Toughie 1345 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
View closed comments 

Toughie 1345

Toughie No 1345 by Messinae

+ - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

BD Rating - Difficulty *** - Enjoyment ***

Blue skies over Rutland and a note of springlike warmth in the air. I made altogether heavier weather of the top half of this nice Messinae puzzle that gets another Toughie week underway. There is something of a rustic thread running through some of the clues and solutions, possibly fortuitous.

Do let us know how you got on and what you thought. First-time commenters especially welcome!

Definitions are underlined. 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 It caters for visits re octane (7,7)
SERVICE STATION An anagram (caters for) of VISITS RE OCTANE. The clue is self-defining.

9a Source of authority -- a royal one with bite (7)
ARBITER The A from the clue plus the abbreviation for Royal and something that bites.

10a Spirited item at tea dance needs bachelor (3,4)
RUM BABA A type of dance plus the letters of a bachelor's degree.


11a Investigator doesn't finish college (3)
TEC A type of college in the UK minus its last letter (doesn't finish).

12a Cheers about one charged following provincial university's punishment (11)
RUSTICATION A colloquial word for thank you or cheers, reversed (about), plus an electrically charged particle, all of which is preceded by a word for provincial or rural.

14a Argue about a boy (6)
REASON About or referring to, A from the clue, and a word for boy.

15a China to provide crew for old chopper (8)
PALSTAFF ... A Bronze Age axe, it turns out. A colloquial word for friend or mate (china plate in Cockney rhyming slang) plus a verb meaning to supply personnel for.

17a Sybil about to sing chorus knocking back traditional drinks (4,4)
REAL ALES A clairvoyant or oracle (like the Sybils of Ancient Greece) goes round (about) an onomatopoeic verb meaning to sing along, all of which is then reversed (knocking back).


19a Birds heading off for Scottish islands (6)
INCHES ... a word for island (here in the plural) deriving from Gaelic and found in Scottish place names. A type of bird (in the plural) minus its initial letter (heading off).

22a Fashionable hero vetoing changes (2,3,6)
IN THE GROOVE An anagram (changes) of HERO VETOING.

23a Sounds like greeting current in Somerset (3)
YEO A river name that sounds like a word used in greeting, mainly in recent American English.

24a Fiddlesticks made of Oriental woods (7)
EYEWASH The compass direction of the Orient, followed by two types of wood.

26a Fixing pole, not very well (7)
NAILING One of the two geographical poles, then a word meaning unwell.

27a Boorish type in noble line to do damage to family (7,7)
COUNTRY BUMPKIN ... in the original sense of boor meaning peasant. A four-part charade of a foreign noble, the abbreviation for railway (line), to do damage to (e.g. a car), and family.

ARVE Error: need id and provider


1d Not all there is can deter brat being troublesome (14)
SCATTERBRAINED An anagram (being troublesome) of IS CAN DETER BRAT.

2d Old instrument accountant used in novel (7)
REBECCA A mediaeval fiddle plus the abbreviation for a chartered accountant.

3d Law enforcers worried to act as go-between? (11)
INTERPOLATE An international police body plus a word meaning worried or bugged. (The cryptic definition is not fair since the solution means to create a kind of "go-between", not to act as one.)

4d Small Frenchman gets up, leaving (6)
EGRESS The abbreviation for small plus a male name in French, all reversed (gets up).

5d Pupil after school time in a work station (8)
TERMINAL A single-letter abbreviation for a pupil or trainee goes after a period of the school calendar and IN A from the clue.


6d Queen's mate closed motorway (3)
TOM Closed (like a door, but not tight shut) plus the abbreviation for Motorway.

7d Instrument in Volvo car I navigated (7)
OCARINA The solution is hidden inside VOLVOCARINAVIGATED

8d Gangster's weapon with last of ammunition in defeated warlord -- about time (4-3,7)
SAWN-OFF SHOTGUN The last letter of ammunition inside a phrase meaning defeated or put to flight, then an Asian warlord around the symbol for time in maths and science.   

13d Lousy batsmen I see being out a lot (11)
ABSENTEEISM An anagram (lousy) of BATSMEN I SEE.

16d One may be Googling 'Brand, entertainer' (8)
SEARCHER To brand or scorch, plus a singer consisting largely of plastic.

18d Redcoat's dashing style (3,4)
ART DECO An anagram (dashing) of REDCOAT.


20d Outside Scottish town is rustic farmyard feature (7)
HAYRICK A town in south-west Scotland goes inside a US word for a rustic or 27a.

21d Mischievous fellow and posh one make light conversation (6)
HOBNOB A word for a puckish creature or person (which can also mean a rustic, according to Chambers), and one for a person of wealth or importance.

25d Lapwing's regularly taken bit of cereal (3)
AWN Alternate letters (regularly taken) of LAPWING.


12a, 27a, 20d and (much more tenuously) 21d were what suggested the rustic thread. We had 24 last week, I think.

Over to you - please rate and comment on this puzzle below.

21 comments on “Toughie 1345

  1. Am I being very thick? I do not see what 6 dn means by Queen’s mate, I get the word play for closed and motorway,but remain in the dark. Is it chess or to do with cats?Any explanation most welcome.

