DT 26793 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 26793

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 26793

Hints and tips by Digby

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *Enjoyment ****

“Happy Eightieth to Roger Squires” was the round-about nina in NTSPP 106, and the event was well and truly, if a few days prematurely, celebrated in the Shropshire village of Ironbridge on Saturday. Rufus’s sleight of hand with a deck of cards is reflected in the wordplay demonstrated in today’s puzzle, and clearly he has lost none of his wit and dexterity, for this is a reprint of his very first DT cryptic puzzle that first appeared on November 28, 1986.

Has it stood the test of time? Please share your views, but join me in wishing the sly old fox all the best for Feb 22nd, and heartfelt thanks for the untold hours of entertainment that he has provided.

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           Respectable girls — or tarts? (5,2,6)
{MAIDS OF HONOUR} These young, typically unmarried, ladies served the Queen, and are also delectable little cheese curd tarts.

10a         Picture held in fancy (7)
{IMAGINE} Take another word for a picture and insert (held) IN to arrive at verb meaning  to picture in one’s mind.

11a         Somebody incompetent (7)
{NOTABLE} A “somebody” can be split (3,4) into a description of a bungling individual.

12a         Spell it out to me (4)
{TIME} An anagram (out) of IT (not too difficult!) plus ME = a spell.

13a         Film actress in the dress circle (5)
{GARBO} Probably better-known in 1986, but still making a regular appearance in crossword-land this actress is made up of a word for dress plus O (circle)

14a         Music circle? (4)
{BAND} A group that makes music could also be a circular piece of elastic.

17a         Type of reaction one may expect from 19 Across (7)
{NUCLEAR} An anagram (from) of 19a produces this devastating kind of reaction.

18a         Foreign nobleman enraged by exchange of letters (7)
{GRANDEE} “Exchange of letters” is the anagram indicator here, and results in a typically Spanish noblemen

19a         It isn’t apparent from Uncle Arthur (7)
{UNCLEAR} Not very well hidden in the last 2 words is a synonym for something a little vague.

22a         Able to pay back in five pound notes, perhaps (7)
{SOLVENT} Insert  V and L (reversed = back) inside an anagram (perhaps) of NOTES to find an adjective meaning financially sound. Smooth surface.

24a         Fire an employee for drinking, maybe (4)
{SACK} Double definition, the second being an old name for a dry wine, particularly sherry.

25a         Use two joints on Sunday? (5)
{KNEEL} I seem to recall that “patella” was the answer to Rufus’s 2 millionth clue. These are part of the joints that you use when you do this in Church.

26a         Wise men having a different image out East (4)
{MAGI} Remove (out) E from image and make an anagram (different) of what remains to form these biblical sages.

29a         It takes pluck to remove it (7)
{EYEBROW} A cryptic definition of something typically removed by a pair of tweezers.

30a         Composer goes to court for judgment (7)
{VERDICT} Another regular guest in crosswords this composer, when added to an abbreviation of court, produces something that is given in court.

31a         Setting up in business (13)
{ESTABLISHMENT} The act of creating a body – such as a Church – is also a noun for a place of business.


2d           Looking pale coming out of a cinema (7)
{ANAEMIC} An anagram (coming out) of the final 2 words translates into a condition resulting from low blood count.

3d           Welshman’s platform (4)
{DAIS} This one must qualify as a chestnut – a familiar Welsh Christian name’s also a raised platform.

4d           Frank! Look out! (4-3)
{OPEN-AIR} A synonym for frank, as in candid, followed by one for bearing, produce a definition of out (as opposed to in)

5d           Women may have this combination of give and take (7)
{HANDBAG} I always think of Mrs T or Lady B when hearing this word. Split 4,3 it combines words for to give an item to another, and to take – as in the result of a shooting expedition.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

6d           Money the school raised (4)
{NOTE} Might this have been the first use of another old favourite? Probably not, but we do see this reversal (raised) of a famous school quite often.

7d           Tear off a strip to do hair so it doesn’t hang down (7)
{UPBRAID} To reprove or chide someone is also what one might do to straggly locks.

8d           Recognised as famous (13)
{DISTINGUISHED} Double definition – a word meaning to have observed the difference between objects, is also an adjective for someone of particular note or renown.

9d           No racehorse alive is one! (4,9)
{DEAD CERTAINTY} An odds-on favourite at the races, often seen with Racing as the first word.

ARVE Error: need id and provider

15d         Cut and serve out (5)
{SEVER} Anagram (out) of serve = cut.

16d         Match label (5)
{TALLY} Double definition of a verb meaning to agree, or match, and a kind of identity label.

