Toughie 1403 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1403

Toughie No 1403 by Messinae

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ***

It’s been a long time (over 18 months) since I last blogged a Messinae puzzle and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, it turned out to be a typical Thursday puzzle which was pleasant enough to solve but not all that difficult. The wordplay was also fairly straightforward although I needed to consult the Big Red Book in order to understand 4 across.

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    Sound from vehicle in state of decay (6)
ROBUST: Sound or healthy = a public service vehicle inside state of decay

4a    Parisian is consuming last item on menu at bistro (8)
ESCARGOT: The French word for ‘is’ round a 5-letter word meaning last or load. This caused some head-scratching because I wasn’t familiar with this meaning of ‘last’

9a    Catch a butterfly (6)
COPPER: ‘To catch’ + ‘a’ (as in three ha’pence a foot)

10a    Scope of media gives chap anger (8)
COVERAGE: A chap + anger

11a    Bed in exercise to take poorly girl (9)
PAILLASSE: ‘To take poorly’ and a girl inside a 2-letter abbreviation denoting ‘exercise’. The alternative spelling wouldn’t fit

13a    Car that’s old is sound on track (5)
AUDI: A German make of car + O (old)

14a    Realm Medicaid upset? (6,7)
MIDDLE AMERICA: An anagram (upset) of REALM MEDICAID gives that part of the US that might be expected to oppose the expansion of Medicaid

17a    Car ferry stays perhaps — register departure later (4-2,4-3)
ROLL-ON ROLL-OFF: Stays (or corset) (4-2) + a register + departure

21a    Lie about what’s good for digestion? (5)
FIBRE: A lie + ‘about’

23a    Minder of crook is unarmed (9)
NURSEMAID: An anagram (crook) of IS UNARMED

24a    Platforms to test treatment to the extremity (8)
PODIATRY: Platforms + ‘to test’ = treatment of disorders of the foot

25a    Sole relation one has put outside (6)
PLAICE: A fish related to the sole = I (one) inside ‘to put’

26a    In agreement, as one detective to another (3,2,3)
EYE TO EYE: A detective + TO + a detective

27a    Sound made by seal in small pen perhaps (6)
CYGNET: A homophone of a small seal for making impressions = the offspring of a pen (bird)


1d    Cook’s instruction, ready to hold English cricket’s top spot (6)
RECIPE: ‘Ready’ goes round E (English) and C (first letter of cricket)

2d    Initiation rite’s suitable and is involved in youngster’s upbringing (9)
BAPTISMAL: An adjective relating to an initiation rite = ‘suitable’ and IS inside a reveral of a young animal

3d    Journalist after that woman will like some peas (7)
SHELLED: ‘that woman will’ + a leading journalist

5d    Rock and jazz pianist — obdurate type (11)
STONEWALLER: A rock + the surname of the jazz pianist known as Fats

6d    Mean to state how old one is (7)
AVERAGE: An split (4,3) this word for a mean could mean ‘state how old one is’

7d    Magnificent old lady with diamonds (5)
GRAND: An elderly female relative + D (diamonds)

8d    Duck sheltering eggs initially and youngster keeping completely dry (8)
TEETOTAL: A small freshwater duck goes round E (first letter of eggs) and a youngster

12d    Royals dabbling with green source of power (5,6)
SOLAR ENERGY: An anagram (dabbling) of ROYALS GREEN

15d    Blowing up trendy New York building — that’s not right (9)
INFLATION: ‘Trendy’ + the name of a New York skyscraper with the letter R (right) removed

16d    Battleship crashing through reef’s gap (4,4)
GRAF SPEE: An anagram (crashing) of REEF’S GAP

18d    Plant used for cooking liver, say, and duck around Spain (7)
OREGANO: A part of the body such as the liver and O (duck) round E (Spain)

19d    Covering too much in article — the opposite (7)
OVERLAY: The indefinite article goes inside ‘too much’

20d    Notice opening in the run-up to Christmas (6)
ADVENT: A notice + an opening

22d    Move one away from pet in cage (5)
BUDGE: Remove I (one) from a kind of pet that’s kept in a cage

I wonder whether next week will be more of the same

23 comments on “Toughie 1403

  1. Same as you, Bufo. Guessed 4a but didn’t know the central definition. Thanks for confirming 9a – another guess as I know my wildlife, but the “a” was a bit obtuse. Good, quick, easy and fun. I thought 25a and 27a both cute. Thanks guys.

  2. I found it quite mellow for a toughie.
    17a brought back memories of the terrible zeebruges ferry disaster.
    Took a bit of googling to find the German ship despite being an anagram.
    Loved 24a and the signet ring in 27a.
    Thanks to Messinae and to Bufo for the review.

