Toughie 1473

Toughie No 1473 by Excalibur

All creatures great and small

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BD Rating – Difficulty ***/****Enjoyment **

The Toughie week begins with a slightly more convoluted offering than some of Excalibur’s recent crosswords, including one clue which, had the puzzle been sent to me for test solving by one of the crèche, I’d certainly have queried when I sent my comments back to the setter.  I finished right at  the end of 3* solving time and some of the parsing took a while, hence my 3.5* difficulty rating.

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           Come to find photo frame empty? (4,3,2,2)
SNAP OUT OF IT   An expression meaning to recover quickly could, perhaps,  describe what you see when a photo frame is empty.

snap out

9a           One has gone through much, to be honest (4)
FAIR   I (one) inserted into a great distance (much).

10a         Within moments, verdict of not guilty? (2,4,2,3)
NO TIME AT ALL   If you had a not guilty verdict, you wouldn’t have to have a informal term for a prison sentence.

11a         Not that it’s wrong to conceal an aspiration (4)
THIS   Insert (conceal) a letter usually described as an aspiration  into an anagram (wrong) of ITS

14a         Only half listen, catching ‘One’s a predatory female’ (7)
LIONESS   ONES (from the clue) inserted into the first half of LISten.


16 Little beast requires meat: sitter doesn’t have it (7)
HAMSTER   Some cooked meat followed by SITTER, once you’ve removed the IT.


18a         Upside-down sacks used as seat (5)
STOOL – A reversal (upside-down) of a verb meaning sacks in the sense of pillages. I thought you could only use ‘upside-down’ to indicate a reversal in a Down clue but I suppose the normal ‘back’ wouldn’t give the same surface reading – that’s not a justification, just a thought.

19a         Is dispirited, having lost nucleus of savings (4)
SAGS    Remove the middle letters (lost nucleus) of SAvinGS

20a         Attack only when you say the word (4)
BUTT   A homophone (when you say the word) of a synonym for only.

21a         Striving to put through levy, ingeniously (5)
VYING   Hidden in leVY INGeniously.

23a         Fights to be let out, imprisoned by lunatic (7)
BATTLES   An anagram (out) of LET inserted into (imprisoned by) an informal way of saying lunatic.

24a         One can’t catch  something in the dispensary (7)
DROPPER   Someone who can’t catch or a small tube for dispensing drops of liquid.


25a         Is not penniless — is a catch (4)
HASP   Split this metal fixing (catch) 3,1 and you could be describing someone who possesses a penny.

30a         Mean to be among entrants playing in Open (11)
TRANSPARENT   A three-letter word meaning mean in the sense of average is inserted into (to be among) an anagram (playing) of ENTRANTS.

31a         Unbalanced, rock back (4)
NUTS   A reversal (back) of a verb meaning to surprise or astound (rock).

32a         Quickly as stutterer starts answering ‘Who wrote “Hamlet”?’ (2,3,6)
IN TWO SHAKES   How a stutterer might start to answer the question in the clue.


2d           Back-to-back rejections this time (4)
NOON   Take two ‘rejections’ reverse the second one (so the second letters of each word go back to back) to get a particular time of day.


3d           Sleep is interrupted by one returning: a nuisance (4)
PAIN     Insert I (one) into a sleep and then reverse the result (returning).

4d           No good to cut down on consumption (7)
USELESS   Time for a chestnut –   An instruction to cut down on consumption (3,4) without the space in the middle.

5d           Round, round, round time after time he goes (4)
OTTO   One of those clues that’s so much easier to solve than explain. The first two ‘rounds’ in the clue indicate the need to have two lots of the same ring-shaped letter; the third ‘round’ tells you to put those two letters round two abbreviations for Time (time after time). Presumably the ‘he goes ‘[round and round] indicates that the solution is a palindrome?

6d           All I found out about central pin is, it’s crooked (7)
ILLEGAL   An anagram (found out) of ALL I goes round (about) a lower limb (pin being an informal term for the body part in question).