20d         Catches cavorting seals (7)
{CACHETS} A bit of deception here, as we are looking for a synonym for the kind of seals found on old letters, derived by an anagram (cavorting) of CATCHES

21d         Restoration novel in authentic setting (7)
{RENEWAL} The definition is Restoration – a small word meaning recent is set inside one for authentic.

22d         Overarm record holders (7)
(SLEEVES} These pouches for protecting records  – and today CDs – also cover our arms.

23d         Tail one wags in delight (7)
{ELATION} An anagram (wags) of the first 2 words produces a synonym for the last.

27d         It could be for a Malayan vessel (4)
{PROA} Latin “for” + A from the clue = a sleek Malaysian canoe.

28d         Up-market transport (4)
{TRAM} A reversal of a kind of market (typically cattle) produces a kind of transport now also making a come-back.

Rufus set the tone for his brand of crossword some 25 years ago, and he has maintained his standards and style ever since. Long may he continue!

The Quick crossword pun: {fleck} + {sibyl} = {flexible}

119 comments on “DT 26793

  1. Timeless quality. Rufus has lost none of his elegance, quality and humour in his crosswords over the past 25 years. Many thanks to him for all the enjoyment and to Digby for the review.

    It was a joy to meet Roger in Ironbridge and he is as gentle and witty in real life as in his crosswords.

    1. And he is equally adept at weaving his spell with a deck of cards. Twas great to meet so many nice people, and to be able to put names to faces.

  2. I would agree with */***. Quickly solved but very enjoyable nonetheless. Many happy returns for Wednesday to Roger/Rufus, and many thanks for the numerous hours of fun over the years. Thanks also to Digby for the review.

  3. At first glance it appeared difficult to me. Once I got started it flowed easily. A lovely gentle start to my week. Thanks to Rufus, long may he continue to entertain us, and thanks to Digby for the review.

  4. I really enjoyed this one today; very entertaining. Nothing much to think about, apart from the spelling of ‘exchenge'(exchange) in the clue for 18a.
    Thanks to Rufus, and to Digby.

        1. I too have 174 on my iPad (and it’s a DT issue!), and if I’ve got 10a correct, 1d beats me.

          I’m happy to post my answers … THAT surely wouldn’t get be sent to the corner. Would it?

          1. Sorry, AtH, I didn’t get either of those. In fact, most of the top half has beaten me.

            What about 14a? Could the opposing troops be “emeny”? Surely not a mistake in the clue? What did you make of it?


            1. 14a is ENEMY – an anagram (‘yielded’ ???) of ‘Yemen’.

              PM me if you want more (except for 1d).

              1. Well, at least the previous answers today are for 174, and a real “Doh!” for 1d!

                I’m not sure about the surface reading of 10a, though:

                Force used after breaking barrier (9)

                The answer being WATERFALL – which the checking letters made obvious. Any ideas?

                1. Looks like an anagram (used) of AFTER inside (breaking) WALL (barrier) to give force (another word for a waterfall)

                    1. I might only add a suggestion that the definition is ‘force (that is) used’ as waterfalls and the like are used to do work – at least that was how I justified the word used appearing. Anybody else think that?

  5. Usual Monday morning crossword. Last in 27d. (New one on me) thanks for the review. A definate lack of ‘pretty’ pictures though……….. you must have been in a rush to publish this morning :-)

      1. I realise that Big Dave (time is money and time is precious), and I am more than happy with every bit of assistance I get at any time. Many Thanks. ;-)

        1. What I meant was that the answers don’t lend themselves to illustration! Some days are better than others.

          I thought Digby did well finding a video for handbag.

          BTW I initially put “hand out” in there – women may have this!

          1. How much is it worth not to draw this comment to the attention of Mrs BD :) Being the only girl in a house of boys I would say that teenage boys seem to have this too!

            1. I totally agree sue, also being the only ‘girl’ in three generations of ‘boys’, I seem to be the one doing the ‘handouts’ more often than not :-)

  6. Definitely stands the test of time – really enjoyed this. There were a couple of Oh-Ers and a couple of D’ohs. Looking forward to many more from Rufus. Thank you Digby for the hints and tips. :-)

  7. A lovely Monday morning puzzle – many thanks and congratulations to Rufus. Thanks also to Digby for the hints (although not needed today).

