Toughie 525 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 525

Toughie No 525 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

BD apologised when he sent me this Excalibur puzzle to blog but, in fact, I didn’t find it too bad. I didn’t care for some of the definitions used and I could nitpick and find fault with several of the clues. But overall I thought it was fair enough

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    What TV repairer does, then gets (4,2,4)
{SETS TO WORK} A phrase meaning “begins to do a job” is also what a TV repairer gets, i.e. TVs to function

6a    Cuddled by creep, left to get dressed (4)
{CLAD} L (left) goes inside (cuddled by) a creep (an unpleasant person)

9a    A parcel we’re told to hand out (5)
{ALLOT} A homophone (we’re told) of a parcel (of land) is “to hand out”

10a    Doesn’t allow money changing inside. Not at all (2,2,5)
{BY NO MEANS} An anagram (changing) of MONEY goes inside “doesn’t allow”

12a    The artist’s little friend? (7)
{PALETTE} Take a word for friend and add a suffix denoting “small”. This gives you something that an artist uses

13a    You’re mistaken to a lesser degree (3,2)
{NOT SO} 2 meanings: you’re mistaken/to a lesser degree

15a    It’s needed by a writer who’s drying up (7)
{BLOTTER} A cryptic definition of something used by a writer who uses pen and ink

17a    Tennis mediocre: weather good (3,4)
{SET FAIR} A series of games in a tennis match is followed by “mediocre”

19a    Bind, having to cut back on male fripperies (7)
{TIEPINS} “To bind” is followed by a reversal of “to cut” to give ornamental devices worn by men

21a    An air of belligerence (3,4)
{WAR SONG} Another cryptic definition. This is sung by men before they fight

22a    A big couple of words for ‘ever’ (2,3)
{AT ALL} A big (vertically) gives a 2-word phrase that can mean “ever” as in “never ever” and “never ** ***”

24a    Skill returning, fitted each with an inspirational aid (7)
{TRACHEA} A reversal of skill + an anagram (fitted) of EACH gives the windpipe (an inspirational aid)

27a    No argument. Spirit level shows it’s OK (5,4)
{THAT’S FLAT} A phrase meaning “I tell you plainly” is something you also might say when you’re spirit level has shown something to be level. This is a phrase that I’ve only ever met with in crosswords and have never heard used in the real world. Do people use it?

28a    Returned bottled water. It’s green (5)
{NAÏVE} A reversal of a producer of mineral water from the French Alps gives green (inexperienced)

29a    Go out together to get fruit (4)
{DATE} 2 meanings: go out together/fruit

30a    Something to eat and drink before the game (6,4)
{BRANDY SNAP} A spirit + a children’s card game gives a thin crisp biscuit


1d    Rub out phonetic pronunciation of ‘vehicle’ (4)
{SLAY} Rub out (kill) is a homophone of a Santa’s mode of transport

2d    Stand around stupidly, no help making contact (9)
{TELEPHONE} A stand (for a golf ball) goes round an anagram (stupidly) of NO HELP gives a device that lets you contact people

3d    Child alone, missing one: that’s all (5)
{TOTAL} A child + alone with “one” removed

4d    Lexicographer coining name for internet devotee? (7)
{WEBSTER} An American lexicographer has a name which could be used for someone who uses the WWW

5d    They may be red-faced from their exertions — or scarlet (7)
{RUNNERS} These athletes may be red-faced near the end of a race. Scarlet ******* are climbers of the kidney bean genus.

7d    Being a little short in talent, sadly bowed (5)
{LEANT} An anagram (sadly) of TALENT without the last letter (a little short)

8d    Record how long we’ve lived cast down (10)
{DISCOURAGE} A record (for the gramophone) + *** *** (how long we’ve lived)

11d    Great sermon, moving, about time being short (7)
{MONSTER} An anagram (moving) of SERMON goes round T (time being short)

14d    Walked off with head in the clouds (10)
{ABSTRACTED} 2 meanings but as far as I can see the “with” does double duty. The meanings are “walked off with” and “with head in the clouds”

16d    He disposed of the guns — toys (7)
[TRIFLES} THE with HE disposed of gives T. Add guns to get “toys”

18d    Love the ad-address (9)
{ADORATION} AD + address (speech) gives a word meaning love

