Toughie 1453 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1453

Toughie No 1453 by Excalibur

Should have gone to Specsavers??

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty **Enjoyment ***

I quite enjoyed this gentle start to the Toughie week, even though it was annoying to find the paper hadn’t got the right clue for 3d, but had instead an amended version (which matched the online version) of 4d.   Fortunately for me, I am an online subscriber too but I bet there are a lot of confused people out there today.

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           Suitable site to develop for real estate (10)
PROPERTIES   Another word for suitable followed by an anagram (to develop)of SITE.

9a           Performer that’s mad to retire (4)
DIVA   Whether the definition is performer or mad, this clue is definitely an old friend of the crossword solver – this time an adjective meaning keen (mad) is reversed (to retire) to produce an operatic prima donna (performer).

10a         I get a raven trained so it’s not eating worms, for example (10)
VEGETARIAN   Someone who doesn’t eat any form of meat (especially worms) is an anagram (trained) of I GET A RAVEN.


11a         In the thick of having fifth of brandy in a blur (6)
AMIDST   The fifth letter of brandy inserted into a way of saying a blur.

12a         Advised cheese given as nourishment (7)
BRIEFED   Split 4, 3, this might sound like a French cheese being given as nourishment.

15a         Fight for jobs, when many left the services? (4-3)
POST-WAR   A job followed by a big ‘fight’.

16a         Object that’s a little less than decorous (5)
DEMUR   This verb is obtained by removing the last letter from an adjective meaning decorous or modest in dress or manners.

17a         Manage to catch by one’s tail (4)
COPE   A slang verb meaning to catch or capture followed by the ‘tail’ of one.

18a         Second person spelling ‘article’ with two Es (4)
THEE   An old-fashioned way of referring to the second person or ‘you’ – the definite article followed by another E.

19a         For ‘Safety Devices’, contains additional material (5)
HASPS   Part of a verb meaning contains followed by the abbreviation for additional material added at the end of a letter.


21a         A Gallic translation would be ‘très froid’ (7)
GLACIAL   An anagram (translation) of A GALLIC.


22a         Flight announced from Eurasian ecoregion (7)
STEPPES   This Eurasian region sounds like (announced) part of a flight of stairs.

24a         Less lustrous. That’s what’s wrong (6)
MATTER   Dull or lustreless or a thing of concern

27a         I dither ineptly, about to do the wrong thing, get cut off (10)
DISINHERIT An anagram (ineptly) of I DITHER into which is inserted a moral offence (the wrong thing).

28a         Our forfeiting right to child – that hurt! (4)
OUCH   Remove (forfeiting) the R (right) from OUR and replace  with the abbreviation for child.


29a         Watches closely as long-term partnership has foundered (6,4)
STANDS OVER Saying that a long-term partnership, possibly between two batsmen in a game of cricket had foundered because one of them was out would, if changed to 6, 4 (or even 5’1, 4) mean watches closely.

2d           Pipe repaired, the two left (4)
REED   Remove the couple (two left) from the middle of REPAIRED.

3d           Run through – run through article (6)
PIERCE   The abbreviation for run inserted into a literary article.

4d           With wild cat entering, animals after turning tail didn’t remain impassive (7)
REACTED   Some animals are reversed (turned tail) and then have an anagram (wild) of CAT inserted.

5d           Gentleman – I must stand for a lady (4)
IRIS   I (from the clue) followed by a reversal of a way of referring to a gentleman.

6d           Caballero, at the inside, is a politician (7)
SENATOR   Put AT (from the clue) inside a Spanish gentleman (caballero).

7d           Regarding the stock, don’t buy it (6-4)
WINDOW-SHOP   A cryptic definition of looking at stuff one dreams of buying.

window shopping

8d           Closing rounds (4,6)
LAST ORDERS   What Miffypops or Saint Sharon might call out just before closing time in order to encourage their customers to buy one more round of drinks.

12d         Not mah-jong – mah! (10)
BACKGAMMON  Once you have the checking letters it is easy to see which board game (not mah-jong) you require.   Split your solution 4, 6, and it would sound like an instruction to reverse a particular type of cold meat. With this in mind, have a look at the last word of the clue!


13d         Actually that’s not rusty (2,8)
IN PRACTICE   What really happens when something is done could be a way of describing someone keeping their skills up to date (not rusty).

14d         Transfer figure in wood frame (5)
DECAL   A transfer of a picture or design –   insert (frame) the Roman numeral for 100 (figure) into a type of wood.

15d         Shoes – large number in the clutches of little guys that chew them? (5)
PUMPS   The Roman numeral for 1,000 inserted into (in the clutches of) small animals that might chew these light shoes without a fastening, or indeed any other sort of footwear.


19d         With look that’s in, spent dosh for personal grooming (4-3)
HAIR-DOS Insert a look or manner into an anagram (spent) of DOSH.