  8. Good morning Digby, thanks for the blog, just one thing in 22a, does the ‘back in’ mean to reverse the L and the V? So many good clues for me today, loved the deceptively simple 12a, 25a, the reading of 1a, etc. etc. etc. all the type of clues I have come to know and love :-) although not doing cryptic crosswords back then, I think I was actually solving the dual clue type then in the TODAY newspaper!!! This has definitely stood the test of time as IMHO it is typical of the Rufus crosswords of today, thanks once again Rufus for my Monday fix :lol:

    1. Hi Mary

      22a – ‘Able to pay back’ is the definition, and is an anagram (perhaps) of V(five) L(pounds) and NOTES.

      1. Ah thanks jezza, I see it now, I was looking at ‘able to pay’ as being the definition with the ‘back’ maybe an instruction to reverse the V and L into an anagram of notes!

    2. But I think Mary is also correct, in that the V and L appear in the answer reversed. I’ve amended the hint accordingly but, as ever, I am very willing to be corrected!

      1. If that is what was intended, I would have thought the clue would read better as ‘Able to pay five pounds back in notes, perhaps’

  9. Thought today’s offering much easier than he does now, still thoroughly enjoyable. Many happy returns Roger

  10. Hi Digby – ref 3d, the answer’s visible in the brackets, and 6d, the answer’s the wrong way around.

  11. Thought it a little trickier than 1 star if only for 27a. Got the answers but needed the excellent hints to know why (12a, 11a, 20d). But overall a nice return from holiday for me.

  12. Congratulations Roger, here’s to many many more offerings from yourself. I’m glad to say I can’t remember this one from its first outing although I suspect I did have a go at it. No real problems apart from putting FEATHER in for 29A – soon realised my mistake. I thought the long outer clues (1A, 31A, 8D, 9D) were exceptionally good.

    Had a stab with the fennel yesterday Mary – absolutely delicious, thank you (Mrs Skempie complained that it wouldn’t settle on her stomach, but I put that down to her delicate constitution). Will have a stab at the squash some time this week.

  13. Congratulations Rufus – I agree with Brian and Mary today. Held myself up by putting ‘eyelash’ for 29a. Liked 9d.

      1. I’ll take your word for it Mary, although I have had a few eye-watering battles with nasal hair in my time. (Possibly too much information there!)

  14. Well done Rufus, another enjoyable puzzle. I’m 3/4 way through it and I’ve got to have my afternoon nap now so I’m looking forward to returning to it this afternoon. Gday Mary.

        1. You make yourself sound ancient collywobs, you can’t be that old if you were in school with BD, unless of course you were one of his teachers :-D

                1. You have no idea about my depth of knowledge except that I am not much good at crosswords. Therefore, you have no right to make the above statement. I think that it is offensive and unecessary and unworthy of somebody running this site

                  1. I think you do well with the crosswords, as well as me anyway, don’t be discouraged, I know lots of teachers, my family included, who are useless at crosswords and sometimes not too bright in other departments :-)
                    ps don’t tell my brother I said that! :lol: although I have to admit he is a crossword genius compared to me!

                    1. Thanks for your sentiments Mary. Like everyone else, Dave included, I had to start crosswords somewhere. I started about 18 months or so ago and I’ve got up to the 2*/3* level and anticipate going further. I believe that crosswords are a knack and do not require a ‘depth of knowledge’ and this blog is certainly helpful in getting folks up the ladder. My ‘depth of knowledge’ is unknown on this blog. Now, to todays puzzle

                    2. Nicely said collywobs :-) good luck today I found parts of it pretty tough with some knowledge required that I certainly didn’t have!

        2. Think yourself lucky CW – I had a new sofa being delivered today “some time between 7 and 9” – turned up at 9 on the dot, couldn’t fit it through the front door so I ended up having to clear access through the garden/conservatory, clear several months of accumulated junk out of the way, put it all back again afterwards and I’ve STILL got to get rid of the old sofa (big wooden one). So anyone wanting a used sofa please let me know (you’ll have to collect it though).

          1. Puzzle all done and dusted. Very enjoyable with a couple of difficult ones for which I had to resort to the skills of Digby – many thanks.
            Why don’t you burn the sofa ak?

  15. Nothing much to add to what has already been said. 25a took a bit of thinking about – I kept on trying to fit an “S” into it somewhere, for the “Sunday” but got it in the end. Like skempie I also put “feather” for 29a but realised that it was wrong fairly quickly. I really liked 1a! With thanks (and happy birthday wishes) to Rufus, and to Digby for the hints.

        1. Could it? I don’t see how “knees” could be the answer – although I did consider it at the time, I felt it had to be “kneel” for the clue to make sense.

        1. Late as usual. I put Knees – got the S from Sunday. Where do you get the L from? In general I was amazed that the style is so similar to today. Luckily I am old enough to get the answer to 24a. Congratulations Rufus.

