Toughie 1321 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1321

Toughie No 1321 by Giovanni

A Grumpy New Year

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***Enjoyment *

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a Giovanni Toughie, and that certainly hasn’t changed today. Plenty of tooth-sucking moments like 14 and 27 Across, the almost mandatory Spoonerism and a complete absence of satisfaction in solving any of the clues made this a depressing experience.

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    Woman police sergeant given approval as a help to motorist (8)
DIPSTICK: a two-letter woman’s name followed by the abbreviation for Police Sergeant and a mark of approval

5a    Old king reversed statutes when pressed by old duke (6)
OSWALD: some statutes are reversed between O(ld) and D(uke)

9a    Spooner’s hit someone in the kitchen — volume of bread here (4-4)
CASH-BOOK: another dreadful Spoonerism – swap the initial letters of a verb meaning to hit and someone who works in a kitchen

10a    Design not right for type of shoe (6)
PATTEN: drop the R(ight) from a design

12a    Old and active, out for good times (5,4)
DOLCE VITA: an anagram (out) of OLD and ACTIVE

13a    Get rid of pain having gone to doctor initially (5)
DITCH: a pain preceded by the initial letter of D[octor]

14a    Sell game that’s gone over (4)
FLOG: this old chestnut was left over from Christmas – reverse (gone over) one of the world’s most boring games

16a    City artist, a man with a famous diagram secreted (7)
RAVENNA: the usual artist and the A from the clue around a type of diagram named after an English logician

19a    Physicist redoes experiment finally after botch-up (7)
OERSTED: an anagram (after botch-up) of REDOES with the final letter of [experiment]T

21a    Fifty rods cast about — this fish must be caught! (4)
DORY: hidden (must be caught) and reversed (cast about) inside the clue

24a    ‘andles mischievous kids? (5)
ELVES: drop the initial H from some axe handles

25a    Nursery provision arrived — ancient father enthralled (4,5)
COLD FRAME: a verb meaning arrived around a three-letter adjective meaning ancient and F[athe]R

27a    What ‘arry has difficulty cracking? The reverse, that’s plain (6)
TUNDRA: drop the initial H (haven’t we just had a clue like that?) from something that is difficult to crack (4,3) and reverse what’s left

28a    Go off course, eager to return to entrance (8)
DIVAGATE: the reversal (to return) of an adjective meaning eager followed by an entrance

29a    Model holds you back and saunters (6)
MOSEYS: the name of a famous model around the reversal (back) of an archaic word meaning you

30a    One so behind had finally to be kept apart from others (8)
ISOLATED: I (one), SO, an adjective meaning behind or overdue and the final letter of [ha]D


1d    Period of 31 days briefly needing help reportedly (6)
DECADE: the three-letter abbreviation for a specific month followed by what sounds like (reportedly) some help

2d    Within bowl shape one may have ground (6)
PESTLE: the bowl shape is better known as a mortar

3d    Slab firm after what’s on top has been removed (5)
TABLE: drop (has been removed) the initial letter (what’s on top) from an adjective meaning firm

4d    Third-rate character facing defeat and packing up (7)
CLOSING: the letter (character) that represents third-rate followed by a word meaning facing defeat

6d    Keep a close eye on man where ferries come in (5,4)
STAND OVER: a charade of a man’s name and a channel port

7d    Element in a couple of drugs (8)
ASTATINE: the A from the clue followed by two drugs, one medical one social

8d    What animal in accommodation knocked over mucky pile? (8)
DUNGHEAP: a two-letter interjection meaning “what!” and an African animal inside a colloquial word for accommodation, all reversed (knocked over) gives the word I was tempted to use as today’s sub-heading

11d    Beautiful couple not quiet but loud (4)
FAIR: start with a couple and exchange the musical notation for quiet for the one for loud

15d    Introductory words from minister that should do for rustle and yap (3,2,4)
LET US PRAY: an anagram (should do for) of RUSTLE and YAP

17d    Mother receives signal on time to gain impetus (8)
MOMENTUM: a three-letter word for mother around a signal of some future event and T(ime)

18d    Great desires evident in Conservative gibberish? (8)
CRAVINGS: C(onservative) followed by some gibberish

20d    Chop up diamonds and more diamonds (4)
DICE: D(iamonds) followed by a slang word for diamonds

21d    Toys — they shouldn’t be dropped (7)
DOLLIES: these toys that shouldn’t be thrown out of the pram are slow easy catches in cricket

22d    Cleaner, worker blankly incurious (6)
VACANT: a colloquial word for a household cleaning apparatus followed by a worker insect

23d    Story that may be untrue on purpose (6)
LEGEND: another word for the “on” side in cricket followed by a purpose

26d    Fine bird hobbling around? (5)
FRAIL: F(ine) followed by a bird that is typically found in dense waterside vegetation

What is a Toughie? Is it a puzzle full of devious and inventive clues, like those of Elgar and Notabilis, or is it one where the difficulty lies in the use of place names and obscure words, like this one? Feel free to give your opinion.

