Toughie 1459 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Toughie 1459

Toughie No 1459 by Samuel

Hints and tips by Bufo

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

BD Rating – Difficulty *Enjoyment ***

Once again I feel short-changed. I settled down ready to give the brain a thorough work-out only to complete the puzzle without the brain having to get out of first gear.

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    Heartless girl having love affair — it’s attractive (7)
GLAMOUR: GirL with the middle two letters removed + a love affair

5a    Dirk, perhaps, turned ready to cut straggly beard (7)
BOGARDE: The surname of the actor Dirk = a reversal of an informal word for ‘ready’ inside an anagram (straggly) of BEARD

9a    Quivering, let room in error (7)
TREMOLO: An anagram (in error) of LET ROOM

10a    Climb north face of escarpment with uneven sides (7)
SCALENE: ‘To climb’ + N (north) + the first letter of Escarpment = a word most commonly used to describe a triangle which is neither equilateral nor isosceles

11a    Favour harbours in remote place (9)
BOONDOCKS: A favour + harbours = a North American word for wild or remote country

12a    Go on / aircraft (5)
DRONE: 2 meanings: to go on (and on and on) monotonously/an aircraft piloted by remote control

13a    Did Live Dead with band (5)
DWELT: D (Dead) + a band or border on a knitted garment

15a    Fisherman’s return? (3,6)
NET PROFIT: This is a term for the excess of selling price over costs incurred

17a    Groups of English bless men at war (9)
ENSEMBLES: E (English) + an anagram (at war) of BLESS MEN

19a    Nobody comes back after 10:25? (5)
XENON: A reversal of ‘nobody’ follows the Roman numeral for 10 to give a gaseous example of a 25 across

22a    Seize Government file (5)
GRASP: G (Government) + a coarse file

23a    Spread team out beyond base (4,5)
MEAT PASTE: A spread for sandwiches = an anagram (out) of TEAM + ‘beyond’ + the base of natural logarithms

25a    Cooked carp blended with this ingredient could be replacement (7)
ELEMENT: Remove the letters R, P, A and C (i.e. cooked CARP) from REPLACEMENT

26a    Daring force to leave could be lacking in sense? (7)
EARLESS: Remove F (force) from the start of a word meaning ‘daring’ to give ‘lacking an organ of hearing’

27a    Socialist returned and travelled river (7)
DERWENT: A reversal of a socialist + ‘travelled’ = the river on which Derby stands or the river on which Workington stands or the river on which Consett stands or the river on which Malton stands

28a    See how far one can get from moon with unknown on board (3,2,2)
TRY IT ON: A moon of Neptune named after a minor Greek sea god (the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite) goes round a letter that denotes an unknown quantity


1d    Retire, having received medal with daughter (2,2,3)
GO TO BED: Retire for the night = ‘received’ + a medal + D (daughter)

2d    Compound original bit of trouble between two singles (7)
ACETONE: A chemical compound (the simplest of the ketones) used as a solvent and thinner = single + the first letter of Trouble + single

3d    Nothing, absolutely nothing, is like an egg (5)
OVOID: O (nothing) + absolutely nothing (an empty space)

4d    Almost alone, actor struggles to get canine part? (4,5)
ROOT CANAL: An anagram (struggles) of ALON ACTOR = part of a tooth, e.g. a canine

5d    Supports singer taking in start of Eurovision (5)
BASES: A singer with a deep voice round the first letter of Eurovision

6d    Relative died getting pictures incorporating river race (5,4)
GRAND PRIX: An aged female relative + D (died) + pictures round R (river)

7d    Speak fluently of problem for machinist? (4,3)
REEL OFF: This could be a problem for a user of a machine in the textile industry

8d    It’s forbidding, top to bottom, on Tibet’s southern border (7)
EVEREST: Take a 6-letter word meaning ‘forbidding’ and move the first letter to the end. Then add T (the last letter of TibeT). The whole clue provides the definition

14d    Watch, perhaps, to establish length of aria? (9)
TIMEPIECE: This could be a wristwatch. When split (4,5) it could mean ‘establish length of aria or other musical composition’

