Toughie 509 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 509

Toughie No 509 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I found this a real struggle especially down the left-hand side. In the end I gave up with two clues to go and consulted the oracle (i.e. BD). Because of the problems I had I feel obliged to give it 5 stars for difficulty. But it wasn’t a very satisfying solve and I think I’m probably being generous in giving it 2 stars for enjoyment.

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.


5a    Not on the rocks, as in job (6)
{OFFICE} If your whisky is not on the rocks then you could possibly say that it’s *** ***.

8a    Does like it when one has friends round (8)
{IMITATES} The definition is “does like”, i.e. mimics someone else. It is made up from IT inside I (one) + friends

9a    Heavens! Going in to perform for recording! (7)
{SCORING} Heavens! (as in *** blimey!) goes inside to perform (vocally)

10a    Bound to have had run-through: to have practised (5)
{TRIED} A synonym for bound (as a past tense) goes round R (run)

11a    Complete change of opinion regarding act (5,4)
{ABOUT TURN} A complete change of opinion is made up of regarding + act

13a    For which waster, a foreigner, entered casino? (8)
{ROULETTE} A waster (profligate) goes round a native of Latvia to give a casino game

14a    English cooks about to turn over puddings (6)
{SWEETS} A reversal (to turn over) of cooks (as a verb) round E (English)

17a    Forecast had been upset (3)
{SAW} A reversal (upset) of “had been” gives forecast (as a past tense)

19a    The female’s a man, right? (3)
{HER} A female possessive pronoun is made up of a male pronoun + R (right)

20a    C-Casanova found hiding in the grass? (6)
{CLOVER} C + another word for Casanova gives a trifoliate plant

23a    With parent out more, it’s easy (8)
{PAINLESS} If you are out more then you are ** ****. Put this after a short word for father

26a    Wasn’t perfect — crust was too delicate (3,6)
{HAD FAULTS} This is the only thing I could think of that fits and it does mean “wasn’t perfect”. I can’t work out the rest of the clue but guess it might be something to do with the earth’s crust and the likelihood of earthquakes

28a    He gives party (spelled ‘paty’?) (5)
{DONOR} This is someone who gives money to a political party. Look at it as ** ** * to justify the terrible wordplay

29a    Lengthens shorts (7)
{DILUTES} This was one that beat me. I assumed that it was a double definition clue (lengthens/shorts) but it turns out to be a single cryptic definition, It is to do with adding something (e.g. water) to whisky etc. to make a longer drink

30a    It’s ornamental but fasteners are irritating (8)
{TAPESTRY} Fasteners (used for tying up) + “are irritating” gives an ornamental textile for covering a wall

31a    Hell-bent on getting oxygen? (6)
{INTENT} If you needed to be given oxygen because of some medical condition then you might be put ** ****


1d    Drink little watery? No way! (6)
{BITTER} Beer is given by a little portion + watery without the letters of WAY

2d    Smallest price for car with silencer? (7)
{MINIMUM} The smallest quantity is given by a small car + an interjection meaning “not a word”

3d    Handcraft? (4,5)
{CARD SENSE} I hope that BD has given me the right answer here. I wouldn’t have got it in a month of Sundays because it’s not a term that I am familiar with and it is not in Chambers. The hand referred to is something that is dealt in such games as bridge.

4d    On subject of fuel, nothing new (6)
{REPEAT} RE (on) + fuel dug from a bog gives a TV programme that you may have seen before

5d    Heading in the right direction to get qualifications? (2,6)
{ON COURSE} To get a qualification who might be doing a prescribed series of e.g. lectures

6d    ‘Trees’ has T at the front (5)
{FIRST} Trees + T gives “at the front”

7d    Sorry argument against: unoriginal (8)
{CONTRITE} An argument against + unoriginal gives sorry

12d    Three-quarters meat diet for an insectivore (3)
{BEE} An insectivore might eat this insect which is meat without the final letter

15d    As clue for ‘rode’, it’s a bad ‘un! (9)
{WRONGDOER} The bad ‘un is an offender or transgressor. The answer consists of an anagram indicator followed by an anagram of RODE

16d    A tail’s for wagging: an essential for a dog (8)
{ALSATIAN} An anagram (for wagging) of A TAIL’S + AN gives a type of dog

18d    Aren’t getting stick in debate (8)
{ARGUMENT} “to stick” goes inside ARENT

21d    Tending to be a little flat (3)
{APT} The answer is an abbreviation of apartment (flat)

22d    Snacks for the vegetable-crazy (7)
{PEANUTS} A vegetable + crazy gives a snack you can buy in the pub

24d    Lost arts making comeback? Yes, all round (6)
{ASTRAY} A reversal of ARTS inside a 2-letter word meaning “yes”

25d    Scatters bouquets (6)
{SPRAYS} 2 meanings: scatters/bunches of flowers decoratively arranged

27d    If I abandoned one instrument for another… (5)
{FLUTE} F (IF with I abandoned) + one musical instrument gives another

We are a bit light on anagrams today.

48 comments on “Toughie 509

  1. This is, I think, the first Excalibur I ever finished in a reasonable time and without having to bang my head on the desk and groan a lot – just twice! I didn’t enjoy it very much as there are some most peculiar examples of wordplay. Definitely not of Toughie standard. Thanks to Bufo for the explanations.

  2. I managed to finish the toughie today without coming here for help!!

    First time EVER!

    Quite proud of my little self hahaha xxx :)

                    1. Doubtful I think I will be keeping my toughie performances to a 2d, although this one was very high 9a in my opinion and I didn’t think it 26a!

                  1. I think we should call an end to this banter now or we may be considered as a 15d without 31a and have to be 7d and anyway I need to practice my 27d for an hour :-D

  3. 3D threw me completely and whilst 28a had to be, i’m still wrestling with the wordplay despite Bufos explanation! Oh well. Thanks to Bufo for a valiant review.