20d    Large dog’s outside and he’s here to stay (7)
{SETTLER} L (large) goes inside a breed of gundog (English, Irish or Gordon)

21d    Thrown out for embracing a female writer (7)
{WHARTON} An anagram (out) of thrown goes round A to give the surname of a female American author (Edith) (1862-1937) known for, e.g., The Age of Innocence

23d    A component that’s not with the others (5)
{APART} A + component gives “separate”

25d    Useful imperative when starting to write hymn (5)
{HANDY} “useful” is given by the first two letters of hymn linked by a conjunction

26d    Look up ‘Subsistence’ (4)
{KEEP} A reversal (up) of a sly look

It’s a pity that Big Dave didn’t have to blog it! [If he did he wouldn’t have been as polite! BD]

42 comments on “Toughie 525

  1. What a letdown after yesterday. I am sure a couple of the clues (29a and 30a) were in our crackers at Christmas and, as for the rest, what can one say? Unfortunately with answers like 13a and 22a even a good setter would be hard pressed to think of a decent clue. This was just not a ‘toughie’.

    That’s two out of three so far this week – what’s going on?

  2. At the risk of facing the wrath of BD, I didn’t find this too bad at all. I still don’t understand 14d, but thats probably just me not the setter. Thanks Bufo and Excalibur

  3. I feel robbed-this wasn’t a toughie…in fact it was easier than the ‘normal’ cryptic

  4. Although this was mostly of back page difficulty (about ** stars in Toughie terms), I thought it was one of the best Excalibur puzzles in a while. Favourite clues were 1a and 8d

    I don’t know if it is a conscious change in cluing style but recent Excalibur puzzles have had fewer “yoda” type clues and consequently read more smoothly and are more enjoyable to solve.

    I know there is an Ancient Charter on this site that prohibits the pleasurable consumption of Marmite. However, like Andy, I enjoyed this crossword. I shall now be 21 downed!

    Many thanks to Excalibur for the crossword and to Bufo for the review.

    1. Not being aware of the ancient charter concerning the said vegetable extract I may have transgressed.

      Lunch was 2 slices of whole-meal toast with real butter, grated cheese & a good dollop of Marmite washed down by a mug of Yorkshire Gold properly brewed with loose leaf tea. I thought I was in the Elysian Fields of North Yorkshire…

  5. Sorry to upset BD but I did think that it was OK even if it was more back page difficulty than a Toughie. I did like 1a and some other clues too. Thanks to Excalibur for the crossword and Bufo for the review.

  6. I enjoyed this puzzle, but maybe that’s just because I managed to complete it, although I did need the hints for a couple of the clues. I liked 8d. Re: usage of 27a. Driver to mechanic: “I think I’ve got a puncture”. Mechanic: “Yes, that’s flat”. Thanks to Excalibur and Bufo for review

  7. I thought that this wad more enjoyable than many Excalibur puzzles. No complaints here. Thanks to Bufo and Excalibur.

  8. Least said, soonest mended. Too many simple clues to be a Toughie, and of limited enjoyment, with some horribly peurile clues. Not that I could do any better, but we have come to expect more.

  9. I’m very much firmly established in the BD camp on this one (and this setter in general). Had I been sharing a train compartment with Prolixic today (if such things still exist – I was a Southern Region commuter in the mid-70s) and in possession of a copy of this newspaper, somewhere between whichever of his various ‘stops’, 27across alone would have had me shredding the entire broadsheet and hurling the remains in his general direction………
    The so-called ACC should stop defending the worst examples of some of these Toughies. After yesterday’s piece of excellence, this was the ‘Curates Egg’ in the real sense of the word and should be hanging on the nail in the wall of Crosswordland’s outside privvy in the fashion of Alf Garnett’s Hitler.
    (The weather in Pommerania has not improved sufficiently today – I should be getting out more instead of even opening this nonsense and bothering to think about it……..NURSE!!!!)

    1. M. Le Chairman – nobody held this up as a paragon of crossword setting excellence and the so called (and self-styled with a hint of irony) ACC are entitled to their opinions. Relax! (you are currently in a better position to so do than some of us!).

