Toughie 1323 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 1323

Toughie No 1323 by Petitjean

The return of the curse of the four-letter word

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty ****Enjoyment **

The bottom half went in very quickly but I slowed down on the top half and finally came to a shuddering halt with 13 across still to do. After gazing at it for a long time I consulted the oracle (aka Big Dave) and he gave me his take on it useless without use but I still wasn’t convinced. So I’d appreciate if someone could come up with a convincing answer/explanation. The time spent cogitating caused me to up the difficulty rating and lower the enjoyment rating.

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 Wearing jeans possibly leads to rebuke (8-4)
DRESSING-DOWN: 2 meanings: deliberately wearing informal attire/a severe scolding

9a Picture of the first person with means of producing cotton in West (7)
IMAGINE: ‘To picture’ = the first personal pronoun + a machine for separating the seeds from the fibre of cotton inside the first name of the actress whose surname is West

10a Radio enthusiast’s love stopping popular stuff being rejected (7)
MARCONI: The surname of a pioneer of radio = O (love) inside a reversal of ‘popular’ and ‘to stuff’

11a Occasional visitor to Britain dismissing old English band (4)
HOOP: Remove O (old) and E (English) from the name of a crested bird occasionally seen in southern England

12a Opening / jump (5)
START: 2 meanings: an opening (beginning)/to jump (from fright)

13a Not so out of order after tool’s taken out (4)
LESS: A word meaning out of order or unruly without AWL (tool) – thanks Oldred

16a Car approaching hill one goes over watchfully (7)
AUDITOR: A German car manufacturer + a hill or rocky height

17a Amateur keen on giving abuse (3,4)
LAY INTO: ‘Amateur’ + ‘keen on’ = ‘to abuse (or beat thoroughly)’

18a Spanish hero holding a mass in retirement getting go-ahead (7)
DYNAMIC: A reversal of a Spanish hero round ‘a mass’ = ‘go-ahead’ (as an adjective)

21a Spring cancelled? That’s rich (4-3)
WELL-OFF: A spring + ‘cancelled’

23a Swallow helping of plum pudding (4)
LUMP: Hidden in pLUM Pudding

24a Imaginary creature from Sweden: stool pigeon (5)
SNARK: An imaginary creature created by Lewis Carroll = S (Sweden) + a stool-pigeon (informer)

25a Arsenal’s back four’s rejigged without success (4)
LEAN: An anagram (rejigged) of ENAL (the last four letters of Arsenal)

28a Confound common sense concealing new political boundaries (7)
NONPLUS: Common sense round N (new) and the first and last letters of PoliticaL

29a Couple welcoming oven to make hot snack (7)
TOASTIE: ‘To couple’ round a kiln for drying hops

30a Having lost key blow hot and cold getting hit around for audible rebuke (4,8)
SLOW HANDCLAP: BLOW with B (key) removed and H (hot) AND C (cold) all inside ‘to hit’


1d One of her best friends? He can be rough (7)
DIAMOND: More than one of these are a girl’s best friend. A rough one of these is a person possibly of great worth but of rough appearance and unpolished manners

2d Pantomime villain embodies wickedness (4)
EVIL: Hidden in pantomimE VILlain

3d High jumper? (7)
SWEATER: This word for a jumper also means someone who perspires a lot and therefore might have BO and hence be high (smelly)

4d Figure one doesn’t enter a mile run out of shape (7)
NUMERAL: An anagram (out of shape) of A MLE RUN (A MILE RUN with I omitted)

5d Stitch can be a curse (4)
DARN: 2 meanings: To mend by stitching/a curse

6d Sent away German wine about to go sour (5,2)
WROTE IN: ‘Sent a letter to an organisation’ = the German word for wine round ‘to go sour’

7d Dance could be northern affair (8,5)
HIGHLAND FLING: Northern (from the north of Scotland) + an affair

8d Original over-loud electric guitar may be one that hasn’t gone wrong before (5,8)
FIRST OFFENDER: ‘Original’ + O (over) + F (loud) + a make of guitar

14d What’s left after cutting / foil (5)
STUMP: 2 meanings: the part of a felled tree left in the ground/to foil. My attempt to justify STYMY (to foil) failed

15d Transport / schedule? (5)
CYCLE: 2 meanings: a means of transport for eco-minded people/schedule. I’m not too keen on schedule as a definition but life’s too short to worry about it