          1. PS somewhat inexplicably despite the checking letters could not get 8d until half way through reading the hint.

          2. Good Morning WW – better late than never & always good to hear from you. KNEEL seems to have caused several bloggers to go astray, which I didn’t foresee when compiling the hints. It’s more “factual” than “constructed” in that it a description of what one uses ones knees to do in church on Sunday. For once Sunday actually means Sunday! Hope that helps.

  16. Gentle start to the week,noticed a few of ‘the usual suspects’ tried the Saturday Toughie 722-all ,like myself,ended up with mental exhaustion! is Myops a sadist?

  17. Happy Birthday Rufus and thank you for all the puzzles over the years, including this one which was straightforward but as enjoyable as ever. I was probably a little quicker solving this one today than I was first time round (at that time I had a 7 week old baby who didn’t understand that he was supposed to sleep (at all, never mind when I was trying to solve the crossword).

    To answer Phil McNeil’s question in the box at the end of the puzzle – Yes I can solve it now!

  18. Haha, at the time I thought I was operating as some kind of super-solver, but it now seems likely that I’ve in fact done this puzzle before (possibly in an anthology).

    1. In my experience, even after a week, I can look back at a crossword I have solved and have to start again almost from scratch. Its even worse when you look at a crossword you set and cannot solve cold!

      If you are anything like me and forget most of what you have done, I expect you are a super-solver after all.

      Thanks for the plug for Roger’s celebration crossword (NTSPP 106) on your Guardian blog.

      1. I’m with you here Prolixic, I can even go so far as to say that an hour afterwards I can look at a crossword and think “now how did I work that out”!!!

  19. Many thanks to Rufus for a lovely wee crossword, great fun and not too difficult for a Monday morning, thanks also to Digby for an excellent review.

  20. Very pleasant, didn’t realise it was an old one!

    Re 27D; you wrote “a sleek Malaysian canoe”, whereas the COED says “a Malaysian or Indonesian sailing boat, typically having a large triangular sail and an outrigger”

    Thanks to all :-)

    1. Hi Steve_t_b, It seems that there are several definitions and countries of origin, including yours. Indonesia and the Phillipines also operate them, where they resemble outrigger canoes with 2 hulls of different lengths.

  21. Stood the test of time very well, could easily pass for brand new. I wonder if any of us did this one back in 1986?

    Maybe the blend of clue types in the Telegraph cryptic crosswords hasn’t changed as much as it did in the previous 25 years when they used to have straight quotations with gaps, and lots of names of obscure mountain ranges and rivers. Mind you, 27d was obscure!

    I liked 12a and 25a, and 1a too.

    Happy birthday Rufus

    1. I was just thinking the other day that they don’t have quotations any more and therefore my Book of Quotations has been sitting on the shelf getting dusty. 27d was a word used frequently in older crosswords. Other than that I wouldn’t have guessed this was a vintage crossword. A good start to the week and Happy Birthday to Rufus.

  22. Agree – a very nice start to the week – solved over lunch, quick for me! Thanks to Rufus and happy birthday.

  23. Another enjoyable though quickly solved puzzle from Rufus – many thanks.
    Faves : 1a, 13a, 17a, 25a, 31a, 5d, 7d, 8d, 9d & 22d.
    1a was first in and re 22d I still have a fair collection of LPs in their pristine jackets!

    Weather over here is much warmer than of late – the galleries in the apartment block have have now dried out and it is lovely and sunny. Espérons qu’il va continuer!

  24. Can anyone out there help me please by giving me a telephone number for the Telegraph puzzles that I can use from outside the UK? The 0800 doesn’t work.

  25. Well I don’t remember it, which isn’t strange, but I did get a big deja vu moment yesterday with the quick crossword in the DT. I’m SURE I saw those clues very recently, but can’t find it anywhere else. Me? or a dodgy website…..

  26. Happy Birthday, Rufus, and thanks for all the pleasure you have brought to us solvers, over the years.

    I certainly recognised some of the clues—but not all of them!!

  27. Thanks to Rufus & Digby – (the flying squad?)

    Unlike others, I always find Rufus’ double definitions and cryptic definitions very difficult to solve

    I remember his 2 millionth clue – “Two girls, one on each knee (7).”

  28. Astonishing how this puzzle is as consistent, amusing and fair as the last one Rufus set – if I didn’t know I would have thought that it was contemporary.

    Many congratulations and thanks to the Birthday Boy. Long may you continue to amuse!. Thanks to Digby for the review as well.

  29. 18a – Paper Version – this puzzle first appeared on November 28, 1986. But, there is still a typo – “exchenge”.

