  1. crypticsue
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I struggled with this a lot as I found it really hard to work out the wordplay from the majority of clues. I 13a’d my way to the end without much joy at all. This was a toughie for all the wrong reasons. Still its Friday tomorrow so we should hopefully have a proper Toughie then. Thanks to Bufo for the explanations.

    • mary
      Posted December 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      not a good day for me to be doing it then Sue so far I have done 3!!

  2. Andy
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Thank heavens for CS comment, I feel a whole lot better now. I really hauled myself through this, no strange words in clues or answers, just couldn’t get the wordplay even when answers had to be what they were. Liked 25a, but oh seems such a long time ago that happened….. Thanks Bufo and Excalibur

  3. BigBoab
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Excalibur, I enjoyed it anyway, I particularly liked 7d and 5a, thanks Bufo for the review.

  4. mary
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Well I’ve done this as an excercise using the blog alongside, I managed about a quarter without the blog, then finished all but two using it, once you get the answers they seem so obvious, nothing really too tricky, still not sure of how 24d works fav clue 31a

    • mary
      Posted December 16, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Bufo for all the help :)

      • Posted December 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Mary, Spy or Espy means SEE. Slang for a gun is a ROD (can also be PIECE or ‘HEAT’). Reverse SEE around ROD to get the definition of wears (away).

        • mary
          Posted December 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          Cheers gnomey, never heard ‘rod’ for gun but then there’s an awful lot I haven’t heard of it seems :)

          • Andy
            Posted December 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            You’re not alone there Mary believe me!! But that it is one reason why I really enjoy learning from this site.

            • mary
              Posted December 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

              It just takes all my efforts to do the cryptic Andy, I don’ t often have any reserves for the Toughie!

              • Upthecreek
                Posted December 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

                Hello Mary. Welcome to the Toughie blog. I’m still struggling!

                • mary
                  Posted December 16, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

                  Hi UTC you needn’t count my posts here I’m not here very often, but it may be a good idea to do them alongside the blog everyday as an excercise, can’t hurt :)

                  • Upthecreek
                    Posted December 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

                    Keep it up Mary. Sometimes they are easier than the cryptic – but not today!

              • Andy
                Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

                If it helps I started the Toughies as you today by doing as much as I could then resorting to the blog to help with the wordplay. And when I started I don’t think I completed a quarter so well done you. I certainly don’t finish every day without at some point checking the blog. I do however feel relieved that both Tilsit and Sue didn’t like todays as being relatively novice I thought I was out of the zone entirely today.

  5. Posted December 16, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Not too bad at all – I did like 9a and 19d in particular. I thought I had finished having put in 14d GETAWAY and 15a HARRIED (which could certainly be an answer it is synonymous with both definitions. Luckily CS put me straight when I expressed concerns over 15a.
    Thanks to Excalibur and Bufo.

  6. Tilsit
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Excalibur is probably the only setter who still uses “rod” for gun. Better than the last few from her, but grids where there are more unchecked than checked letters really leave me cold, unless there is something else going on.

    I feel like Crypticsue, a Toughie for all the wrong reasons.

    If you want a seasonal challenge, the Spectator Christmas puzzle is up and available to download.

    • mary
      Posted December 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Hi Tilsit hope you are well? In a grid where there are more unchecked letters does this always mean there will be more clues??

      • Dynamic
        Posted December 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        I’d say not necessarily. The length of each solution determines the number of clues most strongly (more short words = more clues). There were no solutions over 8 letters long today.

        This grid was only just below 50% checking. Only 11d, 14d, 15a, 21a are under 50%-checked (all at 3/7ths). Every single clue besides them has precisely 50% of its letters checked with a crossing solution – no more & no less, as they’re all even lengths!

        I feel this _can_ be appropriate for a toughie, especially if sections of the puzzle aren’t highly interlinked as it makes it tougher to work your way from one corner into another. It’s especially appropriate to a late-in-the-week Toughie which is typically tougher.

        This grid actually had the four corners _completely_ isolated, each linking to the rest of the grid _only_ via one light joining to the relatively isolated central region. This is quite unusual (and limits each light to about 8 or 9 letters in length) and it probably led to some of the difficulty that I and my Partner-in-Crosswords had.

        I think another part of my difficulty came from the commonness (low Scrabble scores, for example) of most of the checking letters (which makes filling the grid easier for the setter but also makes it harder to guess the word from the checking letters alone if you can’t unravel the cryptic wordplay).

        All in all, there were a lot of clues to solve, a lot to solve ‘cold’ because of the lack of interlinking, and an impediment to inspired guesswork. This one probably separates the experienced wordplay-jockeys from those of us slowcoaches who rely more on checking letters, spotting possible definitions and understanding the wordplay as confirmation. I tend to persist with crosswords like that when I’m enjoying an intriguing theme or humorous wordplay or surface reading, but I often struggle to make progress.

        Despite that, we did enjoy it, with a few “Oh, you so and so!” moments, especially when we’d suffered from misdirection, and some nice smiles. Not a lot to make us really delighted, but enjoyable nonetheless.

        Many thanks to Bufo and Excalibur and all those fellow strugglers. I have a feeling we might be struggling through an Elgar toughie tomorrow, and perhaps a day or two beyond, off-and-on! We shall see.

        For those finding a toughie hard going I can recommend Paul’s Wednesday Guardian for a tricky-in-places but fun & playful crossword. You can find it at (print version also there) and read the solving blog on The Guardian’s quiptic and Monday cryptics (often Rufus) are also available free of charge for an easier solve when you need another crossword fix.

        • Upthecreek
          Posted December 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          Is this an entry for the longest post competition?

        • Qix
          Posted December 16, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          You have a point, I think.

          The DT seems to have a relatively small number of grids available. Greater freedom in grid layout for setters would be likely to lead to better puzzles.

          • Posted December 16, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

            I’d like to wave a magic wand and get rid of 90% of the grids. having set grids dates back to the days of hot metal.

            It wouldn’t surprise me if they have been hard-coded into the newspaper software.

        • Posted December 16, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for that discourse, Dynamic, I would agree with about everything and wish that I had the time and ability to post such observations
          My problems at 15a/14d as the only entry point to the other corners was exacerbated by the vowels there – hence my problem.

  7. honestjohn
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    I almost lost the will to live doing this one and gave up two thirds of the way through. What makes the clues difficult to solve I think is not that they are clever in any way but that they are so imprecise. It all involves a lot of guessing and not much satisfaction when you do get a right answer. I hope I am not being too unfair but I did not enjoy this very much.

    Thanks to Bufo for kindly explaining those I did not get.

    • Posted December 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to the world of Excalibur Yodaspeak

  8. Prolixic
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that it is the cabernet sauvingon speaking (several glasses – not bottles before anyone comments) but I not find this too bad. Excalibur’s recent puzzles have been much improved in terms of the style of the clues whilst maintaining the difficulty level. Many thanks to Excalibur and to Bufo for the review.

  9. Upthecreek
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I never could get my head round Excalibur, even when she used her other name. Today’s puzzle hasn’t changed anything. I had getaway for 15 and this threw me on 14 – I still think my answer was better. It was a grind and took me ages but I did not get any buzz when the last one went in. Best clues for me were 13 and 26. Did not like 15 or 19 as they were too vague. Never mind, the cryptic was fab!!

  10. Qix
    Posted December 16, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I thought that this was a perfectly reasonable crossword, and the amount of critical comment has surprised me.

    However, it was, IMO, much too straightforward to be a Toughie. In fact, I think that it was much less difficult to solve than most of the back-page crosswords that I’ve seen this month in the DT.