7d           The in dead-wood (4)
DASH     The abbreviation for dead and a type of wood gives us the name of the tiny piece of punctuation in the clue.

8d           Money made from big comeback? (5,6)
GROSS RETURN   A synonym for big in the sense of excessively large followed by a ‘comeback’.

12d         Nearly catching in button at rear? (5,6)
CLOSE BEHIND   Button in the sense of fasten or shut up followed by another word for rear.

13d         ‘One point’ is constrained to become ‘nil’ (6)
NOUGHT   A compass point followed by a verb meaning is constrained to.


15d         Puts up with  restrictive garments (5)
STAYS   Double definition, the second one being old fashioned boned corsets.

16d         Undo buckles after hard part of hunt (5)
HOUND   Follow the abbreviation for hard with an anagram (buckles) of UNDO.


17d         Gems — could be diamonds (6)
TRUMPS   Although the solution and diamonds could relate to card games, they can also be, along with gems, what the office dictionary describes as people held to be perfect examples of fine reliable character.

21d         Old soldiers taking part in running event (7)
VETERAN   The abbreviation for the Royal Artillery inserted into (taking part) an anagram (running) of EVENT.

22d         Pugs romping round animal: huge creature (7)
GRAMPUS   A large dolphin or a whale (huge creature) is obtained by putting an anagram (romping) round a male sheep (animal).   If you weren’t a lover of words and so knew what you had to put with the anagram fodder to get the creature, it might have taken a while to work out which ‘animal’ to insert, as there are so many you could choose from. Obviously he’s  ‘Huge Creature of the Day’ as he’s in today’s Times Cryptic too.


26d         Locate one in heart of West End (4)
SITE   Make WEST END into a seven letter word, take the letters in the middle (heart) of that word and then insert an I (one).

27d         Ken‘s delivered from a naysayer (4)
KNOW Ken isn’t a man’s name here, it is a Scottish or Northern English dialect word for the solution.   A homophone (delivered) of a word used to express denial (naysayer).

28d         A time to plough up field (4)
AREA    A (from the clue) and an extended period of time are reversed (up).

29d         Formerly addicted to coke, having kicked all right (4)
ONCE A preposition used to indicate regularly taking (eg a drug) followed by COKE once you have ‘kicked’ or removed the two letters that signify ‘all right’.

The overworked, but hopefully not underpaid, Toro should be back on Tuesday Toughie duty next week. I’m going to publish this review and then I’m back to the day job  .   I haven’t had an awful lot of time to spend on this review  (because of said day job) so I apologise in advance for any ‘deliberate’ mistakes.


  1. Robin Hill
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Although I managed to solve this within a reasonable time I found quite a few of the answers to be clumsy, especially 9a, 20a, 13d, 17d and 27d. 30a was probably the cleverest clue, and 32a the most disappointing, as it looks as though it will be more amusing than it is. Sorry !

  2. Hanni
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 2:18 pm | Permalink


    Found parts of this very tricky.

    I missed the hidden in 21a even though it’s clearly indicated. I know the creature in 22d has come up before, somewhere, i Google checked it. Couldn’t parse 18a, needed the blog.

    For the paper version of 27a Ken’s delivered from a naysayer

    Not Kent’s. Either way it took me an age to spot the definition needed.

    Thought 32a was very clever.

    Many thanks to Excalibur and to Sue for blogging. I didn’t envy you writing 5d!

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Hanni – typo now corrected. I know exactly how it happened too – I had to split the ken from the ‘s in order to just underline the ken – living, and particularly working, where I do I write Kent so often that the T crept in without me noticing.

      • Hanni
        Posted September 29, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        I know that if I comment from my tab it remembers who the usual setters and bloggers are each day. So you’ve probably typed Kent so man times that it’s second nature!

  3. happy days
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    A superb Excalibur. Fresh and imaginative,as always Particular bouquets to 25a (Is not penniless) 32a (stutterer)and 5d (Round, round, round)

  4. Expat Chris
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I needed the hints to parse 13D and 16D and didn’t much like 20A. I was slow to get 6D. Otherwise no real problems. 12D made me smile. Thanks Excalibur and CS.