20d         Spotted as it wanders back home (7)
STAINED   An anagram (wanders) of AS IT followed by a reversal (back) of a wild animal’s home.

23d         English playwright depicting Greek character and notorious Roman one (6)
PINERO   This actor and playwright doesn’t sound as if he should be English but he is – the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet followed by a notorious Roman emperor.

25d         A second and first-class returns from the continent (4)
ASIA   A (from the clue) the abbreviation for second and a reversal (returns) of the two letters used to denote first class.

26d         Seven seen off, how many will be left? (4)
FIVE     If you remove (off)  SEEN from SEVEN you are left with a Roman numeral, translate it into English and you have the answer to the question.

I did like 2d and 26d but I’m not going to call them ‘favourites’ as that will get me into trouble with Kath.

39 comments on “Toughie 1453

  1. This was a delight to solve from square one Perfect surface readings and humour in plenty How can I pick a favourite? 15d provided the nicest mental picture – one that the illustration fitted ideally. Thanks Excalibur and Cryptic Sue

  2. I made heavy weather of this, but having completed it I can’t for the life of me see why! It is all absolutely fair. Probably too little sleep. I couldn’t parse 12D, though the answer was obvious with the checkers, as you say, CS. Now that I’ve read the hint, that has to be my favorite. Many thanks to you for the review, and to Excalibur for the puzzle.

  3. I was totally confused by the 3d / 4d cock-up in the newspaper … almost discombobulated!

    As always a most enjoyable puzzle from Excalibur.

    Agree with CS about 2d & 26d – my favourite pair of clues!

    ps Thanks to Hanni for the early Comment on the Comment page and to CS for the reply – that made solving 3d so much easier.

    (Or do I mean 4d?)

    1. Confusing wasn’t it? It did occur to me that it might not be a mistake due to the colon in 4d.

      However at 7 a.m I just flung the paper to one side.

  4. I found this quite difficult but CS’s crystal clear clues helped me get over the 3d debacle.We had a Rookie setter recently, I can’t remember who, who had several pairs of clues which read exactly the same but had different solutions. I thought the same thing was going on here.
    My favourite is 15d, also for the lovely mental image. I liked quite a lot of the clues , actually, 12a, 12d, 26d etc.
    Thanks CS and Excalibur.

  5. A quiet day at work left me with time for the toughie today and it proved to be very doable with a pleasant sense of achievement on completion and some smiles along the way. 26d was my favourite.
    Thanks to Excalibur for the entertainment and CS for the review.

  6. Like many I was off to a good start with the 3/4d issue.

    The rest wasn’t too bad at all. 19a was my last fact I needed all the checking letters to get it, yep all of them. Struggled a bit with 3d too.

    Lots of lovely clues in 2d, 8d and 22a. Favourite is 26d.

    Many thanks to Excalibur and to CS for blogging and sorting things out this morning.

  7. With the exception of the Telegraph Towers cock-up on the paper version, this was a very pleasant way to start off the toughie week. Some really good surfaces (10a), clue constructs (21a) and smile moments (15d). I have several ticks identifying favourites, so I shall not incur the wrath of Kath by suggesting more than one (although I can’t decide on one).

    Thanks to Excalibur for the puzzle and thanks to CS for the helpful (albeit not needed) review. But BIG THANKS for the much needed clue for 3d CS

  8. Thanks to setter and particular thanks to CS for sorting out 3 down, which was the only one I had not managed, otherwise it was a super puzzle IMO.favourite must be 19ac.

  9. Didn’t know who the setter was until the review was posted.
    Should have guessed from the smoothness of the surface.
    Not a very difficult solve but extremely enjoyable.
    Last one in was 14d. Although I had the tree, it took a while to find the middle letter. Totally new word for me. We have the verb décaler in France but I have a hard time trying to associate it with transfer.
    Favourite is 12d.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to CS for the review.

    1. JL – as a child my favourite hobby was building Airfix models. When the model was complete and painted it was finished off by putting on decals (transfers) provided with the kit. You put the sheet of decals in a saucer of tepid water and then teased them off to put on the model. Military aircraft especially could be painted in different colour schemes and using different decals to identify a particular pilot.

        1. Thanks, Jean-Luc – my 9 year old son’s just started making Airfix models and I wondered where the word ‘decal’ came from, without getting round to looking it up. You inspired me to google & found – love the idea that ‘cockamamie’ came from this too, isn’t language great!

          Pleased I managed to finish this one finally, loved 12d and others. Held up on bottom half for a while, not least because got stuck on ‘err’ being the wrong thing in 27a… 19a LOI, like Hanni, I needed all the checkers and an alphabet run-through…. Thanks to Excalibur & CS.

  10. Yes, 2*/3* or thereabouts. I liked 12d and 9a, but will plump for the former as favourite clue. It was an amusing exercise to devise my own clues (and alternative answers) for 3d, but l hope the DT won’t make a habit of this sort of thing. Thanks to Excalibur, and to CrypticSue for the review.

