Toughie 1353 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1353

Toughie No 1353 by Shamus

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

Shamus, in his occasional capacity as Mr Ron, gave us an excellent back-pager this time last week, and this week sees him back in the Toughie seat. This puzzle was perhaps not quite as polished, but it was nonetheless enjoyable, and like his last Toughie contained clues on a wide spectrum of difficulty.

Do let us know how you got on and what you thought. First-time commenters 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 A learner succeeded expert in French region (6)
ALSACE A+L(earner)+S(ucceeded), then a word for expert.

4a Chained wild animal initially in farm (8)
HACIENDA An anagram (wild) of CHAINED, plus the first letter (initially) of A(nimal).

9a One in field grabbing large plant (6)
CLOVER A fielder in cricket goes round (grabbing) L(arge)


10a Reprimand graduate entering part in base for drink? (5,3)
PLACE MAT A verb meaning (when followed by into) to attack verbally or reprimand, plus the letters of a degree title, all going inside the two-leter abbreviation for part.

11a A male embodying unusually sour comic book creation (9)
SUPERHERO A in the sense of for each and the male personal pronoun, all going inside (embodying) an anagram (unusually) of SOUR.

13a Cultured man from a Scottish team back to front (5)
SAHIB A from the clue, then a Scottish football team, with the last letter moving to the front of the solution (back to front).

14a Top marks to do with record fish of unimpeachable quality (5,8)
ABOVE REPROACH The two top grades in an exam marking scale, a preposition meaning to do with or concerning, a vinyl record, and a fish.

17a Sound of plain foul tone I deployed to depart from norm (4,3,2,4)
STEP OUT OF LINE A homophone (sound of) a vast Eurasian plain followed by an anagram (deployed) FOUL TONE I.

21a Fine achievement on course standard (5)
EAGLE Two under par on a golf hole, and a word for a military standard (referring to the emblem it carries).


23a Revolutionary English head engaged in drive forward, exemplary type (4,5)
ROLE MODEL E(nglish) and a word for the crown of the head (especially when bald or shaven), all reversed (revolutionary) and put inside a word for drive or be driven forward, like a car.

24a Cheeky device to open absurd talk (8)
MALARKEY A word meaning of the cheek (which you may need to be a birder to know), and a device used to unlock a door, for example.


25a Leader of suspects of course in heist (6)
SNATCH S(uspects) plus a colloquial shortened version of a word meaning of course.

26a Go off in due time, and seen coming back (8)
DETONATE An acronym of a measure of when a train (say) is expected to arrive based on latest information, then a word for seen or remarked, all reversed (coming back).

27a Pandemonium from restricted night-time illumination? (6)
BEDLAM What you might use to read by before going to sleep, minus its last letter (restricted).



1d Retrieve information from entry (6)
ACCESS A verb meaning to retrieve records or other information is also a noun meaning entry or admission.

2d Place for exhibiting variety of cheap wools with centre removed (9)
SHOWPLACE An anagram (variety) of CHEAP and WO(o)OLS, after removing the central letter from the second word. (I only noticed on writing the explanation that part of the definition appears in the solution.)

3d Expression used when leaving meal, say, I love (7)
CHEERIO A word than can mean food or fare in old use, the I from the clue, and the letter denoted by love in customary crosswordese.

5d Awful role play, not half creatively challenged? On the contrary (3-8)
ALL-POWERFUL An anagram (creatively) of AWFUL ROLE PL(ay), where not half tells us to take only half of the word PLAY.

6d Cutter in a trap? (7)
INCISOR Cryptic definition of a cutting tooth, in which trap means mouth.

7d Echo, perhaps, from priest in fantastic hymn (5)
NYMPH P(riest) inside an anagram (fantastic) of HYMN.


8d Development of a hub, not a high-speed route (8)
AUTOBAHN An anagram (development) of A HUB NOT A.

12d Means to bail out from an elevated position? (7,4)
EJECTOR SEAT Cryptic definition of a mechanism for releasing a pilot from a plane with a parachute, the surface suggesting bail money for a person of high standing.