16d    Trial meant unravelling will (9)
TESTAMENT: A trial + an anagram (unravelling) of MEANT

17d    Say that man’s boring Georgia on date — he’s a boffin (7)
EGGHEAD: An abbreviation denting ‘say’ + ‘that man’ inside the abbreviation for the US state of Georgia + D (date)

18d    Arabian goes after sailor trapped by mostly spotted animal (3,4)
SEA BEAR: AR (Arabian) goes after a 2-letter abbreviation for a sailor inside ‘spotted or noticed’ with the last letter removed

20d    Dry? Yes! (2,5)
NO SWEAT: Perspiration is absent

21d    Composer adopts a respectful position, it’s said, with nurse (7)
NIELSEN: The surname of a Danish composer + a homophone of ‘adopts a respectful position’ + an abbreviation for a nurse

23d    Spot tense composition (5)
MOTET: A speck of dust + T (tense)

24d    Settle over Bishop’s defence (5)
PARRY: ‘To settle the bill’ round an abbreviation denoting a Bishop

I’m away again next week. See you in a fortnight.

89 comments on “Toughie 1459

  1. A perfect back page puzzle (or inside back page today as the back page is filled with scantily clad ladies). Shame this particular crossword was on page 14 of the paper masquerading as a Toughie. The IBP by Ray T took me longer than this one to solve.

    Thanks to Samuel and Bufo.

    1. I thought it was three pictures of the same scantily clad lady on the back page. Must check it out.

      As regards the puzzle … a lot easier than the inside back-pager and also far more enjoyable.

      1. I didn’t look that closely at the pictures (I was keen to find the puzzles) so I’ll take your word for it.

    2. Couldn’t agree more. ?Shame the DT has odd ideas about what constitutes a Back pager and toughie but at least I had something to have a go at today given the the BP was by HIM,

      1. I beg to disagree Brian – today’s inside back page was so simple that it could have been a coffee time puzzle, but this particular toughie was waaaaaay beyond my pea brain’s understanding. One man’s meat and another man’s poison comes to mind as regards today’s puzzles.

  2. Yes, easier than today’s back pager and went remarkably quickly until I hit SE where I had to shift down a gear.

    I like 10a (climb north face) and was grateful that I’d been helping the kids with their geometry. The mountaineering continues in 8d (It’s forbidding..) with a nice &lit (all-in-one). I liked the quirky 19a (10:25), where I tried some dead ends before understanding what was going on. It also took me a while to realise “yes” worked as a definition in 20d (dry? yes!).

    Many thanks Samuel and thank you Bufo for the review.

  3. I enjoyed this one very much – I thought it was about the same difficulty as the Ray T in the ‘other place’.
    I found the top half much easier than the bottom where I did hit a few spots of bother.
    It took me ages to understand the relevance of the ’25’ bit in 19a.
    I didn’t understand the second word of 23a – I’ve forgotten what little I ever knew about logarithms!
    Spent too long trying to fit a ‘B’ into 24d.
    I liked 11a and 6 and 17d. My favourite was 20d because it made me laugh.
    With thanks to Samuel for the crossword and to Bufo for the hints.

  4. Re 5a, I must have my thick head on today as I can’t think of any sense in which ‘go’ can be an informal word for ‘ready’.

    1. I think it’s not uncommon these days in the business world when a project is complete, to sign off on it by saying “That’s a go.”

  5. It may have been relatively easy but it was highly entertaining. Good to see a namecheck for the Dead and one of their finest albums [13a]. Top clues 23a [spread] 4d [canine part] and the very well put together19a with 25a.

    Many thanks Samuel and to Bufo for blogging it.

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this, though there were several that gave me pause. 25A and 2D were favorites, with 11A and 20D close behind. Thanks to Samuel and Bufo.

  7. Please don’t be too hard on Samuel…it’s so nice for me to be able to complete one of these…I don’t have the time to do them often enough to keep in practise. By the way Bufo, you have the wrong answer for 5d (just a typo). I enjoyed checking all my answers. I have achieved my challenge of completing the toughie without help (even if you all think it was easy, I am still proud of myself!)?

