Toughie 663 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 663

Toughie No 663 by Messinae

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment **

I didn’t find this as easy as Prolixic suggested elsewhere – it was more of a steady slog and would have merited four stars for difficulty had it been on the back page.

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    Leader of legion, I am receiving wound, being unarmed? (8)
{LIMBLESS} – start with the initial letter (leader) of Legion, add the abbreviation of I am and finally add a word which can mean to wound to get a word meaning without arms and/or legs – it’s a good job there is a question mark at the end of this clue!

5a    To get beaten breaking record (6)
{CLOSED} – to get a word meaning to or shut, as of a door, put a word meaning to get beaten inside a Compact Disc [Thanks for that Gazza – I’ve seen it several times before and still forgot!]

10a    Credit entire Greek city with neat contents to have everything one wants (4,3,3,5)
{TICK ALL THE BOXES} – a slang word for credit is followed by a word meaning entire and a Greek city with that two letter neat, in the cattle sense, inside (contents) to get a phrase meaning to have everything one wants or to fulfil all the necessary requirements

11a    Shaw finds hotel in great place for fishing (7)
{SPINNEY} – a shaw here is a small group of trees, neatly disguised by being capitalised as the first word of the clue – to get it put a three-letter word for a hotel inside a Scottish river renowned for its fishing (and its whisky production!)

12a    American sportsman in jug (7)
{PITCHER} – a double definition – an American baseball player and a jug or ewer

13a    Good-looking husband getting extra (8)
{HANDSOME} – to get this adjective meaning good-looking start with H(usband) and add a two-word phrase meaning extra

15a    Rough film followed by several more (5)
{ROCKY} – this adjective meaning rough is also the title of a Sylvester Stallone film and numerous sequels – heaven forfend, rumour has it that there might be another in the pipeline

18a    Get close to a sense organ (5)
{ANEAR} – if a word meaning to get close is split (2,3) the result is a sense organ

20a    Fine print is attractive (8)
{FETCHING} – a charade of F(ine) and a print of the that young ladies are allegedly invited to come up and see gives an adjective meaning attractive

23a    Material light blue, almost sumptuous (7)
{CAMBRIC} – this fine white linen material is derived from an abbreviation of the university associated with light blue together with most of a word meaning sumptuous

25a    Quarrel leads to undergraduate lopping adversary’s blade (7)
{SPATULA} – start with a petty quarrel and add the initial letters of (leads to) three of the words in the clue to get a broad flexible blade

26a    Rough plan fixes boat after hitch (9,6)
{THUMBNAIL SKETCH} – this rough plan is created from a word meaning fixes with a hammer and a small two-masted sailing boat preceded by a word meaning to hitch a ride

27a    Having bust scythe needing repair (6)
{CHESTY} – this adjective meaning having a large bust is an anagram (needing repair) of SCYTHE

28a    Mean to collect Rear Admiral in danger at sea (8)
{STINGRAY} – put a word meaning mean or tight-fisted around the abbreviation of Rear Admiral to get a danger at sea, as Steve Irwin discovered to his cost five years ago


1d           Note international breaking news (6)
{LATEST} – start with “a note to follow so” and add an international sporting match to get the breaking news

2d           Plot with one friend to involve another (9)
{MACHINATE} – a verb meaning to plot is derived by putting a Cockney friend inside (to involve) another friend

3d           Clever humorist, Sherrin perhaps (7)
{LEARNED} – this adjective meaning clever is a charade of the humourist best known for his limericks and the first name of Mr Sherrin, the English broadcaster, author and stage director

4d           Girl’s witty remark (5)
{SALLY} – a double definition – a girl’s name and a witty remark or riposte

6d           Throws up three items of terrible seafood (7)
{LOBSTER} – combine a verb meaning throws up in the air with the first three letters (items) of TERrible to get this seafood

7d           Smash hits including ‘Kiss’ providing musical interval (5)
{SIXTH} – put an anagram (smash) of HITS around (including) the letter that represents a kiss to get a  musical interval spanning a number of consecutive notes in a diatonic major or minor scale