19d So-called rock mandolin died out (7)
NOMINAL: An anagram (rock) of MANOLIN, i.e. MANDOLIN with D (died) removed

20d A naive beginner among players getting a game (7)
CANASTA: A and N (first letter of naïve) inside players (group of actors) + A = a card game

21d Fine wool fabric / taken to the cleaners (7)
WORSTED: 2 meanings: a fine wool fabric/got the better of in a contest

22d Kind of shop that sells everything — your pullover for example (3-4)
ONE-STOP: When split (3’1 3) it could be your pullover

26d Large number / greatly impressed (4)
SLEW: 2 meanings: a large number (especially in North America)/impressed greatly

27d Weary old man’s put on pounds (4)
PALL: ‘To weary’ = old man (father) + LL (pounds)

I hate a four-letter answer where there are a lot of words that fit the unchecked letters and where the setter has either used an obscure word or has given a clue that is not easy to parse. Mind you the five-letter answers in this puzzle were no better.

34 comments on “Toughie 1323

    1. But what’s the definition?. If the clue read “Not so much…” then it would make more sense

      1. I think “Not so” is the definition; it can be replaced by “less” in expressions like “Not so brave”, for example.

      2. I think the definition is, as you have it, ‘not so’, as in “It’s less/not so cold today”.

  1. 1A and 7 & 8D were my first three in, which helped considerably. I flew through most of the puzzle, but slowed right down a crawl with three to go. Then I saw the light on 30A. That left 13A and 26D. Pesky 4-letter words! I had to give up eventually on those and wait for the review. I liked 11A, 1D, 6D and 8D particularly. Many thanks, Bufo and Petitjean.

  2. I find clues with vague or stretching definitions less satisfying to solve than ones with an accurate but disguised definition. It’s a “hmm maybe” vs “aha”. I thought “swallow” (23a) and “without success” (25a) were a stretch and hence less satisfying, whereas 10a (radio enthusiast) was a satisfying aha. Not so much to go by in the composite anagram 13a and I couldn’t parse it…hence I found it unsatisfying. 30a, on the other hand, had a disguised but accurate definition, making it a very satisfying clue. The occasional visitor to britain (11a) I find very vague for an african bird. The mix didn’t do this puzzle any favours for me, whereas I normally quite like Petitjean.

    In 1d, I didn’t like the unnecessary “he”, I would have preferred “One of her best friends can be rough”. In 16a, I thought “watchfully” was a peculiar choice, even “carefully” would have worked better in the definition and surface for me, sure there are even better words. In 27d, I didn’t think “weary” matched the part of speech of the answer, but thanks bufo for reminding me it is also a verb. An enjoyable puzzle, with some annoying bits that might possibly have been easily avoided.

    many thanks Petitjean and bufo and especially Oldred (well spotted!)

  3. I did this a damn sight quicker than the Ray T back pager. 14d stumped me but I do not know why. 13ac is immense, wonderful, amusing. Clue of the year candidate. Ta to all

  4. I enjoyed this one, as I normally do with Petitjean. The biggest query I had was on 18a – is it ok to call the Spanish hero just Cid without the preceding El?
    Thanks to Petitjean and Bufo.

    1. He’s in Chambers as with a capital C referring to the Spanish hero – so presumably it is OK.

      1. Probably ok then. I’ve been trying to think of an equivalent title in English – the nearest I can come up with is ‘the Bard’ and we certainly wouldn’t use Bard on it’s own to mean Shakespeare.

      2. there’s something about the “it’s in chambers so it’s ok” justification that seems a bit too convenient to me. the hero is called el cid. cid by itself makes little sense. Should we live by chambers or what makes sense?

  5. Enjoyable but not his best. Some rather vague definitions [as dutch points out] but then 22d is a really nice example of a two def clue. Also agree with Gazza that Cid on its own is a stretch. But 19d is a gem [and very Petitjean.]
    Many thanks to PJ and to Bufo [of course – Miss West!]

  6. Me too with the ‘easier than the Ray T’ – and I enjoyed myself too so 2*/3* and thank you from me to Petitjean and Bufo.