    1. Well done to you – I don’t think that anyone is being hard on Samuel and anyway, for what it’s worth, I agree with you that it’s really nice to be able to finish the occasional one.

  8. All went swimmingly well until I hit a brick wall with about half a dozen to go. Those must have taken as long as the rest of the puzzle put together.
    New words at 10a,18&23d. I never did parse the final ‘E’ in 23a – that plus 23d were my last ones in.
    I also needed to check with Mr. Google about the 21d composer.
    A lot that I really liked but I’ll give the vote to 20d for its (dry) humour!
    Definitely into 3* territory for me with 4* for enjoyment – I found the Mr. T back(ish) pager much easier.
    Thanks to Samuel for the pleasure of this one and to Bufo for the blog – sorry you didn’t have as much fun with this as I did.

  9. I am not complaining about the level of difficulty, in fact I needed 3 hints.Some terrific clues, such as 2d, 8d, 19a , and 21d.
    Thanks Samuel and Bufo.

  10. Don’t be too rude about this. At least I finished it whereas yesterday’s puzzle, even with the hints, was completly incomprehensible. A right waste of time!

  11. This was a very enjoyable puzzle. Maybe not the trickiest ever set but, hey, who cares? I enjoyed it and that’s all that matters as far as I’m concerned.

    Much thanks to setter and to Bufo.

  12. I had a thought. Maybe the Telegraph would consider publishing a third cryptic under the title of Fiendish or Diabolical , to satisfy the tastes of the cognoscenti.

    1. Perhaps we are all getting better at these without realising it? Time was when I couldn’t even get one clue in a Toughie, let alone finish it. If we had a Fiendish or Diabolical or whatever, we’d all have to start over again…how depressing is that!?

      1. I’m with you on this one, Liz. Apart from the ensuing sense of depression, I really don’t have the time to devote to THREE puzzles a day!

    2. This is how the Telegraph describes the Toughie:

      Fiendish, diabolical, cruel
      The Toughie is not like a normal cryptic crossword. It is the most fiendishly difficult daily puzzle emanating from Fleet Street. Conquering it is no mean feat. The Toughie is set by a selection of compliers (including Giovanni, Firefly, Notabilis, Kcit, and Jed) from Tuesday to Friday every week. “We have selected a team of evil geniuses” says the Telegraph’s Crossword Editor, “The Toughie will be a gladiatorial contest between solver and setter.”

  13. enjoyed this puzzle

    thought 28A & 1D very good

    was pleasantly surprised to have finished, albeit with the help of the hints-much appreciated !

  14. Yes, this was much, much easier than todays back page! Managed to complete it with only two hints needed…and no cheating by looking at the answers. Some nice clues…I think my favourite was 19a…neat..especially as I had tried all sorts of combinations of Roman numerals and got nowhere..then sussed it! I had never heard of 11a and this one I needed the hint for….must put that in my vocabulary list of strange/unusual/rarely used words. Remember Dirk Bogarde in ‘Death in Venice’ anyone? This was an enjoyable solve, and so much more rewarding when one can actually finish it! 2*/4* and thanks to Samuel and to Bufo for the hints.

  15. We reckon that 19a would have been absolutely diabolical without its first letter being checked. As it is, it came together without much of a fight but still had us smiling. Over all we found the puzzle not too tricky and it kept us amused.
    Thanks Samuel and Bufo.

    1. Hadn’t thought of that re: 19a, 2Ks. I think the teddy could have been well and truly out of the cot without that ‘starter for ten’! Oops, sorry – are you familiar with University Challenge?

        1. How did his team fare? I can only just about imagine the nerves that must assail the participants. I can still recall taking part in a radio broadcast many, many years ago – all I had to do was to ask a question of the presenter but I had sleepless nights for ages beforehand!

          1. We were hoping you would not ask that question. The team did not cover themselves with glory. It was all a long time ago and can’t remember the details. Nerve racking not just for contestants but parent viewers too.

    1. Still not very au fait with the Toughie setters – where does Firefly sit on the scale of 1-10 for difficulty? Just trying to plan my day!

