Toughie 779 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 779

Toughie No 779 by Excalibur

Surprise, Surprise!

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment ***

Yes, I was surprised as this is not a bad puzzle. A few minor quibbles, but overall a big improvement on recent crosswords from this setter.

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    Chatted desultorily about soldiers in unit (10)
{DETACHMENT} – put an anagram (desultorily) of CHATTED around some soldiers to get this unit of soldiers

6a    Bit a hole in it beforehand (4)
{IOTA} – to get this bit or small amount put the letter shaped like a hole inside IT and put them before the A from the clue

9a    Laments few words at end of letter (5)
{WEEPS} – a verb meaning laments is derived from a Scottish word for few or little followed by words added at the end of letter

10a    What grandma made, to acquire newest skill? (4,5)
{LATE START} – what Grandma Moses made when she began painting is a charade of a word meaning newest and a skill – a pity that this clue was spoilt by the lack of a capital letter on Grandma

12a    Peters out when one goes in for break (7)
{RESPITE} – put an anagram (out) of PETERS around I (one) to get a break

13a    With no score, footballer is unsettled (5)
{OWING} – start with a score of zero and add a footballer who plays on the left or right to get a word meaning unsettled

15a    Retiring, procures information about pension fund (4,3)
{NEST EGG} – reverse (retiring) all of a word meaning procures inside some information to get a pension fund

17a    Trick is to make little sound (7)
{SLEIGHT} – this trick sounds like a a word meaning little or small

19a    They shoot back after opening to have a drink (7)
{PISTOLS} – these guns are create by reversing (back) an opening and a small drink

21a    Go ahead and quietly hand over again (7)
{PRECEDE} – a word meaning to go ahead comes from a charade of the musical notation for quietly followed by a verb meaning to hand over again

22a    Master with pet whose tail has been docked (5)
{RABBI} – to get this Jewish master or teacher drop the final letter (whose tail has been docked) from a household pet

24a    In Gap, design clothes (7)
{RAIMENT} – put a gap around a design or intention to get these clothes

27a    Excited cheering as point is secured by Arsenal’s neighbour (9)
{GREENWICH} – put an anagram (excited) of CHEERING around (is secured by) a compass point to get the original location of the arsenal after which the football team was named – I’m pleased to say this has nothing whatsoever to do with North London’s favourite club, the Super Spurs!

28a    Bird goes off without egg (5)
{GOOSE} – to get this bird put an anagram (off) of GOES around (without) the letter shaped a bit like an egg – the use of without to indicate containment is debatable, it really means outside the limits not surrounding; in “There is a green hill far away, Without a city wall” the hill did not surround the city

29a    Reading back letters 5-14 or one of A-G? (4)
{NOTE} – in this variation on an old chestnut the range of letters 5-14 in the alphabet when reversed (reading back) gives one of what, in musical notation, is represent by A-G

30a    Got through prison, badly treated (10)
{PENETRATED} – a verb meaning got through is derived from a three-letter word for a prison followed by an anagram (badly) of TREATED


1d    Losing feathers (4)
{DOWN} – a double definition – losing as in losing 1-0 and some feathers

2d    Speculates gold is found in working these (9)
{THEORISES} – to get this verb meaning speculates or hypothesizes put the heraldic term for gold and the IS from the clue inside an anagram (working) of THESE

3d    Sees what’s worth stealing from containers (5)
{CASES} – a double definition – a verb meaning sees what’s worth stealing and some containers

4d    Thinking about making a hot drink? (7)
{MULLING} – another double definition – thinking about and heating wine with spices

5d    Plants bananas Maggie imported (7)
{NUTMEGS} – these plants with aromatic seeds are derived from a slang word for bananas or crazy around (imported) another shortened form of Margaret

7d    Not bad? A very good animal (5)
{OKAPI} – a charade of a two-letter word meaning not bad followed by the A from the clue and an adjective meaning very good gives this Central African animal related to the giraffe

8d    Quite a number got upset by anaesthetic (10)
{ALTOGETHER} – to get this adverb meaning quite or totally combine the A from the clue, a Roman numeral, an anagram (upset) of GOT and an anaesthetic

11d    Good heavens! A marble statue of myself! (5,2)
{STONE ME} – an expression of astonishment similar to “good heavens!” is derived from a piece of rock and myself

14d    Photograph dressed as a woman that’s seen in bed? (10)
{SNAPDRAGON} – a photograph is followed by a phrase meaning dressed as a woman (4,2) to get something seen in a flower bed

16d    Feeling there’s a string attached to proposal (7)
{EMOTION} – to get this feeling start with one of the strings on a violin or guitar and add a proposal

18d    Animal crate assembled and put in warm covering (9)
{GREATCOAT} – put an animal around (put in) an anagram (assembled) of CRATE to get a warm covering

20d    RAF ace? (7)
{SERVICE} – a double definition – the RAF (or the Army or the Royal Navy) and a tennis delivery, of which an ace is an example, indicated by the question mark

21d    If you don’t mind being very old-fashioned (7)
{PRITHEE] – a cryptic definition of of an old-fashioned way of saying if you don’t mind

23d    Complain of regrettable error in closing section (5)
{BLEAT} – a verb meaning to complain is an anagram (error) of the last five letters (closing section) of regretTABLE

25d    Algerian? Wrong. Scotsman? No. Englishman? Famously (5)
{ELGAR} – an anagram () of ALGER(Ian) without the Scottish name gives a famous English composer

26d    Buck up with that pipe (4)
{REED} – reverse (up in a down clue) a hoofed animal to get a pipe

Things are getting better!

9 comments on “Toughie 779

  1. I would only have given this 2* for difficulty but I agree with the 3* entertainment. Thanks to Excalibur and BD too.

  2. Nice puzzle from todays setter, favourites were 10a 14d 21d and 27a thanks to Excalibur and to Big Dave for the comments.

  3. Not too difficult, and pretty enjoyable. I was relieved to find fewer single letter abbreviations to be inserted/added.

  4. No complaints from me – just about right for a Tuesday toughie. Last one in was 10a, once I got the first letter (from 4d).
    Thanks to Excalibur, and to BD.

  5. Many thanks to Excalibur for a very enjoyable and not overly taxing toughie and thanks to BD for the review.

  6. My favourite Toughies are always Micawber and Excalibur. Wish they appeared every week. Entertainment rather than slog

  7. Thanks to Excalibur and to BD for the hints – this kept me entertained at Tea-break (where I ate badly!)

  8. Very enjoyable and passed a very pleasant wait at surgery. Agree about the “grandma comment”. Assume it related to Grandma Moses, so it should have had a capital.

    Thanks to Excalibur and BD for the review.

  9. I liked this apart from 10a.

    When my wife, who is American, heard me muttering “who the devil is grandma bloody Moses” she explained. It seems from the American point of view she was the reincarnation of Breugel. However on closer inspection it appears she was some daft old bird who bought a paint box late on in her life and painted gcse art standard daubs of anything that took her fancy in American life.

    Whilst I’m all for the elderly finding ways to occupy their time in a pleasant and diverting fashion I must object to her being implied by the non capitalised word grandma.

    Does she appear often?

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