    2. Frankly, if acknowledging an improvement in a crossword produces such a vituperative response, I will add commenting on crosswords to my Lenten disciplines. See you all after Easter!

  10. I dunno but that wasn’t back page level for me! It’s finished now but I really had to sweat over it. Like, I did the FT xw as a diversion in between.

    Last in was 1d. I liked 12a, 10a, 27a 14d, 4d.

    Thanks to Gladiator and Toad!

  11. I didn’t enjoy this much but then I never did when she used to use her other name. I thought 1a 12 21a and 28 were very poor. On the other hand, I liked 2 8 14 and 27. I think I will have a glass of Fleurie to cheer me up!

  12. Because this sounded such a controversial crossword, and also because I had the time today, I decided to have a look. I don’t think it’s as difficult as Toughies usually are – ie I managed not all by any means but quite a fair amount of it before resorting to the hints, and sometimes the answers too.
    Re 27a – Yes, people do use that expression! When we were kids whenever we wanted to do something ridiculous my Mum used to say “No – you can’t and that’s flat” In other words there’s no point in even thinking about arguing (or going to ask Dad which was the other frequently used ruse!!)
    Don’t really feel qualified to make any further comments as I’m such an occasional Toughie doer but some of the clues that I liked include 10, 17 and 21a and 2, 5, 8 and 21d.
    Thanks to Excalibur and Bufo.

  13. Having solved all today’s newspaper puzzles, I’m afraid this lags behind all the others. Araucaria, Morph (Micawber), Loroso (our very own Anax) and The anonymous Times setter all produced superb quality puzzles that had at least two or three moments when I could stop and admire and smile at the work. If anyone wants to see these puzzles to compare, contact me and I”ll send.

    This was better than many of Excalibur’s recent puzzles, and agree there was less Yodaspeak than usual but there wasn’t much there that made me smile or admire, 12 across being the only one. I sometimes feel like I am reading a Mickey Spillane novel with references to guns as “pieces or gats” (mercifully none today) but we do have “rub out” meaning kill to keep up the imagery.

    I have never heard of “That’s Flat” and wasn’t keen on Set to mean Tennis.

      1. It’s when a clue says A B in C to mean take A and put B inside to get C. The reference is to a character in the Star Wars series of films.

        Today we had, in 16 down, “he disposed of the” to mean take HE away from THE to get T. Even Yoda wouldn’t say that!

        1. I’ve Never Seen Star Wars!

          Well….I saw about 10 minutes of it once – not to my taste – I prefer Marmite!

          Why is this sort of clue frowned upon??

    1. Surprised that so few have heard of ‘that’s flat’. I knew when my mother said that you didn’t argue, or else!

      1. My mum used the expression too and I did before my sons got too old and tall to take any notice of me. It also features in Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable so can’t be that unknown!

  14. I agree with Tilsit’s assessment. This puzzle doesn’t compare, in terms of entertainment, with those available elsewhere today or with those from most other Toughie setters. On the other hand it is distinctly better than some of the puzzles that we have had from this setter in the past. Personally, I preferred it to Tuesday’s Toughie. Favourite clues: 1a and 8d.

  15. Well. I didn’t think this was all that bad.
    As I’ve said before this setter is a bit weird to me but, if you can accept that ,it mostly works OK. Not too difficult (apart from the weirdness)!

    Weather in Pommerania (as The_Chairman called it) has curtailed the tiling as it rained on and off all afternoon!

    Thanks to all for the puzzle, blog. and entertaining comments.

  16. Good news – it’s Notabilis tomorrow, so that will put today’s effort into perspective.

    1. How do you know it’s Notabilis tomorrow?

      Why has today’s Toughie from Excalibur received so much adverse criticism?

      1. The Telegraph’s puzzles website now has a page listing the Toughie compilers. Typically, the name of the following day’s setter appears in the evening.

      2. a) The name of next day’s Toughie setter is now published on CluedUp in the evening.
        b) I guess some people don’t like it very much.

          1. Franco, until recently anyone who subscribed online at CluedUp (now the site) would not even know the setter on the day unless they guessed. Emails had to be sent by someone who had bought the paper to confirm. This is an improvement for us!.

  17. Since I am seeing Notabilis (and hopefully Bufo) in person on Saturday, I had better start warming up for tomorrow’s solve!

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