22 comments on “Toughie 1321

  1. Me neither BD. Cricket and vicars are my two pet crossword hates. There are also quite a few Giovanni trademark obscure words in a rather dull puzzle. The grid’s poor too – virtually 4 separate puzzles – of which the SE was by far the trickiest for me. One saving grace was the nicely misleading def in 25a which caused me to spend ages pondering options to do with “Care” before the penny dropped.

    Thanks to Giovanni and BD.

  2. Sorry to find you in such a bad mood BD. I shall make myself really small and just say thank you for honouring your contract despite the discomfort.
    Don’t know why but I always have a problem with one of the corners and this time it was NE.
    Thought the town was Ravinci which probably doesn’t exist and didn’t get 8d.
    Thanks to the setter for the fun while it lasted and to BD.

  3. I found this one about the same level of difficulty as the back pager. My weakness is a more limited vocabulary than most crossword enthusiasts and the bottom part of the back pager featured some obscure words to me. Fortunately the Toughie featured odd words I happened to know (with exception of 28 and 29a)

    Oddly I have heard the answer to 29a spoken but I have never seen it written before. I did not know it is a proper word

    Since BD asks, my idea of a good crossword is one that avoids obscure words, people’s names, places etc. so that the fun lies in lateral thinking. If the compiler’s sense of humour shows through then that’s perfection! I very much like Notabalis and RayT puzzles. With Elgar it depends – many of his puzzles feature a lot of general knowledge and obscure words. I prefer it when he does not have a theme as the theme naturally tends to lead to more obscure words. The compiler that gives me a lot of trouble is Rufus – most of his clues are easy but I often get stuck on short words of the type ?a?e with a short clue.

    Yesterday I had a real crossword day catching up on the pile I had accumulated over Christmas. Half the time was taken, surprise surprise on the monster Elgar puzzle. I had to cheat as I could not get enough across answers to crack the long anagram – some nasty obscure words for me! I carelessly put the “stock check” answer in the wrong order so could not solve the anagram until I discovered the error a long time later.

    I often wonder how the star bloggers acquire a star vocabulary – does it just come from a lifetime of reading and religiously looking up unfamiliar words?

  4. I didn’t know who the setter was, but I should have guessed because of the obscure words. I was happy to have completed it without hints, but it did take quite a while thanks to those words and my determination to make vector fit somehow in 16A until the penny dropped. 28A (one of the new words for me) sounds like it should be some kind of pop star scandal, which might have made for a more fun clue. I didn’t much like 8D, but I did like 25A, though that was the only one I had earmarked. Thanks to Giovanni and BD.

  5. Typical Tuesaday Toughie but with a few obscurities. On the subject of BD’s pet hate – the Rev Spooner died in August 1930 which is almost 85 years ago perhaps it’s time for the setters to pay their last respects & find a different vehicle for clueing.

  6. I did enjoy this puzzle. I missed one or two in the SE corner, and I was disappointed not to finish. I am always cross with myself when I miss answers that are written in – and sadly I missed 21a. Whether that would have helped me to get 21d I don’t know – but I should have been able to get that anyway. I thought 23d would be legend but needed the hints to see why.

  7. Well, easy that wasn’t. I solved the left two puzzles first, then it took a while before I first managed most of SE then NE, held up by 28a and 16a, not familiar with either answer. Last one in was the toy (21d) – I’m afraid the cricket clues are lost on me (took me quite a while to justify LEG in 23d – but now I think this is a nice slightly extended definition).

    We had a notabilis puzzle not too long ago where I felt floored by three (to me) extremely obscure words that weren’t obvious from wordplay. But nothing else would fit the grid! Notabilis kindly replied on this blog saying he also worried, but two of these he had seen in everyday language and the third he had checked with the crossword editor. I much appreciated that he wasn’t trying in particular to use obscure words.

