Toughie 703 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 703

Toughie No 703 by Giovanni

It’s a Dog’s Life

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

I have complained in the past that some of Giovanni’s Toughies would be better suited to the back page. Not this one!  This was, in my opinion, his best for a long time.  A number of lesser-known words and one of those anagrams that is indicated by part of the answer – all conspire to make this a lot harder than the usual Tuesday fare.

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    Very small boy, this person’s Irish or Russian? (8)
{VLADIMIR} – a charade of V(ery), a small boy, a shortened form of saying this person’s (the setter is) and IR(ish) give one of those “love ’em or hate ’em” answers, a boy’s name, this time a Russian boy

6a    Nasty type, head of colony is held to be unfair to indigenous people? (6)
{RACIST} – Put this nasty type of person around the initial letter (head) of Colony and IS from the clue to get someone who is unfair to indigenous people

9a    Many a nurse will be advancing (6)
{ONWARD} – split the answer as (2,4) and you get where many a nurse will be – as a single word it means advancing

10a    Protest against return of murderer who is devilishly wicked? (8)
{DEMONIAC} – start with a protest and then add the reversal of the world’s first murderer to get a person who is devilishly wicked

11a    Guy goes to work with a cloak (8)
{MANTILLA} – a charade of a guy, to work the land and A from the clue gives a small cloak

12a    Instruments in script by playwright (6)
{SHAWMS} – these musical instruments, predecessors of the oboe, having a double reed and a flat circular piece against which the lips are rested are derived by putting a manuscript after an Irish playwright

13a    By implication resists women with fateful influence? (5,7)
{WEIRD SISTERS} – if the first word of the answer is used as an anagram indicator for the second then the answer could be RESISTS – together the result is women with fateful influence in Norse mythology

16a         Fish appearing in various ports was rare (6-6)
{PARROT-WRASSE} – this fish is an anagram (various) of PORTS WAS RARE

19a         Little lake, only ‘half a lake’ in that country (6)
{POLAND} – start with a little lake and then insert half of LA(ke) to get a European country

21a         Chap leading silent dog (8)
{MALEMUTE} – put a chap of man in front of a word meaning silent to get a powerful dog with a double coat of hair, used especially for drawing sledges – the wordplay leads to only one of the two ways of spelling this dog

23a         Soft food that’s bad on the menu? It’ll do for the dog (8)
{PAPILLON} – a charade of some soft food, bad and ON gives a breed of toy spaniel with erect ears

24a         Reliable but not totally up to scratch after short time (6)
{TRUSTY} – an adjective meaning reliable is derived by putting a word meaning not totally up to scratch after T (short Time)

25a         Fever in filthy place with half the visitors wiped out (6)
{DENGUE} – this acute tropical epidemic fever is constructed from a filthy place, full of iniquity, and the first half of (with half … wiped out) another word for visitors

26a         Fellow into crime may be one with the wrong idea about good life? (8)
{HEDONIST} – put a university fellow into a crime to get someone who believes that the pursuit of pleasure is the sole aim of life


2d           Carriage light has glow reduced by half (6)
{LANDAU} –  to get this horse-drawn carriage with a folding top, start with a verb meaning to (a)light and follow it with the first part (reduced by half) of a glow or emanation

3d           Plan to have day with crowd (5)
{DRAFT} – this plan or sketch is a charade of D(ay) and a crowd or large number

4d           First person leading everyone within distance must surely be this! (9)
{MEDALLIST} – start with the first person singular objective pronoun and then add everyone inside (within) DIST(ance) to get what the first person in a race becomes

5d           Diamond maybe that a footballer doesn’t want (3,4)
{RED CARD} – a diamond (or heart) is an example of this, but to a footballer it means he has been sent off

6d           Setter-up of a site of civilisation (5)
{REMUS} – the twin brother of Romulus, one of the cofounders of Rome, when reversed gives the site of an ancient civilisation in Anatolia, south central Turkey (thanks Awol for the elucidation)

7d           Elliott, for example, being involved in act with E.T. once (9)
{CONTACTEE} – Elliott, the boy in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, is an example of a person who claims to have received communications from extraterrestrial beings – it’s an anagram (involved) of ACT with E.T. ONCE

8d           People pretending to be saints receiving censure (8)
{SHAMMERS} – these people pretending to be something they are not are created by putting a S(aint) on each side of (receiving) a verb meaning to censure or criticize

13d         Getting into battle with something to kill rats? Good! (9)
{WARFARING} – a word meaning getting into battle is a charade of rat poison and G)ood)

14d         Offended when article’s penned that shouldn’t be giving anyone a shock? (9)
{INSULATED} – put a word meaning offended around the indefinite article (penned) to give an word meaning protected from leakage of electric current

15d         Navigation of boat at sea entering enclosure (8)
{CABOTAGE} – to get this coastal navigation and trading put an anagram (at sea) of BOAT inside (entering) an enclosure

17d         Epistle by St Paul with hard language (7)
{ROMANSH} – take one of St Paul’s epistles and tack H(ard) on the end to get one of the five alternative spellings that Chambers gives for this language which spoken in the Swiss canton of Grisons by fewer than 30,000 people (but it is still an official language of Switzerland!)