15d Cockney worker round financial district a lot turning garrulous (9)
ANECDOTAL A word for a worker or labourer, with the aitch dropped Cockney-style, goes round the postcode district of the City of London, and is followed by an anagram (turning) of A LOT.

16d Art in Versailles was in abundance, attracting veneration (8)
ESTEEMED The second person singular form of to be in French (equivalent to art as in thou art), and a word meaning abounded or was in abundance.

18d Go beyond schedule in aspects of cricket (7)
OVERRUN Two cricketing terms strung together.

19d Large quarters adopting small measure at front (7)
IMMENSE Three compass points (quarters) going round (adopting) (S)mall, and preceded by a unit of length or distance. (Hmmm...) [Edit: Others have read this as four quarters, with a small measure at the front -- they're probably right]

20d One-time poor performer in Northern town (6).
OLDHAM Former or one-time, plus a poor performer on stage.

22d Jacket, boring item with marks removed (5)
GILET A manual tool for boring holes in wood, minus M(arks).

9a, 8d and 22d, though not the most difficult, were my pick of the clues today. What about yours?

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

29 comments on “Toughie 1353

  1. This is probably the first time I complete a puzzle without understanding how the clues were constructed.
    And there were quite a few.
    In the NE corner it was 10 and 13a.
    In the SW, I didn’t understand the ES for art and the malar bit of 24a.
    In the SE, the nitch in 25a was new to me and 19d was just guessed along with 23a.
    The rest, if any, was quite straightforward.
    I suppose a full grid is a full grid no matter how you go about it.
    Thanks to Shamus and to Toro for the review.

    1. Hi Jean-Luc. Like you I found that some of the clues took a lot of parsing, and I’d never heard the reprimand in 10a. French art for ES is quite widely used and worth remembering, and it’s natch not nitch in 25a. 19d was my least favourite and merited a “Hmmm…”.

    2. Bonsoir Jean Luc, comment va tu? Nous sommes d’accord avec toi! We completed the puzzle but in many cases had to try and work out why! Some of them sang out to us and others were inserted because they fitted. Very difficult for us but a great deal of satisfaction gettin’ em right. How do you say ‘PARSE’ in French?

  2. Toro,
    Your hint for 23a seems to have ended prematurely.
    In 19a I took the ‘small’ to be related to the measure at the front but your parsing works equally well if not better.
    Thanks to you and to Shamus.

    1. Thanks Gazza – explanation for 23a completed.

      I think you might be right re. 19d as I seem to have seized on “small” twice in my explanation. I must say I think “quarters” for “any combination of two or more of NESW” is a bit unsatisfactory, but it’s a difficult word to clue.

  3. For me it was SW that remained empty for a while, but got there in the end. It was the ES for ART that held me up – and I wasn’t sure I believed it, but once filled in the rest followed. I had to look up malar, and the aspects of cricket (18d) took me embarrassingly long.

    I think of a place mat as a base for a plate of food, for drink I’d use a beer mat (10a).

    I wasn’t sure whether challenged by itself is enough to be an antonym of all-powerful, but the answer had to be right (5d).

    I didn’t find a clue that really grabbed me, but I did like 8d (a hub, not a high-speed route)

    many thanks Shamus and Toro

  4. Quite fun. I’m with Gazza re 19d.
    Favourites were 24a [cheeky] 15d [Cockney worker] and 16d [Art in Versailles].
    Thanks to Shamus and Toro.

  5. I was defeated by 22D (needed to uncover the answer. New word for me) and 24A (got that from the hint, though I thought the meaning of the answer was ‘trouble’ rather than ‘talk’). I totally missed the ‘art’ reference in 16D. In 19D, I also thought the ‘small’ referred to the measure. Very enjoyable overall. I liked 25A, 27A and 20D in particular. Thanks Shamus and Toro!

  6. Good crossword. Found the SW corner the hardest. Learnt a couple of new words for cheek and of course! 16d was my favourite.

