Toughie 1377

Toughie No 1377 by Dada

Hints and tips by Toro

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

In 5d, Dada has scrupulously obeyed one of the five principles of 'How to avoid upsetting solvers' laid down by Alan Connor in his superb 2013 book Two Girls, One on Each Knee (7). If you have a copy, please turn to p. 38. If you don't, go and buy one -- it really is a brilliant read.

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 bit to nibble after seconds (5)
SPECK A verb meaning to nibble follows S(econds).

4a Nick cleans back to front (5)
SWIPE A word for cleans (e.g. a kitchen surface) with the final letter moved to the front.

10a Circling Floridian capital, tornado swirling this way and that (2,3,3)
TO AND FRO Anagram (swirling) of TORNADO around F(loridian).

11a I step back after getting caught in polar area (3,3)
ICE CAP I from the clue, then a word for a step, in reverse, goes round C(aught).

12a Rely on fish shop (6)
BETRAY To rely or bank, plus a fish.

13a Common intention to embrace feeble wit, though odd bits ignored (8)
PLEBEIAN A scheme or intention around (f)E(e)B(l)E(w)I(t).

14a Tory PM, figure behind party moving to the left (7)
BALFOUR A number preceded by the abbreviation for a political party in reverse (moving to the left).

16a Team from the heart of Mexico, capped? (6)
ELEVEN Cryptically defined by the central two letters of MEXICO when written in caps.

17a Paw prints evident, only hindmost parts on small mammal (6)
MOLEST The rear letters of (print)S (eviden)T preceded by a small burrowing mammal.

19a Bag prepared -- unable to talk about it (7)
MUSETTE A synonym of prepared inside a word meaning unable to talk.

21a Prowler detailed working in Roman building (8)
PANTHEON An animal that prowls, minus its final letter (de-tailed), plus a word meaning working.

22a Shakespearean role overwhelming a leading actor, once? (6)
REAGAN two senses. One of King Lear's daughters going round (overwhelming) A from the clue.

23a Something perhaps hidden in Copenhagen, Danish? (6)

24a Chance upon worthless horse (4,4)
BUMP INTO A word for worthless or duff and a horse of piebald colouring.

25a Rich, even (5)
FLUSH Double definition of an adjective meaning both cash-rich and even or aligned.

26a Hit nose on the counter, then back of neck (5)
KNOCK A reversal (on the counter) of a word for nose, then the final letter of (nec)K.


2d Saw vacant hostelry welcoming drifter (7)
PROVERB The outer letters (vacant) of a word for a hostelry, into which a word for a drifter is inserted.

3d Domestic system, cold alternating with hot circulating round house, ultimately (7,7)
CENTRAL HEATING An anagram (circulating) of C(old), ALTERNATING and H(ot) around the last letter (ultimately) of (hous)E.

5d Rump of cow and frog, perhaps, in huge pork pie! (7)
WHOPPER The final letter of (co)W and a noun that could describe a frog.

6d Rich in phosphorus, unlike sushi perhaps? (9)
PRICELESS The chemical symbol for phosphorus plus a made-up adjective that could not describe sushi (but could describe sashimi).

7d Second, not first, is dubious (4)
IFFY A second or mo, minus the first letter.

8d Opening extraction of dentist, ne'er a drilling (14)
DEFENESTRATION An anagram (drilling) of OF DENTIST NE'ER A.

9d Centre for monarch in residence (6)
PALACE The middle letter of (mon)A(rch) inside a word for home, pad or residence.

15d Wide awake, dribbling perhaps? (2,3,4)
ON THE BALL Dribbling in football, say.

18d Wander south of old tree (6)
ORANGE A verb meaning to wander goes below (south of) O(ld).

19d Vehicle has less to carry in bottle tops (7)
MINIBUS Less (as in 'subtracting') around the first letters of I(n) B(ottle).

20d One imprisoned in castle, forced to be resilient (7)
ELASTIC The Roman numeral one inside an anagram (forced) of CASTLE.

22d One's inclined to combine force and power (4)
RAMP To force (or insert forcibly) plus P(ower).

Several clever and witty clues from Dada today, of which 22a and 24a were this solver's picks.

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



  1. crypticsue
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    The problems I had in the SE corner took me into toughie time and there were even very faint glimpses of Halpern magic that we usually find elsewhere, so I’d give this one 3.5*/3* too. I too liked 22a and 24a but I also enjoyed the ‘opening extraction’ definition in 8d.

    Thanks to Dada and Toro too.

  2. Pegasus
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Good fun puzzle, favourites were 15d 17a and 24a thanks to Dada and to Toro for the comments.

  3. Liz
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I don’t believe it! ( with apologies to Victor Meldrew) ! I actually managed to finish this puzzle without the help of the hints (apart from one – just to check, you understand) and in record time!! Either this puzzle was incredibly easier than normal…… Or my brain is having a power surge! Anyway I enjoyed it And will savour it as it is very unlikely to happen again. Thanks to setter and to Toro…..**/**** for me. I’m now about to try the back page one, so getting prepared for a complete come down……

    • Toro
      Posted April 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

  4. andy
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    12a Reminded me of the following back in January this year. from the radio 4 broadcast

    Venture with fish shop (6)

    Liked 5d and 24a, thanks to Dada and Toro

    • Toro
      Posted April 14, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Wow, well remembered! I loved that puzzle.