    Just off to see if they’re any typos in the Rufus in today’s Grauniad. :grin:

    1. The typo was a keying error when it was transcribed from a printed archive. It was in the online version as well, but the editor was able to correct it after he received a nudge!

  30. Thanks to Rufus for the puzzle & to Digby for the review & hints. Did it stand the test of time. Yes it did, especially as I put tome for 12a instead of time :-) Congratulations to Rufus on his 80th and for keeping us well entertained with his excellent puzzles over the years. Really enjoyed this one, that was over too soon. Favourites were 13,22& 30a and 5d.

  31. Thank you for all the kind words and birthday greetings – I never thought I would enjoy an 80th birthday event so much!
    Many thanks for all those that travelled to Shropshire to our local Ironbridge pub on Saturday – it was a lovely idea and thoroughly enjoyable. Of course it was great meeting Digby for the first time, and his lovely wife – I wish I had an American flying jacket like his! We had fun recalling our Fleet Air Arm service albeit not at the same time.. Special thanks are due to…take deep breath…. A Clue A Day; Alchemi; Anax; Arachne ;Bufa; Elgar; Gazza; Hieroglyph: Prolixic,; Qix, Radler and Tilsit for joining together to produce a really clever crossword incorporating birthday greetings as Ninas on the grid’s perimeter. Much appreciated!
    Anna and I would like to thank everyone who sent good wishes – I’m beginning to think it might be worthwhile living another 80 years to experience it all again!

    1. It was a privilege to have been asked to contribute to the puzzle, and a great disappointment not to have been able to be at Ironbridge on the day.

      Many happy returns in advance – maybe more of us will make to #90…

  32. What was interesting for me was the fact that this puzzle worked equally well despite being penned in 1986. The only indicator of time was 22d – I recall CDs were only just coming in and we no longer talk about record sleeves! I have “only” been doing the crossword seriously since 1992 (bloody ‘ell! 20 years ago!) so I didn’t attempt this before. In 1986 I was living close to Leyton Orient FC and it was still 19 years before we won the Ashes! A satifying crossword and a tad nostalgic look back to simpler times when e-mail and mobiles were non existent in my world. Hat off to Roger!

  33. I wonder how many times 6d either way up has appeared over the last 25 years and who would lay claim to be the first to use it in one form or another.

    I expect Rufus could tell us how many times he has used it.

    A Monday institution and, as I have said before, I always knew Monday crosswords were set by the same compiler as they were the only ones I found myself able to solve. Happpy Birthday.

  34. What a nicely balanced crossword to start the week with. I almost certainly did (or at least attempted) this one in 1986 but sadly I din’t remember any clues… As someone already said, the only suggestion that this is a “vintage” crossword is 22d and record sleeves. Many happy returns to Roger.

  35. I’m coming in rather late in the day, but did this first thing this morning before the day caught up with me. But I wanted to add my congratulations and good wishes to Rufus, and to say how much I enjoyed this, as well as all his other puzzles that I’ve come across. It was such fun! Thank you, thank you! :-)

  36. Thought’s just occurred. Did Rufus get paid for this puzzle again or have the DT saved a fee?

    Haven’t had a chance to do this one today so I’m saving it for Wednesday which is the actual birthday of ‘The sly old fox’ – less of the old Digby – he’s only 80! :smile:

    Thanks to Rufus for all the enjoyment over the years, may there be many more in the future. :grin:

    1. But you didn’t see him perform in the saloon bar of “The Golden Ball” on Saturday! With 20+ people glued to his every move, he still managed to pull off a couple of “how did he do that” moments. No wonder he got banned from playing cards in the wardroom, and hence why he took up doing crosswords.

      1. Saw him do a few tricks in Derby last November – agree he would be banned from our bridge club! Amazing manual dexterity for a man of his age.

  37. I’ve only just got round to doing this today, and flippin’ ‘eck! I believe that I might actually have done this one the first time around. I remember 27d very well – those were pre-internet days, and finding a dictionary at work was not easy!

    I completely endorse gnomethang’s comments above. This feels just like a modern Rufus puzzle, and it doesn’t feel even slightly out of place in a 2012 newspaper. Of course, by the time that this was published, RFS (as he’s known hereabouts) was already a very experienced setter, and it’s truly remarkable that he’s maintained such consistency over so many years. Long may that continue.

  38. I solved this very quickly. As a long-standing solver of this setter’s work, I can say that many clues in this crossword have the kind of cluemanship that has endeared the setter to countless solvers across the globe.

    The gridfills are not rare words; the word breakup or the idea for clueing is something that even a novice can hit upon all too quickly yet the clues are written so cleverly and concisely.

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