  7. Thursday teatime – very early for me. I haven’t written any comments for a few days and I haven’t managed a 100% solve for a few either. This was unusual with a lot of straightforward clues mixed with some real stinkers. Although I got 18a , CID for a Spanish hero was tricky. Missed 6d &13a and 26d and don’t understand the explanations for the last 2! Still, not bad. Bring on Friday’s challenge. Thanks to everyone, Sh-Shoney.

  8. How come I did this without too much angst (OK I got MESS for LESS & BLOW for SLEW) & I still can’t do the (inside the) back page offering? 3 to do & I’m completely foxed (I don’t do Google or read hints!)

    I agree about the ‘four letter word curse’ but I enjoyed this. Thanks to Petijean & Bufo.

  9. It all went in smoothly for us except for the pesky short words. 26d took a lot of thought but eventually came to us. For 13a we settled, somewhat reluctantly, for the ‘use’ explanation and agree that ‘awl’ is much more satisfactory. A faster solve for us than the RayT. Good fun.
    Thanks Petitjean and Bufo.

  10. Time taken to solve this x. Time taken to solve the back pager 2x. Do we have an appearance of that mythical event the ‘wrong envelope day’?
    I normally take those comments with a pinch of salt but when so many of our more ‘senior’ commentators are saying they found this easier then you have to at least question the quality control process.
    I stand though by my comment earlier about the back page grid, which I thought was a real stinker that gave little help to the solver. This on the other hand was very generous and got me half way to many answers from definition and checkers alone. I think grid design is too often overlooked as a factor in difficulty.

  11. I don’t very often try Toughies – partly time constraints and partly, dare I admit it, cowardice and could do without the fragile confidence being rocked.
    I would say that this one was on a par with the Ray T not quite inside the back page which I found an absolute little piglet.
    More of this one went in easily than with the Ray T. On the other hand I ended up with four of the Toughie clues that I couldn’t do as opposed to one of Ray T’s. Even Stevens, I reckon, both for difficulty and enjoyment.
    I really liked 1 and 28a and 3d which made me laugh.
    Lots of stars for both difficulty and enjoyment and many thanks to both Petitjean and bufo.

  12. I’ll have to score this 3+*/3*. I needed a hint to get 13a, and l had 18a wrong, so the SW corner didn’t work too well! 30a is a beaut, and gets my vote for favouritism. I’m afraid l don’t see the second definition of 26d at all; why is “slew” the same as “greatly impressed”? Anyway – I’ve had a good work-out, for which many thanks to Petitjean, and to Bufo for the review and hints.

    1. Back in my wanna-be hippie youth, one would hear the expression, “Man, that just slays me!”, meaning”That was great!” I’ve never heard anyone say “That slew me” though!

      1. OK, Expat Chris, I’ll buy that. It’s a bit tenuous, but l have to admit that l have known the word “slay” used in that context. Thanks.

    2. I enjoyed today’s Toughie except for 26d which, I agree, is rather “forced”. My measure of a good clue is that, once you’ve solved it, it should be clear that you’re right and – for me – this one failed the test.

  13. Back at work today but a late comment as I needed the blog for 13 ac. I failed to solve it and even failed when cheating with an online dictionary. With hindsight this is really silly – I thought of loads of (short word) tools but overlooked awl. Totally silly as awl does make regular appearances in crosswords. Also failed to see “not so” in the right way. Absolutely nothing unfair about the clue whatsoever and one that will stick in the mind for years

    Apart from the couple of the four lettered answers I thought it was fairly straightforward by Toughie standards. Bar the two pesky “not so” easy four lettered ones it took about the same time as the RayT who I thought was not quite at his cheeky best this fortnight. Still no one can be above his own average every time and it was all good fun

    Thanks to Petitjean & Bufo (and RayT too)

  14. Same problems with those 4 letter words again. 11, 13 and 26 remained with odd letters incomplete.
    For 1d the masculine for diamond was new to me. I thought only a ship or a boat was a she and everything else was neutral.
    When I first saw 30a, I thought I would never be able to make any sense of the clue but the checking letters really helped.
    Thanks to petitjean and to Bufo for the review.

  15. I liked this puzzle a great deal and had a lot of laughs. The six clues I enjoyed most were 9a, 10a, 24a, 3d, 5d and 7d.

    Two of the pesky four-letter clues, 13a and 26d, got the better of me and I needed the answers for them.

    Very many thanks to Petitjean for the **** enjoyment, and to Bufo for the review.

Comments are closed.