Toughie 1517

Toughie No 1517 by Excalibur

Hints and tips by Toro

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

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

Welcome to the Toughie week. Excalibur’s latest puzzle felt tough for a Tuesday, and while it certainly wasn’t dull, I did think one or two of the clues were the wrong sort of difficult. Still, I look forward to her next one.

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 Run onto main road — a blunder (8)
MISPRINT A major trunk road in the UK + to run fast.

5a Capital in recession had been cold and damp (6)
WARSAW A reversal (in recession) of a phrase that could mean had been cold and damp.

9a Doctors covering anything which will be taken orally (8)
DRAUGHTS Abbreviation for doctors around an old word for anything.

10a Passage translated from ’27’ (6)
STRAIT Anagram of the solution to 27a.

12a None — none unaccompanied, that is (5,1,3)
NEVER A ONE The solution could be taken to mean always two or more.

13a Wrote: ‘Yet to reach top in newspaper world’ (5)
NOTED Split (3,2), the solution might mean someone other than the person in charge of a paper

14a This girl making a comeback with us would be a bright star (4)
IRIS A girl’s name which, if reversed and placed before US, would give the name of the brightest star in the night sky.

16a Train has entire derailment going round bend (7)
RETINUE Anagram of ENTIRE around a bend in a water pipe.

19a Return westbound for trenches to provide cover (7)
PROFITS Reversal of FOR inside trenches or excavations more generally.

21a Only in spirit, avowedly (4)
SOLE Soundalike (avowedly) of spirit.

24a About southern French nothing’s come up (5)
RISEN What Edith Piaf regretted, about S(outhern).

25a On trees, meant to carve more than an initial (5,4)
FIRST NAME Certain trees + anagram of MEANT.

27a In spring, backed one evincing these peculiarities (6)
TRAITS To spring or jump, reversed, around Roman numeral one.

28a The telltale shoes (8)
SNEAKERS Cryptic definition of a type of footwear.

29a Repressing again parent’s fears (6)
DREADS Verbal prefix meaning again, inside parent’s.

30a Films, news reels, for rest to fidget through (8)
WESTERNS Anagram of NEWS containing anagram of REST.


1d Bird sanctuary’s in Italian city (6)
MODENA A sanctuary or private hideout inside an extinct giant bird of New Zealand.

2d Look round very fast (6)
STARVE To look or gaze, around V(ery).

3d He‘s got the message (5)
ROGER A man’s name that also means message received.

4d Thoughts of child brought up and given into inner turmoil (7)
NOTIONS Anagram of INTO inside a male child, reversed.

6d That’s before we saw the light (9)
ANTENATAL Cryptic definition of an adjective meaning before birth.

7d Smart, having knack to be in on the ground floor (8)
STARTING Knack or skill inside to smart or hurt.

8d Left, having to get towed (8)
WITHDREW Preposition meaning having + towed or pulled.

11d Herbivores pipe up (4)
DEER A kind of pipe, reversed.

15d Ruled it in, and sparked things off again (2-7)
RE-IGNITED Ruled as a monarch, around IT.

17d Feisty, tears up diet ordered to follow (8)
SPIRITED Reversal of tears or rends + anagram of DIET.

18d False front as a facade? How could you? (3,5)
FOR SHAME False or fake inside front or frontal.

20d Loud drunk’s arrested and restrained (4)
SOFT Musical abbreviation for loud inside a drunk.

21d Not ordinary open country, by the way (7)
STRANGE Abbreviation of type of road + open land for grazing.

22d Shoot a line (6)
CAREER To shoot or hurtle, and a line of work.

23d Stops cold, then moves very carefully (6)
CEASES C(old) + moves carefully into position.

26d With discretion, quash Republican information distributed (5)
TRACT R(epublican) inside discretion or diplomacy.

1d and (despite the iffy anagram indicator) 25a were my picks. I found quite a few of the indicators questionable, and there were rather too many clues with telegraphic or Yoda-like wordplay for my taste, 15d being the worst example.

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


  1. jean-luc cheval
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Didn’t find it very hard but definitely a bit dull.
    Couldn’t find any reference to the answer in 12a.
    Wasn’t keen on 6d either.
    Liked 19 and 25a though.
    Thanks to Excalibur and to Toro for the review.

