Toughie 1190

Toughie No 1190 by Excalibur

Hints and Tips by Gazza

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BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment **

This is a typically quirky puzzle from Excalibur. We have lots of very short anagrams including several with only three letters and one (and I don’t remember ever having seen this before) with only two letters.

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.

Across Clues

1a Charms fish onto line? (5,1,5)
{CASTS A SPELL} – Harry Potter or similar does this possibly, i.e. throws out his line baited with a charm rather than a fly or worm.

9a What Russian spy said when asked if he’d like some information? (4)
{DATA} – surely a Russian spy would say either ‘Da, spasiba’ or ‘Yes, ta’, not a mixture of the two.

10a Tired out in the mind, which is bad for one (11)
{DETRIMENTAL} – an anagram (out) of TIRED followed by an adjective meaning in the mind.

11a Lovely American. Wow, there’s a figure! (4)
{COOL} – the use of this adjective to mean lovely or excellent originated in the US jazz scene, so in that sense it’s American. An interjection expressing surprise is followed by a Roman numeral.

14a How journalist described himself, to look big? (7)
{IMPRESS} – split the answer (1’1, 5) for how a journalist might describe himself.

16a Mailed round pre-packaged, for exhibit at zoo (7)
{SERPENT} – a verb meaning mailed goes round an anagram (packaged) of PRE.

18a Send over chronometer (5)
{TIMER} – this is one of those annoying clues where you need a checking letter to be sure of which bit is the definition and which the wordplay. In this case we have to reverse (over) a verb to send.

19a As you say, get better tip (4)
{HEEL} – this sounds like (as you say) a verb to get better or recover.

20a Piece in paper — that article gets the writer upset (4)
{ITEM} – an impersonal pronoun (that article) followed by how the writer would refer to herself reversed (upset). I always think that upset as a reversal indicator should be restricted to down clues.

21a Verbally betrays terrorist groups (5)
{CELLS} – this sounds like a verb meaning betrays.

23a Front was moving as predicted (7)
{FORESAW} – a word meaning the front part is followed by an anagram (moving) of WAS.

24a With business in ascent, big nuisance (7)
{SCOURGE} – insert the abbreviation for a business in an ascent or upswing.

25a Was taken by way of speech (4)
{RODE} – this sounds like a way or thoroughfare.

30a Star act flops — in a warped way, hope it’s a disaster (11)
{CATASTROPHE} – an anagram (flops) of STAR ACT is followed by a second anagram (in a warped way) of HOPE.

31a A Gershwin number is included for her (4)
{IRMA} – insert a Roman numeral in the forename of one of the Gershwin brothers.

32a Isn’t fooled by  struggles to the very end (4,7)
{SEES THROUGH} – double definition – detects the true nature of and persists until something is completed.

Down Clues

2d About to enter a twinned locale (4)
{AREA} – a preposition meaning about or concerning goes inside a pair of As.

3d Try bowling hoop, though new to it (4)
{TYRO} – an anagram (bowling, I presume in the sense of throwing around) of TRY followed by the hoop-resembling letter.

4d Support in a temporary ceasefire? (7)
{ARMREST} – I suppose that if the answer were split (3,4) it could just about be a temporary break from fighting but it’s not very convincing.

5d Rather embarrassed  one’s found in bed (4)
{PINK} – double definition – the colour of someone who’s a bit embarrassed but without the full floridity and something found in a flowerbed.

6d He goes in later, resolved to beat (7)
{LEATHER} – insert HE in an anagram (resolved) of LATER.

7d Chat up over egg pudding (4)
{SAGO} – reverse (up) an informal verb to chat and add the egg-shaped letter. Yes, I know that normally eggs aren’t round but we’re talking of Crosswordland eggs here.

8d Doesn’t pay and doesn’t provide transport from station (5,2,4)
{FAILS TO MEET} – double definition.

12d Gasp: ‘Battle in support of broadcast’ (5,3,3)
{FIGHT FOR AIR} – string together a battle or conflict, a preposition meaning in support of and a verb to broadcast.

13d Come on carrying a folded paper (6)
{APPEAR} – this is one of Excalibur’s trademark Yoda-like clues. An anagram (folded) of PAPER contains (carrying) A.

15d As synonym for ‘strength’, is possibly unfamiliar (5)
{SINEW} – I looked at this clue for some time trying to find some other explanation but there’s no getting away from the fact that we have a 2-letter anagram! An anagram (possibly) of IS precedes an adjective meaning unfamiliar or unknown.

16d Great swimmers: they’re impressive (5)
{SEALS} – double definition – the second being things used to make an impression.

17d Breaking, enter and one gets caught outright (6)
{ENTIRE} – an anagram (breaking) of ENTER with the Roman numeral for one caught inside it.

21d What falls from bag scoundrel’s brought aboard? (7)
{CASCADE} – a bag or container with a scoundrel brought inside.

22d Improvised  score (7)
{SCRATCH} – double definition – improvised in the sense of put together from whatever is available (e.g. a sports team assembled from who’s turned up rather than the best players).