  7. Sorry to join the criticism but I thought there were a lot of very poor surface readings

  8. I’m a fan of Shamus and today is no exception, albeit I agree with Toro’s comment that it is not his most polished puzzle. The SW corner held me up with 24a being my last one in, also spent too long looking at 20d with all the checkers in …..then penny drop moment d’oh! Thought the 17a homophone for ‘plain’ was very clever but the surface seemed a bit clunky. 8d was my favourite.

    Thanks to Shamus for the puzzle and Toro for the enlightening review.

  9. Thanks to Shamus and to Toro for the review and hints. A very enjoyable puzzle. I needed the hints to get the correct anagram fodder for 17a&5d. With those two solved, I was on a roll, until I got to the SW corner. Needed the hints for 21,24a&16d to finish. Got lots of answers that I couldn’t parse, thanks to Toro for the explanations. Favourite was 20d. Was 4*/4* for me.

  10. Can’t believe it! i have completed a Toughie!!!!!! There were a few clues I got right but like Jean-Luc did not quite know how I got there. ES for art in Versailles : abreviations of ??, new for me. 13a did not know that Sahib was a cultured man and I lived in India for 9 years. Will remember malar being of the cheek. Did not know natch meant of course. So not only did I have the immense (19d, hum…) satisfaction to complete the puzzle but I have also learnt a few words so altogether most enjoyable. many thanks to Shamus and to Toro’s review which I needed to check a few of my answers. 3*/4* with 21a and 22d for picks of the day.

  11. As others have mentioned, some of the wordplay took a lot of unpicking, but it was fun doing so and we have come to expect this in Shamus puzzles. A pity that he had not chosen a different synonym for place in 2d as seeing it in the clue and answer detracted from this one for us. The SW corner held us up somewhat as both the jacket in 22d and the cheeky word in 24a were new to us. Good fun to solve.
    Thanks Shamus and Toro.

    Toro. When you copied and pasted the heading you missed changing the number of the puzzle at the very top. It still shows as 1439.

    1. So I did! Thanks for spotting and letting me know. It’s corrected now.

      SW corner was last to yield for lots of us it seems.

  12. A most enjoyable solve – 24a made me smile but needed Toro to parse 16d (Art in Versaillles). Thanks Shamus and Toro for fun!

  13. Hard work but I got there in the end albeit it that I needed Toro’s hints for 10&21a. Couple of questions if anyone can help:-
    How does ES refer to ‘art in Versailles’ – what is it an abbreviation for?
    What it the relationship between ‘nymph’ and ‘echo’ in 7d?

    Enjoyed the challenge – thank you, Shamus – particularly liked 26a and 20d.
    Much appreciated your review, Toro – my admiration for those prepared to explain the answers to Toughies knows no bounds!

    1. Conjugation of the verb ‘to be’ in French:

      Je suis – I am
      Tu es – Thou art
      Il/Elle est – he/she is

      In Versailles just means ‘in French’.

      Echo was a nymph in Greek mythology – see here.

      1. My gratitude yet again, Gazza. ES was certainly a bit of a stretch but I did enjoy the link re: Echo.

  14. I couldn’t break into the SW corner at all, and had to use a Gazza hint for 26a to give me a fighting chance at the rest. Having needed such assistance l hesitate to offer an assessment, but in all humility l must give it 4* for difficulty. I liked 7d, though. Thanks to Shamus, and to Gazza for the review.

  15. I found the puzzle similar to several other comments – not too difficult to finish but not too easy to parse all the answers. I successfully completed it in about the same time as the back-pager which I found harder than usual for a Tuesday and less fun due to he frequent use of GK

    I was delighted – for one with vocabulary limitations – to find use of a word meaning “of course” or “naturally” that I only just learnt on Sunday courtesy of the Spectator magazine. Can’t do their funny crossword though!

    I struggled with this week’s Rufus puzzle again although I got there in the end. So often I get stuck on 2 or 3 clues for ages after polishing off the others pretty quickly. I hope I am not alone! Since Fridays have the reputation for being the hardest there is a human tendency to assume Mondays must be the easiest.

    Thanks to Shamus for a nice puzzle and Toro for the blog

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