      1. Never seen it, I’m too girly, but my husband talks about ships and stuff. I learn, see!

      2. Ha! I should have know that one and yet it was my last in. I knew it was an anagram. I knew it was a battleship. Did I know the answer? No. Had to Google it.

        I’m pretty certain that 11a was a new one for me too.

        The rest were a mix of R & W and slogging it out. I couldn’t parse 4a at all and I missed the anagram in 12d and just guessed the answer.

        However I had a full grid of correct answers so life is sweet.

        Many thanks to Messinae for a very enjoyable challenge and to Bufo for blogging.

        1. Ah – The Battle of the River Plate was a movie I watched over and over again – gave this one away for me.

  3. An interesting mix of some gimmes (17a & 12d & 26a) and some more difficult and more entertaining ones!

    4a – My last one in is my favourite! I thought last was going to be something to do with Cobblers! Does Jean-Luc have the recipe?

    27a (Sound made by seal …) and 25a (Sole relation …) vied for the top of the podium but only get silver and bronze.

    Thanks to Messinae & Bufo!

  4. I enjoyed this. I had the answer for 15D but the building eluded me until I read the review, and then I kicked myself. Pity there’s not a pic; it’s a beauty. I did know 16D, probably because of watching Victory at Sea so many times. 17A made me smile. Do women still wear those torture garments? I also liked 25A. Thanks to Messinae and to Bufo for the review.

  5. Very enjoyable , The central anagrams helped get me off to a good start a, along with 17a.
    I liked a lot of clues, my favourite is 4a, followed by 2d and 5d.
    Thanks Bufo (for the bed) and Messanae.

  6. A good entertaining puzzle for a lovely day here in Shropshire. Nothing in it to scare the horses but, like the others, 4a had to checked in the BRB – I’ll try and remember that one (fat chance). A lot of neat wordplay in many of the clues with my particular favourite being 12d, I don’t normally go for an anagram but I thought the surface was excellent. Just the one issue – 20d, surely it’s not that near.

    Thanks to Messina for the puzzle and Bufo for the blog.

  7. Yes indeed – a very easy toughie. Not the usual struggle for me!

    Very enjoyable and a sense of satisfaction even though not as challenging!

    1. We’ll not be able to avoid doing that one. We found out at The George that Notabilis grew up just over the hill from where one of us was born and bred.

  8. On the gentle side for a Toughie, but worth the effort. I made it 2*/3* or so. 25a gets my vote for top clue; it made me laugh immoderately. Many thanks to Messinae, and of course to Bufo.

  9. The spelling of 11a held us up until we checked in BRB and the meaning of ‘last’ in 4a was also new. A bit further investigation showed that we did know the word, at least in its combined form, in ‘ballast’. We found it about medium difficulty for a Toughie and a lot of good original fun to solve.
    Thanks Messinae and Bufo.

  10. Very pleasant solve – not a tough toughie!

    Faves : 17a & 5d.

    Am up late waiting for an email from my son to indicate his arrival in the house in the Var.

    1. Hi Derek,
      When I come back down to the Var from Paris, I often have lunch first in the European in front of gare de Lyon.
      They used to have an old railway poster claiming that Hyeres was only 48h away.
      Hope you won’t have to wait that long.

  11. Another one that would not be out of place on the back page. Worse still – as a big RayT fan – he seems to have gone soft on us again today. So lots of time today to catch up on puzzles where work had unfortunately stopped play – and as is quite usual I had more trouble with Monday’s Rufus than either of the two Telegraph puzzles today and the Sunday one seemed harder than usual.

  12. Well! Eventually got there with a little electronic help. No idea about 16d.. Had to look up the answer to that one. I particularly liked 24a as that is my profession…wouLd have been unforgivable if I didn’t get that one. Quite hard for me, but easier than some Toughies of late which I’ve had to abandon….at least I finished this one. Thanks to setter and to Bufo for the hints. ***/***

  13. We agree with Liz – we found this far easier than usual for a Toughie and therefore thoroughly enjoyed it. We needed Bufo’s help to explain why some of our answers were right – 8d the last one in. Thanks to Bufo and the Setter.

  14. Friday afternoon and just finished Thursday’s puzzle. There were some pretty easy ones in this – 17a & 26a being two of them. Still, 4a &24a were tricky and I still don’t understand 9a properly. Does “A” equate to “PER”? Anyway thanks to all concerned and I’m told that Friday’s offering is going to be v. good. Sh-Shoney.

  15. A lovely puzzle. It kept me sane as, as a passenger, we fought our way back to Kent from Hay on Wye yesterday. If anyone else tried it they will know that all main motorways were more “stop” than “go”. Horrible!

  16. Thanks to Messinae and to Bufo for the review and hints. Just on the limit of my solving ability. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Had the wrong ending for 15d. Once I corrected it, managed to get 27a, but needed the hints for 19d&25a. Favourite was 24a. Was 4*/3* for me.

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