26d Something round and silvery showing up in semi-darkness (4)
{DIME} – hidden (showing) and reversed (up) in the clue. They may look silvery but there’s no actual silver in the ordinary ones currently in circulation.

27d Performer getting hiss after couple of notes (4)
{BASS} – the sound of a hiss follows two musical notes.

28d Cook and serve bird (4)
{DODO} – a verb to cook (“I’m ***** beef for dinner”) and a verb to serve or suffice.

29d Sought while grappling so to get away from hooligan (4)
{THUG} – an anagram (while grappling) of [so]ught without the SO.

The clues I liked were 31a and 28d. How about you?



  1. happy days
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Highly entertaining. I enjoyed every moment of solving.Top clues for me were 1 and 9a

  2. stanXYZ
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Not one of Excalibur’s toughest Toughies … nonetheless most enjoyable.

    (But why pick a grid with 12 wee Stinkers?)

    Thanks to Gazza for the review.

    • andy
      Posted May 20, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      and 8 double unches…..

  3. Pegasus
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Gentle fare for a Tuesday favourites were 28d and 32a thanks to Excalibur and to Gazza for the comments.

  4. Roger
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    So not latrine for 6d….it does fit though!

    • gazza
      Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

  5. BigBoab
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Not my favourite Excalibur but reasonably enjoyable. Thanks to Excalibur and Gazza.

  6. Expat Chris
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, I was wrong on 2D. I had turn (with a question mark beside it). Also tripped up on11A. Cool for lovely seems a bit of a stretch to me. I had doll, which does mean a lovely lady over here. Everything else OK, though I needed the explanation for 28D. Thanks to Excalibur and to Gazza for the review.

    • gazza
      Posted May 20, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      3d rather than 2d ?

    • Expat Chris
      Posted May 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Oops. Yes.

  7. Heno
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Excalibur and to Gazza for the review and hints. Found this very difficult, especially the four letter ones. Needed 8 hints and 6 lookups to finish, but at least I managed to solve 20 :-) Way beyond my meager solving skills.

  8. Kath
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this – and I could do it, just about.
    My first word of 32a was wrong which explains why I didn’t understand my answer.
    I got the right answer for the wrong reason to 4d – I thought it was split 1, 2, 4 so that the Royal Marines were having a rest and so not killing people. Oh dear.
    9 and 11a were my last ones.
    I liked 9 and 21a and 16 and 22d. My favourite was 5d.
    With thanks to Excalibur and gazza.

  9. 2Kiwis
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    We found that all those 4 letter answers made all a bit of a grind and detracted from the enjoyment. However got there without too much of a fight.
    Thanks Excalibur and Gazza.

  10. Robin Hill
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to say I didn’t enjoy this much at all (although I solved it within a reasonable time.) Too many ‘sounds like’ clues, and red herrings, such as 5d. 14 four letter words also detract from the pleasure of solving the puzzle. As Gazza notes some of the definitions are barely justifiable (9a, 4d) whilst ‘cool’ (11a) is such a commonplace English expression these days that it doesn’t justify association with America. Favourite clues were 30a and 10a.

  11. Jezza
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Quite how there can be 36 votes reflecting such a high level of enjoyment for this puzzle makes a complete mockery of the voting system.
    I have not made any comment about this puzzle, because I did not enjoy it at all; if I do not like a puzzle, I try to say nothing. I am not saying this puzzle is not good (beauty is in the eye of the beholder etc etc), but there have been some truly magnificent puzzles, both back page, and toughies, that have never achieved 36 votes, with an average of 80% enjoyment. Perhaps the mysterious voter has been taking lessons from Robr, and perhaps with a plethora of different sock puppets.

    • stanXYZ
      Posted May 21, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      I gave up believing in democracy when George W Bush was re-elected.

    • gazza
      Posted May 21, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      I hadn’t noticed that before your comment. How pathetic that people would go to those lengths to try to rig the votes – it doesn’t alter my opinion of the puzzle.

  12. sh-shoney
    Posted May 22, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    22/5/14 Only just finished (given up on 3d, 9a and 25a. Still don’t understand25a!) I’ve got ask Jezza -What is a sock puppet? Thanks to Gazza for explaining things. Sh-Shoney

  13. Mark Hemingway
    Posted June 12, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    yes, agree with all comments generally. 3, 9 & 11 dis nt get for same reasons as everyone else. Thought 3 was TORY ! , 11 DOLL and guessed 11.
    Anyway who´s reading this 3 weeks after !!!???

    • gazza
      Posted June 12, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      The blogger gets an email for each comment received so at least one person will read your comments, however much delayed. Thanks for contributing.

      • Molly
        Posted June 20, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t know that, Gazza, I will start commenting more – I run about a month behind with puzzles! Thanks for your excellent review, I’m still a Toughie novice but managed most of this. I agree about the dodgy definitions but I often think that with Toughies. I needed your help for 1a, how pathetic am I!