        1. Just looked at your post on the Comment page, Chris. I guess that means you will be leaving for the ‘old country’ before too long? Think we’re due a bit of high pressure soon but I’d still pack something warm!
          Have a great lunch with BD – sorry it’s so far away from here, otherwise I might be tempted to gatecrash!
          Enjoy your stay.

          1. Thanks! We leave next Wednesday evening for a two-week visit. Can hardly wait. Definitely planning to dress in layers while I am there. I’m going to be stockpiling a few crosswords for the night flight. I never sleep on planes. And I’m lugging the laptop with me so I can occasionally check in between family get-togethers and pub visits.

      1. Nor me but it’s Friday . . . . . . I think I’m likely to be too busy to have time to even look. For that you can all read, as I’m sure you know, too scared to even peep through one half open eye!

        1. It’s OK to peep, Kath. Absolutely no obligation to tell anyone that you did – that way you can just pretend to have been too busy to look at it.

      2. The average BD Difficulty Rating for his most recent 10 puzzles is 2.9 (although for the last five it’s 3.4, so they seem to be getting tougher).

        1. That 0.5 can make a heck of a difference, Gazza. At least that’s what the ‘nice’ policeman with the radar gun told me.

  16. **/****

    Fair enough it wasn’t the most difficult Toughie ever but I enjoyed it. It got an extra * for difficulty due to 19a. I spent more time parsing this than the whole of the crossword plus the semi back page.

    I like Samuel’s puzzles. But yes it was fairly straightforward.

    Many thanks to Samuel and to Bufo for blogging.

  17. Just as a quick thought before I head for bed – I think that Samuel is a new(ish) Toughie setter although I could easily be wrong here – it has been known just occasionally! He’s probably trying to “test the water” on the difficulty scale before he really lets rip. Good luck to him, I say.

    1. Samuel is a newish setter. I’ve enjoyed his puzzles so far. Does anyone other than Phil McNeill test solve?

      1. At the risk of being very unfair to PM, I would think that he has minions who undertake the actual test solving – his responsibility being to ‘carry the can’ for their input. That, to my mind, would account for the inconsistencies we sometimes comment on.

        1. I like minions…they come in handy for so many things.

          The difficulty level is a tricky one though. Should the Toughie be as hard as Azed, The Listener and Mephisto? In my mind no. But that’s because my mind couldn’t cope with that four times a week.

          Maybe Salty Dog et al are right and we, as solvers, are improving…largely thanks to BD’s blog. The Don still scares the bejesus out of me…in all his guises. Quite like him.

  18. 2*/4* by my reckoning. For what it’s worth, l think we are all getting better (hardly surprising, given that most of us complete at least two cryptic puzzles a day) so occasionally we feel we have not been sufficiently tested. I liked 4d, which came to me with a dull thud (and fortunately without the pain experienced when l last had one seen to!). Thanks to Samuel, and to Bufo.

  19. I think puzzle difficulty is an overrated concept. Successful puzzles have to fit inside a thin wedge between insulting solvers’ intelligence and being impossible. Inside that thin wedge, people want to find their own mini-niche for relative difficulty, which is hard remembering that one puzzle could be easy for one solver yet hard for another, while another puzzle could be vice versa. To rate difficulty has always given me the uncomfortable feeling that 5* is somehow better than 3*. I have never thought so.

    To me the only factor that counts is enjoyment. Some people enjoy difficulty, and would rate puzzles they find difficult high on enjoyment. Others value elegant surface readings (which to me is the name of the game) and would enjoy an elegant puzzle. The great setters manage to combine elegance with innovative clueing. Others enjoy humour, others enjoy innuendo, etc etc.

    I worry about the purpose of a difficulty rating. Is it to suggest to someone whether or not they should tackle the puzzle? That alone would be reason to abolish it. Is it some competitive puzzling thing? Not my scene.

    There are some 2* difficulty puzzles that in my mind are far greater artistic achievements than some of their 5* counterparts.