  5. Shropshirelad
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    A really enjoyable puzzle to start off the week. Some super wordplay and a lot of fun, 24a probably being my favourite.

    So thanks to Dada for the puzzle and Toro for the review.

  6. jean-luc cheval
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Remembered Arachne clue from Jan also.
    25 and 26a were my last ones in.
    21a gave me a bit of trouble first as I thought it was a Greek building and even if it made sense from the parsing, I wasn’t happy with my answer.
    Same for 14a, first thought of Baldwin but that didn’t make sense either.
    Liked the sushi clue a lot.
    Thanks to Dada for the grid and to Toro for the review.

  7. Expat Chris
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I found the RHS of the grid very difficult and missed out on 8D and 22A. I was also wrong on 17A, having bunged in rodent for no good reason. I did like 21A and 24A. Thanks to Dada and to Toro for the review.

  8. Paso Doble
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Just finished now, in between gardening, seeing friends and a session in the gym. Tough for us but solvable without outside help. We’re eating Japanese style this evening so 6d has to be our favourite. Thanks to setter and Toro….we agree with his ‘star’ assessment.

  9. crypticsue
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Having arrived home, and looked at my copy of Alan Connor’s book, I now know what Toro was on about in the prologue.

    For those of you not lucky enough to have the book (and why haven’t you got a copy) “Above all, be careful how you describe the movement of amphibians. ‘Frogs hop, sir,’ wrote a solver to theNew York Times puzzle editor Will SHortz, ‘but toads do not. They waddle”. :)

    • Toro
      Posted April 14, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      And this week’s rose goes to…. crypticsue

  10. Heno
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks to Dada and Toro for the review and hints. I enjoyed this one, and did ok until I got to the SE Corner, needed the hints for 13,19,22,24,25,26 across. Managed all the down clues, how unusual. Favourite was 3d. Was 4*/4* for me.

  11. Una
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Terrific puzzle which I managed to finish with only a few hints.Thanks Toro and Dada.My favourite was 24a.

  12. Outnumbered
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I found this surprisingly easy, until going somewhat awry in the bottom right. Had a bung-in for 24a that was wrong and so a couple of others didn’t fit properly. Very enjoyable and thanks to setter and Toro.

  13. Beet
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Flushed with success from last Friday I tried my second Toughie today. Top half fell into place very quickly, bottom half required some head scratching. I had to look up 19a in the dictionary to check it, and I needed the hint for 17a, but overall not too bad. My favourites were 16 and 24 a and 6 d.

  14. 2Kiwis
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    We just knew that we would not be the only ones who spent much longer than we should have trying to justify ‘rodent’ for 17a. For this reason it gets our vote for favourite for a big list of contenders that kept us chuckling. 24a for example. Really good fun, much enjoyed.
    Thanks Dada and Toro.

  15. happy days
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy the humour in Dada’s crosswords, so lacking in many puzzles – and the humour in Toro’s reviews

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted April 14, 2015 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      I’m right with you there, happy days (what a great moniker)

  16. Rachel
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Never having got more than one right in a Toughie before, I am well chuffed (as they say). ‘Twill never happen again. I loved 24a, it made me laugh. Thanks Dada and Toro!

    • Shropshirelad
      Posted April 14, 2015 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      Well done Rachel

  17. alan claxton
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Bu**er, 17 Got me, couldn’t get away from rodent, Grrrrrrrrrrrrrh

  18. Salty Dog
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Yes, certainly gusting 4* difficulty for me, and very satisfying (so 4* for pleasure derived too). 19d was too clever for me; I made a guess at “minicab”, and didn’t realise my mistake until l spotted 24a. I liked 8d – if only for its length – but 22a finally nudged into favouritism. Many thanks to Dada, and of course to Toro.

  19. Wolfson Bear
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Fell for the rodent – could not explain it but it seemed such a coincidence with “dent” as the hindmost part of one word in the clue. If this was intentional misdirection then it was masterly. It is easy to pencil in such answers and forget they were considered dodgy at the time. I had doubts about the “Palace” one because it seemed so easy (although this could be justified without much difficulty) that I was unsure until all checking letters were in place

    I was surprised at first to see a 3* difficulty rating – I would have given it two but then I got one wrong! So – on second thoughts 3* is not unreasonable. Good fun. Thanks to setter and blogger

  20. Catnap
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    This has taken me a while, but I really rather enjoyed it. ****/**** for me. I liked 4a, 21a, 22a, 24a, 5d and 6d.

    I needed help for 12a and 17a. I, too, thought of ‘rodent’ but, as it just didn’t fit, I didn’t write it in. Despite having the correct answers, I didn’t get parts of the parsing of 14a, 26a and 9d quite right. Also, I should have realised that 3d was an all-in-one but I didn’t! Otherwise all was well, and I’m very pleased.

    Many thanks to Dada for the mental stretching and the fun.

    And much appreciation to Toro for the most helpful review. (On the basis of your recommendation and Crypticsue’s delightful quote, I have given myself a present and ordered a copy of Two Girls, One On Each Knee!)

  21. molly
    Posted April 26, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    10 days behind as usual, but I had to say, what a wonderful puzzle this was, many thanks to Dada and Toro for confirming my reasoning. 24ac made me laugh.