  5. JB
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    What an exceedingly irritating crossword. The grid was diabolical. i’m tempted to use a 4 letter word to describe the plethora of them!

    • Hanni
      Posted September 29, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      12 of them…again.

  6. Jane
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I’ll go with Hanni on the 4*/3* – just over half went in relatively easily and then the rest took some time!
    Tried hard to put ‘jump’ into 20a which left a dilemma over 8d and got so involved with ‘vets’ for the old soldiers that I missed the flipping obvious for ages in 21d.
    Enjoyed a lot of this one – 1&10a plus 7&8d spring to mind, but favourite goes to 30a – very clever wordplay bringing in that dreaded game.
    Many thanks to Excalibur and to CS for a great blog – some lovely pics.
    By the way – I think there’s one word too many in your answer for 10a.

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      That’s the trouble with trying to combine my two jobs, not to mention trying to eat lunch at the same time as sorting out the review ready for publishing.

      • Jane
        Posted September 29, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        And also not to mention the number of crosswords you solve in a week! I still reckon that you must polish off at least three whilst the kettle’s boiling.
        I won’t even make reference to all the preserves, cakes etc. that you conjure up between times!

        • crypticsue
          Posted September 29, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

          I still think you need a new kettle

  7. dutch
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    This involved a lot of staring, but got there in the end. The NE and SW little corners were the last to be filled. As always, takes a while to get into Excalibur’s mindset and style, but once you start and have a few checkers it all seems to work.

    I agree the grid is not much help. some interesting indicators, plough up, nucleus.

    Refreshingly different

    many thanks Excalibur and CS for the review

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    We groaned when we saw the grid with all those pesky four letter answers and they did turn out to be the ones where we had to spend most time. The last two to get were 17d and 20a. At least with this grid we do end up with more than the average number of clues to work with. Pleasant enough.
    Thanks Excalibur and CS.

    • crypticsue
      Posted September 29, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Am I the only person who doesn’t look at the grid until I’ve worked through the Across and then the Downs, writing solutions as I go, only looking at the grid on my second go through to see what checking letters there are. It is probably why I don’t notice 4 letter words or double unches

      • dutch
        Posted September 29, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        i try to use the checking letters right from the start…..

      • Jane
        Posted September 29, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Definitely not the only one, CS. The one thing I do confess to looking out for is any multi-word answers – often a godsend at my end of the scale!

        • 2Kiwis
          Posted September 29, 2015 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          We also try to use checking letters right from the start. Strangely, one of us sees the short answers as low hanging fruit while the other looks for the long multi-word answers for entry points. It seems to work in a “Jack Spratt and his wife” sort of way.

      • andy
        Posted September 29, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

        Probably not, I’m just not as clever as you m’dear and lots of unchecked starts and double unches make the process harder. You must remember Elgars toughie with the worst amount of double unches, and his Nina ;)

      • Expat Chris
        Posted September 29, 2015 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        My approach is the same as my approach to housework…entirely random. If I get an across clue, I go to the down clues numbered within the across answer and try those. Or maybe I’ll just jump around the clues to see what strikes my fancy. I pay no attention to the structure of the grid. It’s just a grid to me, to be filled if I can. And four letter words can be a bane or a blessing, depending on whether I can solve them readily or not. I don’t like double unches (who does?) but I don’t look for them up front.

        It’s probably a good thing that my approach to my paid work is more methodical and analytical than my approach to crosswords!

        • Hanni
          Posted September 30, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

          It works!

  9. Salty Dog
    Posted September 29, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    No problem with 4-letter answers: if the clues are any good they should be no more difficult to solve, surely? That said, l too go for the multiple word answers first and then work from the crossers. I completed in (my) 2* time, but it felt rather harder than that and l cheerfully confess to a few inspired “bung ins”! I’ll go with 3*/4* on balance. I think 11a is my favourite, but l have a sneaking regard for 7d. Thanks to Excalibur, and to CrypticSue for the review.