    1. Hi Andy if you spell party as paty then there is no r, in otherwords it’s a do with no r, which is do no r – donor, at least that’s how I see it :)

      1. 28a – Aaah! I now understand! Thanks, Mary!

        I also rather liked 29a – Lengthens shorts (7) – now it has been explained – Thanks, Mary & Bufo & Excalibur.

  4. If it hadn’t been for BDs comment on the cryptic page I wouldn’t even have looked at this, so thanks for that Dave, I loved this puzzle, a quirky style, where all the clues made sense but needed going over to make sure, fav clues, 20a, 26a, 29a,28a and dare I say it 31a :)

    1. What was your interpretation of BDs comment on the cryptic page?: My thoughts on the Toughie are unprintable! **!?## I wish I had followed his advice and not attempted it! Too late now!

      1. I thought he was saying he didn’t like the style and it was too easy, which is why I tried it, I’m glad I did I really enjoyed it :)

  5. I found this to be hard going in places, and straightforward in others. I would never have got 3d [I’m not a card player] or 26a and 29a without looking at the hints. Perhaps for 29a “adulterates shorts” might have been more appropriate, as that is what adding water to a good scotch does, in my view! Thanks to setter and Bufo for review

  6. Not a very tough toughie ( with the exception of 3d ) but reasonable fun. Thanks Excalibur and Bufo.

  7. Managed this today, helped to restore my confidence after yesterday, needed help with 3d though and 26a Thanks Bufo and Excalibur

  8. Not the tougest of the tough but pleasant to solve. Many thanks to Bufo for the review and Excalibur for the crossword.

  9. Fairly straightforward today from Excalibur the only one I had a problem with was 3d I play cards but I’ve never heard of this saying.Thanks to Excalibur and Bufo for the review.

  10. Yes we did BD. By the way I didn’t thank Excalibur above as I doubt that she’s daring your curmudgeonly den.

  11. I enjoyed this puzzle apart from 10a where I wanted to put in ‘volte face’. I was most disappointed and still am.
    Thanks to Excaliber and Bufo.

  12. I too found the left side the more difficult. In fact at one point I had all the right hand answers and only 1 on the left – 10a was first in.
    On the whole I thought it a pretty fair crossword but not really a Toughie which made a change from yesterday!
    Thanks to Excalibur and Bufo.

  13. Nice puzzle. Like most others 3d got me, is it even a recognised term? I can’t find it anywhere. I kind of get 26a but can’t understand why it’s in the past tense unless it’s to make it fit in the grid. Other than those pretty straightforward and a *** ***. Oh, and so much nicer than that piece of filth yesterday. I’m still traumatised….

    1. I’ve just realised that the comment on 26a is a bit daft as if was in the present tense it would still fit. So why isn’t the clue it in the present tense as the earth still exists and still has these things.

  14. Finally cracked this Toughie…

    Some comments:
    Bufo, 29a was my last one in and my reading is “he turns a short into a long drink”
    26a definitely would have been better in the present tense but its reading is fine for me: if the Earth crust is too delicate, seismic faults occur.
    I thought 28a was a terrific clue. The only possible flaw in my opinion is the omission of the “to” but maybe the setter was not intending to refer to a party political contributor. So the def is “he gives” and the rest is wordplay. Works for me!
    My beef is with 17a. Was is not had been, preterite ain’t pluperfect.
    3d: See here. Legitimate and just about fair, I would say.
    21d: another awesome clue: It’s a double def. “Tending to” and “little flat”. My topper for today!!!
    31a has a nice misdirection where oxygen for once does not indicate a certain vowel.

    Enjoyment ****, diff *** but your mileage clearly varied.

    Unfurl boxed abaci, permute a bit and find the watery objects of my thanks (9,3,2)

    1. Nestor, may I ask what yout first language is? I am very impressed by your willingness to attempt (solve) English cryptic Crosswords!

      I have noticed from your previous comments that you are a non-native speaker of English.

      1. First language is German which was what my Czech father and my Dutch mother used as their common language. Also my grandmother lived with us and only spoke German.

        Second language Dutch as I grew up in/near Amsterdam.

        I live already for more than 25 years in this kingdom-with-a-mind-of-its-own and English xwords are part of my daily routine. I earn a living with my brain and need to keep it in good working order.

        I also do Dutch xwords, known as “cryptogrammen”. They have a flavour of their own and abound in (ab)use of Dutch idioms and loads of crypdefs.

        1. Nestor, Thanks for your reply! Still very impressed!

          I don’t think I would get very far in a “cryptogrammen” even I lived for 25 years in the Koninkrijk der Nederlanden(?)

  15. I got thrown into this unexpectedly when I clicked on the Quick Crossword on Clued Up and got the Toughie instead but I felt I should rise to the challenge!! I couldn’t get 3d and 26ac and I don’t think of either as common phrases. Thanks to Bufo for the clear explanations of the wordplay which as usual I only partly worked out for myself and to Excalibur for keeping me away from the housework for the afternoon!

  16. Took one look at this – realised what it was – and did the cryptic by Paul in the Guardian instead.

  17. Sorry but I really disliked this – there were some really tenuous definitions (IN TENT for on getting oxygen???) Never mind the fact that Hell Bent is too strong for the other defintition.
    I have some time for Excalibur upon occasion but this left me annoyed. Too many bad clues for me.

    1. Agree about intent Gnomey but it wasn’t all bad was it?
      Paul in the Grauniad had OZ for Island today and I thought that was pushing the envelope a bit!

  18. As far as the logic of most of the clues goes then this was definitely a case of “the strange world of the unusual where everyday things happen all of the time…”

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