Toughie 1344 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1344

Toughie No 1344 by Sparks

Hints and tips by Big Dave

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BD Rating – Difficulty *****Enjoyment *****

How nice it is to have a proper Toughie. Progress was slow but steady, then writing this review gave me a second chance to savour the puzzle again.

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    Lightly pad neckwear wrapped round shirt, say, back to front (6)
TIPTOE: put an item of neckwear around a type of shirt with its final letter moved to the front (back to front)  – easy once you realise what type of “padding” is involved!

4a    One blows out air using silver tube with brown coating (8)
BAGPIPER: the chemical symbol for silver and a four-letter word for a tube inside (with … coating) BR(own)

9a    Again put down person who calls round heartlessly (6)
RELAID: take a person who makes a call on an old-fashioned telephone, reverse it and then drop the middle letter (heartlessly)

10a    Passage joined on both sides with motley irises (4-4)
WALL-EYED: start with a passage and insert it into (on both sides) a verb meaning joined in marriage – these irises are the ones in the eye

11a    Hollow church suppressing ‘Irish Question’ (6)
CIRQUE: to get this deep round hollow formed by glaciation put the Church of England around IR(ish) and QU(estion)

12a    Woman departs over corruption by most of police (8)
DOROTHEA: D(eparts) and O(ver) followed by some corruption and most of a US word for the police, the L.A. branch of which being familiar to those who have nothing better to do than watch US TV series

14a    With red vision, optical rimless specs will need to be adjusted (10)
APOPLECTIC: an anagram (to be adjusted) of OPTICAL with rimless (without its outer letters) [s]PEC[s]

18a    Line out of Albert’s theory at first caught imagination (10)
CREATIVITY: drop the L(ine) from Albert Einstein’s famous theory and then add C(aught) to the front (at first)

22a    Tough head removed from type of seed on hollow tree (8)
TEARAWAY: drop the initial letter (head) from a type of seed and then put what remains after T[re]E without its inner letters (hollow)

23a    Arouse dispute about UKIP when one’s off out (4,2)
WORK UP: the reversal of a dispute is followed by an anagram (out) of UK[I]P without (off) the I (one)

24a    Great outburst about keeping sin in check to start with (8)
TERRIFIC: put the reversal (about) of a three-letter outburst around (keeping) a three-letter verb meaning to sin and then add the initial letters (to start with) of I[n] C[heck]

25a    Everyone trapped by rainy weather ready to come out of it? (6)
WALLET: a word meaning everyone inside (trapped by) some rainy weather gives something that can contain cash (ready)

26a    Yours truly absent after firm gives leave (4,4)
COME AWAY: the first-person objective pronoun (yours truly / the setter) and an adverb meaning absent preceded by a two-letter abbreviation for a firm or business

27a    Equipped to remove signal saying: Stop — unknown stump up ahead (6)
PREPAY: start with a word meaning equipped, drop (remove) the colour of a stop signal and add a mathematical unknown to get a verb meaning to stump up or fork out in advance (ahead)


1d    Act to cover renegade (8)
TURNCOAT: a nice easy clue like this helps to get the puzzle started – an act or performance followed by a verb meaning to cover with, say, paint

2d    Some links hanging from short rod — one was entirely yellow (8)
POLTROON: some golf links in South Ayrshire preceded by most of (short) a rod

3d    Prig quitting monstrously, in a repulsive way (8)
ODIOUSLY: drop the letters PR and IG from an adverb meaning monstrously

5d    Caught abandoning corrupt acclamation of a body (10)
ANATOMICAL: an anagram (corrupt) of A[C]CLAMATION without (abandoning) C(aught)

6d    Don appearing in drag, performing now? (4,2)
PULL ON: a verb meaning to drag or xxx followed by a two-letter word meaning performing now

7d    Canned chop suey, void of nuts (6)
PSYCHO: an anagram (Canned) of CHOP and S[ue]Y without its inner letters (void)

8d    Unit in northern area runs to secure help from the south (6)
RADIAN: the derived SI unit of plane angle is a reversal (from the south in a down clue) of N(orthern) A(rea) R(uns) around (to secure) some help

13d    One reason for rash South American to break into Beetle left by British (10)
SCARLATINA: to get this word for a disease characterised by a rash put a word meaning South American inside (to break into) a type of beetle from with the B(ritish) has been dropped (left)

15d    Bull-headed type of youngster penning letter overseas (8)
MINOTAUR: a younger member of a family around a letter of the Greek (overseas) alphabet

16d    In America, notice socialist’s insolence? (4,4)
PINK SLIP: this notice of dismissal given to an employee in the US is derived from a colloquial word for a person who is something of a socialist but hardly a red, the S from ‘S and some insolence – in my younger days this was the piece of paper handed over by the driving test examiner to a successful applicant


17d    Start to accept the setter’s making a comeback and hit agreement (8)
SYMPATHY: a three-letter verb meaning to start or recoil around (to accept) the reversal (making a comeback) of the first-person possessive pronoun (the setter’s / of the setter) and a gentle hit

19d    Still very happy, although missing The City (6)
STATIC: start with an adjective meaning very happy and drop (missing) the postcode for the City of London

20d    Cast almost put round funny bone (6)
SACRUM: most of CAS[t] reversed (put round) and followed by an adjective meaning funny or strange

21d    View some expat in autobiographical film (6)
PATINA: hidden (view some) inside the clue

When Sparks joined the Toughie panel he brought with him, as Monk, a fearsome reputation for setting fiendish puzzles – this one lives up to that reputation.

