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Toughie 1054

Toughie No 1054 by Giovanni


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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment *

A really grumpy old man writes:
Giovanni seems to think that the difference between a back-page puzzle and a Toughie is to throw in some words that are in the vocabulary of just a handful of people. That may well be fine in a barred puzzle where the solver expects to be using a dictionary most of the time, but in a puzzle that should be capable of being solved by the man on a Clapham Omnibus while he is on that vehicle it just doesn’t work.

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    One insect with indistinct back devouring another (6)
{MANTID} – to get this genus of insects reverse (back) a three-letter adjective meaning indistinct around (devouring) a different insect

5a    Engineer needing heather and bits of twigs etc for building (8)
{WATTLING} – a Scottish engineer followed by another word for heather

9a    Dislikes crossing the swirling brine and hides away (10)
{HIBERNATES} – a verb meaning dislikes around an anagram (swirling) of BRINE

10a    Competitor’s aim putting off international community (4)
{TOWN} – start with the aim of a competitor (2,3) and drop the I(nternational)

11a    Thoroughly impress girlfriend from the East End? (4,4)
{BOWL OVER} – split as (3,5) this could be a girlfriend from a district in the East End of London

12a    Lousy type in party place, half cut, rolling over (6)
{ISOPOD} – to get this order of Crustacea including various types of lice start with a two-letter word for a party and the first half of an eight-letter place and then reverse (rolling over) the lot

13a    A bird such as this may be seen in Egyptian city (4)
{SWAN} – this bird can be found inside the Egyptian city which is famous for its dam

15a    Devious excursions made by very good stars crossing area (8)
{VAGARIES} – V(ery), G(ood) and a group of stars around A(rea)

18a    ‘Edgy’ sort, having to exist without system, runs (8)
{BORDERER} – put a two-letter word meaning to exist around a system and add R(uns)

19a    Garment is said to offer such shelter (4)
{COTE} – this place of shelter for birds sounds like (is said) a garment

21a    Female free from danger initially hidden in grass (6)
{FESCUE} – F(emale) followed by a verb meaning to free from danger without its initial letter (initially hidden)

23a    Frustrated head losing heart with introduction of current measure (8)
{HAMPERED} – HeaD without (losing) its inner letters (heart) around (with introduction of) a mesure of electric current

25a    Star group of 15 meeting a divine incarnation (4)
{RAMA} – take the anglicised name for the star group in the wordplay for 15 across and add the A from the clue

26a    Being pot-bellied, it’s a bit of a game boarding a vehicle (10)
{ABDOMINOUS} – take a piece used in a pub game and put it inside (boarding) the A from the clue and a vehicle that you board

27a    Writer, mostly boring, has hesitation to become a swinger (8)
{PENDULUM} – a writing implement followed by most of an adjective meaning boring (how appropriate!) and a two-letter word of hesitation

28a    Clare’s place won’t need new inspection (6)
{MUSTER} – Clare is not, as I at first thought, a nun of a Franciscan order but a county of the Republic of Ireland – drop (won’t need) the N(ew) from the province of which Clare is a part


2d    Is this writer ready to be a chum abroad? (5)
{AMIGO} – split as (2,1,2) this could mean “is this writer ready” but it is actually a Spanish chum/friend

3d    Lifetime appears to be so ‘growth-restricted‘ (4-5)
{TREE-LINED} – the word lifetime has LI(feti)ME around the outside, so one could say it is this – and if you can think of a better explanation I might change my opinion of this clue

4d    Around end of the month there’s the same again (2,4)
{DE NOVO} – around the final letter (end) of thE and a three-letter abbreviation of a month put the two-letter word meaning the same

5d    Whatever dear Tom messed up, it’s all forgotten now, buddy! (5,4,3,3)
{WATER OVER THE DAM} – an anagram (messed up) of WHATEVER DEAR TOM

6d    Maybe drops of tea for those rested up hiding pain (8)
{TASTINGS} – a word meaning rested reversed (up in a down clue) around (hiding) a pain

7d    Sort of image shining at top of house (5)
{LITHO} – a word meaning shining followed by (at top of) HO(use)

8d    Few nest or fly in national park (3,6)
{NEW FOREST} – an anagram (fly) of FEW NEST OR

14d    Sweeping tricky spot, glide along audibly (9)
{WHOLESALE} – sounds like (audibly) a tricky spot followed by a verb meaning to glide along

16d    More than one coward eats words with soldiers invading (9)
{RECREANTS} – a verb meaning eats words or forswears around the Royal Engineers

17d    Going down suddenly in brawl when gold has been stolen (4-4)
{FREE-FALL} – start with a brawl (4-3-3) and drop the heraldic term for gold

20d    A mother has order put in for a plant (6)
{AMOMUM} – the A from the clue and a mother around a British order awarded for eminence in any field

22d    Somerset town affected by fire according to report (5)
{CHARD} – sounds like (according to report) an adjective meaning affected by fire

24d    Develop as devil, twisted at the outset (5)
{EDUCE} – start with a word used for the devil and swap (twisted) the first two letters (at the outset)

This is, in my opinion, the worst puzzle that I have reviewed since I was mercifully rescued from reviewing those by a certain other setter.  I don’t feel inclined to do this again, so if there’s anyone out there that enjoyed this and would like to review future puzzles I’d be delighted to hear from you.