  2. dutch
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    thanks Toro for the parsing of 18d, which i did not see. This took me a while to finish. As often with Excalibur puzzles, the constructs are not what you might expect, though accurate. I got stuck on 22d until i had all the checkers (double definitions are not my favourite anyway), it took me ages to get 19a, and it took me a while to get my head around 4d – and then I had to stop reading the clue, else the sense was lost again. For some reason I found it hard to get into NW.

    I liked 9a and 25a

    Many thanks Excalibur

  3. Hanni
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I really struggled with this and I agree with Toro’s ratings. And oddly enough I had exactly the same problems that Dutch had with exactly the same clues! So not much more to say.

    Really enjoyed 19 and 25a.

    Many thanks to Excalibur and to Toro for blogging.

  4. happy days
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    For me, crossword heaven. I always love Excalibur crosswords, with their crispness and originality. Joint favourites 25a On trees…and 28a The telltale shoes Thanks Excalibur and Toro

  5. Jane
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Relieved that you found it tough for a Tuesday, Toro – I certainly did a fair bit of head-scratching over this one.
    As with Hanni and Dutch, my biggest problems came with 19a and 22d. Couldn’t seem to pinpoint the definition in 19a and really don’t like shoot=career, although I guess it’s perfectly valid.

    Best for me were 28a plus 6&7d, with 19a getting a mention for deception.

    Thanks to Excalibur and to Toro – ‘wrong sort of difficult’ – I’m liking that phrase!

  6. halcyon
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Very Excalibur – very Yoda! This took me longer than Friday’s Elgar, not helped by yet another awful Telegraph grid. Like Dutch & Hanni I couldn’t parse 18d [ “front ” was the bit I couldn’t see]. But once one accepts the style there’s nothing to complain about and there were a few “doh” moments. Favourites? Probably 19a [very elegant] and 30a [which also parses as 2 anagrams interleaved i.e. “through” in the clue]

    Thanks to Excalibur and to Toro for the blog.

    • Toro
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Halcyon. Good spot re. the parsing of 30a. As Dutch says, when you think about them long enough many of her constructions are accurate and inventive. My complaint if it is one concerns cases like 4d (ruled it in) and 15d (given into inner turmoil) where all semblance of syntax seems to have been abandoned.

      • halcyon
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I know what you mean [btw you got 4d/15d transposed]. I’m OK with 15d – ruled = reigned – pause – [put] it in, etc etc. That is just standard Excalibur Yodaspeak. But 4d is pushing it a bit – “given into turmoil inside” would have been just about acceptable [less good for the surface though!]. As it stands I’m not at all happy about separating the anagram fodder [into] from the anagrind [turmoil] by another indicator [inner]. As you say – all semblance of syntax abandoned. But who cares about Ximenean clueing anymore?

        • dutch
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

          i do

        • Hanni
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:51 am | Permalink

          I care.

  7. Salty Dog
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I needed 3 hints to complete, mainly because I convinced myself that 30a was “releases”. 4*/3* seems about right. I enjoyed 9a, and particularly 3D (which I should have spotted straight away but didn’t). Ta to Excalibur, and Toro for the review.

  8. 2Kiwis
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    When we printed out this puzzle the Telegraph site listed Dada as the setter so we were surprised to find who the setter really was. Not a quick solve but an enjoyable one.
    Thanks Excalibur and Toro

  9. Expat Chris
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Well, I found this extremely hard to get into and it was a slog all the way. I picked it up, did one, maybe two, put it away, picked it up again all day yesterday and finally broke the barrier this morning. I was determined to finish without the hints and sort out the parsing myself, and I almost did. I was left staring at 1A, which would have been easy had I not penciled in auger for 3D early on. Oh, well. I needed parsing help for 22D. I did not like that clue one bit. The only one I had a star against is 12A. Thanks Excalibur. Can’t say I enjoyed this much but it was clever. Thanks also to Toro for the blog.

    As an aside, I am typing away here and started seeing what I thought were the floaters I sometimes get crossing my line of vision. Then I realized they were escaped snowflakes from the banner.