20 comments on “Toughie 1344

  1. Unlike yesterday, when I ran into a brick wall with Elkamere, I could at least do this one, though it took a while to untangle some of the clues. Good fun while monitoring comments on today’s back pager.

    In 1a, I think it’s not a reversal of the word for a type of shirt, but moving the last letter to the beginning.

  2. Stonking puzzle from a top notch setter, took quite a while but well worth it, favourites 2d 10a and 16d and yes I also remember the driving examiner handing that over, thanks to Sparks and to Big Dave for the comments.

  3. This was indeed characterised by slow and steady progress, just as BD mentioned. Remarkably, I had to work out almost every clue (except 9a and 24a) purely from the wordplay before then realising how it fits a definition (as opposed to sometimes working out the wordplay after guessing an answer from the definition and checking letters). I think that is a compliment to Sparks.

    Many favourites: 1a (lightly pad), 14a (with red vision), 18a (albert’s theory), 25a (ready to come out of the rain), 7d (chop suey), and more…

    Many thanks Sparks and BD for enlightenment on the one clue I didn’t manage to parse correctly (3d, prig)

    I’m off to Livigno in Italy now for a week’s skiing

  4. ‘How nice it is to have a proper Toughie’ – it’s funny how a few words are harmless when they are on their own but put them together & you have a phrase guaranteed to turn most right thinking people’s bowels to water…that’s 2 days on the trot(s) that I’ve not been able to complete a toughie.

  5. It’s strange how different solvers get on with different setters. I found this reasonably straightforward, like yesterday’s, but I generally have much more trouble with Excalibur’s puzzles. I can’t get into her head like I did with these last two.

    Anyway – great fun despite the atrocious grid which “ought not to be allowed”. Some neat constructions and amusing definitions, especially 25a, 2d and 19d. Like Dutch I needed the blog to explain the parsing of 3d – an indication that the letters to be removed were not contiguous would have helped, but heigh ho.

    Many thanks to Sparks and to BD for the enlightenment.

    1. At great risk of sounding boring, I utterly dislike this grid. Had a conversation with Gazza recently who said he hardly notices the grid. My loathing of unnecessary double unches has me scouring every grid, sadly when I should be concentrating on solving , hey ho

  6. 5*/5* for me. I managed to finish without hints, but it took me some time, one hold-up being getting the right type of links in 2d. 3d was my last in; I got it from the checking letters, and then spent further time trying to work out the word-play. Many thanks to Sparks and to BD for the review.

  7. A proper Toughie indeed – the LH side went in slowly but surely and then I had to peck away at the RH side in between doing what I am paid to do. Wouldn’t it be nice to be paid to spend the morning solving crosswords? The boss wasn’t keen on the idea so….

    Thanks to Sparks for a Toughie worthy of both the name and the Friday slot and to BD for the H&T.

  8. 10a. To me the answer is the opposite of cross eyed e.g.both eyes looking outward. Most disconcerting. I much prefer your pretty lady with different coloured eyes.

  9. For us this was: All done, All parsed, All afternoon!
    When we solved this one we had to assume it was Mr Ron once again. The setter’s attribution still hasn’t appeared on the DT site we note. At least Fridays for us do not have either golf or Bridge to intrude into crossword time so we were able to devote ourselves to slowly unpicking these deviously clever clues. Once again we needed a bit of electronic assistance for a few. Good challenge, much appreciated.
    Thanks Sparks and BD.

  10. Certainly 5*, but l managed to complete it unaided – except for the NE corner where l needed a couple of hints. I may just be improving, because this is the second day running l have almost achieved what for me would have been impossible a year ago. Thanks to Sparks for this encouragement, and to BD for getting me over the line.

  11. Sod it, I give up, until the morning. Words written but not parsed. Sparks so far you have beaten me, BD not yet looked at the hints

  12. Two days in a row, I have been utterly defeated and despondent. I am reminded of my place, and it’s way down in the pecking order. Hat’s off to anyone who solved this bear and appreciation to BD for the review.

  13. Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one.
    Although I made good progress on the bottom half, 2,3,6,7d and 1,9,12a remained unsolvable.
    Thanks to BD for the help and to Sparks for a crossword that I couldn’t solve by myself.

  14. Beaten by the top right corner. I am most annoyed with myself for not getting the “blows out air” clue – all down to being to obsessed with putting AG + ? into tan. It would have opened up the corner nicely. I have never heard the definition of 10a before or seen anyone with this defect. Even with BDs comments I do not know the term for US police he refers to. US Police series are one of my pet hates!

    I found this quite a tricky toughie week so full marks to the Telegraph – and thanks to Sparks and BD for today’s stinker (actually yesterday’s now)

    PS I do like knowing the setter’s name. Would it not be possible for the Telegraph to insert the name in the top line of the online version. It is very tedious to click ones way through to the setters name and for this particular puzzle it was not even there when I printed the puzzle.

    1. The term for US police is heat. I think it’s peculiar to TV programs rather than common parlance.

  15. I had a look. I think the only way this crossword could have been made more difficult would be if it was written in Sanskrit!

  16. Thanks to Sparks and to Big Dave for the review and hints. Please to say that I managed to solve 10 clues. Way beyond my capabilities. Good fun looking up most of the answers.

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