      1. Many thanks,I should have known that ; that’s the joy of crosswords- learning something new most days.

  2. Gentle start to the Toughie week, I thought 9a was a bit weak with part of the answer being included in the wordplay, favourite 17a thanks to Messinae and to Toro for the comments.

    1. Personally I quite like that device if it’s used sparingly, because it’s unexpected and misleading.

  3. Even though I might call a Toughie gentle I never think they really are. Having anagrams for 1 a/d certainly helped kick start today. The SE corner made me grind to a halt even though I had 27a. In fact the Miffypop’s rule was invoked for most of the answers there.

    Favourite clue is 10a.

    So many thanks to Messinae and to Toro for helping me unravel ‘that’ corner. :-)

  4. I had a meeting in London this morning so crosswords were attempted on the train. Amazingly, although I had neither dictionary nor electronic aids with me I managed to guess correctly 7 answers that involved a word not previously in my (sadly limited) vocabulary. Normally I would groan a bit but I expect I will wake up soon on the train way, far past Hertfordshire, and find it was a dream and the toughie grid is still blank. Very happy to have finished this one! Other than the uncertainties over the obscurities I found it relatively straightforward owing to being fortunate enough to resolve the anagrams in 1a and 1d without much difficulty which opens the puzzle up in a major way. I was not confident at all of my go at the top left corner – both 3d and 9a were a little uncomfortable for reasons already mentioned by others – and the old instrument in 2d is new to me. …and then Rene was replaced by his cousin for a change. So thanks to the setter and blogger.

  5. I did not find this nearly as straightforward as other commenters. I has trouble getting on the setter’s wavelength. It took me ages to sort out the 1D anagram and the definition for 2D only dawned on me after I had solved 9A. I was stuck on Rene for quite some time, too. Learned a couple of new words, and that’s always a good thing. While I did complete the grid, I needed the review to confirm some answers and explain others. A good challenge altogether. Thanks Mesinae and Toro.

  6. This one took us a long time to get into. We had picked that both 1a and 1d were probably anagrams but they did not fall apart immediately for us. Once they did, the floodgates seemed to open and the grid seemed to fill itself almost by magic. We remember being fooled by both the answers to 6d and 12a in the past and, luckily, had remembered them this time. 4d was the last answer to yield. Good fun.
    Thanks Messinae and Toro.

    1. 4d was my last one in too. It took me an age to twig 12a – I hope that, like you, I remember it for next time!

  7. Just about at my solving limit but a challenge enjoyed. Needed electronic help to confirm new words at 15a + 2,7&25d.
    Held up for a while on 3d as I was convinced that ‘gate’ would be the go-between.
    Particularly liked the simplicity of 1a and the smiles at 10&24a.

    Many thanks to Messinae for the work-out and also to Toro, both for the excellent review and the Two Ronnies sketch!

    1. Just registered your ‘weather’ comment, Toro. What a beautiful part of the country you live in – some friends of mine have a home in Barrowden and I love going to visit, plus I get to spend some time bird watching at Rutland Water!

  8. Quite a pleasant way to start off the weekly toughie quintet.
    Did commence at dawn, but had a rather busy day. I gently got rid of my evening guests in order to finish Messinae’s gentle offering.
    15a held me up as it took some time to parse the first part.
    19a and 20d were new to me also and it did take a bit of googling to check what I guessed were the right answers. Besides I knew finches were the birds in question.
    8d and 27a came also quite easily despite the fact that I am not very comfortable with multiple words answers.
    Nice to see my friend Serge popping in.
    And Cher of course.
    Must try to stop rambling.
    Thanks to Messinae and to Toro for the review.

  9. Had a complete brain fail with 26a, having convinced myself 21d, in haste, was confab. I too was on a train but no excuse.. Thanks to Messinae and to Toro

    1. Me too – sadly, a fail turns out not to be a type of pole. I can be sure of that, I spent a long time looking.

  10. Thanks to Messinae and to Toro for the review and hints. For once I managed to get into a Toughie. Started with 8d, then only needed 5 hints to finish. Actually understood most of the wordplay. Favourite was 8d, as it gave me a great start. Was 5*/4* for me.

  11. Just finished Wednesday morning (except for PALSTAFF @15a). It was a great joy for me to get a puzzle I could do as during the past 2 weeks or so most of the toughies have been beyond me, even after hours of trying), which is actually quite dispiriting and I’ve had to return to the back page. Lots of really good clues although I don’t understand Toro’s explanation for 17a and had to guess the answer. Most enjoyable and I score it as a ***/****. Thanks to Messinae and also to Toro. Sh-Shoney.

        1. Great spot, Jean-Luc! BRB (print edition) gives sybil as an alternative spelling, with sibyl as the main spelling, but none of the online dictionaries list it, so it must be considered rare or marginal. As a name, it seems to be spelled Sybil more frequently, as in Sybil Fawlty, who Messinae perhaps had in mind. Apparently it has historically been spelled both ways, and Benjamin Disraeli published a novel “Sybil” in 1845. See this link:

Comments are closed.