    I don’t think anyone was giving samuel a hard time, we are just somehow programmed to comment on our experience of the difficulty of the puzzle. A comment I would find appropriate is “I might have *enjoyed* a greater challenge”, which i think is useful feedback. But I really do think it’s about enjoyment, not difficulty. And all ratings are subjective.

    1. Absolutely agree. I can only restate my previous post at #12 – “This was a very enjoyable puzzle. Maybe not the trickiest ever set but, hey, who cares? I enjoyed it and that’s all that matters as far as I’m concerned.”

      For me the the puzzle should have “D’oh, why didn’t I see that” moments rather than ” What? Are you serious?” moments. The former make for enjoyment but the latter cause irritation.

      I’ve been legged up before on my comments about needlessly convoluted puzzles so I won’t go there again

    2. Wondefully said Dutch, and I agree. I usually find Rufus a R&W but his puzzles are without a doubt ones I look forward to on a Monday.

      And you’re correct about subjectivity. What expert solvers find easy might leave me completely in the dark.

      I also worry that difficulty ratings could put newer solvers off. And yet I know I’ll still ask on here, “How hard is today’s Toughie”?

    3. And whilst this is all very important, I do think we’ve overlooked one vital point Dutch.

      Are you and Dean doing open mic night at the Goose tomorrow???

      1. Ha! thank you! all done! Snape came! some was passable, some was bad, but we did it, had our moments, and we have something to talk about. Dean was more than happy to test his new amp. I was happy finally to get my guitars out of the closet. Some people (after a few) even said they liked it.

          1. I well remember Macc. as being a hotbed for all sorts of ‘things’ – crossword setters/bloggers and guitar players don’t figure too distinctly in my recollections.

      2. It was disappointingly good . They could both play very well, and overcame the unexpected absence of the third member of the trio, who had just been arrested, to provide a great evening’s entertainment.
        They were the only musicians performing, although they didn’t quite have the floor to themselves – beforehand there was a guy reading poetry in an over-exaggerated Chinese accent, for reasons that are a mystery to me, and at one point there was a guy in a great state of incoherence (who had obviously spent his life taking mind-altering drugs that had now done permanent damage) who performed his Alton Towers song. I think he wanted musical accompaniment, but he set off before they were ready and just kept going. I thought at first the song was based on ‘Remember you’re a Womble’ but quickly realised it was based on nothing at all, and consisted of strange mumblings. Occasionally words such as ‘remember’, ‘nemesis’ and’Alton Towers’ could be picked out.
        Fortunately the proper music resumed and we were able to enjoy the rest of the show. Cheers Anax and Dutch.

          1. Snape’s comment about the arrested guitarist is no invention btw. To keep it as brief as poss, I’d advertised for musicians to set up a new project and this guy responded. Went for a drink last week to talk about ideas and all seemed OK, although he said he hadn’t played live for a couple years. But he was up for the open mic thing.
            As he’s a non-driver I agreed to collect him and his guitar yesterday evening, but I set off earlier so I could use an ATM (nearest one being a bit out of the way). Ended up at our rendezvous about 5 minutes early, just in time to see him being bundled away by two cops, and looking the worse for wear. Heaven knows what he’d been up to but, as I arrived, I’d seen someone being – I assumed – frisked, but couldn’t tell at that moment that it was him. So I’m guessing drugs.
            All of which just means I have to start advertising again!

            1. What the…? I assumed Snape’s comment was a joke, albeit one I didn’t get. Mind boggling stuff.

            2. I’m not at all sure that your people skills are up to this task, Dean! Maybe ‘phone a friend next time you arrange to meet up with a potential new recruit? Or at least try advertising elsewhere!

    4. Think you’re quite correct, Dutch.
      When I give ratings it’s always on the basis of – by my expectations of my own abilities, I found this to be */*. I assume that most people do the same and, as we come to ‘know’ other commenters on the site, it gives us a fair idea of individual perceptions of a puzzle. Of course, I have no idea of whether my 3* actually equates to a 1* by someone else’s reckoning, but at least I can get the feel for whether they found it easier/more difficult etc. than their norm.
      Think I would probably turn tail and run if BD allowed people to give their actual timings – which I’m sure is exactly why he put the rule in place!
      As for elegance, innovation etc. that really is extremely subjective, but at least on this site we usually do ‘rabbit on a bit’ which generally covers our thoughts on such matters -and others! Speaking of which – how did your session with Dean go on at the Goose tonight?