18d         How Cockney may comment on high temperature creates a problem for the listener! (6)
{OTITIS} – split the answer as (‘2,2,2) and this could be how a how a Cockney may comment on high temperature – it is actually an inflammation of the ear (problem for the listener)

20d         Stop being sweet (5)
{DOLCE} – a double definition – an organ stop or an adjective meaning sweet

22d         Take a little time with container of ashes maybe — to do this? (5)
{MOURN} – a charade of a small amount of time and a container used for ashes gives a verb meaning to grieve for the person whose ashes are in said container

That’s more like a Toughie!

27 comments on “Toughie 703

  1. Glad you thought this was a bit tricky Dave as I had a real tussle with it!
    Never heard of the instruments or the dog but worked them out from the wordplay and checkers. Didn’t know about the women with influence being from Norse mythology – I thought they were the 3 witches in Macbeth!

    Even as a sailor I’ve never come across the term in 15d either!

    Thanks to Giovanni for the brain strain and to BD for the hints which I’ve managed to get b without.

    1. They are also the key characters in some of Sir Pterry Pratchett’s masterworks. I think this is one of those “I’ll keep the printout & keep having a look in the hope that some of the answers will reveal themselves miraculously to me” crosswords.

  2. I got up this morning thinking ‘Giovanni’ ‘Tuesday’ and Toughie’ that’ll be nice. I didn’t expect that he would have borrowed Vlad’s hob-nailed impaling boots and employed them to such great effect. I found this one really tough, especially the NE corner and, whilst I enjoyed the clues in places, found myself in the grumpy corner due to some of them being exceptionally hard work The dog in 21a was particularly sneaky as there is another dog with one letter different in the middle.

    Thanks to Giovanni for stretching my brain and to BD for the explanations, some of which I will definitely be coming back for later.

  3. I agree that this was tricky – nicely so and superbly clued, particularly for the unfamilar words. However, I felt it lacked a bit of the usual Giovanni magic and sparkle so perhaps only *** for enjoyment for me.

  4. Definitely a toughie – managed to top half so far…… soldiering on! Good for stirring the brain.

  5. Good brain stretcher – needed a little help along the way….
    Did you mean to use the fourth word in your clue to 24a or did you mean to use ‘reliable’? Just a thought!

  6. I was not expecting this today; worthy of a Thursday slot, this was pretty tough!
    Thanks to Giovanni for a most enjoyable puzzle, and to BD for the review.

  7. How are we expected to find an obscure word like “Contactee”?.. not in Chambers online, wordsearch or book. which, according to the rules, means it isn’t valid. Wikipedia is the only place I can find it – now that I know the answer!

    1. “… according to the rules, means it isn’t valid”

      The “rules” for Telegraph crosswords are that, other than proper nouns, it should be in the Big Red Book – The Chambers Dictionary – and it is; that’s where I got the definition incorporated into the hint.

      Accept no imitations! Chambers online is a severely cut down version – if they gave it away they wouldn’t sell many copies.

  8. I’ve had one of those days and grumpily went off this for the Times this morning. My mood improved on the way home and so did my opinion of this crossword – I missed a couple and had an error wnating PLAGUE not DENGUE (knowing that I couldn’t parse it completely). There were some very entertaining clues here and a good level of difficulty that I wish I could have spent more time on. Thanks to Giovanni and BD for the review.

  9. Phew what a Toughie that was, The Don at his devious best, favourite clues among many 12a 13a 15d and 20d thanks to Giovanni for a smashing puzzle and to Big Dave for the dissection.

    1. JB, My Big Red Book – 2011 – 12th Edition says:-

      “Contactee” – italicsa person who claims to have received communications from extraterrestrial beings.

      1. Oops! That didn’t quite work!

        Chambers 12th Edition: “Contactee” – a person who claims to have received communications from extraterrestrial beings.

  10. When I got 1a I thought this was going to be a real Toughie and I wasn’t disappointed. Favourite by a mile was 13a which is still making me smile. I also had problems with 25 with sty and plague before I saw the light. I wasn’t sure about 7 but it was the only word that would fit! Overall a great contest with some really interesting clues.

  11. Thanks to Giovanni for the puzzle and to Big Dave for the review & hints. Way too tough for me. I’m trying to progress on to the Toughies, but when they are 4* difficulty, I find about 95% of the clues impenetrable. Not sure on how to tackle them, as “back-pager” reasoning doesn’t seem to work.

  12. This defeated me in the end ;-) Thanks to Big Dave’s hints I managed to finish it without recourse to revealing the answers. Enjoyed what I managed on my own. Thanks again to Big Dave.

  13. Re 6d, is it significant that Sumer (Inverse of Remus) was the site of one of the earliest civilisations or just chance?

Comments are closed.