8d           Members of lower classes go over ancient city’s ruins (8)
{DESTROYS} – a charade of the two lower two socio-economic classifications, the S as it’s plural, an ancient city that didn’t know to beware of Greeks bearing gifts and the ‘S to get a verb meaning ruins or wrecks

9d           Cargo dispatched around 13.00 hours first (8)
{SHIPMENT} – this cargo is derived by putting a word meaning dispatched around 13.00 in the twelve-hour clock itself preceded by the initial letter (first) of Hours

14d         Authorised chemical company beset by waste (8)
{OFFICIAL} – an adjective meaning authorised is derived by putting a famous chemical company inside the waste parts of a carcase

16d         Leader cut out to be protected by high flier (9)
{CONDUCTOR} – the leader of an orchestra is created by putting an anagram (out) of CUT inside (to be protected by) a high flying vulture

17d         Drug puts spark into fizzy tonic (8)
{NARCOTIC} – this drug is manufactured by putting a spark or luminous electrical discharge inside an anagram (fizzy) of TONIC

19d         Snack that would get numismatist excited (7)
{RAREBIT} – this Welsh snack could just about conceivably, if split (4,3), get a coin collector excited

21d         Pay attention to history — try Livingstone? (7)
{HEARKEN} – this verb meaning to pay attention to something from the past is a charade of a verb meaning to try in court  and the first name of the newt-fancying Mr Livingstone

22d         Old country dance with jazz fan taking lead (6)
{CATHAY} – this old name for China, still seen in the Hong Kong based airline, is comes from a country dance preceded by an old-fashioned word for a jazz fan

24d         Handy device needing little time to apply (5)
{MOUSE} – this handy device for a computer is a charade of a small amount of time and a word meaning to apply

25d         Leave Adriatic port (5)
{SPLIT} – a double definition – to leave or separate and an Adriatic port, formerly in Yugoslavia but now in southern Croatia

See you again Saturday morning – Libellule will be reviewing the back-page cryptic this Thursday.

22 comments on “Toughie 663

  1. I would give it 2.5* toughness – mainly because of those odd words like 18a and 21d which were obvious from the wordplay but.did they really exist! Timewise it was easy to medium weight Toughie. Enjoyable, thank you Messinae, but no particular favourites. Thanks to BD too.

  2. Well I enjoyed it although it seemed to take a long time.
    27a made me laugh as did 10a.(much easier after the x went in from 7d)
    11a caused delay while working on Shaw (Sandie….George Bernard ..Taylor etc)
    22d and 15a were last to go in.
    Thank you for the blog and to setter.

  3. I found this a slightly easier than average Toughie (though I usually cheat like mad on them!). Can anyone explain the connection between “wound” and “bless” in 1 across. My excellent “Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary” (highly recommended!) makes the connection but I still don’t understand it. Thanks in anticipation if anyone can help.

  4. Enjoyable offering from todays setter favourite clue and last one in 5a thanks to Messinae and Big Dave for the comments. Commiserations to Tilsit and his team on their valiant effort last night, but I think the poor first round cost you dearly still good luck in the play-off for third place.

  5. So for 28a I wrote in ARRANGED – an anagram of “danger” (at sea) around RA to give “mean to”. Was happy with it too, until I worked out 25d…

  6. A most enjoyable solve, I got off to a good start with the top half and then slowed considerably thereafter. 18a was a new word for me. Last one in was 22d Thanks setter and BD.
    PS enjoyed Tilsit and co. on the box last night. Ithink this will become a regular watch for me. Good luck for the 3rd place play off. :D

  7. A relatively gentle start to the Toughie week. I enjoyed working through this one – thanks to Messinae, and to BD for the review.

    I might struggle tomorrow – it’s Firefly.

      1. If you go to the Telegraph Puzzles site at about 6pm (give or take), it tells you the Toughie setter for the following day.
        It’s under ‘The Knowledge/Inside Puzzles/Telegraph Toughie Compilers 600 Onwards’

      2. It gets posted on the Telegraph Puzzles site the afternoon/evening before. The time varies but today it was there when I checked around 4:45.

  8. I solved this apart from 7d – I am not very musical although I played the mouthorgan in my youth and also the piano!
    10a puzzled me for a long time as I thought Thebes was an Egyptian city!
    Must be getting old!!!

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