      1. I thought it was tomorrow Jane? I could be wrong. I frequently am. You’re so right about the knowing other commentators here though. Though your masterful Beam effort the other week should promote you to blogger. That was brilliant.

        1. It was also a bit like winning £10 on the lottery, Hanni – happened once, probably won’t happen ever again!
          As for the ‘open mic’ thing – think it’s always on a Thursday and I did check back on the archive of the Elkamere puzzle just to be sure – no flies on me!

  20. Thanks to all those that have commented on the puzzle. I’ve been setting crosswords for around a decade now and I think this is the first time I’ve had one described as “an abject failure”, so apologies, Dave, and apologies to anybody else who found this too easy. I hope to up the ante next time around.

    I’m pleased that most seemed to enjoy the clue for XENON; I agonised long and hard as to whether the clue was fair, having scrapped the clue from a previous puzzle where the X wouldn’t have been checked. It seems this may have been the correct choice!

    1. Hi Samuel,

      You’re crossword wasn’t an abject failure at all. I enjoyed it. 19a was devilishly good fun…do you know how long it took me to parse that? I look forward to your next one.

    2. Hi Samuel. I read BD’s remark as being a comment on the Telegraph not living up to it’s claim that all Toughies would be “fiendish, diabolical, cruel”. I didn’t see it as being directed towards this particular puzzle at all.

      1. Ah, I must have misinterpreted the comment. Sorry, Dave, if I misrepresented you there.

        A very wise man once said to me that if you receive 30 pieces of feedback, ignore the best five and the worst five, and what is left will be a true reflection of the puzzle. I hope all setters do this, or we would all be a very unhappy lot!

  21. Thanks for signing in, Samuel – and I’m glad BD set your mind at rest. It never even occurred to me that you might think his remark was directed at your puzzle, you must have been quite upset last night.
    I very much enjoyed the puzzle but will try not to enthuse too much in future – I’d hate to be one of the ‘ignored’. On the other hand, if you up the ante too much, I may well be in your bottom five!

  22. I think if you read through the comments, even the top and bottom outliers, they are in general extremely positive. I certainly enjoyed the puzzle. I’m glad you dropped in Samuel, thanks, it is always appreciated, and it allowed us to correct the misread “abject failure” comment aimed at the telegraph (ouch, just thinking of the misread hurts).

  23. Reading back, it seems that I definitely shouldn’t have interpreted Dave’s comment as I did. All I can say is that I’m not fully compus mentis at the moment… as a result, I can’t decide if today’s (Friday’s) Toughie is genuinely tough, or it’s just that my brain cells aren’t working as they should. I’ll see what others think!

    1. I found today’s relatively gentle and it won’t surprise me if others find it a struggle – often it’s a wavelength thing. Some other friday puzzles are more fiendish, but that alone does not make them good puzzles, its also the enjoyment value as per discussion above. It’s just that the toughie slots were intended for, well, toughies, so some people feel this is the place for a real challenge. On average i think this works, the toughie is harder than the back pager, which is not to say it’s harder than e.g. times or guardian, which vary anyway. Not sure how to satisfy everyone. I would argue don’t let toughness spoil a great clue, others would see added toughness as beneficial.

      Not sure what you are saying about your current condition, but I hope you are ok and please add your opinions to todays toughie blog, would be great to have your views

    2. The trouble with posting comments on this blog is that there will always be a pedant lurking somewhere …compus mentis ???

      Samuel, I really enjoyed your puzzle yesterday! Thanks!

      ps I found today’s Firefly pitched at about the same level of difficulty as yours. But it’s all subjective and it’s only a crossword.

      1. You’ll have to forgive me, Franco. I’ve been laid (very) low for the last four days by a dose of food poisoning whilst on holiday in Ireland. No excuse, though; obviously that should have been COMPOS!

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