  11. This was a delight, and went in quicker than the back pager (except for 3d which remained blank after much staring). My paper subscription ends this month anyway.

    Favourite clue was 12d (mah-jong) – brilliant!

    I enjoyed the anagrams in 10a (I get a raven trained) and 21a (A Gallic translation). Other clues I ticked as very nice included 11a (fifth of brandy), 12a (advised cheese), 15a (fight for jobs), 5d (gentleman, I must stand) and 26d (seven seen off).

    Many thanks Excalibur and thanks CS for hints and especially the 3d alert.

    1. That’s my day sorted, then! Ironing to do – but that might be just the thing to keep the ‘cogs’ turning.

  12. managed to finish-hints much appreciated !

    actually enjoyed this more than the cryptic on the back page

    thought 12D very clever

  13. I loved this one – I’ve chuckled my way through the whole thing.
    I’ve never heard of 14d – I went through the whole alphabet, mentally, and didn’t manage to come up with a letter that produced a word I knew – oh dear!
    I’ve also never heard of 19a but it had to be what it was.
    I liked so many of these clues that I’m not going to mention any in particular.
    With many thanks to Excalibur, for cheering up a wet afternoon, and to CS for the hints and piccies.

  14. Yes, 3d completely floored me. I thought it was a printing error but, with a Toughie, you never can tell.

    12d was brilliant I laughed out loud as they say..

    I think, for 14d you have to belong to the Formica generation.

  15. I thought this one was just the best! Eight contenders for top spot (sorry, Kath) – 15&28a plus 2,7,8,12,15& 26d.
    Definitely needed CS to sort out the parsing for 12d (brilliant) and confess that 23d was a guess.
    Thanks to SL for the explanation of a 14d – Airfix wasn’t really on my agenda as a youngster!

    Many thanks indeed to Excalibur and to CS – the cake is delicious, thank you.

  16. Struggled for ages on 3D. Was convinced it was a clever clue and not a replicated 4D as the punctuation and wording slightly different. Ha I was wrong, thanks for frazzling my brain Telegraph!!

  17. Delightful is the word that comes first to mind to describe this puzzle. It seemed to have a light whimsicality about it that kept us smiling through the solve. From the other comments, it appears we were not the only ones who found it so. Much enjoyed.
    Thanks Excalibur and CS.

  18. Thanks for the mention at 8d CS. I called time the first night that I ran a pub and everybody buggered off home. I have never called time since. Lovely puzzle though. Solved whilst ignoring Saint Sharon over dinner. Ta to all.

  19. Absolutely loved this – and not just because we managed to finish it! Some really delightful clues, especially 12d – a favourite game of ours once we have finished doing puzzles. **/*****

  20. Fortunately, I had read the helpful comment from CS re 3d before I started. 2*/3* for me, though the clue for 12d had me bamboozled until I read the hint. Thanks to setter and CS.

  21. Grrr. Doesn’t anyone proofread this stuff anymore? There seems to be a foul up in the paper every week or so. At least the solution to 3d was one of the possible words I identified. I thought this was the best Excalibur for ages and even more quirky than usual, which is why I thought it possible that 3d and 4d were intentional. Very impressed with both 15a and 7d.

    No Captain Beefheart fan could have any problem with 14d but I guess you’re all too young!

    Many thanks to Excalibur and to CS for the blog.

    1. Sorry halcyon, never too young – I do remember how to ‘lick my decals off’ – but not recommended whilst making airfix models

        1. It does Hanni – it does

          I think that you’re a white wine slurper (like me), but I do enjoy a nice spicy red every now and then. This week’s top tip is a French Cote du Rhone from ASDA at £6 a bottle (reduced from £8 something). Cru des Cotes du Rhône from Cellier des Dauphin Vinsobres village. Very tasty with a lovely piece of beef

          Btw – did you try the Waitrose Chenin Blanc?

          1. Oh weird…I have to go to Asda tomorrow. Red wine is a winter drink and the leaves on our horse chestnuts outside are just starting to turn. I think that justifies stocking up on a spicy red or 6. Any excuse.

            Not tried the Chenin yet. It’s so easy to slip into just drinking what you know, so great again having recommendations.

            Are you and Mrs SL coming to the January birthday bash?

            1. I will certainly be there (God willing) but am unsure of Mrs SL’s availability to attend (she still works – bless). I will stop being the site’s free sommelier unless people take up my recommendations – you know who you are

              1. Oh good grief. My OH is retired…took it early from teaching, I’m still working. The joy never ends.

                I swear I’ll drink the Chenin…

  22. Cannot remember enjoying an Excalibur puzzle more ,12 d undoubtedly favourite for me amongst many smiles .Thanks very much to both .

  23. Under today’s Toughie in the paper it says:

    Toughie 1453: Apologies for the repeated clue in yesterday’s Toughie. The clue for 3 Down should have been…….”

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