25 comments on “Toughie 1054

  1. No fun,over-complicated,obscure,unsatisfying; but thanks to BD for the explanations. In the words of the song-“Things can only get better!”

  2. I would describe this as workmanlike and not very entertaining, favourites were 11a 14d and 17d thanks to Giovanni and to Big Dave for the comments.

  3. Having done quite well with Toughies last week (obviously not Friday’s) I had a go at this one but got stuck having only done about half of it.
    I don’t quite see what ‘buddy’ adds to the rest of the clue for 5d – maybe I’m missing something – and have only heard of ‘water under the bridge’.
    I liked 11a and 8d.
    Thanks to Giovanni and BD.
    What is a barred puzzle?

    1. I think that “buddy” indicates an American version of our familiar “water under the bridge”. I think BD is being a bit harsh – I did have to resort to the BRB more than usual, but I enjoy coming across new words. I’m not volunteering to review, though!

      1. Well, I’ve lived in the USA for more than 30 years and never heard that expression. Maybe it’s peculiar to Nevada.

    2. A barred puzzle is one like the Enigmatic Variations in the Sunday Telegraph, which doesn’t have black squares, but has vertical and horizontal bars indicating divisions between clues.

      1. Thanks – just the look of them make me go all pale, cold and sweaty! I don’t even understand the instructions. :sad:

  4. Agree with the Grumpy Old Man. I did about half of this and then put it down.

    I will soon be able to speak with some authority on the subject of Grumpy Old Men as I will become one on Monday! Been grumpy for a fair while but Monday is my 60th Birthday.

    Thanks to Giovanni and BD.

    1. So what’s wrong with 60? Having said that I do remember, four years ago now, that I really felt pretty grumpy about it. Husband wouldn’t let me ignore it and so I, rather grudgingly, agreed to some kind of celebration. I would much rather have ignored it. I eventually asked him who he thought should be invited so he said that it was up to me as it was my birthday. At that point I told him that it was clearly nothing to do with my birthday or what I wanted! We ended up having a really good evening, as we are tonight which is our 37th wedding anniversary.

        1. Congratulation Sue on your 31st wedding anniversary. Like you, I do the ‘Times’ crossword in addition to those in the Telegraph and am constantly amazed at the short time it takes you to complete them. Gives me something to aim at!

      1. Nothing’s wrong with 60! I passed that milestone seven years ago. Sunday we are having a big bash to celebrate my other half’s 70th. Good food, good friends, good music. Followng the family tradition of cutting the cake with the broadsword. Couldn’t be better. It sure as hell beats the alternative. And in a coupler of weeks we will celebrate our 45th anniversary. By the way, being a grump old man (or woman) is not necessarily age related. I know young un’s who fall into that category.

  5. This certainly was a struggle, and I needed the GOM’s hints to finish it.

    3d was one of those where I needed confirmation of the answer, and I don’t really understand the clue either. But I think it might be intended that ‘Lifetime appears to be so’ is the definition – because it has LI and ME at the ends, as BD says. and the wordplay is growth = tree and restricted = lined, on the basis that to draw the line is to set a restriction. But it’s pretty horrible.

    I was intrigued to see that the 4th entry in Chambers for ‘line’ gives it as an alternative form of ‘lind’ which is a linden tree or lime tree. But thathas nothing to do with the clue, so far as I can see.

    Thanks to Giovanni and BD.

  6. Maybe a tad harsh BD, but only a tad. I, like you, thought it was a deliberate attempt by the setter to make it tougher by including even more obscure words. I was once told by the DT crossword editor that one should try not to use words that can’t be found in the newspaper itself and this puzzle certainly fails on that score. Having said that, one can’t fault the wordplay [as always with The Don] and I was able to figure the obscurities out fairly easily. I even rather liked 26a, but the use of “those” in 6d seems quite illegitimate to me and 3d is awfully forced.

    Thanks to Giovanni and BD.

  7. We found this quite a challenge, especially for a Tuesday, but did get there in the end. In the clue for 3d we thought that the tree lines or growth rings that show a tree’s age is what is meant by the ‘lifetime appears’ part of the clue. When we sit down with a Giovanni puzzle we know that it is wise to have the reference books handy and expect to have our vocabs stretched a little in the exercise. This does not detract from our enjoyment. We appreciate the subtleties of the different setters, it enriches the experience for us.
    Thanks Giovanni and BD.

  8. I wrestled with it, annoyingly did like quite a few clues and remembered a Giovanni quote that he tries to stretch our vocab. Today, a Tuesday Toughie it was stretched too far, sorry Giovanni

  9. Thanks to Giovanni and to Big Dave for the review and hints. I always struggle with Giovanni on the back page, and more so with his Toughie Genre. The obscure words do not help, but I can never seem to get the meaning either. All the clues are gettable though, except for 3d, which I still don’t understand despite the hint and reading the blog, so I wouldn’t criticise the setter on that point. The whole thing though seemed very dry and unenjoyable. I think I have quite a decent vocabulary, but there were still five words that I’d never heard of, and three that are not common usage. Favourite was 17d. Was 5*/1* for me.

  10. Thanks BD for the explanation of 3d , and “thanks “to Giovanni too for a handful of clues that took ages but less inclined to chunter about obscurity than I did for the last Giovanni toughie .
    Favourite 11 a

  11. I would have stood a better chance of completing this if it had been in Mandarin having been translated from Lithuanian. In other words I had 2 hopes, No hope & Bob Hope and Bob’s dead!

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