    In the back-pager today, the obscure words were very clear from wordplay. In retrospect, this toughie is perfectly fair, even though the italian city did take me a long time. I prefer it when difficulty is not based on obscure words, but hey, every puzzle is a new challenge and I feel good about conquering today’s.

    Giovanni in his new book makes a plea to allow setters their “fillers” (what do you do when you are left with _L_G in a grid?). He suggests we think of old chestnuts as old friends that we come to recognise and love (paraphrased). That did make me laugh out loud, but I think it also helped make me a bit more tolerant. How many good clues does it take to make a good puzzle? At the going rate, I’m not surprised that not every clue is a masterpiece. There were plenty of interesting clues – I thought the fish was well hidden and I spend ages trying to use L for fifty, I liked the nursery provision (25a), I like 12a where thankfully the last letter “a” was readily available. For me there were three or four write-in clues and many that took me ages. I have learned some new words and enjoyed myself for xxxxxxxx.

    Many thanks Giovanni and BD

    1. My BRB app suggests 14 perfectly usable words for _L_G that do not involve spelling golf backwards. I think this was lazy setting that you could perhaps excuse in a standard puzzle but should have no place in a Toughie.

  8. In the light of some uncalled-for hostility today from some quarters ( and what is wrong with spoonerisms for heavens sake, and what has the archdeacon’s death date to do with it? — to offer just one rejoinder of several that I might have offered, if I could be bothered!) perhaps I should have provided this clue

    What may provide prime contributions from bigots looking overly grumpy? (4)

    But at least I seem to have a few friends to whom I am eternally grateful!

    Happy new year to all, regardless of clue-preference orientation!


    1. That is the problem when one goes public. Must expect all kind of praise and criticism. Speaking for myself I am a Benevolent Laid-back Orderly Gentleman contributor.
      Happy New Year to you.

    2. Many thanks for replying. The value of the blog rockets when the setters contribute. Happy New Year

  9. It took us a long time to find the puzzle. The home page on the DT puzzles site still showed 1320 (last Friday’s) as the latest Toughie even 10 hours after the usual posting time. It was only when it occurred to us to search further on the site that we managed to find it and do the puzzle before bed last night. Found the NE corner hard work with the very last one to fit in being 16a and this required some investigoogling.
    Thanks Giovanni and BD.

  10. I just want to say this blog is absolutely wonderful. I forgot the customary thanks to compiler and blogger in my early comment – so a belated heartfelt thanks to both. I enjoyed today’s Toughie and its blog – and I even love golf! I hope they both cheer up soon.

  11. Perhaps I’m just too undemanding and unsophisticated, but l can’t say l find anything to complain about in this puzzle. It gets a straight 3*/3* from me, with favouritism split between 8d and 27a (because it made me laugh). My thanks to Giovanni, and to BD for thr review, and for making me feel positively sunny by comparison.

  12. Thought I’d give it a go – even though I often find Giovanni’s back-pagers quite hard work.
    Needed electronic help for 10,16,19 & 28a plus 6&7d but enjoyed the ones I could do. As Michael would say – onward and upward!

    Many thanks to Giovanni and to BD – sorry you didn’t care for this one, I rarely try Toughies so am hardly in a position to judge.

  13. I did about half of this one and then got stuck – the sun was shining so I went out to the garden – somehow I never came back to it.
    There were several things that I didn’t know and I would never have been smart enough to work out the answers for myself.
    I didn’t help myself at all by having ‘trifles’ for 21d – well, who’d want to drop a trifle – oh dear!
    With thanks to Giovanni for the crossword and to BD for sorting out my numerous gaps.

    1. I rather like your answer for 21d – if I hadn’t already wrestled the fish into submission at 21a I might well have been with you.

  14. Bit surprised by some of the comments on this one. I’m not a frequent Toughie visitor but I rather enjoyed the challenge on this one. A Spoonerism usually elicits a smile from me when I get it so I’d be sad to see them disappear; used sparingly I think they’re quite amusing.
    Sadly I didn’t quite finish the bottom half in the time I had available so thank you to BD for the hints and thanks to Giovanni for the tougher challenge.

  15. A three letter girls name? Heck Dave, the hints get harder than the clues.
    Giovanni, loved your -l-g comment, but perhaps too otiose for quotidian cruciverbalising.

      1. Well done, and thanks for making me laugh out loud.
        Now nobody will know what we’re on about.

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